My Resume is a Worthless Piece of e-Paper

I’ll get personal today because a lot of career issues are common. Many people are unemployed, and stuck that way.

I hate my resume. I mean it is pretty, thanks to fabulous layout. I’ve done tons of interesting things. I’m on top of all new technologies, innovations, social media, and business news; and I’ve started two successful consultancies.  But that doesn’t necessarily get a person an interview request when you’re only submitting to the best places to work along with hundreds-thousands of other people.

I’m  always telling everyone – here’s what your resume should say, how it should say it, and what the overall feeling you get from it should be. But when you don’t like your resume?

You can’t always write a career summary that would explain your situation positively or in a way that would put you ahead of the person who majored in the right areas in school or who obtained and advance degree in an area you want to enter, who then went on to have only progressively responsible positions in your field, and has been in it for 10 years – not too many more or less.

That doesn’t mean you can’t do the job better that above said person – but on paper it’s obvious who gets chosen for the interview.  You haven’t managed large budgets? You haven’t managed large teams? Don’t have ‘accomplishments’ to brag about that don’t sound like, well, bragging?

What’s a candidate to do when they want to work at google or apple? Or some other fabulously innovating company that values and develops their talent – when you don’t have it on paper?

Different people handle this situation in different ways – but here are a few I’ve seen:

1. Have a simple resume, get a job in a company at the bottom of the ladder (i.e. unpaid internship, administrative assistant, etc.), and work your way up. This if fine for the young, patient, and ambitious. Especially the males, they statistically do better with this method. Women who attempt this generally stay towards the bottom of the career ladder.

2. Volunteer either in or outside of work for large-scale projects, so you have those accomplishments to put on your resume. This is great if you’re unemployed or don’t have a lot of obligations, as that it’s time consuming – but for someone trying to manage a career, long commutes, and family or other obligations it’s not always practical.

3. Lying. People figure into the recruiters-are-ditzes stereotype and hope their exaggerating what and where they’ve done it won’t be seen through. Ethics aside – people figure ‘everybody’s doing it’, which is unfortunately accurate for a lot of people. Ewwwwwwww.

4. Humor. I’ve seen a woman returning from being a stay at home mom have on her resume, “CEO of Smith Household.” Or, “Executive Director of Childcare.”  You can throw in a few things that might help your personality come across to recruiters. I know that whomever is reading my resume is probably sick of looking at resumes, especially ones that all sound the same – so a little fun with it, tastefully, might help get attention.

Unfortunately, as you can guess, lying generally gets people the furthest into the interview process. Depending on the employer, often the liar may even get the job. Some jobs you only have to ‘talk the talk’, and it doesn’t matter if you ever did or ever will ‘walk the walk’. But for other positions, actual skills and experience are necessary to do a job appropriately. Once you’re figured out you’ll be back on the job hunt again, bringing you back to the beginning of the cycle where said evil people belong.

So what do you do first?

You be patient. You network. You continue to improve your resume. You follow the places you want to work, be on top of their openings that you’re qualified for. You attend events to meet people who work for these companies. If you have time, offer to volunteer or intern for them. You do everything in your power to set yourself apart from the herd appropriately in all of your social media profiles. You follow people and companies on linkedin. You join industry groups on linkedin. You ask others who were in your boat who’ve succeeded how they did it. You You You…it’s all about YOU, and what efforts you are willing to put in.

And then hope that one day it’ll all pay off, as you sit enjoying the view from your corner office of the company of your dreams. Sigh. Dare to dream.

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The Paranoid Resumes of Paranoid Candidates

FBI Badge & gun.

Image via Wikipedia

I know I’m always telling people what not to put on their resume. Now I’ll focus on what you do need on your resume not to appear a paranoid candidate – or like you’re more interested in protecting yourself from identity theft than getting a job.

Use your discretion on sites where you upload your resume. Depending on their security, amount of access the public or shady employers have to your info might limit what you want to include.

