Tuesday, September 23, 2008

T.J. Sullivan Speaks to Resumes

Resumes: What stands out?
from our friends at The Apathy Myth: A Blog for America's Student Leaders

I am busy reviewing resumes tonight. There's nothing quite like sitting in front of a stack of 30 resumes to remind you why people get paid good money to do human resources work. It makes my head hurt. As I look through pages and pages, I have very little confidence that the typical resume package tells you any of the things you REALLY need to know about a person you plan to hire. It's a crap shoot, at best.

But, since I just spent the better part of three hours poring through these resumes, I thought it might be worthwhile to share some of my observations. Maybe as you do your job search this year or next, you'll keep a couple of these observations in mind.

I'm sure half of what I'll tell you here flies completely in the face of what they tell you at the career center. But, oh well. I'm the one offering a job today.

• I liked the resume packages that came in the mail better than the ones that came to me via email. They showed more effort and care. I know it's "old school," but I liked the texture of a nice piece of stationery paper that an applicant picked out. I liked that they took the time to assemble a package and mail it to me. You just don't get that in a resume that is sent via email.

• I enjoy a little color when I'm digging through 30 resumes. A few of the packages were a bit more colorful and lively, particularly when it came to the work samples. I liked that.

• Four resumes came without a cover letter. I tossed them. If you can't even bother to write a basic cover letter, then you don't want to work for me. Also, I had a couple whose idea of a cover letter was a three line email that said, "Please find my resume attached..." No, thanks.

• If you don't specifically refer to the position I'm offering and explain why it interested you, then it's obvious that you're applying to 100 jobs, and mine is just one in the pile.

• Several of the cover letters said "Dear T.J.". Hey, if you don't know me, would it kill you to call me "Mr. Sullivan?" I'm not a super-formal guy, but it seems like a good rule of thumb to refer to the person hiring as "Mr." or "Ms." until a level of familiarity is established. And, as for that argument of not knowing whether "T.J. Sullivan" was a man or woman, a quick Google or visit to my company's website would have answered that question.

• I like letters of recommendation a lot, but I like them even more when the person writing explains why you are special. It's not much of a recommendation when they just said you did your job. If you ask people to write letters of rec, make sure they dig you enough to write a letter that makes you sound like a truly amazing person.

• I had one woman who didn't capitalize "I" in her materials. It wasn't a typo. She just hates capital letters, I guess. Of all the ways to show some individuality in a resume package, that's a pretty dumb one.

• Another woman told me her salary qualifications, and they happen to be $20,000 more than what I'm offering. The salary range I'm offering is in the published job announcement. That one was a head-scratcher.

• I really, really like it when people explain in their cover letter why this job interests them. Everyone tells me that they are qualified, would be a good fit, and have lots of special skills. But, I want to know why THIS JOB. How does it fit into your goals, your dreams, your plans for your career?

• Tell me something from your life that you ENJOY. I guess there are career advising types who would tell you to keep the personal stuff out. But, I love it when people tell me they are passionate about water skiing, or writing poetry, or raising guinea pigs. It gives me a glimpse into who you are as a person, and since I'll be working with that person every day, I like these sort of things