On Resumes

I’m in the process of hiring right now, and looking for the right person to join the team is… well, difficult. Finding applicants, let alone quality applicants, is a challenge, and there is so much left unsaid in a resume… As I was reading through resumes just now, I was asking myself what I would write on my own resume? Would I be cliche, and have statements like “I want to find a challenging place to work,” “I’m professional and hard working,””I’m an expert in…?” What would I write?

I see these kinds of statements in every resume I see, but how else do you answer the questions? Is there a better way of writing things, a way to make it more interesting? Maybe I’m not looking at the right ones, but it just seems to me that everyone is trying too hard without trying at all. The resumes I look at are all cookie cutter examples of the best qualities a person thinks I want to hear, when what I really want to know is how well are they going to fit in with my team.

There are obvious lies on resumes, like the “I’m an expert on _______,” even though they just graduated high school. Now, that doesn’t mean they don’t know how to use Word or Excel, but when there are typographical errors, spelling errors, formatting errors, etc… well, yeah, they aren’t experts. My dad? He’s an expert in Excel. He can make that thing work like no one else I know. A high school student? even a college student? They don’t know enough about the world to know what they need to know in Excel. Now, I know I’m generalizing, and maybe there is a young 20-something that really knows Excel well, but it’s certainly not every resume.

I think one of my favorite lines is “I’m a hard worker.” Definitely subjective, and of course you’re not going to say that you’re really a lazy sack of potato chips! That should be given. You should be a hard worker, especially if you’re applying for a job. That’s like a carpet cleaning company saying they have great customer service. If that’s the only thing setting you apart, there’s a problem. And if you have to brag about your service… As Hotel says in Fiddler on the Roof, “A rabbi who must praise himself has a congregation of one.”

Another favorite, though this is usually said in the interview, “I work too hard.” That is someone, in my opinion, that probably doesn’t have a good work-life balance. Which means they go home and watch tv instead of playing with their kids, or spending time with their spouse. I could be wrong, and have certainly been accused (by my wife and kids) of spending too much time at work, but that is usually because I’m falling down in my responsibilities at home.

So what is it that I look for in a resume? I’m looking to see who you are, a little of what you’ve done, and when you graduated high school. The ones I really like are the resumes of people that spent time in prison- Boom, there it is. They know they can’t hide it, they know it’s going to come up, so might as well get it over with. They also include the lessons they learned in prison, which can be way more real than what the typical person has to go through. I wish I could hire more ex-cons, at least the repentant ones, because I think they don’t take the work for granted, and they don’t try to hide the bad stuff, too.

I look for how fast a person changes jobs- if they only last 6 months at a place, before moving on to the next, then that says to me there is an issue with staying at a place for a long time. That could be attributed to boredom- people getting bored with the simpler tasks, especially for the younger ones. I know I had a hard time with that when I was younger. Staying in a job for more than a couple of years was hard. Not because I didn’t do a good job, or didn’t work hard, but the work got mundane after a while.

I remember when I first interviewed for Zerorez, and the lady interviewing me, Sandy, asked me about my resume, because I moved jobs a bit. I had lived in Las Vegas for five or six years, and had been through as many jobs in that time, staying about a year at each place. She asked me why she should hire me when it seems that I switched jobs a lot. I answered that I just hadn’t found a place that I could keep growing in. So, I understand the need for a challenge, and for growth.

So what would I say if I were to write a resume now? It would go something like this-

Hello, my name is Dave Grigsby. I’m a highly creative perfectionist, who is obsessed with learning. While that may sound good, I have a hard time “shipping,” because every project I start is never good enough. I’m constantly challenging myself to be better, to work harder, and to look at things in different ways.

I’m inconsistent in my schedule- I can be there on time, and even early, but I will also be late, but I will stay until the work is done. I don’t mind long hours, and I’m willing to put the work in to earn my wages.

I’ll question everything. That gets annoying, but at least you’ll know that I’m learning, and trying to clarify and understand exactly what it is you want. I’m always looking at ways to add value- if that means I need to take out the garbage along my way to somewhere else, I will do it. If I find I can help someone else with their project, I will do that, too.

I’m opinionated. I have done my research, and have found what works for me. I don’t fit into a narrowly defined box, but am able to see things from a lot of different viewpoints, and then I form my own opinions. I can be honest with myself, and admit when I am wrong, though I will probably argue the dickens out of a point until I finally win or concede.

I’ve done a lot of different things- from working at McDonald’s to owning my own business(es). I’ve learned things along the way, and every job I do has some bearing on the next one, some set of skills that will help me as I move forward.

I believe in constant education. I read (or listen to) several books a month, and listen to great inspirational, informational podcasts. I don’t focus on one topic, but try to have a broad range of information from which to draw upon. I believe in experience as a great teacher, and that every experience is a teacher.

I believe failure is not an option, it is a necessity. I will make mistakes, but I try to make them only once. I learn from my mistakes, and I try to learn from the mistakes others make.

I believe in ownership. I own my work, even if I don’t own the company. I have often been asked “is this your company?” I respond, even if it isn’t my company, that I take great pride and ownership of my work. I’m here to do the best I can, as efficiently as I can, in whatever I do.

I don’t like sitting. Sitting bores me. I get tired. So I will be standing, or moving. I may do my work in a different place. I may change the places I do my work. But it will get done. Eventually…

I’ve spent several years in the food service industry. I’ve been a cook, a waiter, and a manager. I didn’t like the manager job. I can get along with people, but I find it more enjoyable when I have a task that I need to get done. I’m much more of a task oriented person. I can talk with people, and I can talk well with people, but it is not my preferred position.

I’ve spent several years in the construction industry- replacing and repairing windows, and doing final checks on houses, and coordinating the repairs on them as needed. I really enjoyed that work, as it was heavily task oriented, but had enough cooperating with other people that I was able to really understand what all goes into completing a project. I learned constant communication, especially with homeowners, during this stage of my life.

I’ve been a carpet cleaning technician. While it wasn’t what I aspired to be when I was a kid, I fell in love with the job. I enjoyed meeting all kinds of people, and developing relationships with my customers. I enjoyed the movement, the challenge, and the learning opportunities the job afforded me. I learned a lot about chemistry, about water, sales, and how to resolve conflicts and how to talk to customers.

I currently own a business. I’ve learned about management of people. How to hire. How to fire. How to praise, correct, and discipline. I’ve learned about training, teaching, and coaching. I’ve learned about Excel- and how to make a spreadsheet work. I’ve learned about automation, about streamlining. I understand things like budgets, financing, and ROI. I understand traditional and more modern marketing strategies like social media. I can read a Google Analytics page. I know what a P&L is, understand a Pro Forma, and can make projections based on data. I know how to say no to things, and not chase the shiny objects (but that is really hard!). I understand sales principles, and can find works, jobs, customers. I know how to build a referral system, getting others to market for me. I also plan ahead- I’m thinking 3-4 months in advance of where I’m at. It doesn’t meant hat I can’t work in the here and now, but I’m usually thinking several months to several years in advance.

I’ve also figured out that I don’t like to fight fires, and things go a lot better if I stop burning things down. Most fires, I find, are my lack of preparedness, so if I get things set up right, I shouldn’t have fires to fight.

I’m not a college grad, preferring instead the School of Hard Knocks. Nobody would know it, though, unless they specifically ask me about it. Or I tell them, like I just did. And probably would. Because I don’t think going to college is the only way to get an education. Like I said, I read several non-fiction books a month (I will read a few, here and there), and I have learned to apply those things in my life. So at this point, college is not that important to me, and won’t really teach me something I can’t learn in some other way (like YouTube, Lynda.com, or even on MIT’s own website).

References are available upon request, but since I’ve only gotten 2 calls verifying employment of past employees, I doubt they’re necessary. But I have them. Honest!

I look forward to meeting with you, to see how I can help you achieve your goals, and how you can compensate me for my time and work.

That last bit might be a bit snarky, but it is kind of how I feel. Someday I’ll write a post on how an interview should go…

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About DaveGrigsby