Is Your Résumé Working For You?

Résumé Working For You?
Résumé Working For You?
Is your résumé working for you? Your résumé is a marketing document meant to show a recruiter you are the best fit for the advertised job. Your résumé is the start of building your brand. But it is not meant to convey your life story.

Your goal in writing the résumé is to show clearly, concisely, on one page, maximum two, why you are the best fit for the organization. Effectively, how you might create superior value than someone else. A two-page résumé is better than a cluttered one-page document. Therefore, eliminate fluff, be stingy—show only information that will help someone decide if he or she should invite you for an interview. That’s why your résumé must pass the eye test. So, review it and ask this crucial question: Does it look crammed? If it does, reduce the words. From my experience and research, here are a few areas that should be in and out of the résumé:

In Your Résumé 

  1. Name
  2. Relevant skills helpful to your value creation ability You might be tempted to show all your wonderful skills. Avoid that path. Show only specific skills that might tell the organization you are ideal for this job. If the job might need computer skills, highlight software applications with which you are competent. If in doubt, show less information.
  3. Current Position: Title, Company, Employment Dates Show dates in descending order, starting with the current. Be specific about your accomplishments. Instead of “managed a small group,” say, “managed a team of seven with a budget of $12,000 a month.” Be particular; don’t leave the recruiter guessing.
  4. Previous Position: Title, Company, Employment Dates Same information as current position above.
  5. Education Include accomplishments such as deans list three of four years.
  6. Awards, Hobbies, Volunteer Experience Present information that might help convey how you used your skills effectively. You might save coins, collect stamps, and have other hobbies, but those might not help a recruiter understand you better. Show only those items that might help the recruiter assess how you might perform well in the organization.

Out of  Your Résumé

  1. Career objective This is you talking about you; it’s subjective, adds clutter, and meaningless now.
  2. “References available on request” Really; don’t you think the organization knows it will get references if it asks you! When it asks, provide them; it’s their call. They might have a specific approach such as a “360-degree” process where they want references from a former boss, subordinate, and peer.
  3. Superlatives about you not highlighted in your jobs or volunteer experiences. So, you are “a real problem solver,” who is “a perfect fit for the team.” Show me! Is it obvious from your work experience that you are a “real problem solver”? Don’t use this empty, overused phrase. Instead, indicate briefly how you solved problems in your previous jobs. Show this under your work experience. Then again, how do you know you are a “perfect fit for the team”? You don’t. Exclude fluffy, catchy phrases that you can’t substantiate.
  4. Paragraphs and Long Sentences Use bullets so the reviewer can scan quickly to see who you are and what you did.
  5. Fluff – don’t give too much information You know how wonderful you are. You have done many things, but your résumé is not about your life history. Essentially, it is about your work experience and your education. Keep it simple and to the point. Adding too much might prevent you from meeting someone in the organization.

Recruiters spend six seconds looking at your resume

According to The, and other sources, recruiters spend about six seconds reviewing each résumé, and they focus 80% of that time on these four areas:

  1. Name
  2. Current Position: Title, Company, Dates of Employment
  3. Previous Position: Title, Company, Dates of Employment
  4. Education

This is the question recruiters must face: How do I get the best fit for the job and for the organization? That’s the question you must answer. This is your challenge as a job seeker: How do you get beyond the screening process? You need a simple, clear, honest, direct listing of who you are, and what you did that shows you will be able to do a better job than another person. In my years in business, except once, my colleagues and I did not use résumé information to help us choose a candidate. The only instance I allowed an outstanding résumé to sway my thinking, I discovered after we hired the person that he lied abut his qualifications. That’s not unusual; over 50% of people lie on their resumes!


There is no shortage of advice on how to write a résumé. However, I suggest you focus on the primary reason for writing as mentioned above and follow these simple guidelines

  1. You can write it; you don’t need a professional
  2. Keep it simple, clear, honest
  3. Include the “in” items, exclude the “out” items listed above
  4. Include a brief, simple, direct, cover letter
  5. Proofread several times; correct spelling and grammar errors
  6. Beware of overused, meaningless words, and commonly misused words: principle instead of principal, accept instead of except, then instead of than. As well, match your tenses.
  7. Ask someone to read the completed résumé. Check for simplicity, substance, and meeting the goal of the résumé: Does the résumé describe you honestly as potentially the best fit for the job and for the organization?

© 2015, Michel A. Bell

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Michel A. Bell

Michel A. Bell is a former senior business executive, author of seven books — including his first children's book published in 2022 — speaker, and adjunct professor of business administration at Briercrest College and Seminary. Michel is a Fellow of the Chartered Certified Accountants (UK), holds a Masters of Science in management degree from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a Doctor of Business Administration honoris causa from Briercrest College and Seminary. He is founder and president of Stewarding God's Resources.

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