Writing a résumé is a recipe for factory made employees. We all come out as if extruded and stamped by the same cookie machine. After spending hours researching advice for writing résumés, I reached a point where either my stomach turned or a light bulb snapped on above my head, either way, I suddenly understood: it’s all cookie dough!
Résumés are so rule bound and daunting with many do’s and don’ts: keep it to one page, eliminate pronouns, put things in order, do mention this, never say that, use action verbs and here’s a list. The product is one of borrowed words squeezed into a shape that makes everyone look pretty much the same.
Imagine all the employers reading hundreds of résumés every day and each one begins with the candidate stating that he or she possesses “Excellent communication skills.” I can think of no worse example of communication skills, no better example of poor writing than a resume that delivers that prescribed and hyperbolic phrase.
I don’t blame the writers of these résumés. If you are told (by the millions of websites offering such advice) that the one skill most highly valued by employers is excellent communication skills you would want to put that on your resume. You want the job.
The advent of the scannable résumé doesn’t help. It’s is like a science fiction nightmare. “The robot will see you now for your job interview.” The process forces people to use “keywords,” phrases and descriptions of themselves that are superficial and don’t really tell useful, truthful things. In a world of disposable workers, maybe that’s all that needs to be known.
As a writer and editor I live by the ‘show don’t tell’ ethic. I also live to bend and break the rules, to be original, to write the unexpected and overall, to tell the truth. That is good writing. That is excellent communication. Much of the available advice about résumés is concerned with just the opposite.
I may think I have excellent communication skills, but my husband or last boss who fired me may think differently. How can I make the claim convincingly? What shows excellent communication skills? Knowing better than to just say so, for starters.
The best advice is to show it. Show it by listing job highlights or accomplishments that illustrate excellent communication. It takes introspection, creative thinking and honesty to convey the real story. How’s this for a profile statement?
In my career as both a writer and teacher I would not have had a single article published and the kids would have eaten me alive if I did not possess excellent communication skills. I use those skills every day–to survive!
I am not arguing to abandon the existing format. That time will come and it’s being driven by the Internet anyway. Whatever the technology, I think that résumés should be honest documents. They should be polite, positive but well written in the sense that they are truthful and original. I would just like to encourage job seekers to write résumés with more originality. Be true to yourself and find your own words because the key to success is not in borrowing someone’s else’s.