You don’t have to be perfect in you job search

PerfectPerfect is the enemy of good

I have heard this periodically throughout my life but unfortunately it is not usually taught by parents or schools but rather by life.  Some things in life you want to do perfectly but most times good is good enough. Take your resume for instance.  I recently had a client that wanted their resume to be perfect.  I am all for not sending one out with mistakes but they agonized over it.  They sent it to friends, colleagues and people in their network for advice.  Then they would rework it and start again.  All the while, never applying for a position.

You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take

I may not guarantee one way to find your next job, but I can guarantee how not to get a job… don’t apply.  I am not saying you should send out your resume when it looks like crap but you do have to get to a point where good is good enough.  Yes there are some basics you want to pay attention to; no typos, consistent and correct punctuation, etc…  But I bet every time you or someone else reviews your resume you will want to change something.

The same thing happens in interviews.  People keep talking hoping that the more they say the better their chances of saying what is “right.”  WRONG!  In fact, one of the concerns we have in interviewing sales people is that some people talk too much.  Here is a hint… sales is more about listening.  I’m just saying.  More is not always better people.

Keep in mind this does not go for everything, parachute packing comes to mind, but for your job search process going after perfect can be wrong.  Or how about when you won’t reach out to people through LinkedIn because they don’t “know them?”  Or when don’t attend a great networking opportunity because you’re not ready.  You know what?  Get ready!  Of course I say this as I type this blog post all the while waiting for the infographics on to make themselves 🙂

It is OK to change as you go through the job search and your career.  If you don’t change you are not doing it right.  Don’t wait till you don’t want to change.

To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often.
Winston Churchill

Science may help build a better resume

Most people will tell you to leave the personal stuff off you resume; marital status, how many kids you have, religious affiliations, etc…  But it seems there may be instances when you should give a company a peek behind the personal curtain.

No, I do not regularly read Marie Claire (I don’t regularly read any one source for information) but when I saw their article about resumes I had to learn more.

The Totally Counterintuitive Thing Science Says You Should Do to Your Résumé

As a recruiter my first reaction was “No **** Sherlock.”  We often times forget that our world of recruiting is a mystery to people on the outside and what seems like common sense to us sometimes goes against norms.  Two Vanderbilt Law School economists did a study that involved resumes with a 10 year job gap.  Some of the resumes explained the job gap by stating it was due to a divorce or to raise children. The other resumes gave no explanation.  The resumes with the explanations raised their chance of being hired by 30 to 40 percent.

The reason that their chances went up was not WHY they had a gap but rather that they had a reasonable explanation.  I bet they would find the same increase if the applicants said they hiked the seven summits or decided to live with an indigenous tribe in the Amazon.  The reason for the increase is that they answered the question a recruiter always has… “Why the gap?”

How was your time in prison?

My first reaction to a large gap is “hmmm, prison?”  If you don’t explain something most HR people and hiring managers will assume the worst.  I even encourage people to put a reason for job changes on their resume.  Nothing big, just a short explanation under each position, maybe in a smaller font and italics; Laid Off, Recruited to XYZ Company, etc…

Remember, your resume’s job is to get you the interview, the interview gets you the offer.  If I have 100 applicants (not uncommon) for a position I am first looking for ANY reason to kick people out.  Unexplained gap… GOODBYE!  Harsh?  Yes, but do you want to know what really happens to your resume / online application or do you want me to be nice?  As I say “The truth hurts some people but I have learned to live with it.”

Stay at Home Parents

When I was looking for a full time job three years ago I had some gaps myself.  I stayed at home for six years to raise our triplets.  One thing I did that helped was doing some contract work during those six years.  I think it is AWESOME if someone stays at home to focus on their family.  But I always encourage people to begin with the end in mind.  You need to volunteer or work periodically on a contract basis in the profession you want to work in later.  If you don’t you could get left behind.  These days business moves just a bit beyond light-speed.  You must keep up or you will have a large skill gap (perceived or real) when you decide to re-enter the working world.

