Recently, I had to do some hiring for a couple of positions that I had. What quickly came to my head was how many of the resumes could be improved. Usually, I write about some new technology that I have used, but due to the economy, I wanted to write an article on how to write a better resume. Now some may have some different viewpoints, and that is good, I would like a good discussion on this topic. However, for each section, I will try to explain my reasoning.
Sections that I typically see are listed below
Although this section you might think is a given, I have seen mistakes in something as simple as this. The name section should be nothing more than your name, address, phone numbers, and email address. The address is something that is up to you if you want it in there. However, you do need to have the others. If you are missing them, there is no way that I can contact you if I like your resume. At this point, you are probably laughing, but I have received a resume with only a name on it. Now, how am I going to call you back for a interview? Here is one that is not that big, but is important, it is nice to have your name in your email address. I have to save your email and put it in a folder. I print out your resume to read or show others. If for some reason I have to check the email you sent, I will not be able to find it easily. Do not make it hard for me to try to find your email based on your name in the top of your resume. If I cannot find your email, I will file your resume in the circular file. An example is, the name is Joe Average but your email address is Boozer@drunken.com. I will not be able to find you easily.
This section has many variants, and not everyone has this. But what I like to see, being the hiring manager, is a brief description of what type of job you are looking for and maybe a piece on what you are looking for down the road. When I have several openings, I need to quickly tell if a resume is for one position or another, and how I do this is quickly glance the objective section; if I cannot tell what position you are looking for, it gives me reason to not read any more. I should be able to tell very quickly that you are looking for a QA, developer, or a documentation position. Do not tell me “To obtain a challenging position in a progressive company”, everyone writes that and it means nothing. In fact, if I read it, I might think less of you since it is not you, you have copied this from other resumes.
Summary of qualifications/ Professional summary
If you have this section, make a brief couple of bullet points to tell me what your high points are. Do not make it long, it should be short and really point out your strengths. One key point here is that if you list something here, I had better see it in your experience section.
This is the section of the resume I look at for the technical positions, to see if you know the set of tools that we are using. Just like the previous section, if you list something here, I had better see it used in the experience section. Otherwise, I will assume you are just listing items here to be picked up in job filters. In one recent resume, I saw this section long but no corresponding entries in the experience section. I have to assume he or she was just listing them to be noticed.
I pay close attention to this section. What I am looking for is to see what your contribution was to the projects that you worked on. The best thing to say is “I did this using that”. I would also be looking to see the technologies that I need. I would want to see how you used the items I am looking for. I try to match up the skills in this section to the skills listed in the skills section. If you do not list the technologies, I cannot see if and when you used the technologies that I am looking for.
There are a couple of thoughts on this section; one is that under certain conditions, you want to have this in the front of the resume. The thought is that if you have something really good to show, then show it. Second is to put it towards the end of the resume. The thought here is that it was a while ago so it does not have as much of an impact. The placement is up to you. I prefer it in the back, I am looking for the technical skills, and unless you are a recent graduate, the school is of less importance.
Another item is do you show your GPA. To me it does not matter. The prevailing thought is, if you have over 3.0, then show it, otherwise do not. Now since everyone knows this, if you do not see the GPA, you then assume his or her GPA. Personally, I would recommend not putting them on unless you are a recent graduate. After a while in the workforce, it looks funny.
Please make sure you have your full name in the file name. If I am receiving many resumes, I cannot tell the difference between yours and someone else's, if the file names are all called resume.docx. I will probably lose someone’s and you do not want it to be yours. When I send out my resume, I also include a date on the file name so I can tell what version I sent to what employer. I do try to tailor each cover letter and resume for an employer. Because I do that, I can have many resumes. If I get a call for a phone screen, I want to reference the resume that I sent that company and not a different one.
Having a picture in the resume will not work for you. It may look good, but on several levels, you should not have it. One is that it may show your age. The other is that you may not be hired because of how you look; you want to be hired based on your skills.
The longest resume I have received lately was nine pages; I only looked at the first two, maybe three. Do not think I care what you did ten years ago; it is probably irrelevant and very old technology, so I do not need to see it. I am trying to fill a position in the company, not read a short novel about your personal life history.
Always put your name and page number in a footer or someplace else. This is so if the pages are dropped, I can find the pages and the order of them. I try to keep them in order, and if I print them, staple them together, but Murphy was an optimist, things happen.
I guess the items that you should get out of this are not to give me a reason to throw your resume into the circular file cabinet. The more you make your resume stand out, the better chance you have in getting a phone call.
Another thing to remember is if you do not fit the job, then do not apply for it. I have seen many friends who have said, well, there may not be any perfect fit, so they may hire me. If you are not a good fit, then do not apply; if there is no perfect fit, the hiring company will look longer. They will settle, but only if there is a close fit. Do not waste your time in sending the resume, and the hiring manager's time to read a resume that does not fit.
Do not have a pretty background or watermark on your resume, or black sidebars or other ways you might think makes your resume stand out. They do not; please do not put those on your paper.
Watch the white space, have a good balance between some white space so it does not look cluttered, and not so much. One resume I had, they had indented so many times, the sentence to describe what you did was only three inches wide. The resume looked very funny; it had so much white space, they had very little opportunity to show what they accomplished.
Now, if you have a good resume and so do many others, how do you stand out and get a job? Well, you have to do something that makes people want to read yours and not read any others, or at least not read any more resumes. You have to read the position and tailor your resume to highlight the skills they are looking for and you have used in the last job. You need to do this in both your resume and the cover letter.
In addition, if you have your resume in a Word document or PDF, that is fine, they will keep their format. I received a resume in a text file and it lost all of its formatting. I was not going to use my time trying to reformat the file to get a resume that I can read.
Last, but not least, you do not need to write “references upon request”; it is a given that you will give them. In addition, always run a spell checker, which shows attention to detail; if you have gross spelling errors, it shows you have no attention to detail.
Points of interest
I hope that this helps a few of the readers; I know that not everyone will agree with everything. Some managers may want a long resume, it may give them something to do. If you have any comments or find I missed something (which I know I did), please add the comments below.
- 04 October 2009 - Initial release.
I am a Director of Engineering, have an MBA and work in C# forms, Asp.Net and vb.net. I have been writing Windows program since windows 3.0. I am currently working in the Healthcare industry.
I enjoy reading, music (most types), and learning new technology. I am involved in opensource projects at codeplex.
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