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  1. #1

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    Question for our HR Professionals (and other people involved in hiring)

    In the last couple of months, I've been on several hiring committees, and have a question about resumes. I won't go into the truly dire awfulness of the writing and composition skills I have seen : - especially on applications from people who claim to be excellent communicators - but I am also in despair about the formats of the resumes I looked at.

    Why is this format with skills summaries, or whatever they're called, at the top of resumes suddenly such a popular format? As someone reviewing applications for shortlisting, this format bugs me. I should be able to see the applicants' skills highlighted in their work experience (assuming that they have written those with enough detail). I get that this format is a way to emphasize skills rather than work history when the person may have limited work experience, but if you don't have work experience that's even vaguely related to the job posting, the applicant probably won't be shortlisted even if the skills summary is glowing. Also, a *lot* of the resumes I looked at had skills in the skills summary that I really couldn't see being supported by the information in the rest of the resume. IMHO that makes the applicant looks like they are over-inflating their qualifications, which isn't a great way to get shortlisted either.

    I know that there's not a lot of jobs out there and that people are applying for jobs they may not necessarily be completely qualified for, but IMHO this format hurts applicants more than it helps. The only resumes I've seen in this format that actually helped me make a decision had a very short skills summary (three or four points at most) that related to the rest of the resume and actually highlighted skills that related to the job posting.

    HR professionals and others involved in hiring, what's your take on this resume format? Does it work for you?
    You should never write words with numbers. Unless you're seven. Or your name is Prince. - "Weird Al" Yankovic, "Word Crimes"

  2. #2

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    This style of resume came into style quite a few years back. Originally it was designed for a resume that is written, or at least revised, for a specific application. In other words, the applicant would list the skills required as specified in the job posting or advertisement and then write a short summary of how their skills match each particular requirement. What has happened is that it has been turned into a generic resume form by "professional resume writers," and I use that term loosely. It no longer works because the skills don't match exactly with the position.

    From experience I can tell you that when it is done correctly, it is a fabulous resume that is very easy to read and screen. When it is done as a generic resume it is next to useless. I'm not sure what can be done. I know that when unsuccessful applicant called me to find out why they weren't short listed I always pointed out if there was a problem with their resume. Other than that, I don't know what you can do.
    A good rant is cathartic. Ranting is what keeps me sane. They always come from a different place. Take the prime minister, for example. Sometimes when I rant about him, I am angry; other times, I am just severely annoyed - it's an important distinction. - Rick Mercer

  3. #3

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    I do resumes as part of my work and usually follow the style given to me because I've never been able to get a straight answer about what the right style is. Though ITA with Overedge - a skills resume is not strong when the skills can be presented/illustrated through work experience.

    I like straightforward resumes but don't see a whole lot of those, usually they are for very specific jobs (i.e. a police officer seeking a promotion to sargeant).

    What I've seen (and is the style taught in some university business communication courses) and absolutely hate is the long-form profile that goes at the very top of some resumes.

    For example:

    bulletpoint SFU graduate with a major in criminology and minor in political science bulletpoint Energetic, hardworking and consistently reliable bulletpoint demonstrated research and analytical abilities

    Sometimes there are three very long pieces of text separated by bullets and single spaced. It's visually unappealing and seems pointless to me.

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    In our area, career counselors use the skills style for three different types of applicants. Industry switchers may have the right skills, but may not get consideration due to the company names and titles in a traditional resume. Folks with employment gaps use it to try to focus attention on what they can do, not on holes. The other group is late career folks who have skills that won't show in the chronological list unless they list all their employment. I fall into the latter group. My comprehensive reverse chronological is now up to 5 pages. No way I'm submitting 5 pages.
    AceOn6, the golf loving skating fan

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    I like those a lot more than Objective statements. Those are the dumbest things ever. Clearly the objective is to be hired for the job!

    When I was laid off a few years ago and our company paid for an incredibly patronizing career coach to help us with interview skills and format a professional resume (I'm honestly still pissed about this. With what they paid this person they probably could have kept us ALL on another week or two- we were all professionals- no one needed the help with these skills) They made us put bullet point summaries at the top of the resume. The idea was that it didn't matter what jobs we had done, it mattered what skills we had to do the job we were applying for.

  6. #6
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    I love summaries. You're a brand, and the summary is your tagline. When reviewing resumes, it's the area where I place the MOST emphasis. If you can't give me an attention-getting soundbite about yourself, that's not a good sign.

