Resume, Resume, Wherefore Art Thou, Resume?

Wherefore art thou, resume?

Wherefore art thou, resume?

Is it possible to add one more word on the blasted heaths about resumes?

Why, of course! Over the years resumes have morphed from roughly hacked tombstones into personal epics. Here’s what I mean: many folk take their names, contact information and data about all the jobs held, slap them on a nice piece of paper in crisply starched, latest fashionable language and call it a resume. Beware of unscrupulous resume writing professionals who do this too (and charge tall lettuce for it!). Feh! Boring,uninteresting, ineffective and just like all the thousands of others recruiters take a 5-second blink at. Having a resume that looks like all the others in the pile on a recruiter’s desk is the fastest way for it to get crumpled into a wastebasket ball.

Consider that the resume is only one move in the job mating dance. The dance is a series of steps calculated to move the seeker closer to the goal–the interview. That is exactly why a resume should be the most wonderful crown of feathers or the sweetest song or something that makes the dancer different and gets positive attention. Look at this: the very hottest place to “do your dance” these days is on a YouTube video. Some headdress!

The 21st century twist on the basic job search mating dance is the addition of social media to the marketing mix. That’s right: marketing mix. “Resume” can be interpreted, “sales brochure” because a job search is at its core a well thought out and executed marketing campaign. That makes the job seeker not only the product maker but the Project Manager as well.  So, today’s effective, hard-hitting job search campaign will include an updated resume, a clean Facebook view, a Twitter feed and a fully optimized LinkedIn profile. Add to that a website/online portfolio for artists and writers. Next time, how about a closer look at the challenges the “new job search” present and how to handle them?


The Ritual of The Interview:Before The Dance

Male peacock's mating display

In the last post, our discussion about interviewing parsed naturally into general segments  centered either around  “applicant states of being”, “gathered from the resume” or “don’t tell, don’t reveal”.  I have said in earlier posts that the job search is a game and games have rules. If the search is a game, the interview is its object and the best at the interview wins the game.  If the search for work is a hunt, the interview is its quarry and getting the job is the ultimate victory. The victorious hunter gets to “hang it on the wall”.

Everything a job seeker does points to the interview and once the interview is gained, another dynamic comes into play. This is the next phase. This is level two of the game. The quarry runs out into open field. In theory, interviews resemble theatrical auditions or panning for gold. The company is the panner and the applicant is the gold. The company is the art director and the applicant is the chorus girl. Applicants are the gold river and the company uses progressively finer sieves–many interviews– until the best two nuggets remain.

Again, for the applicant, the interview is the field for an intricate  mating dance ritual where several rival suitor-applicants vie with brilliant displays to attract the attention of the mate-company. The contender the company chooses becomes the new hire, the accepted  mate.

tuxedo rose wedding cake

The ultimate object of the courtship is a marriage

Interview Red Flags

The Interview

The Interview (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

red flag

Danger, Will Robinson! This could be a bad employee!

It’s time to hop back into the discussion about the interview. It is a given that the seeker is at the place where candidates are in process of being chosen to compete in the great arena–the interview(s) and the seeker is one of the chosen.  After all, this is what all the hub-bub is about, bub: being one of those too big to pass through the “coarse sieves” of the “first cattle call selections” . Now the finer sieves come out.

Company and independent  recruiters give the thumbs down on the following  “red flag” parade of behaviors–things that make a candidate look like a potential bad hire–in interviews. This list is a compilation of all the red flag behaviors I have learned to avoid. This wisdom is  collected from seminars, recruiters, online articles and many job searches. Of course, lack of contact information on the resume or an email address like, “” reduces the chances of being called into the arena to zero!

Applicant States of Being

Did I really say THAT

  • currently unemployed
  • Mature worker
  • Worker of different gender, race, color or weight than expected
  • arriving for interview late
  • disorganized
  •  inappropriate attire
  • out-of date appearance
  • smoke/alcohol on breath
  • perfume/cologne
  • Lack of preparation
  • nervousness
  • over confidence/over familiarity
  • desperation
  •  negative attitude
  • low energy

From a Quick Look At the Resume

  • Out of date resume
  • Mature candidate
  • Pure functional resume
  • long gaps between jobs termination(s)
  • unstable job history –  “job hopping”
  • social media reputation
  • overqualified (setting your bar too low)
Emotional baggage

hauling emotional baggage into the interview

Don’t Ask, Don’t Reveal?

  • Prison terms
  • mental illness hospitalization
  • “Monk”-isms
  • conditions and health issues
  • Child/Adult care issues
Yes, it might take a few posts to get through all of these, but I feel it well worth the time.


