The “Perfect” Resume? You Decide

by Ray Colegrave

“Resumes should be no more than one page in length…no wait a sec…2 pages is okay. But functional style is usually the best…hold on…statistics state employers prefer chronological… Hobbies and Interests are obsolete, they’re just not relevant to employers…really? Forget the Objective Statement, too much about you; use a Profile Statement instead…never include references unless…do this…never, ever do that…Arghhhhh!!!”

If you attend workshops or read articles on resumes, you will find conflicting opinions everywhere. Clients often tell me they get different suggestions from employment counsellors, including me.

My response: GREAT!

Resumes, like art and poetry, are not meant to be standardized. One size does not fit all and there is much room for creativity. There may be guidelines, but there are no unbreakable rules. Different ideas are good; pick and choose the ones you like.

Let’s take a look at some areas of resume debate:

Chronological vs. Functional vs. Hybrid

This one’s discussed to pieces. If you are applying within your career field and have extensive experience…blah, blah, blah…chronological; fresh out of post-secondary with little experience or changing careers…blah, blah, blah…functional.

The reality – pure chronological or pure functional are never used; the Hybrid (which is – surprise, surprise – somewhere on a scale between the chronological and functional) is the norm. Yup, we need to teach basic styles and look at the pros and cons for each. But beyond that, we need to advise clients to do their research and make their own decision. If research shows the employer prefers a chronological style, then that should be the goal.

Tip: If your relevant experience is dispersed throughout your work history with less relevant positions, or most recent not so relevant (Example: been working in restaurants lately because career work in construction just a “tich” slow  and weather so cold power cords freeze and snap like icicles) use a heading such as “Relevant Work History” and list in detail the most relevant jobs first. Then follow with a sub-section “Additional work history includes:” and list other jobs, without detail. That puts focus on the most relevant skills while maintaining the chronological style.

There you go; now you decide!

Objective vs. Profile Statement 

Recently read an article stating that resume writers should throw out the applicant centred Objective Statement and replace it with the more employer focussed Profile Statement.

My intellectual response in a nutshell – Hogwash! Either, but not both, are effective.

  • OBJECTIVE: Accomplished plumber, 10+ years’ experience, specializing in fitting pipes and valves for pressurized water systems, looking to use my red seal expertise in all aspects of commercial and residential plumbing with ACME Plumbing Services.
  • PROFILE: A dedicated professional with 10+ years’ experience as a commercial and residential plumber. Achieved Red Seal designation in 2011. Specialize in fitting pipes and valves for pressurized water systems. Now seeking to contribute my experience and abilities to ACME Plumbing Services.

There you go; now you decide!

Hobbies and Interests – To Be Or Not To Be 

An article from Business Insider, 11 Things You Should Never Put on Your Resume, says:

“Nobody cares — it’s not your Facebook profile. In other words, don’t put anything on your resume that’s irrelevant to your job. If it’s not relevant, then it’s a waste of space and a waste of the company’s time.”

And now for a totally different perspective:

“Just like learning about what drives someone in their personal life, discovering how someone spends their time outside of work and what specific activities they enjoy and invest in can give an interesting look into their personality.” – Edward Fleischman, Chief Executive Officer of Executive Search Group.

I had a client in Victoria who was an excellent pool player and had instructed others. It was on his resume under Hobbies and Interests. He applied for a labourer position with a company making concrete statues. Employer was an avid pool shooter, interviewed my client and gave him the job.

During the interview, they talked about pool. (No, it was not just dumb luck. The client knew someone in the company, did his research, and targeted his resume. He knew the employer was a pool shooter and that made it relevant.).

One caution – be careful to think through how the information you provide might be construed; “knitting hats with ear holes for my 13 Chihuahuas” may not have the desired effect. There you go; now you decide!

1 Page vs. 2 Pages 

Many of my clients have internalized the “rule” that their resume should be only one page; they go to incredible lengths to keep it short , even when they have years of experience.

The reality – one page is great if you are a young buck/doe with little experience or perhaps a touch older in your 99th year with the same company and/or profession (frightening thought). If you need 2 pages to adequately target your wealth of experience to an employer, then by all means do so.

Not long ago, I attended a job fair featuring an HR person from Island Health, a large employer on Vancouver Island. He spoke of the need to be able to scan a resume quickly (about 15 seconds) and make a decision to eliminate or keep it for further study.

He used the top 4 inch rule (his terminology), which meant if you had not caught his interest in the top half of the first page, you were out of contention. If you made the grade, 2 pages would get as good a look as one.

Enough said; now you decide!

References In The Resume?

Once again from Business Insider, 11 Things You Should Never Put on Your Resume:

“Don’t include references – If your employers want to speak to your references, they’ll ask you. Also, it’s better if you have a chance to tell your references ahead of time that a future employer might be calling.”

But what about the power of name dropping? Maybe my references are well known in my field or location and/or highly regarded. Why shouldn’t I put them in there?

The references alone might be enough to get me in the door. If not on my resume, an opportunity could be lost…and I can still tell my references ahead of time that I have applied and hope the employer will be calling them, and here is some information about them and their company culture.

My only caution – if you decide to put references on your resume, ensure it is okay with them. They may only wish their name to be shared with employers who have asked for them. Respect their wishes; they are part of your team and you need to keep them happy.

Now you decide!

It’s Your Call, But Remember This

Always, always, always remember your resume is your glossy brochure. It’s up to you to decide if the employers you target will find it informative and attractive.

I have read resumes that follow none of the “experts” guidelines, but they catch the reader’s attention, clearly show the skills and attributes needed for the job, and they worked. A resume is a creative document; you will get differing opinions and advice from others. Embrace those opinions, thank them, and then follow the advice that makes the most sense to you.

Bottom line – the proof is in the puddin’. Did it do what it is supposed to? Did it get you in front of the person who makes the hiring decisions? Did it get you an interview?

Okay, yet another article around the never ending debate on what makes up a good resume. May that debate never end. So there you go; take from it what you will.

What should you do now? That’s for You to Decide.

Ray Colegrave is a Resource Room Coordinator/Facilitator at our Nanaimo Brooks Landing ESC. You can follow him on Twitter at @rcolegrave.

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