Not to complain….because I love receiving resumes and am glad when someone is considering a career at Microsoft. I’m not under the ridiculous impression that everyone reads my blog before sending me a resume. But on days when I am looking through hundreds of resumes, the mistakes that applicants make with resumes, many of which I have mentioned before, are still popping up.
There’s one underlying point with my advice, based on a simple fact. The fact is that, similar to in-person meetings, you have a short amount of time to make a first impression. The recruiter is viewing your resume to make a yes or no decision. The decision may be whether to share the resume with a hiring manager, whether to schedule a phone interview, etc. Regardless, they are looking at a large number of resumes. When viewing each, when they get to the decision, they move to the next resume. There are certain things they are looking for on the resume, which varies depending on circumstances. Your goal (and my underlying point) is to provide the information required to make you a quick “yes”. I can’t tell you what experience the recruiter will be looking for, but I can tell you the types of info they are looking for and why.
One other thing I wanted to point out before I launch into resume writing advice (again), is this: if someone tells you that the resume is dead as a medium for selling your skills, stop listening to that person. As I write this, there is no generally accepted substitute for the resume. Portfolios are great if the recruiter has already determined some initial interest by reading a resume; otherwise they take too long to look through (caveat: creative roles excluded). Video resumes don’t fit nicely into applicant tracking systems and aren’t searchable using key words. And unless you are a CEO of a Fortune 500 company and the recruiter, who also works in the same industry, would be an idiot not to know you and your skill set in some detail (in which case, get down with your bad self), you do indeed need a resume, irrespective of your ego. Even if you are hot stuff, making others kiss the ring isn’t attractive. I’m obviously only talking to a few with this point…it’s the attitude that’s the turn-off more so than the lack of career documentation. You won’t always be asked to create a resume, especially in the very early stages if you are senior. But having one sets the stage for a valuable conversation with the hiring decision makers. And you should always have an updated resume…always.
OK, on to my resume writing advice, which may or may not bear some resemblance to resume advice I have given in the past:
-Name your resume attachment intuitively…that’s intuitively for the recruiter, folks! If I’m looking at a bunch of resumes and adding the ones I like to a folder, how many should I expect to have a name like “resume2006.doc”. Renaming is an extra step for the recruiter. Also, not naming intuitively increases the possibility that the recruiter will not be able to get their hands on your resume in a timely manner, if they saved it as-is. Use your name in the title of the document when you save it.
-Don’t put your contact info in a header/footer. Right now, we are recruiting folks to come to a local event we are hosting. So I’m trying to find people local to Seattle. So the address or phone number do matter. Uncovering it in a header takes a couple extra clicks. Also, keep in mind that many recruiters do local recruiting either because there’s a rich talent pool in a specific location (for tech talent, Boston would be a good example) or because they don’t have an extensive relocation budget to work with. Make it easy for them to find out your general geographic location. If you are planning a self-funded move, include it in your contact info (“Self-funded relocation to Seattle planned for September 2006”)
-In your resume, when you describe your role at each company, say what the company does. Say what division you work(ed) in too. Do not expect the recruiter to know this information. Recruiters will generally track a certain number of competitive companies as well as some interesting start-ups. Your entire previous employer history might not be on the radar of each individual recruiter. Assume that you have to education them at least a little bit on each company.
-Do not send recruiters away from your resume if you can provide the information on your resume. Linking to previous companies, as a substitute for explaining what the companies do isn’t well advised. Once you send a recruiter off of your resume, the chances of them coming back go down. I’m sure it’s not very “web 2.0” of me to say this but I don’t recommend you link in your resume unless your role is primarily creative and you need to provide work samples (someone else might have other fields that this applies to but in the world of business, limit linking). If you state the name of your company properly, the recruiter will find it if they want more information. And you can always offer to substantiate any references, awards, organization leadership. Keep the recruiter eyeballs on your resume.
-Keep the best stuff above the fold. What I mean by this is know your value proposition and make sure it’s the first thing the recruiter sees. If you just graduated from a full-time MBA program, your education section goes on top. Work for a hot company? Pull work experience to the top. I’ve said before that I think the “objective” sections aren’t required on a resume, but if you can use it to communicate your personal value proposition (and can’t do it clearly in the other sections), do it. What this takes is a little introspection, which might require you to acknowledge your own strengths and weaknesses, but you will be better off for it.
-I’m not a big fan of graphics and photos. I find them distracting and something we have to work around to scan your resume into our database. Many international applicants for US based roles are more accustomed to the culture where they reside, which is very accepting of adding a picture. It’s not standard protocol in the US unless you are a fashion model like me (I kid). Also, your height, weight, age, marital/family status and ethnicity are not generally accepted elements of resumes here in the US. Recruiters cannot legally use that information to make a decision. It’s best to leave it off when applying to US-based positions.
Some other recruiters might want to jump in here with some other resume boo-boos they are seeing these days. These things aren’t deal breakers, but like with other decisions made in the business world, you want to help the decision maker get to yes as quickly as possible and be thinking happy thoughts while they are looking at your resume.