Sunday, April 25, 2010

Your Resume Isn’t Only About You, It’s About the Reader Too

Write your resume with the reader in mind. Put your audience first if you want to get past the gatekeepers.

Who are the gatekeepers? It depends on three things: where you’re at in your career, your professional network and whether you’re using job boards.

If your career and professional network are well-established you'll probably bypass the gatekeepers. If someone is moving from Apple to Google either they’ve been headhunted or they have a relationship with someone at Google. Their resume will not be the door opener. In fact they’ll only need a resume if someone from HR requires it as a formality.

What if you’re not at that stage in your career? Then your resume has to appeal to two gatekeepers: the resume search engine and the human recruiter who stumbles across your resume with a keyword search or when you apply directly to a job post.

Search Engine vs. the Recruiter
A search engine doesn’t care how long your resume is or how it’s formatted. It’s is only looking for keywords that match a search query. But if the search engine does match your resume to a job then readability is a crucial differentiator.

Recruiters are very concerned about readability. Use consistent fonts and formatting, engaging language, and put the most relevant information first. Recruiters only take a few minutes to figure out if you’re qualified. They depend on you to make it easy for them to skim your resume and decide whether or not to give you a call.

Hook the reader on the first page. Generate enough excitement to entice the person to turn the page instead of moving onto the next resume. Action words, your achievements and accomplishments will make the person want to keep reading. Describe an accomplishment that shows specific tangible improvements that are relevant to the job you’re applying too. For example, if you’re a QA manager describe how you achieved a 10% decrease in bugs when you successfully implemented a new bug tracking tool within budget.

Don’t Bury Your Experience. When I see a resume that lists skills or methodologies on the first page and no job experience my recruiter radar wonders whether this person has the work experience for the job.

How far back should you go? Some people say that your resume should only cover the past 10 years. I believe that a detailed description of 7-10 years of experience followed by a bulleted list of your additional experience should suffice. For example, an IT project manager who was a programmer analyst earlier in their career should have detailed descriptions of their project management experience followed by a section summarizing the analysis, design and programming they did earlier in their career. Information about complementary experience early in your career could be the differentiator that gets you the job.

Final word: It’s okay to brag when you are writing a resume, just remember that you’re not getting paid by the word.

Tim Collins

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Resume Tips From A Guy Who's Placed 1000 People

With this economy it’s not unusual for a single job post to attract hundreds if not thousands of resumes. How can you make yours stand out?

I look at a 100+ resumes a day. Every time I open a resume I hope that this will be the one. Here’s what inspires me to pick up the phone and give you a call.

Resume Dos
  • List your work experience first. For each position include the company name, location, and months and years worked.
  • Include a chart that lists your skills and the number of years of experience that you have with each skill. This helps me quickly access whether you have enough experience.
  • List relevant keywords for each position you held. I look for a correlation between your keywords (technical environment) and the work you actually did in each job. (This improves your standing with the resume parser too.)
  • Make your resume readable – consistent formatting (spacing, fonts and bolding) is very important. You may have the best skills in the world but if your resume isn’t readable you won’t make it past the resume screening stage.
Resume Don’ts
  • Don’t make me dig deeper than a page or two to figure out if you’re qualified.
  • Don’t have a five sentence career objective. Your objective should be 1 -2 sentences at the most. I’m looking for proof that you’re qualified and a lengthy objective just seems like filler.
  • Don’t fill the entire first page with a list of skills and keywords. I need to see your actual experience with each of those keywords.
  • Don’t have a half page long list of achievements and activities for each position. Please be concise and list only the points that are most relevant to the job you’re applying for.
The person reviewing your resume is in a hurry. Make it easy for them to figure out that you’re qualified. No one is impressed that a resume is 10 pages long. But I am very impressed when I’m able to figure out that you’re qualified within the first few pages.

Tim Collins

Monday, April 12, 2010

Kawasaki's “1 Page Resume” Rule Revisited

What is the ultimate length for a resume? It depends. A one-page resume might be appropriate when you’re a junior candidate. But if you’re more experienced you’ll need several pages to show your stuff.

