What Shakespeare Can’t Teach You About Resume Writing
Writing your resume is not like essay composition. We have carefully collected words and phrases to include in our vocabulary in order to impress certain people or to expand upon standard expressions. That is not the case with resumes. In compiling your resume, there are things you just don’t do and things you should always do. While proper grammar is a must, Shakespeare would be disappointed with the butchering of language that is a resume.
Shakespeare is credited for introducing nearly 3,000 words to the English language. During his time as a playwright and poet, the English language shifted and evolved to be something similar to what we speak today. Linguistically, Shakespeare’s diction is only one generation removed from today’s vernacular.
“Resume speak” is a term that refers to the unique way a standard resume is written. It is a style that hiring managers and recruiters expect and appreciate to see in a resume. A resume written in anything but “resume speak” become awkward and lengthy when you should be short and to the point.
“Resume Speak” vs. Prose
A novel can be written from multiple perspectives, but that is not something a resume should have. Standard practice on a resume is to drop personal pronouns like I, my, and me. So, instead of using pronouns, the style becomes first person implied.
- First person: I managed a team …
- First person implied: Managed a team …
The resume is a document all about you, making this style an acceptable means of communicating skills, experiences, and responsibilities. Using personal pronouns on a document all about you is redundant.
You will also omit any articles (a, an, and the) from your resume, within reason. It is common to include the occasional article, however, they are used very conservatively. If you take the article out of the phrase and it no longer makes sense, replace it. This will be more difficult to master than omitting personal pronouns.
- Standard English: I managed a team to finalize a variety of projects over a fiscal year, resulting in a 15% increase in productivity for the duration and allowing departmental training for success company-wide.
- Resume Speak: Managed team to finalize projects over fiscal year, resulting in +15% productivity and allowing company-wide departmental success training.
Remember that your resume is not a detailed record of your life experiences and achievements, it is a snapshot providing the best examples in a concise manner. “Resume speak” is simple on paper, but difficult to compose.
Why is this important?
Resume composition is not easy — it could easily take several hours to edit one section of your resume. It is important to follow the standard way of resume writing because hiring managers do not want your entire life’s story. Unless a potential employer asks for a very specific document for their application, they want something that will tell them enough about you to be considered for an interview. During the interview is when you can expand upon different things within the resume or cover letter that might need additional emphasis.
Resumes are often run through software that will recognize certain keywords the company needs to see on a candidate’s documents. Including too many words or too much information will slow down that process and some of these resume reading softwares perform by a word limit per page. Your resume is a brochure of your highlighted accomplishments, not a novel about every experience.
English is one of the most complicated languages to learn – everything has a rule. Understanding the unique styles of each kind of writing is not something you can master in one sitting. Shakespeare’s plays and poems were written for the common person. Composition of any academic paper uses language that can be found in Shakespeare’s work. Even journalism has its standards. But resume writing entails a unique set of rules.
By Kaley Buck, Five Strengths Contributor