Reading your own resume

Published on May 19, 2022 by Matt Bud, The FENG
Resume Writing Standing Out From the Crowd

It is always a good idea to read your own resume. Sadly, I find that many people don’t.

The typographical errors are bad enough. For example, in a batch I once reviewed for one of our assignments for The FECG, one member even had an obvious error in how he spelled his own name. (Yes, you can’t make this stuff up.)

More subtle perhaps are the kinds of things that just make you look plain silly.

Starting right at the top, let’s talk about the summary that many of you rightly include as part of your opus. Like a good 90 second announcement, this part of your resume can do you a lot of good or a lot of damage. In most cases, it is not the meaty material that works, but rather fluff and soft words that have no real meaning. Phrases like “strategic thinker,” “results oriented,” “effective communicator,” “strong leadership abilities,” “decision making ability” are so worn and over used as to clearly be trite. In our rush to get our resume finished, it is easy to lose sight of this very obvious point.

Also of limited benefit are the lists of the dozen things you do well. I have yet to see a list that wasn’t significantly redundant or included things that are expected of everyone in a senior level financial job. I know why it is there, but I would suggest that you really read it with another person to see if you can narrow it down to what is vitally important to your career history.

Moving to the body of the resume, the most common error I see is the lack of parallel structure.

The purpose of your resume is multifold, however, the first glance test requires that your career history be laid out in a format easy for the reader to behold and absorb. Years of service work best, but I find that many folks have trouble accepting this and for their most current experience branch to months. Month ranges are just plain difficult for the brain (or at least mine) to comprehend. It is sort of like subtracting Roman numerals.

There is also the issue of “definition.” My belief system is that most jobs fall to industry experience and location. I have seen the resumes of some members who are willing to relocate and to emphasize that point, they do not include their home address. The industry piece is frequently lost because most folks don’t include a brief sentence on the business of their former employers. Everyone wasn’t born yesterday, but many of those reviewing resumes were, or have not had the wealth of experience you have to “know” the players in selected industries.

The ends of resumes are also filled with some of the most amazing things you would ever want to see. And, if you really thought about their value to your selling your services to a future employer you wouldn’t include them. It is in a sense the place for everything including the “kitchen sink.” Things like “UCLA Alumni Organization (Life Member),” “Treasurer, Denver Skating Club,” dates of birth (in case they want to send a card I suppose), number of children, your height and weight, little known educational scholarship awards and honors from college including such things as making “Dean’s List” and grade point averages, hobbies such as reading or going for long walks, your ranking of test results from admission tests 20+ years ago, incidental training you have taken such as in Microsoft Office, how long you have been married, organizations which you were a member of many years ago perhaps even in college, etc. (I got all this from just a few dozen resumes I’ve seen on my desk the past month. I could go on and on.)

The solution here is to get a good picture of yourself or a mirror and place it on the desk in front of you. Read each of these kinds of things aloud and ask yourself if they are really important to who you are NOW. Chances are, much of the silliest stuff you carried forward from earlier resumes. I know it is hard, but get rid of them.

The past, as reflected on your resume, is certainly a predictor of your possible fit and success for a future job. And, what you have done in the past 10 years is of the greatest interest. Still, you are trying to project a complete picture of that man/woman in the mirror by providing that which is relevant to who you are now.

Like I said, read your own resume once in a while. You were in a panic to get it done when it was first created, and as painful as it might be, rewriting is always a good idea.

Consider that you are smarter about job search than you were just last week. Take advantage of that fact and apply it.

Regards, Matt