Get Past A Tarzan Resume


Okay I’m dating myself with this post but I don’t mind. Ever heard of Johnny Weissmuller? After reading this post, you should use your favourite search engine and look up “Tarzan Johnny Weissmuller”. Watch a video or two and you’ll see the best Tarzan on the screen in my opinion. And if you’re scratching your head saying, “Whose Tarzan?”, it will be an education.

Famously mocked as having a weak vocabulary, many who spoof this character resort to, “Me Tarzan, you Jane.” All those years being raised in the deep jungle by the animals after being separated from his parents left the fellow with an amazing ability to communicate with the animals, but a poor grasp of the English language. The result was that while he could get along with his elephant friend Tantar and chimpanzee friend Cheeta, he’d often be viewed as a simpleton by those humans he came into contact with.

Now that first impression would often prove to be the undoing of those planning on making trouble in the jungle, and only later did people change their views. That’s a great general plot line of the movies from long ago. But in 2014, would you be surprised if I told you that many people still make a similar first impression with their resumes and CV’s on employers? Yes you can learn from those early movies and improve your own chances of getting ahead if you read on.

All too often I look over a resume someone has made, and in about 3 seconds, I not only am not impressed with the resume, but it tells me a great deal about the person whose name is on the top line, especially if they seem happy with it. The paper itself suggests the person has a weak vocabulary, a poor education, poor grammar skills and then the next leap in assumptions is that the person wouldn’t be a good person to ask to an interview because if this is the very best they can do on their resume, what they might produce in a job would be worse.

So here’s what I’m talking about. Let’s say the resume is that of someone who previously worked as a cleaner in a factory. When they are in the area where they are telling the reader what they did in the job, they say:

* Mopped and cleaned floors
* Cleaned washrooms
* Emptied garbage

The words are just plunked down on the page. I’ll ask the person this question in some of these situations. “Why did you mop and clean the floors?” They then usually say, “Because it was my job.” If I get this answer, I’m not surprised, but I am disappointed. So I next ask, “Why do you think they want someone to do this job?” Then they look at me like I’m dense, and say, “I dunno”.

Following this kind of inquiry I keep plugging away asking more questions to make the person think and discover for themselves the real reason behind why the company pays someone to clean and mop the floors, empty the garbage and clean the washrooms. With some patience, they usually get around to what I’m driving at, and if they can’t I fill in the blanks. What we end up with is something like this:

* Cleaned and mopped floors to ensure work areas were safe for employees to work in
* Cleaned and sanitized washroom areas to eliminate the spread of germs and met Ministry of Health standards
* Removed debris from waste bins off work floor in a timely manner, coordinating with municipal waste pick up schedules

In the above, you can see the difference between the words just plunked down that don’t really say much, and the second revised version that not only states what the person did, but gives me the reader the knowledge that the person knows WHY they did what they did. This shows they get the big picture and how their job fits in with the whole organization. If the washrooms are disgusting, the workers complain. If they complain, they’ll stop being productive and grumble to management. Management then has to stop working too and find the cleaner to solve the problem. If the cleaner has to repeat the cleaning job, that’s a redundancy that can’t be affordable, and the cleaner will be replaced.

By demonstrating your understanding of your role, the employer thinks, “This person gets it and stands out from every other person who just cleans because they are told to without any real enthusiasm for the job. If they did this for that other employer, they’ll be able to do it here and soon understand how they are valued and therefore do a better job”. Bingo! You’ve got an interview coming up.

Now the other thing is that any revision of a job description should use words that you fully understand and can explain if asked about. If it looks too fancy for you, it could be obvious that you didn’t write the resume and therefore may come across as deceptive. So make sure if you get help re-writing your resume that you can understand all the language used and if not, ask for other words that essentially say the same thing. Better to change it now and be a little embarrassed then wait until you’re in a stressful interview and they ask about something you don’t understand.

Now go look up Johnny Weissmuller and hear the jungle cry of Tarzan!

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