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So today I picked up a copy of the "Collegiate Times," Virginia Tech's campus newspaper, and I came across this headline: "Top-notch resume tips to land leading lucrative jobs." I was intrigued, and I began reading. I hadn't even gotten through the second paragraph before an expletive escaped my lips.

The second paragraph reads: "'Some students think that resumes should only be one page. That's wrong, absolutely wrong!' said Instructor of English Ed Weathers. He said that the most common and detrimental myth of resume writing is that employers want a short, one page resume. 'If you have good experience, if you have lots of relevant coursework, if you have had several different jobs, then your resume is probably going to go to at least two pages.'"

AT LEAST two pages?! But Ed, according to ex-recruiter and management guru Mark Horstman, resumes should NEVER be two pages, let alone more!

The rest of the article wasn't a total loss, with someone from Career Services saying that "employers spend around 15 to 20 seconds looking at a resume and that utilizing that moment by showcasing one's most impressive and relevant experiences and accomplishments is key." This part at least, rang fairly true to M&M's advice.

However, I still can't believe that such absolutely terrible advice regarding the length of a resume is being printed in a widely read newspaper, and that potentially thousands of VT students will now be adding excess information to their resumes in the hopes of hitting Weathers' two-page benchmark, thinking it will make them seem more accomplished.

I guess it gives me an advantage though. :-p

US41's picture

Several thoughts come to mind.

The English Professor is a high C and likes "all the information" when possible. But almost no recruiters and hiring managers are going to be high C's because shareholders appoint risk-taking fast movers to the top levels of companies, and those people hire like-behaving people all the way down the chain. So, while he might like that, the chances that a real manager would are much lower than he thinks.

In my own experience, I once had to fill a job and interview over 50 people for it. I received 200 resumes to go through and find a candidate. After spending too much time on the first three, here's what I ended up doing:

* Looking at the last job they held

* Thinking, "Is that anything like this job?"

And sorting the resumes into two stacks, and thus eliminating 75% of the resumes. Those that were two pages would confuse me and went into the "to be thrown out stack."

So, I have to agree, as I see you do, that a multi-page resume, especially for a college kid with ZERO applicable experience from the perspective of a 30+ year old corporate manager, is not only annoyingly multi-page but pretentious as well.

When I get multi-page resumes that are templates from contracting agencies and they list a ton of software packages, I am sometimes cruel and ask the candidate to explain *exactly* how skilled with the software they are. If I find out they have only had a brief encounter with this supposed skill they have listed, I will red pen through it while in front of them. Usually after some whittling, I find that they are not really very skilled in most of the applications listed, which then leads to me playing police interrogator and finding out that half of what is on their resumes is pure BS.

Example:

"Your resume says you know Oracle."

"Yes, that's right."

"So, if I sit you down at a Sun station with a box of Oracle DVD's, you can install and configure a database for me in less than an hour as long as you have administrative positions and enough disk space, right?"

"Uhhhh..."

"OK, so if you can't install and configure Oracle, what does this mean?"

"We had a billing system that I hear used Oracle."

"Ah." Strike through with red pen. "I see. What about this?"

So, I love the idea of a one page resume, because there isn't room for BS. Tell me the truth and get it on one page - save us both the interrogation. An honest one-pager beats a BS'ing expansionist two plus pager any day.

I also love the focus on accomplishments. A college student should focus on accomplishments as an intern, student aid, teaching assistant, exemplary student and anything else in their lives that is "above and beyond" that doesn't have any religious/political ties or give-aways in it. But don't drown me in fraternity or swim team memberships. Memberships are not accomplishments. Leading the team to victory is an accomplishment. Solving a problem creatively is an accomplishment. Improving finances, timelines, performance and that kind of thing is an accomplishment.

Today's kids are made to feel as though doing what they are told is an accomplishment, so we end up with status reports that report meeting attendance and conference call participation. Participation is not an accomplishment. Leadership with some observable, measurable result or improvement is an accomplishment. A 4.0 grade-point average and lots of memberships are nice, but it indicates doing your job.

What managers want to see is that you do more than your job.

stewartlogan's picture

My theory on this one is simple:

1 page

If you can't pack a page full of RELATIVE, USEFUL information pertaining to the position you wish for, the job isn't for you.

bflynn's picture

Remember the purposes of the resume: to get you the interview and set the stage for the questions you'll be asked during the interview. It does not get you the job.

Also note the difference between the two sources - the academic says at least 2 pages, the business source says they'll only look for 15-20 seconds. In their own worlds, they're both rights. Academic CVs are judged by length, because long equates to many accomplishments. The recruiter will scan a resume for 15 seconds and if they don't see something that looks like a fit, they move on.

