Are These Resume Buzzwords Killing Your Chances?
Zillions of resumes are useless except perhaps for lining a bird cage's floor. The main cause? Resume advice has changed little over the decades, so most resumes today feel moldy, cliche-larded, as if spewed from resume software or a hired gun from the disco era.
As a result, most resumes make savvy employers roll their eyes. Examples of hopelessly dated resume advice include:
- Use power verbs -- "I spearheaded..." Yuck.
- Sell yourself -- "I'm uniquely qualified for the position." Yuck.
- Use business buzzwords -- "I delight in exceeding customer expectations, being a team player while being a self-starter, always driving initiatives to achieve bottom-line results." Some other word. Double-yuck.
- Quantify -- "I saved/made the company $X zillion dollars." Employers are now wise to that tactic and often view such numbers as more inflated than a burst balloon. Indeed, if you added up all the dollars reported on resumes, it would exceed the Gross Domestic Product.
Use all those antiquated resume rules and, voila, you have a resume that makes the employer much more likely to click "delete" than to grant you an interview.
There is a better way.
You can replace employer suspicions with intrigue about you -- by telling a story. Stories are far more credible than are self-aggrandizing verbs and adjectives.
- Tell a problem you faced.
- Explain the way you approached it.
- And then detail the positive result.
Here's an example from a resume written by an individual contributor.
- The Problem -- "Everyone was hating the new talent management software."
- The Approach -- " I was just a worker bee so I asked my boss if she might send an email to everyone asking them to write why they prefer the old software. That might help her decide what to do. "
- The Result -- "She took my advice and, as a result, it was clear we were better off with the new software, but that the vendor needed to tweak the interface and provide a targeted training session. That all happened. In truth, still, not everyone is crazy about the software, but everyone is much less frustrated now."
Why This Works
It has an informal tone that seems authentic: "I was just a worker bee" and "not everyone is crazy about the software." True, that will turn off some employers but more will prefer it, feeling they're reading an honest yet intriguing resume from a real human being, not an assemblage of verbiage pulled from a resume-writing guide or cranked out by a resume-writing automaton who barely knows the applicant.
Of course, your resume needs to be in your voice, one you're comfortable with. But whatever the tone, a rule of thumb is to include three PAR stories in your resume. Recent ones are preferable but more important is that they be stories likely to make your target employer think, "Hmm. She could be good in that position. I'll interview her."
Shouldn't these stories be saved for the interview or cover letter?
You should use them in cover letter, interview and resume. Perhaps use one in a cover letter, and you certainly can retell a story or stories in the interview. Most employers are overwhelmed with input from lots of job seekers. Usually, employers appreciate your repeating an illustrative story.
Indeed, tell your true, impressive stories in resume, cover letter and interview, and you're more likely to be hired and less likely to have your resume line a bird cage floor.
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The San Francisco Bay Guardian called Dr. Nemko "The Bay Area's Best Career Coach" and he was Contributing Editor for Careers at U.S. News where he now also blogs. His sixth and seventh books were published in 2012: How to Do Life: What They Didn't Teach You in School and What's the Big Idea? 39 Disruptive Proposals for a Better America. More than 1,000 of his published writings are free on www.martynemko.com. He posts here weekly.
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