Last time I told a little tale about “disassociation”, my view of what begins to happen as a former employee has less and less contact with the former job over time. I said that ex-employees slowly begin to think of themselves in terms other than associated with the company. The morph begins here. Some people, extroverts especially, begin to show withdrawal symptoms from mild to severe from the instant social network that the old job used to provide so finding a new job might in reality be an attempt to quickly end the uncomfortable position of not having a social “nest” to be in. The introvert may show withdrawal brought on by the absence of a “place to go every day”;  the background noise of the old job in another way. However, since the greatest problem for an introvert might be “invisibility” on the job (what do you DO here anyway?), the task of finding a new place with the right background noise is agonizing and tiring because of suddenly having to talk  so much to so many new people. Please put an end to this agony quick once again.

Six months later, however, in some job seekers‘ heads  attention and interest begins to wane. It may take more effort to keep focused on the passion As the “old work identity” begins to dissolve like an Alka Seltzer tablet. The dispossessed, disincorporated former employee begins the real search for a new home; a new body,  I would say. This is stage two of the shape shift; a place where the seeker is not what she was nor what she will be.

As I remember, this was the place in the process where my self-image imploded. I tried on jobs and titles one after another and became increasingly frustrated because none of them felt “right”. Questions about where exactly I fit in society got me out of bed at 3:00a.m. for weeks. Nothing is more stressful than to have to put some title, any title on a resume. Nothing is more mortifying than stumbling through a makeshift answer to “what do you bring to the table?”, another form of , “tell us about yourself”. What belongs in that blank space? Nobody I knew had any answers. I was expected to figure it out on my own as most good career counselors usually recommend. What do you really want to do? What is your real basic passion?

But, “figuring it out on my own” takes time. So much time without a landing target frustrates networking partners because to them it  looks like a lack of focus or seriousness.  It seems so much easier to just stumble into yet another short-term “throw away” job. End the pain fast. Never face the real question. Hide from the real answer. The next step is life or death: stay a formless blob or snatch up the courage to participate in creating the new reality; making the new body.

That is the place where I ran out of tears. I decided to become myself.

The Third Page: References Will Be Provided

business marriage

clear intentions?

In times gone by, “references to be provided upon request” squatted at the end of a resume like an ugly little troll. In even earlier days, the list of references was its last page. I still have a “third page”, but I never send it until it is needed. As we have mentioned before, unless the woo in a resume is very strong, a recruiter will not look past the fold. That means the list of references–page 3– will go unnoticed.

Recruiters and HR hardly spend 15 seconds eyeballing resumes these days–those resumes served up to them cherry picked from key word searches. A resume that is not properly SEO-ed (search engine optimized) with key words is invisible to the search engines. A resume that does not rise in the key word search will simply not be picked up.

If a search spits out 50 resumes that “make the cut” by key word, that number is shaken down through closer examination until 5 candidates’ resumes remain. This is the round where “packaging”–stand-out individuals and presentation really matters. Again, references do not enter into the discussion. Where does the “third page” enter, then?At the interviews. References and a few more rounds of interviews are  used to winnow the number to the final two.

Along with a lot of reading, job seekers attend a lot of seminars. As I listened to panel after panel of HR professionals and recruiters I came to this conclusion:

no ring; no thing.

Prince Charming and Cinderella wedding day

I checked your references

I forget about showing references until I am sure the intentions are serious. The rejected need not waste resources of time and energy when there is no evidence of a serious woo to win. Unless I am just wild about a company the chase ends when I get the auto responder that says, “we will keep your resume on file for….” That is the signal to move on.

School Does Not Care What You Did Last Summer

Focus On Jobs

Keep your resume focused

We have been talking about what to put into the “work history” section, or “relevant experience” part of the resume located just under the “summary”.

When I was seeking work as a teacher, a teacher substitute or an instructional aide, I made sure all my teaching experience and education was in the “related experience” section of my resume.

I can say with confidence that since a teaching contract is seasonal, many teachers  supplement their incomes when school is out of session. Some teachers do summer camp counseling or teach summer school. I built a “shadow career” in retailing to fill the economic void in my household budget created by unpaid winter break, spring break, summer break and between-contracts.

Seasonal sales associate jobs lasted 30-90 days and ran in same years as teaching appointments.  I handled that on my resume by putting them in a separate section titled, “other experience” located below my teaching experience. I never mentioned it in the main body of work experience because quite frankly, m’dear, school systems did not give a fig about what I did last summer–except if it had a direct relationship to teaching.

Guess what? Likewise, retail stores could give a broken crayon about what I did in the classroom. Whenever I applied for retail positions, I put my teaching experience in the “other experience” section. That neat little corner of my resume served to help the potential employer fill in the holes in my Swiss cheese resume.

Ursula incants a spell

Poof! You have a new career!

