December 29, 2005

You too could be a billionaire

Here's a look at the Resume of Sergey Brin, the co-founder of Google, as it appeared in 1996 before his days planning global domination at the world's largest search engine. Just nine years later he was worth $11 billion.

What's interesting about this resume, besides how unassuming it is for the future Emperor of search, is how he also hosted a HTML version with links to his companies and projects on the personal webspace his school provided.

December 26, 2005

Resume Hell

Andrew Kantor writes about his experience after placing a help wanted ad in the paper. You could learn a few lessons from this if you're in the job hunt right now.

December 21, 2005

Resume Hints from Headhunter

Harry Joiner at the highly rated Marketing Headhunter site posted the biggest reason for the aspiring job candidate to craft their resume for OCR scanning. A recruiter like Harry will go out of the way to manually enter the information on resumes that catch their eye, but most recruiters won't. If you want to get past that first level screen you'll need to make sure your information scans well.

August 25, 2005

The Impact of Resume Power Words

When writing use plenty of resume power words to convey that you're a pro-active applicant who can get things done. These are particularly effective when used in your cover letter, summary, and accomplishments/job description.

Think of yourself as a best-selling author. You want to pack your story with powerful descriptive words that will keep your reader intrigued. You're doing the same thing with your cover letter and resume but you're telling your own story instead of a fictional one.

If you haven't added in power words to your resume yet, you'll be pleasantly surprised by the results. The resume even reads better when you read it out loud.

A quick google for 'resume "power words"' will give you longer lists, but here is a quick one to get you started.

Drew up

August 16, 2005

Resume: Summary

So now you have your page formatted, your name and contact info added in with proper puncuation, and you've sketched out your job history including major accomplishments at each position. What comes next? Well, geographically on the page, the next thing is the Summary. However, you'll probably want to leave the 'Summary' section unfinished until you're done with the resume. It may near the top of your resume, but no one said you have to write it in order.

You place the ‘Summary’ section at the top of your resume above the Experience section and after your name and contact info. Some might think the Summary is what used to be called ‘Objective’ or 'Work Objective'. It goes in the same location, but the purpose of the Summary is different. Instead of stating a personal objective that might differ from the company's objective, and thus eliminating you from consideration, you broadly summarize your background and state how you're right for the position.

The Summary is very important. First, if the resume becomes separated from the coverletter the Summary serves as a mini-cover letter and frames the rest of the document based on the position you’re applying for. Second, the Summary is your chance to sell yourself once again, to make the reader want to continue. Yes, it's all about the sell. After all ther person reading your resume has never met you and most likely won't unless you can sell them on why you're right for the job.

To that end, you will want to customize the Summary with the skills/experience required for the position you’re applying for. For example, if applying to a large organization your summary would be something like this:

Summary: A public relations and communications expert. Able to research and write clear and persuasive copy for speeches, press releases, and marketing materials. Confident spokesperson for a large organization with many facets.

If you were applying to a small firm, you would change your summary:

Summary: A public relations and communications expert. Able to handle all preparation and delivery of speeches, press releases, appearances, and marketing materials. Confident spokesperson for any size organization.

It won't hurt to echo back some of the job description in your summary. Just might make you seem like the perfect fit.

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August 11, 2005

Your Resume: Skills, smoke'm if you got'em

Skills is the section where you load your resume up with keyword triggers. If your resume ends up in a database, these keywords will be useful in making your resume show up in search results.

Some positions require that you possess certain skills before they even consider your resume. Unfortunately, very few companies want to train new hires these days. It's a fact of life. This means, the best thing you can do to make sure you get a better job than the one you're leaving, is to enroll in training classes on a regular basis. Career Enhancement -- but that's a topic for another book.

Udner Skills you will be listing all the skills you've acquired since you started earning a paycheck that you could possibly use in a professional capacity. Were you responsible for copier maintenance in a job you had 10 years ago? Put that down. The company you're applying to may want you to handle their copier maintenance contract.

Don't be afraid to get minute here. If you know three kinds of word processing software, list all three titles. Don't abbreviate either. Abbreviations won't show up in keyword searches.

