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Resumes and Presentation of Data

Dr. Tufte,

I just completed your seminar in Denver this week. Thank you.

I am a consultant and have been recently enhancing my resume. I wanted to know your thoughts on how to use some of your suggestions in putting together a resume. My resume is a technical one, but I wanted to get your thoughts on maybe how to get more information on one page.

As I was looking at the cover of Visual Explanations (and recently reading about the Project Mgmt thread), I had an idea that was similar for resumes and wanted to get your input.

I have two ideas:

1) Horizontal format:
Originally my thought was to have a horizontal format rather than vertical. Here's my thought along the bottom (similar to visual explanations cover) you list your major talents (as a legend). The rest of the paper would be filled with your experience broken into categories (e.g. Software Engineering, Web services, ...).

2) Vertical format:
Have this legend be between your "biography" and "experience" using a similar concept as above.

I was speaking to an HR person and he was very intrigued by the idea. I showed him your web site.

A picture would clearly explain this a little more. How would I post a graphic, or should I just include a link?

So what is your thought?

Thanks
Jerry Howard

-- Jerry Howard (email)


Kent:

I have a thought: Don't be limited by software. Draw (by hand) your ideas until you are satisfied. Draw on a large piece of paper (2 to 3 times the final size) to make it easier - you won't need a steady hand.

After you settle on the content and general layout, *then* do some research and figure out how to make the final document.

-- David Person (email)


Robert:

I can't say I agree with this point:

6) Remember that it is difficult to present too much information.

In fact I quite heartily disagree. Presenting too much information is quite common -- and certainly in resumes.

"A design is not finished when you have nothing left to add. It is finished when you have nothing left to take out." This is a paraphrase of a well-known quote, but I can't remember the original author or exact text. Can anyone help me out?

I recommend a resume no longer than one page, almost without exceptions. If you have a long history, or with a large number of publications, and are targeting your resume to a computer, then you may want to add supplemental pages with further descriptions. However, the first page should be complete and stand on its own.

Be careful you do not target the resume to a computer. Although on-line job databases are practically ubiquitous, last year less than 10% of professional jobs in the US we filled through on-line job banks or resumes sent to HR departments, according to Business 2.0 (sorry I can't find a reference). 90% are still filled through personal contacts, referrals, and other forms of human interaction.

-- David Person (email)


Re "nothing left to take out," this rang a bell. On a hunch that the phrase is "nothing left to remove," I did a search on Google.

The first link in the results, http://graphics.stanford.edu/~gws/quotes.html, contains the following:

" Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to remove. -- Antoine de Saint-Exupery "

-- Jim Linnehan (email)


As Tufte has said, "Don't get it original. Get it right." Not that innovation is in any way bad; however, the traditional narrative resume has persisted in that format for many years for good reason. You take a big risk by dramatically changing the format of the presentation. If your experience isn't adequate for the position to which you're applying, no amount of presentation is going to help.

You can improve the narrative, though. Remove unnecessary words -- typically the subject "I" -- and primarily write using verbs in active tense. When looking at a resume, I focus on what the candidate has done and how well that experience is communicated on paper. To that end, including metrics that give a sense of quantity and comparison will help bolster your case ("Redesigned workflow to cut operating costs by 22%").

-- Scott Zetlan (email)


E.T. on Resume Design

The resume is a document, not a design statement. The design should not attract attention; the design of a resume should be straightforward and harmless. That is the best that resume design can do: straightforward and harmless.

Usually the first task in reviewing job applicants to reduce a large pile of resumes to a small pile--that is to begin to look for quick rejects. So avoid supplying gratuitous reasons for rejection--such as typos, spelling errors (its/it's, for example), unexplained long gaps in employment history, weird designs, statements about "my objective", no contact phone number, email addresses of the form plaigarist@wildthing.enron. To get in the right spirit for doing your resume, read the last chapter of Strunk and White, Elements of Style.

You might have a friend from whom you take criticism look over your resume.

In reviewing resumes, sometimes I wonder if people are telling the truth. Too often, minor activities are fluffed up into obviously over-exaggerated accomplishments. And outright lies on a resume will lurk forever in personnel files like little time-bombs, perhaps someday to explode.

In hiring at Graphics Press we're looking for a straight-forward excellence directly relevant to the job offered. Most of all we like bright energetic honest people with a real sense of craft and care about their work who are able to manage themselves.

If an applicant actually has such qualities, how then does a resume communicate that?

-- Edward Tufte


A few points not already put forward:

Be sure that you send your future employer(s) what they want. In the art education world, the curriculum vitae is the vehicle of choice for presenting one's accomplishments, which can run to 5 or more pages and may include a history of exhibitions, fellowships and grants, education, teaching positions and skills. In addition, a portfolio of work will be required, plus letters of recommendation, transcripts and perhaps other documents. The CV is a much different beast than a resume, which would more than likely be passed over as non-responsive.

Though an overly "designed" resume will probably draw attention away from one's important accomplishments (not to mention taking up space from a document already looking for more), issues of page design and typography do come into play. Properly tended to, the design of the resume or CV can enhance its readability and usefulness. A reading of Robert Bringhurst's "The Elements of Typographic Style," not to mention Strunk and White, will help a lot in this regard.

