Why Your Resume Isn’t Getting You Interviews, with Andrea Gerson

Listen On:

Transcript

Mac Prichard:

This is Find Your Dream Job, the podcast that helps you get hired, have the career you want, and make a difference in life. I’m Mac Prichard, your host and publisher of Mac’s List. I’m joined by my co-host Ben Forstag, our Managing Director, and Jenna Forstrom, our community manager. This week we’re talking about why your resume might not be getting you interviews. Our show is brought to you by Hack the Hidden Job Market, the new online course now available for Mac’s List. As many as eight out of 10 job openings never get advertised. Is your dream job one of them? Learn how to uncover hidden jobs and get noticed by the hiring managers who fill them. Visit MacsList.org/course.

  You’ve just sent your resume off for a job you really want and you don’t worry when you don’t get a reply that first day or the next. After all, it takes time to review resumes and pick the people who get interviews. A week goes by, then another, and finally it’s been a month, and one day you get a short email. It tells you someone else has been chosen for the interview. What happened? Our guest expert this week is Andrea Gerson. She says the problem may be your resume. You may be doing a poor job of organizing, describing, and presenting your accomplishments.

  Later in the show and you and I talk about how write a resume they get you interviews, not rejection letters. It’s common now to use infographics to tell stories. Some career coaches encourage people to use a graphic format for resumes. Others warn that it’s a mistake, period. Ben Forstag has found a blog post with 10 reasons why you should have a graphic resume, four reasons why you shouldn’t, and five risks with the format. He’ll tell us more in a moment.

  How do you support members of your family when they look for a job? That’s the question of the week. It comes from listener, Heath Padgett. Jenna Forstrom tells us her answer in a few minutes.

  First, as always, let’s check in with the Mac’s List team. We’re talking about resume writing this week, Jenna and Ben. What kind of help have you two gotten in your careers?

Ben Forstag:

I think the biggest piece of advice I ever got – and I think this is where most people, their resumes fall off the rails – is talking about accomplishments rather than duties, which is so important because talking about what your past job duties were makes not a lick of difference because that just says what you were supposed to be doing as opposed to what you actually did. The other one that I’ve always struggled with it, because I’m a very verbose person, especially in writing, is being short and clear and cutting out the fluff that isn’t needed. One of the things I always think about when I work on my resume or when I write in general is that saying: kill your darlings. There’s some things on your resume that you think are so precious and wonderful, and you can’t imagine getting rid of them. You really need to get rid of them sometimes because they don’t add any value to the employer who is really the prime target of your resume.

Mac Prichard:

Yeah, that’s good advice Ben. As you talk about editing, I’m reminded of a quote from Stephen King who says, “The road to hell is paved with adverbs,” so look for those -ly words and nine times out of 10 your sentence will be stronger without them whether it’s a resume or any kind of communication.

Ben Forstag:

That’s very adroitly said, Mac.

Mac Prichard:

Okay, particularly because Halloween is next week as we record this. Jenna, do you have any Halloween related or themed advice? It doesn’t have to be seasonal.

Jenna Forstrom:

I have no Halloween advice. I mean I have lots of Halloween advice. None of it is career related. Ooh wait. No, I can bring this full circle. On our upcoming course, we have a free download called ‘How to Wow and Woo Your Employer’s Online,’ and if you are doing anything questionable on Halloween, make sure you lock down your social media profile so that future employers, or maybe even current employers, don’t see it.

Ben Forstag:

Well done, Jenna.

Mac Prichard:

Yeah. For the benefit of our listeners, I think in part of the course we talk about social media and I have to fess up that there’s a picture of me in my Halloween costume as Gumby from three years ago, I think.

Jenna Forstrom:

That’s very good- That shows your personality. It’s not questionable in taste. No one’s going to wonder what kind of Gumby you’re going to be for Halloween, so yeah. There we go.

Mac Prichard:

Okay. Well let’s bring it back to resumes, and I apologize because I took us down the Halloween path. What about resume writing tips for you Jenna? What kind of coaching did you get in your career?

