Judging 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.