Monday, May 19, 2008

Do you Recognize These Early Warning Signs of an Egocentric Resume?

Do you have an Egocentric Resume? What’s an Egocentric resume, you ask?

Egocentrism – defined by Wikipedia as a) the incomplete differentiation of the self and the world, including other people and b) the tendency to perceive, understand and interpret the world in terms of the self. The term derives from the Greek ego, meaning "I". An egocentric person has no theory of mind, cannot "put himself in other people's shoes," and believes everyone sees what he sees (or that what he sees in some way exceeds what others see.)

So based on Wikipedia’s definition, an Egocentric Resume is a resume you’ve written for yourself as the audience. It makes you feel good. It should – you’ve written an autobiography and probably summed it up in a page or two.

Egocentric Resumes take different forms. Some give vast amounts of detail about management or projects that the writer was most proud of. Others are understated, stating “just the facts, m’aam.” Still others are full of puffery and overly self promoting, but often about accomplishments that are less important to hiring managers.

There’s one major problem with Egocentric Resumes … they usually don’t cover what interests the audience.

For example, I recently helped a friend with her resume. This woman is brilliant and engaging, a part time freelance writer published in major magazines, who spent much of her career as a restaurant manager. She egocentrically described how she managed, hired and trained staff. After hours of dragging information out of her with a pair of pliers (ok, I’m exaggerating a little), I discovered many amazing things she had achieved. While the manager of a single location, she developed and implemented a new revenue channel program for her major national restaurant chain that increased their annual corporate revenues by 20%!

Now she wants to apply her skills and recent education in health fields. Regardless of the industry or job she’s applying for, don’t you think increasing national revenues by 20% would interest employers, giving her an edge to overcome real-world health experience? But because she didn’t think it was rocket science, she left it off her resume. This is just one example of individual brilliance, left off client resumes because the accomplishment didn’t fit the candidate’s self perception, regardless of how incredible the achievement was.

Imagine that! You’ve spent many hours finely crafting your resume, getting 10 different and conflicting comments from 10 different people, had it proofed 3 times … and then you wake up and realize it’s written to stroke your own ego, and misses the information that’s relevant to hiring managers.

Congratulations! If you’ve actually realized this, you’re ahead of the game. Most job seekers don’t recognize their own ego, and remain frustrated with today’s changed hiring system. Others accept underemployment, largely due to a resume that doesn’t adequately communicate their skills.

Ok, ok, I admit it! I’ve got an Egocentric Resume. Stop twisting the knife and HELP ME!! Now what do I do?

Glad you asked…you’ll probably want the opposite of an Egocentric Resume, one that is written for the perspective of your resume’s 4 audiences. Let’s call it an Altruistic Resume, the anti-Egocentric Resume. Since I’ve already covered writing for these audiences in depth, I’ll summarize, and give references to the detail. As a bonus, I’ll give detail on writing for Hiring Managers, and give still greater detail via link.

Audience #1 – Make your resume database friendly through Resume Search Optimization. Write your resume like it’s a web page to be found by a Google search. This means writing an infinitely modifiable, one time use resume. For more details, see Resume Search Optimization.

Audience #2 – Make your resume stand out to HR in just 15 seconds, because that’s all you get on average. Learn how to effectively use Resume Real Estate, club the reviewer over the head with your relevant skills, and grab the HR reviewer by the collar so you go in the interview pile, all in 15 seconds.

Audience #3 – Hiring Managers want subject matter experts, not generalists. The best way to demonstrate subject matter expertise is to show you’ve already solved the company’s (or department’s or hiring manager’s) problems in past jobs. Show you’ve Created Employer Value. How can you show that? Research and network to gain insight into that area’s problems and opportunities. Once you can guess at problems and opportunities, show your achievements, and how you’ve accomplished them (hint…pick achievements that demonstrate you solving your target company’s problems). Make it active and numeric…I saved X% by doing Y. I increased sales by X% by doing Y. Using verbs like Managed, Collaborated, Participated in, shows that others achieved, not you. Make your resume altruistic, and give your reader what they want….results.

Audience #4 – To appeal to the Hiring Manager’s boss & peers, network into the company through informational interviews to gain an understanding of communication style, culture, and what’s important to peers and managers. Incorporate this in your writing style.

My recruiter friends claim there’s a 5th Audience….of course, Recruiters. And I guess they’re right. Recruiters are somewhere between Audience #2 & #3, depending on experience. Great recruiters understand their clients, their culture, and the hard and soft skills they are looking for. Recruiters who can think like the hiring manager are like Audience #3. Less experienced recruiters are more like the HR screeners of Audience #2.

So will you look at your resume from the readers’ point of view and make yours an Altruistic Resume?

Executives exploring Career Change: For a free 30 minute resume consultation, or career advice for executives, email your resume confidentially to reCareered (, and we'll schedule a time to talk.

Staff, Managers, Entrepreneurs, and career changers outside the US: Send your resume to to enroll in a free group teleseminar "Accelerate Your Job Search - tools you can use".


Related Articles:
Who's Hiring - Top employers week of 12-28-09
A Job Seekers Letter To Santa

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Deb Dib said...

Phil, I have just started following your posts and as a careers-industry professional myself, am 1) thrilled to have a colleague who is innovating in a very traditional and increasingly dysfunctional career marketplace, and 2) I am blown away by your ability to cut through the career space noise and get to the heart of what needs to be said.

With no formal resume training available to the general public, and with people's perceptions of resumes built upon outdated samples and the drivel that they see coming across their own desks, it's no wonder that they don't have a clue about resume targeting, optimization, value propositions, etc. It's sad that so many great people are so poorly marketed.

Keep telling your career truths -- your non-nonsense, real world insights are needed.

Phil Rosenberg said...

Deb, Thanks so much for your kind comments!

Evgeniya said...

Hello Phil,

thank you very much for providing so insightful information to the topic that really matters to everyone and every time.

You are very clear in expressing the idea that stands behind the success. Personally, before I felt inside that presenting just autobiography of ourselves won't take us far and there should be other way to do it. You have confirmed my thoughts and thank you for that! More listening and WIFT approach, will bring everyone to a desired goal. So let's do it!

Thanks again for your philosophy.

Best regards,
Evgeniya Em