Resumes are bait

By | November 7, 2013

I am not in HR, a recruiter, or even a super linkedin.com user. That said, I was on the recruiting team at a Big 4 consulting, and we looked through hundreds of resumes every year and 90% of them went into the trash. We probably spent less than 15 seconds on a cover letter and 30 seconds on a resume.  Basically, the resume review was quick and violent.

Resumes = bait. The way I see it, the entire purpose of a resume is to get invited for an interview.  Period. Getting an interview means the fish took a bite at the bait.

When you get to your late 20s, early 30s and beyond, you are not looking for jobs where a recruiter would hire you with a piece of paper. The entire goal is to get in front of the hiring manager and create a connection.  Resume = bait.

Good resumes are rare. You can ask anyone in HR, MBA admissions or a recruiter and they will tell you that resumes come in all shapes and sizes. They are formatted differently, have varying lengths, but it quickly comes down to good ones and bad ones.

What’s a good resume? My career coach friends might gasp, but here is my over-simplification of a good resume: Achievements quantified and organized in a story

Hierarchy of Resume Goodness

Achievements: Clearly, your resume should have content. Can’t bake this resume cake without flour, eggs and water. What kind of work do you do? Where have your worked? How would you explain your accomplishments to a recruiter?  asic, basic, basic.

If you don’t have achievements in your work history that you are proud of, that is a different problem.  Time to buckle up, and get some good work done. As a friend of mine likes to say, “Work like you give a damn.”

Quantified: This is where most people fail. There should be numbers on your resume. If you improved throughput of a process, by how much? If you increased sales, what % off of what base in what amount of time? If you managed a team, how many headcount? Resume bullets without quantification are . . . weak. It shows a lack of accomplishment, or unwillingness to measure what you are trying to manage.

PAR or STAR.  This is something I learned in MBA. Will save you the $120K, and give it to you for free.  Problem (P), Action (A), Result (R). Each bullet on your resume should describe what was the problem you are were faced with, what action you took, and what result you got. Compare these two fictitious bullets about the same achievement:

  • GOOD: Integrated disparate customer information from 3 databases into a master file which lead to a 12% increase in customer contacts and 8% increase in close rates for $450K in incremental margin in 2011
  • BAD: Responsible for customer data and information and marketing projects

“What gets measured, gets managed.” – Peter Drucker

Organized.  This has two meanings. First, there needs to be formatting and it needs to look clean.  No spelling errors (compliment, complement), typos, incorrect usage (their, there, they’re), or parallel structure problems (verb, verb, verb, noun). Look at this MIT Sloan MBA resume book here.  Most MBA schools have a uniform look, but looks like MIT allows their students to format how they wish.  Some are good, some are bad. Second, organize your achievements from most important to least. Remember that people remember the first and last things in a list. Things in the middle get lost.

StoryYour resume need to tell a story.  What kind of work do you do, and how good are you at it?  Did you progress in your career, or did you continuously bop-around from place to place because you did not fit in. Think. . . what does my resume say?

You need to have more than one resume. If you are applying for consulting, marketing and strategic planning roles. . . don’t use the same resume. Treat the resume reader like a picky customer.  They won’t buy what looks odd, or out of place. There are tons of resumes to choose from. Tailor your resume and your story for the company, industry, role. Work at it.

Be relevant. At my MBA, they really beat this into our heads.  Each bullet on the resume should be interesting enough for the recruiter to look at it as ask, “so tell me about that”. Each bullet is a teaser for the next question in the interview. Also, you better have a good story for each part of your resume. Don’t put on your resume anything you can’t talk about.

Hone the resume. This is tough work. When I offer to help someone with a resume, I often “rev” it with them a few times. It is hard work. You need to be willing to (re)write it until it is close to perfect. If you want to see a bunch of MBA resumes just google the words “MBA resume book pdf” and you will have tons of examples. Here is the Kellogg Executive MBA resume book from 2012 (3.2 Mb pdf). Kellogg is a huge program and the resume book is 200+ pages long. Happy fishing.

Related Links: Tips on consulting resumes here from website: www.consultingfact.com

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One thought on “Resumes are bait

  1. Cameron Powell

    Yes, it’s about story! Story with a big S and stories, in the bullets, with a small s. I built a business around a very similar notion. I’m glad you’re putting it out there.

    Reply

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