Dusting Off Your Resume

Are you thinking about looking at other options for work? Updating your resume?

There are schools out there that tell you how to write a resume—should you attend, or hire the teacher to get yours gussied up?

It depends. 

Scott Bennett is the author of The Elements of Resume Style (Amacom) and has done a little resume reading. The former president of Public Service Computer Software, he’s now wearing the hat of career coach. 

Bennett has read over 10,000 resumes, conducted thousands of interviews and has coached over 4,000 job seekers. 

“Resumes are a sales tool,” he says. “One of the biggest mistakes is that too many people sell themselves—it’s a misnomer.” It’s your skills and your expertise that should jump off the resume page. Good enough.

His website, www.click4careercoaching.com, is loaded with freebie tools and articles to assist you in the ideal resume quest. 

Start with email—make sure it’s listed on the resume. If it’s a silly one, dump it and create a more appropriate one. 

Don’t list your current work email or phone number—it may say to the reader that you misuse your current employer’s time. 

If you send your resume via email, don’t send it from one email address and ask the recipients to respond to another. Cut and paste should be avoided—making responding easy.

Here’s more:

Tip #1 Don’t fudge on dates and age. Ever. It’s a myth that you need to shadow your age or dates that you might have been unemployed, even incarcerated. If you omit your age, it might say that you view it as a problem—give the interviewer the benefit of doubt.

If they can’t determine an age range on paper, they will when you are seating across from them in a one-on-one interview. Who you are is who you are. You can explain the date gaps in person.

Tip #2 Delete words like benchmark, brainstorm, core, fine-tune, duties, verbalize, paramount, necessitate, “I”, etc. 

Go for the action—contribute, achieve, capture, debug, exceed, revolutionize, troubleshoot, turn-around, etc. 

Avoid like the hollow self-puffery that is the norm in most resumes today: dedicated hands-on management; or excellent written communication skills like the plague. 

Try: “Cut annual employee turnover rate 85% (from 40 percent/year to 6 percent/year) in 36 months” or “Wrote jargon-free User Guide for 15,000 users.” 

Tip #3 Be cautious of self-proclaimed experts. Headhunters don’t write resumes (although they do read them). Use them for placement, not resume touchups. 

Be wary of the “free” career or resume workshops. Either the presenter is fishing for clients (maybe you) or is selling something, it just isn’t in the description of the workshop. Lot’s of free things are worth the amount that you pay: nothing.

Tip #4 Use the Internet. Any person (company) that you are considering assistance from must have a good website. It should clearly state who they are and what they do. 

If they don’t have one, take a pass. People in business today use the Internet as a calling card/store front.

Tip #5 What happens if you find an ad but information is missing? The company and/or contact name are excluded. Instead, there’s a fax number, a community type of email to respond to (i.e., Yahoo or Hotmail) or a PO box? 

Go to www.freeality.com and do a reverse lookup by the email address. For a fax, go to www.google.com, type in the fax number with quotation marks around it. If a PO Box, call the postal service in the city where the box is located. USPS is required to disclose upon request the name of the owner of a PO box.

Tip #6 Delete errors. For every 200 resumes submitted, only 10 will be error free; and half of those 10 will get called for interviews. 

Spell names right. Go to the company’s website to seek out the correct spelling (is it John, Jon or Jonathon?) or call the receptionist to verify. Don’t assume a Susan is Sue, Susie or Suzie. 

If you are spelling challenged, read what you have written out loud and backwards—you will be amazed at misspellings and incorrect grammar usage.

Tip #7 Don’t use mumble jumbo, get to the point.

Tip #8 Keep it simple—don’t use more than two fonts (serifs generate more responses), bullet points (creates a slower read), bolds (use for name and section headings only), italics (use only for publications), all CAPS and underlining (never).

Tip #9 Create a snappy and to the point cover letter. Bennett says forget long cover letters—try four lines. Less is more. Something like:

Dear Contact:
Given your requirements and my skills and experiences, I may just be the person you are after. I’m enthusiastic about (the name of company you are sending your resume to) and this work. Would you be so kind as to please review my resume and contact me? I early await your reply. Thank you in advance. Your Name

The mission of the resume is to give the reader a honest sense of where you’ve been, what you’ve done and where you are going. That’s all.