Jenna Forstrom:

When I was in college I went to the career services and we did mock resume reviews. My junior year, they had 15 employers come, and you went and you handed out 15 copies of your resume, and the next day you got them back, and they all had feedback. My radical rationalization as a 20, 21-year-old was everyone wants something else and you can’t please everyone, so pick and choose, and check your gut, and use the best feedback from the most people because one person’s going to want it one way, one person’s going to want it another way. You just can’t play that game because it’s just really frustrating when you’re 20 so it’s just going to be just as frustrating when you’re 30, or 35, or 40, or so on and so forth.

  Take the feedback with a grain of salt. Focus on your accomplishments and then the big one for me was always include numbers. Just say, like, “helped grow such and such organization or promotional through social media” because that’s what my role was predominantly, but it’s like how much did you grow? What percentage? What number? Facts will always win over feelings.

Mac Prichard:

Well said. A habit I picked up early in my career that has continued to serve me well is to show my resume to at least three other people and have them proofread it and look for those typos. We’re going to talk more with Andrea about other things you can do to make your resume stand out and get an interview but we all know, and I think listeners do too, that a typo is just, that’s a fatal error. The best way to catch it is to ask for help from your friends and family, and read your resume out loud. The ear is often your best editor.

  Okay, well let’s move on and let’s turn to Ben, who is out there every week searching the nooks and crannies of the Internet. He’s looking for websites, books, and tools you can use in your job search and your career. Ben, what have you uncovered for our listeners this week?

Ben Forstag:

This week I’ve found a blog post called 10 Pros, 4 Cons, and 5 Risks of Graphic Resumes. If you spend any time on LinkedIn you’ve probably seen someone post an article about “look at these amazing graphical resumes.” These are resumes that have lots of pictures in them or they’re infographics, or sometimes they’re online and there’s lots of bells and whistles, and if you push the cursor to the right, fireworks go off. They’re all very cool and very snazzy, and I think they’re are really nice as well, but they always rankle me a little bit because I think for most people, and I’m putting myself out here right now, I think for most people you don’t want a resume like that.

  This blog post really spells out what kind of people, and what kind of professions, and what kind of situations want, need, or should use a graphic resume versus a more traditional resume. They lay out 10 pros, four cons, and five risks but I’m going to tell you right now, the shorthand is this. If you’re applying for a job in which you are going through an automatic screening system, the keyword-based systems, don’t, don’t, don’t, don’t, don’t use a graphic resume because your highly designed resume will not be read properly by the scanning software. That means you’re just going to be weeded out right from the start.

  The other one they say is, if you do work in a creative field where you know that the person looking at this resume is actually a human being first and foremost and not some computer program, then maybe you want to have this opportunity there. You want to take advantage of it and show off your design skills, but in general, I’d say for nine out of 10 people, don’t go for the cutesy, advanced resumes; a more straightforward approach is the best way to go. But again, I encourage you to check out this blog post – there’s a little bit more nuance to what I just presented there. Again, it’s called 10 Pros, 4 Cons, and 5 Risks of Graphic Resumes. This comes from the EpicCV.com blog and we’ll have the URL in the show notes.

  Let me ask you Mac, what do you think? Do you like the highly polished and designed resumes or just the more standard, clear, traditional format?

Mac Prichard:

I think it comes back to knowing your audience. If you’re going to have a one-on-one meeting with someone and you will hand the resume to that person, particularly if you’re in a creative or design field, a graphic resume or highly designed document can serve you well. If you’re applying somewhere where, as you say, the employers using an automated tracking system, then adjust your document accordingly and meet the needs of the people who you want to employ you. It’s okay to have a resume in a couple of different formats but I think it really needs to be based on the needs of the people you want to hire you, and that’ll serve you well.

Ben Forstag:

Yeah, and I think one other thing to keep in mind here is often times when you see these resumes they’re not actually conveying information in a very … It’s visually very pleasing but it’s not the clearest way to convey that information. I think a rule of hand here is if you’re trying to convey your accomplishments, and that’s the most important thing, then you’d use a traditional format. If you’re trying to convey your design ability, maybe then you go with the more creative format. Again, know your audience and know what you’re actually trying to put on display with your resume.

