The Resume: Common Sense Tips to Avoid Common Mistakes

November 28, 2007 at 12:09 am Leave a comment

Much has been written about and much has been paid out for products and services related to writing, revising and formatting the resume. A logical first step to determine whether you are comfortable creating your own resume or require professional assistance is to assess your ability to write clearly, concisely and to understand how the presentation of functional skills, industry experience, job history and related accomplishments combine together to “speak” directly as to why you’re qualified for a specific position.

A logical second step when creating or revising a resume is to do your best to understand the perspective and the motivation of the human resources professional and the hiring manager charged with determining who is and who is not qualified for a particular position.

In many cases, the HR professional works as the liaison for the hiring manager — creating job specs based upon the hiring manager’s needs, posting job descriptions and salary requirements on job boards or contracting with outside recruiters to handle those tasks, handling initial screening interviews, etc. When resumes come in, the HR pro generally represents the first level of qualification in determining whether a prospective candidate meets the stated criteria and will be passed along to the hiring manager for review.

Because there are so many departments and functional areas within an organization, it is not often realistic to expect that an HR liaison understands the hiring manager’s needs as well as the hiring manager. Remember, their job is to provide assistance and the resources necessary to allow the hiring manager to continue meeting day-to-day responsibilities until their time is required to assess, interview and hire candidates. Under those circumstances, the HR pro relies more heavily on the qualifications, skills and responsibilities stated in the job spec in assessing a candidate’s fit and is more likely to pass on candidates who do not appear to closely match the spec and/or compensation expectations.

There are also circumstances in which a company’s HR department will hire an outside agency or consultant to screen candidates and conduct first round interviews. which depending upon how information is shared between the company and the agency can create additional challenges for prospective candidates.

That is why it is so critical to create a resume that will end up in the hands of the hiring manager — the one who knows the department, culture and personality traits — the one who is much closer to the “pain” he or she is hoping to eliminate by filling a position. It is not uncommon for a hiring manager to see something in a resume or cover letter that — while not matching up completely with the spec –may trigger an interview anyway or even create a situation in which a position is modified or in some instances created in order to hire an individual who brings “more” to the table.

So what should go into a strong resume? Here are some tips from Jack Farrell:

1. Shoot for 1 page, and never be more than 2 pages.

2. Add a short, punchy headline under your personal info that in essence is YOUR billboard. Someone can scan this in 10 seconds and know what you and your career are about. These are very effective. Here are some examples:

Highly motivated product-builder of online publishing solutions for financial traders with a proven track record in leading Development and Sales teams to on-time delivery and the successful achievement of revenue targets

Goal-oriented sales professional with a proven track record of achievement for winning course adoptions in medical and veterinary schools and increasing retail sales in health science bookstores

3. For each job, add what the resume books call: “the responsibility statement.” This is a couple of short sentences that summarize what you are doing or did in each job.

4. After the “responsibility statement” list your accomplishments or key duties in bullet form. WHY BULLETS? Because they are easy to read and scan quickly. Hiring managers love bullets.

5. Leave out stuff that’s not really relevant like awards or other things. If awards are very germane to your field, it’s ok to keep them, but not imperative. They are good grist for the interview.

6. Use high impact words when describing your accomplishments in bullets: increased, grew, created, built, analyzed, saved, implemented, etc…….

7. Be quantitative wherever possible….increased sales 53%, achieved 112% of quota, Reduced production cost 41%, etc.

8. Say more about recent jobs, less about distant jobs even those with sentimental value that occurred 18 years ago. Fact is everyone focuses on what you’ve done recently.

9. In general, keep things short and not verbose. It’s hard to write short, but the best resumes showcase that skill.

10. It’s OK to have several versions of your resume based upon your various skill sets. And it’s fine to tweak your resume to align with the current job you are seeking. The hiring manager ultimately will decide whether you are the best fit for the position, but getting in front of that decision-maker is half the battle. An “on target” resume helps open this door.

© 2007 John Hartnett & Jack Farrell


Entry filed under: Getting Hired, Resume Tips. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , .

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November 2007


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