Like many, my job searching and employment experience pre-dates the Internet, email and online social media tools which have become the norm for many job seekers. Not only that, but due to my insatiable desire for intellectual stimulation and curiosity for new challenges, I feel that I’ve been in a perpetual job search mode all along - in order to expand my opportunities to learn and grow… It has been interesting to observe the evolution from the days of fine stationary snail mail resume submittals to the development of personal websites to display one’s resume content.
What is most evident now is the immediate access to information and the massive quantities to sift through. Several websites, blogs and other publications are dedicated to every possible topic related to careers. One could spend days, probably even weeks, searching, gathering and reading the advice and references on how to build a resume, interview for a job, network, etc. The “old school” style of heading to the library or book store for such information seems like a quaint and distant memory.
One question that often comes up is whether or not job seekers can or should proceed through the complex maze of conducting a job search on their own or seek “expert” assistance to make things happen. There are valid arguments on both sides of the issue. Many LinkedIn discussion groups cover all sorts of variations of this concept. Likewise, there is a never ending supply of places to engage others in this debate. Much of this well-intentioned guidance is supported by personal experience as to why one method is selected over the opposite choice.
As one who falls into my own self-created category of “professional job seeker,” it is hard to resist responding to many of the questions posed by others on these topics. I haven’t kept track in terms of numbers, but I’m pretty comfortable stating that I’ve experienced more than my fair share of interviews as a candidate. Similarly, as a person whose career path and professional life has included hiring hundreds of people, I feel uniquely qualified to contribute from both perspectives on which techniques are most effective.
All of this combined provides a foundation upon which my career coaching advice is based. People who know me personally would attest to my direct (aka: blunt) tell-it-like-it-is approach. On occasion when responding to online posts of strangers, I do feel the urge to just spell it out and say “here’s the deal!” However, I do my best to use restraint even when many of the comments I read are blatantly idiotic or clueless. Here are a few examples of these perplexing situations…
Recently, I perused through some feedback from a post where the original person asked if a professionally written resume was necessary. As expected there were responses supporting that idea as well as those adamantly opposing the idea… Within that same thread of conversation, there were a few who actually posted links to their resumes for others to critique. Now of course, I found that too irresistible to pass up! As tactfully and diplomatically as I could, I offered a few pointers to a couple of these folks about their resumes.
In one case, it was a technical professional’s resume, which happened to be four pages long, included outdated lingo and was written in first person style. Did, I mention that I am incredibly particular and have a number of resume pet-peeves, including each of those…? Therefore, my recommendation was to eliminate the use of “I,” shorten to no more than two pages and leave off some of their earlier skills sets which were not relevant to today’s technology applications. Keep in mind this post stemmed from the debate where many were suggesting that with all of the FREE information out there, any one should be able to whip up their own resume. I don’t disagree at all that everything imaginable (including the type of straight-forward advice I give) can be found for free within a matter of a few key strokes.
The technology person’s reply back to me was that they had no idea how they were supposed to communicate their information without using “I.” They weren’t exactly sure how they would go about reducing the length of their resume and questioned my advice about their ancient pre- Bill Gates programming skills. So much for that… As tempting as it was, I decided against recommending that they inquire back to some of those suggesting that resume writers aren’t equipped to write a resume any better than the person themselves. After all, what do I know after writing too many resumes to count and reading thousands more over the years?
The next resume evaluation was for a gal who had been out of the workforce for many years as a stay-at-home Mom. First of all, I completely respect those that make tough, yet very personal decisions about how they determine the right path for themselves and their families. I think it is incredibly admirable and important for a parent, whenever possible, to appreciate and take advantage of their once in a lifetime opportunity to be present as their children develop. However, it is challenging for anyone to enter or re-enter the job market under the best of conditions, so the obstacles today make her situation even more difficult. That’s not to say it can’t be done, but it does take a certain level of skill to transform so-called problem areas, such as large time gaps, into assets.
How this person depicted their non-working time was to use some creative writing about being the CEO of the such-and-such household, complete with executive decision-making, strategies, budgeting, etc. While many may find this cute and clever, my take was that it was a tad risky. Far more may view it as silly and insulting to those who manage to work full time as well as run a household. Another section of her resume contained information about participation in a mother’s club with a rather odd sounding name conjuring up images having to do with breastfeeding and such. I didn’t call attention to that, but several others did suggest that it was not very professional sounding and should be left off of her resume.
Rather than comment directly to either of those topics, I simply stated that she may wish to address her situation in a more neutral manner in order to appeal to a broader audience. And, I offered my contact information should she be interested in hearing some specific ideas to do so. She did follow-up and welcomed my input, which I’m sure will help portray and highlight her relevant employment skills versus her family responsibilities.
A different poster apparently just discovered an early electronic resume “trick” of using white font to load their resume with all of the key words for their field. My main thought on this is, if you have to resort to deceitful tactics to get your resume read, you probably shouldn’t even bother applying to that job. The idea of key words is that you incorporate them into your accomplishments, so that the recipient understands how you are qualified for their opening. Very basic common-sense goes a long way to sell your value-proposition. Misrepresenting yourself isn’t exactly what most employers find attractive and it only serves to damage your reputation by making you look desperate and out of touch with reality.
Obviously, despite so much free, readily available information, there are still many people that don’t seem to grasp how important a well designed resume is and what it is for… That brings me to the origin of the title, “So, what’s the deal… for REAL?” In my practice of resume writing, I use a very simple, easy to understand framework to produce resumes that are what I refer to as REAL!
R = Relevant to your NEXT job
E = Edited well, to be concise & 100% error-free
A = Action & Achievement-oriented
L = Lead to interviews
In my estimation, approximately 95% of the resumes I’ve seen throughout my career were poorly done - all because most people are not equipped to view and assess their own information objectively and from the standpoint of marketing themselves. Contrary to popular belief about other purposes, a resume is simply a marketing document in the same way a product or service might have a brochure to explain the unique features and qualities demonstrating value to the consumer. To illustrate for those that question what a professional resume writer might do differently, dare I say “better” than the person themselves, I offer the following example:
Before: 4 page rambling tech resume stating: I know ABC, worked at XYX, (repeat for several decades & positions) I have learned many important skills, many of which have absolutely nothing to do with your business, but I feel the need to provide you with my career ancestry story anyway. To prove how technically advanced and up-to-date I am on cutting edge technologies used by your firm, I will describe my FORTRAN and COBOL expertise.
After: 2 pages (maximum) beginning with an introductory summary focused on target opportunity(ies), followed by highlights of core technology competencies, business applicability & results. Selective coverage of relevant value added contributions, accomplishments and achievements, in an easy to follow, attractive format for techies and non-techies alike.
My intent here is not to suggest that every job seeker go out and hire someone else to prepare their resume. On the contrary, I personally constantly benefit from free information in many ways and think with a bit of research, preparation and attention to detail anyone can produce an impactful resume. However, as with anything outside of our comfort zone or skill capacity, there is nothing wrong with delegating such tasks to those with more expertise. A small investment of this type can provide priceless ROI. So that’s the deal… just get REAL!
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