Friday, November 22, 2013

Structuring a Resume


Here are some of the notes from the breakout/work group session that I led at last night's Utah Java User Group meeting.  It was pretty well attended and built on the concepts that I posted in my last blog dealing with the "Psychology of Resume Writing".

Since the last session was focused more on identifying the various audiences for your resume and what their particular needs are....I wanted to focus this session on more of the nitty-gritty actual content and "words" that go into a written resume - rather than just dealing with conepts.

For the reader - keep in mind - this is focused on resume writing specifically for the Technology industry.  Though many of the concepts and applications will carry over to any industry...I do have a significant and current level of experience in Tech - and thus, dealing with hundreds of technical resumes and hiring managers/audiences.

Again - please also remember that there is absolutely no such thing as a "Silver bullet" when it comes to writing resumes.  Every company and every manager within a company may have a different idea of what the "right resume" looks my focus is more on a universal and easy to adapt resume that is "good" for most companies and audiences.  

So - with all of those are some of the concepts and real-life scenarios that we discussed as important to structuring a good resume in the Technology Industry today.

#1 - Is your resume EASY to look at?  Aesthetically pleasing resumes are always going to have a better chance of arriving to the correct audience...plain and simple.  Here are some things to consider when structuring a resume:
  • Font - make it easy to read and nothing "funk" is not the time to be creative with fonts.
  • Bold, italics - Use it judiciously and consistently.  DO NOT bold every key word or just ends up looking like BOLD-Vomit on the page.  Bold and italicize things like company name or your title...use it to differentiate, not overpower the content.
  • Indentations, spacing - again, most importantly, be consistent.  White space is good, but don't have more white space than content.
  • Bullet points - always, always use bullets - it is so much easier to scan than paragraph form.
#2 - Career Summaries and Technology Key-word Lists/Tables - NO.  These typically turn out to be space wasters.  Summaries have a tendency to no longer be summaries...but take half or an entire page.  As for Tech buzz!!!  Every technology that you use should be in the content or responsibility section of where you are describing what you did, how you did it, why you did it, and what your specific role was with each company.  There is no need to pull all the technologies out into a table or list that should be in your content anyway.  Managers know buzzwords...they don't want to see a list of them...they want to see what you did and how you used those tools.

#3 - Work History.  Always include name of company, your title(s), and most importantly..dates of employment (months and years).  If you choose to leave off any of this information, it typically will do more damage than good.  Your audience will wonder why you didn't include specific dates, titles, and former employers...and unfortunately might assume the worst.  Don't let them assume...make it clear where, what role, and when you were contributing with your skills.  I do get the question occasionally, "what about confidentiality on current or past employers?".  I don't know of any recruiters or companies that will hire you without knowing where you currently are working - many need to know for verifications and to make sure that they aren't breaching any non-solicitation or other agreements with companies that they may partner with.

#4 - Gaps.  In your work history, this is why dates are imperative for a hiring manager.  Remember...a resume isn't written for's written for someone trying to hire you.  Fulfill there needs...don't try to cover things up.  Most managers view a 3 month or less gap between roles as "no big deal".  If you have something more - or significantly more - address it.  It is much better to address gaps professionally rather than letting them make their own false assumptions.  Be concise, and save the intricate details for the interview...but don't leave them wondering. And don't think that they won't notice.....they ALWAYS notice.

#5 - Description of roles/responsibilities.  This might be the single most important section of any resume.  Remember your audience again.  Describe how you will help their organization...don't just give you old job description.  Focus on accomplishments! Here are some quick tips:
  • Words/Phrases to avoid:  "involved in....", "participated in....", "part of a team that....".  These phrases are so generic.  Companies don't want to know what your team did...they aren't hiring your team.  Tell them your specific role and what you did.  Don't make them guess if you were 90% involved or assume that you were 5% involved/participated in...or just showed up for a few general meetings.  Show them YOUR value to their company/team.
  • OARs:  When you are up a need an OAR!  
    • O - Opportunity.  What was the situation, problem, or opportunity you are solving?
    • A - Action.  What action did YOU take, what tools did you use and why?
    • R - Result. What did you accomplish? How did you save the company time or money...or make the company money?  How did you help the bottom line???
#6 - Contract vs Perm.  Again - there is too little time and too many other candidates to let you potential employer make assumptions.  A 3 - 6 month stint as a completed contract looks much different to an employer than a 3 - 6 month stop at a company as a perm employee.  Don't let them guess.  Tell them which of your roles were perm and which were contract/consulting.  They don't want to hire you and then have to replace you in 12 months.

