Resume Writing Tip #9 – The Post-Interview Audit

If you haven’t searched for a job in a while, then you’ll be updating your resume and using it without knowing how good it is.  Of course, you should get advice from family members, friends and former work colleagues.  But there’s another hugely valuable audit tool to gauge the effectiveness of your resume.  It’s the post-interview audit.

After conducting any sort of interview using your newly updated resume (including phone interviews), immediately pull out your resume and ask yourself the following questions:

  • What did they specifically notice from my resume?  If they use phrases like “I saw that you _____.  Tell me more about that.”, then you know they got the information from your resume.
  • What did they not ask you about that you were really hoping and expecting they would?  Potential formatting problems and an opportunity to use the Quick Glance Test described in a related blog post.
  • What did they misunderstand?  In other words, they asked you a question and you found yourself clarifying their initial observation or conclusion.

You should do this following your first few interviews and after any interview that went especially well or especially poorly.

See the rest of my series on Resume Writing here.   I also have a related series for Job Hunting and one for Interviewing.

Resume Writing Tip #8 – Upper Management Positions

If you are interviewing for a position on the senior management team, there are a couple of additional resume sections that can help if you have the background and experience to populate them.  Such sections include the following:

  • Board Positions (including advisory boards)
  • Mergers & Acquisitions – describe each one, including the value and your involvement before and after.
  • Funding and Capitalization – describe each occurrence that you had involvement in
  • Conference Speaking Engagements

Another dilemma for executives is the length of the resume.  This problem can be solved by having two versions.  The complete version that has all of the items in the list above and a fair amount of detail throughout should be called your Curriculum Vitae (CV) while the 3-page version should be called your Resume.  Your initial solicitations should be done with your Resume.  But in your solicitation, make it known that you have a more complete CV available upon request.  In fact, put this at the end of your resume in place of where you would otherwise put “References available upon request”.

See the rest of my series on Resume Writing here.   I also have a related series for Job Hunting and one for Interviewing.

Resume Writing Tip #7 – The Quick Glance Test

Here’s a great exercise that I tell everyone to perform.  Give your completed resume to a friend or family member that has not seen it before.  The less they actually know about your professional background, the better.  Tell them that you are going to give them a short amount of time to glance over your resume and then ask them to tell you what they remembered.  But don’t tell them the amount of time you are going to give.  Give them exactly 20 seconds to look at it. Then ask them what they saw or what they remembered.  They better have noticed at least 3 of the key things you want to be noticed or else you have a formatting problem.  This will most likely be company names that you worked for or job titles.  And possibly/hopefully something from your Skills Summary section, if you included one.

Then give them 40 more seconds to see if they can pick up most of the remaining hot points.  For a hiring manager looking through a stack of resumes, the first 20 seconds of reading will determine into which pile your resume goes (investigate further versus not a fit).  I’m not exaggerating.  A hiring manager with a stack of 30+ resumes has no choice but to spend about 20 seconds in their initial sorting exercise.  The ones that end up in the good stack will get a further look (the additional 40 seconds) to decide if they are a “definite phone screening interview” or just a “maybe for a second round if the others don’t work out”.

See the rest of my series on Resume Writing here.   I also have a related series for Job Hunting and one for Interviewing.

Resume Writing Tip #6 – Optimizing Your Word Selection

This is critical, especially the action verbs that you choose to use.  For example, if you accomplished some particular objective, why use a verb like “met” when you could use “achieved” or “exceeded” instead?  Also, typically you should start out each sentence with an appropriate verb rather than hide the verb in the middle of the sentence.  Consider the following:

Good management verbs

  • Directed
  • Managed
  • Oversaw
  • Led
  • Supervised
  • Assigned
  • Chaired
  • Founded

Good administrative verbs

  • Designed
  • Developed
  • Established
  • Negotiated
  • Executed
  • Implemented

Good accomplishment verbs

  • Achieved
  • Exceeded
  • Closed

Good adjectives to describe yourself (cover letter, etc)

  • Resourceful
  • Innovative
  • Action-oriented
  • Self-motivated
  • Creative

Good words to describe your soft skills

  • Negotiate
  • Persuade
  • Prioritize
  • Collaborate
  • Mentor
  • Delegate
  • Troubleshoot

Try to avoid (too passive)

  • Participated
  • Facilitated
  • Arranged
  • Influenced
  • Analyzed
  • Responsible for (except for the typical sentence immediately under your job titles that explain what you were responsible for)

See the rest of my series on Resume Writing here.   I also have a related series for Job Hunting and one for Interviewing.

