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The Resume Experiment (4 of 5) – Content is King

March 15th, 2007

So far we’ve discussed first impressions and formatting issues. Today we focus on content. Carl Chapman wrote a follow-up blog post today where he says:

it is the content of the resume that is important. Just so long is the resume isn’t so drab, dull, boring, or ugly that it goes right in the trash can, you’ll be fine with almost any format if you have content that illustrates that you have skills and experience that the prospective employer needs.

So let’s see what our experts have to say about John Doe’s content:

Part I – The Recruiters

Executive Restaurant Recruiter - Carl ChapmanCarl Chapman – don’t feel like you are getting enough of Carl’s feedback? Here’s his original post about the resume.

…there seems to be a battle going on between whether this particular person wants to be an employee or work for him/herself.

I notice that there are almost NO quantifiable achievements that are expressed in terms of dollars or percentages. Every employer must justify the expense of an employee.

Use real titles from your jobs or translate real titles that companies use that are strange and non-conforming to the most meaningful truthful title that describes your actual position. To do otherwise may terminate your candidacy ended before it has really begun.

Professional resume writers and career coaches like Barbara Safani of CareerSolvers and Liz Handlin of Ultimate Resumes, and Billie Sucher of CareerHub will also have a larger repertoire of adjectives and adverbs that make your resume scintillating and sizzling rather than just average.

FRACAT owner Daniel SweetDaniel Sweet – There is a lot left out from my summary here, especially in the bullets – Daniel also has a great, comprehensive post with feedback where he fleshes out his thoughts on his FRACAT blog.

There are a lot of things I’d change about this resume (as you’ll read below), but there is one paramount, supreme, glaring problem with this resume, as there are with 90% of the resumes that I read:

You don’t tell me why I should hire you!

As far as this resume is concerned, there is absolutely nothing special about this candidate, nothing that he excels at, no skill that he is particularly wonderful at, and no single area of experience that he’s been building up for years; any of which would be a reason for me to hire this person.

That alone would get you calls. So, before you do the easy, small stuff, do this one, big, humongous, stupendously important thing: TELL PEOPLE WHY THEY SHOULD HIRE YOU!

How do I know they [the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th jobs] are jobs and not hobbies? Because they are listed as such on your resume. And, together, they’re going to take up a chunk of your time.

Other miscellaneous advice (if it doesn’t make sense, hope over to his original post):

  • Tell People What You Do
  • Have Your Jobs Tell People What You Do (Fix Job Titles)
  • Have Your Companies Tell What You Do
  • Don’t Tell About What I Don’t Care About
  • Don’t make me figure out your results
  • Kill The Fluff

Steve Levy - Out-of-the-box sourcing/recruiting consultantSteve Levy – once again, more info in Steve’s original post… this is just stuff I’m picking out as it relates to content.

Everything in a resume needs to pass the “So what? tes” if someone in your target audience reads it, will their response be “so what?” If so, it either needs more seasoning or needs to be eliminated.

The resume is entirely depauperate of measures of performance.

You have room so give the reader the article titles; Did articles generate comment fodder – how much? Did the press releases you wrote generate “interest” or sales?

Do you think you’re E.E. Cummings and your goal is to write the longest sentence in resume history? Break it up!

Tell the reader what it means to go “from very poor state into a successful and profitable enterprise.

I’m not so sure that the titles listed accurately portray what the real job was – this too needs to be assessed.

Most important, you have to explain the dates… I’m an engineer so I naturally had to draw a Gantt chart of John’s career. I used the order presented in the resume and came to the conclusion that John needs help that even Dr. Phil can’t offer. So there has to be a better way to present John’s experience on a resume – and there is.

Naturally, without any details about the companies, this order is based more upon my feel than for actual facts. [Jason: I don’t hink you want to be in the position of allowing a recruiter to maked decisions based on feelings, or assumptions. And who would have thought that your recruiter is an analytical type that’s going to make a gantt chart! Want to chance it? Or do you want the phone call for an interview??]

Another item we don’t know is what type of position are you targeting … this too can change the advice given.

Part II – The Resume Writers

Job Search Expert of About.com - Alison DoyleAlison Doyle

… the candidate is interested in customer service management. The position description should correlate – his customer service skills should be listed first and highlighted, rather than the web design, etc.

I’d suggest completing re-writing the resume to focus on customer service (and the highest level skills he had – strategic planning, management, etc.) and limiting some of other non-related responsibilities.

If there’s a way to work in some stragetic level responsibilities and up it a notch, that would help – billing support, copy writing, etc. sound like a lower level position.

