Note: We’re continuing our examination of the advice given by the job search experts. This is the final in the three-part post. I thought it was better in bite-sized chunks rather than one really long rant.
If Martha Stewart were giving advice on how to do a resume, she would surely tell us: It’s all about presentation! And while the “experts” agree that presentation is important, it often seems that’s the only thing on which they can agree.
We’re continuing our examination of the advice given by the job search experts. We all want help in our journey, so we turn our attention to those Messengers of the Employment Gods, the Recruiters and HR professionals who write the articles, post the blogs and send the Tweets. However, sometimes the counsel we receive is a bit conflicting. (I see it as somewhat like the basic plot in the Akira Kurosawa film, Rashômon. Four people witness a horrible crime, but when asked about it, they all give very different accounts of the events.)
It would be easier to confront these troublesome inconsistencies if the experts presented their opinion as options to consider rather than "absolute truth" which must be obeyed. And there's always the implied warning that disregarding (or worse, disobeying) the authority of these anointed job-granting leaders will bring instant judgment. Even the smallest of insight must be obeyed. “Thou shalt not use a San Serif font on thy resume, lest ye receive the recompense of continued residence in the wilderness of unemployment.” (Did we learn nothing from our Bible lessons about Moses, Mount Sinai and those divine edicts from the Ultimate HR Power?) We offfer our song of willing submission. "We Beseech Thee, hear us!"
However, since the experts can’t come up with a unified position, we’re left with the responsibility of putting all the information into some kind of workable, practical and individual package of compliance. Hopefully, our fervent intent to follow the “spirit of these lawgivers” will be seen as worthy of providential light on our job search journey and grant us the favor of the hiring deities.
Like a wandering evangelist myself, allow me to share what I’ve what I’ve learned:
Objective. This is the part of the resume where I affirm my career goals. It’s a statement (or a couple of statements, depending on which expert you believe. Who knows?) where I tell the potential employer why I’ve sent this document to them and what I want to do with my career.
When it comes to the “Objective” statement on resumes, I’ve learned four solid pieces of advice from the experts. (1) Always include an objective statement on my resume. (2) Never include an objective statement on my resume. (3) The objective statement should be detailed, targeted to the specific job I’m seeking. And (4) The objective statement should be vague, applicable for any job in any market.
Length. Does size matter? Apparently, what matters is opinion. Some feel strongly that no resume, regardless of emplo yment history, should be more than one page. Others are just as convinced that two pages are acceptable, if I have the experience and job history to merit the expansive length. (Most do agree that sending a resume the size of the NYC phone book is not a good idea.)
The divergent opinions also extend to matters such as Format (Chronological versus Functional) and Gaps in Employment. (Should I explain that six-month hiatus when I visited all the Civil War reenactments?). In addition, there’s little consensus on Standardization: do I use the same resume for all jobs, or do I have several (or many) versions. Or, should I customize the resume for each position?
Job History is another discussion altogether. How many jobs should I include? (What about those eight back-to-back positions in the month when I was dodging my crazy ex?) How far back to go? Five years? Ten years? Should my lemonade stand be included?
The dilemma and my decision: Not sure if it will help, but I’ll share how I’ve taken all the guidance and incorporated it into my resume.
I’ve decided not to include an Objective on my resume. As a writer, I do think it’s nonessential fluff (I work in PR, making people sound gooder is what I do!) Besides, it takes up valuable space on this all-too-important document. After all, is there any doubt why I’m sending my resume? I want a job! I need a paycheck! (And btw, if you ask me in the interview “Where do you want to be in five years?” I will answer in a similar vein: I want to still be employed and still getting paid.)
I’ve also chosen to go with the task-focused Format, highlighting my awesome skills and amazing abilities with key words and phrases. This is because most of my positions have basically involved the same function so I want to spotlight my acquired (and vast) skill-set. It's less about what I've done in the past and more about my CAN DO abilities now!
And I don’t confront the reality of my Employment Gaps in print, but will bring it up in the interview. (One was family crisis, so not easy to put it down on paper!) As for Job History, I only go back about ten years. (I get that my position with Slate Rock and Gravel Company would be pushing it!)
Finally, I don’t have a Standardized resume; I have several: one page, two page and variations of both adapted for the specific position/industry (i.e., for-profit company, nonprofits, public relations, communication, etc.) I have resumes that emplasize my experience in the religious arena and those that hightlight my work with charities. In fact, I have so many resumes in my folder it resembles the IN BOX at the unemployment office.
After lots of research, weighing the options and much soul-searching, I believe this is absolutely, positively the right method for me and my career field. My mind is made up and I feel completely confident in my approach. I am secure sending out my resume, clearly designed to please even the most capricious divinity.
But...what if I’m wrong?
Dammit! It's like having Sybil as my Job Search expert!