Your Resume should not look like this

Cindy’s Career, 2000 – 2012

Cindy, a victim of the current recession, her career has been on life support since a layoff from a healthcare consulting firm. Prior to its final demise, Cindy took her career through a stint as a personal fitness trainer and ended it working in a car sales with a luxury-car dealership.

Cindy was a graduate of a prestigious university where she earned a degree in integrated science and technology. She immediately began employment as a tumor biology lab technician where she worked for two years before joining the consulting firm. While there, she “utilized empirical data and statistically significant best practices to influence positive change for client’s capital efficiencies.”

In addition to the above, Cindy was a certified phlebotomist, published numerous medical research papers, and played high school soccer. Cindy’s Career was only seven years old. In lieu of flowers, please send condolences to the guidance counselors and college advisors who failed to help Cindy find her best career fit and the writer who created the erratic document referred to as “resume.”


I hope you get the picture. Although the name is obviously fictional, the rest of the information is unfortunately true. I know this, because I took it directly from her resume.

And mind you, Cindy is not alone.

Like many professionals, Cindy never thought of resume as a marketing document that targeted a specific audience with a promise of adding value.

“I’m not really sure yet what I want to do,” she told me, “so I figured I’d just put it all in there so an employer could figure out how to use me.” And they sure did “use” her!

To write an effective resume, don’t begin by looking back over your shoulder to see where you have been.

Sounds unfamiliar, isn’t it?

I suspect your career path, like Cindy’s, was rarely a straight line. Most careers zig and zag in many directions. Take some time to delve deeply into all of your experience.

Look for common themes.

  • What knowledge and skills did you most enjoy using that you want to take to your next job?
  • What types of problems do you most enjoy solving?
  • What words do others use to describe you?
  • What specific details can you pull from your experience to illustrate your answers? If you don’t know, you can hire a professional to help you.

Identify your target audience.

  • Who are they?
  • What do they do?
  • Who are their customers and what problems do they specialize in solving?
  • Talk to people in the industry. Read business and industry news.

Print out job announcements and begin making a list of the

  • knowledge,
  • skills and
  • experience

employers seek in candidates.

Look for crossovers.

  • Who you are and what do you offer compared to what the employer wants and needs?
  • Identify the point where these two paths intersect and begin writing your resume from there.
  • When you look at your past, choose those items that are most relevant to your future and craft the content of your resume around them.

Don’t let your career suffer an untimely death – or worse yet, linger on life support for years (maybe even decades). Look ahead, identify your target, and then assemble and deploy the tools you need to get there. Make sure one of those tools is a well-crafted, strategically focused, and uniquely branded resume!
It’s Still Sporting That Outdated Objective

If your resume is utilizing an objective, you really should trash it and start all over with a fresh, powerful introduction that incorporates a personal branding statement.

A tailored career summary and polished personal branding statement will catch the employer’s attention and give her/him the best information up front—the information he or she needs to make a decision to call you to schedule an interview.

The Design/Format Is Generic

There is a strategy behind resume formatting and design. If you are an executive, yet you are using an entry-level resume format, you will look unprofessional and under-qualified.

It’s Missing Important Keywords

Omit keywords and the software system scanning your resume can’t find you. The recruiter giving your resume a quick once-over is looking for specific keywords as well. Leave them out and you’ll be left out of the interview process.

It Has Generic And/Or Vague Statements

Avoid using the same old terminology that everyone else uses in their resumes. Yes, we know you can problem solve. But instead of telling me you’re a problem solver, show me the result of a problem you solved.

It Doesn’t Focus On Hard Skills

And the championship goes to… hard skills. I used to be a full-time recruiter, and I used Monster and CareerBuilder to search for candidates. Not once did I enter the search terms: great communicator, excellent verbal skills, detail-oriented. These are universal statements millions use to describe themselves.

Give me something tangible and relevant to the position I am trying to fill.

It Tells Vs. Shows

Instead of wasting valuable real estate on your resume providing me with a rundown of your job description (the same one I’ve read a million times as a hiring manager), show me

  • what you achieved,
  • what you accomplished, and
  • what you contributed

in the past.

WOW me with something other than the predictable, mundane job description.

I want to know

  • the challenges you faced in your previous roles,
  • how you addressed them, and
  • the results you obtained.

This makes you different from everyone else. No two people will have the exact same experiences. Your experiences are what make you outshine your competition—USE THEM TO YOUR ADVANTAGE.

It’s Passive

Using terminology that is passive is boring and lacks action. Instead of using phrases like “served as,” “duties included,” “promoted to,” “worked with”…choose strong action verbs. Action verbs do just what they say: they convey action and, ultimately, results.

The hiring manager is interested in results you can provide about what you did along the way. Choose terms like: Launched, Catapulted, Spearheaded, and Pioneered. These terms tell me something. They show me the action you took and captivate my attention so that I want to read on to discover the results you achieved.

Your resume needs to do two things:

  1. It needs to capture the hiring manager’s attention—and
  2. it needs to motivate him or her to pick up the phone and call you for an interview.

If you look and sound like everyone else, you have no competitive advantage. Therefore, you’ve provided the HR person with zero motivation to pick up the phone, call you, and schedule an interview.

Start by adding some variety and focusing on your accomplishments today.
Need help? Tell us at Pathfinders.


Suresh Shah, M.D., Pathfinders Enterprise

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