This is the best little book on writing a resume that I have seen in my thirty-plus years in the recruiting business. It’s clear, it’s concise, it’s only forty pages and by the time you finish it you will have a top flight resume.
I know Carolyn Thompson personally and she is one sharp lady, but while any two highly experienced people are going to do many things in a similar way, there will usually be a few minor instances that each handles a bit differently.
I’ve put together a list of notes by chapter for Carolyn’s book. Many are things that are specific to the children’s product business. Some are additions – things that weren’t discussed in the book. A very few are disagreements where I recommend doing things differently.
So, read the book. Read my notes. Then put together your resume in the way that seems to make sense to you. Both ways are right and neither is wrong. That said, if you send your resume to me, I’m going to ask you to do it my way. I feel confident that if you send your resume to Carolyn, she will ask you to do it hers.
All the best,
KEEP YOUR LAYOUT SIMPLE AND MAKE SURE YOUR CONTACT INFORMATION IS ACCURATE AND CORRECT.
Make sure to include your full address and home telephone number (if you have one). Both employers and recruiters search databases for proximity by using zip codes and area codes. If you fit the bill and live within a commutable distance, you will be selected to move forward. If you omit this information, you risk being put into the “maybe” pile which companies often never get to. If you are applying for a job in Cleveland where you currently live but have retained your old New York mobile phone number then you will likely not be tapped to continue if you have not included your current address.
If you are a designer DO NOT use some “creative” tri-fold or horizontal format. When the hiring manager first sees your resume, he or she will likely be quickly scanning through about thirty of them and sorting them into yes, no, and maybe piles. If your resume is in a strange format, the hiring manager will not be able to quickly and easily digest it. They will likely grow frustrated and you may find yourself relegated to the “maybe” pile.
I also find that designers are the guiltiest of trying to cram everything onto one page – anything two pages or less is fine. Remember your design principles. Put your resume in a format that the eye can easily track and be sure to leave enough white space so it doesn’t become jumbled or the reader fatigued. You’ve heard it since design school: “Design for your consumer, not yourself.”
ADD THE COMPANIES YOU HAVE WORKED FOR AND THE DATES YOU WORKED THERE.
There’s nothing really wrong with just providing years and not months in your work history. It can be an easy way to gloss over any small gaps in your timeline. A few companies will be sticklers about providing months. If you are working with a strong executive recruiter, they should be able to tell you if that is the case with their particular client.
ADD A QUICK DESCRIPTION OF THE COMPANY.
My only change is to be even more specific than the given example. What is the product or service that the company makes, markets, and/or sells?
ADD YOUR JOB DESCRIPTIONS.
Two points here. First, go into detail for the last ten years rather than just five. Secondly, for sales professionals – name the accounts you handled! I would even go so far as to put them in bold type. This is the most common mistake I see in the resumes of sales executives. Your knowledge of specific accounts and your experience navigating through the hoops and hurdles necessary to get your product on the shelf is what you are selling to a potential employer. The mistaken notion that: “If I don’t have an account they’re looking for then they won’t pick me so I’ll leave off all my accounts” won’t get you an interview. Instead, it will get your resume placed in the “maybe pile” never to be seen again.
ADD YOUR ACCOMPLISHMENTS.
- Two or preferably three bullet points for your most recent position – max.
- Two bullet points for your second to last position
- One bullet point for each position before that, unless it was a fairly recent job that you worked at for an unusually long period of time.
FORMATTING THE PAGE.
While you may often be able to get away with: “References and work experience prior to XX date available upon request.” Sometimes that just won’t fly. Feel free to list:
Prior Work History
Buddy-L Corp, New York, NY, National Accounts Manager 1992 – 1998
Remco Inc., New York, NY, Key Accounts Manager 1986 – 1992
Macy’s, New York, NY, Senior Buyer 1983 – 1986
ADDING EDUCATION AND CERTIFICATIONS.
Do put your date of graduation on your resume! This is probably contrary to what you have read everywhere else but here is the reality. Unfortunately, some companies do practice a kind of age discrimination. Generally, it should more accurately be called “energy level” discrimination. That also means it will affect various types of positions differently. Hiring managers create mental pictures of who they see filling a particular spot – young or more experienced. If you don’t fit that profile when you walk in the door then you are probably not going to get that job regardless of what you put on your resume.
Almost every resume reader (myself included) will flip to the education section of your resume to estimate your age. This isn’t done so much to discriminate as much as to create a visual picture of the candidate. If there is no date there, the first thing that will cross the reader’s mind is: “What’s he hiding?” They will then look at the job title of the earliest job you have listed and a couple of other things (sorry, that’s proprietary information) to try to guesstimate your age. When they do this they will build in a margin of error and they usually guesstimate that you are older than you actually are. I find this to be true myself and I’m not surprised that the same holds true of others.
So, do put your graduation date in your resume. It will help you to avoid looking older than you are and will also help you avoid spinning your wheels on jobs that you’re just not going to get.
Looks good as is.
EVALUATE YOUR CONTENT AND CREATE AN OBJECTIVE.
Avoid the “Objectives” Trap. Objectives can be dangerous if they are not worded absolutely perfectly for the job you are interested in. You are much better off using a brief two or three sentence Career Summary that succinctly details the highlights of your experience. Only about 20% of resume readers even look at the “Objectives” section. But those that do are usually sticklers for detail. If your Objective reads “engineering management” and you apply for a “senior staff engineer” position, you could be out of the race before it starts because of a slight difference in terminology. Stick with the Career Summary and make sure you get considered for all the right positions.
PROOFREAD YOUR COMPLETED CONTENT.
This should be pretty basic but experience tells me that it’s not. DO NOT rely on computerized spell-check! The most common error on resumes is to use the word “manger” rather than “manager.” Now, I can’t be sure of your particular situation but I think that it’s highly unlikely that you are the “National Sales Manger” but it will sail through spell check – every time.
Email your resume to two friends or colleagues whose writing skills you admire and trust. Have them check to see that your margins line up correctly on the receiver side of email. Oftentimes they don’t. Then have them spell check your resume and make suggestions they think are appropriate. Consider their suggestions and implement the ones that seem right. Now you are done. Go out and get that job.
Tom Keoughan ©2016