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Job Hunting, Resumes & Cover Letters

What is a Resume? I’ll Tell You What It’s NOT…


resumes (Photo credit: realisticresumes)

I read resumes every day. Sometimes I scan them to see if they contain sufficient information to refer a qualified jobseeker to a job. Sometimes I make initial assessments on their skills and work history. Sometimes I just give resume reviews.

You can imagine I have read just about everything a person could possibly put in a resume—and a few things I never would have imagined.

We’ve all seen lists of what we should do with our resumes. We know resumes are the gateway to further interaction with a hiring manager—phone interview, in-person interview, testing, whatever. But can we take a brief look at what resumes aren’t?


  1. Resumes are not biographies. I received two resumes just today that are over five pages long—each. I was told that one of them had already been cut down! I hate to think how long it was originally. Employers are only going to scan for a few seconds to see if what he wants is there; if he doesn’t see it in the first half page or so, you’re done.
  2. Resumes are also not novels. Long or short, there better not be untruths in there. Employers are like mothers—they can tell when you’re lying!
  3. Resumes are not scavenger hunts. Don’t make the employer go hunting to find your relevant qualifications. Many is the time when I return a resume to a jobseeker, saying they are not qualified for a job they are applying for, and they point out the missing qualification on the bottom of the 2nd page. Then they look at me like I’m blind??
  4. Resumes are not wet noodles. Avoid sentences that start with “Worked…”, “Responsible for…”, or “Duties included…” I don’t want to know what was expected of you—I want to know what you did!
  5. Resumes are not skeet-shoots. Skeet shooting involves the use of shotguns or scatterguns, which can spray shot over an area while trying to shoot down a clay disc flung into the air. While the “spray and pray” approach might work for that, resumes have to be highly targeted to the qualifications and requirements of the position.

Here’s a little of what I visualize that resumes ARE:

  1. Resumes are distilleries. Distillation separates mixtures, like oils and water, by boiling the water out, leaving small amounts of undiluted essence (be it medicines, essential oils or corn whiskey). Resumes ‘boil’ out the unnecessary stuff and leave short but powerful statements of skill and expertise.
  2. Resumes are term papers. Remember those 10-page long, double-spaced, annotated and bibliographed term papers from high school? You had to start with a short statement giving a precise idea you are proposing or defending, and the rest of the paper backs up that statement. If it doesn’t support the thesis statement, it doesn’t belong. Resumes are the same way. Your first statement, be it objective or professional summary, sets the whole tone; everything else supports it.
  3. Resumes are introductions. Like a 10-second TV spot advertising for the upcoming news broadcast, the resume gives a tease of the interesting information you have to give. That 10-second spot may say, “fatal car crash on I-5, more at 11.” Now you’re hooked– you will stick around to find out more. The interview is meant to give relevant information briefly, to ‘hook’ the hiring manager into bringing you into an interview. That is all a resume is meant to do.

About kimberlyjmyers

I am a workforce development professional in Washington State. I have ten years experience working with dislocated workers, vocationally impaired, and people with disabilities on many levels and backgrounds from offenders to non-English speaking refugees from around the world. The One thing the clients I have worked with all had in common: there was some barrier to employment, and I work diligently every day to identify, address and remove those barriers.

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October 2012
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