Are You Successful?

It continues to amaze me how common it is for job seekers to fail to include any mention of a successful contribution to an employer in their resume.  This morning, I was struggling to come with a topic for today’s article.  After writing more than 360 articles over the last year and a half, I often need something to get me started.  I turned to my old standby…  my Inbox.  I receive a lot of resumes, and readying a few always produced an idea for an article.

Today’s search was just as fruitful as past searches.  I didn’t have to read many resumes to find one to inspire me.  It was the first I opened.  This is typical.  When I look at resumes, I don’t think I’ve ever had to open more than three or four to find a disaster to profile.  Now, to be fair, the some of the resumes I look at for my blog are from the really active job seekers.  I subscribe to some resume distribution services that send resumes to thousands of recruiters.  I really don’t know if these services are effective for the job seekers, but they help me ensure I always have a lot of bad resumes in my inbox.  For a job seeker to reach the point where they are broadcasting their resume in an email to as many people as possible, they would have been overlooked for a lot of jobs in the past.  A big reason these people haven’t landed a job is they have a terrible a resume.  So, the majority of resumes I receive this way are absolutely terrible.

So, let’s look at today’s resume.  It comes from a Marking Manager for firm selling agricultural equipment.  The person has been out of work for a year.  Prior to that, she worked for eight years for one company.  The resume has five sections:

  • Synopsis
  • Summary of Qualifications
  • Work Experience
  • Continuing Education
  • References

The resume didn’t contain a single accomplishment – absolutely nothing showing the job seeker was successful at any point in her career.  Looking at the language used in the resume, the entire resume is focused on responsibilities.  Below are the first few words from each bullet in the work experience section:

  • Assisted…
  • Prepared…
  • Developed and coordinated…
  • Planned…
  • Managed…
  • Direct supervision of…
  • Coordinated…
  • Managed…

Most of these start with verbs, which is good, but the verbs are not very strong.  You can use these verbs in a resume and make a strong impact, but you need to include another verb in the bullet.  For example, “managed an advertising campaign for a new line of machinery, leading to initial sales 40% above budget.”  This would be a good accomplishment because of the second half of the bullet.  Unfortunately, the resume only included statements similar to the first half of the example. 

Another big mistake on this resume relates to the education of the job seeker.  She has a continuing education section with some good educational events, but nothing about her formal education.  She has an Associate’s degree, but it isn’t listed on the resume (it was in the cover letter).  A lot of hiring managers skip the cover letter.  Additionally, when a hiring manager distributes a resume to several other managers to review, the cover letter may not be distributed with the resume.  For key information like a degree, you need to put this on the resume. 

To improve this resume, it would only take a little work to make a huge difference.  The Summary of Qualifications section has five bullets.  Two relate to soft skills (organizational skills and teamwork), two are marketing related (creativity with graphic design and tradeshow experience) and the last lists technical skills (Photoshop, InDesign, Illustrator, etc.).  Under each bullet, the job seeker should add one line describing an accomplishment or noteworthy experience.  For the soft skills and marketing experiences, an accomplishment would be best.  For the technical skills, listing an accomplishment would work, but the job seeker could also summarize the continuing education she has completed. 

Adding five lines in this way would help tremendously.  Throw in the Associate’s degree in an Education section and the resume should be reasonably effective. 

One last note…  The last section of the resume, a list of references with names and phone numbers, should be eliminated.  There is no need to put references on a resume (especially in an email blast to the whole world).  Companies know they can ask for references throughout the hiring process.  Listing a person’s contact information is actually an invitation to cold call them.  The three people listed are likely to be people who are respected by the job seeker, so a recruiter may toss the resume, but keep the names of the references.  Who do you think is more marketable… the job seeker who sent the resume or the Director of Marketing who is still at the company and is listed as a reference?  By listing the references, all the job seeker did was distract the attention of the reader from her background.

Send Me Your Questions:  I’m always looking for ideas to write about.  Do you have a job search question you want answered?  Send it to me and there’s a good chance I’ll write an article on it. Just send your questions to me at gcapone@palladianinternational.com