Is Your Resume Sure-Fire Proof of Insanity?

Pop psych wisdom tells us that a sure sign of insanity is doing the same thing again and again and expecting different results. Well…the same holds true for your resume.

Any resume doctor worth his or her salt will tell you that a good resume really can make all the difference. This is not mere hype. It’s true. If you keep sending out what you think is a great resume and you’re just not getting any job interviews after many months – and in some cases not even hearing back at all – well maybe…just maybe…(but not really maybe)…you need to rethink your plan of action.

Either you’re sending your resume to the wrong places for your skills and background  and expecting miracles (without even backing it up with effective networking and a great cover letter), or you have no skills and background (ouch), or you simply have a resume that is not selling you well for the particular job.

So what should a good resume do?

For anyone who doesn’t yet know this, a resume is not just a list of jobs. A resume is a picture of who you are as it relates to the specific job. It tells the employer you understand what they’re looking for and have taken the time to begin a discussion proving you know what they want and can meet their needs.

A woman I know decided she wants a totally different career. And yet she dusted off an OLD resume geared to her former career and is sending that around.  Granted, the resume looks beautiful, but it has nothing to do with what she wants. And most importantly, it has nothing to do with what the employer wants.

I can’t begin to tell you how many resumes I’ve seen that come off as only barely suited for the job we advertised. (We spend a lot of time writing those ads to attract the right applicants.)  But sadly – in case you’ve never thought about this – people spend only a few seconds screening a resume – so if it doesn’t look like an immediate fit (even if you might actually have the right skills) you may very well wind up in the “no” pile.

It’s your job to make it easy for the screener to say “yes”.

The ad tells you what they’re looking for. If you can’t even bother to take the time to adjust your resume AND cover letter to what they say they want, why should the resume screener or anyone think you will take the time to do things right when they hire you?

But people tell me my resume looks good!

Oh I know…some of you think “My resume is good enough and anyway I want to get it out right away.” You might as well just mail a blank sheet of paper if “right away” is your main criteria.

Think about it. Would you call it sane to keep sending out a resume that never gets a response and doesn’t even look anything like the job you’re applying for? Of course not. And yet most of us have done it at some point. I can honestly tell you when I was younger I did it too. I was sure they’d be able to somehow see how wonderful I was anyway. Luckily, I at least knew to use my cover letter to clear up the differences and also highlight a few things that directly related to the job ad. But a lot of folks don’t even do that!

Now of course I don’t really think you’re insane if you send out weak resumes. Like I said, most of us have done it. But seriously…if you keep underestimating the importance of a strong targeted well-presented resume and cover letter, you are only hurting your own chances for the job you really want. PLEASE give yourself your best shot at getting that interview.

Short note about networking and resumes

Most jobs – at least the ones you probably want – are never posted or advertised. They happen because you know someone who knows someone. Or because someone recommended you. Or because someone who once worked with you calls you directly. Or because you made the effort to get found.

So there are gurus telling you resumes are a thing of the past. Not so!

Many potential employers forgot to read the tweets and still think resumes are alive. Plenty of people still judge you on your resume, so why run the risk?

And even if networking gets you to the interview, that resume still has a life in the organization. It gets passed around and the last thing you want is for some key decision-maker to say “I don’t get it. This resume hardly has anything to do with the job. Plus it’s not well put together.” Don’t kid yourself. It happens. Judgment is at a hyper level during the interview process; and people look for things that might be warning signs of a bad hire.  Your job now is to make sure you’ve dotted every “i” and crossed every “t” – literally as well as figuratively.

So if you’re doing the same thing and getting bad or spotty results, don’t just chalk it up to bad luck or a tight job market – arm yourself with the best resume and cover letter you can possibly create. No, they are not a guarantee. But to not give yourself the very best representation of what you have to offer an employer…well, isn’t that just a little bit nuts?

Good luck getting that interview – and staying sane! 😉

Some posts that might help:

10 Things I Look for When I Screen Resumes and Cover Letters

How a New Resume Got Her the Job Interview!

My Number 1 Cover Letter Tip

Resume Help


About the author…

Ronnie Ann, founder of Work Coach Cafe, bases her real-world advice on her many years as an organizational consultant where she helped interview and hire people, added to a certificate from NYU in Career Planning & Development and her own adventures as a serial job seeker. She can also be found on her new blog, and on Google+.


  1. Great post! Another mistake people make on their resumes: they write about tasks they don’t like to do. Then they wonder why they keep getting jobs they don’t like.

    This is marketing! Ask for what you want by highlight the responsibilities your enjoy. Never put anything on your resume that you don’t want to repeat.

    In some cases, you may have to list a job you didn’t care for, but downplay it as much as possible by either not writing any bullet point statements for that job, or mentioning only aspects of the job you found acceptable.

  2. Thanks Susan!

    I especially appreciate your mentioning the point about including – sometimes even highlighting – stuff you never ever want to do again. What’s with that! (More signs of insanity? 😉 )

    As you say, if you don’t want to do it and need to include it anyway, then downplay it. And upplay (well, you know what I mean) things you’d actually like to do.

  3. Thanks for this post…perhaps I am in fact insane. Now, I will say for myself that I have a few different resumes for different types of jobs and I tailor each cover letter to the job, but I have had very little success in receiving interviews or even acknowledgement.

    Part of the difficulty I see with tailoring my resume for each job is that I am a recent grad school graduate, and most of my relevant experience consists of fairly short-term internships. Any advice for resume writing for entry-level applicants?


  4. Hey Lindsey!

    I hear you loud and clear. It’s tough breaking through the experience barrier – but even in this economic climate, it can be done and will be done! 😉

    Glad to see that you have more than one resume and then make sure to carefully target your cover letter. I’m also checking with a friend who is a resume expert to see if she wants to add anything. I know you’re not the only one with this question!

    Meanwhile, please check out one of the posts I mentioned at the end of the article: How a New Resume Got Her the Job Interview! It’s about a client who had a somewhat similar situation and she was surprised that her resume actually wasn’t optimal – as good as it might look at first glance. But we figured out how to focus on the aspects of her internships, special experience, specific skills, and even some prior job experience that we made more compatible with her current path. We also tweaked her resume’s format by adding a section up front to highlight especially relevant skills and experience. And it worked.

    And of course, in your situation, please pull out all stops when it comes to networking. For instance…do you try to find at least one new person to talk to each week? Hmmm???

    Best of luck. Please let us know how things are going.

    Ronnie Ann

  5. Hi again Lindsey!

    The resume expert I contacted (the ever gracious Susan Ireland) sent me a link to a search she did on her own site for possibly helpful articles. If you browse through them, one or two might offer some ideas you can use:

    Some posts that might help

    I wish you all the best!

    Ronnie Ann

  6. I love your titles, RA. I thought I was going to read resumes from the fringes of society here, you know, like “In my last job I regularly stalked prize fighters so that I could write articles about their late-night ice cream habits” —or something.
    I ended up reading excellent advice, instead.
    >>>You might as well just mail a blank sheet of paper if “right away” is your main criteria.<<<
    Well stated. Made me sit up and take notice.

  7. Hi Muse! Thanks. Just used that line again to someone. Maybe it’s a bit of an exaggeration, but in many cases it’s absolutely true. Man I said it to had his own take on that: “Maybe if I send a blank sheet, they’ll notice me more.” Hah. He may be right. But I think a strong, targeted resume is probably the better way to go. 😉

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