Resume advice – the real deal.

And it’s the real deal because it comes from ME, Margaret. I’ve seen enough of ‘em in my time, and so I know whereof I speak. (ok, sometimes other views are valid too, but let’s focus, and not get sidetracked with trivia).
Here are some of the comments that other people have given Merit’s adorable candidates:

To executive/administrative assistants: “Leave your Master’s/MBA off”. What? You spent a fortune doing a graduate degree, it took blood, sweat and tears to study for it, you’re a better person for it and yet you shouldn’t put it, one of your proudest achievements, on your resume? Sorry? It proves you are well-educated, had the tenacity to study for it, possibly while working a regular job, have the knowledge gained from it (duh), and are therefore better qualified than candidates who don’t have it.
Shout it from the rooftops.
Now, to be fair, you MAY have to explain in a cover letter why you are not expecting to be promoted out of the job for which you’re applying because of your graduate degree. Moreover, if the MBA is in something unrelated, you may well have to explain why you do NOT intend to change careers as soon as you can – you are someone who constantly wants to improve your mind and therefore did an unconnected, fun, expensive degree in Art History/Social Work/Accounting/Sanskrit to keep your brain from rotting. And all of that has to be the truth. If indeed you do want to change careers, and are using the position for which you have applied as a stop gap, then fancy footwork is in order. Speak to your agency counsellor to figure out how to pitch yourself to your, with luck, new employer.

“Resumes can only be one page”. This is a comment last heard as appropriate advice in a black-and-white episode of “The Twilight Zone”. If you’ve been with the same company for 20 years, you can probably do yourself justice with one page. Since 2008, it is increasingly difficult not to be downsized no matter how good you are. Nobody said life was fair. And therefore with several jobs because of a couple of layoffs, a couple of good internships you don’t want to drop from the resume, temp work, looking after a sick relative blah blah, one page is going to look very, very busy, with the smallest font known to MSWord. Two pages is more than fine.

“Put everything in chronological order”. Well, yes, for the most part, of course… but if the resume starts to look as though you’ve job hopped all over the place, you might find it helps the look of the format to have all that “Temporary Experience” as a separate heading so it doesn’t mess up the perm stuff. If you’re more-or-less entry level, it can look at first glance to harassed HR Co-ordinators as though you’ve had a ton of jobs because there were summer jobs at Hooters and two internships jumbled up with the perm stuff. Put all that under e.g. “Other Work Experience” after your “Professional Experience.”

“Resumes should only go back 10 years”. Oh stop it. Much more realistic to have 15 – 20 years from the 25, 30, 35 you actually have. The stuff from 20+ years ago won’t help you, in fact may be held against you by naughty employers who haven’t read employment legislation, but 10 years is often just not enough.

“Write your reasons for leaving on your cover letter”. Wrong. Your cover letter should be about why you are specially good for the job for which you’re applying, not an apology about why you left previous jobs. Also you think the HR departments keep the cover letter glued to the resume, and read the two as a whole? Haha. No, what you do, don’t argue, is write the reasons for leaving jobs on your resume. In very small font, in italics next to the company or job title, just a couple of words (laid off, company folded, manager left, career move and so on) so that HR don’t think “That’s a lot of jobs”, without immediately thinking “Oh, ok, laid off, relative deceased, company relocated out of state”. You want them to have those thought processes while they’re reading it, so they can decide to interview you. Once they’ve made their minds up it’s too jumpy, you can never get them back.

“Education should come first”. A variation of this is “Education should come last”. My reply? HK- Hoo Kares? If you’ve got a wonderful degree and it’s relevant and reasonably recent, yes, put it at the start. If it’s cough, cough, not your USP, (Unique Selling Point), GPA of 2.1 and all that, probably best at the end, along with Computer Software and Other Interests.

By the way, if you haven’t finished a degree but have some college, don’t write the words BA BS etc; it totally implies you have the degree. That’s a fib and I shall strike you off my Christmas card list. However don’t leave out any college you HAVE done, or everyone will assume you’ve done none at all. Lots of ways of writing it e.g. “30 credits towards degree in journalism”, “30 credits short of degree in journalism”, “some college courses in journalism”.

If you’re cautious or paranoid and don’t want to write all your contact information on your resume, just remember, agencies and companies have to be able to get in touch with you easily. Write the town, so people will know whether it’s commutable or not, “New York, NY” or “Moose Droppings, PA”. Incidentally, not putting a distant town fools no-one who e.g. needs someone more local for emergencies. If you don’t want to share your telephone number, to ward off the stalkers, then we’ll need an email. If even that scares you, make up an email specifically for job searching.

