Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Beware of Using Unfamiliar Terms and Brands On Your Resume

Résumés are supposed to communicate what you do and what you have accomplished.  As I have written before, in advertising, when seeing your résumé the first time, all anyone wants to know is where you worked, what you worked on, how long you were there and whether you were promoted.  

I see résumés all the time with what I call “client speak” in them.  People use terms which are meaningful within the context of their own company or client but which have little relevance on the outside.  You must be aware of these terms and the fact that people don't necessarily know what you are talking about.

People from abroad often list unfamiliar brand names in résumés; they may be big and important in their country, but are unknown here and therefore meaningless in terms of a US job. You cannot assume that people who will see your résumé will automatically know what you are talking about.

One of the best examples of this actually happened to me. When I was an account person, I was telling a commuter friend that I was in the process of launching a new product.  He asked me what kind of “module” I was using.  I immediately replied that I didn’t think I should discuss it.  However, the truth was, I didn’t know what a module was. I had never heard the term. I called everyone I knew in the business and no one else seemed to know what a module was.  I finally called a friend at this person’s agency and asked him and he didn’t know either.  He researched it and called me back to tell me that it was a term used on this person’s account – in those days Coca-Cola at McCann-Erickson. It was client-speak.  A module was Coke’s way of describing a marketing roll-out plan; it was a term only used at McCann on Coca-Cola.

This kind of client speak is meaningless outside of that particular client, especially out of context. It does not belong on a résumé. When creating your résumé, you must be sure that it is understood by anyone reading it.

People who have worked abroad should not assume that everyone outside their markets knows their brands.  A lot of educated and sophisticated people do not know that Ariel is Tide in Europe.  I saw a résumé of someone who worked in England on BskyB.  I haven’t a clue what that is.  A small parenthesis explaining it would have been useful.  

That also  goes for smaller companies.  A small hot advertising agency in, say, Seattle, may be unknown outside of the market.  A parenthesis saying, “Seattle’s hottest digital ad agency” could go a long way towards getting you an interview.

In addition to unknown brands or companies, I see initials all the time which have no relevance.
Here are some terms and expressions I commonly see (all picked out of recent résumés I have received).  If you know what they all mean, you are better than I am. I can often figure out the initials in the context of the résumé, but sometimes not.

ATL, BTL, BAL, OCH, LOB, ITDM, SOV, 3BL, LOHAS, SME, ARPU, SOX, LATAM, APAC, Leveraged Marketing, Orgullosa.

I got an email recently from a CEO asking for an NED job.  I had to ask her what that was and when I was told, I am still not sure I know what it really means!

The issue here is that these terms and words are so familiar at work that everyone assumes everyone else knows them.  The best thing you can do is show your résumé to a friend or neighbor who is not in your business and ask them if they understand every term you have used. 


  1. Hello,
    Great topic as usual; pray tell what NED means within the CEO request context. I know it as an derogatory Scottish term for the lowest form of football hooligan or lager lout!

    1. Lisa: It is a CEO who is a Non-Executive Director, whatever that is.

    2. Thank goodness; a British friend believes it's a Non-Educated Delinquent...which seems pretty clear.

  2. Actually, Paul, I'll go one-step further.
    Everything you write should be jargon-free.

    1. Good point, George. If jargon gets in the way of communication it needs to go.

  3. I get your point...and it is a fair one but shouldn't most people understand the industry jargon? I mean it would be different if someone was changing careers but in the interest of brevity shouldn't a resume say things like: The BTL strategy for LATAM was based on a panel of SMEs and then rolled out to the APAC market. A year later it was adopted for ATL. Imagine how long that sentence would be if it was spelled out?

    If the sarcasm meter wasn't on...I was joking. Not joking about this...I think an older version of my resume has SMEs on it (Subject Matter Expert)...it might be the last version of my resume you have...hope it is not me that you are talking about...I'm happy in my job these days but if I'm on the market again I'll make sure to qualify my experience in the EMEA market.

    1. I just realized that I might have used SME for small and medium enterprises in other instances...so wow...good point

    2. The point, to be clear, is that everyone who looks at your resume should be able to understand it. And I don't know who you are since you are anonymous :-).

  4. Who are you? And to what purpose do you want to use copywrited material.

  5. how i get the qualities about view from Madison Avenue?
    thanks for introduce very informative post.

    Brand Marketing Agency In Singapore

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