Hire me maybe? — Résumé advice from Dan P.

This column is part of the advice series that GTJ recently launched with the Ask Ashley column.  Ashley, Dan, and others will take turns offering their thoughts on how to navigate different dimensions of Washington, DC life.

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I just met you. This is crazy.  But here’s my resume. Hire me, maybe? (GTJ Call Me Maybe article)

The resume is your key to unlock future opportunities.  You may be looking for your first job after college or grad school, or you may be looking to leap from one job to another.  The resume won’t guarantee entry into every organization, but it’s a necessary step.

Think of the resume as a “first impression”.  If you have a polished resume that tells a clear story, the employer will want to get to the “second date” (read – “interview”).

Here’s a brief list of the key considerations to write an effective resume:

1. Keep it simple, keep it brief.  You can’t explain everything you did for your last job in a few bullet points.  So don’t try.  Your future employer won’t care about all the nuances.  Choose two to three tasks/accomplishments from each job/position.  Can you include more than three?  Sure… Just make sure that they’re important.  Don’t add fluff just to cover white space.

Also, don’t use words that are too fancy.  The resume must focus on brief descriptions of what you did in a particular role.  This closely ties to #2.

2. WWGS?  What Would Grandma Say?  Or your mom?  They would brag about everything you’ve done.  The resume isn’t the time to be modest.  If you did something cool/important/legend…wait for it…dary, include it!

3. So what?? Use the PAR model as much as possible.

  • Problem (what was the challenge?)
  • Action (what did you do?)
  • Result (what was the result of your efforts?).

The resume isn’t a list of everything you’ve done. You need to describe the impact, and you should quantify it as much as possible.

Examples of your efforts (in a list format):

  • “Organized 15 charity fundraising events”
  • “Led 25 little Napoleans through the 4th grade curriculum”
  • “Managed two teams that effectively led clients through annual strategy revision”

What’s missing?  You organized 15 charity fundraising events to raise $300,000 for the Lance Armstrong Foundation (LAF).  Or, you led fourth graders through a rigorous curriculum that effectively prepared them for their annual exams with a 100% passing rate.  Or, you managed two teams of six personnel each that facilitated working group sessions with senior leadership from two firms to revise their strategies to meet new customer demands.

Those are hypothetical examples.  But, the point is to stick with PAR.  Sometimes it’s a “silent P”, meaning that the problem is implied.  If you didn’t organize the fundraising events, the LAF would still exist, but clearly your contributions moved them in the right direction.

4. It’s all about the verbs.  Each position will have two or more bullets under it.  Each of those bullets should start with a verb (“Led”, “Organized”, “Maintained”, etc).  You can Google “resume verbs by category” to find a list of suggested verbs for your resume.  Click here for an example.  Note – the verbs are all past tense unless you are currently doing that particular role.

Two hints… First, the past tense of “Lead” is “Led”.  Second, instead of using “led” (or other verbs) multiple times throughout the resume, consider synonyms (“Managed”, “Directed”, etc) or simply focusing on a different action for that description (“Planned”, “Facilitated”, “Implemented”, etc).

5.  Lost in translation.  You know at least two languages – English and some cool jargon you picked up at your current job.  You have acronyms for positions and reports, and wardrobe malfunctions.  Unfortunately, your future employer doesn’t speak that language, and they aren’t going to find an interpreter.  That means you
have to work a little harder.  Make sure that you adapt the translations to the job and role that you’re applying for.

6.  Help me help you.  The resume isn’t simply a way to showcase all that you’ve done.  The company posted that job for a reason – They need help solving a problem.  Study the job description and write your resume to show how you can help (This bullet was almost titled, “If there was a problem, yo I’ll solve it”, but the 10% of the readers who get the current reference may have been lost on that one).

If you’re going to a job fair online or in person, you may not know specific positions available, but you can study the companies that will attend and create resumes that generally match a company’s strategy.

7.  When you’re not at work you… Watch the entire season of Game of Thrones in a weekend?  Please tell me you do more with your free time.  You volunteer with GTJ, or the Federation, etc.  You play kickball (leave out the “NAKID” and “Collegiate-level binge drinking” aspects), or softball. Maybe you play piano, or you hiked Mt. Kilimanjaro.  List a few of these activities in the “Additional Information” section.

Things to leave out:

  • “Proficient with Microsoft Office Suite” (thanks to modern technology every
    human on earth, to include those in the womb, are proficient with this).
  • “Avid reader” unless you’re like John Travolta in Phenomenon (obscure
    reference – “You learned the Portuguese language in 20 minutes?”)
  • “Test the search engine capabilities of JDate.”

Here’s a simple test – Would you talk about these activities at a family dinner?

8.  Contact info.  Of course you’re going to survive the zombie apocalypse, but please keep your personal email professional.  If your email is Zombiekiller@gmail.com, make a new one. Consider firstname.lastname@gmail.com, or something similar.

9. Triple check.  Even then… you’re not done.  You want to ensure that the resume reads correctly.  Check the spelling. Read it out loud.  Ask people outside your family to read it.  You want critical feedback and you should expect some criticism.  Do they understand all of the terms?  Do they think it highlights your greatest skills?

Stay tuned for another post with career advice and a catchy title from a pop song.

Dan Pick is a member of the DC Jewish Communiny.  He was an officer in US Navy after he graduated from Penn State. Now, he’s a consultant saving the world one powerpoint at a time. He’s currently an MBA candidate at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, and recently created a blog with a veteran classmate to help military veterans transition (Switch). Dan enjoys traveling, running, triathlons, playing guitar, and volunteering in the community. All at the same time.