Thought I'd pull together some resume tips, seeing that the economy is scratching it's way out of the recession. Or so it seems. I swear that I can predict the state of the economy based on how many people ask me to review their resume and provide feedback. Things are looking up, friends.
Anyway, recently a reader forwarded a resume and I realized that the feedback I gave might help some other people. Because I see so many resumes that are super-weighty in the verbiage, like a double-stuffed Oreo; it's much much too much. Seriously, now the American perception that more=better has reached the resume (now with 30% more!). I blame the interwebz (in which case, it's probably not entirely American). Where else can people waste a bunch of time watching videos of beat-boxing dogs. If I didn't know about it, I wouldn't care. And I am a dog person. My life is not better one single bit. So too much information is actually making my life worse. I'm spending time, that could be filled with something of value, watching and reading about all manner of worthless ridiculousness. What little gains I made by having a DVR (ay-dios commercials), I lost in all the random overload of the internet. </social commentary>
So back to the resume. More does not equal better. You're going to have to trust me on this.
Let me try an analogy here. Let's think of the job search process as a courtship. I'll try not to let this get too weird. The object of your affection is the company of your dreams and by proxy, the recruiter and/or hiring manager for that company. You are introduced to your future beloved by a friend and you agree to chat on the phone. Your hope is to score a date; to have the chance to meet in person. During this conversation, you don't spill the beans about your every achievement (or that your mom thinks you are a "good catch"...but I digress). You let the other person talk and ask questions. Because if you don't, she will suddenly hear her other line ringing. And it's her mom. And her basement is flooding. Not that I have ever used that excuse. Ever. Or much.
The key to success in this relationship is to develop a...well, a relationship. To keep the other person engaged and interested. To keep them wanting to learn more. And to definitely not scare them at the beginning by chattering away so that their mind wanders off to that mental "to do" list they are compiling. Guess what's not on that "to do" list. Talking to you again. So my point is this, and I have said this before: the resume is a teaser. If you put in too much detail, you don't give them a reason to call and ask for more information. They start to wonder if that is all you've got. So stop it please.
There's also a visual aspect to all of this. A little white space on the page helps the eye engage. Last week I was reading about a person's ability to catch their own typing errors. Evidently, many typos are actually due not to a person not knowing HOW to spell, but the fact that one types what they hear phonetically. I could kick myself when I type "wear" instead of "where." I know how to spell it, but I am indeed having a dialog in my head.. as I write this, even. But double spacing helped people catch their errors. So it seems to me that a little extra white space on the page helps with engagement. What it doesn't help with is remembering where I read all this info about proof-reading (I'll add an edit to this post if I recall). The first thing I think when I see a jam-packed resume is "how much of this do I have to read to get the info I am looking for?" Seriously. Very few, and I mean VERY FEW, recruiters are going to read your resume word for word. It's just not a realistic to expect them to. They have videos of beat-boxing dogs to watch. They are looking for what they are looking for and it's either there or it's not. It's the job-seekers responsibility to deliver that info to them as efficiently as possible. Having extra words on your resume isn't going to help. You either have experience with C++ or you don't. So the goal of resume writing is to make it more clear, not more wordsy (yeah, I just made that up).
It's been a few years since I actually did line recruiting, but those resume reading habits are ingrained. The first thing I look for is where you are currently working and what your role is. I want to know how long you have been there and then I will perhaps look at your next most recent employer depending on your tenure. I'll check out your education, if that is a requirement (or look for equivalent experience which I should have been able to pick up from reading about your current position). At this point if I am still interested, I scan for skill keywords (although I will say, database search functionality does the heavy lifting here) and look at the context (being a power-user of a CRM system is different from being a developer, so context counts). At this point, I ask myself if I want to know more ("Self, do you want to know more?"...hey, I mentioned my inner dialog). If you delivered that key information to me effectively and are a match for what I am looking for, then the answer is yes. It's really as simple as that. Many of the things that folks include on their resumes, I would much rather discuss in a phone interview. And job seekers should be glad it's this way. You can do a better job of telling us HOW you accomplished what you did, how you overcame challenges, how you collaborated to get that work done, etc. We can hear the passion in your voice and how you relate to the people you work with. You can really make something that can appear very mundane on your resume come alive; you can help us get to know not just what you did but how you did it and who you are. That's pure awesomesauce.