Balancing Your Resume
like 30-second television commercials. It takes a lot of time
to produce them, even though they will be seen for a very short
time. Not only do you have to present the information in a way
that will catch the reader's attention, you also have to present
only the most important information.
things being equal, what you have done recently is more important
than what you have done in the distant past. I have this theory
that experience has a half-life of 3 years. That is, what you
did 3 years ago is only half as important as what you are doing
today. What you did 6 years ago is only a quarter as important
as your current skills.
If we plot
this "importance decay" the graph would look something
means for resume writing is: that in a totally balanced resume
you should spend 50% of the resume talking about the last 3 years,
25% talking about 3-6 years ago, 12.5% talking about what you
did 6-9 years ago, etc.
A resume is
not a mathematical formula, so counting the actual number of words
you use in each year "block" isn't of particular value
other than as an academic exercise. However, the curve should
give you general guidance as to how much description you should
give to each job.
In any event,
by the time you reach 15 years, the information is virtually irrelevant
and should normally not even be mentioned.
is an important part in combating age discrimination. Don't make
it easy for them to figure out that you have been working for
30 or more years.
This is not
the same as "dummying down" a resume. Any recruiter
who tells you to dummy down your resume is a recruiter you don't
want representing you. This is the same kind of person that would
sell your Lexus for you for $1000 to make a quick sale rather
than get its full market worth.
thing about resumes is that you need to tell the truth, but you
do not have to tell the whole truth. Every resume should be tailored
for the specific job for which you apply. Tell them exactly how
you are qualified for the job and no more. If your life's greatest
achievement is not relevant to the job, then don't mention it
no matter how proud of it you are.
The Unbalanced Resume
has a half-life, then why would you ever want to put emphasis
on older information in preference to new information?
is that all experience is not equal. Let's put this into our hypothetical
framework. Suppose that your current work has a "relevance
factor" of 1 while the work you did three years ago is three
times as applicable to the job as your current position. So we
would give it a "relevance factor" of 3.
aged, so it lost some of its relevance (about half of it) so it's
still "worth" 1.5, meaning that you should spend about
50% more talking about it than your current postion.
My own resume
reflects this imbalance. The position I held on my last job is
less important for the positions for which I am applying than
those I held on my previous two jobs. Therefore the past jobs
get undue prominence. Attention paid to jobs before that drops
this is not an exact science. The presumption that experience
has a half-life of 3 years is founded on nothing more than a hunch.
Assigning "relevance factors" to your experiences is
a totally subjective call on your part. So you have a fuzzy figure
times another fuzzy figure yielding an even fuzzier figure.
concept does provide general guidance on how to balance a resume
in response to a particular position. Given the imprecision of
the technique, the best way to measure if you have a balanced
resume is by eyeball and a "feeling" that it fits the