Mac Prichard:

Yeah. Okay. Good distinction Ben. If you have a suggestion for Ben please write him and we may share your idea on the show. Ben’s address is easy to remember. It’s ben@macslist.org.

  Now let’s turn to you, our listeners. Jenna Forstrom, our community manager, joins us as always to answer one of your questions. Jenna, what’s in the Mac’s List mailbag this week?

Jenna Forstrom:

This week’s question comes from Heath Padgett Who asks …

Heath Padgett:

Hey Mac’s List team. I have a question on how I can help my mom. This is related to her job search. Recently she went back to college, super proud of her for that. She has been a teacher for a very long time. She is a PE teacher, a cross country coach in high school, but she had went to school for a little while to do drafting, Auto-CAD and things like that for architecture designs, and she finally went back last year and got her degree, which is huge. She finished up her degree this year in May and she hasn’t been able to go out and find any jobs because she’s terrified of interviewing for a job. It’s really scary for her to put herself out there. She’s been rejected for a lot of jobs.

  What kind of advice would you give her? Her degree is in Auto-CAD. She’s a very good worker. She’s a hard worker. She’s a great woman, always on time. How can she get out there and put herself into this job hunting world when she doesn’t really know where to start? She doesn’t have a huge plot of connections. She doesn’t really go out and network or anything like that, so where should she start. I would really appreciate some advice I could hand over to her. Thank you guys for the work you do. Thank you. Bye.

Jenna Forstrom:

Thanks for calling in Heath. I think it’s great that you’re helping encourage your mom in her job hunt and here are a few tips for her. First of all, she needs to start networking, and this could be as easy as just talking to her friends and family about job hunting. Obviously, you know about it but I’m not sure if her other friends are aware of her transition from being a teacher to being in CAD and design, so just talking about that.

  Mac’s List has a great course that just launched. We’ve been talking about it, called Hack the Hidden Job Market, so if you don’t want to parent your parent maybe you can send them a link to the URL to the course and just strongly suggests she check it out. We talk about all the different ways networking helps Hack the Hidden Job Market with this course.

  Additionally, since your mom just finished school, she’s got a great access in her alumni association and the career resource center. Chances are they know other great designers in the area that you guys live and work in, and they could assign some homework, which is less intimidating, to coach her through job interviewing and networking.

  Then finally you’re already doing it, just being a great soundboard for your mom’s quibs with job hunting and gripes, but then also just encouraging her and use a lot of great language like she’s really smart, she’s really educated, she’s really dedicated, she’s my mom, that kind of stuff. Just reminding her what a great woman she is and I think that encourages people naturally.

  Mac and Ben, do you guys have any more tips?

Ben Forstag:

Well, first I think it’s awesome that your mom went back to school and got a degree and changed her career. I think that’s probably the toughest part of the whole process here is knowing what you want to do and taking action to do it. We talk to a lot of job seekers who aren’t even at that point and so they don’t even know where to begin or where they should start looking. I think it’s awesome that your mom has taken that initiative and she’s put herself in a position where she can find meaningful work that she’s going to like.

  I think you’re absolutely right, Jenna. Networking is the key and I think one of the problems a lot of people have is that they think networking means something that it doesn’t. Most people think networking means the after work happy hour at the airport Hilton where you’re glad-handing, and smiling, and doing idle chitchat with people. That’s certainly part of networking. It can look like that but I also think networking can be scheduling one-on-one sit downs with people in the field, people who have the job you’d like to have, and talking to them about how they got to where they are in their career, and sharing who you are and your interests, and being frank in saying, “I’m looking to get a job in this field. What advice would you have for me?”

  I think those more intimate, small scale, one-on-one interactions can be really valuable, especially for people who have more introverted tendencies, much more comfortable forms of networking.

