Dipanjan MUukherjee Log

Thoughts on resumés

First, consider this: You are the recruiter. You have got about an hour, to sift through hundreds of resumés to narrow down your selection to a reasonably interview-able number. Barely ten seconds to scan through the document to gather enough information to make a choice: Which pile should he/she go to?

I feel putting myself in such a mentally-imagined situation exposes a lot about what I as a job-seeker should put into the only link I have to my potential employer. This essay is merely an exposition of my thoughts and isn’t meant to be authoritative. What you derive from it is for you to decide.

With that out of the way, I feel we can talk freely, don’t you think? I will dig right in.

Definitions

For the purposes of this text, a resumé isn’t the same as a curriculum vitae. Curricula vitae are documents describing the course of individual lifes (literally). They contain everything from awards you have won as a child to mostly any significant happenstance in your life.

Resumés on the other hand, are summaries of skills, degrees and courses you have undertaken that are relevant to the person who is reading it. Often, your resumé is a subset of your CV. The operative adjective in the preceeding definition is “relevant”.

The above definitions vary from country to country, but I am assuming the intent of specifying them is clear.

Brevity

Remember when you were the recruiter? You had mere seconds to make up your mind about a person, based on what they put in front of you. Wouldn’t you prefer smaller, clearer resumés? If somebody didn’t put their high-school percentage, would you assume they didn’t go to high-school? No. Wouldn’t you only care about what is relevant to your line of work?

Suppose you are recruiting for a technical position. Would it bother you that one of the candidates has a better rank in some entrance-examination? Again, would that be relevant?

As a job-seeker, you are expected to make your point as fast as possible. The faster you are able to convince your recruiter, through your resumé, of your relevance to the job, the better your chances get.

Here is a list of all things I deem should best be left out of your resumé along with small descriptions of why I think so.

Snail-mail addresses: Nobody uses these any more. Your appointment letter won’t drop in to your room/home unexpectedly. If the organisation needs it, they will ask for it.

Entrance Examination Performance: You don’t stand out when everybody is as qualified as you are. Why bother with mentioning it? Would you also say, that you have two eyes and a nose? Let it go.

Secondary Education Performance: Doesn’t improve your chances. It doesn’t show you are capable of effort. It just shows that you are trying to compensate for an otherwise empty resumé.

Irrelevant Detail: You having undertaken “rigourous training” along with hundred odd freshers doesn’t brighten up your image when you are applying for a desk or laboratory oriented job. There are many such details, but I hope you are getting the drift.

With all that removed, you will find your resumé quite spacey and full of voids. Fear not, I have a recipe for that as well. :)

Layout

Most resumés I have seen have near-zero margins. Apparently, there is so much to fill in that this becomes necessary. But then, if you paid any regards to the previous section, that is hardly a problem any more, right?

Let your document breathe. Be generous with the margins. A good inch for the verticals and half of that on the horizontals is bare-minimum. By letting your document have all that white-space, you are bringing in more clarity. Draw attention to the centre of the document. That is where you are about to blow their minds away, now, aren’t you?

While you are adding all that breathing space to your document, why not bump up the line-spacing a bit too? Line-spacing, surprisingly enough, is the space between two lines in a paragraph. Any document-editor should have the formatting options for this bit.

Another thing that bothers me, especially when I am looking at hard-copies, is background colors. Please, don’t go there. Visibility suffers most and since most printouts will be black-on-white, you will end up looking drab in front of other neatly designed resumés. Also, if your print didn’t come out perfectly straight, it can now be immediately detected. Nope, no background colors.

Tables. Firstly, tables are used to show data that is varying with some other quantity. Most resumés do not require tables. Displaying courses you have undertaken in a two column table serves no real purpose. However, if you do find yourself needing to use a table, ensure that the borders for the table are grayed out. Attract attention to the data within the table, not the table itself.

Include a summary

A summary for your resumé is also extremely important. Here, in a few sentences, describe the objective of your resumé, describe the kind of role you want to play in the organisation and also a single sentence about what you might be able to bring to the table.

The summary usually is at the top and helps set the tone for the entire document. Since it is written in first-person, it also, in my opinion, adds a personal touch to the conversation you are having with your recruiter via the resumé.


In conclusion, it is best to prepare targetted resumés for organisations. It is most effective if you prepare the summary separately for each organisation. In absence of a cover-letter, a summary is most likely to be an indicator of your ability to engage. Also, throughout the document, present only the bare essential facts and only relevant work-experience.

December, 2012