April 22, 2010
Resumes Written in an Active Voice
I will discuss this subject live on the job club radio podcast. Listen to the podcast at www.blogtalkradio.com/jobclubradio on Monday, April 26, 2010, 2:00 p.m. ET. See further details at http://jobclubradio.wordpress.com/2010/04/23/episode-6-resumes-active-voice/
Imagine that you are put in charge of preparing some written marketing documentation to send to a potential client. This is a big client. If you could win the business, it would make you the hands down hero for forever. Well, at least it would significantly improve your bottom line. How would you handle this task? You would endeavor to prove your corporate worth, right? You would write in the strongest and clearest terms possible to maximize limited space. You would do your research. Bottom line, you would position your organization as the very best and sell, sell, sell!
A resume is no different. A resume has many purposes, but the most vital is to sell you, your expertise and experience. An active writing voice is both a mindset and a writing style. Learning this craft helps you communicate your proven value in concise and declarative means. Powerful thoughts given in tight space. And we all know how prime resume real estate is. Space and message are paramount. Two pages are barely a warm up, not to mention an all-encompassing method to communicate a robust career history.
Professional writers know who their audience is and have a clear vision of the goals they wish to accomplish before they begin a piece. If you embrace that the primary tool of your resume is to sell yourself as a legitimate, skilled professional, won’t your task of writing a compelling, more vibrant, resume be easier?
An active writing voice combines powerful verbs and a sales focus to lend immediacy to your message. That means using verbs ending in “ed” and avoiding “be” (a.k.a. helping) and “ing” ending verbs. These passive verbs mirror the way we speak, but appear lazy and tired in written form. Take for example this statement, “I am seeking rewarding work.” Move that into the active voice, “I seek rewarding work.” Notice that by simply removing the “helping” verb “am” and changing seeking to seek, we have made the sentence sleeker and far more authoritative. Or, what about, “I would be willing to relocate.” Try, “I will relocate,” or even better yet, “Relocatable.” There’s no question as to your intent. You have made a statement. Employers are drawn to candidates who know what they are good at and how they can make an impact.
Next, use the highest possible verbs you can think of to describe your job functions…without fudging! But really, if you managed a project, it would also be true to state that you administered the project as well. Administered is a stronger verb than the overused managed. Invest in a good thesaurus and dictionary. Use those tools to find verbs that move beyond ambiguous clichés.
You are a strong asset—your resume needs to prove that. Think about how you have solved problems in your career. How can you communicate that value in quantifiable ways? Not everyone is a salesperson who can spout off the percentages they grew business. But everyone should have many stories of value they provided their organization. Translate those into your resume. Perhaps you directed a project where employees had the highest work satisfaction rates. Or, you implemented a new Accounts Payable system that reduced interest paid, thereby contributing to raised stock prices. Maybe you were quoted in the local paper, which brought free advertising to your firm. Though these achievements may not have specific dollar values attached to them, they still saved or gained money. Savvy business professionals can recognize that value, if it is shown to them. Value is the way you sell yourself. This is thinking in active, sales-like terms.
Active writing is a mentality as well as a technique. Solid writing gives you an air of intelligence and authority. Believe me, as a person who has read literally thousands of resumes and written hundreds for clients, it will make you stand above the rest. Target your resume, using a keen eye to focus on weak, passive writing. Then ask yourself, “How can I present myself as problem solver to my targeted company list?”