Be You-Nique: Resume Writing “Rules” to Break


By Jacqui Barrett-Poindexter

As a member of Career Collective, and in collaboration with my friend and co-coordinator, Miriam Salpeter, I am happy to announce this month’s topic: Job-hunting “Rules” to Break / Outdated Job-Search Beliefs. Please visit other blog posts on this subject, linked at the end of this post on Wednesday. For those on Twitter, we invite you to follow the hashtag, #CareerCollective.

Relax, and You Can Rule the Road

This subject is one of my favorites, as I believe the urge to follow ‘rules of the job search road’ often paralyze career-changing candidates. In an effort to stay on the safe road and not take a wrong exit or encounter any rough patches, slick spots or potholes (e.g., a desire to please recruiters, human resource managers and hiring decision makers and/or finesse the electronic resume scanning systems), job seekers often create bland, rules-bound resumes that not only bore the tar out of folks, but offer no real value.

Alas, in a desire to please all, you please none!

Break those page-limiting, attention-deficit-disorder-guided, buzzword-inhibited, design-depleting resume laws and discover the liberation as your compelling career story unfolds.

Discover Your Value!

First, be introspective, diving into the deep waters of your career and discovering the golden nuggets of your treasure chest of years of experience, talent, decision-making, team contributing and problem eradicating and proudly display your cache of wins.

Initially, this may smack of chest-pounding and bravura. It is not. In fact, this outlay of your achievement booty is just a first step toward unfurling the folds of career fabric that have become enmeshed amidst layers and layers spun throughout a richly woven career.

No worries, this early career unfurling is but one of several successive steps toward preparing your targeted career communications dossier that will feed the RSS career channels.

Hang On! There’s Been a Wildly Transformative Shift in Career Management Methods

You see, the world of career management has undergone a metamorphosis in the last several years, not to mention the wildly transformative changes of the last 10 to 20 years, for those of you who’ve been immune to job search for that long. The outbreak of social media sites, tools and resources is breathtaking, even to those of us who regularly partake. For those unfamiliar, the idea of social media profiles; e.g., LinkedIn, Twitter,, Quora, Facebook, Google, ZoomInfo, Jigsaw, Naymz, Ziggs, Ryze, Ecademy and more, can be stifling.

Where does one begin to fuel the content? To manage the message? To Market Me, Inc.?

It all begins with a slow-down and breathe process. Job search is not a hurry-up event, not if you want long-term, sustainable results. Find a quiet place of solitude as you, your computer and your thoughts converge to complete the career introspection step described, above.

Next, with your career fabric unfurled; with the career gems spread about you, continue your thought process. Assuming you’ve already identified your target goal [the targeted types of companies, industry(ies), position titles/types that best describe your ideal audience], you will now make some decisions on what career gold to display on your resume, and what needs to be shuffled back into the chest.

You see, though the job search process IS about the target audience, you must first have intimate knowledge of your own value before draping your narrative around their needs.

Moreover, you will ferret out the right word stories from your career chest that meet the requirements, soothe the pains of and delight the target reader in showing how you can do things for them they know they want and some things they may not even have known they need. Surprise them a little!

This value proposition is not just one comprised of buzzwords that meet keyword scans (though, keywords should intuitively be knit into the fabric); it is not one that is shaved down to the scalp of the resume so that it is devoid of style, flow and texture (yep, a 7-page resume generally is considered too long, I agree; but getting all bound up by 1- and 2-page resume limits may prove to be fatal to your message); it is not one that caters to the 30-second-only initial scan (though a glimpse-able resume ‘design style’ will facilitate that initial, shorter ‘look’).

Attract Your Reader With a Substantive Story

Instead, it is rich with substance, story and emotion that lifts the reader from his seat, that transports his vision of you as a capable and impressive candidate who will be part of the team that drives home the ball, that, despite swings and misses, will keep on swinging and aspiring to improve your game to the advantage of the organization.

So, please, release yourself from outdated job search rules; your resume most likely will be read on a screen that is easily skimmable, where the font can be expanded or shrunk at will, where fluidity and flexibility abound and where less is not always more.

As long as your resume story is well organized with a focused, snapshot image at the ‘front’ end (the popular phrase for this key-information placement is ‘above the fold’), supported by relevant details that help the reader easily imagine your fit into their ever-moving, growing and successful career team, then you have won the resume challenge.

Be You-Nique. Do not follow the throngs when reporting on CareerYou!


Please see what my Career Collective colleagues are saying:

Juice Up Your Job Search, @debrawheatman

It’s not your age, it’s old thinking, @GayleHoward

Want a Job? Ignore these outdated job search beliefs @erinkennedycprw

Job Search Then and Now, @MartinBuckland @EliteResumes

Break the Rules or Change the Game? @WalterAkana

The New: From The Employer’s-Eye View, @ResumeService

Job Search: Breakable Rules and Outdated Beliefs, @KatCareerGal

Job Hunting Rules to Break (Or Why and How to Crowd Your Shadow), @chandlee @StartWire,

Shades of Gray, @DawnBugni

3 Rules That Are Worth Your Push-Back, @WorkWithIllness

Your Photo on LinkedIn – Breaking a Cardinal Job Search Rule? @KCCareerCoach

How to find a job: stop competing and start excelling, @Keppie_Careers

Modernizing Your Job Search, @LaurieBerenson

Don’t Get Caught With an Old School Resume, @barbarasafani

How Breaking the Rules will Help You in Your Job Search, @expatcoachmegan

Beat the Job-Search-Is-a-Numbers-Game Myth, @JobHuntOrg

25 Habits to Break if You Want a Job, @careersherpa

20 Responses to “Be You-Nique: Resume Writing “Rules” to Break”

  1. […] Be You-Nique: Resume Writing Rules to Break, @ValueIntoWords […]

  2. Great post, Jacqui! So true that “you must first have intimate knowledge of your own value before draping your narrative around [the] needs” of the target audience. This inheres lies the challenge for jobseekers. Your post gives them a great blueprint for success.

  3. Love this post Jacqui – I think the recommendation to take a deep breath and relax is so key. Make conscious, strategic choices – not rushed one because you’re keen to get a job as soon as possible. The intentional moves will lead to better results.

    It’s great to be a part of this wise group of career professionals!


    • “The intentional moves will lead to better results” <– what a great 'value-add,' Megan!

      Thank you for stopping by. I'm thrilled you are part of this career collective arsenal for job seekers!


  4. Jacqui, I’m with Megan: Your point about slowing down the search to speed it up is an essential ingredient to career management that many job seekers overlook.

    As always, you’ve put your value into words.

    • “Slow down to speed up” – I like that, too. More good ‘words’ to illuminate why taking thoughtful time to build an effective message will, in fact, ultimately, speed the outcome.

      Thanks Chandlee – appreciate you and your value into words, as well.


  5. […] Search Rule? @KCCareerCoach How to find a job: stop competing and start excelling, @Keppie_Careers Be You-Nique: Resume Writing Rules to Break, @ValueIntoWords Modernizing Your Job Search, @LaurieBerenson How Breaking the Rules Will Help You […]

  6. GoOctopus says:

    Be You-nique so important to show your career gold and impress the hiring manager.Thanks for this “You-Nique” post,Jacqui.

  7. […] Be You-Nique: Resume Writing Rules to Break, @ValueIntoWords […]

  8. Dawn Bugni says:

    Excellent information Jacqui and what a great reminder. It always amazes me when I get a Word-templated, client-produced resume with a boring list of job duties and discover the person behind that unimpressive presentation is interesting, funny, insightful and incredibly talented. They’ve done amazing things and saved hundreds of thousands of dollars for employers throughout their career yet brush it off as no big deal. All that value is hidden.

    The value in working with a career professional, like you, comes not only from the final product, but in the process of uncovering and polishing career wonderfulness. A person’s career contributions ARE a big deal and should be touted as such.

    I know your clients sally forth into a job search with heads high and shoulders back because you’ve helped them see themselves though completely different eyes. A change in perspective — what a tremendous gift they’ve received!

    • Good points (as usual), Dawn, regarding the amazing results folks deliver and then ‘brush them off’ as no big deal. I guess they become so familiar with their own ‘career wonderfulness’ that they no longer value it as special.