Volunteering or periodically working on a contract basis can also fill resume gaps.  Let’s say you stay at home for 6 years till your kids get into school.  This is all hypothetical 🙂  You look around and find a mother’s day out program.  I am not going to mention that the name of these programs is sexist 🙂  This is a GREAT opportunity to give the kids some socialization with others and it gives a stay at home parent a chance to volunteer or look for a part time or contract job to keep their head in the game.  That sounds like a win-win to me.

The best way to handle employment gaps is to prevent them.


When you shouldn’t update your resume…

Never!  You should always update your resume.

As a recruiter I find it frustrating when I call someone that has applied for an opening only to find out that their resume is not updated.  I could understand if I am cold calling them out of the blue or off some old resume I found online but they contacted me!  They took the time to upload or paste their resume but they did not take the time to update it.  They are either currently at a job that is not on their resume or they already left that job.

First, I get it… No really, I do.  Everyone says it is easier to find a job when you are still working and it is.  If a recruiter sees that you are out of work they oftentimes wonder why so you just “forget” to update your resume.

I am a forgiving person so if someone sounds like they may be a good match I am willing to allow them one pass.  So I ask them to update their resume and to bring an updated one to the face to face interviews.  Guess what?  They usually don’t, they just bring the old out of date one!

You so idiot!

At this point you will not pass go no matter how great I think you could be in the position.  Want to know why?  Because you cannot follow directions.  I mean, this is the one that matters most, right?  Looking for a job is bigger than making a deal, bigger than making a sale, it is bigger than filling out that form correctly for the government that could lose us $1m in sales.  So if you won’t take the interview process seriously then why in blue blazes would I let you near my business?

I know you think this is petty but you will until someone at your job affects your paycheck because they forgot to do that thing that you keep telling them to do.


It’s the details that are vital.  Little things make big things happen.
John Wooden

6 tips for listing your employment experience on your resume

Here are some basic tips for the experience section on your resume.  First and foremost, don’t lie.  Employers may not be able to dig into your past too much by calling your past employers but we can almost always get your dates of employment and what position you held there.

We’re out of the 1900s so keep it clean

You can use fonts and effects (bold, ALL CAPS, underline, italics, etc…) to draw attention to things but don’t let it take away from a clean looking resume.  Let Comic Sans die already.

What you did is more important than where you did it

I advise people to highlight their position more than the company where they worked.  Take a look at these two examples

Enterprise Holdings Inc.
Management Trainee

Management Trainee
Enterprise Holdings Inc.

For most recruiters and hiring managers they are first interested in what you did in your last positions THEN where you did it.  Put the more important of the two first and bring attention to it through formatting.

Employment dates matter

How you write your dates of employment matter.  Here is how a recruiter/hiring manager interprets different styles:

  • ’12 – ’13: You are trying to hide something… what and why?
  • 2012 – 2013: OK, maybe you worked from December 31st 2012 to January 1st 2013.
  • 2/1/2012 – 3/15/2013:  High attention to detail… maybe too high unless you are applying to be an actuarial or for a government job.
  • 2/2012 – 3/2013: You were there for a year and a month, simple enough.

A brief description may help

You do not want to write a dissertation under each job but a brief description may help.  I recruit a lot of sales people and I want to know what you have sold in the past.  Save me the time of having to look up what industry your company is in and what they do.  But keep it brief.

Bullet your KSAs under each position

I did my reading comprehension in school and I didn’t like it then.  Please do not write a narrative about what you did in each position.  Which do you think is easier to read in 5-10 seconds?

  • Exceeded sales goals by an average of 20% – 30%
  • Hunter mentality with cold calling experience
  • 82% retention rate year over year

As a sales executive I exceeded my sales goals by an average of 20% to 30%.  I have a hunter mentality and I enjoy the challenge of cold calling by phone, email and in person.  Retention of existing customers is also a focus of mine resulting in an 82% retention rate

What to leave OFF you resume

I do NOT need to know how old you are, if you are married, have kids or any other personal information.  Also, leave your picture on LinkedIn but these days it is generally not put on resumes.  If we want references we will ask you for them.

Since we cannot change reality, let us change the eyes which see reality.
Nikos Kazantzakis

Why you should use summary of qualifications on your resume

There are many ways to do a resume but there are two TRUTHs that you need to keep in mind when writing and reviewing your resume.

A recruiter will look at a resume for 5 to 10 seconds

We recruiters are a busy lot. Most recruiters handle 20 – 30 openings at a time and we usually have 100s of applicants for each position.  You need to get our attention FAST!

Recency and Relevancy Rule

You need to focus on what is recent and what is relevant.  I am usually NOT interested in what you did 10 years ago UNLESS it is directly relevant to the position you are applying for.

Why using a summary of qualifications rocks

You get to bring THE most important stuff from your background to the top of your resume.  Be sure to bullet it as I do not like reading comprehension tests.  You can highlight certifications, training, relevant work experience, etc…

Keep it to 3-7 bullet points.  Remember, recruiters tend to be a little ADHD so we want the facts, no fluff.  Think of your summary of qualifications as the answer to this question:

Why should I call you about this position instead of all these other people?

Try it out on your resume then A/B test it to see what others think.


Being second is to be the first of the ones who lose.
Ayrton Senna

5 things you must get right on your resume

How many times have you heard “First things first?”  But time and time again people mess things up from the beginning… their name.  You may ask “how can someone screw that up?”

Get your name right on your resume

For some reason people often times put their full name on their resume.  Put the name you usually go by on your resume.  No, not the nickname that you got as a pledge but the name you prefer people to call you.  There is no rule or law out there saying your resume must match your social security card.

This comes into play when someone from a company calls you.  If they ask for your proper name you may think it is a telemarketer.

Your resume should include your location

Many people are nervous about including their address on resumes but you at least want to put the city and state.  Many companies only want to hire local candidates.  If it is not evident that you are local they move on to the next candidate.

Be sure your phone number is working

I have had it happen on several occasions that I call a candidate only to hear that the number is no longer in service.  Or I hear that their voicemail is not set up.  To bad for them, I am calling the next resume.

Use a good email address

I shouldn’t have to mention it but I will… be sure your email address is professional.  You also want to be sure you don’t miss any emails.  I recommend starting a new email address for your job search.  That way your spam filter is less likely to grab an email from a company and it won’t get buried.

Social Media and your resume

You may want to include your LinkedIn and possibly your Twitter handle.  It is easy to create a custom LinkedIn url.  Most companies will check social media before hiring you so you might as well include it up front.  Hopefully you are using your social media to your advantage.

If you don’t get these things right, not much else matters.


Beware of the person who can’t be bothered by details.
William Feather

Have you A/B tested your resume?

AB testingIf you are not familiar with A B testing it is the latest way that companies determine which version of something people like more.  Here is a brief description of A/B testing.  It is being used EVERYWHERE!

Why you need to A/B test your resume

Resumes are tough.  You need to tweak them every time you apply for a job but how do you decide on the starting point?  You need to A/B test it.  I fully admit that there may be some ethical issues here.  Ideally you would apply to the same positions at the same companies but with different resumes.  But to do that you would need to use different unique identifiers (probably email addresses) and maybe different names and phone numbers.  The ethical issue comes into play if/when they ask you “have you ever applied with us before.”  Did I mention that lying on application is a quick and easy way to never get hired at a company?

So if you decide, as I would, to do the next best thing you want to apply to similar positions with two different resumes and track your results.  PLEASE tell me that you track where and when you apply for jobs!  You can also take both versions with you to informational interviews to ask their opinion.

