Friday, July 27, 2007

How to read a resume


When I have done hiring, I try to take apart resumes like I do below. It does not always eliminate problems. Life is messy and hiring is most certainly not one of the cleaner parts of it.

We all learn how to write resumes to some degree or another, but how many of us really learn to read them?

What follows is my attempt to read my own resume. I would be happy to read someone else’s resume, so feel free to submit your resume for this purpose.

Please keep in mind that I will not deal with stylistic issues so much because as an HTML novice, I don’t know how to make this look good enough to comment on those aspects here.

A version of this resume was used for my application to the University of London LLM program, so keep in mind that I had to (1) Explain my main job which is not in the law field and (2) emphasize everything in my background that related to the law.

My comments however are NOT from the viewpoint of an admissions officer, but from the viewpoint of someone who has been regularly doing hiring since the 1990s and hiring admission counselors since 2004. My Comments are in red.


Professional email address, not something like Anytime I see an email address that looks unprofessional, unless the person is some sort of artist, I usually just want to trash it.

(Assume that if this was a “real resume it would have additional contact info)


Master of Arts in Political Science, University of Wisconsin, Madison, May 1993, GPA: 3.7

This guy has been out of school for a long time. His GPA is OK, I guess this must be an academic CV because otherwise there is no reason to have grades here.

Bachelor of Arts in Politics, University of California, Santa Cruz, June 1989, GPA: 3.7

Now I can figure out how old this guy is. He graduated from college in 1989, so 1989-22 is 1967. He must be 40 (Well actually I graduated a year earlier, but many people take 5 or more years to graduate so I could be anywhere from 40-42 because no one except me graduated from Santa Cruz early, well most likely no one else).

Now the he have established that he is no spring chicken nor a retiree, we can also determine that he probably entered his Master's program in 1991 because it takes two years to graduate from most MA programs. It is possible that he did some sort of ABD thing like his fellow UW Madison alum, but given the dates, unlikely. Once we check things below we see that he did in fact attend for two years.

Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults (CELTA), University of Cambridge, September 2001

Smart, he listed this unsexy, but potentially useful certificate after his real degrees

Japanese Language Proficiency Certificate, Level 4 (Basic), Japan Foundation, February 2001

Well OK, so this means the guy can probably order a cup of a coffee in Japanese, but given that it was 6! years ago and he has been in Japan continuously since then, he either has not made much progress in this area or did not think it was important enough to pursue. Given the dates, at least it is an indication that he tried to learn something hard since leaving school.


Associate Director, Academic Counseling Department

He is not giving a full breakdown of his titles at this company because he must not have started with this title. I will need to ask him about it if I interview him.

The Princeton Review of Japan, Tokyo, Japan, 11/01-8/07 (Company became Agos, 4/07)

Whatever follows, I know that this guy was able to keep working at the same place for over 5.5 years. Given the relatively short length of employment at all his prior positions, this eliminates my concern that this guy is a serial job jumper/hopper.

Job jumpers (moves from job to job on an annual or even bi-annual basis over 6 years or more) come in all shapes and sizes. As a former one, I know. Job jumpers don't always worry me because I usually need to hire people with international experience who are not very conventional. The more conventional, the less likely they will possess the kind of mental flexibility I looked for in an admissions counselor. On the other hand, when I was hiring for a payment processor at Kaplan, I wanted someone with a strong focused background in accounting.

If I was hiring for a senior management position I would stay away from hiring anyone who was a pure job jumper, but I would be equally concerned about hiring a "company man." From my perspective if someone has drunk from the same company fountain for ten years or more after college, I would probably avoid hiring him or her into a new industry because the amount of unlearning they would have to do would without benefit of an intensive training program, but it would take years and the potential damage he or she could do might never justify it. Such people frequently test the limits of the efficacy of re-education.

