Hate Resumes? This Is For You

So you’re looking for work or looking for a different job. That’s great news and I commend you for making a good decision to improve on your financial health; the job you are looking for will hopefully make things a whole lot better for you both in your wallet and in how you spend your time.

All that stands in your way of getting a job offer it would seem is getting to meet the people who make the hiring decisions in the places you’d like to work. The thing is of course; and it’s easy to overlook – there are a lot of other people who are also hoping to meet the people who make the hiring decisions in the same places you want to work. Not only are you applying, but so are others. In fact, it’s the case these days that employers get about 75 – 150 applications for each job they advertise. That’s a lot of people competing for their attention!

I’ve sat down with two people this week who are looking for work and they couldn’t have greater differences of opinions when it comes to the value of resumes and how to go about looking for work. Let me tell you about each of them and you’ll see two different attitudes; and I assure you both are very real people, not just made up to make a point.

The first was a man in his 20’s with an extensive criminal record who has only ever worked under the table and done some volunteer work. He’s muscular, done general labour in the construction field and even a little cooking here and there. His job ambition? Anything. His thoughts on resumes? A waste of time and useless. He’s anti-resume because quite frankly he doesn’t like the idea of making one and doesn’t have the skills required to make one; skills like keyboarding, formatting, computer skills in general. What he doesn’t like he has no patience for.

When it came to putting together his resume, he sat beside me and actually told me to just make up stuff. “You know what to put down so just say I’ve worked at some places; it doesn’t matter if it’s true or not.” He wanted one resume just to send to his Social Services Worker who strongly suggested he get one, but he wasn’t planning on using it at all, hence the lack of regard for what was on it. When completed, he sent one copy to her and walked out with none for himself – in fact he refused to take one. His plan? Go to job sites all over town and introduce himself in person until somebody would hire him.

Surprisingly, this might actually work for him. Someone will look at his muscles and plan to use him for the grunt work until he either injures himself, quits, returns to jail or they lay him off for the winter. He’ll be trapped in an entry-level, physically tough job with little chance of advancement and all the while becoming increasingly bitter and angered about his situation in life. His choice though.

The other is a woman with one child also in her 20’s. She sat down with me and said right off the top that she was here for help as she knows her resume is flawed and she wants to learn how to make it better.

First thing we did is quickly find a job she actually wanted to apply for using the internet which took us all of 4 minutes. An excellent investment in time. Next we targeted her skills and qualifications on the resume to match the job requirements for the position she wanted. Again and again as we went through her resume line by line she said things like, “I get it now, ugh, I can’t believe I made so many mistakes. I thought it was at least okay but now I see how I’ve been coming across to employers. No wonder I wasn’t getting anywhere.”

It takes a wise person to see how they’ve been making mistakes, admit those mistakes and then take the steps to eliminate making those mistakes moving forward. This woman is such a person. She not only left with a strong resume for the job she wanted to apply to, she left knowing how to change and edit that resume for any subsequent job she wanted to apply to; even if those other jobs had exactly the same title.

Look, I want you to be successful. I want you to use your time productively; not just making resume after resume without any success. I want you to make strong resumes that will get employers interested in meeting with you (interviews) so you can sell yourself in-person and then get an offer of employment. Then of course, you will no longer need to make a resume until such time as you want a promotion or different job to improve your happiness at work and your finances.

So here’s good advice for those smart enough to take it; don’t get someone to make a resume for you – get an employment professional to make one WITH you – someone who will empower you so you’ll know how to do it on your own in the future. This way, you won’t be dependent on someone every time you apply for a job. Put in the effort, pay attention and learn how to make a resume with a good attitude.

Getting Help With Your Resume? Think On This

As an Employment Counsellor, I constantly get asked the question, “Will you help me do my resume?” I have learned that for some people at any rate, what the question they are really asking me is, “Will you do my resume?” They omit the key words, “help me”.

I can tell you that the quality of the resume which is produced at the end is greatly influenced by the proximity and involvement of the person whose name is at the top of the page. If I do that resume on my own without the person beside me, it will turn out good but it won’t be as great as it could be. If on the other hand the person is on –hand and can add some insights and provides me with information that I can then incorporate into the document, the quality is markedly better.

Furthermore I have to add that one of the most satisfying things about helping someone out is the sharing of the methodology itself. Just, doing it for them certainly gives them what they wanted – an end product. However, working on it together and doing it with them empowers the person who through the process learns how to do future resumes themselves. Empowering others is something I find great satisfaction in.

