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Resume vs. Newspaper
Continued from our previous blog post…
After the summary, or “headline”, of a resume is read, the reader turns to the job titles. Job titles in a resume serve as the secondary headlines of the resume because they give the reader an idea of what the rest of the content of the resume will be about. If a hiring manager is seeking a store manager and he reads “Butcher”, “Baker”, “Candlestick Maker” he will know the resume is not going to contain the qualifications he needs. However, if the resume job titles were “Department Manager”, “Retail Manager”, and “District Manager”, he would know he’s on the right track and keep reading.
Job titles are crucial bits of a resume but most job seekers place them secondary to the name of the companies where they worked. Company names are important, especially if the companies for which you have worked are direct competitors of your target employer. Company names are not as important as job titles and should not come above.
The next parts of the resume to be read are the bullet items in the experience. Bullets are meant to call attention to information, but unfortunately, many job seekers use them simply to mark beginnings of paragraphs or items in a list. That is a waste of bullets. Think of bullets as call-outs. They serve like call-out quotes in an article. They grab attention and focus it on specific information that the reader needs to know. That information should be the accomplishments and results that the job seeker has achieved.
Finally, the reader reads the last part of the last page which usually contains details about education, affiliations, and technical skills. These sections are not going to make or break the resume but rather support the previous information that has gone before. The degree should have been mentioned in the summary and now the details of that degree can be found in the Education section.
Sometimes, job seekers put in a Personal section or an Interests/Hobbies section at the end. Sections like these are a total waste of page space. Think of them like the ads in a paper that say “Your Ad Could Be Here” – it’s a filler for the newspaper because they needed something to take up that space. Personal information and information on hobbies have not place on a resume. Employers don’t need that information to make a decision on the quality of the candidate and whether or not he/she is worth interviewing.
Think of a resume as a periodical or newspaper. Lead with the most important information. Write it to the needs and wants of the reader. Cover what needs to be covered in powerful language. Leave out the irrelevant information.
Black and White and NOT Read All Over
Think about the last time you read a print newspaper. What did you do? More than likely, you scanned the headlines of the front page first to see if there was anything there that really caught your eye. Since these stories are on the front page, you assume they are the most important and newsworthy.
You may see something that really grabs your attention on the front page so you read the first sentence of the story. If the story is written well, it will follow basic journalism style and address the “who, what, where, when” in the first sentence or two. You decide with that first sentence if you want to read the rest of the article more closely or just continue skimming the headlines.
After you are done with the first page, you turn to the inside pages, again skimming headlines. You may pick up a “From the Front Page” continuance or you may just glance quickly at other stories to see if they have interest. By the time you make it through the front page section, you have covered several different categories of news – local, national, international, and maybe some business news. These categories are ordered in importance to the profile of the reader. A local paper may lead with local stories while large papers such as the Washington Post or New York Times may lead with national stories or even international pieces.
Sometimes, you jump directly to a section that might contain a certain piece of information you are seeking such as the weather forecast, the stock report, or the obituaries. You know what you are seeking and go directly to that category.
Why am I talking about how a newspaper is read? Because a newspaper is read almost exactly the same way a resume is read. Most people who write their own resumes never think about how the resume is read and what the reader is seeking in the document. Most people are too concerned trying to make sure they have the right keywords in the resume or that they have not misspelled something or how to handle a strange career timeline to think about the document itself. So let’s look at how a resume is read and the purpose of placing information in certain places in the resume.
Like a newspaper, the most attention is paid to the first page above the fold. In a resume, that is the summary section. A good summary is like the lead headline of a newspaper. It gets the main message across to the reader. The reader wants to know the scoop and the summary should provide the “who, what, when, where, and how” of a candidate’s career. In recent years, use of the summary section has degraded into a listing of soft skills and intangibles rather than summarizing the information that a reader wants to know. Poor summaries are vague strings of ephemeral adjectives like “detail-oriented” “highly skilled” or “results-driven”. These phrases and words don’t tell the reader what he wants to know! A summary should, well, summarize! A good summary tells what the candidate’s job focus is going to be (usually naming a job title), tells in what industry(s) the candidate has experience, informs the reader on level of experience or number of years in the field, and the area of expertise.
