The Value of Writing Your Resume for a Teenage Audience

my boysOne of my biggest life accomplishments is surviving a house full of teenagers. Primarily boys, boys who were over a foot taller than me and over a hundred pounds bigger than me. Boys full of energy, testosterone and teenage angst, sarcasm, dark and twisty moods. Boys who made me understand and appreciate why in the wild animals eat their young. I shared this little tidbit with them often.

I love my kids: the one I gave birth to, the ones I became a step-mom to and the ones that adopted me as their second mom. I just didn’t like them much when they were teenagers. I know that while they were teenagers, there were often times they didn’t like me either. I guess it would be more accurate to say that we all survived teenage years.

Having more teenagers around than any person should humanely be subjected to gave me a great reference point for elevator pitches and resumes. It will all tie in shortly, hang in there.

When I talk to individuals or groups about networking or resumes, I always ask if they have kids and if so, are they teenagers. Why – because understanding the “typical” teenage mind mentality is a huge advantage to writing your resume and elevator pitch.

Living through teenage hell gives you that much more of a leg up.

This is because the people reading your resume have a very similar mindset to that of a teenager.

Two caveats: I am going to make some generalizations in this article about teenagers which is not so flattering, so if your teenager is against the norm or shows no signs of any of the characteristics that I list, do not get offended, count yourself blessed. I also think there is a lot we can learn from teenagers, just do not tell them that.

Second, I am in no way being disrespectful to Human Resource professionals. I have a great deal of admiration and respect for HR professionals. They are bombarded, overworked and under-appreciated from every side from their own organizations to prospective employees. This article is to help job seekers understand and appreciate the tremendous amount that is put upon those that are reviewing their resume and help write it in a way will help you both.

With all the expectations, short time lines, shorter fuses and an increase in candidates they have to find a way to adapt and be effective. From the majority that I have spoken with, adopting a teenage mentality is most common – they just did not realize it.

They don’t want to read your resume

Ever try to get your teenager to clean something? They do not like doing it. They know they have to, but they just do not want to. Having to makes it a chore. It makes them grumpy. It puts them in a bad mood followed by a series of sighs, “fine”s, “whatever”s or random items being put down much harder than is necessary.

People reading your resume are required to read your resume, they are not doing it by choice or because it is fun – they have to. It is a necessary evil of their job. Think about it, how much do you like reading your own resume? Now multiply that times possibly several hundred resumes to review for one open position.

They are great at shortcuts

When I would tell my son to clean his bathroom his idea of clean and mine were two totally different ideas. Teenagers are a master at breaking things down to the simplest components to get the job done with the least amount of effort but just enough to get the job done. I will not go into some of his shortcuts because quite frankly, they were disgusting and I still cannot fathom how any human would think they were ok.

People reading resumes have mastered the art of scanning. They can scan like nobody’s business. It is that short cut. Shoot, why use cleaner on the sink when you can just skim it with a wet rag? It looks the same, never mind about those pesky germs. They are looking at first glance at surface only.

If it looks hard to read, they will be very resistant to read it or simply will not read it
When I was a kid my mom used to take us to the library, all the time. I would open up the books to determine which ones I would take home with me. If the book was tiny print and wall to wall words it went right back up on the shelf. But, if it looked easy to read, that one made it home. Same concept here.

Make it easy for their skimming eyes to find the most important elements of your resume: what do you want and how do you qualify? You will support these items, but do not bury them.

They have a tendency for negativity

You can plan an event for your family and 14 things go great but there might be one little thing that does not go so well, my teenagers would pick up on that one little thing and hold on to it like a dog with a bone.

For some reason, they liked negativity. They also had a natural sarcastic nature that came out at every opportunity.

Heaven help you if you leave out any information, they will pounce on that immediately. The will use that as basis of an argument to get out of doing something or just to prove you wrong about something – anything – arguing for sport comes naturally. They will fill in the information that will be most advantageous for them.

When someone is reading your resume they are going to fill in the information you do not provide. They will do so from this negative standpoint, often without even thinking about it.

