Let's Be Honest About the The Search - Resume Myths

By Brian Fippinger

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Let’s Be Honest About The Job Search

I am taking a short (very short) break from writing about finding your passion and I want to explore/ explode some myths that the “experts” keep telling Job Seekers about what happens during your job search, and what is important for the Job Seeker to think about.  

I am coming from the perspective of, first and foremost, having been a Hiring Manager for the first 26 years of my career. I managed recruiting during most of those years, but ultimately my role was as an honest to god hiring manager. Many of the folks writing/coaching Job Seekers have never sat in that chair. Never had to hire someone and then manage the person on a day-to-day basis. I have. In addition, for the past eight years, I have been a recruiter and a coach, so I have seen that side of the table as well.

Before I decided to write this blog, I had to verify if my assumptions were still valid. So, I called/ emailed a few dozen of my favorite hiring managers to discuss what they look at, what they read/don’t read on resumes and what they want to see. Not surprising, this hasn’t changed much over the years. So, let’s explore some myths and assumptions about resume writing, job searches, applications and interviewing.

Resume Writing:

Myth 1:  Spend a lot of time making sure your Cover Letter is engaging. Customize it for each role. I will quote an article I read today on this subject, “A well-written, engaging cover letter, that’s customized to a particular opening can open doors when your resume alone might not have gotten you a second look.”

Fact:  No one reads cover letters. When I asked the question, “When was the last time you ever read a cover letter?” Most hiring manager’s responded, “Never”. A high percentage told me that they aren’t even sent them anymore.  An article in the March 26, 2012 issue of Forbes titled, “What Your Resume is Up Against”, begins, “Last week, the job search site TheLadders.com, released research showing that recruiters only spend an average of 6.25 seconds looking at a candidate’s résumé before deciding whether he or she is a fit for a job.

The study also shows that recruiters spend 80% of that six and a quarter seconds looking at just six things:

Current title/ company
Previous title/ company
Previous position, start and end dates
Current position, start and end dates

6.25 seconds, of which 5 seconds are spent on the above six areas, do you really think that they spend the other 1.25 seconds on your cover letter? Even if the study is off by 100%, that would mean 12.5 seconds with only 2.5 seconds left for the cover letter. Don’t spend time and effort on something that won’t be read.

This brings us to resume Myth 2:  Make sure you have a well detailed Summary and (if applicable) Skills section. Make sure you mention every skill/tool/software/methodology you have ever worked with. This will make sure your resume shows up in as many internet searches as possible.

Fact:  No one reads the Summary or Skills section of your resume (see Fact under Myth 1). These sections provide information totally out of context and are not useful to anyone. Further, by putting Skills on your resume that you may have limited knowledge of, you run the risk of being asked about them during an interview. When you are forced to admit that you really are not “skilled” in one of your “skills”, it will put the rest of your resume into question by the interviewer. Spend little time, or space, on these two sections. Save your effort and resume space on putting your information in context.

Myth 3: You should “cover over” areas of your work history.

  • Maybe you have a gap between jobs, move the dates around so as not to raise the issue…it was 5 years ago, why highlight this.
  • You’re a “seasoned” Job Seeker, only go back 10 years on your resume, they don’t need to know just how “seasoned” you are.

Fact:  Never hide anything about your history on your resume. Let me rephrase that, NEVER hide anything about your history on your resume.

Why you ask?  Simple, if you get the job it WILL come out and you will be starting out on a very wrong foot.

You have a gap in your history, ok, so what.  You know that question will come up, have a short, concise and honest answer on what happened.  This is easier to handle up front, than when the background check brings up the question.  (We will discuss this more when we Explore/ Explode the Myths of Interviewing)

You have been in the workforce for as long as the person interviewing you has been alive? Good for you. First, if you are like me, and started your career in the 70s, don’t start your resume in 2000. The interviewer will figure out something in missing the moment you walk in the door. Two issues here; one, do you want the first impression you the give her to be, “what else is she hiding?” and two, if the company your are interviewing with would really disqualify you upfront because of your experience, is that a culture you would be comfortable (much less successful) working for?

Which leads directly to Myth 4:  You need to keep your resume to no more than 2 pages.

Fact:  While I am NOT advocating that you turn into John Michener and write a tome of 8 or 9 pages, if you are showing a hiring manager what you do best, and you are a more “seasoned” job seeker, a 3 or 4 page resume is not out of the question. Remember, a resume that is nothing but a cut and paste from your job description will get you no where no matter how short it is. However, if your resume is providing real information about what you do best and what is in it for the hiring manager, 4 pages are fine. Just like any other good brochure, if you can show the reader there is benefit to them, they will read it no matter the length.

There are many more Myths regarding resumes but in our next post we will move on to the area we call; The Job Search.

Full disclosure note:  I do have a coaching offering assisting Seekers with their resume called, “Getting YOUR Voice Out”, however that is NOT why I am trying to explode these Myths.  I believe that Job Seekers are being steered in the wrong direction and end up wasting way too much time, effort and money on areas of their resume that rarely, if ever get looked at.  Further, some of the advice out there is just plain dangerous to their search.  

Job Change is one of the top six stressors we can go through, right up there with birth, death ,divorce, marriage and relocation.  We need to make sure the first step in the process (our resume) places us on the path to success.

Next up:  Exploring/Exploding the Myths of Job Searches.

Author Note

Brian Fippinger is a Managing Partner of Q4 ConsultingQ4 provides Somatically based Career and Leadership Coaching and Workshops. Let's chat and see what Path we can create together.

Image credit: the italian voice


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