One of the problems you might be having with your resume is that you’re thinking of it in singular, static terms. Gary Lande, career coach and owner of Showing You the Way Forward in Monroe, would rather you have custom resumes tailored to each job you’re applying for. Though, to be fair, those customized resumes would be built from a master document that accounts for everything you’ve done professionally, because experience you once had might just be your ticket to an interview.
That document is something Lande calls a master resume, and he will present Developing Your Master Resume on Saturday, July 15, at 8:30 a.m. at the Career Support Group at St. Gregory the Great Church in Hamilton Square. This is a free event. Visit www.careersupportgroup.org.
The master resume “reminds you of where you’ve been and your accomplishments,” Lande says. It’s not the submitted resume; more of a “source document”: the repository of all things you have done professionally, from the beginning.
An astute jobseeker might notice that Lande’s approach flies in the face of conventional wisdom about resumes. Traditional resume logic suggests not going back more than 10 years or so when you start categorizing your professional life. The trouble with that, Lande says, is that once you pass 40, your professional life tends to extend a bit longer than just the past decade.
Besides, he says, if you do score an interview, a master resume helps you answer the first (and typically hardest to answer) question you’re likely to get: Tell me about yourself.
Customize, customize, customize. When it comes to targeted job-hunt marketing, think of your resume the way you think of your cover letter. You wouldn’t write up just one cover letter and send it to every employer. Likewise, don’t think you can get away with a general resume for every job. Jobs posted for the public these days are posted online, which means limitless room for an employer to specify what exactly the company is looking for in a new hire. Everything from certifications to specific job requirements is posted, and these things can get pretty detailed, down to the need to speak specific languages or have experience with particular equipment.
Today’s job market, Lande says, is highly specialized and highly competitive. So just telling employers you have several years of management experience and what years you worked where won’t cut it. Having that master resume allows you to compare and contrast your work history with the job requirements being posted. But make sure to follow one rule:
“You never change the master resume,” Lande says.
Getting past the auto-resume reader. The system that collects e-mailed or online form-submitted resumes is known formally as the Applicant Tracking System, or ATS. Lande affectionately refers to it as “the black hole.” This is where, conventional fear suggests, great resumes go to die.
Well, for once, conventional thinking is on to something. Great resumes, Lande admits, end up sucked into another dimension all the time. In fact, odds are, if you are reading this you have at least once lamented that you have sent out a fleet of resumes and heard a pretty crippling silence in return.
But you might be relieved to know that the way to bypass the black hole is often a matter of formatting. Yes, it might be that you haven’t customized your resume, or other issues. But if you did everything right and still heard nothing from several companies that you know you would be a good fit for, it might truly come down to your bullet points.
That’s not a metaphor. Lande says the difference between bullets and asterisks on a resume could mean the difference between that resume getting to a human being or getting lost in the deep, dark ether.
“Certain ATSs get confused by asterisks,” Lande says. The same holds true for italics. Some systems have trouble reading the thin, wavy lines. It also holds true for what could be the most common resume feature, the line. A lot of people put a line across the page right after their name and phone number, he says. But a lot of ATSs see that line and say “Oh, that’s the end.”
Yes, there’s an app for that. If an ATS stops reading and doesn’t see your otherwise perfectly qualified resume, the overworked, often understaffed HR departments of the world will never even know you applied — even if you did craft a finely tuned, customized resume. But let’s take for granted that you have written up a resume full of nice, solid bullets and completely devoid of italics and lines. You want to know if it works for a particular job, yes?
For that, there is JobScan.co, an app that lets you copy and paste your resume and compare it directly to a job posting, Lande says. The app scores you and helps you identify where your resume is off (and by how much) from the posting.
Lande likes to show people the mechanics and put them in realistic situations — the learn-by-doing approach.
“If you told me , ‘I want to learn to play golf,’ I can explain the principles,” he says. “But we’ve got to get a golf club in your hand.”
Lande’s professional 9-iron came through his own experiences with the castoff nature of corporate America. He spent 40-odd years in the corporate world, mostly in supply chain management, and was downsized four times. Each time, he says, he was lucky enough to have transition/outplacement help to find a new job. From those experiences, he grew to understand that job hunting and resume building are fluid, evolving creatures.
He also learned the value of LinkedIn, which he says is essential to job hunting. Even if you don’t use the site to network or job hunt, recruiters are looking for exactly the right people all the time. And a fresh, regularly tailored page will help.
But even when you apply for a job, Lande says, HR people will visit you.
“A connection with LinkedIn is very, very important,” he says. “Human beings who read resumes go in and look at LinkedIn profiles.” If you’re not there, well, there’s always the black hole.
Speaking of LinkedIn, here’s a tip for your profile: Right below your photo (and have a photo) is your name. Right below that is your headline, the 120-character strip that tells people what you do. Construct this headline with vertical slashes (as opposed to backslashes) that offer a few main jobs you perform.
Tell the truth, especially when you have gaps. Gaps in employment are a big issue for some job seekers. If you have gaps, you need to explain them, Lande says. But don’t try to BS your way through them. Employers are actually pretty forgiving if you can explain gaps honestly, he says.
Case in point: Lande had a client who needed to leave work, fly to her native India, and care for her dying mother. The woman didn’t know how she was going to explain the gap. Lande told her to explain it exactly how it happened. The cover letter is a great place for a thing like that. Related, if you have done volunteer work, like another client of Lande’s who did his church’s finances for a little while, you can actually add those to the resume or cover letter.
“Whatever you do, don’t let it go, because gaps have got to be explained,” Lande says.
Lande, who retired from corporate life in 2014, grew up expecting to be a musician like his father and uncle. The elder Messers Lande had a commercial dance band that often played the major hotels in New York (including the Waldorf and St. Regis) and once played for President Franklin Roosevelt at the White House.
As a boy, Gary Lande took immediately to the violin, like his Uncle Jules, but Lande’s mother “interrupted my career on violin very early,” he laughs. Lande played drums in high school but decided early on to listen to his mother and not follow the musician’s life professionally.
Lande instead earned his bachelor’s in international economics and German at Rutgers and an MBA at Seton Hall. His first major position was as director of logistics at Bristol-Myers Products in 1984. From there he held management positions in several pharmaceutical and consumer products companies, including Johnson & Johnson and Topps.
He retired as a purchasing manager at Quality Technology Services in Jersey City and became a member of the executive committee of Professional Services Group of Mercer County in 2015. A year later he opened Showing You the Way Forward from his home in Monroe.
“The name is also my mantra,” Lande says. That’s why his business logo is a compass. These days he does the occasional pro bono workshop to help people get ahead (or forward, as it were) because in general, people need some extra help once in a while.
And if he has one piece of advice, it’s to pay attention to what he said about LinkedIn.
“A person not on LinkedIn is severely limited in a job search,” Lande says. “Underline severely.”