If you are currently, or expect at some point to be, in a job search....keep reading.

After dinner the other evening, I look up from the paper because my wife is muttering across the table from me.  "What's up?"

She's reading resumes. 

She's on the search committee for a non-profit educational institution seeking someone to fill its #2 slot, a very senior position. 

She's not listed anywhere on the web site or the job posting.  She was asked by the board of directors to participate because of her knowledge in the field and her incredibly rich network.  No one applying for the job knows that she's reading the resumes. 

What's aggravating her? 

A resume that hasn't been updated in years.  They tacked on the latest roles to an old copy, but didn't go back and read the whole thing.  It's obvious. 

Another candidate claims membership in a professional organization.  My wife is a leader in that organization.  "The candidate only came to one meeting!" 

Another candidate doesn't have a PhD.  This is listed as a requirement.  Some jobs, maybe a PhD isn't really a requirement.  Educational leadership, when even people working for you have's a requirement.  

And don't even ask about the spelling, grammar, and punctuation mistakes.  


So what's the point?  This is a rare opportunity in this field; for the right candidate, it is the foundation of an entire career.  Taking an extra hour to go over the resume looking for errors, cleaning up the historical sections, and making it professional is required.  You will not pass the first screen without this.  

Don't claim accomplishments that aren't real.  The person reading your resume could well know you, your boss, or your thesis advisor.  Overinflated claims may look good on paper, but they can eliminate you.  And you'll never know why.  

Finally, know your field.  Know which "requirements" are really required.  Applying when you are obviously unqualified hurts you twice:  you lose the opportunity, and your judgment is also in question: you don't know what matters.


So, who's reading your resume? 

John Hack 

xcelerator's picture
Licensee BadgeTraining Badge

A disturbing trend I've seen lately is candidates who are working with or through a recruiter / executive search firm delegate responsibility for creating and editing the resume to the firm. These are $100k+ candidates applying for key positions. I see resumes filled with run-on sentences, poor or no punctuation, mis-capitalized words in the middle of a sentence, the list goes on.

My interviewing context of looking for the 'no' starts immediately with the resume. Rare is the candidate who comes in for an interview and overwhelms my staff and me in spite of a poor resume. Follow-on advice to jhack's: make the resume count. Show the employer you know that results matter. Don't fill paragraphs with your job description. Be succinct. You'll stand out and you have a distinct advantage in the market.


stephenbooth_uk's picture

 XCELERATOR's comment worries me.  There's a good chance that these $100k+ candidates delegate creation and editing of their resume to the recruitment/executive search companies because they believe they are engaging someone who is an expert at creating and editing resumes.  Probably not an unreasonable expectation.  When you need a new logo designed for your company you hire an artist/designer, when your car needs servicing you take it to the garage/service centre and, as indicated in the subject lineof this comment, when your pipes leak you call a plumber. 

You do this because your job is to do something else, your skill set is based in a different area.  If push came to shove most of us could get out the coloured pencils and design a logo, most of us could give our car a basic service (maybe not so much with modern engine managemenrt systems but lets suppose you're driving a classic) and most of us could fix a leaking pipe.  Would the logo be as good as one designed by a professional aritist/designer?  Would our car benefit as much as it would from a service from a professional mechanic/engineer?  Would the fix on our pipes be as good as one from a professional plumber?  Probably not, that's why we hire professionals.  Why should a resume from a professional recruitment expert not be better than one produced by someone who's skills lie elsewhere?

I feel the key problem here is one of oversight/auditing.  When I had to get a logo designed for a departmental relaunch back in 2008 I looked at samples from 4 different designers, got the one I thought was best suited to us to produce a few roughs from a spec then picked the one I thought was closest to what we wanted and indicated the tweaks we needed then checked the final before signing off delivery and releasing payment.  Similarly when I used to take my Mom's car for a service I'd take it for a spin 'round the block', look 'under the hood' and check the things they said they'd worked on to make sure they looked like they had been worked on and worked as they should (I now know that a good way to terrify a mechanic after he's worked on your brakes is to do an emergency stop from 55mph, on an empty road obviously).  Why wouldn't these $100k+ candidates read through the resume that had been prepared for them by a supposed professional and check for spelling and grammar?

Another possibility is did these people know that their resume had been edited?  I've had problems in the past with recruitment consultants editing my CV before sending it on to potential employers.  They always remove my contact details, so the employer won't just copntact me directly and avoid payign the agency a fee, that's normal and not really a problem.  A few times I've found that the consultant has made changes to the content like adding skills (e.g. I was an Oracle DBA but they had a vacancy for an MS SQL Server DBA so they just changed the word Oracle to SQL Server and didn't tell me) or beefing up acomplishments or experience ("Saved £100k" became "Saved £1M", "2 years experience of..." became "10 years experience of..." and, again, didn't tell me).  When these came up at the interview it caused problems and resulted in me telling that agency to take me off their books and warning all my friends off using them (I think it was endemic at the agency as one of my friends used them a few years later and they did exactly the same thing to her CV).







Skype: stephenbooth_uk  | DiSC: 6137

"Start with the customer and work backwards, not with the tools and work forwards" - James Womack