The phrase is so overused, it makes me throw up in my mouth a little every time I hear it. None of the alternatives are better. Economic crisis. Financial crisis. Turbulent times. And don’t get me started on the whole “Wall Street/Main Street” thing or I’ll regurgitate all over your face.
You know what else makes me want to throw up? Your resume.
I’ve seen a lot of resumes in my day, but now that we’re in “tough economic times,” I’m seeing even more and from people all over the map. East Coast, West Coast, G.E.D. to Ph.D. And they’re all guilty of some pretty common sense errors.
Maybe you’ve never had a job that didn’t involve handling a deep fryer. Ok, I get it. Maybe you’re fresh out of high school or college. I get that too – school certainly never taught me more than how to be bitter about the education system.
But if you’ve ever had a job that required you to sit behind a desk all day, there is no excuse for some of the nonsense I’ve seen. So come, sit a spell, grab a pencil, and listen up, as I present to you:
Rachel's Resume Tips
I can almost guarantee that if you follow all of these steps, that you’ll at least get a phone interview. Some of these might seem like common sense, but if I’m addressing it here, it’s because I’ve seen it.
- Always write a cover letter. I don’t care if the job announcement asked for one or not. And no, writing “Please accept my resume for the blank job. Thank You, X” in an email does not count.
- Do not refer to yourself in third person. It’s creepy.
- Make it sound like you really want the job.
- Not exactly qualified? Explain what drew you to the position, list the skills that you do have that will be beneficial, and above all, sound passionate. You’d be surprised how often passion can get your foot in the door, even if you’re lacking in some skills.
- Don’t just recite your resume. Highlight and give further details about the most relevant parts.
- Is there something odd about your resume? Maybe you have a mysterious three year gap in your employment history, or had a lot of jobs in a short amount of time? Briefly explain it in the cover letter.
- Don’t lie. Because when you get called in for an interview and you’re a nightmare, you will be the butt of many jokes in the office for months to come.
- Don’t use emoticons.
- Don’t say something like, “You’re search has ended, because I am the perfect candidate.” It makes you sound like a d-bag.
- Don’t add a signature line. I don’t care if it’s a quote from Jesus Christ himself. This is not an e-mail (even if it’s being sent as an e-mail attachment). Usually I see them from women and it’s something inspirational. I will then assume that you have a Thomas Kinkaide screensaver or that you’re a hippie, and you will be fighting an uphill battle from here on out.
- Write a letter that makes it sound like you read the job description, understand what the company is looking for, and have thought about where your skills match what they are looking for.
a. If you’re really not qualified, don’t apply. You're just wasting everybody's time.
- I was always told that you had to keep your resume to one page. That’s not true. Don’t make it too many though. I start getting weary after page three.
- If it is more than one page, make sure the page breaks are placed in such a way that the document flows well. For example, don’t let your page break in the middle of a job description.
- The objective and skills sections aren’t as important as your job history. If you include these sections, remember a few things:
- If your resume is getting rather crowded or lengthy, you may want to take out some of the descriptions. Make sure to keep the information that is most relevant to the job you are applying to. For instance, if you’re applying to be a veterinarian and you used to work at a circus, you can leave out that you were the champion juggler, but will want to include that you were responsible for wrangling the tigers.
- Make sure your resume is easy to read. Make good use of indentations, bullets, bold font, and spacing.
- When you are listing your former job responsibilities, make sure your verbs agree. Don’t say, “Conducted controversial scientific experiments…” and then in the next bullet say, “Producing babies with two heads…”
- Don’t provide references until the hiring company asks for them.
a. Don’t put something lame in your objective. If you’re applying to be a professional mud wrestler, don’t put “To be a professional mud wrestler,” or even worse, put in a job that is not the one you’re applying for (don’t laugh, I’ve seen it). Try something like, “To use my athletic talents for the entertainment of others.”
b. Your energy is better spent explaining your skills underneath the specific job that required them, instead of saying, “I’m awesome at bow hunting” at the beginning. How do I know that you’re good at bow hunting? Because you said so?
The Whole Package
- PROOF YOUR DOCUMENTS. This means more than running spell check:
- PROOF YOUR DOCUMENTS AGAIN!
- PROOF THEM ONE MORE TIME!
a. Although, totally run spell check. Run it every time you change the document. Because if you don’t, and you send me your resume in Word, I can see all the red and green squiggles under words that show me that you didn’t run spell check. And that makes me think you aren’t so excited about this job.
b. Better yet, when it’s finished, convert it into PDF. No chance of squiggles. You can download a free converter here.
c. Once you’ve spell checked it, print it out, grab hold of a red pen and read it again. Slowly. Did you right a book or did you write it? Was the test past or passed? Yeah, that’s what I thought.
d. Once you’ve read it so many times that you’re sick of yourself, have somebody else read and proof it.
e. Do all your bullet points line up from one page to the next?
f. Make sure all your documents use the same font.
g. While we’re on the subject of fonts, don’t go any larger than 12 point, or you’ll look like you’re special needs.
Sending It Out
- If you’re sending this via email, put the title of the position you’re applying for in the subject line, unless they specifically ask for something else.
- What have you named your document? Try to include your last name, the type of document (cover letter, resume), and the name of the company to which you are applying.
- What email address are you sending from? Now would be a good time to switch from firstname.lastname@example.org to something more professional like email@example.com
- Do you live in Los Angeles? Are you cute? Are you thinking about sending your headshot along, even though this job has nothing to do with acting or modeling? Don’t. It’s creepy.
- Don’t hit send yet! Did you include everything they asked for? Did they ask for a salary history or a writing sample? Make sure you include it.
a. Applying to more than one company or type of job? Make sure you change that information when appropriate.
a. Someday I’ll tell you about Ravi, the magician from Los Vegas with the chest hair and large gold jewelry. I guess that’s what we get for posting on Craigslist.
a. If a company asks for something like this, don’t just send a resume and then say, “Salary history available upon request.” Because they did request it. And they probably won’t ask you for it again.
b. Sometimes people might not want to include a salary history. The cover letter is a good place to mention this. You might say, “I am open to discussing the salary range, and will gladly explore this topic further in an interview.”
For formatting help, try this tutorial or google the problem you’re having.
You can find a cover letter template here and resume templates here.
I hope this helps. Maybe next I’ll write a post about interviews and how you should always send a thank you note. I mean, everyone needs all the help they can get right?
After all, we are in tough economic times.