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Ingredients of a Resume

published May 29, 2013

By Author - LawCrossing
Published By
( 5 votes, average: 3.8 out of 5)
What do you think about this article? Rate it using the stars above and let us know what you think in the comments below.
The employment resume--its style, organization, and content--has long been a topic of considerable discussion and debate. Like religion and politics, this is a subject fraught with controversy. It is one of those topics where there are many "experts" who will provide you with considerable "professional" advice and counsel as long as you are willing to listen.

Should you wish to put this statement to the test, let me suggest that the next time you are at lunch or dinner with a group of friends or business colleagues, introduce the subject of "resume preparation" and ask a few of the following questions:
  1. How long should a resume be?

  2. What is the best resume format? How should it be organized?
  3. Should there be a statement of job objective? If so, how should it be worded?
  4. Should the resume contain personal data--age, height, weight, marital status, number of children?
  5. Should hobbies and extracurricular activities be included?
  6. How important is salary history? Should it be shown at all?
  7. Where should education be described--near the end or the beginning of the resume?
  8. What writing style is the most effective?
  9. What is the best format for computer scanning and resume database search?
These, and similar questions, are guaranteed to spark a lively discussion punctuated with considerable difference of opinion. There will be those who claim that "Everyone knows that a resume should never be longer than a single page." Others will assert that "Two pages are quite acceptable." Still others will be adamant that "Two pages can never begin to do justice to 10 years of professional experience and accomplishment." All may use logical and persuasive arguments, with each sounding more convincing than the last. Who is right? Which argument should you believe? What works best?

As a consultant and executive with considerable employment experience, I can tell you that there are good answers to these questions. There is a right and a wrong way to prepare an employment resume. There are items that should definitely be included in the resume, and there are those that are best left out. There are resume formats that have consistently proven more effective than others, and there are those that should be avoided.

There are appropriate answers to these and many other questions associated with the subject of effective resume preparation; but you cannot expect to get expert advice on resume preparation over casual dinner conversation with a few friends whose expertise consists mainly of preparation of their first resume and a few articles read somewhere in a trade journal. This is hardly the type of advice that you need to prepare a resume that will be successful in launching you on a new and prosperous career track.

What I am about to share with you are the observations and advice of a human resources consultant and former personnel executive who has had considerable experience in the corporate employment function of a major Fortune 200 company. This is knowledge gleaned from years of employment experience--knowledge gained from the reading of thousands of employment resumes and the hiring of hundreds of employees at the professional, managerial, and executive level. This advice is based on firsthand observation of those resumes that resulted in job interviews and those that did not. This is advice based on "inside" knowledge of what makes professional employment managers tick-what motivates them to respond favorably to one resume and "turns them off" on the next. It will guide you in preparing a resume that will best display your qualifications and maximize your potential for landing interviews.

This article will provide you with an understanding of what happens in a typical company employment department. Where does your resume go? Who reads it? What is the basis for determining interest or lack of interest? What does the employment manager look for in a resume? How is the resume read? Who makes the final decision on your resume? Answers to these and similar questions should provide you with valuable insight that will enable you to design your resume to successfully compete for an employment interview. They will also serve as the basis for better understanding the recommendations made later on such topics as resume format, content, style, appearance, and so on.


In larger companies, it is not uncommon for the corporate employment department to receive as many as 40,000 to 50,000 resumes during the course of an average business year. Some receive considerably more. The annual employment volume of such firms typically runs in the range of 200 to 300 hires per year. Assuming an average of two to three interviews per hire, these firms will interview 400 to 900 employment candidates in meeting their employment requirements. This means that only 400 to 900 of the total 40,000 to 50,000 resumes received will result in an employment interview. In other words, only one or two out of every 100 resumes will result in an employment interview. Those are not very encouraging odds!

You are thus beginning your employment search at a decided statistical disadvantage. For every 100 resumes mailed to prospective employers, on the average you can expect only one or two interviews to result. These statistics alone should persuade you of the importance of a well-prepared and effective resume.

