More Resume Advice

More advice on optimizing  your resume.

Resume Recommendation #4: make your objective SPECIFIC to each company

I’m not a fan of the objective, as my students know well. It really doesn’t give me any useful information as a hiring manager, and most of the ones I see are ‘baloney’ (a technical term) anyway.

HOWEVER, if you simply cannot part with the warmed-over advice from the career services center at your college, at least take the time to write one that is relevant to the job to which you are applying. If I had a dollar for every resume I have received over the years that listed an irrelevant objective,… well you know how the rest of that saying goes.

Allergic-to-bad-grammar

Resume Recommendation #5: spelling, grammar and sentence structure are important

If you’re applying for a job that rises to the level of requiring a resume, you need to get it right. Ask someone (several someones, even) to review it; read it yourself multiple times, use spell check and read it AGAIN before you click SUBMIT.

Hiring can be a painful task for managers with multiple applicants and minimal extra time to review them. One of the EASIEST ways to thin that stack of resumes on the desk is to throw out the ones that read like a 5th grader wrote them, or worse.

Resume Recommendation #6: be evasive

This may sound counterintuitive, so let me explain.

As a professor, I often received resume and cover letter homework assignments that were peppered with extra-curricular activities like “Vice President of Hospitality for Zappa-Happa-Theta” (sorority name changed to protect someone,… probably me).

My standard advice to these young ladies is worth sharing again here. When you submit your resume, you don’t know who is going to read it. In other words, you have no idea the experience, belief system or pre-conceived notions of the person screening your information.

In the case of my students, and especially the ones with “Zappa-Happa-Thetaall over their resumes, I explained that the reception and perception of this information could go several ways and I used my sister and myself as two perfectly opposite examples.

My sister was a Delta Gamma in college. She enjoyed that experience and would assess the skills honed during a semester as the “Zappa-Happa-Theta”  Hospitality Chairperson as positive and indicative of certain beneficial traits.

At the time my high school classmates were “Zappa-Happa-Theta-ing”, I was getting up at the crack of dawn and running in the US Navy-equivalent of combat boots. Therefore, I have a much different opinion of how much weight the “Zappa-Happa-Theta entry should carry on a resume.

My point here is that when you submit that resume, you don’t know if “my sister” will be reviewing it, or if “I” will, and, all other things being equal, I’m going to put the Zappa-Happa-Theta resume in a much different position in the pile than my sister will.KKG

Similarly, if you’re not applying for a position in a religious organization, you should probably keep your religious beliefs to yourself, off of your resume and out of your cover letter. If you’re not applying for a law enforcement position, it’s not a good idea to list your proficiency with handguns on your resume – it scares people (and yes, I have seen this and it was on a resume with a smattering of short-term jobs. Six months one place, 4 months somewhere else and periods without employment listed – like I said: scary!).

Getting past the H.R. screening and into the review pile of the hiring manager is a tough job, and takes careful attention to details and some not-so-common, common sense. Once there, you have to convince the hiring manager than you’re worth a closer look, so it becomes a balancing act of telling enough to get them interested, but not too much so that you risk turning them off for reasons you may never understand.

Hiring managers want someone who can do the job, can work and play well with others, has good hygiene (yes, this is an issue more than it should be), comes to work consistently, on time and every day that is not a pre-arranged vacation or a legitimate and reasonable sick day and generally does not create unnecessary drama or paperwork after being hired. Your job is to communicate that you “get this” through your resume, and cover letter.

It’s tough out there – don’t knock yourself out of the running before the competition even starts.

Some Advice on Your Resume

FakeNails1Recently I  have had the “opportunity” to review, literally, hundreds of resumes. It reawakened within me, some of the guidance I shared with students and others over the years.  Here’s the first 3 resume recommendations that I have to share.

Resume Recommendation #1: do not (NOT!) save your resume file as ‘RESUME12.docx’ when planning to submit it electronically

Since most jobs now require you to submit your resume online, be sure you take the time to give your resume YOUR name, in some format. Submitting ‘RESUME12.doc’ screams “I don’t care enough about this to bother renaming the file”.

