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Friday, February 27, 2009

What one CEO looks for in resumes

4 entrepreneur blog

Posted on January 15, 2009

“Life,” William James once said, “is in the transitions.” He wasn’t talking about weddings and graduations, but the lonely moments before, when a decision still hangs in the balance, and irrelevant details are so vivid that they’ll stick in your mind for years to come: the melted-plastic smell of a U-Haul cab; the iron sound of a public mailbox swinging shut; a paper hospital cup; a flight of stairs; a metal door-knob; a sealed envelope. ...

Resumes are horrible documents, premature and unsentimental obituaries: our lives are rarely reduced to such a small number of facts. And writing a resume is a balancing act between feeling outrageously boastful and unimpressive. Some, like Seth Godin, have questioned whether you should even have a resume. ...

... Having reviewed thousands of resumes, I now have a better idea of what the folks ... like to see:

Here’s What I Like:

  1. A direct style: use blunt, short words. Most resumes are scanned, not read.
  2. Looks: like a middle-aged man’s apartment. Nice and tidy.
  3. Objective: be direct; your objective is the job you’re applying for.
  4. Verbs ending in “d”: shipped, launched, built, sold.
  5. Results: not responsibilities or experience — but what responsibilities and experience helped you accomplish.
  6. Bullets: 3 – 4 results per job.
  7. Numbers: ­ traffic from Google 230%, ¯ ad spending 40%.
  8. Grades: your GPA, even if it was ten years ago, if it’s over 3.5.
  9. Reviews: ratings from your last review, especially useful for Microsofties
  10. Honors: we’ll interview an employee-of-the-quarter, every time.
  11. Promotions: if your role changes, highlight that as two jobs.
  12. LinkedIn endorsements: persuasive, even from your friends.
  13. A Link to Your Blog: a blog gives you online street cred. For some, it is your resume.
  14. Themes: whether you care about customer service or agile software, tell a consistent story from job to job.
  15. Hobbies: I always want to meet people with fun hobbies. And that’s all a resume is: a request for a meeting. At Plumtree, we received a resume from a Playboy model. A colleague forwarded it to me with a note reading, “I’ve never asked you for anything before…” I feel the same way about cyclists.
  16. Two page-max: if you’re under 30, one page.
  17. Anything you did that showed initiative or passion. Eagle Scout. Math Olympics.
  18. Email to the CEO: it takes chutzpah & resourcefulness to go straight to the top.
  19. Customization: tailor your resume & especially the cover letter to the job.
  20. Completed degrees: I’ve hired plenty of folks a few credits shy of a degree. Some were great; many couldn’t finish what they started. If you have time now, finish your degree.
  21. Gmail address: or your own domain. Nothing says “totally out of it” like an AOL address.

Here’s What I Don’t Like:

  1. Churn: stints at 2 or more employers of less than 2 years.
  2. List of generic skills: just show what you actually accomplished at each job.
  3. Typos or misspellings: About half the resumes I get are addressed to “RedFin.” For the other words, spell-check!
  4. Photos: my favorite was of a candidate in tennis whites with a racket.
  5. “Proven”: as in “proven leadership.” We all still have something to prove.
  6. Printed resumes: email a Word document, web page or PDF.
  7. Buzzwords: search bots love it, actual people don’t.