Also, I’m wondering if there is a way to merge the company Y/Z lists to address the perspective (at first glance) that he’s job hopping.

… if the blog, web site, writing are related to the type of jobs he’s looking for, he may want to work them into the first experience section.

I’m a believer in targeting resumes (along with cover letters) so I’d need to know more about what his goals are…

Barbara Safani, resume expert and career coach, of Career SolversBarbara Safani

For the most part, the candidate is communicating tasks rather than accomplishments.

The candidate’s current resume does nothing to distinguish him from his competition. Lots of people have skill sets similar to this candidate. What makes him different?

Imagine you are buying a new product…let’s say it’s a dishwasher…every brand has its own pitch…some dishwashers save water, some are better for the environment, some are faster, some are quieter…you get the picture. The consumer buys one of the dishwashers based on the product benefits, not its features…they all wash the dishes…the consumer needs to decide which dishwasher provides the most benefits to them. With a resume, accomplishment statements with key metrics best showcase a candidate’s benefits. Task statements merely convey features of the candidate’s experience.

This candidate has a lot of great information on page two that needs to be incorporated into page one to give the reader a more comprehensive view of his competencies.

I have no doubt that this candidate is great at what he does. But he needs to find ways to showcase his value over and over again throughout the document in order to get the phone to ring.

[Barbara had a lot of pointed questions to try and quantify the achievements … here is an example – her questions are bolded (I’ll post the document tomorrow)]

Oversaw web site redesign and implementation; aided in copy writing and content revision for new web site; how did this benefit the site? Did traffic increase; if so, by how much? creation and implementation of affiliate program; redesign and restructuring of forums; implemented new features and services for clients; assisted in implementation of company wiki; what was the benefit of this? more traffic, better page ranking, increased PR, increased sales, more cross-selling, or something else? assisted with hiring and training; how many did you hire and train? customer service management; oversaw sales department; assisted with billing and technical support.

Resume expert and career coach Billie SucherBillie Sucher

Use your resume as a powerful teaching, educational tool and make it easy for the employer to experience you, see you, get you, your story, and pick you!

Think through your options and always remember to think like the employer thinks.

A FOCUS is really, really helpful on a resume if you are applying directly to a prospective employer. It sets the tone for all else to follow. If you’re applying directly to a company in response to an opening, use their job title.

Identify your strongest / best / most powerful, unique, and effective credentials to support your efforts in getting to your target goal. Think in terms of what are my best, most relevant, and powerful knowledge, skills, and abilities, experience, and education to help me “win my case” on paper.

I would encourage you to come up with 5 to 7 of your best, strongest, most credible, supportive, relevant, essential one-liners that proves, shows, (convinces) & teaches your reader you can do so & so job (target goal/focus) because you have such & such credentials. (Voila — alignment – things connect). And the employer “gets it” / gets you and “gets in touch” with you!

Key functional areas are numerous and many – the trick is to pick ones that are right & relevant for YOU now! If you need help in figuring out some skills, go visit O*net online

Think: if you only had 30 seconds to tell a prospective employer about Web Site Design (for example) or Project Management (for example)….what are the most essential, relevant, vital, and effective pieces of information you would want them to know about you & your wonderful product?

Testimonial – Find someone who thinks you rock, will sing your praises, who thinks you’re astounding (or at least decent) and get a quote from them. The “other voice” (from someone beyond self) is always better than your own for credibility, believability purposes. (Example: I can tell you I’m one of the best resume writers in the country, right? Well, don’t believe me! If you hear it from someone else, well then, pay attention!)

Retail Executive Career Expert - Brad AttigBrad Attig – want to see what Brad really thought? Check out my comments at the end of this post for a letter he writes to John Doe… for now some content-related comments:

You have a lot of “stuff” going on at the same time. I assume WORK EXPERIENCE you get paid for and WORK EXPERIENCE (OTHER) you hope to get paid for? [Jason: do you want the decision-maker making assumptions?]

Now let’s try to get some meat into your accomplishments. “A” players at “A” companies look for people that can positively impact the business. Meaning: Make money, save money.

Just for a minute, pretend you are your own client. Step out of the box. John is coming to John and needs a marketing presentation and strategy. What brand are you and how do you sell it? Think of the key works that align with “YOU” the brand.

Executive Power Coach - Deb Dib Deb Dib – the following is taken/borrowed/stolen from Deb’s really cool post called The Five Golden Rules of Resume Writing for 2007:

(from #1) There are only five things you must have in your resume: Value Proposition – Differentiation – Proof – Brand – Passion! Hit these five areas if you truly want to get that resume read, get interviews, and get on the short list.

