5 Accomplishments to Make Your Sysadmin Resume Stand Out

If you google “Sysadmin resume template”, you’ll find a lot of resume models filled with roles and responsibilities such as:

  • Deploy and configure Windows OS server virtual machines.
  • Identify security vulnerabilities and make recommendations for remediation.
  • Review and audit log files, researched log correlation tools for acquisition of log management.
  • Maintained and administrated domain controllers and file and print servers.
  • Installation, configuration and management of Sun Solaris UNIX systems running Solaris 2.8, and IBM Blades running RedHat Linux ES 3.0., 4.0, and 5.

That seems about right, no?

But there’s a problem. A huge problem, actually. Think of the systems administrators that you know. How many of them have done similar things? Probably most of them. Because that’s pretty much what being a sysadmin is all about. There are differences here and there, but roles and responsibilities will often overlap. So if your resume is very close to a typical “sysadmin resume template”, how is that helping you get interviews? After all, the best resumes are distinctive. They make you stand out, not blend in!

So here’s a little something to help you make your resume stand out. It’s based on the 3 Laws of Resume Writing. And it’s not material that I made up. I found it by carefully studying good sysadmin resumes (including some from network admins or systems engineers).

5 Sysadmin Accomplishments to Make your Resume Distinctive

  1. Manage local and off-shore staff and consultants who support Intel systems. Off-shore staff has allowed better 24/7 support and incident response. (Simply managing staff is an accomplishment in itself, because it demonstrates leadership and management skills. In this case, we also have a positive outcome (i.e. better support and incident response), which makes it even better from the employer’s perspective.)
  2. Implemented site-to-site VPN WANs for multiple medical practices in the greater [city] area, saving each client nearly $5,000/month. (An employer will be very compelled by most work which saved thousands of dollars, because you might just do the same for him.)
  3. Resolved system slow-down issues through network migrations, reconfigurations, integrations, and troubleshooting. (Here, the benefit is stated up front. Notice how bland the sentence would be if it only contained the second half. This accomplishment shows that the employee solved a problem, through many operations. It could have been improved by explaining the slow-down a bit more (“recurring”, “daily”, …), to accentuate the problem.)
  4. Identified 20+ vulnerabilities by testing infrastructure security, using both automated tools and manual testing. (With this accomplishment, the employee comes across as someone who knows what she’s doing, and working hard to protect her employer.)
  5. Pioneered use of mobile devices (iPad, iPhone, Android) to provide on-call support. Increased employee satisfaction due to new technologies and increased freedom during on-call. (Whenever someone pioneers or initiates something, there’s already a sense of dynamism, a desire to make things better. In other words, it’s an accomplishment. But here, the increased employee satisfaction is a clear benefit for the employer, which improves an already positive statement.)

The benefit is the key component of each accomplishment: improved operations, more money, demonstrated leadership and reliability, … Accomplishments like these are the most critical pieces of your resume. Now read that last sentence again, because that’s the best resume advice you’ll get this month.

If you’re a fantastic employee but your resume is silent on many of your accomplishments, you’ll end up behind a good employee whose accomplishments are all clearly laid out.

And for that matter, an average employee with weak accomplishments better know how to network, since the resume alone won’t pull its weight. (Actually, networking skills are critical to everyone’s job hunt. But I’m more of a resume guy, so let’s stick with the topic, if you don’t mind.)

Accomplishments are where it’s at. When you solve a problem, reduce costs, make something better/simpler/faster, when you show initiative, it has to be on your resume, without being drowned out by too much roles and responsibilities (i.e. the “we’ve-all-done-it” resume template material). In my view, half of the energy and time spent on your resume should be focused on your accomplishments. To write good accomplishments, you need to think of what your potential employer is thinking about (problems solved, better results, and so on) and emphasize that. If you go through 20 resumes of your peers, you’ll certainly find great accomplishments that you could adapt on your resume. I truly believe that is time well spent.

Many More Accomplishments, Just for You

However, I’ve already done that research… The 5 ideas above are just a glimpse of the full list of accomplishments I’ve assembled. If you’d like that well-rounded, unique list of real-world sysadmin accomplishments, for just a few dollars, check out our e-book, Sysadmin Resume Hacking, on Amazon. You can read it even if you don’t have a Kindle device.

Reading Amazon E-books Without a Kindle Reader

At this point, my books are only available in electronic format, on Amazon. But that doesn’t mean you absolutely need an electronic reader. Actually, any device you’re using right now to read online should do the trick. Amazon wants want their e-books to be as accessible as possible. As such, you can download the Kindle reader app to your tablet, smartphone or computer. This app will link to your Amazon account, and allow you to read my Kindle e-books. If you want to be able to access your Kindle e-books from many devices or locations, you can simply go to read.amazon.com. This is what they call the Kindle Cloud Reader. It allows you to look at your e-books directly in your web browser. Note that it won’t work on smaller devices (i.e. smartphones). It seems to be the most simple solution, as there’s nothing to download and install.

