Here are my main complaints:
Readability: Formatting that doesn’t help me read the content. If my eye doesn’t know where to go, either because you’ve crammed too much onto the page, or haven’t broken up your information into digestible sections, you’re making it hard for me. I have hundreds of resumes to review. If you’re throwing obstacles in my way before I even get to the part where I’m thinking about whether you’re a fit, you’re only hurting yourself. Use formatting to organize the data. Present a polished, readable product.
Organization: Content that is arranged in such a way that I have to work really hard to figure out whether you’re worth contacting. There are many ways to organize information about your experience – there’s a point where I’m going to want to see something chronological, and something that speaks to the relevant experience that qualifies you for the job. It’s fine—and often helpful if it’s thoughtfully done—to organize experience into relevant categories rather than listing individual responsibilities in a strictly chronological account of your life at work. Somewhere, however, you’ll need to list your prior employers, tenure with each, and jobs you had there. I need that part of the story. And I need to be able to easily differentiate your summary of skills from your work history. When you get too far afield with organization, and give me a non-linear, haphazard collection of facts, I begin to wonder if you’re a good fit before I even know what you can do.
Relevance: Content that seems arranged for some other kind of job than the one for which you’re applying. Your best bet is to hand me a document that demonstrates that you’re the most appropriate candidate for the position. If you give me an unedited data dump of everything you’ve ever done or thought, you’re leaving me to analyze you and do that work for you. I’m tired. Give me what I want, and spare me the details about your paper route, big projects that have no relevance to this position (or frame that information so its relevance is immediately apparent), and highlight the experience that makes you a good fit for my open position.
Substance: Content that’s all jargon with no indication of the scope or depth of your experience. In the interview, it’s going to become very clear that you either know what you’re talking about or you don’t. Please don’t go for the “if you can’t dazzle them with diamonds, baffle them with nonsense” approach. Instead, tell me what I need to know:
- What did you work on?
- How responsible were you for the design, execution, and outcome?
- What was the scope of your responsibility?
- How much technical skill did you have/need to do that job?
- How much independent judgment did you exercise?
- Did you progress to successively more responsible positions/assignments?
- How well did that prepare you for the level of responsibility involved in the job to which you’re applying? Close match? Stretch? That’s what I’m asking.
When an entry-level applicant includes, “responsible for any and all aspects of…” on their resume, I assume that isn’t the case—they weren’t developing the policy, they didn’t have the authority to act independently…save me having to decipher, and be accurate. “Processed inbound customer requests” is not the same as “responsible for any and all aspects of customer service for the XX department.” Your boss determined the course, and you followed it—there’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s not the same thing.
This question originally appeared on Quora: What are the main issues with résumés?
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