should your resume be in narrative form?

A reader writes:

I am a job applicant and recent MBA grad. I have gotten a lot of resume feedback from various sources, one of whom advised me to make my resume a narrative. My contact is an angel investor for high-tech start-ups and would presumably know what he’s talking about. Basically his point was that that format would help convey passion and excitement between the lines — if not explicitly written out.

He suggested the narrative resume to tell my story in full sentences, including everything from the degrees I have to the experiences I have had. I wrote one on his suggestion, and here’s an excerpt:

“Parallel to the MBA program, I engaged with a number of exciting companies. As a start-up consultant analyst for Swift Expo (July 2012 – December 2012) I performed a market assessment through pricing analysis, conjoint hedonic analysis, and value-based pricing concepts such as lower-valued use of assets, marginal analysis, price ceilings, floors and controls.”

I am very hesitant to use this version in job applications since it feels like what I wrote was simply a very long cover letter (he suggests also sending a separate cover letter). I’d very much appreciate to know what your take is.

What?! No. That is not the way you should word things on a resume.

A resume needs to be able to be quickly scanned, and it needs the information most employers are looking for to be easily accessible in that quick scan — which is initially only about 20 seconds, if not less. It shouldn’t be in narrative, it shouldn’t be in the first person, and it shouldn’t be in full sentences. It should be bullet points.

Let me repeat that: Bullet points. I beg you. Otherwise, employers’ eyes are going to glaze over reading those blocks of text, and you are going to be overlooked in favor of candidates who wrote easier-to-skim, punchier resumes that provide information quickly and in the format most hiring managers want it in.

Your resume also shouldn’t characterize your employers as “exciting” or anything else subjective. Subjective stuff is for your cover letter. Your resume is for what you achieved, not how you felt about it.

The guy who gave you this advice might be a fantastic angel investor, but that doesn’t mean that he knows what most hiring managers are looking for on resumes. You can always find people with random/minority opinions about what makes a good resume — including people in positions of power and authority — but they don’t always speak for what’s effective with the majority.

He’s told you how to write an effective resume for a job with him, perhaps. But it’s not the most effective way to do it more broadly.

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