“Will you look at my resumé ?”
“Sure. Just send it over.”
It’s that season. Layoffs are happening all over the place. Seems like every other message on LinkedIn is somebody looking for a job. Folks lucky enough to be hiring will be getting lots of resumés. Who you know will help, but your resumé, that old-fashioned, time-honored method of self-advertisement, still matters. The recruiter and other interviewers on the team will read it, even if your former colleague or boss doesn’t.
Job-hunting is serious business, so let me give it to you straight.
- You, my friend, are applying for a job. A company is going to hire you to do something. So that resumé of yours had better tell them what you can do — what you have done, for all the previous jobs, and what you are doing, for the job you still have. Think verbs. You are the implied subject of every sentence in the resumé, and active verbs (led, developed, implemented, designed…) should lead off every sentence.
- If you choose to include an Objective, don’t include a title unless you care about titles. What are you looking for in your next job? Should I bother to talk to you, or will it be a mutual waste of time? Describe what you want to contribute and the kind of team or company where you want to work.
- Narrative resumés are trendy, but they are usually longer, and more difficult to navigate than other resumés. Did you work someplace I know? Did you have a job that would be good prep for this one? What’s your most recent experience in this particular area? Make it easy for the reader to see the companies, dates of service, and the last role or title in each place or organization.
- Be honest about the roles you’ve had. Don’t make yourself look more senior than you are. Are you less senior with leading edge experience? That’s a great place to be in today’s market. Have you been in a senior role, and want out of the stratosphere? Make that abundantly clear in your Objective.
- Remember to check your resumé for errors before you attach it to an e-mail or paste it into a job website. At best, errors are distracting — like a zit on your nose or a spill on your suit. At worst, errors are a leading indicator of future shoddy workmanship from you, and time-consuming double-checking and rework for your boss.
- If your resumé is over two pages long, and extends back more than ten years, time to pair it down. People still print out resumés and jot notes in the margin — but don’t ask them to keep track of multiple sheets of paper, or find a stapler! One sheet, front and back, is where you want to be.
- For the really old stuff, try to summarize the key accomplishments or responsibilities in one line. The title, company, and dates of service, with one line of description at most, are probably all that is relevant a decade later.
- For more recent jobs, look for descriptions that spell out the responsibilities of your title. If you’re staying within your industry, those descriptions are redundant, and you can spend that valuable real estate on your key accomplishments, and any above-grade or two-hat responsibilities.
- If you’re very close to two pages, reduce your font slightly, or reduce the margins, but keep the internal white space that helps the reader navigate through your resumé.
- If you are senior management, and plan to stay in that echelon, express your accomplishments more quantitatively. Executives are expected to produce measurable business results. Use metrics that will demonstrate your achievements and those transferrable business management skills you’ve developed over the years.
- If you are junior, be sure to include a list of technologies you’ve used. How much time and energy will it take to bring you up to speed on something new? An honest list of tools you’ve used in academia and the workplace will answer this question.
That said, I’m an amateur. If you are laid off, and your company offers you placement assistance, take advantage of it. Think of it as paid marketing consulting for an incredible product — you. After all, your now-former company thought you were wonderful enough to hire in the first place. It only makes sense they should provide marketing support to help you show the rest of the world how wonderful you are.