Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Advice For Things You May Have Overlooked On Your Resume

I must confess, I am desperate to fill a job and ran a blind ad on one of the job sites.  I was dismayed by the quality of the résumés I received. Most of the résumés I received had nothing to do with the specs which were linked to the listing;  And I know perfectly well that these are the same people who will complain that they submit résumés and then hear nothing back from the company.  Duh.  Besides that, there was much essential information missing from many of the résumés I received.

The whole purpose of a résumé is to make a company desire to meet you and then to provide a guide to interview you.  When there is missing information or bad formatting, it makes it more difficult for companies to see you.

          I understand that in this day and age, people, may not want to list their home addresses.  But how about listing your city, e.g. New York, New York?  It merely puts the résumé into context so that the reader of the résumé, knows if you are easily available for an interview. It is very difficult for the recipient of the résumé to evaluate the candidate without knowing where he or she lives.  If the firm running the listing wants someone from a particular area, because, let’s say, there is no relocation attached to the job, the screener may skip it just because they don’t know where the candidate lives.  Why take a chance?

·        Honestly, one of the résumés I received was from a person with an asexual name – Jean.  I don’t discriminate, but it would be nice to know his/her sex so I could send back a letter, Dear Mr. or Ms. Use of a middle name might have helped.  While it may seem awkward to put a Mr. or Ms. on a résumé, I have seen it done many times.

·        If you work at a company or on clients that people who see your résumé may not know, tell them what it is.  One of the résumés I received said that she worked at a particular firm I had not heard of; Google turned up nothing.  It made it difficult to evaluate the candidate’s experience so it would have been appropriate to say what the company is.  In fact, the bullet points listed under this and other companies were so generic that I could not tell what field she came from.  These problems are especially true if one has worked abroad and the companies and brands are unfamiliar.  One should not assume that a brand well known in one country is also known in another. For instance, most Americans do not know that Ariel Detergent is P&G’s equivalent to Tide in Europe.

·        Use of certain terms or words can be confusing. You must be careful of unintelligible terms and words.  Many companies have proprietary research or procedures or terms for what they do.  Don’t assume that everyone knows what those initials stand for or mean. And don’t presume that putting them on your résumé will make you appear smarter or better skilled.  If the person reading your résumé doesn’t understand it, they will disregard your candidacy.

·        Beware of complicated résumé formats.  Research has shown that the average reader will spend less than six seconds on your résumé.  I see many candidates who use complicated and often colorful grids and formats, which make the reader work too hard to figure out if they want to meet the person who wrote the résumé.  Creative people are particularly guilty of doing this.  Make your résumé easy to read and follow.  Standard formats are easy to read and follow.

·        Synthesize who you are and what you have done.  Every accomplishment and every detail of your job is not necessary. I saw resumes that were three and four pages long - from people still obviously in their twenties.  Remember, the primary use of your résumé is as an interview guide.  So list specific bullet points of things you would like to be asked about, so that you can explain them at greater length.  It is okay if a résumé runs to multiple pages as long as it is compelling and easy to understand. I have seen long résumés reduced to five-point type so that they end up being only one page, but if that page is difficult to read, it is useless. Your resume should have at least 11 point type, but 12 point is better.
r     Resumes must be compelling to read and not redundant.  If you are an account executive (or more senior) in advertising and looking for an advertising job, don't bullet point the obvious.  No need to say, "handle budgets." "Liaison with client".  Everyone reading your résumé already knows that.  Put down your accomplishments so you can talk about them, if asked.
      Many of the résumés I saw had the same mistake.  They did not articulate exactly what the person did.  For instance, in this day and age of key word search, it is not enough to say that you are integrated.  What is needed is an articulation of integration.  Did you work on direct mail, SEO/SEM, CRM or retention, social marketing, web sites, television production, strategy?  What you don't know is whether the person at a company who is screening your résumé is not told to look for these words (or worse, the person may be a scanning machine.)

·        Finally, remember that a résumé is an ad for yourself.  It should be neat, well formatted and easy to read.  Take a good look at it when it is complete.  Have a friend who is not in your business read it to be sure they understand it.  Formatting can be a problem, as well. I have seen the keyboard shortcut for centering (Ctrl+E) not put things in the center, making the résumé look awkward.  I have seen résumés with multiple type sizes and fonts, making them difficult to read.  And be careful with your use of bold type.
People complain all the time about sending résumés online and then hearing nothing back. If you have made any of the mistakes I have listed, you are actually inviting  no response.


  1. Hi Paul:
    Insightful as always. But one thought. I picked a gender neutral name on purpose. You need only to read the news to know why. If you want to write to me you can simply say: Dear P.J. Lehrer :-)


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