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    I have a "skills" section on my resume, but then again I am a visual journalist (aka graphic design specific to newspaper/magazine). The field has an important technical component, and it's important to highlight that I am proficient in the programs specific to the job. I think it really depends on what the job is, although I can think of many jobs in which you would need to say you're skilled at Excel or Access - two difficult programs.

    I've never had an objective statement

  8. #8
    drinky typo pbp, closet hugger
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    I hate objective statements. Theyre pretentious at best. I've never used one, and I either ignore them when hiring, or I give the applicant a small mental ding for having one. I don't love the skills summary, but it's been in use for years so I include it in mine. It's helpful for specialized software, or for listing versatility in software systems, although usually that will be asked in interviews anyway.
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  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Japanfan View Post

    What I've seen (and is the style taught in some university business communication courses) and absolutely hate is the long-form profile that goes at the very top of some resumes.

    For example:

    bulletpoint SFU graduate with a major in criminology and minor in political science bulletpoint Energetic, hardworking and consistently reliable bulletpoint demonstrated research and analytical abilities

    Sometimes there are three very long pieces of text separated by bullets and single spaced. It's visually unappealing and seems pointless to me.
    I think this is a great way to start a resume - in fact my own has had three bullets at the top (in beautiful format ) since the 1990s.

    Quote Originally Posted by Louis View Post
    I love summaries. You're a brand, and the summary is your tagline. When reviewing resumes, it's the area where I place the MOST emphasis. If you can't give me an attention-getting soundbite about yourself, that's not a good sign.
    Agree totally.

    To overedge's point, I guess in some instances employment history is the most important thing - I still have that on page one of my resume, right under the bullet points - and then for others, education is also important (mind is at the very end, because I've been working so long that experience has long overshadowed the importance of my education).

    At the same time, I know several companies that do not hire this way. They focus on attitude and aptitude and to a lesser degree skills, so that the list of employment experience is actually secondary in consideration for the job. For companies like that, a simple laundry list of where you've worked, what you've done and your education isn't going to get anyone's attention. They are looking for personality, and that format shows little hint of who a person really is. This can come out in a cover letter of course, but as we all know hirers look at the resume more, and for many positions where writing isn't a top requirement, one can't expect an impressive cover letter unless they had someone write it for them.

    I also wish hirers would give applicants a break. Obviously there's no excuse for spelling errors and basic format should be in place, but it's a really tough job market out there, and looking for work can be so demoralizing. Just in this short thread we can see that there are varied schools of thought on optimal resume style/format/content/order, so imagine the poor jobhunter getting conflicting advice from all angles, and just wanting to get a job.

  10. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jenny View Post
    I also wish hirers would give applicants a break. Obviously there's no excuse for spelling errors and basic format should be in place, but it's a really tough job market out there, and looking for work can be so demoralizing. Just in this short thread we can see that there are varied schools of thought on optimal resume style/format/content/order, so imagine the poor jobhunter getting conflicting advice from all angles, and just wanting to get a job.
    I hear you, Jenny. But I don't think it's too much to expect job hunters to format their resume so that it emphasizes the skills the job is asking for, and to have the resume give enough detail to indicate that the person has those skills, or that they have related skills that could be applied.

    For the most recent hires I was involved in, the job requirements were stated very clearly in the posting. Both were primarily clerical jobs with certain skill requirements (around e.g. types of software used), and not a lot of public/customer contact. But many of the resumes had lengthy descriptions of the person's experience e.g. working in sales positions. Now that may have been because that's where their experience was, but if there were skills they learned from that that are relevant to a largely self-directed clerical job - say, balancing statements at the end of the sales period, or independently opening and closing the store - that could have been emphasized. But usually it wasn't. Instead, the resumes tended to emphasize things like how much the person increased sales volume, which suggests they're probably a really good salesperson but doesn't tell much about their potential in a clerical position in a support unit. It's that sort of irrelevant information, or expecting the hirer to make the links themselves, that is frustrating at the hiring end.
    You should never write words with numbers. Unless you're seven. Or your name is Prince. - "Weird Al" Yankovic, "Word Crimes"

  11. #11
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    Agree with you there overedge. Over the years I have never agreed to provide a resume to anyone "for file" for just this reason - I always tweek it according to the opportunity. Ditto corporate bios - I never put them on company servers as I didn't want anyone including it in a proposal without me adjusting it for the pitch at hand.

    I guess part of the problem is that people don't know how to "spin" their own stories. They might not even realize they have abilities or relevant experience. It might come out in the interview - but that's assuming they ever get to one.

