The pile of papers in front of me is sizable. I’m wondering what would be the correct term for the volume of these white sheets of paper. A group of lions is called a “pride”; is a group of résumés called a “wedge,” a “stack,” or a “flurry?” I’m distracting myself from the reality of having to work my way through each snowy page, now covering my desk like a blizzard.
I have a fluorescent highlighter in my left hand and a red pen in my right. If a photograph were taken of me at this instant, I would appear to be taking an if-you-can-eat-this-Texas-sized-steak-you-eat-for-free challenge. However, my steak is bigger than Texas. It is so big, I fear it. And my challenge is to review all of these résumés in front of me.
How can I fear documents? I’m a quality professional, and I’m very used, or at least conditioned, to reviewing poorly written documents. Why am I dreading looking at résumés? I suppose with corporate documentation, procedures can be discussed with the author or reviewed with the team involved in the process. But it’s unlikely I’ll meet with résumé authors, and therefore I’ve got a whole lot of thinking to do.
The reason for bringing this up with you, my quality sisters and brothers, is so I can share my observations and help if you’re out there, unemployed. I want to help arm you against your competition, the competition that’s after that dream job of yours.
The Internet abounds with advice, so why should you bother to let a gobshite quality professional give you his 10 cents? Perhaps, as a quality professional, I’m in a better position to give advice in our field of expertise. During the last few years, the topsy-turvy economy has bestowed several opportunities for me to help others prepare their résumés. I don’t remember really how I was asked; however, I’ve helped dozens of neighbors and friends fine-tune their résumés or find a new career path. And many have been invited to the interview stage, all as a result of some guidance I’ve provided. I remember helping a friend out, and when he showed his résumé to his wife, she said, “You’re damn sexy on paper,” a different response from what I’d imagined.
Here are a few of my favorite hints and tips for résumés:
Acronyms or initials. If the help-wanted ad looks as if Scrabble tiles have fallen on the page, don’t assume that the person who wrote the ad has any idea what the acronyms mean. This also applies to your résumé. If you have a résumé that reads like alphabet spaghetti, and you don’t include the meanings or context, your résumé will appear in my T-file. T is for trash.
Quantity does not mean quality. Now in my business, if an operator is faced with a procedure that’s more than three pages long, they are likely not to implement it because it’s too complex to follow. As a quality professional in this situation, you would confer with the operator and simplify the procedure. What do you think would happen if you submitted a 10-page résumé to me? I’m a busy guy, and I don’t have the patience to go through more than three pages.
No pictures, please. I live in the real world, and I know that people will embellish (that is UK politeness for barefaced lie) their résumé. If you enclose a picture of Brad Pitt and expect me to think it’s you, good luck to you, my friend. I’m a quality professional, not a casting agent; therefore, I’m interested in your skills, not your looks.
Apply quality control. What good documentation practices have you seen in your career (e.g., page numbering, document reference heading on each page)? Why not put your name on each page at the top? It will only help the reviewer.
Read the job advertisement. Surprisingly, many people think that a generic résumé will apply for all situations. Every job listing has key words or phrases to convey its message to the right candidate. If you don’t have the necessary skills defined in the ad, then think of your transferrable skills.
Make it professional, not fancy. Don’t bother with colored paper, colorful banners, or artistic text unless you are going to apply for a “creative” company. Even then, if you are applying to a creative business, colored paper wouldn’t constitute showing flare or imagination.
Electronic documentation best practices. I suggest you save and share your résumé as a PDF file. The number of e-mailed files that I’ve received in Microsoft Word format that display edit notes and change history, and open with auto spell check highlighting errors, is beyond belief.
Get someone not involved in quality to review your résumé. Keep in mind that someone other than a quality professional may look over your résumé in the organization to which you are applying. Find a friend who can proofread, and welcome their suggestions or requests for clarification of what you’ve written. This can be helpful to improve your résumé.
Keep it up to date. If you are thinking about sending in a job application, it would be prudent to review your résumé, which will be going with it. You don’t want a résumé years out of date going to a potential employer.
Explain gaps in your career history. If you were unemployed for a variety of reasons, explain those reasons and be succinct. Otherwise, the reader’s imagination may fill the gap with a prison sentence for murdering your last boss. And if that was truly the case, I suggest leaving out the reason you were incarcerated.
Good hunting, my friend. If you take my advice, if it works for you and you get the job of your dreams, remember me, please. Especially if you see me at the end of the bar, looking thirsty. And if you do, please note that I only drink champagne, by the pint.