Monday, March 27, 2023

Riffing on Resumes, Part 8: Objective

Here's a frequently asked question when I edit or create resumes for clients or teach resume writing in a corporate class: Do I really need an objective in my resume? The answer: no and yes.

The answer is a resounding no, do not include an objective in a resume, in two cases:
  • if you do not plan to customize your objective to the prospective employer's concerns
  • if you plan to write words and phrases like accomplisheddedicated, drivenhardworking, maven, out-of-the-box thinkerpassionate, people personself-starter, and synergetic.
And the answer is yes, do include an objective in a resume when you want to show prospective employers you understand how your goals and theirs connect. Here are three examples.

1. A recent college graduate applying to an economic consulting firm: A junior economist position in an economic consulting firm that will grow my interest in bankruptcy and financial distress litigation and support my legal counseling aspirations. This objective points specifically to one of the firm's 28 practice areas, demonstrating some knowledge of what the firm does. While you may argue that such a choice may limit this candidate's employment chances, it confidently indicates a passion without saying passion. And while it may seem self-destructive for the candidate to mention the goal of becoming a lawyer, not an economist, it proves an awareness of the firm's legal counseling needs. 

2. A project manager with 10 years of experience applying to a major architectural-engineering business: A senior project management position specializing in capital construction projects in an architectural-engineering firm that values interdisciplinary communication and end-to-end construction management. The candidate does not need to write with ten years of experience or seasoned project manager because the experience section of the resume illustrates these points. What matters to this candidate is an elevation to senior status as well as the employer's valuing excellent communication skills and total project management knowledge. 

3. A government administrative assistant applying for a promotion within the agency: A clerical supervisory assignment that tests my time, project, and people management skills in my commitment to continued self-development. The candidate's use of clerical, assignment, commitment, and self-development indicates that even this next position is a temporary stop for the employee in an ongoing personal and professional evolution. The candidate suggests that the government agency has an opportunity to help fashion an employee with leadership aspirations—and the agency should want such career-focused employees..   

Does this mean you need to customize your objective for every job possibility? Of course. Don't you want your employer to know the real you, your career objectives, and your potential contributions?  

Monday, March 20, 2023

Riffing on Resumes, Part 7: Identity

Here's another post for the not-as-obvious-as-you-think files. What to include for the applicant's identifying information in a resume has become an issue for people who feel they are entitled to confidentiality. I have heard a quite a few say they need not include their address or phone number.

But they should. Transparency is a big part of job applications. Some fields require full disclosure of investments because of competition considerations. Others demand to know for conflict of interest purposes whether the applicant coaches a little league team (the team may play in the employers' right of way), serves on an association board (the board's policies may be at odd with the employer's goals), or performs summer missionary work (the period may occur during the employer's peak season). For these reasons and to facilitate applicant-employer communication, include everything: your address, land line, mobile number, and, of course, email address. 

What about including in the resume social media, such as LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook? If you are using these outlets for business purposes (as I do), include these contact points as well. Many say their social media information is their business only, and many a judge have agreed with this sentiment. Nevertheless, social media is fair game for background checks, so what are you hiding? Include those too if you use them to promote your professional image.

Monday, March 13, 2023

Riffing on Resumes, Part 6: Sending

In tandem with the previous WORDS ON THE LINE post on printing a resume, this brief entry covers transmission considerations.

If you are sending the resume electronically, use a PDF version, not a Word file, to ensure the employer won't accidentally alter it. Use a conventional file name, such as Resume - Vassallo, Philip; Cover Message - Vassallo, Philip; and Recommendation - Vassallo, Philip. Or use files names as instructed by the employer.

If you are mailing the resume, use a neatly typed #10 envelope that matches the resume paper. Tri-fold in even panels. Include with the resume a cover letter and, when appropriate, recommendations. Weigh the sealed envelope to comply with postal regulations. You can use a 9" X 12" envelope to avoid folding your enclosures.

And that's that.

Monday, March 06, 2023

Riffing on Resumes, Part 5: Printing

I know, I know. You're looking at the topic of printing a resume thinking, "This guy is a dinosaur. No one snail-mails a printed resume these days. That is so twentieth century!" So if you really feel that way, stop reading here. But for the very reason that Gutenberg is edging toward extinction, how would those unversed in antiquity respond to a rare instance when a prospective employer requests a posted resume? And wouldn't you want to print two copies for the day of the interview, one for yourself and one for an absentminded interviewer (I've met them) who does not have the presence of mind to have your resume on hand for reference during the interview? Really, it won't hurt to read these three brief tips.

1. Choose a white or light-colored matted 8½" X 11" 20- to 40-pound paper stock. These are universal standards. Stick to them. No need to get too fancy with something like a card stock, but don't be too cheap either by using what amount to tissue paper.

2. Use black ink. I would imagine a deep blue would be all right for those who are obsessed with being different, as long as they remember that conformance has its place too.

3. Print originals, not photocopies. Show some professional pride. You are worth the extra investment of spent ink. The sharpness of your print facilitates scanning.

That didn't hurt, did it?

Monday, February 27, 2023

Riffing on Resumes, Part 4: Checking

As you periodically review your resume, you will want to look at substance, structure, and style. Let's take these points one at a time.


Let logic determine whether to add, retain, or delete information. If you are seeking a job in project management for an architectural-engineering firm, it's all right to delete that job from nine years ago when you were a call center operator, especially if your last nine years can highlight your project management skills. 

You have likely heard that your resume should account for every minute of your professional lifeleave no employment gaps. That is such old, played-out news. Employment gaps are okay, as long as what's in the resume shows you to be the powerhouse you are. You can always explain those employment gaps, honestly, of course, during the interview. 


The same holds true for structure: Use common sense to decide how to lay out your life. Is your employment history stronger than your educational achievements? If yes, start with employment; if no, start with education. Does a single-column or double-column format work? The answer depends on whether one of the formats spills your content over to a single-section second or third page. If yes, go with the briefer format to save a page.

Avoid prose paragraphs. Use bullet points. The game plan is for your reader, the prospective employer, to scan your resume easily. 


Make sure the bullet points all begin consistently. Start bullet points about your past jobs with past tense; for your current job, start them with present tense. 

To show you are a doer, use visual action verbs (wrote, presentmanagelead, create), not softer verbs (understand, reviewknow, ensure, consider). Avoid at all costs being verb beginnings (was responsible for, am aware of), which show little to nothing. Also, keep bullet lists within a group consistent in terms of all actions (diagnosed, supervised, tested) or all accomplishments (achieved, increased, decreased). 

Finally, proofread carefully and have zero tolerance for the slightest flaw. If you are unsure about whether a phrase or word is correct or standard usage, ask an expert whose opinion you value highly. Proper detail, formatting, and style matter so much to your readers.   

Monday, February 20, 2023

Riffing on Resumes, Part 3: Articulating

After planning and formatting your resume, you will start populating it with bullet points explaining your unique credentials, accomplishments, and talents. Here are nine pointers in articulating those features.

1. Create an objective that guides the reader through the resume. Words like self-starter, motivated, and compassionate do nothing to foreshadow the bullet points; words like technician, manager, and presenter do. 

2. Portray yourself honestly by not overstating or understating your qualities and accomplishments. If you are a prolific writer, then what is Joyce Carol Oates? If you are a creative powerhouse, then what is Yo-Yo Ma? Everyone sees through such nonsense. On the other hand, do not undersell yourself. Just let your work, degrees, jobs, and tasks talk for you.

3. Employ industry-specific language. Do not worry about writing critical path method if you are a project manager or integrated development environment if you are a programmer. The people reviewing your resume will know those terms as subject-matter experts themselves.

4. Start bullet points in the employment section with action verbs, not being verbs. Instead of writing was responsible for planning projects and am tasked with creating presentations, write planned projects and create presentations. And make those action verbs as tactile as you can: avoid considered program revisions and ensure quality products in favor of revised programs and effect quality products

5. Show progress from one job to the next. Leave verbs like checkedentered, supported for your first job; follow with supervised, managed, and authorized for the next job; and lead, spearhead, and create for your current job. Of course, remember point 2 above as you do so.

6. Use lists and avoid lengthy paragraphs. For those who dislike bullet points, remember this: No one wants to become enraptured by the narrative style of your resume.

7. Quantify your work experience wherever possible. If you managed a $1.5 million project, say so. If you supervised a help desk of 15 associates, let them know.

8. Prefer achievements to tasks. Consider which is better to start the bullet point: Saved firm $300K in work process efficiencies by redesigning 25,000 sq. ft. office space than Redesigned 25,000 sq. ft. office space resulting in work process efficiencies that led to $300K in savings. Much depends on the recipient of your resume and the job you are seeking.

9. Make every word matter. As a rule, you can drop articles (a and the) and some pronouns (who, which, that)  in a resume, as long as the sentence makes sense. Other words for the resume trashcan are the phrases past experience (experience will do), each employee (employees is better), in a timely manner (timely is concise), on a day-to-day basis (daily is better), and many more to mention here. Be on the lookout for verbiage. 

The way we express ourselves represents who we are, so choose words wisely,

Monday, February 13, 2023

Riffing on Resumes, Part 2: Formatting

Now you've reflected on your career goals, ideal job, interpersonal and technical skills, and developmental opportunities, as discussed in Part 1 of this series. Next, you will want to format your resume. Here are seven general points to consider.


1. Use standard 8½" X 11" (215.9 mm X 279.4 mm) paper. 

2. Limit margins to ½" or larger (no less) at all four sides. 


3. Use a consistent font type. Serif fonts, like Times New Roman, are more readable than sans serif fonts. Once you have decided on the font to use, stick to it throughout the resume. 

4. Use 11- or 12-point size, no more, no less, for readability.

5. Use font style consistently. For instance, use bold just for headings, italics just for job titles and degrees attained, and regular for everything else.

6. Use only one color, black, especially since your interviewer might print a copy your resume in black only. 


7. Use either one- or two-column format. From the no-cheat image, you can see the advantage and disadvantage of each format: You gain more space with a single column, but you offer easier scanning with a double column.