In today’s job market, everyone is trying to create a little edge for themselves so they can beat the competition. I know that none of you are actually the source of these ideas. However, there are a lot of “so called” career counselors out there who try to create perceived value by introducing you to what I call “cheap tricks” that in my opinion just don’t work.
My assumption is that if you weren’t so stressed by this whole job search thing, you would agree that these approaches are just not smart.
For our very well experienced senior level audience, the primary one appears to be leaving off your early work history. The theory is that by doing so, you are able to successfully hide your age. The problem here is that very few of you are so good at writing resumes that it isn’t painfully obvious that you have left off important information. Consider that your early work history formed the foundation of your career, and to leave it off is just plain silly.
While it is true that your most recent 10 years are of the greatest interest and should be given the most “geography,” your early work history should be listed. The names of the companies, what they do or did (one line), your titles and the year ranges you held them are all that is required. No accomplishments are needed. Save that space for what you have done in your most recent 10 years. I have seen several approaches that would be funny if they weren’t so poorly done. One is to list all your early firms in one paragraph (boy, he must be really old), or an approach I saw recently was to say “early work history available upon request.” You can’t be serious that anyone is actually going to contact you to find out. Dream on.
Along with this strategy to try to look younger is leaving off your graduation dates. I had one career counselor tell me that she advises her clients to leave off dates. And then when she put on her interviewer hat (she does both), she told me that the first question she asks is graduation dates. I don’t quite get it. The last thing I would want is for someone to write in my graduation date on my resume in ink and then pass me along to someone else. It is a legal question, the idea being that they can check to see if you really did graduate from the institution involved. My own experience is that if you put down the year, people skip over it. They had a question, but you answered it. If you leave it off, it is a red flag that you must be old. And given that they may ask, it is also something they spend valuable interviewing time on.
With all of the candidates out in the marketplace, “local candidates only” is a battle cry heard often. In order to appear to be local, I have seen many cases where the address is left off a resume. Now follow my logic here, if you were local, I assume you wouldn’t leave off this “product advantage,” so you must be from out of town. Next resume. Believe it or not, I have seen it left off even when the candidate was local. Granted your phone number may be your cell, and even though you now live in Chicago, you have a New York City (917) area code listed on your resume. How exactly is this going to help you? If you aren’t a local candidate, it is sometimes possible to make yourself local by mentioning in your cover letter that you have family in the area, or perhaps that you went to school there. Your resume needs a proper address, and your other contact information, plain and simple.
This leads to another point I should mention with respect to innovative formats. The traditional resume format has stood the test of time. It may not be perfect, but by being inconsistent you make it hard to find important information that the reader is expecting to see in a particular place. (And, all in under 6 seconds!)
No one is going to spend time looking. Education should either be at the beginning or the end, and I believe at the end is best. There should be a summary at the top that is comparable to your 90-second announcement. How else am I going to understand your career if you don’t give me a context? Each company should be defined in one line. Year ranges are all that is needed for job titles. Months are like trying to add Roman Numerals, and I missed that day at school.
The worst offender in innovative formats is the long ago developed functional resume. Those who have a problem with their background are advised to use this approach. Now let’s think about that idea. If I understand it correctly, if you have something wrong with your background, you use a functional resume to hide all these ills. Therefore, if I see a functional resume, you must have something wrong with your background. Please share with me why I should waste time reading it.
Call me Mr. Magoo, and I have been called worse, but going to a smaller font, sometimes as small as 6 point type, instead of editing, is another really bad approach. Yes, I know you have a lot to say about your background, but you have only 2 to 3 pages of 12 point type to do it in. And by the way, a resume is either 2 or 3 pages, never 1 ½ or 2 ½. I would also suggest that putting your education at the top of a 3rd page is another really bad idea, and lately I see that all the time.
Clear writing is one of the skills that is going to get you hired for your next job. Writing and rewriting until you have cogent thoughts down on paper is what you need to do. Not doing this kind of extensive editing shows mental laziness. Trying to write short the first time is where most people go wrong. Only experienced writers can write short the first time. The rest of us have to write long and then edit and edit some more.
Well, that should get you started for tonight. If any of you have ideas about other cheap tricks that just don’t work, please send them to Leads@TheFENG.org and Leslie will put them in our Notes from Members section.