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Resume Revelation

In the past few weeks, a number of tried-but-true adages have popped into my mind, even though I struggled hard to keep them at bay. While I could not locate exact quotations, the main theme of the adages was “you can’t  be objective about your own life/work/writing, thus you need a trusted colleague or friend to tell you the truth.”

This revelation came to me in the midst of a job search, while working with a recruiter. She suggested that I lop off the first 13 years of my career on my resume (blasphemy!), as the work I had done during those early years was not relevant to my search. “Not relevant!” I proclaimed. “Those work years were the basis of everything I’ve done since!”

The recruiter nodded wisely and sympathetically, but persevered. And I finally had to admit that she was right. Without revealing my exact age, suffice it to say that I’ve had a long, rewarding career, and those first 13 years, while precious to me, would not matter one whit to a hiring manager.

In an earlier resume tips column I talked about having a second, or even third, set of eyes read and critique your resume before launching it into employment cyberspace.  I would revise that suggestion to emphasize the need for someone objective to serve in this role, someone who would not be afraid to perhaps offend you with his/her honesty. The above-named recruiter was prepping me for an interview with a client of hers, and wanted me to do my best. She could look at my resume and make suggestions for cutting out unnecessary information while retaining the parts that were relevant to the job at hand.

I had also flown in the face of age discrimination in hiring, which is alive and well in today’s market, by listing every job I’d ever had on my resume. While I didn’t elaborate beyond employer, title and dates, the information was pointing squarely to my age. I had always believed in telling the full truth (harking back to my column “The Truth, The Whole Truth, and Nothing But”), but this recruiter convinced me that leaving out more than one-third of my work years was not dishonest. In her eyes, I was simply focusing on the experience relevant to the job, and could bring in earlier experience if needed during an interview.

This epiphany was nothing less than shocking to me, and was certainly a loud wake up call. Here I was writing other peoples’ resumes, providing the same advice to them as this recruiter provided to me, and yet not following it myself! Quite frankly, I was more than a bit embarrassed, and certainly chagrined. The lesson for me and all of us in the job search arena is to not get hung up on pride or ownership with our resumes. Instead, let someone you trust-a professional or talented colleague -look over your resume, read what you have to say, and tell you the truth.

Eating crow, while not fun, is a lot better than not getting a foot in the door for that job we want.

(originally published  on the online newsletter of Dick Wray Associates – now Wray Executive Search) 

The Truth, the Whole Truth, and Nothing But…

Most of us have embellished a story or two in our lifetime. The length of that fish we caught, the length of the putt we made, the amount of money that we earn….you get the picture. And in these situations, as long as no harm was done, no one got hurt, and no laws were broken, it was probably o.k. This is not to condone out right lying in day•to-day life, but to simply acknowledge that stretching the truth is something that most of us do, with few

But your resume is definitely not the place to embellish or stretch the truth. This is one place where telling the whole truth is by far the best action. Perhaps you’ve heard stories about folks who have fabricated a college degree, “enhanced” their job responsibilities or titles, or inflated their salaries. They did so in hopes of impressing prospective employers, and to be hired in higher level positions with greater salaries. Some of these candidates got away with it.consequences.

Others, however, got caught. Some during the interview process, and others after being hired. They had not factored in the network that hiring managers and HR directors have for checking resume accuracy, validity of references, and overall character of applicants. Yes, the days of full disclosure by former employers are gone, but many employers are still willing to answer some of the questions posed by hiring companies. After all, the favor will often be returned.

But reasons for telling the truth go far beyond the risk of getting caught. If you “tell it like it is” throughout your job search, you never have to remember any embellishments, you never have to fear that someone will “out” you, and, most importantly, you can feel good about yourself throughout the entire process. And feeling good about yourself can boost your self confidence and enhance (honestly) your chances of success in those interviews. And that is reason enough to tell the truth.

(originally published  on the online newsletter of Dick Wray Associates – now Wray Executive Search) 

Do Cover Letters Really Help?

Cover letters used to be the mandatory sidekick to any resume, and it was unthinkable to send the resume solo.  Today, however, the media that many of us use to send resumes do not lend themselves to cover letters, and many people consider cover letters old­ fashioned, cumbersome and uunecessary.  I’d like to come at this from at least two sides, and so I will present several opinions on the subject.

First of all, there is no “yes” or “no” to this subject.  The most reliable phrase in the cover letter discussion is “it depends.”  To cover letter or not depends upon many things, including  the nature of the business, the job itself, the medium of transmission (e.g. email, industry jobsite, generic jobsite-Monster, CareerBuilder, snail mail, facsimile, etc.), the presence of an inside ally, and other factors.

