Thursday, January 12, 2012

Resume Remix - 5 ways to tighten yours up


It's that time of year. Usually at the beginning of the year, I end up helping folks out with their resumes. I've done seven so far this year. I don't mind doing it, I've spent over 15 years in recruiting and I know what catches a recruiter or hiring manager's eye. But every year, I see some of the same "old school" resume characteristics. Let's drag those resumes into 2012, shall we?

Your resume is your representative. It has to sell me on you at a glance. I need to know within my first scan that you are worth a follow-up email or phone call. I have 400 resumes in my inbox, yours needs to be the one at the top of the stack. I'm not looking for a reason to keep you, I'm looking for a reason to discard you so I can get to the next one. We're all about decreasing quantity and increasing quality in the HR field. Harsh but true.

Okay, so everyone knows the resume basics: name and contact information at the top. An introduction (see number 2 below) then work history, education, and certificates/licenses. No large fonts, no cutesy fonts, no funky colors, no all caps. Spell check is your friend, grammar check is your partner - use them!

1. The One-Page Resume is a myth - If you've been working for more than five years and/or have a robust work history; it's really not necessary to trim your resume to one page. In fact, many times the one page works against you. You want as many opportunities as possible to catch the recruiter's eye. Three pages is fine, more than that (unless you are an executive or highly technical) and you need to have an addendum. For instance, if you have a list of projects or technologies or published works you want to share - put that on a separate one sheet. 

2. Summary of Qualifications is a must - An objective line is take it or leave it. On the one hand, it's a quick way to tell the company what you are looking for. On the other hand, it's a quick way to get yourself disqualified. If you keep it fairly generic: Professional self-starter with over 10 years of finance experience ready to take next step in dynamic company - you're in a good place. I always (always, always) recommend that job seekers have a bulleted section at the top summarizing their qualifications. No more than 5 bullets identifying successes, skillset, background highlights and technical knowledge.

3. Descriptive but short is the only way to go - As you describe your employment history be sure to include company name, location, title, years of service. Your descriptions should be expressive but crisp. You should include duties, responsibilities, successes, accolades, budgets managed in snippets. Do not write lengthy paragraphs detailing all of your accomplishments for the past ten years. This is a place where if you're in doubt about content or format - go to the easy four bullet template. First two bullets should describe your day to day duties and over-arcing responsibilities. Next bullet describes your projects or long-term goals. The next bullet is your success. So if you were a checker at Wal-Mart your description would be
  • Brought efficiency and professionalism to customer service on a daily basis for this multi-national retailer. Handled sales transactions and merchandise bagging.
  • Assisted with inventory, sales & marketing, customer relations and other duties as needed.
  • Based on consistently stellar reviews, working towards management position over course of next two years.
  • Received Employee of the Month award twice in six month time period.
4. Leave off the personal stuff (we're begging you) - It's great that you kayak, mountain bike and lead Girl Scout troops on the weekend but unless you are searching for a job where those skills are revered - leave them off. On the flip, if you are going for a sales or marketing job there's no harm in mentioning that you were head cheerleader or president of the future tycoons of America. Also, never put your marital status on your resume. 

5. "References are available on request" is so last century - We know this. You absolutely do not have to tell us. In an age where companies can ask for a DNA sample prior to employment, you think we don't know you'll give us your references? Just leave that sentence off. It takes up space where you could have told us something useful.

I always recommend that you have a few different versions of your resume to target different fields or industries. If you're really struggling to decide what to write, go out to a job board and pull up descriptions for the kind of job you've done and the kind of job you're looking for and "borrow" key phrases that fit your background. Last but not least, if you are applying for a position that requires X, Y, & Z please make sure your resume addresses X, Y & Z somewhere in the content. Not the cover letter (80% of those don't get read) but inside the body of the resume.

I've seen some tragic resumes in my day. Just yesterday I opened up an attachment for a Project Manager position and the guy had written three sentences and then said "call to find out more" - no sir. Make sure your email address is professional. DoMeBaby69 at gmail dot com is going to get you the side eye. You can fluff a resume but don't pad the hell out of it. Had a guy who was a ticket taker at the fair call himself a Professional Courtesy Transfer and Intake Specialist. What? I'm just saying, when in doubt - leave it out. One of my favorites is the young lady who was imprisoned for four years and stated that as "Personal Sabbatical to Reflect on Life Choices Before Re-Entering Professional Word." Ooookay then. 

I could go on and on, but it's your turn. BougieLand, any questions? Any resume tragedies to share? Thoughts, comments, insights? The floor is yours...

52 comments:

Jennifer said...

"call to find out more"?????  is it a resume or a match.com profile - geez!

The worst resume I ever saw was at a job fair in college, the guy actually had a header of "Resume" instead of  his name.  I wonder if anyone pulled him aside to give him some pointers. 

Jubi The Great said...

Great list Chele. I use the Summary of Qualifications section - since I'm a technical person I use that space to highlight the various laboratory techniques/instruments I specialize in, along with things like certs & clearance.

