Resume Woes? Here Are 7 Tips to Get You Started

Image by Stuart Miles

Image by Stuart Miles

I’ve never gone into great detail regarding resumes but, given those recruiters come across at career fairs and in applications, I thought it would be appropriate to address the basics. Everyone has heard the basics, yet many people still struggle with creating a resume that will catch a Hiring Manager’s eye.

The first time I put together a resume I was already in college. I’d had jobs in high school but they only required an application. Believe it or not a resume was a new concept for me and to say I wasn’t very skilled in this area would be a massive understatement.

I’d mentioned to a friend that I needed a job and he wanted to help me out. He asked me to give him a resume and he’d pass it on. Not having a clue about how to develop a resume I fashioned what I thought was appropriate, including descriptions from the only two jobs I’d ever had. In spite of the fact that there was enough space left over to write a novel, I handed it over the next day. (Hey, I made sandwiches and I ran the cash register. I couldn’t create experience I didn’t have, right?) From the look on his face, I could tell my efforts had fallen short. Way short. Although he tried to hide it, he couldn’t have looked more baffled if I’d handed him a list of my two jobs written on the back of an old receipt. In crayon.

The feeling that came over me gave the emotion ‘mortified’ new meaning. I slunk away muttering something about being late to class knowing my sorry excuse for a resume was headed for the nearest garbage can.

Now, as a recruiter, in spite of much more help available than I had, I still see far too many applicants who also get an ‘F’ for their efforts. So, here are the basics for putting together a resume you can be proud of.


One size does not fit all. If you are interested in more than one field you need to have multiple resumes. Sorry, there is no way around it, but you can accomplish this with a few tweaks to your objective and adding or removing the jobs that aren’t relevant.

With the internet at your fingertips there is no reason for a poorly formatted resume. A simple Google search will yield endless pages of websites, many containing templates, that make this task easy. The simplest order for headers is as follows:

  • Top: Name, address, proper contact information, including email and phone (cell, not home for immediate replies)
  • Education: Name of University and degree (year is not necessary) or anticipated graduation date
  • Work Experience: Some like to list Relevant Work Experience, then Other Work Experience
    • This should include the company, location and start and end dates for each job listed. Underneath, list your job title and bullet point the most relevant and/or transferable job duties. (See example below.)
  • Organizations
  • Awards and Accomplishments

No need to list out your coursework. As a fellow recruiter pointed out, if you earned your accounting degree we know you took the 300 level accounting course. This wasted space should be used to showcase other accomplishments. (The relevant ones, of course.)

Appropriate formatting

This means using the best font (never Comic Sans or anything too casual), bolded and larger for headings or titles.

Don’t expect recruiters to draw conclusions

If you list a job, even if responsibilities should be obvious, include a short description and any notable accomplishments.

Mack’s Diner                           Detroit                              2014-present


  • Ensures customers have an enjoyable dining experience
  • Trains new servers
  • Consistently averages ticket sales of $30 per guest
  • Conceptualized and implemented promotional materials to increase average number of guests

Don’t omit relevant experience

Many candidates skip experience that I’d love to see, like a salesperson at a local retail store who reached sales goals, in favor of something they think sounds better, like Administrative Assistant at a Fortune 500 company. Every recruiter is different, but most of my recruiter friends would agree job duties trump the fancy company.

Light experience doesn’t have to look like light experience

This does not mean you should bullet point every single task. I’ve seen resumes describing a 3 month internship that were more than a page long. Share the important highlights and save something to talk about in the interview.

Utilize a creative format and appropriate font size to utilize space the right way, but don’t resort to random quotes, irrelevant graphics or other fillers. They only make sense to you.

Your resume should reflect your level of experience

Oftentimes, people with a decade worth of experience opt for the same format as someone fresh out of college.

If you are experienced, recruiters should be able to tell with just a glance. Think Summary vs. Objective and functional vs. traditional.

On the other hand, a new college grad using this format could get overlooked because a recruiter might assume you are seeking mid to upper level opportunities. The same goes for an applicant with an Executive Summary applying for an internship.

Your resume should be appropriate for the job you are seeking

I once received a resume that looked more like an advertisement. It was 3 pages long, the first two dedicated to videos created, classes taken and, for some reason, loads of exclamation points. (Yikes!) There was no mention of actual jobs held until the final page. All of this for an internship.

While I applaud the candidate’s creativity, and it might have been a huge hit at a marketing firm, it wasn’t the right approach for my sales internship. This candidate’s language was also too casual and too familiar.

While all of this might seem obvious, resumes that come across recruiters’ desks daily don’t lie. Many people struggle in this area. Don’t be of them. Use these tips to make sure yours is the best reflection of you.



First Job: Salary Negotiation

Image from

Image from

Like many of you, when I graduated from college I cast a wide net, searching for career opportunities in several cities. The first offer I received was from a radio station in a little town–which meant little pay. Not to mention, it was in the middle of nowhere. So the search continued, this time closer to home, with hopes of a better offer.

I don’t remember at what point salary came up when I accepted my first job, but it was about $5000 more than the offer I’d declined, so I seized it like a hungry dog on a pork chop.  I got lucky–well, blessed. I’d been praying about this job in particular, and knew it was the opportunity for me.

During the interview process, I had no idea when to ask about pay or what would be fair. Back then, we didn’t have the internet at our fingertips and sites like Glassdoor as a resource. The rule was, never bring money up in the first interview. Now, having spoken to several recruiters, I’ve discovered we all have different opinions. I go over pay during my first phone call, but I still feel it is in poor taste to ask about salary at a career fair.

Interviewing in itself is nerve-racking, but salary negotiation can also unleash a swarm of butterflies in the guts of even seasoned employees. The idea, according to What Color is Your Parachute (a must-read),  is to let the employer bring up salary first.

A Starting Point

Many companies that hire for entry-level positions have a set salary, regardless of experience. This  gives you the opportunity to make an impact, prove your worth, and benefit from promotions, perks and salary increases.

This is what I discovered. During my tenure my responsibilities have grown to include managing the hiring process for 50 branches and 2 airports. Some of my perks include a company car and an expense account, and I have earned more than 6 weeks of vacation. With each promotion my starting pay became a distant memory.

The Total Package

That being said, don’t feel like you’ve lost out if initially there is no room for negotiation. Remember to consider not just the dollar amount, but the total compensation package.

  • Advancement opportunities
  • Travel
  • Paid time off
  • A work-from-home option
  • Health benefits (medical, dental, optical) and the cost per pay period
  • Company car (now or upon promotion)
  • Retirement (401k, 503c, 403b, profit-sharing, stock options, pension)

There are other things to take into account but, most important, can that company take you where you want to go in the time you want to get there, assuming that timeframe is reasonable?  Unless you are the owner or the child of the owner, you probably won’t become CEO in two years.

Negotiating Tips

Here are a few tips from The Doyle Report on that can guide you through the salary conversation. If the company has a firm starting point, it never hurts to ask. In fact, it can demonstrate your initiative and confidence to the recruiter. As my grandmother says, “Nothing beats a failure but a try.”.

Good luck, and make it a great day!

QUICK TIPS: Interviewing

Image by Stuart Miles

With graduation just a few weeks behind us recruiters are often swamped with interviews this time of year. Let’s say you’re scheduled for one of these interviews but have decided the position is not the right one for you. What should you do?

A. Nothing. You’re not interested in the position and you won’t be applying for it in the future.

B. Send the recruiter a polite email explaining you have decided to pursue other opportunities.

C. Go anyway. It’s not professional to cancel after the fact.

B is the best way to go. An email is fine, but a phone call is more professional (and not a voicemail left in the middle of the night). This isn’t so much about the job as it is your character. You never know if the company might offer another position that is of interest to you. In fact, the recruiter might actually keep you in mind and reach out to you later on.

A might seem like a good idea, but I caution you to never burn bridges. Guess where recruiters go when they leave a company? often to other recruiting roles. If you canceled on the recruiter when she worked at Victory Logistics there’s no reason for her to believe you’ll be reliable at Procter & Gamble.

C could be a waste of your time and the hiring manager’s. Call the person who set up the interview to let him know you’d like to cancel and give an honest reason. You might have a misunderstanding about the opportunity that he can clear up—and, frankly, it’s less cowardly. This is called professional courtesy. After that, if he asks you to come in anyway, consider it. No one can have a thorough idea of a job even if they go through the entire interview process, but you will at least learn more. Hopefully an observation or shadow will be part of the process to provide you with even more insight. You might even change your mind.

For more interviewing tips check out the following posts:

Didn’t Get the Job? It’s Not You:

Post Grad And No Job? Relax:



Ethics–The Lost Art?

