Actually, I don’t need your critique!

Resumes (or C.V’s) are very personal constructions. One’s life is a sum of its parts and through the resume you are exposing your raw self to an unsentimental world and putting yourself “out there” as the saying goes. To further this analogy it’s like placing your profile with a dating agency. You let like minded people know what you like, what “floats your boat” whilst also tentatively outlining what you’re interested in, in such a way as to deter the obvious nutcase but couching the language in a manner that 99% of the populous could imagine that the ad was targeted directly at them. I’m talking as a guy here. We keep our threshold pretty low..

Given this scenario, one might be less than exuberant if we were to see responses to our pictured-profile that poked fun at our big nose, or lack of muscular manliness or doubted our experience in the “ways of the world”

This came true for Life’s Little Ironies when receiving an unsolicited critique of a resume that had been posted to the recruitment web-site. The unrequested free consultation ventured that I lacked dynamism, displayed weaknesses in my skill set and my resume was visually unattractive. This was not the end. There was more. An unspecified spelling or grammatical error had been spotted and I came over as a “doer” not an “achiever”. In short order “you would not pass the thirty second muster” . Whatever that meant.

Fear not dear reader, there is salvation. It seems LLI can be fixed and made more attractive to my suitors. My wishy-washy, namby-pamby personality can be turned into a titan of corporate, Donald Trumpesque brusqueness. Would my savior reveal the secret to eternal CV beauty, have silver-haired HR recruiters beating a path to my corner cubicle clutching the Executive washroom keys between their calcified knuckles? Would he banish the hell of watery coffee, sub-standard canteen food and conceited, yet coquettish eye-candied Cassandras and Charlottes who roll their eyes over me with barely disguised disdain?

Yes, in fact he would if I sent him $374 (this included a 25% discount. He must have really pitied me) and in return he would rewrite my tawdry memoir and transform this poor excuse for humanity with a suaveness only Cary Grant could hold a candle to. (He would even let me pay by installments). How could I refuse this magnanimous gesture? I thought for moment and thought some more. I don’t know what it was but something was not quite kosher.  There was something, let’s say, generic in the critique, boiler-plate, bog-standard even. The more I re-read it the more I thought it was like a palm-reading. Just possibly you could read almost anyone’s resume and make the same assertions.

As courtesy demands, I replied to the offer in these terms as reproduced in the extracts below

“Thank-you for glancing over my Resume….I have learned to steer clear of the vanity-focused, superlative-driven critique that you are implying in favor of substance and logical and progressive career progression. I am not a thirty-second scanner of peoples’ resumes  searching for eye-popping dynamic words that have no bearing on the reality.

I continued

“I think resumes should tell a story that uncovers peoples’ motivations as well as the contexts in which their careers took twists and turns rather than the flat ‘I went here and I achieved this superlatively and then went there and accomplished that brilliantly. The philosopher Diogenes said that ‘three good anecdotes could convey the nature of any man’ and it is a concept that is gaining ground as an antidote to our list-obsessed world.

And finally

“My advice (to myself) is to stick to the facts, avoid the subjective embellishments and give an insight to your personality and motivations through a concise narrative that links your career progression and hope that you are not always subject to the 30 second cursory glance. Yours etc”, 

I am particularly chuffed that I could insert a reference to Diogenes in a discussion about a C.V. This must be a first. Alas, I did not get a reply but I am not surprised that our computer-generated Resume Expert had not been programmed to recognize Greek philosophers and, even less, the loquaciousness of my riposte.

There are two points here, one banal and the other more profound. Firstly, should our success in the job market rely on the prowess of some sweaty, pale-faced ginger-haired programmer with flaky elbows plumbing the depths of Roget’s Thesaurus for dynamic sounding words to fill his algorithm-challenged, resume-recognizing software code?

The second point is about what we expect from our leaders? There is an excellent podcast available from the BBC Radio Four Analysis programme called “Do Leaders Make a Difference?” The conclusion is that most good leaders in politics and the boardroom were borne out an accidental convergence of chance and timing. They were merely present when history happened. Few actually shape  destiny. There are a few exceptions. Churchill is one. Crucially he did not attain the mantle of great leadership by vacuously streaming uplifting soundbites to rally the morale of the nation. No, he was a great leader because articulated the gravity of the situation and mirrored the fears of his kinsfolk.

“Wars are not won by evacuations…Our thankfulness at the escape of our Army…must not blind us to the fact that what happened in France and Belgium is a colossal military disaster” (House of Commons June 4th 1940)

From here he was able to turn a defeat at Dunkirk to his advantage and sow the seeds for victory. These are the types of leaders in politics and industry we deserve. I just fear that Resume Shredder-Pro will not recognize that.


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