How to Write a Perfect Resume

A friend sent me an email he received from a resume writing company that boasted, in the subject line, that they create “perfect” resumes. More power to them. There are just a few problems with their claim:

First, there’s no such thing as a perfect resume. And perfection, in any event, is overrated. There is a debate over who said it first but, whoever it was, was correct, “Perfect is the enemy of good.” If you are shooting for perfection, you will never finish writing your resume. Sometimes “good” is “good enough.”

Second, a resume is a tool. That’s all it is. It’s purpose is to get the recipient to invite you for an interview.

Third, I disagree with those people who say that most recipients of resumes spend 10 seconds reading them. That’s wrong. As I have written previously, they spend five seconds scanning them. Scores of resumes can arrive every day. Who has time to actually read them all? No one. And this is a good thing because…

Four, since the recipient does not have time to actually read a resume when it arrives on their desk, their first impression is going to be visual. So the document needs to be clean, neat and well-organized. Unless you are applying for a job as a graphic designer, there is no need for graphics (which, by the way, can play havoc with some Applicant Tracking Systems). Infographics look great on a report but are a waste of space on a resume. They are just clutter.

Fifth, since many initially scan the resume, not actually reading it, don’t kill yourself when you discover, after you send it, that there is a typo. In a recent unscientific poll on LinkedIn, 75% of respondents, including yours truly, responded that they would consider a candidate whose resume had typos. (Of course, this is within reason. There is a limit! And when the company does a keyword search, the typo may become problematic if, and only if, it’s in a keyword.)

Sixth, the important thing is to grab the recipient’s attention. You do that by simply starting the resume with half a dozen bullet points highlighting relevant professional accomplishments. For veterans, I always suggest, if it’s true (and it usually is) that they write, “Highly decorated veteran of the US…” and then state the branch where they served. (I once had a veteran client who could not get a job interview to save his life. After two hours he finally told me that he was a Silver Star recipient! Once that became the first bullet point at the top of his resume, his phone started ringing! A resume is no place for modesty.)

As for the rest of the resume, you want to show the recipient that you know how to prioritize. Don’t list every responsibility you ever had, just the main ones. Think of the resume as a “tease,” the trailer to a movie to get the recipient to buy the ticket and go and actually see the movie, meaning that they invite you for an interview.

And forget about being perfect. Excpet for my humbal self, I no of know won who is perfekt. If the resume gets you the interview, it’s perfect enough.

Postscript

While writing this article I came upon a survey/poll on LinkedIn asking the question if LinkedIn profiles will replace resumes. My response was to the effect that, while resumes are legally binding documents, LinkedIn profiles are not. Of course, people disagreed with me, which is their right. One person said resumes are not legally binding because they are not signed. In fact, they are. When you note on your cover letter that your resume is attached, since you “sign” the letter (even if it’s an email) you are also signing the resume. And if you are attaching it to an online application, most have a warning that by submitting the application you are confirming that, to the best of your knowledge, the information is accurate – including the resume. As all resumes are part of a job application, I believe they are legally binding. (Not everyone agrees.) After all, you can be fired for lying on your resume.

My view is that a LinkedIn profile is more like an ad. Not everyone on LinkedIn is looking for a job. I’m not. So if someone comes to me for my services, because they saw my profile, why should that be any different from my advertising my services, making the same claims as I make on my profile, in a newspaper or on a billboard? What’s the difference? Why shouldn’t “true in advertising” still apply? And an organization called “LinkedIn” even wants lies in profiles on their site reported! (One person who disagreed with me suggested that I do research before I express an opinion. I had to laugh!)

Of course all of these questions will remain questions until someone sues their employer for firing them for lying on their resume or LinkedIn profile, or until someone is sued for “false advertising” on their profile. But here’s a crazy idea: Don’t lie!