A resume is not documenting your career. It is documenting your fitness for the particular job that you're applying for.

Brian

pneuhardt's picture

Let's examine, hopefully being candid and not cruel.

First, let's look at "Instructor of English Ed Weathers."

Instructor means he is NOT a professor and almost certainly not a Ph.D. so he's not even considered an expert in the field for which Virginia Tech has hired him, namely teaching English. In academia, "instructors" are considered little more than advanced amatures, hired to fill in teaching the low level classes deemed unworthy of a "real" professor's time or effort. Chances are good this isn't even a full time job for this guy. He might very well also be teaching high school english somewhere, or waiting tables. If the guy isn't even an expert in the field for which he's billed (namely the teaching of English) what should make anyone think he's an expert in the hiring practices of American businesses?

English? I mean really, if the guy was at least an instructor in the B-school he might have some credibility in this conversation. English? How many management jobs has this guy applied for anyway? I'm willing to bet the answer is likely "none." (I don't believe in the theory that "those who can't do, teach" but it might apply in this particular case.)

Third, academia does in fact respect the volume of your credentials, only in academia it's your Curriculum Vitae which is supposed to list every little nit-picky thing you ever wrote or taught or researched. It's not a resume, and I've discovered that most life-long academics are blissfully unaware of the difference.

Lastly, when your only tool is a hammer the whole world looks like a nail, and this guy's toolset consists of words used to tell stories. When was the last time you heard an English teacher say that a character was too well developed, and we didn't really need to learn her motivations? His profession is involved in telling stories and that is the advice he's giving.

Sadly, because this cat is "on faculty" the students are brainwashed to believe everything he says. The question is, how do those in the real world infiltrate the college campuses with more accurate messages? What type of marketing does Manager Tools need to start getting attention with the college crowd?

XOLegato's picture

Thanks for the input, everyone. It's interesting that you mention the difference in opinion, Brian... I've actually noticed it myself outside of the context of this article.

All of the instructors and professors in the B-school seem to know exactly what they're talking about, and fit pretty nicely with M&M's views when they intersect. The issue is the people outside of the B-school; in one "freshman seminar" class we had a day of building our resumes. The utter nonsense that the instructor was spouting about writing a proper resume astounded me, although I didn't care much as it was a small class, and I made sure to recommend the other students to Manager Tools when she wasn't around.

As far as getting Manager Tools to the college population, I think it's a great idea, as far as the overall quality of the workforce goes. Then again, as a college student myself, I have to say that the current widespread ignorance is kind of nice from the perspective of my own aspirations :wink:

I'm just worried that, unlike the previously mentioned class, this article will be widely read [and believed] by the student body.

nathanbeaudry's picture

[quote="US41"]Several thoughts come to mind.

The English Professor is a high C and likes "all the information" when possible. But almost no recruiters and hiring managers are going to be high C's because shareholders appoint risk-taking fast movers to the top levels of companies, and those people hire like-behaving people all the way down the chain. So, while he might like that, the chances that a real manager would are much lower than he thinks.[/quote]

I'm a High C and I have a 'special file' for two-page resumes. ;)

rthibode's picture

Interesting discussion.

Wall Street Journal's web site "Career Journal" recently posted resume advice here: http://tinyurl.com/ytpft5. It also seems to endores two-pagers. Click on the "Resume Gallery," then "see full example."

I've created an MT-style one-pager and found the process valuable, as well as some of the outcomes (e.g., a list of accomplishments that I could speak to in an interview). However, I do think the smallish font and the lack of whitespace make this resume ugly.

I can see why folks in the personnel department (and others who look at lots of resumes) would be strongly in favour of one page. I do wonder if a one-pager is always the right choice. If you're applying for a small organization that hires one person every few years, they may not be as sick of resumes as you are. If you're applying for a creative position, the lack of style or flair may make your resume stand out in a negative way. Finally, not every organization is a business, and I wonder if there are different norms in the non-profit sector or the civil service.

aspiringceo's picture

[quote="rthibode"]I wonder if there are different norms in the non-profit sector or the civil service.[/quote]

I have worked in the not for profit sector for the last 15 years and what I have seen is a gradual return to the use of application forms instead of resumes / c.v's. This is largely driven by the equalities agenda and the introduction of various anti discrimination legislation. The organisation I work for has recently introduced a new system ( http://www.gamh.org.uk/gamhappform.pdf ) whereby the interview panel only get to see details about employment, education, personal development and relevant competencies (p2-6) at the short listing stage and we only get the full application form for those we invite to interview.

My understanding from friends in the civil service in the UK and Ireland is that they also use detailed application forms.

