So What Do I Know?


Stephanie Tate is the university relations manager for Yahoo!. (This is not her picture; it’s a stock photo from iStockphoto.) She took a look at my cover email and resume and critiqued them. Just to prove that I’m not easily embarrassed—and to provide the most value to my readers, here’s what she said:

I’ll pretend that I know nothing of you for this exercise (difficult as that may be) and just look at it through a recruiter’s eyes. 🙂

First, I’d like to see what you did most recently not at the beginning of your career—the more recent and relevant the better. I had to read to the bottom of both the cover and the resume to find the most recent and relevant. Recruiters have to read hundreds of resumes every week so I may not get through it to know that you are important.

The point of the cover email is to catch the attention of the “recruiter” and make me want to read further. It should call out items of interest that would otherwise not be covered in the resume. Your resume does some of that, but there are areas that are redundant to the resume.

The resume calls out the positions held and a brief description of the responsibilities. What it lacks is the “so what.” What I mean by that is that it needs to call out what the impact/benefit was to the company when you held those roles.

A couple of examples:

  • You are the managing partner at Garage. I want to know that you were wise with the companies you backed and what happened to said companies. As far as I can tell you may or may not be a successful VC.
  • At Apple you were the Chief Evangelist. I don’t see from the resume that it mattered. There are no achievements to speak of. Did it really make a difference for Apple to have a Chief Evangelist?

You are clearly overqualified for a Brand Mgr 2 position and if it came through the normal resume process I would consider it as such. However, because it is tied to a particular position of interest it has a very good chance of being read and forwarded on to the appropriate executive recruiter. If the position was not called out and just submitted into the database it would take a query to be found.

Overall, you could do quite a bit to improve your resume. Everything from the basics of resume writing to the finer points of telling me why you matter over the thousands of resumes I read.

I guess I won’t be getting this interview. I should have taken the interview when the company was looking at me as a CEO candidate. Timing is everything in life. 🙂

By the way, this is the end of career week in my blog. Next week is gadget week.

By | 2016-10-24T14:25:01+00:00 August 18th, 2006|Categories: Human Capital|19 Comments

About the Author:

Guy Kawasaki is the chief evangelist of Canva, an online graphic design tool. Formerly, he was an advisor to the Motorola business unit of Google and chief evangelist of Apple. He is also the author of The Art of Social Media, The Art of the Start, APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur, Enchantment, and nine other books. Kawasaki has a BA from Stanford University and an MBA from UCLA as well as an honorary doctorate from Babson College.


  1. Steve August 18, 2006 at 3:15 pm - Reply

    Ouch, she roasted you!
    Post your revised resume, will you?
    I don’t know if I will…I have to recover from the trauma. 🙂

  2. Nick August 18, 2006 at 3:58 pm - Reply

    Guy, your Yahoo story was such a great touch in your PMA keynote.
    “That explains the first billion…”

  3. Steve O'Hear August 18, 2006 at 4:25 pm - Reply

    Keep up the superb blogging – posts like this make it even more a compelling read. A blog is a conversation after all. Oh, and my film is pretty much done – thanks again for a great interview – your copy of the DVD will be in the post real soon.
    – Steve O’Hear

  4. Dave Starr August 18, 2006 at 5:24 pm - Reply

    Well I suppose one could say “roasted”, but then again, Stephanie took the time to write some very cogent advice … and she speaks from a position of authority. I appreciate your efforts and hers.
    A good friend is beginning a job search.. just at the start of “resume’ week” he sent me a draft of his new resume and asked for comments. I furnished him some, but sent him here too … I’m sure he’ll get some good ideas.
    The comment about the “Chief Evangelist” is a good one. I come from a military/government background. The problem with most of my drafts resumes and those of my friends are, we tend to put in jargon and job specific phrases that don’t mean much to a recruiter in a non-military-industrial field. It’s usually not as bad as expecting them to know the difference between an E-6 and an O-6, but it gets close.
    The idea of a “Chief Evangelist” was innovative … but it means little or nothing to anyone not “on the inside”, and the bare fact that you “were”, without any facts or specific achievements, makes it of little use to an outside evaluator.
    Those reading this series for guidance would do well to consider the example. It’s always better to say what you accomplished rather than what you were.
    Thanks again.

  5. Ed O'Meara August 18, 2006 at 6:13 pm - Reply

    I also think it’s a honest to goodness reminder to folks with some experience that if you want a great job (like CEO at Yahoo) you’re more likely to get in through your personal network and connections than you are in submitting a resume and cover letter.

  6. Jon Cantin August 18, 2006 at 6:32 pm - Reply

    Hi Guy, she roasted you but more accurately, you are probably not in a position to really care either 😉
    With the experience you have you can probably get a pretty coushy job at the executive level – where a resume matters less and personality/drive are more important.
    I never knew you returned to Apple for another stint after your initial departure – I guess Apple realized what it had lost and you what you had gained 😉
    On a personal note, how do you handle having so many titles (and companies associated with you)? Do you have one business card or walk around with a bunch from each company you represent?
    Founder of – free & anonymous health monitoring
    President of i3DS International Corporation
    Comic Strip:

  7. Kempton August 18, 2006 at 7:02 pm - Reply

    Hi Guy,
    What a great resume that you wrote. Ah, ok, may be it wasn’t that great now you shared Stephanie’s critique of it with us.
    I am definitely going to refer other to this and the last posts when I can. I think your resume and Stephanie’s critique work great together as an example.
    I look forward to your gadget talk next week.
    My favourite CBC upcoming show is Dragons’ Den
    where some of the Potential Pitcher Profiles are listed.

  8. John Doe August 18, 2006 at 8:38 pm - Reply

    Dear Mr. Kawasaki,
    Given your time constraints, you are truly a credit to your industry and the younger generation that admires you. Thank you very much for taking the time to provide a blog as in depth as yours and for the books you have written.
    I am reading your book The Art of the Start right now and your initial entry is one of the main reasons why I have decided to follow the path of the entrepreneur, to make the world a better place.
    It sounds like though you regret it a little for not considering the CEO position at Yahoooooooooo!
    From an outside perspective, it seems like you have a great family, kids, and a job you enjoy that makes a difference.
    First question, back when you were considered for the CEO position for Yahoo and given what you know today, would you:
    a. Not change a thing.
    b. Consider the CEO position.
    c. Don’t know.
    d. ___________
    Last question, if Yahoo offered you the CEO position today, would you accept?
    Thank you for your time.

  9. Timothy Coote August 18, 2006 at 10:50 pm - Reply

    If ever you need a job give me a call. We’ll find a way to get around the snooty recruters.

  10. Brad Hutchings August 18, 2006 at 11:42 pm - Reply

    The lesson here is to use connections to get jobs rather than go through the recruiter mill. I think Steph would be a great consultant for profiles, but if you don’t catch her recruiting eye with your resume, don’t bother. She’s got her own agenda and you’re along for the ride only if you fit in.
    I have no idea how in-house recruiting is supposed to work, but out-house recruiting is about selling bodies. Compensation for effort has nothing to do with how good candidates are or turn out to be a year into the job. Even the privilege of ongoing business is about filling seats rather than getting talent that meshes with the team.
    Every interaction I have had with a recruiter, from trying to get someone to fill a position at a small company to my one (in retrospect, total waste of time) “job search” in my career has left me thinking that they are a cancer here to serve the lazy and the dishonest. If you want to work at Yahoo!, get yourselves some friends at Yahoo! and get them to sponsor your job hunt there. Even if they’re just cleaning toilets, they will have a more valuable and valued insight into your abilities to contribute to Yahoo! than any internal or external recruiter.
    Thank you for reading my blog comment that will get me blacklisted forever by every recruiter out there. Thank Google for making it easy for them!

  11. Tammy August 19, 2006 at 11:52 am - Reply

    It is a learning experience. In this instance it’s not about what you know or who you know but how you write a resume. The big ouch is “telling me why you matter…” I think that is the quest – convincing others we matter to get what we want.

  12. Classyfeeds August 19, 2006 at 5:02 pm - Reply

    recruiter – schmeecruiter

    Ive had my share over the years of recruiters who have insulted me, even if they were only trying to help.
    Most of the time, the problem is they think you need them, when Ive said to them, This is who I am. If your company doesn&#8…

  13. Anshu Sharma August 19, 2006 at 5:33 pm - Reply

    This was one of the more engaging topics for a lot of audience as I suppose everyone has had to look for a job sometime in their life except may be you and Bill Gates. Lessons learned from the responses-
    1. Cater your resume to the job: If you were CTO or VP of Engg at a start-up that didn’t go anywhere and are now looking for a Software Engineer 2 position- customize your resume to say Sr. Engineer, rather than CTO.
    2. Go for attention: Recruiters may hate or love your resume- but that is 10 times more important than a resume that just looks like everyone else’s. Better to get some recruiters to love your resume than all of them to merely consider it average.
    3. Avoid recruiter channel: Most big company recruiters are deluged with low quality resumes and don’t have the time or bandwidth to really pick you. If you really like a job, pick up the phone, lookup LinkedIn – don’t just hit submit on a portal.

  14. ann michael August 19, 2006 at 8:49 pm - Reply

    Guy –
    Maybe you chose that picture because that’s how Stephanie made you feel!! 🙂

  15. Charlie Wear August 20, 2006 at 9:51 am - Reply

    Yes, but if you had taken the CEO job at Yahoo by now you would be polishing your resume for another job, don’t you think?

  16. Mike McCamon August 21, 2006 at 9:20 pm - Reply

    Online job searches suck. In some ways I think the internet has made it harder to find good people for good jobs simply because it has increased the volume of candidates recruiters have to work. And worse (yikes) software tools have been created to filter and find likely candidates. My advice? Call someone you know and Yahoo! and work back to the hiring manager – coming in the front door is an assured way of having HR shoot you down.

  17. Career Goddess August 24, 2006 at 1:30 pm - Reply

    Resume Writing Out On a Limb

    After interviewing Libby Sartain, HR head for Yahoo!, Guy Kawasaki went out on a limb. He crafted a cover letter and resume and submitted them in response to an opening at Yahoo! for a Brand Manager 2 position. Guy’s cover

  18. Career Goddess August 24, 2006 at 1:36 pm - Reply

    Resume Writing Out On a Limb

    After interviewing Libby Sartain, HR head for Yahoo!, Guy Kawasaki went out on a limb. He crafted a cover letter and resume and submitted them in response to an opening at Yahoo! for a Brand Manager 2 position. Guy’s cover

  19. Gautam September 5, 2006 at 12:28 am - Reply

    loved the career week !
    Great idea !

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