THE WHAT & WHY OF YOUR RESUME
THE WHAT & WHY OF YOUR RESUME
Submitted by: Mike Doody, CCC Volunteer & Board Member / Retired Executive Search Consultant
As most job seekers know, there seem to be a lot more answers than there are questions to the what & why of the resume. But let's not deny the fact that there are a lot of questions about resumes. Why? Well, the answer is simple, because there are a lot of opinions about the what & why of the resume -- and there are few rules regulating the resume. So that is the simple answer, but the whole topic is somewhat confusing. In the interest of reducing some of the confusion, let's explore some of the more common questions and viewpoints and see if we can make sense out of it all.
* As most of our readers are aware, if you ask 5 people to review/comment on your resume -- you'll get at least 6 opinions. While it is important to seek out the view of others whose opinion you trust, remember in the end, it is your resume. You have to feel good about it, you have to feel a sense of ownership of the resume. In a hypothetical situation, if you were ever in an interview and the interviewer asked (when pointing to a section of the resume): "Why did you format it this way?" You cannot answer: "Well Mike at CCC thought it was a good idea!"
* Why so many opinions? Because there is not a set of Ten Commandments for the Resume. There is not a list of: Thou shalt not ... Thou shalt always . . . The exception to that (Yes, there are many exceptions to the answers you'll hear about your resume!) -- the resume must be accurate/truthful; there must not be any typographical errors or misspellings. AND IT SHOULD BE VERY READABLE.
* Why readable? Because most search consultants, internal recruiters and hiring managers, do not spend a lot of time reviewing a resume for the first time. Maybe 20 or 30 seconds reviewing it. They usually have a significant number of resumes to review for each job vacancy. While looking at the resume, the recruiter/hiring manger is thinking about the job profile/position listing/job description. When looking at the resume, the reader mentally checks off what items from the position listing are included in the resume -- in other words in 20/30 seconds how much of a match is there.
* Given the above, I have always believed that THE purpose of the resume is to get you the interview. And if the hiring manager/recruiter is only initially spending 20-30 seconds to review the resume, then format and font size of the resume -- its READABILITY -- are very important. Readability is as important as content.
* If the resume is too crowded, too tight -- not easily read -- it won't get by that first reading. If the font size requires me to squint to read it -- it won't get by that first reading. If it is too wordy, has very tight right and left hand margins, has little space between paragraphs -- it won't get by that first reading. You do not need to tell me everything you did in each of your positions -- you need to highlight they key experiences you have had and what you would bring to the next position.
* So, as many suggest, should the resume be no more than two pages? Not necessarily. If you are a recent college graduate (a Millennial), you probably don't need more than two pages, because your career is probably not very long. But if you have 15/20+ years of experience, I think the resume -- if it covers your career in a complete, but concise manner and the format is easy to read -- can be more than two pages long. Especially if you include your complete career and include sections on education/certifications, as well as volunteer or community activities.
* Should the resume -- for those with 15+ years of experience -- only go back about 10 years when laying out the career? Many people believe the answer to that questions is "Yes." I don't. I believe the resume should include your entire professional career. As a job seeker today, what you have to offer to that next employer is the cumulative experience you have had, the job growth you have experienced, the various places you have worked. The person you are today is, in part, the result of all the work experiences you have had. And for those of us with 15+ years of experience, one of the key strengths we will bring to that next employer is our experience.
* I am not a fan of putting a title ("Brand Manager" or "Administrative Position") at the top of the resume. I believe the opening statement should be focused on what you are looking for, not where you have been or why you are qualified for such a role. That opening statement is best if it is only 2 or 3 lines in length, which can then be followed with a section on Core Competencies.
* For the Core Competencies (or Key Strengths section) I like using 2 or 3 columns and with no more than 5 bullet points before each 2 or 3 word competency. I suggest three columns max. This section should pop-out, should get the reader to quickly focus on what you want that person to learn about you and what you would bring to the position. It is all about readability and format.
* Be consistent with format throughout the entire resume. In laying out the most recent position -- if you start with the company name & location, followed on the next line with you title -- then use that same format with each job you include. And if you place the dates you were in that role at the right hand margin, then place the dates there with each job you list. And I suggest you not include the months when you started and left that position. The dates you were in that given position, for example, should read "2009-2017". Not "April 2009-January 2017".
* After listing each position if you believe it is necessary, then list a few key responsibilities of the role and several accomplishments you had in that role. Whenever you can use statistics to document an accomplishment, it strengthens what you are attempting to communicate. E.g.: Improving net revenue is important and notable. But improving net revenue from 6% to 11% is MORE NOTABLE.
* Should I tweak each resume I send for each individual position? Many people would answer that question with a strong YES. My answer is NO!!! If you change the resume each time you send it for each different opportunity, you'll be spending far too much time on the resume. When you send a resume for a new opportunity, send a brief -- one page -- cover letter that addresses: why you are interested in the position; why you are most qualified for the position (with 3-5 brief paragraphs that speak to your specific experience as it relates to what the position listing is calling for); and why you are interested in that company. Then, ask for the opportunity to come in and meet the person!
I know there are many more questions on the minds of job seekers regarding the resume. Keep in mind -- the format or readability is as important as the content. And remember that if the recruiter or hiring manager is only spending 20-30 seconds reviewing the resume -- you want to be sure your resume is easy to read, calls attention to your strengths and presents you in a positive light!