Dear Sam: I am so worried about the potential of my job search. I have been applying for jobs daily with no success. I think my background is marketable, so I am perplexed about why I never get a call for an interview. I offer 10+ years of accounting experience and several years of experience as a controller, including team leadership, operations management, and IT oversight. Based on these experiences, I am applying for staff accountant, managing accountant, and controller roles, which do not seem like too much of a stretch. Is the market just so saturated that I need to figure out a “Plan B?” Help! — Adrian
Dear Adrian: It’s not time to throw in the towel yet, Adrian. You are entirely qualified for the roles you are applying for; the problem is that your resume is underserving you. This is a very fortunate situation: your resume is not marketing your candidacy well, so you have no idea how the market will respond to a well-developed resume representing your candidacy optimally. It’s time to optimize “Plan A,” not resort to “Plan B.”
You need to bring your resume up-to-date with today’s best practices in personal branding. You have continued to use the template I fear you used when you first started your career 20+ years ago, and it is not working. Today’s value-based resumes serve as self-promotion tools that communicate not only the scope of your roles—this is all your existing resume conveys—but also how you added value beyond expectations. This is the key to presenting a value-based resume and a value-added candidacy. Start to consider how you excelled in your roles, how you went above and beyond your job descriptions, and what you would consider to be your key contributions. This is what you need to hang your hat on and the key to an effective resume and successful job search. I urge you to review examples of best practices-based resumes on my website or other expert resources, reengineer your resume, and re-launch what I am sure will be a much more successful search. Best of luck.
Dear Sam: I am in my 50s and looking for ways to not show my age in my resume, which I think is adversely affecting my job search. I deleted the dates from my college degrees and also deleted my earliest job experience. However, I still show my employment dates for each of the jobs I have included, such as 2010-2020. Do you think this is a problem, and is there a right way to omit these dates without raising the suspicion of employment gaps? – John
Dear John: Omitting employment dates from all positions will raise enough red flags that it will likely prevent you from getting in the door every time. An omission of all dates really will not raise questions as to job gaps but to how much experience you have and whether you have been working recently. You have taken the right approach in omitting your year of graduation and excluding earlier experience. I typically start thinking about whether an experience adds value to someone’s candidacy when I begin seeing dates back in late 1990s—which would present 20+ years of experience, 5-10 years more than the expectation—and definitely the 1980s. You have to have a compelling reason to present experience from that long ago as it is going to age your candidacy and position you as potentially overqualified and more expensive than someone with the desired number of years of experience. As long as your content is in line with today’s industry jargon, and you are not opening your resume with a statement like, “30 years of experience,” you should be seen as not such a seasoned professional and be more competitive in the job market.