I write about bringing life to work and bringing work to life. Full bio
Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.
I was a Fortune 500 HR SVP for ten million years, but I was an opera singer before I ever heard the term HR. The higher I got in the corporate world, the more operatic the action became. I started writing about the workplace for the Chicago Sun-Times in 1997, but it took me ages to find my own voice. Now I write for the Huffington Post, Business Week, LinkedIn, the Harvard Business Review, the Denver Post and Forbes.com and lead the worldwide Human Workplace movement to reinvent work for people. Stop by and join us: http://www.humanworkplace.com
The author is a Forbes contributor. The opinions expressed are those of the writer.
You already know how to write a resume. You put your contact info at the top and then list your jobs in reverse chronological order, with your education at the end. Done! What’s the big deal?
The big deal is that if you write your resume the way countless books and articles have instructed you to, you’re going to sound like a Star Wars Battle Drone or a zombie. Standard resume language like “Results-oriented professional with a bottom-line orientation” brands you exactly like every other banana in the bunch. It’s excruciating for a hiring manager to read a resume that sounds like it was the written by a robot rather than a human being. So why not try something new, and put a human voice in your resume?
You’re thinking right now “But I have to please Godzilla, Liz! I have to stuff my resume full of stupid corporate boilerplate and keywords so that I’ll make it through the Applicant Tracking System a/k/a Black Hole.” Here’s why you’re not going to worry about that – two reasons:
- You can write a Human-Voiced Resume and still stuff keywords into it (we’ll get there). Applicant tracking systems don’t care whether you describe yourself as a “Results-oriented professional” or any other way.
- I don’t want you wasting your time with Black Hole recruiting sites in any case. They’re a waste of time. You can reach your hiring manager directly through the postal service, and I recommend that you try it, because people around the world are dramatically improving their job-search results that way.
How do you write a Human-Voiced Resume, or revise your current resume to put a human voice in it? Follow these ten steps.
Create Your Basic Career History
Make a list of your past jobs, starting with your current or most recent one. If you’ve already got a resume, use that as a starting point. For each job in your history, list the job title(s) you held, the dates you had the job and the company name. Title this document “Career History” and save it — you’ll use it later.
Pick a Career Direction
Now, stop and think about what you want to do next in your career. You’re going to pick a focus area for your job search. A Human-Voiced Resume is specific – it appeals to a particular set of hiring managers. You’re not going to brand yourself a Marketing, PR and Customer Support Leader in one resume — split out those facets of yourself (we call them ‘prongs’) into three different versions of your resume. If you’ve identified a set of hiring managers that is looking for a combination Marketing/PR/Customer Support Leader, go ahead and create a consolidated prong just for that group of managers, but in general, the more specific your brand, the better.
Why is a specific brand better? It’s because a Human-Voiced Resume, like a Pain Letter, is oriented around pain. Hiring managers have specific kinds of pain. They’re not excited to talk to someone who says “I can do everything!” because that’s not a believable message. When a manager has customer service pain, s/he’s looking for an ace customer service person. When the manager has IT security pain, s/he’ll be looking for an IT security pain relief specialist – like you!
Write Your Human-Voiced Resume Summary
Once you have your focus area firmly in mind (we call it A Place To Put Your Canoe in the Water), write a Human-Voiced Resume Summary that describes you and the pain you solve. Give us a feel for yourself as a person. Tell us how you got into the field, for instance:
Since I started writing business stories for my college newspaper, I’ve been a zealot for business storytelling and its power in shaping audience behavior. As a PR Manager I’ve gotten my employers covered by CNN, USA Today and the Chicago Tribune.
This Public Relations job-seeker gives us a lot in two sentences. He tells us how he got into PR – as a kid writing stories for the college newspaper. In our minds we can see him flying across campus to interview somebody for a story. The PR job-seeker knows why he does what he does, and he tells us about the results he’s had doing it: he’s obviously skilled at getting national media attention.
Notice that the PR job-seeker doesn’t use his precious resume real estate to say “I know how to get national media coverage.” He doesn’t say “I’m strategic” or “I’m smart.” Those aren’t his judgments to make. He just tells us what he’s done, and lets every reader decide whether he’s smart, strategic or anything else.
Frame Your Past Jobs
Here’s the part where you’re going to use the Career History you wrote and saved earlier. As you add your past jobs (and your current job, if you’re working now) to your Human-Voiced Resume, you’re going frame each assignment for the reader, by telling us what the company is all about (you can’t assume we know) and what your job is or was all about:
Acme Explosives, Phoenix, Arizona