Top 5 Tips: How to Write an Effective Résumé

The purpose of a résumé is to land an interview; end of story. If you get an interview, you’ll need to convince the employer to hire you. It’s incredibly helpful to keep this in mind as you write the résumé so you can focus on demonstrating that you meet the employer’s specific requirements for the role. If you are committed to pursuing a specific professional role, you’ll need to put in the time to make your résumé as close to perfect as possible. Résumé writing is an art, but there are technical elements which anyone can execute on if they pay close attention to the details:

  1. Prove your successes! It’s not enough to say what you did, or even how you did it. The best way to write about your accomplishments is to describe a problem, how you addressed it, and what the quantitative outcome was. An example:
    1. Don’t say this: “Sold home and auto insurance products and helped clients to understand benefits.”
    2. Say this: “Sold an average of $1.2 million in home and auto insurance products per year over the past 5 years and increased new client base by 30% over the past 3 years by developing a free monthly insurance seminar.”
  2. It has to look good. Make your résumé consistent and symmetrical (i.e. vertically and horizontally balanced); it takes a lot of work to make this happen on a line-by-line basis, but studies show that symmetrical, nice-looking résumés are more effective. Consistent use of punctuation and formatting is important to achieving this nice visual effect, but it also shows your ability to be detail-oriented and professionally polished.
  3. Follow the basic rules. Most résumés should be two full pages, contain only one font, one font-size (11-12pt, except for your name at the top, which can be larger) with a Serif font (like Times New Roman), make very limited use of italics and bolding, contain some kind of summary (really, a sales pitch) at the top, a detailed work history, a list of relevant skills, and a list of your relevant education and training. Don’t get too creative with formats, colors, fonts, or quirky elements and keep the margins ample for improved readability and a cleaner look. There are good ways and bad ways to stand out 🙂
  4. Know what the employer wants. Write your résumé to reflect the employer’s needs, not your personal story. Develop themes which allow you to market yourself to the employer in a way that makes them want you.
  5. Make NO mistakes. You might get an interview if you have a single typo or grammatical problem, but not with two. Read your résumé forward and backward multiple times and ask a friend, family member, co-worker or neighbor to do the same. Then, wait 72 hours and do it again!

If you are interested in learning more, feel free to contact me or sign-up for my résumé service. For more information about what a résumé consultant can offer you, check out my blog post, 7 Reasons to Write Your Own Résumé.

Posted in career services

The Power of Curiosity to Build Your Career

Nearly ten years ago, I graduated from law school and had absolutely no idea where I was headed professionally. I had extensive education, but no clear direction because I had no passion for the law and few marketable skills. While working as a legal compliance officer for a tech start-up following my law school graduation (basically, the only job I could get which allowed me to make my student loan payments), I became interested in the internet. Working with programmers and entrepreneurs had piqued my curiosity: What is the internet all about? Could I learn how to make web pages? I wonder what I could build if I knew html? Note that I wasn’t wondering how I could make money or whether I could get any kind of technical job – this was purely curiosity about the technology itself and whether it was something I could be a part of.

My curiosity lead me to complete a free online html class. Every lesson in that course was a source of fascination for me- I loved doing the exercises and seeing my work appear on the internet. I became completely obsessed with making web pages; and they were awful! 🙂 I was so excited about my new skills that I began sharing my work with friends and family. Given the poor quality of the pages I was producing, it’s no wonder I didn’t receive much encouragement at first, but I knew I was on to something. I stuck with it, buying books about coding, information architecture, CSS, web design, Javascript, PHP, MySQL, web usability, SEO and much more simply to quench my thirst for knowledge. Still, I was not thinking about money or career; I just kept building pages, and eventually, web applications. Over the course of two years, I had hundreds of pages published online, most of which offered free information or provided free services (one example: I made a web app which helped students to figure out what their grade on a final exam would have to be in order to get a passing grade in a class).

Within three years, I had developed an online learning platform which, years later, would become a revenue generating business for my family. With each incremental improvement in my coding and web design ability, my confidence grew. I launched numerous monetized web services and used these successes as critical talking points in my job interviews as I worked toward solidifying myself as a tech professional in Silicon Valley. First, I worked as a Technical Writer at TiVo until I was promoted into a Program Manager role on the Customer Service team. You might not believe it, but I still wasn’t thinking about money- my only interest was in learning more, and more, and more. I wanted to understand, I wanted to improve, and I wanted to see what was around the next corner.

