REmatrix Interview with Forbes J. Rutherford, President of Rutherford International Executive Search Group Inc.

May 5, 2007 – Toronto, Canada

Topic: Resume Design – An Overview

Forbes Rutherford has provided specialized HR consulting and Executive Search services to both national and international property and investment firms for the past twenty-one years. Having dealt with a broad cross section of the industry’s senior executives and rising stars, Mr. Rutherford is in a unique position to observe the changing macro trends and oncoming challenges facing the Canadian and International real estate community. Additional information on Mr. Rutherford’s background may be viewed at the following web links: or
When a client comes to you seeking a new opportunity, what advice do you give them?

Forbes Rutherford
It’s probably best that we clarify who my client is; it’s not the job seeker but rather the corporation doing the seeking. The simple description of a client is “one, who pays my fee,” which in all search assignments is the hiring company. I do provide career counseling and some degree of executive coaching, however the majority of my practice is creating wealth for clients by matching talent and ideas with capital.”

Getting back to your question, I do get industry professionals coming to me for advice on how they should approach their job search. What I tell them is contingent on whether they’re using an “outplacement” service or doing it on their own. If they’re using third party assistance (generally provided by the former employer) then it’s likely that they have gone through a battery of tests and assessments that are designed to determine behavior, personality and interests. If not, or they’re on their own in this job seeking adventure then I’ll let them use my assessment services. Self appraisal is important at this phase of their life; by understanding ones strengths and what truly motivates oneself, one can recognize career opportunity more effectively.

Ask a CEO what his or her greatest human resource challenges are; I can assure you that one of them will be the challenge of finding motivated talent. If you don’t understand your strengths, what gets you passionate, or the optimum working environment, then the odds of finding the right position will be based entirely on serendipity. Since eighty percent of the workforce isn’t happy with their job, I’d say serendipity hasn’t struck the average worker very often. So before offering advice, I ask three fundamental questions, “Do you know your strengths, your interests and what gets you excited each and every day?”
Do most job seekers know what they’re looking for, and how they fit into the industry?

Forbes Rutherford
By and large, the answer is a resounding “No!” Some of course are looking to clone their former position with another firm. They may not have the luxury of time to reassess their career or decompress from a previous position; or they’ve taken the position – allegorically speaking – “office leasing is office leasing, it doesn’t much matter who it’s with.” Of course, they’re dead wrong. Job’s are usually chosen this way, not careers. You can tell by the resume if a person hasn’t taken adequate time to think through their career.
Would you comment on resume errors that you’ve seen, and the resume format you prefer?

Forbes Rutherford
Whole books are written on this subject, but I’ll give you the abridged version of what I tell candidates. A resume is simply a marketing tool designed to get you through the door; it’s not meant to land you the job. It’s a living document, which defines your growth in knowledge, states your underlying value in the past and present; and the likelihood of success in the future.

It’s the most important personal document the average person will ever draft, and yet many spend little time in its creation. For example, the professionally written resume, which I find abhorrent, suggests either bad time management or inferior writing skills – if you can’t take the time to design and draft a document to effectively market yourself, how thorough will you be in representing your employer?

There are three basic formats for resume design – “functional”, “chronological” and a “hybrid” of the first two. When I receive a functional resume, I’m instantly suspicious and look for what’s being hidden versus emphasized. Candidates with significant gaps in their employment history favor the “functional” format.

I prefer a chronological format or a well thought out hybrid for the simple reason that it’s easier to interpret the flow of the person’s career decisions; and the growth of their accomplishments in successive positions. When assessing a candidate by their resume, career choices are as important as duties and accomplishments. One can tell a great deal about a person’s judgment and the quality of their decision making by their career choices.

One other reason for a chronological format is “technology.” Large corporations and companies such as mine use data bases that optically scan resumes and drop all the critical information into searchable fields. Functional formats are poorly suited for this type of technology, as the information must be manually inputted through a cut and paste process. It’s tedious, and we get to it when we have time, and we have very little time.

