As recruiters, we see our fair share of well written, aesthetically pleasing resumes. It is pretty hard not to have access to a resume drafting program in today’s technology rich society. If you simply type into Google “resume writing,” you will get pages of sites dedicated to helping you craft the perfect resume.
Everything in life has its opposite though. The Yin to the Yang. While we get many good resumes, we also receive many poor resumes. Occasionally, resumes are so bad that we are left scratching our heads, wondering if the applicant read the position description, or if it’s a real person on the other end of the resume. What exactly makes a resume good?
We decided to pose that question to each recruiter in our company, in a fun way. We tasked each recruiter to come up with the worst resume they could find over the course of a week, and to bring it to a contest at the end of the week. The goal was to set our perspectives straight on what makes up a bad resume, and how we could improve those resumes to make them more appropriate, contextually relevant and aesthetically pleasing. Then share our findings so that everyone could benefit from the activity. At the end of the exercise, we turned those bad resumes into paper airplanes and had a contest to see who could throw theirs the farthest. We gave each bad resume a makeover to help them soar. Everyone has the potential to have a great resume, but not everyone knows how to do it. Let’s go through the findings in our fun little exercise.
Those that need not apply:
Example 1 came from an applicant that was applying for a Specialty Chemicals Sales Manager position in a very technical industry for a client in the Gulf Coast region. Our applicant’s most recent position was working on the kitchen staff with a local restaurant. It total, this applicant had 3 years of experience in the lawn care and restaurant businesses. While there is nothing wrong with that experience, why did this person apply for a Sales Manager position where the requirements and duties specified experience and skills that they clearly did not have?
The Professional advice:
Apply for jobs that match your background, education and skill sets. Hiring authorities look for candidates that are qualified for their position. Also, manage your ‘Objectives.’ Use the objective section at the beginning of your resume as a specific lead in to your resume for each specific job applied to. Don’t let that section obscure itself with generic comments about ‘your desire to join a reputable company that will allow you to utilize your skill-sets towards a …blah blah blah.’ Be specific and catch the eye of the reader with relevant information. A better example would be; assuming you are applying to ABC Chemical Company, “To join ABC Chemical Company in a sales capacity that will allow me to use my specific industry knowledge and company relationships to drive future sales.” I hope you get the idea…
Make it simple yet eye-catching
Example 2 involves some rather unappealing formatting issues. Kate, our talented recruiting specialist in the engineering industry brought a resume that was, by far, the most aesthetically displeasing resume of the exercise. The resume was created using what must have been the 8-bit, 1980’s version of Microsoft Office. It was all content and no pizzazz! Like example 1, this candidate had no experience that made them qualified for the particular position, but what stood out (or didn’t stand out) about this resume is that it had nothing to it but 10 point, Arial font. It is hard to read, with text that blurs every line together.
The Professional Advice:
Use a current version of word, PDF or any other program that is modern and relevant. Make sure it has a fair amount of format friendly content, bullet points, highlights, bolded font, etc. But don’t overdo it! Too much is as bad as too little.
Professionalism over Provocation:
Bob, or as we like to call him due to his “cool-appeal,” The Iceman, brought a very funny, yet odd example to the table. The resume only listed the person’s first name, with no address or any other contact information except for his email address. The objective section opened with this: “To claw my way to the top using any means necessary….but then be a fair and just ruler, and bring your company to new heights, or whatever…” I admire his enthusiasm and desire to move mountains, but what is this person saying? What type of position is he applying for? What can he bring to the table that would help him ‘bring a company to new heights?’ Or whatever. One would normally look to the rest of the resume to help answer that question, but his experience section contained a list of irrational statements aimed at making the reader laugh. The person even admitted to ‘finishing high school by the skin of their teeth.’ While this is very enjoyable to read, no self respecting hiring authority will take this type of resume seriously.
