Job Search 101: Your Resume Questions

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I hired my first employee in 1995. He was an immigrant who moved to St. Louis to escape the war in Bosnia. In his home country, he was an engineer. In America, he worked on the Chuckles candy line. He was hired because he showed up, passed a drug test, and was willing to work second shift.

This guy could barely speak English, but he asked me questions about his career options. (Basically, he had no options and he knew it.) He asked — Where should he start? How do you write a CV in America? Why weren’t his engineering credentials valid in this country?

I had no idea. I was twenty years old. Oddly enough, this man’s temporary interpreter, a coworker at the factory, was later fired for fighting with a rival employee who was part of another Serb-Croat-Bosnian ethnic faction.

The 90s were so weird.

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I still don’t have great career advice to offer, but let’s get one thing straight.

  • You won’t get a job based on your resume.
  • You will get a job based on how well you sell yourself, which includes your resume but encapsulates so much more.

The fastest way to disqualify yourself from the hiring process? Sit at your computer for several hours each day and wait for magic to happen. Send your resume to every company who might be hiring. Don’t go outside. Don’t interact with real people who are educated, active, and connected. Don’t take a class or volunteer and expand your skills.

Sit in your basement and wait for an email from a hiring manager.

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I’m in the mood to tackle questions & myths about resumes. Feel free to look at this advice and add your own spin. If you have additional advice to add, or you disagree, please leave a comment. We need to build a repository of better information.

Here we go. Lord help us.

  1. It doesn’t matter what font you use as long as I don’t have to increase the magnification on Microsoft Word by 200%. Your best bet is Arial or Times New Roman. No smaller than 10. No bigger than 12.
  2. I don’t care how many pages you have for your resume. You aren’t starting a political revolution, so you should probably keep it shorter than a manifesto.
  3. Every space on the page is precious. Use it wisely. Aesthetics matter. Margins should be even. Bullet points should be aligned properly. Spacing should match from paragraph to paragraph. Your resume should look like an elegant marketing tool. I won’t hire you based on a resume that looks like a Rorschach test.
  4. Please use a separate email address for your job search. It should be a simple version of your name. I like something like Scrub.Rue@gmail.com for my cat, Scrubby Ruettimann. Use your new, simple email account for all career-related websites, job boards, and anywhere you need to enter an email address related to your career. Set some parameters on your behaviors, too. Don’t check your email more than three times/day. Use the extra time to network, volunteer, take a class, walk, or clean your basement. Your wife and kids are right. You waste too much time on the internet.
  5. If your last two jobs are unrelated to one another, or unrelated to your current job search, you need an objective statement on your resume. I don’t know what you want to do. Tell me in fewer than 25 words and get out of the way. Let me see what you’ve done.
  6. As a professional, your ‘summary of qualifications’ statement should be no more than 100 words. It’s a summary, not an Oscar speech.
  7. Please don’t include hobbies, interests, or anything that could disqualify you — even subconsciously — in the eyes of a recruiter or hiring manager. I think people who collect dolls are weird. Do you want me to read your resume and think of my  grandmother who collected teddy bears? Do you want me to remember that episode of Hoarders where a woman collected dolls because her husband died and she couldn’t get over the pain and sadness? Leave it off.
  8. I don’t need the month, day, and year of your employment. A year is fine (e.g., 2004-2008). You can add the month. I don’t care. What we’re really looking for is a huge gap in employment that says drug addiction, serially unemployed, or loser who quits his job in a huff because he thinks he’s too good to work.
  9. If you have a gap in your resume, own it. You are not self-employed, especially if you collect state unemployment benefits. Don’t try to sell me on your imaginary consulting firm.
  10. You need a cover letter. Your resume should be the beginning of a conversation, not the entire conversation. A resume tells me what you’ve done, but a cover letter tells me what you want to do and why. Don’t be lazy. Write a freakin’ cover letter and shut up about it.

I am sure I missed something. I will forever refer people to this post if I get questions about resumes.

You’ve been warned.

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