Some new skills you may not think of adding but probably have if you found this blog; Internet Navigation, Search, and Retreival; Joined Internet in 1994, HTML, Blogging, Discussion Board Moderation, Email, Text Messaging, etc..

Group your skills by subheading if you are listing more than ten to twenty skills. You might try; Computers, Internet, Office Skills, and Languages for a place to start.

August 10, 2005

Indeed: a New Kind of Job Search

I've added a new website to the sidebar today.
Indeed is a search engine for jobs - with a radically different approach to job search. In one simple search, Indeed gives job seekers free access to millions of employment opportunities from hundreds of websites. includes all the job listings from major job boards, newspapers, associations and company career pages - and we continue to add new sites every day.
If you're in the job market, you owe it to yourself to check out the A VC Blog's post about his recent funding of It helps to be as educated about the job market, and the job listing market, as possible in your job search.

Even if you don't plan on using Indeed in your job hunt, you need to see their Trend watching page. This provides a very real look at where the jobs are right now. Definately a data point you need to know if you're planning to move, graduating from college, or contrarian-like you want to get away from the hustle and bustle.

August 09, 2005

References: What to do about Uncle Bob?

Finally, we get to the last section of the resume: your references. Many guides advise you to add a line at the bottom of your resume that states, "References Available Upon Request." But today that line is usually left off the resume. It is assumed that you will have references. It is likely they'll be calling the HR Departments of your former employers and you'll want to provide personal contacts to round out that vision of your work history. If the recruiter wants to see them they will ask for them in the job listing or for your first interview.

A professional reference is anyone you have worked with or for, in a professional relationship. That could be client/vendor, boss/underling, associate from your department, or similar experience. The exception to this rule is if that person is also a relative, even through marraige. Sometimes you won't be able to avoid listing a relative as a professional reference, but if at all possible find another worker from company. If you have a professional reference that works at the company you're applying to this is the place to list them.

A personal reference is someone who will vouch that you're not some wacked out looney and that the timeline and story you tell in your cover letter and resume is true. This someone might be a teacher, close friend, business partner, family friend (oh I knew Johnny when he was still in diapers), relative you have worked for or with in the past, etc. In this case I would avoid spiritual advisors or psychiatrists.

This next step is important: contact each person before listing them and politely ask them if you may use them as a reference. While you're talking with them verify address and contact information. Try to take a few minutes and discuss your career goals with them so they are on the same page as you if they are called for follow up. You don't want them saying you want to be a doctor if you've changed your mind since you last talked with them and now want to be a human resources director.

So what do you do if there is overlap between your professional and personal references? If your professional life and your friends overlap, you may want to use the same name on both your reference lists. There are some situations where you are probably fine doing this. However, if it is possible to chose someone else from that company or office who isn't also a personal reference, then do so. It's much better to list a family friend on your reference list than a family member.

Now you're ready to format your reference list:

Prepare a separate sheet of the same paper your resume is printed on with your same name and contact info formated exactly as on the resume. A few lines below that put the word 'References.' Then list three or four professional references with names, addresses, phone numbers and emails. You may format these aligned left or centered. I prefer centered, but aligned left may scan better. You may tab it in a few times if you like.

Now do the same thing for three personal references, except you'll title the sheet 'Personal References', that are different names from your professional references.

If you have more than four references, consider listing the four you think will give you the best recommendation for the particular job you're applying for. This may change from job to job.

When you’re all done make sure you have someone proofread it for grammar, spelling, and punctuation. A fresh pair of eyes is important. If you can't find a proofreader, set it down for at least three hours, go watch some mindnumbing movie or PBS show, then come back and look at it.

August 05, 2005

The 3 P's of a Resume: Page Setup, Paper, and Printing

Page Setup and Formatting

When formatting your resume you must keep in mind three things: Professional Appearance, Readability, and Scanability. A resume that looks messy and unprofessional will be rejected out of hand. One that takes effort to read on the part of the recruiter must have some pretty valuable content to overcome that barrier. And many many companies still scan every resume then perform Optical Character Recognition (OCR) on it before entering it into a searchable computer database with other resumes. Of the three Scanability has changed the most how a resume must look today.

