Ten Tips for Keeping Your Resume Out of the Circular File

I stopped writing resumes when I realized I was much happier starting a business. But that’s just not true for everyone… So I have lots of friends who are on the prowl for a new senior exec job. Naturally, they expect I can help them improve their resume’s chances of getting through to the right person.

Note: This is my final word(s) on the subject. Please do not send me your resume. But I do want to help you, albeit in a general way, so here goes. My top ten:

  1. Put your address on it so it doesn’t look like you are living in your car. I know you have a lot of experience and you want to cram it into two pages because somewhere there is a ‘two page rule’ but really, this is not the place to skimp.
  2. Think up a better title or tag line. No one will read everything you wrote because resumes are inherently boring, especially compared to some of the funnier jokes their friends sent them today.
  3. Put your industry right up there in the title. I know you want to appear flexible but recruiters (especially at the executive level) care about industry. A lot. That’s how they make money, specializing in an industry. So get it on there.
  4. Use the job title you expect or want. Like Lord High Executioner or Ruler of the Queen’s Navee. Or Executive Vice President of Sales. But please, nothing cutesy like Chief Happiness Officer.
  5. If you do #3 and #4 well, your title will be something like Chief Financial Officer, Aerospace Industry, or Senior Organizational Development Leader, 18 years in Banking. Don’t use a number if you think it isn’t a good one. (I don’t know what a good number is. This is something you need to be comfortable with.)
  6. Rework your opening summary paragraph so it doesn’t sound like Dogbert wrote it. (I like Dogbert but you have to make this very concrete because your resume isn’t being read by me. If you don’t know who Dogbert is, read a few lines of Scott Adams’ brilliant take on the workplace.) Short sentences. Really. People don’t read… Okay, make that most people. And they are screening your resume. Make. Them. Happy.
  7. Make the bullet points pop. Make each one count and make them very different. No Dogbert. No hackneyed words. If you don’t know what words not to use, read Dilbert.
  8. Be more specific on Core Competencies, if you have a section with them. Make it reflect you and no one else. If we were talking sales we would be talking differentiation.
  9. Prune your list of past employment. Be brutal. Only keep what will keep the reader reading. That’s a summary statement, what you did, how it made the company happy. That’s it. And leave off your first jobs if they don’t contribute anything. Same with non-degree training and such.
  10. Now you have room to GIVE ME MARGINS!!! People who actually might want to talk to you want a place to make notes. Or doodle. Whatever, it will look better. And remember, especially if you are a senior executive, that the hiring manager reading your resume is likely to have significant experience. That’s HR-speak for ‘old enough to need reading glasses.’ So pump up that font. Please.

And good luck!

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