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Resumes: Stripped Down or Not?

Jacqui Barrett-Poindexter, a professional resume writer, owner of CareerTrend, and writer on resume and career topics for GlassDoor.com, USNews.com and other highly respected publications, wrote recently on her opposition to the idea that resumes should be "stripped down" to be effective in getting noticed.

She wrote two pieces on the subject:

The 6-second resume scan is hogwash, and Why You Shouldn't Conform Your Resume

I always respect and appreciate Jacqui's opinions. This is a subject I've written of on occasion, however, generally from the point of view that "brevity is a virtue". I wanted to respond to her pieces. And probably to her surprise… we agree more than she may suspect!

As I've written in Your Ideal Resume!: Ask 10 “experts” their opinion of your resume and you’ll get 10 different, often contradicting answers. Resumes are very subjective and what is thought to be an "Ideal" resume to one person may be considered a poor representation of a career to another.

I've also written extensively about the importance of tailoring your resume to the audience (Customize Your Ride!!!). It should emphasize your related skills and strengths for the position you are pursuing. It should also be tailored to the role of the person you are presenting it to.

As Jacqui correctly points out: …recruiter needs, motivations and preferences often are distinctly different from other hiring decision-maker preferences.

A recruiter, or HR representative is going to be very focused on looking for certain key things very quickly. Their primary role is to separate the good from the bad, and bring the few most obviously qualified candidates to the top. Conversely, a hiring manager, who often will get only the final few resumes presented to them, generally will read the resume with the perspective of wanting to get to know the candidate better.

As I also wrote regarding cover letters in Cover or Uncovered???:

In most companies, the hiring managers don’t usually get many resumes to sort through themselves. The corporate recruiter or HR representative usually has the responsibility to screen the majority of applicants and present a select few for the hiring manager to consider. Also, since the hiring manager naturally has the greatest interest in knowing more about the applicants they are somewhat more likely to read a cover letter if one is available.

Knowing your audience is critical to presenting the most effective document!

I firmly believe that a reality remains: if you are submitting your resume through an online application or sending it directly to a recruiter or HR representative, a "paragraph format" resume is not nearly as likely to grab their attention. When they are working at evaluating several resumes as quickly as possible, the most effective resume will be written with Short Substantive Soundbites! 

So… what should be the take away?

The recurring theme that most any job hunt coach will tell you… networking and personal contact with potential employers is critical to a an effective job search. At times you may have no other option than to simply submit your resume online and hope and wait for a response. However, you will always have far greater success by finding a hiring manager or someone else in the department and send a resume directly to them.

That resume (directed to someone who doesn't necessarily have to sort through many of them, and who has a greater direct interest in the type of person they might work with) can be highly effective by telling your "career story".

An effective job seeker should not have only one "final" resume. They should be armed with multiple versions to suit multiple situations, and they should be tailored for each person it is sent to.

Should a resume always be "stripped down", or always conveying a detailed "career story"? No. It should be tailored and appropriate for the audience. There are "ideal" situations for each!

I suspect Jacqui would agree!


Too Long or Too Short?

An Effective Resume for Today!

One size does NOT fit all!

New Job Search? Time to ‘Tweak’ the Old Resume! NOT!

1 comment:

Jacqui Barrett-Poindexter (CareerTrend) said...

Hello Harry,

Thank you for your articulate, respectful responses to my pieces.

While we may respectfully agree to disagree on a few points, mostly, yes, we are in alignment! This doesn't surprise me, as your insights and continual, robust career blog messages almost always hit a chord with me, and I often bookmark them to share with my clients.

I encourage my clients they don't need to have multiple resumes because I feel a highly focused careerist and job seeker, with in-depth introspection and guidance, can hone down their resume messaging to one, uber-focused result. Albeit, I *do* agree that a few tweaks here in there in headlines and particular lead-ins and keywords can be adjusted to meet the nuanced needs of different audiences. In that regard, I think we are pretty closely aligned in our thought processes!

Where we most strongly agree is that personal contact and networking (my other favorite term adapted from another blogger, is, "netweaving") is critical to an effective job search. Presenting one's career story through these channels boosts the likelihood that the reader will be engaged in the resume vs. skimming it for a few buzzwords.

In instances (particularly online) where formatting may be an issue in uploading one's message, converting one's robust Word resume to ASCII (plain text) is helpful. As well, in an ideal world (and some forward-leaning careerists already do this) preparing a portfolio with a 1-2 page 'lean' professional / executive summary (a career 'brief,' if you will) augments their beefier, 2-3 page 'story.'

At the end of the day, we are all individuals with unique preferences! I get that. I stand by the supposition: "Career search is marketing, and this begins with a pithy and unique-to-each-individual resume design and strategy!" If done well, the first page synopsis delivers the lean message the recruiter seeks, and the content extending thereto satisfies the hunger of the reader needing the richer story.

And often, focused nuance, even in a powerfully (and well written <-- which is key) word-robust resume, will compel the reader who profess the most strict resume rules, influencing them to act.

Thanks again for extending the conversation in your respectful way, Harry. Quite honestly, the topic is big enough to fill a small book!


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