  12. #12
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    I agree with Jenny that I have rarely, if ever, sent the same resume twice. Customization is key.

    Even if you take a serpentine path through life, you need to draw a straight line for the person reviewing your resume. Chances are they don't have the time or inclination to figure it out themselves. The extraneous information not only doesn't help; in most cases, it actually hurts. In a bad economy, you're thought to be a person who really wants X, even though you're applying for Y, and as soon as X opens up you'll leave.

    My cousin - undergrad degree in education, grad degree in museum studies, applying for clerical jobs - had the most academic resume ever. It was three pages long, included her teaching certificate number, lengthy descriptions of her museum studies projects .... but only a short, generic sentence about the clerical job she held for three years before going to grad school! She was bemoaning that she only had a couple of interviews, and I was amazed that she got ANY!

    I've since helped her take a hatchet to her resume, reducing it to one page, removing 75% of the content, and spinning her museum studies degree to focus on things that may be more relevant to office work. She has a separate resume for museum positions, but talk about a tough field.

  13. #13
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    I would love to send my resume to all of you to get feedback. Any takers?
    In my spare time, I like to interview figure skating legends.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Louis View Post
    I agree with Jenny that I have rarely, if ever, sent the same resume twice. Customization is key.
    I like what you and Jenny say because I think it's what helped me get some of my first jobs, but when you send out 100 apps in a week (I did do that once) it gets very tough to figure out how to customize after awhile.

    Do you think it helpful for people, if they do the customizing route, to have some kind of 'master-key' template of their resume, where they list out everything they've done, with all the points everywhere, so they can then hatchet the master-key to produce the resume they want to use to target their prospective employers? I tried this as an experiment with a friend who was writing out applications as a college freshman, and found it worked quite well because it gave him a good base to refer from (and in the end, he did get about 5-8 interviews after 2-3 weeks of sending out applications, one leading to a job, so I think that's a pretty good clip).

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by jl View Post
    Do you think it helpful for people, if they do the customizing route, to have some kind of 'master-key' template of their resume, where they list out everything they've done, with all the points everywhere, so they can then hatchet the master-key to produce the resume they want to use to target their prospective employers? I tried this as an experiment with a friend who was writing out applications as a college freshman, and found it worked quite well because it gave him a good base to refer from (and in the end, he did get about 5-8 interviews after 2-3 weeks of sending out applications, one leading to a job, so I think that's a pretty good clip).
    Yes, for your own reference it's good to keep a master list of everything - jobs, key projects, education/training, accomplishments, accolades etc. For one thing, over time you may forget some things from the past that will be relevant now. It's also a good cheat sheet to read before an interview so that you are ready for the "tell us about a time when ..." questions. And, it can be a bit of a morale boost when you realize that you are more experienced and skilled than you think you are

  16. #16
    gold dust woman
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    Quote Originally Posted by Louis View Post
    I agree with Jenny that I have rarely, if ever, sent the same resume twice. Customization is key.
    I can vouch for this--I only started getting results (as in interviews) once I started customizing my resumes. It really helps.

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    Quote Originally Posted by jl View Post
    Do you think it helpful for people, if they do the customizing route, to have some kind of 'master-key' template of their resume, where they list out everything they've done, with all the points everywhere, so they can then hatchet the master-key to produce the resume they want to use to target their prospective employers?
    Absolutely. I met with a career counselor today and she gave that exact advice. She said that you should have a lengthy document on your home computer (6 or more pages) that is a comprehensive record of all your skills and qualifications. You cherry pick from that depending what kind of position you're applying for. She advised that the resume you submit should NEVER be longer than 3 pages.

    She gave me a sample resume format that looked like this (in order);

    - Name and contact info at the top (duh)
    - Career Profile/Summary - a paragraph or a few lines
    - Areas of Expertise and/or Career Highlights - bullet points with hard (technical) and soft skills (eg. leadership, communication)
    - Professional Experience - most recent company name; describe the business; a "tell me" section (what you did) followed by a "sell me" section (how your actions impacted the company, eg. stats, revenue)
    - Other relevant career experience
    - Education
    - Professional Development - courses
    - Computer Expertise - other headings: Professional Designations, Affiliations, Memberships, Volunteer Experience, etc.
    - Interests/Activities - she was adamant that this be included because it "keeps you human" and can open conversation.

    And she did emphasize that resumes need to be tailored for the type of job you're seeking. The sample she showed me above is for a more corporate-style job. For a creative position, you'd do something entirely different.

