Delivering the Punch of Language
Resumes have their own language — Resume Speak.
- Resume-speak does not include full sentences and does not use Personal pronouns.
- Your current activities (job/education) should be described Ifl present tense, all other positions in past tense.
- The statements used to describe your achievements should be clear, concise and descriptive.
- Sentences should begin with an active verb (created, led, developed, designed etc.).
No one will deny that converting your accomplishments, many of which represent months, if not years, of sweat and effort into simple, descriptive statements is difficult, but in order to create an effective resume, it is an absolute necessity. After you complete each statement, review it to make sure you need every word you have included. You’ll be surprised what you can cut out.
Use action words to start each sentence; they give a sense of movement and power. Try to avoid using the same action words repeatedly. Avoid statements that begin with phrases such as ‘responsible for. Wherever possible, convey the desired qualifications through clear strong statement of accomplishments, rather than a statement of potentials or responsibilities. Indicate results of work done, and quantify these accomplishments, whenever appropriate. For example, initiated and directed complete automation of Personnel Department. resulting in time-cost savings of over 25%.
Packing the Visual Power
- Keep it simple, clean, structured, easy to read, symmetrical balanced, Uncrowded.
- Keep as much white space between sections of writing as possible.
- Do not exceed 6-8 lines for each section of writing, and keep it shorter if possible.
- Make maximum use of italics, capital or block letters, bullets, boldface, and underlining, with uniformity and consistency.
Maintain absolute parallelism in design decisions. For example, if a period is at the end of one jobs dates, a period should be at the end of all jobs dates; if a degree is in boldface, all degrees should be in boldface. Consider: whether to include the information at all, its placement in overall structure of the resume, its location on the page itself or within a section, the overall ordering of information, more impressive ways of phrasing the same information, use of design elements.
What you should not do in resume preparation?
There’s one magical thing that can get you the job of your dreams. Contrary to popular belief, it isn’t nepotism, sycophancy or even a bribe; it’s a small document called the Curriculum Vitae, or Resume. Even though most of us recognize the importance of a resume, we don’t carve out enough time to give our resume the attention it deserves. Often, CVs are shoddy, incomplete, irrelevant and, sometimes, downright hilarious. Here are five mistakes you need to avoid to make sure your CV is a winner.
Mistake 1: Writing too much
‘Length is the biggest problem, with most CV5 often being a minimum of three pages. I once received a CV that was 11 pages long,’ says Purvi Seth, vice president of Shilputsi Consultants, a human resources development firm.
More often than not, literary aspirations come tend to the fore when one is writing a CV; people end up filling pages and pages of details. Those who can’t find enough details to fill the pages write the same thing over and over again, in different styles, words and jargon. A prospective employer faces two choices when he or she takes the first look at such a CV -- hit the delete button or hire a professional copyeditor to cut the chaff and find relevant matter.
BTW, even though copyeditors come cheap these days, employers prefer the former. So:
- Keep it short; ideally, a CV should not go beyond two pages at most. However, if your achievements are really great, one extra page is negotiable.
- Keep it sweet, i e relevant. Anything more than that and your CV will make a beeline for the paper shredder.
Mistake 2: Writing too little
If it isn't one, its the other. Consider this CV: Worked as product manager for HLL between July 2000 and September 2003. Does it indicate anything besides the fact that the person worked for HLL?
Fancy designations do little to explain the kind of work you might have done. So, in your enthusiasm to adhere to the guidelines in Mistake 1 don’t forego your job responsibilities and details about the company or the department you worked for.
The above should read: ‘Worked as product manager, between July 2000 and September 2003, for the color cosmetics division of HLL, a premier FMCG company in India, with a turnover of Rs 2614.07 crore.
Job responsibilities included overseeing the operations of the department comprising 10 sales managers, setting targets for the team, keeping track of market trends and coordinating between the production, logistics and sales functions. ‘Under my supervision, the department posted an annual growth of 40 percent.’ This gives an indication about the kind of work the applicant has done and his! her achievement. However, beware of going overboard with the details of your job responsibilities.
“One of the applicants was looking for an administrative job, and housekeeping was one of the functions. The CV mentioned ‘making sure the toilet bowls remain clean’, as one of the job responsibilities,” laughs Seth.