(To be continued in Friday’s blog!)
Self-Employment or Not?
Results of a poll conducted by the New York Enterprise Report were released recently. The poll was conducted in January and February of this year and asked respondents – small business owners – to indicate how many hours they worked. Results showed the majority of small business owners work at least 50 hours a week. Thirty-three percent reported working more than 50 hours and twenty-five percent said they work more than 60 hours a week. Seventy percent of respondents said they work at least one weekend a month.
We see all kinds of clients as part of our business. Most are conventional, corporate workers who make good salaries but consider themselves part of a bigger machine. They are typically seeking advancement in salary, position, or some other change in their job role as a reason to look for a different job. Some are corporate types who dream of being their own boss. Some are “entrepreneurial in spirit” – a term used by some to mean they really just want to be in charge but not have to work their tails off. Some have tried self-employment and didn’t like it and others have tried it and achieved great success. Some are visionary dreamers who have big ideas but need worker bees behind them to implement.
A new breed that has evolved with technology is the telecommuter. I see many, many clients who like being part of a corporate structure but thrive working alone at home. Many of these are sales professionals, technical people, or consultants and have what I would term as a true “entrepreneurial spirit”. What makes an entrepreneur? Here’s my list of qualifications:
Independent but listens to good advice
Can work alone or lead a team
Goal-focused rather than task-focused
Client-centric (knows that he has to go out and kill it and drag it home so he pays attention to the client)
Willing to work the long hours but smart enough to know when to hire someone
Organized and creates systems to simply tasks
Sees value within and doesn’t need outside praise
Enjoys work for work’s sake (work is entertaining)
A 2005 study by the Family and Work Institute found that thirty-three percent of workers feel overworked all the time and fifty-four percent said they have been overwhelmed by their workload in the past month. That was a study of workers in general, not just self-employed. Will changing jobs change that? Will changing careers make a difference? Something to think about.
Ah, Those Hobbies and Interests...
If you have ever taken a writing course or if you remember your high school senior English class, you will know in all writing you should always consider your audience. If you are writing a business letter, the content, tone, and level of writing will be different than if you are writing a friendly email to your best friend. In college, and now proven to be the case on the SAT Writing Test, the meaning and author intention behind the writing are less important than number of words and lack of comma splices. The intended audience determines the type of writing.
With that in mind, why would hobbies, interests, or non-career related activities appear in a resume? I am continually amazed when I see hobbies and interests listed on a resume. Sure, some of them are kind of interesting and they may serve to break the ice in an interview, but that is assuming the resume got the candidate to the interview stage in the first place.
Every single word on a resume should be weighed and considered for its value to the audience. Employers generally don’t care what a candidate’s hobbies are because they do not relate to the candidate’s ability to do the job. Many people have hobbies that are vastly divergent from their careers. That is part of the attraction of a hobby – it is an escape from the nine-to-five. Listing these hobbies on a resume does not add to the value of the candidate but instead takes up space that could be used for relevant information that will help the reader build a mental picture of the candidate’s abilities.
Let’s take me for example. I spend anywhere from four to five hours a day writing and working one-on-one with clients. The rest of my time is taken up with general business and daily activities such as email, correspondence, etc. I’ve been published in multiple books, won numerous awards for writing, sat on executive boards in various organizations that are related to my work, and I have spoken at numerous conferences and seminars. I’ve appeared on television and radio. By anyone’s estimate, I am considered an expert in my field.
My hobbies have almost nothing in common with my work. I do them for fun and as a diversion from my career. Do I dare tell you what my hobbies are? If I do, what will your first thought be? Will it be “Wow, that just adds to her qualifications to be my career coach and resume writer?” Or will you think “I can’t believe she does THAT in her spare time!”
Some hobbies even scare employers. I had a sales pro client who insisted that his hobby of hang gliding be included on his resume because he felt it demonstrated his “natural daring nature, and lack of fear of going after the tough sale”. He wasn’t getting any response and came back to me for help. It just so happened that he had applied for a sales position with a company for which I had done some outplacement consulting a few years prior. I called the HR manager there and asked if she had seen this fellow’s resume; I explained I was trying to help him with his career search. She said, “Oh yes, I remember his resume. He looked good on paper but he hang glides! In the job for which he applied, the selected candidate would be solely responsible for a territory of over seven states. If he got hurt hang gliding, we would be up a creek for someone to service those accounts. We dismissed him as not viable.”
