A sharp pencil

Published on Jul 01, 2024 by Matt Bud, The FENG
Resume Writing

There is no more powerful tool than a sharp pencil. (The only equally powerful tool is The FENG’s Member Directory Search feature.)

I long ago declared war on unnecessary words. Why? Because they are unnecessary. Duh!

The normal space allotment for a resume is two pages. Okay, if you have to go to three I might be able to live with it, but generally two is the limit.

It is not much space to describe the accomplishments of a lifetime, but you are making a mistake if you think it is necessary to describe each and every thing you have ever done. If you are as old as the hills (or dirt itself) like most of us, there are adventure stories you could tell that would keep everyone here till well past their bedtime. (A little hot toddy will help you sleep, or you can read resumes!)

Anyway, get out some of those old number two pencils that I know you keep hidden in your desk for emergencies and get out the current version of your resume and let’s have at it.

Start at the top and read through the summary that I hope you have there. Are there any words that you think are necessary modifiers? Now read them carefully and ask yourself if they really say anything? How about phrases like “Proven track record” or “Results oriented?” How about “Excellent written, verbal and interpersonal skills?”

The game of opposites that I like to play attacks unnecessary modifiers particularly well. Does your resume speak to your “proven track record?” Would you hire someone who couldn’t write, speak or get along with others? To say you have these skills is sort of redundant. Isn’t your resume a fine example of your writing skills? When you call me or I interview you, there will be time enough for me to decide if you have verbal skills. Lastly, how can you measure your interpersonal skills? Just saying you have them won’t help.

How about “Thrive on international travel. Married. In excellent health. Enjoy running, biking and swimming.” See anything here we could eliminate? How about all of it!

Perhaps “willing to travel internationally” would be a good thing to say, but the rest of it is just plain silly. I don’t know many folks who would admit to being sickly. “Won a marathon last year” might speak to your health better than saying it.

By the way, cheating by going to smaller type fonts is also a bad idea. Again, let’s stick with that sharp pencil and see where we can go.

Going to the end of the resume, how about under technical skills:

Operating Systems:
Windows NT, Windows 98 (this is a good one), NOVELL, MS/DOS

Application Software:
Microsoft Office (anyone who doesn’t know this one, please leave the room now), Great Plains Dynamics, FRX software, Crystal Reports, Access, Sage-Acuity, MAS90, ACT!

Most of the above is wasted space. Except for the specialized software that might be appropriate to potential jobs, most of the above should be removed.

To get a real handle on what is and isn’t significant, collect resumes from others and do the “elimination of unnecessary words test” on someone else’s resume. Now go back to yours and really be hard-nosed about this issue.

You will find that if you do a little pruning, the resulting document will not only be shorter, it will be easier to read and comprehend. Who knows, in its new pristine state, it might even generate some interviews.

Regards, Matt