Corrections or additions?
This story by Barbara Fox was published in U.S. 1 Newspaper
on April 22, 1998. All rights reserved.
Resume Not Magic Wand
Resumes are like hair dos — they can take the same
information and tease it in several different directions. Which would
be best? It’s partly a matter of personal taste, partly depending
on what’s in style. Resumes are also like hair cuts because we all
have one, no matter how outdated, and those of us who are in the job
market tend to obsess about them. If only we could get a makeover!
U.S. 1 this week approached two dozen job seekers: Some had used our
free "job wanted" ads, others belong to the JobSeekers group,
and still others we encountered by chance. For our "career makeover"
story we asked them to submit their resumes for review by a team of
experts — career counselors, human resource executives, and personnel
agencies — and promised we would print the constructive criticism.
Very special thanks go to the dozen experts, including high ranking
personnel officers at major employers, who contributed comments. But
the real kudos go to the brave job seekers whose submitted their resumes
for this story. They showed they are not afraid to go to any lengths
to get a job done — or to get the job. They are hoping that a
U.S. 1 reader will spot their resume and the perfect job will land
at their door.
As you read the story starting on page 14, you may apply what the
experts say about resumes to your own. But please also ponder the
experience and job histories of Nancy King Baskin, Nancy Clayton,
Ruth Craxton, Robert Guthrie, Scott Hartshorn, Jim Hockenberry, Patricia
Jackson, Garnett Thompkins, Kenneth Turi, Richard G. Wheeler, and
Does your company need their expertise? Can you think of someone who
might offer one of them the perfect job? If job hunting is all about
networking, then this story is a giant networking opportunity. Do
call these job hunters if you have a "lead."
For privacy reasons, we printed phone numbers and E-mail addresses,
but not street addresses. If you wish to contact the job hunters by
mail, write to them care of U.S. 1 Newspaper, 12 Roszel Road, Princeton
by Barbara Figge Fox
Too many words — and not the right words —
ruin a resume. You may think your resume has to say everything about
you, but it doesn’t. It is not your autobiography. "People who
have a job with one company for a very long time want to tell
about what they did," says Pat Clayton of BAI Personnel Solutions,
the Independence Way-based personnel agency. "But it is so much
information, they don’t know where to begin."
U.S. 1 asked a dozen job seekers for their resumes, and then submitted
those resumes for review by career counselors, corporate human
executives, and employment agencies. All agreed that, for most, the
major mistake was length. They were too wordy.
"Resumes are nothing more or less than junk mail advertising,"
says Niels Nielsen of Princeton Management Consultants. "They
have to be really eyecatching in 20 seconds, period."
Rather than expect your resume to include everything you ever did,
prepare it as a marketing tool. When human resource executives scan
a resume, says Elizabeth Hinds, vice president of Educational Testing
Service, they are looking to quickly scan the "flow" and then
see where the candidate is now. "Give them something to grab their
"Just open the door with the resume," says Helen Neuman,
group leader for the Professional Roster and career development
"Leave something for the interview."
Overall, what should a resume look like? "A resume is not just
words on paper — it is a whole approach, the appeal of the whole
document to a particular audience," says Susan Guarneri, who has
a career counseling practice. "The first thing is to look at the
entire document, the whole eyeball full."
The experts agree that resumes generally should never exceed two pages
in length; that they should be laser printed on white, 25 percent
cotton bond paper; and that they should be limited to one font —
Courier, Helvetica or Times Roman, with a minimum of bolding. Beyond
that common advice, they cite pitfalls associated with these common
statements swamp a lot of these resumes. A one sentence career
objective should tell the industry, the position, and the level of
responsibility that you seek. Does everything on your resume clearly
support this objective? Alternately, is the summary compelling and
make the reader want to read further?
Some experts prefer resumes without objectives: "We find a career
objective is limiting. Handle that task in a cover letter, and make
the resume generic," says P.J. Dempsey of Morgan Mercedes.
"I don’t like objectives," says Patrick Mooney, vice president
of human resources for Mathematica Policy Research. "Every time
I see one I say, `I know what your objective is, to get this
three jobs with job titles, names of employers, dates,
in reverse chronological order. But in the chronological resumes
too many people went too far back in their job histories.
Those with breaks in their job history, or those trying to change
careers, may want to substitute a functional resume that groups
around specific headlines and provides the work history only in
form on the second page. A combination resume puts a summary of major
accomplishments at the top, followed by the chronological career
Be forewarned, however, that the functional resume is not always
"I have a personal bias against functional resumes," says
Mooney of Mathematica. "Career counselors like them, and they
are wrong. If I have to look for information, I can lose
"Companies are looking for breaks in jobs, for `where is this
person now and what does this person do.’ If someone has to look too
hard, the resume will go to the bottom of the pile," says Dempsey.
an action word and showing the benefit received by employer. Failure
to qualify or quantify the accomplishments is a major mistake.
