Saturday, May 19, 2007

The Interview Process – What does a good resume look like?

So, you’ve placed your ads, and now you’ve got a stack of resumes to wade through. Where do you begin?

The cover letter.

Resumes are fine for communicating history. But a cover letter tells the candidate’s story. It’s what they should be using to grab your attention, engage you, and differentiate themselves. I always, always ask for a cover letter. If they don’t send one, I usually don’t end up looking at the resume. Maybe that sounds harsh, or unfair, but if I specifically ask for a cover letter in an ad, and I don’t get one – what does it say about the candidate? That they didn’t read the posting? Maybe they’re spamming their resume to every employer in the area. I can forgive a lot when it comes to a candidate – ugly resumes, gaps in the employment history, a technical background that’s not an exact match with the need … but I need to have a cover letter. And why not? It’s a candidate's opportunity to differentiate him/herself from the dozens of other resumes that hit my desk that morning.

Incidentally, while I might skim through resumes, I read every cover letter that I get.

Always send a cover letter. And spending 5 minutes to make sure that it’s a good fit and just a little bit customized for the position that you’re applying for can make all of the difference.

Resume tips?

There are plenty of books, and plenty of sites that cover this in detail. Specifically worth mentioning is the Jobsyntax blog – definitely worth a read. As far as what I like? Short, 1-2 page resumes. I like an “objective” statement – but if your's says anything about “finding a job”, or is “passive” in anyway, then it’s best to leave it off. I’m not in the business of giving out jobs – I’m in the business of making a profit. Help me make a profit. Otherwise, the highlights should all be on the first page, including at a minimum – current position, major accomplishments that you are comfortable discussing intelligently during an interview, and education. Education is becoming increasingly important for IT Professionals. I'm getting tired of the certification mills churning out job-seekers.