Without being  present  and assisting in the creation of the resume, you’ll only see the final product and miss the thought process involved. Often a person will look at a document and be immediately impressed; they feel genuinely good about themselves on paper – as I would hope they would. However, that same resume doesn’t always generate the desired result – a job interview. The reason is that the resume I’ve constructed doesn’t match up with a specific job as well as it could because without the person’s input, the words I’ve selected to use or the skills I’ve highlighted are close but not the best they could be.

So I put it to you that if you are going to employ the help of an Employment Counsellor, Job Coach, Resume Writer or any other professional to assist you in making a resume that you stay involved. This is your best chance at ending up with a resume that not only looks good but will ultimately garner you more results. You don’t really know what you’ve got until the resume is out there and you see whether it gets you interviews or not after all.

Understand that resume writing has changed over the years. Years ago if you had someone make a resume for you, they would charge you a certain amount and for that you’d get maybe 20 or 30 copies of the same document. You’d then spread those precious resumes around and hope to get some results. Here in 2016, most professionals know that the resume they produce is targeted to one single job – not a single type of job you understand – just one job posting. If you want to apply for a second job, you don’t just submit the same resume you’ve had created. You would modify the resume you have slightly or greatly to match the specific needs of the second employer; even when the second job has the same job title as the first. Not everybody understands this message.

I had a fellow recently ask me to help him with his resume. Again, what he really meant was do it for him completely in his absence. When I asked him if he’d be willing to meet with me to do it together, he said, “Why would I be there? You’re the expert; I’d just be watching you. No, I’ll wait for you to finish it.” As much as I tried to explain the benefit of being in the process with me, he wasn’t interested in learning how to do it for himself, but only in having it done for him. I imagine that if he gets the job interview he is hoping for he’ll thank me. However, I also imagine that if the job interview isn’t forthcoming, he’ll rationalize that I’m not such the expert I think I am, and he’ll point the finger of blame in my direction instead of re-considering that his presence could have improved the final product.

No matter who you get to assist you with your resume, commit some time to go through the process with the person.

I caution you against using the services – especially if you’re paying the person – of someone who prefers or insists on doing it without you around. A lot of people on the internet are happy to take your money and send you a resume. Resist the temptation of these providers; go for locally done by someone who walks through the creation process with you. When you pay for someone to help you make a resume whom you’ll never meet, they can never produce a document as effective as someone with the same talent who meets you in person.

A good resume has to use your language, express things as you’d express them in an interview. Employers can spot a resume made by someone else easily if the person applying and the resume don’t match up. This can make you look dishonest or at the very least disingenuous; and as you should know, honesty is a highly coveted value employers hold.

Some Settle For Mediocre Resumes

Are you better at fixing cars than the person that does it for a living and has had years of training and experience? Can you build a workshop with the same quality as a Master Carpenter? Not likely. What is more plausible and probable is that your efforts will result in something you might be okay with, but you suspect is not as professionally finished as it could be..

You can see examples of mediocre everywhere if you look. There are people driving around with duct tape covering rust holes in their cars, decks at the rear of houses that are wobbly and unsafe or people in school who are content to just get passing grades. Not to be confused with those who work hard and can only muster barely passing marks, or the ones who can’t afford a proper repair job. These are the folks who could do better but don’t put in the effort. These are examples of settling.

Now if you want to risk falling off your deck, don’t mind the jeers and looks you might get from your duct taped paint job, that’s your choice. The consequences are yours to assume and you shouldn’t be surprised if you and your guests feel uneasy on that deck or you get the odd comment about your quick-fix repair. In short, you know the consequences and are okay with the risks  you run.

It’s interesting then when someone will make their own resume, be told by a professional that its got some major issues, and still be okay with it just as it is and head on out confident that it will get them an interview. In other words, if an auto body shop offered it’s car restoration services for free, why would anyone still want to drive around with painted duct tape covering a rust hole? Or if someone knocked on your door and offered to replace or repair your wobbly deck at no charge, wouldn’t your only question be, “When can you start?”

To accept help with your resume from a professional, here’s what you have to acknowledge: 1) I’m big enough to admit the quality of what I can produce is not as good as what a professional could produce 2) Just as I have skills and expertise in some things, an Employment Counsellor or Resume Writer has the expertise when it comes to the job application process 3) Seeking out help with my resume from someone who can do it better than I can shows my intelligence.

Now I’m happy to say that many people I interact with are receptive to getting and accepting advice and suggestions with respect to crafting a better resume. There still remain many however who when being given feedback on their resume, become defensive, argue that spelling doesn’t really matter, and shun the help. Their choice as I said earlier.

