The Perfect Resume (IMHO) – pt. 1

16 10 2009

I’m starting a series called “The perfect resume”.  It will take me a bazillion years to figure this out for myself, as well, but I’ll put some tricks that worked for me (and for others).  Let’s start with the basics:

What is a resume?
It’s a simple, easy to read snapshot of facts that illustrate your past experiences, affiliations and credentials for a role.  Let’s call out the most important part for me here:  EASY TO READ.  An experienced recruiter spends a whole of about 30 seconds scanning your resume for facts about you.  So a resume cannot be a brick of text.  It cannot be a 913751875 page memoir.  It’s a simple statement of facts that you’ve collected on your experiences.  Leave it at that!

Resumes should be objective.
It doesn’t matter how many times you wrote “awesome” and “effective” and “brilliant” and “successfully” all over your resume.  It doesn’t count unless you have the facts to back it up.  If all the facts suggest awesomeness, then you are a winner!

Numbers are good.
Numbers are facts that can show you are a winner.  If you made something better, where are the numbers to show it?  For example, numbers, like a GPA, can show you are bright or that you apply yourself and work hard.  Numbers like a % increase in adoption rates or sales for the month help.  But don’t make them up.  Make the best estimate you can and if you’re really just lost, don’t put them at all.  Recruiters and smart interviewers can sniff out fake numbers.  Fake numbers smell kind of like sewage.  yucky.

Who should review your resume?
The more the merrier.  Find a few people you trust and have them look it over for you and give you pointers and feedback.  Have them only spend 30 seconds on your resume and see if they extrapolate everything you wanted to get across about your skills, experiences, and expertise.

No?  Revise it!

Resumes are hard to write, but check out this one from or (I don’t know what the original source is).

I think it’s an okay example, but what might you change about it?

I think it’s an okay example, but what might you change about it?




8 responses

21 10 2009
Jaykai Lin

I review a bunch of resumes at work for software engineering positions. I don’t think I have ever rejected resumes for these reasons, but they do raise eyebrows:

– GPA under 3.0 on resume
– “references upon request” – this is meaningless. Of course you are going to give us your references when we request them.
– I don’t like objectives. Your objective is to get hired by us for the job you applied for. I *do* like summaries: “15+ years of experience in hardware design with a strong interest in mobile technology.” It might be a personal preference since the resume *is* a summary of who you are professionally.
– Unless you are a recent grad, things like honor societies don’t matter. I was in an honor society. It doesn’t mean anything. Associations, however, can make me say, “Oh, cool, he teaches windsurfing,” but I don’t feel like it has ever helped or hurt a candidate.

There are a few rules that I follow which work for me:

– highlight most relevant experience. My education is important, but my most recent work and open source work is probably the most relevant to any position I am applying for, so it goes at the top

– I like white space. People who look at resumes don’t like seeing things bunched together.

– I leave out a lot of stuff if it’s less important. “Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.” – Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Get your point across. Your resume is how you want to be viewed as a professional by a potential employer. With that objective in mind, what *don’t* you need on your resume anymore?

28 11 2009
Jennie Maria

When I first saw the example resume I had to laugh because I’m a graduate (well, almost, in a few weeks) of PSU and that’s basically what we are told to follow. My resume used to look almost exactly the same, until I had professionals and close friends look at it and change almost everything about it.

Again, I’m a student so I don’t have experience hiring people but like Jaykai Lin said an objective, especially as simple as the one above, can be unnecessary even a waste. Now I have one on my resume but it’s much more descriptive, but it used to be a one-liner “To use my experience…” Almost all of my professional friends had a problem with it. I didn’t want to get rid of my objective because I felt it was drilled into my brain at PSU, but I did make it more personal and include the types of positions or work I would be interested in.

Their relevant courses may be a little much. I kept mine to two of the most important to show I studied what my field is.

With the objectives, I would include more numbers. That’s a big thing, especially when what you did resulted into something – 9 new hires, 10 new volunteers, $12,000 raised…whatever you assisted with and accomplished should be included.

I agree with Jaykai Lin again with the references, and I was recently told by a career services woman that all recent graduates should include them with their cover letter and resume because employers are looking at them more. It saves them another step from having to ask.

I will say the one thing PSU did instill in me which I know helped a lot was sending out Thank You letters to every person I interview with, or who helps me with an interview. It’s helped make lasting connections and networking has become easier.

20 02 2010
Kristen Fischer

What skills at Banana and Barnes are transferrable? There’s no description of how that built a foundation!!

22 02 2010

Hi Kristen,

I’m assuming you’re asking about Banana Republic and Barnes and Noble? What did you do there?


7 03 2010
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30 06 2010
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22 06 2011
Jobs Career Resume

Fantastic Article and discussion. Really helpful. I have been following this for some days now and found it very good. Great Job !!!

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