On the plus side, a cover letter gives you an opportunity to personalize your application by addressing the letter to the best possible person , showing the hiring company that you not only have research capabilities but that you also know the right thing to do. A cover letter also gives you time and space to address items that may not fit on a resume, like ability to relocate, salary requirements- note: including the salary requirement (or not) is a whole other topic for another time-, special skills, keen interest in the job/industry, applicable volunteer experience, etc. Cover letters provide an opportunity to really punch up what’s important, and to emphasize why you’re the right one for the job.

On the minus side, many ways of transmitting resumes are not conducive to also attaching a cover letter.  In fact, some companies seek only resumes, and prefer not to receive cover letters. I know that during my last job search, I often did not include a cover letter because it was discouraged by the hiring organization, or because I simply ran out of time. I don’t know if there is any hard data on whether cover letters help or not, but call me old-fashioned…. I prefer to attach one.

The decision is yours. Use your best judgment and your intuition to decide. Remember, there is no “yes” or “no” to this.  Your best bet is to put yourself in the shoes of the hiring manager, and ask yourself what he/she would prefer.

(originally published  on the online newsletter of Dick Wray Associates – now Wray Executive Search) 

Different Strokes for Different Folks

For years, job candidates have written resumes outlining their skills, experience and talents. Some were better written than others, some used special formatting, but most of these resumes shared one trait: the writers used these same resumes time and time again, regardless of the position or industry. Granted, some of these resumes were compelling enough to evoke an invitation for an interview from the hiring manager. But in today’s world, with the job market fluctuating, companies experiencing ups and downs, and candidate pools expanding rapidly, job seekers must find a way to differentiate themselves from their colleagues, and to increase their chances of getting that important first interview.

Luckily, it’s far easier with advanced technology to generate a well-written, individualized resume these days in short order, “tweaking” this same document later for other job applications by moving sections, changing wording, even altering fonts and graphics. I probably now have at least 30 iterations of my resume on my hard drive, each a bit different from the others. Some focus on HR skills and management, others on my leadership and not-for-profit experience- each depending on the job I had my eye on.

The key is to pay attention to the job posting or ad, and to hone in on what the employer is seeking. Use the employer or industry  “buzz” words in your resume, and also in your cover letter. While most employers have streamlined their application review process, the candidates who have paid attention to the ad and the employers’ needs, and addressed them in their documents, will stand a better chance of being noticed.

Cover letters must also be targeted to the particular employer. While cover letters supplement the information in your resume, this is a good place to note the company’s latest achievement or award, to comment on the company website (positively, please!), and to mention things like your willingness to relocate, etc.  I know people who were offered jobs based on their cover letters’ relevance to the job and company.

And remember to save all versions of your resume on your hard drive, with a backup on CD or disk. Save them during writing, editing, and “tweaking” – better to err on the cautious side than to try to reconstruct a resume the night before an application deadline!,

“One size fits all” may work in some instances, but the adage has outgrown its usefulness in writing resumes and cover letters. Let your documents reflect YOU, and how you can best meet the needs of each prospective employer.

(originally published  on the online newsletter of Dick Wray Associates – now Wray Executive Search) 

Resumes: Format, Format, Format

In previous columns I’ve touched on the subject of resume format, but I’ve never addressed it directly. I know that the tried-and-true chronological format is preferred by many, and is alive and well on many a resume. This is not to say that this format is not a good way to go….!would simply like to suggest a different way of choosing your resume format.

Many of my clients are people who have been in the job market for more than a few years, who have often worked in a variety of settings, and who have a wealth of experience. For them, I usually suggest what is called a “combination” resume – that is, it is a combination of the standard chronological resume and a functional resume. The latter emphasizes skill sets and functional abilities while the “chron” resume highlights employment history.

I like to use a combo of the two, putting skills, functional abilities and accomplishments in the forefront, and then using the reverse chronological past job listing to reinforce these first sections. By placing relevant skills and abilities (and education, too, if it fits) upfront, you’re giving a prospective employer your best points first, and then backing them up with your history. An earlier column, “Put the Good Stuff Up Front”, encouraged resume writers to do just that, to get their very best material in front of the reader right away. This prevents that prospective new boss from wading through your work history looking for relevant skills. Most hiring managers or HR directors do not want to have to work to find a candidate’s good points. It makes sense to make their jobs easier, right?

This combination format also works well in concert with the position description – you can list your skills, abilities, talents, accomplishments, and education as they relate to the job itself. You can also move these pieces around to suit your needs and to address an individual position description – if the job needs technical skills, move them up on your list, etc.

