1 Why You Need a Resume
The resume is an integral part of the job-search process. Career books have been ringing the resume’s death knell off and on for over twenty years, but the resume is even more popular now than ever before. I have seen good resumes for journeyman carpenters, for TV personalities, for CFOs, for management consultants, you name it. The resume can be either a stumbling block or a springboard in anyone’s job search.
In the simplest terms, here’s why you need a resume: Everyone will ask you for one.
Here’s why you need it fast: You’re not the only one they will ask.
Whether you see a cool job posting or your friend mentions they’re looking for help down at her office, you need to act promptly. If writing your resume takes too long, you may miss your chance. A speedy response creates momentum especially when dealing with headhunters or tips from friends. Urgency and momentum make the hiring authority employ you instead of deciding to keep looking.
As you can probably tell, I am a big fan of resumes. Resumes have made great contributions to meritocracy and efficiency in America. We no longer live in an economy where you can go to work at Uncle Bob’s gas station or Aunt Jane’s conglomerate. Even if that is still done, it is no longer the model. You sell your skills to the highest bidder, presumably the one who can utilize those skills for the greatest return. And you use your resume to sell those skills. 2 What Your Resume Can Do for You
A good resume can do four things, each distinctly separate and distinctly important:
Get the interview.
Structure the interview.
Remind the interviewer about you later.
Justify the hiring decision to others.
The biggest challenge your resume will ever face is direct competition, winning the interview in the shoulder-to-shoulder battle with other resumes, many of which are from candidates with better qualifications than yours. Some glamour industries, such as the hottest and most successful tech companies, receive in excess of one thousand unsolicited resumes per day. Following my guidelines, my clients have often gotten interviews and jobs at odds well in excess of one thousand to one.
Writing resumes that win interviews requires an understanding of what happens to your resume when it hits XYZ Corp. It is usually screened by resume-sorting software and then a lower-level human being whose sole reason to exist is to keep you away from any hiring managers. Management time is valuable, so these screeners act to protect it. Even if you are applying for an executive position, you must make it easy for the software and the clerk, or your application will end up in the black hole of some database.
How to write resumes is only one interview-winning key in this book. In chapter 15, “How to Get Interviews and Plan and Manage a Job Search,” and chapter 16, “Cover Letters: Don’t Write One until You Read Chapter 15,” I will show you how to avoid getting into that screening pile in the first place.
Everybody knows that resumes are useful for getting interviews, but not everybody realizes the resume’s other, equally important, functions: It structures the interview process, reminds the interviewer of you after you are gone, and justifies the hiring decision to others.
Most interviewers will go right down your employment history asking questions about each job. Your resume should not tell the whole story; it should pique curiosity, begging for a clarifying question. (However, it should not be confusing or obtuse.)
Incidentally, you should take plenty of extra copies of your resume to any interview. Your interviewer will often ask for one, and some interviewers ask for several as a ploy to get all of yours away from you. Then they can test your memory. Have plenty of copies and pass this test.
After the interview, the resume reminds the interviewer of what you have to offer. Even professional interviewers are strongly swayed by your written presentation. Research has shown that after you are gone, the resume can overwhelm the interviewer’s memory of you in person. A candidate with a good written presentation will be remembered as articulate, well groomed, and intelligent; one with a poor written presentation will be remembered as unkempt, inarticulate, and ill prepared, regardless of how the candidates actually performed in the interview
. Few candidates realize how important this resume function is.
The one major exception to the above occurs when an interviewer decides you are lying or grossly exaggerating. In this case, all credibility is lost and your written presentation is discounted entirely. Don’t cross that line.
(If you interview people, be sure to prepare the same questions for every candidate, and score each candidate’s professionalism and preparedness immediately after she leaves the room. Then later, make yourself believe those scores.)
Finally, your resume can justify the hiring decision to others. The hiring cycle is getting longer and longer. More people are involved, and everyone is afraid to make a mistake. If you are the wrong hire, it can be very difficult to get rid of you. There are people higher up in the organization who will rubber stamp your hire decision without ever meeting you. The better you look on paper, the more comfortable they are. Here the wrong resume can undo every right thing about you.
Time after time candidates have come into my office and said something like, “I don’t need anything special; I’ve already got the job.” My first thought is: Then why are they asking you for a resume? Somebody is not yet fully satisfied, and that resume better live up to the rest of your presentation, or the whole thing could unravel.
As you are writing your resume, keep in mind what you want it to do for you. If you understand what your goals are, what you want your resume to accomplish each time you use it
, you will do a better job of achieving those goals. 3 The Rules of Resume Writing
The rules of resume writing are simple:
There are no rules that cannot be broken, with cause.
Be careful of what you want; you may get it.
Do not hold back.
Do not tell a lie.
Rule #1 There are no absolutes in resume writing.
In other words, every rule you have ever heard about resumes can be broken if you have a compelling reason.
Rule #2 Be careful of what you want; you may get it.
This ancient Chinese proverb is as valid today as ever. Think about what you really want. More money, more power, and more responsibility are not always as much fun as you think, especially with the wrong company.
Rule #3 Do not hold back.
This is one of the few times in your life when blowing your own horn is exactly what you are supposed to do. If you are timid, force yourself to think of how your spouse or best friend might describe your skills and accomplishments.
If you state your skills and accomplishments well and accurately, you will increase your chances of getting a job that will maximize your potential. This is good for you, and it is good for society. So don’t hold back.
Rule #4 Do not, I repeat, do not tell a lie.
A blatant lie on your resume is the biggest mistake you can make. Besides, it reveals a lack of creativity. The “problem” you feel compelled to lie about can be solved another way. Headhunters and companies check the basic facts on resumes, and there are consulting firms whose sole job it is to do this. If you still are not convinced, consider the following.
I had a mid-level candidate who lied to me about a college degree, which I then put in his resume. He had a great interview with the CEO. He had a great interview with the president. He thought he had the job. The president and the CEO agreed. They decided on $90,000 for a first-year compensation package. He went to the director of human resources to fill out the papers and she said, “You know, I called your college and they have no record of you.” The irony here is that neither the president nor the CEO was a college graduate. No one will hire a liar.
Then, I had a candidate who lied brazenly on her application, claiming a technical skill she did not have (the ability weld aluminum, to be exact). To her credit, she learned the skill on the job in her first few weeks. Her ambition and talent allowed her to move off the shop floor and into management. Seventeen years later
, she got friendly with a coworker and bragged about her feat. You can guess the rest of the story. She got into a fight with her friend, and the friend went to top management. She was summarily fired. Company policy. No one will retain a liar.
A lie can come back to haunt you for years and years and years. Even if it gets you hired, it is not worth it.
Excerpted from The Overnight Resume, 3rd Edition by Donald M. Asher. Copyright © 2010 by Donald M. Asher. Excerpted by permission of Ten Speed Press, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.