After nearly five years with TiVo, hundreds of hours of home study, many failures and a few successes with web businesses, I had learned enough to try to build my own software support operations team. An enterprise software company in San Francisco, Hearsay Social, took a chance on me and gave me the opportunity to develop a support operations team. Still, I continued to build my skills by developing new apps, new web sites, and completing a computer science certification program and starting a technology graduate program on nights and weekends.  I had never loved learning this much before; I had to know more, I had to find out what I was capable of, and I wanted to try and fail as much as possible to become better.

After one year at the start-up, I achieved my ultimate professional dream: I was hired as a Senior Product Support Manager at Google. Nearly three years later, I am managing a team in Google’s Consumer Operations organization and continuing to learn and grow as a tech industry professional. It is amazing to think about how it all came about- an insatiable curiosity about the web lead me on a journey of exploration which took me from disillusioned and bored law school graduate to a happy, engaged and passionate Operations Manager at Google.

Follow your curiosity!

Posted in web entrepreneurship

7 Reasons to Write Your Own Résumé

There are many résumé services available online, including mine. Prices range from $50-$1000 and most of them offer to write your résumé for you. If you are serious about your career, hiring a résumé writer is a big mistake which will make you worse-off than you were before. Creating an effective résumé takes time. It requires deep insight, thoughtfulness, industry knowledge, meticulous attention to detail, hiring and interviewing experience, and a long term career strategy. You can bet that the low price point in this industry is enabled by sending clients offshore where low-paid workers plug your data into nice looking (but generic) templates. Don’t do it! 🙂  Not only will your résumé not be very strong, but you will be missing out on one of the best benefits of taking an active hand in crafting your own résumé: developing a deeper understanding of your profession, your career strategy, and yourself.

Instead of hiring a resume writer, hire a resume consultant. Here’s what a great resume consultant does:

  1. Asks you about your career goals so they can craft the résumé to reflect your short and longer term strategies.
  2. Identifies red flags. Most people have something bad in their résumés. It might be a typo, it might be a lack of clarity, or it might be something that could get them into trouble later (after they’ve started the job). Most of all, the résumé consultant will help you to see the résumé in the way that hiring managers will and can help you to avoid common pitfalls.
  3. Helps you to structure your resume in a way that makes sense for your specific experience, skills and goals and in order to play up your greatest strengths.
  4. Advises you on what works well and what doesn’t. A strong résumé consultant has reviewed hundreds if not thousands of resumes as a hiring manager themselves and knows what to look for so you can stand out from the crowd.
  5. Helps you to understand yourself better. Most professionals are very self-critical and fail to clearly see where they excel above their peers. By the same token, people can become so focused on perceived shortcomings that they miss other areas where they may need even more help. A good résumé consultant will easily spot these patterns and help you to develop enhanced awareness.
  6. Engages you in the process so your résumé reflects your personality and style. Hiring managers can typically spot generic, lifeless resumes; it’s tough to stand out when you look like everyone else.
  7. Coaches you on crafting smart, meaningful, quantifiable statements which help the hiring manager/recruiter to truly understand what you can bring to the job and to the organization.

The next time you are looking for a résumé writer, consider the possible return on investment of a great résumé: 10% salary increase? 20% increase? Greater job satisfaction? Shorter commute? New career? It’s well worth the money, and certainly the time, to create a resume which significantly advances your personal goals.

Questions? Feel free to contact me  🙂

Posted in career services

Google Sheets VLOOKUP example: weighted scoring with variable / value assignment

Sometimes I make apps or spreadsheets to help me (or others) make decisions based on specific weighted criteria. It’s hard to find straight-forward, working examples of these kinds of spreadsheets online, so I thought I’d post one.

VLOOKUP weighted scoring sample spreadsheet

A few notes:

  • There are two Sheets
    • Input: You can toggle all of the fields with the white background; the score appears in the right-most column, which is conditionally formatted by score
    • Scoring: Here’s where you weight your criteria. If I had wanted to get really fancy with this, I could have categorized the different criteria and weighted them at the category level and apportioned a % of that weight to the various criteria within the category.
  • The “Input” sheet has a number of hidden columns where calculations are performed; no need to un-hide them unless you have made changes and want to debug something.
  • I strongly recommend calibrating on your methodology by entering a number of sample rows to make sure your weighting on the “Scoring” sheet is producing the scores (in Column P on the “Input” sheet) that you expect.
  • For more info about VLOOKUP and other Google Sheets functions, check out the Docs Editors Help Center article.

Screenshot 2015-11-28 at 10.40.36 PM



Posted in business productivity