In my controversial blog, “Guy Kawasaki’s 1/2/3 Rules of Resume Writing,” I quoted Kawasaki’s resume rule #1:
Reality Check: The Irreverent Guide to Outsmarting, Outmanaging, and Outmarketing Your Competition1 page long. When some job candidates read this, they will think, "Guy is referring to the hoi polloi and unwashed masses, not me. I have ten years of experience at four different companies covering five different positions. My resume needs to be two--maybe even three--pages to adequately explain the totality of my wonderfulness. And the more I mention, the more the company might see things that they like." As a rule of thumb, if you can't pitch your company or yourself in one page, your idea is stupid and you suck respectively. (Ref.: Guy Kawasaki, Reality Check: The Irreverent Guide to Outsmarting, Outmanaging and Outmarketing Your Competition (Hardcover), page 327)
With great respect and admiration for Guy Kawasaki, I must admit that the last sentence in this quote is a tad harsh. The 1 page rule seems a tad unrealistic too. Well, maybe more than a tad.

When I was in my final year at Waterloo University I was advised to aim for a 1 page resume. That made sense at the beginning of my career. I landed a job with Quantum Technology Recruiting for my first post grad placement and the rest is history. But now that I’ve been in the industry for nearly 20 years would it be advantageous to squeeze my qualifications into a one page resume? Not likely.

Kawasaki was writing with Silicon Valley in mind. In my neck of the woods (Toronto, Canada) employers and recruiters expect see more detail than you can fit comfortably on one page. Still, I do prefer to read resume that doesn’t require me to dig deeper than a page or two to figure out if the person is qualified.

The power of Kawasaki one-page rule is that it reminds us that a resume is a sales document. Have respect for the reader. Be concise and focussed. Use active language and concrete examples to prove your qualifications. Put your human reader ahead of the resume parser algorithm that scans for keywords.

Maybe you can trick the parser into putting your resume at the top of the list by padding your resume with keywords. But when the recruiter sees that your entire first page consists of lists of keywords and no real experience some red flags will go up. Remember, it’s a human reader, not a computer, that decides whether the pick up the phone and give you a call.

Tim Collins

Friday, April 2, 2010

The Future's So Bright You Gotta Wear Shades

Daniel Pink predicted it in a A Whole New Mind. Chris Anderson named it in The Long Tail.

A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the FuturePink predicted that demand for "left-brain dominant knowledge workers" - lawyers, accountants, software engineers, MBAs - would decline. Why? Abundance, outsourcing, automation. He argues that the future belongs to "a different kind of person with a different kind of mind - designers, inventors, storytellers, teachers." And he was right. Look no further than the Apple Store for proof. Apple is about design. People will camp overnight to get a piece of that.

Long Tail, The, Revised and Updated Edition: Why the Future of Business is Selling Less of More
Chris Anderson noticed the abundance too. Any song is available for free to anyone with a computer and an Internet connection. He observed that niche products were gaining popularity while blockbusters lost marketshare. Amazon, iTunes and Ebay proved that niche products were profitable. Anderson named it The Long Tail.

What do you get when you take right brain values and add long tail availability? A world where Pink's six senses - design, story, symphony, emphathy, play and meaning - rule. You get the kind of world I want to live in.

A world where the tools of production are available to everyone, not just the elite: Wordpress, Google Docs, Squidoo, Lulu. A world where spam is ineffective. A world where people are tolerant because diversity is good for business. A world where everything is Free...or at least moving in that direction.

Phineas and Ferb: The Fast and the PhineasPhineas and Ferb get it. Phineas begins every adventure with, "Ferb, I know what we're going to do today." With the emphasis on "we". It's like we're all suddenly getting it. It's more fun to cooperate than compete.

Daniel Pink called it. Chris Anderson named it. Google, Amazon, Ebay, iTunes and opensource enable it. Seth Godin evangelizes it. Twitter, Facebook and Sprouter spread it.

Is there a new phrase we aan coin for it? Maybe "cloud consciousness"? or "opensourcity"? or "The Power of Now".

Together we can solve any problem. Maybe that's the whole point of it.