Does fluff beef up a resume?

Like many recent college graduates, I’m embarking on the lengthy road that is job-searching. From what I have learned through various workshops, and university professors, employers today look for standout performers. They may only read resumes for 15 seconds at most. That is how long you have to set yourself apart.

As one admissions director in the film, “21” says so elegantly, “Unfortunately, desire doesn’t figure in.” Jobs will go to “someone who dazzles…somebody who just jumps off the page.” This is my favorite movie, and I find myself referring back to this interview scene whenever I start reflecting on how I’m unique. Explaining it in words seems near impossible at times, especially when I start to compare my accomplishments with those of others. I may have better grades, but they held 6 internships at prominent companies. Grades only really matter for getting into graduate programs and some highly-skilled jobs. For those entry level and mid-range positions, I doubt anyone even notices such numbers (and for good reasons; GPAs are not very reflective of work ethic or intelligence). So the question remains; how do I differentiate?

I earned a bachelor’s degree, graduating with honors and discussed points of differentiation for many brands, yet it remains difficult to highlight those points for my personal brand. Is it the dedication shown working for a single employer throughout my time in college? Is it my travel experience through the Caribbean? Could it be my relationship with my family and the recommendation of my professors? Perhaps one of these will stand out during an interview. However, getting their seems to be 60% of the battle.

After applying to more than a dozen jobs, and receiving rejections within 24-72 hours, or no response at all, I start to wonder if anyone on the other end of that resume database blackhole is actually looking at my document. This curiosity got me thinking it may be time to produce a revised resume. Not just a tailored one, but one with words that jump off the page.

Below is a list of bullet points used on my current resume for a sales associate position I held 4 years ago. Following that is a list of job duties for what on company calls a “Consumer Relations Representative” (a.k.a. sales associate). The extent to which they use fluffy words and make it sound as if you actually do more than organize the sales floor and assist customers is quite surprising.

Sales associate (my resume excerpt):

  • Provided excellent customer service, by communicating clearly and openly, to generate sales and satisfy customers’ needs
  • Worked as lead sales associate in assigned department
  • Handled new shipments of inventory weekly to maintain efficient store volume
  • Organized and maintained stock on store shelves to allow customers to more easily find items and shop in a clean and welcoming environment.
  • Displayed willingness to work in a team on merchandising assignments

Consumer Relations Representative (job description):

  • Act as a brand ambassador and cultivates a professional relationship by communicating effectively with customers in both verbal and written communication regarding products, advertising, promotional programs, return procedures, and other company policies.
  • Research programs, historical documentation, catalogs, etc. to successfully comply with consumer requests and resolve consumer complaints.
  • Respond to a variety of consumer inquiries, resolves questions, and directs consumers to the appropriate resolution channel when needed.
  • Assist in the execution of marketing projects targeted toward consumers.
  • Report recurring and potential consumer complaints/problems to Manager with recommendations on how to be proactive in their future prevention.
  • Assist in the development of systems and reports to document consumer inquiries and comments and provide information to organization about consumer needs and preferences.

I have been told before that my resume is excellent and I do not want to change it to the point where I appear arrogant or full of myself. However, maybe I am missing those all important “buzzwords” that pull you out of the blackhole and onto the recruiters desk. What do you think? Do fluffy words on a resume achieve higher levels of feedback, or interest?

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One thought on “Does fluff beef up a resume?

  1. Dude, I think you resume is fine. The only thing I could think to add is this.

    1. Try for facts and figures (if you have them-don’t make it up).
    Instituted ink recycling program that saved department $xxx.000 per month

    2. Target resume to EACH job you apply for. Repeat key words in your resume and cover letter that they have in the job description.

    Right now, it’s really NOT you. Companies have over 300-600 resumes for a single job! They are truly being crazy about the hiring process, often requiring candidates to jump through hoops I’ve never seen before. I interviewed at a place yesterday, and the guy said that for the 2nd round they would be devising a “strategic thinking test” of a marketing problem to see “how well the person thinks under pressure.” The position is for a marketing assistant and was labeled as being “entry level.” The only thing entry level is the pay, the experience they want is that of someone with 10-12 years (I have 15, but in a slightly different sector). It is extremely hard right now; I’ve been looking for 18 months.

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