Thursday, December 17, 2009

20 Job Search Answers You Need To Know | #6 What should be in a resume?

A: Why what you did mattered. 
Note: The judges would also have accepted smart and get stuff done to advance to the bonus round of our game.

Here’s a few of my favorite rants on the topics covering questions I have answered over the years when in comes to resumes:

1. Don’t make me guess what you did

The first rule of a resume is to not make it an Easter Egg hunt for the hiring manager. As a hiring manger, I don’t want to do the math for you. If you are applying (for example) for a project management job, it might be nice if one or both of those words would appear on the front page of your resume (even better if they were side by side at least once). If I can’t tell why you’re qualified for the job in the first ten seconds, I am not going to take even another single second to try and figure it out.  Game over.

That’s why (in addition to the cover letter – since they often get separated) a career or skills summary atop the resume is usually a good idea (and helps set the stage for the rest of your resume). From the first paragraph, the hiring manager should have a mental picture in their head of who you are and what makes you special (and hopefully that does not involve orange hair and big, red floppy shoes).

2. Your Objective is less important to me

One of the most (misguided) resume debates is: Should I have an Objective on my resume? Yes – but we already covered that. Your object is to get an interview. Putting that on a resume would be tacky. This stolid vestigial resume remnant has no place in a post-Eisenhower world.

If you start your resume with (something like) I am looking for a management position where I can effectively utilize my expertise in human resources and project management, and staff recruitment and retention I would say to you go start your own company.

3. Smart and get stuff done

I sound like a broken record on this point. I first nicked smart and get stuff done from Joel On Software for 5 Traits of a Virtuoso BA | Trait #2: Smart, Get Stuff Done.  Again -smart is great. Always hire smart. But I need to be able to see that you can get stuff done or you’ll just frustrate the bejesus out of everyone else (including me).

4. Don’t make me guess why I should give a rip about what you did

I know you spent the last two years of your life working on the MYPPS project (which was a replacement for DITT3 platform). However – with just that description, I don’t know if you developed the next generation ERP platform, the everlasting gobstopper or you’ve just come down with a new-fangled STD.

I know everyone else in Morning Glow, Texas knows that BBSCo is the town’s biggest employer [okay – I made up the company name but the town is real] – but the 308 Million other people in the US (including me) have never heard of it.  So explain what you did (and what the company you did it at did).

Further – I don’t want your job description or a list of your daily tasks (since that’s kind of the same).  I want metrics (and juicy ones at that). 

Resume metrics sound like this:

    • I increased sales of x% in a $x revenue company
    • Achieved inventory reduction goal of x% in the first three months resulting in $xx,xxx,xxx in additional available cash flow
    • Automated billing process resulting in reduction of x FTEs year over year resulting in a saving of $xxx,xxx annually
    • Reduced employee attrition by x% in a xx,xxxx employee firm by giving everyone free pop-tarts on their birthday

Not only do these pop out of the resume – they also are great hooks for you during the interview (should you hopefully get that far).to-tell-the-truth_bw-only

But be careful. You’ll need to answer for the numbers and exaggerated delusions of grandeur that you used:

  • If sales did increase 10% - you need to explain what you did to make it happen (and did you sustain it).
  • If you use precise figures (e.g. reduced annual operating budget by $2,094.21) – be prepared to show your math, Professor.

5. Words matter

I saved this for last – because a lot of people think I whine to much about this. And yes – content matters over style. But I think your resume should have power verbs lightly sprinkled throughout.

But lighten up Francis – don’t go crazy and use 348 of them in one resume (as to make you sound stilted and stolid). But done with moderation and without repetition – it can add some muscle to the page.

On the flip side, avoid passive words/phrases like acted as (where you in a play?) and participated in (did you get coffee for the group that did the actual work?).

Up Next: What is the purpose of the interview?

Disclaimer: As with all job search advice you receive (from here or elsewhere), results may vary – use at your own risk. You must be the captain of your own career. The last thing I say to all my career coach clients is “ignore what you want, use what make sense to you – and if something works for you – pass it on”.

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