James Fletcher was kind enough to take some time to answer a series of questions on finding work to help the unemployed in our online community. The following is what he had to say on building an effective resume.
Question: What key words do you look for when screening resumes? And what can applicants do to make sure they've covered the right aspects of their history in their resume without it turning into a laundry list of keywords?
Generically speaking, I look for things that differentiate a candidate from the crowd. Here are some of the key points I look for:
a) Awards – This is a great indicator of differentiation. A few months ago I hired a young lady who received a sort of President’s Award at GE, though her past experience was not very impressive. This award told me she had a great potential that had not been recognized until that moment.
b) Career Progression – If someone is in the same position for more than 4 years, something is wrong. A good professional will outgrow the position within 3 to 4 years depending on the position. Then, I expect him/her to get out of his/her zone of comfort and look for new experiences.
c) Quantifiable Results – It is nice to see a professional who can quantify his achievements. Resumes showing the savings created by projects the candidate implemented usually indicate people who are result driven.
d) Initiative – This is one of the greatest characteristics of a leader. Someone with initiative will usually try new things, take responsibility for projects, and inspire others to do the same. In my experience, professionals working on environments with constant changes have good initiative and can easily adapt to new situations. Consultants and other people used to work in project environment are good examples of people who I expect to have good initiative.
e) Learning Attitude – Good professionals are always learning. I am always reading a book, following the news, and periodically visiting a few websites. However, these are things we cannot find in a resume. The best clues in a resume to understand the learning attitude of a candidate are graduation courses, certifications, extension courses, involvement with professional organizations, and domain of foreign languages. It is a big plus if the candidate domains a language other than English and his/her native language.
For professionals with less than 10 years of experience, I expect resumes to be one page long. Even if this person has several accomplishments, I believe the applicant should be able to summarize them or only highlight the most relevant ones. For candidates with 10 years or more of experience, resumes can be 2 pages long.
Candidates should also avoid a laundry list of software they know. It is implicit for me that if the professional experience of the candidate is good, he probably knows very well how to use the main Microsoft products, and had experience with an ERP System. Note that the exception to this rule is for specific positions such as buyers or IT consultants; if they are specialists in one or more specific systems, they should mention them.
It is very useful to see a brief description in the resume with the candidate expectations. I am talking about 1 paragraph summarizing his work experience.
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