Resume Basics

Honestly, part of me can’t believe I’m about to write this post, but I feel like it’s a must. It’s ridiculous what I’ve encountered in the past couple weeks while preparing to leave my current job.

The biggest project I have before leaving, is finding my replacement. I’ve posted a detailed job description on the university HR website, even checked with people in the community to see if there are any outstanding candidates out there.

Since then, I’ve received a dozen or so applications. The application requires three basic things:

1. a resume
2. a cover letter
3. to fill out a university hiring form.

Really, not asking for much, no writing samples, no references (at least not right off the bat) just a straight forward process.

In the two weeks this job has been posted I have seen it all. I’ve received applications that are missing the key university form. I’ve have had people pull the “dear sir /madam thing on me.” By the way MY full name and email address is listed as the contact – we didn’t even make them dig around, there’s NO excuse for not addressing the cover letter and email directly to me.

Cover letters have been submitted  that are literally just a stream of conscious format, seriously they have Jack Kerouac syndrome or something. No introduction, no “Dear XX,”  they just launch right into what a great person they are and how passionate they are about whatever. One of them didn’t even mention any of the key words or requirements listed in the job description. Did I mention a couple CL’s have been double spaced, yeah like a middle school term paper would be.

I’ve seen resumes that are ridiculously formatted, as in all centered text 2 pages long with way too much white space. Or the opposite with zero white space and way too much inane detail. One even had a section called “interests” and no none of those interests have ANYTHING to do with the field in which the position lies. That laughable section read like a interest section. I was kind of shocked “long walks on the beach” wasn’t in there.

OK, I’m done venting and I’m here to help. Folks keep these five EASY tips in mind when applying for a position. By “keep in mind” I mean do these, don’t even think about sending an application that doesn’t follow these golden rules.

1. Address your cover letter to the HR manager or head of hiring committee. If you can’t find the contact just call the business, ask the receptionist or assistant they will have the answer and you’ll stand out as being a detail oriented person.

2. Please, for the love of the hiring gods, make sure that cover letter is no longer than one page. NOT double spaced and succinctly shows why you’re the best fit of the position.

3. USE KEY WORDS. A lot of bigger companies do word searches through CL’s and resumes and if none of the key words they’re looking for come up you’re out. Every cover letter and resume sent should be written FOR that position. Don’t spray and pray.

4. Format Format Format, make sure the following things are addressed (positively).

              A. One page is all you need, unless you’ve been in the field for 10+ years.
B. White space is good – but remember all things in moderation
C. ORGANIZE that resume, either by level ie. management, upper level positions or most applicable to lower / less applicable, or organize chronologically. If you choose the later do reverse chronological so the hiring committee can see what you’ve done most recently first. They don’t care that you worked at Wendy’s for 5 years in high school.
D. Don’t bury the accomplishments.  Have a section that lays out awards, then put impressive things you’ve accomplished in different roles in bold.
E. Keep It Simple Stupid. A one or two sentence descriptions for each position or activity are all you need.

5.  Stress how you are a good fit. From the cover letter to the phrasing and word use in your resume, be professional and show how well you would fit. You’re selling your experience and expertise. They don’t want a BFF they want a hard working person who fits in the with the company. I mentioned that this resume should be built from scratch right?

6. (BONUS) This shouldn’t have to be said, but it does. For Pete’s sake spell check.

Being on the other side of the fence, reviewing resumes instead of sending them. I really understand the 10 seconds of scanning. I don’t have time during my work day to dig through your poorly formatted resume and cover letter to see if you’re a good fit. I also am not on your side. This doesn’t mean that I’m not a caring person, but I’m not going to walk you through this process. I’m not your sponsor. I had to prove myself to get where I am, and you better believe I’m still proving myself. Now it’s your turn to prove yourself.

If you still don’t believe me check out the WSJ’s article from this morning. Yeah, we’re on the same page, are you?


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