YAHOO! published a posting today entitled “10 Boilerplate Phrases That Kill Resumes,” written by Liz Ryan. In it, the writer, who is a career professional, asserts that, with today’s changed job market, job seekers need to change the way they go about writing resumes. She suggests adding a human voice and throws out this as an example:
I’m a Marketing Researcher who’s driven by curiosity about why people buy what they do. At XYZ Industries, I used consumer surveys and online-forum analysis to uncover the reasons why consumers chose our competitors over us; our sales grew twenty percent over the next six months as a result. I’m equally at home on sales calls or analyzing data in seclusion, and up to speed on traditional and new-millennium research tools and approaches. I’m fanatical about understanding our marketplace better every day, week and month — and have helped my employers’ brands grow dramatically as a result.
Liz has got one thing right in her approach. Her style sure does break the mold when it comes to resumes. But, if I received a resume like this, it would hit the can before I could say “ishkabibble.” Let’s take a closer look, shall we?
Liz opens with paragraph that begins: “I’m a Marketing Researcher…” and then goes on to describe who “she” is. Two things wrong with this. First off, the word “I’m” does not belong in the resume. Neither does “I” or any other pronoun. Second, opening up with “I’m a Marketing Researcher who’s driven by curiosity about why people buy what they do” is just, well, bad writing. It sounds like the beginning of a cover letter — and a juvenile cover letter at that — not a resume. If she is suggesting that this be a summary, the summary needs to be short and sweet. It could look something like this, based on her description:
SENIOR MARKETING RESEARCH ANALYST
Industries: Pharmaceutical • Finance • Consumer Packaged Goods
Core Competencies: Primary • Online • Focus Groups • Analysis • Reporting
The intro is supposed to grab the reader’s attention and clearly illustrate, in 10 seconds or less, who you are and what you do. Save the hard core selling and “results produced” for the body copy so there is contextual relevance. For example if the candidate’s research at Bank of America resulted in an increased profit margin, than state this under the job itself so the reader knows what the growth numbers relate to.
Liz goes on to list the 10 things she thinks are awful to see on a resume. I agree that some of these phrases she mentions are weak, including: “team player; strong work ethic; works well with others; excellent communications skills.” There are others that she mentions that sound a little like blah-blah if they are hanging out on their own without any qualifiers. BUT, if you tie some numbers in, these phrases are actually very impactful. Here are some examples:
The phrases “proven track record of success” and “met or exceeded expectations” are ones the writer does not like. I agree with her that on their own, they don’t carry much weight. However, if I’m writing a sales resume for a client, you can bet I’m going to use them — with qualifiers. One of the most important things a hiring manager wants to see is something like: “Met or exceeded sales goals by as much as 25% each quarter.” If you attach a number to it — it works. Leave it hanging on it’s own — it doesn’t.
Finally, Liz doesn’t like to see “more than x-years of progressively responsible experience…” on a resume. Well, in almost every single job advertisement that you see, the requirements say “must have x-number years experience.” So, why wouldn’t one address this clearly in the beginning so that the reader knows you meet this minimum requirement?
What’s the moral of the story here? Not everyone in the career business is going to see eye-to-eye when it comes to what they want in a resume. Most of our differing opinions are minor though and don’t change the general effectiveness of a resume. In some cases, however, differences of opinion are much more severe and this is one of those times. If you are going to write your own resume, read a ton about what professionals in the business have to say and try to find a common ground.