As our roles become more technical and specialized, it is becoming increasingly difficult to create a personal marketing piece (resume / LinkedIn / bio) that resonates with a broad audience. The problem is that there are a lot of important individuals across the hiring continuum that aren't experts in your domain, and your resume needs to resonate with them (as well as with domain experts).
Here are 5 tips for creating a resume or LinkedIn that will appeal to a broad range of readers, whether or not they share your expertise.
Focus on impact, not on process – Speaking to achievements on your job search documents and LinkedIn profile is resume writing 101. Too often, I see resumes that go into extensive detail about the process – paragraphs of narrative outlining the minutiae. Don’t be afraid to simply share the outcome and impact. Readers will ask themselves “how did she do that?” Those curiosity gaps are a compelling reason to bring you in for an interview.
Don’t get too technical, even if you are in tech – One of the biggest issues I see are resumes that are so dense with technical language, tools, and acronyms that they are almost impossible to decipher. When it comes to technical fields, consider moving technologies to a “Select Technical Expertise” section or a “Technical Environment” line following each role. This allows you to share these technologies without over complicating your accomplishment-focused bullet points.
When in doubt, leave it out – If you question whether or not something is relevant, it likely isn’t. This can mean leaving off anything from minor accomplishments to cutting certain roles (especially extremely short term positions). Remember, the more you provide the less likely it is that readers will focus on those aspects of your background that matter most. Remove the distractions so that your most relevant roles and powerful accomplishments shine through.
Keep it short – Nobody wants to read a detailed account of your work history. And who has the time?! Keep your resume and LinkedIn profile to highlights – those aspects of your background that are most likely to pique a reader’s interest. The best way to eliminate unnecessary bulk is to omit (or just briefly mention) positions that are more than 10 (maybe up to 15) years old. Challenge yourself to include no more than five accomplishments for each role, keep each bullet point to no more than two lines, and only provide high-level overviews of each role.
Get an outsider’s perspective – Sometimes you just know too much. Being an expert is an asset, but the “curse of knowledge” can make it impossible to see your information objectively. What you believe everyone will understand can leave many readers scratching their heads. Connecting with a professional or peer who is not an expert in your field is critical. They can point out information that is overly complex, difficult to understand, or that will not resonate with a broad audience.
Again, not everyone who reads your resume will share your expertise. Every once in awhile I hear “I don’t want to dumb things down just because HR doesn’t understand what I do.” The above tips are not about dumbing down your resume or writing specifically for HR. Communicating what you do clearly and in broadly understood language appeals to readers throughout the hiring process, including hiring managers. Excellent communication skills are something almost everybody claims to have but – all too often – that claim is belied by an overly-complicated and overwhelming resume.