One of my favorite “sayings from the Chairman” is: I try to make things so easy that anyone can do it. That way if I try hard, I can too!
KISS or “keep it simple stupid” is one of the most often violated principles of job search and part of the reason that we fail to communicate our true value. Yes, I know that many of us have arcane skills. But you need to keep in mind that the burden of communication is on you.
How often have I heard “but it was all right there in my resume.” Oh, if that simple statement were REALLY true. Sure, it was there all right, but it was buried in a less than crisp format or in a complicated statement.
Friends, there are good and valid reasons why newspapers are written at an 8th grade level. Resumes should be too. The initial screening is rarely if ever done by those capable of understanding all that you have written.
Resumes and cover letters need to go through stages of development. The model I would suggest is one I learned many years ago when I was in the College Textbook business. One of the psychology professors who had published a top selling book for us came to speak about the design process of his latest revision. The process he discussed is one you can use to improve your two most important communication tools.
As he was “building” his new book he would distribute draft chapters to his classes. He asked that students circle any words or concepts they didn’t understand. He then rewrote or put definitions in the margin. At the time, it was an innovative approach that was in contrast to the “they’ll just have to figure it out” method of most learned writers.
You can take the same approach. Give your major communication pieces to others, not with the intent of them “fixing” them, but rather for them to just quickly comb through and circle things that aren’t clear or to highlight terms they don’t understand. Leave it at that. Don’t try to get them involved in fixing it. It is enough to know that they didn’t understand it or didn’t like it.
With this stack of criticisms you can now go at it in a more intelligent manner and modify and tweak to your heart’s content. There is a belief on the part of us financial types that short means incomplete. This is simply not true. Some parts of the stories we feel the need to tell are only important to others in our profession. Short and pointed explanations may not meet the test of full disclosure, but they are more than sufficient to create the limited understanding needed to call you in for an interview.
Learning to write with clarity, like accounting and finance, is only learned over a period of time. This is especially true when the subject is such a complicated one – your acquired skill set.
So, write, rewrite and rewrite again. I know it is painful and a lot less fun than getting a spreadsheet to look good, but your real audience can’t be left thinking what a complicated guy you are.
Simple is best. And the best impression to leave is one of being a great communicator.