Resume Nightmares: Part One

Resume Nightmares: Part One

For fans of reality shows like “The Profit,” “Kitchen Nightmares,” and “Bar Rescue,” there is familiarity with the strong statements from the shows’ stars:

  • “I’m 100% in charge.”
  • “This is the worst kitchen I’ve seen!”
  • “You can’t keep doing this. You’re giving away too much food and drinks.”
  • “What a disaster. This place is disgusting!”
Related: The Right Resume Format To Get You Noticed I’ve left out the extreme language used to aggressively attack the failing businesses, restaurants, and bars. They point out every flaw in the structure, confront bad relationships – and make a passionate attempt to improve the business with expert advice. And in many cases, they confront owners who think everything is OK – and they’ve done nothing wrong, despite the failures. I present this introduction because, over the last two years, I’ve been voluntarily reviewing resumes for many people, with a particular focus on veterans. Too many of the resumes I’ve received have been “Resume Nightmares.” I don’t mean just the boring, somewhat typical “just the facts” resumes. I mean resumes that having me going very “Gordon Ramsey” and wanting to be “100% in charge” of making changes.

The Initial Review

On all of these reality shows, it starts with an overall review of the business, touring the site, sampling the food and/or service. It’s all about measuring first impressions. On “Kitchen Nightmares,” Gordon Ramsey wants to sample the menu and meet servers before he gets in-depth information from the owners and chefs. My response to a resume that I receive is similar. I very deliberately turn on my “first impression monitor” and imagine seeing this resume as if it had been submitted to me for a job. Frequently, I’ll print it out for a different visual impression than I get on a monitor. It is not uncommon for the resume to generate a strong negative reaction: poorly formatted, small font, long narrative paragraphs, longer lists of “skills.” It’s taken just a few seconds but, as a potential employer, it’s ready for the “C-Pile,” and I’m moving on. I just received a resume to review. I was immediately distracted by the person’s current job title appearing under his name at the top of the resume – a job title having very little if anything to do with the positions he told me he was interested in. Then I was drawn to long, 14-15 lines long, 9pt paragraphs on his current and previous position. This resume also had a highlighted “Willing to relocate anywhere” line right after his contact information. Relevant but it seemed to distract at the top of the resume. Watch just a few episodes of these reality shows and you’ll often see multiple “distractions.” This resume has three strikes against it from the initial review – a highly probability for that “C-Pile.”

The Deep Dive

After the first impressions, each of these reality shows proceeds with a “deep dive” into the business. In some ways, each provides an interesting structure for considering a resume. “The Profit” carefully examines the business’s “people, product, and process” while “Kitchen Nightmare” is eager to examine and sample the menu. For a resume, it’s time to read it carefully, from top to bottom, which is the way the vast majority of HR and Hiring Managers read a resume. So, I read the candidate’s description of his or her current position and my first reaction is “Where’s the beef?” Gordon Ramsey is frequently frustrated by the lack of ingredients in the dishes he orders. The fish is cold or undercooked. The sauce is bland. My exact reaction to a resume that contains a list, or worse a 15-line paragraph, of just tasks and duties. I can see what you’ve done – but not what you’ve accomplished. It’s bland, and the main ingredients are under- or over-cooked.

Back To The Beginning

There are many common elements in these reality shows – in addition to the strong language. One of them I’ll label as “simplification.” For restaurants and bars, even many of the manufacturing or retail businesses, a primary goal is not expansion, it’s reduction. Often it’s reducing the number of items on a menu from over 150 to less than thirty. Another frequent problem is these businesses have a “save everything” mentality for useless inventory and distracting memorabilia. And I’ve had both of these reactions to several resumes I’ve received. One of them followed the introductory contact information with a section listing more than 25 different skills. Several other resumes I’ve seen have listed too many jobs going back too many years, too many courses, too many awards – Too much information – that’s not relevant to a resume. I’ve noticed that Gordon Ramsey almost always asks “what’s the special?” or “What do you recommend?” On Bar Rescue, the “Recon Teams” ask the same questions. Even Marcus Lemonis on “The Profit” is often asking “What business are you really in?” When I see a resume with “too much information,” either with lists of skills or duties from an endless job description, I want to ask, simply, “What’s your special?”

It’s Time For “Resume Makeover!”

Each of these shows follows a very structured process for remaking the target business. I’m thinking that each might also provide an interesting alternative structure for developing a more effective resume. Or perhaps this might provide a different way of finding ways to improve a resume for today’s highly competitive market. Let’s start with Marcus Lemonis’s clearly focused strategy of “People, Product, and Process.” While there remains some debate over the appropriateness of an objective statement, a professional summary, or nothing at the beginning of a resume, I believe that a well-written summary statement that emphasizes your professional strengths is an effective way to personalize the start of your resume. The summary statement should be customized to the position and company you’re applying to. This is similar to understanding the cuisine of, for example, an Italian restaurant. It’s understanding the mission of a manufacturing or retail business. The most important part of your resume, the track record of your accomplishments should clearly consider this model. For each of the positions recorded on your resume, craft a statement that clearly addresses the results achieved (product), how you achieved that result (process), and who (people) was involved (for team and leadership accomplishments). Describing the process is where you demonstrate your skills, not with a list of general terms.


This is one different way of looking at improving your resume. In Part II, I’ll examine structuring your resume based on some of the principles for “Kitchen Nightmares” and “Bar Rescue.” Disclosure: This post is sponsored by a Work It Daily-approved expert. You can learn more about expert posts here.Photo Credit: Bigstock