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Frequently Asked Resume Questions

Published on
September 24, 2021

FAQs about Editing, Shortening & Customizing Your Resume

Q: What should I include on my resume and how should I summarize it so that it's concise, yet all inclusive of abilities?

A lot of people approach their resume as this document that needs to highlight everything you've ever done. At Teal we subscribe to the idea that the resume is actually a direct response to a specific job posting. If you're responding to an RFP (request for proposals) your resume is your proposal. The resume is where you are illustrating your qualifications for that particular job. This framework will really give you a really helpful set of constraints to think about what to include.

If you've got amazing experiences in your past but they just aren't relevant to this job, don’t include it. For example, if you've project managed a bunch, but this job description (JD) you’re applying to doesn't say anything about project management then you might want to leave it out.

That’s not to say that your project management experience doesn't make you incredible. There will probably be an opportunity to share it in the interview process, but it doesn’t need to be in your resume. 

We've got this trick we share at Teal where you turn every bullet on the job description into a question by adding a question mark at the end. It’s a useful exercise to really go through the job description and see what the company wants you to address. That approach will help you call out or edit out the things that you've achieved that are amazing, but just not relevant for this particular job.

Q: How do I create a clear narrative for my various work experiences? Especially if I’ve been at different types of companies and industries.

So what I really leverage here is the summary at the top. The thing about a resume, is it really is about these different jobs. The one spot that we recommend you use to weave it all together is your professional summary. This is the ideal place where you can talk about your career in aggregate. You can talk about the total number of deals you've done, the total amount of marketing spend that you've managed, the total number of people that you've helped grow, the total amount of money you saved your employers, the total amount of money you've made your employers.

That professional summary at the top is where you can kind of make your statement and set your intention for that job, and really for you and your career and where you want to go. Then your achievements under each job, really are about the roles, so I wouldn’t over index to weaving them all together. The guiding light for what to include in the achievements on your resume should be the job description that you're answering. The narrative you’re creating is always about how you are qualified for this job you are applying to. You want everything to ladder up to the job description and the requirements and sort of what the company calls out as emphasized. Again, you want to be responding to the job description, and that should be the backbone for how you talk about yourself.

Q: How do I figure out how to fit everything into a one-page resume or even two page resume?

Presenting a little bit of everything you've done actually hurts you. What you're doing is presenting a very diluted version of who you are. What companies generally want is a resume with a high concentration of experiences and achievements that match the specific job they’re trying to fill. So unless you’re applying to one of the rare job descriptions that asks for a generalist, you want to present a very concentrated version of yourself.

To present a concentrated version, you may need to remove several things that you would have included in a past resume. You may have been involved in a really great project, but if it's not relevant to the role you're pursuing then don't include it because it actually hurts your application. Even though you're showcasing achievements you’re proud of, it's showing the company that you don't have a concentrated approach to what you're doing, and you're not looking to grow in a particular vertical or function, which is what the company wants most likely.

If you can stay very focused responding to the job description, you should be able to fit that within one to two pages. If you need to use three pages, it's not the end of the world.

No matter how long your resume is, be very diligent about making the first page excellent with a punchy professional summary. If your first page is excellent and speaks to the role, then whoever's reading that resume will probably read page to page three. I think four or five pages starts to be a little too much, and shows that you struggle to edit. I think that's a powerful skill to show that you can condense a lot of information into concise lines.

If you are still struggling with what to include, look for what we call words of emphasis. In the JD, emphasis words signal what the company thinks is most important. Some examples would be if you see “Proven experience in” or “Must have” or “responsible for”. Look for this signaling language from the company to understand which elements are really important and then make sure you address that stuff first. Work your way down from a prioritization perspective, and you should be able to get your resume to 1 to 3 pages.

Q: How do I tailor a resume with over 20 years of experience to make it two pages? What should I include or not include?

So what I would say is companies and hiring managers are probably going to value the things you most recently did. Think about the rate at which the world is changing. Whatever you did 20 years ago just may not be as relevant today. Knowing what the professional world is like today, I’d focus on what you've done most recently, that speaks to the Job Description. 

I don't think you want to not include or not take advantage of the value of your experience. But I would try to focus on what you've done most recently. The exception being if there's something specific in the job description that you can speak to, but it was a while ago, and you want to prove that you've got that experience. More often than not, that's going to be around domain or industry rather than around a hard skill, because hard skills are constantly changing. But if your situation is that, for example, you've been in the hospitality industry, the medical industry, or the media industry and you really have a deep background in the industry, then those experiences are highly valued because clearly time.

When it comes to domain knowledge, experience is really the only way to get that, so it's a huge force multiplier. If you are looking to showcase your industry experience, then highlight what the benefits are. Maybe put a little bit more of that in your professional summary at the top of the resume. For example, if you were in real estate, you could aggregate the number of millions of square feet that you've worked on. Summarize the impact you’ve had over the years of experience, because then you'll be able to show t bigger numbers, bigger accomplishments, and higher impact.

Q: In the bullet points for each job on the resume, what's the best way to cut down the length of descriptions due to the project information included? How do I give enough context in a concise way?

One thing we don't talk enough about is this work on writing resume achievements is that it’s actually prep work for your interview. In your interview you're probably going to use a CAR or STAR method, which are almost kind of the same. The CAR method is Context Action Results and the STAR method is Situation, Task, Actions, Result. In an interview these methods help you explain complex achievements in a compelling and concise narrative.

So in your bullet points, when there’s really a need for a nuanced understanding of the context

and use the CAR method. Set the context and then, describe the action you took and what was the result and impact. Be careful you’re not straying from the job description, and make sure you’re responding directly to the context in the job description. You want your resume to make readers aware that you know how to operate in the context of the role. But there are times when you need to provide a bit of additional information before the achievement itself.

Q: What do I do if I have too many technical skills or too much tech stack experience to talk about in my resume?

Here I would be mindful of what the company needs. One of the largest underlying challenges with a resume is we have all these experiences and skills, and we feel like we're really cutting off a lot of ourselves when we edit something out of a resume. This resume forces us through this really reductive process, and it’s natural to feel like you don’t want to be reduced.

The thing is you're you want to present the things that the company is asking for. So if you've got a bunch of hard skills that you're incredibly proud of, the company frankly doesn't care. I wouldn't include them. These skills might seem helpful but they can be detrimental because it might look like you're unfocused and you've done too many things. 

The hiring process is not about giving people the benefit of the doubt. It's about looking for reasons to say no to a candidate. It's about the company managing risk. It's much easier to say no, and cut people out. I would only include the technical skills that are relevant and I would include them in the exact terms that the company is speaking. You’re better off presenting 10% of yourself perfectly for the JD instead of 100% of yourself in a watered down way that it's just not as relevant to the company’s needs.

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