Mistake 3: Irrelevant details
Does it matter to your prospective employer if your eyes are blue and if you belong to the vaishnav gotra of the Brahmin caste? Chances are it doesn’t, unless you are applying for a job that depends on your physical attributes or you are penning down a CV for matrimonial purposes.
Similarly, your star sign, details of family members, list of affiliations to hobby clubs (unless they complement your profession in some way), height, weight, color of your hair and eyes, complexion etc are of no consequence to the prospective employer.
Ditch these and use the space to highlight your achievements, your strengths and your qualifications. The latter needs to be to the point. For example, your latest education and degrees are the ones that matter, not your kindergarten marks. So, be stingy here -- include what matters, trash what doesn’t. . ‘I have seen CVs that included details of grandfathers and their professions too. One person had also included his blood group in the CV. These facts make no difference to the employer at all, says Seth.
Some of them also add their body statistics. This can be entirely done away with unless you are in the showbiz or airline industry, Another mistake I have noticed in many CVs is that people mention their religion. This is unnecessary unless the job is for candidates of a specific religion only, says Tushar Guha, managing director of Nrilyanjali, an institute for personality development and management services.
Mistake 4: The information flow
Most people start with their birth date and list everything in chronological order. So, if they started with ABC company at the age of 18 and are now, say, 38 years old and work for XYZ, chances are they will start their career history with ABC and list XYZ last.
This is a strict no-no because, to the prospective employer, your last job profile matters more than your first one. Few employers like to spend an hour on a CV searching for the last position held by the applicant. This applies to educational qualifications too. A CV favours reverse chronological order. Stick to it. Most of the time, professionals writing their CV list their qualifications and their work experience in chronological order. The order should be reversed in order to bring the crux of the CV upfront,” says Guha.
Seth gives the example of a CV which started by listing work history that dated back to 1983 first and then went on to 2004. She had a tough time looking for the current job. Hobbies should come towards the end, but shouldn’t be done away with. “They provide an insight into the applicant’s personality. These days, the emphasis is not only on your skills but also on your personality,” says Guha.
Mistake 5: A CV-full of jargon
Is your writing style is lucidly expressionistic, highlighting the hidden angst of an existential life? Wow! But what the heck does that mean? Even if your to-be-employer is Salman Rushdie, he wouldn’t want to spend time trying to understand what all those big words and jargon add up to.
If you think your use of jargon indicates your knowledge of the industry, think again. Most of the times, the CV goes first to the HR department. They are the ones who choose if you are fit to be called for an interview. Out of comprehension, out of mind, It’s that basic.
Resumes: Fake It And You Break It
You learnt early in life that lying was bad. But despite such conditioning, adulthood has probably taught you to view issues in greyer tones. Did you know that according to the Society of Human Resource Managers more than 53 per cent of all job applicants lie to some extent on their resumes?
Recently a national daily reported that Wipro had fired some employees for faking their CVs and also filed police complaints against head hunting agencies helping them. Such incidents have also been reported in technology majors like IBM. And if you think that this is only prevalent at the lower levels, think again. David Edmondson who was the CEO of Radio Shack (a US based electronics retail giant) for 11 years admitted to lying about his educational credentials on his resume and was recently asked to leave by the board of directors.
This trend is seen across sectors but is more rampant in the technology companies (IT and IT enabled services) as they are always on a hiring spree and pressures to ramp up lead to compromises on the quality front, says Kapil Murdia, who works with a global executive search firm. Besides the moral or ethical implications, chances are that you’ll get caught when you lie.
How employers cross-check a Resume
- Your current employer can easily call your previous employers. It may be just to get information for transferring your insurance policy or your provident fund, but if you have lied about your previous job profile or work experience, you’ll get busted.
- Even though you’re changing jobs, you’re probably not changing industries. Companies in the same industry often have common forums. Employers often belong to the same professional associations or have common networks. An offhand mention that you were the sales executive, not the sales manager, and you’ll be cleaning out your desk.
- If you lied about your degree, your company may check your college’s alumni list. Or someone at your new company will really be an alumnus, and they’re going to bust you.
- If you think you are smart and really creative and invent previous experience or employers, modem day information networks, investigation firms and reference checks make humiliating you quick, easy, and cost effective.
Why people lie in Resumes
Those who don’t lie on their resumes stand to lose jobs to those who do. That’s why many candidates are tempted to give in to peer pressure or exploitation at the hands of a headhunter. 1 know many people who have faked work experience that they don’t really have in order to join at a senior level or to be able to negotiate a higher package. It’s no bi deal in our sector, “says Lakshmi Bonata, 24, a business process executive with Bangalore based Honeywell Technologies. ‘My friend got away with it. so can I’ is another starting point when candidates start thinking of tampering with their resumes says Ravdeep Manchanda, recruitment manager with a BPO which hires candidates for telephone sates and customer service.
The Recruitment Cycle
The demand supply equation in the ITES and IT sectors has resulted in companies relying heavily on recruitment consultants. These consultants stand to earn anywhere between Rs 4,000 for placing a front line associate in a call center to over Rs 50,000 for an executive with five to eight years of experience.
‘We usually conduct telephonic interviews for call centre associates. Hiring candidates is quite tough as the numbers required are large and there are pressures to ramp up from the client. We were shocked to learn that some consultants were actually providing scripts and FAQ guides to candidates to crack these telephonic rounds,’ says Ruchika Malhofra. a telephone recruiter with a US-based BPQ which operates call centres in India.
‘There’s nothing wrong with putting the best possible shine on your actual experience. but fabrications will eventually come back to haunt you,’ says Malancha Barua, a senior HR manager with a transaction processing BPO.
When ‘lying’ Is okay
There are a lot of ‘little white lies’ on resumes and applications. A whole lot have to do with reasons for dismissal and covering up gaps in employment. Most large companies use a third party to do background checks. Most do degree confirmations and employment checks.
Minor things are usually overlooked for example: some employers will choose to overlook it you have stated that you possess advanced computer skills as tong that does not become a handicap in your job. But a fake degree or phony job history will definitely get you busted.
Are there any alternate ways of polishing one’s resume while remaining truthful’? You should be honest but present your accomplishments In the most positive way. Here’s how.
- Choose certified professionals and pay welt.
- Avoid consultants and recruiters who promise a job without multiple interview rounds. Ad campaigns like ‘Get a job offer instantly, only one HR round’ are very common Tread with caution when you see such offers being doled out.
- Do not sign any documents without reading them thoroughly: a lot of manpower consultants may even fake the written assessments on your behalf in order to get you the offer letter. The short term approach may land you in big trouble later.
- Don’t rely lust on recruiters and ad responses as your primary job search strategy. Use networks and referrals to make contacts at your target companies. Do more than the typical ‘job applicant’ and take some initiative, it will surely get you noticed.
- Have confidence in your actual credentials. Most people who lack confidence feel that their perceived shortcoming is screamingly Obvious to everyone, because they themselves are so focused on it. Usually it’s not that noticeable or is a small blip. Lead with your strengths and be ready to discuss why you don't have a degree or a skill, if asked.
- Be sure your resume focuses on what you have accomplished and what you’re capable of doing. The verbiage that you use could make a huge difference. Focus on accomplishments. Supervised ten people on a project that finished three weeks before deadline and saved a large amount for the company sounds a lot better than saying “I was leading a team of 10 employees.
- In a job, you do not have duties.” You have responsibilities” and accomplishments.” Anyway, no hiring manager cares about what you were supposed to do. They want to know what you contributed. So make sure that you highlight your value and contribution to the organization.
- Personal interests can indicate a skill or area or knowledge that is related to the goal, such as photography for someone in public relations, or carpentry and wood-working for someone in construction management.
This section can show weIl-roundedness, good physical health, or knowledge of a subject related to the goal. It can also create common ground or spark conversation in an interview. If you have been published in any trade magazines, it can establish you as a subject matter expert in your domain. Set degrees apart so they are easily seen. Put in boldface whatever will be most impressive. Don’t include any details about college except your major and distinctions or awards you have won, unless you are still in college or just recently graduated.
The Last Word
Lying on your resume can come back to haunt you -- sometimes even many years down the road. Don’t fall into that trap. Instead, reduce the issue by creatively marketing yourself. So cheers to all those honest people out there who are sticking to facts and demonstrate integrity when it comes to applying for jobs.
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