Still wondering what I do for a hobby? If you have been to my office, you might have seen a clue. If not, do a Google search on my name – Alesia Benedict – and see what you find.
Vague, Weak, and Ineffective
I’ve written about summaries before on the blog but I’m going to revisit the subject because summaries are without a doubt, the most difficult part of a resume to write. Additionally, summaries are consistently the worst-written sections that I see in self-written resumes. Because of this, I feel it is worth another look at these bugaboo bits of a resume.
The summary is just what it says – a summary. Unfortunately, most people use the summary to try to communicate intangibles and soft skills rather than summarizing the content of the resume. As a result, the summary ends up vague, weak, and full of “fluff” information. The summary has a purpose to give the reader a fast overview of what the rest of the resume will detail. It should spark the interest of the reader and communicate the qualifications of the job seeker. The reader should understand just from the summary what the job seeker offers in terms of depth of experience, industry, level of expertise, and broad skills.
I’ve pulled a few weak summaries from my files of resumes submitted for review to examine. The first is actually an objective rather than a summary. I don’t recommend objectives be used on a resume simply because they aren’t targeted toward the audience. The reader is reading to see what the job seeker has to offer, not to hear what the job seeker wants from the employer. The sample one I pulled reads as follows:
“I am looking for an IT or consulting leadership position where I will be challenged, both technically and professionally, that has potentially significant business impact, and where the corporate vision and culture mesh well with my sense of ethics and work style.”
This is an interesting one because the job seeker who wrote this was adamant that I didn’t read his resume prior to sending him some preliminary questions about his goals in the job search. He said that he stated clearly in his objective what it was he was targeting. This tells me nothing about the job seeker’s goals other than he’s looking for consulting leadership. I’m not sure what consulting leadership is. All the consultants I’ve worked with are not the leaders of the company, but rather, well, consultants! It doesn’t tell me in what industry he’s targeting either. Information Technology spans all industries.
Let’s take a look at a weak summary. Here’s a good example of a weak summary:
“High-integrity, energetic leader known for the ability to envision and create successful, multi-faceted business relationships. Believes firmly that the strength of any organization is in its people and is committed to creating and supporting an environment that fosters teamwork, cooperation, and respect. Proven track record of strategic positioning, creativity and motivational leadership with an innate ability to translate business relationships into significant revenue.”
Taken completely out of the resume, can you tell anything about this person from reading this? No, you can’t. Is he a CEO or a used car salesman? The description could fit either. What is his industry? How many years experience does he have? Does it quantify “significant revenue”? Significant revenue to Microsoft is not the same thing as significant revenue to Joe’s Car Wash down on Second Street.
Many people are familiar with executive summaries as they appear in reports, business plans, and white papers. The purpose of the executive summary is to cover what is in the paper quickly and in a short version so the reader can grasp the overall theme or point of the paper without having to read the entire document word-for-word, start-to-finish. A summary in a resume is exactly the same. It is to give the reader a clear picture of the candidate up front so the reader knows what to expect from the rest of the document. Resumes aren’t read word-for-word, start-to-finish so the summary is a key part that must function properly. Otherwise, it’s just a waste of space.
Place a modern resume next to a resume written in the seventies and you will notice a significant difference in not only appearance but content. Resumes, like language, have changed over time. Employment patterns and jobs have changed, too. Very little is the same today as it was in 1975 in resumes and in society in general.
In the seventies and eighties, a resume had to be one page in length. There were several reasons for this. Most job seekers had had few jobs in their lifetime. It was a time when employees and employers were more loyal to one another. A thirty-year career with one company was a sign of a great employee whereas frequent job changes were seen as a sign of a problem. When there were only one or maybe two employers over the span of a career, getting the content into one page was much easier.
