Resume Rules - Or Not

Yesterday I was writing a little about resumes, and said that there are some rules to follow and others that need to be broken. Here they are. 

Rules to Break
  • When I come across a job ad that says “don’t call us, we’ll call if we are considering you for an interview,” I always ignore them. Call the HR department and be really nice to whomever answers the phone. Let them know you are applying for a job and that you’d like to get the name of the person that should go on your cover letter. Avoid sending it “To Whom It May Concern” and make sure you confirm the spelling.  
  • The interviewers know that you can go to their website and find things out. They will eliminate you from consideration if you can’t be bothered to at least find basic data. Go the extra mile, and do some real research. Find out what they do, who they do it with. Arrange to meet the hiring manager for an informational interview and decide if you want to work with them. You don’t have to go into stealth mode or anything; simply ask the right people the right questions in a respectful way.
  • Stop trying to create a resume that uses the same template everyone else does. Be yourself. Create something. Speak to your potential employer as an individual, and not a copy of every other applicant.
·         Don’t list every task you’ve ever done with every job you’ve ever had. Blech. Tell them what makes you different from everyone else who did that job. Did you work on some interesting projects? Meet some interesting people? What did you learn? 

Rules to Follow
  • Have a paper version and an e-version of your resume. Most companies insist that you apply on-line, so you need to be ready for the format they prefer. Be sure to take plenty of paper copies with you when you go networking or to a job fair.
  • Make sure your contact information is on the resume. This seems obvious, but I’ve seen people leave out critical details like their phone number and e-mail. Actually, I didn’t see them because I couldn’t get hold of them easily enough. 
  • Update your voicemail so that you sound like someone the caller wants to meet. Remove the sighing, “ums”, the name of your 16 cats, and for goodness sake get rid of the digital voice that says you don’t care about updating your voicemail.
  • Have someone read the resume over: don’t get them to critique the content (it’s YOUR resume). But make sure they can spell and punctuate so that there are no errors in your resume or cover letter. I’ve lost count of the number of times someone says they are “detail oriented” (whatever that is) and yet there are mistakes in their application. 
  • Small companies will probably ask for your resume by e-mail, although you might drop off a paper copy if you are out networking. Big companies don’t want the paper and take most of their applications online. Since the copies they print off for the interview can look messy, make sure you bring a paper copy to offer everyone. Choose paper that is a heavier weight than the stuff that normally spits out of your printer or a copier. It makes it look like you care.
  • Keep track of the jobs you apply on, when you apply, and also make sure that you save a copy of the posting or advertisement. Copy and paste it into a document that you can save, since the ads are usually removed as soon as the application deadline passes. If you are applying for lots of positions, you need to have a system to track what their ad said, and especially what they were looking for in a candidate. Some companies can take months to make a hiring decision, and you look like you’ve really got your act together when you have the details figured out. 
Tomorrow we'll have a look at applying social media to your job search. 

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