Subject: Resumes
From: Tim Altom <taltom -at- IQUEST -dot- NET>
Date: Thu, 20 Feb 1997 08:06:53 -0600

My own opinion about resumes is perhaps a radical one, but I'll toss it out
anyway: they're usually evidence that an applicant hasn't done his/her
homework and isn't top of the line. Not always. I'll look at one. But not
very hard.

My reasons: First, resumes are easy to pad, simple to manufacture, and all
too available for broadsides.A resume usually tells me that the applicant
is trolling for a job. That's probably okay for a newbie or a really
low-level employee, but once you hit true techdoc'er status I don't think
it's workable.

In my view a resume tells me absolutely zip. Can you write? Maybe. Maybe
somebody wrote the resume for you. Did you really work at all those places?
I'm not going to call them before I talk to you anyway. Your degree? Hey,
you might have slept through your classes. Did you work with those operating
systems? Who cares? I can teach an operating system. I can't teach the
intangibles. And intangibles are the devil to get into a resume. Even
samples are slippery. What role did you play when these were created? Were
you the writer who was the bane of every editor on the project?

Of even more importance, though, is the fact that I don't know you. Why not?
There's an STC chapter in town and I've been an officer for years. I get
around quite a bit doing sales and other contacts, I belong to other
organizations, and my phone number is listed. Why haven't I heard of you?

I'm asked often by students and newbies how they should write their resumes.
I tell them to forget it except under extraordinary circumstances, as when
they have to supply an internal champion with good ammunition to justify a
hiring. I tell them, instead, to think months ahead. Make appointments to
talk to lots of techdoc departments and managers. Don't make the meeting
into an employment interview. Instead, ask them what kind of work they do
there, the technologies they're wanting to move to, the software they run.
Ask what skills they're looking for now and in the future. Take them to
lunch. Hang out at STC meetings. Send notes. Buy Harvey Mackay's books. Buy
a couple of Rolodexes. Join other professional organizations. Start building
a network.

That takes a lot more time than dashing off a resume, but once you're past
the entry-level point a resume is a tip-off to me that you're not thinking
creatively and that you're probably not wholeheartedly committed to the
profession. You haven't maintained relationships with your colleagues in
other companies. You're been too complacent in your previous job. I want
people that I can't say no to. I can say no to a resume without a backward
glance. I get lots of 'em. Most writers don't even follow them up with phone
calls. I have a lot of trouble saying no to somebody who's taken the
trouble to find out what companies like mine are doing and needing and then
contrives to prove to me that she can supply them. It's also very, very hard
to say no to somebody who's volunteered at the STC chapter, written
newsletter articles, and done other things to maintain visibility and give
back to others.

Resumes don't demonstrate those things, nor much of anything else, because
they're nothing but paper. People demonstrate those characteristics, and I
want to hire people. I think most companies do.

Tim Altom
Vice President, Simply Written, Inc.
317.899.5882 (voice) 317.899.5987 (fax)
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