Thursday, October 20, 2005

Resume Writing 101

So my cousin is thinking of hopping employers and sat down to update his resume a while ago. While going over his efforts, I was struck by a rather obvious 'insight'; a resume is just a marketing document!

I can only blame my complete stupidity for not having thought of this before. All this time, I've always thought of the resume to be, well, a curriculum vitae. A summary of one's education, professional history, and job qualifications... as puts it. A numbered list of enraged ex-employers, dubious educational institutions and dodgy projects to be paraded before incredulous HR drones. A stack of paper, with as dense a mass of black on white as possible. Something to win your next assignment with by boring - or more satisfying still - bludgeoning, the opposition to death.

However if you really think about it, a resume is really the first step is marketing that most desirable of commodities.


Like any good marketing campaign you've got to not only provide accurate information, but also dress it up in a manner that attracts and excites. Let's face it, there's not much difference between a good resume and what's on a packet of chips. You've got the ingredients, the promotional puffery, the endorsements by trusted spokespersons... What we've got to learn is what makes people buy one brand and not another. Especially since at heart, all they're really getting is some sliced, salted spuds and a warm feeling that's just impending indigestion.

It's - to a large part - all in the presentation.

So apply standard marketing techniques to your resume. Identify your target audience. Satisfy HR enough to get by their buzzword filter. Stand out enough so you're noticed by first level decision makers. Give HR their alphabet soup of acronyms and certifications, but make sure the tone is such that it also catches the attention of your (you hope) new superiors.

Write your resume taking into account the kind of company and industry you're aiming for. Be edgy and provocative if you're targeting a hipper crowd. Stay a little more conservative if you want to be a banker or accountant. Remember though, it's better to be specifically rejected than simply ignored. If you make something that some people hate, then others will love it. Design to elicit emotional responses. It's better to be hated than to not to make an impression at all.

Think of using colours, textured paper, blurbs from past employers/superiors, innovative designs... whatever. The people reviewing your resume plow through hundreds of boring CVs a day written by earnest hopefuls. You have to make an impact if you're going to get an invite to an interview...

...which is a whole 'nother packet of chips.

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