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Job Magician Skip the Self Praise!
Don't Say It, Prove It On Your Resume

  • Most resumes are filled with self praise:  "power" descriptors like spirited, dynamic, driven, adept, proven performer, highly skilled, or innovative that resume books and professional resume writers urge job hunters to use to perk up their resumes.
  • Only an idiot believes any of this horse magoosh, and most employers aren't idiots (and if the employer is an idiot, do you want to work for them?) ...

Recently, when talking with my sister Katarina, she used the word brilliant in a sentence.

In all my arrogance, I responded, "Brilliant ... kind of makes you think about me, doesn't it?"

Katarina responded brilliantly with, "It makes me think about you talking about you."

Unfortunately, all but about 1% of resumes start out with you talking about you.


Here's today's sample resume starter:

"Highly intelligent, energetic, entrepreneurial and high-achieving executive with 10 years of work experience and superb academic credentials. Deep network of corporate client, private equity and professional services relationships developed over numerous years.  Outstanding new business development skills and ability to understand explicit and implicit client needs.  Highly articulate and persuasive communicator. Proven ability to raise capital.  Experience recruiting, leading and motivating teams. Significant corporate finance transaction experience."

Arrgh! as Charlie Brown would say. Did that put you to sleep?

This summary tells me he has 10 years of work experience, along with some private equity and capital raising experience. The rest of it is self-praise -- fluff. Everybody and his sister can claim (and they all do claim) to be highly intelligent, energetic, entrepreneurial, high-achieving, highly articulate and persuasive communicators.

I'm not picking on this person - who actually has a pretty impressive background.  It's so rare that I see a resume that doesn't start out with a boring thud like this one that I routinely skip the summaries - but the good resume writers out there will put something in the summary that will catch my eye.

Dropping all the self-praise  - all the you-talking-about-you is the first step. Get rid of all self-describing adjectives, which no one believes, and which even you wouldn't believe if they were on the resume you were reading that belonged to someone you'd never met.

Replace them with specifics.  In this candidate's case, replace proven ability to raise capital with raised $1.65-billion in capital to fund 13 transactions in three-year period.

I'm continually baffled at why accomplished execs feel that praising themselves more boldly than an insecure heiress putting on airs will dare to do will get them anywhere. However, this is the rule, rather than the exception. Think back to the last time you hired someone. You fired Herman because he could not make a decision. You told your HR department to bring you someone who was confident and decisive. Your VP/Human Resources came back a month later with a half dozen resumes, and said, "We ran ads and contacted our best sources. These six people all mentioned in their resumes that they are confident and decisive. We're certain that one of these six will be your next superstar general manager."

Your VP/HR didn't? Would you have believed him if he had told you that? Or would you merely have had him committed?

You're smarter than the average wizard. Add specifics, and stop praising yourself. 

The beginning of your resume needs to be eye-catching, rather than something that makes you indistinguishable from everybody else. Otherwise, you simply will not get the job.


The Ladders - Find a Great Job Now


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