I do resume’s for people of all backgrounds, but my typical client has usually worked in a stable job for many years.  Consequently, they are surprised at the changes in job hunting methods and complain that it’s hard to find a job. It’s not hard to find a job, it’s hard to learn new methods to find a job. The new way to find a job is online, on LinkedIn or Twitter and through search engines, which is vastly different from even 10 years ago.

One of the biggest difference in job hunting from 20 years ago to today, is that resumes were a basic job description which you physically handed to a person.  Usually, you knew the company was hiring and expected an interview to screen you in or out, but everyone got an interview. Today, the internet allows everyone to apply, but the screening process is performed primarily by search engines.

That’s why your resume can make or break your job search.  It is being screened by a computer that is searching for key skills (key words).  Anyone can post a resume online, but content makes the difference in whether you will be found. The Recruiter – a company or recruiting agency – further screens the applicants down to 20 or so and forwards them onto the HR Person or Account Manager who screens applicants down to the top 5 or 10 people to interview.  It’s like a talent show with secret voters narrowing choices to the top 5 candidates. So, if you aren’t getting interviews, does it mean no one is voting for you?  Probably not, but it does indicate that your resume has some issues.

First, correct the issues.  If you hire a professional resume writer, expect to pay between $200 to $400. If you do it yourself, expect to spend some time on it.  Start by finding no more than 3 resume samples online that you like or ask a co-worker if they have an updated resume you can view for ideas.  Then, ask someone who will be frank (not rude) about your current resume, like someone who interviews people regularly in your industry.  Be open to the information and then consider cautiously what is appropriate for you to apply. Remember, great advice at one company or industry may not apply to another.  Avoid personal preferences and the advice of well-meaning people who love you but do not have a job to offer.  Just say “thanks, I’ll consider that” and move on.

Second, identify your target job (a job in the same industry, same job at a new company, same skills in a new role) and prepare to write. Keep your expectations modest and start with the basics; write down each employer name, city and state in the last 10 years along with the employment dates and the main tasks performed. Focus only on the content for now, you can make it look pretty later. Now, think about your best or strongest skills – perhaps the top 5 or 10 things you love to do or do really well. Review a few job advertisements you would apply for to see how they describe things so you can adjust the content, taking care to be modest, honest and accurate. Do not exaggerate or lie. Revise the content as you consider each role and task.  Try to give a good example, not a perfect example.

Thirdly, consider the layout, or how it looks.  Template examples are great for ideas, but I strongly suggest avoiding using a template unless you are moderately proficient with word processing software.  If you are struggling to make your resume look the way you want, ask someone who types fairly well if they can make your information look like the sample you found.  If not, just do your best and keep it simple.  Stick with fonts like Arial, Times Roman or Garamond that are no smaller than 11 point.  Use left justified margins on the text and page margins of 1/2 or 1 inch. Avoid fancy fonts, colors, underlining, tables, special characters, acronyms, and jargon if at all possible.   A simple layout keeps the focus on the content so your resume hits its intended target, the job.

If you’re thinking “but I’m not a specialist” about now, consider that a doctor who performs 10,000 operations is a specialist, just as a person who moves 500,000 packages is a specialist.  It may not be your job title, but anyone who has done a job for 10+ years is a specialist at something. It doesn’t mean you know it all, it means you know a lot. Present your skills appropriately to the market, big or small.

Finally, if you aren’t getting interviews despite your 20 years of experience and want to stay offline, be prepared to stay invisible. If you want people (and jobs) to find you, post a resume online that has sufficient detail about your work.  Here’s an example of sufficient detail:

  • OLD STYLE RESUME:        Ship & receive packages
  • NEW STYLE RESUME:      Certified Fork Lift Operator routes 500 pallets of automotive parts packages weekly to 3 automated lines to exceed daily quota of 75 pallets with no lost or damaged packages in 5 years.

As you can see, content matters and it’s important that your resume has sufficient detail about the work you perform.  Remember, someone viewing 300 resumes is using a computer to search for specific skills and if your resume lacks sufficient content, you are invisible.

When you’re ready to create your resume, start with the basics and build on that information.  Be patient as you begin to write and understand that you will recall more as you go along.  Writing is a process and the goal here is to create one resume for one job, industry or market.  It is not to create a one size fits all document.  Once you have the information written, then you can consider what to keep, add or delete.  As you refine the content, you will hone the focus and, within a few days, have an updated resume you can confidently post online.  And, just in case you think you can’t, remember this:

Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan ‘Press On’ has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.- Calvin Coolidge.

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