While most of the attention in this blog is focused on
career management in the US, there is value in
the awareness of documents for positions in the
How can a person who has been impacted
by the downturn in the economy represent
herself or himself well with their respective resumes?
This is what I asked when a dozen mid-career
people met with me at the ACS national meeting.
1. Show a good match of skills and accomplishments
that meet an employer’s needs on the first page
(in the resume “red zone”).
2. Create an easy-to-read and easy-to-find
- reverse chronological order
- years of involvement and graduation consistently
in a visible location
- critical information order providing understandable
supporting detail in the EXPERIENCE section
- providing their name on each page, using
keywords in an organized structure with active
3. Offer real outcomes that benefit the business–
patents, product extensions, precise methods
that saved time and money,
Many resumes appeared to spill out into the
margins in large blocks of words. People with
10-25 years of experience have an especially
difficult challenge bringing out relevant experience
for today’s marketplace. Reviewers seek to
find and hire people who can come in and
make a difference quickly, showing adaptability
and a humility to meld into a culture taking
on challenges willingly. The over-detailed
resume does little to sell a person’s capabilities
unless it was shown to be sustained or
broadened over time.
Others find their field overpopulated and
need to either differentiate themselves from
the traditional skill sets or reapply their skills
in different applications in a career switch.
Still others have been switching from one field
to another for 2 and 3 year stints. They have not
developed clear expertise (10,000 hour rule),
but do have exposure to a number of practical
experiences with a variety of methods.
As many are finding, these are not tasks they
can take on by themselves. One resume may
not be sent to several prospective employers.
This calls for strategic thinking incorporating
a “master resume” (or CV) starting point and
project management tactics to articulate
appropriate information to each target. It
is not out of the question to have more than
one career consultant support this challenging
Consultants met at the conference shared that
the effort is paying dividends for job seekers.
It is taking more time than in earlier years.
Please include dates, although not the months,
but be judicious about time gaps
Please consider using “Work history” summary
for employment more than 15 years ago
Please take the advice of reviewers on sections
that provide too much information of limited
or no value. Take it out of targeted resumes.
Please be specific, but use acronyms wisely
Please realize that you do not have to fill all
two pages top to bottom. Consider using
links to back-up documents in the cloud
(web-page, google-docs, .pdf files).
After meeting more than a couple of dozen
people in San Francisco to talk about their
resumes, it is instructive to point out some
strange findings, some missing key
elements and offer some hints.
- Only one or two had font size 11. All
the rest were font 8-9, trying to squeeze as
much on two pages (or more) as possible.
- Most do not seem to know that there is
a “resume red zone” on page one of your
resume. It is the middle third of page one
that every reviewer looks at and should contain
your most compelling information why they
would want to interview you.
- Look what I read in the ‘resume red
zone’ of some –
“six years of teaching basketball, baseball and
soccer camps” [recent Med. Chem. Ph.D.]
“assist in development…..
“reviewed manuscripts for peer reviewed
“Chemistry exam proctor and grader…
“Listing technical skills [one third of first
page; note Ph.D. should be beyond this to
creating something new or solving problems
with these tools. It is more appropriate for
MA or BA resumes.]
Weis Pharmacy, Pharmacy technician…
[instead of actual detail of chemical research]
- EXPERIENCE SECTION hiccups included”
“Used X, Y, Z [software] to study protein dynamics…
“Worked on the classification…
“Made concerted use of….
“Studied the properties of …
These are examples of “weak” verbs that are
not true action verbs. Remember, we look for
Please list information in sections in
reverse chronological order.
Please have a HIGHLIGHTS section before
your EDUCATION which points out your
most significant skills that support your
Please consider providing a link to your own
technical web-page in the HEADING.
Doesn’t everyone have one these days?
Please consider using links to information
sources and publications.
Either in your resume or cover letter, in your
research summary or your thank you note,
it only takes one misspelling for technical
professionals’ resumes to be not considered
for a position. Some recent examples:
In cover letters:
I’m intrested to here more about that…
…career on the information supper highway
resume on the back side of a draft of a cover letter
resume… with current employer’s letterhead or
Highlight: “Demonstrated ability in multi-tasting.”
[Neither multi-tasking or multi-tasting are considered
of high value.]
There are many more examples.
How should we eliminate them in our public
relations documents? Consider doing several
1. reviewing your documents backwards and forwards
2. ask people both very familiar with your work and
not familiar with your work to proofread and provide
3. print copies for your records, for your next steps,
for your review when your mind is most keen to look
for errors. Screen reviews tend not to be as thorough
for many. We overlook sections or are distracted more
4. Draft, revise, take a break, seek out other ways of
composing the documents. Pay attention to spelling,
paragraphing, punctuation, and proper usage.
5. Intermittently read documents out loud to let your
ears do some editing.
Job Search Planning was our topic in class this week.
We worked as groups to identify our top priority
needs (security, challenge..) and desires (money,
prestige, intellectual growth…) in our first position.
The groups were each chosen randomly.
We then aligned groups’ membership so that each
group contained all academically oriented Ph.D.
students, all small company oriented students and
all large institution oriented in others. As one might
guess the top priority choices changed in a noticeable
Finally, we talked about how emotions influence
our decision process: how loss aversion (over-
reaction to presumed loss), value attribution and
the influence of numbers of factors on decision
making. Then, we had the aligned teams select
their top factors. There was little variation from
the first choices each team made.
