“I am an enthusiastic team player with great listening skills and a willingness to learn new tasks for the better of the team. If I had to name one imperfection about myself it would be that I am a perfectionist but am striving to work towards becoming less perfect.” (Misguided job applicant)
There’s a place in society for the soft skills; for descriptors like ‘passion’, ‘enthusiasm’ and a ‘can-do attitude’. Yes, there’s a place for breezy adjectives and vaguely defined skill sets, just not on a resume where heaps of self-praise and sly admissions of ‘perfectionism’ can sink whatever legitimate chance you may have to sell yourself in a face-to-face setting.
I recently offered to help a friend with a resume he was putting together after a recent layoff. He was employed in the energy sector and had been enjoying a healthy run out in Alberta with a healthy salary but with a not-so-healthy diet. Since this nature of work lends itself to almost immediate ramifications of global market corrections and volatility, he wasn’t really surprised when he got the ‘word’. For him it’s happened a few times before, and he was pretty confident that after some time he’d be back out there on the great Canadian plains sifting money from the sands, but he was getting ragged from the game. It had come time to look for work that would keep him home and with family, conceding that he would not be making the great central plains oil sands dough. He was now looking at his life from a broader perspective.
I knew he possessed some serious hard skills. I mean, this guy could somehow make an armoured tank out of a snow blower while at the same time erecting a tri-story duplex with only a hammer, a few busted piano keys and a hack saw in minus 32 degrees. Over coffee at his place, we sat in the kitchen while I eyeballed his resume. He told me this was the first time he’s actually had to do a resume as opposed to a black & white job application. A few phrases jumped out from his cover letter:
- Seasoned creative approach to problem solving (When I asked him what this meant, he shrugged and said he “found it from the internet.”)
- Passionate and results oriented? (Same)
- Excellent written and oral communications skills with a driver’s license? (Same)
I suggested to him that if these qualities cannot truly be measured or even fully understood we should hack and whack away all these phrases. He agreed. We proceeded to hack and whack. We kept things precise and factual; a short blurb for a cover letter and a few bulleted lists detailing valuable, measurable skills, accreditations, and a comprehensive employment history.
It’s a competitive job market out there. I’m not sure if he will get the job, but if he does get an interview, his potential employer can be confident that they will get exactly what he is selling.