A resume is a marketing tool.
Dear Sam: I have noticed that resume advisers often counsel applicants to tailor their resumes only to what hiring managers want to see. I suggest that this is the wrong approach. A resume is a marketing tool. In addition to the basics, I believe that resumes should also present whatever works to the applicant's advantage. For example, hiring managers may not want to know personal information about age, family, home ownership, hobbies, etc.; either because they think the information irrelevant, or because they are not supposed to consider it in a hiring decision. However, I believe that a favorable psychological opinion can work to an applicant's advantage and should be created, if possible; so that a hiring manager reads the resume and thinks, "I like this person, I'd like to set up an interview." My spouse has had great success with this approach. - Greg
Dear Greg: I could not agree more with your statement that your resume is a marketing tool. A resume is much more than a narrative of everything you have ever done, it is a strategic image of what you have done that positions you for what you now want to do. In that, I am always educating clients about true differentiating factors. A lot of candidates believe soft skills -- communication, organization, multitasking, etc. -- can help them stand out from the crowd, but this is rarely the case, at least not when those skills are presented on paper. I encourage all clients and candidates to identify what is truly unique about their candidacy. Differentiating factors typically stem from experience, as that is truly the way we are unique, not education, and not soft skills. In the exploration of how we are unique, I too would encourage a more personal approach to presenting the professional and the person on a resume, as long as the personal aspects brought into the resume reinforce the professional tone.
So, just as you suggested, if a certain hobby is relevant to your jobs of interest then by all means it has a place on a resume. In fact I have built entire resumes hinged on a candidate's volunteer work and interests! If you need to tell a personal story about your family -- albeit typically in your cover letter -- to connect with a potential employer, or to explain certain career decisions, then by all means do so. And, if where you live or your family's connection to the community will play a role in reinforcing your professional candidacy, then there are no rules that say you can't leverage that differentiating factor. There have been times I have written resumes and promoted personal connections within the community in order to reinforce a certain level of outreach and engagement within the candidate's local area. This is why resume writing is an art and not a science; it's all about identifying what is important and unique to you, and then building a presentation to promote that to your target audience -- Marketing 101!
Each year I have the opportunity to present on the topic of personal branding to a large group of human resources professionals and I am always struck by the fact that they want to truly "know" who the candidate is. While this picture must be painted within the constraints of a professional resume, I do believe that we can be increasingly candid on our job search documents and, like in the case of your wife, this can yield to a deeper connection between employer and candidate. Thank you for your evidence of the success of this approach.
Samantha Nolan is a Certified Professional Resume Writer and owner of Ladybug Design, a full-service resume-writing firm. Do you have a resume or job search question for Dear Sam? Reach Samantha at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more about Sam's resume writing services, visit ladybug-design.com or call 614-570-3442 or 1-888-9-LADYBUG (1-888-952-3928).
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