In her latest guest blog, certified career coach and professional resume writer, Charlotte Weeks, has resume advice for potential job seekers.
“I would have made it shorter if I'd only had more time.”
Though no one is exactly sure who originally said these wise words about writing – variations have been attributed to Winston Churchill, Benjamin Franklin and Mark Twain – the essence of the statement could not be more true.
It may be counterintuitive, but it is actually MORE difficult and time consuming to write a concise, informative document than something detailed and lengthy. This is especially true when it comes to resumes.
Keep in mind that the vast majority of the time, resumes and cover letters are skimmed in the first viewing. They are not read. Because you have very little time to convince a reader that you should be invited in for an interview, it’s imperative to communicate your key accomplishments and skills clearly, prominently, and quickly.
Employers and recruiters also want to be able to quickly discern what type of work you’re targeting, and how it is you’re qualified. Being too broad and general is counterproductive because hiring managers and recruiting personnel either aren't willing, or don't have the time, to figure out where you fit.
A Resume's Purpose
Even if you’re sure of your job goals, the reader doesn’t need, or typically want, all the details of each past position. Sure, they are interested in your ability to do the role, but they don’t need a play-by-play of each duty. In fact, the resume isn’t even expected to communicate all of this information.
The resume's role is to show initial fit before the interview. It’s in these phone, face-to-face, or webcam communications that you will have the opportunity to elaborate on what’s already noted in the resume.
Of course, this often brings up questions of how to fit onto a resume everything that could be relevant or important, such as:
1. How will I explain everything I have done?
It’s not necessary to do so. The resume is for showing fit for your target job and key differentiators (including accomplishments) but it is meant to be a stepping stone to the interview. High-level descriptions of past jobs will still give readers an overview of your background.
What are your peer IT executives reading?
2. What if I’ve had a long career with decades of experience?
Your most recent positions are usually the most relevant to a prospective employer, so early roles can be condensed or eliminated. The possibilities for how to treat early career positions include eliminating details about the jobs, and only keeping company names and job titles; or grouping together “Early Experience” in a standalone section at the bottom of your work history.
3. What about all of my specific technical knowledge?
This is where you want to remember that fit for the job is the priority. If you’re searching for a CIO job, your hands-on programming experience will be less relevant than it would be to someone going for an individual contributor or manager position. Plus, if a certain technology is significantly outdated and no longer used in most places, it’s unlikely to be of interest to anyone in charge of hiring.
4. How can I possibly fit everything into one page?
You don’t have to. The one-page rule is a myth. While it often makes sense for people earlier in their careers, it is acceptable for senior-level professionals to have two, or even three-page resumes. It’s actually easier for readers to digest two pages of content with plenty of white space than a single page of dense text.
It’s well known that it’s not easy to showcase an impressive career while limiting your word count, though it can be done. The “less is more” approach can be the difference between an employer overlooking key accomplishments from your background and quickly seeing the value you bring.