By Alesia Benedict
When writing resumes, it is important to remember whom it is
you're trying to please - (is it you, or the hiring
In this article I will present my ideas of what makes up
aggressive documents, based on my many years in the industry,
and my career in owning and managing a successful resume
writing and career marketing firm.
Who Is Reading Your Resume?
Make no mistake about it, aggressive documents are necessary
be successful in today's competitive job search. But first,
history. Let's examine some of the "hiring authorities."
my career in the resume writing industry, I spent several
as an executive recruiter, placing mid- and senior-level
executives in top corporations. Eventually, I managed that
firm, which employed 24 recruiters working 10 "desks." A
is a specialty: finance, banking, engineering, information
systems, legal, are all known as "desks" and each recruiter
team of recruiters) specialized in placing upper managers and
executives in a chosen field.
I no longer place candidates, and devote all my energies to
resumes and the career marketing industry as a whole, and my
own firm in particular. However, I still have many connections
with recruiters, and have respect for the really great ones,
and distaste for the all-too-often bad ones!
I think it's important to remember that these days, people in
career transition are driven to explore many methods in their
job search. In the past, it was much easier to look for a job
individuals simply read the classified ads, called the
number listed and chatted with the person over the phone,
setting up an in-person interview for the next day. What a
These days, however, the job search is much more complex.
Competition for employment has never been greater. The entire
process is often drawn-out, depersonalized and hard, hard,
hard! Resumes are no longer just asked for, they are DEMANDED.
In reality, they are a prerequisite for a job search.
My point is, you have to remember what the resume's purpose
actually is and write accordingly. The dynamics in this field
are very exciting but also very volatile. The buzz words are
forever changing. Companies, for example, were at one time
laying-off, then downsizing... rightsizing... reorganizing,
now reengineering. Whew!
Recruiters, company hiring managers and human resources
professionals are all components in your job search, and it is
the resume's job to land interviews.
I routinely speak with professional recruiters, H.R.
professionals and hiring managers to get their reactions and
opinions to resume styles, formats, contents and verbiage.
Remembering that resumes are actually marketing pieces
to sell you to potential employers, aggressive resumes are NOT
simply a listing of your work experience or your biography
(life on paper).
What Makes A "Winning" Resume?
Here are some of my methods and suggestions for writing
aggressive resumes, based on my own experience as a recruiter,
my interaction with hiring professionals and employment
specialists and my clients' success rate in obtaining
interviews within 30 days.
Successful resumes need to SELL you over and above your peers
and they create a sense of urgency for the reader to pick up
the phone and call (or email) you to arrange an interview.
Otherwise, the alternative is the reader scans the resume,
thinks, "Yeah, this person has a good background," and then
moves on to scan the next resume, pitching your resume in the
old "circular file."
So let's examine some ways to write aggressive,
up-to-the-minute resumes that really SELL you.
There are lots of opinions about whether or not to use an
objective, or just how to do so, if one IS used. The only
"given" about the use of an objective, is definitely NOT to
one on senior level resumes. A CEO, CFO, COO or other
executive's resume actually looks/reads silly when an
is used. But for the mid-level or entry-level candidate, an
objective can be useful. Here are a few ways to incorporate
concept into a resume...for a very targeted client who knows
exactly what she/he wants:
BUYER...PURCHASING MANAGER...PROCUREMENT AGENT
or, for someone seeking to remain in their career pattern:
EXPERIENCED COST ACCOUNTANT seeks a position with a
organization that will utilize a successful career to
meet/exceed company goals.
or, for a client who has several fields she/he want to pursue:
Results-oriented manager seeks a position with advancement
opportunities; areas of interest include retail, electronics
and communications technology.
or, if someone wants to change careers: AGGRESSIVE individual
seeks a career in sales utilizing strong interpersonal skills
to penetrate untapped markets and build a loyal client base.
What you'll notice in the above cases, is what's stressed in
the objective: the BENEFIT the COMPANY will receive if they
hire the candidate. What is not stated is what YOU want.
Companies don't care what you want - they want to know what
can do for THEM.
A flaw in writing objectives, is that they sometimes just say
the same thing that 78+ other resumes sitting on the hiring
authority's desk state: Seeking a challenging position that
will utilize my skills in editing, proofreading and copy
Oh, that's exciting...makes you just want to jump to the phone
and give that person a call, doesn't it? Stating that the
person is seeking a challenging position is ridiculous. Would
you ever state that you were seeking a boring position? Of
course not - so don't state the obvious - it's a cliché.
