If a manager searches the Web about that hobby of yours, do you know what he’ll find? Are you sure?
By Leslie Stevens-Huffman | February 2008
Having reached the final interview with the CIO, Ben was sure he’d soon receive an offer. He’d answered the executive’s final question about the hobbies listed on his resume, they shook hands heartily, and he left the office confident.
After the interview, the CIO turned to his computer and searched Google for information on Ben’s hobbies. The top results included photos of a gathering where women were dressed in, let’s say, less-than-corporate attire. Instead of a job offer, Ben received a disappointed call from his recruiter. He’d never even considered that what he did on weekends could be linked to risquÃ© photos on the Web.
Sound far-fetched? Chris Poley, director of recruiting for the IT Division of Minneapolis-based Dashe & Thomson, an IT services and staffing firm, says approximately 10 percent of resumes contain personal information, such as marital status and information about hobbies – a practice he doesn’t recommend. "I saw one resume that listed beer-making as a hobby," says Poley. "You never know how a prospective hiring manager might feel about alcohol consumption, so it’s just better to leave that kind of information off."
Even if you do omit information about your hobbies or your passion for the environment, today’s propensity to search online has added another step to preparing your resume for prime time: Before sending it out, make sure you know where a hunt of even innocuous terms could lead.
So, stress test your resume.
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Don’t Include Personal Information
Listing personal information on your resume, other than your name and contact information, may cause reviewers to make assumptions or judgments. It’s better to leave any discussion of such things for the actual interview. Also, make sure your e-mail address is professional. No firstname.lastname@example.org, for example.
Don’t use terms you would use when blogging or text messaging. (In fact, don’t use them in business communications at all.)
Write for the Masses
Define any terms that are industry-specific, avoid jargon and spell out terms or the names of organizations instead of referencing them with acronyms.
Speaking of jargon: "Beyond running spell check, grammar check and proof reading, applicants should be aware that terms like ‘shared services’ or ‘supply chain’ aren’t always familiar to all resume screeners and interviewers," says Rachelle Vento, managing director for Resources Global Professionals in Irvine, Calif., which provides professional expertise in IT. "So define any terms you use in your resume, and avoid industry jargon as much as possible."
Mimic Key Words
You’ll be much better off repeating the language used in the job description than using unfamiliar terms. Not only will your resume make it through the electronic search process more often, you’ll be using safe vocabulary.
"It’s competitive for IT jobs and more employers are looking for a total package," observes Sally Thomson, recruiter with Odesus, a Los Angeles-based technology consulting firm. "Now your tech skills merely get you in the door. Clients want team players with great interpersonal skills, and they’ll even sacrifice some tech prowess to get the soft skills."
Poley notes that some candidates try to up-sell their experience by listing three years experience with a particular technology, which is good – except in cases where the technology has only been in existence for two years. That’s the kind of detail most IT managers will catch.
"Employers are not only looking at character when assessing applicants, but they are judging them in part by their attention to detail," says Vento "I would encourage all job seekers to go through their resumes with a fine tooth comb. Many words have double meanings that won’t be picked-up by spell check, so you’ll need to demonstrate your proof reading skills by finding those things on your own."
And, when in doubt, Google. If you cite your membership in a service organization, check out its Web site. If you say you love hang gliding, see what sites come back when you search on the phrase. You might assume you know everything there is to know about a subject, but be sure to find out what hiring managers will see when they turn to the Web.
Leslie Stevens-Huffman is a freelance writer based in Irvine, Calif. who has more than 20 years experience in the staffing industry.