For those of you who read my blog regularly, you know that I speak with many job seekers and people who are in career transition. Like, a lot of people. Something that strikes me as an odd quirk is that so many people come to me concerned with the absolute precision of their resumes. Precision differs from accuracy, and in the case of building a compelling résumé, it’s an important distinction.
You absolutely want your resume to be accurate. You don’t want to say that you hold a patent on a new widget that helps to transform lead into gold if you don’t. (We’ve all read the stories about people claiming degrees from schools they never attended.) But you don’t have to be exactly precise, and by that I mean, that your resume should be more than just the facts. Above all, your resume and your LinkedIn profile are marketing assets. They advertise and promote the benefit of your favorite product: YOU.
Job seekers need to market themselves the way that consumer product companies market their products. Is this compelling? “Dish detergent is a highly-foaming mixture of surfactants (which help break down the surface tension of water and allow liquids to spread) with low skin irritation. It is primarily used for hand washing of glasses, plates, cutlery, and cooking utensils in a sink or bowl. In addition to its primary use, dishwashing liquid also has various informal applications, such as creating bubbles, washing clothes, and cleaning oil-affected wildlife.”
Er, no. And “er, no” for several reasons, not the least of which is the fact that most people don’t care about how dish detergent works. What do they care about? Getting their dishes clean. That’s why marketing of your favorite detergents focuses on your problems, such as greasy, grimy cookware, and not on how the detergent molecules interact with water. “Contains 3X more grease-fighting power than other brands!” That is a powerful value proposition.
So, back to your resume. Its purpose is to highlight and showcase your skills and experiences. It does not function as a simple recapitulation of events. Although it should be 100% accurate, it should not be dry, boring, or task oriented. You’re a financial analyst? Great! No one cares that you reviewed quarterly balance sheets and reported back to management. This is what every financial analyst out there does. People want to know about your superstar results. And that is where you need to direct your focus, not on the tasks you performed in your job.
The bottom line here is pretty clear. Focus on your achievements and the value you bring to the organizations for which you work. Don’t worry if you don’t completely disclose the tasks associated with your role. Tasks do not compel anyone to follow up with you. Maintain a focus on the value you bring and how you can benefit the employer.