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Monday, December 26, 2005
Wording vs. Results
I’m spending this day after Christmas trying to catch up some on the work that has piled up over the long holiday weekend and trying to get ahead a bit so I can take some more time off this week. Part of that catching up is performing the free resume critiques that we offer. There was one in my inbox from over the weekend from a tech sales and marketing executive that I thought was a good example of how a resume can be well-written but still ineffective. That might seem like a conflict of terms but it’s more common than you would think, especially among inexperienced resume writers, amateur or professional.

There is a difference between well-written and effective. An effective resume is always well-written, but a well-written resume may not be effective. Now that I have you confused, let me explain using the example that was in my inbox.

The sample came from a fellow whose original resume, updated by him, was four pages long. He decided that was really much too long (it was) and hired a professional resume writer to “fix” it. The result was a two page resume that was well-written. It had no spelling or grammatical errors (although I did find a couple of hyphen goofs). It was written in the active voice. The resume was in chronological format which was correct for the job seeker’s employment history. It had all the right buzzwords for the job seeker’s industry. The resume was written at an appropriate readability level (about freshman college level). It was descriptive in verbiage. Overall, it met the criteria for being a well-written resume.

But it wasn’t winning interviews. The job seeker had sent out over 80 and had only received four interviews. The test of a good resume is if it WORKS, not if it sounds good, looks nice, and meets all the “rules” of a well-written resume.

Missing in this resume were results – facts, metrics, accomplishments, proof of ability. Since it was a sales industry resume, it should have been chock-full of numbers – sales ratios, percentages, territories gained, quotas, dollar figures, etc. Almost the entire content was task-based information. Well-written, but still task-based. Task-based information does nothing to sell the candidate. It’s job description. It doesn’t answer the questions “how?” and “what was the result?”

For example, the resume contained the bulleted phrase “Showed ability to ‘hit the ground running’ and quickly develop order, focus and vision.” As a hiring manager, I would think, “Okay, that sounds good. How did you do that? Why did you need to do that – what was the situation? What good came about as a result of being able to get up to speed quickly?” Also as a hiring manager, I would have put the resume aside and gone to the next one simply because I didn’t have time to guess about a potential candidate’s possible track record.

Another bulleted phrase was “Achieved Guinness Book of World Record’s notation – for the world’s largest shopping cart.” (sic) Wearing my hiring manager’s hat, I think “Say what? What does that have to do with anything?” It could have been better worded if it said something like “Won national notoriety and press coverage for company through marketing promotion involving sales gimmick of ‘world’s largest shopping cart’” That is a results-oriented statement rather than a task-based statement.

Here’s another: “Designed and managed major PR/promotional events and presence at trade shows.” What is “major”? What trade shows? What industry? What effect did these have on market share? The original statement tells me little about true ability.

The job seeker paid good money to have his resume “fixed” by a professional writer, but unfortunately, the result is as ineffective as the “unfixed”, four-page-long version. It sounds better than the original; the resume writer was a wordsmith, but he wasn’t a strategist with good knowledge of how to position his client as THE candidate to hire. Somehow, I don’t think he guaranteed his work, either, or the job seeker wouldn’t have sent it to me for help.

November 2005 / December 2005 /


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