Does Your Resume Lack Focus?

I read a lot of resumes each week as part of my job and as a favor to folks who are looking for guidance or help. I am noticing a disturbing pattern – resumes that lack focus. Times are tough and people are trying very hard to be qualified for anything and everything. In the process, their lack of focus confuses me and others who may read their resume. If I can’t discern where the right placement may be for a person, I quickly move on to the next resume.

Here is some very detailed feedback I gave this week to an out-of-work woman with 20 years experience:

Your summary lacks punch. It’s all good stuff, but I am left feeling – so what? What unique thing do you bring? What type of work are you passionate about? If I hire you, what do I get right off the bat? I see a list of specialties – but what do you really LOVE to do? I find that people that lack a focus  have a hard time finding a job because they are trying to please everyone and in the process, end up not getting anyone’s attention. Focusing on the type of job you want will help. Is it customer advocacy? Project Management? Training? Software? You’re all over the place. I have no idea how I would use you or who to send you to inside our company. Do I send you to Sales? To SW? To the Technical Assistance Center? Can you code? Do you want to stay in insurance? Do you want a customer service job?

Don’t be afraid to go to a second page. What else do you do besides work? What other things might I find interesting about you? Volunteer activities? How do you give back?

I once was really excited to talk to a candidate because they had something funny – like ‘professional rehabilitation patient due to multiple knee surgeries’ on their resume. It was random – and it gave us a common ground – and talking point. And made her more interesting. (We did hire her here at Intel – she caught my attention and I pulled her out of the pile.)

I like the first job description on your resume – you used lots of numbers, percentages and data that helps me understand what you accomplished. This level of detail is missing from your second job.

Another thought is – has you checked out some of the specialty temp agencies? Oftentimes in this type of market/economy – working at a temp job – opens up other jobs. You could also volunteer in areas that are close to what you want to do. Volunteering opens up networks, networks help you find your next job.

My advice this month is to find your focus or niche. Do some self-discovery work to help you understand where you want to go with your career. If it’s early and you have several things you want to explore, create a resume for EACH area. Don’t try to have one resume that works for any and every role. Once you find your focus, focus in on the job postings and industries that are most applicable. My favorite resumes are the ones that have enough detail that I can almost immediately say “wow, this person would be great in our SW Development group focused on Wearables.” Think about your audience – folks that are reading hundreds of resumes at a time – make it easy on us and we’ll be sure to pass along your resume to the right hiring manager for review.

33 Responses to Does Your Resume Lack Focus?

  1. Jay Gast says:

    You definitely have an interesting perspective on resumes, one that isn’t common to see.

    For instance, you’re interested in reading about people’s interests and hobbies outside of work. I also feel that this is a legitimate section for a resume, as we are more than just company automatons. The common refrain is “if your hobbies and interests align with company goals, then mention them.” Well, as you said, I think it’s more interesting to get to know what someone is like outside of work. The life/work balance is an important one to keep, and I think it’s important to encourage that as it reflects solid mental health as well.

    As far as your other concern goes, that resumes lack focus — absolutely. People need to read the hiring manager’s job description carefully and respond directly to the responsibilities they expect to see filled. Write a resume for one role/job at a time, and you should get far more interviews, because it’s easy to see how you can fulfill the job responsibilities.

    Thanks for this post, Vikki, it was very enlightening to see someone from Intel views resumes.

    • Vikki says:

      You’re welcome Jay! Thank you for you comment. I agree with the caveat of ‘solid mental health’ being portrayed in your external interests. Also, you don’t want to add a lot of them or make it the primary focus of your resume, but one of two things that interest you can be great conversation starters and help when the conversation is stalled. I have “Old English Car Restoration Enthusiast” on mine. That usually grabs some attention since folks want to know how I got involved in that hobby, what I drive, etc. And at some point, almost everyone has owned an MG or knows someone who has owned one.

