Everything is a story about you

Published on May 22, 2023 by Matt Bud, The FENG
Resume Writing

I always find it interesting what people say about themselves.

Those who deal in hiring decisions have so many hidden tools in their arsenal. I suppose the obvious manifestations of who you are come across in the body of your resume and, of course, in your 90-second announcement. What those who know how to read between the lines do next is to listen and/or read every single other word or words you say about yourself to determine who you are and how you might fit into their organization.

There is a section at the bottom of many resumes that I will focus on tonight where folks really “go to heck” with themselves because they are not thinking about the context in which their resume will be seen. Some of this information is an obvious carryover from earlier resumes and needs to be deleted.

As an example, honors you received when you graduated from college. My undergraduate degree dates back over 50 years. (Shocking isn’t it?) The fact that I made Dean’s List probably isn’t very important. While “old timers” isn’t setting in, this academic achievement really shouldn’t be mentioned because it is very dated.

Very little personal information should appear on your resume. The name of your spouse, how long you have been married, how many children you have and their ages, are all examples of things you should consider removing. It is not that these things aren’t positives about you. It is more that they are personal and unrelated to work. Some very productive folks have very unhappy personal lives. It just isn’t a good predictor of employment success.

Languages should only be mentioned if you are fluent. One resume I saw recently indicated that the individual was learning Spanish. While that is very nice, it basically sounds silly.

Awards from your prior employers are another area where you should do a little cutting because they make you look silly. Like that pin you won for perfect attendance at Sunday school, internal company awards are more than a little suspect unlike academic degrees.

Memberships, unless you were President of an organization, are another area you should consider removing. You don’t get a lot of credit for paying dues (we’re talking writing a check to belong). On the other hand, if you have shown leadership and accomplished something outside of work, please have at.

If you passed your CPA exam on the first try, I’m very proud of you, but this is not something that you should mention 25 or more years after the fact. Again, it makes you look silly. When it comes to your CPA certificate or any other certification, the fact that you do or don’t hold an active license is all that is really important.

Software skills are another area needing some attention. I always smile when I see someone who is proficient in Windows. If you can tell me someone who isn’t, I would like to hear from them. A few years ago, somebody listed Windows 98 as an area of knowledge. Hopefully no one is using this product anymore. So, why was it listed?

Please don’t get me wrong. Knowledge or skills in well-known software such as Oracle, SAP, QuickBooks or Hyperion are good to list.

Religious information, just like your political affiliations are good things to leave off. Hobbies, unless they show high energy or deep intellectual pursuits should also be left off or used with caution. Reading is not a good hobby to list as it is low energy. Show me someone with a passionate hobby and that might be interesting and appropriate.

Always keep in mind that you are weaving a story about you. The accomplishments you list at the top of your resume may enhance your standing in the world, only to be brought low by some off handed comment at the very end.

Read every word on your resume and make sure none of them diminish your proud achievements.

Regards, Matt