Tag Archives: recruiting

How to Write a Bad Resume


There are three surefire ways to write a bad resume:

  1. Make it too long.
  2. Obscure your background with your interpretation of your strengths and skills.
  3. Give a vague chronology.

Kicking off our search for a VP of Marketing this week made me ruminate about bad resumes. For this role, the problem is that marketing people can make anything look good, or more accurately: they can talk at length about anything, even if it’s irrelevant. So, the primary problem is long resumes that put you to sleep. I thought this a good opportunity to get crabby about resumes in general.

The three best ways to write a bad or a good resume:

1. Length

Most mortals can fit their background on one page. After about ten years of experience, you might merit a second page. Maybe. But think hard first. It might take 15 years before we need to hear it all. I have seen some resumes that creep onto a third page that are well written, but these are people with 20 or more years of experience.

Four pages are uncalled for unless you are from a foreign country where the sheer weight of your resume is part of the Feng Shui and culture. In spite of this habit overseas, it is a practice that is doomed in a world of impatient, ADD Type A’s who spend more and more time on the Internet. Get over it. Practice using that delete key, Champ.

2. Identify Your Background, not Your Skills and Strengths

Let the facts speak for themselves. Nothing is more annoying than resumes that start with a half page or an entire page summarizing someone’s background and skills. Your experience is what counts, not your interpretation. I have seen good resumes that start with three pertinent bullets highlighting key experience, but unless you merit a two or three page resume, try to skip this. Your work history and specific accomplishments are what matters.

Here are two actual examples from resumes I received today:

  • “I am a marketing master that can develop unlimited campaign ideas from the fertile right side of my brain.” I kid you not. A Master with a Fertile Brain. Save me.
  • “Strengths (Source: Gallup Clifton Strengthsfinder): Maximizer, Ideation, Strategic, Self-Assurance, Activator.” Is this necessary? Aside from being very unclear on what a “Maximizer” exactly is, or for that matter an “Activator”, what God-Help-Me is the Gallup Clifton Strengthsfinder?

3. Specific, Clear Chronology

If you have ever interviewed with Heidrick & Struggles or any of the major executive search firms, you know that competent, highly paid recruiters are exacting about chronology. Even if you are a CEO, these recruiters will carefully go through every crevice, so no stone is unturned.

That means month and year, start and end to every job. Yes, the month matters. It demonstrates you are a concrete, specific person. Remember, this is your career. Here in swashbuckling Silicon Valley where folks go through jobs like hot knives through butter, a string of jobs all less than two years is not uncommon. Therefore the month becomes material.

Always show the year you received a degree. Vagueness can make one wonder what you are hiding. Did you get lost at a Dead concert for a few years? (There’s an appropriate way to describe this career move.)

If you can get these three things right: 1) brevity, 2) background not strengths/skills/functional nonsense, and 3) clear chronology, you are off to good start.

How to Recruit 40 Employees [On Atlassian]


Here’s the white board in our HR Director Flanagan’s office with 44 hires we are planning in Sydney and San Francisco. Notice the stern warning at the top: “You can delete but not add!”

How do you recruit 40 employees? Step one: write down the roles you need to fill. If you put it on a white board, then the goal becomes visual. And when you are doubling in size every year like Atlassian, the goal can be intimidating.

Step two: work very very hard. 🙂

If you’re passionate about your work and want to work with like-minded individuals, learn more about Atlassian and what we are looking for.

Tips on Recruiting Executives Part I [On Atlassian]

We are in the midst of recruiting for a vice president of marketing. Even though we are still working on it, I thought I would share some of what we do during the initial stages of recruiting. Here I am concentrating on attracting candidates, finding candidates, and filtering resumes.

Here are eight key elements to how we start the recruiting process:

  1. Write a great ad – Why do companies continually forget how important this is? Be specific about why your company would be a great place to work at, what’s so interesting about the job, or what is it about the scope of responsibilities that will challenge someone. Make it compelling. I believe this job we’re recruiting for is a great job, so I tried to make it sound like it. I wrote our ad on Linkedin which will expire soon, so it’s here.
  2. Remember Karma – How do you like to be treated when you look for a job? Well, that’s how you should treat applicants. Answer every single email application. Even if you get swamped, do it; if you’re late, apologize but do it eventually. You should treat any candidate at any level with respect. Because industries are small, you are more likely to run into senior people again in your career, so act accordingly. Three of the applicants for our VP job included: a well know Silicon Valley blogger who is a good friend, a local industry analyst who knows our space well, and a founder of a software company where I once interviewed to be CEO. Tables turn. Don’t forget Karma.
  3. Don’t rely on ads; leverage your best networks – We have had 75 applicants, many very good on paper, through Linkedin. But our best candidates came through referrals from Mike’s network, and Anthony’s.
  4. Filter, filter, filter – The higher the expectations and the greater the responsibility for the job, the more important it is to be exacting about filtering resumes and not wasting candidates’ or your time. I do believe in the Best Athelete theory which says the best person may not be the one with the perfect functional experience, but instead the brightest, sharpest, highest potential one. With senior people, however, you are hiring experience, so this needs to dominate your initial filtering.

