I spent the past few days interviewing some of the top recruiters in media and entertainment, discussing the things they don’t like to see in resumes. The results of these conversations are going to be posted in a four-part series on MediaBistro, starting today. I actually held my tongue regarding my own views, figuring I’d talk turkey with you here instead.
I spoke with five senior recruiters from Howard-Sloan-Koller, The Mercury Group, Diversified Search Odgers Berndtson, Markham Media Executive Search and The Media Recruiting Group. The first item almost everyone touched upon was page length. Jeff Lundwall, founding Partner at The Mercury Group, gave an opinion on this that really caught me by surprise. He feels that your resume should be limited to one page no matter how senior you are.
I disagree and so did the other recruiters. If you’re more junior, your resume should be one page. If you are senior, I don’t see how this does you anything but a disservice. The reality is, everyone who is a Director or above has a two-pager. So, if you want to be competitive, you really need to have a two-page resume as well. This way you can highlight just as many accomplishments as the next person. Why let space limit you in this capacity?
There was a major difference of opinion on the value of extracurricular activities, otherwise known as “interests.” Everyone agreed – including me – that having personal information akin to “married with two children” is a turn-off. However, some of us feel that activities are worthwhile. Lundwall thinks that passive interests such as reading are great to put in if you can say something like “20th century history buff,” thereby potentially striking a cord with a reader who has a similar interest. Karen Danziger, from Howard Sloan Koller, disagreed completely, stating that many times recruiters actually take this information out of a resume before sending it on to a client.
Beverly Weinstein, of Markham Media, Beth Reeves from Diversified Search and I agree that activities are great to include if they demonstrate leadership or a goal-oriented approach, such as having run marathons or completed triathlons. I personally feel travel is a great thing to include if you can list exotic and exciting places you have been.
Danziger states that she doesn’t particularly like it when someone spends time “hyping” the companies they’ve work for. I understand what she means here but do think it’s important to provide a brief description of each company. The reader should have some sort of understanding of the size and scope of the businesses you have worked for, especially if you are a C-level executive with bottom-line responsibility.
The issue of dates came up a few times. Danziger likes to see months attached to years. She thinks it looks like you are trying to hide something when you omit them. I think this is true when you have only worked someplace for a year or less. If you’ve been at a company for 2+ years I don’t think it’s necessary to include months.
Reeves brings up the importance of having a graduation date in the education section of your resume. I agree with her. When a date is missing it intimates that the person is hiding his age.
While Lundwall doesn’t like summaries, intros or objectives, the rest of us do. We all agree, though, that these introductions need to be short, to the point and meaningful. The recruiter should “get” who you are within five-seconds of reading the summation. If you go on forever and a day, like so many resumes do, the recruiter is not going to bother reading it.
Finally, all of us are adamant that your resume must highlight accomplishments. Instead of saying “I did x” it needs to say “I did x and it produced y.” Look at each bullet point you’ve made and make sure it answers the question “so what?” Whenever you can, provide quantifiable results because this is what will make you shine against your competition. This is what’s going to get you that interview.