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Don’t Let Your Resume Read Like an Obituary

Resumes are rarely enthralling reads. In attempting to squeeze as much information as possible onto one page, people tend to end up with a dull, lifeless account of their career that would put most recruiters to sleep. But your resume doesn't have to read like an obituary. It only takes a bit of editing to bring life to a boring resume. The key is striking that balance between overly formal and too casual in order to create a resume that is polished, professional, and dynamic.

Resumes are rarely enthralling reads. In attempting to squeeze as much information as possible onto one page, people tend to end up with a dull, lifeless account of their career that would put most recruiters to sleep. But your resume doesn’t have to read like an obituary. It only takes a bit of editing to bring life to a boring resume. The key is striking that balance between overly formal and too casual in order to create a resume that is polished, professional, and dynamic.

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(Photo Credit: Shutterstock)

Don’t Tell Your Life Story

Do You Know What You're Worth?

Recruiters don’t have to know every single thing you’ve ever done, starting with your summer job as a camp counselor when you were 16. Only include the positions that are relevant to the job you’re applying for.

Find Your Hook

As with any good news story, it’s important to immediately hone in on what makes your story interesting and unique. Skip the boring, tedious details — like irrelevant projects and skills — and focus on the information that will most interest potential employers. What are your greatest strengths and accomplishments? What are you most proud of? How have you been recognized for your work? Fill your resume with the most impressive details of your career. Don’t waste space on filler.

Watch Your Language

You may have been “responsible for” or “managed” various projects, but that doesn’t mean you have to begin each sentence with those overused phrases. Instead, begin all bulleted sentences with creative and powerful action verbs like assess, bolster, conduct, invest, and justify. There’s a good reason this piece of advice is a longtime favorite among resume writers — it really works.

Know Your Audience

Details that are noteworthy to one person may be completely uninteresting to another. Therefore you will need to adjust the content of your resume depending on where you’re applying. Look closely at the job description of your target position, and pinpoint exactly where their search and your skills align. Be sure to highlight those features so that they won’t be overlooked. If you have a solid resume template, these tweaks shouldn’t take too much of your time.

Embrace White Space

An overly wordy resume filled with giant blocks of text can inspire fatigue before the recruiter even reads a single word. Rather than overwhelm them with too much information, keep the look clean and the language concise. There should be a decent amount of white space to make the document easy to navigate. This will also ensure that the most important details don’t get buried in a sea of text if the recruiter starts to skim.

Don’t Go Overboard

You want your resume to stand out, but don’t try too hard to be interesting and unique. Unless you’ve embraced the risks of a creative resume format, follow these tips to avoid seeming unprofessional:

  • Be straightforward. While it’s great to show off your vocabulary when describing your skills and accomplishments, avoid using words or phrases that might confuse a recruiter. Use clear, strong language, and skip unnecessarily obscure wording.
  • Be professional. Don’t fall into the trap of using language that is too casual or cute in an effort to make your resume seem unusual. Save the jokes for another time.
  • Simplify your design. Colored paper, funky fonts, and images will certainly help to tell a story about your personality, but it’s probably not one that you want to tell. Use white paper, basic typeface, and save the quirky photo of yourself for Facebook.

Tell Us What You Think

Does your resume read like an obituary or a feature story? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

Michelle Kruse
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