In sorting through resumes recently I was quickly reminded how rare it is to come across a good resume. One would think that with a down economy (whether we are in the midst of a recession or just creeping out of one), high unemployment rates (7.8% in Colorado at the moment), and an uncertain future, people would be focused on putting their best foot forward – beginning with their resume. After all, it is your first impression and you have, according to TheLadders.com, only six seconds to make it or break it. To further complicate matters, place that resume in a pile of twenty more and your resume is likely the most limiting (or effective) tool you have!
At any rate while there is a wealth of information online about how to write a resume or even professional services to do it for you, I am offering my own advice based on my own experience. I’ve landed interviews the vast majority of times I’ve submitted my own resume but more importantly I’ve reviewed hundreds of resume’s to determine who get’s to move onto the next step and who does not.
- Keep It Brief – I often read that the “paper weight” or “thickness” test is outdated but I vastly disagree. It might certainly be the case that long resumes are becoming more “accepted” but it still negatively impacts your image. If you cannot capture the interviewers attention on page one (remember that six seconds?) then he is certainly not going to move onto page two. And, if you do and he moves on because he’s curious then you’re more likely just to screw it up on page two. Keep your resume limited to 1-2 pages and remember that what is recent and relevant to the position you’re applying is all that matters.
- Proofread – There is nothing more annoying than reading a resume with misspelled words – especially when they’re common skill-sets or abbreviations (I reviewed one resume that read “Apache IS” instead of “Apache IIS” and in more than one place). It begs the question – is this a simple mistake or just a perceived buzzword that the applicant is not actually familiar with? Best case scenario, it indicates that the candidate was rushed or they don’t care – either way it’s an automatic dismissal.
- Lose the “Objective” – I used to use this and I believe it was likely more of a tool in high school in order to ensure that the “applicant” was clearly stating his own goal more so than it was for the interviewer. We know the objective – you want the job! Today any resume that begins with a name followed by “Objective” screams “Word Template!” and is indicative of the fact that you do not know what you’re doing. IT is a professional field (and IT itself is a volatile industry) and you should be very familiar with this entire process beginning with your resume.
- Be Concise – Don’t list 18 different skills when the job you’re applying for only requires three. They’re irrelevant and the applicable skills might get buried amongst the others. Your resume might even be discarded because: it appears that you cannot make up your mind on where to focus, you cannot possibly be an expert in any one area if you’re working in twenty, or perhaps there will be a fear that you might have a bias or will attempt to influence current practices in a way the interviewer does not want. The greatest risk is simply that you are introducing 15 more interview discussion topics that are not relevant to the position for which you are applying and 15 more ways to fail your interview if your answers are not satisfactory.