  18. #18

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    Quote Originally Posted by luna_skater View Post
    She gave me a sample resume format that looked like this (in order);

    - Name and contact info at the top (duh)
    Oh, you'd be surprised at how "duh" this seems to be for a lot of applicants Good for her for mentioning it even though it seems pretty obvious.

    - Career Profile/Summary - a paragraph or a few lines
    - Areas of Expertise and/or Career Highlights - bullet points with hard (technical) and soft skills (eg. leadership, communication)
    Now maybe this is just me, but I would get annoyed by having to read through both of these sections before I got to the more substantive information. I think the second section on its own would be sufficient for an overview at this point.

    - Interests/Activities - she was adamant that this be included because it "keeps you human" and can open conversation.
    .
    True, but....it can also open you up to discrimination (explicit or implicit), if, say, you mention something involved with a religious group and the resume reader has negative impressions of that group. The advice I've seen is to list things that don't give any information, or as little as possible, that indicates your demographics, ethnicity, religion, political beliefs, etc.
    You should never write words with numbers. Unless you're seven. Or your name is Prince. - "Weird Al" Yankovic, "Word Crimes"

  19. #19

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    Quote Originally Posted by luna_skater View Post
    - Interests/Activities - she was adamant that this be included because it "keeps you human" and can open conversation.
    Quote Originally Posted by overedge View Post
    True, but....it can also open you up to discrimination (explicit or implicit), if, say, you mention something involved with a religious group and the resume reader has negative impressions of that group. The advice I've seen is to list things that don't give any information, or as little as possible, that indicates your demographics, ethnicity, religion, political beliefs, etc.
    And if you have a lengthy list, it can also make employers wonder how committed you'll be to the job or how flexible your schedule is. And employers usually aren't interested. If they want to know about your hobbies, they'll ask in the interview. You only have so much space on your resume; you want to use all of it for your professional accomplishments. Every career advice I've received says to leave that stuff off.

    I've also been told not to mention soft skills, or keep them to an absolute minimum, b/c employers can't tell from a resume whether you are hardworking, reliable, etc, so reading that is meaningless to them. That's what they try to determine in the interview. The focus of your resume should be concete skills and accomplishments.

    I do have a bulleted summary at the top. As Louis said, it's like a personal brand. And since many HR/hiring managers use a computer program to scan resumes, having important keywords at the top of the page can make your resume stand out, or so I've heard.

  20. #20

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    I'm not sure if I have told this story here or not, but here goes. I remember recruiting for an entry level clerical position. The requirements were basically, typing skill (we tested for a minimum number of words per minute,) switchboard experience, filing, some customer service. I received well over 1000 resumes and applications for the position. Now this was a few years back before resume scanning software or even scanned signatures - yes, I signed over a 1000 letters thanking people for their application! Anyway, it took hours and hours to screen. I remember sitting in bed one night with the bed covered in piles of resumes. I basically screened into three piles initially - absolutely not, maybe, and looks good. I probably spent less than 30 seconds on the first look to make the initial determination. I then went back a spent a minute or two on each in the maybe pile and divided them into the no pile and the looks good pile. The looks good pile then go a better look.

    It sounds heartless, but 30 seconds on 1200 resumes is 600 minutes or 10 hours. That is just the initial scan. I was running multiple recruitments (including looking for an assistant for me ) at the time and there are only so many hours in the day - hence the up at night at home working for free! Anything you can do to make it easier for the recruiter is appreciated. Some suggestions:

      • Use a clear clean font. Minimum of 11 point, black ink only.
      • Don't use lots of fancy formatting and graphics unless it is appropriate for the job
      • Do make sure the resume is clean and clear with nice margins and spacing that makes it easy to read.
      • Customize to the position. You don't need to rewrite for every job, just cut and paste from a master document.
      • Make sure somewhere there is a chronological list of your recent work experience. Explain any breaks in employment.
      • Don't use a ten dollar word if a 25 cent word will work. I hate feeling like someone is testing my vocabulary skills. Use words and language appropriate to the position or a level above. Nobody wants a pompous sounding receptionist - you get the idea.
      • Proofread, proofread, proofread. In this day and age of word processing software and spell check, errors are not acceptable.
      • Remember, like the interview, the recruiter will assume this is the best they will ever see you.
      • Keep the cover letter short and to the point
      • Finally, as mentioned in an early post, you better have a really good reason for going over 3 pages.
    A good rant is cathartic. Ranting is what keeps me sane. They always come from a different place. Take the prime minister, for example. Sometimes when I rant about him, I am angry; other times, I am just severely annoyed - it's an important distinction. - Rick Mercer

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