Should You Drop the Resume Formality?

When I first started my resume writing business, I learned to write resumes in a very formal style. I took exams and followed association style guides and worried about doing everything just right.

But as the years have gone by, the Internet has revolutionized communication. We expect a more informal tone when we read websites than we would have expected from a corporate brochure 10 years ago. And I see that change flowing through all our communications now, so that marketing materials are taking on a more personal tone even when they\’re not on the web.

In turn, I’ve changed my own writing style. Sure there are extremely conservative professions where the decision-makers still tend to be older and accustomed to formality, but for many people I don’t think formal ‘resume speak’ is the right way to go anymore. For young job seekers targeting creative companies, I frequently now write at least the resume introduction in the first person, which allows me to convey a sense of the client’s personality and work style. (For example: “I’ve been playing video games since I was seven, so being able to make my living as a game designer is literally my dream come true. That’s why you will never see me knock off at six o’ clock and why I’m often still at my desk late into the night. This isn’t work for me – it\’s my passion.”)

So far the reaction from recruiters and HR folks has been very positive, although I’m curious as to whether it\’s ever seen as a negative.

For more senior executives I often stick with third-person, but weave a lot more of their own language through the document while also quoting from selected LinkedIn testimonials. The quotes add personality because they are usually written in a natural fluid style. I leave in capital letters and exclamation points, and I try to choose the quotes that convey the most personality and enthusiasm.

I’ve also found myself editing my resumes and job search letters to say as much as I can in as few words as possible. (Twitter helps with this too – the 140 character message limit trains you to use no more words than are absolutely necessary!) Recruiters are increasingly busy and have less and less time to search for the information they need, so I do think less is often more.

I’m interested to know if any readers have tried a more informal approach to their resumes, and whether recruiters and resume writers agree that this is the way to go. Let me know what you think by leaving a comment.

Comments are closed.

Scroll to Top