Resume Writing Tip #5 – Education versus Work Experience

If you have already had two or more jobs, realize that college is enough behind you that your Professional Experience section should go before your Educational information.  Also, the further college is behind you the less you need to include about it.  In other words, after 8 years and 2-3 jobs you only need to mention the name of the college and your degree (major and minor, if you have both).  You do not need to mention GPA or various areas of concentration (unless they are important to the career you are going for).  And if you graduated with honors, that’s always worth mentioning.

See the rest of my series on Resume Writing here.   I also have a related series for Job Hunting and one for Interviewing.

Resume Writing Tip #4 – The “So What” Rule

Hiring managers want to understand the positive impact people had in their various positions as much or more than the actual roles & responsibilities they had.  I find that, way too often, people spend too much space listing all of the various aspects of their job responsibilities (what they did) without stating what they actually accomplished for the benefit of the company they were working for.

I recommend following the “so what?” litmus test.  After reading each section of your resume, assume the readers are saying “so what?” to themselves.   Make sure you are answering this question for each job.  Give some real quantifiable results that you produced.  Increasing revenue, increasing market share, reducing cycle times, reducing costs, etc. – and by how much?  Anything that can be quantified to show that you actually made a difference rather than just performed your job function.  Look at the following two examples and decide which is more compelling to someone that doesn’t know you.

  • “Managed the central Texas sales region made up of six account reps and three sales engineers”
  • “Grew revenue 35% year-over-year within the central Texas sales region and achieved in excess of 125% of quota three years in a row”

If you are a member of the senior management team, it is OK to describe growth-related achievements of the company itself (revenue growth, etc), even if you were not the VP of Sales.  You were a member of the management team that led the company to these results.

See the rest of my series on Resume Writing here.   I also have a related series for Job Hunting and one for Interviewing.

Resume Writing Tip #3 – Skills Summary Section

For someone fresh out of college or someone that only has a couple of jobs under their belt, this would not be appropriate.  But if you have taken a path that has enabled you to develop a diverse set of skills, you might want to put this smack dab at the beginning of your resume.  Similarly, if you are competing for a General Manager or executive-level position, you probably need to show diversity.

When developing a Skills Summary section, be careful about the order you put the skills in and even the ones you choose to list at all. They should match the type of job you want.  It’s fine that five years ago you had a job as an HTML programmer and LAN administrator.  But if you are going for a marketing management job, you won’t want to overload the Skills Summary section with a bunch of high-tech skills.  Since this section is almost always situated at the very beginning of your resume and will be the first thing the reader looks at, some people will decide to read further strictly based on this section.

Finally, don’t mention specific employers or job titles in your Skills Summary section.  Skills are areas of talent like business development, sales, M&A or financial.  The layout for this section could look something like this:

blank line

See the rest of my 10-part series on Resume Writing here.   I also have a related 5-part series for Job Hunting and a 7-part series for Interviewing.

blank line

Resume Writing Tip #2 – The “Objective” Statement

This is purely my personal opinion, but I think they are a complete waste of space.  I liken them to the “What would you like to change in the world?” question in a beauty pageant.  There are only two possible answers: “Achieve world peace” or “Solve world hunger”.  It’s the same with an Objective statement.  Having read thousands of resumes over the years as a hiring manager, I always completely ignore it.  It’s common to try and fit your resume onto two pages (or three if you have 12+ years of experience).  So the space taken by an Objective Statement just isn’t worth it.

See the rest of my series on Resume Writing here.   I also have a related series for Job Hunting and one for Interviewing.

Resume Writing Tip #1 – Formatting

I put a lot of effort into formatting of resumes.  After you get your basic content correct, I recommend putting a lot of attention into the formatting.  Look at spacing, font size, readability, margins, indention, etc.   Especially make clever use of line spacing, bullets and bolding.  I recommend avoiding underlining and italics if possible.

Basically, section titles (ie – Professional Background, Education, etc), company names and job titles are the first thing you want someone to see upon initial glance.  So these should be bigger and bolder than the rest of the text.  At the other extreme, the actual years of service at a particular company (ie – “1999 – 2003”) is one of the least important pieces of information, so it should carry the smallest font size within the document.

One other trick is to hold your resume at arm’s length to see if the important section titles and information are readable and easily discernable from the rest of the resume.  Also see my related post explaining a “quick-glance” test related to identifying formatting problems.

See the rest of my series on Resume Writing here.   I also have a related series for Job Hunting and one for Interviewing.