Edmund

rthibode's picture

Thanks, apiringceo.

Very interesting application form. The questions you can ask about "race," sexual orientation, religion, etc. are shocking to me! There must be very careful practices to ensure this information isn't used against minority applicants, I suppose.

Anyway, back to resumes, or in this case the application form you posted. If an applicant were to use the boxes designated for "relevant skills, knowledge and experience" to list accomplishments, how do you think that would be perceived?

aspiringceo's picture

[quote="rthibode"]The questions you can ask about "race," sexual orientation, religion, etc. are shocking to me! There must be very careful practices to ensure this information isn't used against minority applicants, I suppose.[/quote]
There are. The information about race, orientation etc, is only seen by the HR department and never shared with the panel or other staff. The information is confidential and anonymous and is used to provide information regarding equal opportunities to our board or our funders and for UK statistics. It is required by the Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2003 and The Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations 2003. Providing the information is also voluntary on the part of the candidate.

[quote]If an applicant were to use the boxes designated for "relevant skills, knowledge and experience" to list accomplishments, how do you think that would be perceived [/quote]
That’s what its there for, we ask candidates to outline their knowledge, skills and experiences and how they meet our requirements, my opinion is that listing accomplishments (so long as they are relevant) is a great way of providing that information.

Edmund

trandell's picture

[quote="US41"]Today's kids are made to feel as though doing what they are told is an accomplishment, so we end up with status reports that report meeting attendance and conference call participation. Participation is not an accomplishment. Leadership with some observable, measurable result or improvement is an accomplishment. A 4.0 grade-point average and lots of memberships are nice, but it indicates doing your job.[/quote]

That is an excellent observation. I find that it's not just kids out of college with this view. I see this in people with as much as 5 years experience. I think it's a leftover from the dot com days when people did the equivalent of "show up" in many cases and got rewarded handsomely for it.

XOLegato's picture

[quote]Today's kids are made to feel as though doing what they are told is an accomplishment, so we end up with status reports that report meeting attendance and conference call participation. Participation is not an accomplishment. Leadership with some observable, measurable result or improvement is an accomplishment. A 4.0 grade-point average and lots of memberships are nice, but it indicates doing your job.[/quote]

I've found that this "laundry list participation" mentality is actually encouraged as far back as grade school, especially in the high school years prior to college applications. Almost all of the advice given to students to improve their applications is to "join a lot of clubs" or "do more activities." I think that universities encourage this practice by way of their application layout, or at least don't discourage it. On many applications students are instructed to "list activites and awards" and the empty fields are quite expansive. This implies to the applicant that a large volume of activites appears impressive no matter their relative worth, and perhaps they do.

I know that M&M's system of accomplishment bullets helped me to break out of that mentality with my resume... I was forced to consider whether each of my many activites and organizations was actually worth anything, and I was able to pick through the "list" and find the few where I had actually accomplished something tangible or held a leadership role. It was enlightening, to say the least. I think it was the realization that if I were to be asked about, say, high school chorus in an interview, all I would be able to say was "well, I went to rehearsals and sang in concerts." Whereas if I were asked about my experience as a student director, I could go into detail about many situations where I had practiced leadership skills similar to those necessary for management.

I just hope I can get this point across to my little sister by the time she starts developing her resume :-p

dbeene's picture

[quote="XOLegato"]I've found that this "laundry list participation" mentality is actually encouraged as far back as grade school, especially in the high school years prior to college applications. Almost all of the advice given to students to improve their applications is to "join a lot of clubs" or "do more activities." I think that universities encourage this practice by way of their application layout, or at least don't discourage it. On many applications students are instructed to "list activites and awards" and the empty fields are quite expansive. This implies to the applicant that a large volume of activites appears impressive no matter their relative worth, and perhaps they do.[/quote]

I think this shows the difference between applying for college and applying for a position of employment.

I've never been a college recruiter (and don't know much about it), but I get the impression that colleges and universities strive to achieve a certain kind of mix in their student body. Yes, they want enough data to suggest that a person would do well as a student at their institution, but they also want to have a diverse and well-rounded student body.

In my experience, employers are not as concerned with creating a diverse and well-rounded work force . . . beyond what is required by law. They're usually more interested in effectiveness and efficiency, regardless of diversity and/or well-roundedness.

So, in one situation, exposure to many seemingly-unrelated experiences may be a useful indicator of well-roundedness. In an employment application, it may look like filler.

It all depends on what the purpose of the application / resume is.

US41's picture

This is a fantastic change from years ago when effectiveness was not the goal of businesses in many cases. I was born and raised here in the Old South, and back before I was born, a person of color would be passed over no matter how much they might contribute to the organization's success.

