Thursday, February 16, 2012

What Your Resume Says (or Doesn’t Say) About You, by Michael Perry

I am one of those “librarians who don’t work in a library” that you hear about more and more. I supervise the Conflicts of Interest department at a large national law firm. We function as an internal knowledge management center. Our mission and functions are similar to library’s and I often am in the same meetings as the Director of Library Services. My department has a high turnover, as does any department staffing non-lawyers in a law firm. It’s always bittersweet to see employees leave work to attend law school. I end up reviewing resumes, some from individuals with library degrees and more without, almost constantly. This unique, almost library, situation means we list a MLIS as a relevant degree in job descriptions. Too often, I see resumes from prospective employees with MLIS degrees outshined by individuals with non-library backgrounds. I am always looking to bring in people with a library background but I encounter issues that often make that impossible. Hoping I might be able to help a person or two, I thought show you the other side of the application process. A reminder, what I’m describing is the process at a large law firm, but I think much of this holds true for any work environment.

Format Matters

I wanted to start with this because it is so important but often overlooked. The format of your resume, both practically (file format) and visually is vitally important. File format is both quick and easy, yet you often don’t have a ton of choice in the matter. If you are sending in an electronic copy of your resume, it will almost always be in either a PDF ora Word Document. I personally prefer the PDF as I know this was the final decision in how a candidate wanted their resume viewed. There are no chances for formatting or conversion errors and everyone has some ability to view them. The Word Document can achieve this, but problems can arise. Our firm, like most organizations, is not running the most current version of Word (or any other software for that matter). As such, any files that come through with the new .docx file format have to be converted. This is usually a problem free process, but you are relying on Microsoft’s product to ensure your resume comes out properly. I wouldn’t trust it. (FYI: I’ve seen similar things happen with Open Office documents.)

You will probably also encounter situations where employers or systems ask you to paste your resume into a web based text box. If this happens, be certain to additionally send in a PDF. If the option isn’t there, try contacting the Human Resource department or representative to see if you can supplement your application.  This is something I wish would happen more often. It is commonly the case that a resume is submitted via a text box and then routed to me via email. By this point, formatting has completely stripped out any spacing and pagination. This does however allow me to make somewhat easier decisions. Good resumes will not be affected by this and a bad resume will be rendered almost unreadable.  Think about this when using things like headers, footers, columns, and other structural formatting. I realized this was a problem with my own resume a while back, since I had part of it set up to display as two columns and it didn’t always turn out right. As an aside, even if you are not looking for a job, it is a great practice to update your resume a few times a year. It gives you a chance to reflect on accomplishments and gives you fuel for your year-end review.

Who Are You?

Another issue that I never thought I’d see quite as often as I do is related to contact information. If you are looking for a job, stop and take a look at your email address. What is it and what does that say about you? Hopefully, your email address is some derivation of your name or thereabout. If not, be sure that this is something professional. I’ve seen resumes come in with email address of all sorts, including one that was some form of “partygirl”. That is a sure fire way to have your resume overlooked.  Also, be mindful of what social media accounts use this email or user name. Personally, I use one ID so my email is michaelrperry6 [at] gmail [dot] com and michaelrperry6 is my user name on every social media site you can imagine. I’m fine with this because I know the information I’m putting out there, but if you’re unsure, best to set up a job hunting email address. They are free after all.  Slightly related, if your email account has been compromised or you abandoned it, make sure everything you send out is up to date with new information.  I had a friend whose email account was compromised and then used to set up some less than work appropriate Tumblr blogs. They had forgotten to update their resume so this went out to prospective employers.

Talking social media leads us to the big one: should you include a link to your LinkedIn (or any other for that matter) account?  This really is a matter of personal preference.  I know many people who don’t even bother to check these accounts if they are included and others that will go out of their way to find them. My take, include them if you are comfortable. It functions much like including a PDF of your resume. You control the information and how it’s presented so you have a nice launching platform for people. I would be more hesitant to include other accounts, like Facebook, Twitter, or Google+, but something like LinkedIn or a static digital resume or portfolio work really well.  This has the added benefit of presenting yourself as a digital savvy individual, a crucial skill in this job market. I like the idea of setting up a static page as opposed to using LinkedIn, but that may just be that I don’t like the LinkedIn user interface and notification system.  Additionally, setting up a simple Google Sites page or WordPress can often give the appearance (deserved or not) have having a good understanding of web development and design, especially to those who do not.

Why Are You Doing This?

I wanted to avoid the topic of tailoring your resume and cover letter to the job you are applying for. First, I think this is a topic that has been covered by many who handled it much better than I could hope to do. Second, if you aren’t doing this you really aren’t taking the whole finding a job thing very seriously. Many of the resumes I review are sent to us as an afterthought.  Is there anyone who finds the title of Conflicts Analyst to be super interesting? But I can always spot those people that took the extra effort to read the posting and tailor their resume accordingly.  There is a good correlation between those people that took to time and those that end up getting job offers.

I hope some of the information here is helpful and if you have any questions, please feel free to contact me. My email address is included above and you can find me on Twitter or Google+ at michaelrperry6. Happy job hunting.

Michael holds a BA in Political Science from DePaul University and received his MLIS from Dominican University.  This is his second guest post for this blog. His previous piece is "Overlook Opportunities and Missed Connections."

1 comment:

  1. Good guidance given certainly suggesting about various aspects of resume.

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