#7 - Education - what should I include?  Most companies will now not only do a criminal background and drug test, they will also verify employment dates and educational achievements (degrees mainly).  Why? Because it's cheap to hire someone to do it...and nobody wants to hire a liar or deceiver...bad for business.  Here is what I recommend you include:
  • Dates of completion - on all degrees and certifications
  • Name of Institution and location
  • Area of Study - specifically on the type of degree you earned
  • Classes? - typically I advise against this unless something is extremely relevant to a company or industry or role...or you are fresh out of school and need to demonstrate some additional experience.
  • GPA - again...I advise against it...especially if it is not SUPER high (like 3.8 or better)...even then, I rarely have a company ask about a GPA - unless again the candidate is new and has little to no experience professionally.
 #8 - Length.  Let the weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth begin.  I can spend an hour or more justifying my opinion (and am happy to do so....give me a call sometime).  But for keeping this blog post Technology, no more than 4 pages and no less than 2 pages is my general rule.  Are there exceptions you ask?  Sure....but they are VERY rare.  If your resume is one page because someone told you it has to be...EVOLVE.  If you have more than 2 years of experience, I'd better see more than one page.  If you give me more than 4 pages...I probably won't read it at all.  Most managers I work with share this's not that we're lazy...but let's be realistic about things.  Nobody makes money reading resumes at work.

#9 - Spell Check, proof read, then have someone else proof read for you.  'nuf'd be surprised at some of the stuff I see on a daily basis with resumes.

There it is folks, for more details or discussion points, hit me up.  We had a great round-table discussion that brought up many questions and topics that just can't be covered in a blog forum like this.  I'm always happy to discuss and help (and hear other opinions and ideas).

Friday, October 18, 2013

Resume "Psychology"

Can anyone here read Greek?  γνῶθι σεαυτόν   transliterated: gnōthi seauton other words, "KNOW THYSELF".

When talking about the resume as a tool, we often fail to realize that the resume really isn't about us.  It is and must be about the AUDIENCE.  There is a great clip on YouTube:  - A great parody song showing a piano player with his compilation of "all about me" songs, extolling the virtues of well....himself.

If we approach a resume and writing our resume with the "It's all about ME" mentality then you are going to run into one huge problem:  It's really not about's about what your audience wants and needs.  I love this quote: "The starting point for ALL successful communication is becoming aware of the intended audience and approaching them on an appropriate level."  C'mon people...we've all got a bit of "salesman" in us...this is sales 101.  You have to know what your customer wants.

So let's identify who the audience for our resume is - and what it is they want (incidentally, I googled the phrase "what do technology companies look for in a resume" and there were over 107,000,000 unique results....yeah, that is about right).  First, the who.  Think of your own company or any company that you've worked for in the past.  In their hiring process, who is it that is a part of the process and actually sees the resume.  Most companies have the following players involved:

1.  Human Resources and/or Recruiters. The average HR or Recruiter doesn't even read your resume.  In fact, nobody really "reads" your resume....except you.  Everyone scans.  We all have hundreds of other things to do.  Here is the honest truth - I've been recruiting for around 14 years, doing some quick math...that is probably between 400,000 and 600,000 resumes I've reviewed.  I average around 100 per day.  Most recruiters and HR folks spend and average of 6-10 seconds looking at your resume.  What are they looking for?  KEY WORDS - in other words key technologies.  Make sure that they are in your resume so you don't get sorted out.  Most companies and recruiters use some type of ATS and search tool that works on Boolean logic.  They don't understand the technology you use, but know the tools and things associated with what their tech stack is.  If you don't have it on your resume somewhere, chances are, you won't even get noticed.  They are also looking for reasons "NOT" to forward your resume to a manager.  Be aware of any goofy contact info (emails like or or - and yes, I see that all the time as a recruiter), any gaps in your resume between jobs, etc.

2. Hiring Managers.  Hiring managers don't read your resume either...but they are very different from HR and recruiters.  They are super busy with production and the last thing they have time for is resume reviews.  They want to see less resumes, not more.  The over-riding emphasis a hiring manager has is - "Can this person do the job, so I don't have to keep worrying about reviewing resumes and doing interviews that take time away from my team's production".  Content is key for hiring managers.  Not key words, not lists of technologies, but HOW DID YOU USE THE TECHNOLOGY.  What were the tools you used and why?  How did you use the tools?  Do the tools apply to my company environment?  If I hire you, are you going to be a drain on my already limited time?  Keep in mind that you need to be specific in your content so that hiring managers KNOW what you do/did, instead of guessing at a general technology list.  For example:  rather than, "Used SQL to query the database", something like, "Utilized aggregate functions and inner joins to create complex SQL queries across 10 Oracle databases and 3 terabytes of data, resulting in valuable and actionable reporting that ultimately increased ROI for the marketing department" will have a much greater impact on a hiring manager.  You didn't just fill the basic "duties", but you brought value.

3. Team Members.  Most managers will involve a team in the resume review.  Probably because they just don't have time to review every resume, also perhaps because they don't want to be the only one in the process - just in case they hire "the wrong person" (discussion for another blog, another day), but also because ultimately, you will be a part of a team and everyone will need to be able to work together to accomplish the team and company goals.  So what do team members look for?  Most importantly to the team are the questions:  "Can I work with this person everyday" and "Is this person going to cause me more work or hand-holding".  Again, content and description of accomplishments is key - but remember to balance it with humility...or more importantly believability.  Nobody wants to work with a huge ego or an I can do everything type of personality.