Image by Stuart Miles

Image by Stuart Miles

As you read job descriptions and qualifications there is one that won’t show up under the bullet points, but is just as important to bring to the table to build a successful career. These are qualities that are hopefully planted in your early years by your parents, your church, your culture, even life experience, and grow over time as you nurture them. They are a reflection of your character, your brand, your reputation. I’m talking about your ethics.

Sadly, I am encountering more and more people who seem to lack integrity and morals. After a couple of candidates failed to show up for interviews and another was less than honest about a termination, I found myself frustrated by the lack of professionalism and character constantly popping up—and not just at work. Any Mystery Diner fans out there? On a recent episode (well, frankly, all episodes) after an owner discovered some questionable behavior–servers stealing tips from their co-workers and rigging some of the games played in the bar–he fired them, and rightfully so. The surprising part comes at the end where the guilty person not only feels zero remorse for their actions, but can’t seem to understand why they’ve been fired, even while much of their rant against their unjust dismissal is riddled with curses.

If you ask someone to define ethics you just might get a blank stare, but everyone has that standard they measure themselves against to determine what they feel is right or wrong. Or, at least, they should. When I was a manager in my organization every product that left my store had my name on it. It was a reflection of me, so it was important that it was a quality product. The same goes for every candidate I send on in the interview process.

So why does it seem so few people feel the same way? Perhaps the answer lies in the feedback from some of my ethics presentations. Check out these scenarios.

  • You leave the movies and notice another one you really want to see is just beginning. Do you slip in without paying?
  • As you walk out of a store you see a lady with a cart full of merchandise, obviously stolen since she has no bags, making her way to her car. Do you report her?
  • You go into your bank to make a substantial withdrawal. When you get into your car and count the money, you discover the teller has given you double the amount expected. Do you take the money back?

Tough questions for some people. After I share the examples the students and I have a lively group discussion.

Pay for another movie? They charge so much everyone should get to see two. Especially if the first one was the pits. One student reasoned in a similar example, “Hey, the movie’s playing regardless. My admission isn’t going to make or break anything.”

The lady with the cart? Some stated they would confront the person directly or tell security while others said, “It’s not my problem. Doesn’t affect me”. That group relies on karma to take care of the guilty. “But what do you think happens when a store suffers losses?” I ask. Is there an accounting fairy that comes along and makes it all better? No, that cost gets passed on to other consumers—a.k.a. you. And me.

The third scenario happened to me. If you’d been in my place you might reason that free money was an answer to prayer. In fact, you’d be doing the teller a favor by keeping it since she obviously can’t count. Once she gets fired, she’ll be free to discover her true calling. Only a couple of bold students have said they’d keep the money (I usually ask that student’s name and joke that I’m making a mental note not to hire him.).

Most, to my relief, have said they’d return it. Not because it’s the right thing to do, acknowledging the money is not theirs. Nope. It’s because they wouldn’t want the teller to lose her job. I’m still deciding if that’s admirable or disturbing. Shades of gray.

No, not the book. It’s the idea that there is no black or white and everyone makes their own choices. Doing something that would cause another person to lose their job is a no-no, but skipping out on paying for the movie is perfectly fine. For some reason it doesn’t register that both are stealing.

Overall, the students made the right decisions. In spite of that, some people feel it’s okay to lie on an application. To say they have skills they don’t have or deny they’ve been terminated. Some cheat on tests and skip out on group projects leaving three ticked off team members in their wake to pick up their slack.

Candidates who’ve lied about terminations actually still expect to get the job. I know because I receive emails after sending out rejection letters that ask, “Can you please give me feedback as to why I wasn’t selected?” Frankly, it scares me. Because that line that some wouldn’t dare cross—like the bank incident above—gets more and more blurry with every “gray area” decision.

You might be rolling your eyes by now, thinking, Get a grip. What’s the big deal? Everyone cuts corners here and there. But that’s a discussion for another post. See you next time when we’ll talk about it.

Don’t Give Up

Your #1 New Year’s resolution was Find a New Job. What you might be discovering is tons of people made that same resolution. And not just December grads. Many experienced people joined the January frenzy too.

You might not get the first job you pursue, but don’t be discouraged. Given the volume of applicants recruiters are receiving it might be more challenging and take more time before you get that coveted offer. If you are beginning to feel frustrated here are a few tips to keep in mind while you continue your search.

