Thursday, May 10, 2012 by J.M. Auron
“The Modern Resume, How to Move to the Top of the Stack” is a post on the website of the University of Washington’s Office of Professional and Continuing Education, a site that offers much good advice for job seekers.
I agree with most of what the post has to offer, which I’ll summarize for you here. But I disagree strongly with two points – and think that a third piece of advice needs to be used with a lot of caution.
1) Is it a good idea not to reveal your age on a resume? The UW author thinks you should reveal your age. I say that you definitely should not.
2) Should you make a different version of your resume for every job? I say no.
3) Should you use your cover letter to address any gaps or employment issues? Sometimes. But you’ve got to think carefully about repercussions.
First, to summarize the things I agree with. The UW authors begin with two excellent points – they recommend focusing only on the jobs you’re qualified for, and treating the recruiter as your partner. In the current challenging job market, it’s easy to send your resume to every job you see, whether you’re qualified or not. But where’s the value in that? In a tight job market, the odds of getting a job with less than stellar qualifications are already less than they were. So don’t waste your time – or the hiring authority’s time – unless you’ve got a strong skill match; I’d say, as a rule of thumb, at least 70% or better.
By the same token, it’s easy to get frustrated with the job search – and too easy to take that out on Recruiters or HR professionals. From my experiences a recruiter, I can tell you definitely that this will not help your chances. Be polite. Be professional. If the current opportunity doesn’t work out, you’ll be higher on the recruiter’s radar for the next one.
The next point – to emphasize transferable skill sets if changing career direction – makes good sense. But don’t state those skills as transferable – that just highlights the fact of the change of direction. As with keywords or writing for search engine optimization, it’s important to include the skills naturally in your writing.
The authors also discuss using your LinkedIn profile as another version of your technical resume, and connecting your online presence to your resume. Today, hiring authorities are looking at more than just your resume when recruiting for an opportunity. They’re looking at LinkedIn, Twitter, and often Facebook. So be certain that your LinkedIn profile adds real value – don’t just copy and paste your existing resume into LinkedIn. And of course, be cautious with any other social media – if you’re looking for a job, it’s critical that everything on the net – and that means everything – present a consistent, strong, and professional impression.
Finally, the authors mention using caution when including hobbies and interests in resume. The suggest avoiding anything that could be seen as controversial – especially politics or religion. I agree with that, of course, but do recommend including interests if they add real value. If you’re a triathlete, or a martial arts champion, that can demonstrate levels of discipline, focus, and energy that are far above the norm. But for common hobbies, I’d omit. “Enjoys time with family,” for example, adds very little of value to your resume.
1) I absolutely disagree with the UW author’s advice to not conceal age on a resume. Age bias is endemic in hiring – in, fact, I’ve written about that in a previous blog detailing strategies to mitigate this challenge. The issue is not, unfortunately, a question of skills. It’s a question of discrimination, pure and simple. The authors state that your real age will come out in the interview. Perhaps. Perhaps not. I’ve written for a 65 year old triathlete who looks mid-forties. And even if age issues do arise in the interview, you’ve at least gotten to the first step – rather than being cut from the candidate list simply because of the date of your college degree. So do streamline your career – within reason.
2) The authors recommend customizing your resume for every job post. I’ve also talked about this issue in my post on whether customizing for every job makes sense – or not. While this may make sense to a limited degree, it’s simply not practical if you’re applying for 100 or more jobs – and that’s not at all uncommon these days. If you’re looking for several very different positions – and you have the breadth of qualifications for all of those positions – then by all means prepare 2 or even 3 different iterations of your resume. But don’t customize for every job you see. The amount of time required is crushing, and provides very little return. Also, the more versions you create, the more liked that errors will creep in – especially if you’re customizing in a hurry. Finally, too many versions living on your hard drive makes it far more difficult to keep all those versions straight – and increases the risk of sending the wrong version to the right job.
3) The authors suggest using the cover letter to address gaps in work history. This can be a good strategy. But it’s tricky. There are situations where this may be unavoidable. But there are also situations in which addressing an issue in a cover letter just draws attention to something that may not be top of mind with the hiring authority. So think long and hard about whether the potential advantages of explaining a situation outweigh the possible negatives.
If you have any questions – or would like to take advantage of my free, 15-minute resume review and consultation, please contact me here, where you can upload a copy of your current resume; I’ll get back in touch with you as soon as possible.
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