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Resume types

by Miki Saxon

There you sit, coffee at the ready and a stack of resumes to go through. As you read through them making notes, think about the skills underlying the things they’ve done and how they could benefit your company. Look past the obvious to more subtle parallels that would accelerate a transition to your industry—the software to turn a valve in the process industry is the same as the software that controls a telecom switch since both are real-time—doing so gives you more latitude in acquiring candidate gold.

Generally experience falls into one of four categories no matter the industry or field. Below are descriptions of each category, along with a real-life example of it.

Category 1: What-You-See-Is-What-You-Get

This is the resume and the candidate that everybody wants to get every time. Be it functional or chronological, the resume states everything in an honest, straightforward, unembellished manner. It is cohesive and coherent, interesting and easy to read—and all too rare (a reflection as much on conflicting resume—writing advice as on writer personality). As you read it, you find that each part of it supports every other part. Career progression is logical and reasonable. It makes sense! Intuitively, you feel it is solid and you want to talk to the person. (Well, what are you waiting for? Call her!)

Category 2: Humble Pie

This resume comes from candidates who are usually tongue-tied and self-deprecating in person. The reason can be personality or the result of working for someone who believes in “management by belittling” or other abusive practices. No matter the reason, there is often gold for the manager who can read between the lines. Look for things like substance in the feel of the descriptions of work done, even if the person does not indicate a leadership or substantial role.

Jack, manager of software development, received a resume from Linda describing work done on several products that were of interest to him. He was looking for a senior person, one who could contribute to the architecture of his company’s next generation of product. Although the resume did not mention any kind of architectural or even lead experience, it seemed to have an underlying, in-depth knowledge of the technology involved. Jack felt that Linda could not have written it without that knowledge, so he called her and, as a result of the conversation, invited her in for an interview.

The interview took real effort. Linda was naturally shy, but there seemed to be something more. Jack and his team worked hard on drawing Linda out. What finally surfaced was that Linda was, in reality, the architect for the last several products she had worked on, but the credit had gone to her team leader, who claimed her work as his own. When she protested, he warned her that she could lose her job and that she wasn’t skilled enough to work as a “real” architect. While that was why she wanted to change jobs, she did not have the confidence to present herself as an architect. Linda did not feel anybody would believe her.

Category 3: The Assumer

This is one of the more frustrating types of resume. The candidate touches on projects and work that seem to be applicable but with no detail. At every point, there is the assumption that the reader will know and understand all the underlying skills and abilities necessary to do the work described. Frustrating, but if the candidate’s career progression supports the experience mentioned, then he is worth a phone call.

Carol, manager of digital design, needed an engineer capable of writing the firmware to integrate several different parts of a new system design. At first reading, Lloyd’s resume seemed to have all of the right words in it. But with the second reading, Carol became concerned. Although Lloyd mentioned various projects he had worked on and the technologies involved, he gave no details about his design work. He did have seven years of experience, however, and he had progressed to project lead. He also stated that he wanted to continue in a hands-on technical role.

Carol decided it was worth a call. She felt that Lloyd could not have become a team leader if he hadn’t accomplished something and produced some real results. Before calling, Carol copied the resume and went through it carefully. She marked every item she felt needed clarification and jotted down questions. She called in the evening and made sure Lloyd had time to talk. After asking every question and receiving knowledgeable, comprehensive answers, she told Lloyd about her position and company and invited him in for an interview. Lloyd’s response was enthusiastic, but he said he was curious about one thing. He had no problem answering all of Carol’s questions but was surprised that she hadn’t just read the resume since all of the information was there!

Category 4: The Puffer

Finally there’s the resume that nobody wants to get. It’s the resume that raises everybody’s expectations—and then lets them down with a bang. It’s especially frustrating because besides wasting large amounts of time and energy, it undermines people’s attitude towards the entire staffing process.

The first sign of a puffer (like the fish that becomes twice its size by filling up with air and is poisonous if handled incorrectly) resume is that it relies heavily on certain words and phrasing:

  • LED the effort
  • PARTICIPATED in the presentation
  • RESPONSIBLE FOR the initial design
  • INITIATED the process
  • IMPLEMENTED the concept

Although the resume looks good during the gross sort, when read carefully the descriptions of the experience do not include enough detail to support the work claimed to have been done. Additionally, experience described does not match with the specific position, education, or overall career progression. This may be no more than a feeling that it is hollow, but you should trust your instincts. If you want to double-check, a quick phone call will give you the answer.

Michael, the CFO, received a number of responses to an ad for a controller. He did the first gross sort and then turned his team loose on them. One resume stood out. Tracy had �participated in the design of the MIS system; implemented new cost controls; initiated the Telecom 2000 study. Although everybody agreed that Tracy seemed to have both the skills and experience they needed, no one felt comfortable with the background. Michael concurred with his team but decided to call the candidate as a reality check.

When asked about the specific things mentioned, Tracy responded with more generalizations. When pinned down, he admitted that his participation in the MIS overhaul involved presenting his department’s wish list at a general company meeting; the cost control implementation involved doing the presentations of the new controls, assisting other managers in their use, and suggesting, based on casual reading, that the company should look into what technology would be available in the next decade and what it would cost. When Michael broached the fact that the resume was misleading, Tracy responded angrily that managers were all alike and tried to disparage the work of their subordinates.

Your secret hiring weapon
Yesterday I promised you a secret hiring weapon, guaranteed to give you an edge over most of your competition, so here it is (sound of trumpets, roll of drums)—speed! Speed is the number one thing you can do to impress a candidate and give yourself an edge in any labor market. The faster you can move, the greater your ability to land the people you want.

The turnaround time from when a resume arrives at the company, whether by email, fax or snail-mail, to the initial phone interview (which should be 30 – 60 minutes, the equivalent of a full, first-time interview) should never exceed 48 hours—and less is better. If the phone interview goes well, schedule the on-site interview with you and the whoever else interviews within the next 48 hours; and if the candidate flies be prepared to check the references and make an offer. Speed—nothing beats it when you’re hiring.

Have a great weekend!

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