Why are there no print versions?

If my books were printed, they would be tiny (25 to 30 pages). However, a tiny book is still costly to print, stock and ship. We’re waiting to see the response for the e-books in 2016 before launching into the paper world.

3 Laws of Resume Writing

Your resume has one objective: to make you stand out. And although you might not realize it, it always sits in a pile of very similar resumes.

So your resume is never read by itself; it’s always compared! Which means that the question quickly becomes: what makes you a distinctive candidate? If you’re trying to get a position as an ER nurse, you’ll be set up against many other nurses with relevant experience!

3_laws_always_compared-2

If you don’t finish close to the top, why would you be called for an interview? Yes, it’s a tough question, but if you don’t have a clear answer, you’re not getting an interview!

Remember that a lot of resumes look alike, and only subtle differences set them apart. To help you write your own distinctive resume, I came up with the following 3 laws.

The 3 laws of resume writing

1. Accomplishments.

2. Accomplishments.

3. Accomplishments.

Accomplishments are also referred to as results or achievements. And, in resume speak, we talk about accomplishments as opposed to roles, tasks or responsibilities.

Why such an emphasis on accomplishments?

Accomplishments aren’t the ONLY thing that matter on a resume. But they are the most critical aspect of a resume and, more importantly, often its biggest weakness. So professionals should put extra efforts on their accomplishments, when writing their resume… But they don’t!

3_laws_time_spent-2

Accomplishments and results are often overlooked, because job seekers get overwhelmed by many lesser elements: phrasing, and format, and structure, and employment gaps, and whether they should put an objective statement, etc. In other words, when most people stop working on their resume, their accomplishments are still very much lacking. Which means that their resume is certainly not going to stand out! For all these reasons, I thought of (and often insist on!) the 3 laws of resume writing (inspired by the “Location, location, location!” of real estate).

While accomplishments are a critical part of your resume, they’re also the best stories you can tell during job interviews!

So what’s an accomplishment exactly?

An accomplishments is something you did which brought value to your employer. In a nutshell, it’s something you should get a bonus for.

Solving a problem, saving money, showing leadership or initiative, etc. A “regular” (boring) resume bullet is a task or responsibility. When you add the value (from the employer’s perspective), it becomes an accomplishment. In the examples below, the value is in bold. (Notice how these bullets would be fairly ordinary without the value.)

EXAMPLE 1

Executively sponsored a Lean Sigma project moving all customer support in-house (formerly managed by a third party), saving $500K annually.

EXAMPLE 2

Personally assigned to several high visibility projects, based on unique expertise with network forensics and malware.

EXAMPLE 3

Contributed toward network installation encompassing 150 workstations, 50 printers, and 4 communication rooms with supporting infrastructure. Move was accomplished within 3 weeks.

* * *

My strong conviction in accomplishments has pushed me to create the Resume Hacking series. My (short) books are, in my view, the best tool out there to help you write accomplishments. Because instead of teaching you how to write accomplishments (it’s not easy to bridge the gap between theory and practice), they provide you with a well-rounded list of accomplishments to pick from, tailored to your own profession!

Does your resume break one of the 3 laws?

Quickly Get your Lab Technician Resume Noticed, with a Compelling Summary

The resume summary is a very rich section designed to quickly demonstrate you’ve got what it takes! Let’s look at two examples of very compelling resume summaries for lab technicians.

1. Highlights of resume for DEF Labs

  • Experienced molecular biologist with over 10 years working in both clinical and research laboratories.
  • Ability to effectively manage, motivate and train teams to ensure compliance, efficiency, and improve turnaround time on patient samples.
  • Expertly performed preventive maintenance and troubleshooted $600,000 in laboratory assets (Sysmex 1000, MLA Stago, Abbott C4100C, and refrigerators), saving $25,000 in contract repair fees.

2. Summary for GHI Life Sciences

  • Successful bench scientist with strong foundation in cell and molecular biology, including sterile techniques such as cell culture, DNA isolation, plasmid transformation and PCR specifically central to E. coli and yeast genetics.
  • Developed and implemented a maintenance schedule for instruments, computers and analytical balances, which significantly reduced incidents of unplanned maintenance.
  • Trained six new medical laboratory technicians and interns.
  • Participated in two Joint Commission inspections.

The goal of the summary is to: 1. show you qualify and 2. build a strong first impression. And you do that very, very quickly, in a few bullets. Unless you’re too early in your career, make sure to mention how many years of experience you have. Also touch on the sectors or specialties you’ve worked in, possibly highlighting one specific area where you excel. But don’t say you’re the best at everything. If you sound like you’re bragging, you’ll lose credibility!

Make sure your lab tech resume summary is tailored!

