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I have always written resumes with the objective of minimizing words as much as possible. I ruthlessly cut words to make things as clear as possible, oftentimes converting pseudo-sentences (or complete sentences) to bullet points, etc.

For example, instead of saying

Worked on software development projects in C++

I might write (and strongly recommend others to do as well)

Developed C++ Software

I am not interested in this specific example but the general principle. I have no interest in wordsmithing these phrases, I want to know, all things being equal, if removing text is important.

Similarly, I convert most phrases and text to be as minimal and clear as possible. I never do this at the expense of content. However, I often feel like one of the only people who shares such a strong opinion/preference.

This process takes considerable time and energy and if it is not overly important, I will stop doing this.

  • How important is it when writing a resume to focus on using as few words as possible?
  • Do you also provide anything under Developed C++ Software like sub bullet points? – Michael Grubey May 28 '13 at 16:05
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    This technique is very valuable outside resume writing. It's called BSC (b/s cutter). Takes time to practice. – Deer Hunter May 28 '13 at 16:30
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    @DeerHunter I always thought that was for a Bachelor of Science o_O – Michael Grubey May 28 '13 at 18:36
  • Sadly, in most cases, the first rank of people to see your resume are them HR folks. IMO, that's a tough rank to cut through with a 'to-the-point'/uncommon resume. – happybuddha May 28 '13 at 18:41
7
+100

Conciseness in a resume can work for or against you. You do not want a resume that goes over two pages, so conciseness can help there. However, never lose sight of the fact that the resume is a sales document. It's purpose is to convince someone to hire you. As such too much conciseness can make the person look bad as you abstracted away all the interesting parts of your experience. You have to balance your need to convince them to hire you with making sure you don't annoy the manager by giving him too much to read.

If you look at the resume as a sales brochure (I means a typical 3 panel, front and back one) you can balance these things. Sales brochures have limited space just like resumes should. Sales brochures exist to convince the person to at least look at the product for sale just like a resume does. So instead of conciseness for conciseness sake, instead consider what information is most important to the hiring manager to get him to consider me. Once you determine what is most important to say, you can then work out how it will fit in the space available. The more important items probably need more words, less important but still needed items can be more concise. For instance most people put more words into a description of their current job than the one they did 8 years ago. Or they put more words into the education section if they just graduated but not if they graduated in 1977.

And never forget that if you are going through HR, they are using software to eliminate resumes based on key word searches, so make sure you include those key words from the ad.

  • I honestly think this is the best answer addressing my specific question for the bounty. Jmac's is quite good but this is a bit more directly addressing my core question. – enderland Jun 27 '13 at 14:50
10

If you are interviewing for a job in competition with your identical twin (with identical work experience), but he writes "Developed in C++" and you write "Worked in C++ Development" they may pick him for brevity (all else being equal).

Otherwise, culling things down to a minimum is not a high priority when it comes to getting hired for a majority of positions.

Do:

  • Use Active Verbs (e.g. "put in charge of A" should be "led A")
  • Give Context (e.g. "Surpassed sales targets each quarter" is better than "Generated $3 million in revenues")
  • Spell Check
  • Proofread
  • Spell Check and Proofread Again

Don't:

  • Use Adjectives (e.g. "Developed brilliant search algorithm")
  • Write Out Numbers (e.g. "Increased Profits 103.7%" to "Doubled Profits")
  • Use Big Words (e.g. "Actualized emolument of $3 million")
  • Use the Passive Voice (e.g. "Was Involved in")
  • Be Ambiguous (e.g. "Hired to Design CRM System" does not state if you actually did it)

Most people looking over resumes scan for "main points" that catch their interest. The biggest detriments are if they can't figure what you did (because you are ambiguous and don't use action verbs), if they catch a mistake (typos, duplicated entries, etc.), or if it's just so wordy that it gets drowned out (by using too many adjectives, or the passive voice, or something).

Other than that, it's just style points for most jobs.

Note: There are always going to be exceptions. There are people who are absolutely nutty about grammar out there, and they may be hiding in the HR department of the company you are being hired for. If the job is a large part written communication to executives or the like (technical writer, for example), then your ability to briefly and clearly summarize on your resume may be evaluated more strongly. At the same time, if you are applying for one of those positions, one would hope you at least have samples you can provide.