    Occasionally I let a left-of-center candidate through because there is something compelling in her/his background. But experience dominates the first filtering. Executive search people say, “the best indicator of future performance is past performance”.

  5. Bad resumes tell a lot – I hate bad resumes, and that generally means most of them. My three biggest annoyances on resumes are:
    • Lists of skills, strengths, accomplishment, and capabilities, instead of background by job. Experience matters, and not a candidate’s interpretation.
    • Vague chronology. I like seeing jobs by month and year. If you have ever been interviewed by executive search recruiters from firms like Heidrick & Struggles or Korn Ferry, they get precise chronology.
    • Long resumes. This is partially a US thing because in other countries long resumes are common, but I hate them. One of our applicants is a SVP from a Top 10 tech company, and his resume is two pages. Most mortals fit on two pages.

    Cover letters are where it’s OK for candidates to sell themselves, although the degree to which someone reveals some understanding of us matters a lot. Bad cover letters say a lot. If a candidate does not take the time to write a good cover letter, then how much do they really want this job?

  6. Filter with email questions – If you just received 20 resumes, and aside from the one really good resume, and the eighteen that don’t fit, what do you do with the one that’s interesting but borderline? Send them an email asking three tough questions. My favorite question is: what challenges do you think Atlassian faces? This forces some thinking, and is a great question in a first interview as well.
  7. Network with some candidates – I generally make a few Linkedin connections during a search because the person has some interesting skills but we do don’t need them now, or I may know someone who could use these skills. This relates to the Karma Rule above.
  8. Have a backup plan (if you can afford it) – Before starting the search I lined up a great executive recruiter who I have trusted as an employer and as a candidate. I gave us 45 days to succeed on our own. So far, so good. Executive recruiters are painfully expensive, and most of them are not worth it. But at some point, if you have a critical hire, such as this one is for us, you cannot screw around.

I’ll blog Part II when we complete the search.

Do You Know a Great Marketing Executive?

We are looking for a vice president of marketing in our San Francisco office. The job spec is here on Linkedin. We’re looking for someone who has more creativity than these guys…
… while still having a sense of humor. 🙂

Jobster: Good Idea?

Is recruiting ripe for something new or better? You might think so. Craigslist was the last really useful and different way.

So you might think Social-Networking-Meets-Recruiting is timely. Linkedin, the most prevalent business network has added jobs to make money, but what every job board learns is: you are only as good as your volume. So far Linkedin has been disappointing. But we’ll keep trying because we like the concept and it’s inexpensive.

Jobster, on the other hand, started as a recruiting-networking concept, right off the bat. Nice idea but bad business model. Why do businesses continue to make it hard for customers to check out their services and buy? Jobster fails for three glaring reasons:

1. Make it easy to learn about the product. Go to jobster.com and two clicks later an employer like me is reading the Jobster Solution. But what exactly does it do? It still seems unclear so I guess I better click on demo. There’s an option to enter my contact info. No thanks. Click on Tour. In the first 30 seconds I learn that Jobster is a whole new way of recruiting, that I can proactively recruit non-job seekers, that scads of recruiters have helped design it, and that the CEO is willing to roll up his sleeves to work with me. I feel great. That’s really sweet of him. But I’m a typical employer: I’m in a hurry, I need people yesterday, and how do I get started? How do I cut through this marketing crap?

2. Make it easy to sign up. Clicking on “Get started” is where things go South fast. I have to fill out a form, and submit an email. And give them my phone number. That sucks but hey, they’ll send me a password and I’ll get started, right? Think again. I get an email saying “The future of hiring technology has arrived and Jobster is leading the way. If you have questions or would like a demonstration contact us at…” Grrrrr. Where is my password?! Let me at this thing! I want to try on the flared pants, and if they fit, hey, I’m buying. But I have to call them and speak to a sales person! Here comes Telesales Death. Direct sales means high prices. But I’m dying to check out “the future of hiring technology”…

3. Give people a free or cheap way to evaluate, if it needs any explaining. Simple products are simple to test out. But things like software and this “new way” of recruiting are tricky. Guess what Jobster costs? $295 per month. But that’s deceiving because Gary Thede, the helpful sales rep at Jobster tells me it takes at least 90 days to see any result. Even then, he agrees when I say this is a $4,000 decision because signing up for a year is what it takes to build your network. Just look at how long Linkedin is taking to gain steam. And that is if Jobster even succeeds. Which is yet to be proved.

Which takes me back to the web fact: you are only as good as your volume. The other fact in recruiting is: Craigslist charges $75 and is the most effective job board. If you have a “new way” and a great idea, which Jobster just might have, then you better face economic realities: teach me online quickly simply, make the barrier to signing up low, and let me try it out for free or for peanuts. Make it fly off the shelves. When I see the deal, make me go “Wow”. Unfortunately Jobster is the opposite: hard to understand, hard to sign up for, way too expensive, and laden with an expensive sales force. I wish Jobster well though because it’s a good idea.