REFERENCES PROVIDED UPON REQUEST
Using this phrase at the end of the resume is archaic. It's a
given (talk about a cliché!), and contemporary resumes omit
this. The better approach is to generate a prepared
Professional Reference sheet which you can bring with you on
interviews and leave with the interviewer when references are
This word is often so over-used in a resume, that at
GetInterviews.com, we never use it. Recruiters employed at
retainer-only search firms have told me that the word
"responsible" signifies mid-management and below, not
executive-level candidates. Personally, I believe the word
"responsible" is actually useless in a resume. Instead of
writing, "Responsible for all departmental functions including
accounts payable/receivable, payroll and invoicing..." I would
suggest to use an action word that best depicts what that
person actually does - for example, "Perform all departmental
functions, including..." or "Oversee all departmental
functions, including..." or "Review all departmental
including..." See what I mean? "Responsible" doesn't really
anything, it doesn't give a clear indication of what you
actually do. Do you perform the functions or direct them?
"Responsible" is too vague to say which.
MY, MINE, THIS, I
Using words like this in the resume indicates you are writing
in a narrative voice, as if you are having an actual
conversation, a dialogue with the reader. This is not the
you are presenting your achievements, skills and credentials
a potential employer. My suggestion would be to keep the
more business-like, more professional. In descriptions, the
"a" could be substituted for the word "this," as in: "Promoted
to a $30 million division of an international widget
manufacturer to expand sales into untapped markets" as opposed
to "Promoted to this $30 million division...."
I have seen this word used when describing daily functions:
"Control and administer annual budgets totaling $12 million.
Also, interface with vendors to negotiate more favorable terms
and gain higher profits." Again, the "also" is a dialogue
and quite unnecessary. In writing resumes, it is best to do
my Creative Writing professor called "tight writing." That is,
to eliminate as many "an's, the's, also's, a's," etc., as
possible. They typically aren't necessary and can be cut from
the resume without loss of meaning.
Contrary to the rules of grammar, EXCEPT for academic resumes,
it is best to use numerals in a resume rather than spell out
the number, even when that number is 10 or under. I know that
grammatically, we are taught to spell out numbers like three,
five, seven, etc., and write 12, 14, 16, etc. The numerical
version, however, jumps off a page, whereas the spelled out
version often gets lost. Because resumes are often only
by the reader 15-20 seconds, the actual use of numbers helps
capture the readers' attention - they are drawn to the
which means they are spending more time looking at and reading
your resume - and that's a GOOD thing! I made the reference
above to academic resumes, because teachers, principals and
superintendents are very sensitive to grammatical rules, even
in resumes. It's best to spell out any number under 10 for
these types of resumes. I would never recommend, however, that
the words "percentage" or "dollar" be used ("30 percent" or
million dollars") - instead, use the symbol, as in 30% or $12
EDUCATION VS. EXPERIENCE
Knowing when to highlight someone's education vs. experience
important. With certain fields (teaching, for example), the
general preference is to lead off the resume with the client's
credentials and educational background, even if they have
considerable experience. Recent college grads should also have
their education first, as it is typically their greatest
achievement. However, someone who returned to college (part
time nights, for example), while concurrently employed full
time for the past 9 years as a travel agent, should have their
resume lead off with their experience, and NOT emphasize they
just obtained their Bachelors degree. They are not entry-level
candidates - their experience is more vital to a company than
their education. Remember that all resumes do NOT have to lead
off with the client's education.
PAST / PRESENT TENSE
Writing in the present tense is always more aggressive than
writing in the past tense. Verbs in past tense are in a
voice, so whenever feasible, write in the present tense.
Obviously, if you are still employed, your current job listing
is written in the present tense (manage, direct, supervise,
Unless you are an actor or model, do not include a picture of
yourself under any circumstances. Companies these days are so
concerned about EEO lawsuits, discriminatory cases and the
like, that at best, they will immediately throw out the
picture, or at worst, possibly throw away the entire resume,
especially if the picture is printed into the resume. I can
guarantee you recruiting firms are highly sensitive to this,
Be careful not to make your resumes "too cute." Remember,
companies see you as an INVESTMENT - they are spending x
of dollars to obtain you (salary), and want to see a return on
their investment. It is a business negotiation. If the resume
appears too "decorative" or distracting because of cute clip
art images or overly decorative paper, you may be dismissed
the resume tossed.
Marital status, date of birth, health, hobbies, etc., are not
relevant on a resume these days.
Remember, you aren't writing your biography, you are marketing
yourself on paper: why does the employer want to hire YOU
all others, especially when there are 91+ resumes from equally
qualified candidates sitting on that decision-maker's desk?
Answer that question in the resume, and you will have written
tight, solid, results-oriented resume...in short, a winning,
aggressive resume, and the sort of resume that is vital for
today's job search - and that of the next millennium.
About The Author: Published in 25 career books, Alesia has
cited by Jist Publications as one of the "best resume writers
North America" and quoted as a Career Expert in the Wall
Journal. Serving as the Resume Expert for over 50+
organizations, she has numerous media appearances to her
and is a frequent keynote speaker. getinterviews.com