The Resume Template Trap

Nov 30

Pseudo-professional language is the disease of the modern resume. In an attempt to meet some imagined standard, people looking for a new job often resort to all types of flavorless words and phrasings.

If you peruse a few resumes or LinkedIn profiles and you’ll likely read about how someone “efficiently managed client deliverables through production processes” or “coordinated and achieved key partnerships while managing various ongoing timelines.” These real examples show formidable wordsmithing, but we honestly can’t tell you the strengths or experience of the person who wrote it. In an effort to sound professional, they’ve completely sacrificed all clarity and character.

No wonder it’s so common to hear the same old responses when we ask others how their job search is going:

“I’ve sent out 20 resumes and I’m just not getting any responses.”

“The job market is bad.”

“I must not be qualified.”

“It’s a numbers game, I just need to keep applying to jobs.”

And so on.

If your resume contains this kind of language, we’d like you to consider that it’s doing you more harm than good. Assuming you’ve previously held any type of job, you probably have a range of skills and experience that a new employer would find valuable. You don't need to hide these successes behind buzzwords or doublespeak.

Remember, companies don’t put out job ads for fun. They really do hire people all the time and if you’re a sensible person, you have as good a shot as anyone at getting the job. If your resume isn’t converting as well as you think it should, a likely explanation is that you’ve fallen into the template trap.

If you suspect this has happened, consider whether your resume is guilty of any of the following:


The Template Trap Checklist

If you use 3 or more of these common resume tactics, it’s probably time for a reevaluation.

◻️ Using a common template
By its very definition, a template will not help you stand out. Especially one that anyone with a copy of Microsoft Word can get.

◻️ Writing in pseudo-professional language
True professionalism comes from confidence in your professional abilities, not from industry jargon and 10-dollar words.

◻️ Keeping your resume to a predetermined number of pages
Anyone who says a resume should be 1 page, or 2 pages, or any specific number is parroting made-up advice. We have yet to find a hard-and-fast standard. In reality, your resume should be as long as it needs to be to get your point across and show your relevant skills.

◻️ Creating an overly creative or expensive resume
We’ve seen resumes printed on fridge magnets, mailed in a fancy envelope, even one person who sent a cake into the office with her resume printed on it (really). Nothing says “desperate” more than spending money to apply to a job.

◻️ Overdoing it with the number of bullet points
It’s easy to go overboard when you’re trying to make sure someone understands you. For resumes, there’s a balance of saying enough to grab the reader’s attention, but leaving enough out so you can later leverage it to invite conversation in the interview. Stacking bullets until you can't think of any more is called rambling and it usually shuts down conversations, not opens them.

◻️ Starting each bullet with an approved “action word”
You know what I’m talking about - those lists of safe words like Coordinated, Maintained, Developed, etc. Bleh. Why not use plain English instead? It’s genuine and gets your message across much more clearly.

◻️ Overstating your education
The average hiring manager got average grades in school, and likely doesn’t care about your academic achievements. Most people just want to know whether you went to college. Unless you did something specialized that’s highly relevant to your career, anything more than the name of the school and your degree type is probably too much.

◻️ Changing your resume for every job you apply to
Changing your life’s story to try and please other people is sad and desperate. Most people we know would rather have just the one personality. Stick to telling one story well and you’ll easily be in the top candidates for the right opportunities.

◻️ Paying someone else to make your resume
Maybe you think you might do it wrong, so it’s better to rely on someone else to write your materials for you. But you’re the one that has to interview and tell your story in person, so we think you’re the best person to write your own resume.

You might wonder “Aren’t there at least some standards when it comes to resumes?” Of course we acknowledge it’s useful to stick to a definitive format. Your resume should still look like a resume, after all. But within that limitation, there’s a ton of room for improvement. Our goal for you is to develop a document that catches the interest of recruiters and hiring managers, and makes them want to meet you in person.

That’s why we’ve made the Interview10K Resume Writing Guide available for FREE. Get your copy now.