What do you want them to remember?

What do you want them to remember?

I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again. Resumes are a construct of the 20th Century Industrial world. They’re way overdue for disruption.


  • Who gets first “look” at your resume these days? Algorithms. Applicant tracking systems don’t read your resume; they scan for they keywords and phrases you put in there.

  • When a human does look at your resume, they spend, on average, a scant 8 seconds on it. Even the most voracious reader couldn’t grasp the full picture of you that quickly.

  • Our economy is knowledge-driven and multidimensional. That means, ultimately, people hire us for what makes us so much more than a handful of keywords. They hire us for how we think just as much as (if not more than) for what we do.

Most of the time, I’m pretty defiant and won’t talk to people about their resumes. But I get it: you need to have one because resumes-that-match-job descriptions are still how the first stage of hiring works. (By the way, job descriptions are as archaic as resumes, and it’s time we disrupted them too. More on that later.)

So let’s talk about navigating the fact that you’re hired for your ability to think, but need to describe your skills, features, and accomplishments.

I have two straightforward ideas to share with you.

  1. Recognize that your resume is initially scanned. By a machine or human, it doesn’t matter. They’re looking for keywords. Take a look at the job description. Are the keywords they’re using to describe the skills and features in your resume? And yes, this also means you should adjust your resume appropriately for every job you apply for (even if a recruiter is calling you.)

  2. Ask yourself, “What do I want the reader to remember?” when you’ve completed the document. Remember that memory game where someone puts a bunch of objects on a tray, then covers it up and asks you to write down everything that was on there? I don’t know about you, but I was pretty crap at that game. Now imagine you had to look at ten trays of objects and recall what was on each one. Yeah. My head exploded a little bit there too. That’s exactly what we’re asking people to do when we fill up our resume with every keyword: remember all of our “objects on the tray” after reading ten other resumes. So do the reader a favor: make yourself easy to remember. It can make all the difference.

And yes, I’m well aware that I just gave you conflicting advice.

  1. Use all the keywords.

  2. Don’t use all the keywords because people can’t remember them all.

Think of it this way. You have multiple decision-makers that need different things from you: the scanners (human and machine) who need all the words to consider you, and the interpreters (recruiters and hiring managers) who need to remember you. Think of them both as you craft your customized-each-time resume.

And don’t think for a second I’ve forgotten about all you hiring managers. Consider the fact that you want to hire people for their ability to think, but on the job description, what you list are skills, features, and accomplishments. How will you reverse engineer my advice to resume writers to change the way you write job descriptions? You want a human in the position, not a machine, right?

I’m so serious about what I preach that I’m about to drink my own KoolAid. We’re going to open up a new position here at The Amplify Lab and--spoiler alert-- we’re not going to use the traditional job description/resume method. I’ll keep you posted on how it goes.


PS. I’m curious what you think about this idea. Do you agree? Are you using something other than a resume or job description to manage talent? Do you have a question about this thinking? Feel free to write back or send us a note at info@theamplifylab.com.

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