Tree in late November, Boston Public Garden

I see a lot of resumes. People are so paranoid about their resumes and getting the wording right. I truly believe that most people think that there is some secret formula to writing a resume, but no one ever tells them. Ax resume functions by speaking for you when you’re not there, so it should represent you well in your voice, and most importantly, in language that the intended audience. I’ve seen too many people write a resume in MBA speak when they want to be in a creative field. The creatives who will read this resume will think this person is a stuffed shirt and not appropriate.

Lesson: The way to write a resume is to consider your audience and write like them!

That being said, a lot of people want to have done sort of “formula” when talking about themselves in a resume. Remembering that you need to tell your story (thoughts on that here, here, and here), here is a structure that I’ve found works for most people. As usual, if this works for you, great. Adjust if you need to.

Any description of an experience you have should have four parts to be maximally effective:

  1. Active Verb: Your English teacher was right. Use a verb that is visual. Imagine that you’re giving instructions to an actor to act out this activity. If you “assisted”, “worked” or “helped”, I have no ideas if you brought coffee for the meetings or did your boss’ job but didn’t get credit. Use a verb a good actor can do something with!
  2. The Object of the Action: Okay, what did you “write”, “develop” or “create”? Can you name it? Can you quantify it?  Which sounds better: “reports” or “10 20-page reports”? Give me some idea of what it was.
  3. For Whom or Who Benefited: Whatever you did, someone was better for it? Did the CEO get your report? Did 200 people attend the event you organized?
  4. To What Result: Hopefully, something got better because of what you did.  Explain what it was.  Did you make a $250,000 sale because of the relationships you built? Did you save the company $10,000 because of an error you found?  Did you press releases generate three newspaper articles?  If you can show the results of your actions, people might think you could do that again!

Remember, you are telling a story here that they need to hear. Make sure that you don’t make the reader work too much to figure out the details, but also give room for them to know there’s more to find out.

Note: this works in your spoken stories as well.

So, how well are you telling your stories?