I am conTENT. My work is CONtent.

learn from mistakes I have made in my resume and job search

Posted by contentgrrl on October 30, 2007

As I was decluttering my desk, I found some of my old resumes and job letters from years ago. A few things actually made me cringe with ew.

Now, it’s not as bad as when I find an old diary from my melodramatic pre-teen days. It was relatively OK for back in the day when you had to go to a printer like Kinko’s to have a stash of resumes printed up to hand out. But I immediately noticed some things that I’ve learned not to do anymore:

  • The “objective” section was so broad it could apply to ten different jobs. Now, I’ve learned to tailor it per job, ideally the intended, individual opening.
  • The skillset and toolset was too long. Again, I’ve learned to tailor it to the requirements of the intended job.
  • The history descriptions are too long. Even while I use great verbs, I did not always identify the real accomplishments. Numbers are more impressive.
  • The cover letter started off self-centered, rather than what’s in it for them. “I was intrigued by your job posting.” So what?

Basically, I was trying to do too much with one tool. OK, so I’ve worked in journalism, software, training, and a weird but happy combination of Web publishing and PR. But I may have come off as too generalist, and certainly over-qualified for most jobs. And I’ve learned more about selling a product since then. I am my own product (Marketing Profs Daily Fix has a great article on this too, Mind Your OWN Business).

With Monster, LinkedIn, and other Web sites to keep the details out there, I can trim it down to a spiffy one-page resume and a short-and-sweet cover letter.

And there are some things that I was glad I had taken the time to do:

  • Response thank-you letter, customizable to highlight specific points of the positive response (or even rejection).
  • Interview thank-you letter, customizable to highlight specific points discussed during the interview.
  • References page (several names, contact information, and a description of our relationships).
  • Chart of experience with various tools and skills (now thankfully available on Monster).

I continue to do resumes for friends and colleagues who like my format. I found a site that has a database of hourly rates for various consulting gigs ( The average for writing resumes is — surprise! — the same average for every other kind of writing in their database, so the key is scoping the project:

  • 30 min: analyze current resume
  • 60 min: meeting to discuss new job history/training, objectives, measurable achievements, possible edits
  • 60 min: writing and formatting of 1-2 page resume
  • 60 min: writing cover letter and thank-you notes
  • 30 min: meeting to discuss edits, completing revision, proofing

PS: After initially posting this, I also found Ten Tips for Writing a Resume That Will Get The Right Kind of Attention from The Simple Dollar, posted today.

One Response to “learn from mistakes I have made in my resume and job search”

  1. contentgrrl said

    Trent recently gave an update: How to construct a killer resume from start to finish:

    It highlights action-oriented accomplishments, and the five questions you should be able to answer:

    1. What is the likely primary function or task of the job you are being hired to do?

    2. What type of organization are you targeting, and what products and services do they provide?

    3. What is the reputation of this organization? Applying to Google and to “Joe’s Desperate Search Engine” are two completely different things, even though the jobs may appear very similar on paper. Joe is probably seeking a programmer with very specific skills, while Google is looking for people who exhibit exceptional problem solving skills.

    4. What is your role within this organization? If you accept this job, what will your role be? Will you be working on developing the product directly, or will you be providing services to the public? Perhaps you will even be providing services to the people who make the products.

    5. What skills and attributes do you have that make you a really great candidate, that point toward a successful fit?

    I’d add what accomplishments.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: