Sales Pro Graduates from Cookie-Cutter Resume

Amy Montalbano’s expertise is in sales operations, but her bullet-riddled resume failed to sell what she offers her next employer.


A simple recipe for a do-it-yourself resume: Just use the standard Microsoft Word resume template, replete with all-bullet format and objective statement at the top. It’s quick, it’s cheap – and it screams “inexperienced” to HR professionals.

Amy Montalbano’s resume suffered from that template look, according to Andrew Pearl, a certified resume writer for Ladders who recently overhauled Montalbano’s resume. Indeed, her resume more closely resembled the just graduated from college, rather than the polished, professional look of a resume you’d expect from a 42-year-old sales-operations professional with 15-plus years of experience at exceeding goals and closing deals in the midst of the worst economy in decades.

“Everybody who graduates from college uses the Word template for resumes,” Pearl said. “When people see (a resume with all-bulleted lists and the objective at the top), they assume you use the Word template and just did fill in the blanks. That’s fine when you’re fresh out of college, but when you’re out of college at this level, you don’t want anybody to see your resume as a Joe Average, cookie-cutter resume.”

All-bulleted lists lose reader attention

Besides looking cliched and sophomoric, an all-bullet resume doesn’t guide the reader’s attention, Pearl pointed out. When hiring managers or recruiters skim such a resume, “you don’t know which bullet they’ll read,” Pearl said ¾ a problem that’s particularly troublesome, since human-resource professionals spend mere moments scanning resumes on their first round of selecting potential interview subjects.

After she received her initial resume critique back from Ladders, Montalbano concluded that times had changed since she last circulated a resume. “I never realized, but if you look at resumes people did 10 years ago, they’re so different,” she said. “Before, there were facts. Today, it’s not so much factual, it’s more like you’re selling yourself.”

Even though Ladders‘ critiquer was a “pretty nice guy,” Montalbano said, the truth was that the all-bulleted-list approach had to go. “He just tore it apart,” she said. “He said to me, ‘Your resume’s all over the place,’” she said; a reader couldn’t understand what Montalbano wanted to do professionally nor what she had to offer a potential employer.

This can be shocking to hear if a job seeker has had a resume authored by a “real” writer. In Montalbano’s case, her resume was created by someone who had written four books. But as her resume critic told her, just because you can write a book doesn’t mean you’re a good resume writer.

By contrast, the new resume Montalbano and Pearl created together clearly documents the most important things about Montalbano’s career, including a list of core competencies and an employment-history section that guides the reader’s attention by combining short descriptions of job responsibilities with brief bulleted lists that highlight her accomplishments at each of her positions.

The objective: What’s in it for employers?

The new resume also revamps Montalbano’s initial objective statement. In her previous draft, her objective stated that she wanted “to obtain a challenging position” at a growing company.

As Pearl pointed out, many hiring managers hate objective statements because they establish a demanding tone, stating what a job seeker is looking for. In contrast, an effective resume turns the spotlight away from the job seeker and toward the employer, telling the employer what the job seeker has to offer and how he could benefit the organization.

“It’s a small point,” Pearl acknowledged. “If it were at the end of the document, it wouldn’t be a prejudice. But at the top of the document, it’s the reader’s first impression. And setting tone is critical.”

Thus, the new resume focuses on the benefits Montalbano will bring to her new role, including references to a “track record of securing and maintaining key accounts, improving processes, and providing critical leadership during difficult times of transition and change.”

“If one person said, ‘I have 15 years experience of exceeding goals,’ and one said ‘I’m looking to create sales growth,’ which one said, ‘I’ve been there before?’ ” Pearl asked. “I’ll pick an employee based on what they’ve previously done.”