Today, resumes average two pages with three pages being acceptable for senior executives. The additional length helps accommodate the types of careers people have today. The average time an American worker spends in one job is three years. What used to be seen as “job hopping” is now considered normal. A jumpy career history might even be a sign that an employee is a “hot commodity” in the marketplace.
With resumes being stored in databases in electronic format, page length does not become a storage issue. Monster and CareerBuilder have millions of resumes stored in their databases. Can you imagine the filing cabinets it would take if those were all in paper format?
Thirty years ago, resumes pretty much followed a set format – centered header at the top (sometimes with the word “Resume” at the very top) followed by an objective, followed by an education section, followed by an employment history, followed by a category of interests/hobbies. Today, resumes don’t use objectives and the education section usually comes last. A summary is used at the top to give the reader a quick overview of what the job seeker has to offer. A fairly detailed career history follows with job description and accomplishments covered thoroughly. There is often a technology skills section that lists computer software, hardware, and abilities.
In the seventies and eighties, a resume was a bare-bones, facts-only resume. Today, the resume is a marketing document for a job seeker’s career. It is written with many factors in mind – strategy, target, keywords, impact, and visual appearance. The resume only details the last ten years of experience rather than covering every job every held. It focuses on the results a job seeker has achieved in his/her career so the reader can compare those with their needs.
The resume is read differently now than two decades ago. Hiring managers read the summary, scan the career experience looking primarily at job titles, then glance at the education section. Before the hiring manager even gets the resume, it has been read by computers and had a keyword search performed on it. The gatekeeper is rarely the front desk receptionist these days but rather a Human Resource Information System that culls resumes from the database according to the specifications entered by the hiring manager.
Unfortunately, many job seekers (and even some professional resume writers) still write with the seventies resume in mind. Such misplaced focus results in poor resumes, poor results, and few interviews. It is absolutely vital to write with the reader in mind when developing a resume. After all, who else matters?
Seeing the Trees
I have a client who is a sales and marketing professional plus a graphic artist. Her job has consisted of developing marketing campaigns for various companies and non-profits. These campaigns include everything from strategy to creating billboards. I found it interesting when she said that she had never considered having a marketing strategy behind the content of her resume.
Without strategy, the content of a resume is just a work history. Picking and choosing what information to include, what to exclude, and how to word it all is strategy. Thinking about what the reader is seeking before starting to get words down is very important. Writing the resume to give the reader the information he/she needs should be the number one purpose in choosing content. If the reader sees what he’s looking for in the resume, he will call the candidate for an interview.
Have you ever seen a resume that was four, five or even six pages long? Maybe yours is that long. Such long resumes are prime examples of someone sitting down and just dumping the information in the resume without forethought to strategy or audience. The extremely long resume is just a biography or long job description. Often, repetitive information appears throughout the resume or low-level information such as “conducted meetings” or “entered data” or “wrote reports”.
In the well-thought-out resume, there is no repetitive information and each position builds on the strengths of the previous position. The job descriptions are vivid and interesting, showing the reader unique assets of the candidate. Achievements are chosen and worded for impact on winning the interview. So often, a client will consider something an achievement but it’s really just a complex task. Achievements have a result that comes from a task. Getting the result in the document shows the reader the performance level of the task.
The sales/marketing client asked me why it was so hard for her to see her own career history when she could easily identify marketing points for companies or organizations. I told her it was because she has her nose on the mirror – she is so close to the information that she cannot see it. One of the true benefits of having a resume professionally prepared is the objectivity the resume writer brings to the process. While winning the Chili Cook-Off three years in a row at the company picnic might seem a big accomplishment to someone, the resume writer can see it has no value in landing an interview. We can see the forest in the trees.
The Great Alien Debate
I’m torn on the immigration debate that is waging in the press these days. It’s definitely a hot issue with passionate views on both sides. As someone who works in the careers industry, I find it interesting to watch the debates. I can see both sides of the issue.
As an American born in this country, I feel very privileged. We are the richest society in the world and enjoy more freedoms than any other country. Our forefathers (all immigrants, primarily) founded this nation on principles of freedom – freedom to pursue happiness, freedom of speech, freedom to demonstrate – and we are very protective of those freedoms. However, with freedom comes an obligation to follow the laws that provide that freedom in the first place.
