The worst way to start a résumé

As I go through dozens of resumes, I’m amazed by how many people still waste the crucial top two inches of their resumes with drivel like this:

Objective: A fast-paced, challenging programming position or other technical position that will utilize and expand my technical skills and business experience in order to positively contribute to an organization.

You and everybody else, buddy. Why should I give it to you?

That top of the resume is prime visual real estate. It’s the first thing I see when I open your email or Word document. I want to see a summary of who you are, and how you can help me by joining my organization.

Here’s an imaginary summary from a programmer applying for a Linux-based web development position:

7 years professional software development, most recently specializing in Perl and PHP, including

  • Developing object-oriented Perl and PHP, including interfacing with Oracle and MySQL on Linux (3 years)
  • Creating intranet database applications with ColdFusion and Access (2 years)
  • Creating shareware audio analysis programs for Windows in C/C++ (5 years)

In just a few lines, she’s summarized the real meat of who she is and what she’s going to bring to the position. The key words for the job to hit are bolded, to make them easier to find for the reader. Note that in this case, she has not bolded “Windows”, “Access” and “ColdFusion” because that’s not something she chooses to pursue further. It’s part of her background, but not worth emphasizing.

The skeptical reader may ask “But what if she’s applying for something that’s not a Linux web position?” Then she’ll modify her resume for that job when she applies for it. Takes only a few minutes, but it’s more likely to draw the interest of the reader. You’ve got a computer, you’re flexible! Tailor the resume to the position.

The still-skeptical reader may say “But what if I’m applying for 100 different jobs?” Don’t apply for 100 jobs. There aren’t 100 jobs out there that match you and your skills. Why waste your time? Spend the time working on the ones’ that match.

Bonus mini-rant: “References available upon request” is also fluff. Nobody has ever said “Hmm, this guy LOOKS qualified, but doesn’t have references available. I better not bother with an interview.” Kill it.

(Originally posted at oreillynet.com)

Advertisements

Tags: , ,

5 Responses to “The worst way to start a résumé”

  1. Joshua Sigar Says:

    I definitely love the format you suggested. I used it on my latest resume. Got the job, too!

    P.S. Nice job on the book.

  2. Misanthropy Today Says:

    Excellent advice.. I would also add to cut out the resume language as much as you can (while still showing that you can write professionally) and next to any bullet point should be a piece of experience or success that should make me pick up the phone and call you.

  3. No, you can’t ask about money in the job interview Says:

    […] is also part of why an objective is the worst way to start a résumé, because it says “Hi, I’m so-and-so, and here’s what I want from […]

  4. Objective: “Obtain job where I commute by zipline” | Andy Lester Says:

    […] (For more on objectives, see The worst way to start a resume) […]

  5. Diana Schneidman Says:

    Andy, great observations. I agree.

    Your rant on “references available upon request” especially tickled me. The resume is a summary. Of course more info is available beyond what is provided on a mere 2 pages!

    -Diana

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: