Reducing Yourself To a Sheet or Two of Paper

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Reducing yourself to a sheet or two of paper is a soul crushing activity. There are ways to make resume writing feel more authentic.

Amy Gallo of the Harvard Business Review gets it: writing your resume is the worst.

It's painstaking to reduce yourself to bullet points and then to get the formatting just right. And then when you're done, hitting "Send" on a cold job application often feels totally futile. In an age when resumes are easily uploaded online, the hunt for jobs seems more competitive — and discouraging — than ever.

But Gallo says you need to pay attention to the way new technology changes the resume game. As she explains in her article for the Harvard Business Review, in an age when employers are often reading your resumes in PDF on a screen, the rules are different.

Gallo says there's one old rule you can definitely drop in the digital age:

  • The One-Pager: You may have heard that you need to limit your resume to one page. Gallo says if a hiring manager is viewing your resume digitally, the convenience of a one-page resume doesn't really apply anymore. Stop making your fonts microscopic so you can fit all your experience onto one page. 

But Gallo says there's some conventional wisdom that's timeless:

  • The professional summary: The 20-word summary at the top of your resume might be the most painful sentence you'll ever write, and it's often the most cringe-worthy for hiring managers, but Gallo says you have to include one if you want to grab a hiring manager's attention. The trick is, there's a right way to do it. Don't prop yourself up with fluffy platitudes. Give something that's "clear, flatfooted, and answers the question of, 'Is this the right person for this job?'" Gall said. For instance: "Healthcare executive with over 25 years of experience providing superior patient care" is not cheesy; it's honest and impressive.
  • Tailor the resume and summary to the job: You can't expect to send the same resume with every application. Plan to spend a significant chunk of time thinking about the job description and tailoring the descriptions of your achievements to what the job you're applying for requires.

At its core, a resume should be more than a list of your responsibilities.

"A resume is really a marketing document," said Gallo, "I think people, unfortunately, often think of it as a record of their work life — which it's not. You have to think of the hiring manager as the consumer, as your customer, and you're trying to sell yourself."

For more insights, listen to Gallo tear apart Money Talking host Charlie Herman's resume. (And he thought he had a good one.)

*Special thanks to Rebecca Ungarino for production help.

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