“The one word you should never use in your resume.” “The phrase guaranteed to get your CV thrown in the bin.” “The resume format you must use to get your next job.” These headlines certainly grab your attention don’t they?
The problem with articles like this is that it assumes that there is one perfect way to write and present your resume to a potential employer. That if you change one thing it will guarantee you the next job you apply for.
Recently I was speaking to some teachers about resumes that are submitted in their industry, particularly from graduates. Some universities tell their students that their resume must be in particular format and students are petrified of changing it in case they are overlooked.
These teachers were so sick of seeing 100 identical applications every time they advertised for a position. They shared with me that they loved to see a resume come in that showed some individuality to the person and stood out from the rest. They also conceded that there are still some Principals that wanted applications in a certain way and would not look at any that were different.
Here’s my point. Unless you know the person that will be reading your resume, how do you know whether they want something different or more of the same? The answer is that you don’t know. The reality is that the person who reads you resume will have their own opinions on what words they love to see and what drives them crazy. Some people love a resume that is very fancy with pretty graphics while the next will hate the unusual fonts and layout and move straight to the next one in the pile.
If you are able to find out what the preferences are of the person that will be reading it, fantastic. But chances are that you will have no idea. So instead of concerning yourself with ‘the one word you should never use in your resume’, think about the best way to sell yourself and your unique skills, knowledge and experience.
As someone who has read thousands of resumes over the years, I look for 3 things:
- Is it easy to read? – lots of white space, no long slabs of words and the font is easy to read
- Can I find the information I want to know quickly? – there is a logical format, clear section headings and I can find what I need easily
- Does it tell me enough about the applicant so I can see if they would be a good fit for the job? – it has enough detail so I can work out what they have done in the past
None of these points rely on one perfect format or the use of particular words. When I work with my clients, I coach them to think of their audience and make sure that it answers those 3 questions.
So next time you see an attention grabbing headline telling you what you must do, don’t panic if your resume does not meet that specific criteria. After all, the perfect resume does not exist. Worry less about being perfect and more about whether the reader will get an understanding of who you are and what you will bring to the role.