Thanks CareerBuilder, but when I uploaded my resume I did not want to be recruited for 1) The US Army 2) Shady work from home scams or 3) Commission only entry level sales positions.

  1. Full name. Yes, I’ve seen resumes with just a first name. It’ll make people wonder what else you’re hiding.
  2. Email address – you will appear out of touch with technology if you don’t have one.
  3. Phone number you’re at during normal business hours – cell ideally – some companies still always call candidates first – so if they can’t get in touch with you easily, they’ll find someone they can reach.
  4. Home address is a debatable one. I recommend it especially if your phone area code is not a local one or if you most recent position was out of town/state/country. Otherwise I don’t think it’s necessary. No one is mailing you anything. I personally do not keep my address on my resume, but were I to move to a swanky prestigious building I’d add it then 😉
  5. Sterile information – your job responsibilities should not sound like anyone could have done them anywhere. Unless you worked for the FBI or in a similar level of confidentiality, you can’t be discreet about what you did. If you can’t disclose where you did it, list employer as, “Confidential, USA” or similar. If you legally can’t even mention what you did, you’re probably better off leaving the position off your resume, and for the years employed there, note that it is confidential – don’t try to make it sound like you did ‘important things, somewhere’.  Same goes for university – yes it’s fine to be polite and refer to your attendance at Harvard at social events as , “I went to school in Boston,” so as not to come across as pretentious, but on your resume is not the time to be humble.

Components of a ‘Talent’ Profile

So what does the known ‘Talent’ pool have on their resume that you may not?

Now I know this all must sounds cynical, and you’ll probably roll your eyes at half of these. I’m not saying even one of them is necessary to be a talented worker or leader – these are just some of my observations of what I see most valued in the business world.

Have most of these, and recruiters will be banging down your door begging to make a commission off of you.

  1. Advanced degree(s) from top school(s) with honors or top GPA (btw, rumor has it that Brown & Dartmouth are out of style, albeit ivy)
  2. Political experience of some kind – even internships are valued
  3. Accomplishments galore in monetary terms, with exact impressive figures
  4. Management of huge (million to billion) budgets
  5. Impressive do-gooder credentials from when you did your B.A. or right after (i.e. peace corps, americorps, red cross, teach for America, unicef, UN work, humanitarian aid to 3rd world country, etc.)
  6. Design major programs or initiatives that people have heard of
  7. Consultant experience. Not the kind that was between jobs like, “Principal of Sharon’s Consultancy.” I mean some time at a top consulting firm (Bane, McKinsey, BGC, Parthenon…)
  8. Progressively impressive titles (i.e. analyst, project manager, special asst. to someone in a very high place, deputy director, director, etc.)
  9. Posh extra curricular’s & hobbies – polo, marathon running, ballet, triathalons, international backpacking
  10. Old money neighborhood or trendy address ideal
  11. Awards/fellowships: specific ones in your professional arena, fullbrights, broad scholars, etc.
  12. Study & travel abroad, preferably somewhere prestigious
  13. Professional affiliations – may be required depending on field
  14. Impressive buzz words in proper context, not just in white font for SEO on applicant systems: organizational strategy, dedicated, managed, financial analysis, advisory board, researched, pioneered, chaired (or at least co-chaired), strategic planning,  gates, dell or other large donor procurement, implementation, process improvement design, blah blah blah…
  15. Impressive companies or foundations to have worked for – big names make people happy

Top 10 Things to Never Put on Your Resume

Resume infographic

Image by Bart Claeys via Flickr

 

