IT Career JumpStart

Mar 6 2013   3:07PM GMT

The First Rule of Writing — Know Your Audience — Also Applies to Resumes

Ed Tittel Ed Tittel Profile: Ed Tittel

I saw an interesting article on TechRepublic this morning. Entitled “Four things that make your resume look dated,” by Toni Bowers, it digs into a short handful of potential sins to which resume writers are prone. While all of them are worth considering — and her story worth reading — I was forcibly reminded of a profound lesson I’ve learned (and re-learned from time to time) as a professional freelance writer.

Writing your resume to appeal to its readers will work wonders for you.

Writing your resume to appeal to its readers will work wonders for you.
Image Credit: Shutterstock 99799265

That lesson is encoded in the title of this blog as “Know Your Audience,” but what it really means is the following:

  • You understand your readers’ pain points and wishes
  • You understand what your readers want to know
  • You know how to speak the reader’s language

When it comes to writing resumes, Bowers’ points from her story can be re-interpreted in light of this basic principle of effective communication:

  1. You still have an objective statement: Bowers makes the very valid point that “…hiring managers couldn’t possibly care less what you’re looking for” and that “…the exercise is all about what you can do for the company you’re applying to.” I couldn’t agree more and also believe that the whole point of any communication in a resume is to show how you can add value through what you’ve done in the past and can do in the future, what you know, and what you can learn. Keep this in mind as you write a resume and the results will speak for you, as well as for themselves.
  2. Your resume looks like it was typed on a Smith-Corona:Her point is that the days of the typewriter are long since passed, and you can do interesting and visually appealing things in a word processor. You say a lot about yourself (and your knowledge of word processing or layout tools) in the way your resume presents itself to readers. If you can’t make the design stand up and bark on your own, get some professional help to snazz things up. This speaks to the desire of your audience to be amazed and entertained, as well as informed. Opportunities for entertainment are rare in a resume, so take advantage of this as much as you can!
  3. You consider yourself “hard working” or a “good communicator:”Bowers point here is subtle, but important — namely that any self-assessments you make in a resume are always subject to the charge of shameless self-promotion. Sure there has to be some shameless self-promotion in any good resume, but it works better if it’s less overt and more demonstrative. That means instead of saying those things in quotes, you provide examples that illustrate those points, and let the reader draw his or her own conclusions. Thus instead of “hard-working” you might say “Delivered 60,000 lines of tested, debugged Java code in 14 months, and returned the development project involved back to its originally planned schedule, reversing an anticipated delay of six months.”
  4. You offer references upon request: Bowers points out that employers can use Google as well as anybody else, and they will find such stuff on their own. Assume if an employer wants references, they’ll ask for them. Her advice is spot on “Save that part of your resume real estate for something important.”

Remember, your job in a resume is to explain how and why hiring you is going to help a prospective employer solve problems, make technology work better, and above all, make more money or deliver more services. If you can do that, you’ll get past the initial screening process, and may even get a shot at an interview. Happy job hunting!

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