The notion that employers are only interested in where you have been and where you are heading is pure nonsense. Experienced hiring managers take into account both your experience and your character. After all, in the end, they are hiring a human being, not a robot. Still, many believe that personal attributes just take up space and make the resume “fluffy.”
After reading countless job descriptions that make it a point to mention
personal characteristics and speaking directly with hiring managers on this
specific topic, I’ve come to realize that it’s not the inclusion of personal
attributes that make resumes superficial. It’s how the characteristics are
presented that is the cause of concern. In this article, I will focus on the top
three characteristics employers seek (good communication skills, honesty, and a
strong work ethic) and discuss how you can seamlessly integrate them into your
resume. Now let’s get started.
Print out your resume and take a look at it. If you find that you carelessly
threw some of the characteristics mentioned above in your resume without making
supporting statements to back them up, then the reader will question the
sincerity of your claims.
Here’s an example of a superficial sentence: “Possess a strong work ethic and
recognized for the ability to deliver results.” Although the sentence covers
attributes employers seek, the sentence needs to be spiced up.
For example, a more compelling sentence is: “Demonstrated record of
consistent performance and ability to establish strong presence within global
markets (e.g. China, Italy, Sweden), generating 6- and 7-figure revenue gains.”
Notice the difference? In the original sentence, the declaration didn’t carry
much weight. Simply stating you have certain characteristics doesn’t make it so.
The reader will be scratching his or her head and thinking, “Oh yeah? Prove it.”
The revised sentence takes a different approach. Instead of stating personal
characteristics outright, the sentence demonstrates results; therefore the
reader can deduce that the candidate has all the right characteristics. This
will leave the reader thinking, “Interesting stuff. I’ll put this candidate in
the must-call pile.”
Presentation is Everything
The way the resume is structured, organized, and written also alludes to your
personal characteristics. Using actual client stories and the top three
characteristics employers seek, I’ll discuss common mistakes jobseekers make in
the presentation of their resumes.
Poor Communication Skills Are a Real Killer: Bryan was extremely qualified
for all the positions he applied for, but he was receiving no bites. After
careful review of his resume, I noticed that although he claimed to be an
excellent communicator, he failed to communicate his value. It was obvious the
resume was homespun and lacked the finesse needed to garner the attention of
hiring managers. He was under the impression that once he received an interview,
he would be able to communicate exactly why he was qualified for the position.
Unfortunately, he never received that chance.
Lesson learned: Simply writing “strong communication skills” isn’t going to
be enough to convince a decision maker that you can successfully interact with
others. A hiring manager is going to look to your resume as verification of your
claims; and if you aren’t able to effectively put two sentences together, they
are going to question not only your communication skills but also your ability
to do the job.
A Question of Integrity: During a client-intake session with Amanda, a recent
college graduate, she told me her current job title was “Director of External
Public Relations.” I couldn’t help but think that was an impressive title for a
22-year-old. After prodding a little, I discovered the real story. It just so
happens that this particular client worked for her aunt in a two-person office
and there were occasions when she wrote press releases and spoke to reporters
regarding the latest company happenings.
Though she did participate in public relation activities, the title of
Director of External Public Relations was a bit of a stretch. An employer would
have had the same reaction I did. He or she would have doubted her claims and as
a result, wouldn’t have bothered calling her in for an interview.
Lesson Learned: Your resume has to be believable. If an employer has any
inkling you are being deceitful, your resume will go in the trash. And even if
you are able to get through the resume review and interview process with
half-truths, be warned: once hired, you will be expected to deliver.
When a Strong Work Ethic Doesn’t Work: Even though he had five different jobs
within three years, Patrick insisted on including that he had a strong work
ethic in his resume. He claimed that his job-hopper image was unjust since he
left each job because it wasn’t the right job for him. He insisted that when he
found the right job, he would definitely be committed.
After careful review of his personal characteristics, we agreed that there
were other personal characteristics he could use that would make him just as
employable as the phrase “strong work ethic;” phrases that wouldn’t leave the
reader with the feeling that he was trying to pull one over on them.
Lesson Learned: In a resume, leverage what you have to offer and don’t try to
sell yourself as something you are not. Your resume should answer questions for
hiring managers, not leave lingering doubts.
Integrating personal characteristics in your resume will make the resume
reader-friendly and allow the reader to visualize you in the position.
by Linda Matias
Recognized as a career expert, Linda Matias brings a wealth of experience to the
career services field. She has been sought out for her knowledge of the
employment market, outplacement, job search strategies, interview preparation,
and resume writing, quoted a number of times in The Wall Street Journal, New
York Newsday, Newsweek, and HR-esource.com.
She is president of CareerStrides and the National Resume Writers’ Association.
Visit her website at www.careerstrides.com.