Resume Feedback

First published in Cynopsis Classified Advantage

I recently received a resume from an apparently extremely capable leader in the digital marketing field. He is an innovator who has launched and built digital departments in several major ad agencies.

But I had to work my way through his chronology to figure this out. His brief summary was utterly generic.  It could have been written by any one of a thousand people and it didn’t in any way indicate the innovations that he had been responsible for. Nor could I tell what campaigns he had worked on or what strategies he had crafted and executed. So a quick glance would not have separated him from the pack.

I sent this resume to a recruiter friend.  Here is some of her feedback: “He looks good but there’s a but… I don’t really get the actual hands-on work or accomplishments/impacts on business from each of his roles. It’s TOO topline and needs to go deeper.”

Wonderful and succinct feedback. This is advice that we can all take to heart as we review our resumes.  (You do do that regularly don’t you?) Make sure it tells clearly and simply what you have done and what you can do. You have to show that you can do it yourself, that you have done it and with what success. The days of the manager who just sits in the office and manages other people are over.

Writing our own resume can be a trip down memory lane, with all those snapshots illustrating the twists and turns of our lives. But a stranger reviewing your resume is not interested in your life story  they want to know are you the best person to fill their position. To them this is not about the story of your life, it is about the next chapter of theirs.

So select and present the details under each position so that they support your positioning as clearly stated at the top.  Make them vivid  put in detail that no one else could. Saying that you “built a world class division” doesn’t mean much in this age of superlatives  instead provide specifics that actually carry weight and bring your value to life. 

Be tough on yourself.  Check each element of your resume to see if it supports the clear story you want to tell.  Then check each element to see if it is unique to you.  If it is generic, then rewrite it  reframe it.  Squint at your resume (metaphorically of course!) – look at it sideways – and see if the main idea is so strong that it still shines off the page.

  • I want to forward this to a 27 year old acquaintance (computer programming) who has a two-page resume. I told him that you CANNOT have anything longer than ONE page unless you have a Phd. or are over 50. Something like that. Your thoughts?

  • Thanks for this Dottie. I agree with you. I absolutely prefer a one pager if at all possible.

    The hirer wants to know what you can do for them and whether they should take the time to meet you. Your resume need not be your whole life story – it should be a clear summary of the value that you offer to an employer, with supporting cases and a simple chronology that shows your career trajectory. Its main purpose should be to get you to an interview.

    You should be able to do that on one page. If you can’t, you had better offer a truly compelling reason for someone to turn to page two – because they really won’t want to. The chances are they are going to make up their mind about whether the resume is a keeper before they are half way down the first page.

    And by the way – I don’t think being over 50 really excuses the second page. Perhaps you can condense the chronology – or make it more of a bio with a few major highlights – but please don’t make me read the detail of every thing you have done for the past 30 years.

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