As a hiring supervisor, I’ve filled more than twenty open positions in the past 8 years. These jobs report to the central IT organization of a large state supported university. They support faculty, staff, and graduate students involved in the learning mission of the university. These jobs require a bachelors or masters degree, and various skill sets and years of experience. So I’ve seen more resumes than my weary eyes would like to admit. Alas, the vast majority of these applicants have no idea how to sell themselves. I’d like to help. In part to help you out, and as a result to make my job easier.
Have a friend look at it with a critical eye; heck, give it to five friends and offer to buy lunch to the one who finds the most errors/inconsistencies. It’s low stakes … only a lunch … surely you can spring for a lunch with/for a friend to improve the quality of your resume. And, as a result of this exercise, your friends’ resumes will likely improve at the same time.
Examples of worthless resume and cover letter sentences
- Based on my vast experience in …
- Don’t be presumptuous and “declare” your experience “vast”. If the reader disagrees, you now lack credibility. And if it’s true, and the reader cannot grasp “vast” on their own, do you really want to work for them?
- Contributed to the creation of … or … Assisted with the …
- Please, don’t tell me you contributed to a project; describe your actual contribution. Were you responsible, and you took your responsibility seriously, to bring coffee and donuts to the meetings? Or were you the project manager, marshaling the resources of twelve colleagues across three different departments, to produce the product 3 months ahead of an already aggressive 8 month timeline? A product that exceeded first quarter earning projections by 30%. Ah, big difference here … don’t leave me guessing, for if I have to guess, I’ll probably guess it wasn’t much, else why didn’t you describe it to me?
- I’m the Grand Poo-Pah Gobbledegook at PayMySalary University.
- First off, I don’t know what a Grand Poo-Pah Gobbledegook is, or does. I may not even be familiar with PayMySalaryU. So why not add to, or replace, that line with one which is more descriptive to someone not familiar with that job title or university? Say, for example, “I manager a staff of 12 full-time and 20 part-time (8 fte) instructional designers who deliver training to university personal on Blackboard. In 2011, our team had 100 different offerings, representing 11 distinct courses to 1400 (750 faculty & 650 graduate students) attendees.” Also notice the numbers are rounded. Though my metrics report 1424 divided up 733 and 671, 1400 750 and 650 are easier on the eye to comprehend… and you want your resume lines to be easily comprehensible. I cannot stress enough to put in numbers/metrics which provide a measure of your impact for each item on your resume.
Phone interview focus
- Pay attention to the question and answer it as asked, not some variant you might find easier to answer
- In our most recent search, we ask candidates to “Describe an episode from your past work experiences that demonstrates excellent communication skills”. And we emphasize the words “demonstrates” and “communication skills”. Yet most people describe an episode where they’ve been successful and forget the communication part. Yikes, you haven’t answered my question.
- Cute phrases are nice in moderation
- To describe a troublesome situation, you might say “escalated emotions”. That’s nice … it gets the point across, but please don’t use it 12 times in a 30 minute phone conversation. Then it gets distracting and the committee members focus on your phrases and not on you.
- Don’t exaggerate
- I can’t tell you how many applicants tell me that “they’re comfortable with any piece of software”. Oh, really; then outline the number of different ways you can program a conditional loop in REXX, or how can you snap one object to another object in In Design? Be complete, concise, and accurate when answering questions. For catching you in an exaggeration is one of the quickest way to reject your candidacy.