Selling Yourself In Short

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By Mordechai Schmutter

As a freelance writer, I sometimes write résumés for clients who are unemployed—that’s why they want me to write a résumé—and I’m not sure if they’re going to pay me.

“What part of freelance do you not understand?”

“The ‘lance.’ I thought it was free.”

So this week, because I’m a nice guy, I’m going to give you a bunch of résumé-writing tips, so you can write your résumé on your own, for free, bearing in mind that even if every résumé I’ve ever written is absolutely awesome from a writing standpoint, I have no idea if they’re actually getting people jobs. I’m always afraid to ask.

The main thing on your résumé is:

Work Experience

  • List your past positions, making sure to use active verbs to describe your responsibilities. (“Pizza Maker: Rolled out dough, put sauce on dough, added cheese, smeared it around, and baked in oven on 700 degrees for five minutes. Served 8.”)
  • Don’t include that time you were a counselor in camp, unless it’s the only job you’ve ever had.
  • Make sure you phrase your responsibilities in a way that highlights your skills. Some people say, “I’ll write what I do, and they’ll realize I have the skills they need. Like they’ll say, ‘Oh, he was a rebbe? So he did long-range lesson planning? I can hire him to plan my financial future!’” No hiring manager will put that together in the five seconds they spend reading each résumé. Hiring managers are busy people. That’s why they’re looking to hire more people. In fact, you might want to have a section called:

Skills Summary

This is not the place to list things like:

  • Holding breath underwater for four minutes
  • Naming all the state capitals
  • Organizing things into lists
  • “Can pick up almost anything with my toes.”

Here you have an opportunity to make a case as to why your babysitting adventures and that time you sold lulavim have adequately prepared you for this job. You can also use the standard industry skills that people like to list, such as:

Fast learner.

“Please explain.”

“Well, I do daf yomi. Takes me a half-hour.”

Multitasking abilities.

“That’s not specific. Everyone can multitask for specific things. What can YOU do?”

“Walk and tie my shoes at the same time.”

Organizational skills. I have news for you: Everyone thinks they have organizational skills.

Of course, you don’t have to fill in every section you find on the résumé template on your computer. For example, some people write under

Computer Skills

  • Proficient at Microsoft Word.

Anyone who’s ever used Word is going to write that they’re proficient at it. It’s a blank page and you press the letter keys. But how honest is that? I use Microsoft Word for a living and I don’t know what most of the stuff on top does. I just recently figured out that I can alphabetize lists. And this is a feature I’ve never really used since discovering it, except to make sure I don’t double things. It’s not like I’m writing Ashrei.

So would I write that I’m proficient at Word? Do you think potential employers are like, “Oooh, he’s good at Word! We always wanted someone in our company who’s good at Word! I’ve just been writing on the blank screen with a marker and wondering why the printer pages keep coming up blank!”

Another section you can leave out is:

Awards

There’s nothing like writing a résumé to make you realize you haven’t really achieved much in your professional life. It’s kind of like having a garage sale and realizing that all the stuff you’ve been saying for years that you would sell in one huge garage sale barely fits onto a single table, and everyone just wants to buy the table.

Look at your awards. Do they really need to be mentioned in your résumé?

  • World’s Best Dad, seven years running
  • Certificate of Achievement, 4th grade
  • Hakaras HaTov Award, shul dinner

Interests

No one wants to know your interests unless it directly benefits the job. You might be tempted to write your actual interests:

  • gardening
  • computers
  • phones
  • running for fun
  • running for my life

But why do they actually need to know these things? Is it so they have something to talk to you about at the interview, in case they run out of things to talk about?

“So for interests, you put down ‘grilled meats.’ Care to elaborate?”

“Grilled meats!”

“And . . .”

“Chicken, steak, sausages . . .”

People are also not sure what to do with the

References

Tip: it’s not the same as an “in case of emergency” list.

“So it seems you’ve listed your mother and your wife.”

“Don’t call my mother. She’s going to tell you I don’t call enough.”

If you can’t think of any references, make sure to write that references are available upon request. Because otherwise the employer will be like, “Should I request them or not? Oh, he wrote that I could.” But only write that if you need the time to call those references yourself and prep them/remind them who you are.

But you definitely want to write an

Objective

Employers tend to like hiring people with objectives.

Experts recommend that you change the objective every time to make it specific to the job you’re applying for. (“Objective: To get the advertised job with Accountants R Us as the entry-level assistant analyst that offers zero money and requires 30 years of experience.”) That way employers will say, “Wow, what a coincidence! We have to hire this guy!”

Or you can go with a vague objective: “Looking to use my skills and experience in a fast-paced, challenging environment and make the world a better place and bring Mashiach, b’meheira b’yameinu.”

If you do everything right, there’s a chance you’ll be called in for an interview, if only so that the employer can find out what you meant by “running for my life.” Or they may want a phone interview, which is a great idea, because you won’t have to deal with awkward handshake situations. I hate phone interviews, because in general when I’m on the phone, I sound like English is my second language. My main goal—and this is always abundantly clear—is getting the other person off the phone.

But the good news is there’s no guarantee that you’ll even get an interview. There’s a lot that can go wrong. For example, one of the big things they say is a red flag for employers is a gap on your résumé. Which is ridiculous. There are a million reasons you can have a gap, from taking time off to take care of your kids to just not feeling like you should put a specific job on your résumé because it has nothing to do with the job you’re applying for. Unless maybe “a gap on a résumé” means an actual blank space. With whiteout. Because that would be a red flag.

So what should you do if you have a gap?

Some people try to falsify the years a little. Falsify, by the way, is a big résumé word meaning “to lie.” Falsify is one of those big words you might put on a résumé to make yourself sound intelligent.

Prospective Employer: “I have a question about your résumé.”

You: “It’s falsified.”

Prospective Employer (looking up “falsified”): “You’re hired!”

Of course, falsifying in general is not recommended. Sometimes there are ways to tell within the résumé itself that the candidate is lying. (“Experience: I’m a hard worker, etc.”) As much as you can, you want to be honest. (“Honest Objective: I would like to work for a company that is very lax when it comes to tardiness.”)

So maybe no one’s really being completely honest on a résumé. It’s kind of like an election. There are a million kids in the United States at any given moment saying, “Someday, I’m going to be president.” Millions of résumés are thrown in the ring, and we only even really consider about a handful of people. We can’t consider every résumé. A lot of these are from people whose mother-in-law said, “I hear they’re looking for a new president,” and they send a résumé just to get her off their back, or because the unemployment benefits office requires you to apply to a certain number of jobs per week.

And then there’s a series of interviews where they weed out everyone until there are only like two candidates left, and they both have downsides, and the hiring manager is wondering how he ended up with these two but it’s too late to call the other people back or look at the millions of résumés in the garbage pile, because he can’t go through this whole process again because it takes years and the date is approaching where the previous guy is going to quit, so everyone involved figures, “It’s one person. How much harm could he or she do?” One candidate is good at falsifying, and the other, when he’s put on the spot, says awkward things that he maybe should have kept inside. And if you hire him, your company might end up going to war with Mexico.

I think I took my mashal a little too far here.

Mordechai Schmutter is a weekly humor columnist for Hamodia and is the author of five books, published by Israel Book Shop. He also does freelance writing for hire. You can send any questions, comments, or ideas to MSchmutter@gmail.com.

 

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