    • Monica says:

      Hi sir !!!
      It was gallant of you to share this blog to the student like me and also to many job seekers.This is very much useful information for me because I’m doing B.E(ECE) final year and seeking for interns and jobs to gain my experience and do challenging roles to prove myself.I’m the first graduate in my family,so information like this will help me out to overcome the barriers and struggles to overcome my carrier dreams to become true!!!

      • Vikki says:

        Hi Monica! So glad I could help you. I know your family is so proud of you and what you’ve achieved so far. Best wishes for a long and fulfilling career!

        • Monica says:

          Thanks for your concern sir !!
          I have already created few resumes of mine so can you please verify and tell what are the alterations, tips and necessary details sir ??? if so means I am very much obliged sir, this is my mail id iamsrp.monica@gmail.com

          • Vikki says:

            Hi Monica:
            Unfortunately, I am unable to review resumes that don’t come through the http://www.intel.com/jobs site. I encourage you to visit and apply for the jobs that match your skills and interest. I wish you the best in your search for your new career opportunity!
            Vikki

  2. Mike says:

    Hi Vickie,

    Great and interesting article, I recently applied for an administrative assistant position job here at Intel in Folsom, ca…after reading your article it makes me wonder, I’ve always wanted to be myself in resumes, I have a wild personality and one hell of a sense of humor, but I was always afraid of employers thinking I was unprofessional…my personality is def. something that could put smiles on peoples faces and brighten up the workplace …my experience and qualifications match perfectly, so I guess my question would be what’s a good way to show your interest, personality, and just yourself as a person on a resume without a recruiter saying “he’ll no”?

    • Vikki says:

      Hi Mike! Your comment makes me smile and remember Elle Woods from Legally Blonde and her pink scented resume. Individuality can come through in different ways and still be professional. Intel has lots of external groups we partner with – you can check Intel.com to see where we put our money and volunteer time. See if any of those schools, charities, groups, activities match with you and your interests (be genuine!) and add those to your resume. Do you do stand-up for fun? Are you a karaoke singer? Do you play sports? Volunteer and run big programs outside of work? All of these things are interesting and could spark a conversation in an interview. Do consider working for a temporary help agency. That’s how I landed my first job at Intel. I was a temporary, they offered me a permanent job after I worked for Intel for 3 months. Good luck!

  3. sachin kumar says:

    hi sir this is nice information shared by you. Thanks for that. This is very good for me because i am a young professional and and just want to explore my carrier in any big company like yours, But not getting right direction. These kind of helpful information means us lot.

  4. Amitabh Mishra says:

    Great article. I was inspired to tweak my resume to add a line in my career summary that included the phrase “passionate about” and another that included “love to.” It’s not just that these phrases improved the punch and focus of the resume. They also achieved a higher purpose: they forced me to answer the questions: “Who are you? What do you love doing? Which unique skills do you possess?” They took my resume from good to great, or at least so I believe.
    I’m a former Intel employee and currently an executive at SAP. Like you say, my resume had “all good stuff,” but not enough clarity.
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I’m glad you wrote this piece and I read it!

    • Vikki says:

      You’re welcome Amitabh! Thank you for your detailed feedback – it’ll help me focus my next blog post.

  5. Rumple Stiltskin says:

    Hi Vickie,
    With Intel’s announcement of it’s intention to reduce employee numbers by 5% worldwide are you going to polish up your personal resume ?
    Who recruits the recruiters ?

    • Vikki says:

      Hi Rumple: That’s a great question. I don’t wait for Intel to announce workforce reductions to keep my resume up to date. It’s part of my quarterly process. I take a look at what I’ve accomplished and what value I’ve brought to the company and I update accordingly each quarter. Sometimes it’s a small add, sometimes it’s an entire paragraph that needs to be re-written. I am not technically a recruiter. I am a Business Operations Manager. I am usually working to help the Engineering Managers by pulling resumes out of the database that meet some criteria. Sometimes they’ll tell me – find someone with C++ and VLSI experience. From the pile the computer gives me, I then pull ones that look like a good fit. I like to give the Managers about 5-10 choices and then review those resumes and determine who they want to interview.

