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Saturday, March 23, 2013

Key CV Advice

A recent survey carried out by the American Management Association reveals some interesting findings relating to CVs submitted by job seekers and contains critical advice for anyone considering reviewing their CV. This is certainly worth a read, before posting out a new CV for 2013!

The Survey
A total of 3,129 people answered our survey. To ensure a good
response, we kept the questions short and to the point. Here are the
questions we asked:
What are the critical components of a well-written
When you scan dozens of résumés, what do you look for?
What length of résumé do you prefer?
What are some of the things you see in résumés that
you really don’t like? What shouldn’t be on a résumé?
What distinguishes the résumés of candidates you
interview from the large number of résumés you
How many résumés do you personally review—per
week? per month? per year? per position you are trying
to fill?
How important is a cover letter when you are receiving
Is it you or your HR department who reviews the
résumés first?
When you have a stack of résumés in front of you, how
long does it take to initially review each one?
Do you receive or use video résumés?

The Results
Here are the results, with the percentages of respondents specifying
the answers given:
What Are the Critical Components
of a Well-Written Résumé?
❚ Reverse chronological order:98%
❚ Names of companies, a clear indication of what they do,
specific dates, specific job titles, and a clear list of
duties: 98%
❚ Concise evidence of success: 96%
❚ Quantifiable results and accomplishments: 94%
❚ No spelling, grammar, or typographical errors: 85%
❚ Clear, concise articulation of skills and experience: 80%
❚ Pertinent information that relates to the job being
filled: 60%
❚ Written by the candidate (not professionally written):
❚ Format that is clear and easy to read: 45%
❚ Dates of employment with month and year: 45%
❚ Résumé tailored to specific job opening (“what can you
do for me—now?”): 40%
It’s clear that the vast majority of respondents want a reverse
chronological résumé. As you will see, functional résumés, as well as
most Objectives statements and Career Summaries, are not generally
appreciated or desired. Clear dates of employment and concise
evidence of a person’s duties, responsibilities, and accomplishments
are important.
Functional résumés are acceptable in some professions, like nursing
or healthcare. A nurse is a nurse, no matter if he or she worked at
a number of hospitals. A hiring authority would want to know the
accomplishments or functions and that, for instance, all of the positions
were in nursing. I discuss this, with examples, in Chapter 7.
When You Scan Dozens of Résumés,
What Do You Look For?
❚ Professional experience that relates to what needs to be
done: 97%
❚ The companies an applicant has worked for and
whether the duties of those jobs relate to the open job
function and skills needed: 95%
❚ Brevity and clear, well-defined accomplishments: 90%
❚ Key skills that match the openings: 88%
❚ Stability: 87%
❚ Key words, phrases, and acronyms that apply to the job
opening: 70%
❚ Whether there are gaps in employment history: 51%
❚ Things that set a candidate apart from the rest: 48%
❚ Progression and continuity of jobs and positions within
career: 40%
Résumé readers want clear explanations of what the candidate
has done and how that applies to the job being interviewed for. Most
résumés are too vague about the kind of work the candidate’s prior
employers were involved in, and candidates often don’t present this
information in terms most readers can understand. Not surprisingly,
evidence of stability and only minimal gaps in employment are important
to the hiring authorities.
What Length of Résumé Do You Prefer?
❚ 1 to 2 pages: 95%
❚ More than 2 pages: 5%
Résumés in healthcare, information technology, and academia
can go beyond the two-page rule. Considering the number of
résumés most hiring authorities have to review (and with most
résumés first read online), it seems that two pages are about all that
will get read, even with a more in-depth review. As one respondent
wrote, “If a candidate can’t tell me what he has done, what he or she
can do for me, and why I should interview them in two pages, the
candidate isn’t concise enough!”
What Are Some of the Things You See in Résumés That
You Really Don’t Like? What Shouldn’t Be on a Résumé?
❚ Long, unclear descriptions of present or previous
jobs: 98%
❚ Objective or summary statements: 95%
❚ Excessive job descriptions with no factual achievements:
❚ Personal information—photos, church affiliation, marriage,
how many kids, hobbies: 90%
❚ Grammatical, spelling, or punctuation mistakes: 90%
❚ Generic competencies that are fluff, such as “dynamic
leader,” “excellent communication skills,” and “effective
listener”: 90%
❚ Too much information: 88%
❚ Every webinar, seminar, or class the applicant ever
attended: 75%
❚ Personal information: 64%
❚ “References Available upon Request”: 55%
❚ Anything before college: 50%
❚ Résumés obviously written by a résumé service: 48%
❚ Résumés written by copying the published job description:
This question got the longest answers and the most emotional
ones. Hiring authorities really feel strongly about what they don’t like
to see in résumés. It is obvious that résumés need to have clear descriptions
of exactly what the candidate has done, expressed in terms a
prospective employer can identify with (i.e., answering the question,
“What is this candidate going to do for me?”). Objectives and summaries
are not appreciated unless they apply to the specific position.
Remember this fact! Summaries and statements of Objectives seem to be
popular, and yet the vast majority of employers don’t like them.
Similarly, personal information is not appreciated on the résumé,
so don’t include it! One respondent summed it up this way: “Anything
that is not relevant to the job I am interviewing for is a waste of time.
I won’t interview a candidate who can’t, succinctly, tell me what he can
do for me—now!”
What Distinguishes the Résumés of Candidates You
