Billy Palmieri

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The Paper Chase

The Paper Chase

As staffing professionals we read a lot of résumés. The most common problem is that they misrepresent candidates as being more skilled and experienced than they really are...or, worse, they misrepresent seasoned candidates as less experienced than they are. A good résumé is a clear, detailed visual representation of who you are, what you've done, and what you want to do. The key to writing a good one lies not in the beauty of your creative writing, but in highlighting how your skills and experience are relevant to the position you're applying for.

There are pros and cons to including an objective. If you're applying for a full-time job and have specific goals that this position will help you achieve, an objective could be helpful. However, most objective statements are too generic and therefore meaningless.

Omit the objective statement and let your skills and experience speak for themselves.

In a technical résumé the specific skills and proficiencies are key. Put the skills section right up front. And, please, organize it!

Group skills in order of most recent use and according to specific categories. An organized list indicates that you know which tools are related to each other. It can also suggest how you've used the skills and for what purpose. And break out the skills into categories, such as Platforms, Languages, and Operating Systems.

Skills are keywords in more ways than one. Once you've listed your skills, continue to list them throughout the experience section. It's always helpful to know what tools you've used most recently, most often, and when and where. Most online recruiting is based on keyword searches that produce results based on the number of times those keywords appear in the résumé.

If you have a lot of antiquated tools and technologies on your résumé, think twice about including them. Focus your skills and experience around what you're doing now and what you want to do next. The résumé doesn't need to be your whole life story. Pick and choose what you want to include to get the job.

Functional Résumés
Some people recommend a résumé that begins with detailed descriptions of the functions you've performed, followed by a minimal list of employment dates and experience. From our perspective, three words come to mind: Don't Do It.

Many staffing and hiring professionals scan résumés to zero in on the most important information: the experience section. They need to know what you've done and when and where you've done it.

The experience section is the résumé's meat and bones. Each of your positions should be listed with your title, what you did, what tools you used to do it, and how long you did it.

If you oversell yourself, the worst thing that can happen is that you'll get the job. Time and time again, junior to mid-level developers get jobs they're not qualified for based on misleading résumés. This person is quickly overwhelmed, can't perform the job he or she was hired to do, and is soon revealed to be incompetent.

A detailed paragraph of what the company did is not meaningful information. A detailed paragraph about what your specific role was at that company is both pertinent and meaningful.

Dates of hire should include both month and year. Employers are wary of many short-term positions, so if you've had a series of contracts, list them as such.

It's always better to be honest about your career history than to appear to be hiding something.

Don't list every job you've ever had. The résumé should represent who you are and what you do now.

Entrepreneurial ventures can be an asset if presented in light of the job you're applying for. But they can also be a liability. You may have been CEO of your own venture, but the title won't help you get an engineering job - and it may hurt you.

If you've done a lot of management, emphasize it only if you're applying for a management role. Management skills listed on a developer's résumé might cause the hiring manager to think: "This person's going to want to manage everything - and will probably want my job."

Remember, whatever you list in the skills section must be listed in the experience section to give it validity.

Include degrees earned, and the names and locations of all educational institutions, but leave dates off. The law forbids employers from considering candidates based on age. Dates of graduation provide information that by law they must ignore.

Bachelor's and master's degrees in computer science and related fields are always a plus. But MBAs can send up a red flag to employers who are just looking to hire a hands-on developer.

A PhD on a résumé can also be tricky if you're looking for a straight developer job can also be tricky if you're looking for a straight developer job. Some managers think of PhDs as being more interested in exploring complex theories than in creating practical real-world solutions.

This experience usually suggests a well-disciplined candidate with a good work ethic. But describe your military experience only as it relates to the job you're applying for.

Hobbies and Personal Information
Although hobbies and sports can be good conversation starters in interviews, they can also backfire. And leave off references to age, marital status, family, and health as employees for forbidden by law to consider any personal information in their hiring decisions. For the same reason, leave off that little photo of yourself and let your work experience show your stability.

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Billy Palmieri is a seasoned staffing industry executive and a principal of ObjectFocus. Before that he was at Renaissance Worldwide, a multimillion-dollar global IT consulting firm where he held several senior management positions in the firm’s Silicon Valley operations.

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