Ditch the laundry list

In “Show, don’t tell,” I talked about telling stories in your cover letters and resumes. In addition to lots of empty phrases (“people person”), another enemy of getting your point across is the impulse to list every single task, every single award, every single college club on your materials, in the hopes that all that accumulated stuff will be impressive.

Here’s the thing – someone reading your cover letter or resume probably spends 15 seconds on it before moving on to the next one. In this economy especially, they’ve probably got a large pile to go through. They don’t have time to read through every task you completed while you were an office manager. Yes, you ordered office supplies. And you probably did a bang-up job of it, too. But…

  1. It’s implied that as an office manager, you probably ordered supplies,
  2. Ordering supplies isn’t exactly something you brag about at your high school reunion, and
  3. All these lists take up space where you could be telling stories.

So ditch the list of tasks you were responsible for in each job. It’s dry, and takes up space without really explaining to an employer why you are the person to solve their problem. Instead, give some juicy details about two or three projects that you’re particularly proud of. How did you save money/streamline processes/solve thorny problems? Let your personal touch come through.

Think of each job you’ve had not just as a placeholder in your timeline, but as another opportunity to show how your unique experience will allow you to solve the employer’s problem. So show them.

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