you're reading...

3 Ways To Idiot-proof Your Résumé

 3 Features / 2 Columns / 1 Function = Your Payoff


Idiot-proof your résumé because it will surely be read by idiots.  I should know; I’m one.



 By ‘idiot’ I don’t mean intellectually deficient (ok, maybe sometimes).

I mean people who lack the age, experience, maturity, motivation, desire, or curiosity to comprehend your work experience as you’ve described it in your résumé.

Therefore, you better make your résumé easy for them to understand because they surely will not make it easy for you.


Your résumé tells your story.

Present your story it in a crystal clear, bleedin’ obvious, seamlessly written way that even an idiot can understand.

Do so and idiots everywhere will be grateful, plus, you may get a job.

resume sings


 “Idiot” comes from the Latin idiōta < Greek idiṓtēs, meaning a person lacking skill or expertise; one who has bad judgement.


In Athenian democracy an idiot was a self-centred person concerned only with private—as opposed to public—affairs.  Idiocy was the state of ignorance into which we are born while its opposite, citizenship, came about through education.  Idiots are born, citizens are made.

The point:  Idiots have walked among us always.

run it past me first.

Here are some Useful Idiots you will surely meet:

  • uninformed HR people who serve as mere gatekeepers rather than proponents of talent

  • underage recruiters who lack business or life experience and are thus incapable of understanding your accomplishments

  • the technically indolent:  people too lazy to learn even the rudimentary requirements of technical roles and thus cannot appreciate people who actually possess those technical skills

  • Executive search consultants (like me) who simply refuse to write your résumé for you.

Did I leave anybody out?


But they’re not the real problem, they’re just part of the scene.


The real problem is that you did not provide them an idiot-proof résumé from you.



Three features of an idiot-proof résumé:


  1. An attractive layout displaying your work history in an eye-pleasing way that is easy to digest mentally

  2. It removes all obstacles over which a reader might possibly It is written in such a way that the reader could not possibly, wilfully or inadvertently misinterpret, misconstrue, misunderstand or mis-read the content.

  3. It lists achievements rather than responsibilities. Achievements are output, what you actually produced, factual accomplishments; responsibilities are what you shoulda’, woulda’, coulda’ done, and are not relevant. Only output matters, so be as accurate and graphic as possible.

This 2 column format works because:

  • 2 columns organises information clearly

  • it tells a story (with a beginning, middle and end)

  • the structure guides the reader and inhibits misunderstanding

  • it’s traditional, heavily tested, and proven to work well.


The LEFT column contains:

  • company name

  • and brief description of that company

  • position title

If it’s not self-explanatory (eg, Sales Representative) then describe it briefly.

Eg, if your role is Chief Strategy Officer, define it in 3 or fewer lines.


The RIGHT column has the most ink and contains:

  • achievements in point form

  • verbs commence each point

  • Use percentages, symbols, abbreviations to make it punchy’ and pithy

Eg, “exceeded budget by 300%” reads better than “I met and exceeded my sales target three-fold.”

The payoff:  if you reward the reader with ease of reading then you’ll be rewarded with phone calls, 1st interviews, 2nd interviews and maybe a job.


A résumé has only one function:  to obtain you an interview with a real, live, flesh and blood, carbon-based-life-form, ie, a person.

padded resume

Therefore you must manage the message in your résumé and do everything possible to expedite and facilitate that meeting.


Your résumé must steer the reader to the sole conclusion that you’ve chosen for them.


If you’re résumé doesn’t do that, it’s letting you down and you’re letting yourself down.


Your résumé also has a negative function:  to deflect you from roles for which you are ill-suited, unprepared or incapable.  A good résumé extricates you from inappropriate roles and saves you the anguish of rejection at interviews.  Job-seeking is about finding suitable employment.


Your idiot-proof résumé saves everybody time.

It allows the reader to quickly answer two crucial questions:

  • do you have the skills required for the position?

  • do I need to interview this person?

If your résumé answers yes and yes, you’ll advance.

If not, well….another resume

 The real problem is when you fail to idiot-proof your résumé:

  • you don’t make it easy to read or understand

  • you persist in using jargon and abbreviations and foolishly assume that the reader knows (or cares) what they mean

  • you insist on listing responsibilities instead of achievements

  • you erect word barriers that stymie your reader’s comprehension

  • you list previous employers but refuse to explain the company’s business

  • you stupidly assume that the reader has abundant time and motivation to research all the things you did not clarify

  • you think that you’re special and somehow immune to all the above.

In short, you make it really, really easy to exclude you from further consideration.

So who’s the idiot now?


Bottom line:  The easier you make it for the reader to understand your resume, the better are your job prospects.



Other articles:

Why Top Performers Get Axed

The Tortoise and Hare, 100 Years Later

5 Fictions About Recruiters

4 Ways To Avoid the Axe

How The Job Market Really Works




About Dr. Duff Watkins [www.execsearch.com.au]

international executive search consultant / author-- dispensing career advice about how the job market really works


No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Dr. Duff Watkins

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Follow me on Twitter @DrDuffWatkins

%d bloggers like this: