WHAT MEDIA RECRUITERS DON’T WANT TO SEE IN YOUR RESUME

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.

Carpe diem…

4 Comments
  • Todd
    Posted at 05:52h, 30 May Reply

    “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.”

    I’ve often wondered about this because I have had extracurricular activities that I think could translate into job skills, or at very least demonstrate that I’m well rounded. For instance, as an amateur historian, I’ve published several articles, which could show that not only can I write and research, but well enough that it would be printed. I’ve run web pages and done event planning (events involving hundreds) for nonprofits, which though I was never paid for it, required the skills to do these things.

    “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.”

    Again, I’ve gotten mixed (usually negative) feedback on this. I’ve held leadership positions for several nonprofits (some national organizations) as well as my condo association board. These positions were not paid, but required leadership, good decision making, controlled six figure budgets, etc.

    So do you include things like published articles and positions on boards of directors if you never got paid for them?

    • Jane
      Posted at 12:49h, 30 May Reply

      Todd,
      Thanks for the note. As you can see, some will disagree with me but since you’re asking my opinion…here goes. If you’ve had articles published, that shows intelligence and perseverance. It also helps to differentiate you from your peers. I can’t imagine that someone would say something like this not be included, but, hey, people are wacky. When I write resumes, I always ask my clients if they volunteer in some capacity. Sometimes I add items and sometimes I don’t. If you have the room and it shows leadership AND is NOT controversial, I’d add it. One of the things I struggle with is politics, for example. When someone tells me that they actively lobbied for Bush, I tend not to put this in. Politics are so unbelievably polarizing that I think this can send up a negative connotation to readers. I think that being a board member of a co-op could be added but not if it was all on its own. If you’ve got non-profits you can add, well then I’d probably put it in as part of the mix. Hope this helps!

  • Brian
    Posted at 06:06h, 05 June Reply

    I understand what’s being said in the last graf. And I would dearly love to provide those sorts of things on my resume.

    But I’ve spent my entire life as a writer and, for the past few months, a copy editor. The work I do, beyond any sort of awards (which are certainly listed), isn’t really quantifiable. Do I keep a log of how many times I miss deadline, and why? Do I keep a ratio of mistakes caught to mistakes I didn’t catch?

    I’m desperately trying to get out of journalism. I have skills that organizations need; I just can’t seem to get anyone to believe that someone with a career at small newspapers could do any sort of work at their organization/company/interest group/whatever. And I live near DC, which ALWAYS has openings for editors and writers somewhere. Even before the economy tanked, I barely got a sniff.

    So maybe I should be starting that logbook?

    • Jane
      Posted at 12:35h, 05 June Reply

      Brian,
      Thanks for writing. It is much more difficult to quantify your accomplishments if you are in a creative position. I get that. I’m not sure I can give you proper help without seeing your resume, which you are welcome to send me, if you so choose at jane at tandjam dot-com. I’m not sure what industry you want to change into, but changing industries without having connections in a down economy where a hiring manager doesn’t need to look out of the box is extremely difficult. You really have to try to network to make this happen. Again, hard for me to give you solid advice without knowing all the facts but I hear your frustration. Feel free to send more info…

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