This is not the first impression you want to give.

I generally recommend your first initial_last name. For example, ‘JSmith_resume’ or something similar. Although one like this got my attention, I don’t recommend using a filename like this: “YouMustLookAtThisResume.docx”.

Resume Recommendation #2: Use an appropriate word processing format

I have seen a lot of resumes in various formats. Some understandable – others just plain wrong. Using the Notepad text editor sends a resume that looks like one giant run-on sentence, unless the person receiving it knows enough to copy and paste the text into a Word document or similar software. I wouldn’t risk them knowing this for a job I was seriously interested in attaining.

Saving your resumes as a picture file, such as a JPEG or PNG may be OK, but is not recommended. VERY often when receiving these files as the resume they come across blurry (couldn’t hold the phone still while taking the shot?) and unreadable. News flash: if there are 350 resumes to scan and yours is more trouble to read than it might be worth,…it’s probably going in the “do not consider” pile without anyone reading it.

If you must use a picture file format, be mindful of the quality of the photo (ask someone who’s not familiar with your resume to read it from the picture file) AND take note of what appears in the background as you snap that photo with your “smart” phone, which leads me to…

Resume Recommendation #3: Make sure you are not telling the company more than you intend to, inadvertently

If you must submit a picture file of your resume (and if you’re not picking up on the nuance here, let me be clear: I do NOT recommend this), pictures of your resume that also capture dinner leftovers, a pack of cigarettes, the dirty laundry on the floor or other items add to the message you are sending, but it might not be the message you want.Fake Nails2

The worst example of a resume submitted online was one where the applicant took a movie of her resume. She filmed page 1, and then reached down with very long, fake fingernails and turned the page to show the information on page 2.  Her nails were SO long that I could not imagine what job she would be able to do in any company or industry other than modeling (and I wasn’t hiring models).

You do NOT want your resume to evoke this kind of reaction when it’s being screened.

Coming next: 3 more resume recommendations 

Interviewing 1: the Follow Up

An older friend of mine commented once on a Thank You card that I had sent her: “I loved receiving your card – no one writes thank-yous anymore!”TwoLoveBirdsThankYouNotes1

If you’ve gone to the trouble of taking a day off of work, dry cleaning your suit, and/or ironing your best outfit and spending a couple hours chatting with people at the potential new place, AND… you still want the job, consider sending a Thank You note.

As someone who has both sent them, and not sent them after interviewing – and as someone who has received them, and NOT received them, I’m fairly ambivalent about the absolutes on either side of the equation, however; if you want that job like nothing else, and you feel that you had a connection with the hiring manager; send the note.

If possible, send a hand-written note.  Email is also OK if a mailing address if not readily available. I do not advocate sending a heartfelt note to every single person you talked with – that just ends up looking desperate (and maybe a little crazy), but a quick email to the HR recruiter who was helpful and a hand-written note to the one primary person with whom you spent some time and who has the final say in who they want to hire is good practice AND may make the difference for you.

On a personal note, I once interviewed at a place that screamed “Dysfunction Junction”.  It didn’t matter how much the Cheshire Cat smiled across the table at me, or what the salary range was – I knew they were plum crazy and that there was no way I wanted to work there. Still, after the 2nd interview (yes, sometimes I’m a slow learner in this area – the salary was ridiculous!!), I kept thinking to myself, “I should send a Thank You note of some sort,…” but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it.  I suppose you could worry that there could be consequences (ripple effect) from that… but at the end of the day, you need to be true to yourself and something much wiser than my conscious mind was telling me to run far, far away from that funny farm.

Interviewing 1: personal presentation

When it comes to clothing, it’s always better to OVER-dress than UNDER-dress. I recently worked as a mentor at a job fair for an underserved region and realized that as a society, we have lost some of the wisdom of our elders. This blog represents not only MY advice, but advice which was echoed by my colleagues who come from other industries, cultures and perspectives. This means that you should pay particular attention to this piece of advice.mini skirt

Ladies, no one should be able to see the flesh of your breasts unless you’re interviewing at the strip joint on the edge of town. In fact, dress for the anti-cleavage look. It’s just not appropriate, and for whatever reason, in today’s fashion culture, you may have to plan ahead. I’ve picked up alleged ‘business wear’ from a reputable (non-discount!) national retailer and found that it revealed way too much cleavage to be considered work attire in any environment other than a ‘Gentleman’s (?) Club’..

