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If there's one thing clear in the field of career advice, it's the plethora of recommendations and “tips" on how to craft an effective resume. And the complexity of what I'll label “resume wisdom" has escalated in recent years from the impact of technology and the emergence of some new, and very different, resume formats. Related: Hiring Problem: The Lack Of Specificity In The Hiring Process On the technology side, job seekers confront the need to make their resumes “search friendly" or directly entering a “resume" to a job site. Different formats, from “visual resumes" to “career letters," offer what certainly appear to be dramatically different presentations. Fortunately, there is fairly strong agreement on some aspects of resume content. A quick scan of “resume tips" shows strong support for “accomplishments" versus “duties." Yet, there are still 100's if not 1000's of resumes that are produced by job seekers daily that contain boring lists of duties, often taken from equally boring organizational job descriptions. Perhaps the results of an experiment involving variations on resume content can help job seekers see more clearly on at least one of the key elements.

The Experiment

Four different resumes were created with the same person, a recent college graduate. The format was a typical “chronological" resume. The differences were in the content. Here is one set of examples: 1. Accounting / Finance Intern Account reconciliations. Generating reports for managers. Assisting with input of data for accounting purposes into Solomon. General office work. 2. Accounting / Finance Intern Reconciled complex sales tax accrual accounts resulting from recent mergers and acquisitions. Identification of NOL carry forward for multiple acquired subsidiaries. Undertaken projects to send reports to auditing partners. Generating reports for managers at an Operations and Supply Chain Management Software corporation. 3. Accounting / Finance Intern Created Excel documents detailing project tasks and details including pivot tables for better organizational and informational utility. Created Net Operating Loss carryover schedules and Sales Tax Accrual Reconciliation Excel spread sheets to give managers better detail and tracking methods on a month to month basis. 4. Accounting / Finance Intern (The content of Version #4 was the same as Version #3 with the exception that Version #4 opened with an “Objective" statement: “Seeking a position in finance that highlights my strengths to improve process management and efficiency for an organization.") Created Excel documents detailing project tasks and details including pivot tables for better organizational and informational utility. Created Net Operating Loss carryover schedules and Sales Tax Accrual Reconciliation Excel spread sheets to give managers better detail and tracking methods on a month to month basis.

Which Would HR Managers Chose To Interview?

If a Human Resources Manager was reviewing resumes for a position in finance, which of these content variations would be the strongest in portraying the skills and accomplishments of the candidate? A group of twenty Human Resource professionals agreed to provide a structured evaluation of the four resumes reflecting the differences shown in the examples above. All other information, content, education, interests, and so on was the same. Overall, the format of Resume #4 was rated as the “strongest" by 67% of the HR professionals – with no one ranking it the “weakest." The format of Resume #1 was rated as the “weakest" by 82% of the professionals. Interestingly, the HR professionals “with recruiting experience" rated the format of Resume #4 even higher. One of the specific factors asked of the evaluators was the “Evidence of Overall Qualifications." Those rating the options as “Good" or Excellent" for the four variations were: Resume #1: 0% - “Excellent"/15.4% “Good" Resume #2: 13.2% - “Excellent"/28.9% “Good" Resume #3: 10.5% - “Excellent"/57.9% “Good" Resume #4: 17.9% - “Excellent"/66.7% “Good" That's an 84.6% “Good to Excellent" rating for the “Accomplishment plus Strengths" option of Resume #4 versus only a 15.4% “Good" rating for the typical “duties" content. Resume #4 was also rated highest on evaluation factors for “Candidate's Specific Skills" and “Candidate's Specific Accomplishments." Two of the typical comments from the evaluators for Resume #4 were: “Like the objective and specific details of accomplishment" and “Very clear on what the candidate accomplished and measured." One of the most telling comments, because I believe this is a key goal of creating a powerful resume, was: “I get a feel for his performance." Another key factor in the variation of these resumes was that Resume #1 listed the frequently seen list of “Computer Skills" (e.g., MS-Office). In Resume #'s 2-4, this was eliminated but integrated into the accomplishment statements. This clearly demonstrates an important factor positively affecting hiring decisions. It focuses on what the candidate has done -- not what the candidate has. While there was strong agreement on the best “content" in this experiment, there wasn't – and never will be – complete agreement among HR and Hiring Managers. While the “Objective Statement" focusing on “strengths" was praised by many of the evaluators, particularly as it was tied to the specifics of the different jobs held by the candidate, there were some who expressed the feeling that the objective statement is something that belongs in the cover letter or on the resume only if it's being customized for a particular job.

One Clear Conclusion

This experiment supports one of the main consistent recommendations for effective resumes: specific accomplishments strongly outrank statements of simple “job duties." This post was originally published at an earlier date. Disclosure: This post is sponsored by a Work It Daily-approved expert.
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