A Boastful Resume From a Modest Example

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10:00 AM

Some resumes ignore the best parts of a career. Jan Baiden’s resume did.

By Sharon Linsenbach

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Jan Baiden never expected to be laid off.

"I'm 59 and I've never been out of work," she said. "I've worked since I was 21 years old. "

Jan Baiden never expected to need a resume again. She said she is like most executives near a high point in their careers -- confident that tenure and experience made her job secure and put her in strong position to find her next job based on her record.

"I think many people don't take notice of these things unless there's a necessity," Baiden said.

But Baiden was laid off from her position as a direct-marketing executive and needed a resume once again. It was up to date, but her achievements were buried in tasks and modest language. That's another common trait among executives near a high point in their career, said Becky Erdelen, a certified professional resume writer who works with TheLadders and helped Baiden craft a more assertive resume.

Job seekers have a hard time finding the balance between pride and modesty, Erdelen said. Many know they're not giving themselves the credit they deserve, but they're uneasy about saying it any other way. They don't want to sound pompous and arrogant.

To fix Baiden's resume, Erdelen had to get her to describe the accomplishments in her career, some of which she hadn't even mentioned in her original resume. Erdelen interviewed Baden and had her provide detailed factsheets on her career.

"Going through the critique and doing the worksheets really made me sit down and go, ‘What did I really achieve?' " Baiden said.

It turns out she had had achieved quite a lot. "She'd saved a company more than $200,000 by streamlining business processes and eliminating waste," Erdelen said. "She turned around the performance of an entire department by replacing the entire staff."

"We had to work on pulling forward the accomplishments, rather than stick with a task-oriented resume, which doesn't really let people shine," Erdelen said.

It's how you say it

Wording can be key, Erdelen, said. She was able to pump up Baiden's resume using a broader vocabulary and action verbs that made her accomplishments seem more dynamic.

"To be able to market a client and make it an interesting read, you have to use a variety of action verbs that are more powerful and attention-grabbing," Erdelen said. "So, she ‘championed,' she ‘directed,' she ‘realized' savings instead of ‘generated' them."

Baiden said she'd tried spicing up the wording herself but didn't get very far. "You can't ‘spearhead' everything, you know? You need to be able to describe very similar accomplishments in very different ways for different positions," she said.

While Baiden's resume is still in progress, she said it's nearly finished after three drafts. The most rewarding part, Baiden said, was discovering new insights about herself and her work as seen through the eyes of another person.

"I don't know what I ever said to get Becky to describe me in the way that she did, but it's incredible," she said. "She included information that I never would have said about myself that was actually true!"

Sharon Linsenbach covers executive recruiters for TheLadders.

Topics: Resume