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Michael Coles: Sergeant SQL

SQL Server development, news and information from the front lines

Sell Yourself! Presentation

Thanks to everyone who attended my "Sell Yourself!" presentation at SQLSaturday #61 in Washington, D.C., and thanks to NOVA SQL for setting up the event!

I'm uploading the presentation deck here in PDF, original length, with new materials (I had to cut some slides out due to time limits).  This deck includes a new section on recruiters and a little more information on the resume.

BTW, if you're rewriting your resume I highly recommend the book Elements of Resume Style by S. Bennett.  I've used it as a reference when rewriting my resume and when helping others, and it's a very valuable tool.  There are one or two things I disagree with the author about (he recommends against the use of bulleted lists in the resume, I think they're great for emphasis and readability in certain areas so long as they're not overused, for instance); but overall the book has plenty of solid advice on how to get the most out of your resume.

Also, if you haven't done so yet, check out Steve Jones' presentation "The Modern Resume: Building Your Brand" and his new blog:  Steve is a SQL MVP, entrepreneur (a founder and editor-in-chief at SQL Server Central:, SQL Server guru, and all-around great guy.  His new career-oriented professional-development blog and presentations are full of great career advice and tips for SQL Professionals.



Andy Warren said:

Just read the presentation, nicely done. The bit about tailoring is interesting, very much in demand by recruiters that I see, they want buzzwords that match the customer request. Nothing wrong with adjusting focus within your skill set of course, but the challenge is that if you don't tailor, the recruiter may perceive that you're not willing to help you both be successful. Calls for a good conversation.

December 6, 2010 7:30 AM

Mike C said:

Hey Andy, thanks for the feedback.  I actually go more in-depth during the presentation.  The point about tailoring your resume is just my observation that it rarely pays off.  When a recruiter tells me it's very important to rewrite the resume to emphasize my Java coding skills, for instance, I have to ask the question "do I really want a job that emphasizes Java coding?"  And if I did want that type of job I probably would have emphasized those skills in the first place.

Also I find that a lot of times things that are added in (almost as afterthoughts) aren't as compelling as the items that are included from the beginning (usually these indicate where your real interests are).  I wasted a lot of time tweaking my resume for recruiters over the years, and in my case 99.999% of the time that extra effort doesn't pay off.

For the buzzword lists (also included in the discussion part of the presentation--I really had to cut down the "resume" portion significantly to fit it all in 1 to 1.5 hours) I suggest using the "Skills" section.  This gives recruiters a nice, simple checklist to compare against their job orders, and is much easier to tweak than rewriting large portions of text in the "Experience" section.

December 18, 2010 11:50 PM

Shannon Lowder said:

Is there any way we can scientifically evaluate whether tailoring works or not?  Every time I've got a job it's been tailored to the position I'm applying for.  I've started calling myself a Database Engineer, because I'm not just a Database Developer, or a Database Engineer, or a Database Architect, or a Business Analyst.  I'm all those things.

I have a "master" resume that shows all these experiences.  I then pull 2 pages out of that for each job posting.  If I'm applying for a DBA role, I down-play my development experience.  

In Charlotte, most of the people in my network are reporting success when they tailor...but that's not a scientific study.  Perhaps a compromise on stances is, if you're happy with your job searching results, repeat what you're doing.  If you are unhappy with your results, switch to the other method?

That way the information is out there, and the job seekers can use any of the tools as they are appropriate to their search.  What do you think?

December 20, 2010 11:08 AM

Michael Coles: Sergeant SQL : Why "Tailoring" Your Resume Is Bad said:

December 30, 2010 11:37 PM

Mike C said:

Hi Shannon,  it would be interesting to have scientific/mathematic proof one way or the other.  Right now all I have is my personal experience and anecdotal evidence from job seekers and hiring managers I know.  I wrote a blog post covering this in more detail:

One thing that's important to define is what is "tailoring".  For me there are 2 separate concepts at play here: (1) preparing multiple copies of your resume in advance and (2) making substantive last-minute changes to your resume at the recruiter's request.  I don't have any problem with #1, although it has to be managed properly.  #2 is the one that seems to have zero payoff.  I've even seen #2 hurt job applicants on occasion.  Anyway, more at the blog.

December 30, 2010 11:44 PM
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