Resumes Shouldn’t Be All-You-Can-Eat Buffets

Imagine that you are at your favorite restaurant. The waiter comes to take your order and you select a specific entrée, provide your cooking/garnishing preferences, and choose the side dishes. After a few minutes of pleasant table conversation, your waiter returns and hands you a plate – but it doesn’t contain what you ordered. Instead, it contains the waiter’s favorite menu items. How would you react?

Chances are you would be outraged. Chances of a tip are looking dim. And what was your favorite restaurant might become a place you don’t wish to go again.

No smart waiter would behave like this – but job seekers do it all the time!

Here’s how it happens: a prospective employer gives a great deal of thought to the skills and experience they need, and carefully itemizes them in the job posting. But many job seekers ignore what the employer wants and instead serve them up a “buffet” resume.

Lots of problems with that strategy – two come quickly to mind. First, it makes the
recruiter do all the work – and they don’t have the time. Second, it makes the job seeker look unfocused at best. Why on earth would they ignore what the potential employer wants?A buffet resume has every skill, task, and experience the writer can think of. They throw everything on the resume hoping that a recruiter (corporate, independent, or staffing company) will find something they like.

The primary reason is that most of us have been trained to write buffet resumes, but its time is long gone.  Dump it and serve up a strategic resume focused on exactly what they want and ruthlessly removing extraneous information.

A strategic resume highlights results gained for past employers using the skills outlined in the job posting. They focus on achievements and facts rather than making unsubstantiated assertions (“results-oriented”, “hard working”, “successful”). They reflect the truism that actions speak louder than words and show, not tell your skills.

By taking time  to analyze the job posting, identifying key skills, and considering how you’ve used them displays a number of desirable skills and attributes – no need for you to brag about yourself.

Here are a few:
• Analytical thinking and focus on the customer’s needs
• Top performer who goes the extra step
• Focus on business issues not on self
• Developing an understanding of the company’s needs
• Able to understand and express individual ROI for position

Strategic resumes are less about you, and more about how you can help them solve challenges.

So pay attention to the “menu choices” an employer has selected. Serve up a perfect match between their needs and your skills. Strategic resumes showcase a perfect candidate.


Marilyn is the Assistant Director of Graduate and Alumni Career Services at Bentley University. She brings an uncanny ability quickly discern strengths and differentiators and turn this knowledge into strategic career plans. She is passionate about equipping graduate students and alumni with cutting edge skills. Marilyn has a great deal of corporate experience, primarily in the technology, biotech and healthcare industries. She is a long-time user of social media (she was mentioned in Fast Company’s “Most Influential People Online 2010”). She holds degrees in Psychology and Public Administration from The Florida State University. Marilyn immigrated from Cuba as a child and is bilingual. She is active in Boston’s Hispanic business community.

Related posts:

  1. Resumes and the Job Search
  2. Resumes – Gangnam Style!
  3. Resumes: An Exercise in Letting Go

Leave a Reply

You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

  • Dan Schawbel

    Dan Schawbel, the founder of the Student Branding Blog, is a world renowned personal branding expert, the international bestselling author of Me 2.0, as well as the publisher of the Personal Branding Blog.

  • Connect With Dan

  • Chelsea Rice

    Chelsea Rice is the editor-in-chief of the Student Branding Blog. She began her work for just before graduating from Boston University, where she studied journalism and minored in international relations.

  • Connect With Chelsea

  • Recognition

    • Recommended resource - The Washington Post
    • "A terrific way for students to learn about branding" - Lindsey Pollak
    • "Worth checking out" - Psychology Today
    • HR World's top 100 management blogs