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When did we stop teaching people to write a decent resume?
I’ve been reviewing professional resumes for the last few hours. Boring doesn’t even begin to cover how mind-numbing this process is. I’m beginning to wonder if resume writing has become a lost art.
I’m trying to hire a new accountant since my current accounting office imploded. We placed an ad in the usual sources and within 30 minutes had over 10 resumes.
I was pretty stoked at those results and just knew I was going to find the perfect hire.
My enthusiasm has quickly tanked.
Resumes, especially accounting resumes are inherently boring. There just isn’t a lot you can do to make A/R, A/P, depreciation schedules, and month end closing processing exciting.
I get that, what I don’t get is some of the truly horrific resumes I received.
- There was the guy who claimed 30 years of experience. That sounds great until you realize his resume is one page, half of which lists his various jobs. Thirteen jobs in 30 years is impressive, but not the type of impressive I’m looking for. His skills were a quick list of very vague bullet points.
- Another resume had 6 lines listing his skills. As in 6 lines of skills, separated only by a period. He meshed together his account skills, with his personal qualities & applicable computer skills. It turned the six lines into one big mess that isn’t worth reviewing when you have hundreds of other resumes to read.
- I can’t even begin to list the typo’s on one resume – and this was from a CPA.
- One person didn’t include their contact information, just name, and address.
- There were multiple resumes that just weren’t visually appealing and looked like they had been slapped together on a typewriter.
All of these points make me sound overly picky and maybe I am.
Here is the deal though, at this point I have around 100 resumes to review and my assistant just texted to let me know she has gotten another 20. So those little nit-picky things are going to become my initial assessment baseline.
Those little errors are going to get your professional resume tossed in the “do not contact” pile.Little errors will get your professional resume tossed in the “do not contact” pile.Click To Tweet
These obvious errors include simple stuff like:
- a one-page resume for a senior level accounting position
- horrible formatting and general visual issues that in my mind imply a lack of computer skills
- major spelling issues
- lack of qualifications for the requested position
When I have over a hundred resumes to review I’ll even go so far as to eliminate resumes without a cover letter.
Once I have my list slightly narrowed, I grab a highlighter and start looking for keywords and phrases. I read through the resumes more carefully and again toss out ones that aren’t applicable to the job, have obvious spelling errors or major grammatical issues.
A bad resume will decrease your chances exponentially of making the first cut, particularly in this job market. If you are creating a professional resume, I recommend at minimum making sure you’ve reviewed the 8 steps below.
How to Build a Professional Resume or what an employer looks for when reviewing resumes:
1. Is the resume visually pleasing?
I’m not expecting it to be a work of art, but I want to be able to easily locate all applicable contact information. I want to know that you can use Microsoft Word well enough to at least use the prefab resume designs.
Proper spelling and punctuation is a must on any resume. If the flow isn’t easily readable, I’m going to move onto the next resume.
2. I expect job experience to be clearly delineated and a basic description of your accomplishments and skills related to that industry or job.
I want to be able to clearly see your how you’ve progressed in your career. I’m looking at dates and titles and key phrases that match your titles.
If you have a large employment gap an explanation should be included in your cover letter. One of the applicants hadn’t worked since 2006. I have no problem with hiring someone who is unemployed (I’d love someone who could start right away), but I want an explanation for employment gaps.
3. Highlight what sets you apart.
With industries like accounting, many job responsibilities may be similar from company to company. One of the applicants listed her basic skills at the top and then only highlighted areas that were different from job to job.
Instead of just highlight skills, she included her large accomplishments with each employer. I’m going to notice someone who takes A/R from 50,000 to 13,000 and keeps it at that level for 2 years.
4. Your resume is your opportunity to shine.
As you build your resume, don’t be afraid to brag about your accomplishments. I want to read about your accomplishments. I’m looking for someone who knows how to do their job. I want to hear about all of your amazing skills.
One of the applicants had also designed a website for his company and gotten involved in computer networking. As a small business manager, I love seeing people who are cross-trained. Everyone in our office wears multiple hats, so you can bet I contacted him.
5. Always include a cover letter.
Your cover letter is often the first thing a hiring manager will see. It should include a list of what I call soft skills. These are the skills that truly set you apart as an employee. I want to know that you are goal driven and detailed oriented.
This is your opportunity to talk about the intangible stuff that makes you most valuable to a company.
This is also where you can show a little bit of personality. I’m sure not everyone will agree, but I love cover letters that have a touch of humor. After reading the same old stuff over and over (after all, everyone is organized and hard-working) some basic levity is really appreciated.
Make sure your letter is short and to the point but hits the relevant points as to why you would be a valuable employee.
