Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Writing A Resume

A person who found my résumé on our website a while ago, sent his résumé to me for a critique. He wrote a decent résumé that summarized his skills and experience, and that showed how he built the skills and experience at his previous companies.

After I replied to him, I decided to publish that reply here in the hopes that it will be useful to someone else too...

During my time at the University of Texas, I was involved in hiring a few people. This meant going through résumés to determine who to offer interviews to, and then providing the technical side of the interview. I'm writing from the perspective of those experiences.

Your résumé must be well-organized and easy to read. This helps hiring managers a lot if you consider that they probably have to scan through anywhere between 10 and 30 résumés or more to determine who to offer interviews to. The easier you make it for them to determine quickly what you bring to the table, the better your chances are to get that interview.

It is also important to highlight your potential value to the new company as early on in your résumé as possible. To support that goal, it would be useful to put a section titled "Career Goal" at the top of your résumé, and clearly state in it how you can help the operations of the prospect company. Say something like, "My goal is to use my extensive experience in A, B, and C to do X, Y, and Z for any company I work for." That sets the tone with that hiring manager up front, and the rest of your résumé simply supports your statement that you have experience in A, B, and C, and that you can do X, Y, and Z.

Other tips I can think of:
  • Unless the company specifically asks for it, I would drop salary information from the résumé. If they were prepared to pay $60,000 but your résumé shows your last salary at $40,000, they might only offer you $50,000.
  • Don't ever put things on your résumé that you have no clue about. If the hiring people catch you, your credibility will be shot.
  • Read the job descriptions of jobs you apply for to make sure you are a good fit for the job. You'd be surprised how many people apply for jobs that their résumés simply don't support. That annoys hiring managers endlessly.
  • Write a good cover letter that states what job you are applying for, and that states why you would be a good fit for the job. This starts you off on a good foot.
  • Remember that your résumé's job is only to get you that interview.
  • Once you have the interview, you have to sell yourself by coming across as friendly, easy to work with, and confident in your abilities to do what you say in your résumé you can do. Hiring managers often not only look at what you can do, but also whether you will be a good fit for the company and get along well with existing staff.
  • Do I have to say, dress properly for the interview? If you're not sure what appropriate dress would be, call the company and ask the receptionist.

While this post doesn't tell you step by step how to write a résumé, it tells you what your focus and attitude should be. I believe this is the first critical step. Good luck!

Monday, December 11, 2006

Fun Things To Do In Texas

I recently started a new website called Fun Things To Do In Texas.

It is focused on fun things to do when you're in Texas, and is based on our own experiences. We have been lucky enough to travel to several Texas cities, and had some really good times!

The cities we have visited include San Antonio, Fredericksburg, Fort Worth, Dallas, Houston, Galveston, Port Aransas, Corpus Christi, South Padre Island, New Braunfels, and of course Austin.

I am still in the process of building the site, and it will take a while to complete, but there are already sections on San Antonio and Fredericksburg.

Check it out from time to time. You may very well find a great idea for your next Texas trip.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

10 Years in the US today!

We've been living in the US for 10 years today!

After a long flight from Amsterdam, we touched down at San Francisco International Airport at 1.30 p.m. PST on September 5, 1996. I can hardly believe that 10 years have gone by. On the one hand it seems so long, but on the other hand it seems so short!

It was an emotional moment when we landed. This was the beginning of a new life with many uncertainties. There weren't any excited family members or even close friends to pick us up at the airport. I didn't have a job. All we had was the name and phone number of the hotel where we planned to stay. The Residence Inn in Foster City was to be the base from where we planned our new lives.

This photo was taken at an "End of Summer" barbeque at the Residence Inn in Foster City about 2 hours after arriving!

A lot has happened since that day. If you would like to read about our first 7 days, go to our family website. After 3 weeks we managed to find an apartment and I found a job. Things started to settle down. We made American friends, connected with other South Africans in the area, and fell in love with the beautiful SF Bay Area. However, life was expensive and rushed in San Francisco and after 2 years we moved to Texas. We have now been living in Lago Vista, TX for 8 years. Our kids go to local schools and play in local sports teams. I have held a variety of jobs, including the last one at the University of Texas. My wife is involved in the local school. Together we also run a website for South Africans in the Austin area.

