how to revise a resume
February 25, 2008 9:55 PM   Subscribe

A Resume Experiment. In which career blog JibberJobber responds to a request for resume help by assembling a team of hiring managers and professional resume writers to review the document: Part 1 : Introduction | Part 2: First Impressions/Reactions | Part 3: Formatting the Resume | Part 4: Content is King | Part 5: Wrap Up
posted by Anonymous (36 comments total)
I hate the whole idea of resumes. It just seems like this big pointless charade that everyone on both sides of the table finds distasteful but has to participate in anyway out of some archaic sense of tradition. I mean, who really gives a fuck if you were an Eagle Scout or in the glee club or where you worked 12 years ago? Are you really "hard working" or "conscientious" or "deadline/goal oriented" or whatever because you write it, and is it a good way to make decisions on your potential livelihood based on how many bullshit buzzword adjectives you can write about yourself or how falsely important you can make that inane tech support call center job you had when you were 19 where you spent most of the day linking to on web forums sound? It's a bullshit-fest. Interview me and I'll tell you what I have done and can do, and call my references to check on it. Simple.
posted by DecemberBoy at 10:22 PM on February 25, 2008 [3 favorites]

Interview me and I'll tell you what I have done and can do, and call my references to check on it. Simple.

If your resume doesn't list the things you've done, and can do, then you should update it so that it does list those things. I don't know if tech jobs are different from everything else out there but my resume has nothing but bullshit-free content in it.
posted by hupp at 10:36 PM on February 25, 2008 [1 favorite]

My CV is, and always will be, one page long.
posted by meech at 10:47 PM on February 25, 2008 [1 favorite]

Yeah sure, but few companies have time to interview all applicants. Some filter is needed.

I'd think the key elements of a resume should be that it lists genuine accomplishments and tasks that can be verified. And shows the applicant's organizational and creative skills (in content mainly and somewhat in the document itself.) Some of the 'experts' go along those lines; also some good advice I'd never thought of... If I didn't live in a messed-up prejudiced world where knowing someone was the ONLY way to get your foot in the door unless you happen to fit some slob's strange biases I'd really appreciate the good advice.

There is this gem on page 3, which I'm sure will resonate with everyone:

"if you are a member of the KKK you shouldn’t put it on your resume"


If ONLY I'd been WARNED, ahhhh shucks back to cleaning old man Thurmond's boots :(
posted by oblio_one at 10:51 PM on February 25, 2008

I sure hope his resume is better structured than his blog. That's a real dog's breakfast of formatting, making a simple enough conceptual structure far more complex than it need be.

*files it in the circular bin*
posted by UbuRoivas at 11:20 PM on February 25, 2008

circular file.
posted by UbuRoivas at 11:23 PM on February 25, 2008

"if you are a member of the KKK you shouldn’t put it on your resume"

Well, that depends wholly on what type of organization you are applying to.
posted by parallax7d at 11:27 PM on February 25, 2008 [1 favorite]

Interview me and I'll tell you what I have done and can do, and call my references to check on it. Simple.

The angst in your post is just terrible. It shows you don't have an appreciation for the duties, responsibilities, and time constraints of hiring managers and the team members who participate in the interview process.

Time is finite. I cannot interview every person who e-mails me and asks for an interview. I need something that tells me, "This guy might be a fit for the position. I should schedule some time out of my day, and my team's day, to talk to him and see if he's the right guy for the position and fits with the team as well." If I have time for three interview sessions in a week, and I get resumes from three people who did some great stuff at Awesome Company Whose Work I Respect, and I don't know anything about you, guess who gets those time slots?

Maybe you worked there, too, or somewhere else where you were involved in a really badass product or project . . . but how the hell am I supposed to know that? Is it fair to my time, my team's time, or the other applicants to bring you in without knowing anything other than your name? Tell me why I should give you time instead of the other guys. That is the point of a resume. It sounds egotistical because it is: I have to manage my time and the time of everyone else involved in interviewing you. I don't know you. Why should I include you in the hiring process? Tell me who you are. Tell me a story that doesn't make me want you to come in, but gives me no choice but to bring you in and figure out if you're really as good as it looks.

And why are you putting stuff you think is useless in your resume? If you don't want to put bullshit in your resume, don't put bullshit in your resume. In fact, the less bullshit you put in your resume, the more I want to talk to you. Can you get through the HR firewall without some level of pompous junk? Of course not, but that doesn't mean your resume should be of detritus from top to bottom.
posted by secret about box at 11:30 PM on February 25, 2008 [10 favorites]

It is amazing to me how good writing - even correct spelling of simple words - doesn't seem to matter at all anymore.

These are all career professionals. If they don't see the point in attending to those details, what does that say about society in general?

Does it even matter?

Otherwise: after picking through the awkward formatting and overly liberal sprinkling of linkage, there's some good advice in here that could help many frustrated job seekers pull themselves together and quit fighting with their resumes.
posted by batmonkey at 11:32 PM on February 25, 2008

Tell me a story that doesn't make me want you to come in, but gives me no choice but to bring you in and figure out if you're really as good as it looks.

I wanted to add to this.

If you aren't seasoned in Area X yet, communicate to me that you're capable of getting there! I want to hire someone who is capable of taking my job in less than five years, because that person is valuable. Smart people rule, and every piece of information that shows me where to find them, the better.

A good resume tells a story about its author and compels a hiring manager to make contact. (After bearing the admittedly shitty HR gauntlet. [1]) It describes where you came from, where you are, and where you're going.

[1] I do want to make myself clear that getting through HR isn't rosy, and may usually requires some of the techniques people perceive (both rightly and wrongly) as bullshit. But there's a very real and worthwhile purpose to crafting a resume, and I hope I got that across well enough to change your mind on the process.
posted by secret about box at 11:48 PM on February 25, 2008 [2 favorites]

"Interview me and I'll tell you what I have done and can do, and call my references to check on it. Simple."

Spoken as someone who obviously has no clue how many dozens or hundreds of resumes are received in response to one open job position. It is impossible to interview everyone who applies for an opening, especially if your job includes other duties besides hiring.
posted by Jacqueline at 12:09 AM on February 26, 2008

My CV is three pages long and growing. And I keep getting jobs. Go figure.
posted by imperium at 12:21 AM on February 26, 2008 [1 favorite]

Yeah, I actually like the advice here, but it seems most useful to people who work in offices. As a freelance creative professional, I've worked at a ton of companies on a ton of different projects. Frankly, if my resume included bullets points on each job I'd worked, it would be 12 pages long, instead of just two.

Luckily, it's mostly my reputation and reel that get me jobs. I've gotten more jobs from phone calls from random producer X calling and saying "I asked my friend, producer Y [whom I'd worked for in the past], and he recommended you. Can you come interview?" than anything else.
posted by MythMaker at 12:34 AM on February 26, 2008

imperium writes "My CV is three pages long and growing. And I keep getting jobs. Go figure."

Why do you keep leaving them ?
posted by elpapacito at 1:49 AM on February 26, 2008 [2 favorites]

A favourite of mine is candidates who email PDF or Word resumés. Like the one on the blog.

If I have the software, by the time it fires up and loads your document, I have read 5 other, and found someone I might like. Plain text is best, bold and italics are acceptable.

For the last year or so we have been hiring a lot at my company, and I've seen enough resumes for the next 10 years. The most important tip I found here is from Steve Levy: My mantra for resumes is to eliminate non-essential ink.

Freelance creatives have portfolios and recommendations, technical people should have technical resumes.

And a very important one: Don't say you are an expert at X if you are not an expert at X. You know what expert means. I still have feelings for that AS3 "expert" we flew in for an interview, to have him say "AS 3, OK, well, I have done mostly AS 2, but not really with classes and objects and stuff, more like you did in AS 1". His resume was neat, and his website had some cool animations.