Funny how the pendulum swings the other way. Now businesses are totally ruthless in their pursuit of effective workers and managers. They care far less about anything else. This is creating a true meritocracy where the strong survive and the skilled and talented are in greater demand and enjoy greater rewards. It allows one to truly work hard and pass through glass barriers.

But now it is the institutions of education, which previously were agents of change, who guard the gates of "the way things have always been done" as they attempt to preserve an outmoded system based not on effectiveness, but on social engineering. Their efforts were needed then - but today match up with Drucker's statement about previously successful programs tending to live long, long beyond their true shelf-life.

I love what Drucker wrote about the single-tool-use-man while writing about building from strength in the Practice of Management. You grab the guy that can do the job and who is strong at it first, and then you worry about the fallout and consequences of his weaknesses later.

The Japanese have kicked our butts for years with completely non-diverse work forces. If diversity were really what we should be striving for, then I would think having it would correlate to great success. So far, it doesn't.

Colleges need to learn to look for someone who was a member of one club who has a list of accomplishments in that club instead of a kid with a list of bogus memberships in organizations he truly did nothing with after joining them.

Mike and Mark - a really cool podcast perhaps (yes I know you have planned 1000 of them already) ... and maybe a great seminar idea too. Manager Tools for College Students. Teaching them ten points or less of effective college participation and leadership to sync up their activities with the true nature of the working world.

Some suggestions:

1. Study business - not liberal arts. Liberal arts is for your minor. We live in a capitalist society - study business - it is our language.

2. Study a good area of business that teaches the most usable skills - like entrepreneurship. Don't fall in for fads like majors in IT. Take something timeless and generic to focus on.

3. Rack up some above and beyond accomplishments - don't just join tons of organizations and do nothing in them but hold titles. Do something: fix the budget, organize a huge event, do something of merit.

4. Do some non-school related activities that show leadership and learn risk taking. Don't just volunteer to courier documents.

5. You know what they call the guy who graduates at the bottom of his MBA class? An MBA. Don't be afraid to work your way through school and have grades suffer a little.

Etc...

MattJBeckwith's picture

[quote="US41"]Participation is not an accomplishment.[/quote]
That is my new favorite quote!

Don't take financial advice from your plumber and never take resume advice from your English Instructor (unless he's pointing out misspelled words or poor grammar).

XOLegato's picture

Oh please, PLEASE do a segment targeted towards college students M&M. I'm learning a lot from your regular shows, and I can apply a lot of it to my college life, but a single episode full of good advice for the younger crowd would, I believe, do wonders for our long term success.

Great suggestion, US41.

As a side discussion, which aspect of business do you all think would be most beneficial to study/major in? I don't know about other B-schools, but at Virginia Tech there are 7 major areas (Marketing, Management, Finance, Economics, Accounting/Information Systems, Business Information Technology, and Hospitality and Tourism Management), each with several specialties to choose from. There is also a business leadership minor to consider, minors in statistics or IO psychology, and many other possibilities to consider. From you experience (especially from any recruiters out there), what areas of study A) Lead to the most useful training and B) Look the best for hiring purposes?

Thanks everyone,

-Will

US41's picture

For my MBA I concentrated on Information Technology. Skip it. It is now worthless. Everything I learned then (such as there being almost 50 MB of data on the WWW) is absolutely friggin' worthless today.

However, my best friend majored in Entrepreneurship. His is still very valuable. Now he owns several businesses and is an officer in one, and I am a line manager in a large company - which is what I was before I entered the MBA program. My fellow graduates and I get together sometime. Before we got our MBA's, we were:

* A programmer
* A bank IT help desk manager
* A middle manager in a big company.

Now that we have MBA's in IT, seven years later our careers have sky-rocketed to:

* A programmer
* A bank IT help desk manager
* A middle manager in a big company.

So, that MBA major can make a HUGE difference.

My biggest regrets in college:

1. Taking psychology as an undergrad.

2. Not studying accounting or finance (the language of capitalism) and becoming a CPA as an undergrad. My school friends who took up these topics all live in 5,000 sq ft homes today.

3. Studying IT in my MBA program (big mistake - I already knew IT and took it because it was comfortable)

4. Not studying finance, accounting, or even better - small business management and entrepreneurship for my major in my masters program.

5. Not reading the classics of business during high school and onward

6. Not reading the WSJ every day of my adult life

7. Not learning the lessons of manager tools at a much younger age.

There are more, but seven is enough. :) You guys in college - learn from my mistakes, please. I'm not exactly a ship on the rocks, but my ship would be sailing in better seas had I listened to the people who were giving me the above advice 20 years ago.