      As for the 5%, that’s our target employment rate for the end of the year and can happen naturally as a result of people retiring, leaving voluntarily, and being redeployed. It’s not unique to this year or to Intel, but a normal part of business. Sometimes a change in direction or priorities causes us to move people and teams around to meet our needs and goals–it’s a part of growing and meeting different challenges. Rest assured that as long as you see openings at http://www.intel.com/jobs, we’re hiring.

      • Alan Tang says:

        Hello Vikki,

        Your sharing on resume update experience is so helpful! Appreciate it!!

        I’m a 10-year professional in NPI PM, and about 8 years experience in current IBM. One day, I find it’s time to change, but find out I need time to update / polish my last resume which is done several years ago! I felt many things can be presented in the resume, but hard to word/organize… same feeling from my other colleagues.

        Besides the resume maintenance/update tips, another question needing your advice: how to plan our career path? When is right time to decide change on career? Thx in advance!

        • Vikki says:

          Hi Alan!

          Keeping your resume up to date is something you should definitely add to your list. Each quarter, I review mine and make adjustments. I am sure that IBM has an annual review process where you review your accomplishments and the results you brought to the company. Pull those documents out and re-read them. Take some of that content and put it in your resume. Have some friends read it.

          Continue to build your network. Set a goal. Meet five new people a quarter. Oftentimes, when we need to move or change or are ready, those loose relationships are the ones that help us find our next position.

          The best time to move is when you’re at the top of your game! Right after you get recognized and achieve great results, you should be looking for your next challenge. Also, it’s important if you’re in High Tech or a field that moves and changes quickly, continue to make sure you are keeping your skills current and are learning new skills so you have relevant skills. Lots of times people miss the next wave because they had their head down too long and missed the change in their industry.

          • Alan Tang says:

            Hi Vikki,

            I’m glad to receive your response and so kind advice, which is pretty workable for me to start right now:)

            Totally agree w/ you we need to keep eyes on the change in the industry every day coz we’re in a changing global world. Looking very forward to your next blog @ Intel. Have a nice day!!

  6. Glenda says:

    Great article/blog. It answered some of my questions in regards how to be an attractive professional, specially these days where there is a fierce competition in the jobs market. Can you share some other tips or good practices for Resume Writting?

    • Vikki says:

      Hi Glenda:
      Make the font easy to read – especially if there is a chance your resume might get photocopied a few times. Make sure the 7s and 1s are distinctively different. If you are applying for an internship, be sure to have your expected graduation date/month easy to find. If you have the right to work in the US, and it may be a question based on your name, be sure to say so. Use facts, figures, numbers, percentages and quantifiable results so I know what I might get if I hire you. Stay focused and make it clear what type of job you are looking for – engineering, marketing, human resources, finance, etc. This is especially important if you have a variety of experience. Don’t have a goofy email address. Be sure it links to your name as it appears on your resume. RickSmith1942@email.com would be good. HireRick@email.com – not so good. Make sure there is some sort of conversation starter on your resume. You don’t have to go crazy, but list something that I can ask while we are getting to know each other in an interview. In addition, give me the link to your LinkedIn in case I want to read or see the recommendations you’ve received along your career. It’ll be weird if they are all bunched up with the same date, so make sure you collect recommendations along the way. I hope these are helpful. Good luck!

  7. Candy Harris says:

    Hi Vickie,
    I was recently laid off of work after 9 years of employment from a well-known company that laid off 4,000 employees Globally. I was given the opportunity to meet with a company that would help revamp my resume. One of the things they recommended was to take off “activities.” I have had no luck with job interviews with my resume. I realize that with the economy the way it is now, a resume really has to stand out. An employer is looking at 100 resumes for just that one job. I have a bubble personality that says “Good morning” to everyone in the morning. I try to bring the positive out of the negative. I’m the one that encourages a Team to get the job done on time. How do you recommend portraying that kind of attitude on a resume?