I am still waiting for a resume that says something like "Not an expert on X, but learned enough X in 2 weeks to go from 'hello world' to a working prototype".
posted by Dr. Curare at 1:52 AM on February 26, 2008 [1 favorite]

All these "experts" struck me as standard corporate blowhards. They need to sell themselves to and legitimize their expertise so they'll say anything to that end.

If you are going to hire someone to do your resume why not go the whole nine and hire a interview coach as well?
posted by Student of Man at 2:01 AM on February 26, 2008

Okay, I suppose some filter is necessary to determine if the applicant is at least literate. Still, it seems like many management types expect "goal-oriented" type bullshit even if they know it's bullshit. I own and operate a small business, so I'm currently in a position to hire people, but I haven't had to as I still have the employees I inherited from the previous owner and have no reason to replace them unless one of them gets hit by a bus or something.
posted by DecemberBoy at 2:02 AM on February 26, 2008

The hiring process where I work:
  1. Demonstrate that you possess the technical skills necessary for the job by giving examples of where you've used said skills at former jobs.
  2. If you have no prior practical experience with a particular skill, you'll need to demonstrate your aptitude in some other way. Certifications help. Lacking that, relevant coursework with solid grades may do in a pinch.
  3. Recognize that your personal growth is nowhere on the list of corporate priorities.
  4. Don't be an asshole in the interview.
It's really not that hard.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:05 AM on February 26, 2008

Recognize that your personal growth is nowhere on the list of corporate priorities.

What's your stock ticker? I'd like to sell short. Any company that can't figure out the retaining and improving their current workforce is infinitely preferable to hiring can't be long for this world.
posted by srt19170 at 5:59 AM on February 26, 2008 [1 favorite]

I have not yet had a resume as I spent 5 years working for a friend of the family and then spent the last 13 working for my own company. But now my business is folding so this post is particularly apropos. The comments mostly mirror those I have made in reviewing resumes of people I have hired, but its convenient to have them all in one place.

Thanks lalex!
posted by shothotbot at 6:10 AM on February 26, 2008

Why didn't he show the updated resume? Pah.
posted by MarkC at 6:12 AM on February 26, 2008

All these "experts" struck me as standard corporate blowhards. They need to sell themselves to and legitimize their expertise so they'll say anything to that end.

It would be fun to generate variations of a resume for the same person, based on the advice of different 'experts'. Using a different name and contact info, send it to 100 big companies, just to see which 'candidate' gets the calls.

Let's get all scientific on their asses.
posted by Dr. Curare at 6:26 AM on February 26, 2008 [2 favorites]

This is why I like the CV better than the resume. Resume = everything I've done; CV = everything I've done that is relevant to the job I am applying for. No need to gloss over a specific old job to make it sound better; if it doesn't help don't add it in there.

Of course a solid resume/CV with a crappy cover letter isn't going to help anyone. The cover letter is your one chance to explain why anyone should bother looking at your application in the first place. If you can't put together one or two short, solid paragraphs that succinctly state why you are qualified for the position, you're kind of out of luck, aren't you?

Best advice I ever heard about these kinds of things (meaning any situation in which people have large stacks of applicants to screen in short amounts of time - from HR jobs to grant reviews) is to remember that the person/people looking at your application is looking for ANY excuse to immediately triage your document, either to trash it or to move it to the short list of potential follow-ups. That first glance is the important one. Typos, errors, smudges, grammatical mistakes, attempts to be cute, etc. will all land you in the circular file. If it gets through round 1 you have a chance that someone will read it carefully to see what you actually have to say.
posted by caution live frogs at 6:31 AM on February 26, 2008

caution live frogs, you are using the terms resume and CV exactly backwards from what I have always seen. Wikipedia says "a résumé may or may not be represented by the person as a complete history of themselves without omission, whereas a curriculum vitae usually implies that there are no omissions, and in particular, no temporal gaps between listed items."
posted by grouse at 7:37 AM on February 26, 2008

I received some of the best resume advice in my entire life from the CFO of a large broadcasting firm in New Jersey, and I'll share it here even though it's probably stupid of me to do this because it's kind of one of those "if everybody does this it won't work anymore" sort of things. kind of like running your diesel on veg. or something.

