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Résumé Writing Roadblocks

Do You Know What's On Your Résumé?

Job Seeker's Story

Cecilia was anxious about her first interview after six weeks of an unfruitful job search. Most of the résumés she had e-mailed to employers in response to job postings on the Internet had gotten no reply whatsoever. She had a few phone interviews that did not seem to last very long and resulted in no second interviews. Consequently, this upcoming face-to-face interview was really important to her. Besides, she hated doing this job-search stuff anyway, and just wanted another job as a Call Center Representative, similar to the one she had with a big food and beverage company before she was downsized.

The interviewer, David, could see that Cecilia was nervous, but many applicants were nervous. He would not let that deter him from conducting a thorough interview for what he felt was a critical front-line position. That's because the person who served in the Call Center Representative position would be the first point-of-contact with the public and media in responding to inquiries, complaints, and sometimes even crises. David took his responsibility for selecting a candidate for this position very seriously.

The interview started off routinely with small talk to break the ice and a brief description of the duties of the applied-for job. Then David turned his attention to Cecilia's résumé and scrutinized the last job she had held as a Call Center Representative.

David asked, “Your résumé indicates you ‘scheduled installations, exchanges, parks buy-backs, and removals of equipment and other assets using information systems, supplier networks, and agent contacts in order to meet customer expectations.’ Exactly what does that mean?

Cecilia looked bewildered and started to turn red as she responded, “I thought you would know what that means. I think it means I took phone calls from many different departments and relayed information.

It was now David's turn to be taken aback. Shaking his head, he asked, “What do you mean you ‘think’ it means you took phone calls and relayed information? Don't you know what your résumé is saying?

Cecilia blurted out, “My boss was unhappy about having to lay me off and she helped me with my résumé.

David dug deeper and asked, “What exactly did your boss do to help you?

Wringing her hands, Cecilia admitted, “Well, she sort of wrote it for me.

Although David was incredulous that Cecilia did not understand what her résumé said, he felt he had to ask for clarification: “Did you ever go over it with her so she could explain what she had written and why she had written it?

Cecilia hung her head and said, “I was embarrassed to ask. It seemed like I should have known without asking her and I was just thankful that she was helping me at all.

Although David felt sorry for Cecilia, he was also angered that he had wasted his time on this applicant when there were so many others he could have interviewed instead. David did not continue with the planned behavior-based questions and the rest of the interview. He quickly ended the conversation and wished Cecilia good luck in her job search. She was disqualified from further consideration for the Call Center Representative position.

Job Seeker's Stumble

Cecilia's lack of knowledge about her own past, as reflected in her résumé content, left the interviewer disinterested in her as a candidate. Her inability to describe what the job duties listed on her résumé meant showed her lack of common sense in diverse ways: that she did not expect she would have to explain her résumé content in an interview, that she did not ask for clarification of the content from the person who actually wrote her résumé, and that she did not apologize for wasting the interviewer's time.

Job Seeker's New Strategy

The solution to this mishap is obvious: Your résumé is about you, so you must know what it says and be ready to explain it in an interview. You may need to solicit assistance with writing your résumé, and that's fine. Many times it is difficult to write about ourselves, no matter how well-educated or knowledgeable you may be. Or perhaps your writing talent is not all that great and it's challenging to find just the right words. That's not unusual. Whether it's a good friend or colleague, or a professional résumé writer, many people turn to others for help with writing and/or editing their résumé.

The caution here is to get involved in the process and understand what your résumé says! Who else is going to defend it in an interview except you? If your friend or a former boss, as in Cecilia's case, wants to insert whole blocks of text from your job description, at the very least understand what that job description is saying. Incidentally, this approach of using parts of your job description verbatim for your résumé is a very simplistic approach and very boring. So, all in all, this technique while fairly easy is not highly successful.

If someone recommends certain keywords be used liberally throughout the résumé, know what those keywords mean both by themselves and in the context of your résumé. For example, if you wrote marketing communications materials and the interviewer asked you about your “marcomm” experience, would you know what he was talking about? You should—and you could then proceed to sell yourself talking about your marcomm accomplishments!

Additional topics

Job Descriptions and Careers, Career and Job Opportunities, Career Search, and Career Choices and ProfilesJob Search, Job Interview Questions, & Job Interview TipsRésumé Writing Roadblocks - Be Selective And Careful With Your Résumé Content, Caution: Résumé Typos Ahead!, Oh, The Tangled Web We Weave…