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Five For Friday – The De-Evolution Of The Resume

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Below is an excerpt from an opinion piece I wrote for SportsBusiness Journal several years ago.  It’s called “The De-Evolution of the Resume” and I strongly support its main ethos to this day (and many, many more).  Building upon the thoughts below, here are five enhancements that will immediately brighten up those drab resumes and cover letters.

  1. Add some color.  Imagine a client tasks you with designing a collateral piece – maybe it’s a window sign, a store wall banner or a postcard flyer.  As with most collateral projects, your goal is to create exciting design that clearly positions the key messaging points.  That’s not typically done with boring lines of text and bullet points.  Consider adding some color to your resume.  It can be a few lines separating different areas of information or a shaded sidebar with contact info.  And here’s an idea that’ll get me in deep water with guidance counselors all over the nation – use a color of resume paper other than white!! OMG!!!  If I’m shuffling through a stack of white sheets and all of a sudden a light blue one appears, I’ll probably take notice.
  2. Ditch the silly “objective” and “about” sections.  Your objective is to get the job you’re applying for – don’t waste valuable realty on the sheet.  And for the love of all that is interesting, don’t TELL me about who you are, SHOW me.  That’s what a resume is for!  If you must include some upfront intro, then call out your specialties such as “Lifestyle Marketing”, “Web Design” or “Word of Mouth”.
  3. Add some branding.  Take a shot at including the logo of each client, property or venue you’ve worked with to add some color and meaning.  At a quick glance, the reader will be able to identify a little piece of your work history with ease.
  4. This one’s for the cover letters.  First, lose the typical template (intro paragraph, two paragraphs of relevant work experience, closing arguments).  Experiment with different formats.  One of my most complimented cover letters began with a series of quotes attributed to what my clients and peers may have said about their experiences with me (including: “That kid’s completely insane!” and “Does he ever sleep?!”).  I’ve also called out what I am not as opposed to only focusing on what I am.  Quite disruptive to your everyday cover letter reader.
  5. Packaging matters.  Maybe it’s time we all rethink the concept of paper resumes and cover letters altogether and go a completely different and much more interesting route.  Let my friends at Creative Guerrilla Marketing explain further:


The De-Evolution of the Resume

The other day I found myself staring in bewilderment at the stack of resumes lying on my desk, all belonging to potential job candidates. Content aside, the first three resumes I looked at were identical – same format, same organization, same headers and bullets. Talk about ignoring every marketing rule ever written…..

Let me first get this out-of-the-way – I do not blame the just-out-of-college employment seekers who owned said resumes. What else are they supposed to do? Beginning in high school, students are taught to almost fear bringing any sense of individuality to the resume, short of listing Honors and Achievements. “Don’t use colored paper!” “Your resume will never get looked at if it’s more than one page!” “Education goes before experience!” And I wonder why every resume that comes across my desk looks just like the last.

What ever happened to the basics of marketing? Break through the clutter, point of differentiation, brand identity, unique and attractive packaging – these concepts are pushed through every communication channel in every classroom across the land, but strangely they cease to exist within the confines of the modern-day resume. In universities from the East to the West Coast, MBA students wax poetic on the much reported challenges that brands face in today’s complex marketing landscape with the brilliance of seasoned vets. Yet when it comes time to promote their own personal brand, that same innovative approach students take to attack the industry’s most prevalent issues takes a back seat to the mundane formatting mantra of “Professional Objective, Education, Experience, Honors & Achievements”.

Perhaps the entire system needs to take a step back and deconstruct the current view on resumes. A re-branding, of sorts. I like to think that one day I will sift through that stack of resumes and come across something that makes me stare in a different way.

As John Cage, famous American composer and innovator in his industry so eloquently stated, “I can’t understand why people are frightened of new ideas. I’m frightened of old ones.”



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Growth obsessed startup co-founder (MusicBox) and strategist-for-hire.

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