There are numerous books, articles and consultants to assist in writing superior résumés. Yet, as an executive recruiter for digital and technology business executives, I find that about half the résumés I receive from candidates require revision.
The goal of a résumé is to get a hiring manager interested enough to interview you. In other words, you are marketing a product (you) to a customer (the hiring manager). Here are 10 rules for writing a great resume that reads like marketing material:
1. Announce the theme of your résumé; don’t make the reader guess it. A summary paragraph outlining the “elevator speech” of your experience and objective sets the stage for the details to follow.
2. Don’t split your job history and accomplishments into separate sections — the context of specific accomplishments is critical. For example, did you “manage the corporate marketing campaign” while you were at Oracle or at that 30-person startup?
3. Don’t assume context, describe it. Briefly describe the company and your role for each position in your experience section. Example: “For this Fortune 1000 manufacturer of networking peripherals, responsibilities included …” Don’t take the jargon of your industry for granted. Assume your résumé is being read by a person who is not expert in what you do.
4. It’s a résumé, not a job description. Avoid a lot of detail on obvious responsibilities that are inherent to the job. Summarize those quickly and focus on your most impressive accomplishments.
5. Start with your best pitch: Your summary or objective section should be your “elevator pitch.” Pretend you have 20 seconds with a decisionmaker to convey the core of your personal value proposition.
6. Beware résumé creep. A résumé should resemble a narrow upside-down pyramid in its level of detail. You are getting hired for what you have done in the past five years. If a job is more than 10 years ago, a concise summary is better.
7. Don’t have three to four sections of attributes or skills before your job experience begins. Again, the context of specific skills and accomplishments matters. Get to your work history before you have used half a page, or less.
8. Change titles as needed for clarity. Many organizations have internal titles that are not standard to their industry. There is nothing wrong with converting your title to a more standard one, if you are doing so for the purpose of clarity, not exaggeration.
9. Don’t repeat the same secondary accomplishments job after job; list them once or twice and cut the rest out. Less is more when it comes to tactical details that are inherently part of a job.
10. Eliminate jargon specific to your company and industry. Don’t assume the person reading your résumé understands what you do. They might be an HR generalist, or even a hiring manager who only partly understands the function being hired for (data science, for example).
Bottom line: Tell a strategic story concisely. Again, a résumé is NOT a synopsis of your work history. It is marketing collateral, written with the goal of getting an interview. It needs to be accurate, but it does not need to describe every responsibility or accomplishment — that’s what the interview is for.
Isaac Cheifetz is an executive recruiter and strategic resume consultant based in the Twin Cities. His website is catalytic1.com.