Most jobs have well established titles and easy to understand responsibilities. Some, though, are unique. What do you do if you work in a role that has little or no equivalence to jobs at other companies? Do you list your job title, change the title to something more commonly used, or skip it entirely? The resume I read today struggled with this dilemma.
The resume was from a manager who had worked as a strategic planning analyst and then as an operations manager. Those are my titles – the closest I can come up with for the positions after reading the resume closely. The job seeker decided to take a short cut. He didn’t list any job titles, just the functional areas of his jobs, operations and strategic planning.
Omitting the job titles was a mistake. It makes it very difficult to understand the background of a person quickly without some indicator of the type of role. The only way to understand the positions is to read the job descriptions closely. The job seeker was thorough. He described every aspect of his employment, from core responsibilities to minor details.
The thoroughness of the job seeker’s job description had an effect opposite to what he intended. By listing anything and everything he did, it’s very difficult to understand what role he had. The job seeker left out any description of the scope of his responsibilities or some statement as to what was typical. This puts the minor aspects of his role, tasks he might work on only a few times a year, on equal footing with the core of his job. It’s impossible to know what this guy really did.
Every job will eventually touch on every aspect of a company. If you have been somewhere for ten years or more, you can talk about any functional area in your resume. For example, a staff accountant might work closely with someone in marketing or sales on a specific project for a few days. This can be good experience and may show the versatility of your skills. What you don’t want to do is include this as some vague description. For example, “supported marketing with development of new product pricing.” This description may be completely accurate, but would not be representative of a lengthy career if you only did this for a few days.
The resume I received listed so many functions and never described what the core responsibility was. It’s a guess as to whether this individual was really an operations manager and strategic planning analyst. I could be completely wrong.
As a recruiter, what do I do with a resume like this? I receive a lot of resumes. I don’t have time to spend a significant amount of time on each. I have to make a quick assessment if I can place the person and move on if I can’t. To make this decision, I look for something showing how a person stands out in their field – why they are better than their competition. If I can’t find something with some “wow factor,” I’m likely to move on. The key to this is assessing the candidate’s capability quickly and comparing them to other candidates in the field I have assessed. If I can’t determine what field the candidate is in, I can’t even start this process.
After reviewing the resume for a minute, I don’t know what job the candidate has held. I can’t assess his performance relative to his peers, because I don’t know who his peers are. I can’t even tell if he’s been successful because I have no basis for determining the scope of his role. My final assessment is to move on to the next candidate. I will be able to screen several other candidates in the time it would take me to pick up the phone, call this candidate and ask the basic questions like “what job did you hold at your last employer?”
What Should You Do?
There are a lot of job seekers who create overly vague and confusing descriptions of their experience. This forces a hiring manager or recruiter to spend a lot more time figuring out what the person is capable of doing. Every second increases the odds the resume will be discarded. To avoid this, you need a quick to read, easy to understand and impressive description of your background and potential.
Print out your resume and sit it in front of you. Take a highlighter and highlight the phrases that best summarize your experience and accomplishments. Don’t highlight more than 50 words. I’m sure there is a lot of important info on your resume and 50 words won’t capture everything. Stick with only the most important 50 words.
Where on your resume are there 50 words? They need to be at the top if want them to be read. If they are buried deep in the resume, there is a good chance you will be rejected before they are read.
Are your most important two or three skills clearly presented in these fifty words? You probably possess dozens or hundreds of different skills. They are not all equal. There are a couple that will land you a job and the rest are supporting information. Make sure the essential skills stand out.
Do you show how you were successful? It is easy to write that you are highly successful. In fact, putting “highly successful” and a job title as the first few words in at the top of a resume are a common way to start. Anyone can write this. It is nothing but hype. What matters is what comes next. You need examples of your success that are clear and impressive. Without specific accomplishments, you will not measure up to your peers who list accomplishments on their resume. Even if you were successful, you are likely to be rejected before you get a chance to tell your story in an interview.
What is your specialty? Make sure you show a clear specialization on your resume. A non-descript generalist, with no specialization will appear very unimpressive. You need something that will differentiate you and specialization is critical. Make sure your fifty words show this specialization clearly.
If you complete this exercise and focus your resume to make your potential stand out in the first fifty words, you will dramatically improve your odds of getting an interview.