Telling the Right Story with Your Resume

Recently I was talking with a candidate who was concerned about how taking his next job might impact the way his resume is perceived by potential future employers. I thought to myself, what a great thought to have. Fortunately for this candidate, I don’t think the move does anything to adversely impact his resume. However it does beg the questions, is taking this job allowing me to tell the right story of my career on my resume? It’s a question I don’t think people ask themselves enough and it’s a question I believe you need to ask yourself before you ever accept a new role.

Whether you like it or not, when you accept a new role it becomes part of what future employers will look at for the rest of your life. It becomes an indelible mark on your life’s work and in virtually every interview moving forward you are going to have to answer questions about it. Why did you leave ABC company to go to XYZ company? I see you used to be a (insert role) but then you took a job as a (insert newer role), why did you do that. Questions like these and more are standard components to early phone screens with the people who decide whether or not you get further in the process and therefor you have to be able to answer these questions.

Whenever I consider a role I think to myself, how can I paint this move in a positive light to future employers? If the answer doesn’t sound right, you really have to consider the ripples it will have moving forward. For example if you are in a senior role or a people manager role  currently and you take a role that is neither senior nor managing people, you better believe every recruiter in the world who sees your resume is going to wonder why you did that. Were you laid off? Could you not handle the responsibility and therefor decided to take a step back? These are all logical questions really, if you think about it. What is unfortunate is that not only can it be hard to explain and answer these questions, but for certain roles it will also keep you from getting that first interview. Recruiters and hiring managers alike will look at your resume and make their own assumptions and perhaps pass on you as a candidate.

The takeaway here is to think about the story you tell with your resume. Too often people consider the company, the salary or the benefits but don’t realize the other impacts their decisions may have. There are indeed times when this makes sense, perhaps it’s a great company or it’s working for a manager you are dying to work with. In those cases maybe you make the move anyway but make sure you consider the consequences. Another thing to consider is that perhaps the company would be willing to offer you the title that makes more sense for you. Maybe you apply for a Mechanical Engineer role but the title you really want is Senior Mechanical Engineer because you already hold the title Mechanical Engineer at your current company. This is something you might be able to negotiate. Perhaps you let them know that while you are very interested and feel like you would be able to make a measurable impact right away, you have decided that in order to move you would need for the role to be in a Senior or Lead capacity.  Have any of you ever been in this position or took a role that you later regretted because it was hard to explain your rational?

Interview with Epic CV

Recently I did a Q&A session with Epiccv.com , a website that focuses on resumes. The questions were asked by Epic CV and the answers were my responses. Please feel free to review and let me know your thoughts on my answers. If you have any questions or follow ups please feel free to let me know as well!

Q: What are the three most common mistakes applicants make in their resumes? 

A: For me some of the things I see frequently are poor formatting, having an objective (often different from the job they applied to) and spelling errors. For me all three of these can potentially be deal breakers. Poorly formatted resumes and resumes that contain grammatical errors show a lack of attention to detail, which is never a good thing when you are looking to make a hire. The objective to me is a big error I see frequently and I always advise people to get rid of it. The reason I say get rid of it is that you stand to gain nothing from having it but it can derail your chances to land the job. If I have a posting for a Mechanical Engineer for example and your objective says mechanical engineer as well, it really does nothing for your chances of getting an interview. However if it says design engineer and isn’t a match I might be inclined to pass.

Q:  How much time do you spend on one resume at first glance after you receive it? 

A: The first glance is about ten seconds. In that time I determine if they are someone I am passing on or if they are worth further consideration. If in that ten seconds I see things that lead me to believe they could be a potential fit then I invest more time looking at their resume.

Q: What is the first thing you look for in a resume?

A: The first thing I usually look for is that if it is well put together. Is this resume aesthetically pleasing and does it demonstrates a professional put time into making this look presentable.  The next thing I look at is their most recent job title, that is usually a good indicator of whether or not I should be reader further.

Q : What are the three main eliminating factors of a resumes you review?

A: Spelling errors, long gaps in employment without explanation and lack of detail from previous jobs.

Q: What are the three main attributes in a resume of a candidate that will be called for an interview?

A: I look for experience that matches the role I am currently recruiting for, solid work history  and the technical expertise that match requirements.

Q: What do you think of graphic and video resumes?

A: I think while it could be a way to stand out, most of the time you are better suited to have a well put together standard resume that highlights you as a professional and is submittal to the average ATS.

Q: What do you think of a functional resume format?

A: I prefer candidates to have a functional section as opposed to doing the formatting as entirely functional. When that is the case I find myself looking for employment history and not giving full attention the functional portion.

Q:  Can you share up to five quick tips for applicants in order to pass ATS screening?

A: Make sure you match keywords from the job description in your resume, use standard colors and fonts, make sure you spell check, explain gaps in employment and if you are going to have an objective on your resume make sure it matches the job you are applying for.

Q:  What is your position on photos on resumes?

A: perhaps I am boring but I am against it. I have seen many resumes with pictures on them and never once have I thought to myself, “oh good, this person put their picture on their resume”. Frankly if it doesn’t help  you get an interview then it doesn’t belong on your resume.

Q:  Why is professional resume writing service worth a couple of hundreds of dollars? 

