14 – Crafting a resume

14 – Crafting a resume

Resumes

Every job candidate knows that a resume is a one or two page summary you give to a prospective employer so they can understand your employment history and qualifications. But, figuring out what goes on that page or two – especially the first time you hit the job market – that’s a little more challenging.

In today’s podcast we’ll hear thoughts from business experts on what should be on a resume – specifically for those that are just coming out of college and trying to land their first job.

Transcript

Waldman: You can sit there and project look. I did this. It was a challenge. I got my hands around it. I learned. Okay. It just wasn’t a textbook. It was practical. And I turned it into something and I am proud of it. That comes through. That’s what we look for.

Retblatt: When you can speak about experience where you had to lead, motivate, inspire or coach a group, no matter what, you know, environment that is, that speaks a lot to your credibility as somebody who can motivate, train, inspire, coach on the job.

Pike: “I spent eight years working for ” That sounds like time serving to me, and you were watching your watch all the time that you were there.

Kristen: Welcome to “Sound Advice” – the brief audio download that brings the best of eClips to you. I’m Kirsten Barker.

Every job candidate knows that a resume is a one or two page summary you give to a prospective employer so they can understand your employment history and qualifications. But, figuring out what goes on that page or two – especially the first time you hit the job market – that’s a little more challenging.

In today’s podcast we’ll hear thoughts from business experts on what should be on a resume – specifically for those that are just coming out of college and trying to land their first job.

Robert Waldman is Managing Director& Head of Corporate Bond Research at Citigroup. He reviews thousands of resumes describing why young professionals want to break into Wall Street. Waldman shares that while an applicant’s GPA and undergraduate coursework are important, the next most important skill to highlight on your resume is your ability to lead…

Waldman: Let’s say now you’ve been screened. And someone’s gone through your resume and they said hey, this individual looks really good. Good grade point average, decent course work, have a clear objective. There is some experience. There is something on there that talks about drive. Well let’s see. You are sophomores, your juniors. Well the chances are that you haven’t been in Corporate America or run your own business something for the last 10 years. So where you do get your experience? You get your experience by trying to demonstrate being involved. Leadership. Now a lot of people say what does that mean? That’s anything from being an active member to a club, to if you in a sorority or a frat. Being involved in some of the social aspects. Being one of the leaders that help drive something. It’s getting involved you know, in a lot of the social programs that exist on campus. I mean it’s Habitat for Humanity. Anything that shows dedication and passion, tends to show leadership. Shows that you will jump into the task before you. Extraordinarily important, okay. So it’s a balance. I’ve seen a lot of people that are very, very bright. I mean tremendous grade point averages, good course work. But boy you sit down and say what do you do? Well I spent my time in the library. Excuse me? I’m looking for a balance. Okay. All of us are. Because it’s also a very social business. It’s about people. Okay. This is not computer-to-computer. We’re not selling a product. What we’re selling is confidence in the individuals sitting across from the client be it a corporate client or an investor, or quite frankly, an investor sitting there trying to make a decision. Okay. They have to have a connection. A human connection. So you have to feel good about the person on the other side. So it’s the whole person aspect. So it’s the intellect. It’s the experience. It’s the drive. It’s the passion. That’s what – it sounds strange. The resume is probably the single most important of paper. Something that shows you know, a lot of people here have been involved in some type of dot-come where you had your own internet business. Those things are terrific because they show entrepreneurship. They show drive. We’re looking for that. That’s creativity. It doesn’t mean you have to make a bazillion dollars. If you did that’s even better. But the important thing is you tried and you did it. And you had organization. And when you sit down with somebody on my side of the business, or somebody on the buy side of the business – or quite frankly in any business. And you can sit there and project look. I did this. It was a challenge. I got my hands around it. I learned. Okay. It just wasn’t a textbook. It was practical. And I turned it into something and I am proud of it. That comes through. That’s what we look for. No magic formula.

Kristen: Well, it may be easy to highlight leadership if you have been the president of a profitable company run out of your dorm room. But how can you highlight your leadership abilities when you haven’t had any professional experience? Erica Retblatt, Human Resources Manager at Hillstone Restaurant Group, explains how you can showcase leadership and responsibility…

Retblatt: People always ask what should look good on my resume, you know, how do I make it look professional and without talking about the aesthetics and the layout. I think some really great experiences for people that have in their resume is leadership. Leadership roles can take a lot of different forms and you know, perhaps you know, some of you out there are seniors and this might be you know, a moot point at this point but you know, even something like a resident advisor, an RA, you know, I look at that as an HR manager and I say okay, there is a person that’s taken a leadership role within their dorm, taking a lot of responsibility, you know, so that to me shows that somebody is taking you know, wants to be a good listener, wants to help people and wants to take that responsibility. So you know, when you talk about leadership, it could be as an RA, in a sports team, in a club, a president, in your sorority, in your fraternity, taking those leadership role shows a great deal of initiative and so you might think oh well, I didn’t… I don’t have too much professional experience but when you can speak about experience where you had to lead, motivate, inspire or coach a group, no matter what, you know, environment that is, that speaks a lot to your credibility as somebody who can motivate, train, inspire, coach on the job. So don’t, you know, feel insecure about your experiences if you don’t have too much professional experience, if you have that leadership experience to really fall back on.

Kristen: Kate Jones is President of Client Services at Provisor Marketing. Prior to her founding that company, Jones had 12 years of experience in Sales and Marketing at Procter and Gamble. Based on her personal experience, involvement in sports can be a defining piece of an undergraduate experience and can highlight an applicant’s leadership abilities.

