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Resume writing is more art than science

Some years ago now, my son’s friend “Ryan” came over to play. During a break in Minecraft sessions, they came into the kitchen and announced that they were SO HUNGRY. I offered to make scrambled eggs and they both readily agreed.

A few days later, Ryan’s mom called me to say that he had come home that day and told her, “Mrs. McCormick’s scrambled eggs were SO GOOD! You should ask her how she makes them!” I was pleased to share my expertise, because I have spent a lot of time over the years elevating my egg game.

I began, “First, I melt a good-sized chunk of butter in the pan over medium heat.” “Ah,” she said, “I just spray a nonstick pan with cooking spray.”

“Then, I add a pinch of salt to the eggs and whip them for about a minute with a fork to make sure they are completely mixed and just a bit airy.” She replied, “I’m sure I don’t mix them for that long…”  

“When the butter starts to sizzle, I put the eggs in the pan,” I continued, “I swirl them around to incorporate the butter. Then, as they start to cook, I push the outsides towards the middle, and once it’s mostly solid, I flip the whole thing. Then I turn off the heat and gently break them up with the spatula. I’m really careful not to burn them, and I prefer them cooked less hard and more soft.”

She laughed as she replied, “No wonder Ryan likes your scrambled eggs better! I always thought they were just… eggs.”

Believe it or not, this encounter illustrates the practice of writing resumes. Stay with me here…

Like cooking eggs, writing resumes is more art than science. Ten cooks will end up with scrambled eggs, but they’ll use different techniques to make them. Ten resume writers will produce generally the same product, with variations, but they will get there using different processes and preferences.

For example: I like to feature a professional summary at the top of the first page of a resume. I believe it’s an effective way of showcasing the individual’s personal brand statement. If it grabs the reader’s attention, they are more likely to keep reading. Others insist that it’s passé to include that section. Still others say, use bullet points instead of a short paragraph. But I believe that if it’s written well (and not just a jumbled word salad, like so many are), it’s an important piece of the candidate’s complete picture.

This is not to say that any of these approaches is Right or Wrong. It’s simply a matter of preference and technique – different means to a similar end. Regardless, the end product is a resume, but each approach gets us there using different elements and techniques, executed within a broader set of business norms and standards.

Recruiters and hiring managers have preferences, too, refined by reviewing hundreds of resumes and influenced based on their industry and experience. Some like to see a job objective; others think it’s wasted space. They use their own criteria to sort the applicants into groups so that they end up with a selection of qualified applicants to interview.

When I write a resume, I can’t predict what everyone’s preference is going to be. I rely on my own experience on the hiring side and my experience writing resumes, along with industry best practices to create a visually-appealing, easy-to-read document. It’s a skill I’m refining with each resume I transform.

If you’re eating breakfast in my kitchen, I’ll ask you how you like your eggs cooked. I want to make sure you’re happy with the end product. But I’ll put my own spin on them, too, because my egg game is strong. 

And, if you’re my client, I’m going to ask you lots of questions, too. I want to understand who you are, what motivates you, what the particulars of your industry are, and what your professional goals are. I’ll use this information, and my own experience, to create a resume that conveys your unique offering to prospective employers. And when your resume looks great, is error-free, and presents a compelling narrative about you, you can feel confident that you’re putting forth your best self when submitting it. 

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