According to the current trends, a good resume is on average two pages long. It should be  so solidly packed with directly relevant experience that there is no room for anything else. I am now career shape-shifting back into my authentic form–a writer. When applying for writer/editor positions these days, like magic both teaching and retail sales appear only on job applications where appropriate and not on my resume or my Linked In profile at all.

Why? Because a resume, once again, is a marketing piece, not St. Patrick’s Confession.   Everything must support the brand image.

Of Career Direction and Work History In The Resume

birthday cake

Do not call Fairfax County FD

As we press on to a discussion of the  “work history” section of the resume, I prevail on your mind to consider that there is what I would like to call an “inner resume” running below the paper resume.

My theory is that we carry our “inner resume”, the story we have built over time about working, inside us. Comments in its margins, our thoughts about each entry including its history, form a kind of continuity text. It is therefore important that the “inner resume” is totally reconciled with the paper resume because interviewers are keen to pick up on any dissonance between them. Doubt about integrity arises. That, I say, is why many articles advise seekers to over learn the content of the resume–especially if you had it written for you.

I do not know about you, but for me resumes were simple until I grew up. Things were straightforward until I  left formal schooling and began paddling about in the employment pool back in the 70’s.  I made many bad choices that made for a “checkered”, not-so-good employment history. Warn your children.

The headwaters of the writing stream that I am navigating like a champion today came ready to bubble up when I arrived on earth. That life making river; the oldest and strongest, rushed over the banks of my career history quite often to save my sanity. Thank heaven.

four directions compass rose


You see, I  had one main passion and did other things to support it, but from a corporate perspective, I seemed to wander aimlessly from job to job. My “employment history” section looked more like a patchwork quilt or a string of freshwater pearls. My resume challenge, I thought, was to make a not-so-good history look like it had always been a single, navigable stream  while keeping my real passion hidden.

The truth was that the signals I picked up from school and general society caused me to be ashamed of my talent/gift package and to want to be “like the high-powered corporate women” I saw put up as role models. They were “normal” and I was “abnormal”.

Just a few days ago, I celebrated my birthday– “old enough to know better”–half a century-plus. Having lived long enough and to have held several jobs I am free of head games and fairy tales about working.  I have made a custom resume for each of the stronger work history streams, dismissed the weak ones and only mention the odious ones in passing during an interview– if asked.

Resume Poision: This Stuff Could Kill Your Career

No No No

Dead application guaranteed

Allow me to pause here for the warnings…In the collected wisdom of contemporary resume writing professionals, there are certain things that should not be found on a resume at the peril of having it immediately sent to resume third circle. In the literature review of the subject, certain things  popped up with Swiss watch regularity:

Misspelled words

Dante's order of Hell

Bad resumes: circle 3

There is still no machine that can best a good human editor (I am assured to always be needed!). As good as they are, spell checkers in word processing programs are not yet capable of determining the appropriate spellings in all cases. Plus, the sentence fragment style of resume writing drives computer grammar programs to drink. Beware.

T.M.I (Too Much personal Information)
My beloved of 28 years is a pre-boomer naturalized American. Adjustments had to be made to Americanize his old-fashioned, European-style resume that included age, date of birth, height, weight, health condition, marital status and people group (that’s race in the USA). Additionally, he was required to submit a passport sized black and white full face photo.

Including any of these things is resume poison in the United States in 2011. In passing, there is a move in Europe to standardize and modernize the resume. Take a look at a conversation going on in Linked In now comparing the European resume and the American resume should there be readers toying with the idea of working in the UK.

A bit of history: In the pre-Civil Rights Movement era, submitting a photo with the application was common practice. In those times blacks were forbidden to hold certain kinds of jobs and employers would simply choose not to pull a “colored-looking” face from the app stack to interview when they pleased.  Pictures submitted with apps was banned, but other methods of excluding people cropped up to take its place. It is like slicing off one of Hydra’s heads to only have it replaced by two more.Now, sneaky potential employers analyze given names and check the locations associated with certain addresses. For that and security reasons, some applicants now leave off  specific street number addresses in favor noting the state and city  of residence only. No pictures on resumes, brothers and sisters–especially not the sexy glam or vacation snaps.

More “arsenic articles” – Foggy, self-serving  objective

Foggy objectives scream, “I want to keep my options open”. In other words, “I don’t really know what I want” to potential employers. Put a job title on the line where the objective used to live followed by a two sentence flash (think, elevator pitch) about the benefits a company can expect by hiring you. A headline stating the job title sought leaves no room for doubt about exactly what job an applicant is seeking and sends a clear message to networking partners walking your resume in, applicant parsing software, HR people (some of them may be gnomes and imps) and recruiters. Since it is now possible to tailor headlines to match the job applied for, using that power is not a transgression. No smear on integrity.