The interesting feature was in the discussion that
followed. Why should we bother, one person asked,
going through all this preparation? There are few
jobs and we will take the first one we get no matter
what it is and will change to get higher salaries.
(I thought to myself that is pessimistic.) My response
was that he would be surprised to learn that there
are many professionals who would want to work
in areas where they have passionate interests
and personal motivations. Others like working
in places where there is a good social atmosphere.
Still others like working with customers, like
working with their hands or outdoors or in
laboratories. Each day would be a struggle if
the job was less than stimulating.
To achieve their desired career and career path,
the class was advised to consider taking the long
view, accepting short term benefits as a trade-off
for the long term. Learning new skills, getting
exposure to different roles and having increasing
levels of responsibility (when you are prepared
and have appropriate organizational back-up)
and keep abreast of desired next positions.
Flexibility and developing business savvy which
integrates the many factors of success in interesting
positions that are stepping stones so that you can
meet your personal ambitions.
Mentoring, networking and guided personal
skill development were keys in self-guided
career management that each individual
is now responsible for. 1
Recently a resume came to me with a half dozen
“I worked on…” statements. In addition to giving
the impression of “a history project giving what
you did and where you went to school, just attach
to an email or upload to a site and press the button,”
it sends a message that the person is unprepared
to work on a team and pursue the hiring manager’s
The same resume had more bullets in the
EXPERIENCE section twenty years ago, than
in the positions, less than a year ago. P.
Korki authored a noteworthy article on
resumes that captures these and other common
resume weaknesses for mid-career folks.
Another recent observation that might not
serve the candidate well is indicating ‘twenty-five
years of experience in…” because the job
description states seeks a skilled “chemist with
more than fifteen years”. While true and honest,
does this fit in the “red-zone” of a resume
(middle third of front page) ? Some may differ
with my proposal to indicate the experience
level in the cover letter (second or third paragraph)
and stick to the skills and ability facts in the
On to cover letters, which should be part
of every submission. Many arguments are
given about the advantage of writing a
customized and thoughtful document promoting
your interest in an opening. S Needleman lists
several in her WSJ piece. Since many hiring
managers are doctorates, it is almost ‘a given’
that the salutation should be addressed to
Dear Dr. [Smith],
in many positions. While many in these positions
don’t require the salutation, there are more than
a handful that look at the “Dr. omission” like it
is a spelling mistake. (Lack of attention to detail.)
Needleman further lists ways to attentively sell
your product in the cover letter in her March 9
piece (linked above).
Recruiters continue to meet a significant
role in many screening processes for
companies and job search sources for
seekers. They are adopting new tools.
An article reporting how the uncertainty
of one’s position might influence your
investment strategy is linked. More
nuances of conversions to Roth IRAs
is picked up on our “radar screen.”
HEDGING INVESTMENTS WITH CAREER
Source: P. Sullivan, NYTimes 3-5-10
Link the health of your company and industry
with the risk level of your investment
portfolio, P. Sullivan advises. Just another
factor in those difficult to precisely define
your appropriate risk tolerance for your
investments. [Anyone who has filled out
those risk level questionnaires knows the
abstractness of the exercise.]
ROTH, ROTH ROTH
Sources: K. Greene, WSJ Ask Encore
Taxes on Roth conversion and
R. Jacobs, Pitfalls of Roth conversion,
The questions about converting traditional
and rollover IRAs to Roth IRA is complex
and deserves more consideration after
studying two more articles. Greene’s
always helpful WSJ column hits on ways
of meeting the taxes due.
Jacobs writes about distributions, withholding
taxes, beneficiaries and fixing problems
after the conversion. This is a useful
discussion this year.
RECRUITERS “TAKE” ON RECESSION
The Economist, 2-27-10, p. 69, “Joining
New candidate screening tools are being
used by the leading recruiting agencies.
The hiring process, the article says, will not
be speeded up with the tools. Emphasis is
having more fully vetted candidates
interview for openings.
The sense candidates might obtain from
the article is to communicate well with the
recruiters you choose to understand what
skills, abilities and behaviors are sought
from the hiring company. After understanding
the need, have your resume, interview and
references show how you can meet the
Various media are reporting slow raises in pay
year compared to last year. Several firms plan to
maintain salary freezes.
Competition for wage increases is considerably
tougher, meaning higher raises for top performers
and no raises for average and lower performers.
Certain firms limit the times when pay increases
are offered better employees. In addition to knowing
when that might be, gather salary information among
comparable fields and employers, so that you have a
clearer idea and document clearly your justification.
Flexibility may be encouraged, as other things may
be negotiable, if budgets are tight.
It is always wise to remember that you have to work
there with your boss and co-workers after your request,
whether or not it is granted.
It should not surprise me, but it still does every time
I speak with newly minted graduates, about to enter
the workforce, when they ask how much will they
make and how to get the highest salary.
While there a rare exceptions in certain fields, it
can be said that salary surveys do an adequate
job of telling people how much they should be
paid in most positions, in their region of the
country, in their industry with their years of
experience (and remember one year of post-doc
is consider 0.5 years industrial experience.)
A nice guideline for salary negotiation is provided
by Lee Miller , from which I would highlight
preparation, practice the performance, honesty
and integrity (get things in writing). Salary is only
one component of an overall compensation
package. So, know the value and costs of
things that you and your family require and
have a checklist . And of course, salary is not
brought up by the interviewer until after the job is offered
and the job offer is in hand and details spelled out.