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Monday, February 06, 2006
Avoid the "Huh?" Response
Language is used for many types of communications. Poetry is painting with words. Prose is the passing of a story. Narrative is the telling of a story from a particular point of view. Journalism is informing of current events. Instructional writing is telling how to do something.

Resume writing falls into the category of marketing. A resume is intended to sell a job seeker’s attributes to an employer. It must excite the reader about the qualifications of the job seeker. It should sell their achievements as the solutions to future problems. It should list a basic work history and educational record in order to inform. What it should not do is be strictly description. Description does not “sell” a job seeker to an employer.

Many job seekers writing their own resumes labor to use language that contains large words and flowery descriptions in an effort to portray a high-brow or highly educated mien in the document. Unfortunately, high readability levels of a resume are not conducive to making the sale. Resumes written as such tend to be difficult to understand quickly, do not communicate value very well, and bog down the reader.

I found a great example of obscure writing over the weekend in some reading I was doing on critical thinking. Clarity of thought and word is vital in a resume. Unfortunately, many end up reading like the following passage excerpted from Being and Time, by Martin Heidegger’s.

“Temporality makes possible the unity of existence, facticity, and falling, and in this way constitutes primordially the totality of the structure of care. The items of care have not been pieced together ‘in the course of time’ [“mit der Zeit”] out of the future, the having been, and the Present. Temporality “is” not an entity at all. It is not, but it temporalizes itself…Temporality temporalizes, and indeed it temporalizes possible ways of itself. These make possible the multiplicity of Dasein’s modes of Being, and especially the basic possibility of authentic or inauthentic existence.”

The average person’s response to this passage is “Huh?” Many resumes elicit the same reaction. Those resumes do not generate interviews.

Clarity of communication is absolutely vital. Always question “Is there a simpler way of saying this so it can be understood more easily?” Simpler is better. Here’s an example of a bullet point that appeared on a resume we reviewed recently:

“Implemented communication consolidations to provide a 40% reduction in communication costs.”

A simpler, more clear way to say this and make it a marketing statement would be:

-Saved 40% in communications cost by switching to single telecom carrier.

Does the second statement say the same as the first? Yes. Does it communicate differently? Most definitely. Which statement is easier to understand? The second one. Remember, you never want to get the reaction of “Huh?” to the content in your resume. Be clear, be simple, be accurate. And be on time for the interview!

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