First Rule of Resume Writing - Think of Annie...

This morning Annie wrote to me pleading for simple and clear resumes/CV's. Annie is a UK-based recruiter. Annie, and thousands like her, spend a good deal of their day matching people to jobs, and to do that Annie reads resumes...... lot's of resumes....... thousands of resumes .....too many bloody resumes! So next time you're sending off your CV in the hope you land the dream job, think of Annie.

Annie wants to do a good job. No. I'm wrong. Annie wants to do a great job. To do this she will have a universe of possibly hundreds of people to choose from. She will take a lot of care to present people to her clients who will make her clients happy. Before she presents these people, Annie will show a lot of care about her final selection, but before that, Annie will use some shorthand to use her time efficiently.

I think Annie may have had a bad day yesterday. Her plea was from the heart. I have days like that. Here's what makes me go cold when I see a resume for the first time. I suspect Annie feels much the same:

  • The font is small. VERY small. And the line spacings are tight. I know that this has been done to keep the content to 2 pages. It meets the brief to keep to 2 pages. Sorry. Lazy thinking.
  • On top of a small font, the margins have been extended right to the edge - There is a cast-iron certainly this resume will finish bang on 2 pages.

Already I am feeling disheartened. How can anybody lack so much awareness that they think that volume equates to any level of decent communication ?...

...but I soldier on...

  • Oh NO! They've put their full address .... their date of birth ..... when they got married and the children's names ..... the dog's got distemper...I'm sorry, but I DON'T CARE. Nothing personal. I just want to know if you can do the job.
  • Now where was I? Oh yes....now where's their contact details? I can't find them. Oh bugger this for a game of soldiers. NEXT!

The next resume comes up on-screen. It's just packed with lot's of words. There's no white space. This is getting no better.

It's a hard life in recruitment.

  • I gather myself and start with the Personal Profile. It reads "I'm punctual..." Sorry. I take that as a given. "I'm hardworking and thorough...." Hmm....  "I work well in a team.....", "I'm loyal...". This really isn't telling me much.
  • Next, I look for key skills, but there's 20 listed for each job. Oh this is just too hard. Surely anybody should be able to just list 6 or 7 key skills, and I mean PROPER skills, and just tell me what they are. I know every candidate has lots of skills, but at this point, I just want to know the big skills, I can find out the rest when I interview them. This candidate is a disorganised shambles who doesn't recognise unnecessary detail when it pokes them in the eye.  NEXT!

And so it goes. Far too much detail and going way too far back in time.

If you're writing your resume, think of Annie. She's a nice person. It's just the resumes that send her to drink.

She doesn't want much:

  • A name and home town will do with contact details to start with.
  • A short personal profile that describes some of your experience and uses words that are bright and descriptive. You might even use some words of emotion or humour. Annie is human after all.
  • 6 Key skills next. Just list them. A skill doesn't take a paragraph.
  • 6 notable career achievements next. Just make them recent (ish) anything prior to 2000 is probably not relevant.
  • Then your career. Dated and in order giving your employer, job title, and responsibilities. No real need to list your achievements because you've already listed your big achievements earlier, but if you must, add no more than 2 more.
  • Don't go back further than 15 years on your career, although you can list your earlier jobs by job title, employer name and dates only.
  • Add a bit about your education, qualifications and training, then add some personal interests - but if your interests consists of "reading, meeting friends and golf", it adds no value. Don't bother. It's not a deal breaker. Remember Annie just needs to think you may have the skills and experience to do the job. She can check the details when she meets you at an interview.

It's Friday. It's been a 'bit of a week' and Annie's knackered. It's not her fault.

If you really want to contribute to Annie's health and well-being, just give her what she wants in simple form. Lot's of detail and tight writing crammed onto a page is NOT going to help you get past Annie to your dream job.

Keep things simple and clear, and Annie will be your best friend. Trust me. The cheque's in the post....

Annie is a real person. You can meet her here. No animals have been harmed in the production of this blog. Only Annie is slightly frayed round the edges, but it's the weekend. She'll be OK...until Monday.

For more stuff on resume writing:

How to write an attention grabbing personal profile

How to get your skills noticed

Get a Marmite resume or you'll be toast

Show you know how to get things done

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