Avoid it with a Bulletproof resume that has a clear and simple layout
A confusing layout means rejection is likely no matter how powerful your words…
There are many parts in this article, but firstly the structure of your resume is important – a confusing layout can put you straight into the reject pile. Make the structure clear and obvious. So use simple labels for each section, such as, ‘Employment History’, and ‘Education’.
Your Personal Stuff
First, the legal bit…
By law you don’t have to include your age, marital status, gender or nationality. However, employers usually seek out one or more of these and will try and find out – often getting it wrong. Without it, you may aggravate the reader, or at worst, you’ll get rejected wrongly.
In The Stable and Wise Community, the only employers with access to your resume are those actively seeking the mature. Here your age and experience is positive.
Laws banning discrimination were well intentioned and seemed to provide a solution to ignorance and prejudice. Wrong – they had absurd and expensive consequences. They attacked the symptoms of the disease, while ignoring the disease itself.
When employers make guesses to fill (irrelevant) information gaps such as age or gender, many will assume their worst-case scenario. It’s human nature.
For example, they don’t want to hire anyone over 50 and assume someone left their age off because they were trying to hide it. So, they didn’t get the job because of absurd ageism. However, perhaps this applicant was only 40 (when age discrimination starts!) and had been told by a recruiter to do this!
Advertisers are not allowed to put age or gender preferences on ads. They can’t even be sneaky saying ‘we are seeking a graduate with three or four years experience’ (though in the USofA, many employers require you put your College dates in – now they virtually know your age).
So, many people go to a lot of trouble applying, believing they have a chance. Then their age is guessed and they are tossed in the reject pile. Or, perhaps the employer only wants a female, to address their gender balance, so 20 men just wasted an hour. Then the employer has to waste at least 30 minutes going through the reject process.
The real issue to be addressed? Changing employer prejudices with education, more public debate and public shaming. These well meaning laws just added to the cost of recruiting for everybody.
But just try and get the politically correct brigade to accept this! They think people shouldn’t have these views and should obey the law, and that’s the end of another futile discussion.
If you do decide to include it (and if you’re over 40, please do – you might as well not waste time on idiots, better to be rejected early), personal information is typically situated on the first page of the resume although there is room for variation and personal style. Also, call the document a resume, not the antiquated term CV or Curriculum Vitae. This translates as ‘the story of my life’ – which it hopefully isn’t!!
Secondly, people hire people – not just a robotic set of skills…
As such, make sure you include what you do to relax, your hobbies and interests. But keep them very brief. Employers see hobbies as a shorthand to the person you are. For example, chess, gardening and reading suggest solitary pursuits, while football and doubles tennis suggest a team player.
However, some research by a recruitment agency found that if they were included, some hobbies seemed to be more popular than others. Some such as touch football, cricket, rugby, tennis, squash, cooking, motor racing, wine, socializing and cycling increased the chances of being shortlisted from between 24% and 147%.
On the other hand, some hobbies greatly reduced the chances of being shortlisted. These were: theatre, movies, golf, listening to music, walking, entertaining, art/craft, water skiing and camping. These had the impact of reducing the chances of being shortlisted from between 28% to 73%.
It is great that someone tried to quantify such a subjective issue and put some facts around it.But there are plentiful reasons to cast doubt on the conclusions that were drawn.
For starters, the sample size was very small: only 999 resumes across a variety of jobs, and only submitted to one recruitment agency. The culture of that agency would have a big impact.
Also, the research reported big differences across careers (salespeople include it on their resumes more than HR people do, for example). Not surprising, but hard to control for and this makes the small sample size even more problematic.
Secondly, we are back to the vexed question of recruiters again.
Due to high staff turnover and their youth, they tend to focus only on skills and experience when trying to fill a job for a client. So, of course, they will tend to ignore the hobbies, to ignore the rounded person.
However, they are still gatekeepers to many professional and managerial jobs – hopefully for not much longer. Like all middle men, they are now obsolete, and Covid-19 will hasten their demise.
However, the person doing the hiring, the employer, usually has a different view. This is a real person now, not a recruiter following a mechanical process to get a sales commission. Real people feel an affinity for people who like the same things they like.
It’s because people are a bit easier to ‘rub along with’ at work. Also, emotionally intelligent managers know that how people choose to relax in their spare time is a good insight into their lives. Those who relax with exercise typically have more energy and take less sick days.
I love seeing hobbies on resumes for two reasons…
Firstly, they are a great ice-breaker to start the interview – important and useful. Secondly, they are useful to probe on to discover someone’s motivations.
For example, it is possible to discover that an applicant puts touch football on their resume but hasn’t actually played it for five years or more. This is very revealing about the applicant’s level of need to make an impression. It doesn’t say anything definitive, but it is interesting and makes me more likely to check other claims more carefully.
Finally, research on Generations X and Y shows they place more emphasis on a balanced life. Perhaps this impersonal view is a carryover from the Baby Boomers and their attitudes to work – and often career books are written by Boomers.
So, until there is more definitive research, include something personal and uncontroversial, but keep it short. It does no harm and will do some good.
Story Telling – an Oldie but a Goodie!
I’ve spent time with a lot of great conference speakers and speaker trainers over the past twenty years. All of them use stories to engage the audience.
It is no surprise that we all love and relate to stories. Hundreds of thousands of years of hard wiring around the campfires on the Savannah mean we can’t do without it!
They are a great technique, so use them in your resume. Sparingly, of course.
The “STAR” formula is to tell a story in your resume (or at interview) by describing a Situation you were in, a Task you were presented with, an Action you undertook and the Result. This is powerful and can pre-empt some targeted selection questions that the interviewer may be about to ask.
For example, under the heading Achievements for a salesperson…
“My biggest challenge in this new role was a major client who was increasingly buying from competitors, and we had gone from 80% of their spend right down to 20% when I took over the account. So I conducted research on them. Then I put together a 6-month action plan that … The result was we now get almost 90% of their business and no discounts”.
A good way to set the scene for your story is to include a career summary. For example, a ‘mid-level’ applicant might include a short summary of their skills and/or professional qualifications. This should not be more than five lines, but should serve to draw in the recruiter, making them want to read more about you.