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Resume Writing

Learning to Fight Blah in Job Search

"Your language becomes clear and strong, not when you can no longer add a sentence, but when you can no longer take away from it."

Isaac Babel

This is one of my all-time a favorite writing quote. My colleagues and Twitter Job Search Guide co-authors, Deb Dib and Susan Whitcomb, are masters of the concise. During the process of writing the book, Deb developed an inspired a formula for writing cover letters in ten tweets--or the equivalent of less then ten text messages.

Since publishing the book, Deb and Susan have put their heads together again and have designed a framework to get a ten tweet cover letter down to only five points. I've always been an advocate of cover letters that show employer research, engagement, and an understanding of job fit. In the past I've often struggled to develop cover letters in less than one page. As an English major, it was a challenge not to exceed the suggested limit for papers. In college, I was jealous of my friend Cindy who was called out for submitting a paper in 14 point font. Our professor's comment:

"Cindy, do you think I'm blind?"

"Chandlee, do you think I have a magnifying glass?"

In years since, I've learned to reduce my word count be brief. The twitter limitation of 140 characters has helped with that. So have text messages. And so has my work with Deb and Susan. As Deb says, "So what? Say it fast. And Make me care."

I can now write letters in less than 500 words. Resumes with 10+ years of experience in one page. And given that employers spend less than 15 seconds on a resume, and perhaps even less than 10 seconds on a cover letter, that's important. There's no room for clutter.

As this video shows, there's a lot of blah out there. Who has patience for it? No one. Here's to trimming the fat, removing the unnecessary, eliminating the extraneous.


Thanks, Deb and Susan! (And if you want to learn more, pick up the Twitter Job Search Guide for cover letter help and Susan's book Resume Magic for Resume Help)

A Most Unfortunate Resume Mistake No One Will Tell You

I participate in the Career Collective, a community of bloggers who talk about careers and write different posts in response to a common question each month. Up today: scary resume mistakes in honor of Halloween.

My mistake is one that can't be seen on the resume--it lies underneath and only shows up in electronic searches to the discerning eye.

I'm talking about Document Properties. The information you see when you view a doc in GoogleDocs or in the information line on a file. Most specifically: the author field. It's very easy to overlook this minor detail.

When you save your resume, make sure you are listed as the author of your resume. Not anyone else who gave you tips or provided you with writing assistance. Not your friends. And especially not your former employer.

When a prospective employer sees a different name on your resume, they won't tell you. They may just not consider you.

Here's how to fix this in Microsoft Word. Use "Save As" to save your document. Enter your name as author and title in the Properties section.

You can make this adjustment in other documents by modifying information in the Properties section of your document--or in searching for how to modify properties using help.

That's it. A quick fix for a potentially scary mistake.

Here are suggestions from my fellow colleagues on Career Collective. (And Happy Halloween!)

The 15 Minute Cover Letter

Do you enjoy writing cover letters? If you do, chances are good that you may be an oddball--like me. Overthe past ten years, I've helped over 2,000 job seekers write cover letters. I've met less than two dozen who enjoy writing them. As a career counselor, I sometimes feel like the job search equivalent of a dentist: people know they need to see you, even if they dread the visit sometimes.


Frequently, job seekers will ask me to write cover letters for them. As you may imagine, this is a potentially lucrative area of business--especially since no one likes to write them. I do work side-by-side with job seekers to draft cover letters, but I don't write individual letters for people by the bushel. If I did, it would be like the job search equivalent of only cleaning your teeth at the dentist--if you don't know how to do it, you'll soon find yourself in real trouble even if someone does it for you every now and again.

Like brushing your teeth, writing cover letters is easier and more efficient if you have a routine and a systematic approach. Here's my recommended strategy

Write the cover letter with the employer in mind, focus on their needs--not yours. In general, most employers seek the answers to four common questions:

  1. Where did you find my listing? Do you know anyone here?

    Recruiters care about hiring and marketing. Let them know how you found them.

  2. What position are you applying for? How do your skills and experience align with the position?

  3. Why this opportunity? Why do you want to work here--and in this job?

  4. How can I follow-up with you?

These are the essentials.
Your information should be clear, concise and to the point--and cover each of these topics. One suggested format is to write a short paragraph addressing each point. Some job seekers and employers advocate creating a two column table or a bulleted list in order to demonstrate alignment between a position and relevant skills/experience. I've seen this approach work well.

Many job seekers hate to cover the "why I want to work here" part of the cover letter--especially since it generally involves extra work to research information about the company and recent events. Consider this from the perspective of the employer: all they have to go on is a resume and a cover letter. They don't know how interested you are until you tell them. Demonstrating your level of enthusiasm and showing that you understand the job--and have taken the time to familiarize yourself with the organization--can go a long way. My recommended shortcuts: do a search for the organization in Google News. Or spend half an hour with a reference librarian and learn how to research key information about a company. Say something meaningful. It conveys interest and engagement.

Practice writing a letter in this format a few times, and you'll find that you have a cover letter that almost writes itself. Have a hard time with addressing the line up between skills and a job? Get help from someone else--a career counselor, a hiring manager, or someone who enjoys the process...

After you've done this a few times, you should have the format down.
You may not enjoy it, but it will go faster and easier. Keep it simple. Take a look at my list of four points: Each of them is written in less than 140 characters--as brief as a status update on Twitter. There's no need to write a novel--or even a full page. As late writer Isaac Babel once wrote, "Your language becomes clear and strong not when you can longer add but when you can no longer take away."

To Your Success,

Behind the Music Resume with Alec Biedrzycki...

For the past year, I've been scouting for talented job seekers who've made bold moves through public "hire me" campaigns. In the process, I've identified a handful of people who've been able to achieve "career gold": These job seekers have demonstrated the ability not only to execute a clever marketing approach but also to follow up and showcase the skills and aptitudes that will make them successful on the job. I call these individuals my career "rock stars."

My newest rockstar is Alec Biedrzycki, a recent grad of Bentley College and current YouTube sensation. After four internships and applying for several full-time jobs without noticeable response from employers, Alec developed a music video resume and uploaded it to YouTube.

Since creating his video last week, Alec has been had over 2,000 views on YouTube, been interviewed by CNN, and received a few calls from potential employers. To learn more about how he created his video, what he learned along the way, and what he's looking for in a position, read the full post on my other blog, The Emerging Professional.

You can find also Alec on Twitter: @albiedrzycki