Always remember the job ad when preparing your summary. Maybe you’ll see certain keywords in there that need to be emphasized. There’s no such thing as a good one-size-fits-all resume. It has to be customized. As I often repeat, accomplishments are the strongest elements of your resume, because they make you stand out among your peers. On your resume, you want as many accomplishments as possible. But in your summary, you have to choose a few that seem most relevant for the specific job you’re applying for. Which means that your summary repeats your key accomplishments. It’s a smart thing to be redundant with the most valuable info on your resume! A potential employer won’t mind that you insist on leading teams or saving $25,000!

If you write a strong summary using these tips, potential employers are much more likely to give your resume a good read. And that’s a necessary step to getting more interviews!

More tips for lab technicians

If you’re looking for more advice specifically for laboratory technicians, check out 5 accomplishments for lab technicians. But if you feel like 5 isn’t enough, get the Lab Technician Resume Hacking e-book!

5 Accomplishments to Make Your Occupational Therapist Resume Stand Out

If you google “Occupational therapist resume template”, you’ll find a lot of resume models filled with roles and responsibilities such as:

  • Conducted patient home evaluations and family training.
  • Evaluating and treating patients as well as documenting procedures.
  • Attended weekly rounds with physicians, nursing staff and physical therapists.
  • Practice proficiency in fabricating static and dynamic splints including pressure garments and assistive or adaptive devices.
  • Contributed to team meetings and assisted in discharge planning.

That seems about right, no?

But there’s a problem. A huge problem, actually. Think of the occupational therapists that you know. How many of them have done similar things? Probably most of them. Because that’s pretty much what practicing this sort of therapy is all about. There are differences here and there, but roles and responsibilities will often overlap. So if your resume is very close to a typical “occupational therapist resume template”, how is that helping you get interviews? After all, the best resumes are distinctive. They make you stand out, not blend in!

So here’s a little something to help you make your resume stand out. It’s based on the 3 Laws of Resume Writing. And it’s not material that I made up. I found it by carefully studying good occupational therapist resumes.

5 Occupational Therapist Accomplishments to Make your Resume Distinctive

  1. Took on a higher and complex caseload without diminishing effort on non-clinical duties.
  2. Worked closely with IT department to integrate all forms onto an online system, which reduced time spent on administrative tasks by the whole team.
  3. Provided intense OT intervention in the home for 6 weeks which helped to reduce unnecessary hospital admission.
  4. Provided sensorimotor/sensory integration information and workshop to occupational therapists and coworkers.
  5. Entrusted with research, design and equipment set up of facility’s first sensory gym, which was ready one week ahead of schedule.

The benefit is the key component of each accomplishment: improved processes, more money, demonstrated leadership and reliability, … Accomplishments like these are the most critical pieces of your resume. Now read that last sentence again, because that’s the best resume advice you’ll get this month.

If you’re a fantastic employee but your resume is silent on many of your accomplishments, you’ll end up behind a good employee whose accomplishments are all clearly laid out.

And for that matter, an average employee with weak accomplishments better know how to network, since the resume alone won’t pull its weight. (Actually, networking skills are critical to everyone’s job hunt. But let’s stick with the topic, if you don’t mind.)

Accomplishments are where it’s at. When you solve a problem, reduce costs, make something better/simpler/faster, when you show initiative, it has to be on your resume, without being drowned out by too many roles and responsibilities (i.e. the “we’ve-all-done-it” resume template material). In my view, half of the energy and time spent on your resume should be focused on your accomplishments. To write good accomplishments, you need to think of what your potential employer is thinking about (problems solved, better results, and so on) and emphasize that. If you go through 20-30 resumes of your peers, you’ll certainly find great accomplishments that you could adapt on your resume. I truly believe that is time well spent.

Many More Accomplishments, Just for You

However, I’ve already done that research… The 5 ideas above are just a glimpse of the full list of accomplishments I’ve assembled. If you’d like that well-rounded, unique list of real-world occupational therapy accomplishments, for just a few dollars, check out our e-book, Occupational Therapist Resume Hacking, on Amazon. You can read it even if you don’t have a Kindle device.

What you can do on LinkedIn to find a job

LinkedIn boasts 400 million users, but not all of them regularly use the site. The number of active users varies from one source to the other (25%? 52%? 49%? All these sources are from 2015).

But what we know is that many people don’t really know what to do there. Maybe it’s your case. “What in the world am I supposed to do, now?”

Let me show you how, as a job seeker, you can spend 15-30 minutes productively, a few days a week, on LinkedIn. Be warned, though. It’s a slow process. I’m not promising you a job in 10 days! LinkedIn is the ultimate online networking tool, and you’ve got to use it appropriately. It’s not as much about finding a job as it is about connecting with a lot of relevant people. And it’s these people who could, in a few weeks or months, hear about or offer you an opening, because they’re in the right field or company.

So this article is about networking.

