The Credible Resume
Resume writing has become a business. And there are many conflicting guidelines about what constitutes a good resume. Opinions vary greatly on what information should be included, how it should be presented, and what purposes it serves.
For PrintLink, a company specializing in printing-industry-specific recruitment, resumes function foremost as guidelines for further discussion of a candidate's experience and objectives. Yet all too often we see resumes that emphasize the wrong things. Instead of offering us an inviting introduction to the person the resume represents, it becomes an obstacle that can diminish the candidate's eligibility. Often it is only through detailed discussion with candidates that we can resolve such roadblocks and avoid eliminating potentially valuable employees out of hand.
The information that follows will give WhatTheyThink readers some insights into what we look for specifically in a resume and what it tells us about the candidate who provided it.
Length tied to purpose
A good working definition of a resume is: "A short account of one's career and qualifications prepared typically by an applicant for a position."
Succinct presentation is key, since statistics show that the first reading of a resume typically takes 10 seconds. Because personnel is our core business and candidates are our inventory, we do take longer to evaluate a resume. Yet the 10-second rule for a first reading still applies to us as well: any additional time we take is generally for re-reading.
It follows that the resume must be a document that enables anyone to assimilate the information on it quickly. For this reason we prefer a resume length that is just long enough to serve its purpose but not so long that it becomes autobiographical.
Below is a summary of the crucial information a resume should include:
- Candidate's name, full postal address, telephone
number(s), and e-mail address indicated clearly at the top.
To find either the candidate's contact information or geographic location,
the reader should never have to hunt. We are especially attuned to
this requirement at PrintLink because we serve two counties and often
receive international submissions.
Additionally, since most of our resume submissions are now electronic, reviewing them is no longer a matter of shuffling through printed sheets of paper. Scrolling on a monitor instead is more time-consuming and makes it easier to skip over information that doesn't stand out visually on the page.
- Next comes a concise summary statement
describing the person's main function in the workplace and his or
her primary skills. In order to be most effective, this section of
the resume should constitute a marketing statement--or even a headline.
It should highlight the person's strongest selling points right away
to give the reader a reason to look further-functioning almost like
the tantalizing author-and-plot summaries on the back or inside panels
of a book's dust jacket. But although people are the lifeblood of
our business, at PrintLink we don't usually read a summary that is
too long or too vague. Instead, we just skip over it and proceed immediately
to the employment history.
- Similarly, we are not looking for a candidate's objectives,
since these can be presumptuous, irrelevant, or add nothing further
to the account of the person's background. For example, candidates
frequently set meaningless targets, such as "A position where I can
utilize my skills and capabilities", or aspirations that are inappropriate
for their work history, such as "To work as an Operations Manager
in a progressive organization" when the candidate's actual work experience
has been restricted to hands-on equipment operation only.
A further caveat against considering a candidate's objectives is that they can pigeonhole that person incorrectly or too narrowly. Part of our responsibility as recruitment specialists is to assess which positions the candidate qualifies for. In this context, a candidate's objectives might be relevant in discussing a pending career change from production to sales or from hands-on operator to supervisor or supervisor to manager-but we prefer to consider such information in separate covering letters from candidates or else review it with them in conversation.
- Work history. We like to see work history
next because it substantiates the summary. It should be outlined in
descending chronological order, complete with job titles, company
names, and start and end dates for each job. In some instances a short
sentence defining the company's business and location helps as well.
For assessing the candidate's experience and competencies, it also
helps if the work history includes a point-form overview of activities
and accomplishments associated with each job. This overview is important
because job profiles differ from company to company, even though position
titles may be the same.
Accomplishments are often the most difficult things for candidates to define, since they necessitate self-promotion or marketing. We look for realistic and substantiated accomplishments--not fabricated, superficial or statistical feats that are impossible to verify. Basically, this information tells us what the individual did for the companies he or she worked for.
There is considerable debate about how much of a person's job history should be included on a resume. We encourage candidates to show all of it, thus allowing their resume to tell the full story of their career evolution. Some, however, have reached a chronological stage where they do not need to detail every single job they have held. In such cases, just a simple summary suffices for the earliest stages of their career, in which they list under the heading "Previous Experience" only company names, position titles, and dates.
Some candidates confide their concern to us that if they don't dock the early years off their resume to conceal their age, it might bar them from being considered for a particular job. In these cases we always answer that an employer is going to find out their age anyway-when they show up in person for an interview, if not before that. Additionally, when we put candidates forward to an employer for a particular job, we don't just provide their resume alone but also include substantive notes about why we are recommending them. Age-anxious candidates welcome this aspect of our service, versus sending employers their resumes on their own and finding that age considerations can automatically eliminate them-often unnecessarily. While we do recognize that age can have some bearing on our candidates' fit within an organization, our key objective is to demonstrate their value.
- Education, training, qualifications
section. We like to see dates included here as well, particularly
related to training, seminars and professional-development programs.
- We prefer that references are not listed
on the resume. We would rather discuss them with candidates relative
to specific positions. "References available on request" is an unnecessary
statement-because they had better be! We recognize that supplying
certain reference contacts can be a special challenge for candidates
in confidential situations, but we are usually able to work around
- Leisure activities or hobbies can sometimes
be relevant, because they give us an idea of the candidate's
personality. For example, if they reveal a person who is community-minded,
we might try to match the candidate with a community-minded company.
There is a fine line, however, between relevant information and information
that is excessive or too personal. We are very attuned to assessing
whether the candidate can utilize the resume's length and format in
a manner pertinent and appropriate to his or her career goals.
- Format: Easy-to-read text only. Some
candidates feel it is important to include graphics, especially for
a visual-based industry. However, when we archive and distribute electronic
files supplied by candidates, we find that their graphics rarely convert
or print well and can get in the way of the real message-the facts
on their resume.
Therefore, for pragmatic reasons, we prefer that candidates' resumes consist of text only. We still receive occasional fax submissions, but most resumes now come to us electronically as e-mail attachments. We specify that the attachments should be supplied in either Word for PC, Rich Text, or PDF formats. We, in turn, provide PDF documents to our clients.
The most important thing is that the information provided in candidates' files should be legible both on a monitor and on paper, so we recommend the use of simple, tried-and-true type fonts, such as Times New Roman, Helvetica, or Arial, in a legible size.
Some candidates still like to deliver hard copies of their documents on good-quality coloured or textured stock. But this embellishment complicates the process of electronic archiving. For resumes submitted on paper, plain white paper is the new rule.
Typos and misspelling always tell a story. Although their cause may vary from person to person, they never fail to raise a concern.
Additionally, for a big industry, printing is a small one, and it is relatively easy for candidates to be caught by inaccuracies on their resume. So we encourage them to be as accurate as possible with the information they relay.
A poll of recruiters and hiring managers by the Resume Doctor notes the following most common misleading information on resumes:
- inflated titles
- inaccuracies or inflated information regarding specific roles and duties
- inaccurate dates to cover up job hopping or gaps in employment
- inflated educational background
- inflated salaries
- inflated accomplishments
But still we have seen it happen: a candidate registers with us, submits a resume, and gets archived into our system. Then six months to a year later the same person comes back to us with a completely different resume!
Our objective at PrintLink is to make introductions that result in productive long-term employee/employer relationships. Resumes are just the beginning.