I had an interaction with a woman recently that lasted all of 10 minutes. I didn’t know her before, or she me, as she was a drop-in to our Employment Resource Centre. She’s in trouble though, because that resume she left with is just plain awful and I’d be surprised if it gets her far.
Her contact information just beneath her name had two mistakes I quickly corrected for her with her permission. For this I give her credit; allowing someone she doesn’t know to make a change to her resume. I was encouraged by this but soon got a different side.
The next section in her resume was the ‘Objective’ section. It read, “I’m looking for a part time or full time job doing something interesting that uses my skills.” Nothing short of vague and self-serving. So I told her that the line she’d put there didn’t tell the employer what she was looking for and required them to read her resume and figure out what she might be suited for. “Yeah, so? That’s their job.”
Suddenly she went from someone who was okay with me making a change on her contact information that she could see was plain wrong, to a person who was defensive and closed to help. I was close to losing her. So I explained quickly that employers get so many resumes when they advertise a job opening, that it needs to be clear right at the top the job you are applying for or they won’t bother to read anymore at all. They will assume that if you can’t even tell them what job you are applying for, you aren’t likely to put in the effort for them if they hired you.
If I was going to lose her, I wanted to lose her having been honest about this one point so she could change it on her own later when I wasn’t around which might be the case. Now although she didn’t get up and leave or tell me to go away, she did remove herself from our talk by continuing to work on the resume without saying anything. Her boyfriend, who had been sitting there entirely uninterested in the process risked three words, “Listen to him.”
“Fine. So what should I put there?” It was a window of opportunity. A small window mind you – reluctantly opened a crack but opened regardless. I told her that it would be best to find a job she wanted first and then use the job title in that section, followed by a section of qualifications which she didn’t have on the resume. She added the ‘Qualifications’ heading, but left the ‘Objective’ section unedited.
Now I personally don’t go in for the ‘Employment Objective’ heading anymore. I prefer a few opening sentences that quickly interest the reader in reading the entire resume by summarizing who I am and the value I offer. But I understand that discussion would be long and far down the road from this casual encounter with a reluctant resume writer met by chance. Work with what I find, where they are and with what they can understand.
I noted that she had been a Cook at two different locations and picking up on that I asked if she’d be interested in a cooking position. “Nope. I worked with all guys and they were jerks.” No bitterness there. Of course without probing more she might be either entirely justified in her assessment of them or she might be the problem herself. I risked it. “I detect a tad of bitterness and maybe, just maybe a little attitude?” delivered with a smile.
To my comment the boyfriend’s look told me I’d nailed it, and she herself not seeing that look, smiled herself and said, “Maybe just a little.” We didn’t get much further as the Centre was soon to close. I did manage to broker a deal with her however. “If the resume gets you a job, come back and tell me. If the resume doesn’t get you a job, come back and tell me.” This challenge would hook her stubbornness and I’d win either way. She’s coming back.
Ironically I don’t care whether about the resume itself. If it gets her an interview and she sells herself in it enough to get a job, that’s great. I do suspect that the body language, tone of voice etc. that I observed is going to prevent her from staying in a job very long and that she needs job maintenance skills. But one small step at a time! Right now it was about starting a relationship of trust and extending an offer of help. This fragile beginning may be the entire beginning, middle and end as she might not return and that’s it. Or she might come back, challenge me to see what I could do to help her, and maybe I could win her over.
These are the kind of interactions you can either seek out by engaging with strangers, or you can sit behind a desk in a drop-in centre and miss altogether. This kind of person isn’t likely to come up and ask for help. Hence why I like to initiate contact, interject myself into the work people are doing to find where I can be of help.
I fear that resume is a disaster going nowhere. Sometimes however, the person whose name is at the top has to figure that out independently.