Monday, February 8, 2010

When It's Not About Them

I remember reading some reviews of resume writing services at one point as I got my own resume-writing business going. One person was describing their experiences with some resume writing firms something like this (and I'm completely paraphrasing here):

"I didn't like XYZ resume writing services because they didn't meet me in person. They didn't get to know me. And the resume they wrote just wasn't me."

This quote stayed with me--for how much it missed the point of what a resume is supposed to be. A resume, like a landing page or a long-form direct response letter, is a sales document. Its purpose isn't to encapsulate the essence of you. It's to get a hiring manager, recruiter or whoever to want to bring you in for an interview.

I see a lot of people adding gratuitous information to their resumes in the hopes that hiring managers, HR people, recruiters and others will think "gosh, this person sounds neat! I'd really love to meet them! Let's call them up for an interview!" So you see people highlighting their great massage skills, their volunteer time with the local soup kitchen, or the fact that they're married with two great kids--for positions that have nothing to do with these personal details.

But the thing is, those hiring managers, recruiters and so on are busy. They aren't looking to make friends with you. Most likely their job or paycheck depends on them finding the right person for the right job--and they're looking for what YOU can do for THEM. By which I mean, they're looking for resumes that highlight the exact skills the employer is looking for, so that they can be the hero by bringing in just the right professional for the job. Gratuitous personal details at best are unneeded--at worst they could make you look unprofessional, as well as the person bringing you in in some cases.

I don't usually meet with people in person to do a resume. I don't really need to talk to the person on the phone, as long as the questionnaire I send is thoroughly filled out and I have all the documentation I need. Usually when I do meet with someone in person, it's for them: it's reassuring to them, and it feeds their perception that I'm doing a thorough job. But it usually doesn't do more for me than a phone conversation and a questionnaire could.

Web copy is the same--many clients see the need to make it all about them, when it needs to be all about your customer--what they want, how they think, how you solve their problems. Business owners and jobseekers alike find more success when they stop making it about themselves--and start making it about their audience.


Unknown said...

AMEN. After having written hundreds of resumes, I totally agree! You can't tell them how fabulous you are - you have to show them what you did for your employers that will help them make more money.

I remember one website client doing the same thing. No one cared that he'd met a celebrity. That celebrity was NOT paid to endorse his product and I'll be damned if I'll put his name in the copy unless he is. It was gratuitous and came across as arrogant and positioned the client as a name-dropper. NOT the best image for a business.

Lillie Ammann said...

Excellent points. However, sometimes volunteer activities are important. Some of the major companies in our area have very strong commitment to serving the community and require their executives to be active and volunteer. It certainly doesn't merit much space, but a mention of activities to show the candidate's willingness to be active in the community can make a difference.

Jenny said...

@Lori: Yes, that's actually pretty common with me too--not as bad as the guy who wants his celebrity encounters on his site, but typically client websites I see start off with an "all about me" mentality. It's an easy fix, if you can convince them to do it.

@Lillie: that's an important caveat. I'm not anti-volunteer activities when it's appropriate, and some companies like it because it's good PR to have employees who are involved in the community. I'm not for it when it's not relevant, though, and it can be used the wrong way.