The basics of networking on LinkedIn

The first obvious thing is to look at your newsfeed. See what other people in your network are doing and sharing. You can like, comment or share that stuff. If you want to comment, think of something to say which could add to the discussion. Especially when it’s an article. “I really like the part where you mention X…” is a much better comment than “Nice!” It’s more engaging.

But you’ll quickly be done with the newsfeed. You need to find a few places to hang out. The “Interests” tab is the best starting point.

For now, we’re only going to talk about two elements under “Interests”, LinkedIn’s publishing platform (Pulse) and LinkedIn groups.

LinkedIn has its own publishing (blogging) platform. It’s called Pulse. It started out as a place where “Influencers” (hand-picked by LinkedIn) were publishing long-form articles. Then, starting in 2014, it started to open up to people who’ve never been on the cover of magazines or built a software empire. Today, anyone can use it as a publishing tool. Which means that tons of new articles appear on Pulse every day. These articles are a good place to learn, of course, but also to connect with like-minded people by joining the discussion.

You can tailor what appears in your Pulse (see image below) by choosing influencers, topics, publishers, etc. It’s a bit easier to do on mobile (there’s a dedicated Pulse app). If you want to do it on your computer, click the “menu” icon (the 3 line-sandwich) and go to “Discover more”.

Another cool place to hang out, found under the “Interests” tab, is LinkedIn groups. Now, what you need to know about groups is that they’re more like a forum. Which means if users aren’t interacting, you won’t get much out of it. And that’s a big problem with groups. Some have grown stale. Some are just filled with self-promoters, even spammers. But some are really thriving communities. Participating in just a few relevant groups will put you in contact with people you might eventually add to your connections.

There are groups for many, many topics, locations and industries. The number of members doesn’t matter as much as how active the community is. To figure out how active a group is, you’ll need to join some groups and see what’s happening inside. Look at the 10 most recent posts. How many have likes and comments? (Trust me, you’ll find a lot of zeroes.) Is it half? That would be good. But only 1 or 2 with some activity? Forget that group.

Groups have an incredible potential, but like any internet forum, they’re hard to manage. And LinkedIn fiddles with how groups work, trying to reduce spam and improve moderation, but the results aren’t spectacular yet. However, some groups are active and well-moderated, and they’re a great professional space to hang out.

And a great thing about groups is that it brings you “closer” to people. LinkedIn won’t let everyone email everyone. You’re only allowed to use their message system (for free) with people who are direct connections (what they call “1st degree connections”). BUT, you can also contact members of the groups you’re a part of for free. However, you’re just allowed 15 such messages per month. (This rule has been effective since 2015). And you have to be part of that group for 4 days to start messaging people. Yeah, “4 days”. I would have gone with 3 or 5, but what do I know?

So Pulse and groups are two spots where you can spend some time. But if you want it to be valuable, you need to have goals. Goals like “Interact with 3 people” or “reach out to so-and-so”. Don’t just go there as a consumer. Put on your networking hat. It doesn’t have to be “aggressive” networking. But it does have to be intentional.

Now, over time, you’ll become an active part of those groups. Your connections will grow, slowly but surely. So when you come across something that’s valuable to your peers or industry, share it through an update (from the Home page, it’s right under your picture) or within a group. If people engage with you, get the conversation going. If you have a good feeling about those people, ask them to connect.

OK! But when do I ask people for a job?

Well, you don’t want people to feel like you’re bugging them all the time. So light touches are best. “Can I send you my resume?”, asked out of the blue, is irritating. But “keep an eye out for me” is less intrusive. Put yourself in that person’s shoes. If you’re a nagging presence, they won’t want to hear from you. But if you’re always providing cool links, making people aware of the latest trends, and generally being positive and upbeat, people will see you as a strong potential colleague or employee. And they’ll think of you when the time is right.

That’s how LinkedIn can work for you. It’s not a quick fix solution, but a consistent investment can really pay off.

 * * *

Enjoying this?

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2_pages_visual_plan-1-3

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5 Accomplishments to Make Your Pharmacy Tech Resume Stand Out

If you google “pharmacy technician resume template”, you’ll find a lot of resume models filled with roles and responsibilities such as:

  • Verify information on prescriptions.
  • Faxed requests to doctors.
  • Filled medical orders for hospital patients and delivered them to designated nursing stations.
  • Answered multiline phone system and processed a high volume of order requests from nurses and pharmacists.
  • Performed duties of pharmacy buyer and tracked warehouse invoices as required.
  • Maintained current expiration dates for all medication via a thorough inventory control system.

That seems about right, no? But there’s a problem. A huge problem, actually. Think of the pharmacy technicians (or pharmacy assistants) that you know. How many of them have done similar things? Probably most of them. Because that’s pretty much what being a pharmacy tech is all about. There are differences here and there, but roles and responsibilities will often overlap. So if your resume is very close to a typical “pharmacy technician resume template”, how is that helping you get interviews? After all, the best resumes are distinctive. They make you stand out, not blend in! So here’s a little something to help you make your resume stand out. It’s based on the 3 Laws of Resume Writing. And it’s not material that I made up. I found it by carefully studying good pharmacy tech resumes.