Rule of Thumb: A resume is only meant to get you through the door for an interview.        
What are your basic rules for resume design?

Forbes Rutherford

  1. The format you use after graduation shouldn’t be the same format after five years of experience.

  2. Don’t itemize the same duties for each position held. When I’m reading resumes, I find bland redundancy to be a constant annoyance.

  3. Resume should be no more than two pages. A cover letter emphasizing key parts of your resume that relate to the position your applying for is acceptable, and even helpful to the reader. When sending your resume digitally, attach the cover letter at the end of the resume rather than as a separate attachment. Some data bases that electronically scan the document aren’t sophisticated enough to handle two separate documents for the same applicant. You could end up in their system twice.

  4. Write the resume in the knowledge that it will eventually reside in a searchable archive. You may hear from the search firm today and likely two years from today on another assignment.

  5. Use contact information that isn’t likely to change especially your email address. Do not use your company address or a cute personal address. The address you use on your resume should be one that you check regularly. Consider a service such as Gmail, Yahoo or Hotmail, which allows you to set up an account and forward mail to your personal home account.

  6. Make it as easy as possible for the employer or search consultant to reach you during the day. A personal cell phone number is best – again, not the company cell.

  7. After your contact information, insert your Career Objective or Executive Summary. This section should be indented from the main resume body, highlighted and no more than twenty words.

  8. A chronological employment history, with proper title and employer name comes next. Accurate employment dates on the left side, not the right. If you’re not sure of the actual employment and departure date, then month and year are sufficient.

  9. Statement of duties and responsibilities for each job entry should be limited to the four or five that take up eighty percent of your working week. Quantify the scope of your duties without divulging proprietary information that’s critical to your former or current employer. If duties and responsibilities’ are similar for each position, avoid redundancy and leave more room for “significant accomplishments.”

  10. Significant Accomplishments are successes that surpass the norm and where possible should be: quantifiable in dollars saved, earned, budget or project size; number of subordinates managed; percentage increase in market share; or square footage built or leased, etc. Why quantify your accomplishments? Look at a page of text with a few numbers dispersed among the letters, your eye will always gravitate to the numbers first – a resume is no different. You want the interviewer to see the numbers.

  11. Managing Proprietary Information - Get permission if you need to use information that is borderline proprietary. Why? I’ll ask you if you had permission to use the numbers. If you don’t have it, it’s an indiscretion I wouldn’t want you repeating with my client.

  12. Emphasize personal performance metrics in comparison to peers in relation to division, department or personal performance.

  13. Assign responsibility for stated accomplishments to your team when it’s accurate to do so, but don’t avoid claiming your right to personal achievements in some misconstrued belief that there is no “I” in team. There is no “L” in Team either, but every team has a leader. A resume is your time to blow your own horn, not to do so is a contrivance.

  14. Education – emphasize degree and successes if you’re writing the resume at the early stage of your career; but as the year’s progress you’re going to be judged on you success and accomplishments. Continuing education is critical – individuals that are intellectually sedentary aren’t overly attractive especially if the company you’re applying to considers itself a “learning organization.”

  15. Community Volunteerism – “if you want something done, ask a busy person.” Some companies avoid individuals that are socially active in their communities; my advice is to avoid these companies as prospective employers. To be motivated daily, your values at work need to parallel your values at home.

  16. Interests – Painting, gardening, writing poetry and long walks in the woods are not the kind of interests an employer wants to see for a position that requires a high degree of social interaction. If you’re applying for a position that calls for behavioral traits that are inconsistent with whom you are as a person, then perhaps you need to reevaluate your employment goals.

  17. Key Words – At the bottom of the resume, create a box labeled “Data Base Key Words” and insert “nouns,” which describe your functional duties. This is not advice you will read in most books on resume design but it’s a feature at the end of the resume that will increase the likelihood of your information being found by a data base search engines. Most large corporate and headhunter data bases use search engine algorithms’ that locate key words and organize the search result based on relevancy. The greater number of key words found in a document, the more likely your name will he highlighted on the output.

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