Career Watch

Q&A: David Noble

The author of Gallery of Best Resumes tells you how to create a résumé that will get noticed.

What are effective ways to make a résumé stand out? Ensure that you present the most important information about you just below your contact information. Susan Whitcomb, a professional résumé writer in Fresno, Calif., describes in her book Résumé Magic an imaginary rectangle, placed approximately 25/8 inches from the top of the first page and running two inches deep. In this hot zone, you will want to put the most important information about you that will make you irresistible beyond any other candidate in the eyes of readers. If you discovered before Einstein that E=mc2, you should put that kind of information here. That is an overstatement, of course, but spend some time determining the most important information about you as a future employee and then express that information in this key zone in an exciting, readable way.

Things to consider for this box include what you do best, your strongest IT strengths that set you apart from your peers or the most notable IT resources you bring to a company. There is no room for modesty here.

Explain achievement results in a way that nontechnical readers can understand. Strive for a balance between language that IT readers will expect and information that non-IT readers will appreciate.

If you think your résumé is weak in any way, with, say, a gap in your work experience, many short-term jobs or the absence of a degree, consider including one or more testimonials that attest to the quality of your work and to you as a valued employee. If you can't cull them from letters of reference, ask peers and former employers for a brief statement about you as a worker and for permission to include it in your résumé. Sample résumés in books will show you how to present testimonials in your résumé. A professional résumé writer can also be of help here.

What are common mistakes that IT professionals make on their résumés? Misspelling product names -- using, for example, AS400 for AS/400, CPM for CP/M, Hewlett Packard for Hewlett-Packard, PhotoShop for Photoshop, QuarkXpress for QuarkXPress, and Quattro Pro for QuattroPro. You can't pass yourself off as being "detail-oriented" if your résumé has a misspelling.

Another is including early software like Ami Pro, CP/M, DOS, Windows 3.1, WordStar and WordPerfect 5.1 in a list of your software proficiencies. Unless there is a particular reason for mentioning an old program, omit what is no longer relevant.

You also should quantify achievements in dollar amounts, percentages or other numbers. Achievements without numbers don't stack up well against those with numbers.

In practice, does substance trump style? Both substance and style are crucial in a résumé. If the substance is lacking and not what the hiring manager wants in a prospective employee, the applicant has little chance of getting an interview. If the substance fulfills or exceeds expectation but the style is poor and has mistakes, the applicant will probably be screened out in favor of another applicant with similar credentials and an impeccable résumé stylistically. Today's job market has a surplus of qualified applicants and fewer open positions, so stylistic weaknesses have become more critical.

-- Jamie Eckle

Laid Off, Poorly -- pronounced "tell on you" -- another new workplace-rating site (Career Watch looked at on Feb. 23), has asked its growing membership to rate how companies are handling layoffs and other things related to doing business in this recession. Here are some of the results:

  • 88% of laid-off employees rated the handling of their layoff as poor or very poor.
  • 94% rated outplacement support as poor or very poor.
  • 72% rated severance packages and insurance as poor or very poor.
  • 43% of those laid off said they would work for their former employer again.
  • 81% of those still employed perceived job security as poor or very poor.
  • 74% of those still employed rated morale as poor or very poor.

Source: Telonu Inc. online survey, March 2009

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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