  1. Age, date of birth, words like young, youthful. Nothing can be gained by sharing this info other than giving the hiring manager a laugh.
  2. Marital/family/partner status. Sharing this info can make the employer uncomfortable and afraid to pursue you as a candidate as that they cannot take this into consideration legally.
  3. What year you started your degree. It doesn’t matter how many years it took – just the date you finished or anticipate to finish – unless you graduated over 15 years ago – in that case remove graduation date too.
  4. Social Security number or other confidential info if not asked for. You don’t want your resume to be thought of as something that has to be shredded or an opportunity for identity theft.
  5. Current or past salary & benefits. It looks tacky, no matter what the quantity of money made was. If an employer asks for it, include it subtly in the cover letter.
  6. Pictures or physical characteristics. Unless it’s a response to a shady ad or for modeling, it shouldn’t be requested either. Studies have shown very attractive can actually hurt your chance of getting a callback.
  7. Anything negative. Your resume should be a showcase of what amazing things you’ve done, and what amazing things you can do. Especially important not to have anything negative about past companies or coworkers.
  8. Why you left your job(s). Again, if asked, put it subtly in the cover letter. This emphasizes leaving companies, not an impression you want to create.
  9. Explanations for breaks in your resume. Highlight what you did in those breaks if substantial (include relevant volunteering or education breaks perhaps) but in no way should anything about personal issues or economy be brought in. Do not indicate you were sick, caring for a sick family member or took a child leave, do not say you were laid off and couldn’t find anything for three years. You want to give a positive feeling, and an impression that work is your #1 priority at all times.
  10. Grammatical or formatting errors. I know word does a lot for you, but no one will be as impressed by collages as they are by college. Not that patchwork isn’t pretty…but you need to carefully comb your resume for errors and print it to see how it looks formatted.

5 Basic Reasons Your Resume Wasn’t Even Viewed

Cool Blog Sociale - 10 July 2008 - Creative hi...

Image by SOCIALisBETTER via Flickr

 

Of course as usual recruiting should be an objective science, but as that it’s humans and computer systems combined trying to figure out if they want YOU or someone BETTER than YOU to work for them, you might get knocked out of the pool quickly with these simple issues.

1. You saved your resume in a non-standard format (i.e. docx, wordpad, even occasionally pdf’s get tossed). Stick to a basic word format – you have nothing to lose.

2. You have an immature or inappropriate email address. Yes, this includes having your age or the year you were born in your email, not just sexykitten@hotmail.com – when you’re TimSmith88@yahoo.com, We know you’re 22ish, and probably don’t really have the 10 years of experience on your resume.

3. Your name. I would personally never discriminate, but I heard this from a coworker who did a large study in her masters program: 2 applications were put in for the same job, one with an ethnic name, one with a ‘white sounding’ name. The applications with the ethnic names were disqualified first.

Now I’m not saying to change your name, but if you have a more American sounding nickname or middle name, it might be worth trying to see if you get a better response. Just correct them at your interview, unless you always want to be known by this “American” name.

4. You applied to every job the company had posted on the website. Some job sites have spam guards that will think you’re a bot spamming them (when in reality you’re a human spamming them – because applying to every job IS spamming) and will delete your application.

Stick to only applying for jobs you’re qualified for and really want. There’s no way you want to be an engineer, custodian, hairdresser and an IT person – so don’t apply for them all.

5. Your cover letter is lousy, looks like it was written by someone else, or could have been written by anyone. It had spelling/grammar mistakes, or perhaps the company or recruiter’s name misspelled; it had clichés like ‘My skills and experience would be an asset to your organization’. If someone can’t take the time to cut and paste in the company name and title of where they’re applying for, then perhaps another ‘organization’ who doesn’t mind laziness will hire you!

Stupid Resumes: 5 Content Reasons Your Resume Was Trashed

Shea Stadium demolition

Image via Wikipedia

Please bring the shredder a little closer to my desk. I have a lot of resumes that need to go in there.
So I hear people want to know why their resumes get thrown out some more . Here are a few more tips to stay out of the circular file. Imagining yourself on the other side of the fence can be helpful for figuring out why you didn’t get that call.

1. You’re looking to change fields without explaining yourself. While you might think you’d make an excellent paralegal after your IT position layoff, and have no legal experience whatsoever, just try to imagine what it’s like for the client. They pay mega bucks to hire a lawyer, but the paralegal does a LOT of the casework & preparation for them. You’re paying $500/hr for someone with no relevant training or experience. How would that make you feel?

