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Do you have a strong resume? Why your best effort makes a difference!

strong resume

Is your job resume prepared to go up against the competition? 

The power of a strong resume

How much effort did you put into your last resume? Are you proud of your resume or do you think that your resume needs improvement in a few specific areas? You would be surprised how often I ask someone about their resume and I hear the following:

  • “My resume sucks.”
  • “My resume is terrible, I hate it.”
  • “I wish I had a better resume.”
  • “I am so worried I have a typo!”

It kills me when I hear the above comments. When I work with a job seeker that isn’t 110% confident about their resume, there is a weak link in their armor and they are destined to struggle in with their job search. In the back of the candidate’s mind, instead of looking forward to the interview with confidence, the candidate is worried about their deficits. It doesn’t make for a good start to the interview or a conversation where confidence is king.

If you have read this blog, you know I am a fan of Malcolm Gladwell and his social observations. I think I have come up with my own Gladwell-esque observation as it relates to resume strength.

Resume strength correlates to a number of actions including the length of time between resume submittal and the job offer, the quality of the offer, and more importantly the preconceptions both good and bad around your initial performance. Are you your peers expecting greatness or doubting your efforts.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not comparing myself to Dr. Gladwell. I just want to try to explain why a solid resume is so important and provide business reasons for spending the time to create a strong resume that instills confidence in both the candidate and the hiring manager.

Real life example

Folks know I don’t care for kids too much but I saw a scene involving two little babies that I found fascinating. Living in Seattle, I spend a lot of time at my favorite coffee hangout. I was sitting outside my espresso getaway and saw two mothers side by side with their precocious little sucklings in strollers. The first little piglet was dressed in a matching outfit and looking very “cute and adorable” to passers-by. The baby had a tiny stud ear-ring and the stroller had enough cup holders to make my SUV jealous. In comparison, baby number two was exactly that: number 2. Baby’s hat didn’t match the rest of the outfit, she was missing a sock and rockin’ an unattended runny nose. Over the course of a double ristretto Americano and biscotti, I saw the Baby no. 1 receives a lot of attention from passing coffee addicts. Little mothers cooing and fawning over baby number 1.  Baby number 2, not so much.  Baby 2 received no action at all, not even a “mercy oohh” or “pity ahhhh”. It was sad.  

This experience made me realize that through no fault of her own, baby number 1 and  2 were going to grow up with very different experiences. Strangers would treat kidlet number 1 better and the expectations of this child would be different based on first impressions. This kid would get breaks and would take them for granted. Kid number 2 would receive no lucky breaks, and through no fault of her own, would not realize the difference. When the first baby spits up, it’s cute. When the second baby spits up its gross. Shallow I know, but I am trying to make a point.  

Moral of the story, don’t let your weak resume be kid number 2. Present yourself as a strong resume get yourself some “oooo’s and ahhhh’s”. 

First Impressions:

For those of us who think the first impression in a job hunt takes place when we are introduced in person to the hiring manager, we would be wrong. Yes the suit was a nice touch, and the pressed white shirt was noticed, but the first impression was made when the hiring manager opened your resume.doc up on their computer screen. Your typo made a lousy first impression. Your lined up margins on both the left and right-hand side of the document made a great first impression. Are you feeling me?

Some may think that I am shallow. Some may think that it isn’t what the resume looks like but the content of the resume that counts. That may be all well in good in theory, but here in the real world, your resume is the first indication of the quality and effort of your work. I need candidates that are not only qualified but candidates that present well both in person and on paper. There is no use in presenting a resume with great content if the document is difficult to read or the candidate looks like a slob. I don’t need the heartache of making excuses for a candidate to an impatient hiring manager. Most of us want the path of least resistance. It’s human nature.

There are candidates I call when pickings are slim because the resume looks “close enough”. I am calling these candidates with a “What do I have to lose?” attitude. Like any singles bar scene, when the closing time approaches, I take a shot and I am hoping I get lucky.

Then there are easy to read resumes where accomplishments are easily matched to the job description. My expectations and excitement level is high and I am already thinking about how to introduce this candidate to the hiring manager. How I treat these two candidates SHOULD be the same, but guess what, I am actually giving MORE leeway to the second candidate. Yes, this is a case of the pretty girl getting the unfair breaks. This is the cute, well dressed little baby.  It shouldn’t happen but it does. You would think that I would give the first candidate a couple of breaks, but remember, the hiring manager is my customer and like all customers, they are PICKY!

Real life example number 2: Two openings for the same position. The salary band is between $45K to $55K depending on experience.

Two candidates apply for two openings in the same department. I know better than anyone that no two candidates are “equal” but both candidates have a similar amount of experience. 

Candidate Sloppy Sam has a resume that has decent experience and the resume doesn’t present so well.

Candidate Perfectionist Paul has a resume with decent experience and is easy to read. The resume presents well.

The resumes are equal in experience but the presentation layer of the two resumes is slightly different. By comparison, there is a stronger resume and there is a “weak resume”. There is a cute, well-dressed piglet and there is a runny nose crumb-snatcher.

  • Who’s resume am I going to call first?
  • Who’s resume am I going to look forward to calling?

With one candidate I will be in full recruiter mode. With the other, I will just be kicking the tires and crossing my fingers.

Because I am in a better and more excited mood, I am going to give breaks to Perfectionist Paul. I literally go on this call WANTING this to work.

Yes, HRNasty is acting shallow, but in all honesty, there is a lot of human nature at play.  As candidates, we will be better equipped if we hope for the best but are prepared for the worst.

When I present the two candidates (for the two openings) to the hiring manager, it won’t be a question of “If”. The hiring manager WILL ask me “Who is the better candidate?”  

Even though we have two openings if the hiring manager only has time to schedule 1 candidate for an interview, guess who is going to get the call?

The hiring manager may want to try to train both new hires at the same time, but the hiring manager doesn’t want to lose time or budget so we may try go get one candidate in as soon as possible. Guess which candidate is going to be fast-tracked?

The bookies have placed odds on this race and there is a clear favorite. The classic case of “Two men enter (the Thunderdome), one man leaves”. Guess which candidate looks like Mel Gibson?

The quality of the resume just affected how long it takes before our two candidates received a callback. But it doesn’t stop there. The impression of the resume carried into the initial phone interview and then it carries over into the in-person interviews.

The momentum that Perfectionist Paul generated with the resume can carry over all the way into the offer stage if played well. Sloppy Sam may get an offer, but he will always be compared to Perfectionist Paul.

Quality of the job offer:

Remember our two openings? Do we think that with all things being equal, both candidates will receive the same offer? While an average looking resume won’t swing a vote one way or another, a great looking resume can add both urgency (quick interview loop) and dollars (stronger offer). A resume that lacks effort will produce the similar results from the hiring company.

If two candidates are hired at the same time, the resume was one of the big factors that set expectations of the candidates as they went through the onboarding and training. The resume set the tone for the interview experience and created momentum. 

If you are feeling less than 100% about your resume, get a second and third set of eyes on it and ask for feedback. Whenever I work with someone on their resume, I always ask them “What do you like and what would you like to consider changing?”.  I want to know what the candidate is feeling unsure about so we can fix the weakness and their confidence. Invest the effort and your resume will do right by you. How you feel about your resume will directly affect your success in the job interview process.

See you at the after party,


nasty: an unreal maneuver of incredible technique, something that is ridiculously good, tricky and manipulative but with a result that can’t help but be admired, a phrase used to describe someone who is good at something. “He has a nasty forkball”.

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