Anyway, I've always done this, and you have to have a proper seasoning of bravado to make this work, but my resume is four pages long.

It's a bi-fold sort of thing, thick, blue-ish paper. The front page is just my name and contact info, with a brief title that I made up to describe what I do as well as a brief biographical statement.

Followed by three pages of information.

But, you say, "One page resume! Thick white paper!" And to this I reply, "Yes, please do." Because I will forever be, "That one dude with the blue, four page resume."

As in, "Fuck me, I've got eighty-fucking-five resumes for this position. Wanna help me go through these?" "Um, well, not really, but wtf is that blue thing in the middle of the pile? Lemme see that."

And in the ten seconds they spend randomly grabbing five resumes out of the stack, you will have achieved top-of-mind branding in the monstrous pile of one-page white professional resumes they have to sort through.

At least, someone might say, "This person must have cojones, to turn in a resume like this. Call them. This might be funny."

Please disagree with me. Your line-toeing for the army of the one-page white resume only heightens the gleaming illumination of my Beautiful Blue Four Page Resume.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 8:53 AM on February 26, 2008 [3 favorites]

also please don't favorite that comment.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 8:53 AM on February 26, 2008 [1 favorite]

So this guy is perfectly capable of tearing apart how someone's resume looks on paper, but doesn't realize how 5px white on black with dark red highlights looks on a webpage?
posted by casarkos at 9:42 AM on February 26, 2008 [2 favorites]

Sending resumes in response to job postings is kind of like hitting a bullet with a bullet, but, in the name of due diligence, must be done.

However, the resume you send in will be just one of 85 fucking resumes.

However, the most effective way to get a job you like, and feel good about the process of getting that job, is to knock on doors and approach the hidden job market. And, like it or not, your resume is your main marketing tool.

I often try to help "New Canadians" (usually known as immigrants) get work in their chosen field. The other day, hoping to get feedback, I sent the resume of a Korean IT project manager to a friend who is the CEO of an IT services company. Here is what he said about the resume:

I found the resume on the weaker side because of the following reasons (in no particular order):

- The Accomplishments section is good, but fails to differentiate [KokuRyu's friend] from all of the other IT Project Managers that are looking for work. It may be best to come up with 2 to 4 sentences that reach out and grab the readers attention.

- There are a few English problems (words that are plural that should not be, and vice versa, and a few awkward phrases). This should be cleaned up.

- Too much jargon is used. The best example is W2K. I actually have Windows 2000 Professional on my own notebook, and it took a couple of minutes to figure out that's what that meant -- I kept thinking that was a Y2K typo. Too many acronyms makes me think that the person doesn't know what they stand for, or is too lazy to spell it out. General rule of thumb with acronyms is spell it out and define the acronym the first time, and then use the shortened form thereafter.

- Given that all of the education and experience is Korean, there will be some doubt about ability to work in English (some of the previous points don't help that concern as well). Acknowledge this concern and deal with it directly.

- I'm also not sure what [KokuRyu's friend] likes, what she is specifically looking for. Given that there are so many opportunities for work, especially for a good Project Manager, what projects does she like, or what are the elements of projects that she likes. There is little personality or character that is exhibited in this resume, and it is difficult to know what direction she is headed in, or wants to head in.

