Dear Sam: You published an article recently about a reader’s resume and how he was not receiving any callbacks. I have been experiencing the same problem. I have applied to many positions and rarely receive a call, and when I do, I don’t get the job, nor do I receive any feedback about the interview. I am wondering if Human Resources feel I am too expensive? I have noticed that furthering one’s education is vital to job growth, but now it seems I may cost too much given I possess a Bachelor’s degree and 10 years of experience. Could you provide feedback on my resume and what may be going on? – LaNisha
Dear LaNisha: I certainly do not think that in your line of work—social work—a Bachelor’s degree and 10 years of experience is positioning you as too expensive unless, of course, you are applying for entry-level jobs. The majority of clients I work with in your field possess their MSW and at least that amount of experience, so those factors are not solely contributing to your lack of callbacks and job offers.
With 10 years of professional experience with only 3 employers, you have built a strong track record. However, where I feel your resume is a little off course, is in the hierarchy of its structure. If you are concerned about the potential of being over-educated, why not move your education section to page two of your resume? After all, you are not a recent graduate, and your degree would likely be an “expected” qualification. Currently, with page one of your resume presenting a professional summary, a very long skills section, your education, and your certification, absolutely none of the fantastic experience you have hits page one.
I am confident your resume would be more effective if you opened with a qualifications summary, trimmed your skills list to only those that differentiated your candidacy—you have listed some very basic and unrelated skills in your long two-column list—and flow immediately into your professional experience section. This would allow you to communicate the uniqueness of your candidacy, after all, your Bachelor’s degree will never differentiate you in a sea of educated social work professionals. Remember, it’s your experience that says how you are different from your peers, so perhaps focusing more on what really differentiates you—through the summary, skills list, and organization of sections—will tell a hiring manager they must bring you in for an interview. Best of luck to you.
Dear Sam: I left my career in social services just over 18 years ago when I decided to be a stay-at-home Mom. I have had a great 18 years, spending my time doing a lot of volunteering and serving as a school board member. My son will be starting college next year, and I need a job to cover expenses that his scholarships will not. I am looking for a nice place to earn a little money; I am not looking for a career. Every time I sit down at the computer and look at the job boards, I freeze. I found a perfect job working in a warehouse packing orders for a major hardware chain. I thought this would be fun because I put myself through college working at the corner hardware store, a job I held for more than six years. But when I tried to write my resume for this job, I felt like my Bachelor’s degree in education and my time as a school board member seemed an odd match for a warehouse job. Thoughts? – Feeling Overwhelmed
Dear Feeling Overwhelmed: How wonderful you were able to spend time with your son during his school years. You have prepared yourself well for reentry to the workforce with your volunteer and school board work. I would develop a resume much the same as if your school board and volunteer jobs were your “career.” Open with a qualifications summary presenting the experiences and skills that position you for the warehouse job. Talk about your organization skills, attention to detail, commitment to quality and accuracy, and ability to work independently and as part of a team. In the experience section of your resume, explore the school board position—and relevant volunteer posts—just as you would any professional job with an overview of your role and bulleted highlights. End your resume with an education section. Perhaps at the beginning of your qualifications summary, you could open with a title such as:
Warehouse Associate Candidate
Offer a strong work ethic, focus on quality and accuracy, and proven commitment to achieving performance targets.
Use your cover letter to explain your career transitions, being sure not to downplay the nature of your experience. I think if you open your resume with this kind of “framing,” you will be much more likely to secure the attention of a hiring manager and communicate the relevance of your experience. Good luck to you and your son!