MattJBeckwith's picture

I really enjoyed US41's post.

Will, in my opinion, the best major to have within a business program is accounting or finance. Before the major, however, nothing beats some real world work experience while going to school.

I manage a call center and am typically always looking for good manager candidates. Often times I come across resumes of MBA graduates with no work experience. A front line supervisor going to school to earn his BA in Business Admin is usually a stronger candidate than an MBA grad with no work history.

Having said that, US41 hit the nail on the head, accounting and finance (and I'll add economics) are the languages of capitalism. Understanding numbers and having the ability to sythesize data (as opposed to simply analyzing) will generally help you no matter what endevor you take.

Lastly, if you focus on what will give you the best training you'll probably find that it's often the same as that which will "look the best for hiring purposes".

XOLegato's picture

Thanks everyone.

I've been considering finance/accounting, I think I may end up in the whole Internal Audit/Risk Consultation/Corporate Governance realm. I've been trying to secure an internship for this summer (for the whole resume thing, and just because I want to learn from it). I have a few possibilities that seem promising, but overall I'm finding it hard to find work being a college freshman. I understand that it's because I have relatively little applicable coursework, but it's still frustrating, especially when my engineering-major roomate has opportunities thrown at him because engineers are in shorter supply.

Any ideas on how to compensate for my age? Or will I just have to wait until I've had more academics under my belt?

-Will

US41's picture

[quote="XOLegato"]Any ideas on how to compensate for my age? Or will I just have to wait until I've had more academics under my belt?

-Will[/quote]

You will have to tough it out a little until you have more work experience under your belt. Additional academics doesn't help as much as experience with accomplishments.

To compensate for your age, here's an only slightly underhanded trick. Go to your eye doctor, get your eyes checked, and if you still have good vision, have him sell you some nice frames with non-prescription glass in them anyway. Wear them every day. My father got himself promoted once by doing that. Glasses make you look older. And older people look more trustworthy and reliable.

If you already wear glasses, then the only advice for compensating for age is to use what you can control: your behavior. Don't act your age at work. Act like you are 50, and people will treat you like you are 50.

Doesn't sound fun to me, but I've noticed that of my friends who are now executives, all of them behave in a more serious fashion without so much kidding around as I used to like to do at the office. When we first met, some of them had me thinking they were ten years older than me. But I later found out I was the oldest of us... but only in real years - not in image.

XOLegato's picture

Haha good advice US41. As it turns out, I DO wear glasses, and I have noticed the boost in respectability when I wear them.

I actually misspoke when I said "compensate for age." What I should have said was "compensate for lack of experience in applicable work." I'm often mistaken for being several years older than I am through grace of my looks and demeanor, but while this aura of maturity would help me in an interviewing situation, my lack of practical experience doesn't bode well for getting that interview in the first place. That is not to say that my resume is light; I have a relatively large amount of major accomplishments and leadership roles from highschool. The problem is that none of it has direct application to practical business skills such as finance or IT. It does evince that I have peripheral skill in leadership, team work, salesmanship, etc., but for the types of work that I want to get into I'm a bit short.

Catch 22: experience in the field is neccessary to gain in experience in the field.

Mark's picture

I'm sorry this has taken me so long. I regret my absence.

This started out with resumes...and you all know how I feel about THAT.

LOVED Paul's insight, which was the BFO for me in US41's post: an ENGLISH professor/instructor??!?!?!?!

That's like an engineer giving an expostulation on the meaning of water in Huckleberry Finn.

DUMB.

Again, my apologies for my delay.

Mark

tlhausmann's picture

[quote="pneuhardt"]Third, academia does in fact respect the volume of your credentials, only in academia it's your Curriculum Vitae which is supposed to list every little nit-picky thing you ever wrote or taught or researched. It's not a resume, and I've discovered that most life-long academics are blissfully unaware of the difference. [/quote]

Yep. My vitae was over 14 pages after only 5 years of teaching.

Management in IT is entirely different. MT has also opened my eyes to being far more deadline driven. (See podcast on Developing a Sense of Urgency)

MT is powerful stuff. My team and the non-profit I serve are the benefactors.

Mark's picture

The cool little secret of academia is that that CV is a GREAT raw resume to keep updated, so that you don't lose any of your accomplishments or credentials when you need to rethink your resume.

Mark

tlhausmann's picture

Huh, it never even occurred to me. I spend so much time trying to keep it condensed (on a quarterly basis per M&M) that I haven't been tracking *everything* like I used to in the old days.

Wow, where was MT a decade ago! If I knew then what I learned now...