4.  Executive Management.  Most executive will glance at your resume at best.  It's probably more crucial to have this down pat verbally for the interview, than in the resume, but it's great to be able to actually have it documented in your resume as well.  All executives care about the same thing.......MONEY.  It's all about the bottom line at this level - and that is a good thing....that's what keeps companies running and growing and paying your salary.  You want execs who care about money, money, money.  So what are they looking for in an employee?  Plain and simple.  How can you SAVE their company money, or MAKE them money.  That's the bottom line!  In other words, focus your resume on QUANTIFIABLE ACCOMPLISHMENTS.  This is more difficult, but absolutely imperative.  Know what your value is/was at every company and every position you've held.  Get it in writing/documented in your resume, and embed it in your mind for the interview.

 So - for a quick reference, here are some ideas to keep in mind for each of the audiences we've discussed for your resume.  We can get into more specific detail with my next entry.  Keep in mind the following when preparing to write/re-write your resume:
 - Contact information (keep it professional)
 - Resume Length (most tech resumes should be 2-4 pages)
 - Aesthetics (use appropriate bolding, readable font + size, bullets not paragraphs, white space)
 - Format (Experience, Education, Awards, Industry Involvment, etc.)

More coming soon.....

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Life is Baseball.....Baseball is Life

I am a certified baseball junkie....guilty as charged.  Baseball to me is the perfect metaphor for life and everything in it....including recruiting.  The great recruiting trainer Danny Cahill said that there are three general types of candidates in the world.  I agree.  But....let me put it in terms I terms.

  1. Tony Gwynn.  This is my guy!  I loved watching this guy hit - absolute artistry.  Tony was the guy that no pitcher ever wanted to face.  Why?....because there was no pitch you could throw him that he couldn't do something with.  Tony was disciplined.  He flat out did not swing at a ball outside of the strike zone.  To make matters even tougher for pitchers, he would not only not swing at pitches outside the zone (forcing you to make great pitches in the zone)....if the pitch was great - and one he couldn't do much with....he'd just foul it off and make you do it again.  Tony was like that annoying leadoff hitter who didn't really want to get a hit, he just wanted to see every pitch in your arsenal.  He wanted to make the pitcher work at every one of his at-bats.  Sometimes, the pitch count could reach double digits.  Tony swung at his pitches. Period.
  2. Adam Dunn.  This dude swings at everything.  Yes...everything!  In 2012 he had 222 strikeouts in 539 at-bats.  That means there was almost a 50% chance that every time he got an at-bat he would whiff.  Adam never saw a pitch he didn't think he could reach - much to the delight of opposing pitchers.  Ok, ok...I'll be fair to Adam...he also had 41 home runs that year (giving new meaning to the phrase: "All or nothing").  But for our analogy, he just couldn't help himself....first pitch, there is a pretty good chance he was taking a hack at it.  I seriously doubt any of his at bats made the pitcher even think about a double digit pitch count.
  3. Barry Bonds.  Ok - somewhere in between was a guy like Barry.  Say what you want about his steroid use or bad attitude or whatever....dude could flat out hit.  Sure, he struck out a bit....but he also walked a ton.  Barry was that perfect blend of swing at anything close that he could drive - and - don't swing at any crap.  Love him, hate him, doesn't matter...if you ever watched the game of baseball and loved had to watch this guy and love him as a hitter.  

So what's the point right?  Well, simply put...every candidate is either Tony Gwynn, Adam Dunn, or Barry Bonds.  They are all great hitters, you just need to know what you are going to get with each one. 

Adam is that candidate that is going to want to hear about every job, take every interview, see every job description.  He is going to think he is a fit for everything and yeah...he's going to swing and miss a lot of the time (probably even more than Adam's 50%).  If you know that going in, you can adjust.  Make sure to present only opportunities that you think are a great fit - be judicious in presenting him to your clients.

Tony is just the opposite.  He is the candidate that is NEVER looking, never interested in seeing new opportunities, always happy with his job.  While it's probably not entirely true, Tony is the guy that is only going to look for a job when he is out of work.  He knows exactly what he wants, and if you are lucky and pay attention, you just might be the recruiter to help him find it.

Barry on the other hand is where we live.  Barry is 70% of the candidate pool out there.  Barry candidates will take a look, will swing at a pitch even when it's not perfect.  You just need to make sure you aren't passing by Barry candidates because you think that they are Tony candidates.  While they aren't "looking" or may classify themselves as "passive" need to know how to find they pitches that they like and love.  Try the dialogue like this:  "Candidate, I've worked with quite a few people over the years like yourself - who are happy with their current situation.  That is great....but....we both know how quickly things can change in this industry and how "happy" can quickly turn into "hey...I wonder if there is something better".  I just want to take a minute to make sure I know what "something better" is for you.  What is it that if I come across it.....I need to call you and let you know about?"

Barry is gonna strikeout a few times, hit some doubles and singles too....but oh boy, when you find a pitch that is'll go, and it'll go far and quick.  HOMERUN baby!