The Résumé “Wow” Factor

Posted on December 3, 2008. Filed under: Resumes | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Magic Formula

As résumé writers, we are amazed at the amount of time we spend discussing the “wow” factor with job seekers. If any concept has been oversold in regard to résumés, it is the idea that a résumé must take on an almost magical quality that casts a spell over the reader, transforming the average professional into the “must-have” candidate of the year!

Of course, this magical quality is a moving target because no one quite knows what the special combination is to unveil this secret spell, and of course, everyone seems to have a different idea of what it means.

Not to mention the plethora of materials that are out there just promising to either create this almost-mythical document for you or to help you create your own.

“Get yours to the top of the pile! Just say our magic chant 15 times, spin around twice, and embed these special keywords behind the text of your document, and employers will be mesmerized!”

Laugh, if you want, but deep down, it is what every job seeker is really looking for…something that will make it easy for them, something that will overcome the fact that, by and large, they are hard-working professionals just trying to create a solid career that they enjoy.

Casting Spells Doesn’t Work

Listen. We’ve seen a lot of résumés. Pretty ones. Flashy ones. Video ones. Two-column ones. Colorful ones. Conservative ones. Progressive ones. You name it.

Sorry to say, but flashy résumés have not really proven to be anymore effective than traditional professional obituaries. Both can seriously hurt a candidate’s chances if they fail to understand what really makes a résumé work.

It’s Not a Secret

So does this mean you can’t use color or get creative with a two-column masterpiece?

No, but a solid résumé must accomplish 3 things: (1) Utilize strong writing skills with solid action verbs, (2) organize the candidate’s information in such a way that a clear picture of the candidate is revealed (scope of knowledge and responsibility), and (3) be attractive without being offensive.

We all like things that look nice, but color isn’t what sells a candidate. Let the “wow” factor be in the strategy employed and in the quality of the writing.

On the other side of things, however, don’t be so rigid that you force the writer to prepare a cookie-cutter résumé (Times New Roman, 10-pt, with lots of bullets!!). You’ll just end up with something nondescript, that looks like it came from a Microsoft Word résumé template, and is not much better than anyone with decent grammar skills could produce.

Problem-Solving Is the Wow

Do you know what really is the “wow” factor for employers? A well-crafted document that highlights the specific skills and accomplishments that they are interested in, that solve the need or problem they have! Please don’t miss this point. It isn’t the skills/accomplishments that YOU are most proud of; it is the skills/accomplishments that THE EMPLOYER is most interested in for the type of position being filled.

Sadly, most job seekers (and even some résumé writers) are all worked up about the font and type size of the résumé and less concerned about whether they really have the right strategy in place to attract their audience. Yes, a résumé should look appealing, but if you can’t speak to your audience, then it is all just fluff and no “wow.”

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[…] to review and content is what really matters. A couple years ago, I wrote an article about “flashy” resumes that covers much of the same discussion (i.e., they aren’t proven to be anymore effective in […]

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