One Peterson’s Guide book suggests a helpful acronym — think of
putting your OAR in the water: Opportunities you seized, Actions you
took to make improvements or to solve these problems, and Results
or benefits the employer received, in quantitative terms.
graduate, are applying for a teaching position, or if your degree
gives you an advantage over most in the field.
can include a skills profile, foreign language expertise, professional
affiliations and licenses, and miscellaneous achievements that
your career objective or demonstrate your excellence."
Gone are the days when you would want to include the intriguing
that you are marathon runner or deep sea diver. "I am not too
keen on personal stuff. I don’t want to risk being biased one way
or another," says Mooney. "I want someone who says I am
on this job and when I work for you that’s what I am going to do."
All of our experts want to see evidence that the applicants are
literate. But one job seeker did not specify any computer skills and
also used a typeface that just happens to resemble pica type on a
typewriter. Some reviewers assumed he had not computer skills —
when he does. So if it is not obvious from your work history that
you know the relevant software programs, say so.
be scanned in, use the key words.
Marlene Devlin of Cittone Institute favors what she calls a
resume, with a certain font size and no bolding so your resume can
be scanned," To find the right scannable key words she recommends
"The Job Hunters Word Finder: the complete guide to key words
and phrases for resumes, cover letters, and interviews," by James
Bluemond, published by Peterson’s (1996, $12.95).
But use plain English also: "Anyone should be able to pick up
a resume and understand what you did, even if they don’t know what
the technical terms mean," says Hinds of ETS.
When all is said and done, a bad resume might keep you from being
considered, but it won’t get you hired. So write your resume
but don’t think it has to be your magic wand. "A resume is an
appetizer, not the entree," says P.J. Dempsey. "They are
you, not a piece of paper."
From art director to financial executive, from B&B owner
to hospital administrators, a dozen job seekers sent their resumes
for evaluation. What could be done to improve these resumes, we asked.
What suggestions would you have for this person’s career? We consulted
career counselors, human resource executives, and employment agencies,
Here are their suggestions for career makeovers.
E-mail: email@example.com">>firstname.lastname@example.org ,
or contact Experience Works.
art director or graphic designer.
one pager in this bunch — Baskin lists her qualifications at the
top, followed by an employment history that consists of three years
as senior art director at Montgomery Commons-based VCG2 Inc. and 10
years as head of her own agency. Then comes her education (Cooper
Union BFA, advanced computer graphics degree at Platt College in San
Diego, and a certificate in computer design) and memberships.
"The resume is very plain, and it doesn’t do much for her. For
graphic artists, you see a lot of those personable "original"
resumes," says Bill Grober, of Crossroads Personnel.
But those "original" resumes are just what Baskin wanted to
avoid. "I didn’t want to sell myself through the resume. I do
that through my portfolio," says Baskin. "People don’t like
to read a lot. I wanted to keep it as legible and clean as possible.
Resumes that are arty, after a very short while, start looking
"An art director doesn’t need to be wildly creative because an
art director is also a manager," agrees Susan Guarneri of Susan
Guarneri Associates, "But I really don’t think it should be plain
vanilla unless you are going to apply to a very conservative company
and are willing to work in that environment."
"It looks like she cut herself short. But quite frankly when I
recruited these kinds of people, I excused the bad resumes," says
Elizabeth Hinds, vice president of ETS, and a veteran of 20 years
in the entertainment industry with Capital Cities ABC.
The skills, says Hinds, should not be included with the qualifications
but could be incorporated with duties. "Just saying `highly
or `excelled’ in a global sense doesn’t give it to you. Don’t say
excelled in creative concept, say where you used it, perhaps by adding
a few bullets on what some of your duties entailed."
"Or at the bottom, instead of awards, put the skills. They
don’t belong up top."
Summary: "International senior financial executive with
a special focus on financial and investment analysis, strategic
and business development," and six more bullet points.
a stateside job. He has been a controller and a business analyst,
but from 1988 to 1997 he was director of financial planning and
at Grace Europe Inc., a division of a Fortune 100 firm, W.R. Grace
& Co. Some of his bullet points:
development function for the Product Lines reporting through the HQ.