It is estimated that the average employment manager of a major corporation will read more than 20,000 resumes a year. Assuming no vacation time and 260 workdays in a year, this is equivalent to a weeknight workload of more than 75 resumes. Since employment managers must frequently travel, however, and most do take time off for holidays and vacations, it is estimated that this number is actually closer to 100. Since each resume averages 1/2 pages in length, the employment manager has an average of 150 pages of reading to do each evening-- a sizable chore!

Since the employment manager frequently spends the entire workday interviewing employment candidates, most resumes are normally read during the evening hours. Additionally, since evenings are often used by the manager to plan employment strategies, write recruitment advertising, and do other planning work necessary to the employment process, the amount of evening time left to read resumes may be only an hour or two.

In many cases, the employment manager is unable to read resumes until later in the evening. The early evening hours must often be used by the manager to make telephone calls to make job offers, follow up with candidates on outstanding offers, prescreen prospective candidates, and so on. These calls can usually be made only during the early part of the evening, leaving resume reading until later.

As you can well imagine, by 10 or 11 P.M. (following a full day of interviewing and several early evening phone calls) the typical employment manager is probably tired. He or she must now read an estimated 150 pages of resumes before retiring for the evening. You can well imagine how thoroughly these resumes will be read.

The technique used by most employment managers in reviewing resumes is not an in-depth, step-by-step reading process. Instead, it is a process of rapidly skimming the resume in a systematic way to determine whether or not the individual has qualifications and career interests consistent with the company's current employment requirements.

Considering all of these factors resumes that are poorly prepared, sloppy, or in any other way difficult to read will receive very little consideration. Resumes are thought to be indicative of the overall personal style of the writer. Thus the inference that is frequently drawn from such poorly written resumes is that the applicant is likewise a sloppy, uncaring, of disorganized individual. Why then should the employment manager risk bringing this individual in for interviews? In such cases, the resume will more likely than not be stamped "no interest," and the employment manager will quickly move on to the next resume.

By now I hope that you are convinced that the general appearance of the resume is critical to its impact and effectiveness. It should be obvious that readability is likewise a major criterion for resume success. Resume organization and format are therefore extremely important factors to consider if your resume is to be successful in this difficult and competitive arena.

We now move on to a general discussion of the organization and operation of the typical company employment department. We carefully trace the steps through which your resume will likely pass, from the point of receipt by the department to final determination of application status.

Resume Processing

In the case of a company with a large employment department, the department is normally subdivided into functional specialties with each employment manager having accountability for a given area. For example, there may be an Administrative Employment Manager who has accountability for all administrative hiring: Accounting, Finance, Law, Data Processing, Human Resources, and so on. A Technical Employment Manager may also exist with accountability for all technical hiring: Research and Development, Central Engineering, Technical Services, Quality Control, and so on. Likewise, there may be an Operations Employment Manager with responsibility for all hiring related to manufacturing or plant operations. Marketing and Sales may also be represented by a separate employment manager.

As resumes are received by the employment department, there is usually one person who is designated to open and sort the mail into the appropriate categories for distribution to the individual employment managers. Once received by the employment manager's administrative assistant, the screening process will begin with the assistant "screening out" those resumes that are clearly not of interest to the employment manager. Thus if the employer is a steel company, the resumes of botanists, foresters, artists, and so forth are likely to be "screened out" at this point. Likewise, the administrative assistant may eliminate illegible, sloppy, or otherwise undesirable resumes.

The next step is for the employment manager to read the resume to determine whether there is an opening that is an appropriate match for the applicant's credentials. If not, the resume is usually marked "no interest," coded, and sent to Word Processing where an appropriate "no interest letter" is prepared and sent to the applicant. A copy of this letter along with the original resume is then returned to the employment department for filing and future reference.

At this point, "no interest" resumes are normally divided into two categories: (1) those in which the employer will probably have no future interest and (2) those having a high likelihood of interest at some future time. Those in which the company is likely to have future interest are normally placed in an active file for future reference and review. In some cases, these "future interest" resumes are electronically scanned and stored on a computer resume data base. The remaining resumes are placed in a dead file with no possibility of future review.

When the employment manager determines that there is a reasonable match between the candidate's qualifications and the employment needs of a given department, the next step is a review of the resume by the hiring manager (the manager having the employment opening). Having reviewed the resume and determined that there is a probable match between the candidate's qualifications and interests and the requirements of the position, the hiring manager then notifies the employment manager of this interest and requests that the employment manager schedule the candidate for an interview. If, on the other hand, there is no interest, the hiring manager indicates this to the employment manager, and the resume is processed as described above.

In the case of the more sophisticated employers, there is usually one additional step in the process prior to extending an invitation for an interview. This step is referred to as the "telephone screen." This means that either the hiring manager or the employment manager will phone the candidate for the purpose of conducting a mini-interview. This telephone interview is intended to determine whether the candidate has sufficient qualifications and interest to warrant the time and expense of an on-site interview. Additionally, employers frequently use this preliminary interview to determine the validity of the information provided on the resume--a good reason to be factual in describing your qualifications and accomplishments!

There are three critical points in the resume-processing procedure at which your resume may be screened out and marked "no interest":
  1. Administrative Assistant--screened for obvious incompatibility, incompleteness, sloppiness, or illegibility.
  2. Employment Manager--screened for incompatibility with current openings and required candidate specifications.
  3. Hiring Manager--screened for insufficient or inappropriate qualifications when compared with job requirements.
The highly competitive nature of the employment market, coupled with the thorough screening provided by the prospective employer, makes the preparation of a professional and effective resume an absolute must if one expects to be successful in the employment or job-hunting process! The resume cannot be left to chance. It must be carefully and deliberately designed if it is to successfully survive the rigors of the company's screening process.

Let's now take a closer look at the process used by the employment manager to screen resumes. How does he or she read a resume? What is the employment manager looking for? What will determine which resumes are screened out?

Candidate Specification

The very first step in the typical employment process is the preparation of an "employment requisition" by the hiring manager. This document is normally signed by the hiring manager's function head and human resources manager and is then forwarded to the appropriate employment manager. The purpose of the employment requisition is normally threefold:
  1. Provides management authorization to hire.
  2. Communicates basic data about the opening-title, level, salary range, reporting relationship, maximum starting salary, key job responsibilities, and so on.
  3. Communicates basic or fundamental candidate specifications--type and level of education required, type and level of experience sought, technical and administrative skills required, and so forth.
Any good professional employment manager knows that the employment requisition seldom provides sufficient information to do a professional job of identifying and recruiting a well-qualified candidate. Considerably more information will usually be needed, and the employment manager is quick to arrange a meeting with the hiring manager to develop a more thorough and comprehensive candidate specification. The following are examples of typical "candidate specs."

Both of these candidate specs are highly detailed and very particular about the kind of qualifications that will satisfy the employment requirement. Very little has been left to chance. There is a clear understanding of both the educational and experience requirements for candidates who would receive serious consideration for employment.

Job Title: Chief Project Engineer

Job Level: 600 Points

Department: Central Engineering

Croup: Mechanical


Preferred: M.S. Mechanical Engineering Acceptable: B.S. Mechanical Engineering

Experience: Eight plus years experience in the design, development, installation, start-up. and debugging of Herrington Winders and auxiliary equipment. Demonstrated project leadership of projects in the eight to ten million range. Must have managed groups of five or more professionals. Maximum Starting Salary: $85,000

Now let's look at another example.

Job Title: Director-Human Resources

Job Level: 1.200 Points

Department: Human Resources

Reporting Relationship: Sr. Vice President-Administration

Maximum Starting Salary: $100,000

Estimated Bonus: 20% to 30%

Education: Masters in Human Resources Management

Experience: Requires a minimum 15 years experience in Human Resources in a corporation of 20,000 plus employees.

