Of all the unfortunate aspects of adulthood I’ve experienced, from paying taxes to visiting the DMV, none are as infuriating as having to craft a resume.
Perhaps you are the rare individual who enjoys perfecting that single page document with 10-12 point type in a readable font and ½ inch margins, but for most people, writing a resume is one of the most soul-sucking undertakings imaginable. In fact, people are willing to pay up to $239 – and that’s the sale price – for someone else to do the work for them.
Strange, isn’t it, that as generally self-absorbed people, so many despise the resume? Studies have shown that our favorite topic of conversation is ourselves, so shouldn’t writing a resume come naturally?
The issue with the resume is that it is not actually about ourselves. Most resumes are written about a corporate caricature with a passion for synergy and outside-the-box thinking. In fact, the resume has become a biography, without the auto, of our ostentatious alter-egos.
The resume also cannot be written in the vernacular, but rather in a special type of resume speak, complete with its own set of vocabulary and grammar rules. Bullet points must start with action verbs, and these action verbs cannot be bland. You did not just work as a Hy-Vee cashier last summer – you directed cash flow and optimized the checkout experience.
You may not be outright lying on your resume, but you certainly are not being authentic. Unfortunately, with hiring managers searching through piles of resumes for keywords and professionalism, being authentic is not the best strategy for resume writing.
To be clear, I do not intend to throw shade at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln faculty for their resume tips, because their advice is sadly what is needed to land a job in certain facets of corporate America. I don’t hate the players, I just hate the game.
But seriously, why is the game so awful? Surely a hiring manager knows what a cashier does without having it explained in three pretentious bullet points. Why does writing that you are a “team player” in your skills column somehow make your resume better?
If you want a quick laugh, check out the “9 Worst Resumes Ever Received by Recruitment Managers.” The list, put together by staffing and recruiting company Crimcheck, is full of applicants that were likely rejected immediately, though their resumes were memorable. If I were a recruitment manager, I may have even invited several of them back for an interview.
One of these resumes simply said, “I have a bachelor’s degree. Give job,” underneath standard contact information. In seven words, I already know this person better than a majority of complete resumes. He may have been a little too straightforward, but I admire his spirit.
Another entry was included in the worst resumes list because the applicant listed his experience as a marijuana dealer for five years. This one fit the proper formatting of job experience, complete with the dates and a five bullet point breakdown of his job description. These bullet points included such gems as “Intuitive Understanding of Supply and Demand Economics” and “Had a Consistent Clientele with High Customer Satisfaction.”
This may not be the kind of economics and customer service experience the hiring manager is looking for, but it has all the right keywords.
Everyone recognizes how silly it sounds to describe being a drug dealer in these terms, but a typical resume contains the same absurdity by taking a mundane job and describing it in the most pompous way possible.
I acknowledge that there are some inherent challenges for hiring managers trying to get an accurate picture of applicants. After all, they do not have time to read an autobiography from everyone, especially when the average job opening has 29 applicants.
However, there is a much better way to get to know a person on a single page than the current set up. So much of a resume’s precious space is usually spent on meaningless bullet points, and equally ridiculous “skills” such as communication or leadership.
Instead, I believe that employers should take the pressure off of applicants to have a traditional resume that simply checks the boxes. With the current climate, it seems as though employers challenge individuals to become the same exact ideal candidate. When all candidates are trying to sell themselves as nearly the same person, it is no wonder that the hiring process is so difficult for employers and employees alike.
If hiring managers would encourage authenticity by asking applicants to include what their typical daily schedule looks like or what hobbies they enjoy, employers could have a better idea of who they may be working with on their team. Sure, applicants may still try to fabricate or exaggerate their hobbies to seem more in line with a company’s goals, but if hiring managers become more open to knowing a person beyond their work experience, then perhaps they can begin to judge candidates on actual ability and character instead of how well they can use resume speak.
With thousands of dollars in pay on the line, Americans deserve better than to have to speak what is practically a foreign language throughout an interview process, only to become their true selves once their job begins.
I recognize that it is bold of me, a college sophomore, to be telling hiring managers across the country what to do, and my grievances of the system may provide unsavory results for a Google search of Brian Beach resume in the future.
However, I want potential future employers reading this article to know that the publication of this article has provided me with valuable experience in your cutting-edge industry. I may not have the intuitive understanding of supply and demand economics that drug dealers do, but I am spearheading – look at that action verb! – a campaign to optimize – there’s another one! – the hiring process. Give job!
Brian Beach is a sophomore journalism major. Reach him at email@example.com.