Yeesh, I could go on for pages.

2017: A New Year – Same old problems or not?

I work for a staffing service so I tend to think in terms of candidates, clients, and of course staffing services. What are the continuing issues?

Staffing services. Naturally, Merit never does anything wrong, ever, but as for the others? Oh dearie me… in 2017, it’s going to be a) Return candidates’ phone calls promptly. b) Remember to give candidates some feedback. I’m thinking specifically when clients don’t return OUR calls; we have to remember to let the candidates know. “No message to relate” often becomes “forget to tell the world it’s no message”. c) Give good advice about resume writing and thank you letters. As a quick rule of thumb, if an agency tells you something I disagree with, I’m always right, and don’t listen to anyone else who tells you otherwise (er, cough, cough). e.g. Who are these recruiters out there who still say resumes can only be one page? Puh-leeze.

Candidates. a) You don’t always follow up often or quickly enough with the agency. We CARE how the interview went. b)You have to proof your resumes and thank you letters really carefully. You’re not always going to get anal Margaret to do it for you, so please quadruple-check everything. c) Take it all very seriously if you really want a job. Return phone calls as quickly as possible, be on time for interviews (you’d think that would be a DUH one), look and act the part, do your homework, keep the agency in the loop.

Clients. At the risk of annoying any of my clients who are all FABULOUS, btw, other agencies’ clients sometimes take f-a-r- too long to get back about resumes, interview times, interview feedback, and final decisions, especially when, alas, it’s a no. We know they have all sorts of other priorities but still…

Finally..2017. What are the new-ish issues? a) NYC doesn’t allow credit checking anymore. Woo hoo. b) Companies more and more these days are expecting a four-year degree for accounting, administrative, reception, sales and customer service jobs. Previously it was advantageous, not essential. What to do if you don’t have a four-year degree? Find a staffing service that can persuade the client that they’re being silly. c) We’re seeing more jobs at last becoming available than we did in 2015 and 2016, especially in the administrative and accounting fields. Long may this trend continue.

Sigh….Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to read this blog

If I see that phrase “time out of your busy schedule” one more time in a thank you letter to potential employers, I shall SPIT. It is such a cliché, there is no excuse for using it ever under any circumstances. Whatsoever. Remember, this blog on the Merit website is called “Margaret says” and this is one of those times when Margaret says and isn’t going to listen to any “Yes, but what if”s”…Please don’t ever use it. Actually, if I had ten dollars for every time I’ve read it in a thank you letter/email, I’d be sunning myself on a beach, not listening, for example, to the sounds of the OWS, Occupy Wall Street, protesters who were noisily marching past the building as I first wrote this blog a couple of years ago.

Ok, that’s my harrumph grumble harrumph over. What do you say instead? There are different ways to say the same thing…I mean, it WAS good of the interviewer, who will indeed probably be very busy, to give you some time to explain the job and listen to you. So… just phrase it differently. “Thank you so much for meeting me; I really appreciate it”, “Thank you for your time”, “Thank you for being so generous with your time”, “Thank you for the time you to took to explain to me…”.

As for the rest of the letter – and these days, that usually means an email. With luck you’ll be back for second interview before the snail mail letter would have arrived – Less Is More. Write about what you learned in the interview. “I was pleased to hear that your department has a system of tracking…”, “that you’re going to expand”, “that you interface with…” . and then of course relate that information to your own skills and experience. Explain what you can do for the company – you have a chance to help the department be successful by bringing your skills, experience and personality to the job. That’s going to resonate with them more than the fact that you want a challenge. It also proves, incidentally, that you didn’t just copy and paste a template thank you letter from the Internet.

Sometimes one paragraph is enough, sometimes two. There are exceptions to this but, if you’re using a staffing service, a good counselor will talk you through it all.

By the way, address the person as Mr, Ms, Dr in a thank you. Not first names. Even if they’ve been very friendly, it’s still better to be more formal in written correspondence. And for heavens’ sakes, proof your thank you letter. More than once. A company doesn’t know and love you yet; all they have to go on is your resume, how you performed at interview and your thank you note. Mistake-ridden isn’t going to help your chances.

That’s it, class! If you do have any questions, “But what about when….” then please let me know.