Resumes That Work with Today's Technology, with Susan Ireland

Susan Ireland
Resumes That Work with Today's Techology
Presented by SUSAN IRELAND, author of "The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Perfect Resume"

Session Moderator: I'd like to welcome everyone here today and thank you all for attending. Today's presenter is Susan Ireland. As owner of "Susan Ireland's Resume Service" in San Francisco and Berkeley, Susan supervises a team of writers who work with job seekers from all occupations and levels of employment. She also serves as instructor at Alumnae Resources (a career center in San Francisco with 110,000 client-visits per year). Susan is the author of three books, including "The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Perfect Resume."

Welcome Susan, the floor is yours - would you like to start with some questions?

Susan Ireland: Hello everyone. I'd love to answer any questions you have about resume writing and any problems you're encountering with yours.

Jennifer Townsend: What are the "must haves" and "must avoids" of resume writing?

Susan Ireland: Good question Jennifer...

Five points to remember about doing a great resume:

1. Think of your resume as a marketing piece about your future, not a boring historical piece about your past. That means, you need to know what you want to do next BEFORE you write your resume.
2. Don't write anything on your resume that you don't want to do again. Think of this as your next job description.
3. Write about your experience in terms of achievements instead of boring job descriptions.
4. Your resume is not a confessional. So don't put things on your resume that you don't want to reveal (like dates that reveal an undesirable age.)
5. No paragraphs on your resume. Use bullet point statements to make it easy and quick to read.

And one more: Don't lie.

Does that make sense?

Session Moderator: That last point seems obvious - but do many people make things up on their resumes?

Susan Ireland: Surveys tell us that about 70% of all resume writers lie on their resumes. It's dangerous because it undermines your self-confidence in an interview and it can be grounds for termination later on.

Rachel Dec: I've been told that many Accounting firms consider GPA when hiring recent graduates. Considering this, is it appropriate to put your GPA on your resume?

Susan Ireland: If you're a new or recent grad, a GPA is important. As you progress in your career your achievements and experience will count far more. Of course, if your GPA isn't good, don't mention it.
Any more questions?

Rachel Dec: Should your resume always be accompanied by a cover letter?

Susan Ireland: Yes. And it should be a good cover letter: not too long but something that gives the reader a sense of your personality and what you would like to discuss in an interview.

How many of YOU email your resumes?

Rachel Dec: I haven't yet but I'm sure I will at some point.

Dennis F: I email all my resumes. So far no negative feedback.

Session Moderator: Is there a sense that emailing a resume is unprofessional?

Susan Ireland: Not at all. Emailing a resume is efficient and allows you to be put into a firm's database where you can be considered for positions throughout a company. In a large multinational company, that can be incredibly valuable.

Susan Ireland: In an emailed resume, it's important to have key words in your resume, I suggest having a keyword section at the top of your electronic resume that contains all the words (and synonyms) that define you as the ideal candidate.

Rachel Dec: Is there a "one best way" to format an email so that it will retain formatting when sent?

Susan Ireland: Yes. Unless the employer specifically tells you to send it as an attached file (and he or she tells you what format to attach it in), don't send it as an attached file.

Instead, copy and paste your cover letter and resume directly into your email message and send it that way.

Rachel Dec: Good to know, Thank you.

Susan Ireland: To do that effectively, you need to take a few steps to prepare your word-processed document before dropping it into the email message. On thing in particular is to make sure that no line in your document exceeds 65 characters and spaces. There must be hard returns after each line. That will avoid those weird line wraps when the employer opens the email message.

Does anyone in the room post their resume online in the resume databases like Monster.com?

Rachel Dec: Yes, I have.

Susan Ireland: Has it been successful?

Any other questions about content or formatting of resumes?

Session Moderator: Susan - do you recommend staying away from bold and italic and other formatting in an email resume?

Susan Ireland: Absolutely. Before you drop it into your email message (which will strip of all the fancy stuff anyway), save your document as "Text Only." That will turn it into a pretty bland looking piece. Then go in and do your best to give punch to important headings. You can do that by using all caps, and by substituting standard keyboard symbol like a plus sign or a dash.

Another good sign to use is the asterisk * Or even a double asterisk before a statement. **Like this!

Make sure that your whole document (letter and resume) is no more than three pages long when printed out. If it exceeds 3 pages, use your editing and graphics wizardry to trim it down.

Maggy: What is a good subject for an emailed resume?

Session Moderator: Actually, Maggy - that's an excellent question - what do you think, Susan?

Susan Ireland: Maggy, the subject line is incredibly important. I'm glad you asked that. Make it something that makes sense to the reader and will assure him that your message is not Spam. Give yourself the three-word test. That is: make sure the first three words of your subject line say it all. Something like: CPA resume. Wow that was only TWO words. Pretty good. The same principle applies to the headline you write for your resume that's posted on a resume bank.

And, by the way, if you do send your resume as an attached file because the employer specifically asked you to send it that way, be sure the title of the document you attach has a sensible title that works for the employer. In other words, if it says simply: Resume, that doesn't give him much of a reference once he downloads it onto his computer. So put your name and "res" on the document to give him a clue.

Susan Ireland: What other questions do you have?

Session Moderator: How do you best handle gaps in employment on a resume? Or what if you want to leave off a job that was unsatisfactory, but it leaves you with an unidentified space of two years?

Susan Ireland: Let's take these two questions separately.
1. The first way to handle gaps is to write only years, no months. Sometimes that makes a gap disappear. If the gap is longer than a year, put down something that you were doing that you look sound. Perhaps, full-time parent, or travel abroad. Whatever you were doing. If your gap can be relevant to your work, great. If not, put down something that shows that you have good character (we don't want them thinking you were in jail or something bad.)

2. Don't leave off a job unless you can do it without showing a gap. You can, however, just mention the job and a few things that DID work for you on that job instead of leaving it off.

Kathleen McRae: Susan, on the flip side of resume prep, what should potential employers look for in a good resume?

Susan Ireland: Kathleen, your question: That's a great way to look at resumes. You want to create a resume that in an 8-second scan tells the reader who you are, what you want, and why you should have it. That's good resume writing that respects the employer's time. You want to have no red flags such as age issues, gaps in employment, confusing presentation. This is your chance to present yourself as stable, low-risk, and organized. You want a thread of achievement to run through your resume. Achievement for past employers indicates that you'll achieve for your next employer (maybe the guy reading your resume, if he's lucky!)

Susan Ireland: More questions?

Session Moderator: I understand that staying at one job too long can actually work against you when someone is analyzing your resume - why is this the case?

Susan Ireland: It depends on the employer. In conservative workplaces (insurance, banking, etc.) longevity with a company is a good thing. In some high-tech companies (like multi-media) long-term employment with one company makes you look stagnant -- like you're not keeping up with the times and may not fit into a jazzing place like theirs. It's all image.

Kathleen McRae: Susan, I am glad you mentioned the age issues and so forth. I don't like to see age, family members names, and religious affiliation on a resume.

Susan Ireland: Kathleen, you may not write your age on your resume, but an employer can use the dates on your work history and education to deduce how old you are. Be careful how you deal with that so you give him the idea that you want him to have. I can explain that further if you want.

Session Moderator: We only have a few minutes left - are there any other questions, or any other points you want to make, Susan?

Susan Ireland: Any other questions?

Session Moderator: If there aren't any more questions, Susan, thank you for your time and for presenting an excellent workshop! And thank you all for attending.

Susan Ireland: Thank you! And best wishes to everyone in your career.

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