Keep a detailed record of everything you do: accomplishments in school and work, publications, secondary work training, seminars attended, board memberships and meetings attended,the impact you had on others, the performance of your students or employees as a result of your teaching or leadership, community service, both the successes and the failures as well as anything else that's important to you. Don't forget the dates. In art education this record is called a Teaching Portfolio but the practice has benefits in all disciplines. By maintaining this list as you go, you'll have a complete and accurate record from which to draw when preparing a resume or CV. It's amazing how much we forget that may prove to be really important in looking for a new job or promotion down the line.

-- Steve Sprague (email)


Today's New York Times (November 24, 2002) has a splendid article on r?sum?s by David Koeppel: http://www.nytimes.com/2002/11/24/business/yourmoney/24JMAR.html (may require registration, which is worth going through because of the quality of the article; note that the Times search engine requires diacritical marks, that is r?sum? not resume).

This funny-sad article reports on a survey of recruiters and headhunters concerning r?sum?-writing sins. The results confirm my advice above, here repreated:

E.T. on Resume Design

The resume is a document, not a design statement. The design should not attract attention; the design of a resume should be straightforward and harmless. That is the best that resume design can do: straightforward and harmless.

Usually the first task in reviewing job applicants to reduce a large pile of resumes to a small pile--that is to begin to look for quick rejects. So avoid supplying gratuitous reasons for rejection--such as typos, spelling errors (its/it's, for example), unexplained long gaps in employment history, weird designs, mushy statements about "my objective", no contact phone number, email addresses of the form plaigarist@wildthing.enron.

To get in the right spirit for doing your resume, read the last chapter of Strunk and White, Elements of Style.

You might have a friend from whom you take criticism look over your resume.

In reviewing resumes, sometimes I wonder if people are telling the truth. Too often, minor activities are fluffed up into obviously over-exaggerated accomplishments. And outright lies on a resume will lurk forever in personnel files like little time-bombs, perhaps someday to explode.

In hiring at Graphics Press we're looking for a straight-forward excellence directly relevant to the job offered. Most of all we like bright energetic honest people with a real sense of craft and care about their work who are able to manage themselves.

If an applicant actually has such qualities, how then does a resume communicate that?

-- Edward Tufte


Following up on the content of a resume can prove fascinating:

http://www.reason.com/0501/fe.ps.cut.shtml

To see the Motel 6 University, click on the upper right picture at

http://www.hamilton-university.edu/campus_f.html#

It is hard to estimate the extent of problematic information in resumes. I suppose there has to be some follow-up just before the commitment to a particular candidate is made.

links courtesy of http://www.aldaily.com/

-- Edward Tufte


My interest in how Dr. Tufte's principles might apply to a resume was also piqued while attending his course today. I wondered about how these ideas might be applied to better demonstrate an individual's professional evolution over time.

So I went through an exercise to test these thoughts and now, having read this discussion string, am wondering whether the result (http://www.accone.com/res_chart.pdf) doesn't end up violating Tufte's "do no harm" principle in the process.

-- Tanya Accone (email)


I set my resume in Kleb's and Wood's tufte-handout style (http://code.google.com/p/tufte-latex/). I like the clean presentation: \title (slightly larger bold) for name, \author for (non-mushy) objective, \newthought (small capitals) for experience/skills/education headers, \paragraph (bold) for job titles and universities, and \marginnote (not \sidenote) throughout to separate email, address, date ranges, locations, and degrees from the main body of text.

-- Jason Catena (email)


There's a caution above guarding against targeting your resume to computers and the on-line job hunting realm. Given that it was posted in 2002 and it's now 2010, I think perhaps this caution is due for a revision, if not an outright reversal.

Disclaimer: I'm in IT, and I'm an independent consultant in a project-oriented niche where we freelancers frequently outnumber the full-time permanent employees. My world is therefore not only technology-centric but also awash with (too often unscrupulous) recruiters armed with apparently identical databases of consultants and their alleged skills.

It's quite common for us to put out a job requirement only to have the same name proffered by three different staffing agencies. Likewise, I'm frequently contacted by multiple head hunters regarding what's clearly the same job, though they all usually claim to be working an 'exclusive'. Personal connections cannot be driving these coincidences; never mind that they'll tell you otherwise. It's more logical to suppose that the common links between these strangers are, in the vast majority of instances, the handful of major on-line job databases.

I don't have numbers (though I'd love to see some), but my impression is that the percentages have nearly reversed since 2002, at least in my realm: 90% of jobs and applicants today are sourced via on-line job databases, and only 10% are hired purely through personal contacts.

I'm not saying that interpersonal networking is a bygone, and certainly not for finding long-term roles. But in my contract-dominated industry, an on-line presence and the patience to deal with pesky recruiters are pre-requisites to play. I'd be curious if the same forces are coming to dominate other fields as well?

One bit of pragmatic advice: when you upload your resume, understand that it's going to be parsed and indexed, not read. In fact, I'm nearly convinced that the recruiters rarely read the resumes either...presuming they can read. This presents a challenge quite different from the design and style points discussed above: to guarantee that your name is returned in a recruiter's query results, you must ensure that all the search terms they might use appear in your CV.

To this end I've included a "Keywords" section at the end of my too-long resume. Although I've worked hard to craft a tight first page, I've almost stopped worrying that it trails to 11 pages now. Nobody but the parser reads them anyway.

Extra bonus points: word your resume such that you won't appear in the search results for jobs that don't interest you. If you can figure that one out, let me know...I've got a job for you.

-- Brian Clark (email)




Threads relevant to business:
Narrative sparklines should replace one-at-time instantaneous performance readings.


Threads relevant to presentations, performing, and teaching: