Avoid the Resume Clone Wars: Tell Your Story!

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As a hiring manager (read: non-human resource professional) who has recruited, interviewed and hired interns, entry-level and mid-level professionals, I have one word for those who insist a resume always be in a certain font or be structured in a certain way…


Honestly, when I review a resume (and maybe cover letter) I’m interested in getting answers to three questions:

(1)    Does this person have the background, experience and/or skills to do the job I’m hiring for

(2)    Why does this person want to work for me in this role?

(3)    Can you solve my immediate problem, without me constantly holding your hand?

Seriously… in my non-ATS recruiting world, as long as these questions get answered and the applicant’s basic information is presented in a clear, well-organized, easy-to-read format…  I’m good.

I’ve been where you are now. Over the years, I’ve had my own resume critiqued countless times by different career professionals. I also trained as a Career Consultant with Lee Hecht Harrison. So it seems that by now I’d have a resume that a group of experts could agree on, right?


Instead, it seems as if every career coach, HR manager and recruitment firm has their own “correct” format of how a resume should be structured. And… each of them is absolutely convinced their method is the right one – even though their preference directly contradicts the opinions of other professionals.

My advice to job and internship seekers: what matters most is the experience your resume details, not the font you use to represent yourself, or conforming to some format straight out of Resume Xanadu.

Should the resume be one or two pages in length? That depends, of course, on the level of experience and the industry. Should it be chronological or functional? Well, that (like any other piece of marketing material) depends on the intended audience. Should you emphasize your education, and does it matter where on the resume that section is placed? Not to me. But… again… if the employer has stressed in the job description the importance of education requirements, why not make that recruiter’s job easy when presenting your resume?

What is really important (at least to me) is that the document is well organized, contains action verbs such as “managed”, “developed” and “coordinated” and highlights, wherever appropriate, specific outcomes (such as “increased sales 100%”) . I also would like to see some evidence of problem solving skills; using quantified statements, and examples of what business problems have you solved for previous employers (Example: “I saved the company $500,000 annually by switching technology platforms.”).

Hiring managers, like me, love to see this in a resume – regardless of style, font or format! 

Bottom line: your job as an applicant is to show me that your skills and experience are relevant, that you are sincerely interested in working for me and that you can solve my problem.  If all of that includes eye-catching charts, infographics, or other interesting ways of demonstrating your abilities, then by all means, go for it!

Relax. Then tell me your story in a non-clone-like fashion. I’ll listen.

For this post, Doostang thanks our friends at YouTern.

About the Author: Joe Gagliano, a founding member of YouTern and our CMO, brings years of start-up management, strategic planning, marketing and market research experience to the team and his blog posts. Joe, who runs our learning center for interns, also brings a passion for start-ups, entrepreneurship and mentorship to our team.


  1. guru says

    Points 1 and 3 are really important. Point 2 is obvious(ie better career opportunities, growth, environment etc).That need not be obviously mentioned.Remember that a candidate who has lot of experience can do lots of these tasks and more. Hiring manager has to be more smart than an ATS.ATS should not be a substitute for the hiring manager.

  2. Melanie Allison says

    Your article was a great “reality check” and reminder to stick to the basics! We are flooded with quick tips, warnings of “don’t do this or you will never get a job” that the thought of editing your resume AGAIN based on the most recent trend, just wants to make you absolutely pull your hair out! Thanks!!

  3. says

    As an “elder statesman” consultant who has been caught in the vise of the rotten business climate and moving to a new city one year ago, I am experiencing what you describe. There is no way to satisfy the myriad requirements of format and content. It is an exercise in futility.

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