The Career Doctor: Career Advice for All
A Career College and Job-Search Advice Column
Dr. Randall Hansen a nationally recognized career expert is the Career Doctor. Discover more about Dr. Hansen read about the purpose of this column and find previous issues of this column at the home of The Career Doctor.
If you have any college career or job-related questions or comments that Dr. Hansen could provide valuable assistance with please feel free to email him at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Dr. Hansen writes this column on a biweekly basis.
Note: Readers can find other columns from this year in Current Year Archives of The Career Doctor Q&A.
In This Issue (09/09/05):
- Learning some ways to improve a bad resume
- Understanding the value of background checks
- Applying for two positions at the same company
- Developing strategies for changing career later in life
|Q:||Maria writes: I’ve been job-hunting without much success when a recruiter at a job fair told me he thought my resume was really bad. I was shocked! I thought I had a pretty darn good resume. What do I need to write and improve my resume?|
|A:|| The Career Doctor responds: You didn’t attach your resume so I don’t know for sure what the specific problem is with your resume but I have seen enough bad resumes to know some of the most common problems. And for a recruiter to tell you that your resume was bad means that it must be really bad. I’m not trying to be overly harsh but to add a douse of realism because I find job-seekers often ask for advice on improving their resume when they secretly love it and plan no changes.
So’ here are my all-purposes fixes for resumes.
First your resume has to have a focus. Every job-seeker needs to be a specialist a specialist that fits the needs of the prospective employer perfectly. Sometimes a job objective or summary of qualifications can give you the edge you are seeking.
Second your resume must showcase your accomplishments. Employers like specifics. They don’t want to know you saved your former employer money; they want to know exactly how much money you saved. They want to know the exact size of the staff you managed the amount you increased revenues the level of customer satisfaction you delivered.
Third there is no such thing as one resume. Gone is a one-size-fits-all resume. Every resume you send out should be different from all the others. You need to use specific keywords and phrases that fit each employer.
Fourth your resume has to look appealing welcoming. Yes it’s superficial but a plain resume (or worse from a template) screams plain job-seeker. Take the initiative to design your own resume style’ or hire a professional resume-writer who can do it for you.
For more information check out these articles on Quintessential Careers:
|Q:|| Catherine writes: I enjoy your column. I don’t think I have ever seen either of my questions (or problem) in your columns. Both deal with background checks.
Recently I was terminated from a position I had held for only a month. They claimed to have received information from a law enforcement agency showing that I had committed a crime. After checking with the agency mentioned I learned they had no such information. I suspect that a former employer or someone in his office where I worked previously made the false accusations. Can I take legal action?
My second questions now that I back in the job market is that some of the places I have applied to are requiring that I sign a release to allow they to get my credit report. I feel this is an invasion of my privacy since none of positions I have applied for have any connection to money or finances. Is this something new?
|A:|| The Career Doctor responds: Background checks are here to stay I am afraid. And I don’t want to get angry emails from hiring managers but I hate how far we’ve gone with them. I can certainly understand clearance and background checks for jobs that involve the nation’s security but what really does a person’s credit score say about their trustworthiness?
When I was an employer we checked references and that was about it. And we rarely called all the references. For a more sensitive position maybe a drug test. Other employers conducted a battery of psychological and other personality assessments.
I also believe your very brief former employer was in the wrong in even hiring you before finishing the background check and wrong again in the over-reaction to the false information. Whether what they did was a violation of your rights I can’t answer but recommend you consult with an employment lawyer to gather more information. You can find one by going to the National Employment Lawyers Association.
As for credit reports the group of job-seekers this screening hurts the most are low-wage job-seekers who perhaps do not even have credit. And I agree with you — unless it’s a job that involves handling money what business is it of employers?
|Q:|| Anonymous writes: I have just completed my bachelor of business administration with majors in management and finance. I’m interested in positions in human resources (primarily) but there are also positions in finance that interest me. I’ve created different versions of my resume that target the different career fields each highlighting relevant experience and accomplishments and I’m tailoring my cover letter to particular positions as well. But now I’ve found two distinct positions that both interest me and they’re at the same large company with the same contact person.
How might I gracefully pursue both jobs?
|A:|| The Career Doctor responds: First kudos to you for understanding the importance of developing different resumes to target different positions.
In this situation unless the person is one of your network contacts I don’t think it would be well-received to try and go for both positions. Employers generally want someone who is focused and knows exactly what they want. However if you knew the person — s/he were part of your network then I think you could use the relationship to bridge it. And of course if there were two different contact people you might go for both (though even then it can get a little dicey).
So my best advice for this situation at least is to determine the position you most seek the one that interests you the most and that you can most demonstrate that you are "perfect" for — and go after it with gusto and leave the other position in the dust (for now unless the situation changes or if you build enough rapport with the contact person to casually ask about the other one)… but your primary strategy should be to focus on one for now.
And by the way I have found it more and more common that younger job-seekers do not want to be boxed into one career field one career choice — and that’s fine. But I also think it’s important to find the one thing you are truly passionate about and build your career around that. Business grads often focus too much on salary and while we all need to make a living being miserable in a job that pays well still results in you being miserable.
An article you and other job-seekers in a similar position might find useful is this one published on Quintessential Careers: Ten Tips for Creating a Career That Lights Your Fire.
|Q:|| Emily writes: I am starting a new career and have not been successful in landing a job. I am interested in working for a bank but have limited experience. About 99 percent of the jobs advertised requires one to be experienced. How do I get in at entry level with no qualifications? I am a quick learner and a team player.
I am 50 years old but look about 40. In today’s working world 40 is old so I have an extra dilemma.
|A:|| The Career Doctor responds: I don’t think 40 — or even 50 — is old anymore. And yes let me disclose that I am in my 40’s so perhaps I am too close to the question. But seriously from the folks I talk with I don’t think age is or will be as big a factor as it was for previous generations. People are living much longer being productive to much later in life and with older baby boomers retiring there is a serious need for skilled older workers.
That said are you going to face situations where you know age was a factor in not getting a job offer? Probably. But my hope will be those situations are becoming more and more rare.
Your bigger challenge is making a career change late in your career which by the way is also becoming increasingly more common. But why are you looking for an entry-level position? Surely you have many transferable skills that apply to a career in banking.
What you need to do is develop your network in this new field while gaining experience any way you can. I would suggest conducting some informational interviews where you can learn more about career in banking and specific requirements each bank is seeking. By doing so you will also be gaining network contacts in the field. To gain experience explore temping as an option.
Finally and this advice goes for ALL job-seekers please do NOT rely solely on job postings when searching for a new job. Only a very small percentage of jobs are ever posted. Most still remained closed to the general public and are filled internally or through referrals.
Review all the resources articles and tools we offer in this section of Quintessential Careers: Job and Career Resources for Mature and Older Job-Seekers — Including the Baby Boomers.