Resumes: Brevity and Relevance, the Soul of Success

The days of the one-size fits all resume went out with the typewriter. One of the powers computers bring to each of us is the ability to tailor our resumes to exactly match the jobs we are seeking.
Still, the temptation to pile on more than necessary is hard to resist. There are many important things to consider when you compose your resume. While you are writing what amounts to an advertising piece about you, it is even more important that you think about the person who will be reading it. More likely than not, your resume will be buried in a pile of competing ones on somebody’s desk. You need to think about what will make yours’ stand out from the rest.
Remember, the purpose of your resume is to get you invited to the interview.
One way to do that is to make a friend out the person reviewing the pile. There’s a good chance that your competition has fallen prey to temptation lard their resumes with irrelevancies. If your resume matches the attributes of the job description directly, briefly and without needless details, you just made that person’s job easier.
How do you get to the right level of brevity? In addition to limiting your experience statements to what the employer is looking for, beware of overselling yourself. Many times what seems like a strength to you might be off-putting to an employer.
For example seasoned job applicants might be tempted to show their long experience in the workforce. Beware: typically showing more than the last 10 years experience will not only lengthen your resume, it gives the reviewer another reason to go on to the next candidate. Only violate the 10 year limit if the experience is directly related to the job. Even then, you can encapsulate it in a way that is both brief and suggests a topic to explore in the interview.
Academic degrees are another double-edged item. While they undoubtedly say good things about you, if they are not a requirement of the job, or your discipline is not directly applicable, be careful about how you state them if you state them at all.
For example, if you’re a newly minted MBA looking for a job to carry you through until you find the career job you really want, keep your accomplishment to yourself. Being seen as over-qualified can be worse than the opposite.
At the other end of the academic scale, if you haven’t earned the degree yet, resist the temptation to state how many credits you have towards it. Again the only exception would be if your classwork matches the job description exactly.
Volunteer work is something else that belongs only if it is directly relevant. Being a good citizen is another topic better addressed if it comes up in the interview.
Finally, avoid acronyms at all costs. Remember the person reviewing your resume is sorting to see who will be invited to the interviews. As with other irrelevancies, they may mean a great deal to you and absolutely nothing to your reviewer. Anything that confuses or otherwise interferes with the reviewer getting the job done will likely get side tracked.
In a way it’s easy to stand out: keep it brief and keep it relevant!


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