As most of you already know, I’m big on encouraging people with the aptitude to start their own businesses. Even if you have no intention of making the jump, it’s still worth your time to take some business classes and learn the basics. Understanding business well enough to at least speak the lingo will make you a more desirable employee.
The reality is that most people will not make the effort to start their own business — and that means competing for jobs in the great slush pile of resumes that companies shopping for talent inevitably accumulate. Regardless of whether you’re fighting through the slush pile or networking your contacts, getting hired means creating a resume that will get you in the door. Having been a hiring manager more than once in my career, I can tell you that it’s ridiculously easy to stand out from the resume pack, because most are so poorly composed. Here are my tips for putting together a resume that will get you in the door.
Pack Your Qualifications at the Top
Here’s a tip: no one cares about your career goals or objectives. That’s conventional wisdom from 30 years ago — and eye tracking analyses show that it’s a waste of space for the two to six seconds a hiring authority is going to look at your resume. The top of your resume should be your qualifications, last job two job titles, last two job begin and end dates, and your education.
Many companies use digital systems to scan resumes and search through available candidates. The search engines for those internal systems work a lot like Internet search engines, so think in terms of keywording your resume — but not to the point it reads like something written for a machine. Put the project and qualification descriptions farther down your resume; the detail is there for the machine, not the people. In technical positions, keywords can sometimes be a challenge, because HR people don’t always understand them. I blanch every time I see the term “seequel” in a DBA job description, because someone with technical understanding would know the term is "SQL." Engineers report the same frustrations dealing with HR people in other technical fields.
Make Content Relevant
Hiring managers want to know your responsibilities and what you’ve accomplished, not your command of adjectives and colorful descriptions. Short, punchy, and relevant will almost always be more effective than any long description. Don’t worry about writing in complete sentences on a resume, and leave off the pictures.
Link to Detailed Information
Sometimes the detail is necessary. But instead of trying to pack your resume, link to it elsewhere. Many technical developers have vanity domains that consist of their name or some variation. Anyone, regardless of your career field, can borrow that trick for hosting detailed project and job descriptions or extensive work histories. These days your social media profiles, particularly LinkedIn, can save you from repeating a ton of background information on a resume. Believe me, companies that are interested will follow those links, and those will inevitably be your best leads.
Focus on Results
One mistake I consistently saw on technical resumes was a focus on what they knew instead of how they applied what they knew. Anyone, with enough time and effort, can learn a development language like PHP. It’s far more interesting to hiring managers to know that you applied that skill in automating a business process that cut the number of people doing a particular job from five to three. List the skill, but don’t necessarily tie it too closely with particular projects — because if a hiring manager already has all the details of how you built a particular system, that closes off that line of conversation in an interview. If they have too much information going into an interview, sometimes they’ll ask bizarre or peripherally related questions that are interview minefields.
Skip Hobbies — But Do Include Social Welfare
This one can be a little tricky because it’s subjective, but in my experience, no one really cares about your hobbies. The one exception to that I saw first hand was one department that actually decided between qualified programmers based on the skills they brought to the office online video game teams. Outside strange exceptions like that, most of the time you’re going to be better off sticking to charitable and community service efforts. Being active in the community is particularly important for management and sales jobs, and certain industries like banking, insurance, and real estate. Leave off community service related to religious affiliation, or at least minimize the connection between the two. That’s another potential minefield best avoided in interviews.
You’ll never get a chance to shine in an interview if your resume doesn’t get you in the door. Making sure your resume hits the key points hiring managers are seeking, and links to more detail if they’re interested, will be your golden ticket through a lot of doors.