Your Resume and You

In the past few weeks, I've seen a ridiculous amount of resumes. From friends, contacts, job applicants, and lots of other people in between and almost without exception – and I mean this with the best heart possible – they suck.

Some are misleading and/or false.  I know someone who lists his college experience starting from when he were accepted and ending when he failed out.  Conveniently enough, this is four years… while it's not an outright lie, it certainly does imply that he has a degree.

No, I'm talking about the quality of the resume itself.  While I'm not a resume pro, I've been interviewing more and more candidates in the past few years and I know what annoys and appeals me.

First, read your resume.  Does it make sense?  Is there anything that makes you stop and re-read the line to understand it?  If so, re-write it.  Clarity never hurts.

Next, what about the grammar and spelling?  Are your verb tenses correct?  I'd wager that almost everything on your resume happened in the past.  😉  Have you run it through a spell checker?  I expect a few spelling errors on blogs just due to their transitory and time-sensitive nature.  Your resume is not the same.

Next, when was the last time you updated it?  Four years ago I was caught by surprise when my position dissolved from beneath me.  I scrambled to update my resume and had to try to remember every project and accomplishment from the previous couple years.  Since then, I've been in the habit of updating it every 3-4 months.  Is it always necessary?  Not a chance.  But it means that when the need does arise, I only have to remember the past couple months.  And if the need to get a real job appeared, I could send it out immediately without review.

Next, how long is your resume?  I expect a one-page resume from junior people though even that is becoming less common with so many Open Source projects.  For senior people, the rule of thumb I've always heard was two pages.  It takes effort for me to stay at two pages, so maybe that's not correct anymore or maybe I need to drop some more things…  either way, I tend to lose focus after 2-3 pages and just want to read the next one.  Don't undersell yourself at this stage.

Next, what do you do to stay sharp?  At the interview stage, I regularly ask what technical books, sites, and articles a candidate reads or what else they do learn new things.  While that's not the easiest thing to express on a resume, I like seeing that you're willing and able to learn new things or new ways to do existing things.

Finally, is your resume tuned for the position?  I know a few people have an amazing range of skills and experience and just "try to fit in" when they apply for a job.  Anyone with more than a few years of experience has things they love and things they hate.  If it's on your resume and you're willing to "fit in", I'd put money on your next job doing it again. 

Make your resume tell a story.  Show the reviewer why you're qualified for this specific position and build your case.  In some cases, tuning your resume will mean downplaying certain accomplishments off.  It could mean leaving them off completely.  If you're looking for two types of positions or looking to move into a new role, that could mean two resumes detailing your experience differently.

But like I said, I'm not a pro.  I know what appeals to me and what annoys me.  Your industry, area, or potential employers are probably a bit different…. but I think all of the above points apply.

If you're looking for a professional opinion, I'd suggest that you Ask the Headhunter.  Other than being on his mailing list for a couple years, I have no affiliation.