Undecided if something should go on your resume? Add more detail for guidance.

Convential Wisdom has it that resumes have to be written in the most clipped, stilted business-speak possible.  It’s not true.  Thinking that way is a disservice to our resumes and our job prospects.

A poster on Reddit asked how proficient he should be in German before listing it on his resume. You can see where he’s coming from. He’s wondering if he can add a “Languages spoken: German” bullet point to his resume, and that’s good. The problem is that the clipped business-speak mentality has him thinking that that’s all he can say.

You can and should add detail to your resume. The more detail you add, the less chance there is for misinterpretation, and it helps you think more about your skills and how you can sell them to the reader.

I suggest that instead of putting an overly terse “Languages spoken: German”, you add a sentence giving details. This might be, for example:

  • I am fluent in written and spoken German, and have been for the past 20 years.
  • I have conversational fluency with spoken German.
  • I know some German words I picked up from my Grandma.

If in the process of writing the details of your skill you find that it sounds silly, then you’ve answered your question as to whether it should be on your resume.  To be clear, that last bullet item isn’t worth putting on your resume.

This process works with any item you want to put on a resume.  As you add detail, does it still sound like it’s worth putting on there?  If not, leave it off.  If it is, work with that detail to grab the reader’s attention.

Programmers struggle with this all the time.  “How much Ruby do I have to know before I can put it on my resume?”  Add detail to answer your own question.  If you’re not going to be comfortable asking the question “How have you used Ruby?” in the interview, then don’t put it on a resume.

Finally, always remember why you have a resume: A resume exists to get the reader to call you in for an interview.  If something isn’t going to make the reader say “We need to get her in here ASAP”, then leave it off.

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2 Responses to “Undecided if something should go on your resume? Add more detail for guidance.”

  1. Jordan Henderson Says:

    Seems like good advice, but then you end it with:

    “If something isn’t going to make the reader say “We need to get her in here ASAP”, then leave it off.”

    What could you possibly put in a resume that would make just anybody reading it say that? Maybe something like:

    * If you get interview me immediately, I’ll hand out crisp $100 bills to everyone in your office.

    ??

    • Andy Says:

      I don’t mean to imply that any single thing will make the reader make the leap to “get her in here right now.”

      Every thing on your resume should be evidence to convince the user that you should be brought in for an interview. You like rock climbing? That’s great, but does it help convince the reader to bring you in for an interview?

      I see a lot of resumes where people put in side activities or unnecessary details about irrelevant jobs because they want to appear “well-rounded.” I say that anything on a resume that doesn’t lead directly to the reader wanting to bring you in for an interview is noise.

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