Resume Questions Answered (But Not By Me)

All you job hunters out there, raise your hands if you’re confused about what you should put on your resume or around how best to “package yourself” on paper these days.

Okay, now stop.  You’re blocking out the sun.

As I’ve pointed out for many years, including in this recent article here, every resume-writer on the planet has an opinion (usually an annoyingly strident one) about what approach works best in terms of the resume process these days.  Some swear you should keep your document short, perhaps just to a single page.  Others argue that “long copy sells” and the more information you pack in, the better.  Some think you should include hobbies.  Others don’t.  And some swear that you’ll never get hired again if you don’t trim off everything but the most recent 10 years of your experience, even though the hiring manager is going to realize you’re not 31 years old the moment you walk in the door for an interview!

But remember one thing, as you bob around in the cauldron of all these competing opinions: resume-writers are not your target audience.  They are merely advisors.  The good ones don’t claim to have a perfect formula or the exact right answers, but will instead guide you through the series of tough decisions and judgment calls necessary to craft a presentation that will ideally resonate with the majority of the people you’re targeting — as well as do justice to your own personal preferences, personality, and comfort level.

This being said, it’s always great when some actual hiring managers and recruiters weigh in on the subject of resumes and what they like to see, since these folks ARE your target audience and their input counts for a lot.  So on this note, I thought I’d pass along a short video I came across the other day, where two top recruiters at Microsoft answer a series of questions about what they look for on a resume when screening applicants.  Here’s the link:

Your Resume Questions Answered! (Microsoft Jobs Blog)

The video is only about eight minutes long, but for those who opt not to sit through it, here’s what I’d offer up as the key takeaways:

1)  There is no perfect resume formula and no two recruiters (even at Microsoft) screen resumes the exact same way

2)  Content trumps format; we’re well past the days where “cosmetic” considerations like font choice and layout were extremely important

3)  You shouldn’t throw in everything but the kitchen sink; focus on showcasing only what’s relevant to the job at hand

4)  Yes, you should include lots of appropriate keywords, but ONLY if you can back them with up with actual knowledge/experience

5)  If you’re have an on-line portfolio or website/blog with samples of your work product, include it, since it might catch a recruiter’s eye

Hope you enjoyed the video link and kudos to Microsoft for giving us a rare glimpse, from behind the scenes, of what their recruiters really look for when screening applicants!

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