Friday, April 3, 2009

Resume advice : Don't try so hard

I’ve had a lot of requests from friends and colleagues lately seeking resume advice. I’m happy to help, but it’s tough. Each individual has their own writing style, and each recruiter/hiring manager might review resumes differently. But I thought I’d share one piece of universal advice about resume writing.

Put your old resume aside and build a new one from scratch.

Start with a blank page, look at the clock, and in less than 20 minutes draw up a fresh resume. No cheating, you can’t look at an old résumé for ideas. Worried you’ll forget something? That’s OK. If you can’t recall it quickly, it’s probably not that relevant. Don’t worry about fonts/formatting, colors spacing, flow or anything like that. You can go back later and make it look nice.

The compressed time frame forces you to focus on the content. Your core responsibilities, key accomplishments, critical skills. The important things. The things that employers are looking for.

I know there are volumes of books, articles, seminars etc. on how to write resumes, sell yourself, position your experience for the job search. Many probably have value. And you should spend time making your resume look professional. Using a recommended font, starting bullets with action words - all good things. But the bottom line is that content is king. But all the formatting, spin and positioning in the world can’t make you into something you are not.

I’ve seen way to many resumes where form and flowery language dominate the document, and I find myself having to work hard to figure out what exactly this person does for a living, how they can add value to an organization. Don’t be that candidate.

Imagine you only have 15 seconds to capture the attention of a recruiter or hiring manager. Because in reality – that’s about what you get. Especially now with more job seekers and more resumes flooding recruiter’s Inboxes. You have fifteen seconds to convince them that you can add value to their organization. What is the one statement you’d want the reader to come away with after reading your resume? For instance, I want people reading my resume to remember “Ian is a kick ass recruiter who is very aware of the business impact of his job”. If someone gets that from their 15 seconds with my resume, I’m happy.

Once you’ve built a new resume from scratch and taken some time to clean it up, see if you can find someone who has no clue in the world about what you do for a living. Ask them to take a minute to read your resume and give you a one sentence summary of what you do well. If the answer is close to what you want it to be, great. If not, get another blank page.

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