    Kind regards,

    Candy Harris

    • Vikki says:

      Hi Candy,
      Wow, 4000 employees is a big action. It’s nice that they gave you some resources to help you revamp your resume. I don’t expect you to have a bunch of activities, but it’s nice to know that you do something besides work. I like well rounded people. Now, that’s me. Some folks just want the facts and what you’ve done. If you check out my LinkedIn, I have a title that says “Energetic Project Manager and Passionate Career Advisor”. I try to bring some of my personality into the titles of the jobs I’ve held. This is more of my summary – and what you get when you hire me. You could find other words that describe you. Energetic, Uplifting, Positive, Upbeat, Inspiring, etc. Find words that describe you best. What do your friends call you? How do they describe you? You still want it to be professional, but convey that positivity that you bring to the workplace. Best wishes with your job search!

  8. sai says:

    I have focus and all what it takes to be a competitive candidate for the position. I do have a resume with a punching summary, but No use as the HR is not technical and ultimately it is Bin.

    Been trying for while with Intel. Any solution?

    • Vikki says:

      Hi Sai: I know it can be hard to connect with the right hiring manager inside a large corporation like Intel. A ‘punching summary’ sounds good. Did you also quantify and list out your accomplishments? Do you have percentages and numbers, facts and figures in each of your roles up until now? Will the recruiter understand the impact of the work you have done in a quantifiable way? Oftentimes I see resumes that list something like “responsibilities included testing, debugging and fixing software bugs”. That’s okay. However, if I read something like “fixed 400 out of 500 bugs discovered in the firmware for the xyz product enabling the corporation to meet the back-to-school refresh cycle with an updated product which generated $xx revenue for the corporation”, I am much more interested.

      • Gopi R says:

        Thanks Vikki !!!!! This blogger is really very helpful .I registering my comment here to say thanks to Intel for having a blog like this , which is giving more enthusiasm to compete in this modern world.This helped to find the holes in my career.

        • Sejal says:

          Glad you’re finding the blog valuable, Gopi! You can subscribe to this blog to get updates moving forward if you’d like so you don’t miss any future posts from us.

  9. aradhana says:

    Hi Vikki,

    Great article…

    I was looking for some positions in intel and your article just hold me and made me think, Does my resume have all these things…??
    I really appreciate that you try to know the person apart from his/her professional life and I think that it is really important in an office environment as we have to work together as a team. However as you mentioned about numbers and figures, is it always necessary to mention it. I mean, in a creative filed like mine you cannot give numbers for your achievements. Then in such case what should be that striking thing in my resume which can attract the recruiter. I am an instructional designer.

    • Vikki says:

      Hello Aradhana:
      Instructional Designer – cool! One of my best friends at Intel is an ID. She handles it by talking about campaign or classes she is putting together with her skills. She’s talk about the class she completed that is targeted towards 1000 employees and that after they take the class, they leave feedback or ratings that indicate how much they learned from the class. They usually give ‘grades’ for the class so she’ll say that students gave the class content 4.5 out of 5 or something like that. She may also talk to the number of Subject Matter Experts she worked with to develop the content. Think about the impact your works has – why they need you and how to measure success. Good luck!

  10. Thao says:

    Hi Vikki,

    I really appreciate your advice. I often spend hours on my resume and think about how to improve my resume, to make it more stand out from the crowd. This article helps me realize that I need to focus on one subject each resume.

    Thank you very much for sharing

  11. Shailesh Maskar says:

    Hello Vikki,

    Can you some examples of resumes.
    Like I want to do my career in Development like in Java, Dot.net Technology
    How I prepare resume for this.

    Thanks,
    Shailesh Maskar

    • Vikki says:

      Hi Shailesh:
      Unfortunately I can’t post examples. Each person’s resume is their own and I can’t share their documents. I recommend you look around the web – there are lots of people who post their CVs or resumes on-line. The nice thing about a resume is that it is unique, it is about you and your experience, talents and skills. Stay true to yourself – remain focused – and make sure your resume reflects you in the best light. Ask friends, school counselors, etc. to review and help you refine. Search ‘resume key words’ and use some of the suggestions that come up to give your resume accomplishments power.
      Best wishes,
      Vikki