Black and white resumes do it best.

Leonardo Da Vinci's resume

This is a guest post by Todd Porter. If you’d also like to guest post here on JobMob, follow these guest post guidelines.

In an age of social media and virtual networking, job hunting is different than it was 50, 40 or even 30 years ago.

In the 60’s and 70’s people typically didn’t change jobs every few years. Individuals would land a job with the anticipation that they would work there until they retired. There were no job sites like There was no Internet where information was easily accessible or e-mail where resumes could be easily submitted.

What hasn’t changed is that the resume is still the number one tool used to land a job. Actually, considering resumes are 500 years old (don’t believe it? Google “Leonardo Da Vinci 1482 resume”) they haven’t changed a lot. Unfortunately, most individuals don’t grasp the intricate parts of this tool and how to use it effectively.

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Resumes aren’t black and white.

Well, actually most resumes are black and white (more about that later).

More importantly, you should understand that resumes are more like ART than SCIENCE. As such, there is typically never a definitive right way to construct a resume. Even with that truth, some things on the resume can be arguably better and there are definitely some things that can be WRONG.

This posting will try to dissect and define some of those things, that will improve your probability of landing that next opportunity and give you a leg up on most of the other candidates (read: your competition).

To begin, in writing / analyzing your resume I’m going to ask you to take a different view.

Most people construct a resume similar to a painter painting a self-portrait. Instead of trying to tell the story about YOU and your career, put yourself in the shoes of the hiring manager. Sit in the virtual chair of the hiring manager or gatekeeper (HR person) who is reviewing your resume. They are looking for what they want and if you don’t paint your career portrait to their liking, they probably won’t be interested.

As you go through the writing / analyzing process, keep in mind that you have a minimum amount of time to grasp the reader’s attention / interest. You probably only have 6 to 10 seconds to set the hook. If there is enough information to gain interest, you might get the second level view to see if you are a fit.

Objective Statement

The Objective Statement part of the resume could be the most misused part of the resume.

Individuals feel they must include an Objective to explain what they want to do in their next position and strategically in their career.

Most Hiring Managers and HR people don’t care about what you want, unless it’s what they need.

Actually, even though the Objective is normally the second physical part of the resume (after contact information) it’s not the first thing people will look at. It is part of that second level view. This is not to say it isn’t important because it’s where you want the reader to say, “Yes, this is the person that would fit what we want”.

Job hunting used to be about “who you know”. Somewhere along the way job hunting became, “who knows you”. Today, the person gets the job from the person who “knows what you can do for them”.

Even though “Objective” means “something sought” when you write your Objective Statement, take that opportunity to tell them “What you can do for them”.

Secondly, use Hard skills as opposed to Soft skills. (true throughout the resume)

Soft skills are those things that are fluff and that usually apply to everyone. The biggest fluff in the objective statement might be that you want to work for a great company. Who wants to work for a crummy company?

A Soft skill that most people can relate to is typing. 50 years ago, typing might have been a Hard skill for certain jobs but today no one would put typing on their resume as a skill because it should be a given that everyone can type.

Last point on the Objective is to keep it short. Someone should see the statement and be able to grasp it quickly. If it take 30 seconds to read it and/or causes the question “what does this person want or can do?” the hiring manager or gatekeeper will put the resume in the reject pile.

Career Transition On The Resume

This is the meat of the matter. Very quickly, the reader should understand which companies the candidate has worked for, jobs held and duration of positions.

This is the section that will rule you out quicker than anything.

If the reader says the following, your resume can quickly be trashed:

“Didn’t have the right jobs”

The wrong jobs in your background might be about applying for the wrong job. Be honest with yourself. There are times when a job title on a resume might not be clear as it relates to the position you are being considered for. Don’t lie about the positions you’ve held but sometimes a position can have more than one title.

“Too many jobs, is a job hopper”

The small mistake that can be a big rejection is how the dates of employment are represented. If you have several jobs with the same company over 8 years it’s important how you represent the grouping of these jobs. Make sure it’s clear that you’ve worked for the same company over that whole period. This is easily done by putting the total time spent at the company and sub-set the time for each position.

The other problem on the timeline is when a company has been acquired. If you have the same job but the company name has changed, make sure you clarify that with a short statement.

“Company not recognized”

If a company isn’t recognized, the person who is reviewing the resume might reject you because you didn’t work for a pertinent company.

This can be true in a field that has a lot of start-ups. What can be very helpful is to add a short line presenting the company before you tell them what you did there. Be careful not to waste the readers time by telling the reader what a recognizable company does. An example might be to not tell the reader who IBM is or what they do.

Resume End Sections

The end sections are typically EDUCATION and SKILLS.

You should know on a resume, what is last can often be first. A person reviewing the resume will normally go to the end of a resume to see where and when you went to school. For technical positions, they are usually going to be looking for relevant skills.

Include the dates when you graduated. By not including them it doesn’t hide how old you are, it just makes a person question why you didn’t include them.

Never ever, ever, ever lie in this section. Nothing will kill your chances faster than putting a fake college or a skill that you really don’t have. People still try this and are getting caught more often than not.

Black and White Resumes

Hopefully this has given you a little more insight into tightening up your resume. Keep it simple and to the point. Avoid the fluff and let them know why you can do what they need done.

Keep it Black and White. Fancy resumes with a lot of color might be cute but you don’t want to go for cute, you want to get hired!

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About the author

Executive Recruiter Todd PorterTodd Porter started H.T. PROF Executive Search in 1997. The company recruits primarily for Israeli companies hiring KEY individuals anywhere in the U.S.  Recruiting focus is in the areas of traditional technology, biotech and cleantech.  He can be reached directly at TPJOB [at] HTPROF [dot] COM.

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Jacob Share

Job Search Expert, Professional Blogger, Creative Thinker, Community Builder with a sense of humor. I like to help people.

This Post Has 11 Comments

  1. Kate B

    This is all great advice, but it sounds like the cover letter still sounds like it does most of the work.

  2. Kate

    I used all this advice to update my resume.

  3. Kate

    Glad to hear there has been so much discussion about this post.

  4. Kate

    Thanks for responding Todd.

  5. Todd Porter

    A cover letter is often like a key to a car. It does most of the work to start the car. Likewise, the resume is like the engine doing most of the work after the car is started.

    Good luck with your search

  6. Rich

    So, this article was published/released in September, 2013.
    The resume game has changed a lot since then. Objective Statements are out. Professional Summaries/Profiles are in. They introduce the candidate to the reader with the intention of getting the reader to continue reading and then picking up the phone and calling the candidate. If the reader doesn’t call, you won’t get the job, period. The resume gets the interview….the interview gets the job.

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