We work with clients from all over the world whose main objective is to come to the United States to work. India, Japan, Indonesia, Turkey, Russia, Chile – you name the country and we’ve probably worked with someone there. These clients are not uneducated laborers, either. They hold PhDs, Masters degrees, and have years of experience in highly specialized, in-demand fields such as medicine, computer science, and global business management. These highly qualified individuals spend thousands of dollars in expenses to land a job with a company in the US. In Ukraine, just to take a train ride from Kharkov to Kiev to fill out the application for a US visa costs a whole week’s wages but these people do it because they really want to come to the US to work and make a better life. We help them through resume development that positions them well to seek employment with US companies.
Obtaining a work visa to come to the US legally is a long process fraught with mounds of red tape and expenses associated with travel, notary services, etc. Honest people in other countries can wait years to obtain a visa to come to the US. Somehow, it just doesn’t seem fair to these smart, well-educated individuals to grant amnesty to illegal immigrants who have come to this country outside the law.
On the flip side, I wonder what would happen to our economy without the cheap labor that illegal aliens provide. Housing costs would skyrocket even higher; produce costs would go up; hotel costs would increase. The overall cost of living here in our nation would go up if we had no cheap laborers to do the low-end jobs for small wages. Would some industries collapse completely without illegal alien labor? Maybe.
I can also sympathize with those who come here illegally looking for better wages, healthcare, and education for their children. It would be hard to live in a very poor country right next door to the richest and freest nation in the world. I can’t say that I wouldn’t be influenced to sneak across the border myself. As a very entrepreneurial person, I understand taking my fate into my own hands and taking risks.
Finally, I witnessed the attack on the World Trade Centers first-hand. I assisted in the evacuation of lower Manhattan. Having borders that leak like a sieve concerns me greatly because I know it isn’t just Mexicans coming across into our country. We could have a “silent invasion” of people intent on doing us great harm and they would be in our backyard before we could react.
So what is the solution to the immigration issue? I don’t know. It will probably be something simple. Solutions to such complex problems usually are.
What Matters the Most
We perform a great many free resume critiques and one of the questions we always ask before starting the critique is “Is the resume working for you?” By working, we mean is it generating interviews consistently. Last, we had a job seeker submit her resume for review and she noted that she was not receiving good response from it. It had only generated one interview out of about fifty submissions. She wasn’t happy with it and wanted us to review it for her.
In our feedback, we noted the resume did not have much content that directly attested to the results she had gained for employers. It was well-written in that the grammar was good, the formatting was attractive, and it contained the required keywords but there was no strategy behind the content. A resume can be well-written but ineffective. Her resume was just such a document.
Yesterday, we received an email from this lady. Evidently, she had had her resume that we reviewed prepared by a different service and had forwarded our comments to the original writer. Naturally, the writer was quite upset that her client had not only sought out another service but also that her work had been criticized. The job seeker had subsequently forwarded the original writer’s upset response to us and wanted us to comment.
Resume writing can be quite a subjective activity. What one writer feels is vital can be argued successfully against by another writer. Differences of opinion don’t matter, though. What matters is whether the resume is achieving results. In this case, the job seeker was reporting poor results. While it would have been better if she had returned to the original writer and expressed her concerns, she didn’t – she came to us for comment. We gave her honest feedback on what we viewed were some shortcomings of the resume and how it could be improved. What resulted were an upset writer and a confused job seeker.
To avoid just such problems with our own clients, we offer a guarantee. If one of our resumes doesn’t produce interviews, we will rewrite for free. We want our clients to come back to us without fear of being hit with additional revision fees if their resumes aren’t working. I must say, though, that in twelve years in this business, I can count on one hand the number of times we’ve had to rewrite a resume. We don’t get upset, though. Artistic expression or creative ownership doesn’t matter to us. What matters is whether our clients receive results.
We write a lot of resumes, probably more than any other service in the nation barring some of the resume mills that use templates. Because of that, we have a huge data pool to use in guiding our resume design and strategy. We are often called upon by the job boards and major publications to write articles about what we find works and doesn’t work in the job search. We know our stuff and we apply that depth of knowledge and experience to our clients’ benefit.
