Monday, December 03, 2012

My two cents regarding resumes

One of the trickiest things to consider when constructing a resume for a specific job, is whether or not to include an objective.  There are basically two sides to this argument.  On the one hand, including an objective makes it clear to the reader what you are shooting for.  It pays to be specific.  It should sound very much like your 3 second elevator pitch, but tailored to the position you hope to attain.  If you are including an objective paragraph, the worst thing you can do is be generic.

Having said that, there are many people who would suggest eliminating the objective paragraph altogether. There's a few reasons to suggest this.  For one, it frees up more space for other important resume elements.  But even more so, it removes the tendency of an objective paragraph to pigeonhole you.  It would really suck to apply for a specific position in a company you really want to work for when your combination of skills and experience would better suit you for a different position than the one you applied for.  Not having an objective paragraph in your resume makes this a possibility.

I would argue that one of the most important aspects of a resume is its readability.  If you get this wrong, all of the other things you did right on your resume no longer matter.  They no longer matter because the things the reader wants to find in the 6 seconds they are going to spend looking are unlikely to be found, simply due to a hard to read format.  You can test the readability of a resume by handing it to someone who was never seen it before and asking them to locate specific entries within 2 seconds.  Things like your most recent job, or the last thing you went to school for.  Please note that the word readable should not be confused with the word stylish.  Lastly, chronological over functional.

Almost every bullet point describing an accomplishment or responsibility in a job description on your resume should include a number.  This is because every statement made on a resume needs to be quantitative.  There has to be a number that helps build a mental picture of the scope of your involvement.  Because there is a huge difference between saying that you were a manager and saying that you managed 30 mobile technologists supporting in excess of 1000 customers spread over two provinces.

It may be important to list your education on a resume, but your education entries should be as short as possible.  Where, what, when.  If they need more information, they'll get it out of you during the interview.  This adjustment creates even more room for the important stuff, like your work background.

It is extremely a risky to mention hobbies and extracurricular activities on a typical resume.  There are exceptions to this rule, such as when those activities are extremely relevant to the position you are seeking.  If not, leave them out.  Not only do they have nothing to do with what you offer the company, they can create a negative bias against you that you have absolutely no control over.

If it has been a while since you compiled a resume, a list of references and even a mention that references are available upon request is completely obsolete.  Everyone knows that references are available upon request.  If you are asked for references, it's best to give a current, relevant list that has been selected by you for this particular application.  If you were to list references on your resume, those references can be used without any control from you.  Last but not least, never offer a person as a reference that has no idea you are using them as such.  Just because you think someone would make a good reference, doesn't mean they would agree to be used as one.

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