As ‘head-hunter’s, recruitment consultants go through tens of thou- sands of resumes annually, perhaps hundreds in a day. Obviously a busy ‘head-hunter’ merely glances through a resume, not really reading every word the candidate writes. The HR manager or the hiring manag- ers face the same dilemma. It is quite essential that resumes grab the attention of the reader. I have known many candidates with outstanding careers, good schools, and solid employers only to be thrown out be- cause of a poorly written resume.
Essentially, a well written resume should survive a 3 minute “glance test”. Only after surviving this test, will the consultant come back a se- cond time to read in more detail and extract the essential information necessary for job profiling. A clear, concise resume with a good layout will help you clear the first hurdle. Here is how not to stumble over the second.
5 potential pitfalls to avoid in your resume:
1. Facts, Facts, Facts: Never lie about anything. It is very tempting to put in an extra accomplishments or steal another’s award if your career is nothing much to shout about. I always apply this rule, ‘if it didn’t happen, don’t write it down’. Most companies will do a reference checks for management level staff. Here’s another rule from journal- ism that holds true for resumes: ‘say it once and then never again’. Just keep to the facts.
2. Gramma?: Of course not! It is GRAMMAR. I don’t understand why anyone should make mistakes in grammar and spelling. Use the diction- ary as provided by Microsoft. Don’t be lazy. A common spelling mis- take: ‘principle’ and ‘principal’. Such mistakes though common, don’t reflect well on you as a candidate.
3. The beautiful resume: One resume I saw recently contained at least 5 colours reflecting the various stages in a glorious career. It was en- hanced by beautiful bullet points and bold wordings for certain empha- sis on capability. For awards and achievements (besides colour enhance- ments) the font was enlarged and in italics. If you were the hiring man- ager, would you hire this person? I personally wouldn’t unless I was
4. Font size: A common error amongst candidates who have an illus- trious career spanning some thirty years, is to squeeze a life’s work into as few pages as possible (without any attempt on brevity or clari- ty) by simply reducing the font size to achieve this. What you get is tiny words that even a non-presbyopic would need magnifying glass- es to read. This is surely the recipe for the dustbin. The essence here is that your resume must be legible.
In a related issue, in the USA or Europe, it is common for employers to expect no longer than a single page resume. At most two, if you really have such an impressive career. In Asia however, it is quite ap- propriate to receive resumes of 3 or 4 pages. Most Asian employers are quite sanguine about long resumes, but keep in mind that clear, concise and readable (font size) content will win the day for you.
5. Chronology: The most common resume I have come across is al- most always presented in chronological order. The other basic types are functional, combination or targeted. I find that as a ‘head- hunter’ reverse chronological is the most useful because then I can read the most recent jobs held, first. I may not necessarily want to read what happened 30, 40 years ago.
It is the most important that your career span is stated in reverse chronological order and nothing is missed out. If you have a gap year for example, it is wise to mention it. Leaving out an un-explained gap in your career, no matter how embarrassing is a No-No. You may wish to explain it verbally during the interview, if so, you can write a short note that says “ will explain in person”. Never , never under any circumstances manipulate the dates. If in doubt, go back to point 1!
Contributor: Sonny Yuen
” Sonny Yuen is a headhunter and occasional contributor to the Straits Times forum page”