B4G: Recruiting – Making your Resume Work

In the past few weeks, a number of resumes have cross my email. Contained within is a snippet of one of them. The inclusion and criticism here is targetted at a practice, not a person.

What does this graph mean to you? (click image for larger)

At first glance, you see a series of bars links skills and software to specific scores. Alright, that seems simple enough, someone is scoring their abilities. Once you understand that the green score represents where they are and the blue represents where they believe they could be, it makes more sense.

But what does this graph mean?

In my opinion, this graph means nothing and has the potential to hurt the candidate.

First, you have the scoring itself. You say you're a 7…. and? Without a frame of reference, that number means absolutely nothing to me. I have no clue if you're modest and underselling yourself or if you're arrogant and think you already know it all. Without knowing more about you, I don't know which category you fall into. And no matter which one I guess, one of us won't be happy. Don't give me the opportunity.

I once worked with someone who – despite stunningly excellent technical skills – would ask candidates: "How do you feel about your ability in X?" Wha? It's hard to ponder a worse (but still legal) question to ask a candidate. Any semi-intelligent candidate will say:

"Well, I've only been doing X for Y months but I'm picking it up and look forward to learning more" or "Well, I'm pretty accomplished in it, but I'm looking forward to learning more about it" Did anything in either of those answers tell you anything?

Second, the distinction between the two bars is a bad thing. Why would you tell me what you think you can be? Why not just be that? Even if I don't say it out loud, my first question is "So, you're a 5 now, why haven't you become a 7?" If the question is never spoken, you don't have a chance to respond. And once again, you're on the defensive.

Finally, you have the entire concept of scoring. Since we don't have a common frame of reference, it doesn't mean anything useful. In fact, it may be more confusing than anything. When you talk about any sport, team, or contest where ranking comes into play – just like in every hiring process – you need to compare against the competition for anything of meaning to result.

But there's another aspect that's more subtle. Since we don't have a common frame of reference, I don't know how my position scores for you. While I consider the job a 9 (very difficult), it may fit entirely within your experience and expertise where you'd consider it a 5. But since you ranked yourself a 7, I won't consider you.

The point of a resume is to sell yourself enough to get the interview.

When you don't give me enough information to understand and evaluate your experience, I will make assumptions. Some of those assumptions will help you and some will hurt you. Even worse, the assumptions that do help you initially will set my expectations… and it could set them too high. If you fail to meet those imagined expectations, you lose.

As a candidate, your goal is to sell yourself for the position. You get one shot with two pages and that's it. Don't sell yourself short… and don't let the hiring manager do it either.