5 Pharmacy Tech Accomplishments to Make your Resume Distinctive

  1. Updated and reintroduced safety training manuals, which reduced mistakes.
  2. Learned to troubleshoot pharmacy equipment for minor issues, avoiding expensive maintenance calls on two occasions.
  3. Processed an average of 720 prescriptions per day.
  4. Provided staff development and training to new employees.
  5. Awarded Employee of the quarter for excellent performance.

The benefit is the key component of each accomplishment: reduced mistakes, avoiding expensive maintenance calls, training new employees, … Accomplishments like these are the most critical pieces of your resume. Now read that last sentence again, because that’s the best resume advice you’ll get this month.

If you’re a fantastic employee but your resume is silent on many of your accomplishments, you’ll end up behind a less impressive employee whose accomplishments are all clearly laid out. And for that matter, an average employee with weak accomplishments better know how to network, since the resume alone won’t help much. (Actually, networking skills are critical to everyone’s job hunt. But let’s stick with the topic, if you don’t mind.) Accomplishments are where it’s at.

When you solve a problem, reduce costs, make something better/simpler/faster, when you show initiative, it has to be on your resume, without being drowned out by too many roles and responsibilities (i.e. the “we’ve-all-done-it” resume template material). In my view, half of the energy and time spent on your resume should be focused on your accomplishments. To write good accomplishments, you need to think of what your potential employer is thinking about (problems solved, better results, and so on) and emphasize that. If you go through 20 resumes of your peers, you’ll certainly find great accomplishments that you could adapt on your resume. I truly believe that is time well spent.

Many More Accomplishments, Just for You

However, I’ve already done that research… The 5 ideas above are just a glimpse of the full list of accomplishments I’ve assembled. If you’d like that well-rounded, unique list of real-world pharmacy technician accomplishments, for just a few dollars, check out our e-book, Pharmacy Technician Resume Hacking, on Amazon. You can read it even if you don’t have a Kindle device.

3 Broken Promises of Visual Resumes

As a resume writer, I realize all the ways in which the job search process is broken. So much noise. So little human communication. For most people, the job search is just so stressful and exhausting.

I’m really hoping for some changes in the whole thing. And visual resumes could be part of the solution, right? 

Maybe someday. But for now, they’re not keeping their promises… Yes, they do grab attention.

Isn’t it pretty?

Ok. But then, what?

The promises of visual resumes

Here’s the value that visual resumes are promising you.

VisualCV

“Create a standout resume in minutes.”

“Easily create professional resumes, online portfolios and personal landing pages.”

Vizualize.me

“We want to enable people to express their professional accomplishments in a simple yet compelling personal visualization. Our vision is to help people turn their education, skills and experience into opportunities.

ResumUP

“Visual things are better and impressive because they are easy to understand […] compared to a page full of text.”

Kickresume

“Create your resume exactly the way you want and show who you are, not just what you have done.”

“Created by designers, approved by recruiters.”

Enhancv

“Enhancv helps you create performance-based resumes that unveil the real person behind them”

* * *

Keep these promises in mind. We’ll get back to them. 

CLARIFICATION: There are many resumes that feel like works of art. They’re usually created by a graphic designer working on her own resume. My article is about what’s available for the rest of us, usually through online tools.

Visual resumes… from slightly edgy to way out there

Many competing services exist. We see different styles, structures and levels of information. As well as lots and lots of colors and fonts. These are all resumes which we can create online. (At the bottom of each image is the online tool with which it was created.)

Let’s begin our analysis with infographics.

Infographic resumes are terrible

There are great infographic resumes out there. And they usually have one thing in common: they’re custom-made. But I’ve yet to see one that was built for $10 or $50 with an online tool. (And FYI, visual resumes aren’t free, for the most part.) 

For the example below, I used Vizualize.me. And no, I didn’t try to make it as bad as possible. The result is lousy. 

I wanted to add an “Accomplishments” section, but I couldn’t. Vizualize.me seems allergic to full sentences. 

Infographic resumes contain about one third of the words found on regular resumes. Aren’t we promoting professionals with a depth of expertise? Complex, multi-faceted human beings? “Yes, but an image is worth 1,000 words.”

Well, this one isn’t. Put 10 of these infographics side by side, for people in similar roles, and they will all be the same. Which means that the only thing going for them is the nice colors and the “cool” factor. That wears off pretty fast, next to resumes of candidates with actual substance (such as accomplishments).

From the perspective of a recruiter or hiring manager, they’re terrible.

The 3 broken promises of visual resumes

Ok, so what’s the problem with visual resumes?

In a nutshell, they overpromise.

Promise #1 “Create a standout resume

When you look at the templates presented on their websites, they look really good. Below is a screenshot from VisualCV’s home page.

