stronger

Reality Check: Given the choice of two candidates of equal ability, hiring managers will always prefer to interview the one with the most artfully constructed and attractive resume. For that reason, candidates with superb qualifications are often overlooked. And companies end up hiring from a more shallow pool of talent; a pool made up of those candidates whose experience is represented by powerfully written, visually appealing resumes.

Of course, many of the best candidates also have the best resumes; and sometimes, highly qualified candidates manage to surface through word-of-mouth referral. In fact, the referral method is the one I use to present talented people to my client companies.

But unless you can afford to rely on your “reputation,” or on the recommendation of a barracuda recruiter, you’ll need more than the right qualifications to get the job you want—you’ll need a dynamite resume.

In today’s competitive employment market, your resume has to stand out in order to get the attention of the decision maker and create a strong impression. And later on, when you meet the prospective employer face to face, a strong resume will act as a valuable tool during the interviewing process.

Truth in Advertising
The best way to prepare a dynamite resume is not to change the facts, just make them more presentable. This can be accomplished in two ways: [1] by strengthening the content of your resume; and [2] by enhancing its appearance.

Although there’s no federal regulatory agency like the FDA or FCC to act as a watchdog, I consider it to be ethical common sense to honestly and clearly document your credentials. In other words, don’t make exaggerated claims about your past.

Remember, your resume is written for the employer, not for you. Its main purpose, once in the hands of the reader, is to answer the following questions: How do you present yourself to others? What have you done in the past? And what are you likely to accomplish in the future?

In addition to providing a factual representation of your background, your resume serves as an advertisement. The more effective your 30-second commercial, the more the customer—the employer—will want to buy the expertise you’re selling.

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Once a new job has been accepted, you need to consider is the timing of your resignation. Since two weeks’ notice is considered the norm, make sure your resignation properly coincides with your start date at the new company.

Try to avoid an extended start date. Even if your new job begins in 10 weeks, don’t give 10 weeks’ notice; wait eight weeks and then give two weeks’ notice. This way, you’ll protect yourself from disaster, in the unlikely event your new company announces a hiring freeze a month before you come on board. By staying at your old job for only two weeks after you’ve announced your resignation, you won’t be subjected to the envy, scorn, or feelings of professional impotence that may result from your new role as a lame-duck employee.

Some companies will make your exit plans for you. I know a candidate whose employer had the security guard escort him out of the building the moment he announced his intention to go to work for a direct competitor. Fortunately, he was still given two weeks’ pay.

Your resignation should be handled in person, preferably on a Friday afternoon. Ask your direct supervisor if you can speak with him privately in his office. When you announce your intention to resign, you should also hand your supervisor a letter which states your last date of employment with the company. Let him know that you’ve enjoyed working with him, but that an opportunity came along that you couldn’t pass up, and that your decision to leave was made carefully, and doesn’t reflect any negative feelings you have toward the company or the staff.

You should also add that your decision is final, and that you would prefer not to be made a counteroffer, since you wouldn’t want your refusal to accept more money to appear as a personal affront. Let your supervisor know that you appreciate all the company’s done for you; and that you’ll do everything in your power to make your departure as smooth and painless as possible.

Finally, ask if there’s anything you can do during the transition period over the next two weeks, such as help train your successor, tie up loose ends, or delegate tasks.

Keep your resignation letter short, simple, and to the point. There’s no need to go into detail about your new job, or what led to your decision to leave. If these issues are important to your old employer, he’ll schedule an exit interview for you, at which time you can hash out your differences ad infinitum. Be sure to provide a carbon copy or photocopy of your resignation letter for your company’s personnel file. This way, the circumstances surrounding your resignation will be well documented for future reference.

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Imagine a co-worker who trashes his cubicle, plays practical jokes on his replacement and slinks off with the copier on his last day of work. Is this a person you’d recommend to a prospective employer? Or expect your company to rehire? Or want to work with again? Probably not.

We can only hope that the reported antics surrounding the Clintons’ White House exodus are untrue, because bad behavior—from a chief executive, no less—degrades the employment experience for the rest of us.

When faced with leaving a job, it’s best to exercise decorum, whether the move is voluntary or forced. To make the best of an awkward situation, here are some tips to remember:

  • Keep your mouth shut. Leaving a job (like ending a personal relationship) is strictly a private matter; and waving your dirty laundry serves no purpose.
  • Stay cool. Even in the context of a “confidential” exit interview, there’s nothing to gain from scorching the Earth.
  • Keep your distance. Soliciting support (or fomenting dissent) from your co-workers might create the impression of a conspiracy or coup d’etat—and unwittingly implicate innocent people.
  • Burn bridges at your own peril. The company you left yesterday may need your services tomorrow. If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it.

Sure, it’s easy to be gracious when everything’s rosy. But it takes an extra dose of character to act like an adult when the going gets tough. If you’re ever caught in a sudden employment shift, try to maintain your composure and consider the consequences of your actions.

