Warning: I’m about to make a sweeping generalization that will offend many MBAs and PhDs out there. I have no survey data to back it up other than résumés collected during the past 27 years at my company—and writing samples collected from participants in our writing training programs.
But here’s my conclusion: There’s very little correlation between someone’s writing ability and their formal education. But there IS a strong correlation between their thinking ability and writing skill. Clear writing represents clear thinking.
What’s worse than putting convoluted thinking on paper for the world to see? Touting it in a résumé when you’re trying to land a job. Every week 3-5 résumés land on my desk—sometimes more. When we’re interviewing to fill a current vacancy, as we’ve been during this past month, I review piles of résumés.
Consider the logic and awkward wording of some of the following excerpted statements. Some read as if written by someone who speaks English as their third or fourth language. Yet clearly from the transmittal email or letter, the applicant has been educated in English in the good ole’
Back to the excerpts I’ve been reading this past couple of weeks:
“I strive to be a trendsetter and provide the best professional customer service in any profession that I obtain. While being a trendsetter trying new tasks and welcoming many challenges has been a success for me.” (How’s that again?)
“Looking for full or part-time work that will exemplify my upbeat demeanor, communication skills, and tenacious attention to details.” (The work will exemplify his demeanor?)
“Objective: To obtain a position which would utilize my business, legal knowledge and accounting skills, as well as my ability to build good people relationships.” (The position is going to use these skills? And what other kinds of relationships are there besides people relationships?)
“To obtain a challenging position within a company for advancement with the use of my skills and ability to multi-task.” (I guess, maybe?)
“I am currently seeking a professional, developing opportunity for growth where I can learn and excel in every aspect of the workplace. I openly welcome a career that will strengthen and enhance the knowledge in which I’ve already acquired, while creating new challenges for me to overcome.” (okay, well, then.)
Such résumés make us chuckle. Then they make us sad for the state of our education system. Then they make us really worry about any family members and friends with such poor writing skills who are looking for jobs because they have huge hurdles to overcome before they’ll ever get the chance to tell a prospective employer what they can do otherwise.
And finally, such résumés should make you exuberant if you yourself write well and are job hunting. Your résumé should stand out like a floodlight during a blackout.