Experience must include a broad range of Human Resources experience to include: Employment, Compensation & Benefits. Training & Development, and Employee Relations. Must be up-to-date with modern concepts in such areas as Human Resources Planning, Organization Effectiveness, and Executive Assessment. Experience must include demonstrated management leadership in the direction and guidance of decentralized, autonomous division Personnel functions in a multi-division and highly diversified company. Must have played key role in the development and execution of corporate-wide labor relations strategy in a multi-union setting. Must have managed a staff of at least 20 mid-management and professional level Human Resource professionals.

How Resumes Are Read

The candidate specification, as shown in the examples, is the basic tool of the employment manager when it comes to reading an employment resume. Actually the term "reading" is misleading when describing the process by which most employment managers review employment resumes. More precisely, the experienced employment manager rapidly scans for basic qualification highlights. The question that is constantly being asked by the employment manager is "Does this individual meet all of the critical qualifications of the candidate spec?"

The typical employment manager does not bother to read a resume in any degree of detail unless the preliminary scan indicates that the applicant has some of the essential skills and experience sought. In such cases, as key phrases and headings begin to match the candidate spec, the manager slows down and begins to read with a more critical eye. If several key criteria appear to be met, the employment professional will usually return to the beginning of the resume and begin a more thorough, detailed reading. To the contrary, if quick scanning of the resume indicates that few, if any, of the candidate's qualifications appear to match the current requirements, no time is lost in moving on to the next resume.

Quick "Knockout" Factors

In scanning the employment resume, the employment manager is looking for key "knockout" factors-factors that clearly spell no interest and signal the employment manager to stop reading and move on to the next resume. Some of these quick knockout factors are:
  1. Job objective incompatible with current openings
  2. Inappropriate or insufficient educational credentials
  3. Incompatible salary requirements
  4. Geographic restrictions incompatible with current openings
  5. Lack of U.S. citizenship or permanent resident status
  6. Resume poorly organized, sloppy, or hard to read
  7. Too many employers in too short a period of time
  8. Too many pages-a book instead of a resume
Any of these factors quickly signals the employment manager that it would be a waste of time to read any further. These are generally sure knockout factors and warrant use of the no interest stamp. These same factors should be consciously avoided when preparing your employment resume.

Critical Reading

Having successfully passed the quick knockout factors test and avoided the no interest stamp, your resume must now undergo a more thorough and critical scanning. Concentration is now centered on the Work Experience section of the resume as the following questions are considered:
  1. Are there sufficient years and level of experience?
  2. Is experience in the appropriate areas?
  3. Is the candidate missing any critical experience?
  4. Does the candidate have sufficient breadth and depth of technical knowledge?
  5. Does the applicant have sufficient management or leadership skills?
  6. Are any technical or managerial skills missing?
  7. Is there a solid record of accomplishment?
  8. How does this candidate compare with others currently under consideration?
  9. Based on overall qualifications, what are the probabilities that an offer would be made-50%, 75%, 90% (as measured against past candidates with similar credentials)?
There is little advice that can be given to the resume writer in this area. You are what you are, and the facts cannot be changed. You either have the qualifications and experience sought, or you don't. At best, you can hope that through diligent application of professional resume preparation techniques, you have done an excellent job of clearly presenting your overall skills, knowledge, accomplishments, and other pertinent professional qualifications.

There is nothing mysterious or mystical about the resume-reading process. It is essentially logical and straightforward. It is a process whereby the employment manager or hiring manager simply compares the candidate's qualifications and interests with the candidate's hiring spec in an effort to determine the candidate's degree of qualifications and the desirability of moving to the interview (or phone screen) step. Neatness, clarity, organization, style, and format are the key ingredients; they are critical to the impact and effectiveness of the employment resume.

published May 29, 2013

By Author - LawCrossing
( 5 votes, average: 3.8 out of 5)
What do you think about this article? Rate it using the stars above and let us know what you think in the comments below.