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Write a Powerful Résumé

Write a Powerful Résumé

From Career Tips, 2012 Volume 7, July 2012


Hand Projecting Light

Do you ever wonder why the vast majority of résumés are so lackluster? I chalk it up to 2 reasons:

  1. Most people approach their résumés with the wrong mindset.
  2. Most of us weren't schooled in marketing, and how to 'sell' in writing.


Now before you run out to pay someone to do that for you, let me just warn you that I've also seen many that were done by professionals that were still pretty weak. Although those writers understood that the résumé should be a marketing document, they didn't know how to apply that knowledge beyond adding nice sounding but somewhat generic phrases you could find in any book, or putting in fancy graphic elements to make it look glitzy. That isn't REAL marketing.


I recall one business associate who showed me a résumé she had paid someone on the order of $1,000 to write, and she wasn't very happy with the result. My first reaction to it was, "What BS!" We sat down for lunch, and over then next 1 1/2 hours, transformed it into a sales document that represented her well, highlighted what she brought to the table, and really 'sold' her package.


Another reason having someone else write your résumé for you usually turns out badly is that your résumé has to be real. It needs to accurately reflect you and what makes you unique, and your own style and personality. Otherwise when interviewers and hiring managers actually meet you, there will be a disconnect that impairs the relationship.


I don't mean to say that there are no good résumé writers out there. You just need to interview that person carefully, and find out exactly how they go about it. Look at samples of their work, and if you see a lot of empty phrases like "results-oriented professional", "demonstrated success", and "collaborative team player", move on. And if their process is to ask you to fill out a questionnaire and then go off to write it themselves, just walk away.


The best approach is a true collaboration. When I work with my clients on their résumés, I interview them on their work history, volunteer efforts, school projects, presentations, education, etc. I probe to get at the true essence of what value they added in each project / job / area of focus.


Sure, I suggest how I would express what that client should be communicating, even specific language and phrasing. But I then insist that the client examine that in context, and re-write it as needed to truly reflect them and their personality. They are always the final arbiter of what will make it to the final draft.


Now let's get into the 3 questions your résumé must answer to grab a hiring manager's attention:

The First Question

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