I'd like to add:
- Have a few people look at your resume. They can give you feedback & also see the spelling/grammatical errors that your eyes keep skipping over
- Unless you're in school looking for an internship or first job, no need to list your relevant coursework on your resume.
- Use action words to describe what you DID, not what your duties were. If it's truthful, highlight how you saved X amount, or shortened the turnaround time, or brought your project in under-budget & early. Give examples of your successes that are quantifiable, if you can. Example - "Implemented Lean Six Sigma methodology to reduce increase testing throughput by 30%". Action verb + quantifiable.
- If you've been working for a while, don't list EVERY job you had. My first job was at McDonald's but you'd never see it on my resume.
- If you can, don't use the "resume" templates in Microsoft Word. They are so boring & generic. Either format your own from scratch or Google is your friend. You can find lots of examples that you can use for inspiration.

Rhokeutk said...

Get advice. I am in med device sales and constantly get asked what the secret to my success has been. People send me resumes all the time and I am not an HR person but I see some really terrible things. How can I pass your resume on if it looks like garbage?

RH said...

*Great advice damn iPad

Penny said...

Great tips Jubi!!

One suggestion I'd like to add, if you are mailing your resume and/or cover letter in response to an ad, please send a sample email with using the same attachments to yourself to ensure the documents you are sending are the ones you want to send.  If I work at IBM, I don't want to get the cover letter that you sent to Xerox.   Just yesterday, I received an email with a resume and cover letter as attachments.  The sender mistakenly sent me his cover letter on which he had used the MS Word Track Changes feature to alter the text, but he neglected to hit the "Accept All Changes" button on his final submission. So, the cover letter I received was his standard cover letter, with all the corrections he had made to apply to the position I posted.   I am actually going to send his resume back and tell him he sent the wrong version, and give him an opportunity to resend.  Not everyone would do that, and if you are submitting your resume using one of the applicant tracking systems, you will be SOL (shut out of luck.)  Your application will automatically be relegated to the "thanks for applying, but no" pile. 

My personal pet peeve-the word "awesome" should never be used in a cover letter or resume.  People, when applying for a job, remember to present your best self.  The market is so competitive today, you don't want to take yourself out of the running before the race even starts.

GammasWorld said...

I did some first round interviewing for the gig recently.   Not only do we need resume tips but we really, really need some interviewing tips and practice sessions.   For everyone making cutesy youtube videos, there needs to be 10 more utilizing the medium to ask for professional feedback on some practice interviews.  But that's just me.  For all the newly degreed folk coming out of colleges,  whether they be AAs or Bachelors, some of these younguns can't interview worth a damn.  Not.A.Damn.   I ended the week wishing I could put together a bootcamp for getting them ready for corporate shiggity, starting with "talking the talk".     Oh and the young lady with the personal sabbatical, if she wrote that line herself then I give all kinds of props to her creativeness ... marketing candidate per chance?

Mr. Skyywalker said...

I haven't done jail time personally but a few of my homies... what should they put down for their "away" years?

OneChele said...

Leave it off and let the recruiter ask you about the break in service. 

Pretty Primadonna said...

If one has been terminated from a position, how can one gracefully represent that on an online application that inquires as to the "reason for leaving" said position?

OneChele said...

Just because someone was terminated does not mean they didn't "leave to seek better opportunities" - unless it's a pull down menu where you have to chose resigned, laid off or fired? Use a euphemism. And in an interview, never give those details. "Lack of cultural fit" or "differing opinions on the next steps in my career" are generic without being inflammatory.

AnnettePearl said...

Once interviewed this guy who said he just got tired of looking at his coworkers and wanted a change of pace. #WDDDA?

The_A said...

Nice info. Thanks for sharing your expertise.

You say 80% of cover letters don't get read. What difference does it make if applicants have or don't have one?

I never liked reading resumes especially cover letters. I could never get away from any recruiting duties fast enough for my liking. The only thing worse was compensation & benefits. Although you rarely see a good recruiter want for employment.

OneChele said...

Sometimes a company requires one for their online application so it's good to have a generic, two paragraph letter stashed someone on your computer for a "just in case" situation. Also, if you're emailing your resume directly to a  recruiter, you can cut and paste that cover letter and use it in the body of your email. Otherwise - it makes no difference.

Recruiting is the only part of HR I'll still do ;-) No more employee relations, payroll, or benefits drama for me.

Alia Moss said...

Thanks for the tips Chele!
I need to revisit my resume. I updated it last year I believe, but I remember finding it difficult to not sound repetitive. I've been in the same department for 10+ years, moving up the promotion scale. From Jr/Int/Sr Analyst, the duties weren't very different. They're not radically different now, but since I'm a Manager I can add a project lead and supervisory activities. 
I'll definitely have to use the four bullet template.

Trey Charles said...

That's why you do what you do, you made that check out guy some hella good!

thinklikeRiley said...

*emails resume to 1C for touch ups*
Thanks Bouge!

maureen said...

Great stuff. Thanks Onechele!

NtrlGAGirl said...

Thanks for this!  I'm currently looking for employment leaving work to complete my degree.  The school's career counselor is a help but not a lot so this is right on time!

NtrlGAGirl said...

*after* leaving work

SingLikeSassy said...

