Hi there blog-reading job seekers and welcome to Talking Resumes.  Following my Peace Corps stint, I spent many years in international economic development and, among other tasks, spent a good amount of time recruiting consultants for a wide range of positions.  For the past 10+ years I’ve been running Cambridge Data Systems, which provides on-line recruiting systems for various organizations, including consulting firms, head hunters, and ‘normal’ employers (if such a thing exists).  In both lines of work I have spent tons of time reading resumes - good resumes of bad people, bad resumes of good people, and, occasionally, accurate resumes of reasonably qualified people.  In this blog I will try to pass along some tips on resume writing that might help you in your job search.

Starting off:

As for most writing that doesn’t start with ‘Dear Diary’, remember that you are writing for your audience, not for yourself.  Try to figure out what the initial reader of your resume is looking for.  If the job announcement is with a larger organization, there is a good chance the position description was (1) put together by a committee, (2) contains a good deal of boilerplate (teamplayer, shows initiative, passionate about service, not recently indicted for a felony), and (3) wasn’t put together by the person who will do the first cut on your resume.  Yes, read the announcement carefully; Yes, craft your cover letter (especially) and your resume (as much as possible) to fit the listed requirements, but remember that not all requirements are equal.

Put yourself in the place of the poor person reading the resumes that come in, trying to whittle the 100+ responses - most from reasonable candidates - to the top 20 or so to pass up the ladder.  What is he or she looking for in making the decision?  To help figure that out, look again at the job announcement and try to figure out NOT what you are good at that is in there (that would be too easy), but what are the one or two aspects that are key to the job, that the hiring manager may have told the reviewer are absolute requirements, and (ideally) that you are qualified for.  If you are a passionate, unindicted, team-player but don’t meet those requirements, it probably isn’t worth the effort to apply (more on that in later posts), but if you can pick out the key skills/experience the initial reviewer may be basing his/her decisions on and can reasonably say you are qualified, make sure that information is clearly stated in your cover letter and backed up by your resume.  Once you get to an interview you can play up your ‘I enjoy working on a team to accomplish organizational goals while also taking a leadership position and thinking outside the box to shift the paradigm for strategic advantage’ skills, but initially just try to figure out what the frist reviewer wants/needs and hit that on the head clearly and concisely.

Next post: Resumes for consulting assignments versus resumes for permanent positions

Upcoming posts:

  • Applying for positions you aren’t likely to get - how to make it worth it?
  • How to deal with age (yours, that is)?;
  • Can you be overqualified?;
  • Targeting your resume - can there be too much of a good thing?

Be sure to join the Peace Corps Worldwide Talent Bank at http://pcworldwide.cambridgedata.com/apply