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Job Seekers: Your Burning Resume Questions Answered

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Reviving a fire., Digital ID 1641474, New York Public LibraryOver the course of my career, as a career counselor and a hiring manager, I've looked at a lot of resumes and I continue to review a lot of resumes.  Job seekers often get so wrapped-up in revising the resume that it turns into this all or nothing pass into the land of employment.  While a good resume is an asset in any job seeker's arsenal of job hunting tools, it is not the only important thing or even the most important thing.  Also, your resume can only do you some good if it gets in front of the right people.  I will try to address the questions most people ask about resumes here, but feel free to comment with other burning questions.  I hope this entry will ease your anxiety so that you can finally share your resume with others.

  • Should I go with the functional format?

No!  Yes, I know some well-meaning person told you that for your unique situation, the functional resume will show-off your skills better than the chronological format.  Also, the chronological format is old hat anyway.  I don't need to know what your situation is to answer this question.  Employers do not trust functional resumes because they hide a lot of information, and they are harder to skim through than chronological resumes.  Do the best you can with the chronological resume format and be happy.

  • How should I format my dates?

Align all dates to the right side of your resume and include the month and year for start and end dates for all jobs.  For your current position, if still working there, format as follows: mm/yy to Present

  • So, I almost have my BA in ____________. That's like having it, right?

Being a college grad is a lot like being pregnant; you either are or you aren't.  Lying on a resume is never acceptable, and bending the truth "a little" by transforming that almost completed degree into a completed one is lying.  However, you can indicate that you have completed coursework toward a BA.

  • What do you think of resume writing services?

I'm not a fan of resume writing services in general because it's a very expensive service for a document that is designed just to get you an interview.  The interview is much more important than your resume, and because of that, it's important that your experiences are described in a way that is true to how you would describe them.  Resume writers are good at writing and they might be familiar with a wide range of occupations, but even the most knowledgeable and articulate resume writer will never have the first hand knowledge that you have when it comes to describing your experience and achievements.  If you would like to enlist the help of a professional resume writer anyway, you can find some tips on finding one on About.com.

  • What about references and salary information?

Don't put references or salary information on your resume.  Only provide an employer with references if the employer indicates they are seriously interested in contacting your references because you are a final candidate in their search.  If you have to put salary information on an employment application, c'est la vie, but don't put it on your resume.

  • I had to take a time-out to (raise kids, deal with a medical problem, take care of a loved one, etc.)  Now what?

The details don't matter so much.  Just account for the gap on your resume by indicating that you took a sabbatical and include the month/year of the beginning and month/year of the end.  You might get some questions about it.  Be as general as possible and indicate that the break was due to a situation that arose at the time and has since been resolved.  For more tips on addressing gaps on your resume, check-out this post.

  • Can I have more than one page?

It depends.  If you have a lot of experience that is really related to the type of job you are currently looking for and it goes over a page and a half, then, okay, you can have two pages.  If you only have one sentence over one page, adjust your spacing and font size to bring it to one page.  If some of that experience isn't related or makes you look old, consider editing it down to one page.  In general, most hiring managers are more comfortable with one page resumes and most candidates seem to feel better about the one page versions of their resumes as well.

Comments

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Should you have a "professional summary" on your resume?

I have heard that summarizing your professional work-related skills (i.e. *Establishes rapport quickly. *Is flexible, yet highly organized, etc) at the beginning of your resume is a good idea. Do you have any advice on that?

Professional Summary

An effective professional summary, highlight of skills or summary of qualifications can be helpful, particularly if you are a career-changer. The purpose is to the a prospective employer a snapshot of the skills you possess that match the qualifications they are looking for. In general, these summaries should be brief (3-4 statements) focusing on key qualifications that you know the employer wants. In some cases, it may be knowledge of a particular software package, others may want to know your typing speed, others may want degrees or certifications in certain disciplines. Soft skills like "good team player" don't tend to work well in the summary of qualifications or professional summary. These summaries are usually best for job-specific and technical skills.

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