Résumé Wackiness

So I recently decided to move to a new city, as I result I quit my job as an IT Manager. One of the last tasks I had was to place advertisements, read resumes, and interview prospective replacements. It had been a while since I had hired anyone and usually I had HR sifting through the first round of resumes. This time however, I was it, this company had no HR department. Considering that the position was not an entry level position I assumed that the people who would be applying for the job would know how to write a résumé, I was wrong, I was very very wrong. After tweeting out my frustrations many people asked what exactly I was seeing, so here it is.

First let me explain the what the job was. The company in question was a small 30+ person creative company. They had a mix of mostly PCs with a smattering of Macs, all authenticating against an Active Directory domain. They had a file server, a firewall, a security and telephone system, and a few other unusual tech pieces which is pretty much the same in any company. They needed one person to handle it all. I had already done most of the hard work by upgrading and organizing the mess that was there when I arrived several years earlier. The job needed someone to handle everything from paper jams and software updates to managing the VPN and telling the CEO what new technologies he should be looking at. Not an entry level job but not a CIO either.

The job description was initially posted to Craig’s List and then to Linked-In. One thing about my experience hiring for this position that was different than hiring elsewhere was that all the résumés came directly to me. No one filtered them out before hand. Résumés from Craig’s List came in one big bunch at first followed by a big surge from Linked-In. I would say I got 80% of all the resumes I received within a week of posting both ads. Linked-In seemed to have the longest tail with résumés arriving at a pretty steady rate for about two weeks although some people were still responding to the Craig’s List ad up to three weeks later. If you are looking for a job I would recommend looking for new listings daily. In this particular case we went from job posting to job offer in three weeks. People who applied during the third week did not get the same consideration as those that applied during the first week. The job was listed on a Tuesday and I was already interviewing people on that Friday. I suspect in some companies they may wait until they get all the submissions and then start going through them, however every position I have ever hired has been a ‘We need to fill this position now, get them in as soon as possible’. I’ve never had time to collect a bunch of résumés and then leisurely sort through them.

As for the résumés themselves… well, I was surprised. People seem to have forgotten what the résumé is for, it serves one purpose and one purpose only, to get the interview. That’s it. You will not get hired for any job based on how good your résumé is, what you might get is an interview. For the record I received over 80 résumés in three weeks. With that kind of competition you really need make sure your résumé is going to get you that interview. Out of those 80 applicants I actually brought in and interviewed eight people. I don’t know if that can be extrapolated to the wider job market as a whole but 10% sounds about right to me.

Something else that people seem to forget is that a real person is actually going to read the résumé eventually. All those buzzwords you use to get caught in the HR search engine are going to read like crap when a real person tries to decipher the buzzword and jargon filled ten page diatribe you submitted as a résumé. Which brings me to my third surprise, length. Seriously I see no reason at all to go beyond three pages, ever. In my book two is acceptable but if you really want to impress me go with one page. I received exactly one résumé that was one page long. Guess what, he got an interview. On the other end of the spectrum the longest one I got was seventeen pages and the second longest was eleven pages. I think I glanced at the first two pages of both and threw them on the ‘no’ pile.

I don’t usually check to see if a résumé has education listed, formal education does not impress me, I wasn’t hiring for an entry level position so I was looking for experience, however most people did list some sort of secondary education. It has been my experience that most schools force students to take some sort of career development class where they teach you how to write a résumé. Either most people forgot what they learned or schools are teaching shite. If you have never taken a résumé writing class or slept through that class in school find a class at your local Adult ed center and take it, or ask someone who works in HR to critique your résumé or something. Also don’t forget the cover letter. It doesn’t have to be long but I personally consider not including some sort of letter other than the résumé to be rude and lazy.

So what do I want to see on a résumé? First follow directions. If the job listing says to submit to a specific address then do so, don’t just hit reply on the Craigs List ad. This really upset me, if you can’t follow simple directions why should I hire you? Unfortunately it happened way to many times. At least half the résumés went to the wrong address.

The résumé should be easy to read. This should go without saying. This was for an IT Manager position not a graphic designer. Multiple colors and wacky fonts with strange layouts do not impress me. They go straight to the No pile.

