Resume Summaries and the Charades Analogy

Ever played "Charades"? Of course you have. For those unfamiliar, Charades is a game where one person silently acts out a word or phrase for other people to guess.

Some players are great actors who make guessing their clue quite easy. Other players may be incredible guessers who can take clues from even the worst actors and still be successful. And some people are just not good at Charades.

Suppose we were going to play Charades, but we decided to change the rules a bit. Well, more than a bit. What if we let the actor just tell us what he/she was about to act out? "PSST! Hey guys, the clue is Star Wars". It's basically cheating, but just go along with it for now.

Obviously, nobody would need to even watch the actor give clues, and the guessers could immediately "guess" the correct answer before any acting was performed. This wouldn't make for a fun game, and everybody would get it right.

Why is a blog about resumes talking about Charades?

In most cases, a job seeker is writing a resume to try and define himself/herself as what a job requirement is asking for - a "Senior Accountant" or a "Registered Nurse" or a "Junior Programmer". The goal of the resume writer is to get the reader to view the resume's owner as someone who is qualified to do the job. If the open job is "Senior Accountant", we're trying to write a resume that gets the reader to think "This is the resume of a Senior Accountant!".

We have a couple choices.

1 - We can list experience, education, and skills on a resume that would indicate that this is the resume that belongs to a senior accountant. This is what many people do, and it works much of the time.

2 - We can write a summary or profile statement on the top of the resume that starts with "Senior Accountant..."

If we stick with the Charades analogy and go with the first option, we're hoping that our guesser is able to decipher the clues and come up with "Senior Accountant" after reading the resume.

If we go with option two, our guesser is pretty much guaranteed to land on "Senior Accountant".

The question becomes, "Can we trust the guesser to get it right if we go with option one?". As someone who has worked in recruiting and hiring, my answer is a resounding "NO". 

Many guessers (recruiters and those initially reviewing resumes) aren't very experienced in the hiring field due to high turnover in the industry, and the vast majority will have no experience in your field. People reviewing resumes for accountants have likely never been an accountant

A summary or profile statement takes the guesswork out of it for the reader, and can set your mind at ease that the reader won't misinterpret your background. It's like cheating at Charades. And it works.