For example, if you are in sales and you write “Second in my district in sales volume” someone reading that statement will think, “What, out of three?” Do not give them the opportunity to finish the sentence, it will not work out in your favor and then you are starting out in the hole.

This also leads right in to the next point:

They are not going to believe you just because you said so

This starts at a young age. Remember telling your kids, “Don’t touch that, it is hot.” What did they do? Immediately touch it. Just because you are taller than the tiny human does not mean that they believe anything that you say.

It gets worse when they get into teenage-hood. Hey, don’t park in the street because we are going to get snow tonight and I don’t want you to get stuck when they plow around your car. You might as well be talking to the dog, at least the dog perks their ears to pretend like they are listening.

Then next morning what do you hear? Whines or wails about how their car is snowed in. Oh, and the expectation that you are going to fix the problem that you tried to avoid in the first place!

Just because you say you are good at a certain skill or task does not mean they are going to believe you. You have to demonstrate your expertise or amazingness, not just state it. Give them parameters to understand and recognize your brilliance. Describing who you work with, how you work with them, what you did, how you did it and the value that was received allows you to not just talk the talk but walk the walk.

They don’t care what you want

This one pretty much speaks for itself. Ask your teenager to come do some mind-numbing activity with you because you would really like it does not penetrate a teenager mind. It is only when there is something in it for them that their little ears perk up.

Write your resume for them, how you can solve their problems instead of what you are looking for in your next job.

They have a short attention span

If you get the attention of a teenager, realize you will not have it long. You have to keep it and this means getting to the point, keep it focused on how it benefits them and keeping them engaged. If the words, “this is boring” are uttered from your teenager, you are doomed. They are already checking out if they haven’t done so already.

If your resume does not grab them in that first initial scan of maybe 5-10 seconds of the top quarter of the first page you have set yourself up for an uphill battle in getting them to read any further. Give them a reason to keep reading.

Understanding the possible mindset of those that are reading your resume will help you write it in a way that makes your resume stand out in all the right ways and avoid the heavy signs and “whatever”s.

What are They Thinking When They Read Your Resume

ImageWhenever I work with an individual client or facilitate a workshop on resumes, I always touch on this topic.  I think it important to have an understanding of the “other side” and reinforce the point that your resume isn’t really about you; it is about them.

It is Not All About You

The point of your resume is to answer their most important question, “What can you do for me?”  They need to be told why they want to talk to you rather than the other 300+ people that applied.  What do you bring to the table and how can it help them? 

The Mindset of the Reader

Let’s get one thing out in the open: no one likes reading resumes.  I have embraced the fact that people hate my work, that is the people reviewing resumes.  Because they do not want to read them.  Why?

If a position is open they get inundated with applicants.   A majority are not qualified for the position.   A good majority lie on their resume and a great number do not even attempt to match themselves to the position.  This does not make for a positive attitude in reviewing resumes.

The First Step is Elimination

They are looking for qualified candidates, ultimately.  But their first step it elimination.  Eliminate all those that do not meet the criteria.  There are normally two or three piles:  Yes, Maybe and Oh Heck No.

Reasons for elimination make this first step easier.  Not meeting qualifications, not giving contact information, not having a good presentation – these all help them whittle the huge stack of resumes down to a manageable few. 

Do not give them a reason to eliminate your resume.

They Don’t Believe You

There is a lot of fluff in resumes.  Some tend to over-exaggerate their experience or qualifications.  No matter how you say it the bottom line is there is a lot of lying going on there and they have to spot it.  So their mindset in reviewing your resume is from a critical standpoint.

Telling someone that you are experienced in xyz is not enough.  They are not going to believe you just because you said so.  You have to demonstrate it.  How do you do xyz, who do you work with and what is the value in you doing xyz?  This then proves your experience or skills.

They are Going to Fill in the Blanks

Make an incomplete statement and they will fill in the rest of the story for you.  Since they are coming from a place that is lacking sunshine and rainbows, they normally do not fill it in with a happy ending.