Make sure your resume features your strongest points, and meets the needs described in the job outline. To do that may mean changing the format, but, change is good sometimes.

(originally published  on the online newsletter of Dick Wray Associates – now Wray Executive Search) 

Your Resume: Keep It Current!

Whew! You finally dotted the final “i”, crossed the last “t”, and ran the whole document through spell-check for the eighth time. And you had your best friend, your cousin the English major, and your Mom read and re-read it for content, grammar, and punctuation.  So now you’re done……

Or are you?

Most of us write a resume only a few times in our lives….and only when we’re sick and tired of our current jobs, and want to explore some new opportunities.  But my advice is: keep your resume up-to-date at all times.  You never know when you’ll need it.

After all, even if you really like your current job, your “dream” job may just ramble across your desk or monitor, and you just have to go for it. At that moment, you need a current resume. Or you’re  asked to make a speech, or give a presentation, and they ask you for your current resume. You don’t  have time to re-do it that quickly, but if you had it already done, you could email them a copy. Sound simple?  It is. But you need to make yourself add that latest job, or organization, or accomplishment to your resume soon after you add them to your work life.

Most of my clients tell me that they needed their updated resumes yesterday. My best advice to you is to keep your resume as current as possible and you’ll always have it to use. It doesn’t take much time; it mainly takes commitment and determination. Procrastination has no place here, so go update your resume. NOW!!

(originally published  on the online newsletter of Dick Wray Associates – now Wray Executive Search) 

Reinvent Yourself via Your Resume

“I’d  like to go into the corporate world….do I have the skills and experience?”

“I really want to spend the rest of my career doing work that means something.”

“I’m just plain tired of doing what I’m doing, where I’m doing it.  Is there any way I can do something different without going back to school, or starting over?”

Sound familiar?  Many of us have reached a point where we are simply not satisfied with our work: the amount, the type, the environment, the commute….. And the list goes on.

But is it realistic to think, or dream, that we could be happier in our work lives?  And can we do this without major upheaval to our families and our lives?

From my perspective, the answer is a resounding “YES!”   Now, this doesn’t  mean that you can quickly go from being a corporate accountant to tracking wild game in the jungle-that may be too big a career leap.  But if you want to take current skills, experiences, work history, and background to a different environment, with different people, it is often possible.

What you have to do is look at yourself and your skills, experience et al, with a different set of eyes. Get a friend, colleague, or professional to talk you through your current resume, and thus your current skills and experience. Many of my clients don’t  want to start over, they simply want to transfer their knowledge, skills and experience to a new venue.  Then use these “different” eyes to prod and poke at your skills and experience, looking for new ways to not only express but to use these skills.

For example, one client wanted to take his excellent course development and teaching skills and his experience running a nonprofit foundation to a corporate venue. We talked through his current resume and I asked lots of questions, gradually helping him to think of what he had done in his past positions and how the skills needed in them could translate into another environment, i.e. a corporation. I nudged and questioned, until he began to anticipate where I might go with the next skill.  By using my eyes to look at himself and what he could bring to the corporate table, he gained a new appreciation of his talents. This is a recent example, and he hasn’t  posted for a new job yet, but I’m confident that he will be successful.

Another client had never written a resume. He was a high school graduate who had joined the Air Force after graduation. All of his work experience had been gained in the military, and then transferred to similar work with a large international airline-for whom he had worked for 26 years. When the airline was threatening staff cuts, he sought help in developing a document to help him find work. In our discussions, he told me what he wanted to do, and where (a relocation for him).  What was most interesting was what he didn’t tell me, and what I had to ask lots of questions to gain. What might have been a one-page document turned into an impressive listing of his technical skills, the types of aircraft on which he was trained to work, and his numerous certifications. He walked away with a new pride in his work, and, most importantly, in himself and what he would bring to his next job.

So, if you’ve  found yourself dragging into work, cursing your commute (or your boss, or co­ workers) and hating every minute of the day, maybe you need a change. Your skills are not static, and can most likely be used to do different things. An accountant can take her penchant for numbers to a different organization, perhaps doing strategic planning and projections. A teacher can become a trainer of adults in a corporate or nonprofit environment. An IT senior executive can take an avocation and tum it into a vocation, using his managerial and organizational skills gained at the earlier corporation.

Life is waaaaaay too short to be unhappy in the one area of your life that takes up so much of it. Finding what you like or love or want to do isn’t always so hard. But it can be hard turning your passion into a career.  Seek help.  And, no, I’m not talking about a therapist!  Get someone you trust, or hire a professional, to help you look at you with different eyes.  You may really like what you see!

(originally published  on the online newsletter of Dick Wray Associates – now Wray Executive Search)