Undecided if something should go on your resume? Add more detail for guidance.

April 11, 2012 Resumes 2 comments , , , ,

Convential Wisdom has it that resumes have to be written in the most clipped, stilted business-speak possible.  It’s not true.  Thinking that way is a disservice to our resumes and our job prospects.

A poster on Reddit asked how proficient he should be in German before listing it on his resume. You can see where he’s coming from. He’s wondering if he can add a “Languages spoken: German” bullet point to his resume, and that’s good. The problem is that the clipped business-speak mentality has him thinking that that’s all he can say.

You can and should add detail to your resume. The more detail you add, the less chance there is for misinterpretation, and it helps you think more about your skills and how you can sell them to the reader.

I suggest that instead of putting an overly terse “Languages spoken: German”, you add a sentence giving details. This might be, for example:

  • I am fluent in written and spoken German, and have been for the past 20 years.
  • I have conversational fluency with spoken German.
  • I know some German words I picked up from my Grandma.

If in the process of writing the details of your skill you find that it sounds silly, then you’ve answered your question as to whether it should be on your resume.  To be clear, that last bullet item isn’t worth putting on your resume.

This process works with any item you want to put on a resume.  As you add detail, does it still sound like it’s worth putting on there?  If not, leave it off.  If it is, work with that detail to grab the reader’s attention.

Programmers struggle with this all the time.  “How much Ruby do I have to know before I can put it on my resume?”  Add detail to answer your own question.  If you’re not going to be comfortable asking the question “How have you used Ruby?” in the interview, then don’t put it on a resume.

Finally, always remember why you have a resume: A resume exists to get the reader to call you in for an interview.  If something isn’t going to make the reader say “We need to get her in here ASAP”, then leave it off.

Don’t confuse “qualifications” with “skills assumed of everyone”

April 20, 2010 Job hunting 1 comment ,

When employers are looking for candidates, the fact that you can tie your shoes and not pee in your pants are just assumed. You’d never see a job for a computer professional advertising:

  • Able to get to work on time
  • Knows to go to bathroom and not wet self
  • Can tell ass from hole in ground

So why do candidates put these sorts of filler bullets at the top of their resumes in sections called “Summary of Qualifications”?

  • Able to work well with others
  • Strong work ethic
  • Attention to detail
  • Quality-oriented
  • Dependable
  • Responsible
  • Results-oriented
  • Problem-solver
  • Interested in improving efficiency
  • Able to find innovative solutions
  • Proficient in Microsoft Office and the Internet

If you are a professional in the computer field, every one of those bullets is assumed . Those are the price of admission, not selling points. Putting such vague mundane “qualifications” as the first thing in your resume says to the reader “I am completely average.”

Instead, tell about what makes you awesome, not average. Instead, your summary of qualifications should have bullets more like these:

  • Eight years experience in web development, using Perl, Java and Ruby on both Windows and Linux environments.
  • Expert in SQL databases, especially data migration between MySQL, PostgreSQL and MS SQL Server.
  • Designer of seven different e-commerce websites both with HTML/CSS and Ajax.

Bullets like those give specifics. They apply specifically to you, not just anyone like “detail-oriented” does. They make the reader take notice and want to know more. The details grab the attention.