by Jacob Meade
Nov 10 2014
“Omit needless words,” wrote William Strunk Jr. in 1918’s timeless writing guide The Elements of Style. “A sentence should contain no unnecessary words…for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts.”
That’s good advice, and a key element in making an effective executive resume for your job search. Resume language should be tight and concise because:
- The executive job search demands it. At any organization, senior leaders are expected to lift clarity and relevance out of an ocean of data and information. A long, dense resume will undermine this impression because if you can’t seem to do it with something as familiar as your own experience, how will you do it with a company’s unique set of problems?
- As much as any other written document, the resume must catch the reader’s attention fast. Any one job posting can receive hundreds of applications, and an executive recruiter will often spend just a few seconds looking at a resume before deciding whether to toss it. You should therefore use a writing style that markets your unique qualifications as clearly as possible.
- Pithy is in. We live in an age of diminished attention spans. Every day is met by a glut of messages, documents, and media all vying for our attention. As a result, terse language draws the strongest audience. If you aren’t getting to the point fast, you’ll be passed over by your target readers.
Take a hard look at every sentence (every word even) on your resume. Do you see any that can be abbreviated? In nearly all cases, if you make it shorter without losing the core meaning, you’ll make it better. Consider this sentence:
Captured an annualized expense reduction of approximately $3 million dollars by conceiving, developing, and implementing various relevant new Six Sigma methodologies.
Yikes. It’s way too bogged down by elaborate wording. Trim it to:
Cut yearly costs $3M by incorporating Six Sigma principles.
See how much better that reads?
Here are a couple more examples of bloated sentences and their shorter, better equivalents:
Increased sales revenue by $700,000 annually by generating and implementing strategies to renew the team’s strategic focus on those accounts yielding the most sales volume.
Grew annual sales $700K by refocusing team on company’s most lucrative accounts.
Strengthened our retention rate among newly hired employees by assessing, modifying, and realigning the organization’s talent acquisition strategy to more fully represent the culture and values inherent to the broader company.
Improved new hire retention by better aligning recruitment strategy with corporate values.
So when working on your resume, remember:
- Use brief, clear sentences.
- Avoid long words and flowery language.
- Don’t let paragraphs run longer than a few lines of text.
Your resume will be drastically improved, and your executive job search will be that much better off for it. Keep. It. Short!
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The Ultimate Executive Career Guide: Resumes/CVs, LinkedIn Profiles, and More
As a senior-level executive, you can use this guide to: