Leadership

How To Write Your Human-Voiced Resume

I write about bringing life to work and bringing work to life. Full bio

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

Materials Director   2006 — present

Acme is the USA’s largest stick dynamite maker, a family-owned, $10M business. I was brought on board to start a Materials Management function as the company grew outside the Southwest to serve the entire country. 

Now you’ve let us in on three important elements of your story. You’ve given us a sense of how big Acme Explosives is and what they do. Without knowing their size and situation, how could we evaluate your role in the organization, or the scope of your responsibilities? Secondly, you’ve told us your mission as you joined the company. That’s huge! You weren’t hired to push paperwork around — you were hired specifically to start a new function to support the company’s growth.

Thirdly, you’ve given us a way to be able to evaluate the bullet-pointed accomplishments (we call them Dragon-Slaying Stories) we’ll read in a moment. We know what your mission was, and next you’re going to tell us how you fulfilled the mission. Share those human details, every time!

Give us the human details, every time! They resonate far better than dry data points.

Share Your Dragon-Slaying Stories

Choose two or three pithy Dragon-Slaying Stories from each job you’ve held, and use them as bullet points to round out our understanding of the wake you left at each of your past jobs. Don’t kill us with tasks and duties we could extrapolate from the job title. No one cares about tasks and duties — anybody in the job would have had the same job description.

We want to know what you did when you had the job. That stuff is more fun to talk about, too! Here are three bullet points from the Acme Explosives Materials Director stint:

  • Together with the Production and Engineering teams, I created Acme’s first Supplier Management Plan and installed it to save $2.5M in supply chain costs in my first year on the job.
  • When a rail strike threatened our ability to ship product in 2007, I created fast shipping relationships with local carriers and got 97% of shipments to their destinations on time, allowing our customers to stay up and running.
  • As Acme was being acquired by RoadRunner Industries, I wrote a transition plan and taught RoadRunner’s Buyer/Planners to use Acme’s systems and metrics. I’ve been offered a position at RoadRunner but am taking this opportunity to try something new.

Notice how our Materials Director tells us why he’s leaving his current post, even as he describes how he made his mark in it! We can see the whole movie. We can understand why the guy doesn’t want to stick around under new ownership: been there, done that. We admire him for stepping onto unfamiliar turf again; he was at Acme for eight years, and these days eight years is a long time at one place.

See how a job-seeker can bring power and personality across on the page of a Human-Voiced Resume? You can do the same thing!

How Far Back to Go?

The inclusion of a past job on your Human-Voiced Resume depends on its relevance to your current career direction. If you’ve got a job from twenty years ago that is highly relevant to the work you’re seeking now, it might not fit on your Human-Voiced Resume if going back twenty years means you’ve got to recount every job between now and then. That’s okay! You can refer in your Human-Voiced Resume Summary to a job that doesn’t appear in the chronological listing of your past roles. You can do it this way:

I’m a software development Project Manager who’s equally at home debating technical features and working with Marketing folks on launch plans. I’m drawn to the human side of project management, where every voice is heard and political or cultural roadblocks are appropriate topics for conversation. I grew up at Wang Laboratories managing mainframe projects, and more recently I’ve helped a string of startups get to funding, acquisition or IPO.

This job-seeker’s resume doesn’t include Wang, because that experience was so long ago. So what! He was there, and he gets to claim that long-ago experience even if the details aren’t included on his two-page Human-Voiced Resume. If someone wants to know about his Wang days, all they have to do is ask!

Your resume can’t be longer than two pages unless it’s an academic CV or unless a headhunter tells you s/he wants all the specs, software, hardware, project details and so on. If you’re working with a headhunter who knows the clients well and has relationships with them that will speed your job search, do whatever the recruiter tells you to do. If you’re using your own devices to get a hiring manager’s attention in the way we teach, then keep your resume to two pages.

Keep Storytelling in Mind

Your resume is telling a story, so the more fluid it can be and the less choppy, the better. Don’t split out multiple roles that you held inside the same company. We don’t care about the exact months and years when you worked as a Financial Analyst versus an Assistant Controller versus a Controller. Smash all those jobs together and just tell us that at Acme Explosives, you entered as a Financial Analyst in 2004 and were Controller three years later. Much  better story!

Get The Jargon Out

The point of a Human-Voiced Resume is that it sounds like a person is talking to you. Get rid of corporatespeak boilerplate language like these awful examples:

  • Motivated self-starter
  • Works well with all levels of staff
  • Led cross-functional teams
  • Meets or exceeds expectations
  • Proven track record of success
  • Superior communication skills

Show us, don’t tell us! If you’ve got communication skills, use them to communicate, not to talk about your communication skills!

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