Do Resumes Really Matter? by Roz Usheroff
Small businesses seeking financing from venture-capital firms need not worry about writing up a solid business plan, since it doesn’t sway funding decisions anyway, concludes a new study by researchers at the University of Maryland Robert H. Smith School of Business.
A recent post on LinkedIn about J. Crew CEO Mickey Drexler’s lament regarding what he called manufactured resumes, reminded me of the above excerpt from an April 8th, 2009 Wall Street Journal article Business Plans Don’t Matter to Venture Capitalists by Raymund Flandez. The reason I associated the two, is that similar to a company that hopes to secure funding through the provision of a business plan, it now appears that our reliance on our resumes to land a job is a somewhat diminished if not futile expectation.
Given Drexler’s reference to manufactured resumes, the first and obvious question that comes to mind is what is a manufactured resume?
According to Drexler far too many job candidates brag about experiences that have little or nothing to do with the position, while minimizing or excluding honest work experience.
For example, the CEO points to resumes that “brag” about what applicants have learned touring the world, studying abroad and tackling humanitarian crises as opposed to talking about how they worked as a waitress or construction worker in their early 20s. The latter, according to Drexler, speaks more to intangible qualities such as drive and ambition – qualities that may be hard to capture on paper.
Similar to how VCs view business plans, the average resume has been discounted as a meaningful reference point in terms of a candidate’s ability to do the job.
From my perspective, the reason for this descent into questionable value is fairly straight forward . . . far too often resumes focus on the individual and what THEY have done, rather on what the individual can do for SOMEONE ELSE. Or as Drexler put it when one woman’s resume said she’s been to 19 countries; “So what?”
‘What we do for ourselves dies with us. What we do for others and the world remains and is immortal.’ – Albert Pike
Now one might mistakenly assume that what Drexler is saying means that you have to withdraw into a humbled state of letting your work record speak for itself or, deliberately downplaying your past successes so as not be seen seen as a braggart. Nothing could be further from the truth.
We all need to tell our story, and do so in a manner that causes us to stand out from the crowd.
In this context, and as discussed in my book, I talk about the importance of having a personal “Brag Bag.”
A personal brag bag enables you to “indirectly” write about and/or speak about your successes.
It is quite simply your way of recording and sharing the “story of you,” including your successes, in a manner that reflects your passion and ability to achieve results. As such it should include how you have helped others to succeed in the past, and how you are committed to helping them succeed in the future.
A brag bag can and should take many forms.
For example, it can be the manner in which you answer the dreaded four-word invitation to “Tell me about you!” from someone you just met.
It can be the way in which you describe yourself in a social network profile or write about specific subjects in a personal or company blog.
The essence of your brag bag can take the form of a personal bio that serves as an introduction to fellow members of a committee to which you belong, or to highlight your expertise as a speaker at a conference.
Regardless of the venue, there is one thing that you must always remember . . . be consistent. When I say consistent, I mean that what you have in your brag bag must align with the experiences others have had with you. Or to put it another way, you have to walk your talk!
So . . . How Do You Brag?
From my own experience, I know that there are times when it is essential for me to talk about my accomplishments in order to sell my services. Having walked the talk and delivered results for my clients, I have reason to feel proud and to share my story. The key for me is to do so with both confidence and humility. This way I avoid coming across as being either self-centered or pompous. When you do this, you showcase yourself in the best possible light.
When I, for example, want to talk about my value to a prospect, I always say that I have the privilege to work with top talent internationally and feel a sense of pride when I see my clients rise to the top of their profession. Because my focus is always on what the client has accomplished through their association with me, I am getting my message out without sounding as though I am bigger than life.
It is around the above mindset that you should revisit your resume, asking yourself the following ten questions:
- What should someone know about your history that would make you unique, interesting, and exciting to know?
- Why do others attribute their success to you?
- What would others say are five of your personality pluses?
- What are the ten most interesting things you have done or that have happened to you?
- What do you do professionally and why did you choose this type of work?
- How does your job/career use your skills and talents?
- What are you most excited about now in your profession and how does that best showcase your talents?
- Of what career successes are you most proud (from current position and past jobs)?
- What obstacles (professionally and personally) have you overcome to get where you are today, and what lessons have you learned from these experiences?
- In what ways are you making a difference in people’s lives?
Some Final Thoughts . . .
It is important to think of your resume as being a part of your overall PR strategy or branding campaign.
To me, branding is about creating a reputation based on who you are and what your value proposition is. A brand is based on how you showcase everything that defines you and will naturally differentiate you from others.
Above all, branding is about putting the interests of those you serve in the spotlight, so that when you help others to shine you will also bask in the reflection of their satisfaction with your contribution to their success.