Q. I’ve owned my own computer repair shop for 8 years and am now
applying to a small company for a position in information technology. I
do not have a college degree, but have taken a few non-matriculated
college courses in my field. I’m embarrassed by the fact that I only
have a high school diploma. Is it necessary to include my high school
diploma on my résumé?
You should mention your high school diploma. Recruiters like to see your
highest level of formal education. You might want to label this section
Training, Education and also
include in here your college courses. This will downplay the fact that
you don’t have a college degree. It will demonstrate that you have taken
it upon yourself to expand your technology skills in a classroom
setting. Make sure to list your college courses first with the exact
nature of these courses and the school where they were taken. Also,
mention dates to show that your coursework is current.
a bit frustrated with my attempts to get a job. At this point, I’m
thinking of just mass mailing my résumé to companies in the area who
might be interested in my qualifications. Do you think this would be a
waste of time?
A. By all
means, mass mail your résumé. Even if a job is not posted, there might
be one available or perhaps one will be posted in the near future. Many
times companies save résumés that look appealing and contact the person
for an interview weeks or months later. You certainly have nothing to
Q. I am a college student. I recently had an interview for a
part-time job at an amusement park. The interviewer came out in a bear
costume. He proceeded to ask me questions without any mention of the
costume. I answered the questions as best as I could, but couldn’t help
but laughing and laughing. Was I being rude?
A. Expect the
unexpected at all interviews. This is really a bizarre occurrence. No,
you were not being rude. I don’t see how anyone could not laugh
hysterically at this situation. Talking to a bear must have been hard.
As long as you answered the questions appropriately, you’re fine. Maybe,
the interviewer just wanted to see if you have a sense of humor. After
all, the job is at an amusement park. Or maybe, he didn’t have time to
change out of his work clothes. Perhaps, under the bear head, he was
grinning from ear to ear.
am applying for a job as a marketing specialist. I have several hobbies
and am not sure whether to include these in my resume. What do you
A. Hobbies should
only be included if they are in some way relevant to your job, are of
unique interest, or show a very special talent. Of course, make sure
these activities are fairly current. If you are a member of Toastmasters
International that would imply that you enjoy speaking in front of an
audience, and, of course, that is related to marketing. If you enjoy
fishing, that is of no importance. During the course of my resume
writing career, I’ve mentioned such talents as a police officer who is a
marathon runner, a high school principal who sings in a rock band, and a
college professor who has done stand-up comedy in New York City. I was
told by the stand-up comedian that interviewers seem to focus on this
activity because they find it intriguing. I suppose they expect him to
tell jokes at the interview. He never does!
Q. I am
a recent college graduate and have several interviews lined up. I heard
that a typical interview question is, “What are your weaknesses?” I’m
not quite sure how to answer. Help!
A. Be careful! Don’t imply
that you are lazy, or that you have a bad temper, or that you are a
procrastinator even though all of these might be true! And please keep
in mind Homer Simpson’s inappropriate answer, “It takes me a long time
to learn anything. I’m kind of a goof-off….” Also, don’t say that you
are a perfectionist and workaholic. This is just the type of answer
recruiters expect to hear and dismiss as meaningless. Instead, be honest
and direct by saying that as a recent college graduate, you have very
little job experience but you are eager to learn, work hard, and grow in
your skills. You might want to illustrate that you are a hard worker by
mentioning your excellent grades, ability to coordinate your coursework
with part-time employment, or background in organizing a campus event.
When responding, maintain eye contact and show enthusiasm so that the
interviewer really believes what you are saying.
important is a cover letter? I’ve been told that most recruiters do not
look at these.
A. A cover letter is very
important and they certainly are read. The purpose of the letter is to
introduce yourself. A résumé by itself is impersonal whereas in the
letter you can be more descriptive and give yourself a “human face.” For
example, you might want to say that your 15 years in medical billing and
ability to remain calm under stressful situations has enabled you to
tactfully handle irate clients. If you are in marketing, you might want
to emphasize your persuasive communication skills and how these have
resulted in many new clients and cross-selling to existing clients. The
cover letter also serves the purpose of explaining specific
circumstances such as perhaps your interest in changing careers or your
absence from the workforce for a number of years.
Q. I am
looking for a position in graphic design. I had my résumé professionally
done but am not pleased with it. I feel that its appearance is too
simple and does not illustrate the fact that I am a very imaginative and
A. Whether you are applying
for a job in graphic design or accounting, the look of your résumé
should be clean and simple. This is not the place to start getting
fancy. In fact, a more unusual font or formatting approach might detract
from the readability. The recruiter will be alerted to your talents
through samples of your work which should be included with your résumé.
This is where you can “put your best foot forward,” as the saying goes.
recently had an interview and am a bit concerned about the outcome. I
feel I answered the interviewer’s questions appropriately, but when I
finished with my answers there seemed to be long periods of
uncomfortable silence. Do you think the interviewer was waiting for me
to add more information?
A. If you answer the
question to the best of your ability, then you are done with that
particular question and answer. Don’t try to fill the silences. If you
do, you will wind up rambling on and adding meaningless information
which you might later regret. The interviewer is in charge. Even if the
pauses after your answers seem long, it is his/her responsibility to
take the initiative to move on.
Q. I am an
older job applicant and am afraid of age discrimination. How can I
A. First of all, do
not include your first job or two in your resume. Sometimes these go
back thirty years and are not important anyway. This will make you seem
a few years younger. Generally, a recruiter will only be concerned with
your last ten or fifteen years of employment. Jobs before that are often
irrelevant and the skills you acquired are many times outdated. Also,
there is no need for dates of graduation from high school, college,
awards received, and committees you served on in 1976.
Q. I am a nurse by
profession and am returning to work after being at home for seven years
raising children. How should I address this issue in my resume?
A. Your resume is
not the place for detailed explanations. Just be straightforward with
job descriptions, education, and other relevant information. But be sure
to include a cover letter stating that you are returning to work after
being a stay-at-home mom for seven years. You certainly need to explain
your gap in employment. Also, if applicable, make mention that you have
remained current in procedures and advances through perhaps talking with
other nurses, reading journal articles, and attending seminars. If you
are not up-to-date in your job knowledge, make sure you take the time
now to brush up on your skills.
Q. I have a
wonderful reference letter from a recent employee. Should I include this
with my resume even though it was not requested?
A. By all means use
this letter if it will make you more appealing. But remember, be
selective when including extra information. Do not forward a package
with twenty different letters, job appraisals, certificates, and such.
No recruiter is going to want to sift through all these. Also, the
important descriptions of your capabilities might be lost in the
shuffle. Use three reference letters at the most unless more are
specifically asked for.