#2. Know your VALUE – Compose a one-sentence value proposition that will not just capture the interest of a recruiter or decision maker, but absolutely compel them to action. Without this, you cannot write a great resume. In fact, you should be able to put this in the middle of a blank piece of paper and get your targeted decision-maker interested in you.

Liz Handlin of Ultimate ResumesLiz Handlin – CEO of Ultimate Resumes and VP of Marketing at Broadpeak.

[in the SKILLS section] Don’t list basic applications like Microsoft Office…if you don’t know Office you probably don’t belong in an office! List applications that the reader might not know that you are an expert in.

[new section: MEDIA/AWARDS] If you have received recognition for any projects, work, or just for being yourself list them here. Indicating that references are available is not necessary – of couse they are!.

[new section: AFFILIATIONS] List memberships in any professional societies with particular emphasis on those in which you hold an office. No need to list controversial (example: if you are a member of the KKK you shouldn’t put it on your resume) or purely recreational (example: Homeowners Assn. Bridge Club) groups

Louise Kursmark of Your Best ImpressionLouise Kursmark – these comments are taken directly out of the original resume with Louise’s comments in various sections. She then rewrote the resume completely, based on some assumption (will be posted on tomorrow’s post).

[at the very beginning/intro, Louise asks] WHO ARE YOU? — Needs introduction – who you are, what you do well, what kinds of problems you solve, where you might fit into my organization. Professional profile/personal brand information to “set the stage” for the rest of the resume.

[along with comments from yesterday, Louise wants this company put into perspective] What does this company do? How large is it?

[Right after the company John Doe states what he did there… um, kind of] This is a recitation of tasks/job description – this tells me nothing about what YOU contributed to the success of this company; why you were hired; what challenges you faced. This could be written about ANYONE with this job title.

[the next two companies were a little better … he got into acheivements (almost)]Nice strong intro – at last, something YOU did! However, it then deteriorates into, again, a job description.

Where are the numbers that make these statements credible?

As General Manager, you probably had a lot to do with the company being acquired… this resume does not make this clear.

“Responsible for” is not a strong introduction. No evidence of how well you did your job or, specifically, how you helped your clients or your company.

[regarding “Work Experience (Other)”] Not sure this entire section is presented in the most beneficial way.

Your writing and blogging experiences seem to be a pivotal part of your customer service experience – and instrumental in establishing you as an expert in your field. Thus I suggest including these positions as primary rather than “other” work experience.

[Regarding SKILLS towards the end of the resume] Key information should be included as part of introduction.

“references upon request” is an outdated inclusion.

and finally, one last thought in an e-mail to me:

His resume is completely lacking in the details and specific accomplishments that are essential to attract attention.

Jason’s Thoughts

This is already a really long post – I don’t have much to add. I think Carl’s quote at the top starts it off well, and I’ll end with a letter from Brad to John Doe:

Dear John,

I received your resume today and we have to break up already. I can’t figure out who you are, what you’ve done or what you want. There is no way we can have a relationship based on that, plus you’re just plain boring. Sorry John, I want excitement, I want a resume that grabs me. Just because you’re in black and white doesn’t mean you can’t be colorful.

Do you have any idea how many resumes try to get my attention? I only gave you a second glance because your friend Jason asked me to. I have to wonder what he sees in you. I know, down under all the plainness, there must be some accomplishments. Oh, and you seem to be kind of scattered too (never mind my rambling, kind of hard to follow, huh? Like your resume). I’ll pass you along to my friend Brad, perhaps he can give you some suggestions.

Sorry John

Signed – Some Recruiter

The Resume Experiment Series

Post IIntroduction
Post IIFirst Impressions/Reactions
Post IIIFormatting
Post IV – Content (today’s post)
Post V – Wrap-Up (Friday)

10 Comments »

10 responses to “The Resume Experiment (4 of 5) – Content is King”

  1. Patricia says:

    Carl Chapman’s comment:
    “I notice that there are almost NO quantifiable achievements that are expressed in terms of dollars or percentages. Every employer must justify the expense of an employee.”

    This is something that I personally cannot incorporate into a resume as I work at a research library in a post-secondary institution. The students have already paid their tuition at the front door, so any work the library does is to service the faculty & students in their research, percentage & dollars just don’t come into play here and isn’t something that is necessarily measured in an obvious way. I’m uncertain in this respect how to measure this out.

    Oh, I liked the other person’s comment about e.e.cummings. Hilarious!

  2. Patricia,

    I can promise you that if you think about the things that you have done, your achievments, the things that you have accomplished, the things that keep you employed, you will find there is a way to measure them in %’s or $’s.

