Your Resume: Fix It, For Christ’s Sake

March 23, 2009

I do a lot of recruiting support, so I see a lot of resumes.   And, as a result of seeing, literally, thousands of them, I can talk to you about a few simple errors people make.

1) Basic errors

I can’t emphasize this enough: a grammatical or spelling error on your resume is like a great big pulsing hideous zit sitting right on your nose.  We notice it.  It stands out.  We pretend that we don’t, and sometimes, it really doesn’t matter.  But better to find the little bastards and kill them than to submit them.

2) Formatting

For the love of God, unless it’s essentially part of the interview, such as a publishing or graphic design job, don’t get too fancy with the resume.  Seriously.  Your jobs, your title, bullet points about what you did, that’s all we’re really interested in.  No clip art, no bad puns, and for the love of God, stop playing with fonts.  While we’re on the topic:

3) Fonts

It seems basic, but double-check your fonts.  Use something standard across the board, like Helvetica or Arial.  Even the most qualified candidate in the world is going to look like a clown if you open up his resume and it looks like it was written entirely in Dingbats.

4) Useless information

Seriously, including your “hobbies” on a resume makes you look like either you’re padding it out or that you’re  a total dork.  You might as well show up in a cloak for your interview and talk to the receptionist for fifteen minutes about your paladin. 

Most employers really, really don’t care what you do with your free time as long as it’s not something that will embarass them.  No matter WHAT somebody tells you, unless the employer specifically asks, don’t include it.  That’s something for the interview.

“Objective” is a bit trickier.  Personally, as a guy screening these things,  I glance at it, but nobody ever tells me “Sort these resumes by objective”.  On the resume level, it is all about experience.  

It’s not bad, I guess, but I’m hard-pressed to think of a situation where it will genuinely put you over.  Again, your ultimate objective WILL come up in the interview.  Better to leave it off.

There’s one exception to this: if you hold some form of leadership position, and it’s relevant to your field or the role, by all means, bring that up.  Raising a few thousand for cancer research is awesome on its own, but it says to your employer that you have leadership skills and that you show commitment outside your job.

5) Formats

Here are six very important letters: d-o-c and p-d-f.  Have your resume in both.  Most employers can deal with PDF, but there are still some who ask for .doc formatted materials.

6) Length

You should always have a longer version sitting around, but most employers and all recruiters do not want to read about every job you’ve had going back to high school.  So have a two page version with just the key highlights, and send both to recruiters and one when cold-contacting a potential employer. 

7) Jobs included

Nobody screening you for an office job cares that you shoveled popcorn for whining brats at a movie theater when you were fifteen.  Unless it’s directly relevant (or if that really is your only work history), leave off the high school jobs!

And these are just the basic problems I run into.  Wait until we talk about the INTERVIEW.

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Harsh Reality #1: Most Jobs Kind Of Suck

March 4, 2008

Here’s the format of Harsh Reality posts: I tell you something you don’t want to hear, and then I tell you how to deal with it. 

Here’s something a recruiter, a career counselor, hell your own head of HR will never tell you or admit except when drunk or frustrated: it’s difficult to fill a position because more often than not the job blows. 

This is something you should realize on your job search: that you are probably not going to find the perfect job.  This is especially true if you’re starting in a new industry, just graduated from college, or just coming back into the workforce for some other reason.  You’re an untested quantity and the jobs you’re going to find will tend to be entry-level (i.e. boring shit-work) or there’s something wrong with the place (stupid/hostile/bumbling management, the company’s in trouble financially or legally and the rats are jumping ship, or there’s some total disaster that they’re hiding from you that will be sprung on you about a week into your tenure.)

This doesn’t mean you’re doomed forever.  It just means you’re going to have to deal with one of the key causes of job hatred: feeling trapped in a cube with no future.

How to Deal With It:

1) If you can find it, take a job you’ll get something out of.  If you’re just looking for something to pay the bills, look for an industry that you’d like to learn more about and apply for jobs in that area.  If you’re looking for something that will help you along a career path, keep a broad eye out.  Just because something isn’t in your field doesn’t mean it won’t involve skills that will be useful IN your field.

2) If you can’t find anything that you find remotely rewarding, take the job that pays the best and that you think you won’t totally hate, and use your free time to push yourself.  Take a class in something (or even go to grad school), volunteer in some area that’s in your field, take a second job if you really want.  Even just having a hobby more productive than sitting on your ass and watching TV will go a long way towards dealing with a job you don’t like.  Just because you spend most of the week there doesn’t mean it defines your life automatically, you have to let it first.

A valuable corrective to nice, cheery advice

March 4, 2008

Hello, I’m an HR professional, and I fucking loathe most career advice that’s handed out.  Some of it is well-meaning.  Some of it is egregiously stupid (Exhibit A: marketroid and general retard Penelope Trunk).  Most of it is worthless.

 What I’m offering is basic, common sense stuff that you can find anywhere mixed in with some harsh realities, nasty truths, and sometimes me just being a total prick because I feel like it. 

 A few points:

 — Don’t waste your time emailing me.  Post a comment and I will reply if I feel like it.

 — Feel free to argue points or offer your own advice.  Just be practical about it, I started this blog because I’m tired of the blowjobs-and-rainbows attitude taken by most career-advice areas.

 — You get what you pay for.  I’m no replacement for your own goddamn common sense.

— I encourage anonymous commenting.  And also blatant hostility. 

 Annnnnnnd away we go!