Header image  

The Six Secrets

This document is provided as a public service to friends and clients of Cluff & Associates.
Duplication for nonprofit purposes is allowed. Publication for sale is strictly prohibited.


There have been hundreds of books and articles written about the right and wrong ways to write a resume. While much of the advice offered by these various authors has value, few if any of us have the time or interest to sort through all of it to discern what our resume should look like. Over my twenty-five years in recruiting and employment, I've learned that there is a recipe for success when putting your professional credentials to paper. This is what I have come to call the six secrets of successful resumes.


Think of Your Resume as an Advertisement –

Not as an Autobiography.

The job search process is, by nature, a marketing program. You are trying to get one or more companies interested in buying your services. So, you advertise the most salient features you have to offer. Consider the new car analogy.

As a potential buyer of a new car, you are unlikely to be interested in the history of the company that made it, or the detail of the process by which it was manufactured. You really want to know what it can do relative to your specific needs and expectations of a new car. If you see an advertisement that addresses most, if not all, of your needs, then you'll probably want to take it for a test drive. So it is with company managers and recruiters who have to look at lots of "ads" (resumes) before they find some who may be worthy of a 'test drive' (an interview).

Tell the readers of your resume about your major skills and accomplishments, not your complete life history.


Write for the Reader –

Not for Yourself.

A common mistake many of us make is to record our proudest and greatest moments and share them with the world in the form of a resume. For some, that becomes very heavy reading (pun intended). The resume is supposed to get the readers interested, not put them to sleep.

As a general rule, all unrelated work history and positions held more than 10 years ago should be given only brief mention. Why sell features that are out-of-date or have no apparent value to the potential buyer?

A clean, easy-to-read resume with lots of white space presented in a one- or two-page format is more likely to be read by a busy manager or recruiter than one which has the appearance of a novel.


Make It Easy for Them to Screen You In –

Not Out.

In case you haven't noticed, most advertisements and job postings call for the same basic information—a minimum level of education, a range or minimum number of years of experience, and a few key skill requirements. If you know what they are looking for, don't bury it the narrative of your resume. Make it easy for them to see these things at a glance.

Group your key skills in a special section and label it appropriately, e.g. Technical Skills, Computer Skills, Areas of Expertise, etc. Also, group your relevant education and training together and label it accordingly so it can be found quickly. Your work history should include dates of employment for each employer to permit the reader to determine the extent of your experience.

An alternative approach would be to open your resume with a Summary of Qualifications and address these major points in a three or four line paragraph. Don't make them look for it; put the important stuff where they can't miss it.


Tell Them Only What They Want to Hear –

Take Out the Fluff.

As you are composing your updated version of your resume, see if the content you have selected can pass these three tests. Is it Recent? Is it Relevant? Is it Significant?

Your recent experiences and accomplishments deserve the greatest attention because they are usually most representative of your current level of abilities. What you did 10 or 15 years ago seldom adds more than a sense of progression or chronology to your resume, so don't waste a lot of space detailing your early career duties and accomplishments.

If you state an objective at the beginning of your resume (and I recommend that you do), then everything else in your resume should be relevant to that objective. If it isn't, leave it out. For example, if you are applying for a job as a telephone customer service agent, what relevance is there in detailing your outside interests to include 'volunteer firefighters or "ordained minister"? If you are trying to rationalize that it will give the reader a better feel for you as a person rather than a commodity, go back to Secret #2.

Recruiters want to know only about the really significant stuff that you've done. If you had ten significant accomplishments in your last job, prioritize them in terms of what the reader may be interested in, then include only 3 or 4 in your resume. Save the rest for the interview.

On behalf of all my fellow recruiting professionals, be it known to all parties that brevity always wins over verbosity.


Give Them Proof –

Not Promises.

If you get past the first screen for key skills, experience and education, the final cut is likely to be based upon the quality and credibility of the past accomplishments you reveal. Significant, factual, verifiable past accomplishments are far more believable than grand promises of what you plan to do in the future.

You may be honest, trustworthy and dependable, but that won't get you a job. Results sell. Tell the reader, "I did this (for a former employer, or in a previous assignment)," and they'll infer that you can do the same for them.

Nothing succeeds like success. Sell your past successes.


Rifle-Shot Your Resume –

One Size Does NOT Fit All.

A resume is not a one-of-a-kind document. In this computer age, your resume should be as easy to change as your clothes. If you care enough to dress appropriately for the occasion, then you should be willing to change the look of your resume to suit the opportunity.

The generic resume is a thing of the past, and, unfortunately, a lot of people are still living there. These resumes are either too long and difficult to read, or they leave too much to the interpretation of the reader. In either case, the end result is usually no further interest. Shotgun approaches seldom hit the bulls-eye.

If you really want a job, you must specifically tailor your resume to be the stand-out candidate for it. Write the resume to make yourself appear to be the perfect fit for the job for which you are applying. Reload your resume with the right ammunition (see Secrets 1 through 5), then aim it well at the target job you seek.


Happy Hunting!

Home  |  Project S.A.V.E.  |  Jobs  |  Upcoming Events  |  Knowledge Share  |  About Us  |  Contact