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    I disagree about the numbers. If you give numbers especially big numbers then interviewers are more likely to want to talk about them. So if the achievement is actually notable then saying you did 3mil in sales is more likely to get attention than double sales target. Ambiguity is another thing that gets people asking questions. The trick is to use them property. All of your donts I have used effectively to direct conversations during interviews. – IDrinkandIKnowThings Jun 25 '13 at 13:08
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    @Chad Reading your comment, you would almost think I didn't include a comment saying There are always going to be exceptions. – jmac Jun 26 '13 at 1:27
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Interesting resumes are likely to be remembered, but long ones just aren't read, so keep it short. Otherwise your resume will wind up in the "later" pile.

Keep in mind that a part of your resume is intended to present you as a person, so it is subjective and you have a lot of freedom to express anything you want there. The other part is just facts, such as education, prior experience and such. This second part should always be as terse as possible without skipping anything that you believe is relevant.

1

Developed C++ Software

This is kind of like tagging a document. It helps the reader classify, but doesn't provide any context. The shorter form is going to be more effective, and the reason is that it makes the resume scannable. Scannable as in the reader searching for clarification that your resume is relevant.

Avoid ambiguity in favor of shortness

A tag is ambiguous when it implies more than one meaning. The word developed means many things to me. You could expand that to be less ambiguous as Developed, Unit Tested and Designed C++ Software. More words yes, but I've interviewed a lot of people who use the word developed to mean only the programming part of it.

  • Its also ambiguous It could mean I developed a C++ compiler which is quite different to say writing some little me to app for a phone. – Neuro Jun 21 '13 at 17:53
1

One issue is that frequently the first hurdle is an automated system. It looks for key words. Cut too much and you might fall through the cracks. You also might confuse the HR person that is the second hurdle because they didn't read between the lines.

Too long can be bad, but cutting it down so that it starts to look like a series of tweets can also cause problems. I have never read a resume and said, they could have rewritten the paragraph to save two words, so don't interview them.

There is one issues regarding the length of a resume. I am waiting for the time when one of web interfaces only gives me a small number of characters for each position. Imagine if you were only allowed 300 characters per job you'd held. As it is now you are forced to paste each position into a separate text box, which has made me wonder if listing that job many years ago was worth the effort.

My experience has been that I frequently add words at the last minute when applying for a job. This is because some part of the job announcement specifies a specific technology, and I want to make sure that it is explicitly mentioned in all applicable previous positions, so they don't think I have 8 years of experience instead of the 10 they require.

0

Modem driver in C++ (GCC 4.6). Import Cash Machine CSV to SQL Server using SSIS. C#/Winforms/SQL Server Order Entry/Warehousing system.

When describing a language or platform, explain what you are doing with it. In short 'Programmed in C++' says less than 'VPN protocol...'. People don't just want to know that you programmed in C++, they want to know which compiler. C# is too vague, one has to know whether it was in ASP.NET or Winforms, so it's necessary to string together the elements that make up the platform.

Compare the following... which one is the most interesting:

  • C++ FPGA Interface for High Frequency Trading

  • Programmed in C++

  • C++ parser for text file conversion

If you want to 'keep it short', all you need is 'C++'. If you want to communicate to employers what kind of background you have it is necessary to put the programming language (and other things you use) in a larger context. Can you, or have you, attempted to compact the environment and project of your present or last job onto the first full text line of your resume? If not, I invite you to try it here. I can tell you from repeated experience that it is effective.

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    Hi Meredith, this doesn't really answer my question, my example is more to illustrate two items saying effective the same thing with different number of words, and I am wondering how important that difference is (not how to phrase what I did in C++). – enderland Jun 20 '13 at 23:53
  • If you want to 'keep it short', all you need is 'C++'. If you want to communicate to employers what kind of background you have it is necessary to put the programming language (and other things you use) in a larger context. Can you, or have you, attempted to compact the environment and project of your present or last job onto the first full text line of your resume? If not, I invite you to try it here. I can tell you from repeated experience that it is effective. – Meredith Poor Jun 22 '13 at 22:44

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