While your career marketing materials may not read like a thriller or a witty novel, neither should they put your readers to sleep. Take a hard look at your documents and see if they are guilty of any of these writing flaws—Snoozers, Yawners, or Sleepers—that do exactly the opposite of what you want to happen: They cause readers to lose interest and conclude that there’s “nothing special” about you.
Snoozers are given skills and attributes for someone in your position. They are likely to pop up in your summary section, where you try to convey all of the (many) things you’re good at.
STRATEGY: Avoid them.
Snoozers can often be omitted entirely! Think about it: If your job title is “Finance Director,” you don’t need to state that you have “strong accounting and finance skills.” If you are a “Senior Marketing Executive,” it’s not necessary to state that you have “marketing expertise.” Use your summary to tell readers something impressive and distinctive about you rather than telling them something they already know or are likely to deduce.
I’m yawning just thinking about the lengthy descriptions of day-to-day activities that I see on many resumes.
STRATEGY: Consolidate them.
Hiring managers don’t want to read a job description. They want to know what you did in that job, what value you delivered, not what you were “responsible for” or what your “duties” included.
It is helpful to convey the overall scope and functions of your job, but you can do that quite concisely—either in a short paragraph or even into a one-liner below your job title, something like this:
CHIEF REVENUE OFFICER
$35M annual revenue | 4 direct reports | 16 account managers nationwide | member 6-person executive team
DIRECTOR, ENTERPRISE SYSTEMS
Leadership of systems consulting group of 15 developers, 5 QA specialists, and up to 30 additional technologists per project
Sleepers are clichés and other terms—“results-driven,” “accomplishment-oriented,” “proven track record,” “outside-the-box thinker,” “successfully”—that are so overused, they make little impact on readers.
STRATEGY: Rethink them.
“Results-driven” and “accomplishment-oriented” are certainly positive qualities. But instead of touting those attributes, it’s more powerful and memorable to share relevant accomplishments and specific results you’ve delivered. In that way, you convey your “proven track record” without having to use that overworked term.
I don’t advise people to never use certain words. Adjectives and adverbs are sometimes needed to more fully describe an activity or to improve the flow of a sentence. Just be careful not to over-use them, and make certain that you are providing specifics and not just generalities.
Above all, remember to write for human readers and not solely (or even primarily) for automated resume scanners. A resume with all of the right keywords and experience may rise to the top, but if the full content of the resume is not compelling, unique, and relevant, hiring authorities will not be impressed enough to contact you. They’ll be snoozing, yawning, and sleeping!
P.S. Thanks to an April 22, 2019, article in Business Matters (“U.K.’s leading business magazine”) for the inspiration for this article. I loved the Snoozers/Yawners/Sleepers terminology so much, I adapted the concept to my own ideas and examples.