Is your resume just fluff? Parsons students recognize the need for tangible claims.

I was privileged recently to spend a couple of hours with a wonderful group of designers graduating from Parsons, The New School for Design. These talented young people were about to hit the job market and I had been asked to give them some pointers.

They paired off and I asked each of them explain to the other what they wanted to do and why they should be hired to do it. Two minutes each. Then each of them reported to the whole group on their partner’s ambitions and why a hirer should pick them.

“What did you learn from this exercise?” I asked after all reports had been made. Quick as a flash one bright young man said, “I wouldn’t hire any of us.”

“Oh.” said I. “And why would you not?”

“Because there was nothing tangible.”

He was right. No one gave a solid reason or example of anything that might persuade someone to pick them. It was all fluff, nothing real, nothing specific.

These guys are forgiven, this is their first step into the job market and in fact they cottoned on right away and worked out what it is that they should be saying to make their cases. But I see this with so very many resumes and hear it from so many people I talk to – including mid and late career folk. There’s nothing tangible. There are lots of values and generic qualifications. Lots of general qualities that could apply to hundreds of people and therefore has value for no-one. But where is the tangible success? Where is the tangible goal? Where are the specific achievements? Everyone has them, why are they so reluctant to brag on them? At best they are often buried deep in a templated chronological recitation of their careers.

So check your own resume – does your summary include something tangible? Or do you have a fluffy summary and is the good stuff hidden away in the depths?