These days I am doing a lot of recruiting — for marketers, specifically.  And I’m here to say that I gleefully discriminate against candidates with bad resumes.

Again and again, I see marketers who provide resumes with basic errors of spelling, grammar, or punctuation. Resumes full of jargon or meaninglessly vague words, with non-parallel lists of bullets. Resumes that are hideous word spew, with no white space or sense of design. Resumes that, crammed into an arbitrary one-page jail, don’t even print right because they exceed their margins.

I don’t look down upon these candidates with bad resumes just because of their poor grammar, random hyphenation, or poor font choice. (Though I do. Sorry, I can’t help it.)

I look down upon them because they’re bad marketers.

That’s because to me, a marketer is somebody who can see things from another point of view — that is, the point of view of the customer.

A marketer is somebody who understands that customers are just other people, with a variety of experiences, needs, and wants.

And a marketer is aware that 99.9% of the time, customers are NOT thinking about your product, your category, or your industry.  In fact, they hope to think as little about your business as possible, so they can do things they enjoy, like play with their children or watch cat videos on the Internet.

Most important of all, a marketer is somebody who knows that customers do NOT understand gobbledygook.  And a good marketer doesn’t use it.

Marketing as a form of translation

Perhaps because of my international background, I think that the job of the marketer is to translate.  A translator turns unintelligible babble into something understandable.  Likewise, the marketer translates a product or service into something that a customer can understand, and ideally want.

That’s all it is.  When I market technology, I turn technobabble (“scalable!”) into human-speak (“reliable”). When I market financial services, I turn jargon into English. I don’t overwhelm with detail; I highlight relevant truths and move on.

The art of translation requires marketers to comprehend customers.  To learn where they come from, and what they want.  To use words and metaphors that are understandable and relevant to their own experiences. To speak their language, as it were.

Translation means avoiding the language of the company trying to sell.  Simply put, this means: Minimize jargon.  Avoid sales blather. Don’t use acronyms, unless your mom knows them.

And so when I see a resume full of incomprehensible buzzwords, I ask myself:

  • What chance does this person have of speaking clearly and sympathetically to customers?
  • How will this person choose a compelling visual design if they can’t select one to market themselves?
  • Didn’t they show this resume to another human being before sending it out?

And then I think: Hmm, maybe not the best candidate for me.

Ars Gratia Artis

And there’s one more issue.  Let’s be fancy and call it the aesthetic imperative.

When you think about it, marketers are responsible for the majority of visual design that we see.  They select logos, and ads, and posters, and billboards. They write the largest and boldest words we read.  Advertisers are practically the Medicis of our age.

If I select a marketer with no eye, who writes poorly, I am perpetuating awfulness in the world. I am giving somebody a platform for ugliness. I am debasing our cultural conversation.

Life is hard enough without adding to the world’s total supply of visual chaos and deception. If I can do one thing that will make the world’s burden a little lighter, isn’t that a good thing?

So that’s why I’m picky. An ugly resume is fine if you’re an engineer, but it just doesn’t cut it for a marketer.

(And sorry if you’re reading this two hours before your interview with me. I’ll still be nice to you, but feel free to give me a fresh copy of your newly spell-checked resume.)

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