Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Self-Promotion and Resume-writing

I've read some resume-writing tips and I've talked with good friends who have nailed a particular problem I'm having. I turn to my loving readership for general advice now.

When reading a resume, I often see flashy hyperbole and unnecessary superlatives. I think "of course he's trying to make himself sound great, he wants something from me."  The more fantastically good the resume reads, the less I believe it.  I will be extra hard on people who sound like a combination of superman and Einstein, and might bypass them entirely and try to find someone more "honest."

When writing a resume for myself, I strive to NOT trip that reflex. I write up my most satisfying successes as if they were workaday events, my biggest challenges as if they were normal problem-solving moments, and my best outcomes as if they were foregone conclusions.  I don't try to make it sound as if I did 8 impossible things before breakfast and had time for an extra scone, but rather tend to be dry in description.

My friends and colleagues tell me that my resume, as a result, tends to not represent me well. It makes me sound boring, workaday, and unimpressive. They offer replacement paragraphs saying things like,

Inspiring software architect who can take any team and lead them through excellent example and solid teachings to higher levels of productivity, quality and responsibility. Keen understanding of the processes involved in delivering quality software on time.  Accomplished author and educator.  Able to communicate clearly with business as well as and tech people. Extensive proven ability to take legacy code base and help bring down bug count, increase customer satisfaction and decreasing [sic] development time. Never-ending enthusiasm for anything software development including new languages, tools and ideas.
If my former CIO says this about me (as one indeed did, word-for-word), it sounds positively inspiring. But imagine I was sitting down with you, and said the same things about myself.  Would you flip the bozo bit, toss my resume to the circular file, and move on to someone with a less desperate grasp of self-inflating superlatives?

The question, dear friends, is how one can incorporate the praise of others in their resume in a checkable, responsible, honest way? If others recommend me, how can I make those recommendations known? Is there a way I can do so without sounding like I made them up?

I await your suggestions. Thanks for bearing with me in this rather personal interruption in the flow of Agile software topics.


  1. Honesty can certainly be paired with exciting, outstanding, and impressive. The primary thrust of a resume that most people get wrong is that it should tell a prospective employer what value they will get out of hiring you--it's not a tool to say, "I did these things." It's better if you try to say, "here are how the things I did benefited the companies I worked for."

    LinkedIn seems to work well for praise from others. I put a couple small bits of self-praise on my resume (a tag line), but I also describe my job roles in very positive--yet honest--terms.

    I think the elements of your above paragraph are ok, with the exception of "I can take any team"--that sounds like over-confidence. I actually like the "neverending enthusiasm"--it sounds genuine (and I know it is WRT you). I also think resumes should reveal your personality, and this last sentence does a good job of that.

    Of course, resumes are of limited value anyway. I view them as adverts. As such, their most important characteristic is that they need to make you stand out from the rest of the bozos.

  2. It's because it's from someone else that it sounds (is) more genuine/plausible.

    Perhaps your former CIO wouldn't mind having that as a direct quote on your resume, with direct attribution to her/him?

  3. Use LinkedIn and ask your contacts to recommend you there.

  4. LinkedIn doesn't work because the recommendations aren't public (are they?). So if you want to become my linked-in contact, you can see them. Can you see them if you're not?

  5. You could always quote your linkedin recommendations on your CV. I've seen this on a few CVs before.

  6. I agree... Linkdin can be added in CV... But it may be not suitable for some countries

    Work in New Zealand