one girl’s guide to surviving unemployment


Category Archive

The following is a list of all entries from the resume category.

don’t pay for what you don’t need

Or, more aptly titled “you don’t need to pay for a resume.”

I was browsing a great jobs Web site the other day and it heavily emphasized the site’s resume critique service.  Now, coming from a recruiting background (and playing a role in hiring for my previous company), I’d like to think that I know what does and does not work from a hiring manager’s perspective.  However, curiosity got the best of me, and I submitted my resume for a “free” critique.

Free is rarely free.

I received some feedback from the service, which was, ostensibly, a form letter with various parts of my resume cut and pasted into fields.  While some of it was interesting, it lacked any real-world understanding of not only the type of work that I’m looking to do, but the field in which I am looking to do it.  Essentially, my summary statement, success highlights and skills listing were not “up to par” with industry standards.

Whose industry, I ask?  The resume writing industry, I suppose.  And they offered to rewrite it for me . . . for $700.

$700?  That’s at least two weeks of unemployment checks spent on something that is getting me interviews already.

Look, I’m not denigrating the value of having some professional guidance on your resume.  It can be, and in many cases is, a valuable service to understand what the outside world is seeing.  But it’s not something that you need to pay $700 of your precious pennies to do.

Here’s some better ways to get the guidance and feedback you need.

1. Check into best practices for resumes.  See my previous post on the subject for places to go online.

2. If you’re working with recruiters, staffing agencies or headhunters (which I highly recommend you do – more on that later), ask them for feedback and suggestions.  They see hundreds of resumes, and are often hired by companies to weed out candidates.  It’s their job to make you look as good as possible — because when you get a job, they get paid.  They can, should, and will help you.

3. Do you have that friend that’s always getting the best interviews and jobs?  Ask to see hers.  Look, a resume is a standard template with modifications based on industry and role.  You don’t need to get creative or reinvent the wheel.  Her resume is landing her interviews? Steal formatting, structure and language ideas.

4. Ask friends, colleagues, family, HR managers, or contacts in your industry for feedback.  Ask what’s working — and more importantly what’s not.  Revise accordingly.

5. Not comfortable reaching out?  Professional organizations in your field can help take a look as well.  Most will do it for free.  Look specifically at mentor programs with these organizations.

6. While this may seem a bit contrary to my overall advice, take a workshop through a related professional organization in your field.  HOWEVER, do not pay anything anywhere near three figures for this.  Workshops should give you a top-level view.

7. Do not, under any circumstances, let anyone do a wholesale rewrite for you.  You are the one who will have to speak to every single thing on your resume.  If you don’t write it, how can you do that effectively?  

If you are having problems putting into words what you want to do (or what you have done) invest some serious time in learning how to articulate your goals, accomplishments and skills.  You’re going to be asked to speak to all of it, so your resume is a good chance to learn how to do that.

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resume 201, from the former recruiter

I’m skipping the 101, as you likely already know how to do a basic resume.  

In a previous life, I used to work as a recruiter.  I’ve seen hundreds of resumes, some good, some bad, and some downright ugly.  Here’s are ten things that stood out that made the difference between good and kick-ass.

  1. You don’t need an objective any more, but you do need a resume summary statement.  The summary statement is the immediate introduction to you and your experience.  Think of it as a thesis statement, a business card, or your “elevator speech.”  (I hate the term “elevator speech” but it gets my point across.)  The summary should be quick, easy to digest and offer a quick synopsis of what you’re about to hash out in detail.  Example: Clark Kent is an accomplished journalist, with over 100 years experience, at a bustling major print news outlet.  He believes in solid research, sourcing, red tights and a cape in his approach to stories. 

    Why no objective statement?  They serve little purpose.  Most people tailor them for the job for which they are applying, so they’re no longer even close to relevant any more.

  2. Unless you’re fresh out of school, or your education has some strong bearing on the job that you’re applying for, it looks a bit silly to have it up at the top.  Hiring managers want to see your experience. 
  3. There are two major types of resumes out there that tell a good story — functional resumes and chronological resumes.  Functional is great if you’ve had some disjointed experience in the jobs that you would like to have.  It lists your major (and related!) career accomplishments up front, and gives a short listing of the actual jobs after that.  The second, chronological, is more traditional, and lists your jobs from most recent to oldest.  I personally think that chronological is the way to go if you can, but the accomplishment-focused has yielded me some good results in the past. (NB: there are many other types out there, so consider Googling resumes types for your career if you’re in a specialized field, need a CV, or are applying for federal jobs.)
  4. Pay attention to verb tense.  If it happened in the past (which, assumably it did if you’re reading this blog), you should refer to your experience in the past.  Pay ultra-special attention to this if you’re simply updating an old resume.
  5. Look for consistency issues in your resume: verb tense, fonts, capitalization, italics, bolds, bullet styles, headers, punctuation.  There is no hard and fast rule for these per se, but just make sure it’s consistent across the entire resume.  This goes for how you describe your experience — if you start your bullet points with a verb, make sure they all start with a verb.  And preferably, vary your verbs. 
  6. To that end, don’t bother getting creative with fonts, colors, logos, fancy bullets and the like.  It looks sloppy, and unless you’re in a highly creative field (design, architecture, fashion, etc.) it looks strange.  Along those lines, factor that you’re going to be doing a lot of cut-and-paste into online forms, so consider making a text version of your resume for that purpose.
  7. Don’t try to cram it onto one page, especially if you have a few jobs under your belt.   Nothing is harder for a hiring manager to read than 6 pt font with .25″ margins all around.
  8. To the extent possible, discuss results and metrics for your successes.  This shows that you can drive results, and there are few things that employers love most.  Also consider a skills listing for each role or accomplishment — or how you got to that result.  (This is one of those cases where you’ll need to make some strategic decisions.  If you were using MS Word and MS Excel for everything that you did, perhaps a separate skill section will suffice.)
  9. Don’t include references or the statement “references available upon request.”  If they want your references, they will ask you for them and (should) let you know before they contact them.  It’s also a given that you have them.  (Now wouldn’t be a bad time to contact those folks . . . )
  10. Have two other people read it.  Don’t rely on your own proofing skills, as the eye reads what the mind intends, not what is written.  People have caught some amazingly silly errors in mine, as well as given me feedback on the elements that are unclear.  You don’t need to pay one of those resume “services” to do this either — friends, family and/or former coworkers will suffice.

Now get to it, and make sure that you save a copy to a few places other than your hard drive.  E-mail it to yourself, put it on a jump drive, burn it to CD.  Don’t let all the work go to waste if your computer up and dies.

Ready for Resume 301? More tips to come.