This next piece is somewhat old school, I realize, but if you’re going to wear a skirt at or above your knees, put some pantyhose on. It’s extremely casual to wear a skirt or dress that is above the knee without stockings. If you’re serving beer at the local crab shack, go for it, but if you want to be taken seriously for a professional job, wear pantyhose on the interview and keep the skirts or dresses long enough that your grandmother wouldn’t faint if she saw you walking down the street.  I shouldn’t have to mention this but again, I’ve seen it with my own eyes: flip-flops are not interview shoes, unless you’re hoping to work as a beer girl at the shore.

Guys; khaki’s and a golf shirt say something that you may not want them to say, so unless you get the email specifying “khakis and a golf shirt”, put on a dress shirt that you have ironed, a tie and dress pants – also ironed. Don’t forget dress socks (no athletic socks!) and I hope I don’t have to say “no t-shirts” and “no sneakers/athletic shoes”. As a general rule, brown shoes go with tan pants, or brown pants; black shoes should be worn with navy blue or black pants. If you’ve got a good eye (or a mother/girlfriend/sister/roommate with a good eye), there are shades of brown and navy that can be combined, but I’ve yet to see most guys manage this without looking dumpy.

Hygiene, perfume and cologne

I will never forget the bank manager who sat at a local workforce advisory board meeting and leaned forward at the table to speak to the educators in attendance:

Stop sending me your straight-A prima donnas who don’t want to do any real work and stop coming in after the 3rd day. I want the solid B/C students who know how to work for what they want, can take some direction – oh yeah, and know how to shower at least a couple times a week – sheesh!

He went on to tell us about a highly-recommended applicant from a local college who came in for an interview, but smelled so bad (poor hygiene!) that they had to bring environmental services/housekeeping in to de-stink the place after the interview. There is no excuse not to bathe or shower daily in the developed world…

By the same token, go easy on the cologne/after shave or perfume. In fact, leave them off for the interview. So many people suffer from allergies and there’s nothing like making your potential manager SICK to knock yourself out of the running.  Remember – in addition to evaluating if you can DO the work, they’re also wondering what it will be like to have you around all the time.  If your ‘scent’ catches in the back of their throat, guess where your resume and application are going to end up?

Keep jewelry to a minimum and I recommend that you remove all facial piercings. My advice here is for the folks looking for a professional job, so again if you’re hoping to work at the beach handing out beer, your belly button jewelry displayed prominently is probably OK, and if you’re auditioning as a dancer or a bouncer, the facial piercings add to the exotic illusion.  I won’t pretend to understand those industries, so if that’s your schtick – please feel free to stop reading now or write your own blog.  I’m writing today for the people who want some semblance of a regular job, working in some sector of corporate America.

Tattooing(2) If you have tattoos all over, you might want to cover these up for the interview. In many health care organizations, these are an automatic non-starter because patient satisfaction surveys have shown that patients are frightened when pierced, spiked, and tattooed strangers wake them up in the middle of the night, or approach them to perform rather intimate procedures. In a word, it’s unprofessional, which means that unless you are the de facto best cardiac surgeon on the East Coast, you likely won’t get past the first interview if you show up with more ink than a bad divorce settlement.  Your peeps might think you’re cool, but the hiring manager may not. Let them get to know you as a person before you unveil the artwork from Tiger Jimmy’s Gun, Ink & Piercings parlor.Tattooing

There’s nothing wrong with tattoos, body piercings, bare legs, or golf shirts, but as the saying goes: you never get a 2nd chance to make a 1st impression – AND – it’s much easier to convince people that the “nice girl/nice guy” get up was fake and the tattooed warrior is your true self than the other way around.