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5 Big Resume Lies You’ve Been Told

The Big LiesJudging from the thousands of books and hundreds of thousands of websites on the topic, you’d think the resume is the be-all, end-all of human existence. Thousands of pages written about one or two simple pages of text. There are books, websites, training courses, DVDs and how-to guides on the subject ad nauseum.

I’m happy to see the economy is picking up a little.  How do I know that?  More folks who are currently in jobs are sending me their resume for review and to make connections.  That means they’re looking for new employment (not just some employment).  I’m also getting search firms reaching out to me asking me “do you know anyone who…”  So companies are hiring.

Given all that, I thought I’d offer some thoughts on resumes based on some of the things I’m seeing now and have seen in the past.

Here’s the dirty little secret – a lot of it is snake oil. Indulge me while I debunkify a la Mythbusters. Strap yourself in – I’m about to challenge “reality” which just might cause a quantum shift in the wasted-time-polishing-a-resume/job availability continuum…

1. Your resume alone can land you a job.

Wrong. Too many people spend so much time and effort on their paper because they believe it is the magical key to the six figure job offer. It doesn’t get you the job. It gets you a phone call and serves as a conversation piece during interviews.

If you submit your resume and get a phone call, you’ve succeeded. You’ve cut through the clutter and grabbed their attention. They’re interested in spending time getting to know you. I’ve never heard of someone landing a job with nothing but a resume (and if you have, I’d submit said hiring company is terrible at candidate diligence).

2. Longer is better (the old “size matters” argument).

Repeat after me: “MORE IS NOT BETTER!” If it’s too long, it’s too boring or too presumptuous. Actually, it’s a bit insulting to provide a resume that’s longer than two pages (for my pontification on this point, see “Two Big Resume Writing Boo Boos“). A long resume can come across as self-important, narcissistic, and rude. It says to the hiring manager “I’m really important and you don’t have anything better to do with your time than get to know me in nauseating detail.” Two pages. No mas.

3. Posting your resume everywhere is the best way to get into a company.

If you enjoy filling out dozens of personal profiles on online job boards, knock yourself out. If you want a human to actually read your resume rather than it going through the Resumenator 9000 Keyword Search Algorithm, get out and meet people. Network. Have coffee. Build relationships. Talk. Knowing someone who knows someone who’s hiring is exponentially more likely to land you in the interview seat than drafting a Pulitzer Prize winning CV. Spend your time where there’s the highest return – meeting people who are hiring.

4. Companies pore over every word on your resume like it’s the Rosetta Stone.

Sorry Charlie. Hiring managers tend to be exceedingly busy. If they have the time to scrutinize every letter on the page, they’re probably underutilized useless corporate overhead who will have nothing better to do than micromanage you if they hire you.

Hiring managers are busy people. If you’re lucky, they will quickly glance over your background looking for significant accomplishments relevant to the role. If you’re unlucky, they’ll be looking for reasons to disqualify you from the role as they search for the perfect candidate. Keep it pithy and interesting and get over it if they haven’t memorized every detail of the last 99 years of your career.

5. You’ll spend your entire interview discussing your resume in detail.

Think back to the last interview you were involved in. Betcha’ more of it was spent discussing the interviewer’s resume and accomplishments than was spent poring over the bullet points you so carefully crafted on your CV. Your resume isn’t the interview guide. It is nothing more than a jumping-off point for a conversation. Don’t be insulted if the interviewer doesn’t ask you about how you saved $57 on the entertainment at an offsite while you were the intern-in-charge of the event fifteen years ago.

Don’t obsess about highlighting accomplishments the interviewer “ignores” during your conversation. Instead, focus on them and their questions. Answer them to the best of your ability and back up your assertions with experiences from your past. Please – for your own sake – never say “if you’ll refer to paragraph 7, sub-bullet 11 on my resume, you’ll see…” Do I need to explain why I’m saying this?

My point: see the resume for what it is – an advertisement to get someone’s attention and get them to think “I want to learn more about this person.” That’s it. If you’re resume gets you invited to the party, congratulations. That’s all it’s designed to do.

