10 reasons why your résumé may be a zombie

zombie boyLast Halloween my son (at right) was talking about being a soccer-player zombie at least two months prior to this much-anticipated night. He explained he would paint his face white; outline his eyes with black; and, most importantly; apply fake blood to the sides of his mouth. The way he described it got me stoked for Halloween.

I shouldn’t have been surprised when his friend from up the street showed up as a zombie. Nor should I have been surprised when our adult neighbor walked over dressed as, you guessed it, a zombie. She was pregnant and had doll baby legs extruding from her large belly. I asked her what her husband was going to dress as, and she told me…a farmer zombie. Further, they dressed their one-year-old son as a zombie.

At least five zombie kids came to my door, and we were only one hour into a night of candy-crazed kids roaming the streets. I felt like I was in an episode of the Walking Dead.

What does last year’s Halloween have to do with the job search? It brings to mind how employers feel about the slew of résumés they receive that lack originality. Like nearly every kid (and adult) I saw dressed as zombies, employers are getting résumés that don’t speak to their needs; they are zombie résumés. Your résumé is a zombie if it has the following characteristics:

  1. A cookie cutter résumé. Written and done, is how some feel about their résumé. No thought about what employers need, therefore no mention of the skills and experience highlighting those needs. Like the zombies that arrived at my door, this résumé doesn’t make an impact.
  2. Failure to capitalize on your accomplishments. Quantified accomplishments are what immediately grab employers’ attention at first glance. Duty-based résumés don’t separate you from many other candidates.
  3. Contact information that lacks your LinkedIn URL. David Perry and Kevin Donlin, Co-Creators of The Guerrilla Job Search System, write, “If you’re not on LinkedIn and looking good, you don’t exist to most employers.” You have a zombie résumé if you’re not on LinkedIn and don’t proudly display it in your contact information.
  4. No branding headline. The best way to say who you are and what your areas of strength are is by having a headline that sets you apart from the other applicants. It’s where you first state keywords and phrases. Zombie résumés fail to make use of this valuable real estate.
  5. A say-nothing Performance Profile.  Zombie résumés start with statements like, Result-driven Project Manager with 20 years of experience in Manufacturing. Instead,  Project Manager who leads teams producing software that generate sales exceeding $3M in competitive manufacturing markets, would be more enticing to the employer.
  6. Your résumé isn’t prioritized. A zombie résumé fails to demonstrate your knowledge of what’s important to the employer, based on the job description. Your Profile should state your qualifications in order of the employer’s requirements, thus making her job of finding them very easy. Prioritize your statements.
  7. No core competency section. A résumé is not complete unless it has a Core Competency section that lists the skills required for a position, plus additional ones that can add to a person’s candidacy.
  8. The Work History lacks relevant accomplishments. Perhaps the most important aspect of a résumé is the Work History, but what makes it escape Zombie status is powerful accomplishment statements. Accomplishments that describe how you have contributed to the growth of an organization/company. Increased revenue, improved production, reduced costs, saved time are but a few accomplishments you should highlight.
  9. There’s no Training Section. If you were fortunate enough to receive training or took advantage of professional development, you should have a section for training. A zombie résumé contains no Training section and screams to employers that, “I have not taken advantage of bettering myself and keeping up with technologies.”
  10. The Education Section is incomplete and includes dates. All to often I have seen résumés that skimp on the Education section. Whether you earned a degree 5 years ago or 20, this section informs the employer that you started and completed something. Don’t be shy about writing that you made the Dean’s list four years running, something you accomplished through dedication and hard work.

Zombies roamed my neighborhood on Halloween walking lethargically, extending their hands for candy, just as many résumés lack the imagination and authenticity required to earn a place at an interview. Don’t submit a zombie résumé. Rather think about the ten important components of your résumé and how to make them strong. Who knows what next year’s Halloween will bring?

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14 thoughts on “10 reasons why your résumé may be a zombie

  1. Marcia Weiss

    Great article. Thank you very much. I will certainly use it and pass it on. Wish that more career information itself was not delivered in zombie fashion. This resume pointers article is very dynamic!

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  2. Sharon Hamersley

    The only area that I find tricky is the Education section. I work with “mature” applicants and many of them have a high school diploma only. Since almost every job assumes you have this, I’m hesitant to list it because that points out what you don’t have i.e. post-secondary education. I’d be interested in your take on this.

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    1. Things Career Related Post author

      I’ve had customers who went with the out of sight, out of mind theory. Instead of listing their HS degree with no college, they piled on the training. Here you run the risk of ignoring specific requirements, e.g., Bachelor’s in Engineering. What sucks about the education requirement is that many IT folks, etc., can work circles around those who have the degree. I believe employers require the degree because 1) it’s a way to screen out applicant, 2) they believe if a person starts something, they should finish it. I feel your pain, Sharon.

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  3. Amy Miller

    I think the zombie analogy is excellent. Zombies are shells of people. So relating poor resumes that don’t have characteristics you list are shells of what people can do! I will definitely be sharing this information with my one-stop coworkers and customers.

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  4. Laura Smith-Proulx, Executive Resume Writer, LinkedIn Profile Writer, National Columnist, & Job Search Coach

    Bob,

    Love the analogy! As you pointed out, zombies are often moving lethargically, and this applies to the lack of energy displayed by so many ho-hum resumes.

    Job seekers who assess their strategic value often come across as go-getters determined to add value to an employer – which is certainly not the vibe given off by the walking dead.

    Laura

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    1. Things Career Related Post author

      Thanks, Laura. That night was crazy with zombies, all the same, which is what employers feel when one resume looks like the others. You know how to write executive resumes and people should employ you to write theirs. I meant to congratulate you on your top ranking. You should feel very proud of yourself.

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  5. cewdkbcc

    You’ve mentioned some really great resume points here. I’m a big fan of point #5–everyone’s seen the standard verbiage, so it’s so important to really speak to specific qualities/talents/etc. Our readers will definitely benefit from this. Thank you!

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  6. Marcia Lyons

    Great suggestions and reminders. However, I think the specific branding is a little trickier for recent grads who have had limited experience doing what they want to do work-wise, and a lot of experience doing what they hope to move away from–waitressing, coffee shop work, etc. If you’ve just gotten your history degree, your not going to title your resume “Historian.”

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    1. Things Career Related Post author

      I hear you, Marcia. But the branding title can speak of the future. I helped a sophomore at Bentley with his LinkedIn profile and suggested that he include in it “Aspiring CFO.” Maybe this was appropriate, maybe not. But it shows his confidence and enthusiasm. “History Enthusiast….”

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