Thursday, 20 March 2014

Resumes are not meant to detail your full life story

I have been receiving a lot of resumes for assessments over the past few weeks from ‘older’ workers (people over 30+ years of age), who are making the common mistake of listing everything they have ever done since they left school, including their childhood after-school job and details of the subjects completed and grades received at school.

I just want to make it clear that you aren’t meant to include your full life story within a resume; you need only include details about your employable skill history relevant to the type of work you will be applying for.

Allow me to unleash my inner weirdo and imagine for a moment, that every new skill, personal attribute, value, knowledge, interest and experience you gained from when you were, say, 15 years of age onwards, magically recorded itself on a 3 cm by 2 cm piece of paper.

Using this fanciful scenario, as we progressed through life, every time we learned something new, the magic would kick in to self-write that new skill, attribute, value, knowledge, interest or experience on the topmost piece of paper from a huge stack that lay ready and waiting to be used, and once written, the little note would then float across and drop itself in an open-topped glass jar (that was just for us alone) for its category it belongs to (i.e. skill, an attribute etc.), so that when the day came for you to write a resume, everything employers ever needed to know about you was ready and waiting for you to go through each of the cups and pick and choose which details to give to them.

As you could imagine, the older you got the more little pieces of paper would fill each of your glass jars!

Now, there is no way you could ever fit every single little piece of paper from each of your jars onto only two or three A4 sheets of photocopy paper, is there? So, you would have to become picky and selective about which little pieces of paper to stick onto the A4 paper, wouldn’t you?

My guess is that, you would immediately start looking for the little pieces of paper that the employer would be most impressed by.  

When you came across the piece of paper that said you learned how to walk, you’d think something like, ‘Yeah, yeah, employers will probably assume that I am able to walk,’ so you would make the decision that you can leave that little skill aside so that you could stick on the, ‘Can type at 80 w.p.m. now’ that you find instead, because, well, the job you really want to get involves typing.

As jobseekers, we might not have the luxury of having lots of little pieces of paper sitting in magical glass jars to help us create our resume, but we can use our memory to think about the type of job we intend applying for, and then trawl through the memory of our past experiences, examine our skills, knowledge, personal attributes, our values and interests, and then include only the most necessary of details that will aid us in causing employers of that type of work to look at our application and think we might be suitable.

So what can we do to ensure that we are sticking the right details in our resume?

* Research (investigate) the industry, employers and the job role as much as possible – to enable ourselves to better understand the requirements of that job type intimately, which will lead us to knowing what details are relevant to include and which ones we can omit because they are not.

* Keep our resume details to no more than ten years in age, where possible (so we are assessed fully on our merits and not eliminate due to our age). Things change; just because we did something a couple of times twenty years ago, doesn’t mean we are fully capable of doing that now. Employers prefer candidates with skills that are current, so you may need to refresh old skills, if necessary.

* Realise that a resume (and cover letters for that matter) are not a listing of your full personal life story, it needs to be a work related and future oriented document.

* Understand that the goal of a resume is to create employer interest in you as a candidate (so that they want to meet you in person!). Too little, or the wrong, information will result in you failing to generate employer interest; but beware though, too much information can lead the employer to making a decision without meeting you – that decision is always ‘no’.

In a world where we can’t just wave a magic wand to make things happen instantly for us, unfortunately we have to do things the harder way and work these things out for our own selves.  But, I hope you have found today’s article a little bit ‘fun’ as well as informative about in its message of: tailor your resume to the position.

Happy, motivated jobsearch!


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