Questions from Redditors Part 2: Executive Drafts owner Jeremy Shreve answers some of Reddit’s resume FAQs
Here at Executive Drafts, we love engaging directly with people and providing high-value, completely free advice. We are frequent contributors on Reddit, where we have helped countless individuals with feedback on their resumes and offered general career advice across a wide range of Reddit communities. For those of you not familiar with Reddit, it’s a place where people gather to share social news, discuss topics grouped by Subreddits, and vote on shared content. We’re most active on the r/resumes Subreddit (www.reddit.com/r/resumes), where we offer public critiques and advice on user submissions.
Jeremy Shreve, the owner of Executive Drafts (username u/ExecutiveDrafts), has been an active participant of Reddit for many years and started Executive Drafts after his success in coaching people on career and resume best practices both on Reddit and in the real world. That being said, we’ve been around the block a time or two, and have seen the same questions circulating Reddit over the years. In this three-part series, Jeremy will be answering some of the burning questions we see time and time again across the internet.
In part 2, we’ll discuss the basic elements of a resume, including introduction, skills, project sections as well as touch on best practices with respect to your college GPA, references, and whether your resume should be one page or two pages in length.
Q. Should you change your summary/profile for every job you apply to?
A. I don’t think it’s necessary at all. Changing your resume for every single job application is overkill unless you really are pursuing such a huge range of jobs that no two are even remotely similar (which sounds like a different problem altogether). I employ a pretty basic and common-sense strategy to resume modifications: I simply read the job description, then give a resume a once-over to determine if I might want to swap around a few skills, de-emphasize some industry-specific expertise, or call attention to a different set of skills in the summary.
Making a few tweaks here and there to fit a job better is completely fine but having one great resume will usually work much better than having ten mediocre (but customized) resumes. I look at the value of your time as an applicant. The time spent tweaking and primping a resume might better be spent simply applying to more roles.
Q. What are soft skills, and do they belong on a resume?
A. While there are some legitimate soft skills and certain careers that value them, most soft skills are simply character traits. As such, most don’t belong on a resume unless they’re simply part of a narrative element. To be clear, that means you might mention something about being a “strong communicator” or a “passionate leader with a history of building winning teams,” but you should use those statements sparingly, and should not create a section specifically to list soft skills. I routinely see skills like “creative thinker” or “analytical reasoning” under skills sections for people. These might be useful skills, but these are very difficult to reinforce and prove on a resume, which makes them seem like empty words.
There are also plenty of skills like “hard-working” or “honest” which, while still important, can be claimed by anyone at virtually any stage in life. I prefer saving this space for technical skills and specific areas of expertise you bring to a role at your career level. There are grey areas where these two concepts mix, but more often than not, soft skills don’t provide the most compelling reasons for your hire.
Q. How do I know if I should include a skills section?
A. Here are a few situations where people should have a skills section on their resumes:
Do you work in a technical field where much of your day might depend on your familiarity with a specific software application or technical ability?
Are these skills something you can’t learn by taking a few online classes two weeks before starting the job?
Do you have at least 8-10 skills that, when grouped, show you as a highly qualified candidate?
Lastly, do you suspect recruiters in your field might be skimming your resume specifically to find out if you have a certain skill or skills? (For example, a company hiring software developers to program in Java are going to want an easy-to-glance area to see if you have that skill).
If so, these are all excellent reasons to include a skills section. However, most professionals don’t need a skills section. If you’re in most forms of marketing or other business roles, for example, you can use keywords throughout the document. Recruiters know how to use CTRL+F to find keywords that are important to them, and often these skills look much better when written about in the context of specific jobs and specific situations. Being a “creative problem solver” might sound nice, but listing a particular problem and the creative solution you found tells a much more influential story of your skill.
Q. Is it ok to list projects?
A. If you’re a student with very little (or no) relevant work experience, projects might be your best bet at getting a conversation started. This is especially common with engineering and programming students who might want to discuss some work they’ve done outside of their internships. I think that once you have a few years of paid work experience, it’s probably time to stop talking about personal projects and school projects. But in the absence of clear and relevant work history, projects are an acceptable and preferred way of showing some of your ability.
Q. Can I list my GPA/when should I stop listing my GPA?
A. Listing a GPA is acceptable if you’ve graduated within the past two years. I’m surprised at how many people still have their GPAs listed from their college days in the 1990s. You have to ask yourself: “How important is my academic performance to the next job I’m hoping to get?” If you’ve had ten years of IT experience and are looking for a role as Senior Manager, doesn’t it seem a bit silly to list out your 3.4 GPA?
In most cases, employers are far less concerned with college grades than students are. Sure, it might be the only thing they can think to ask you at a career fair, but obtaining a degree and showing them you have the drive and competence to do good work is much more important, even in your early career, than simply showing a GPA. And please, please don’t get wrapped up in listing things like your general AND major GPA. That kind of attention to detail and attempt to spin the story tends to backfire.
Q. Should I include references on my resume?
A. I know “References available on request” sounds like a harmless little addition, but most people realize these days that references come at the very end of the hiring process, and resumes introduce themselves at the very beginning. At best, it’s wasted space on the resume. At worst, it can make you seem out of touch with how the process works. A company knows you’ll provide references when the time comes.
Q. Can my resume be longer than one page?
A. Absolutely. Most recruiters are far more open to a 2-page resume than they were five years ago. Generally speaking, 2-page resumes are a good choice for people in very technical roles where you need more than a handful of bullet points to cover the most relevant details of a job, as well as the expanded space needed to add things like a skills summary or an area for certifications. If you’ve got 7+ years of experience and need the extra resume sections, there’s nothing forbidden about a two-pager. That said, there are some things to keep in mind:
If you aren’t in a role that requires all of those extra sections, people will still expect a single resume page.
Just because you move into a second page does not mean it needs to be completely filled. Most clients of ours who need a second page will often see a finished product closer to 1 ¼ or 1 ½ pages in length.
In addition to being active Reddit contributors, at Executive Drafts, we’re career and resume strategists dedicated to helping you land your next job. If you’re interested in learning more about our services you can visit us on our website. While you’re there, you can submit your resume for a complimentary critique.
Interested in reading more in this series? Part 1 of the series was all about the “Experience” section of your resume. In other words, how to talk about job titles, overlapping/concurrent positions, and non-traditional career entries on your resume.