My tech recruiting pals Gretchen and Zoe have quite a dialog going on regarding what they like to see on resumes. Some of what I am seeing on their blog applies to marketing resumes, some doesn't. For the most part, a marketing resume is a different animal...OK, it's not an animal..it's a plant...definitely a plant...well, not really a plant so much as a...oh, never mind.
So, thought I'd try to offer some similar advice on “the marketing resume”. Keep in mind, this is just the opinion of one recruiter (that's me) and just because thousands of other recruiters agree with me doesn't mean it's fact. ; )
1) The third-person resume: a lot of recruiters don't like these. Mostly, I consider that these recruiters haven't hired consultants before. Heck, I even used to write third person resumes for some of our consultants at a previous company. And it was always a little funny referring to Mr. So-and-So after you've seen him at the Holiday party talking to the punch bowl. Anyway, the third-person resume doesn't bother me so much as it shows me that either 1) this person is a consultant and wants to stay a consultant or 2) this person didn't take the time to tweak their resume. If you are the former...go for it. But if the latter, I would recommend taking the time to make the changes.
2) Buzz word bonanza: You know what I'm talkin' about. These are the people that “drove the strategic direction of the company through out of the box thinking, realizing a new paradigm while creating efficiencies through process re-alignment...blah, blah, blah.“ And when I see this I think “BUT WHAT DID YOU DO?“ Often, I am concerned that someone's attempt to appear strategic might be masking the fact that they really aren't. Let the work speak for itself, especially if you have results. For example, if you led a segmentation project that resulted in your company focusing on a new customer base and that increased profits significantly, let me know (actually, send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org...and right now!). As much as you have heard about how smart Microsoft employees are, I think the best thing that can be said of us is that we know how to get things done (OK, smart is good too). Show us that you know how to get things done as well.
3) What is your product? So speaking strictly from the standpoint of recruiting for Software Marketing (actually, that's pretty much the standpoint I'm always speaking from), we want to know what your product is. Think about this scenario. I have 3 candidates that pretty much have the same job. Each is responsible for the go-to-market strategy of a new product, each works with their distribution channel to ensure sales readiness and that they have the right partners in place. Candidate one works for a technology company working on product X, in a market that Microsoft is involved. Candidate two works for a consumer packaged good company, their product is a new brand of cereal. Candidate three works for a company that I have not heard of before and I'm not really clear as to what the product is. Candidates one is likely to get a call for a role in a product group that aligns to the same market space as they have been working in. Candidate two may also get a call, because they have specific expertise in the consumer marketing space. With candidate three, it's really hard for me to get that resume in from of the right person because I don't know what the product is.
4) “I” versus “we“: Teamwork is important, but so is being a valuable individual contributor. Often, I see resumes written as if they were written for a team. “We“ did this, “we“ did that. It can give the impression that the individual didn't have a specific impact on the project or work. When writing about the work of a team, make sure it is clear what you were responsible for and what your relationship is to others on the team.
5) Formatting: This is probably the biggest pit-fall of resume writing these days. You write a resume that looks fantastic on your computer, but by the time the recruiter views it, it's all messed up. This could be because of how the document was saved or because the recruiter's applicant tracking software converted the file into a .txt and all of your hard work formatting went out the window. The worst scenario is when I receive a resume that has been saved in “mark-up“ view. I can see the entire thought process the candidate went through writing the resume...what was crossed out and notes the candidate made while writing the resume. It's a good idea to test out your resume format. Send it to yourself via e-mail...better yet, send it to a friend to look over. Save it as a .txt file and check out how it reads. You can send both the .txt file and the (ideally, for us) .doc file with your resume submission. The .txt file is what we keep in our applicant tracking system.
6) Things you may have that I don't need to know about: an objective (especially if your objective doesn't match the open position), family information, height, weight, birthday, marital status, social status, religious affiliations, political offiliations, hobbies (I might recommend exceptions here when your hobby really represents a valued competency that an employer might be interested in). We know people have these things, but the question is the relevance to their employment application. While it may be traditional to include some of these things on your resume if you are applying for a position in another country, it is not traditional here in the US. At the very least, you save some space by leaving these things off. You can also leave off “ References provided at your request” or anything similar. It's implied.
