Your Resume is Not About You

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“But this resume is about me. ME!”

“No, this resume is not about you,” I responded.

“This resume is not about me? Then who is it about?” asked Michelle.

“This resume is about the hiring manager.”

I was speaking with Michelle a project manager at a large New York City bank. We were discussing how
to present her projects and accomplishments on her resume and in her spoken communications.
Specifically, we were discussing how to present the results of her great accomplishments. Michelle
thought there was a more direct way to state her accomplishments and she was concentrating on
grammar, sentence structure, and word choices.

“Don’t you think this is a more direct way to write about my accomplishments?”

I took some time to explain how resumes are read, or more accurately not read. I told Michelle that only 2 people are going to read her resume from beginning to end – the 2 of us. It was unlikely that anyone else, including recruiters and hiring managers, would read this resume all the way through. In fact, the higher level a candidate, the more likely it is that the hiring manager will not take time to read the resume. All resumes are advertising documents, but the more senior a candidate, the more this is true.

“…We Must Demonstrate Value…”

I believe that resumes should be written in a style that promotes hiring managers easily finding their pain points. Frequently candidates ask me, “Is this a good resume format?” Honestly? I’ve written 15,000+ resumes in the last 20 years. To me a good format is the format that currently works. People have less and less time to think, to strategize, to read. This is especially true of hiring managers, and the more senior they are the less time they have. What is the format that works for these senior hiring managers? Formats that allow them to see quickly how the candidate brings value to their organization. In the working world we are all cost centers or profit centers.

If we are salesman, sales leader, marketing manager, regional manager, and head of a division, we must show revenue results for our work. These people constitute profit centers. Most of us are cost centers. That means we must demonstrate value in terms of production efficiencies, regulatory compliance, cost savings, working capital, management reporting, project delivery, quality production, safety, and many other areas.

“…this is how the hiring manager would assess his needs/the candidate’s value”

For instance, let’s say a candidate has led the business and IT side of a mission-critical, corporate-wide initiative that aligned the organization with regulatory guidelines, secured company data, lowered headcount, decreased software licensing, cut maintenance costs, empowered the marketing team to track programs in real time, directly enabled the sales team, and improved management reporting. Clearly this is a large, important project. But I would not present this project as one project. I would present this project in terms of outcomes. In other words, this one project would be 4 or 5 projects — because this is how the hiring manager would assess his needs/the candidate’s value.

Hiring managers look at their challenges in terms of single buckets. They have specific needs. When I coach a candidate and write his resume, I emphasize the solutions that the candidate delivers on behalf of the hiring manager and the organization. Candidates tend to think in terms of, “this is what I did,” but hiring managers think in terms of, “this is what hurts.”

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