Resume Ruminations

Since I’ve seen a couple of columns about resumes lately I thought I’d chime in with some general thoughts about resumes – having discussed resume bullet points specifically earlier. A lot of online articles focus on formatting, key words, trying to beat the ATS portal, etc., I’d like to proffer a few thoughts outside those lines. But in my first point let me reiterate what others have said.

Keep It Updated

Whenever something noteworthy happens and would make a good resume achievement, add it. Don’t go crazy, but anything that you’d want a potential new employer to know about your background should be added. Did you score a record-breaking sale? Save megabucks in a new purchasing agreement as compared to the old one? Launch a material that saved hundreds of thousands of dollars annually? Take a seminar or two about something relevant to your career, or get a certification, or have an expertise-related article published, etc.? In they go. And so on.

(Side note: Not having an updated resume is a huge part of why a friend of mine missed out on a fantastic opportunity to escape the likely-dead-in-five-years factory where we met, and move to a place with better stability and much closer to his, and his wife’s, families. He never pursued it in large part because he was so daunted by having to add the better part of two decades worth of career history and accomplishments.)

Start Afresh

Do not update the same file over and over. As your career progresses you do not want to lose track of old achievements simply because they fall off newer versions. Instead, whenever you update – and this assumes you’re doing so once every few months – use “Save As” to create a new file for the newer version. Thus, if you need to refer back to an older resume for some “choice nugget” accomplishment from earlier in your career, you have it available. (And to avoid folder clutter, create an archival sub-folder that older resume versions get dumped into.)

I have been told that the history of your Word file is stored in the last character of the file, thus a skilled IT person can unlock it to see your revision history. I recommend opening a fresh Word file every few updates, and cut-and-paste everything but the last word into it to create the next version. You might have reformatting work though. Supporting this claim is the fact that the last time I did this, my resume file size decreased by almost 20K.

I’ve actually gotten into the habit of sending PDF-format resumes rather than Word files.

Keep a Separate Journal

A resume bullet-point is a distillation of a lot of information into something succinct and easy to digest – as such items are meant to catch attention and serve as a conversation starter in an interview. Keep a journal with as much information as you can (subject to confidentiality restrictions, of course), so that you can refresh your memory about each and every accomplishment. With the need to customize each resume for a specific position, you will likely be mixing-and-matching accomplishments, and you never know that one not-often-used bullet point might be perfect to attract an employer. And if it’s on your resume, you’d better be able to discuss it if they ask in an interview! (So keep copies of your performance reviews!)

Keep It Dated

At the bottom of your resume (in the footer) you should have: on the left, your name as it appears at the top, a page number in the center (I recommend “Page X of Y” in case they print it out and misplace a page), and “Last Revised: month-year” on the right. This is particularly important when sending a resume to agencies / outside recruiters who will keep your resume on file. This helps them decide if they can go with your current resume, or if they need to contact you to get a fresh version.

Name It Well

Opinions differ, but my recommendation is name it first_lastname_yourtitle_month-year. So, for example, my design-oriented resume’s file name is davidhunt_mech-eng_nov-2014. It gives them a clue as to your overall capability (i.e., you’re an engineer, not an accountant), and how up-to-date your resume is just by looking at the file name. And make sure the date in the filename matches the date in your footer!  (Been burned on that before…)

CV vs. Resume

A CV is an all-encompassing document covering soup-to-nuts of your career, with every job, accomplishment, publication, etc., all in one place. A resume is, in contrast, a marketing document aimed at a specific industry, company, or job; typically 1-2 pages, it is meant to be a succinct summary of only relevant points to catch attention and get you the interview. One thought is to start from a CV, and hack-and-slash trim to get to a custom resume each time. This isn’t a trivial amount of work, but it does have take advantage of the human factors rule that it’s easier to take something out when you see it than bring it to mind and add it if it’s not there.

Highlight Achievements

Consider a section at the top, right below your Summary, entitled “Key Achievements” as a way to catch a reader’s attention in those crucial first few seconds. Place 3-5 bullet points there that show incredible results from your career. The goal is to get someone to say “Wow!”, and then slow down to read, not skim, your resume.