For example, if you are in sales and you state that you were second in your district, their first though (consciously or not) is “What, out of three?”

You need to fill in the blanks, giving the parameters that demonstrate why this is important.

If you state you increased territory sales by 60%, awesome, but how?  Did you inherit someone else’s book or did you actually have impact on this result?

If it Looks Hard to Read, No One Wants to Read It

Here is a trait that has not changed much since we were kids.  When I was little my mom would take us to the library to pick out books to read for the week.  If I pulled a book off the shelf and it was wall to wall little words I put it right back.  If another one had pictures, bigger words and looked easier to read that was the one that I picked.

If you submit a five page resume with itty, bitty print and no white space you are shooting yourself in the foot.  It looks hard to read and therefore they do not want to.  They may read it, but begrudgingly so.  I had a friend tell me once a great line, “Even the Pope doesn’t need a five page resume.”

I realize have made some generalizations, however, anyone in HR or with hiring responsibilities that I have discussed these points with agree on all counts.

You think it is hard writing a resume, think about how hard it is reading several hundred!  Give them a break and make it easier on them to identify your value, see you in the role and gives them the complete story. 

It makes their life easier and makes you a much better candidate. 



Lisa K McDonald, CPRW

Brand Strategist & Career Coach

Certified Professional Resume Writer


Interviewing – Helpful Tips from a Professional Panel

woman interviewed by two

Yesterday morning I had the pleasure of participating on a panel discussion on interviewing sponsored by Dress for Success Indianapolis.


I was very fortunate to be surrounded by such knowledgeable and open professionals.  There were several great points that came out during the presentation and one particularly stood out.


Here is the interesting thing, the panel was comprised of a diverse group all coming from a standpoint of hiring managers, interviewers; basically gate keepers or the ones actually performing the interview.


They were very informative and professional in representing themselves and their companies.


And then there was me.  I came from a different perspective.  I’m the coach working with the people trying to get to these professionals and impress them.  Basically, I’m in the trenches with you so I could take a little different approach in answering the questions.  I could be more blunt.  Big surprise, I know, for anyone that knows me.


This came to light when I offered one of the most important reminders about interviewing.


I stated that when answering an interviewer’s question be direct, specific and when done stop talking.  I said that a pause after the answer was not necessarily a bad thing so let the interviewer think about your answer.  They will then decide where to go from there, but during that dead time – shut up.  Yes, I actually used the phrase “shut up”.  I apologize to my mother and grandmother, of course my dad was probably shaking his head at me too.


Sometimes bluntness is an effective tool.  This is taught to me by my father do he probably wasn’t that upset, or surprised.


Anyway, what struck me as funny is when I said “shut up”  I could see the rest of the panel shake their heads in agreement and almost see a visible sigh of relief like a wave go down the line.


There were a couple that followed up in full agreement.


You see, they really do think about your answers.  They really do need that pause to think.


And they really don’t like it when you freak out and think you answered wrong and then try to fill in the dead space with verbal diarrhea.


Be prepared in your answers and potential questions.  Many are behavioral based so I highly recommend you do research on the STAR method: Situation, Task, Action and Result.  Use this as a format in showing your strengths, opportunities, lessons learned and value added.


Be confident in your answers.  Once you respond allow the interviewer to think about what you said.


They could be thinking “Hey, I never thought of that” or “This person might be good at even more” or they could be contemplating asking more about that situation or taking the next question in a new direction based on your answer.


Just because they pause does not mean you answered wrong.  Settle down cupcake, relax.


If they want clarification, they will ask.  In the meantime, while they are thinking just take a slow breath in for a three count and let it out for a three count – silently – and wait.


Oh, and one final tidbit – be nice.  They all stated that they wanted to talk to people who really wanted that job, not just any job, and were engaging with them.


Before you leave, be sure to tell them that after speaking to them you are more interested in the job now than ever.  They need to know you still want the job – it is up to you to tell them, don’t assume they know.


They have enough on their plates and do not need to take on assumptions, too.



Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW