I'm very excited. It's a good job with a very good firm, their reputation is excellent, I got to spend about 20 minutes with my future boss and I think we will work together very well, and all the positive signs are where they should be. The downside was having to tell my current boss, whom I like a lot, that I'm leaving. Fortunately, he took it pretty well, though he was obviously less than thrilled.
The other downside has been that I'm mostly in charge of hiring my replacement. We placed an ad, and after a few hours of getting just one resume, then another and then another, we suddenly got something like 85 all at once. I'm not sure where they were hiding, but they're here now, and so over the last couple of days I've had the joy of reading 120-odd resumes. And some of them were very odd indeed.
People, I have mailed resumes and I have mailed resumes. I have drafted clever cover letters and I have filled out online forms. I have, in other words, done my share of job searching, but I've never been on the other side of the desk before and I had no idea how utterly weird it could be. How weird? Well, here's just a smattering of the things I've come across.
- Quite a few resumes had really obvious spelling and grammatical errors. If you're applying for a "legal assistant" position, you might wanna know how to spell "assistant."
- And then there was the guy who misspelled the name of a FORMER EMPLOYER. Let me get this straight; you worked there three years and never learned how to spell the name of the company?
- There were also resumes that addressed the wrong law firm, referenced the wrong position, or addressed to "Dear Mr. Smothers" when there was no "Mr. Smothers" in the job ad. I mean, that's just not paying attention, people.
- And speaking of not paying attention, try not to apply for the same job twice on two consecutive days. You ARE keeping a record of all this, aren't you?
- It's nice that you're looking for an evening/weekend position, but, uh, that's NOT WHAT WE'RE HIRING FOR.
- And then there were the creative email addresses. Like "Fairywings@whatever.com" and one very memorable "firstname.lastname@example.org." People, no potential employer is going to reply to an email address like that. Please, for the love of God, get a Gmail or Yahoo address that's just your "lastname.firstname@..."
- I'm glad you were born again in Christ on July 2, 2012, but it doesn't need to be on your resume. Honest.
- Nor do I care that you've been sober for 12 years. In fact, I'd rather not know that.
- And I just love getting your resume not from you, but from your academic advisor. Because that's classy.
- Odd statements: "I prefer a salary that reflects my ability, experience & commitment. Of course, I am willing to address that as necessary." Well, I would hope so?
- "My present job is not a legal assistant job, but it pays the bills." Um. Okay?
- "I am a fast learner and will be able to transfer fundamental skills like organization (spelled wrong), customer service, negotiation (spelled wrong) and case preparation to your office." Great, but I suspect that's your way of telling me you don't have any litigation experience and...hey, I'm right.
I'll admit I went to business school a long time ago, but for the love of God, have things changed that much? I mean, I hope this is just a case of not knowing any better, because honestly, I'm becoming depressed about the fate of future generations and all that. Of the 120-odd resumes, we got exactly nine that we're considering. Nine. I mean that's about 10%. Which, I discovered after a couple of quick Google searches, was about average. That's even more depressing.
Look, people, it's your resume. It will get you, or not get you, a job interview. It needs to be perfect. If you aren't good at noticing misspellings and typos, get someone else to look at it for you. Get more than one someone else, if you have to, and listen to what they say. You probably know someone who has occasion to look at resumes once in a while. Even if you don't, you probably know someone whose education went further than yours, who works in a higher position than you do, who majored in English or literature or something and can at least tell you if your resume is written in the right language. Even if you end up having to pay someone, just do it. Again, it's your resume. You deserve to have a good one. Or at least one that won't embarrass you in public.
I know of what I speak. Back when I first got out of college, I was writing resumes for all my friends and getting paid in pounds of coffee. (All my friends worked at Starbucks.) I still do it from time to time, sometimes for actual cash money. And if I had to sum up the elements that make a great resume, the list would look something like this:
- Put the most important information first. The average hiring manager is going to glance at your resume for about ten seconds, so make sure your most critical skills are on top. If you've had a few jobs and been in the workforce for a while, put your job experience first. If you're brand-new to the job market and just graduated from someplace, put your educational experience first. If neither of those apply, you might want to lead off with your most important job skills--which tend to be computer skills these days, but it depends on what job you're applying for. Talk to somebody in the field to get a better idea of what should go where.
- Don't be afraid to vary your resume according to the job you're applying for. A lot of companies use screening software to look for specific words, and if those words aren't in your resume, you'll get skipped. The best way to avoid this is to read the job ad carefully and look for terms of art like "civil litigation" and "appellate filings" (because I'm in the legal field; your mileage may vary). Make sure those terms appear somewhere in your resume.
- Don't go over two pages. Even if you've been in the field for 30 years, nobody's going to read more than two pages. It's okay to sum up the first ten years of your career in a sentence or two, and then provide details for the last ten years (which is primarily what a hiring manager wants to know about). Things change very quickly these days. A "legal secretary" when I first started working was using a typewriter and carbon paper. Obviously that's no longer the case, so a "legal secretary" job from 20 years ago is going to be pretty meaningless to your current job skills. Or I hope so, anyway.
- Use bullet lists and keep the format consistent. This makes it easier for the hiring manager to pick out the important stuff in a hurry. And they're always in a hurry.
- Use a nice, clean readable font, like Times Roman, Arial or Bookman Old Style. If you want to vary the look of certain areas, try bolding and underlining, or changing the text size. Don't use more than one font; it looks sloppy and like you forgot to read it over before you submitted it. And please, please don't use script fonts. Yes, I know they're pretty, but they're very hard to read. Save them for party invitations. Please.
Finally, here are a couple of tips for job hunting in general:
- Apply fast. I got 120 resumes in one day; if you're applying three days out from the day the ad appeared, you're probably too late. Focus on the current day's ads, then go back a day or two days if you have time.
- Most job ads appear on Friday or Monday, because that's when people tend to give notice. So try to set aside extra time for job hunting on those days, because you'll need it.
- If you haven't been there lately, your local library has a ton of resources for job hunters, from books about how to put together a good resume to computers you can use to apply for jobs if you happen not to have one at home. A lot of libraries even have programs like "job hunter's boot camp" available for free or for a nominal fee. Be sure to ask. Remember, your librarian is your friend.
- Talk to people. Tell everyone you know that you're looking for work. Keep a couple of resumes in your car with you, because you never know when you might run into someone who knows someone who is looking for someone.
- Above all, take good care of yourself. Get plenty of sleep, exercise regularly, eat a good diet with lots of fruits and vegetables, and try to have a little fun every day. Job hunting is hard work. It's physically draining and mentally grueling. You'll be more up to the challenge if you're feeling physically well.
Okay, I'm getting off my soapbox now. I'll resume commentary on Buddhism, writing, things legal and the sorry state of the planet with my next post. Meantime, soldier on. And remember, you can't get Ebola without doing something that's pretty gross. Cheers!