The Non-Expert

Defenestrate Your Résumé!

Experts answer what they know. The Non-Expert answers anything. This week we explain how to impress any HR department with a top-notch résumé.

Have a question? Need some advice? Ignored by everyone else? Send us your questions via email. The Non-Expert handles all subjects and is updated on Fridays, and is written by a member of The Morning News staff.


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Question: What’s the best way to put a resume together? Should I include an objective, that always seemed kind of lame. Is it smart to put references right on there, or say they’re available upon request? Please help Non-Expert, you’re my only hope. –Nina

Answer: In this epoch of economic downturn, it’s vital that your résumé stands out. It is, after all, the first thing a potential employer will ever know about you—and, insofar as they will never contact you, also the last. So it’s essential to write one that shines.

The secret is to strike a balance between accurate portrayals of your relevant experience and flat-out lies. As most employers place great weight on honesty, it may take four or five fabrications to balance out a single, truthful fact.

Here are 10 tips to help you craft a résumé that is virtually bulletproof!

1. Use Quality Paper

Would Leonardo DaVinci have painted Mona Lisa on a pelt? Would Michelangelo have redecorated the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel if it had been covered with that weird ’70s-era popcorn stuff? Nay! So why would you submit a résumé on anything less than 100% Cotton Fiber 32 lb. Ivory Premium Bond Paper? Because you’re a dolt, perhaps?

Ideally your résumé paper will be so thick that folding it will require hydraulics. But even if that’s not the case, don’t even consider cramming it into a standard business envelope. Your résumé should be submitted in a manila envelope or delivered in person. Better yet, deliver it in a manila envelope. And better than that, visit the HR Director’s home in the dead of night and leave your résumé on the kitchen table. This will show that you are willing to ‘go the extra mile,’ and it may earn you bonus points if you’re applying to become a locksmith or ninja.

2. Keep It To One Page

Most companies automatically forward résumés of two-pages or longer to Popeye’s Chicken, so be sure to confine things confided to a single sheet. If you are having trouble getting everything to fit, try narrowing your margins, reducing your font to 7, or getting rid of the ‘deadweight’ by eliminating your education or omitting the nouns.

3. Career Objective

True though it is, admitting that your ultimate ambition is to ‘smell better’ is probably not wise. Better to state some wildly over-optimistic, pie-in-the-sky ideal that will provoke pity and disgust from the reader.

Seeking high-paying, senior-level supervisory position with a Fortune 500 company utilizing my salmon management skills and Bachelor of Arts in dance.

If you are lucky, you résumé will be reviewed by a disgruntled HR drone stuck in a dead-end job who wants nothing more than to quash your lofty goals by shoehorning you into the $14/hr. position you are applying for. Success!

4. Encrypt Your Previous Work Experience

Much of résumé writing (and reading) involves the encryption and decryption of job titles and duties. If you run the till at the local Crate & Barrel and spend much of your day watching ElimiDate and shooing off customers before they can interrupt you, you would say:

Duties included fiduciary management, oversight of social networking multimedia presentations, proactive deterrence of nascent consumer purchases.

Unfortunately, the HR department—which has seen hundred of résumés employing this tactic—will read this and write ‘ElimiDate-watching cashier / slacker’ on their internal forms. So your only real hope is to make your job description so opaque that nothing short of a top-secret British codebreaking cabal could possibly understand what you did.

Duties included whiffling through the tulgey wood, lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, Ph’nglui inglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn.

5. Use Action Words

If there’s one thing a CEO hates more than an congressional investigation initiated by those simpering nancy-boys at the FEC, it’s the passive tense. That’s why you should pack your résumé to the gills with Action Words. Action Words make your prose so urgent, so immediate and great that your résumé will literally grab the reader by the nose and throw him out the window.

Here are the key Action Words you should include in your résumé, preferably all in one sentence.

Coordinated, Managed, Assisted, Moistened, Established, Supervised, Suborned, Shanghaied, Taught, Developed, Ululated, Chortled, Designed, Toadied, Maintained, Achieved, Swashbuckled, Spelunked, Oversaw, Prioritized, Defenstrated

6. Don’t Leave Unexplained Gaps In Your Work History

Unexplained space between your past dates of employment may inspire uncomfortable questions. The least honest and therefore recommended method is simply to extend the end-date of the preceding job to obviate the discrepancy.

April 1983—Present: Marketing Director, Betamax Industries

Alternatively, if you were engaged in a valuable activity during the time frame, you can simply state what you were doing:

August 1998—January 2001: Full-time parent

That said, some gaps are better left unexplained.

June 1998—August 1998: Bender

7. Don’t Use The First-Person

Inexperienced job seekers often make the classic, rookie mistake of writing their résumé in first person.

Over 5,000 accounts were assigned to me, and my efficient and professional management of them was recognized with the company’s ‘Super Sales Star’ award.

Unfortunately, a savvy potential employer may realize that you, personally, wrote the résumé you are submitting. This is why many résumé-writing experts advocate the use of third-person instead:

Over 800 accounts were assigned to the Non-Expert, and his efficient and professional management of them was recognized with the company’s ‘Sales Superstar’ award.

Now we have the impression that an impassive third-party evaluated your skills and spontaneously volunteered to write an even-handed, scrupulously accurate résumé on your behalf. HR folks fall for this every time, God love ‘em.

Better yet, try using the second-person:

You assigned over 5,000 to the Non-Expert, and, after observing his efficient and professional management of them, you gave him the company’s ‘Sales Superstar’ award. Then you gave him a ten-grand bonus and a corner office.

Worth a shot!

8. Prioritize

HR personnel, unlike you, have full-time jobs, so they have neither the time to read entire résumés nor the fortnights to clear the Minesweeper basic level in under eight seconds. Solution: put the most important information where they are most likely to see it. Conversely, stick the less impressive information at the bottom.

  • Managed over 800 accounts with over $700,000 in liquid assets from over 75 foreign and domestic sources;
  • Analyzed market and forecast sales, prepared corporate budgets and monitored results to achieve ROI objectives;
  • Got shitcanned.

9. Use Buzz Words and Acronyms

Nothing shows you know your stuff like an incomprehensible string of buzz words and jargon, so be sure to include lots in your job descriptions. Better yet, pepper your résumé with acronyms—this demonstrates that you’re the kind of active, multi-tasking go-getter that doesn’t have time for whole words

Fluent in ASP, SQL, C++, HTML, MCSE, MCP+I, TCP/IP, CCA, CCNA, token ring and PCMCIA network interface cards for LAN connectivity. Assisted CEO, VP, and CSS with HPPD-related PKs and assorted AFM-oriented tasks. Frequented T.G.I.Fridays. Was all like OMG STFU.

10. Conclusion

Conclude your résumé by including miscellaneous information such as ‘First aid certified,’ ‘Fluent in Spanish,’ ‘Willing to travel,’ and ‘Reference Available Upon Request’ in a final section entitled ‘Additional Lies.’