Other Thoughts

1. Stay current on formatting. For example, phone numbers are now using periods; e.g., AAA.AAA.AAAA. Using (AAA) AAA-AAAA or AAA-AAA-AAAA can paint you as out of touch with how things are today. A good way to do this is to contact local college career centers (or your alma mater) and ask questions about “modern” formatting. If you go to networking meeting with new graduates, see if you can get a copy of their resume – you might be able to help them, but you can get ideas about the latest formats too. I’ve also read, albeit in one place only, that Times Roman font is considered passé.

2. On the topic of formatting: do you use two spaces after periods? I do. It dates from when I learned to type on a real typewriter, and has been used by scanning programs to filter you as an “old fart”. I personally think that’s a pretty sleazy practice, but don’t give them an excuse to screen you out a priori. And it’s hard to not do when you’ve done it for so long… but I’m not going back to edit all my essays, so I’m stuck with it on my blog at least! (Watch your cover letters too.)

3. Related to ageism: I’m dubious about hiding dates that show you are over 40. The moment you walk in the door, they’ll know (this happened numerous times to someone I know; people would be excited at his background, but the moment he walked in they’d see his grey hair and he knew he’d been ruled out before he’d open his mouth). Balance that with the need to get in the door in the first place. Just don’t think you’re really fooling anyone as dropped dates are an “age alert” to a savvy reader.

4. If you have a social media presence related to your career, e.g., LinkedIn and Twitter, embed links to these sites in your resume IF APPROPRIATE. And you need to have a social media presence related to your career. Of course, you need to be careful what you post there; some propose the “New Puritanism” while I think that’s an excessive amount of caution (and, seriously, do you want to work for a company that’s afraid of a picture of you holding a beer at a party on your personal Twitter feed?). Don’t share your Facebook link though; make them work for it unless you have a Facebook account specifically for your job search.

And a note about pictures: apparently google+ now had an algorithm where someone can take one picture, e.g., your LinkedIn profile picture, and search for pictures that are a close match on face features… so your perfectly-fine LinkedIn picture could potentially lead someone to your picture in, shall we say, less than savory situations on other websites. In other words, segregation of pictures on different sites is no longer a safe barrier. Another “sneaky” technique is to find pictures of you, then search for other people in those pictures, especially if they’re pictures you posted of you in social events. It’s yet another way to vet you through the people with whom you associate – and IMHO quite stalkerish.

5. Since many others have said it, but don’t have a cutesy or otherwise out-there email address for work-related purposes. Use firstname-middleinitial-lastname or something like that. Consider your domain name too. AOL paints you as a dinosaur, and is often trapped in spam filters. I am not endorsing Comcast’s email specifically, but I have been told it has some of the strongest protections against being trapped in spam filters. I hear gmail is pretty good though, but it’s not foolproof: once, when I was emailing my resume to a friend on the inside, my attempt through gmail got stopped but my Comcast email got through.

And a third email thought: it might be tempting to include your functional title in your email; e.g., david.o.hunt-mech.eng. First, this is a pain given its length, and second, what if you undergo a career change and – to pick an example at random – start building a business of handcrafted artisanal soaps? A changeover will be time-consuming and potentially confusing to all the contacts you’ve developed, especially if this is a late-stage career reboot.

A last email tidbit: consider a remailer service through your alumni association. If you change email addresses, your contact information on your resume doesn’t get dated.

6. Opinions differ, but I’ve seen resumes for people that don’t have a physical address. In this day and age, giving your town should be enough since most communication will be electronic. Once you get to the application or offer stages, with your information being under better control (theoretically), then you can give detailed information on your precise address.

7. Check your metadata. Early in my career I did not have a computer at home, and so used Word at work to create my resume. I was mortified to be told, in response to my submission to a recruiter, that it did not look good that my resume’s metadata had information pertaining to my employer and their ownership of the software.

Any other thoughts? Put them in the comments for a possible follow-up column, or email me. I will give you credit if I write again about this.


© 2015, David Hunt, PE

One thought on “Resume Ruminations

  1. Wow. There’s a lot here I have not seen other people cover, e.g. metadata. Great job! Re: Times New Roman. I would love to use some other font – I’m keen on Georgia. When I was working for an IT consulting firm, Arial was the preferred font and many of my IT clients prefer it, but it has ever-so-slight differences in the Word for Mac vs. PC versions, and I spend extra time fiddling with spaces to make sure the versions look and print the same. With a PDF, the integrity of the font is preserved, but for all except my creatives, Word is the most compatible with Applicant Tracking Systems.

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