Resumes are bait

Resumes = bait

The way I see it, the entire purpose of a resume is to get invited for an interview. Period. Getting an interview means the fish took a bite at the bait.

Good resumes are rare

You can ask anyone in HR, MBA admissions or a recruiter and they will tell you that resumes come in all shapes and sizes. They are formatted differently, have varying lengths, but it quickly comes down to good ones and bad ones.

What’s a good resume?

My career coach friends might gasp, but here is my over-simplification of a good resume:

Achievements quantified and organized in a story

1. Achievements

Clearly, your resume should have content. Can’t bake this resume cake without flour, eggs and water.

  • What kind of work do you do? Where have your worked?
  • How would you explain your accomplishments simply?
  • Can you demonstrate commitment, focus, other admirably “worth hiring” characteristics?

2. Quantified

This is where most people fail. There should be numbers on your resume. If you improved throughput of a process, by how much? If you increased sales, what % off of what base in what amount of time? If you managed a team, how many headcount? Resume bullets without quantification are . . . weak. It shows a lack of accomplishment, or unwillingness to measure what you are trying to manage.


This is a super valuable thing I learned in MBA. Problem (P), Action (A), Result (R). Each bullet on your resume should describe what was the problem you are were faced with, what action you took, and what result you got. This simple algorithm forces you to be specific.

  • GOOD: Integrated disparate customer information from 3 databases into a master file which lead to a 12% increase in customer contacts and 8% increase in close rates for $450K in incremental margin
  • BAD: Responsible for customer data and information and marketing projects

3. Organized

This has a few meanings. First, there needs to be formatting and it needs to look clean. No spelling errors (compliment, complement), typos, incorrect usage (their, there, they’re), or parallel structure problems (verb, verb, verb, noun). Second, organize your achievements from most important to least. Remember that people remember the first and last things in a list. Things in the middle get lost. Third, the content needs to be structured in a way that is both logical and sensible. Is there a progression of responsibility? Are the sizes of the assignments, roles, achievements appropriate to this new role?

4. Story

Your resume need to tell a story. How does the Venn diagram of your skills, experience, passions, quirks combine into a compelling story of what you can do for this employer or organization?

  • What kind of work do you do, and how good are you at it?
  • Did you progress in your career, or did you continuously bop-around from place to place because you did not fit in.
  • What does my resume say?

Have more than one resume

If you are applying for consulting, marketing and strategic planning roles. . . don’t use the same resume. Treat the resume reader like a picky customer. They won’t buy what looks odd, or out of place. There are tons of resumes to choose from. Tailor your resume and your story for them. Work at it.

Be relevant

At my MBA, they really beat this into our heads. Each bullet on the resume should be interesting enough for the recruiter to look at it as ask, “so tell me about that”. Each bullet is a teaser for the next question in the interview. Also, you better have a good story for each part of your resume. Don’t put on your resume anything you can’t talk about.

Hone your resume

This is tough work. When I offer to help someone with a resume, I often “rev” it with them a few times. It is hard work. You need to be willing to (re)write it until it is close to perfect. If you want to see a bunch of MBA resumes just google the words “MBA resume book pdf” and you will have tons of examples.

Cover letters?

As far as I can tell (and from my experience looking through dozens of resumes), the cover letter is bait to get you to look at the resume. Just like the resume is bait to get you an interview. Just like an interview is bait to get you an internship.

What other good resume advice do you have?

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Reformed management consultant who now teaches at business school. Business geek.