It's Been Proven - Life Is Not Fair
A study published last year called “Why Beauty Matters” found that beauty or physical attractiveness in job candidates has an influencing effect on hiring managers and on the pay scale. The study found that there were three ways that physical attractiveness raised the employers’ estimate of a job candidate’s ability to do the job. First, it was found that physically attractive job candidates had more confidence in their own abilities. That confidence contributed to the two other ways beauty influences the job seeking process. The confidence of attractive people gave the employers a better impression of the person through the way they spoke and the way they answered questions. Third, physical attractiveness had an internal influence on hiring managers because they automatically believed beautiful job candidates were above average simply because of their appearance – an inherent stereotype influence.
I don’t think the fact that beautiful people win out more in the job process is that much of a surprise to anyone. Nor do I think the findings that physically attractive people are able to command more money is a big surprise. What I found surprising was the finding that beautiful people are more confident and it is the confidence that causes part of the influence.
Of course, I’ve always known that confidence in the job search has measurable influence on the results of the job search. Job seekers who are looking for new employment while still employed usually find a new job faster than job seekers who are already unemployed. I call it the desperation factor; those still employed aren’t desperate and it comes out in their demeanor in employer contact. Job seekers who also have a strong resume in which they are confident enjoy better success. Not only does a great resume do its job in marketing the candidate, it also imbues the candidate with more confidence.
The beauty factor is something that is a have or have-not type of advantage. It is important though for those who are not natural knock-outs to pay keen attention to their appearance in the interview process. Telephone interviewing is also a key skill for job seekers to have. The study showed that telephone interviews results conducted in the study were also skewed toward the more attractive candidates even though the interviewers could not see the job candidates. The reason behind this was the confidence that came through the voices of the job candidates.
There are very few job seekers who interview well by telephone. Part of the problem is most job seekers don’t look at the telephone interview as a “real” interview. It is a real interview and if it isn’t passed, a more traditional interview is never reached. Interviewing via the telephone is more common than face-to-face interviewing because it saves time and money for the employer. Knowing how to interview well over the telephone and be able to project that confidence is crucial.
The study found something else I thought was interesting. While the physically attractive people did not perform any better on the skills tests that were given to all the candidates, they rated themselves as having higher skills. They thought they could perform better than the others.
This entire study was brought to life for me yesterday while sitting in the doctor’s office waiting room at lunchtime. At midday, all the pharmaceutical representatives start making their rounds and there were four in the waiting room at once yesterday. All were what I would term “beautiful people”. One in particular caught my attention. It was a young woman approximately 25 years old; blond, very thin, very expensively dressed and she had a huge solitaire diamond pendant around her neck. She came in hurriedly with a cell phone pressed to her ear. She asked the receptionist which doctor was in and seemed perturbed that only one physician in the practice was available that day. With cell phone still pressed to her ear, she asked the receptionist “Well, can you at least give him this and have him sign it? I have to turn it in to show that I was here.” She sat down across from me and continued to have a conversation with her cell phone caller about her love life while the receptionist went to obtain the signature. All the other drug reps were quietly sitting and fiddling with their PDAs or reading, but this little gem was absorbed in describing how she just wasn’t sure if she should dump her boyfriend or not.
I was sitting there thinking “She obviously wasn’t selected for her aggressive sales abilities or her sharp mind. It must be her _____.” (you can fill in the blank) I bet if you looked at her track record, though, she had doctors eating out of her hand – and she never had to work at it.
I was happy to see this study. Now there is proof positive that life just isn’t fair.
Get Organized with Your Resume
I am a pretty organized person. Some of my friends and family might even say that I’m anal about organization. I have to be to manage everything and I’ve created some pretty cool processes and systems that help me keep all the plates spinning. Organization in a resume is also a key issue and one that gets ignored a great deal by job seekers who attempt to write their own resumes. However, a well-organized resume is one that is one step closer to gaining an interview.
Think of a resume as a notebook/binder that has a report of your career in it. The first thing you see is the cover. In a resume, the cover is the header where your name and contact information appear. It is for reference mainly and to “title” your resume.