- Project Managers typically demand a higher salary, have lots of responsibility and authority. This must be clearly demonstrated, and particular pains should be taken to document this in some detail. My opinion is that 2 pages it too light to do this -- I would normally expect 3 to 4 pages for a PM's resume.

posted by KokuRyu at 9:44 AM on February 26, 2008 [2 favorites]

Wanted first to agree with Mikey-San's very complete response. The industry in which work is still learning how specialized professionals in my area need to be... The resume, which I always read completely, provides essential information that dictates the responsibilities the candidate will be able to assume from day one, the level of training that will be necessary to get them up to speed, their level of hands-on experience vs administration/coordination and by extension, the proper salary based on these items.

DecemberBoy may benefit from looking at this this way:

There is a cost involved with each candidate engagement, which includes:
-Cost of candidate management system and hiring tools
-Contact and screening time by HR
-Review of the candidate by the hiring manager
-Reading of the resume by those conducting the interviews
-Blocks of time necessary to conduct the interviews
-Time necessary for post-interview discussions
-Background checks
-Offer letter preparation and hire completion
-Percentage payment to recruiter based on 1st year salary if applicable.

Every dollar that isn't spent trying to hire you can help pay you if you're hired.
posted by VulcanMike at 11:50 AM on February 26, 2008

In the science/tech racket, I get the feeling/have had the experience that whoever gets the position has already been decided upon way before they even begin interviewing and that they are forced to interview X amount of people to abide by some HR law.
posted by peppito at 3:18 PM on February 26, 2008

I've always been told my CV is too long. That's partially because I do a lot of volunteer work in my so-called spare time.

Currently, the thing is about 4 pages long, and it needs an update. It's missing my last two volunteer projects and my most recent and current jobs (it's from 2006).

I follow most of the usual conventions, and ignore others. A 1-page CV? That's hardly enough space to make a list of the positions I've held, and certainly not enough space to actually list what I accomplished at each. Dot points? Well, I mostly use full sentences and paragraphs. I use LaTeX, not word, to write documents such as these; the typesetting often makes it stand out visually, although occasionally file formats are an issue - I have a plain text version, a html version, and a pdf version for this reason.

Also, writing a resume today, I would include a link to my resume on linkedin (which is where I have a bunch of references) and possibly a link to my professional blog.

Admittedly, it's very rare that I send out a copy of my CV off-the-cuff - its usually in response to a request generated by me giving someone a business card. Big tip: have a real email address, not a gmail or hotmail or whatever. It stands out a lot more, in a good way.

Using this approach (good business cards; long CV which breaks rules) I've looked for work for a grand total of 6 days since 2004, over the course of 3 jobs. I've had to turn down many, many job offers, because I've been happy where I was.
posted by ysabet at 3:58 PM on February 26, 2008

I am curious as to what you mean by "real" email address. I don't think it's appropriate to use your current work address, as that implies that you are job-hunting when you're supposed to be, you know, working.
I figure as long as your email address is more or less your name, and not or whatever (and it KILLS me how many supposed professional adults still have email addresses like this), you're probably ok.
posted by naoko at 8:28 PM on February 26, 2008

I tend to think that gmail is the new respectable. looks totally respectable I think. Unless your "real" domain actually somehow manages to sound more respectable (and obviously, you should not use the email of another place of work) then I don't see how is an improvement.
posted by Deathalicious at 8:57 PM on February 26, 2008 [1 favorite]

Also, respectable.
posted by Deathalicious at 8:58 PM on February 26, 2008

Eh. I work in IT; this does put a bit of a spin on this, I suppose. is alright, I suppose, but since you're more likely to have firstname.lastname_104 ... that's not quite so impressive, really.

I was also specifically talking with reference to business cards. If you've got a business card, you've paid for those, and you can afford a domain and mail forwarding service. Also, in the communities I move in, a mail address from a project you're heavily involved in (examples:,, is also considered pretty 'real'.
posted by ysabet at 2:09 PM on February 27, 2008

I just don't think that's particularly applicable outside of the IT industry.
posted by naoko at 9:47 AM on March 5, 2008

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