Is your resume a result of careful decisions about what to include or a cluttered, overburdened mess?
As I'm picking my way through Rework by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson, I came across one section which really stuck a chord with me from a recurring perspective. Actually, I find that the book has given me more than one such moment, but this one made me think about resumes in a new way.
As someone who has thought about resumes long and hard, it's rare that I get a new perspective that sparks my imagination, so I thought I'd pass it along.
In the section called "Be a curator," Fried and Hansson suggest:
You do not make a great museum by putting all the art in the world into a single room. That's a warehouse. What makes a museum great is the stuff that's not on the walls. Someone says no. A curator is involved, making conscious decisions about what should stay and what should go.
Spend some time thinking about your resume as a museum. To extend the metaphor, consider yourself its curator. When a curator puts up an exhibition, he or she decides upon some theme or context. There's intention behind what appears there and if the curator is any good at the job, it will be apparent to most people who visit.
As the author of your resume, you bear the same responsibility to your readers.
Present an inviting entry, making it clear what you do and what the intention of the resume is. In other words, if you're applying for a position as a Java software engineer, then your resume had better reflect that intention and signal it to any reader that you know the tools and terminology of the profession very well.
Nobody loves a "warehouse" resume
I've read well-curved resumes and I've tossed quite a few "warehouses" in the garbage can. A warehouse is more like the academic or medical profession's Curriculum Vitae (CV), something far more comprehensive in nature. Literally, a CV means "the courses of life." Resumes that meander along for five or more pages are begging for curation. They are dusty storerooms of dry, repetitive information that signal any employee that you really have no idea about what's going to be important to them. In fact, it demonstrates that you have zero respect for your audience and have made it the reader's responsibility to rummage around and make sense out of the chaos that is your life.
Curator 101: A three-step program
Getting the resume in order does not need to be an incredibly painful process. In fact, with just three steps you can at least begin to get control of the problem. Recognize that your old 10-pager just is not going to cut it and is probably hurting you out in the job market. Here's how to start:
Step One: Have a Collection Policy for Your Career Data
Curators for museums follow a policy for collecting and formally accepting new objects into the museum's care. Consider taking an inventory of all the things that you might possibly say about your career and spend some time categorizing things like industry experience, accomplishments, and responsibilities. Chances are, if you've held several jobs in the same general career area you'll begin to see ways to group these items together. Think about ways you might present that data that you had not before putting them together. For instance, your resume may reveal that you have demonstrated a trend of achievements in a given area. Or, it may suggest to you a new way of talking about your industry experience.
Once you've tallied up all of the things that might go in your resume and spend some time thinking critically and seeing connections or correspondences you'll be in a better position to start discriminating about things you want to include and exclude from the resume itself . Let's call this full inventory of what you've got the warehouse resume. Nobody will ever need to see it but you and it can serve as a place for you to enter new bits of career data and suggest new ways that you might portray your experience to an employer.
Step Two: Remove What's Irrelevant
It may be tempting to hang on to your original overly-long resume, even if you've just gone through the process of creating a warehouse resume. Chances are, there are probably parts of your resume you really like but you just do not know where to cut.
Do not take it all on yourself. Sit down and talk through the resume with a family member, friend or colleague who is a good writer. And that's right I said talk it through. You should not just dump the resume on your hapless friend – say, what kind of friend are you anyway? Set aside an hour and read the resume loudly, line by line. I know it sounds tedious but by reading it out loud to someone else, you'll discover all sorts of things about your writing, including really important things like whether you're being vague or sound pompous or timid. Have a pen and scratch paper handy to take notes.
At the same time as you're reading aloud, pause after each statement and talk with your friend about why that statement is important. Maybe it will not be very similar but as you work through the resume you may find that you're spending too much (or not enough) time on one topic or another.
You may find that you need to do this with more than one person and may get varying opinions. And it may leave you with a resume that looks a little anemic. That's okay. Remember that you've got the warehouse resume with your other accomplishments at hand.
Step Three: Curate A Job-Winning Resume
Before ransacking the warehouse resume for more "stuff to say" that will beef up your resume, take a pause to consider the individual job or jobs for which you're applying. Take some time to really read the job description available for the position and consider the themes and patterns you've identified in your warehouse. Rate what's most important to include, thinking about what will make the greatest impact on an employer.
Once you've selected the points to include the real work of writing a cohesive resume begins again. Like all curators, an exhibition is not just a jumble of art lying in a pile. Consider how each bullet point of experience fits with the rest. Does your top third of the resume provide an inviting and impactful introduction of your experience as it relates to the job? Do you use bullet points for highlighting accomplishes and not as an instrument to bludgeon a reader into submission? Have you simply and directly told your story, who you are, and what you have done?