(long) Resumes: making the first cut

Subject: (long) Resumes: making the first cut
From: John Gough <john -at- ATRIUM -dot- COM>
Date: Mon, 13 Jun 1994 11:56:42 CDT

My take on resume strategies:

--> Function vs. Chronological
Functional resumes are OK, but they *must* be accompanied by a
chronological summary. Most functional resumes that I have seen
aren't very good.

My complaints: the categories are often too broad or beside the point,
especially once you venture beyond mechanical things like OS
experience and tools experience. I like to see annotations that
explain the context of the experience, especially the length of time,
scope and size where relevant, and level of responsibility. My own
resume is chronological only, though I have toyed with the idea of
adding a functional summary, possibly as a separate document.

Beware of presenting too much: if a functional resume has a majority
of functionality in categories that I don't care about, then I assume
that the person's first interest and best talent is not in my
kind of work.

Functional resumes are particularly useful for pointing out to a
potential employer that you have relevant experience, if not a history
of similar job titles. Implicit in this strategy is that you're
applying for a junior level position. It's going to be hard to cross
careers into a senior position.

--> Deadly Typos
I don't automatically trash a resume based on a single typo,
especially if it's in the cover letter. My higher tolerance is at
least partially the result of working for someone who had no tolerance
for even one. Generally there are lots of other distinguishing
factors: quality of writing, good match of experience, and so on. I
*have* seen resumes that cross even my threshold--multiple errors, bad
grammar, poor word choice, misuse of industry terminology.

--> Fonts, Design, Etc.
Skip the fancy fonts and graphics. Show good organization and
design. Cite facts. Talk short talk. My pet peeve is resume design
that uses page-width columns. There are too many good alternatives.
FWIW, research says optimal width is 1.5 to 2.5 alphabets, depending
on leading. I also don't like intensifiers--"*very* good impacting
skills". I appreciate emphasis in the cover letter that makes it easy
for me to determine that the candidate has at least the qualities that
we ask for in the ad.

Making the First Cut

When I'm hiring people to write software manuals, people who have
written software manuals before have a major advantage over marketing
writers, journalists, hardware writers, MIL-spec writers, ANSI-9000
writers, trainers, literary editors, and so on.

My obligation to my employer is to hire the best person for the job,
and we're usually in a hot rush to do it. People who have to adjust
to a new type of work experience are probably a liability. I have
sympathy for good people who are trying to change careers, but if
they're *really* good they're probably not relying only on resumes.
Personal contact (networking) can get you over that hump.
John Gough john -at- atrium -dot- com
Principal Technical Writer voice (512) 328-6977
Atrium Technologies fax (512) 328-2789
Austin, TX

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