The Secret to an Effective Resume

The secret to creating an effective resume is to throw out traditional ideas and use a new version of that document—one that’s best described as an “incomplete record.”  Ironically, presenting an incomplete portrait of yourself is the only way you can look better than the rest of the crowd in today’s job market.

Despite its name, the “incomplete record” has all of the information provided by a traditional resume.  It is a complete description of your work experience and accomplishments, your education and training, and your professional or occupational affiliations and activities (e.g., the associations to which you belong).  This self-description must tell employers what you can do, of course, but equally as important, it must also tell them what kind of contribution you can make to their success.

The information can also be presented in any one of the traditional formats for a resume: chronological, functional or hybrid.  The only difference in an “incomplete record” is at the beginning of the document.  Regardless of the format you select, the resume must begin with a Qualifications Summary that appears directly beneath your name and contact information.  This three-to-four line section should use keywords and phrases to highlight your strongest credentials for employment.  It ensures that recruiters will see your best assets, even if they don’t read all or even most of your resume.

At a superficial level, therefore, the “incomplete record” looks just like any other resume.  So, what makes it incomplete?  You do.

In order for a resume to be an “incomplete record,” you must first become incomplete yourself.  You see, employers face two certainties in the 21st Century workplace:

Certainty 1: The skills that are necessary to make a meaningful contribution on-the-job today will be different from those required to make such a contribution tomorrow.


Certainty 2: Employers no longer have the resources or the time to provide the development necessary to keep workers up-to-date with their skills.
As a result, every organization now needs workers who (1) get it and (2) get it done on their own.

Proving That You Get It & Get It Done On Your Own

An “incomplete record” is designed to prove to employers that you understand the certainties of the modern workplace.  You design your resume to acknowledge—and promote the fact—that you are an incomplete professional in your field and that you take personal responsibility for fixing that situation.  In other words, you don’t want the document to perform as a traditional resume and show you as a completed person, but instead, you shape it to convey exactly the opposite impression.  You use it to describe yourself as proudly unfinished in your development.

How do you do that?

One way is to start upgrading your skills right now.  Even if you’re already an expert in your field.  And, even if you’re in an active job search.  Enroll in an educational or training program that will strengthen your ability to contribute on-the-job.  Everyone can get better at what they do, and pursuing that self-improvement is the only way to protect yourself from the never ending creep of obsolescence in the modern workplace.

Then, add that credential to your record.  First, make yourself look incomplete by adding the following information to the Education section of your resume:

• The name of the course or program you’re taking;
• The institution or organization that’s providing it;
• The term On-Going.

Then, add a key phrase denoting that effort to your Qualifications Summary.

Those simple entries will convey a powerful message to any prospective employer.  It signals that you know you can always get smarter in your field and that you take personal responsibility for doing so.  It shows you have the humility to acknowledge what you don’t know and the courage to add to what you do know.  There’s no more appealing credential to an employer in today’s job market, and only the “incomplete record” enables you to claim it.

Thanks for reading,
Visit me at

P.S. My new book, The Career Activist Republic, is due out in June of this year. Look for it on, at or in your local bookstore. 

Peter Weddle is the author of over two dozen employment-related books, including Recognizing Richard Rabbit, a fable of self-discovery for working adults, and Work Strong, Your Personal Career Fitness System.

ACS Careers Job Club Webinars
Did you miss our July webinars on Job Search, Resume Writing or Interviewing Skills? Click Here to view the recorded webinars, videos and group discussion guides. And don’t forget to register for the ACS Career Fair August 22-25 in Boston!

One Response to The Secret to an Effective Resume

  1. Kathy Dean says:

    Resumes are becoming so important as the first step in your job search process. Here’s a great blog which showcases the eleven most effective tips to writing an effective resume.

Leave a Reply

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

You are commenting using your 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

%d bloggers like this: