Alesia Benedict, CPRW, JCTC
When writing resumes, it is important to
remember whom it is you're trying to please - (is it you, or the
hiring authority?) In this article I will present my ideas of what
makes up really aggressive documents, based on my many years in
the industry, and my career in owning and managing a successful
resume writing and career marketing firm.
Make no mistake about it, aggressive
documents are necessary to be successful in today's competitive
job search, whether we are discussing executive resumes, business
resumes, sales resumes, nursing resumes, pharmaceutical sales
resumes, IT resumes, etc. But first, some history. Let's examine
some of the "hiring authorities." Before my career in the resume
writing industry, I spent several years as an executive recruiter,
placing mid- and senior-level executives in top corporations.
Eventually, I managed that firm, which employed 24 recruiters
working 10 "desks." A "desk" is a specialty: finance, banking,
engineering, information systems, legal, are all known as "desks"
and each recruiter (or team of recruiters) specialized in placing
upper managers and executives in a chosen field.
I no longer place candidates, and devote all my energies to
the resume and career marketing industry as a whole, and my own firm in
particular. However, I still have many connections with recruiters, and have
respect for the really great ones, and distaste for the all-too-often bad ones!
I think it's important to remember that these days, people
in career transition are driven to explore many methods in their job search. In
the past, it was much easier to look for a job - individuals simply read the
classified ads, called the telephone number listed and chatted with the person
over the phone, setting up an in-person interview for the next day. What a snap!
These days, however, the job search is much more complex.
Competition for employment has never been greater. The entire process is often
drawn-out, depersonalized and hard, hard, hard! Resumes are no longer just asked
for, they are DEMANDED. In reality, they are a prerequisite for a job search.
My point is, you have to remember what the resume's purpose
actually is and write accordingly. The dynamics in this field are very exciting
but also very volatile. The buzz words are forever changing. Companies, for
example, were at one time laying-off, then downsizing... rightsizing...
reorganizing, and now reengineering. Whew!
Recruiters, company hiring managers and human resources
professionals are all components in your job search, and it is the resume's job
to land interviews.
I routinely speak with professional recruiters, H.R.
professionals and hiring managers to get their reactions and opinions to resume
styles, formats, contents and verbiage. Remembering that resumes are actually
marketing pieces designed to sell you to potential employers, aggressive resumes
are NOT simply a listing of your work experience or your biography (life on
Here are some of my methods and suggestions
for writing aggressive resumes, based on my own experience as a
recruiter, my interaction with hiring professionals and employment
specialists and my clients' success rate in obtaining interviews
within 30 days.
A successful resume needs to SELL you over and above your
peers and it creates a sense of urgency for the reader to pick up the phone and
call (or email) you to arrange an interview. Otherwise, the alternative is the
reader scans the resume, thinks, "Yeah, this person has a good background," and
then moves on to scan the next resume, pitching your resume in the old "circular
So let's examine some ways to write aggressive,
up-to-the-minute resumes that really SELL you.
There are lots of opinions about whether or
not to use an objective, or just how to do so, if one IS used. The
only "given" about the use of an objective, is definitely NOT to
use one on senior level resumes. A CEO, CFO, COO or other
executive's resume actually looks/reads silly when an objective is
used. But for the mid-level or entry-level candidate, an objective
can be useful. Here are a few ways to incorporate the concept into
a resume...for a very targeted client who knows exactly what
- or, for someone seeking to
remain in their career pattern: EXPERIENCED COST ACCOUNTANT seeks a position
with a progressive organization that will utilize a successful career to
meet/exceed company goals.
- or, for a client who has several fields she/he want to
pursue: Results-oriented manager seeks a position with advancement
opportunities; areas of interest include retail, electronics and
- or, if someone wants to change careers: AGGRESSIVE
individual seeks a career in sales utilizing strong interpersonal skills to
penetrate untapped markets and build a loyal client base.
What you'll notice in the above cases, is what's stressed in
the objective: the BENEFIT the
will receive if they hire the candidate. What is not stated is what YOU want.
Companies don't care what you want - they want to know what you can do for
A flaw in writing objectives, is that they sometimes just
say the same thing that 78+ other resumes sitting on the hiring authority's desk
state: Seeking a challenging position that will utilize my skills in editing,
proofreading and copy writing.
