The Resume is Often Not Used to Best Advantage

11 Jan, 2013

The Resume is Often Not Used to Best Advantage

By Lisa Ryan

Skilled communicators know one message doesn’t always fit all audiences. They also know successfully pitching a story, or designing a marketing campaign, requires taking into account a variety of factors and developing a message that sells the product or brand.

But when it comes to a job search, those well-known basics often are forgotten.

The Resume Is The Pitch
A prime example is the resume. Think of it as the story pitch or the campaign message.

Too often resumes aren’t used to a candidate’s greatest advantage because there isn’t any pitch or message.  And sometimes-more often than candidates might like to hear-the poor presentation results in a missed opportunity.

Observation also suggests that many job-seekers, no matter how high in the executive ranks they rise, never significantly alter their resumes. They merely add to the document, making it current, but leaving it otherwise static. The message, if there is one, is old and reflective of earlier positions.

That’s something a successful communicator wouldn’t ever consider with a press release or marketing program.

Two Basic Types Of Resumes
Resumes tend to fall into two categories.

The first and more prevalent consists of a generalized listing of jobs and responsibilities with little or nothing singled out or detailed; or, there might be extensive discussion of the most recent experience and passing mention of earlier positions in different settings and industries.

Conversely, some resumes are painstakingly crafted so as not to omit a single responsibility, position, or accomplishment, often running to three or four pages depending on years of experience.

As with most things in communications, there is a happy medium.

Show Career Progression, Industry Accomplishments
Constructing an inclusive, chronological resume and including major accomplishments under each position is the best course, as it will show a natural progression and growth in a career. Industry accomplishments alone often provide a search firm and a potential employer a reason to read on and follow up.

Also, candidates should single out accomplishments or increased responsibilities using specific examples. If a media relations executive has been given responsibility for internal communications, he or she should provide a few examples of initiatives, programs and accomplishments in that expanded role. Highlight the news!

Similarly, if a professional primarily has been responsible for media relations, it is helpful to a potential employer to include a sentence such as “regularly speak with national print and broadcast media,” along with a sampling of network news shows and national newspapers/magazines contacted to make the point.

It can be helpful, when possible, for senior-level candidates to incorporate mention of what might be called a personal case study to emphasize a particular experience or accomplishment. That information can serve as a starting point to be expanded upon during an interview.

And as obvious as it may be, the resume must be honest. We have seen too many fraudulent resumes over the years. Employment dates, job titles and responsibilities must be accurate, as should the educational background and awards. Background checks by a search firm or potential employer which produce discrepancies can, and usually do, result in the opportunity’s going away. Innocent errors created by typographical slips at best suggest the candidate is sloppy. Job opportunities often fade under those circumstances, too.

In short, a resume isn’t only the most basic tool at a communicator’s disposal; it may be the most important writing assignment of the person’s career.


Lisa Ryan is a senior vice president and managing director of Heyman Associates, one of the nation’s leading senior-level corporate communications executive search firms.