The Professional Advice:
Be professional. I always advise people to put a bit of themselves into their resume, because at The Chatham Group, we genuinely believe that everyone is special and has something to offer. The message goes awry when too much humor and silliness is added. Of course, if this candidate had applied for a position as a comedian, he would have been spot on. Alas, he applied for a technical position. Err on the side of professionalism when crafting a resume. Let your personality shine during the interview stage.
Careful what you wish for:
Putting your salary expectation on your resume could result in pigeon holing yourself. Our fourth example comes from a candidate applying for a video game development position. In the opening section of the resume, within 4 lines, the applicant actually lists their salary expectations. Not just their expectations, but variations of expectations. This person stated that they would accept $40,000 in salary with $100,000 in incentives, or a total base salary of $140,000 without incentives. It may help a recruiter understand what you want, but it also limits you and your potential during the negotiation process. Hiring authorities make the decision on how much to offer a candidate based on two factors: the first is how much you are currently making, or have made in your most recent position. The second is on how well the interview went and whether or not they see you as a fit for the position. Letting the world know what you want on a resume hurts you and could ultimately kill your chances of getting many job offers.
At The Chatham Group, we always have a very candid, honest discussion about current compensation, desires and goals. We also offer any information we have on salary structure on all assignments. If you really have a goal in mind when it comes to salary, wait for the appropriate time to divulge that information. Never put your desired salary on your resume. You will never be forced into a position that doesn’t match your career goals, but you will NEVER be offered a job by ‘telling’ hiring authorities what you want before any conversations occur.
Who are you?
The fifth example highlights a need for more personal experience and skills. The resume itself had no grammatical errors, and looked nice, but it didn’t have any substance. It was broken down into four sections: Objective, Education, Skills and Tools & Technology. The objective section contained a boring, generic line (see example 1). The education section simply stated ‘Community College, ‘ with no other indicator as to their education. The skills section bullet pointed ‘Speaking,’ Active Listening,’ ‘Reading Comprehension’ and ‘Service Orientation.’ The tools and technology section stated, ‘inkjet printers,’ ‘paging controllers,’ ‘photocopiers,’ and several other pieces of 1990’s equipment. After reading the resume, the reader is left wondering who this person is and what they can actually do. They might as well has simply stated ‘I am a human’ with the basic skills they listed on the resume.
While understanding Microsoft programs, printers, listening and talking are mandatory skills in any job market, they are also assumed skills. You don’t need to highlight such basic qualifications. Instead, highlight on-the- job responsibilities and career accomplishments. If you are new to the job market and have little experience, highlight education, internships, memberships and skills. Don’t list skills like this poor person did. You are more than your ability to ‘listen,’ ‘speak’ and ‘read.’ Show it…Professionally!
You are great! But your resume isn’t:
The last example is an interesting one. On occasion, industry leading professionals don’t have an active resume. Building a resume hasn’t been a priority because those people have been working hard at their position for many years and have never had the need to craft one. In this case, an MBA-level candidate, who had done many great things for their company was just caught up on a series of layoffs. They were forced to try and create a resume for their inevitable job search. Knowing this person, and reading their resume were two VERY different things. Their resume breezed over their qualifications with bland explanations of their skills, and lacked any listing of their accomplishments. Luckily, we knew this person from industry and helped them inject some of their qualities back into the resume.
Don’t sell yourself short. If you have accomplished something and you are proud of it, put it down on your resume. Remember that hiring authorities hire people based on their previous accomplishments and experience. If you exclude them from your resume, you will be brushed aside very quickly. Professionally list all accomplishments and make sure you have proof to back it all up though.
In the end, everyone has the ability to create fantastic resume for themselves. Hopefully, with these tips, you will be able to give your resume the lift it needs to make it soar.
As for us, like I said, we used each resume in a fun paper airplane contest. In the end, Trevor turned his resume example into a soaring winner, while Robert, while lovable, seemed to lack the engineering skills needed to craft a paper flying machine…