Cutting a Long Resume Down to Size

When scanning a resume, HR pros ‘want infomercials, not Tolstoy,’ resume writer Richard Hoffman explains. Here’s how he wrangled the weighty bona fides of a health care professional.

Looking for a new position in a new city is hard enough without relying on a resume that is nine pages long.

“Bradley” (who requested that his real name and locale not be used for this article) and his wife are living and working in different states. However, they have a common goal.

“One roof,” said Bradley, a director of behavioral health care services. “Our youngest child is starting college in the fall, so we figure this is the best time for a move —especially since my wife has already started her new position 500 miles away.”

But Bradley, who had been researching the latest trends in resumes, understood that his resume was quite a bit too thorough and academic for what was expected these days. But how could he transform a nine-page detail monster into a tight, easy-to-navigate two-page marketing tool?

Enter Richard Hoffman.

Hoffman is a certified professional resume writer who works with Ladders. He has been involved in just about every facet of the staffing industry, from independent recruiting and retained search to actual human-resources work for AB&N Amro (the fourth-largest bank in the industry at the time).

“I’m one of the unique cases in resume writing because I’ve actually worked in corporate HR,” Hoffman said. “And I know what they are looking for and how little time HR people have to evaluate incoming talent.”

So how to get HR respect in a resume?

“They want infomercials, not Tolstoy,” Hoffman said.

You start with the organization, and then filter in the narrative you are trying to tell. In Bradley’s case, the consolidation of the nine pages wasn’t the only challenge. It was also in making sure that Bradley’s most recent accomplishments were completely fleshed out, and that past endeavors were not given the same weight.

“His resume began with too many soft words in the introduction,” Hoffman said. “The structure was very outdated, with his education and credentials way up front. He was sparse on some accomplishments and heavy on others. There was really no consistent organization — and it was not mapped for scanning.”

After Bradley filled out a detailed questionnaire and worksheet and corresponded with Hoffman via e-mail, Hoffman was able to condense, organize and craft a fresh, enlivened document for Bradley to begin his job hunt.

No canned templates

Hoffman was keen to point out an issue he sees with many senior-level resumes: They are built on canned templates from Microsoft Word or other word-processing software. These formats are outdated, fairly inflexible and not in line with the skill level of senior-level candidates.

“These tools don’t really allow for a more balanced emphasis between responsibilities and achievements,” Hoffman said. “They are not set up for showing cause and effect, which is something you really need to have in a resume these days.”

The result: “I feel very confident about this new resume,” Bradley said. “I was surprised to see how well Richard was able to consolidate this into two pages and have it count. I thought I was going to have to sacrifice something, but it was quite the contrary. The important factors are front and center.”

The most important thing Bradley feels with the new document?

“It does a much better job of selling me,” he said. “I know I will be able to use this with peers, colleagues and any Web site I choose to post this on.”