      The process career pros move them through IS so key, and as you remarked, that is an integral part of our value!

      “Sally back into a job search with heads high and shoulders back” <– love that, and definitely that is a delightful outcome we resume and career strategists aspire to!

      Thank you!


  9. […] Search Rule? @KCCareerCoach How to find a job: stop competing and start excelling, @Keppie_Careers Be You-Nique: Resume Writing Rules to Break, @ValueIntoWords Modernizing Your Job Search, @LaurieBerenson Don't Get Caught With an Old School […]

  10. […] Search Rule? @KCCareerCoach How to find a job: stop competing and start excelling, @Keppie_Careers Be You-Nique: Resume Writing Rules to Break, @ValueIntoWords Modernizing Your Job Search, @LaurieBerenson Don’t Get Caught With an Old School […]

  11. Walter Akana says:

    Hi Jacqui!

    This is a powerful post with some very sound advice on developing one’s resume – and more! The process you outline can be long and tedious. Yet, if one wants to be truly differentiated and able tell a compelling story, this is the only route. It’s work, but work that has potentially huge reward. There are simply no short cuts.

    What’s really interesting, is that it is precisely this level inward focus that every novelist and screen writer goes through to find the golden nuggets that will best bring a compelling story to their audience!

    While many people may not actually want to follow through to do the writing, they are the only ones who can uncover the themes to craft a story that matters to them and to the people they serve!

    • A pithy and much appreciated comment, Walter! In fact, you’ve extended the post, helping careerists understand that, and I quote you: “The process … can be long and tedious. Yet, if one wants to be truly differentiated and able to tell a compelling story, this is the only route … potentially huge reward … simply no short cuts.”

      Love how you compare this process to what novelists and screen writers do. We’ve had this exchange on Twitter, you’ve introduced me to folks on this matter, and I know you study this closely.

      Bottom line, and your closing remark said it so well, is in regard to the fact that the folks whose story we are telling MUST be involved in uncovering the themes to their story in order for it to matter to the ‘people they serve!’

      Many thanks,

  12. Jacqui as always great content and suggestions. Slow down, dig deep, target and personalise. Understand personal value and market your message.

    For many job seekers, who are uploading their CV online, key worded content is essential to get beyond ATS/HRIS. Rightly or wrongly, it’s part of the process. It’s estimated that only 3% of CVs are read by a human eye. So job seekers have to get into that 3%, while maintaining individuality. As you rightly say, the front end including the summary/ mission statement is critical. If job seekers are not uploading and circulating their CV via other channels, then there is a lot more flexibility.

    The reality is that anyone looking for a job needs more than one resume. Not easy!

  13. Master Resume Writer says:

    Hi Dorothy,
    I appreciate your viewpoints and for agreeing that slowing down to unearth unique value (targeted toward one’s goals) is imperative!

    I agree that for many job seekers, uploading their resume online is a part of their process (albeit, if conducting a multi-pronged job-search approach, I would hope they are also getting their resume into influencers’ and hiring decision-makers’ hands through more-direct means, other than ATS). I know this works for many (a majority) of my clients. 🙂

    In my experience, when a career search is thoroughly and introspectively conducted, and job seekers/careerists focus in on targeted roles/companies, then locating and intuitively weaving the necessary keywords into the resume story is a natural event.

    Moreover, there are many, many small- and mid-sized companies who are not adopting ATS services to screen resumes; and some articles assert that it is the smaller businesses doing the majority of hiring. So, with that in mind, I think a heavy emphasis on keyword-laden resumes sometimes distorts the resume message.

    All that said, and bottom line: I think it is good for job seekers to keep in mind that resume design and meaningful content, intuitively woven with the right keywords, as well as as glimpse-able, initial appeal, will garner attention.

    And I agree that the reality, this isn’t an ‘easy’ process! Job search is hard work! And it must be strategically executed.

    Thanks so much for entering into the conversation, Dorothy! I so value your perspective, particularly from the leadership and talent management strategy angle that you offer!


  14. […] Be You-Nique: Resume Writing Rules to Break, @ValueIntoWords […]

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