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Write the Perfect Resume – Part II

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Creating a tight, attractive resume or curriculum vitae (CV) is important in landing a job.

In today’s world, there is usually tons of competition for open positions. Most job candidates have very similar backgrounds. With (say) 300 applicants vying for 10 interviews, you need to make a strong impression with your CV or resume.

I shared some of my thoughts in “How to Write the Perfect Resume – Part I.” [4] Part II follows:

As in Part I, my comments are based on Business Insider’s, “How to Write the Perfect Resume.” [5]

Decide if You Want to Include an Objective

Some smart people love including objectives or profiles. It is quite common in CVs.

I agree with the Business Insider point to “only include an objective if it’s not generic.” However, if you ask my opinion, omit it altogether.

Conventional wisdom is that you have a maximum of two pages for a resume. Most resume reviewers I know take this as gospel. If you only have two pages to highlight your education, skills, and experience, including an objective may not be the best use of ink on paper. If it is, go for it. But I find more candidates get better value by using that space for describing position specific skills.

Keep Education Section Short

Agreed, unless your job application is in an education field.

Include High School to Disclose Your Age

Include high school and graduation date if you want the reader to estimate your age for some reason. Or if it is a position that requires a high school diploma. Otherwise, omit.

Use “Skills” Section for Relevant Course Work

I do like the comment about listing “course work that’s relevant to the position.” However, I prefer that in your skills section, rather than education.

For example, if you took an advanced options trading course in university, I would include your Black-Scholes type knowledge in skills. Or maybe you are an accounting major applying for a job in the pharmaceutical industry. If you conducted a significant pharma-related business analysis in a cost accounting course, that might merit a mention in your skills section.

Only Truly Special Things in Education

I would include any truly special education related items in the education section though.

Most job applicants for bank financial analyst position with three years experience probably have a business degree – maybe an MBA – and are finance majors. Every perused resume will have some variation of that education. But if you were on the Dean’s List (or something major), you can help separate yourself from the herd by listing it in your education section. The direct linkage and differentiation will resonate with the reader.

B.Comm, B.Comm, B.Comm, B.Comm., (drool running down chin), B.Comm, B.Comm summa cum laude, B.Comm, (hey wait, let’s go back one).

But make sure it is truly important to include in education. Otherwise put it elsewhere.

Use a “Continuing Education” Section

Over time, you should have a continuing education section for added skills.

That Bachelor’s degree you received 20 years ago means nothing to me as a recruiter. I want to see how you have maintained and strengthened your skills over the years. Are you current in your knowledge? Do you possess the drive to improve? Are you a self-starter? Ensure you do continue to develop your skills over time. And note the relevant ones on your CV.

Don’t List Your Hobbies

A tricky one. And note that the Business Insider article does not actually forbid listing hobbies.

Use Life Experience to Land the Position

The resumes’ objective is to demonstrate that you are a person who will be able to thrive in the position and corporate environment. Whatever skills and experiences you possess that aid in this goal are fair game on the resume.

Applying for a back office job with the Los Angeles Kings hockey team? It might be a big plus if you played high level hockey as a youth and that you still love the game. If there is a link, use it. Just make sure there is some relevance.

“Shared” Hobbies

A little more iffy, but often used by applicants, is the “shared” hobby. Before applying for the job, you conducted an internet search on the company and possible boss. Yes you did! [6]The company annually sponsors the local bicycle event. Or your potential boss competes in triathlons. If you swim, bike, or run, no harm working that into the resume. Just avoid being obvious as to why it is included.

Success Begets Success

Another opportunity with hobbies is transference (the wrong word, but I am using it). If I am hiring, I want an employee who will thrive in the position. Someone who can quickly learn new tasks and excel at them under tight deadlines.

If you have a hobby – or any legitimate experience – where you can demonstrate that you learned a challenging skill and had success in so doing, that is something to proffer.

Maybe you competed against 50 people for the lead in a television movie. Learning lines, winning the role, having the movie made, they all convey positive points (unless Lindsay Lohan was co-starring).

When I was younger, being a 2nd degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do was a great conversation starter. Difficult to attain, requiring a fair amount of dedication and effort, and being successful over time, were useful attributes in an employee. Also, it was a unique enough item that it helped my resume stand out in the minds of the reader.

So feel free to include hobbies if they can solidify your shot at the position. If not, omit.

And as you gain real world experience and skills, much less need (or importance) to include over time.

Always be fine-tuning your resume for the specific position. Prioritize all your skills, experiences, achievements, hobbies, etc., against that one unique job. In one application, a certain hobby may make little sense to include. In the next, it might be the final piece in attracting the interview.

Don’t List Your References

Completely agree.

Why provide contact names before you even have an interview secured?

Referees Do Not Like Aggravation

As someone who occasionally provides a reference (no, nephew, none for you. I have my own credibility to keep in mind), I do not want my name out there for 25 job applications.

When I provide a reference, I want to see the job advertisement, the submitted resume and cover letter, and know something about the company. Otherwise, how can I provide an intelligent reference if contacted? I also do not want to be waiting for 25 potential phone calls. But that is just me (and most of the real world).

Wait until requested by the company before providing contact names. In most instances, that will be right at the end. The offer will be made, but the contract will be contingent on successful verification of your references.

Line Up Potential References in Advance

Obviously, have some positive references lined up ahead of time for when you are asked. Give them the head’s up, as well as relevant details on the job, after you progress through the initial interview.

Also, anticipate potentially poor references that may exist. Develop a strategy to minimize the damage that may be caused.

As someone who hires people, the probability of me contacting all the submitted references on your resume is likely low. I assume the names you provide will say only good things about you. The guy that fired you from your last position because you always came in late with a hangover? I am betting he will not be on the list.

When verifying your credentials, I will ask you for people to contact based on what areas I want to follow up on. If you have any problems out there, try to address them with the interviewer before they call the contact.

As an aside, here is another situation where maintaining independent documentation is great. Perhaps I wish to contact your previous employer to verify your work experience. If you have complete copies of employee evaluations, I can review those to verify your claims. I also have the exact name of your superior to contact. This might be useful, especially if he or she no longer works for the same company and I wish to track them down. Again, this is common. I have been away from UBS since 2006, but periodically provide references for former staff.

Skip “References Available Upon Request”

I would omit the standard “References Available Upon Request” resume inclusion. It always seems a waste of ink to me. If I do not see that line in your CV, do I think, “Oh no, this person has no references or will not provide them upon request?”

Use your resume to land the interview. Make every line you include work to that goal. Do not bother including nonsense.

Reverse Chronological Order

Some resume reviewers do not mind functional CVs. Perhaps the article is a tad harsh.

Me, I do not like functional resumes. I prefer reverse chronology.

It is so much easier to follow the applicant’s timeline, identify gaps (prison, sabbatical to travel the world?), asses currency of skill sets, etc. Anything that causes me to guess or spend extra time determining generally loses points.

Okay, we managed to beat that Business Insider article to death.

But improving your resume will improve the probability of landing a job (well, except for my nephew). So it is worth the effort. Good luck.