Mac Prichard:

I think that’s right. One great way to start in networking is I imagine there are other graduates from this program who probably came into the field at mid-career like our caller’s mother, and I would encourage her to reach out to those people and ask them about their experiences after graduation, how they conducted their job search and what worked and what didn’t work. To your point Jenna, a great way to find them is to look in the alumni association directory, and ask professors and people of the school, “Have you seen people like me who are coming not only into a new field, but coming to that work later in life? Can you introduce me to them? I’d like to learn from their experience.” I think she’ll find that there are folks like that. I think she’ll find those conversations especially rewarding.

Jenna Forstrom:

Thanks guys, and thanks Heath for calling in.

Mac Prichard:

Thank you Heath and thank you Jenna. If you have a question for Jenna please email her. Her address is easy to remember too, it’s jenna@macslist.org, or call our listener line. That number is area code 716–562–8255. If we use your question on the air we’ll send you a free copy of our upcoming book, Land Your Dream Job Anywhere. That is being published in February.

  Now, these segments with Ben and Jenna are sponsored by Hack the Hidden Job Market, the new online course for Mac’s List. As many as 80% of all jobs never get posted. Instead, employers fill these openings by word-of-mouth. Our new course shows you how this hidden job market works. We teach you how to find plum gigs that never appear on a job board, how to stand out online in a crowd of applicants, and how to connect with insiders who can help your career. In each of the course’s 12 modules you get the tools and tips you need to get the work you want, meaningful work, work that makes a difference, work that you can love. Hack the Hidden Job Market is now live. Register now at www.MacsList.org/course. Now, let’s turn to this week’s guest expert, Andrea Gerson.

  Andrea Gerson helps professionals find clarity, confidence, and a renewed sense of energy in their work. She’s the founder of Resume Scripter and Andrea’s created and edited resumes and cover letters for more than 3,000 people. Her client organizations have included Microsoft, Google, Facebook, Bloomberg, Morgan Stanley, JP Morgan Chase, the United Nations, and the Red Cross. She joins us today in the Mac’s List studio in downtown Portland, Oregon.

  Andrea, thanks for coming downtown.

Andrea Gerson:

Oh, thanks for having me.

Mac Prichard:

Yeah. It’s a pleasure to have you here. Now, we’re talking about resumes and interviews. So many people send that resume off with great hope and then they don’t hear anything, and – nobody likes to have this experience, but we’ve all gotten that rejection letter. What are things that people should be doing with their resumes that can increase the chances that they’re going to get an interview?

Andrea Gerson:

That’s a great question. I think it can be so challenging for most people to quantify what they have accomplished and to sort of brag about what they have done, and to take ownership over what their role has been. There are definitely some patterns that I see when I open an old resume from a client. One of the first things that I tend to notice is that people will jump right into their tasks. The first section of the resume will be what their most recent job was, and I find that that’s really, they’re losing an opportunity to invite the reader in to read their resume.

  I like to think of it that you have prime real estate on your resume. There’s the top third of the document that is really your chance to grab their attention and make them want to read more. There are a few ways to do that.

  One way is through a career profile section which is where you’d want to have like three to five bullets that are giving an overview of your highest level accomplishments in a way that pertains to the kind of role that you’re going for. in that sense that’s where you want the big numbers to come in. That’s usually the section that I do last.

Mac Prichard:

When you work with the client, but it’s the section that for comes first.

Andrea Gerson:

Right. It comes first on the resume. Once I’ve kind of gone through and I get a sense of what a person’s narrative is, and then bearing in mind where they want to be, then I kind of develop the profile section. That’s one way.

Mac Prichard:

Know your goals, where you want to go, but know your story as well and how your story can support the achievement of those goals, but also don’t talk about tasks. Talk about accomplishment.

Andrea Gerson:

Right. Don’t be afraid to quantify, to put numbers in, and to talk about an improvement. If you had a hand in something, that you accomplish something great or you contributed to something, and I have a few examples of how people might be able to do that for themselves.

Mac Prichard: Okay, well let’s talk about that.

Okay, well let’s talk about that.

Andrea Gerson:

Sure. Okay. Great. I know one thing that comes up a lot, especially for some reason with the women that I work with, is that they don’t like to brag. They don’t want to oversell themselves. I think that often people err to far on the side of saying that they assisted or they supported instead of using stronger language and more action verbs.

