The 2,600 Word Resume

A resume should be a concise summary of a job seeker’s background and potential. Resumes are not designed to provide every detail about the job seeker. The resume I read today was far from being concise.

I recommend a resume should be 400 to 900 words and no more than two pages. There are rare exceptions to this guideline, but most resumes are too long. The resume I looked at was seven pages, with a small font. I ran a word count and it totaled 2,606 – more than six times the length I recommend.

This wasn’t the first problem with the resume. The cover letter got things starter, beginning with:

Hello Gentlemen/Ladies,

I am a software engineer with a very strong backgroud in UNIX/LINUX, C, C++, parallel and distributed computing applications. I think my resume speaks for itself.

If misspelling “backgroud” wasn’t enough, a statement that the “resume speaks for itself” is a major detractor. It creates an impression of an extremely arrogant job seeker. The resume confirmed this. The vast majority of the resume dealt with various IT systems and programming languages. The level of detail was so overwhelming, it is very difficult to know what the candidate’s greatest strengths are.

The talent, education and experience of a person with a PhD in computer engineering and 16 years of design experience at top firms is impressive, but the candidate isn’t going to be assessed in isolation. A company that is considering a PhD with this much experience will be looking at other candidates with similar experience and educational backgrounds.

The resume was composed of lengthy paragraphs that only detailed the technologies used on the project.  The technical skills are important, but listing the names of the technologies does nothing to show the skill level of the job seeker.  It read like an IT version of boastful name-dropping.  The project descriptions provided little information as to the scope of the project, the obstacles that were overcome and the results of the project.  It only explained what technologies were used.

Without detailed information on the project scope, there is no way to assess the work of the job seeker.  Listing a lot of in demand technologies does not make a person qualified to do a job.  A much shorter resume, with far less detail could convey a lot more information.

Another problem is a direct result of the length.  A seven page list of projects detailing every technology ever encountered resulted in a list of skills that covers most of the IT field.  No one can be an expert in hundreds of different technologies, and companies don’t hire people because they have a very limited familiarity with a skill that is critical to the job.  By presenting so many technologies, the job seeker dilutes the skills he really is a top expert in using.

This resume will show up in a huge number of IT searches if it is posted on a job board, but it is unlikely that the job seeker will get many calls.  There just isn’t anything to generate a positive impression except for the education of the job seeker and a seven page list of buzzwords.

When writing your resume, look for ways to cut words out. You should assess every word and every sentence for whether they provide significant value or not. Shorter and simpler will be much more effective.