Monday, September 20, 2010

In Praise of the Curriculum Vitae

In the U.S., a one to two page resume is still widely considered the ideal length for any professional below the Executive level. But I have challenged this practice many times and advised even staff and junior management candidates to be aware that less is not more, it is opportunity lost. You have less than a minute to grab your reader, why not start with your strengths? Adding a “Professional Highlights” or “Skills & Strengths” section to the top of your resume, using bullets and bold type face, can actually aid the reader by drawing their attention to these criteria and help them to focus. Avoid lengthy and overly descriptive sentences to describe your key strengths. These highlights and details should be bold, clear and customized for each position a candidate is pursuing as it can both direct the reader’s attention and state loudly you have the core requirements for the role. Learning that a candidate enjoys competitive biking or amateur photography, is a semi-professional hockey player or chess master can go a long way to help the candidate connect with the potential hiring manager in advance of the first meeting. More often than not, if a potential employer reading the resume graduated from the same University, or participates in the same recreational pursuits as the resume’s owner, they will be getting a phone call for an interview.

The Curriculum Vitae offers a more detailed and insightful glimpse into the person on the paper. It doesn't hurt to provide a few personal details as long as it puts you in a position of strength. If you're in doubt, here is a recent quote from a client of a local clean tech start-up.

“My former CEO gave me a piece of advice when I began hiring for my start-up. If given the choice between the hungry, accomplished and single young executive, or the married person with two kids, a house and a mortgage, go with the latter. S/he will work that much harder for you because there’s a lot more risk in it for them if it doesn’t work out.” Founder of an early stage clean tech company.

Granted, if you have an opportunity to interview, you'll be able to share a bit more about yourself. But getting the interview is the first challenge. So, how do you offer more information about yourself without looking as though you are padding your resume (adding text but not relevant content, such as networking groups you are no longer an active part of, or your one year of study abroad that is a required part of a degree program). Adding hobbies, interests, or relevant personal trivia to the bottom of your resume tells the reader that you like to keep busy, active and get involved in pursuits outside of work. It can tell them a little bit about your character, too. For example, do you participate competitively in triathlons? Do you skydive on a regular basis? Are you an equestrian and ride fox hunts or cross-country? Great! You are competitive, driven, and you can manage fear while mitigating high risk situations. This would make you a great asset to an early stage company with a controversial new technology, or to an established firm with an aggressive growth plan. What if your interests reflect a more deeply intellectual or creative side, such as founding or participating in an incubator for early stage technologies, or growing rare orchid plants from seed through bloom? The personal traits required to be successful in these endeavors would include strategic planning, long-term commitment and a tremendous amount of patience. These are key attributes for a VP level executive to be successful in any company.

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