Interview from the Large Number of Résumés You Ignore?
❚ Accomplishments that qualify the candidate for what is
needed: 99%
❚ Clear, concise information that tells what the candidate
has done: 95%
❚ Job stability: 94%
❚ Professional layout—not too crammed, with the right
amount of white space: 80%
❚ Easy to compare prior experience to the job to be
filled: 78%
❚ A résumé “customized” to supply needed information:
❚ Awards and recognitions: 74%
❚ Attention to detail, such as correct grammar, spelling,
and punctuation: 65%
This question got more varied answers than any of the other survey
questions. While the above represent answers from the majority of
respondents, there were a few other responses that seemed individual:
“Something that catches my eye.”
“I only read résumés referred to me by someone I know.”
“A local candidate.”
“Readability—don’t try to be cute.”
In sum, clear, concise accomplishments and job stability really
make a big splash. Perceptions of job stability are discussed in
Chapter 10.
How Many Résumés Do You Personally Review?
❚ Per week: ranged from 2 to 400, with an average of 65.
❚ Per month: ranged from 5 to 1,000, with an average
of 236.
❚ Per year: ranged from 10 to 20,000, with an average
of 2,429.
❚ The number of résumés reviewed for each position
ranged from 3 to 300, with an average of 60.
The take-away message is that, on average, your résumé is competing
with at least sixty others each time you apply for a job. So picture
yourself sitting down to go through sixty résumés. Maybe even
print sixty résumés off one of the job boards and put them in front of
you. Now, start reading. How long is your attention span? Does this
feel productive? Would you even know what you were looking for?
And, how does this exercise make you feel about your own résumé?
How Important Is a Cover Letter When You Are
Receiving Résumés?
❚ Not very important: 86%
❚ Important: 14%
The majority of hiring authorities who thought the cover letter
was important stated that they read the résumé first. This response
typified most: “It is only important to me if the person is of interest. I
usually read the cover letter after I look at the résumé.” Most of the
respondents expressed their ambivalence about cover letters by stating
that a well-written résumé was more important.
Is It You or Your HR Department Who Reviews
the Résumés First?
Note: We did not count respondents from the HR departments
in these results.
❚ The HR department screens them first: 39%
❚ The hiring manager reviews them directly: 61%
Comments from hiring authorities about how HR departments
screen résumés varied from, “They send me the top three résumés,” to
“They scan them into a database and eliminate the obviously unqualified
ones, then send the rest to me.” So, there is tremendous variation
in the role played by HR when it comes to reviewing résumés.
These results were a bit surprising. Some HR departments are
simply screeners who do lots of other things in the company; others
are internal recruiters who spend their day reviewing résumés so the
hiring authority won’t have too many to review. In spite of this, on
average, hiring authorities claim they still have to review sixty résumés
for each opening.
When You Have a Stack of Résumés in Front of You,
How Long Does It Take to Initially Review Each One?
❚ Less than 1 minute: 56%
❚ 1 to 2 minutes: 21%
❚ 2 to 5 minutes: 13%
❚ More than 5 minutes: 10%
Comments like, “It depends on the number of résumés I have to
review” and “It depends on how hard it is to find the kind of candidate
I need,” accompanied almost every answer. My personal sense is
most hiring authorities don’t take even 30 seconds to review a résumé
unless they see something that they like—performance, accomplishments,
recognizable experience, and so on. Most of them don’t want
to admit that they breeze through these résumés with no real process
or plan. In my opinion, this leads them to miss great candidates the
majority of the time.
I speak from personal experience on this. Our recruiting and
placement firm places close to 800 professionals a year with all types
of firms in the Dallas/Ft.Worth area. At least four or five times a
month, we place a candidate with a company that had already received
the candidate’s résumé before, and sometimes two or three times earlier.
You know and I know that your résumé does not represent all of
you and all of your abilities. And it turns out that businesspeople, even
hiring authorities, often can’t evaluate you from your résumé, either.
This isn’t fair, but life is unfair. However, it does reinforce the
fact that you have to do everything in your power to get a face-to-face
interview; you can’t just assume that someone will recognize what a
gem you are from your résumé alone.
Do You Receive or Use Video Résumés?
Not one respondent said he or she uses video résumés.
We asked this question to see if any hiring authorities in the
“trenches” of average businesses were open to avant-garde or
advanced technology as a way of reviewing résumés or applicants.
There’s increasing hype about video résumés, YouTube résumés,
PowerPoint résumés, and other electronic presentations, so we
wanted to see whether anyone was considering them. No one seems to
be. Traditional résumés are still the norm.
A Summary of Our Findings
Based on our survey, your résumé needs to be written in reverse
chronological order and should clearly describe the functions of the
companies you have worked for as well as your duties and responsibilities
at each of those companies. It must highlight your accomplishments
in terms everyone can understand and relate your experience to
the job you are applying for. The résumé should communicate
longevity in jobs, with specific dates. It must be no more than two
pages and it should rarely include an Objective statement or Career
Summary—and only if it relates to the job you are applying for. Your
résumé should feature accomplishments that make you stand out from
the crowd (because yours is going to be one of the sixty that make it
to the hiring authority’s desk).

American Management Association

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