Sometimes good is great

Yesterday morning Jeremy Carter from Breakout Birmingham and the Bold Future podcast told me… “If you wait on great, it never gets here.  Sometimes good should be your great.”  He was talking about editing podcasts but the same is true for working on your resume.  You have to find a stopping point.  Eventually you have to start applying for jobs.  I guarantee that you will miss out on 100% of the jobs you do not apply for.

Job boards are not dead

Today I read a report stating that 35% of the people surveyed in the US said that internet job boards were an important part of their job search.  If your resume sucks then you are effectively shooting blanks.  You MUST have a good resume.

More on what makes a good resume to come…


The true greatness of a person, in my view, is evident in the way he or she treats those with whom courtesy and kindness are not required.
Joseph B. Wirthlin

Does your resume look like a ransom note?

Ransom note for overshareingAsk a recruiter, they have seen them.  The resume from the person that thinks they are being “creative” (yes, that is an appropriate use of quotes) when they put together their resume.  There are a multitude of fonts, formats, different spacing, etc… Just like on a ransom note.  Not that I have every written a ransom note.

Just say no.  You need to learn that formatting on a resume needs to make it EASIER to read the important information, not turn into a game of where’s Waldo.  Here is a great article from Carrie Cousins at design shack about Good Writing and Editing.  The same rules apply to resumes.

Here are some basic design tips:

  • If you want to play it safe go with a Sans Serif font.
  • Use mixed letter case the most, it reads more easily than all UPPER CASE.
  • Stay consistent.  If one title is upper case then make them all upper case.
  • If you try to make everything stand out, nothing will.

At the end of the day remember that your resume needs to reflect the best parts of you AND you need to adapt it to each position when you apply.


Design is intelligence made visible.
Alina Wheeler

Should you include that you are an ordained minister on your resume?

The short answer is “It depends.”  As always, think recency and relevancy.  If it is neither then definitely leave it off.  If you recently became an ordained minister and it fills a resume gap then you might want to use it.  If the job that you are applying for is unrelated and there are no gaps leave it off.

Why?  Companies want to hire someone who WANTS to work for them not just someone who is WILLING to work for them.  If your work history is all over the place or has been in a different direction recently then you need to be able to explain it, IF you get a call from the recruiter.  But you want to eliminate any hesitations someone may have in calling you.

It happened and now it’s done. You live with it or it eats you up.

Why you no write so good? Resume spelling errors

spellcheckMany companies and people believe spelling counts in the interview process:

If you make a spelling error on your resume, cover letter or emails you are NOT:
  1. Detail oriented
  2. Very interested in the position.
  3. All of the above

The answer in most companies is #3, all of the above.  While I do not agree with this much of the time consider a Wikipedia entry on the question.  If enough people believe it to be true then it is true.  The ultimate truth does not matter, perception rules.  So if most employers kick you out of contention or at the very least ding you for having a spelling error then you need to do your best to avoid such an error.

This  is a very important truth (perception) to keep in mind.  Let’s say you are applying for a recruiter position.  You have is all: the skills they want, the right education and you have a rock solid work history.  Unfortunately this is one of the bullet points on you resume:

  • Asses talent based on KSAs and work history to determine job fit.

Notice that the first word is the plural of ass and NOT the correct word, assess?  Most companies do.  I know what you are thinking… so what?  This is just one error.  Who doesn’t make mistakes?  I agree but let’s test this with the dating analogy…  How about if you are on a first date and your date is rude and demeaning to the waitstaff?  Do you REALLY think they are a nice person just because they are nice to you?  Nope.  But the truth may be that your date had a very frustrating day and they are not being themselves today.  No matter, there will probably not be a second date.

So be sure to take your time.  Double and triple check your work.  Have others  critique it.  You only get one chance to make a first impression.  Most people make mistakes because they are in a hurry.  Don’t rush, the stakes are too high.


A man must be big enough to admit his mistakes, smart enough to profit from them, and strong enough to correct them.
John C. Maxwell