If your resume be your first impression to a potential employer or collaborator, many of you leave a bad first impression. If your resume be the story of your life, a large majority of you present it as an uninteresting and uninspiring script written in poor English.
Things happen. People get picked for reasons other than those required in the advert. People less qualified or less competent get hired or promoted over you. People use unfair means to get favourable results. People give and accept favours … it happens everywhere in the world; which is not by way of a justification; more like an explanation. Human beings do what they do in the ways available to them, wherever they are. But it doesn’t happen very often to those seeking ‘the job’.
There are jobs out there for the ‘I can do anything’ types both in the public and private sector. They do not require specific skills or knowledge, nor do they offer unusual rewards or promise upward mobility. People go for such jobs for reasons best known to them, but those involved in the hiring of ‘unskilled’ workers – people who will have to be trained and tweaked into disciplined employees who do as they are told and do it cheerfully – feel within their ethics to let personal like or dislike reflect in their decisions. If all the applicants for a general purpose vacancy are university graduates, all are between 20 and 30 years old, half are men and half women, and none has relevant experience, why can’t I pick them on the basis of the colour they are wearing? Or their manners, or style? Or pick the friend of my brother-in-law?
But that’s not the kind of job we want for our Pappu, do we? Pappu has done some soul and internet searching to decide on ‘the job’ which requires specific knowledge, skill, talent, or a combination of these. This kind of job was best described to me by a young woman I was interviewing for a trainee journalist’s position. ‘Do you have any questions?’ I asked her at the end. She looked me squarely in the eyes, slid forward in her chair, and spoke to me in earnestness: ‘Is this an officer’s position? Because if it’s not, I take my application back’.
So to borrow the expression from her, what we are talking about here is the officer position – a job to which you bring something and which enriches you in exchange. Employers and hiring managers for such vacancies will only miss out on the best candidate at their own cost. They spend expensive man hours and utilise prime media space to attract the ‘right kind’. If they reject you, chances are they do it for their benefit rather than your loss. You failed to make them see the benefit of having you.
For every private sector job advertised in mass media the number of applicants ranges from a few scores to several thousands, depending on the package of salary and benefits. Handling large numbers of applications is however, a breeze for the human resource managers because the bad resumes are very obviously bad and the few good ones jump out of the pile. The two types of resumes do their gigs again with the hiring manager who prepares the shortlist for an interview or tests. By this stage no candidate is any closer to clinching the job but 90 per cent of the applicants have already failed. Failed on the basis of a piece of paper that is understood to have been authored by them.
Get it, your chance of getting employment is not only linked to fiscal policies, technical and vocational education, global economy, a culture of sifarish and parchi … the works. You have no control over them; if you are in Pakistan you don’t even have control over your formal education. But if you have answered an advertisement then all that is besides the point and the only factor that determines your success or failure at this stage is your resume.
Here are some of the do’s and don’ts of telling your own story on paper:
Apple A, Apple C, Apple V
It doesn’t require a lot of intellectual effort or technical wizardry to select the text, cut or copy it, and paste it elsewhere. And yet this is all some applicants are capable of. They import a resume, put their name, address and dates and send it off as their own bio data. They get caught every time … because they are all copying from the same set of templates that is in circulation since the birth of digital word processors. And also because they read and feel old, cold, random and dodgy. A copied resume is not worth the fraction of a second of a hiring manager’s time that it takes him or her to press ‘delete’ because they are looking for ‘you’ and you are nowhere in the document.
Except for a very few, specialised fields and select employers, there is no concept of a standard shape and size of a resume. You need to write enough to introduce yourself and spell out the qualities you bring to the organisation with respect to the advertised job, and present it in a simple and interesting manner. If you manage it on one page or take up all of three, is immaterial. A resume longer than three pages is, however, as likely to impress as tire the reader.
Do look at the formats in circulation, but design your own. Take whatever elements you need and discard those with less or no relevance to your first introduction with your prospective employer. Put them in the order that you see fit rather than following a set pattern. I don’t really need to know your place of birth and I don’t care what your marital status or religion is. Your computerised ID card may be a prized possession for you but I don’t need its number at this point. Why volunteer information of personal nature to total strangers without any assurance of discretion from them? And yet, this is the only information in every pappu’s resume that is never missing.