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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.