Grace Europe’s financial operations and processes.
education (cum laude in economics from Lafayette and MBA from
and an "Addenda" with "working knowledge of French"
and extensive participation in an English-speaking Swiss theater
In general, says Pat Clayton of BAI, his length of service with one
company "tells you that he is a good employee who gives 150
and has a heavy background." She suggests Hockenberry might do
well at Rhodia (formerly Rhone-Poulenc, with its parent company in
France, and Rhodia — which happened to review this resume —
agrees, saying Hockenberry would "would be a potential candidate
for a director of finance position at Rhodia."
Hockenberry has misfocused his accomplishments, says Humes of American
Reinsurance. Rather than "teamed with special task forces,"
the important thing is that he "redesigned the financial
All agree that Hockenberry should drop reference to his theater group
but feature his fluency in French, probably higher up, or under a
heading of "Personal" rather than "Addenda."
Computer skills are not ubiquitous among European executives. "If
he were to apply for a position here he would, at basic, have to know
Windows 95 and Excel," says Pat Clayton. "I would suggest
that if he doesn’t have that, he should take some classes, then put
it on the resume."
project or customer service manager.
overview followed by achievements in sales, customer service,
finance and accounting, management and training, travel and event
planning, and project management/telecommunications.
On the second page is her career chronology with dates, titles,
and location; education (an associates’s degree from Southern Virginia
College, a BS from Rider University, and studies toward an MBA at
City University in Washington State; and affiliations.
In sales, says Mike Toht of Experience Works, "you want to come
across as dynamic. The words she uses gives us that perception of
a dynamic, `go out and do’ person in a fast paced environment,
He wishes that Clayton could get all of the functional assets on the
first page. Rhodia’s HR people agree that Clayton should limit the
achievements to those relevant to the job she is applying for, and
that she might want to create different resumes for various jobs.
They suggest that she would be a potential candidate for an executive
secretary position at Rhodia.
none listed on the resume.
Craxton was executive assistant to the president of the Metropolitan
Museum of Art, controller of a California technology firm, staff
at Thomas Cook in Princeton, and administrative assistant to the
of the Center for Health Care Strategies Inc. Her two-page resume
chronologically lists her jobs, starting in 1967.
"We couldn’t tell what she wanted to do, especially because she
has two tracks — administrative and accounting," says Toht.
"Everybody thought she could do the resume on one page," says
Toht, "and that this should be a functional resume highlighting
finance/accounting and administrative/coordination. If you do a
resume, you lose lines."
"We can’t tell if she is PC friendly," says Toht. "If
you are not, you don’t put it there, but if she is PC friendly she
should say that."
"In total she had too many jobs listed over too long a period
of time," says Patrick Mooney of Mathematica. "She got her
degree in ’81, and unless she thinks those earlier jobs really enhance
her I would start with the job when she got out, the Metropolitan.
I am not saying to pretend to be a lot younger, but there are an awful
lot of jobs here."
If you are filling out an application you must list everything, for
as many boxes as the firm provides, and if you are talking to someone,
you tell them everything, says Mooney. "But on a resume you can
summarize them by saying "also held jobs as. . . ."
"Her descriptions of her two most recent jobs are too brief,"
says Mooney. "She needs to present more information about what
skills she gained in the jobs. The most recent one she says almost
nothing about, and that may be because she went from controller to
accountant to administrative assistant. She might want to put
in her cover letter about her career path."
215-297-0758 or 609-452-6263. Summary: "Senior management
executive with extensive experience in operations management and
an MBA from Temple, and had spent virtually his entire career at
Hospital, moving from assistant director to senior vice president,
but lost his job due to downsizing in the healthcare industry.
The experience section is a chronological account of his jobs with
a dozen bullet points — quantified actions such as "developed
and implemented five-year Facility Master Plan . . . to maximize
funding" and "coordinated facility construction and directed
startup activities for $3 million MRI Center."
On the second page he continues these descriptions and then lists
education, an impressive array of professional affiliations, and
community service record, including being campaign chairman of United
At Experience Works, says Mike Toht, "Everybody really liked his
summary. Basically, he got out of school and worked at one big place
and worked his way up. We thought the way the market is now he would
want to go to professional healthcare staffing agencies or consider
being a consultant."
To make the resume relevant to other industries, it could be redone
as a functional resume, Toht suggests, emphasizing the bullets
"Restructured and introduced" over those that say
"Hospitals are being cut to the bone, and management is
but we are under the assumption he is willing to move around and,
with his experience, could go to any number of hospital settings.
If he doesn’t wish to move he has to think of broader categories."
Bert Newton of ETS would like to see Guthrie’s resume reduced to one
page: "His work experience is too wordy. He should quantify
— state how many people he supervised, and if he had a budget
he should tell how much it was. For jobs that date back 10 years,
a summary is sufficient, and the education is so long ago that he
needs to take the dates off."
