This month, Steve takes a reader’s résumé and gives it a fresh look.
Harry, first of all, let me congratulate you—you’ve succeeded! You’ve
communicated from the “other side.” Seriously, when your e-mail came in,
I was on vacation so ">Greg got to do all the heavy lifting this month
Actually, I like Greg’s “makeover” of your résumé
It accentuates what you have done more than where you did it. As Greg
says, wherever possible, stress results and quantify them. I do want to
emphasize one of Greg’s comments, however, and that’s that you shouldn’t
be sending out a “generic” résumé (unless, of course, you’re one of those
pathetic individuals who goes from booth to booth at trade shows handing
out résumés indiscriminately). Your résumé should be tailored to each
opportunity in which you’re interested.
I know, many readers are saying, “But isn’t that what the cover letter
is for?” To a large extent, that’s correct. Your cover letter should emphasize
why you’re interested in, and qualified for, a specific position. But,
if you’re inquiring about a managerial position and you send in your résumé
such as Greg has redesigned, no matter what your cover letter says, your
résumé emphasizes your technical achievements. Instead, you probably need
to change the wording of the summary and rearrange your achievements to
put your experience as president of MNO Solutions higher, plus emphasize
your MBA. Similarly, if you’re going after a network engineer job, you
need to stress your networking experience, especially the scale and scope,
and your CCNA.
What should go on a résumé? Everything you want a potential employer
to know about you that’s relevant to the position—and some things that
aren’t. What does that mean? Well, when applying for a specific position,
emphasize what’s relevant but don’t leave off significant accomplishmsents
that may not be directly related. I have received résumés for positions
in the past where I thought, “Not exactly what I’m looking for in that
job, but this person also has experience for another position I need to
fill.” This doesn’t mean that you should include your teenage paper route
or Frosty Freeze experience (unless you’re applying at a newspaper or
an ice-cream maker).
Greg has restructured your résumé in a non-chronological fashion, which
has a couple of advantages: You can rearrange your experience to put more
relevant items first, and you can avoid putting dates on it. This last
point has some plusses and minuses. In our column on age discrimination,
I urged the reader to leave dates off the résumé so there was no solid
clue to the résumé reader as to the applicant’s age. On the other hand,
putting dates with the positions may show stability (or lack thereof)
and a steady progression of responsibility.
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Quick, what don’t you put in a résumé? Everything that’s totally irrelevant
to the situation (but it’s not easy to only give categories here). For
example, no one should put their hobbies on a résumé unless it could be
relevant, as in stating that your two cats came from the local animal
shelter if you’re applying for that shelter’s systems manager position.
These relevant personal interest items, whether in your cover letter or
your résumé, could be what gets you noticed.
Most of the point of this, Harry, is that your résumé needs to be very
flexible. No two companies should get the same version of your résumé.
That’s what word processors are for! To some degree, creativity counts;
but like Greg, I’m not encouraging you to do any fantasy writing. Résumé
inflation has become widespread, and employers are doing much more verification
Good luck with your search. Remember, lead with what you’ve done (experience),
not what you know (certifications).
Steve Crandall, MCSE, is a principal of ChangeOverTime, a technology consulting firm in Cleveland, Ohio, that specializes in small business and non-profit organizations. He's also assistant professor of Information Technology
at Myers College and a contributing writer for Microsoft Certified Professional Magazine.