Oh, that's exciting...makes you just want to jump to the
phone and give that person a call, doesn't it? Stating that the person is
seeking a challenging position is ridiculous. Would you ever state that you were
seeking a boring position? Of course not - so don't state the obvious - it's a
REFERENCES PROVIDED UPON REQUEST
Using this phrase at the end of the resume is
archaic. It's a given (talk about a clichι!), and contemporary
resumes omit this. The better approach is to generate a prepared
Professional Reference sheet which you can bring with you on
interviews and leave with the interviewer when references are
This word is often so over-used in a resume,
rezAMAZE.com, we never use it. Recruiters employed at
retainer-only search firms have told me that the word
"responsible" signifies mid-management and below, not
executive-level candidates. Personally, I believe the word
"responsible" is actually useless in a resume. Instead of writing,
"Responsible for all departmental functions including accounts
payable/receivable, payroll and invoicing..." I would suggest to
use an action word that best depicts what that person actually
does - for example, "Perform all departmental functions,
including..." or "Oversee all departmental functions,
including..." or "Review all departmental functions, including..."
See what I mean? "Responsible" doesn't really SAY anything, it
doesn't give a clear indication of what you actually do. Do you
perform the functions or direct them? "Responsible" is too vague
to say which.
MY, MINE, THIS, I
Using words like this in the resume indicates
you are writing in a narrative voice, as if you are having an
actual conversation, a dialogue with the reader. This is not the
case: you are presenting your achievements, skills and credentials
to a potential employer. My suggestion would be to keep the resume
more business-like, more professional. In descriptions, the word
"a" could be substituted for the word "this," as in: "Promoted to
a $30 million division of an international widget manufacturer to
expand sales into untapped markets" as opposed to "Promoted to
this $30 million division...."
I have seen this word used when describing
daily functions: "Control and administer annual budgets totaling
$12 million. Also, interface with vendors to negotiate more
favorable terms and gain higher profits." Again, the "also" is a
dialogue word, and quite unnecessary. In writing resumes, it is
best to do what my Creative Writing professor called "tight
writing." That is, to eliminate as many "an's, the's, also's,
a's," etc., as possible. They typically aren't necessary and can
be cut from the resume without loss of meaning.
Contrary to the rules of grammar, EXCEPT for
academic resumes, it is best to use numerals in a resume rather
than spell out the number, even when that number is 10 or under. I
know that grammatically, we are taught to spell out numbers like
three, five, seven, etc., and write 12, 14, 16, etc. The numerical
version, however, jumps off a page, whereas the spelled out
version often gets lost. Because resumes are often only scanned by
the reader 15-20 seconds, the actual use of numbers helps to
capture the readers' attention - they are drawn to the numbers,
which means they are spending more time looking at and reading
your resume - and that's a GOOD thing! I made the reference above
to academic resumes, because teachers, principals and
superintendents are very sensitive to grammatical rules, even in
resumes. It's best to spell out any number under 10 for these
types of resumes. I would never recommend, however, that the words
"percentage" or "dollar" be used ("30 percent" or "12 million
dollars") - instead, use the symbol, as in 30% or $12 million.
EDUCATION VS. EXPERIENCE
Knowing when to highlight someone's education
vs. experience is important. With certain fields (teaching, for
example), the general preference is to lead off the resume with
the client's credentials and educational background, even if they
have considerable experience. Recent college grads should also
have their education first, as it is typically their greatest
achievement. However, someone who returned to college (part time
nights, for example), while concurrently employed full time for
the past 9 years as a travel agent, should have their resume lead
off with their experience, and NOT emphasize they just obtained
their Bachelors degree. They are not entry-level candidates -
their experience is more vital to a company than their education.
Remember that all resumes do NOT have to lead off with the
PAST / PRESENT TENSE
Writing in the present tense is always more
aggressive than writing in the past tense. Verbs in past tense are
in a passive voice, so whenever feasible, write in the present
tense. Obviously, if you are still employed, your current job
listing is written in the present tense (manage, direct,
supervise, control, etc).
Unless you are an actor or model, do not
include a picture of yourself under any circumstances. Companies
these days are so concerned about EEO lawsuits, discriminatory
cases and the like, that at best, they will immediately throw out
the picture, or at worst, possibly throw away the entire resume,
especially if the picture is printed into the resume. I can
guarantee you recruiting firms are highly sensitive to this, as
Be careful not to make your resumes "too
cute." Remember, companies see you as an INVESTMENT - they are
spending x amount of dollars to obtain you (salary), and want to
see a return on their investment. It is a business negotiation. If
the resume appears too "decorative" or distracting because of cute
clip art images or overly decorative paper, you may be dismissed
and the resume tossed.
Marital status, date of birth, health,
hobbies, etc., are not relevant on a resume these days.
Remember, you aren't writing your biography, you are
marketing yourself on paper: why does the employer want to hire YOU above all
others, especially when there are 91+ resumes from equally qualified candidates
sitting on that decision-maker's desk? Answer that question in the resume, and
you will have written a tight, solid, results-oriented resume...in short, a
winning, aggressive resume, and the sort of resume that is vital for today's job
search - and that of the next millennium.