And then you actually use their tools, in a real life situation, and that “standout” feel goes from great to good.

What happened?

The templates are slightly cheating. They’re very light on text, which creates a design that breathes well, with lots of space. Once you add all the words from a real resume, it gets crammed and blocky. I’m not saying it’s ugly; it still looks good. But no one’s going to say: “Oh my goodness! Maria, you gotta check this out!” 

Most resumes fit on 2 pages, which is the norm. But all the “promised results” are built with single page resumes. Because they look better.

Also, the picture is professional in every way. That’s hard to reproduce without skills and a nice camera.  

Promise #2 “Unveil the real person

Visual resumes play on your discouragement in the job search. The fact that you might feel like a number. “Where’s the humanity in the process?”

But this caters to how job seekers feel, not what recruiters need.

Some of the sections used are near worthless:

Quick facts?

Strengths and skills as separate sections? If you’re going to use a skills section, make sure it hits a lot of keywords. Not just 3 or 4 to accomodate design elements. 

Passionate about” is just a disguised “Interests” section. The fact that you like food, travel and music does not help a recruiter know whether you’re a good fit for the company’s culture.

Drop the gimmicks. They add noise to your resume.

And they’re not even helpful to convey the “real person”. When they finally meet you at the interview, that’s when the real person is unveiled. 

Promise #3 “Approved by recruiters”

Ok… 4 out of 5 dentists recommend not believing everything you read on the internet. 

Recruiters have the hard job of finding the best resumes in a pile of very similar resumes. In this article, I go into much more detail to illustrate how visual resumes haven’t been conceived with the hiring process in mind.

But for now, let’s just say that, first, accomplishments are still the best tool that you have, as a job searcher, to stand out. It’s not about the “look and feel” of your resume. It’s about substantiated, compelling facts that show potential employers that you’re worth your salary, and then some.

And second, the first time recruiters look at your resume, they spend about 10 seconds to make a “yes” or “no” decision. A crisp resume summary is a much better tool than any sort of design to pass the 10-second test.

Visual resumes were conceived by designers with a poor grasp of what it means to search for talent. 

So is it that bad?

No, I don’t think that visual resumes are useless. However, they’re fairly new, and people go crazy with the bells and whistles. (A bit like when someone discovers the slide transitions in PowerPoint. “Oooh! Spiral! Look at that!”)

It’s a good tool, with positive elements, but we’re struggling to find the balance. 

As a matter of fact, there are two elements I’ve seen on visual resumes which could be beneficial to both hirers and job seekers.

The first one is the potential return of the headshot on your resume. It’s a nice design touch, which also makes the resume look more human and friendly. And since LinkedIn is so mainstream, legal considerations about potential discrimination lawsuits might soon be a thing of the past. 

Secondly, another element that’s becoming more and more prevalent on LinkedIn is professional recommendations. Quoting a previous supervisor adds a dimension to your resume, and some visual resumes make it work really well. It’s a relevant section from the perspective of the recruiter and doesn’t feel like a gimmick. Because it brings relevant information, not noise.

* * *

So what’s the final score? 3 broken promises to 2 potential positives?

Deep down, I love good design. But there’s a time and place for everything, and the resume isn’t a good vehicle for self-expression. The hiring process simply carries too many constraints.

I don’t think there is a fantastic future for automated visual resumes. But custom-made ones can really have an impact. We have to find balance, by reducing the bells and whistles and focusing on strong differentiating factors: resume accomplishments. And that’s what I discuss here.

* * *

If you like job search articles that take a long time to write, you might be interested in:

Web Developer Resume Hacking

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5 Very Old Lessons from the History of Resumes

How early were computers used to match resumes with job openings? Or how far back did someone realize that job interviews weren’t such a great tool, and tried to do something about it?

The last 100 years of job search and resume history are full of surprises…

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If you google “History of resumes“, the relevant results are all pretty similar to this article. It’s clear that someone has done some original research, and most other links are just rehashing the same material. I wanted more, so I decided to dig deeper.

The resume is a tool created for educated people in an urban context. As we’ll see, it really took off in the 1960s. So what have we learned over this time period? The internet is filled with “resume tips for 2016”, but what about tried and true advice? What about things that have been proven to work for decades? Wouldn’t that provide us with more strategic advice?

Not only did I want to come up with a more detailed history of resumes, but I was indeed looking for something we could draw actual lessons from. A second article looks at how things have evolved over 100 years of job search. (There’s also a job search history infographic, which covers a bit of both texts.)

I started by looking for old resume books

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These are the oldest job search books I could put my hands on. They’re both from 1976, which you can probably tell by the design and colors. But that only brought me 40 years in the past. I wanted to go back 100 years. That’s why I subscribed to the New York Times archive. Which is (quite brilliantly) called the Times Machine.
 