 Image by Stuart MilesDo some soul-searching

Be honest. Did you miss some offers due to your own errors?

Perhaps you came across as cocky instead of confident during the interview. Confidence is a wonderful attribute, however, overconfident body language and answers can be off-putting. This happened with a candidate who told one of our hiring managers, “When you call to offer me the job—and you will be calling me…”

This kind of attitude doesn’t make anyone feel warm and fuzzy. If the manager was rubbed the wrong way, how will customers and co-workers feel? If you want to convey you are the best person for the job simply reiterate your strengths.

“I think the leadership experience I gained as Vice-President of my sorority will be a real benefit to the Project Manager role. I’m looking forward to hearing from you regarding your decision.”

Did you walk into an interview without preparing? Maybe you went just for experience and the recruiter sensed that—despite the fact that you discovered mid-interview the job would be right up your alley. Even if you’re not excited about the opportunity when you apply, if you accept an interview take time to prepare and go with an open mind. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I applied for my company simply because it was in my home city where I planned to return after college. To my surprise, the person who interviewed me had such great things to say I was sold. I originally thought I’d stick around for 3 months then move on.

That was in 1994.

Have you been aiming too high? If you only have 1-2 years of experience (or maybe even less) and every opportunity you seek requires 5+ years, you are barking up the wrong tree. Commit to searching for entry-level jobs and you should see some doors begin to open. The same is true for more seasoned candidates. If you have a wealth of experience and your goal is to walk into a management role, cross entry-level opportunities off your list. They more than likely will not offer the compensation or responsibility you are seeking.

Remain Positive

Whether you are in the application stage or face-to-face interview stage, no one likes to hear the word no. When those no’s multiply over a few weeks, though it may tug at you hard, resist the woe-is-me mentality.

Do some things that make you feel good. Go to the gym, spend time with friends, participate in a sport or treat yourself to dinner or a movie—within your budget, of course. Give yourself permission to not think about your career search while you are out having fun.

If the negative thoughts come, replace them with good ones. 

Don’t lament because you got passed over. Again! Consider this: there is something out there that is a better fit for you. Had you gotten the other position(s) you would have missed out.

Years ago when my husband and I were looking at houses we found one we both liked and put in a bid. I was absolutely convinced it was the house—the perfect one for us. Imagine my disappointment when we didn’t get it. Then there was a second one I fell in love with. My husband, not so much. Yet I kept dreaming about that place. Finally we found yet another one that we both agreed on: open floor plan for him, attached garage for me and a bonus sun room. That was the one we got, and it is so much better than the others. Think about your job search in the same way. Even if the position seemed like the one that got away, keep believing something better is on the horizon.

Don’t cry reverse ageism. It’s the timeless dilemma: How can I get the experience required for the career I want if no one will give me a shot?  You are not totally devoid of experience. There are entry-level careers that only require the skills you were able to pick up at your high school and college jobs.

When my husband first began his career in IT no one was willing to give a young guy with no computer experience an opportunity. After a long search he was grateful to land a job in his field making less than minimum wage. He used that time to his advantage, learning as much as he could, proving himself and, slowly, other opportunities opened up. He eventually became a Senior Manager and a Director in his field. The moral of the story: don’t knock humble beginnings. Pay your dues and you will reap the benefits.

Don’t dwell on the interview that was an epic fail. If at first you don’t succeed try, try again. Prep for the next time. Brush up on interviewing tips or sign up for a mock interview at your alma mater (Bonus tip: recruiters who conduct mock interviews are hoping to find some leads).

Bitter is not better. I’ve seen it dozens of times. You don’t get the offer and then you lash out. The problem is, when you become bitter it can show in your interviews. If you get a rejection notice and feel a need to respond, keep it professional.

“Thank you for reviewing my application. Should any other opportunities become available for which you feel I am qualified, please keep me in mind.” This is a message that could score some points with the interviewer, so she just might give you a call when another position becomes available.

On the other hand, “I’d like to know why I wasn’t considered for the job. I meet every single qualification listed!” more than likely will not elicit a reply. Even if it does, it won’t be, You’re correct. I made a mistake. Your demanding email indicates you’d bring unity and harmony to our team. The recruiter will not be inclined to keep you in mind for anything except an example of what not to do during the interview process. What grandma taught you still rings true: You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.

