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Dumbing down resumes March 15, 2011

Posted by jvmullin in Job Searching, Job Searching.
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If this subject isn’t like opening a can of worms!

Do I or don’t I?

I need a job and I keep hearing that I am over qualified so should I dumb down my resume?

There are pros and cons to doing it and it could get you fired right after you have started a job.

If you dumb down your resume to get hired then once you are in you will want to prove yourself right? Well not so fast there, remember you dumb down your resume so you are not suppose to be good at what you do much less that advanced in it. So that will throw red flags up and then they will start asking how you know so much.

You have just been nailed! Some companies feel that omissions on a resume is the same as lying on your resume and it is grounds for immediate dismissal. So goes your short lived job.

Now the other problem for you. You have to remember what you didn’t put on there so you don’t mess up and look smarter than your dumb resume. So this puts stress on you to remember what your dumb you is versus the smart you who wants to excel. So it is how long can you play the dumb game before the stress makes you go crazy.


If you need to dumb down your resume to get a job, how happy will you be in a job where you know that your smarter than your boss and maybe even their boss. How happy will you be knowing that you had to degrade yourself to land a job.  You are going to be miserable and not very productive and this could effect your 90 day review.

The other part of that is you are proud of the work you have done and the skills you have acquired and you hate the fact that you have to dumb down to get a job.  So again you are miserable and the question is can you leave that misery at  work or are you going to wear it as your albatross??? Now your friends and/or family are miserable.

So what do you do?

Well that is up to you.  I know things are getting desperate and that money is tight and about to run out. So you think it is desperation time just dumb it down and get a job any job at this point.

Well if you are going that route don’t apply for a company your really want to work at because it could destroy your chances of working there the right way.  If you are going for survival work while you still look for your dream job I would say do what you think is best for you.

In closing let me just say keep track of who you sent the dumb resume to as you don’t want to show up at an interview and spring the smart resume on them. That would make the interview real short.

Volunteer Work and your resume February 16, 2010

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This question gets asked a lot. Should I put my volunteer work on my resume?

Your volunteer work shows that you have interest outside of work that is considered life-balance. It shows the type of person you are by what you volunteer for. It shows that you can handle certain things better than others.

I was at a networking meeting the other day and this question came up. I was discussing how I have been told that my volunteer work (underwater recovery) should be on my resume. I was saying how I leave it on there. I am the Assistant Dive Chief and help run the operation or I am in charge of the operation. Since I have been on the news a number of times I asked when you see divers on the news do you know what goes on when they are there? No one had a clue.

The following is a typical operation that I would run;

I get a phone call between 1AM and 4 AM that there is a drowning (usually in the quarry). I have to figure out the risk involved and then pick from 139 fellow volunteers those that have the skill set to get the job done. I also have to support personnel for each diver so I have to call others. I then have to get the truck and report to the scene. Once on the scene I have to secure an area for my divers, find the Officer in Charge of the Scene and get filled in on what the story is. I have to interview witnesses. Then after assigning a few tasks I formulate the plan and pick my first team of divers to get in the water. I hold a brief press conference for the media that has shown up. Then it is back to running the operation. I debrief the first team of divers as to the conditions they encountered. I call all divers to a meeting to let them know whats ahead for them. Then the next set goes in. Each team of divers get a debriefing on exiting the water so that I can revamp the plan if required. In the middle of the operation I call another press conference to update them and to let them know what conditions we are diving in and to give them an estimate of how long I think the operation is going to run. At the end of the operation I give the last press conference. I give a final report to the Officer in Charge of the Scene.

So to break that down into skills that I go through; team building, logistics, relations(public and media), planning, risk/benefit assessment, leadership, crisis management(at times), communications and politics(on occasion).

After explaining this to the group I was told by one person that I was running an Agile operation. I said we run as a paramilitary organization in that we have one person in charge and one voice to the outside world. They said that is Agile. So I guess you could say that I understand how Agile works.

You could also say that I understand LEAN also. Think about it! I have limited resources to work with( I do not call out everyone for a dive) and I have to do the best job I can and get results that lead to a successful completion of the operation.

You could liken an operation to a project; I have a start and end I have dependencies and interdependencies and milestones.

So you can see that my volunteer work needs to be on my resume as the skills that I use (all at once) are beneficial to the company that I work for.

I am sure that your volunteer work may not be as involved as mine but I bet you have some great transferable skills from yours.

The other thing about volunteer work is that you may interview with someone who also volunteers to that organization or is interested in it. It will provide a talk point and relax the interview as now you have a common point.

