Professionally Speaking

Building a Better Resumé

Which types of resumes do (and don't) work.

I’ve seen several different types of resumes mentioned on career Web sites. They’re usually chronological or skills-based. Which is the better type? Should I break my resume down by skills or by the duties I’ve had at each job? Are different kinds of resumes better for different purposes?
—Chris Edwards, MCSE, MCP+Internet
Technical support analyst
Macon, Georgia
cedwards@trane.com

To me, the answer is that it doesn’t really matter. Resumes are great — and we all need a current one — but many of us spend too much time agonizing over them. Their only function, generally, is to get us an interview. The interview is what actually gets us the job — so it follows we should spend as much time as possible practicing and preparing for the interview.

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At most, I spend 10 to 15 minutes reviewing a resume. From this I can determine whether or not this is someone I’d want to interview. Keep in mind that in my current role, I’m hiring people for server implementation work for Windows NT and Novell NetWare and their related products. These people need to have advanced skill levels, and this is what I’m looking for. If I were looking for more junior people, I’d need to spend more time looking for signs of potential in their careers to date or extracurricular activities, which would take more time. Whatever you’re trying to say to employers, you need to make sure the message is clear and easily digestible.

There are a couple of things I do want to say about resumes. Fancy formatting is out, as nowadays it’s very common to send a text resume via the Internet. And, often, hirers scan resumes into their computers for faster searching. Make sure that you spellcheck your resume thoroughly and have someone check the language usage. I often get resumes with poor spelling or with strange sentence structures; straightaway that tells me these people will be of no use when it comes to documentation tasks, as the resume supposedly represents their best writing efforts.

Also, never lie or embellish the truth — you’ll get found out eventually. Once you are, no one will believe anything you say or have said in the past. I’m sure we’ve all seen the news of late where CEOs of companies with great career track records have been found out and discredited after feeling the need to add to their resumes. So let this be a lesson: If you wouldn’t dare show your resume to all your previous managers, then it might be a cue to change the contents.

Lastly, I should warn you about the use of certification logos in resumes. There’s a range of views about this — some think they’ve worked hard enough for their certification and deserve the right to be able to use the logo. At the other end of the spectrum, some feel that they really detract from the resume. I’m not a big fan of seeing logos in resumes and, because there are many who really don’t like them, I’d recommend not using them.

One tip that someone from an mcpmag.com forum once mentioned that I’d like to repeat here is the idea of printing business cards with — on the back — a list of three or four key things you would like potential employers to know about you. These are great to hand out at career fairs and really grab attention better than a resume.

Once your resume has earned you an interview, that’s when your work should really start. We addressed interview questions in MCP Magazine’s June 2000 article, "Win the Interview Game,” so I’ll refer you to that issue [See both Greg's and Steve's columns.—Ed.], but you really need to be able to answer with ease and poise and without a sense of panic. Best of luck with your job hunting!

About the Author

Greg Neilson is a manager at a large IT services firm in Australia and has been a frequent contributor to MCPmag.com and CertCities.com.

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