Wear Your Resume Well

by Safani, Barbara Tuesday, August 18, 2009
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Almost every job seeker I meet has some sort of “special circumstance” that they feel needs to be addressed in their resume. For some, it’s accounting for the dotcom they worked for that went bust after 9 months or the year they took off from work to care for an aging parent or newborn.

For others it’s that “what the heck was I thinking when I took that job” faux pas or the “my boss was a raging lunatic and I had to get out fast” scenario. Almost everyone has at least one of these “special circumstances” and so they really aren’t that special...they are a part of life and part of most people’s career journey. When crafting a compelling resume, the trick is to tell the story of your career path in a way that focuses on your best assets and makes you shine.

When we purchase clothing, we make decisions on what to buy based on what we think will best complement our greatest assets. We don’t say “My thighs are huge, so let me find a pair of pants that accentuates that.”

But most of the resumes job seekers write for themselves seem to do just that. They often scream “look at my mistakes” or yell “I know it’s hard to figure out why I took this job, but here it is.” They give equal blocks of information about each of the positions they have held regardless of the importance each position has to their target audience or the relevance of that position to their overall career strategy. When information is questionable or missing, employers come to their own conclusions about what really happened. And this bias could cost you the interview.

It doesn’t have to be that way. I advocate for full disclosure on a resume...listing all positions and explaining moves and leaves of absence when appropriate. It is perfectly acceptable to explain that you left a position to care for a family member (yes, right on the resume) or to explain that your position was terminated due to a layoff, company closing, etc. And while you wouldn’t explain the “my boss was evil” scenario on a resume, there are ways to focus on your contributions in the position and call less attention to the short tenure.

We have one body and we make decisions every day on how to dress it in an effort to put our best foot forward. Doesn’t it make sense to take your career story and dress it well to put your best foot forward in your job search?