kitchen sinkI recently conducted a branding exercise to prepare for a local television interview.  I looked at how the job-seekers were presenting themselves to employers: what was their "brand" so to speak.  (To learn the basics of branding see my previous post. And check out Dan Schawbel's Personal Branding Blog.)

The people I reviewed were all mid-career professionals who had been laid-off.  One person was in marketing, one in consulting, and another in journalism.  Three careers where one would assume the job seekers possessed a lot of marketing savvy. And they did. 

Their online presence was generally good.  Each had a Linked-in page that was up-to-date and they didn't have any embarrassing photos or public Facebook profiles. One was surprised to learn that his race times from several local biking competitions had been posted online, but that's not a bad thing-- in fact, that could be appealing to employers seeking someone with a competitive spirit. Another didn't realize that a speech she gave had been turned into a podcast.  (That's why you want to "Google" yourself- you might be surprised at what's out there.)

All of them were networking well: they had told everyone they knew that they were job-seeking, they attended professional association meetings and kept up with the latest information in their fields, they were registered with various job search engines to get the latest job postings in their field, etc.

But they all fell down in a key area: their resumes. There's something about a resume that throws off even the most talented folks.  Whether it's fear that we'll leave out the very item an employer wants to see, a desire to show our tremendous record of accomplishment, or we're just a little too caught up in our egos and not the employer's, the "everything but the kitchen sink"  resume virtually guarantees your job search will go no further.  

A kitchen sink resume is the antithesis of what employers are seeking.  Employers don't have hours to ponder the nuances of your resume to find that gem of an experience you had three years ago. They are faced with large stacks of resumes and are looking for ways to eliminate you, not keep you, unfortunately.  And the kitchen sink resume is the first to go.

Here are the characteristics of a kitchen sink resume and tips for fixing it:

1. More than 1 page for a new professional; more than 2 pages for a mid-career person.  (There are certain exceptions: vitas for college faculty and research positions require lists of publications or research studies which can take several pages.) But unless you're applying to Harvard or its corporate equivalent in research and development, cut it down to two pages max. If you must have a multi-page resume, consider putting it on a website or including it in your Linked-In page as backup information, not your primary marketing piece.

2. Margins set at 1/2 inch; fonts smaller than 10 points; no spaces between categories and entries.  In an effort to keep a resume down to 1 or 2 pages, people start playing with the layout.  Don't.  Keep the margins at  3/4 inch at least and allow spaces between the sections of your resumes and your jobs. This means you'll need to go over your text carefully and keep only the  most relevant and appropriate entries.

3. Bullet point lists of 6 or more items per job.  Bullet points are meant to highlight.  When you have more than 5 bullet points, you're no longer highlighting, you're writing a strange form of poetry.  It's better to have a few sentences or two that describe your key responsibilities and then use the bullet points to highlight key accomplishments.  Not every accomplishment-- the most important ones.

4. Too much emphasis on responsibilities, not outcomes.  Some resumes contain entries that essentially read like "put key in lock, turned key, opened door, entered room" telling us way too much about the process than the outcome.  Here's an example: "Provided constructive feedback to the team, and met with team leaders to provide additional feedback on a weekly and as-needed basis."  OK, you supplied feedback.  For what purpose? With what outcome? Do we care that it was weekly? Or as-needed? The employer is more interested in your ability to complete the project in record time or make the team function more cohesively because of your feedback. This is an entry that either needs to disappear or be re-worked to demonstrate the value of all that feedback.

5. More than one job objective.  "Seeking position in marketing, management, public relations, or human resources that will benefit from my extensive corporate background and strong work ethic."  The employer is not a career counselor and sending a resume with too many career options highlights your lack of knowledge about either the employer or the positions available.  If your skills really do apply to all those fields, create separate resumes for each field and use them when there is an opening. Also, don't talk about your strong work ethic in your resume.  Demonstrate it through your experiences.

6. Not targeted.  This is the fatal error. A kitchen sink resume basically says, "let me show you everything I've ever done with the hope that you'll like something." It screams amateur, and it says that you've probably sent the same resume to 100 other employers, maybe more.  Employers want to know that you think their job is special: that you are truly interested in making a good impression.  And a resume that isn't targeted to the position doesn't do that.

By the way-- want to know the one clue that reveals you likely have a kitchen sink resume?  In describing how hard they're working on the job search, a job-seeker will say something like "I've sent out 200 resumes and I haven't gotten any responses." Sending out 20 carefully written and targeted resumes (combined with networking) will result in a much better outcome than sending 200 kitchen-sink resumes.

Need help with your resume?  Here's one of my favorite resume guides. has some pretty good resume advice also.

Have a good time examining your brand, and please share your resume questions, suggestions, or topics for future postings.

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