A necessary evil in today’s business world is the resume. It is the document where you must distill down all that you have accomplished since high school into no more than two self aggrandizing pages, and yet still be enthralling to the reader. It is one of the few documents on the planet where both form and substance are required, and where lacking either can immediately land it in the trash can. It is a living document which must be continually updated with the latest catch-phrases and Boolean search words to enable its easier location on the web by automated search programs. While being no acknowledged expert in the field, I have been on both the sending and receiving end of a boatload of resumes. I’ll share some of my findings and views.
The color of your resume does not matter, unless you choose a color other than white for your paper or electronic background, and black for your ink. I am not the only one that feels this way. I have checked this one out with some of my recruiter and head-hunter friends. Beige or pastel colored paper will in fact stand out in a stack or resumes. Beige or pastel colored resumes will remain in the resume stack. It’s a professional document for goodness sakes. The only reason that the Declaration of Independence is on yellowed paper is because the paper has aged to that color. Once your resume hits two hundred plus years of age it too can be on yellowed paper, but until then, print it on white paper.
The length of your resume does matter. A one page resume tells people that either you have not tried hard enough to write a viable resume, or that you do not have enough experience or qualifications for the job you are applying for. That would go for any job you were applying for. A three page or longer resume would indicate that you are truly enthralled with your own capabilities and accomplishments to the point where you couldn’t possibly bear to remove even a single event in your life from the document in order to better respect the readers time. Trust me on this. Nobody’s life is so awe inspiring so as to require more than two pages on a resume.
Provide information on your areas of expertise and the things that you actually can do. A historical list of the things you have done is nice, but it won’t get this job done, nor will it get you this job. It is a slight difference in approach and voice in your resume, but providing information on what you know how to do is much more compelling then reciting a list of the places you have been and the things that you did while you were there.
Front load your resume. Provide more detail and information on your most recent assignments and positions. I understand that you have done some really neat stuff twenty plus years ago. I did too. But there is a thing called currency as it relates to your experience. If your best stuff is twenty years old then it is possible that your business skills may be considered out of date.
Tell people what it is that you do. If you are looking for a sales role, then just about everything in your resume should scream sales. There should be few if any sentences in your resume that do not have the word “sales” in them. The more specific you can be about what you do, and what you can do, the more appreciative the reader of your resume will be. The easier that it is for the reader to understand if you are a fit for the position or not, the better it is for everyone, especially you.
Quantify what value you have brought to previous positions and what value you can bring to this position. Value is relatively easy to identify. It is usually represented by an ordinal number, which is preceded by a dollar sign. If you can’t put a number and a dollar sign next to it, it probably isn’t of value. It may seem harsh, but it is the current business environment.
Don’t tell anyone that you led a cross functional team, even if you actually did at one time. Cross functional teams are management speak for some sort of committee that met on a regular basis. Mark Twain described a committee as a life form with at least six legs and no brain. Organizations seem to be increasingly fond of creating them, and people seem to be intent on telling each other that they were either on them or leading them, but I nor anyone else I have ever known has ever seen any value delivered in a quantifiable way to a business from a cross functional team. You are wasting valuable space on your two pages with this one.
Don’t tell anyone that you enabled anything. Leaders don’t enable things. They do things. I understand that enablement is a nice sounding concept. There are very few instances where it has quantifiable business value. You either did it or you didn’t. Please don’t try and convince people that you enabled someone else to do it. At best it sounds lame and at worst it sounds like you are trying to appropriate someone else’s success.
Many resumes like to make mention of the fact that the individual is a “team player”. When reviewing resumes, most hiring managers are not looking for team players. They are looking for stars. In sales they are looking for someone that will bring in orders, preferably boat loads of them. In operations they are looking for someone that will deliver revenue and control costs. Most of the time a team player is not the type of individual that can perform these functions. If you can do extraordinary things, tell people in your resume. Don’t tell them you are a team player.
Have someone else read your resume before you submit it. Most of us are somewhat blind to our own mistakes. We wrote it. We reviewed it. Therefore it should be fine, right? Unfortunately, no. Have someone else read your resume and provide you their opinion. When they do, don’t argue with them. I too have felt that people have missed both the obvious and the nuanced aspects of my resume. I have also come to realize that if they have missed it, probably so will the recruiter and hiring manager miss it. Take the feedback. A resume is a personal item, but it is for public consumption and may need to be adjusted from a specific individual taste.
The two pages that comprise a resume are precious real estate. All of your education, training and experience to date need to be distilled down into those two pages. You need to convey what you are capable of and the value that you can bring to a prospective hiring manager. With that in mind you surely do not want to waste space by relating banalities such as being a team player, enabling others to succeed or were on some sort of aggrandized committee.
As I said, resumes are a necessary evil. They are the convention that businesses use when reviewing potential candidates for positions. Unfortunately they are also the basis for the first in a number of decision criteria and hurdles that are designed to winnow out the perceived unfit or the perceived less competent for the position. Unless you are a Nobel laureate or some other similarly gifted applicant, chances are that your resume will not get you the job. However if your resume is not in the appropriate format and does not contain relevant content it can preclude you from further consideration for the job.