-Recognized as one of Japan’s leading graduate admissions counselors, my views on an ethical approach to counseling were recently presented extensively in the Winter 2006 issue of Japan Inc, a quarterly business magazine

OK. This guy is telling us he is at the top of his field and is providing some sort of evidence for it. Can't be certain whether I should believe him, but at least I know he takes his job seriously and probably has a good opinion of himself.

-Application counseling for Japanese and resident foreigners applying to overseas MBA, LLM & other graduate programs

-Teach essay and resume writing skills, admissions strategy, and effective interview techniques

At least he is stating very clearly what he does in the above two points.

-Conduct research on programs through interviews with admissions officers, students, campus visits, and Tokyo based events for advising clients

He talks, he travels, he reports.

-Proposed, implemented, and updated research project to provide detailed information on US & UK Master of Law programs through reviewing school website and surveying admission program staff, which resulted in an increased emphasis on the LLM track and a further development of relations with law schools

This is an accomplishment and as long as this is being provided to someone in his industry they will probably get it, but, if this were being sent to a reader outside his industry, it might as well be written in Martian.

-Prepare and conduct marketing presentations to potential clients

He is not overly focusing on his sales and marketing role. Assuming he is not trying to get a job in sales or marketing that is OK. At least I know he can make presentations and stand in front of an audience.

-Hire, manage and train counselors

He might have included some data on this, otherwise if I interview him, I will certainly ask him about this to determine how much time he spends doing it, what he does, and whether he is good at it or not.

-Handle budgeting and all other administrative operations pertaining to English language counseling services

He is not disclosing any numbers here, but we get the impression that he can handle the back end of management in addition to the front.

English Teacher and Consultant, Tokyo, Japan, 12/01-10/03

-Taught professional and academic English skills for Temple University Japan and ISS, a major translation/interpretation school

-Develop teacher training materials and class curriculum

I guess he used the CELTA mentioned above. He actually has lots of teaching experience if we add up everything he has been doing from grad school on. It looks like he stopped teaching, I wonder if he became a regular employee at Princeton Review sometime around the end of 2003.

Sr. Manager, Sales & Online Marketing, International Programs

Kaplan Inc., New York City,

He worked at the biggest test prep company in the US whose biggest competitor is the Princeton Review. Where was he working till March 2007? Maybe he knows something about the test prep industry.


History time: This guy looks like he was a victim of the IT Bubble. What a three strikes your out title- middle manager, marketing, and online. Note the gap in employment between this time and his job in Japan. What was he doing? He could say he was traveling and obtained his CELTA, if pressed he might mention taking full advantage of NYC's free cultural activities. What a nice vacation! Thank you New York!

-Marketed and sold English language and test preparation courses to international clients

-Developed individualized long term study plans involving academic English and test preparation for clients

-Created & implemented online marketing strategy & email based sales system to increase direct enrollments & reduce customer acquisition costs

-Conducted extensive research on domestic and international competition for senior management; Analyzed the pricing of English language programs in Australia, Canada, US & UK; Presented a report on the impact of US student visa restrictions on sales

Well OK, the title and the responsibilities above are in some sort of agreement with each other.

-Managed and substantially revised student visa processes and procedures nationwide; recruited and trained student visa expert & admissions staff

-Hired, trained, and supervised sales and admissions staff

These two items indicate that he had major responsibilities not directly tied to his core function. Seems like a pretty flexible guy.

-Led negotiations and implemented plan for the outsourcing of international mailing

For anyone who knows this guy's industry, international education, knows that international mailing is a major cost. Here this means sending materials to prospects and bulk materials to agents. (You can be pretty sure that if anyone at the University of London even bothered reading this, they would get it because their whole operation involves mailing materials to students).

International Representatives Coordinator

University of California Berkeley Extension,

I bet he has some stories about working at Berkeley. Maybe I should invite him out for a coffee.


-Coordinated world wide sales network of representatives responsible for $5,000,000 in revenue

FINALLY A REAL NUMBER!!! I guess he either can't give or does not want to disclose the numbers for the private companies he worked for. Makes sense really because as a public institution Berkeley would have to disclose this sort of information.

