Monday, February 12, 2007

Is Your Resume Helping or Hurting Your Job Search?

I usually, I write about freelancing issues. After all, this blog is about the BUSINESS of freelancing. However, I will start to devote one post a week to full-time career issues, as I've been peppered since the beginning of the year with these types of questions.

Y. Black, Publisher

Today's Topic: Is Your Resume Helping or Hurting Your Job Search?

Are You Guilty of the Following?

The first step in looking for a job is preparing a resume. However, this is where many go wrong, hurting your chances before you even start.

I've been a recruiter for a decade and have looked at literally tens of thousands of resumes. The reason I've seen so many is because most are easy to send to the slush pile right away.

Avoid the following three things if you want to stay out of the slush pile, and find your way in to an interview.

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1. Email Address: Make this professional. This is just like a voicemail message. If it is unprofessional, it makes the employer question how professional you are.

Eg, if your email address is, then how likely do you think you are to get a call from a prospective employer? What message are you sending by applying using an address like this?

To avoid this, create a separate, professional, email address for your job search. Your name, eg, is perfect. If your name is common, try using underscores, hyphens and numbers to secure the address. Eg,,, All of these are perfectly fine - and professional.

2. Cover Letters: Most times, recruiters don't read cover letters. However, if you do supply one, be sure to make it brief, professional, grammatically correct and to the point.

You can usually judge the professional skill level of a candidate by his/her cover letter. Eg, I believe the skills I acquired within my last position make me the perfect person for this job. [High school student/graduate; first-year college student/someone without a higher-level education].


Skills acquired in my last position ensure a smooth transition to the job at hand. [Candidate is educated and confident].

Resume/cover letter tip: Leave out phrases like "I believe," "I would like," and "I hope." These relay insecurity, less skill, less education, etc.

Simply state your intent/belief. Eg, instead of writing, "I believe I can excel in this position because . . ." try, "My ability to excel in this position is illustrated by . . ."

The second phrase conveys confidence and good communication skills.

3. Computer Skills: Every resume should have this section.

We live in the age of technology and this is one of the first things recruiters look for, because employers give this as a basic first, eg, we are looking for someone who is proficient in QuickBooks Pro.

When recruiters begin their search, the first thing they are going to do is look in the Computer Skills section to see if you have that skill.

If you have it, but have buried it under one of your job duties, we might never see it. So, be sure to list all of your computer skills in a separate section so that they are easily identifiable.

Don't have computer skills? If you don't haven any, by all means, don't list any. BUT, do get thyself to a class and start to learn.

THEN, you can list the skill that you are studying in this section. Many nonprofit community work organizations offer computer training free. Here in Atlanta, the Atlanta Workforce Development Agency ( is one such agency. Every major city has agencies with programs like this.

Don't know where to start? Start by contacting your local unemployment office, or your local Small Business Administration branch. They should be able to connect you to programs and organizations like this.

Remember, your resume is your professional calling card. If it is unprofessional in any manner, it can put you out of the running before you even begin the race. Make sure that it is 100% error free to ensure your chance of going to the next round - a call/interview.

Good luck!
P.S.: For useful tips on resumes specific to editorial jobs, click here.
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