My grandmother was a world traveler — she cruised to every accessible-by-ocean-liner port of call the planet had to offer. Much of this globetrotting took place in the ’50s and ’60s, when you still dressed for dinner. If you were a woman on a three-month grand tour of Europe, that meant packing trunks of gowns (not to mention the shoes and accessories that went with them). My grandmother was a master packer. She was guided by a simple principle: If you ask yourself, “Will I need this?” the answer is “No.”
Writing a resume that includes everything about every job you’ve ever had is like packing everything you own for a sea voyage. You simply don’t need it all, and what you don’t need will weigh you down. Like the captain of the ship, you have to pick a destination. Set your coordinates to “dream boss” — or “D.B.” as she henceforth shall be known — and steer every word of your resume toward her.
What a lot of candidates don’t understand is that your resume isn’t about YOU; it’s about HER. It’s not a question of what you’ve done — but of what you’ve done THAT’S RELEVANT TO HER. You must target D.B., then curate your resume content just for her.
But what if you’ve had more short-term jobs or more jobs outside your chosen field than you’d like to admit? It’s true that if your tenure in a position was fewer than 10-15 years ago, you must include it on your resume, even if you were working the counter at Clinique between graphic-design jobs. But beyond citing your title, the years you were there and perhaps a parenthetical descriptor of what Clinique is, you need not go into detail about this gig.
The value of this resume inclusion is simply as “evidence” of employment — D.B. wants to know that even if you weren’t working in her field at the time, you WERE working (by the way, doing freelance and pro-bono projects IS working). You weren’t, say, in jail or on the lam.
But, you may be thinking, sales and customer-relations skills are in demand. Shouldn’t I play them up? They are very much in demand BUT NOT BY D.B. Let’s say D.B. is the creative director at a technology company looking for a rock-star art director. Is she interested in your sales and customer-relations skills? She is not. Does it matter to her that you worked in the personal-care industry? It does not. Should you waste precious resume real estate sharing the challenges you faced in that job, your solutions to those challenges, the results of those solutions and the metrics that support those results? You should not.
One of the bonuses of tight targeting is that you have more room on the page for “performance stories” like those, the golden nuggets that will dazzle D.B. and make her FEEL IT IN HER BONES that you and only you are the person for this job.
How do you achieve this target focus? First, do your homework: Find out who D.B. is, then research her. The Net is a good place to start, but if you can find a colleague of a colleague who knows her or knows something about her, your intel will be that much more powerful.
Now that you have your resume-reading audience of one, pitch the entire document to HER — not to her AND some other person at some other company in some other industry who might give the thing a read if D.B. doesn’t. That’s how you GUARANTEE D.B. won’t. One-resume-fits-all thinking was rendered obsolete by the Crash of 2008.
So as you craft your resume, ask yourself repeatedly: “Do I need to pack this on my journey to D.B.?” Odds are the answer is “no.”