Jones: When I was interviewing with P&G, my sports resume of having played six varsity seasons at Cornell, because I played two sports, was probably the one determining factor that got me an interview with P&G. It wasn’t my GPA. It was the fact that I participated in sports, and they had a whole feeling around, and I had been a leader of the sports team. So, for me sports was a huge benefit, but also as you went into a very male dominated culture, when you could speak about sports and you can have an intelligent conversation about sports and who is playing and who the players are, it helped you to fit in. It was a huge factor for me.

Kristen: Next we’ll hear from Scott Belsky, founder and editor of Behance, an organization that helps creative professionals and organizations make ideas happen. Previously, Belsky worked at Goldman Sachs as part of the Pine Street Development Initiative Group – a small global team focused on leadership development, organizational improvement, and strengthening key client relationships. Belsky, along with the other experts, believes in the importance of leadership…but he goes on to state that on your resume and in your interview you need to emphasize experiences that have been meaningful to you – because those are the ones that will resonate as authentic to a potential employer.

Belsky: I think I it matters job-by-job how someone represents themselves. And how kind of unique they can be in the resume or in a cover letter, that sort of thing. And what I can say is that I have been in a job where we look at a resume book this thick. And if you go through, I mean the GPAs at some point become less important. And certain things stick out at you. And my experience is usually leadership initiative. You know, people who have led something or started something or done something different. And to the extent that you can have that come to the surface I think distinguishes you and makes you stand out in any jobs eyes. Now I am sure there are some jobs that are very focused on quantitative skills or you know, perhaps some computer science jobs that are very focused on classes that you have taken. So I don’t necessarily know if this applies to all disciplines. But I certainly think for business and all things leadership you know, that people need to take on – take into account you know, how do I distinguish myself in my resume? How do I kind of accurately represent what I do that is different? I mean asking yourself what you are most proud of. And then asking what the relevance of that is to you know what you want to do later on. If you have led in a sorority or a fraternity, and you have managed a lot of the conflicts that have come up and that is something you really enjoyed and have done well at. How does that relate to what you want to do later on? And then if it relates, exemplify it. Say in your resume that you know, focus on that sort of thing as a part of the experience. Put little bullets underneath that exemplify what you have done and why you are proud of it. Because that – I mean that is truth and it will resonate with the person who is reading it. And it will probably land you in the best place.

Kristen: Belsky goes on to state that a resume can be a very effective tool for distinguishing yourself from other candidates:

Belsky22_distinguishing

The first question I would ask is you know what are only you doing versus what is everybody doing? You know, everyone is going to classes. And everybody is thinking about how to put their resume together. And there are certain things that everyone’s doing. You know, and then there are also things that I am sure only you are doing. It might be a leadership position you have in an organization. It might be some project you know, that you have on the side. It might be you know a new interest that you are reading tons about. I mean these are the things that distinguish you. And I think that people don’t necessarily recognize that you know, you distinguishing yourself requires you to do some of the unconventional because by nature you know, if you are only you know doing the conventional, you are not going to stand out. And so I think you know, one thing you want to do early on is you know think about what interests you. Whether it is you know in college or even you know on your first job. Something that is outside of the normal job description. I mean that is something that you know will be distinguishing.

Kristen: One thing that is not often discussed by business professionals is the importance of the cover letter. The late Alan Pike, who served for many years as a professor of management writing and oral communication at Cornell University’s Johnson School, shared his thoughts on the importance of understanding your reader’s perspective when you are writing any business document – but especially when it is a cover letter.

Pike: It starts with your cover letters and your resumes. What’s the job? What’s the company culture? Who’s reading it? A recruiter. Is it an HR person, or a line person? Have you had any chemistry? Was there any contact with this person before? All of this is gonna determine how you write for this person. What’s the language of the job description? What are they talking about? Desktop.com was looking for a product manager, is still looking for a product manager. They want somebody who can evangelize this product with both the design engineers, the consumers, the company’s customers, and the press. They want someone who can champion a product. This is the language of the job description. One of my students who has eight years experience in computer engineering, electronics engineering, was a manager for a printed circuit assembly operation, has done a lot of that, was applying for this job. He wrote a cover letter that sounded just like an engineer. He started out by identifying himself on the first line. “My name is ” It’s already in the letter head. You don’t have to tell them what your name is. “I spent eight years working for ” That sounds like time serving to me, and you were watching your watch all the time that you were there. In other words, there was no movement in the letter. The voice was not colorful, lively, excited. He wasn’t meeting the demands of his reader, so we had to revise the whole thing. I can’t insist on this enough. This is first and most basic principle of successful managerial writing. Who’s your reader? Write from your reader’s perspective.

Kristen: Our final expert comment comes from Robert Waldman.

Waldman: So in summary, what I would like to see if somebody were to come through my front door and say hey, Bob I’d like to talk to you about a job because I know you have an opening. I want to see the academics. I want to see the coursework. If you’ve had any type of academic honors, get it on there. Because that is the other thing that sort of distinguishes you. But the next thing is that experience that shows leadership, dedication, and passion. That’s what you want. If you can do that, then you have really had a way to distinguish yourself versus somebody else

To summarize, the Sound advice our eClips experts tell you when writing your resume,

first…showcase your leadership and responsibility,

second…express areas about which you are passionate,

third…differentiate yourself from all the other resumes in the inbox, and

last…write from your reader’s perspective.

With the amount of thought that has to go into constructing it, it is no wonder that Waldman stated that “resume is probably the single most important piece of paper.” a candidate prepares

Thanks for listening to this segment. If you are interested in hearing more from any of our featured speakers, or would like to hear more advice from our experts on how to successfully navigate the job search process, please check our website at eclips.cornell.edu.

That’s E-C-L-I-P-S. cornell.edu.

And remember, if it is a business topic of interest, eClips will bring you “Sound Advice”…


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