Famed author, Napoleon Hill is best known for his extraordinary book, Think and Grow Rich, but did you know he was also a professional résumé writer? I made the discovery recently as I was leafing through his famous book for the umpteenth time! But, instead of calling the document a résumé or CV, he termed it a “Brief”.
So confident was he about his ability and the effectiveness of his ‘brief’, that he unequivocally stated, “The information described here is the net result of many years of experience during which thousands of men and women were helped to market their services effectively. It can, therefore, be relied upon as sound and practical.” Wow! How bold, Mr. Hill!
For those who believe they can prepare their résumés in a hurry, or that it doesn’t take much effort to develop an effective résumé, or it’s just a typing job, read Mr. Hill’s thoughts on that:
“This brief should be prepared as carefully as a lawyer would prepare the brief of a case to be tried in court. Unless the applicant is experienced in the preparation of such briefs, an expert should be consulted, and his services enlisted for this purpose. Successful merchants employ men and women who understand the art and the psychology of advertising to present the merits of their merchandise. One who has personal services for sale should do the same.”
Mr. Hill implied here that if one does not have the experience in preparing their own ‘briefs’, “an expert should be consulted and his services enlisted for this purpose.” “Hello dear reader, are you still with me?”
While career coaches and professional résumé writers prefer to use the top third of the résumé – referred to as ‘prime real estate’ – to summarize the client’s brand and personal statements which capture attention, we might cut Mr. Hill some slack for starting the ‘brief’ with Education, as in:
“State briefly, but definitely, what schooling you have had, and in what subjects you specialized in school, giving the reasons for that specialization.”
That was what was common in his day.
He then continued: “If you have had experience in connection with positions similar to the one you seek, describe it fully, [and] state names and addresses of former employers. Be sure to bring out clearly any special experience you may have had which would equip you to fill the position you seek.”
This statement is significant. He implies here that it is not necessary to include all one’s experiences, because, in fact, that would take several pages for some of us. We should dissect the job posting then select and use only the experiences that relate to the employer’s requirements.
On the subject of references, Mr. Hill said, “Practically every business firm desires to know all about the previous records, antecedents, etc., of prospective employees who seek positions of responsibility. Attach to your brief photostatic copies of letters from:
- Former employers
- Teachers under whom you studied
- Prominent people whose judgement may be relied upon.
- Photograph of self. Attach to your brief a recent, unmounted photograph of yourself.”
Well, way back in 1937 when the book was written, it was customary to provide all of the above, but these days job seekers are advised to make sure they have their reference list ready, but rather than attaching it to the résumé, they should wait until they are asked for it. Of course, attaching a photograph to one’s résumé is not normally done, but with the availability of social media platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Google +, it’s difficult for job seekers to hide. Testimonials and LinkedIn recommendations also play a role in the modern reference process.
Mr. Hill also believed, like career service professionals do, that the résumé should be focused. Too many times I am asked by some job seekers to develop a generic one-size-fits-all résumé. Here’s what Mr. Hill said about this:
“Apply for a specific position. Avoid application for a position without describing EXACTLY what particular position you seek. Never apply for ‘just a position.’ That indicates you lack specialized qualifications. State your qualifications for the particular position for which you apply. Give full details as to the reason you believe you are qualified for the particular position you seek.”
Mr. Hill also wrote about having a neat and professional résumé. He said, “Remember another thing; neatness in the preparation of your brief will indicate that you are a painstaking person.” One of the unwritten rules of résumé writing is that it must be free from grammar and spelling errors and it must be pleasing to the eye. No different from what Napoleon Hill stated so many years ago.
Finally, and this is where I draw my conclusion that the man was a professional résumé writer. He said, “I have helped to prepare briefs for clients which were so striking and out of the ordinary that they resulted in the employment of the applicant without a personal interview.”
The briefs that he prepared “were so striking and out of the ordinary…” They stood out; they were not created from templates and they were not generic. In other words, they were customized and reflected the job seeker’s personal brand! Résumé writers, career coaches and Napoleon Hill are on the same page when it comes to résumé creation. We painstakingly apply proven strategies that position our clients for job search success!
What are your thoughts? Was Napoleon Hill a professional résumé writer? Have your say.