Why Should I Read Your Resume?

I’ve interviewed more than a thousand people over the past fifteen years and I’ve probably reviewed more than five thousand resumes (which are called CVs in some parts of the world).  One fact has been frustratingly consistent: Most resumes are bad.

When you prepare your resume, remember why you’re doing it.  The purpose is not to give a chronological history of your work experience (although that’s an important part).  It’s also not to list every skill you have (or pretend to have).

The goal of your resume is to convince me that I should consider hiring you for this job.  It won’t land you the job, of course: even if your resume is perfect, you’ll still need to go through the interview process.  Still, your resume is your foot in the door; the first opportunity you have to convince me that I should care.

Here are four simple tips:

  • Make It Relevant

Ideally, if you know you’re applying for a specific position, you should submit a resume that is tailored for that position.  Even if you don’t know the details of the position, if you are submitting to my company, make sure you consider what’s relevant to us.

This doesn’t mean you should exclude experience or skills from other industries or unrelated jobs.  Sometimes that’s important – it could show versatility, diligence, or determination. 

Consider every entry on your resume and ask yourself: why would a potential hiring manager care?   Does your education matter to me?  Much of it does, but I don’t need to know what middle school you went to or the fact that you got first prize in the fifth grade science fair.   Do I want to know about your hobbies?  Maybe a little, since they might show that you’re well-rounded or creative or compassionate, but don’t tell me that you were second assistant secretary of your scrapbooking club for six months in 2002.

  • Keep It Interesting

No, I don’t mean create something outlandish or eye-popping or crazy.  At least for me, hiring in the technology industry, a relatively conventional structure is still appropriate.  Still, you don’t have to bore me.  Use some color.  Highlight important things – guide my eyes to the items you want me to notice.  Here are some examples that might trigger some creative ideas.

  • Be Concise

If your resume is more than two or three pages, it’s pretty safe to assume that I’m not going to read the whole thing.  In fact, the longer it is, the less I’m likely to read.  If you can’t take the trouble to prioritize what’s important, why should I invest my time trying to figure it out?

Don’t make the mistake of “I better list these technologies just in case one of them is applicable” or “I spent a lot of years at this job so I better include a lot of detail.”  If there’s something important that you want to make sure I read, it ought to be on the first page.

  • Tell the Truth

Although this is last, it’s the most important.  Don’t lie.  Don’t claim responsibility for things you didn’t do.  Don’t list skills you don’t have.  Don’t stretch the dates of your employment to eliminate inconvenient gaps.

Here’s the deal: if, during the course of the interview process, I discover that you lied on your resume, it’s over.  I will never hire you.  Integrity matters.  If I hire you and then find out that you lied, I won’t want to keep you around. 

For now…I’ll leave you with this thought:

Your resume provides your first impression to a hiring manager: make it count.

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