The Elite Career Blog

The Art of Resume Writing

Sarah Bonnar
Sarah Bonnar
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July 19, 2021
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4 minute read

Sculpting a Resume

Have you ever seen a sculptor at work? You might have caught a slice of a documentary showing someone pouring molten bronze into a cast or bolting together bits of scrap metal. Perhaps you've seen a YouTube of a guy using a chainsaw to carve a statue from a block of wood, or even taken a pottery class yourself to build a model using clay.

What does any of this have to do with writing resumes?

When Adriana was looking for writers to help build her team, she asked the question: "Is resume writing an art or a science?" I gave some examples from my own experience as a writer to describe how it was both, and got the job! There are many ideas on these pages about the technical aspects of writing resumes or addressing selection criteria, but I want to draw out the art of resume writing here.

Generally speaking, there are two broad ways artists create sculptures. Addition and subtraction.

The first method, addition, is like bolting together bits of rusty metal to form a chicken or making a coil pot in primary school. Things are pieced together in a way that creates something unique, different and very personal.

The second method is subtraction. Think about that person carving wood with a chainsaw or the artist with the hammer and chisel whittling away at a block of marble to reveal ethereal works of art from within the stone. Things are removed, to reveal.

The veiled virgin, (Photo by Shhewitt - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=66749937).
The Veiled Virgin sculpture

But what about resumes!!??

Just as there are two ways of creating sculptures, there are two broad methods to the art of resume writing.

Building Your Resume Using Addition

We use addition when a client comes to us, either with minimal employment experience but most often with limited self-confidence.

The resume they've been using is sparse in detail and doesn't celebrate their achievements. Employers want to quickly understand how you are right for their job, and if you hide your light in modest, self-conscious text, they will not be able to read between the lines.

I get it. As a culture, we're not encouraged to be tall poppies, to blow our own trumpets, or to have tickets on ourselves. It's un-Australian. But your resume is a sales pitch. An advertisement. Why are you perfect for this job? It's so much easier to promote someone or something else than yourself, which is where we step in.

We take the bare bones of what you give us and begin a conversation. If we know the type of job you want, we frame your experiences to align with the skills and knowledge the employer is looking for. And we highlight your achievements. Did you help your organisation improve sales? To make a difficult transition? Did you produce more widgets per hour than your quota?

We take all of these things and spin them up into something that jumps off the page and says to the recruiter: "Pick me! I'm perfect for this job!!!"

Writing Your Resume Using Subtraction

Subtraction. It's like carving away the excess to reveal the truth or carefully lighting artwork at an exhibition. We use the subtraction technique on resumes for clients who:

  1. Have lots of experience and an extensive career history
  2. Have been trained to write using specific jargon or wordy language
  3. Have copy-pasted all of their previous position descriptions into the resume and called it done.
By James Steakley - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5442630

This is what we do when there's a lot of material there, but it doesn't precisely define you as the ideal candidate. We remove the superfluous words, or as Michelangelo is supposed to have said, "I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free."

Have you ever tried to read an article, a novel, or a report and found your eyes glazing over because you start thinking about something else before you've finished a sentence?

Or had to read a paragraph three times and still had no idea what it was trying to say?

This is usually a case of too much material in desperate need of an edit.

Recruiters and hiring managers work hard to match the right candidate to the right position. If you want to be seen as the right candidate, we need to make it easy for them to know that you are it.

So when we're subtracting, the art for us is to smash off the parts of your experience that don't relate to the role you're applying for, carve your paragraphs so that the blob in the middle looks like a perfectly formed nose, and chisel fine lines for spelling and punctuation or to add important details.

We turn the block of stone that was your nine page, impossible to get any shorter, resume, into a two-page sculpture with you as the ideal 'work of art' candidate.

You are good at your job. We are good at writing resumes. Let us help!

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