OK time to tackle resume critiques and writers! January 5, 2010

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Let me preface this post by saying I am not against critiques and writers like every other profession there are good ones and bad ones. So buyer beware!

Ok we are unemployed are funds have become limited some of these services are offered through the major job boards and the other has some steep charges to it.

So what do we do. I have had the same  resume critiqued by 3 different job boards and received various results. The major critiques was the format I used, it wasn’t chronological, I was missing a Objective statement, hello that is so old school, and then the content, I am not even going there what is wrong with skills and accomplishments.

Being the curious type I wrote back to these “experts” and asked how much they knew about the electronics industry and how many resume they had written for engineers? Only one replied and try to explain that the industry didn’t matter that there were rules and formats to be followed and thats what they critiqued to get a full critiques would cost me a few hundred dollars. Hello! I am unemployed!  To me that was the wrong answer. It is our resume and as such we know that there is certain industry jargon that must be mentioned in our resume somewhere, preferably up front at the top.

We are constantly barraged with “companies want to know what you can do for them” a list of your past responsibilities does not cut it in todays world. You need to list skills and accomplishments with percentages and dollars permeating these.

Now to get to the heart of the matter. Your resume is your’s and it is up to only you to perform due diligence on it.  It is a dynamic document in that it requires constant change to make it fit better to every situation you use it. You are the master of it. So if you fall into the free critique scam then take the results with a large grain of salt. After all it is a ploy to get you to spend the money you do not have to get a full critique. If they didn’t get the free critique right in your book why would you want to pay for a full critique by people who do not understand your industry.

I was at my local career center and a woman, who is paid by the state, tells me she is a registered resume writer. So I ask how many resumes have you written for Engineering Managers? NONE Okay well how many have you written for electronic engineers? NONE Well then how many management resumes have you written? NONE So exactly how can you help me write my resume if you do not understand my industry or know the jargon? Well I can write you a resume and then you will need to modify to fit. Hell, I can do that with a Word template!

If someone wants to critique your resume first ask if they have any industry experience and is it recent. Where do they get there information from (hopefully the hiring managers not HR)? Do they fully understand the industry jargon? If you are satisfied with all the answers then let them critique your resume. Again it is your resume so you have to totally buy in to their suggestion before changing your resume. Discuss the proposed changes and ask what the advantages and disadvantages are.

Resume Writers:

Yes there is a certification for resume writers. I would seek these people out as they have to meet certain criteria to maintain their certification.  This does mean that any certified resume writer is okay to use.  There is where your due diligence has to be top notch. Find one who has recent experience in your industry and at your level. Ask for references. You want to know if what they wrote is working or not. Interview them as you would any business dealing to make sure that it is a right fit and that you will get value for your dollars.  The writer should be asking you many questions about your past experiences, skills and accomplishments. Make sure they have a thorough understanding of who you are and what you can do before they put ink to paper.  You will want to carefully proofread there work to make sure that it matches you and all statements are factual. The really good writers should hit it on the first try if their questioning was accurate.

I know it sounds like I went on a tirade on resume critique’s and writers.  As I prefaced this post I am not against these people they have a job to do and are looking for clients constantly. What I am against is people claiming to be something they are not or performing a task they are not qualified for. As people are unemployed for lengthy periods of time they become more desperate. There are people that will use this desperation to feed on the  masses for their own prosperity. These are the people I am against.  Shame on us for not doing our homework/due diligence.

The saying goes a fool and his money are soon parted! Job seekers let’s not be foolish but smart in our quest for our next career.

Resumes and Cover Letters December 11, 2009

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There is a never ending debate on the use of cover letters do I or don’t I send one.

The other never ending debate is resumes, which style, which format what content. There must be thousands of books written on this subject alone.

So the big questions would be what works and what doesn’t. Who should I listen to?

We know or should know by now that your resume and your cover letter are pieces of marketing material. Your resume is not your professional life history. It is no longer a list of former jobs and responsibilities either.

We are currently in the most competitive job market I have ever seen in my years of professional work. There is also a very bad trend going on as well (despite the great debate that is brewing in a LinkedIn group) as to companies hiring new talent vs. seasoned talent. Actually they are doing neither. Companies are trying to muddle through this with bare-bones staffing.  They have cut themselves to the quick in order to look profitable.

What does that have to do with resumes and cover letters? It has everything to do with it. In order to compete in this market you first need to understand what the field is. Next you need to learn how to play in this field and be successful at it.

What is the secret? There is no secret! However! You must differentiate yourself from all the others in order to be successful. Okay! How do I do that? You do that with your cover letter and resume. I address this is an earlier post but I am going to do it again.