  Some things to include are, for instance, the annual revenue of the company that you worked for. That’s one way to set the stage for the reader, to give them a sense of the kind of environment that you were working in, or the sector it was in, or maybe the company had growth while you were there. That could be something that you want to reference.

Mac Prichard:

Provide context.

Andrea Gerson:

Exactly. Yeah. Also another way that they could potentially quantify is the number of clients that the company serves or how large the accounts are. That’s another way that they can to give numbers if they feel like they didn’t have direct results from the work that they did.

Mac Prichard:

How does that helps somebody stand out because their resume goes. It’s there. There’s a meeting. There are probably 25 or 50 resumes in a pile. Two or three people are in a small room, just like we’re sending right now, and they’re going to choose five. How will this help?

Andrea Gerson:

Yeah. That’s a good question. I see a lot of resumes. I have probably seen thousands of resumes, as I’m sure you probably have too. There’s like a three to five second period, if even that, that you’re spending when you’re looking at a resume and you’re saying, “Am I even going to devote a full 10 seconds?” You’re looking for any kind of mistakes, errors. You want to see did the person invest time and energy into this. Are there mistakes that are jumping out at me? Ultimately you want the information to be presented in a way where you can actually absorb it because I think people will often try to inundate the reader with a lot of empty information.

  Let’s look at an example of that. I think that would be helpful.

Mac Prichard:

Okay.

Andrea Gerson:

I have a few actual bullets that I’ve pulled from client resumes to give an example of how that could sound.

Mac Prichard:

That’s terrific. Why don’t you share those with us?

Andrea Gerson:

Sure. Okay. Great. This was a client that I worked with. Her job title was Event and Public Relations Manager. She was working at this multinational company for a 10 year period. On the resume it looked like she had just had this one role for 10 years. The first bullet of that section in her resume was, “Managed over 50 special events per year ranging from 50 people to 600 for company and it’s 80 international subsidiaries and affiliates companies including contract negotiation with vendors, site venue and catering design and selection, all multimedia requirements, and on-site coordination.” That’s a mouthful of information that I feel like it’s not really articulating what her role was in any of that.

Mac Prichard:

Are you worried that her leadership is buried there?

Andrea Gerson:

Yeah. What was her contribution? What did she do?

Mac Prichard:

Got it. Okay.

Andrea Gerson:

Right. Yeah. When I see bullets like that my first instinct is to try to pull them apart. That kind of a bullet probably wants to be three bullets because we’re wanting to know, you have to sort of break it into bite size pieces for people otherwise they get overwhelmed. I split this one into two bullets for this example. I made her first bullet just say, “Oversaw logistics of high profile events on behalf of global corporation generating more than 85 million in yearly revenue, managing promotional programs for international subsidiaries across high-growth sectors including X, Y, Z.”

Mac Prichard:

Okay, so as you do the ‘after,’ there, what is striking to me is it’s clear that it’s a global company doing international work. When you first read that long bullet it could have been a Red Cross chapter in Nebraska.

Andrea Gerson:

Right. Exactly. We want to really set the stage so that the reader knows is this even going to be applicable to the role that I’m interviewing for? Yeah. Exactly. Also I find that when people list multiple tasks it’s really hard to stay engaged because people, ultimately they want numbers; they want something to orient them. You want to try to keep the reader with you.

Mac Prichard:

Okay. I’m curious Andrea, why do those numbers help engage the reader? Why do they make somebody stand out when they do that?

Andrea Gerson:

On a basic level, it just gives some variety on the page. It separates just the words but then I think it also shows that the writer is probably proactive, that they’re really involved in the work that they’re doing, that they have that knowledge. I think it also implies being action-oriented.

Mac Prichard: 

Okay. Good. We have some more examples for us?

Andrea Gerson:

Yeah. Yeah. We have a few more examples.

Mac Prichard:

Okay.

Andrea Gerson:

Another thing that I tend to see a lot on the old versions of people’s resumes is that their bullets are either really short or really long. Often bullets will be three words or they’ll be like four lines. I think in the instance of a long bullet, we’ve seen it’s hard for the reader to stay with you. It’s just too much information. For a shorter bullet, I find that it’s a missed opportunity to quantify, to bulk it up, and to give categories and more rich details of what your role was in the work that you were doing. We can look at another example of one of those.

Mac Prichard:

Great. Why don’t you share that with us?

Andrea Gerson:

I also have this client’s resume on my website too. I know that a lot of people process information visually so there is an example section on my website that people are welcome to follow along with if they find that easier.

Mac Prichard:

Okay. We’ll include that in the show notes. Yeah.

Andrea Gerson:

Okay. Great. Okay. Let’s see. Another example here is, “Organized and consolidated all internal logistics for promotional tours including marketing materials, giveaways, transportation, and catering.” That’s an example of there’s so many tasks in there and not much of setting the stage, and not much of showing an accomplishment.

Mac Prichard:

I don’t get a sense of what the company is, either, as you talk.

Andrea Gerson:

Right. Yeah. Exactly. Exactly. Yeah. I found that that bullet could actually be four bullets because there’s so much there. There are so many little mentions of marketing and giveaways and transportation that each of those could potentially be fleshed out depending on what’s the most impressive, what ends up being the most impressive, and what kind of role the person wants to be moving into. There are ways to gear that.

  This ended up being a bunch of bullets. I’ll just choose a couple, here. This moved into, “Managed two-month long nationwide promotional tour supervising teams of up to 30 staff.” We’re bringing out some numbers about the length, the program, and how many people she oversaw. “Launched customer appreciation events for up to 1,000 attendees in San Diego, Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles.” That’s another example of just fleshing out some of those details.

Mac Prichard:

It’s a national company, somebody who’s working with people in different markets all across the US.

Andrea Gerson:

Right. Exactly. Those are a couple of examples.

Mac Prichard:

As you share those, I imagine the listeners having this experience too; you’re painting a picture in people’s minds when you provide those ‘after’ examples by using places and numbers, and being specific about accomplishments.

Andrea Gerson:

Yeah. Exactly. Yeah. I have a couple more examples.

Mac Prichard:

Okay. Well, that’s good and these are very helpful. I’m curious what prevents people from doing this? Why doesn’t this come naturally, Andrea?

Andrea Gerson:

That’s such a good question. I ask myself that a lot, actually. I think that this is not a skill that we’re taught. It’s not a way of thinking about ourselves that comes naturally. I think if anything most of us are socialized to be a little humbler – which is good. I think that it’s good to be humble. It’s good that people aren’t going around bragging about themselves every day. But I think, for that reason, it’s not something that people feel comfortable doing. I think that for most people it feels a little bit icky to ‘sell themselves’ and to brag about the role that they had in the success of a group.

Mac Prichard:

How do you see people overcome this and learn this skill? Now, obviously you’re a resume writer and people can work with resume writers, but are there books, or websites, or other tools that people can use who might not be ready to work with a resume writer?

Andrea Gerson:

Oh, yeah. Absolutely. I think, for people who aren’t familiar about ways that they can quantify some of the work that they’ve done, I would definitely suggest googling the STAR framework. For people who don’t know about that, it’s a way to break down what types of information you might want to be pulling out of your existing resume.

Mac Prichard:

Okay, and STAR sounds like an acronym.

Andrea Gerson:

Yeah. STAR stands for Situation, Task, Action, and Results. It’s a way to bring out some of this information that we’ve been talking about: the situation is setting the stage for the reader. What type of company were you working for? What industry? Then the task and action are sort of like what was your role and what did you do? Then the R is the result. That’s where we can include the numbers. Was there an improvement?

Mac Prichard:

Okay. Terrific. We’ll include the link to that in the show notes.

Andrea Gerson:

Great.

Mac Prichard:

I know from looking at your website and your blog, and we’ll send people there as well, that there are some tactical things that come up that everybody can pay attention to. One of them is formatting. You see a lot of formatting problems. Tell us about those.

