Jul 252011

What to do it your resume is too long.

The adage that a resume should be one page is accepted as gospel and absolute horse feathers.  A resume should be as long as a resume needs to be to tell a potential employer what he has to know to decide to hire you. It you have two restaurant jobs, your resume can neatly fill the center of a single page and no more. If you have been at the game for twenty five  years, it’s going to be longer. In general I expect resumes to stop at about two pages, but there are exceptions. They should not be voluminous. I have received documents of twelve and more, and that’s just too much.

Remember that today’s business reader has an attention span of perhaps half a minute for incoming information, and if he picks up something he thinks will require fifteen, he’s likely to drop it in the “Sometime when I have a moment”, pile, which never gets read. You really have to get his/her attention by showing a selection of strong points in a brief span of time. So what can you do it you have an endless resume?

Lots. First, take the term “need to know”  and turn it around. Ask yourself what is not important, and cut it. For some help with this look again at what employers want and do not want to know.

Then start on some serious triage: The art of good writing is cutting everything that does not contribute. It’s also the art of good resumes.

Weed, Cut, Hack

Cut everything that doesn’t relate to your profession: high school (it’s generally assumed), all extraneous courses, cook offs attended, any of the “don’t want to know”  points.  Leave out the silly ‘references available on request” line. Any employer knows that he can request references.

Remove as much of your introduction or summary as possible. Aim for maximum three lines (you could do four or five, if your resume were not already way overweight, but you need to slenderize it.) Better yet, remove it all. Use your cover letter to address the most important points (awards, community participation, etc) Cut anything that pertains to your performance (as opposed to your duties).  “ I excelled in keeping food cost low” should land on the cutting room floor. “Responsible for costing and pricing”, on the other hand, can stay. Cut all sentences where  you say your are good at something (I am a terrific communicator), your beliefs and anything that is not simple fact. The facts should suffice to get you where you want to go.

Edit Style

Edit the remaining entries to telegraph style, changing all sentences with “I” or “my” to terse lists. Your goal is the verbless, pronounless resume. Responsibilities:  All kitchen administration functions, menu creation and delivery, costing, pricing and customer interface.  Choose the four to five most important points.

Detail Triage: Keep  only the important awards, media, events, etc.

Select and cut lists of awards, participation, etc to show only the most meaningful:  Some awards received: “James Beard, 2001 / The Golden Fritter, 2001, 2002, 2003 / George’s received Michelin 3* 2001-2005.” If you have a couple of good ones, leave the also-rans for an off hand comment at the interview. (“Well, of course, there were others…”)

Do the same with press coverage: Press coverage includes Good Morning America, Gourmet Magazine, New York Eater. Copies available.

If your job duties are repetitive (for instance, if you worked at seven different Hyatt locations), you don’t need to describe everything you did in every job. The last five years should suffice.   Even better, if you were with one company, list it only once with  your current position and a note you were promoted from chef de partie or roundsman  “with all attendant duties” through the ranks to Executive chef.  You can work this with various locations, but do keep any statements about exceptionally rated properties or unique positions and responsibilities.

Format down:

Keep all fonts to 12pt or below, but not too small to read.

Restructure all bullet lists to short, run-on paragraphs, also in telegraph style. You need some white space (to make the resume readable) but use the Paragraph function of Word (Mac has a similar function) to alter the space between lines and paragraphs.

Change your header to put your name, phone number and email on the right side, your address on the left.

Pictures are never good. If you’ve got them in your resume, ditch them. (Side Note: they are required on CV’s, which have their own rules.)

Combine and condense.

Your most recent ten years should be clearly stated and described, but earlier employment, unless it is for some reason important, can be just the name and location of the property, your position and date of employment.  You can resort to a combined paragraphs for non-management postions, something like:

1991-2001 Worked all positions from dishwasher to lead line cook in Chez John (fine dining – Atlanta, GA), The Old Oak House (Steak Restaurant, Cleveland, OH), the Green Roofed Inn (Relais Chateaux, Burk Burnette, TX)……….  Slip in points like volume, ratings, or a well-known mentor as necessary. Try not to leave this out. (Read about the importance of provenance.)

Save even more space.

1991 – 2001 Employed at a number of restaurants from fast food to white table cloth in all non management positions.

Take stages out of your job history and add them to education.  A short paragraph is more effective than a long bullet list.  If you are more seasoned, they stages may be superfluous.

Don’t list consultancies, if they were simultaneous with full time employment. Save them for the interview or add just one line like: “Consultancies: During the past years I have consulted to both high end and QSR properties including the Black Cow, Moonraker’s Dream and Chez George.” Don’t include moonlighting or extraneous catering.

In principle, you should state all the jobs you have had. If you don’t ,  you can be sure someone will say, “She worked at Benoit. I am positive.  What? It’s not on her resume. There must be a reason?”  In practice, however, there is an understanding that stays under three months are pretty much trial events, so if they don’t leave you with a gaping hole (Which you should not fill by stretching other positions), just leave them out.

Use your head:

What you are doing in editing your resume to a manageable size is essentially allocating space to the most important data. We can compare this to cleaning your desk or your station. Only the necessary matter can be allowed to stay on top. You can assume that the person who reads it has some  knowledge of the industry, so you can determine what  you can keep on the surface, and what you can omit. The better known a property, for instance, the less resume real estate you need to spend on it. A Grand Hyatt, a Ritz Carlton, Morton’s or Gramercy Tavern, for example, should be well enough known to anyone reading your resume, that you can spare words, while you will want to give some details for a country Inn or one off mountain resort.

The Resume is an introduction, not a production. You do not have to be exhaustive or even complete. The interview serves that purpose.

The focus of your resume (and your interview) should be what is important to the employer. It is not about  you. It’s about her or him.

Much of what clutters a resume can be put in a cover letter. Remember, though, that these are not always read. Like  the resume, your cover letter should be short and reserved for a few important points.

Even the best resume cannot cover up for a sporadic, unfocused career with two jobs a year.