It doesn’t mean of course that the poor resume they leave with is guaranteed to fail. No, I admit there may be some employer out there who does call them in for an interview even though the resume has spelling and grammar issues etc. Sure it could happen. However, the ODDS of it happening are lower than if the resume was enhanced by removing those spelling and grammar errors and the overall impression it gave was notched up significantly.

So why do people settle and hand out what they know are inferior resumes? Well for starters, it may be an issue of pride. After all, if you’ve worked hard to produce something yourself and you don’t actually know the quality is poor, it can hurt your self-esteem if even the most well-meaning professional starts pointing out all your errors. As you listen, you may very well feel foolish, yes even stupid (although I dislike that word intensely). So while some might express thanks and ask for help to improve it, some might just defiantly hand it out anyhow because they don’t want to admit their work is inferior.

In my line of work, I also see many clients with diagnosed and undiagnosed but suspected mental health issues. So in some cases, the person may actually believe the resume they have created is perfect, although the lack of results it brings them would suggest otherwise. As sad as it is, there are some people who will likely never get an interview with the resume they have, but they truly believe that resume is fantastic and their capacity to see its shortcomings even when pointed out is minimal or non-existent.

Resumes require work, and work is something many want to avoid, especially if making a resume – a really good resume – is something they don’t enjoy. The irony is however that making a poor resume is easy, but a poor resume means having to make and submit many resumes. A strong resume takes more effort, but the result is a higher likelihood of getting an interview and having therefore to do less resumes. But the short-sighted, ‘whatever requires less effort’ mentality often wins out.

My advice is obviously to get professional help with your resume. Get over it. It’s not about you, it’s about the resume. The resume professional isn’t a professional in all areas of life, but they are when it comes to crafting a resume. If their help is free, as in the case of a social service or job search agency, run and get that help!








Your Job Application Says More Than You’d Think

Over the course of any given month, I’m scheduled to supervise a drop-in Resource Centre where people can come in and have use of a computer hooked up to the internet, photocopiers, fax machines, telephones and even get free paper and envelopes. While they take advantage of all the above, only seldom do they take advantage of the Employment Counsellor with years of experience there to help them.

Now if I went into a brake shop and there on the wall were a number of brake pads, grinders, rotors and a car hoist, I might be able to tinker away and eventually leave with something that may or may not stop my car on the road. However, if there was a licenced professional brake installer standing there just waiting to help me for the asking, wouldn’t I be much better off asking for his or her expertise? I’d like to improve my chances of stopping.

Unfortunately, many people think they can put together a job application. They usually see the cover letter as a lot of effort and don’t do one at all, or if they do, it broadcasts all kinds of things about the person who wrote it that the person is oblivious to and wouldn’t want known. And the resume? Sorry folks but resumes are usually poorly composed without some second opinion.

So take yesterday. I’m watching a guy photocopy a number of documents which, in my experience tends to be a resume. Just as he was finishing this, I engaged him in conversation. I asked him if he was doing a resume and he was. Then I asked him if his job search was going well or if he was pretty frustrated and got the answer I expected; frustrating. Next I took a chance and told him he was going about the job application process the way that worked way back in 1995.

You see anytime someone is making multiple copies of their resume, I know it’s not specifically targeted to a specific job and this same resume is going to be sent out to different employers. It will never match up the best for any job, because it’s going about things backwards. The first step isn’t to make a resume and then find a job, it’s to find a job and then make a resume. “A” resume, as in singular.

Now as it turns out, he was pretty cautious about me looking over his resume. Most people I speak with out of the blue who don’t know me in the Resource Centre open up immediately and accept my invitation to look over their resume or cover letter and give them some advice. Others like this fellow are more guarded and I change my approach with them.

Here’s something I find pretty basic yet I see more often than I’d like. At the top of the resume I almost always see the person’s name. There is nothing else on the first line, just the name. That makes sense to me. You wouldn’t for example put, “Name:” to the left of your name because it’s obvious right? So then why is it some people will put the word, “Email:” and the beside it put their email address? Isn’t that obvious too? If someone can’t figure out what your email address is just by looking at it, then putting the word, “Email” just before it probably won’t help either. And the same goes with the phone number. Just put the number without announcing it’s a phone number. The employer is smart enough to run a business and can probably identify a phone number without you pointing it out.

In the case of the person I was speaking with, he sheepishly grinned a bit when I pointed this out, and a connection was starting. I could see the first glimmer of his trust forming. What he was really doing was visibly showing me that he recognized he had something to learn from me. Now he asked me for more.

