I never knew what I wanted to be when I grew up (still don’t!), so I took the LSATs, went to law school and became an attorney. I quickly realized I would have been a great lawyer if it wasn’t for all that darned fine print!
Job hunting is a full-time job in itself. My experience tells me that those seekers who have the greatest success in landing new roles are the ones who approach it as if it were indeed a full- time occupation. I suggest that proper management of the job search will yield the best results. Succeeding at work requires focus, organization, time management and appropriate engagement (to be discussed at a later date) with your managers and colleagues.
Imagine it’s 4:30 on Friday, and the boss, who is tired, grouchy and frustrated due to being understaffed, finally has some time to work through that six-inch pile of resumes that has been collecting in the corner for the past 2 weeks. Which way will their mood swing after reading YOUR resume?
PART 1-THE RESUME
You would never think of turning in work product that hadn’t been checked over for errors in spelling, syntax, grammar, etc. If the search for employment is your current occupation, then your resume is your work product. In the over 20 years that I have been headhunting, I have received enough substandard resumes to fill a file cabinet! At one end of the spectrum is a fundamentally sound resume that may contain one or two small errors. At the other end is a document so fatally flawed that I have had to contact the candidate to say that I am unable to submit the resume in its current form.
Here is the tough love: I pride myself on my ability to help candidates present themselves in the best light. To that end, I always read every word, every line of a candidate’s resume before I submit. If I catch an error, I fix it. But, as Scotty from Star Trek might say, “I’m only a man, not a style manual!” I am a recruiter, not a resume service. If I need to spend more than 5 or 10 minutes to fix resume errors, I hand it back to the candidate for a do-over. I frequently work with candidates for which English is not a first language. (I work on LinkedIn a lot and I fairly often, find words misspelled in the profile headings!). “Seeking for job” is something that I see all too often, and it is NOT ACCEPTABLE ENGLISH. If a candidate is not fluent and agile with English, he or she MUST enlist the help of a professional resume writer, or at least a friend or family member.
The resume is your calling card. I strongly believe it must be perfect! So, a few tips:
1. Keep it as short as possible, please, not more than two pages. Imagine that poor, tired reader at 4:30 on a Friday. Candidates with over 25 years in the workforce take note: the further back in time, the shorter the description. The last 5 years (or the last 2 jobs) are the most important, and the descriptions should be more detailed. If your prior roles were substantially similar, just say so; don’t repeat an entire paragraph detailing the exact work you did-but do highlight any differences. For jobs over 10 years old, simply listing the company, title and place should in most cases suffice.
2. Make sure that your tenses match. Your current role should be in the present tense, except for, say, projects that you have completed. All prior roles should be in the past tense.
3. Continuity and consistency: for example, if you are using bullet points and you place a period at the end of the sentence, make sure you do the same for every sentence. If you place the name of the firm in italics or boldface, make sure you do this throughout the entire document.
4. Make sure the resume is pleasing to the eye and easy to read. Dates should line up in a column on the right side of the paper, headings should be simple and clear. For those with highly technical jobs, try to balance the density with clear, simple phrasing.
Now, let’s return to that poor, overworked boss trying to get through that pile of resumes on Friday afternoon. If you follow the above guidelines, I’m pretty sure that, provided you are a good match for the role, your resume will be going into the “yes” pile.
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David L. Reitman, Esq.