Decades ago, our approach to the resume process was a bit simpler than it is today. Back then, resumes were viewed as a kind of report card of a person’s professional life. They answered one question: Was this person doing well, professionally speaking? Or not? Did he deserve an A in Working Life 101? Or an F? The more generically impressive the resume, the higher the grade. A resume revealed how smart and hard-working a person was, and the smartest and hardest working people were the best, and therefore the most hirable.
Unfortunately, this idea has stubbornly rooted itself in our culture, even as modern skill sets and workplaces have become highly specialized and “smart and hardworking” no longer suggests any particular ability to handle a very specific job. Most job seekers—especially those who are younger and lack workplace experience—are offended and confused by the suggestion that they should remove impressive accomplishments from their resumes. If you worked hard for that PhD, or those marathon times, why shouldn’t potential employers be impressed? They should be excited about that information! They certainly shouldn’t be turned off by it. Right?
Relevant Beats Impressive
…Wrong. As it happens, most professional employers are searching for very specific sets of traits, certifications, experiences, and skill sets. And they need candidates who possess these qualities, regardless of how fast the candidates can run, how smart they are, or how much time they’ve spent studying or working in unrelated disciplines.
If you’re looking for a job and you’re beginning to suspect that your degree credentials or the time you spent toiling in a brokerage firm/hospital/publishing house aren’t working in your favor, your hunch may be accurate. And it’s time to stop taking this fact personally. Make sure your resume and cover letter showcase your most relevant credentials, not the credentials that you consider the most generically impressive. For help deciding which ones are which, visit Free Resume Builder and use the formatting tools and application guidelines on the site to set yourself apart from your competition.