Mike Figliuolo at thoughtLEADERS, LLC

9 Responses to “5 Big Resume Lies You’ve Been Told”

  1. Allen says:

    Before I retired I was a hiring manager who had serious problems finding great workers – until I took HR out of the loop and actually read every resume myself. I found that most of the resumes represented truly great workers.

    Don’t start whining to me that you don’t have time to actually read them all, if you really need great workers, you don’t have time not to!

  2. Paul Copcutt says:

    I would add myth #6 to this list;

    Your Resume is a Great Marketing Document.

    The problem with resumes is that because of the 5 points you raise Mike they are not the useful documents they once were.

    Chances are I can find out most of what is on your resume (and a whole lot that isn’t!) through online searches. So as a candidate you have to be standing out through other career marketing documents.

    We have been programmed as hiring managers and leaders to ask for a resume, but really as you say it is a jumping off point. The danger for the candidate is that it has also been used to filter you – so if you do not fit some pre-determined criteria you may not even get the chance to ‘jump off’ with the interviewer.

    It would be much better (and likely more successful and productive) to select suitable candidates from career documents such as an achievement sheet highlighting specific examples of your strengths in action and a branded bio than a resume.

    Or maybe from “One Piece of Paper” as the application!

    The resume has not gone yet, but the sooner we make it redundant the better.

    Just my toonies worth.

  3. Totally agree with Allen (even though for a while I was an HR manager). For appointments where HR were involved, I tried really hard to select from resumes myself, if they were to be working with me.

    It was important to ensure that I saw someone who would still challenge me (not another ‘yes’ person), AND appeal, as well as have some relevant accomplishmen too.

    Oh, BTW as a 7th (after Paul), it might not be PC, but please check your spelling. Like it or not world, if your spelling was out, so were you. Little things like that take a few moments, but spelling correctly never lost you a place on a shortlist, so why risk it…(just checking my spelling!)

    Martin Haworth

  4. Tali Berzins says:

    The resume does serve as the starting agenda for the interview and in general most employers want to talk about your last job. This is fine, but what if your last job didn’t go so well? After all you are looking for a job, so you are either shopping for a new one or lost your old job. As an example, I have a friend who had a very bad experience in his prior job, but had 10 plus years at another company where he did very well. His resume dedicated almost as much space for the job that he held for six months versus the one he had for ten years. He was also struggling to answer the question what happened at his latest job. I advised to trim the space dedicated to his most recent job, which he did and he landed a job shortly after.

    • Mike Figliuolo says:

      I think if the last role didn’t go well, highlight where the disconnect was (chemistry with boss, wrong role, lifestyle issues, etc.) being mindful of the fact that the interviewer will be wondering if you’ll say similar things about him/her when you move to your next role. A short, clear “here’s why I left” and then move on with a new topic or discuss what you’ve learned from that bad experience is usually a good approach. You might even consider emphasizing why you’re interested in the new role – because it has a better boss/role/lifestyle/etc. Showing that you’ve learned and grown is always helpful.

  5. […] As Mike Figliuolo shares “If you submit your resume and get a phone call, you’ve succeeded. You’ve cut through the clutter and grabbed their attention. They’re interested in spending time getting to know you. I’ve never heard of someone landing a job with nothing but a resume (and if you have, I’d submit said hiring company is terrible at candidate diligence).” […]

  6. Carrie says:

    I know several people who have gaps in their resumes due to unemployment. Is there a way to somehow justify and minimize this in a resume so that the potential employer can focus on the actual work experience of the candidate and take a chance on pursuing an interview? There seems to be such a huge bias against the unemployed, but there are so many out there right now and they need the most help!

    • Mike Figliuolo says:

      I think the most important thing is to explain why you left the last job (e.g., layoff) and explain what you’ve been doing to stay busy during your period of unemployment. Explain how you’ve approached the job search, what you’ve learned in the process, and especially share any additional professional development you’ve been doing in the interim (reading, training courses, continuing education). Also, if you’ve spent time volunteering during the unemployed time, be sure to bring that up too. There’s a big difference between a candidate who is unemployed and simply looks for a job compared to one who continues their personal development, growth, and commitment to the community.

  7. […] 5 Big Resume Lies You’ve Been Told […]

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