7) Beyond spell-check: While spell check picks up the big mistakes, word choice errors still often make it through. And spell check doesn't check for clarity and relevancy. Before you send your resume to any companies, it's a great idea to have a friend go over your resume with a fine-toothed comb. Even better if the friend has the same or similar job to yours. Small errors in grammar, punctuation and word choice catch the eye of recruiters. And you want your resume to stand out for good reasons.
8) Keywords: Recruiting is a keyword game. OK, that's over-simplifying things a bit, but of you want to get your resume into the right hands, having the right keywords really helps a lot. Think of all the different ways that recruiters use keywords to find you:
-searching an on line job board...recruiters use keywords
-searching their applicant tracking system...recruiters use keywords
-searching for “passive“ candidates on the internet...recruiters use keywords
Many companies even have software that automatically matches incoming resumes to job descriptions using keywords. Not sure which keywords are right for your line of work? Search company job postings. See some roles that sound like yours? Pick some appropriate key words off the description. Look at the resumes of colleagues, at your company and at others and use their keywords.
Now here's the tricky thing with marketing resumes, as opposed to tech resumes. You need to work the keywords into the body of the resume (versus dropping them into a skills or tech summary) in the appropriate places. Try to avoid buzzword overload by scrunching them all together.
9) Functional or chronological?: Just about every recruiter I speak with, when asked about resume pet peeves, lists off functional resumes. You know the kind that lists skills by categories (project management, negotiating, management, strategy, etc.) and then lists employers/titles/dates at the end of the resume. Problem is, we can't tell where the candidate did the work, in what context, for whom and for how long (which is exactly the info the recruiter wants when looking at your resume in the first place).
10) Make it as easy as possible for the recruiter to reach you: Today, with the constant use of the internet (e-mail specifically) it is possible, if not likely, that your first person-to-person conversation with a representative of a company will be during a phone interview. Recruiters generally use your resume to decide whether there's a potential fit and then use e-mail to schedule the phone interview. Under these circumstances, I'm puzzled when I receive a resume without a contact e-mail address (a resume blog would be an exception as recruiters can contact the candidate using their contact link). Often, I see names and contact info in the header or footer of a resume. In our “as paperless as possible“ environment, recruiters often do not print out resumes and requiring the few extra clicks from a recruiter in order to view your name and contact info in the header/footer, makes it that much less likely that you will get a call right away. Make it as easy as possible for the recruiter to reach you quickly.
11) No dates: First thing that crosses my mind when I see a resume with employment or education entries without dates is this: “are they trying to hide something?“ and trust me...the recruiter is going to ask. Gaps in employment should be explained (if not in the body of the resume, in the cover letter/e-mail). Took time to raise a family, to travel, to spend with an ill relative? Acknowledge the time away without giving too much unnecessary detail. For example: Next to the dates, put “personal sabbatical” or “freelance work” or “world travel“. We realize that people take time away from the workforce for very good reasons. You just want to make sure that we know that it wasn't just an omission on the resume.
Also, include dates with regard to education (at least the year completed). When dates are omitted from the education section, it is often unclear as to whether the degree was obtained. If the degree program was not completed, feel comfortable stating that (X number of credits toward degree, etc.). Many companies do background checks and educational credentials are almost always included. It's better to state this up front than to have the recruiter come back to you and ask.
12) Cover letter: I see people take a ton of time to put together a really slick cover letter. You are marketing professionals, after all. So you may ask how often I thoroughly read a candidate's cover letter and to be completely honest with you, the answer is that I rarely do. I want to get right to the resume and see what the person is all about. I will go back and read the cover letter under a few circumstances: first if it's not clear to me what kind of position the person could be applying to (and that's not to say that it always matters...I'll call candidates about any position I think they are a fit for and might be interested in regardless of what they applied to). Second, if there are gaps in employment or any lingering questions I have after reading the resume. If you made a significant career shift, took a bunch of time off, the cover letter is a great place to fill me in.
If I think of any more resume “dos and don'ts“ I'll definitely provide them here. In the meantime, if you have questions or opinions, please feel free to ask. You might even see some of the other Microsoft Marketing Recruiters chime in here ; )