You are now constrained in your margins. Any text closer than 0.75 inches to the edge of a page risks being lost in scanning. Any text aligned vertically on the page will not be scanned accurately. The use of graphic elements such as lines or icons will not translate at all in scanning. Vertical text and graphic elements are the two biggest foes to a pain free scan for the recruiter.

Your actual margins on the page should be fairly standard. The left margin should be wider than the right and between 1.0" to 1.25". The Top and Bottom margins can be adjusted so as to fit your content onto one page or move more to page two, as needed. Just keep text no more than 1.0" from the top to start.

Paper Choice

Paper choice for your resume is more important than ever. Is the paper clean, smudge free, and bright? Printing on Yellow, Pink, or Tan paper doesn't make you more qualified for the position and can negatively affect the readability and scanability of your resume. Instead, chose your paper based on its weight (24lb minimum / 30lb maximum (so as not to jam the scanner)) and brightness (bright white: 90 minimum). If those numbers don't make sense to you, ask the helpful folks at OfficeMax or OfficeDepot and they'll help you out.


Is laserprinting your resume, which usually means a trip to Kinko's, required? Not anymore. These days there are high DPI (600DPI and up) inkjet printers, you probably have one at home or at the library, that will do the job just fine. Just take precautions against smearing by letting the pages dry for a few minutes in the printer tray before picking them up.

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August 03, 2005

Your Resume: Address and Contact Info

Your resume should start with your name and contact information. Don't get too fancy with the layout here. Centered or Aligned left or right is fine. Try to keep it to 5 lines maximum (4 is best) with your name in bold on the first line. The second and third line would be your address information. The 4th line is your email address (you must have one these days) and two phone numbers (Home and Cell/Mobile or Home and Message). Don't provide a 'work' number here.

Font size can be one or two points above the size you use for the body of your resume. The whole point is to make it easy to read by a scanner for companies (like Disney) that OCR each resume. Choice of font ‘Arial’ is fine. You can go down to size 10 or 11 with Arial and still be readable. The sans serif look stands out from the serif fonts that recruiters receive all day every day.
John Smith
123 Main Street U.S.A.
Disneyland, CA 92803
Ph: 310.555.1212 Cell: 213.555.1212


John Smith
123 Main Street U.S.A., Disneyland, CA 92803
E: -- Ph: 310.555.1212 - Cell: 213.555.1212

July 29, 2005

The Debate: Resume Order Chronologic or Function

There has of late been a movement away from the traditional Reverse Chronological Resume and toward listing by Function. I can see arguments for both. Listing by function gives you the chance to shine by highlighting your skills as grouped together with skills from your past. Reverse chronological order allows you to tell a story about how you came to be where you are today; including the accomplishments that propelled you to the next level in each position.

There are, of course, exceptions to every rule. But here I think the rule is give the recruiter what they expect to see. The trick is to make your resume fit that expectation as close as possible. (It's not always easy, which is why research is important. But that's another post.)

For instance, if 10-years experience in a particular industry is required then make sure your resume reflects that. Perhaps grouping your job experience by industry is an appropriate approach for that position. This is particulary true if you've done a lot of project based work as a consultant or freelancer.

But by and large a hiring executive wants to see progression. They want to know that not only are you qualified for the position, but that you'll continue to grow in it and contribute to the future of the organization. This is why the default should be reverse chronological order and other ways should be the exception to the rule.

July 25, 2005

Out of the Box Thinking

When you're looking for work in a creative field or something that is just outside the realm of normal work you might have to do something out of the box to get the attention of the recruiters. For instance you might want to print your resume on your shirt (see also here) or switch to the Portfolio format.

July 21, 2005

Free Cover Letter Help

Now that I'm through with my coverletter tutorial, I wanted to list the posts here for easy referal. Think of building your cover letter like a sandwhich. You need two good thick slices of bread, some meat, some toppings, and one of those fancy toothpicks to stick in it.
Good luck and happy Job Searching!

