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How not to write a resume

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Resume writing, in many ways, is an art. Like an artist, someone writing a resume must produce something highly effectual—something which elicits a specific response from a given audience. When writing a resume one must channel the mind of one’s audience, understanding both their needs and expectations. As I have mentioned before, discovering those needs and expectations can be tricky, but not impossible. In addition to this, there are certain things one ought not to do when writing a resume. Unlike the artist, who can produce highly generic art, and in doing so, make (perhaps) a broad statement about art or society, resume writers should be weary of including generic statements in their resume. For example, the Summary of Qualifications section, which by its very nature is a summary of one’s qualifications and therefore can be quite general, should not be able to be transplanted from one person’s resume to another person’s.

Fleur Bradley of Investopedia, in an article picked up by MSNBC, put it this way, “If you’ve been working with an older resume, take a closer look at your language: How many clichés do you have in there?” Bradley, realizing the harm clichés can do to what would be an otherwise excellent resume, provides a list of clichés and statements which (perhaps because they are cliché or because of their connotation) job seekers everywhere should expunge from their resume. What are these clichés?

  1. I’m a team player.
  2. I have great communication skills.
  3. I have a proven track record.
  4. I’m a problem solver.
  5. I assisted in X task.
  6. I have a strong work ethic.
  7. I’m bottom-line focused.
  8. I’m responsible for X.
  9. I’m self-motivated.
  10. I’m accustomed to a fast-paced environment.

Bradley concludes with the advice, “show, don’t tell.” In essence, your resume should be a reflection of you, your skill set, and your job history. It should highlight your successes and how you, personally, contributed to the mission and success of a company. That is, for example, don’t just say that you’re a problem solver, show it. Don’t only tell recruiters that you have critical, transferrable skills, but demonstrate how you have put those skills into practice.

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