6. Always tailor your resume and cover letter to the actual job posting.
I’ve gotten lucky this time, but in the past, I’ve seen resumes that make me wonder if they are responding to the same job I thought I posted. If an employer asks for certain skills, they are expecting that level of skill. If you don’t have the skills don’t waste your time or the employers.
If you are working towards specific skills don’t be afraid to address this in your cover letter. We’ve been known to hire people that are almost done with degrees. Obviously, this is very specific to the situation and type of degree.
7. Always, always be honest on your resumes.
I know it is super tempting to fluff up your professional qualifications when building your resume. Resist the temptations.
You may not get caught right away, but you will.
We hired a SEO guru who we thought was going to be amazing. He lasted less than a week.
If you claim certain skill and then can’t deliver we aren’t going to train you on our dime. We may drop your salary and agree to a compromise, but once something like that occurs the trust is gone.
Be honest and forthright about your skills.
8. Make sure your social media sites are either private or clean.
I’ve run across some very unprofessional social media profiles. Unfortunately, as an employer, I have to consider your personal life when I’m going through the hiring process. If you are being rude and crude on social media, I’m going to assume that your personality is going to cause potential workplace issues.
A few of our applicants included their Linked-In profile name. We always run searched on Facebook, Google +, Twitter and Linked-In, but I appreciated them providing the information. It gives me a certain level of security in their professionalism.
Ask for help when writing a resume
I always recommend having multiple people review your resume before sending it out. You will never see all of the errors on your own.
If you struggle with writing, I highly recommend using Grammary. They have a free version that I use for literally everything I write including emails and all my blog posts. Grammary saves me hours and hours of editing time and is a wonderful resource.
You can read my Grammary review here and see why I love it so much. This is a free tool I recommend for even the best writers.
If you need professional help, I recommend companies like Resume Writer Direct. They offer a free resume critique option that I highly recommend utilizing. Taking a few minutes to have your resume reviewed can mean the difference between getting a call or having your resume tossed.
I can typically tell when someone has used a professional resume company. Their resumes are meticulously written and always look very professional.
I know it is hard to spend a bit of extra money when job searching, but your resume is the first impression a hiring manager sees. Spending the money to have a polished resume will pay off in the end.
What happens if your resume passes the second screening?
Once the resumes have made it past my second culling session, I divide them into two categories – very interested & semi-interested. I put the best resumes on top and start making phone calls.
My goal is to speak with each applicant personally.
I want a good feel for who they are and what they have to offer my company. My goal for this initial interview is to get a sense of their personality. I pull information from their resume and ask very open-ended questions.
I want them to do the vast majority of the talking. I want them to lead the conversation and show me that they have skills, talents, and direction. Typically these conversations will take 15-30 minutes and if I’m pleased with the result I’ll ask them to come in for a formal interview.
I conducted three phone interviews today – I got lucky. I’m interested in all three of them. All of them were articulate on the phone. They were able to answer my questions without hesitation and quite frankly all of them seemed to know more about accounting then me – which is a huge plus.
They, in turn, asked intelligent questions which is hard to do when you are put on the spot and don’t even know anything about the company who is contacting you.
The Formal Interview Process
Our formal interviews are typically conducted by at least two people. Our goal is to assess their skills, but more importantly, we want to get to know them personally.
We have an amazing culture at our office and the goal is to find people who will add to our culture. People who will work well with other, but aren’t afraid to step up and take responsibility. We don’t have time to micromanage and must have employees who are very skilled and self-directed.
Once we have done the formal interview we will check references and bring them in for 2-3 additional interviews. I’ve learned over the years to always have my boss John Shufeldt do the final interview. I’m not sure how he does it, but he has an instinctive way of spotting problem people.
I’ve sat in on his interviews and I think the reason he can spot the bad apples is because he asks different questions that bring out their personality.
I’m focused on their skills, but he asks them questions about their reading habits, he wants to know the most recent book they’ve read and what they enjoyed about it. He jokes around with them and gets a feel for how they react when the interview goes off the typical path. He has a way of getting to know them on a personal level that doesn’t typically happen in interviews.
Hiring new employees is always risky business. I’ve found over the years that if we take the time to make sure the new hire is an actual fit, we always come out ahead.
Rushing to hire even when you are desperate will almost always lead to poor hires.
Always do the following during the job hiring process:
- Take the time to review resumes in depth
- Do a basic screening interview via phone
- Conduct at least 2-3 in person interviews
- Always check reference, which includes doing a basic internet search
- I also recommend conducting back-ground checks and drug testing.
Let me know if you have any suggestions for our hiring process. I’m always open to new ideas.
Photo Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/gottgraphicsdesign/
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