Your resume and cover letter is a representation of you! That being said how can you differentiate yourself if you are using the format you got out of a book that was written many years ago. Is that resume in the book tailored exactly to you and what you do? I highly doubt it. Does it fit your personality, your style, your capabilities? Again I doubt it. The same holds true with cover letters. I have been caught in right sizing(todays term) many times and each time the rules have changed and so I have found that the many myriad of books on these two subject become basically outdated.

I am not saying that they are totally useless. They are useful in setting the basis but by no means should be considered a bible.

The one consensus today is that the Objective statement is out! If you have this on your resume and you are wondering why yo do not get calls? Well there it is get rid of it.  Everyone knows what your objective is to land the job “where you can use your knowledge and skills and move forward”. ZZZZZZZZZ!

You should have a base resume that includes every accomplishment and skill you have. Do not ever send this resume out to anyone. Unless they are looking for an over-achiever or you want to be placed in the ” we can;t hire them they will get bored too easily” category.  This is the resume you work off of to create your personalized resume for that company and that hiring manager.

What do you mean?

Lets say you had a great accomplishment at a pass position. However, the skills you used to do that are not needed in this position you are applying for. While you are proud of what you did, the company does not need those exact skills. This counts against you!

So what do I put in the resume and cover letter?

Hopefully you have researched the company and have a good understanding of what they need. Then go to your base resume and see what you have that fits. Copy and paste that into your submittal resume. NOTE: save your best accomplishment for your cover letter and do not repeat it in your resume. WHY?  I will get to that. Now you cover letter should start with how you heard about the position. A very brief explanation is sufficient, one line. This helps the company understand where there dollars are best spent in their search process. The next paragraph better be about the company and how you understand their need and how you can help them.  The next paragraph should be your best accomplishment, be brief but concise. It should also fit directly inline with their need. The last paragraph should be a request for a meeting to further discuss. Do not be passive but do not be overly aggressive.

DO NOT COPY THE FORMAT IN A BOOK! HR and hiring managers actually love to see resumes and cover letters written by you in your own language. Your writing skills, your personality, your style. Why? Because this tells them a lot about you and if you will fit in. IF you copy the resumes and cover letters out of a book, it is boring and shows you have not put in the effort and that is the type of work that I can expect of you. If you have someone else write them, it shows that you will expect someone else to do your work. Either way they will get you in the circular file quickly.

WHY? !

Your resume and cover letter as I stated earlier are marketing materials about you. Not the person in the book, not the person writing in their style about who you are but you. The way to differentiate yourself from the competition is to write your own cover letters and resume. These are dynamic documents! You will constantly need to ask for feedback about what they liked and didn’t like about your resume and cover letter. WHY? So that you can make changes to the next ones. Unfortunately this is a trial and error system. Try something if it works use it if it doesn’t why would you want to keep making the same mistake.  Talk to others and see what works for them. This does not mean it will work for you but it may be an idea to think about and if it is valid for you then try it.

WHY? ! Why do I insist that you write your cover letter and resume. Because it will differentiate you from the others and today in this market that is the name of the game. I have been a hiring manager and I am seeking a manager position now. I can tell you as a hiring manager having looked at hundreds of resumes and cover letter, your resume and cover letter will stand out. The next thing I expect from those is good content. I can also tell from your writing if I like you enough to want you in for an interview. I want to see that you have taken the time to research the company and have some idea on how you are going to help me meet my goals. You may not need all the requirements that I asked for if I think you can work with the team, learn quickly and get the job done.

NOTE: You are dealing with humans (when your resume gets through the scanner that is). We all have our preferences and likes and dislikes. We do agree on one thing we want to see your resume and cover letter written by you.

That said let me tell you what I and a number of others don’t want to see; colored paper, fancy fonts, too much bolding and underlining, some people any bolding or underlining, scented paper( I might be allergic to that scent and then where will your resume be) and the same old format as every other resume. Believe or not we can also tell if you wrote it  in most cases.

Length of the resume I believe is based on the position you are seeking. If you are going for a manager position or a C level position I do not see how a 1-2 page resume full of bullet points is going to convince anyone to call me for an interview. But, again that is my opinion.


I mentioned feedback earlier. Where do I get it and how do I get it. If you get rejected by a company call HR and ask for their help. You need to ask if there was any specific about your cover letter or resume that hurt your chances of getting hired. Show your resume and cover letters to recruiters and other unemployed people and get their opinion as to what you might be doing wrong.  Like I said these are dynamic documents that are under constant changes while you find what is working.

Good luck! Any questions please comment to this post and I will try to answer them.