I use my resume space to tell you what I did above and beyond the job requirements. If I'm applying for a job  and list "reporter," folks in my industry already know pretty much what that job entails -- working a beat, breaking news, turning stories on deadline. So I tell you about the award-winning stories/projects I worked on while I had that gig, the stories I reported and wrote that weren't on my beat and so forth. 

TNDRHRT said...

When I was briefly unemployed in the spring, my former company provided me with services to a talent and career management firm.  When discussing my resume, they suggested that it is fine to include the URL to your LinkedIn profile on your resume.  What do you think?  I think it is a good suggestion.  While looking for work, many recruiters asked me if I had a LinkedIn profile that they could view in addition to my resume.  I do and it worked to my advantage.

SingLikeSassy said...

Also, once during an interview we asked a guy about his "break in service" and he said he was part of a cult for those four years.

Imma need him to find something else to say when asked that question in the future.

Penny said...

HR drama-now there is a book.  :)

CaliGirlED said...

*raises hand* One of the 7! Definitely appreciated the feedback!!!...Glad Chele didn't have to "re-do" mine. A few tweeks and I was good to go. Let's me know I was on the right track. (One thing I forgot was the Employee of the Year Award that I received.) *goes to add that*

Chele, do I list the committees that I've chaired, or save that the interview?

CaliGirlED said...

Right! Shooot he could hold his head up high carrying around that kind of resume! LOL

cw90 said...

This post was awesome! *looks at my own resume* - question, though, any thoughts for folks who will be relocating to another state and looking for employment?

I've seen just how "creative" some people can get with their resume and then show up to the interview, looking like, "who done it" - lol! 

OneChele said...

I would add a statement right under your address line that reads: Planning to relocate to New City within XX months.

OneChele said...

Save it for the interview.

OneChele said...

#FAIL

OneChele said...

Depends on how dedicated you are to your LinkedIn account. I haven't updated mine in a minute

OneChele said...

Don't I know it.

blackprofessor said...

Hey Chele, I use the curriculum vitae.  Any tips for how to spruce it up?

maureen said...

Another resume struggle is; changing careers & trying to translate previous experience to your current career.

OneChele said...

On a CV, instead of bullets do numbering. You want less "overview" and more detailed descriptions. You should include research, grants, fellowships, publications, classwork, teaching experience with detail on the type of students/audience and schools. One version of a CV that I like is a variation on the chronological format, sometimes for that level of detail it's great to have experience grouped by discipline.

OneChele said...

In that case, I would include an explanatory statement near the top of your resume for why you feel your skills can be transferred to a different job category.

DCbywayofCali said...

The one thing I haven't worked out lately is promotions w/in the same department at the same institution.  Any tips on doing this effectively? Please, and thank you in advance.

rhenewal said...

My resume definitely needs an update. I find it difficult to approach, for some reason. I'm in Nursing, looking to transition from one type of unit to a more critical care environment. I'm having trouble figuring out hoe to organize my work experiences/responsibilities and present them in a way that stands out from that of any other Med-Surg nurse.

C Nelson said...

*jawdrop.*

...  maybe he thought it reflected his willingness to take directionand work as part of a team? ... yeah, I don't even know.

C Nelson said...

"I made some poor choices and it took some time to correct them; since then I have..." ... or will that not fly?  ;)

OneChele said...

List the new title and put (promotion) in parentheses next to it and then bullet out your new scope of responsibilities.

OneChele said...

You may want to list a triumph or milestone that someone else hasn't accomplished.

OneChele said...

Well, you may not want to admit to not having sound judgment unless you absolutely have to :-)

Jazzy Jazz said...

*runs to redo the resume.* I have always felt that my resume sucks, now I know why it does. Thanks!! How do you feel about putting jobs that only lasted a few months on the resume? I have several jobs that only lasted 90 days. 

OneChele said...

Lump them together as "Short term assignments" and one line them under there.

Earthangel172 said...

::checking my resume as we speak:: LOL

IMO, I should get a solid C+ for my current resume. I need to spruce up my employment history and highlight my measly accomplishments.  Yes, I tried to cram 10+ years in the legal field on one page.

::holds head in shame::

Do people really put "References Furnished Upon Request" at the bottom of their resume in 2012?! The hayle. LOL

Also, can you post tips for interviewing with prospective employers? I plan to make a move this year, if the Lord says the same, and I haven't interviewed in a LONG time so I'm a little rusty.

Earthangel172 said...

LOL!

Earthangel172 said...

Honestly I can relate to his feelings but I wouldn't say it in an interview.

GammasWorld said...

Can we get a little sneak peep at this man known as Riley?  What does he do for a living?  

maureen said...

Thank you Chele. I had to  print this post- great stuff in here.

C Nelson said...

I guess it depends on how long ago those choices were made and how bad they were.  "I killed both my parents in cold blood" vs "I made a habit of  shoplifting as an adolescent" -- both'll get you that break in your resume, but one can be explained with a rueful smile and an acknowledgement that we do dumb things when we're young.

Pretty Primadonna said...

Thanks!

Alwknight said...

thank you thank you thank you! i have been out of work for about 3 years and still no luck, but with these tools i know something will turn around.

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