Resumes and the First Page Contents
T Buckley, CPC
As a recruiter I see lots of resumes as you can well imagine. Some of them draw your attention immediately - and not for good reasons. If you've taken the time to send your document then give it a fighting chance against the hundreds of competitors landing on the recipient's desk.
Taking it from the top, choose your fonts wisely. Avoid those artistic ones and stay with easy to read fonts like Arial. When you are previewing a resume - not opening it but taking a quick peek - you want to ensure that the reader can actually discern the text. Times New Roman and Tahoma are terrible to read in Quick Look. Arial is always your best bet. Some people think that underlining everything within an inch of its life will impress the reader who will then set this aside for future review. It will actually do the opposite - the reader is more likely to file it in the round file - you know the one I mean. The same holds true for resumes that hold more than 2 colours. Unless you are applying to a graphic arts or media communication position, good old black still serves your purpose. Fonts with flourishes, romantic script, ye olde fashioned look all miss the mark. Most business people will appreciate a predictable font to read that is easy on the eyes. Anything else is pushing your luck.
Whenever I get resumes with lots of different bullet points, asterisks and other odd symbols in the text, I immediately think that this person is trying too hard to be "different" or stand out from the crowd. A busy resume is one which is doing you a disservice. Yes, it may serve as a humorous break in the morning routine of a recruitment team as they pass it back and forth for ribald commentary, but it won't get to the shortlist for review. Keep it simple was definitely coined with resumes in mind - or should have been. Simple dashes or standard bullet points are sufficient to draw your attention to the point that you want to impress on the reader's mind. Anything more than that is overkill.
A word about file formats is in order here. In order of appropriateness, these are the formats that will not cause problems for you: .doc., .PDF., .rtf., .txt. That is it. Avoid .zip files, .odt and .wps wherever possible. You cannot go wrong pasting the text of your resume below your introductory message in the accompanying email. It is insurance in case your attachment for one reason or another is unreadable by the recipient's computer. It also provides your resume information at a glance, something that harried and pressured resume readers appreciate.
In recent years, and the last one in particular, I have seen more people using a consumer product like sky service resumes. It has disadvantages. Anytime you send one of these click- a - link resumes, you are asking the reader to take it on faith that your resume is on a page that is not a phishing site or that dosen't contain trojans, viruses or other goodies. The fact is that these types of online resume services have, shall we say, not the best security standards. It doesn't help to put a resume on a password protected or encrypted page either because that is just creating more work for the reader, and increasing the risk factor of clicking as requested. Stay with the tried and true.
The other reason not to use these service is that links to resumes cannot be read by AAT software, so you can't have a document saved from an email, opened and read or an attachment saved to a desktop as a normal procedural follow-up.
I always recommend to people that you have two resumes: one that serves as an email introduction or synopsis of your experience, and one which is your full resume that you would bring with you to a meeting and leave with the interviewer. Both serve a different purpose: the first to capture your reader's/interviewer's interest and the second to detail your experience and serve as a context to discuss things from in a meeting.
Frankly, I cringe whenever I receive a lengthy manifesto with paragraph after paragraph of information that you have to wade through and sift through like a gold miner sluicing for gold nuggets in a stream of muddy rocks. You are asking the recipient to spend an inordinate amount of time playing Where's Waldo when you present this type of resume. If you figure that you have between 15 to 45 seconds to make that all-important connection with the reader, you can see where the need to simplify, condense and edit comes in. The rule of thumb is: if your statement isn't actively selling the product that is you, leave it for the long-form resume that you will be taking to the meeting.
Some resumes take this to the extreme of being terse, one-line job descriptions that give no indication what the person actually was responsible for and managed to accomplish. This extreme and minimalist approach usually ends up with a 1/2 to 3/4 page, one-page document being submitted. You may as well just send a blank message for all the appeal that this will generate. The impression left when you receive this type of non-resume is that the person either doesn't care to write anything about what they did, or they didn't actually do anything worth writing about. Either way, it is a non-starter. You can't expect the reader to consult his/her crystal ball or ask the oracle what the resume sender did for a living. Put some information down to create a basis for identification and mutual interest.
Your email resume does not have to contain everything you did back to when Pierre Trudeau was Prime Minister. Basically, if part of your career began before the advent of the IBM Selectric typewriter, it doesn't need to be included in applying to modern-day jobs. The last 15 years are of most interest, with some saying just the last 10 in terms of the rapid changes in the marketplace. Focus on this time frame.
The first page of the document is your sweet spot to grab the reader's attention. That isn't a lot of space, is it? Make it count. This is where you note your key strengths and accomplishments - the ones that are likely to prick up the ears of the reader, make the reader put down his/her coffee and read on. It is your crucial first chance to make an impression. If this area of your document is bland and unfocused, you have lost your audience.
First Page Contents:
Aside from the very basic contact information of name, address, telephone and email contact information, the first page should whet the appetite of the reader to forge on and learn more about you. If it motivates the reader to contact you, it has served its purpose.
Create a section titled: Accomplishments, Knowledge & Skills. In point form; concisely note the 4-10 bullet points that summarize what you have done, what you know and what you have learned. Obviously, this requires severe almost brutal editing to distill the essence of your career. The more power you pack into this first section, the more likely you are to get the person to buy into reading further.
This page http://buckleysearch.com/Resume_First_Page.html gives you some concrete examples of what works and what does in creating this section. Remember, you will need to eliminate ruthlessly every word that does not serve the purpose of creating interest. It helps to write a draft, then edit it down, then edit it down again, all the while reducing and refining each line.
Some items to include:
Degrees, certifications and the years they were earned (unless we are back in the 70's somewhere)
Specific and quantifiable results produced (% of revenue growth, cost reductions, profitability achieved)
New products introduced, innovations that gained wide acceptance and are still in use in the company
Promotions received, awards given, recognition earned for specific achievements
Customer growth, industry sectors developed, successful programs to increase sales introduced
Teams created that were successful and that you lead to significant levels of achievement
This section will occupy approximately the first third to one-half of the first page. Immediately below the Accomplishments area, note the special knowledge and skills that you bring to the position. Below that, note the relevant software and programs that you work with. Once again, be ruthless, you don't need to note Internet browsing as a skill. It is understood. Points that will elicit interest include level of Excel expertise, as well as programs specific to your industry sector that serve as buzzwords or are well recognized.
Leave some room after this section to describe your current or most recent employment - not the first job you ever had. Use reverse chronological order, most recent first. You don't want to provide a laundry list of expected duties (had meetings, created reports, served customers), you want to use this section to flesh out and reinforce the accomplishments that you noted in the first section, and add others if you are fortunate enough to have these. Think accomplishments not just duties. How did you achieve what you did? What has made you successful at what you do? Why have you been promoted?
The first page of your resume and the contents of it must sell the benefits of taking the time to contact you and answer that age-old question: Why should we hire you?
The first page provides that answer. Any subsequent pages reinforce that initial, positive, first impression.
Make it count.
To be continued..