    Give me a list of things that you have done that are noteworthy… I’ll be happy to give you some ideas about how to convert those into statements that have $’s and %’s.

    -Carl

  3. I loved Bard’s “Dear John” letter to John Smith…

    I thought it might be fun for me to include the “can’t help” letter that I would send…if I took any time longer than hitting the delete key on the email in my in box:

    Dear John;

    Thank you for your interest in working with CEC Search on your next career position. I have reviewed you resume carefully, and while very impressive, your skill set does not match the requirements that I have been given by my client company.

    The primary focus of our practice in restaurant operations and corporate support roles for large restaurant companies. Should you know of anyone who needs help in that arena and has a strong experience base in that niche, please send them our way.

    Should we come across anything that looks like it could be helpful to you we will be sure to let you know. In the mean time, check back at our website often as we will be adding industry links on a regular basis that may be helpful to you.

    We wish you great success in your career search.

    Looking forward,
    Carl Chapman

  4. Dang it… it should be Brad… not Bard… although Brad could be a Bard se seems to have the sense of humor for it…

    Now it looks like I need to hire an assistant to edit my comments along with my articles. Wonder if John Smith can do that? :-)

  5. Daniel Sweet says:

    BARD BRAD – Oh! Will you sing the next day of your critique!?

    (To the tune of “Figaro” – it’s the bard-yest thing I could think of)
    “John! The resume you’ve sent me is aw-haw-ful.
    Take it ‘way! Far away! Go!”

    PATRICIA – I know it’s sometimes hard to tell in the halls of academia, but there is a reason that everyone is hired. It is to do a job. Everyone has the possibility of doing their job well or poorly. Think about how you would know if you did your job well (or poorly) and incorporate that in your resume.

    For example:

    “I know I’m doing well because everyone wants me to help with their research.” – Get quotes about how you’re doing well from the people you’re helping. Ask them specifically what you do better than other research librarians.

    “I know I’m doing well because my boss says so.” – Ask your boss why s/he thinks you’re doing well. Write on your resume while s/he talks.

    “I know I’m doing poorly because I get the wrong books and people throw them at me.” – This, you’ll have to turn into something like, “Got a highly enthusiastic reaction from all students that I helped.”

    Dan

  6. Deb Dib says:

    Patricia, my dad has been a research librarian for over 50 years (he’s 83 and still works part -time). Wherever he’s worked (high-schools, colleges, public libraries) people say “Go ask Ray Wile–he can find anything.) He has a gift for almost memorizing what’s in the stacks and in storage, what he can access from interlibrary loan, and he knows how to find anything on line—he learned computers when he was in his 60s and they were brand new in libraries—he was one of the first librarians in his group to use computers.

    So that’s his brand—“the research librarian who can find anything.” People come in just to work with him. Especially the tough cases. In the public library where he works now, he has a lot of authors come to him to help them with research. Anyone who comes to him goes away happy—and with the resources they needed. That raises the “customer satisfaction” level of the library. Great libraries with happy patrons get a better shot a funding in colleges, and get passed budgets in communities. That’s just one tangible value tied to his brand.

    What’s your “librarian brand?” How are you perceived by your students and the professors? If you don’t know, do an informal poll and find out. Then decide how your brand maps to the success of your library and the institution it supports. Don’t be satisfied with vague — keep digging for IMPACT. Your impact is your value proposition. Once you have that, you’ve got the guts of a great resume.

    Have fun–it’s really cool discovering that you are an INTEGRAL part of the success of a library and institution, not just a professional doing a good job. That build’s confidence and the self-awareness that will have you actively viewing your work in new ways that are tied to your success component. That’s when you’ll have those accomplishments to rev up your resume.

    Also, don’t forget that accomplishments have to be viewed in respect to the value your target employer sees in them. So when you identify them and write them, think of what’s important to the library and/or institution to which you’re applying. That’s critical. Remember your resume is an ad, not a history or bio. And think of how exciting and compelling your branded value proposition resume will be when compared to a sea of CVs. That alone will differentiate you!

  7. Patricia says:

    Many thanks for your suggestions!

  8. Joe C says:

    Where is the final or redone view of the resume?

  9. Jason Alba says:

    Joe, shoot – good question… it’s been a while since I looked at this series, and know there is more than what Carl submitted… but you can check out what Carl does on his post called Ripping up the most important resume in the world – your own.

    I need to go through and find the others … I was in the trees so much I couldn’t see the forest (or however that goes :p).

  10. […] Post I – Introduction Post II – First Impressions/Reactions Post III – Formatting Post IV – Content Post V – Wrap-Up (that’s today folks) […]