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The Most Important Ingredients of a Resume: Time and Thought

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Above all, you must devote plenty of time and thought to (1) deciding which facts will prove you get great results... and (2) stating those facts in a distilled, clearway. You'll face competing candidates. To defeat them, you must appear on paper and in interviews to be the one person who can be counted on to turn in the #1 best performance of everyone being considered.

When I provide assistance, the person spends two days one-on-one with me in New York (plus another day with a psychologist if they're willing). At least 4 hours are my taped interview probing accomplishments, which my staff transcribes. The person then goes home and, using the transcript, works hard on the resume (ideal preparation for future interviews). We continue by phone, fax and e-mail. Finally the person has done his or her best. Depending on the result, I may still spend further hours polishing to remove words and sharpen meaning. Usually I can cut at least one full page without dropping a single fact. So can you. But only if you work hard to edit what you've written. The tightened result is quicker and easier to read... and far more convincing.

Lots of people will tell you that resumes don't really matter. True! The generic this-could-be-said-about-everyone-in-the-industry resumes those folks would have you write do not matter. But a resume that truthfully shows by past performance that you're likely to outperform everyone else being considered does matter. If you have the right stuff, be sure to put in sufficient time and effort to display it well.



Reasons for Moving

Your resume may look like you've had too many recent jobs to really be a star performer. Yet the opposite may be true. If you joined Company X, made a great impression, and were soon asked to follow your boss to Co. Y, say so! Don't let having been a star make you look like a dog. And if you were one of those who were sluffed off in a merger-or one of 6-out-of-8 senior officers dumped by a new CEO who brought in a team from his former company-why not say so? Don't be defensive. And don't give a reason for every move. Then, says Shakespeare, "Me thinks thou doth protest too much!" But if at a few pivotal times you'd otherwise take a bum rap, set the record straight.

Creative Use of Avocational Interests in Your Resume

In general, never mention your hobbies and other outside interests.

If you had time to be assistant pastor of your church, chair the United Fund drive, coach a Little League team, do petit point, build an extension on your home, train for and run a marathon, and groom and show poodles in the U.S. and three foreign countries last year, when did you have time to work?

But if you're 58 years old, it might be good to mention your marathon running, and the fact that you're an avid scuba diver and an instructor for Outward Bound. Your stamp collection, of course, will remain in the closet.

And if you're a paraplegic, your competitive sports car driving and skeet shooting might just be a worthwhile inclusion. So might building that wing on your house, if you're only missing one arm or one leg.

If you just have a high school diploma, the fact that you're an amateur writer who's published stories in Harper's and The New Yorker... or even a trade journal or the business section of your daily newspaper... could help show you have a mature, cultivated mind others respect. So might your appointment to the Mayor's Commission for the Arts, your being on the board of the Inner City Improvement District, or your playing duplicate bridge.

And if you're in a racial or ethnic minority and have the stomach for such a gambit, you may feel like listing your memberships in exclusive social and athletic clubs that haven't always had people with names or faces like yours. Everyone else should maintain a discreet silence on all clubs.

Now, as we wind up on resumes, let's look at several other items of purely personal information and how to handle them.

Age

If your age is likely to be viewed favorably, don't go out of your way to hide it. Don't, for example, feel you must omit the years of your college degrees so your age can't be estimated. True, employers can't ask. But voluntarily including common statistics subliminally shouts "forthright and self-confident," whereas concealing age just because the law permits you to do so sends out the opposite "vibes"... and might even suggest that you think you may be over the hill.

Incidentally, employers who, in the late '60s and early '70s, considered 30 to 35 the ideal age now seem to feel that way regarding mid-to-late-40s, and have virtually no qualms about dynamic people in their 50s. They still find a young hotshot attractive. But they no longer-and legally they'd better not- insist on one. I absolutely refuse to discriminate on the basis of age, and have recently had candidates in their late 50s win out over excellent candidates ten and twenty years younger.

Education

List college degrees, with years... highest and latest degree first. Forget about Class President, and Varsity Letters. You've moved on to more recent and bigger achievements.

If you have several years but no sheepskin, say: "Completed three years toward B.A. at Syracuse University." And if you flunked out of several fine schools, say: "Two years of college, intermittently at Carleton, Dartmouth, and the University of Virginia." With no college, you may want to say, "Self- educated during an uninterrupted career," and then bail yourself out under the heading "Other Interests," with some suitably cerebral and cultural avocations.

Marital Status

Say "Married," "Divorced," or "Single," whichever applies and, if you wish, number of children (not names, ages, or with how many and which mates).

Gender

If you're a woman with a name like Lindsay or Leslie, or a man with a name like Carroll or Kelley, use a middle name to be more specific... or just let your reader be surprised when he or she meets you.

Height and Weight

Nice to put in if it's favorable; although women usually omit weight because it seems sexist to raise the subject. Overweight men and women might consider listing an optimistic weight toward which they're dieting, as a way of cushioning the inevitable visual shock with some advance notice.

Religion, Politics, and National Origin

Silence! If the reader has a prejudice, you may stimulate it.

Race

Probably silence. For all minorities but African American, surnames dispel any impending visual surprise... hardly a major consideration anyway. For the person of color who wants to dispel surprise, mentioning support of any obviously African-American institution... possibly along with similar non-racially defined institutions... will do the trick.

Health

Don't mention. It's fine, or you should be writing a will instead of a resume.

Picture

Never, NEVER, NEVER! Nobody could possibly be attractive enough to justify the narcissism implied by attaching a picture.
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