How Long Should a Resume Be? And 9 Other Job Hunting Questions Answered

Friday, August 25th, 2017 - Resume

Since I’m something of an expert on sales messaging (and make not mistake, finding a job is a sales process), friends and colleagues frequently ask for my help with their resumes and job hunting efforts. Based on my experience, here are the top FAQ:

1. What’s the most common resume mistake?

Thinking that a one-size-fits-all resume will land you a job. Standard resumes are an exhaustive list of job titles and responsibilities in reverse chronological order. This structure forces the hiring manager to sort through your work experiences and consider which might be relevant to the job. Rather than “spraying and praying” everything you’ve done, customize your resume to show how specific experiences prove that you can fulfill the specific requirements of that specific job.

2. How long should a resume be?

Long enough to build a succinct case that you’re the right person for the job that you’re seeking. The key word here is “succinct.” No extra verbiage and (especially) no biz-blab or fluffy corporate speak. BTW, the traditional answer–“a single page, no longer”–is meaningless when, depending upon the font and the margins, a single page can contain between 200 and 2,000 words. Most resumes are read online anyway.

3. Who should I use as references?

If your job search is under the radar, your best references are, in order of effectiveness: 1) former customers, 2) former supervisors, 3) former coworkers. Customers trump supervisors because every company wants happy customers. Note: when you ask somebody to be a reference, ask for an email or a hard-copy letter. Even if asked privately, most people won’t contradict themselves once they’ve made a public declaration.

4. How do I keep my boss from finding out that I’m job hunting?

Don’t tell anybody at work that you’re looking for another job. (Common mistake: asking your current coworkers to be references.) While job hunting, use a personal email address that goes to your personal device (like your phone). Make it clear to recruiters or potential hiring managers that you’re working full time, so that they’ll need to be flexible when it comes to interviews.

5. Should I give my boss fair warning that I’m job-hunting?

Nope. The rule is that you owe bosses the exact level of honesty and candor that they offer to you. If your company (as is usually the case) fires people without notice, has periodic outsourcing binges, keeps salary data secret, etc. the time to tell your boss that you’ve been job-hunting is after you’ve accepted your new job. Can a sudden departure ruin your boss as a future reference? Sure. That’s why you give two weeks notice. Which frankly is probably more time than your bosses would give to you, if they decided to lay you off.

6. How will social media influence the hiring process?

While social media platforms encourage you to share everything in your life, anything visible on the web that’s not work-related can reduce your chances of getting a job. That’s especially true of any posts, tweet, shares and retweets that are risqué or even mildly controversial. Already have a long history of non-work-related social media? Either start deleting everything now or limit access to a small group of family and friends.

7. Should I list my hobbies on my resume?

Not unless they are directly relevant to the job you’re seeking. Thus, if you’re applying for a job in aerospace, absolutely mention that you’re into quarter-scale model rocketry. If you’re applying for job in finance, not so much. BTW, while companies claim to want “well-rounded individuals,” what they really mean is that they want employees who can do multiple jobs. Emphatically not somebody with a lot of outside interests.

8. How important is a cover letter?

Not very. Back in the day, cover letters were the only way to position your professionally-printed, one-size-fits-all resume to match specific job requirements. Today, your resume should be customized anew to match specific job requirements, making a cover letter unnecessary. If a job description demands a cover letter, you should probably rethink applying for that job because, whoa, they are lost somewhere in the 1970s.

9. Why don’t I get responses to my job applications?

While recruiters and hiring managers should send at least a “form letter” email to everyone who applies for a job, many of them don’t, especially to candidates who weren’t really qualified for the job in the first place. It’s not fair but it’s true. Think of it this way, though: would you really want to work for a company that treats people in such a rude and shabby manner?

10. Should I go to a job interview if I’m not sure I want the job?

Absolutely. The time to decide whether you really want a job is after you’ve been offered one, not before you’re interviewed. Being a good interviewee is a skill; the more you do it, the better you get at it. Being interviewed when you’re not sure you want the job is even better, because then you’re more relaxed and can learn even more from the experience.

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