I was recently reminded that for some hiring managers, resumes are much more than introductory candidate calling cards that list employers, roles, dates and places. Rather, they are viewed as actual proxies for their authors and judged accordingly. These judgments can be harsh and quite unfair.
Many hiring managers read resumes in a cursory manner. They review the companies and roles that candidates have filled over their careers while making note of education levels, stability, the quality/consistency of overall career trajectory, and purported skills, knowledge and competencies. If the sum total of first impressions meets whatever minimum threshold has been set, the candidates are invited to participate in more detailed screening. The resume is a lever that cracks open the door for the candidate to walk through.
Some hiring managers however are far more discerning when screening resumes. Recently, as I was reviewing a roster of candidate resumes with a first-time client, he noted the preponderance of ‘fluff’ over ‘facts’. He liked to see resumes that noted specific accomplishments, impacts on improved revenues, higher profits, greater operational efficiencies or other business measures. These were the ‘facts’ that matter to this individual. The client conjectured that resumes focused exclusively on ‘inputs’ (responsibilities and tasks) likely did so because they had few notable ‘outputs’ (accomplishments) to reference.
This client also commented liberally on the overall layout and clutter of certain resumes and made judgments about individuals’ clarity of expression/verbosity, their attention to detail, their grammar and spelling. He made whole person inferences from scattered points of information. Though many were at best, a stretch, he was firm on the conclusions he drew. The door simply never opened for several seemingly good candidates on that day as their written bios, and by extension they, were found lacking.
The lesson for job seekers is pay attention to the resume you prepare. Get advice on content and form. Don’t try to be all things to all people …. Know the overall narrative/themes you are trying to communicate and how they position you for the roles you covet. Know how you want to deal with the facts versus fluff issue, and why. Proofread your resume carefully and have someone check the grammar and spelling. Make sure your resume represents the best you, your story and aspirations. Remember, all manner of people will be judging, fairly, unfairly and even bizarrely.
About the Author
Robert Hebert is the founder and Managing Partner of StoneWood Group Inc., a leading executive search firm in Canada. Since 1981, he has helped firms across a wide range of sectors address their senior recruiting, assessment and leadership development requirements.