In 2009, when I was pursuing my MBA in Bengaluru, the university administrated a workshop on résumé building. We had a visit from two industry experts who spent a couple of days with the students from our batch. They started with a lecture, where they stated that a résumé is like its owner’s table of contents. And that, we cannot elaborate our chapters. We must not. Our episodes must be pitched in shorthand; much like those one-liners we note in our diary when struck with a catchy line or thought out of the blue. They went on to address our earnest gathering of 150 that selling oneself through a résumé is an art. And not everyone gets it.
If only, there was an algorithm that spelt the surest success. Archery as a sport should have been banned long ago.
Résumés help form the first impression. Sometimes, a great one. To presume that this impression is a foolproof image of its creator is a gamble. It is like asking the sun to take cover behind the clouds for a day. The skies could humour the asker and colour themselves grey for a drunken splash. However accidentally. They may not oblige the next day. Persisting rains improve one’s mood and the climate, no doubts. But it isn’t enough. Plenty of sunshine is. It could be. Résumés needn’t be all in and about a person. For my money, I do not believe in the art of selling through them. Because I’m not good at it. Or so I feel. Paraphrasing isn’t my forte. Not yet. Summarising and I are like the like poles of two different magnets. We repel. That’s why, holding my future in the hands of bulleted specifics, printed back-to-back on an A4 sheet makes me apprehensive.
I’m judged. By someone else. For having done something. Or, for not having done enough.
These days, applying to any profit-making enterprise requires a push and pull. Inside the corporate firewalls. There must be somebody in the management ladder who can own and drive the recruitment process. And is influential enough to pull the reins in their – the applicant’s – favour. Protocols need moisturising. Such that the joiner’s on-boarding feels like smearing vaseline on a patched elbow on a chilly morning. The applier’s résumé here only tests of their fit into the team. Those with prior work experience fetch flavours of precursory achievements. But, there is nothing to stop one from learning. So, why should a piece of paper carrying not more than 500 words be a predominating criterion?
I took up a job after finishing my MBA. With no prior work experience, I found my résumé not to add much value. Neither a whiz kid at school nor recreationally active, I was average when it came to studies or extracurricular activities. I found it daunting to carry through even a couple of hundred words on my résumé.
I still do.
At the résumé building workshop in 2009, the experts called me for my one-to-one with them. Following their lecture. As a part of this tête-à-tête, they went over everyone’s résumés and shared their feedback and recommendations. I felt insignificant then. As an individual. My esteem searched for hideouts because I did not want anyone to find me. I felt useless, incapable and inept in all that I had become, until then. I had my educational degree to lean on. Excellent grades? Extraordinary achievements? Extracurricular activities? Volunteering? Organising? Meh. Before my face-to-face with the two industry experts, I remember I had indulged in different font styles and sizes. For a long time. I wanted something – anything that would help my résumé look ‘presentable’. If not in terms of my work, then lengthwise. Upon meeting them, they suggested me to introduce jazzy verb forms to ‘colour up’ my summary. ‘Conceptualised’ replaced ‘idea generator’. ‘Collaborated’ substituted ‘worked with’. And, ‘guidance’ superseded ‘support’. I also remember they had recommended me to swap my order of listings. Begin your résumé by introducing yourself. Follow it up with other headings. Start with your recent work experience(s) and trace it back to your school grades. Not vice versa.
If one were to draw a perspective, a blank portion of a résumé could mean that the applicant holds an open mind. And that, the rest is open to the recruiter’s discretion. Who’d choose to read spaces when written lines are louder declarations of one’s worth? I love swimming; it didn’t occur to me to collect certificates of appreciation. I love working sudoku in my spare time. And that’s all there is to it. I travel. A lot. How fair would it be to attach all transport and toll tokens with a note that read ‘PFA with my résumé’?
If someone’s work experience crosses particular years, their education could be discounted. The weight could then shift to recommendation letters, testimonials on online profiles and/or networking forums. Like the deciding factor of a salary package – which is usually in comparison to what one earned last, and not from where they pursued their graduation. Cover letters, online presence, blog space (if any) can replace as the influential factors. Not only will these introduce headhunters to characteristics of the candidate, but also they are likely to discover the latter’s recent contributions. Why restrict to using the 500-word document as a primary judging criterion?
They say they do not have the time to go through pinned pages of a résumé. They also say the grass is greener on the other side. Too little to add, and it feels inconsiderable. Too much to introduce, and it feels boastful. Where is the greenery?
Ideas, workarounds and solutions are spontaneous. They smite you at once. Or not. It is in time that one builds on it, works around its technicalities, improves and improvises upon it. If it doesn’t hold the spark to grab your attention the second it is expressed, it probably isn’t worth your scrutiny. What if, a similar logic were to hold good for an individual too? If they do not have what it takes for you to connect with them, your exercise might be not worth it. Irrespective of how word-perfect their résumé matches to your requirements. They might fit better elsewhere. Indicating you to look up from their lifetime’s summary and call in to examine the next one’s.
What do I know? I’m still working on increasing the length of my résumé!