The resume is an introduction, not an interview

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.


Comments (9)

  1. Frank says:

    Heather, I have to partially disagree on your views here.  My experience has been that your guidelines above will serve you well if you are making first contact in person (ie, job fair), faxing (do people actually still do that?) or anywhere BUT an online service like Monster or LinkedIn.  Most recruiters are searching online these days and the key word being SEARCH.  The more keywords and information in your resume, the higher the chances are you will get "found" and be at the top of that search result.  My resume is definitely not the norm (as far as length) and could use some trimming, but so far, it has served me well having lots of details.  I can't bore the recruiter if they haven't found me!!!  More information is always better…you as the recruiter should be able to skim the page for what you are looking for and filter the noise.  You can't expect the candidate to custom tailor a resume for each job they apply to in today's market, and you can't expect them to spoon feed the recruiter with exactly what they want to see.  Again, if the candidate can't be found because their resume is too "light" and airy, then what's the point of the exercise?  🙂

  2. HeatherLeigh says:

    I don't even know anyone that still does job fairs!

    You are correct about keywords being important, but picking the right keywords is more important. And, even then, if you come up in a recruiter's search but they stop reading your resume because of all the extra stuff, what good is that?

    Job boards are becoming irrelvant. But that is for another blog post.

    And yes, I absolutely DO expect a job seeker to tailor their resume to the specific job. Match the keywords on the resume to the keywords/phrasing in the job description. A job seeker can go out and float a bunch of fluffy resumes out there but they will have a much better chance at success in engaging the right recruiter about the right job with a targeted approach. And in the end, that will save them time and produce a better result.

    I have spoken.


  3. Frank says:

    Hahaha…spoken indeed.  One thing to add though.  With most of the job sites and LinkedIn, you can only have one *active* resume at a time.  This doesn't help candidates which may have skill sets that cross multiple  disciplines at places like MSFT.  It's impossible in these cases to cater a resume to ANY specific job (and aren't you hiring for Microsoft first and the job second anyways?)  🙂  

    So in the scenario where the recruiter is searching for the candidate, the catered resume isn't going to work.  The second part of this is reality.  When someone is out of work, they are looking hard in any place they can.  Often times (especially when on unemployment), this means A LOT of resume submissions.  Although a candidate may be able to cater the resume to a couple of specific jobs, the reality is that they have to cast a very wide net and managing what could be dozens or hundreds of resume versions is simply not reality.  

    My recruiter friends tell me that it isn't uncommon to get THOUSANDS of applications for a single opening.  They straight up admit they look at through the submissions until they find the right one, and if your resume isn't at the top of the heap, you may be more qualified, but they simply don't have the time to look at every resume and hence, you could lose out even if you had the rock star resume.  

    Times are changin girl!!!  Recruiters should be more willing to look at the realities of how the market is today and the challenges those seeking employment face, not simply what suits them best…they could really miss out on a spectacular candidate!

    > The People's Voice <  


  4. HeatherLeigh says:

    Good point. I would recommend that job seekers get off the sites and go to the company career sites directly. In many cases, that will allow them to submit separate resumes for different jobs. If it were me, I'd hang out on the career site, take inventory of what's there, documenthow the company talks about their busiensses, etc. But I'm totally OCD. So I'd probably just dothat for fun anyway.

    Hiring for Microsoft first means the person has to haver the flexibility to be a long term fit at Microsoft. They can't be a long term fit if they can't do the job in question. That is to say that the extra "hiring for Microsoft" requirement actually narrows the funnel. I know, it sounds like it is the other way around.

    I understand what you are saying about people being unemployed and casting a wide net but I still think they are better served by catering their resume. Nobody has a job opening for a "jack-of-all-trades." You want your resume to position you as THE right person. Nobody is going to want to hire someone that is "just alright" when THE RIGHT PERSON is available. So as long as anyone caters their resume, you should. Know what I'm saying?

    OK, no offense Frank, but your recruiter friends are wasting a TON of time if they are literally looking through all those resumes. Honestly, they aren't using a search engine of any kind? If I had a recruiter that literally looked through  a "heap" of resumes, I would get rid of them ASAP.  Both the heap and the recruiter. There is technology that enables recruiters to narrow that prospect search down and it's ridiculous for them to spend that time sorting paper when they could be spending that time interviewing the right prospects. Sorry…times are changing. I've been recruiting since 1994 and it has been at least ten years since I heard someone reference looking through a pile of resumes.

    The people need to help the recruiters out by positioning themselves as a valuable and sought-after prospect. No companies are resourced to have recruiters looking at every single resume that comes in. That is inefficient and ridiculous.

    Back at ya, "people"…

    (Seriously, have your recruiter friends get in touch with me. My job right now is training recruiters on sourcing and your friends need some help! I can at least point them toward some external training resources)

  5. Frank says:

    Good stuff for the people.  🙂  And I didn't mean a literal pile of printed resumes, but the inbox pile of resumes.  I don't think some folks have the tools you have at MSFT, namely the smaller staffing companies, but nonetheless, good points to consider.  

    As to the recruiters looking through all those resumes, it's funny…I also get the exact opposite problem.  Some recruiters DONT READ AT ALL!  I can't tell you how many times I get a recruiter that is pinging me about a job that has absolutely no bearing on what I do for a living, but I happened to have ONE keyword they were looking for, and all of a sudden I am bombarded with useless emails.  Damned if you do, damned if you don't.  What's this world coming to?  🙂

  6. HeatherLeigh says:

    Gosh, they hopefully can still use desktop search on Windows. It's saved my bacon a number of times. Lets you search docs on your hard drive. I would load all those resumes into a folder and desktop search the heck out of them. There are creative ways to get around having to manually review every resume. But yeah, I do feel like we probably have access to some tools others don't.

    And the recruiters that don't read the resumes…..idiots. Pure and simple. Makes you wonder how people balance a checkbook.

    I know what this world is coming to….videos of beat-boxing dogs. That is what. For the record, I only watched that video once.

  7. Frank says:

    LOL!  You know I had to go watch that right?  But even worse is the fact I've done that to my dog like a million times and never thought of calling it "beat-boxing dog" and posting it to youtube.  Damnit, first the pet rock and now this.  Can't get a break I tell you…

  8. Derek Zumwalt says:

    "And the recruiters that don't read the resumes…..idiots. Pure and simple. Makes you wonder how people balance a checkbook."

    Nuff said on that.

    If a recruiter does not make the effort to look, they are being STOOPID. Its like if someone sent you an envelope of money, you would count it wouldnt you?

  9. HeatherLeigh says:

    Frank – one of these times you'll get there first!

    Derek – Hell yeah! Spend it too!

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