County Community College, and since 1995 has been studying the
development curriculum at Landmark Education Corporation in Edison.
In 1995, after being director of library services for Gallup &
house manager for McCarter Theater, and a manager at Alchemist &
restaurant, Hartshorn became an independent contractor for
Both P.J. Dempsey of Morgan Mercedes and Niels Nielsen of Princeton
Management Consultants agree that Hartshorn needs some strong
direction. "There is no indication of what kind of employment
he would qualify for," says Nielsen. "He should get career
counseling and a degree, based on the counseling, perhaps by getting
life experience portfolio credits at Thomas Edison State College."
"His objective is way too vague," says Dempsey. "A company
seeing this would say, `So what does this guy want to do?’ He should
go to a career counselor and discover that and work with that. It
is hard for companies to understand that people want to be hired when
they have businesses."
"Someone who has been on his own, making his own decisions, can
be a tough guy to supervise," says Nielsen.
"He can talk about what he has done in business that made him
successful, how he goes about marketing and invoicing," says
She suggests stretching out the restaurant experience, now listed
as "supervised personnel, inventory, and operation" and using
each as a bullet item.
director of utilization management or manager of quality improvement.
in Total Quality Management and Certified Risk Manager. She has had
staff nurse positions from 1973 to 1979, three quality assurance
from 1985 to 1995, director of quality improvement at HIP Health Plan
of New Jersey (1995-’96), manager of quality improvement at Prudential
HealthCare (1996-’97), and director of utilization management
at Pinnacle Health Enterprises in Somerset.
The resume is too long, the type size is too small, and the
should be shortened, says Humes.
Susan Guarneri also objects to what she calls "brick wall
as well as to a "too small" typeface, underlining, and bold
face. She recommends changing Jackson’s extensive job descriptions.
Her Prudential and HIP jobs show good accomplishments, Guarneri says,
"Edit them and make them bullet items with quantifiers." For
studies for this network model HMO serving 600,000 members in five
centers serving 208,000 members including a provider network serving
27,000 members statewide.
jobs. "Most stuff going back that far doesn’t have any relevance
in today’s environment."
"Seeking a challenging and responsible position where seven years
of purchasing experience enables me to" etc.
service representative for Church & Dwight, but in California had
worked as a material controller coordinator, purchasing agent for
a medical center, and has had other jobs as assistant warehouse
and a supply specialist for a Naval Supply Center. He gives complete
job descriptions for some of these jobs — as many as 20 lines
— and has a three-line objective.
"On the plus side, this is a good resume for purchasing and
planners and is good for more than one type of position," says
Bill Grober of Crossroads Personnel. "But with five or six or
10 bullets for each job, it is extremely repetitious."
"He should eliminate the objective unless it is structured for
a particular job," say Rhodia’s HR people. "Include an
summary or overview highlighting selected achievements, and limit
these achievements to those that are job related. Summarize the work
experience — it should be only two or three lines, and eliminate
the irrelevant educational references, including certifications and
high school diploma."
"With his background, he might be better off with a functional
resume," says Elizabeth Hinds, vice president of ETS. "He
is pretty much on the track for warehousing support."
She notes that Thompkins changes from paragraphs to bullet points
in the middle, and that both read too much like job descriptions.
Many companies have decentralized purchasing "and that could be
why he is having a hard time finding a job, because purchasing is
part of another job. If purchasing agent is what he is looking for,
build on that, and drop some things that don’t relate to that,"
says Hinds. "Just the way he put this resume together speaks to
his being an individual contributor not a management level person,
and I think he should target manufacturing."
Turi was a civil servant who left the treadmill to open a home
business and a bed and breakfast in Lambertville. Now he wants to
reenter the job market. Objective: manager or supervisor in
education, government, or nonprofit entity.
he wants to do," says Bert Newton of ETS. "If he wants to
be in a technical area, he should go to Cittone, DeVry, or Brick to
get some courses under his belt so he will know what kind of work
he wants to get in."
Robert Humes suggests that Turi is a prime example of someone who
should use a functional format. "It allows an individual with
a diverse background to capitalize and highlight the
Guarneri thinks that duties now listed in paragraph form could be
bullet points with examples of accomplishments. One he does list is
that, as senior buyer for the state treasury department, he
advertised bid transactions for contracts totaling in excess of $75
million." She would like to see similar specifics for his other
jobs — contract administrator for the state labor department,
public administrator for Hunterdon County Board of Chosen Freeholders,
and community service officer for the state department of community
She notes that as an entrepreneur Turi purchased, restored, and sold
nine properties. "This is the meat!" she exclaims. "Tell
me more about the profit made. Tell not just how you did it, but was
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