-Sold English language and professional training programs to international clients

-Served as liaison for international student programs for web related marketing

-Supervised clerical assistants for mail and email based brochure fulfillment

There is a kind of consistency between the jobs he was doing at Kaplan and Berkeley, so while he clearly jumped organizationally and geographically, he also appears to have taken on greater responsibilities in a position in the international education business.

Administrative Assistant, Hearst Museum of Anthropology
University of California, Berkeley, 11/97-5/98

-Design and maintenance of research databases for a variety of academic projects

OK. The guy moves back to the US and does a TEMP job. Certainly looks like it. He worked in a Museum at UCB! If I interview him, I will ask him about it just to see if he has any way of making it sound good. Oh, on second thought, I guess the bullet point above is that.

English Instructor, International Education Services, Tokyo, Japan, 2/95-3/97

-Taught English conversation, overseas work/study preparation & business skills to corporate clients & government officials

-Taught English conversation to Junior High and elementary school students

-Created customized instructional materials and edited international documents for Japanese clients

Goes to Japan about a year and half after finishing graduate school. Stays for two years and comes back to Berkeley, leaves there after about two years and moves to New York, leaves New York in 2001 and has been in Japan since then. One thing is clear, this guy was moving around very often between 1989 and 2001. At least he settled down by his mid-30s. Seems much more stable now.

Patent Prosecution Assistant, Office of Technology Transfer
University of California, Office of the President, Oakland, California 4/94-12/94

-Handled documents related to patent prosecution including the preparation of routine documents to researchers and patent lawyers

Sounds like he was doing some really boring paralegal work.

Teaching Assistant, Department of Political Science,

University of Wisconsin, Madison, 9/91-5/93

-Led discussion sections and graded papers and exams for political theory and comparative political science courses

Research Assistant, Department of Political Science

University of Wisconsin, Madison, 6/92-8/92

-Researched and prepared an extensive scholarly bibliography

When I look at the above two jobs, I know that he was actually in the PhD program because someone in a terminal masters degree at a major American public university would be highly unlikely to get RA and TA jobs.

Paralegal, Commercial Law & Bankruptcy Dept.

Jenner & Block, Chicago, Illinois, 9/89-5/91

-Handled complex legal bills on behalf of the Trustee in large bankruptcies which required extensive knowledge of all legal work performed in order to prepare sufficient documentation to obtain approval by the court

-Prepared routine documents for the court and parties concerned in bankruptcy cases and in civil and criminal suits

-Assist attorneys with case citation and non-legal research

First job out of college. The first item sounds interesting, I wonder what preparing those bills involved. I bet he has some solid basic understanding of how a corporate law firm worked a decade ago. For some reason he did not become a lawyer.

Research Assistant, Silicon Valley Research Group

University of California, Santa Cruz, 1/89-6/89

-Conducted oral and written surveys of American machine-tool firms as part of an international study

God that is exciting, but clearly he telling us that he developed research skills in college.


“Spinning Our Paranoid Wheels” (a review of The Fatal Embrace: Jews and the State) in Response, A Contemporary Jewish Review, Spring/Summer 1994, pages 34-36.

“Heidegger’s Silence” in Response, A Contemporary Jewish Review, Spring 1992, pages 24-31.

I bet he is Jewish.


Editor, Leviathan, University of California, Santa Cruz, 6/87-2/89

-Established a Women’s Section of the paper resulting in increase of contributors by more than 50%

-Paper received Columbia Student Journalism Awards under my editorship for articles published in 1988 and 1989

OK, so I can tell that he is proud of this because it could easily have been cut. I think he is trying to tell us that he has had some sort of management/editorial experience since his college days. Maybe the first point is designed to make women think he is an enlightened guy and clearly the last point is designed to make everyone understand that is some sort of prestigious award. At least the "Columbia" sounds that way.

OK. Now that I ripped myself apart, well at least partially, who wants to go next?