It’s been said that your resume is a mirror-like reflection of your career. However, like preparing for an appearance at the Oscars, a great deal of painstaking attention must go in to highlight your best features while concealing those less flattering blemishes — be it a gap in employment or simply underplaying periods where you played in far less inspiring roles. Unfortunately, for writers, there is no safe way to do this and tread confidently across the red carpet to a job.
And the job for the open position goes to ... I have second-guessed myself into a state of paralysis trying to divine what employers want to see in my resume. Taking chances of any sort, like injecting humor into a professional statement, can be cause for immediate disqualification. For a creative professional, there is no industry standard for what mid-level professional resume should look like. It would be easy for me to advise readers to avoid using standard jargon, but still many HR professionals look for it. If you don’t give it to them, you can hurt yourself in the screening process. Here are a few other things that can earn less than enthusiastic reviews:
Ultimately, you can’t put a nice tie or designer stamp on everything you’ve done. It may be disheartening to know that the smallest imperfection — real or perceived (which is always real, by the way) — is all the justification necessary for your resume to end its run. Yet you can’t discount that the same turn of phrase shunned by one interviewer might make you stand out to another.
- Your duds are a bigger deal than your blockbusters. HR critics can spot weak points in resumes faster than movie nuts can find continuity errors. While your most recent positions may have helped pay the bills, if they are boring or uninspiring, it’s best that you only give them scant mention. Shorter, smarter copy is always best, particularly when you are trying to describe what you do best.
- Always position your potential as a “work-in-progress.” Experience always counts — often, against you. I have come to believe that what you’ve done successfully in the past no longer holds the greatest sway in communicating your ability to add value in the future. Regardless of how long you’ve been in the business, showing that you are moldable and willing to learn or re-learn the way you do things is imperative to winning a new role.
- Play to your audience; not above it. Unwittingly, when trying to earnestly express yourself to an employer, you run the risk of sharing thoughts that may go well over the head of the person seated across from you. Just as it is often quite easy to spot someone overacting on screen, overselling your qualifications at the desk can be just as obvious. Even if you think the part is the opportunity of a lifetime, you can’t treat it like your life depends on it.
You can consider being among the top nominees for a job an honor, but for any one position, there is always only one winner. Never leave your best thinking on the cutting room floor.
Originally from Toledo, Ohio, Gerald Northup has written professionally in the fields of advertising, marketing, social media, and corporate communications since the early ’90s. For a look at his blog posts and social media articles, as well as TV, radio, print, and website samples from his online portfolio, visit gnorthup1979.wix.com/44words.
Jerry is also a talented guitarist, an avid tennis player, and a lifelong student of linguistics.
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