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The Times Machine allowed me to travel to the early 20th century, in a world where looking for work was not so standardized. Back then, it had that human, face-to-face, handshake vibe. A stark contrast with today’s distant, systematic and sometimes overwhelming process, with its keywords and job boards and many gatekeepers.

While the way people connected was very different, employers were still looking for the best potential candidates. And many principles from generations ago are still widely used today. Some job search practices actually go back much further than we imagine.

(I couldn’t cover here every meaningful result from my research. In another article, I will focus on how things have evolved.)

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Our journey begins in 1921, with a book review: The Science of Getting or Changing a Job
(New York Times, August 14, 1921)  

Among other things, we learn that, in those days, $2,500 per year was a hefty salary. In this book review, we read: “The author ranks unsolicited letters of application so high… [he] considers them the best of all means of approaching a prospective employer…” There is a story about a man who sent 25 unsolicited letters to get, only three days later, 23 requests to call.

“The jobs had been there all the time. The trouble had been that he had waited for the jobs to come to him; he hadn’t gone after the jobs.”  

A lot of networking advice today encourages job seekers to be proactive and not wait for job postings. It’s been true for a long time, it seems!

(That being said, don’t trust what they say about the hidden job market nowadays.)  

Let’s now turn to 1939.

(Job Seeker Tested by Clinic Experts, New York Times, December 6, 1939)

In an article, we find eleven cardinal principles for the young lad looking for employment. Here are a few: 1- Use a fast, attention getting opening in letters 4- Dig deep for your hidden assets 7- Appeal to the self-interest of your prospective employer

10- Anticipate your interview and prepare thoroughly for it

These caught my attention because I use and teach a lot of these principles today, and they’re widely used in many areas of sales and marketing. For example, opening with a hook (point 1), or focusing on “what’s in it for them”, i.e. the benefits (point 7).

And my favorite piece of resume advice, which is the foundation of the 3 Laws of Resume Writing, is illustrated in point 4, and more precisely in the example provided of Mr. Burt’s letter. His “letter of application was criticized for being too general… and leaving out specific examples of what he has accomplished.”

To be honest, I was fairly surprised to come across the idea of accomplishments at such an early date. But I’m not really sure why. It probably has to do with the fact that, in my view, it’s a marketing principle applied to resumes… so I didn’t think it would pre-date the Mad Men era…

Accomplishments are really the backbone of any resume. Your resume will never have too many accomplishments, as they are what differentiates you the most from your peers.

Are job interviews accurate?

Now we’re moving forward to 1948 (only one year after Jackie Robinson became the first colored athlete to play professional baseball).
(New Method Developed at Bloomingdale’s For Scientific Examination of Job Seekers, New York Times, June 27, 1948)

It struck me how, in the 1940’s, they were already bothered by the limits of job interviews in predicting skills and proper fit.

The article is about Bloomingdale. “… the store is well on the way toward developing a standardized objective method of determining fitness of applicants for sales positions….” The objective is “… supplementing and strengthening interviewers’ judgment rather than eliminating it.”

How do you go about that? With a test, of course! It covered “clerical aptitude, interests, personaity and mental abilities of the applicants.” And they did it with a “great deal of help from psychologists and statisticians from … N.Y.U.”

Mr. Mitchell, vice president in charge of personnel and industrial relations, claimed that their test was working. And while he agreed that it wasn’t perfect, he remained happy to have “scientifically separated most of the wheat from the chaff.”

One key word still missing

Interestingly, up to that point, one important word still hasn’t been seen: resume. When does the word “resume” first appear in the New York Times, in the context of job search? 1960.
(Job Seeker Gets A Proper Start With a Resume, New York Times, October 27, 1960)

“The career-seeking woman must realize that her résumé may be as crucial to her success as her small talk may be in acquiring a husband.”

(Don’t you like that touch of paternalism?)

Before the resume became central to the process, job seekers were pretty much knocking on doors and sending letters of application. But now, with a more educated population and companies getting bigger and more organized, the process had to improve. It needed streamlining, and resumes were the right tool for the job. Let’s cut the wishy-washy you-know-my-uncle crap. Show me what you know and what you did, without wasting my time!

Too old for this?

In 1967, an article echoes something we still hear about regularly: a mismatch between openings and applicants.
(Paradox in Jobs: Age Holds a Key — Worker Oversupply Is Noted Despite Many Openings, New York Times, March 12, 1967)

Today, when we read about this “paradox”, it’s usually connected to skillsets (the many unemployed don’t have the skills to fill the many openings)­. According to Gartner: “By 2020, the US will see 1.4 million computer specialist job openings, but more than 70% of those will remain unfilled because our universities aren’t currently teaching the required skills.”

But in the 60’s, the reality was different: “Companies want youth… while the workers seeking jobs have greater responsibilities, in general, and therefore require a larger salary than the newcomers. […] President Johnson… called attention to discrimination in hiring on account of age and urged that employers avoid this pitfall.”

