Raising a Ruckus Over Resumés

Getting a job is a full-time job in itself, one that requires not merely dedication but also education — not in the sense of a university degree, but rather in the sense of learning an entirely new and largely deceitful vocabulary. It begins with words and phrases that eliminate anything personal. Companies don’t want people; people are inconvenient. If they could get the job done by a machine, they would. Sometimes, though, they have to have those pesky parasites known as “employees,” and they send out a call for resumés. (Oh wait… “resumes”, since that é is just too French for business to deal with.) Let’s have a look at what that actually means these days.

Job seekers are encouraged to enhance their skill sets, while optimizing their adaptability to company paradigm adjustments. This is at best flummery (nonsense), and at worst, outright lies. Reducing human beings into skill sets (a range of skills or abilities) is a means of destroying the very concept of a Human Resources Department, and the doublespeak (deliberately obscure or ambiguous language) “company paradigm adjustments” means whatever the CEO wants it to mean in order to maximize his personal profit at the expense of everything else, including the company. If the skill set is made redundant, there’s no more job. There isn’t a human being associated with it at all, which no doubt gives the CEO a sense of not harming people while he enjoys his third annual vacation at his fourth home, the one at the lake where he may sail his fifth yacht. (Apparently, any property of rich people cannot be considered or made redundant.)

While this viewpoint is unquestionably a cynical one, it is also accurate. My first summer job in 1977 was for the long-defunct B. Dalton Bookseller chain. The process was simple: They needed another grunt to tidy up the store and run the cash register, and I was a college literature major who could talk about books and count change. We agreed, and I started work. (I’ll reveal my age: I used a “knuckle-buster” for credit card purchases. Children, ask your grandparents.) In later years, I sought slightly more complex jobs, requiring resumes. At that time, the definition of a resume was, in general, “summary, curriculum vitae, or a set of accomplishments.” Notice nothing is said of its purpose, which (presumably) is to help a person acquire a job. It didn’t take long for me to figure out that a resume was a piece of paper that had to convince someone to talk to you in person, and in order to shine, one had to… let’s say “polish things up a bit.” For this reason alone, I suggest that the world of business (particularly in the U.S.) cease asking for resumes and instead take the honest approach, asking for sales pitches, snake oil, or perhaps smoke-and-mirrors to go along with the dog-and-pony show.

Since we’re still stuck with having to submit resumes for jobs, let’s take a fresh approach. Like any good salesman, you need to have a gimmick — or, as many of us have been told by alleged professionals in the field, the appropriate use of buzz words, meaning words or terms that are currently in vogue by those managers required to hire and fire people. These people could get a hundred or more resumes for one job, and your first job is to get them to like your resume enough to call you up for an interview. The gimmick, or trick, lies in using the correct buzz words, so that your resume is less likely to be tossed out on the first round of review. The problem is that these words change with a frequency that is dizzying to behold. Until recently, we were told to use words or terms like creative, effective, motivated, (having) extensive experience, innovative, responsible, and analytical. In this day of the artless deal, using these words now may instead result in your resume being thrown out without a second glance. Having been the comparative gold standard for years, they’re now considered cliché. (It’s useless to point out that business itself is even more cliché; irony is lost on them.)

As an old, disabled, full-time writer who no longer needs to package himself inside a crock of lies in hope of being selected for starvation wages, I am free to tell businesses exactly what I think of ‘em. However, should you still need such work, and you think that “standing out from the crowd” means finding terms and phrases that are unusual enough to get you noticed, allow me to provide the following replacement words and terms (repeating the order of the above “overused” words): germinal, virtuosic, incentive-driven, prodigiously proficient, Promethean (that’s a favorite of mine), calculable, and consequential. Not only will your resume be chock-a-block (rife) with fresh new words, you’ll probably be granted an interview simply because the person going through resumes is too afraid to admit that he hasn’t the faintest idea what those words mean. Worse: They may well be the newest of buzz words, and he can’t afford to ignore them. When you go in for your interview, pack a few more in your repertoire for good measure: Your ability to thrive even when performing the most quotidian tasks (good one for janitors to use), that conjoint projects are your forte, and that you can surmount any trammel that might attempt to hobble you.

If they actually hire you after all that, I recommend investing in a superlative dictionary and thesaurus. They’ll be expecting great things from you. Also, keep watching this blog; I’ll be sure to have new ways to flummox (perplex, bewilder) your boss.

One Reply to “Raising a Ruckus Over Resumés”

  1. Well said (And worded!).

    I’ve found that a good resume is a list of things you’ve done, not a list of things you are capable of. In other words, anyone can show up and turn the crank of the grinder, but if you can explain what you did to make what comes out of the grinder unique, people are more likely to actually care.

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