Shorter and shorter we go when it comes to the résumé

The other day I received a text message from my daughter that read, “Need water. Bring some.” Now, someone who didn’t know the situation–she was life guarding at a pool near our home, so bringing her the much needed water was no big deal; I didn’t mind the rudeness of her text; and I didn’t want her to suffer–would probably hit erase and not give it another thought.

Her text message made me think about the course of the résumé, how they’re getting shorter and shorter, until, I fear, they’ll resemble a text message.

According to some résumé writing pundits and many recruiters, less is better when it comes to the overall content of your résumé. Just a couple of years ago this belief was hitting the streets; now lesser than less is better is the word. I tell my jobseekers who haven’t hunted for jobs in the past ten years that writing résumés has changed since then; hell, it’s changed since the past couple of years.

We all know that recruiters and hiring managers are inundated with hundreds of résumés for one job and that Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS)–that identify keywords–are necessary to make the process more manageable. Further, résumés that don’t speak to employers’ needs are considered as useful as a paper bag. Accomplishments are essential, as they show the value you can bring to the company. Résumés are given six to 20 seconds to be scanned and determined whether they’ll be read more thoroughly. All of this has been stated ad nauseam.

With this said, those four-line, no nonsense personal profiles can be reduced to a one-line list of value-added words, which looks more like a branded headline than a personal profile. All of this must be done while still addressing the needs of the employer and including keywords. This requires the best of the best editing. Words like, “Experienced,” “Innovative,” Results-oriented,” are out the window…have been out the window.

Job summaries in the experience section have likewise been reduced from, say, four lines to two. This is where you state your duties and a quick blurb on your value-added; and for those who believe the more duties, the better, you are out of luck. Following the job summary should be bulleted accomplishments that, you guessed it, must be reduced from, say, two lines to one. While you don’t have a lot of real estate to elaborate on your accomplishments,  a one-liner will have to do.

Are we looking at this through a single lens, though? Are we assuming all recruiters or hiring managers are reading tons of résumés and just trying to keep their head above water, or that recruiters are the only ones reading our résumés? Employers of start-ups, smaller companies, and nonprofits spend more than 20 seconds to peruse a résumé before reading it in its entirety, because they have more time.

Before you tightly edit your two-page résumé, think about to whom you’re sending it. A hiring authority who doesn’t read thousands of résumés, might be confused by a one-line personal profile that resembles more of a branding headline than the typical profile. Think of your audience.

As for my daughter’s text messages, I know what she means when a terse one-line message hits my screen. It would be nice if she would add, “Love, your daughter.”

5 thoughts on “Shorter and shorter we go when it comes to the résumé

  1. Kaarina Dillabough (@KDillabough)

    Really good points here Bob. It’s been interesting to watch my two sons, ages 21 and 27, craft their resumes for different jobs. Some employers want applications only online. Some couldn’t care less about a cover letter. Some say state your objective: others say eliminate the Job Objective line. It’s an-ever changing landscape, especially as the demographic profile of those actually reviewing the resume changes.

    Does a baby boomer middle manager see the same thing/ want the same thing as a twenty-something owner of an upstart company? Even the issue of grammar and punctuation is an issue!

    As with everything in business and in life, your statement is spot on: “Think of your audience.” Cheers! Kaarina


  2. Marti Benjamin

    Excellent post, Bob. I agree that the most useful perspective is that of the audience. It’s often challenging for a job seeker to understand that their resume is not about them; they’re the subject, but the object is demonstrating the value they can add for the hiring manager.


    1. Things Career Related Post author

      Thanks, Marti. What’s maddening is not having a definitive opinion on what the collective audience wants. There are many standards, according to the pundits, but no “word” on the matter. Whereas an academic might appreciate a longer, more descriptive resume; a recruiter might want something shorter and easier to read. I guess this is what keeps us in business.


  3. Graduate Recruitment Bureau

    One thing that’s really common in graduate applications is seeing a cv with one line for their 4 year long degree and then 5 lines on their casual supermarket/part time work. Definitely be short and punchy but make sure your dedicating the right space to the most important areas. No point doing all that hard work if you’re not going to tell people about it!


    1. Things Career Related Post author

      So true, sir Owen. The work people perform at grad school is more relevant than supermarket experience. I worked my arse off at grad school, while also helping to raise my first child. I think people under-value the hard work and accomplishments they achieve at grad school.



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