Andrea Gerson:

I think that consistency is so important because that’s part of the initial evaluation when someone is looking at the resume. They’re deciding if they’re going to give it any more time. If you want them to be reading it I think it’s really important that it’s consistent, that you’re working with one type of font, that you have variation in terms of font size, bold, all caps, in a way that’s consistent, because otherwise it can be really confusing for the reader and you are going to lose them.

Mac Prichard:

Okay. I know there are things that you recommend people not include in a resume. Why don’t we just go through a rapid-fire list of those… One of them is – and tell us why it’s not such an idea and might not get you an interview – photographs.

Andrea Gerson:

I think that there are some countries and some industries where that is commonplace, like in acting, in food service, and in some places in Europe it’s common to have a photograph. I think in the US we have such strict Human Resources policies that that can introduce a lot of issues and complications into the hiring process.

Mac Prichard:

Okay. What about personal interests. I know you’re not a fan of including hobbies.

Andrea Gerson:

I’m not.

Mac Prichard:

Tell us about that.

Andrea Gerson:

I think that the space on the real estate is so limited. If you’re including the kind of information that you should be, then you want to be using the space – you want to be presenting the most pertinent information as much as you can. Things like hobbies and stuff, I feel like they fit better in the context of an interview. I think that there are instances, if you don’t have that much interesting stuff on your resume, that you can make a case to include a hobby section, but usually I advise against it.

Mac Prichard:

Now, a lot of our listeners are baby boomers like me. I’m actually turning 58 next month. A common question we get is should I include every job? Is there a rule of thumb that you recommend when people, no matter what their age, are building a resume?

Andrea Gerson:

Yeah. I usually say 10 to 15 years maximum. I do on occasion go back as far as 20 years if, for instance, the person worked for a company that’s really well-known, or if they’re making a transition and they want to move back into an older kind of work that they used to do. Then I might do that. There are ways to do that with formatting where you could have a professional project section because really you don’t want to have just a professional experience section that just goes on, and on, and on. If you’re going to go back further you want to split it up in a way where it makes sense to the reader.

  The chronology of that, it won’t all be important, so they don’t need to know every job you’ve had if you are going to go back that far.

Mac Prichard:

Okay. When we started our conversation, Andrea, we talked about the importance of knowing where you want to go, and describing your accomplishments, and not being humble, and using data, specific numbers, and painting that picture of the company and your role in it. Tell us more about organization. You suggested a section up front. Tell us about the rest of the structure of that resume. What do you recommend that’s going to help people get those interviews and move to the top of the pile?

Andrea Gerson:

What I find to be so interesting about resumes is that I think people want to find what is the right answer. They look at it in black and white terms. For me, what I find really fun about developing resumes is that it’s actually really a case-by-case thing. I think you can really use the options to your advantage depending on what you want to highlight and emphasize. For instance, someone who was an executive, they might have a bigger career profile section at the top and then not have a section of bulleted keywords. They might not need that.

Mac Prichard:

I can hear our listeners saying to themselves, well how do I know? Is that driven by their goals?

Andrea Gerson:

It’s driven by the type of role that they want to move into and whether their resume is gearing them for that effectively, so whether they have a lot of pertinent keywords already, but if they’re moving into a field where they don’t have that much experience, or maybe they’re a recent graduate or something, then it can be useful to have a section of core competencies in the resume right under the profile. I usually do them as three columns of three bullets each of, which is to bring in language that might otherwise not come across in the applicant tracking systems. I find that to be a useful tool if someone is making some kind of a transition, to pull in industry language.

Mac Prichard:

Great. Well, this has been very helpful. Tell us Andrea, what’s coming up next for you?

Andrea Gerson:

It’s been such a whirlwind this past year in terms of I’ve been taking on a lot more clients on the West Coast, and so I’ve been trying to move away from just resume writing. I started to do a lot more virtual coaching, which I’ve really enjoyed, and a lot more writing articles to try to share strategies with people because I think resume writing is something that people really struggle with.

Mac Prichard:

Yeah. Your tips have been very valuable. Thank you for joining us today. People can learn more about you and your business by visiting www.resumescripter.com. Andrea, thank you for being on the show and for coming downtown.