Inside the front cover, is the introduction page. This is the page that gets read the most by readers, usually completely if it’s short enough and to-the-point. This section in the resume is the Summary section. It is the most important part of the resume because it sets the stage for the rest of the resume. If you can catch the interest in the Summary, the reader is more likely to pay closer attention to the rest of the content.
Next in the binder is a set of dividers with labels on them. Each label represents a section of the resume – Career History, Professional Affiliations, Technical Skills, Education, Training, etc. The labels are the headers in the resume. The reader will glance quickly at these to see what is there and generally go immediately to the Career History section. Next to the Summary, the Career History section is the most important and the most-read. Generally, the Education section comes last in order because it is the least important section – that is unless you are a new grad and have no real-world experience to offer instead. In that case, the Education is the big selling point and that comes ahead of work experience.
Within each section, there is a page of information in the binder. In the resume, of course, it is much shorter but use your imagination and see this in your mind. In the Career History, there might be more than one page where each page represents a job that you have held. On the top of each of these pages is the job title followed by the employer followed by the date. The information comes in this general order because that is the order of interest on the part of the hiring manager. They want to see the positions you’ve held, where you have worked, and what time periods you held each position.
Farther down the page, you should have a strong description of the scope of your position making sure not to be too wordy and not include minor tasks such as “attended meetings”. In bulleted statements on the page, highlighted with yellow marker, are the results you achieved during that position. The results are highlighted because that is what you really want to draw the reader’s attention toward – how you made a difference. Other candidates may have similar job descriptions and have held similar job titles, but your achievements will be what make you stand out.
In subsequent sections such as Affiliations or Technical Skills, you can simply list the information if it is the type of information suited for a list. Be careful not to get too long or too old with the information. Keep everything relevant.
Throughout your “binder” you should be consistent in how you design your elements. Headers should be consistent. Bullet lists should be consistent. Don’t double-bullet information (put a bullet statement within a bullet statement). Bullet lists should also not be too long. Keep the information organized so it flows logically and can be easily read or scanned quickly by a human reader. Organization can make all the difference between an effective resume and one that is difficult to decipher.
Functional Format No-No
The functional format resume has few benefits and many detriments. Someone who chooses the functional format resume generally does so when a career change is in the works or there is something in his background that could be a problem. Often, the functional format resume is used when a prison term or some other large span of time is lost out of work history. Job seekers who want to change fields will sometimes opt for the functional format in an attempt to highlight the skills they have that make them qualified for the new field.
A functional format resume has the content arranged according to performance type (thus, “function”). The resume is divided into categories of skill and function. Under each skill category, the relevant information would be listed or described. A brief work history listing would come at the end of the document that lists job title, employer, and dates. Some purely functional resumes don’t have the work history section at all and no dates appear on the resume.
There are many reasons NOT to use the functional format resume. Recruiters really hate the functional format because it makes them hunt for the information they seek and recruiters simply do not have time to hunt for information or make assumptions. Employers don’t hire potential – they hire past performance. Future performance of a new hire is predicated on past performance. Recruiters and hiring managers want to see past performance in a resume so they can make a judgment on the future performance potential of a candidate. A functional format resume doesn’t allow them to make that assessment.
The functional format takes away all frames of reference for hiring managers to measure what skills and abilities are listed. A candidate might claim high sales abilities and track record in the functional resume, but the recruiter is unable to place that in context in terms of time, employer, situation, or history.
Functional resumes tend to be quite short, too. The brevity of the resume doesn’t help it in online databases because keywords are fewer. By eliminating job descriptions and other information that naturally comes into a chronological format resume, keyword richness is decreased resulting in poor performance in online databases.
Finally, recruiters and hiring managers realize the functional format is used to attempt to cover up detrimental factors in a candidate’s past. They aren’t stupid! Instead of helping to disguise problems in a career history, the functional format actually highlights them! Even if no problems exist in the background of a candidate who uses a functional format, the reader will assume there is something there.
Despite all the problems with functional format resumes, job seekers still feel compelled to use them, even when a chronological format would serve better. It’s bothersome to hear a job seeker report he has sent out over a hundred resumes with no response and discover he’s been using a functional format all along. What a waste of time and first impressions!
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