Interesting to note that age has always been tricky. It can still be hard to get a job today if you have too much gray hair. Or if you’re just out of school.

In 1967, there was “sharp demand for scientists, engineers and computer programers.”

“On a dark, desert highway…” (1976)

Moving on to 1976, when Hotel California was a hip new song, and one year before Apple was incorporated. We’re now turning to two books that address the job search and resumes. At that point in time, the resume was well on its way to becoming the main job search document, taking the place of the application (soon-to-be “cover”) letter.

Again, we’ll be looking at excerpts which demonstrate that our job search wisdom isn’t all that new.

How to Get the Job You Want: A guide to résumés, interviews, and job-hunting strategy
(M. Donaho, J. Meyer, 1976)

The authors note that very few “thank you” letters are sent. Which is still quite true today. Thanking people who have interviewed you is a great way to stay top of mind, but very few job seekers take the time to do it. And a recent survey has shown that recruiters are fine with an email (no need for a handwritten note).

“An employer advertising in the Wall Street Journal can anticipate over 600 responses for any significant position.” Heavy competition is nothing new! Today, Google can get 50,000 resumes on a busy week. And Procter & Gamble regularly gets 500 resumes per opening.

“In [1976] the work force is highly mobile, with numerous managers and professionals moving freely from one state to another.” Some of us think this is a 21st century thing. Workforce mobility was already true 40 years ago!

Same goes for the idea of tailoring your applications: “… do not mass produce your letter of application… Duplicated letters show little initiative.” It’s critical today to tailor your cover letter, and your resume must reflect keywords from the job ad.

Résumé Writing: A Comprehensive How-To-Do-It Guide
(B. Bostwick, 1976)

“The average resume must make its impression in 20 to 30 seconds.” While we sometimes hear that it’s as short as 6 or 10 seconds in the 21st century, the idea remains: your resume will be scanned first, which means that your key messages must be very easy to spot. (Which is why I love the resume summary.)

“Successful resumes have been as short as one page and as long as six pages. It is conciseness, relevance and interest that matter.” Again, numbers might be a bit off (6 pages!), but the principle is timeless: say everything that’s relevant in as little words as possible.

“The description of responsibilities should always be followed by a statement of accomplishments.” In the world of resume writing, nothing tops accomplishments as the best tool you have to stand out among your peers.

In the final pages of this book (Appendix B), we find “Useful Words and Phrases”   “About you: dynamic, imaginative, talented, motivated, responsible, strategist…” “About your skills: analyze, communicate, develop, lead, plan, train…”

To be frank, I’m not a big fan of “useful words and phrases” in general. But if you’re going to focus on words, strong verbs are much more important than strong adjectives. In other words, zoom in on your skills and what you’ve achieved, not your traits (which are harder to substantiate). But really, it’s about the house, not the bricks. Employers want to see the value which you brought to previous employers (the benefits). Show them by talking about your accomplishments.

So take the time to write well, but don’t waste too much time on phrasing.

Calling upon technology

1967_graduates_match_computers-3

Ok. I saved a bit of trivia for last. Here’s something about using computers to match resumes with job openings… The early days, if you will, of resume screening (which has become so prevalent). Try to guess when this article was written.

“… résumés were recorded with thousands of others on magnetic storage disks at the council’s data center […] Computers scan the résumés at a rate of hundreds a minute, acting on specifications sent in by employers in many types of industry.”

Any thoughts at this point? What’s coming might help you out a bit:

“The employers dial the computer and make their needs known over a teletypewriter.”

The words “dialing the computer” and “teletypewriter” obviously don’t belong to the Facebook era and might tip you off to how dated this is. So, when were computers used to help companies find the right candidates? As early as 1967.

Yup. We’ve been working on this for 50 years, and there’s still LOTS of room for improvement!

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5 important lessons from 100 years of resume history

The job search is far from a perfect process. Both resumes and interviews have their flaws. The human factor also makes things more complex. However, if we’re still doing things a certain way after 40, 50 or 60 years, it certainly means that it’s working. So here’s a recap of these time-tested solutions:

  1. Look for work proactively (unsolicited, targeted emails is a sound networking tactic).
  2. Focus on accomplishments and benefits (i.e. not just roles and responsibilities).
  3. Make an impact in 20 seconds.

On the flip side of the coin, there are things we might dislike about the job search that are not going anywhere, mainly because of habit, logistics and financial pressure. There really seems to be strong trends behind the following two elements, so we have to learn to live with them.

  • Job interviews are lacking in many respects, but they have their strengths and they’re still the most common “hiring decision” tool.

While nothing here is trendy advice for 2016, it’s been successfully applied for decades. The 5 lessons above really get to the root of strategic resume advice. They’re a very reliable foundation to build on. Here’s a second article, to find out more about the various trends of the job search over the last 100 years.

If you like this article, let your friends know: share it on LinkedIn or Facebook!

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If you like job search articles that take a long time to write, you might be interested in: