Resumes Are Not About You

Posted on December 4, 2008. Filed under: Job Search Tips | Tags: , , , |


I’ve written several blogs and online articles now on this subject because I believe that a disservice has been done to most job seekers, and to career changers, in particular. Somewhere along the way, job seekers have been loaded down with overwhelming advice about how to spiff up their resumes, to create that “wow” factor that supposedly all employers are waiting at the edge of their desk chairs for.

The problem, of course, is that all this advice has done nothing more than cause job seekers to turn their attention away from what should be the main focus of their resume.

So let me cut through all the junk and give it to you straight: A resume is NOT about you!

A resume is about meeting the needs/desires of the audience you are trying to reach.

If you have ever taken any kind of writing course, probably eighth-grade English or something like that, you were told that all writing, no matter what form, is about communicating with an audience. The writer’s sole focus is to impart some kind of information to the reader in a way that the reader can grasp. If the writer fails to do that, it doesn’t matter how articulate, how intelligent, how fancy the writing is…the reader didn’t get it. Nothing was communicated.

This concept is especially true when it comes to resume writing. You as the job seeker want a job in X field in Y industry. You’ve done a lot. You’re an impressive person. You want the potential employer to know all about how great you are. But potential employer Z only has one job to fill, and he or she is primarily interested in whether you have the skill sets and background for that job. Anything beyond that is nice, but not very essential, even though it may mean a great deal to you.

Hopefully, you are catching my drift here. When you prepare a resume, it isn’t about telling potential employers all about you and your career. It is about communicating to them the vital information they are looking for! If you fail to do that, it doesn’t matter how long your resume is, how well written it is, what font you use.

Ultimately, that is why a resume that is deemed “poor” by most resume-writing standards can be successful and while one that is deemed “excellent” can be fruitless. It all comes down to how well the document meets the needs of the reader.

Does that mean I think you shouldn’t prepare a well-written, nice-looking document? No. It just means that I think those things are secondary to targeting the resume as much as you can to the employer you are trying to reach.

Job seekers cringe at hearing that their resume must be narrowly focused because, quite frankly, it is inconvenient and expensive if they are going to pay someone to prepare separate resumes for them.

But if you try to prepare a resume that is essentially nothing more than a professional obituary combined with your personal wish list (Look how great I am; now I want X job in Y industry for W salary), you are in for frustration, no matter which resume service you order. You’ve totally lost sight of your audience. And although you may have a document you are proud of, no one else really cares.

So take a good look at your resume. Is it all about you and what you want and what you can do or does it attempt to speak to your audience, offering them a solution to their problem?

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