Creative Writing - the Art of Resumes

Article excerpt

WHEN a group of college seniors, friends since high school, gathered for an informal reunion during Thanksgiving weekend, the conversation turned surprisingly serious. Instead of dates and parties, classes and professors - the usual topics - their talk centered around a new subject: resumes and cover letters.

"My counselor told me to get more action words in it," said one young woman. "Writing the resume wasn't so bad - it was the cover letter I dreaded," added another, noting that some of her classmates are preparing two resumes, one business-oriented, the other emphasizing education. A third friend, a design student in a work-study program at a co-op university, explained that he once mailed a resume in a black envelope. "I wanted them to notice me," he admitted. "By the time I graduate I'll have this down to a system," he added with a laugh.

To a parent overhearing parts of the conversation, comments about campus career centers, resume workshops, and "exploring my options" signal a youthful sophistication about job-hunting unimaginable to an earlier generation of college seniors. For those of us who graduated in the '60s, a job search seemed relatively simple. We filled out a few application forms, we went for an interview or two, and we were hired. Resumes were reserved for those whose work history included more than summer employment.

No longer. Today it isn't enough for applicants simply to look good in person, attired in the proper dress-for-success suit and schooled in the appropriate interview demeanor - respectful, mature, and above all enthusiastic. Job-seekers must also look good - very good - on paper.

Not just any paper, either. It must be a high-quality parchment bond, marketed for just such a purpose, sometimes with a "helpful instruction manual" included for those who don't have access to professional advice. As one measure of the growth of this mini-industry, the Boston Yellow Pages include three pages of ads for resume services, offering everything from student rates to round-the-clock printing.

"Be the one they want to hire!" trumpets one ad. …