We have been back to South Africa 3 times to visit our relatives, who all still live there. These visits have mostly been wonderful. We find it interesting to see each time how South Africa has changed from the previous visit.

A question that sometimes arises is, "will we ever go back to live in South Africa?" It's a tough question. It's always very nice to see our family. We miss them, and we know they miss us. However, it took a lot to get settled here and although the US has its problems, there's a lot about life in the US that we like and will certainly miss if we leave. If we go back, the first several months will be wonderful because we'll see the family often. But the honeymoon will end and then we'll be faced with the realities of life in South Africa. Those realities may very well cause us to regret leaving the US, and if that happens, it will be very difficult to come back to the US. So the answer is a solid "maybe".

In the mean time we will continue to enjoy life in the US, have fun with our American and South African friends, and visit our family in South Africa as often as we can!

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Is it 40?

They say that after the Dirty Thirties come the Naughty Forties. So now I'm wondering if the 40s have anything to do with unhappy couples, separation, and divorce.

In the past year and a bit, there have suddenly been several couples in our group of friends who have had marital problems - seemingly serious marital problems - that have led some of them to split up. Now I know that these things are just part of life and happens all the time, but it struck me that everyone seemed to be quite happy up until now, the time where we're all approaching 40 or already there.

If the Forties have anything to do with it, what is it? At this time the kids are all well into elementary school and middle school, so our lives would seem to be well established. Is it the "rut" of established lives that leaves people bored with one another? Are they bored and yearn for the excitement of their 20s, thinking that it will change it all and bring back that "something" that seems to be missing?

If that is it, I think they may be in for a surprise. And if that lead them to divorce, I think they may come to look back at it as a major mistake.

I hope this is about a lot more then merely the Forties.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Traveling the World

Coming Friday, a good friend at work is leaving to prepare for a 5-month trip through South America. (See their blog.) While it is not-so-nice to see him go (this guy is a magician with map systems), I fully support their decision to do this. In fact, I'm quite excited about this, and Dave, I wish you and Mel all of the best for your adventure!

This leads me to the whole idea of traveling the world. I think it's an amazing thing for people to do, especially for young people. Your whole outlook on the world broadens so much when you get direct contact with other cultures and realize that the ways of your own culture aren't the only ways to do things. Dave told me about an uncle who took his 15-yr old daughter out of school for a year and home-schooled her while the two of them traveled around the world. That's an education no school can give!

About 15 years ago, Esme and I traveled through a big part of western Europe for 6 weeks. That wasn't near enough time to really get to know all the countries we visited, but to this day that trip stands out as one of the best in our lives.

Bon voyage, Dave and Mel!

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Happy Anniversary Mom & Dad

As I write this, my Mom and Dad are celebrating their 40th wedding anniversary with a few friends at Weaver's restaurant in Steytlerville, South Africa. Unfortunately we couldn't be there, but we're celebrating along with them from afar.

I think it's an amazing achievement for any couple to reach their 40th wedding anniversary. There are so many things that could prevent that from happening, and I'm very happy for, and proud of my parents
for reaching this incredible milestone. Well done!

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Vince Young rocks!

Having grown up in South Africa where football isn't played, I am a much greater rugby fan than I am a football fan. In fact, in the past I have often found football to be somewhat boring due to the high amount of stoppages during the game.

However, Vince Young and the Longhorns changed a lot of that last night during the Rose Bowl game against the Trojans. What a game it was?!!! What a game Vince Young had?!!! This guy is just incredible. When he gets the ball in his hands, you can kow there will be trouble! And trouble he created for the Trojans time and time again. Just when one thought all was lost for the Horns, he pulls two amazing touchdowns out of the bag.

Hook 'em Horns!

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Hello World!

As a programmer, how could I not kick this thing off with "Hello World"? Actually, since this is also my first blog, I do mean "hello world".

As so many of you out there do, I'll likely use this as a platform for sharing events and ideas that cross my path. Who knows what that will all include!