If you are applying for an IT Manager position and your last job was a CTO then you are probably a bit over qualified and will end up in the No pile. If you are not really a CTO but just gave yourself the title because you are the only tech guy where you work, don’t. If you are applying for a lower position than you currently have then dumb down your résumé. If I think you are just going to jump ship as soon as you find something more on your level I’m not going to hire you. I probably got 20 or so résumés that list CTO or CIO as their last job, almost all of them wet straight to the ‘No’ pile.

I received one résumé with no job history at all, just a list of certifications and schools. This guy had every cert I think I had ever heard of. There were more acronyms than words on the page. I got nothing against certs, and if you got ‘em put on there, they can’t hurt, unless they are the only thing you have. Personally I want to see experience. Even when I am hiring for an entry level position where applicants are likely to have no relevant experience I still want to see job history. Even if it is landscaper, Burger King and Best Buy, list it. I want to know that someone else thought you were worth hiring and that you could keep that job.

And speaking of experience the first thing I look for is job titles, make sure those stick out some how on the résumé. I want to see job titles and I want to see dates of employment. If you only list the year like say 2005-2006 and those years aren’t very far apart I’m going to get suspicious. I mean I’m a tech guy I understand people jump around a lot but if I see four jobs in three years there better be a logical progression of positions or you will end up in the ‘No’ pile.

Oh, and a biggie, fix ALL typos and grammar errors. The résumé should reflect your absolute best work, a typo, spelling error or simple grammar mistake probably won’t kill your chance at an interview but it won’t help and there is no reason for it. Get someone else to proof read it for you. Personally I suck at spelling and grammar, so much so that the way I write got its own name, ‘Spaceronics’, but there is no excuse for such mistakes on a résumé.

So if you want to get called in for an interview for a position I am hiring for keep the résumé short, three pages max, easy to read, highlight job titles and dates of employment and try to make your work history as relevant as possible. Dumb it down or smarten it up as necessary (Do NOT lie on the résumé, ever!) For a bonus make sure it prints out well. I think anyone who follows those steps and applies for a position they are somewhat qualified for should at least get a phone call. Good Luck.

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About Space Rogue

Space Rogue is widely sought after by journalists and industry analysts for his unique views and perceptions of the information security industry. He has been called to testify before the Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs and has been quoted in numerous magazine and newspaper articles as well as appeared on such TV shows as News Hour with Jim Lehrer, CNN Nightly News, ABC News Online with Sam Donaldson, and others. A recognized name within the industry, Space Rogue has written articles that are often quoted or refered to by other major media outlets. He has spoken before numerous audiances including the Digital Messageing Association, Defcon, Pumpcon, HOPE, H2K, and others. As a former member of L0pht Heavy Industries, Space Rogue ran the widely popular Hacker News Network which quickly became a major resource on the Internet for daily information security news. Before HNN he ran the The Whacked Mac Archives, which at the time, was the largest and the most popular Macintosh security site on the net. Currently Space Rogue does consulting for various companies.

3 thoughts on “Résumé Wackiness

  1. I have been in a position where I have had to sift through resume’s when I worked for a small company. I can tell you I definitely agree with you about job experience. I don’t care where you went to school, what your GPA was, or what certificates you have that say you’re a Mr. (or Mrs.) Smarty Pants. What it really comes down to is are you competent enough to do the job, especially if it requires self-learning? I have heard many stories of these “no” people out there when they come across a problem they can’t solve without wasting time on a training course or such. Industry is living in times where we need “yes” people.

    I personally keep my resume to 1 page as well and use my website as supplementary information to keep the paper less lengthy, and make it easier to update information for employers to see. It is a nice portfolio to demonstrate my own competency (or lack of it if you find me so). As for length… it all depends. I have heard people that work for government jobs say recruiters want to know everything about you, which may explain the 11 page resumes. Otherwise I think 1 page is a good rule of thumb for the private sector. If you can’t put enough bells and whistles on the first page of your resume to catch someone’s attention, then you’re probably full of it anyway.

  2. ^ he has been in more positions than he is willing to admit here.

  3. Pingback: Resume Insights (Wackiness) | Above Technical

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