2. Keep in mind cultural fit. It’s very easy for me to tell a hiring manager, hey, this person has the skills you want, just try to overlook their body odor and dirty clothes. You have to fit in where you work, both within your department as well as the company at large. If you’re a PETA activist and an accountant, and your resume screams ‘save the animals’, don’t think you’re going to be called in to interview for a slaughterhouse account role you applied for. You might be desperate enough to want the job due to the economy, but don’t think the company will be desperate enough to call you in for an interview. Check out my post on religious & activist resumes if you’re concerned about how your resume presents at http://wp.me/pWfpN-b.

3. You have to make a compelling case for yourself to be called with your resume. If 500 people applied to the job you’re applying for, what have you presented to impress? If you’re bored reading your own resume, everyone else is too. If you sound just like everyone else, you’ll remain unemployed like everyone else. If you keep repeating the same information over and over and over and over and over and over again, no one wants to hear it, even if you did the same thing at each job. No one wants to read it. No one wants to read it. No one wants to read it. Sick of hearing the same message? So are recruiters.

You need to make yourself sound like you’re done varied things with progressive responsibility. It’s OK that you haven’t always been a director, but faxing, photocopying, and answering phones do not each deserve their own bullets. Just make sure you’re not compelled to do a functional resume. As I’ve said before, Functional Resume = Shady Resume (http://wp.me/pWfpN-8).

4. You’ve included information that makes the hiring manager or recruiter uncomfortable. In other countries marital status, photos, exact salary histories, age, and number of children are required on a resume. Here it just screams: Wow, I hope they don’t sue for discrimination based on info the candidate has included. They say when in Rome, do as the Romans. When you’re applying to a job in America, don’t include personal information beyond talents & what you can bring to the table. TMI (Too Much Info) is a definite turn off. Another post I have about Resume Content (http://wp.me/pWfpN-1P).

5. You’ve included stupid information. Yes, I said stupid. There may be no stupid questions, but there are definitely stupid resumes. You might be an exact fit, but then list on your skills & hobbies your love of the Mets. The hiring manager is a Yankee fan. You just potentially lost candidacy over a completely irrelevant fact on your resume. Again, if they don’t ask for that type of info on the posting,  and it’s not a job to work at Shea Stadium, keep personal preferences and tastes off your application.

Besides, who still likes the Mets?

Less Design is More – Top 5 Ways to Get Your Resume Thrown Out

25_1_3 Red Swans anad Floral Border Close-Up

 

1. Mail in a hard copy on floral stationary. Or any ‘stationary’. Could be that small companies or those with older hiring managers might be impressed with such efforts, but even those places generally want it faxed in. (On a side note: Can you believe people still use faxes? Sorry, I didn’t get it, do you mind sending it again? Oh, you have a confirmation receipt that it was sent? Isn’t that lovely.)

2. Email in a virtual copy on floral stationary. Or any ‘stationary’. Even the ones in outlook, like simple plaid, are completely unprofessional. Not for sending a resume, not for once you start a job.

3. Put a border on your resume or cover letter. Again, no design is professional beyond a small logo, if you have one. I’m not going to say that if you’re an artist you don’t have more leeway, but for everyone else, NO.

4. Put a picture on your application for any reason beyond modeling-type jobs. If it’s a job on craigslist requesting it, save yourself scumbags checking you out – just don’t apply.

5. Use the resume format template options in word. They’re generally terrible, and show up awkwardly. If you’re not a pro at word you’re better off just enlarging & bolding your name, headings (like “Experience” “Education” etc.), then center everything. Better yet, play with word when making your resume, and make yourself a pro. There are very few professional positions that wouldn’t benefit from those skills.

…I have yet to hear that poultry, kittens, or flowers on a resume helped to make that ‘special’ impression that helped someone snag the job they wanted…but maybe I’m hanging with the wrong crowd!