July 19, 2005

How to get your Dream Job

While the interviewees in this Fast Company magazine article may not reveal any secrets to landing your dream job it is a good study in not being afraid of doing what you like.

Which leads me to another tip for the job hunter. Pick two or three business magazines from the list below and subscribe to them, or make weekly trips to the library to read them. Keeping on top of current business trends and lingo will make you a stronger conversationalist with the recruiter and keep your brain in business mode during an extended layoff.

Business 2.0

Fast Company

Fortune or Forbes

Entrepreneur or Inc.

Wired (yes Wired!)

July 14, 2005

What makes a great resume?

I've posted quite a bit about how your cover letter should come together. Here's one more piece of advice on that topic: keep your cover letter short. A concise review of your accomplishments and fit for the specific job you're seeking. No more than 500 words, or about two-thirds of a page, please.

On the other hand, it's okay to go to two pages on a resume (three if you have a lot of management or executive level experience). If you have a skill, award, or job related experience and you don't list it on the resume the recruiter won't know about it. Neither will the Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software that scans your resume and puts it into a database for skill based searches.

If you were planning on explaining about your additional skills, awards, and/or experience in the interview, then those should go in the resume too or you won't make it to the interview. By the time someone decides to interview you, they've already decided you have the basic skill set required for the position. Your job at that point is to convince them you have the right personality and outlook for the position and will play well with the team and company environment.

A great resume will have the hiring executive sold on your before you even meet. So how do you create a great resume? That's why you're reading this blog, right. But don't neglect the hints and tips given out at the major job listing sites either.

July 13, 2005

Slice Two: The Conclusion

As you finish your cover letter, which is your opening sales piece about you, you want to wrap everything up in a bow for the reader. Show them you'll fit with the job and give them a reason to continue onto your resume.

Into the last paragraph goes a short recap of your skills, any personal experience you feel is pertinent to the job, salary requirements (see previous post for my advice on that), and a call to action. A call to action is what a sales person always tries to end a pitch with. You want the recipient to feel a need to do something after reading your pitch and here's your chance to suggest what you want them to do.

The final line of the Coverletter is usually "I look forward to hearing from you." Unfortunately, that is what everyone says, and you're putting the onus on the person to contact you. Instead say, "I look forward to discussing this further with you at your conveinence." or "While this cover letter and resume serve as an introduction, I would appreciate an opportunity to meet with you to discuss how I would be an asset to XYZ Company." If you're really bold, "I look forward to discussing this further with you and will call your office to arrange an appointment." But you have to judge for yourself if bold is appropriate for this position.

Then call the company and follow up. Ask if your resume has been received and restate your desire for an interview. You'd be suprised how many people fail to follow through, which is a basic requirement for any position. Your future boss will want to know that you can follow through on a task.

July 12, 2005

Toppings: Salary History & Requirements

This is always tricky. I believe in following all the stated requirements of a job listing. If they want you to email your resume in a text document, then you'd better do so. But when it comes to a Salary History or Salary Requirement request, I suggest you play coy.

The reason is, whether the hiring manager intends to do so or not, they use this request as a culling device. They're very unlikely to hire someone who earned $50,000 last year for a position that pays $35,000 (even if that person is a perfect fit otherwise) as the belief is that they'll be unhappy earning less and therefore less productive.

I wish more companies would put salary ranges in the job listings and let the applicants make that decision for themselves.

If the job listing does request a salary history or requirement always include something, don't ignore their request. If you’re not comfortable giving a range (say $35,000 - $40,000) because you don’t know what they’ll be offering (your range should always match theirs or they’ll just throw out your resume), then just say “salary and benefits are negotiable.” Then be sure to negotiate.

July 10, 2005

Toppings: Sell Yourself

The final paragraph of the coverletter emphasizes any experience you have that directly corresponds to the job listing.

Some believe you should explain why you’re looking for work, “I've reached the top of the ladder at ABC Company.” But you don’t want any negative connotations in your coverletter. It is your sales piece. So leave that out. Instead say something about your excitement for the future and what you can do for the company you’re applying to. “I look forward to making a difference at The XYZ Company Merchandise Department.”

