Monthly Archives: January 2012

Make your résumé easy to read if you want to be considered for an interview

I don’t know what’s worse, a résumé that is so dense that it looks like something James Joyce wrote, or so sparse that it looks like a Haiku.

Look, one of the golden rules of writing your résumé is that it has to be easy to read…yet sells you with accomplishments and relevancy. I know this is a tall order but it can be done.

You’ve been told over and over how your résumé is your marketing collateral. Consider reading a brochure that takes you longer than three minutes to complete during the busiest part of your workday. Consider reading a product flyer in a crowded retail store with your kids screaming to leave or wandering off. You only have 30 seconds to get the gist of the product before you decide to explore further.

This is how the employer feels when she reads a résumé to decide if you’ll be considered for an interview. On average an employer will take 15 to 45 seconds deciding whether to invite you in for an interview. The first phase of the résumé review is a quick scan, which means you must make the scanning process as easy as possible for her.

Capturing important information. Keep this general rule in mind when crafting your résumé: do not exceed 4-5 lines per word block. When possible include accomplishments that are quantified with dollars, numbers, and percentages. As quick scans go, these quantifiers will surely draw attention from the employer and entice her to read further. Just glance at the text below to see if it’s something that would be easy to digest in a 15-30 second scan.

Hired to revamp marketing department and turn around declining revenue. Managed 4 employees, including marketing communications writer, graphic designer, and webmaster. Interfaced with members of the media, partners, and consumers; recognized by many for providing excellent customer service. Oversaw more than 10 tradeshows, both organization and attending. Increased number of media contacts from 30 to 6,000 at ABC company within only 4 months. Overall contacts exceeded 30,000. Garnered 20 awards in major trade journals, including “Data Storage Product of the Year,” (5 years in a row) “Product of the Year,” “Editor’s Choice,” and other honors from top trade publications. Placed more than 50 reviews and articles in trade magazines. Designed a 60-page Website and maintained it, while maintaining role of public relations; thus saving the company more than $25,000. Received “Outstanding Employee of the Year” for volunteering to take on this endeavor.

I recently critiqued a résumé that look similar to the above. Now read the same paragraph divided into short word blocks.

Hired to revamp marketing department and turn around declining revenue. Managed 4 employees, including marketing communications writer, graphic designer, and webmaster. Interfaced with members of the media, partners, and consumers; recognized by many for providing excellent customer service. Oversaw more than 10 tradeshows, both organization and attending.

Accomplishments

  • Increased number of media contacts from 30 to 6,000 at ABC company within only 4 months. Overall contacts exceeded 30,000.
  • Garnered 20 awards in major trade journals, including “Data Storage Product of the Year,” (5 years in a row) “Product of the Year,” “Editor’s Choice,” and other honors from top trade publications. Placed more than 50 reviews and articles in trade magazines.
  • Designed a 60-page Website and maintained it, while maintaining role of public relations; thus saving the company more than $25,000. Received “Outstanding Employee of the Year” for volunteering to take on this endeavor.

Do potential employers a favor when crafting your résumé; make it easier to read. Density is one reason employers may decide to place your résumé in the…circular file cabinet.

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Get rid of the clutter on your résumé

I hate clutter. If I could get rid of half the stuff in my house, it would take two dumpsters and five days of work. As I clean my house—the kids and my wife at the Fine Arts Museum in Boston—I’m throwing away every useless item I see on the floor.

All this clutter makes me think of the clutter some jobseekers have on their résumé. And I imagine the employers feel the way I’m feeling right now.

I met with a customer the other day to critique his résumé. It was four pages long; but that’s not what made critiquing it difficult—it was wading through the clutter on it. Here are some examples of duty statements, plus one accomplishment.

  • Managed a group of 25 sales people and 10 office staff. (And?)
  • Responsible for hiring and firing employees. (So what.)
  • Led meetings on a weekly basis. (And?)
  • Wrote articles for the company’s monthly newsletter. (So what.)
  • Spearheaded the company’s first pay-for-service program which increased sales 30% and earned the sales department an Award of Excellence. (Okay, now we’re talking.)

The first four duty statements were clutter; they added nothing to his résumé. The last statement, a quantified accomplishment, said something worth reading. It talked about his ability to lead, which effectively covered the first two bullet points.

I asked him about the newsletter to which he contributed articles. He told me it was initially sent via e-mail to 60 partners and customers, and in six months time the readership had grown to 12,000. As well, he wrote two, sometimes three articles a month for it; in which he talked about product releases, offered tips on data storage, and announced tradeshows. He often received favorable reviews from customers, OEMs and VARs.

I suggested that he keep the first duty and elaborated on his group’s productivity, stability, and endearing affection for him. He admitted that 10 of the 25 sales people and half of the office staff had to be let go because of downsizing. However, productivity wasn’t affected; rather the reduced team maintained and even surpassed projections set by upper management by 25%.

The bullet points on leading meetings and hiring and firing employees were clutter, much like the coffee cups sitting beside me on my office desk. Trash these, I told him. A bazillion managers lead meetings, and many are responsible for hiring and firing employees. So what.

He was fine with getting rid of the meetings’ duty statement but was reluctant to let go of hiring and firing employees. I asked him how many employees he had to fire, aside from the ones that were let go because of downsizing. He told me, a lot. “Well, doesn’t that mean you made poor hiring decisions,” I asked him? He didn’t respond.

What we had remaining of the original four duty statements and one accomplishment statement was:

  • Reduced sales force by 40% due to budget restraints, while surpassing productivity expectations by 25%.
  • Spearheaded the company’s first pay-for-service program which increased sales 30% and earned the sales department an Award of Excellence.
  • Authored articles for the company’s monthly newsletter, announcing product releases, providing tips on color management, and promoting tradeshows; increasing readership from 60 to 12,000 in just six months.

He was still a little bummed because he wanted to demonstrate that he had hired and terminated employees. Isn’t that what managers do, he asked me? Yeah, I wanted to say, but they don’t fire people because they made bad hiring decisions. So unlike the clutter that occupies my house, the clutter on my customer’s résumé was drastically reduced.