Resumes are highly individualized documents that share the highlights of your professional career to date. They should be brief and concise, be a chronological account of your different roles, and be written in your voice.
I see a lot of resumes given what I do. And I love reading each and every one, as every person is different and tells their story in their own way. Sometimes, sadly, they say “I’m not a good candidate”.
They are not necessarily easy documents to write. But, there are some common mistakes I see all the time which I feel can be easily rectified with minimal effort.
What should your resume actually say?
Your resume should say only the following:
Triple-check. You might be surprised to hear that most resumes I read contain some sort of error. Many people have looked at it 20 times and are unable to see the mistakes. When I can point these out prior to representing you to a firm, it is fine, as you get a chance to fix them. But when you’re submitting your resume directly to a firm, they notice this and will likely not move forward because of a perceived lack of attention to detail. My advice: read your resume out loud, or, read it while pretending that you’re reading someone else’s document with the intention of looking for errors.
Style versus substance. If you’re going to seek feedback on your resume, ask only for their substantive comments. Its really important your style and voice stays in the document. And many people make the mistake of correcting on style only (because substance involves a higher knowledge base).
Brevity. Be brief and concise. A resume is not a place to list everything and hope something resonates. It is a summarized version of your professional self that is tailored exactly to the role you are applying for. (The interview is the place to elaborate and hand pick great stories to show your experience.)
Kate Harry Shipham is the Principal of KHS People LLC, an executive search firm for BD and marketing people in professional services firms. Kate has done search and recruiting for nine years and prior to that was an attorney.