Archive for January, 2011

You can’t take the easy way to writing a résumé

January 10, 2011

I came across a horrifying thread at Hacker News: Can I use a LinkedIn profile instead of resume for my job applications? It’s a reasonable question, and the answer is “No, you cannot use a LinkedIn profile instead of a résumé.”  If the job ad asks for a résumé, then you give them a résumé.  If they want the résumé in Word format, you give them the résumé in Word format.  What the hiring company asks for, you give them.

What makes me shake my head in dismay is the number of people who replied to say “Oh, yeah, just give ’em a LinkedIn URL instead, they can forward that around.”  The people who act this way are likely to not get interviews. These people who want to modify the process, let’s call them the IKBs, for “I Know Better.” Here are some things they need to learn.

First, if the company has gone through the trouble of writing an ad, they probably have a pretty good idea of what they want as a hiring process.  If the people doing the hiring didn’t think it was important what got sent in, then they wouldn’t have specified. But they did, so it does.  The IKBs don’t just get to decide from their easy chairs that they know a better way, at least not if they want a job.

Second, the IKBs aren’t somehow smarter than the people doing the hiring. Comments in the Hacker News thread include self-delusional drivel like “people cling to tradition for irrational reasons.”  This is the way the IKBs say “I know better than others how they should run their business.”  They are fooling themselves.  It sounds good when you tell yourself that, but the hiring company will simply ignore you.

Third, LinkedIn is not a substitute for a résumé, because LinkedIn’s format might not be the best way to present the story of you.  There is precious little space for the details and stories that make your résumé compelling to the reader.  Further, every résumé you send out must be tailored to the job for which you’re applying.  You cannot customize your LinkedIn profile for each company.  Maybe when applying to one company, you emphasize the work you’ve done in Oracle, and to another it’s all about the Linux sysadmin, depending on what the company wants.

Some posters on the thread mentioned that LinkedIn has a “résumé builder.”  All that does is reformat the fields already in your LinkedIn profile into various different résumé formats.  However, it doesn’t take into account the hard thinking and preparation that it takes to create a compelling résumé. Don’t get suckered into it. These résumé building websites are worse than worthless because they pretend that a good résumé is about the formatting.  It’s not.

Most of all, what makes me weep for the IKBs is that they think they’ve found an easy way to get a job.  Just fill in a few blanks, send off an email, and the hiring managers will fall over themselves to snap up the candidate.   It doesn’t work that way.  Finding a job, especially one that you’re going to want to go to every day, takes hard work.  If you think that you’ve got an easy time firing off résumés to companies, then you’re not trying hard enough.

Go ahead and be an IKB.  Take the easy way to writing a résumé.  Just don’t expect any interviews.  Those interviews will go to the candidates who have applied themselves and done the hard work necessary to present themselves in the best possible light to the company.

Résumé-building websites are worse than worthless

January 1, 2011

We all want an easy way to get things done, and resume-building websites promise an easy way to put together a résumé for your job hunt. Unfortunately, using them does you a disservice by making you think that formatting is what matters, and helping you create bland, uninteresting résumés that won’t grab any reader’s attention.  You cannot create a good résumé by filling in a few blanks off the top of your head.

I read a job-related message board where a new job seeker was pointed to a website called cvmaker that claims to let you “create beautiful, professional résumés in minutes, FREE.” It isn’t possible. Sure, you can create a document in minutes, but a résumé that a hiring manager will find compelling takes hours at the minimum.

cvmaker would have you believe that what matters most is formatting and visual presentation. I assure you it is not. Visual presentation is important, but without having something to say, it’s all just pretty fluff.  You must put real time and energy into creating your first resume, considering what value you bring to an employer. It is about how you tell your story, not whether it is beautifully formatted.

cvmaker is comically bad.  It suggests that you fill in a section on “Interests”. Your interests do NOT belong on a resume unless they specifically relate to the job for which you’re applying. For instance, you can mention your love of running in marathons if you’re applying to work at a sporting goods company, for example.  If it doesn’t relate, leave it out.

cvmaker gives you a section to put references, but references do not belong on a resume. It suggests a default of “References available upon request”, but putting that on your resume is a space-filler and makes you look stupid.

The capper of cvmaker’s awfulness is where it lets you fill out your work history.  All the emphasis is on dates and company names.  A text area for each position has the ludicrous caption “Optional details such as job responsibilities, achievements etc.” Those details are not optional. Those details are where you explain to the reader what you have done in the past that makes you worth bringing in for an interview. They aren’t noise. They are the very reason you write the damn resume!

If you’re a job seeker and you’re struggling with how to create your basic resume, stop looking at resume websites, right now. Instead, go to your local public library, or your college library, and check out some books on job hunting. Martin Yates’ Knock ‘Em Dead books are a fine place to start.  If you’re a techie, I’ll point out that my book Land the Tech Job You Love is aimed specifically at you.  Chapters 3 and 4 cover the details of résumé creation.  You can ask the librarian or your career counselor for suggestions as well.  There are many books out there that provide far more and better examples from which to draw inspiration, and you will not be surfing random web pages of questionable value.

You want a good book on job hunting to give you the concentrated learning about how to think about what you want to put in the résumé, and why you want it there.  I guarantee that if you throw together a résumé in an hour, you will create a résumé that no one will be interested in.

(And don’t think that you can create a good résumé just by filling in a few fields in the Microsoft Word résumé templates.  When we hiring managers see those come in, we groan and figure you can’t think for yourself.)

Please, don’t sell yourself short by taking a cookie-cutter approach to your résumé.  It takes hard work to do it right. Don’t let any résumé-building websites or templates lead you astray.