What is a resume … really?

The Internet is a big place. Job search is a big deal. The “Careers Industry” took flight in earnest as the Internet grew and fueled the Who-Will-Be-Left-Standing? competition between hiring managers and job seekers. 

In the beginning, as it became more cost effective for employers to post vacancies on their own websites and on the incipient job boards rather than paying for a recruiter-assisted search, they did it more. As it became easier for job seekers to send a resume in response to those announcements, they did it more. In an attempt to prescreen the then ever-present, unqualified online applicants, employers got more and more creative in how they screened and stored applications. To regain an upper hand, applicants began to hire “career experts” to help them get through the screens. Before long, lots and lots of “career experts” emerged, qualified and unqualified, ready and oh, so willing, to expound on topics related to successful job search and the rules of resume presentation.

So. Here we are. For fun, I just Googled “resume writing tips” and got 36,600,000 results in 0.28 seconds.

And here’s the hinky-do: like anything else, all of these sources will have something different to say. In fact, if you look long enough, you’ll find an “expert” who will believe, and passionately evangelize, literally every opinion in the spectrum on this, or any other executive job search topic.

Lesson to be learned? Reader, beware. If the person you’re listening to says there are hard-and-fast rules for resume presentation … run. If what you’re reading promises a specific end result … run faster. If the information you’re getting, even from well-intentioned professionals, friends and colleagues seems counter-intuitive to what you feel is authentic to your skills and values … smile, say thank you … and again, fahgettaboudit.

Worst Resume Advice I’ve Seen On The Internet Lately And Why I Think So:                  

1. Resumes are going away. No way. They may be evolving, but resumes are not dead. Particularly at the executive level, where hiring decisions are made by Boomers or GenX-ers, a traditional resume presentation is still preferred. A resume may be augmented by, say, Internet links, video presentations, LinkedIn Profiles, addenda, bios and the like, but as of now, there is still no substitute for your career on paper. Your resume is your personal and professional representative. Lots of people, from recruiters, HR staff and managers to Executive Committees and Boards will see it … and make no mistake, to win, it has to be as good as you are. Do it well … make it count.

2. Tailor your information to the job (called targeting or customizing). No again. Now think about that for a minute. By leaving information out for the sake of clarity, you are inherently diminishing, or worse, blurring, your value proposition. Besides, you never, never know what the perfect blend of skills and experience will be for any given employer! The CFO that came from the shop floor in a manufacturing setting might be precisely the person a young financial services company needs to reach their long-term goals. Also, people share information. A lot. If you sent out different versions of yourself you’ll very quickly become Blurred Blake, not Clearly Clara. Which one would you call for an interview? 

3. Include only the most recent 10 years in your presentation. This is really a bad idea. Unless you’re being asked to do that specifically (“To apply, please send your most recent 10 years of experience in a Word format”), as the first two citations here begin to explain, the people with actual authority to hire want to know your whole story. Where did you come from? What value did you deliver? What did you learn that you took to the next position? Has there been a steady increase in responsibility? Have you always been in one industry? How many employers have you had over your entire career? Etcetera. Conversely, just like questions that can arise from looking at a functional format, your reader may wonder “What happened before 1994? What’s s/he hiding? Was prison time involved?” Good grief, don’t make them guess … give them what they need to understand that you’re going to solve their problems.

4. Remove dates to avoid “age discrimination”. Uh uh. Say you do this, and best case, get an interview for the target job. The instant you walk into the room, adorable as you are, the interviewer or committee will see how many years you’ve been around. If they’re predisposed against hiring based on age (or any other physical or chronological reason), it’s over. Then all you’ve accomplished is wasting your own, and their, time. Not helpful. I believe in being 100% forthcoming and transparent in your resume presentation. Getting interviews is not the goal … getting job offers is. From the get-go, give your readers a complete sense of who you are and the problems you can solve. Then, if it’s a match, it’s a terrific start! 

5. Keep your resume presentation to one page. Nope, nope, nope. Someone who’s been working in the field for less than 5 years and/or in a few other situations, perhaps. But certainly at the executive level, your resume presentation should be succinct, but it should take as long as it takes to describe what you’ve done and how well you’ve done it. In all my years in this business, I’ve never had a client come back to me and say “I didn’t get the job because my resume was too long.”

Questions? Call me, 281-571-3223 or email, Debbie@phoenixcareergroup.com.

Leave a comment