October 13, 2009

Extra info could be doing more harm than good

In a previous post, I discussed the ongoing debate about putting additional information in your resume.

I myself have often used additional information at various stages of my career as a way of offering employers additional information that demonstrates why I am the best fit for the job. As such, I often suggest to clients, particularly those starting out in the workforce, that they adopt a similar strategy and include relevant, suitable, and professional additional information.

Of course, not everyone agrees. And this morning, I read an interesting article written by Doug White who works with one of the world's largest staffing firms, Robert Half International. In essence, he says that there are certain 'accomplishments', which fall under the broader heading of 'additional information', that job applicants should leave off their resume.

On the whole, I agree with White's argument that applicants often put irrelevant, negative, and/or damaging information on their resume as they are under a false impression that such information is actually beneficial.

Granted, White's audience is probably skewed more towards those mid-career and/or those with extensive experience; however, some of his points are still relevant for students and youth. In particular, I thought his categorization of 'accomplishments' and other tidbits of irrelevant information under four main headings was useful.

In his article, White lists four main categories that additional information and 'accomplishments' can fall under:

- The Unquantifiable Accomplishment (e.g. My last client called me a god)

- The Not-So-Notable Accomplishment (e.g. Overcame procrastination)

- The Offbeat Accomplishment (e.g. Raised over $6,000 for an organization by sitting on a commode)

- The Mistake-Ridden Accomplishment (e.g. I continually receive complaints on the high quality of work I perform)

In the examples provided under each heading, it is obvious that the job applicant missed the mark and included irrelevant and damaging information. In some cases, such as the first last one, the applicant tried to make a point but opted to use a colloquial cliché instead of a quantifiable statement.

My only contention with White's categories is that the 'Offbeat Accomplishment' and the 'Not-So-Notable Accomplishment' can sometimes be an asset, especially for students and youth just starting out in the workforce.

Consider the example given by White about the applicant who raised $6,000. Instead of saying they sat on a commode, the applicant could mention the charity the money was donated to or the organization and planning that was involved in fundraiser.

For example, the applicant could have said, "Organized a neighbourhood garage sale that raised $5,000 for a local hospital" or "Raised more than $6,000 for the Kids4Computers programme which allowed the organization to purchase 15 new computers for the town's library".

In both cases, I've switched the focus from simply raising the money to either the organization and planning involved or the outcome - and potential employers will pick up on this.

Or consider the example provided by White as an example of The Not-So-Notable Accomplishment - overcoming procrastination. Instead of highlighting something irrelevant, and frankly potentially damaging, the job applicant could have shifted the focus to their newly-improved time management skills.

In this case, the applicant's resume could have said "Well organized with excellent time and project management skills" or "Thrives in deadline-driven and time-sensitive environments".

Again, it bears repeating that by simply choosing the right words and playing with the phrasing, you can make something as menial as overcoming procrastination or being seen as a god in the eyes of former clients sound more substantial, relevant, professional and most importantly, worthy of being on your resume.

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