Walk into every interview as if it’s the first

It might sound odd, but if you have a fresh mindset it will show. If you are replaying rejections in your head you could come across as desperate, defeated, or both. Remember this when you ask for the job, emphasis on ask, not plead.

Don’t rule out a part-time gig. Yes, student loans are around the corner, but a few months might allow you some time to find direction now that you don’t have fifteen things going on at once — classes and projects and meetings (oh my). Even if you begin your new career in April, you’d still beat the May/June grads and have a few months before you have to face the loans.

Remember, life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it (Charles Swindoll), so choose wisely.

Make it a great day!

7 Unique Ways to Get Better at Your Job

Great advice!

Campus To Career

There are millions of reasons to feel motivated to get better at your job. Job competition, job advancement, and job security are three phrases that might get you motivated to figure out how to get better at your job. The regular list won’t do anymore. You have to get creative. Here are 7 creative ways to get better at your job.

Stop Multi-Tasking

caffeinating, calculating, computerating

This piece of advice may come as a shock to you, but a recent Stanford study shows that people who heavily multitask do not pay the kind of attention it takes to do well at what’s in front of them. Clifford Nass, psychology professor at Stanford, explains the study shows that multitasking wastes more time than it saves and shows that multitasking also diminishes creativity. Don’t try to do several emails at once, don’t email while texting, don’t surf the internet while you’re talking on the phone.

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Classroom to Career-Part 6

I am back. Nanowrimo (that is, National Novel Writing Month, where writers strive to write a 50000 word novel in November) and Nanowrimo prep has taken up quite a bit of my time in the past few weeks. But, I know you’ve  gotten more comfortable in your new role and you might be wondering, what’s next?

Climbing the Ladder

Image by nattavut,

Image by nattavut,

How do you get to the next level anyway? Consult your research. Some companies, like mine, have very specific criteria for moving ahead but, oftentimes, the path isn’t always clear. In that case, performance is your best bet. Know your job inside and out and go above and beyond what is expected. If there are others in the same role, be the one to stand out.

Several years ago I had heard one of my hires was a little disappointed with her manager. Although she hadn’t said anything to me we were both at a luncheon and I could tell she was down. I gave everyone at the table the same advice, but I was talking to her and she knew it. “Remember, we are a promote from within company,” I said, looking around the table, my eyes lingering on hers for a few minutes. “Some of you might be working with people who you feel could do better.” I leaned in closer. “Out-perform them.” Her eyes sparked and she sat up straighter in her chair. Within months she was promoted to upper management

It has been said, If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. Be honest with yourself about areas in which you could improve. Write out the career path you’d like and the action steps you’ll need to take to get there and don’t forget to consider the obstacles that might hinder you.

Overcome Obstacles

You’ve heard the phrase, If it was easy everyone would do it. So what are some of the challenges you face?

Are you shy? Join Toastmasters to improve your presentation skills. Since you’ll be presenting in front of an audience you will automatically face your fear. But this isn’t the only route to overcoming shyness. As a Manager I had to deal with customers and accounts on a daily basis. And, although my knees were often quaking, I just forced myself to do it. Little by little I grew more confident over time. In fact, now I love getting in front of an audience. And people don’t believe me when I tell them that at one time it was a struggle for me.

Have you fallen short in your job? That was my obstacle my first year as a recruiter. It was, in a word, abysmal. I went back to my mentor, made a marketing plan for the year, focusing on my weakest areas and within two years I won back-to-back awards for my efforts! Own up to your mistakes and don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Is your image holding you back? Make sure you look and act the part (see part 2). If that isn’t your area of expertise ask someone who already looks the part for advice.

Maybe there aren’t any opportunities. Keep working hard. Remember, you’ve only been there a short time. A year or more is not an unreasonable time frame for promotion. In the meantime,you might receive some “in-kind” promotions: bonuses, extra time off or the opportunity to manage a project.

Do something great, then make sure people know about it. About a year into recruiting I realized we were spending an exorbitant amount of money using agencies to help us hire. I buckled down that year, utilized our other sources and reduced that number completely. That was great then, but what about recently? Well, last fiscal year I exceeded my forecasted hires and now I am setting new goals for this year.

Remember to walk before you run, work hard and make wise decisions. Keep these tips in mind as you become acclimated to your new role and it will pay off in the long run.

Make it a great year!