Guest Writer Ron Sathoff
If you asked most people to define a resume,
you would probably find the phrase "list
of qualifications" showing its ugly head
quite often. I say "ugly" because
I think that the idea of a resume as just
a list reduces its effectiveness and deprives
it of its elegance. Yes, even a resume can
I suggest that you shouldn't think of your
resume as a stale, historical documentation
of your accomplishments and qualifications.
Instead, you should think of it as a form
of autobiography, or better yet, a self-portrait.
How do you do this? By first understanding
that no piece of paper can represent the entirety
of who you are. We are all very complex folks,
and even if you have just graduated from high
school and have had only one job, there is
more about you than just one or two pages
of a resume can present. Therefore, as with
a self-portrait, you will have to choose which
characteristics about "you" that
you want to portray. Here are a few tips on
deciding how to make this decision:
Do your homework: When you
are researching a job or a company, try to
go beyond basic job requirements and qualifications.
Research the company itself to try to determine
what personal qualities are valued. Do they
pride themselves on having innovative, creative
"rebels," or do they prefer steadfast,
loyal workers with traditional values? Finding
out this information will not only help you
decide how to present yourself in your resume;
it will help you decide if you will even fit
in at all at the company.
Remember that it's not all about
expertise: As the above tip shows,
companies are not just looking for areas of
expertise or experience -- they are also looking
for more general, abstract qualities (even
if they aren't mentioned in the job ad). Keep
these qualities in mind when you make an assessment
of your strong points. For instance, in an
industry that goes through constant change
and upheaval, it would probably be better
to be "adaptable" or a "quick
learner" than it would to have experience
with a particular piece of equipment.
Realize that each situation is different:
Even if all the jobs you apply for are similar,
that does not mean that you will be focusing
on the same characteristics in each resume.
As was mentioned before, companies will differ,
as will situations. Other factors you could
look at that might affect how you portray
yourself include: the size of the company,
the location of the company, how new the company
is, the relationship between your present
employer and the company you are applying
to, and the number and type of applicants
you will be competing with.
Once you have a good idea of what characteristics
you want to portray in your resume, then you
can begin painting your portrait. Just as
in a painting, you want each element of your
resume to add up to one distinct image. You
can help yourself do this in a number of ways:
Be specific and consistent in the
qualities you want to show. I advise
my students and clients to actually write
down the top 3 or 4 qualities that they want
to portray in their resume. Doing this will
help keep you focused -- everything in the
resume should point to somewhere on your list.
Having this kind of list will also allow you
to "test-drive" your resume -- Have
a friend read your resume and write down the
qualities it shows best; if their list matches
yours, you can feel comfortable that you are
headed in the right direction.
Rethink your experiences.
One area where people seem to be especially
rigid in their thinking is when it comes to
describing past jobs. The tendency is to just
list what their explicit duties were and maybe
any particular accomplishments they achieved.
Instead of being locked into this model, you
should try to think back on the entire experience
of your work (or education, or volunteer work,
etc) with an eye toward how you showed the
qualities that you are trying to communicate.
If this is just business experience, doing
this will be easy. If, however, one of your
characteristics is "quick learner,"
you will have to look back on your work experience
to see if you can find examples of where this
was useful, or where you had to use the characteristic
to perform your job.
Prove your qualities instead of just
claiming them. This is just another
version of the REALLY old cliché of
"Show, don't tell," but it is an
important rule to follow, especially if you
are dealing with more abstract qualities.
ANYONE can say that they are creative; it
is a completely different thing to give examples
of how you used your creativity in past jobs
or experiences. In other words, always back
up statements about yourself with some sort
I've found that a pointed, specific resume
that uses these techniques is a much more
powerful document than a generic list of qualifications.
Some people may disagree with me, especially
those who see a resume as just a "foot
in the door" on the way to an interview.
I personally think a resume makes more of
a first impression than this, especially these
days when resumes are being faxed from the
across the world or being perused on the Internet.
Painting a portrait with your resume will
show WHO you are, rather than just WHAT you
know or WHAT you've done, and this will help
you stand out as an individual in a sea of
Ron Sathoff is a noted
speaker and manager of DrNunley's InternetWriters.com
Ron provides help for speakers, marketing,
and Internet promotion.