Andrea Gerson:

Sure. Thanks you so much for having me.

Mac Prichard:

We’re back in the Mac’s List studio with Jenna and Ben. Tell me you two, what were some key points you heard Andrea make? Jenna?

Jenna Forstrom:

I really liked her point and her examples. She was sitting in this office, I will testify to this, with different resumes that she was pulling out pieces. It just showed how well-prepared she was for this interview, which is a podcast interview but you should be as prepared in a real interview for a job. She spoke really succinctly, and then obviously she’s a resume writer, so she’s got really good examples, but just that idea of taking one line that might be jam-packed with a whole bunch of information and slowing down and breaking it out, because, as a community manager, people send me resumes a lot and I’m just like, all right. I know that I’m not in your industry but I have no idea what this one sentence means. Either is it industry-specific or how can you dumb it down for the HR person to be like, oh, I like you and I like what you’re telling me, even though it’s not exactly industry-specific, if that makes sense.

Mac Prichard:

That makes perfect sense. Ben?

Ben Forstag:

I’m going to go back to what I said before, which is about trying to cut down on the flowery language, and along the same lines of what Jenna said. Make your application or your resume approachable and understandable. If that means cutting it down and making it simpler bullets, shorter bullets with a clear understanding of what you did that way, rather than long, drawn out sentences with lots of clauses, and lots of adverbs and things like that. Again, something I need to work on and I think Andrea did a really good job of highlighting how three bullets can be stronger than one really long one sometimes.

Mac Prichard:

I loved her before and after examples. As I listened to her speak, the picture that she was painting in the ‘after’ examples were very different than what you got from the ‘before,’ which are the benefits the recommendations she was making. The key point for me was, I liked her emphasis on just thinking about the strategy when you sit down to write your resume. Where do you want to go? What accomplishments do you have that will help support that case and how do you document it through data, or numbers, or brand names, and being as specific as you can. Above all it’s not a time to be humble and that’s hard for many of us. We’re taught to be modest. I’ve known people from the Midwest, like me originally, but just people in general, it’s a good quality to have, but as Andrea says you don’t want to be humble when it comes time to write your resume.

  Good. Well, thank you both and thank you Andrea for joining us here in the studio. Thank you, our listeners, for joining us for today’s episode of Find Your Dream Job. If you like what you hear, please sign up for our free weekly newsletter. In every issue, we give you the key points of that week’s show. We also include links to all the resources mentioned and you get a transcript of the full episode. If you subscribe to the newsletter now we’ll send you our job seeker checklist. In one easy to use file we show you all the steps you need to take to find a great job.

  Get your free newsletter and checklist today. Go to MacsList.org/podcast. Join us next Wednesday when our special guest will be to Julie Broad. She’ll explain how you can make the most of your personal brand in a job search. Until next time, thanks for letting us help you find your dream job.

Does your resume engage a human resource manager and make them want to read more? Or, does it just blend in with all other task-oriented resumes and generate no response?

This week’s guest, Andrea Gerson, has seen thousands of resumes and shares resume best practices that help you get noticed by employers.

Andrea believes that most people are simply too modest in their resumes. Most people are encouraged to be humble and not to boast about their accomplishments, but a job seeker can miss out on a great career opportunity if they don’t properly quantify their competencies and qualify their contributions on their resume.

Andrea also suggests:

  • Use the primary real estate (top third) of your resume to engage your reader.
  • Add quantitative information about your high-level accomplishments that pertain to the job for which you are applying.
  • Include your goals and intentions, and how they may benefit the prospective company.
  • Add pertinent information in bite-sized pieces and in concise bullet points.
  • Use the S.T.A.R. framework, and be consistent when formatting your resume.

This Week’s Guest

Andrea Gerson helps professionals find clarity, confidence, and a renewed sense of energy in their work. Andrea is the founder of Resume Scripter. She has created and edited resumes and cover letters for more than 3,000 people. Her client have have included Microsoft, Google, Facebook, Bloomberg, Morgan Stanley, JP Morgan Chase, the United Nations, and The Red Cross.

Resources from this Episode