Subject: resumes
From: Tom Little <LITTLE_TOM_H -at- OFVAX -dot- LANL -dot- GOV>
Date: Wed, 18 Jan 1995 16:12:00 MDT

Mike Uhl writes:

> From the TECHWR-L subscribers, I would like suggestions
> for a set of DOs and DON'Ts for technical communicators'
> resumes. Let's brainstorm online.

I confess I've seldom been on the resume-reading end of the equation, so maybe
my opinions aren't worth much, but here goes:

1. Keep it simple. All the essential information should be accessible at a
glance. My resume is one sheet. On the front is education and experience; on the
back is a list of projects I've done for my current employer, with each
project's primary client as a reference. (I do provide extras, like a list of
publications, on request.) I use a large, readable font and a moderate helping
of white space. This means that I DON'T list every single job I've ever
had--just recent or pertinent ones, and I don't list my high school, junior
high, or kindergarden. The idea is that the front sheet of the resume should
make the reader want to give me an interview. I figure that if the manager
doesn't have a reason to interview you by the end of the first page, it's pretty
much a lost cause. An additional ten pages of life accomplishment is not going
to help.

2. Look professional. One reason that many resumes look alike is that they
should. If you try to "wow" them with your creative formatting or high-powered
printing tools, you may get the reaction "Who does he think he is?" I had a
friend in graduate school who used a laser printer for his resume when NO ONE
had them at home or in a private office. He also listed scads of impressive
publications (his contribution to them had been minimal). It struck most of us
as a sickening display of ego. Play it cool. Make the resume direct, accurate,
and neat, like a business letter. If it looks like your resume is your magnum
opus, people will wonder what you're trying to prove.

3. Don't add qualifications and explanations. They belong in the cover letter,
if anywhere. Don't write "WORD PROCESSOR" under experience and then procede to
explain how your job was ever-so-much-more than just word processing. The
opposite extreme, false modesty, is rarely a problem, but I once knew a computer
engineer who didn't want to list image processing expertise because he though he
didn't know enough about it. The guy had helped design a three-board image
processing system for PCs, written driving software for it, and used it to do
pattern recognition research.

All this comes down to using 93 1/2 square inches to convince a manager that
your qualifications match the job description, and that you're level-headed and
professional enough to merit an interview. Don't stray from the point, and don't
overdo it. All the hundreds of little things that make you worth hiring don't
need to be in the resume. The resume is like the line that gets the salesmen
through your door, or keeps you from hanging up on the telemarketer.

Tom Tadfor Little | "They called me
Technical Writer/Editor | 'the quiet one' because
Los Alamos National Laboratory | I just didn't have anything
little_tom_h -at- ofvax -dot- lanl -dot- gov | to say" -- George Harrison, 1987.

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