And let’s be honest here. Resume Experts and Job Coaches don’t know everything about everything. If the person leaning against the wall watching me install my brakes came over and pointed out something I didn’t catch at first, I’d certainly ask them for pointers too. But even in the job searching industry, no one person knows everything, least of all me. Things change and so does the job application process.

He asked me if I could guarantee I could get him a job with a resume and I said that I couldn’t. For a moment he almost reverted to his original protectiveness, but he didn’t retreat all the way. I pointed out that the objective here wasn’t to get a job at all, it was to get an interview. The resume was really just one tool needed to get an interview that would be the next step in landing a job. The better the resume the more the odds swing in his favour.

This column is way too short to tell you how to make an exceptional resume. And this post isn’t an advertisement to drum up business for myself. The point is this: Get your brakes installed by a professional, or do it yourself only after having been instructed by a professional. Likewise, get your job application (cover letter and resume, social media profile etc.) looked over by a professional in the Job Coaching/Employment business. Then you’ll be skilled enough to do it on your own with a good chance of success.

Past Tense = Past Job, Present Tense = Current Job

Today I want to devote an entire blog to one very specific resume issue that crops up far too frequently if you ask me, and that’s the issue of tenses on a resume. If you are actively looking for a job, or better yet you know someone who is, I urge you to put this article in front of them. In either situation, pull out the resume in question and read this blog while looking at the resume simultaneously. This could really make a difference.

Okay so like the title says, when you are listing a job or volunteer position that you currently have on your resume, because of the fact it is a current position, that’s the cue to use words that are in the present tense. Using the same logic, when you are describing a job or volunteer position from the past that you are no longer doing, then you no longer use the present tense, you use the past tense; past job, past tense.

In practice, let me give you a specific example just in case you are a visual learner. Let’s say you are currently working a part-time job at a busy donut shop. You’re looking for a job that’s either another part-time job so between the two of them you have a full schedule, or you want a full-time job to replace the one you have now. Your resume may look like this:

Front Counter Representative, The Donut Shoppe 2012 – present
* Greet and welcome customers, take food and beverage orders, process payments

Now notice the following words above: ‘greet’, ‘welcome’, ‘take’ and ‘process’. All four of those words are in the present tense. The date on the far right, indicates this is a present job. So the reader has no confusion and clearly can see that the person is currently working and describing things they currently do. It’s proper grammar.

Now contrast the above with this:

Front Counter Representative, The Donut Shoppe 2012 – 2013
* Greet and welcome customers, take food and beverage orders, process payments

You’ll notice that all that has changed is the job ceased in the year 2013. This job is no longer current, it has become a job the person did in the PAST, and the PAST is the tip-off to use words that are in the past. The person who receives this resume and is considering whether or not to have you in for an interview will be confused. They see you are using current tense words, which means you are currently doing the work, but the years are in the past. Now they wonder are you employed or not? Do you have the education to notice your grammar errors or not? Do you have proofreading skills on something so important as your resume or not? So the past tense of those four words needs to be used. The change that is required is to make the resume now look like this:

Front Counter Representative, The Donut Shoppe 2012 – 2013
* Greeted and welcomed customers, took food and beverage orders, processed payments

Now you are consistent. Your work ended in 2013 and the words you are using are past tense. There is no confusion on the part of the person reading your resume any longer. You also don’t raise any doubts about your grammar skills, your attention to detail, or your proofreading skills. When you are proofreading your resume, read it s-l-o-w-l-y. If you read it at regular reading speed, you may not catch the errors you might have on the resume. And it’s never a bad idea to have someone look over your resume.

It may be that many people who started reading this blog never got this far. I’m willing to bet that this is such a basic, common sense kind of issue for many that they pretty much said to themselves, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, I get it, whatever”, and they stopped reading. That’s a shame really, because I often find that the people who think they don’t have this problem are the very ones who do.

Furthermore, there are a number of people I work with who when this common error of tense use is pointed out to them, dismiss all personal responsibility for the mistakes claiming that someone from some other agency wrote the resume for them. And to those people I ask whose name is at the top of the resume? And after they tell me it’s their name, I ask them at what point they are willing to assume 100% responsibility for what’s on the paper with their name at the top?

You know sometimes it’s the little details; the obvious mistakes in grammar rather than content itself that keep a person from getting to the interview stage. What a shame don’t you think if you are completely qualified to do the work you are applying for, but your grammar mistakes on the resume give the company a poor first impression of you, and they pass you by based on it.

Proper tense use will keep the person reading your resume focused on your accomplishments and qualifications and not your use of grammar. And it doesn’t matter what kind of job you are applying to, the rules of tense use apply to both blue-collar jobs and those running companies alike.