There aren’t a lot of situations where you can totally control your own first impression. An impromptu meeting? Nightmare. His name’s Kevin, not Steven, and it turns out you’re wearing a Spongebob tie. A sexy date? So much worse – though to be fair, there’s no way you could have known the tablecloth was flammable.
The point is, we should rejoice when we actually get to control how we come off to people we want to impress. And that’s why resumes are great. A soft-focus, well lit version of you, ready and gleaming to blow the socks of everyone it winks at.
Except a lot of people don’t see it that way. Rather than exclaiming with loud relief “WELL, BLOW ME DOWN, BALL’S IN MY COURT HERE”, a lot of people see a resume as something to suffer through; just grit your teeth, close your eyes and follow diligent procedure. And what a waste.
Don’t forget, the people reading your resume are people. People with brains and blood and senses of humor and are probably bored because it’s Thursday and they have to do the HR on Thursdays. They are crying out for originality, for spark, for verve. And dammit, you’re going to give it to them. And that means leaving out the usual garbage. Ready?
1. “I’m a hard worker/I work well in a team/something else meaningless”
Imagine you’ve been hit by a car (that’s right, this is how careers advice works), and someone has run up to you shouting “I think I can help here!” Overriding pain aside, would you want their next sentence to be “because I’ve always worked hard on tasks given to me!” or “because I am a qualified physician!”
The point is, everyone works hard. Everyone works well in a team. Everyone is diligent, everyone is a good listener, everyone tries their best. So what? This is about what genuine, quantifiable skills you can bring to the table – facts, percentages, figures, proof. So don’t waste your time with the self-evident nonsense.
2. “Responsibilities included…”
Trying saying the words ‘responsibilities included’ out loud, without accidentally sighing and sitting down in a big chair. You can’t, it’s physically impossible.
The words “responsibilities included” implies a load of work that was heaped upon you, that you were passive in taking on, that you got over and done with without any attempt at thinking in new, fresh ways or expanding your horizons. Don’t think of a resume as a list of the activities you’ve been up to for the past few years – think of it as a platform to proudly trumpet your achievements. That’s ACHIEVEMENTS, not responsibilities. Again, it’s about quantifying your value, whipping up passion, energy and proving your brilliance.
3. “My objective is to find…”
No offense, but they don’t care what you want. Not yet. At an interview, they might care what you want. Right now, they just want to be impressed by you. This is not about your future, it’s about your past – don’t waste precious resume space in waxing lyrical about the bright lights ahead. Lay down why they should want to meet you, and you can do all of that impressive ambition stuff when you’ve got their eager faces in a room.
4. “In my spare time, I play the bugle and gently shape bamboo”
Full marks for trying to gesture vaguely towards your personality. But every scrap of information on this document should reinforce how brilliant you’d be at the job you’re applying for. Bring out your personality in the writing of the resume itself, imbue the whole thing with the type of person you are – don’t tack it on at the end as a vaguely bizarre afterthought. It’s useless.
5. “References available on request”
“Thank God she put that on the end there, otherwise I probably would have assumed there was no one on this green earth who would vouch for her.” It’s redundant. It’s lazy. It’s boring. It’s everything you don’t want to come across as. Let the self-evident stuff be self-evident, and use the space you have to pack in how great you are.
At the end of the day, you’re a real human being. And so is the person you’re trying to impress. Remember that, and you’re golden. Just try not to set anything on fire this time.