A: To answer that question I think all you have to do is ask yourself a question back, “what is the value you place on getting the job you want?” For me that is certainly worth an investment of a few hundred dollars. The market is so competitive these days that if you don’t put yourself in the best possible situation to be successful, you won’t be.

Q:  What is your opinion regarding resume length?

A: 1 to 2 pages. I wouldn’t advocate it be any longer than that. I have been recruiting for 6 years and my resume is one page in length.

Q: What are the three main points, undergraduates or fresh graduates, need to present in their resume?

A: They need to do a really good job of highlighting the skills they have built up from school and perhaps from internships. Coming into the workforce you wont have years and years to draw upon but you can most likely find value in the courses you took. For example if you are trying to get a job as a software engineer and you got a computer engineering degree, you want to make sure you find a way to incorporate the projects you worked on during your schooling as well as the languages you have built up experience with.

Q:  What do you advice to your clients regarding references?

A: Your career is just as much about building relationships as it is about accumulating skills, make sure you don’t burn bridges so that you have contacts down the road. As far as your resume is concern, leave any mention of references. I think outing references available upon request is pointless. If the company requires references they are going to ask for them regardless of what you put on your resume.

Q:  And what about cover letters?

A: I may be in the minority here but unless a job specifically asks for a cover letter I skip it. As a recruiter I hardly ever look at them. Besides if the employer asks for them the one other exception I would say is that if you have a long period of unemployment, or something else that merits explanation it might be a good idea to include a cover letter. You can use the cover letter to explain the gap, why it happened, why it isn’t a concern for your future employer and why you are a good fit for the role etc.

Q: What is your advice on making employment gaps less prominent on a resume?

A: The one thing I look for is an explanation as to what you did with your time. I always tell people if they are laid off, take courses or volunteer, do something with that time along with looking for a new role. Then when it’s time to explain that gap you have something that adds value.

Q:  What would you like to see in resumes more often?

A: I would say I would like to see more keywords. I work on a lot of technical roles and I love it when a programmer lists all of the languages they have used. It really makes my job easier on the front end.

Q: What are the most irrelevant parts of a resume for you?

A: This would be a tie between the objective portion and any resume that has “references available upon request” on it.

 

Q: Do you check online presence of a candidate exclusively through links provided on a resume or you dig deeper?

A: I always go to LinkedIn but that is as far as I go.

Q:  In the end, please add a couple of sentences about resumes for our readers.

A: One of the things that can get you noticed is quantifiable results. A bullet that says “saved my company 100k by reducing downtime 15% over a 1 year period by implementing a new lean procedure during a Kiazan event” lets the prospective employer see that you have accomplished things and it gives them an idea about what you can do for them.

Video Interviews (Why Companies Use them & How You Beat Them)

As a recruiter the type of interview I get the most push back on is video interviewing. People hate doing them. Some people don’t like the way they look on their computer and some people don’t like the feeling of talking to a computer screen. The advice I would give to those people is that you better get used to it. More and more companies are utilizing video interviews because of the cost saving ramifications and the convenience they afford the hiring team.

Types of Video Interview

So when most people think about video interviews they think about your standard video interview in which you are speaking with someone live, usually via Skype of some other video service. And while yes, currently this is the most used, some companies are using another format of video interviewing where you are answering prerecorded questions. At my last company we had implemented this for most of the technical roles we were recruiting for. These interviews would usually have about 5-10 questions, a mix of standard interview questions and technical questions, usually determined by the hiring manager and the recruiter.

So why do companies use these?

The main reason companies use interviews like these is that they expedite the process. For example a typical hiring process is a recruiter interview followed by a hiring manager (these first two done over the phone) followed by a final onsite interview where you might end up meeting with several people. The problem with that is that process can take a really long time. So if a company was to substitute the 2nd round with a prerecorded interview you can have all the hiring managers questions answered and save a lot of time.

Instead of worrying about scheduling another phone interview, the recruiter simply sends you a link that can be completed at your discretion. Often that means completing it that very same day which can remove one to two weeks from the process. In addition to that, most people can get a better sense of if the person is going to be a fit when they watch them as opposed to just listen to them.

How to Beat them

While video interviews can be intimidating I have a few simple guidelines I recommend so that you can make sure that you come out on top.

  1. Make sure you prepare as you would for any other interview. The video specific tips aren’g going to help at all if you aren’t ready to answer the questions asked of you.
  2. Make sure that you practice using the software or platform beforehand. If you need an account make sure to register well in advance. If its as simple as logging, try to log on early so that the beginning of your interview isn’t fixing technical issues.
  3. Make sure that the area is well lit and you are visible. Don’t be too far away or too close. Make sure that you it is easy for the hiring manager to see you.
  4. Have a clear wall behind you for the interview. Perhaps you are the worlds greatest Backstreet Boys fan, that’s great, but nobody wants to see their poster on your wall behind you while u=you explain how you are capable of contributing to an organization. WIndows are bad as well, they can be an unnecessary distraction.
  5. Dress as if it was an onsite interview. Just because you are in your home doesn’t mean you get to wear your pajamas. Dress to impress, they can see you after all.
  6. Be confident. People sometimes get nervous seeing themselves or even just because its something they haven’t done before. Don’t let it throw you off your game. Know that it is weird for some of the managers doing it as well and put your best foot forward. Speak loudly, clearly and be sure of yourself and your accomplishments.

So there you have it. You know why companies use them and you now know how to beat them! Good luck!