Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Résumé Review

My eye caught the headline of a Forbes article about résumés ("sometimes spelled resumé or resume" according to Wikipedia, so I'll just stick with resume, since that way I don't need to manage that odd little accent mark).
I massaged my resume, beat it up, stuffed it into differing formats, and pummeled it to fit specific job niches, all in an effort to perfect it so my reader was impressed. I'm better at writing short stories.
I'm good at what I do, but I'm not good at advertising how good I am. I am famous (infamous?) among my peers for some of my strengths. Excel is one of my major strengths, and I am often asked to help with data problems. (Here at work I am part of a group of people considered SMEs, Subject Matter Experts, for both Excel and Access.) People think I will whip up a brilliant Excel macro to handle their data manipulation (and I can and have) but quite often I can resolve the problem using well-handled functions directly in the spreadsheet. I consider these to be training opportunities for the people who ask and we both go away happier. I get to do something fun (briefly) and they learn something new (hopefully).
How do I advertise something like that on a resume? I have no idea. The article doesn't help me on that. This one might, but I've not studied it yet.
The article makes the point that every word needs to highlight your abilities. That's what I always say about a good story. Each word should enhance the sentence, not detract from it. Each sentence should advance the story, not stall it. Of course, a resume is a story, isn't it? For some people it is their most brilliant work of fiction.
Get rid of the word "experienced" since it is meaningless. You have experience if you do something once. If you analyzed over six million data entries twice a year for the past ten years, that's experience too. Quite the difference though. Remove "seasoned" and "well-versed" too. My resume is already looking bad - and it is based on a pattern from a professional resume company.
For the same reason, don't specify in your resume that you are a "team player," a "people person," or "customer-focused." Give the specific examples that display these abilities. Back to the drawing board on those parts of my resume!
Even I knew it was bad form to say I was "dynamic" on my resume, but only because it sounds so … self-serving. Well, isn't that what a resume is for? I think so, but "energetic" and "enthusiastic" also need to be exorcised from the text. These are value judgments and don't belong in the resume. Hopefully the hiring manager will put these words in their evaluation of your first interview. Work on those qualities during the talk with them.
The Forbes article finishes up by warning you not to put in "References available upon request." Of course references are available, so don't waste the valuable space. Put something in that helps you.
The article doesn't address it, but probably because it is obvious to everyone: you need to tailor each resume for the specific job you are applying for. In the old days (when I first hunted for work here in the humid heat of Houston) you had to stick with a single format. You printed a short stack of them, and that cost money. Ideally we would have tailored each resume then also, but if you had that kind of money then you really didn't need the job. With word processors and laser printers there is no excuse not to tailor the resume for each job.
No if you'll excuse me, I have to edit my resume. Again.
And no, it isn't fiction. That would be much easier to write!

1 comment:

  1. Let's talk about fonts for a resume.
    After some searching and a LOT of reading, this is my personal opinion.

    Stick with the basic fonts:
    MS Sans Serif
    Book Antiqua
    Century Gothic
    Time Roman

    All these are the same on PCs and Macs. Since Times Roman is the most common, I'd use something different because I don't like following the herd. Of the listed, I like Calibri the most.

    Body text: size 10
    Name: size 16 or 14, bold, all caps (or small caps)
    Section headings: size 12, bold, all caps.

    Some people really like Cambria, but I work on both a PC and a Mac, so that conversion is a bit of a problem for me. Helvetica was given thumbs-up by many.