Always conclude with a positive statement about yourself and your ability to bring a positive result to the company. For instance, "With my project management and training skills, I can bring XYZ Company's next release in on time and underbudget."

July 08, 2005

The Meat: Accomplishments

The body of the coverletter should be 3 to 5 bullet points showing how you have completed projects, saved money, or earned money for the companies you've worked for. Stick away from purely skill oriented bullet points. Those belong on the resume. Size and scope of the companies is appropriate but shouldn't be the focus, your accomplishments should be.

For example:

While serving in a public relations and corporate communications capacity my accomplishments included:

(or simply "Some Accomplishments Include:")
  • Led the team to launch a new awareness campaign for the counter water utilities. Project was completed underbudget and ontime. Net result was a water savings of 15% from the previous year.
  • Won a Clio award in 2003 for advertisement on X.
  • Researched and wrote speaches for Department of Power Executives.
  • etc.
Always tailor the accomplishments to the position you're applying to. To that end, I recommend developing a list of 10-15 accomplishments you can substitute in and out of the coverletter based on what industry, position, or skill level the job you're seeking requires.

A great accomplishment list gives the reader a reason to turn the page to your resume and check that the experience matches the requirements of the position. But you've already shown that you're a do-er and sometimes that's enough to score an interview.

July 06, 2005

Know thine enemy

The number one rule of warfare is to know your enemy. Friends, when you're hunting for a job, especially when it's 'the' job, the human resource professional is your enemy. HR is the army that stands between your resume and the executive whose hands you want to get your resume in to. So it makes sense during a job search to do some research on what makes an HR person tick.

The Employment Law Blog is as good as place as any to start. It's very readable, au current, and occaisionally features pithy humor. The blog also features a list of great links that will help you continue your journey down the path to career employment via the stragetem above.

July 03, 2005

Slice One: The Opening Paragraph

Remember you only have 5-10 seconds to grab the attention of the person reading the cover letter. You need to make them want to continue and the best way to do that is to show you're a fit for the company.

Here's a standard opening that many people have used in the past:
I am seeking new challenges in my career. The Dishwasher position at XYZ Company is of great interest to me and I know I will be a great fit.
These days that is the bare minimum requirement for an oppening paragraph. In today's business world if you're breathing you should be seeking new challenges. Instead of that tired and boring opening, this is where you should be using your ability of wordcraft to show you're right for the job.

The opening paragraph should also include the exact job title as listed in the want ad, how you heard about the position, and any personal references you have (ie, "Joe Dobson of the sales department and I have discussed the Sales Manager position and he has been kind enough to pass along my resume to you, I can't thank him enough for the opportunity." or "I am sending you my resume after researching the position of Sales Manager that XYZ Company had listed on")

July 02, 2005

Addressing the Coverl Letter

If at all possible the Cover letter should be addressed to a specific person or position. It's more likely to end up on their desk and it shows that you're capable of doing research for a project. If you can't find that out, then "To whom it may concern," or "Dear Hiring Executive," will work. "Dear Sirs," will not as it excludes half the possible pool of readers.

So how do you find out the name of a specific person if its not listed in the help wanted ad? You can either use the internet or use the phone. The easiest thing to do is call the company and ask who a coverletter should be addressed to. At worse, they'll tell you the correct title and you can use that. You can also go to the company's website and see if the job listing there has more detail, if the HR manager is listed in the company officials page, if there is a press release with the Human Resources name, etc. Get creative. Use Google. You may be able to find something out about the company that you can use in your cover letter.

July 01, 2005

The Toothpick: Your Signature

The signature used to be a place to add a little flourish. But again, following the theory that you don't want anything distracting from the meat of your coverletter, the traditional simple signature is better here. Therefore, always close with "Sincerely," two lines then your name and address with contact info. Sign your name boldly and in blue if at all possible.

Btw, don't use a PO Box if you have a street address. If you're moving into an area ask a friend who already lives there if you can use their street address. If you don't have a local phone number get one using a VOIP provider such as Vonage and provide a local message phone. Then configure Vonage to send you an email whenever you get a new message. It's okay to return a phone call the next day, but two days later is probably too late.

