After more than two decades in the Executive Search
business, I have learned a lot about what goes into a
successful hire. I try to impart my knowledge to both hiring
managers and candidates. Nevertheless, at many job
interviews I find myself listening to questions that make me
cringe and answers that make me want to cry.
Now it's my turn to talk.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Cut. It. Out.

I have read a lot of resumes in my life.  Each day I receive unsolicited resumes via US Mail and e-mail because I have been identified as a world-renowned headhunter on some recruitment website or other.  Which proves self promotion works.

While I would not consider resume reading to be as exciting as venturing into the latest Mitch Rapp novel (Vince Flynn) I can honestly say that perusing people’s backgrounds has always remained interesting to me.  However, there is a boredom barrier, and some resumes go well beyond it.  Mad Men may be all the rage these days, but as a rule, any lengthy details regarding the days before the PC are probably not relevant to any job search you are conducting today.

Don’t get me wrong.  I love examples and details in resumes.  A resume with no examples is like a stick figure when I’m looking for a digital photograph. But the further back in your career you go, the fewer details you need to provide in your resume.  A resume is an outline, not an all-inclusive personal biography.

In my book, I tell candidates who are preparing for an interview to summarize their early career at the 20,000-foot level, and use their interview time to emphasize more recent and relevant experience.  The same holds true when you are composing a resume.

For instance, your college internships are important when applying for your first post-college position as they serve to differentiate you from your peers and demonstrate ambition. But after seven or eight years, you should have bigger and better accomplishments to describe.  (In this economy, who knows?  But I digress.)  So after a few years, remove all but a brief, if any, mention of the internships. 

Similarly, the fact that you were frat president, homecoming queen, athlete, or reporter at the campus newspaper may be worth mentioning on your resume for a few years, but beyond that…not so much. 

If you started out as an administrative assistant and are now Chief Marketing Officer, by all means delete the line about the name tags you typed with zero mistakes. 
The problem with resumes is:  most people don’t use one very often, so they pull out the 5-year old version when the need suddenly arises.  This is fine, but don’t forget to eliminate some of the old stuff in favor of adding new, fresh examples and details. This way, your resume will be more current, more relevant to your potential employer and more interesting for the headhunter.  

When in doubt, cut it out. 

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