Workplace trends like flexible schedules and casual Fridays may come and go—but good manners are forever.

Otherwise, Shakespeare wouldn’t have written, “A person is remembered for his entrances and exits.”

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diversity

Employers prefer crisp-looking resumes that get to the point. By using the example on this page as a template, you’ll improve both the style and the substance your resume.

Layout  
Add interest and clarity by using bullets, indents and varying font styles (such as bold and italic letters). Avoid using unconventional fonts or adding photos or graphics.

Length  
The general rule is: one page for early-career (entry level to 5-10 years); two pages for mid-career candidates.

Job Data  
Provide the reader with relevant detail about your past and present employers, such as product information, size and physical location.

Measurables  
Quantify your job duties, reporting relationships and achievements with actual numbers.

Job and Education Dates
Make sure the dates are clear and without gaps. If you’re a mid- to late-career candidate, you can save space by lumping early-career jobs together.

Degree Credentials
Please be accurate—and honest. Misrepresenting your degree is unethical, and could result in consequences that are embarrassing—or worse.

 

Create a resume today using our resume builder

 

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If your intention to make a job change is sincere, and nothing will change your decision to leave, you should still keep up your guard.

Why? Because unless you know how to diffuse your current employer’s retaliation, you may end up psychologically wounded, or right back at the job you wanted to leave.

The best way to shield yourself from the inevitable mixture of emotions surrounding the act of submitting your resignation is to remember that employers follow a predictable, three-stage pattern when faced with a resignation:

Tactic #1: Your boss will express his shock. “You sure picked a fine time to leave! Who’s going to finish the work we started?” he might say.

The implication is that you’re irreplaceable. The company might as well ask, “How will we ever live without you?” To answer this assertion, you can reply, “If I were run over by a truck on my way to work tomorrow, I feel that somehow, this company would survive.”

Tactic #2: Your boss will start to probe. “Who’s the new company? What sort of position did you accept? What are they paying you?”

Here you must be careful not to disclose too much information, or appear too enthusiastic. Otherwise, you run the risk of feeding your current employer with ammunition he can use against you later, such as, “I’ve heard some pretty terrible things about your new company” or, “They’ll make everything look great until you actually get there. Then you’ll see what a sweat shop that place really is.”

Tactic #3: Your boss will make you an offer to try and keep you from leaving. “You know that raise you and I were talking about a few months back? Well, I forgot to tell you: We were just getting it processed yesterday.”

To this you can respond, “Gee, today you seem pretty concerned about my happiness and well-being. Where were you yesterday, before I announced my intention to resign?”

It may take several days for the three stages to run their course, but believe me, sooner or later, you’ll find yourself engaged in conversations similar to these. More than once, candidates have called me after they’ve resigned, to tell me that their old company followed the three-stage pattern exactly as I described it. Not only were they better prepared to diffuse a counteroffer attempt, they found the whole sequence to be almost comical in its predictability.

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dynamite

To help you construct a better, more powerful resume, here are ten overall considerations in regard to your resume’s content and presentation:

1. Position title and job description. Provide your title, plus a detailed explanation of your duties and accomplishments. Since job titles are often misleading or their function may vary from one company to another, your resume should tell the reader exactly what you’ve done.

2. Clarity of dates and place. Document your work history and educational credentials accurately. Don’t leave the reader guessing where and when you were employed, or when you earned your degree.

3. Explicitness. Let the reader know the nature, size and location of your past employers, and what their business is.

4. Detail. Specify some of the more technical, or involved aspects of your past work or training, especially if you’ve performed tasks of any complexity, or significance.

5. Proportion. Give appropriate attention to jobs or educational credentials according to their length, or importance to the reader. For example, if you wish to be considered for an engineering position, don’t write one paragraph describing your current engineering job, followed by three paragraphs about your summer job as a lifeguard.

6. Relevancy. Confine your information to that which is job-related or clearly demonstrates a pattern of success. Concentrate only on subject matter that addresses the needs of the employer.

7. Length. Fill up only a page or two. If you write more than two pages, it sends a signal to the reader that you can’t organize your thoughts, or you’re trying too hard to make a good impression. If your content is strong, you won’t need more than two pages.

8.  Spelling, grammar, and punctuation. Create an error-free document that’s representative of an educated person. If you’re unsure about the correctness of your writing (or if English is your second language), consult a professional writer or editor.

9. Readability. Organize your thoughts in a clear, concise manner. No resume ever won a Nobel Prize for literature; however, a fragmented or long-winded resume will virtually assure you of a place at the back of the line.

10. Readability. Be sure to select a conventional type style, such as Times Roman or Arial, and choose a neutral background or stationery. If your resume takes too much effort to read, it may end up in the trash, even if you have terrific skills.

Finally, I suggest you write several drafts, and allow yourself time to review your work and proofread for errors. If you have a professional associate whose opinion you trust, by all means, listen to what he or she has to say. A simple critique can make the difference between an interview and a rejection.

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