March 1, 2000
You've heard it a million times since high school: The resume is your life in one page, it should be clear and concise, and it speaks volumes about who you are. So why is it that so many people have such poor resumes?
The need for individuality and comprehensivess tugs at our mortal souls and makes us do things we shouldn't. Such as:
~ Having resumes that sprawl to four, five and six pages. The one-sheet resume as we know it is slowly disappearing, thanks to ASCII (plain-text) resumes that format differently on a screen and off. But the basic, concise structure outlined in that box of Resume Paper you bought at Staples is still a good basis for how to do it.
~ Writing a resume out in paragraph format. All that does is waste everyone's time.
~ Making a pixel-perfect resume in Microsoft Word 6.0 and hoping it works when sent as a file attachment. I have often disregarded a candidate when I couldn't get his or her resume to work right. By the same token, I expect there to be inconsistencies, so that clean Word resume that doesn't quite look right on my computer at work will get equal consideration.
~ Expecting the interviewer to work for your benefit. If you have a resume on a Web page, and you enclose the URL, great. But why not send an ASCII resume in the email as well?
Here's what you should do.
~ Create that one-page resume. Squeeze in as much or as little as you want. Make it pretty. Now print out a handful of them, since you'll be emailing and faxing your resume all over town and you should have a clean representation ready for your interviews.
~ Redo your resume in ASCII format. Make it look like an email: use double line breaks, short indents, and all-caps where boldfaced text would be. (Print resume tip: Italics don't fax well; use boldface and underline instead.) The ASCII resume is what sites like Monster.com and Hotjobs send when you apply for jobs through their site interfaces, no matter how pretty your Word document was. Clean up the text-only one before you start your job search.
~ Use action words -- you didn't "surf the web," you "researched online" -- and name-drop any hardware, software, or systems you have used. Larger companies screen out poor candidates by looking for keywords. If you've done it, show it.
~ Don't worry about having resumes that come out in several different lengths. My own resume is one page printed, a page and a half on the Web, and two pages in email. What matters is that the material is identical on each, and that all formats are clean and legible.
The Cover Letter
Two Things You Can't Do Wrong, No Matter How Poorly You Do Them