Follow up your resume submission with a phone call three business days later. Ask if your resume was received and what the interviewing process is. Then ask for an appointment. It never hurts to ask. You'd be suprised how many people never call and never send thank you letters after interviews.

Dealing with Odd Interview Requests - WSJ

You're asked to do something in the hiring process that just seems weird, and makes you uncomfortable. If you express hesitation or flat-out refuse, you risk losing the job. Employers may label you uncooperative or overly sensitive. But if you suppress your discomfort and perform the task, you may be ignoring a red flag telling you this company isn't the place for you.
I've experienced this a few times. Personality tests, usually oriented at seeing if you're a type-A or type-B personality, are the most common. Even if you believed in the ability of a test to tell your personality, the results will be skewed by how you're feeling at the time you take the test. This WSJ story lists some even stranger interview tests (some potentially opening up the company to charges of discrimination). Still what are you going to do if you're unemployed?

June 30, 2005

Cover Letter: More Background

You've probably heard that you only have 10 seconds to grab the attention of the reader. That's true. Once they start reading your cover letter the clock is ticking. But some decisions about the quality of your cover letter are made even before the reading begins.

Is the paper it is printed on clean and bright? Is the letter formatted and addressed properly? Did the candidate hand sign the document?

Paper choice for your cover letter and resume is important. Obvious attempts at attention grabbing are usually viewed as unnecessary. Printing on Yellow, Pink, or Tan paper doesn't make you more qualified for the position. Instead, chose your paper based on its weight - 24lb minimum / 30lb maximum - and brightness - 94 minimum. If thosefigures don't make sense to you, ask the helpful folks at OfficeMax or OfficeDepot and they'll help you out.

I know a question you're dying to ask -- is laserprinting, which usually means a trip to Kinko's, required? Not anymore. These days there are high DPI (600DPI and up) inkjet printers that will do the job just fine. Just watch for smearing.

If you've read Malcom Gladwell's Blink : The Power of Thinking Without Thinking then you know how decisions are made in a split second. Don't give the screener a reason to 'blink' you into the circular file.

June 29, 2005

Cover Letter: form follows purpose

The Cover letter is your initial sales piece. Its purpose is to get your resume past the initial screener and, once in the hands of the right person, to show you're a capable, productive, and intelligent candidate for the position. When you keep that in mind, the form of the cover letter follows naturally.

To show you're capable, the document must answer the questions asked in the job description, indicate where you found the listing, and show that you're a match. To prove your productivity, you must list your accomplishments in a manner the person doing the hiring will understand. To show your intelligent, you must have perfect grammar and spelling and be persuasive.

To repeat: cover letters are your primary sales piece about you. They should list your top accomplishments, special experience related to this job, and why you’re right for the company. And they should do it in a manner that is as creative, brief, and compact as possible. I've read so many boring coverletters from marketing professionals, designers, human resource managers, sales people. These positions require creativity and sales ability, you have to put that in the coverletter too.

Your Resume Upgrade Station

This blog is the direct agglomeration of my personal experience dealing with Resumes, Coverletters, Job Searches, and Career choices. I worked for 6 years at a personnel placement company that specialized in human resources positions. Although not in a HR position myself, I learned what a recruiter looked for in a resume, the purpose of a coverletter, and the best practices in a job search, from the best managers, recruiters, and personnel specialists in the industry.

Over the years that knowledge has been very useful to me in finding new positions. I frequently receive requests from friends and family to review their resumes, which I am happy to do. So the time has come to formalize that knowledge. As you can see, I'm taking advantage of the unique publishing platform that is the weblog to do so. I hope this will be as successful a merging of information and technology, form and function, as your resume should be.

My mission is that you, the reader, should be able to find useful hints, clear instructions, and hard facts that will help you promote yourself into the next job in your career path. I realize I am not the end point of all knowledge when it comes to resumes, coverletters, and job searches, so I'll also be providing pointers to other resources that I have found useful. I'm sure you will to.

So welcome one and all to the Resume Upgrade blog. Now let's forge a path to your future.