It is better to have two focused resumes than one foggy one. This is true especially for job gypsies (like yours truly) and renaissance people. Believe me, if Leonardo Divinci, the “father of the resume”, had to write one today, he would not have just one.

old fashioned cough medicine

home-made cough elixir

100% Pure “Functional” Resume Recruiters hate this one with a passion. Functional resumes leave a bad taste in their mouths because they want to know in no uncertain terms “what you did and when you did it and for how long“. Once again, job gypsies and renaissance people would be better off using a carefully crafted “blended” or “hybrid” resume instead. Recruiters are suspicious of this one too, but are slowly getting used to this flavor.

Other Poisonous Substances in Resumes

Three weird sisters meet with McDuff

"Beware the poisionous resume"!

  • Leaving Off  Dates
  • Resume too long
  • Funky and/or Old Fashioned fonts
  • No accomplishments; plenty of duties
  • Unprofessional email address

More Resume Top No No’s  Lists On The Web (and some comedic relief)

Career Builder’s Top Ten Resume Killers

HR Confidential’s Top Five Resume Killers

Sooper Articles’ Top Ten Resume Killers

Job Mob’s Funniest Resume Mistakes

In Search of the Resume-saur: Objective

Evolutionary periods of earth development

A nano-moment in time

“…on a resume done as an assignment for English class.”

We are continuing the discussion about resume building. Last week, we reviewed the “heading” of a resume containing the applicant’s legal name and usable contact information.

What follows below the contact information is disputed territory. In ages gone by (as late as 10 years ago) something usually called, “objective” lived here. It was a one-sentence blurb about the job seeker’s intentions that usually went something like this: “Seeking a position in the print media field where my natural talent for writing and English composition skill can be best applied.”…Oh, Margaret!

The only place I see this kind of thing is on a resume done as an assignment for English class. Somewhere out there in the universe must be teachers who have not written a resume in years, still using books dated before my father was born– sometime before WWI. My first resume, done around 1976, had a section like that.

ex stock broker runs away to the circus

Second Career

Welcome to the circus

Please, brothers and sisters: if you have any influence with a very young job seeker this summer, try to dissuade them from writing things like that on their resumes. Here it is: having an objective is not a bad thing in any sense–how else is a target determined in the job search?–but revealing that to a potential employer is an unspeakably brazen act. Guess what else? The potential employer does not give a black cat’s whisker about what the applicant’s star wish is. A potential employer wants to know what the applicant can do to further the goals of the company. This is a circus. What can you do to fulfill the employer’s star wish? Can you dance? Can you sing? Can you jump through hoops? I cannot tell you how long it took me to get this.

Yes! do have an objective. That objective has to be so clear it can be interpreted into a real job title that can be explained to a contact. By all means know what you want to do, where you want to do it and in what context, but keep that information in your marketing planning map until the appropriate time to talk about it.

A Home-made Resume

the attemps to do a new resume

produce of resume writing

Some of us must write our own resumes and that is no sin. Some of us are under severe financial duress in the search for new employment. There simply is no room in a poverty-level budget for a $100.00 plus professionally written resume. Food and shelter are more important right now. The best bet may be to locate a professional who will agree to do pro-bono work. Others of us are control freaks. Having decent writing ability and a bit of an eye for design, we prefer to meet the challenge of resume writing ourselves, but there are roadblocks along the way and a little help is appreciated.

Personally, I love telling stories but I hate writing about myself. Resumes, bios,


and Linked In profiles get “kinda funky” and I tend to procrastinate on doing these tasks because of left-over self-esteem issues. The last time I had my freshly done resume critiqued by a certain job board (which shall remain nameless to allow grace to the guilty) the agency told me in the comments that “if you were sushi, your resume presents you as “cold dead fish”.  The sting in the tail of professional resume writers I see advertising on line seems to be provoking anxiety by using a foreboding  undertone:   “don’t get caught presenting a ‘homemade’ resume’. This is not a job for amateurs.”

I put off doing it again.

Contact Information

There are a few items immediately below the owner’s name on that document that should be there no matter who does it: contact information. Many resumes hop, step and jump to the waste bin because of the lack of contact information. The ticket to the ball will never get to a person who does not say where the ticket should be delivered. Of course, there are folk on the pro-address side and the con-address side.

Many people, for various reasons including security concerns, residence in a place of incarceration, being in the process of relocation or fear an employer practices a 21st century form of “redlining” may be reluctant to declare an address. Nevertheless, there should be a way to get in touch. Special circumstances can be explained later.  Click on an interesting article below about email addresses from Brazen Careerist, a favorite blog of mine. Even if an applicant’s real present address is “in an old oak tree in the Hundred-Acre Woods”, in a spare bedroom at a friend’s home or in a local emergency shelter, real addresses,  real phone numbers and a businesslike email address are necessary.