Resume and CV troubles often arise when a job seeker realizes their document shines a light on something that makes him or her feel insecure – whether it be their age, inexperience or lack of higher degrees. Many of you have messaged me about these concerns over the past several months. I reached out to Kamara Toffolo, who is a resume writer and job search strategist, to learn how to troubleshoot some of the most common resume and CV concerns.
Career gaps are among the most common issues people bring up when talking about resume and CV challenges. They occur for a variety of reasons, including raising a family, taking care of sick relatives, medical emergencies and global pandemics — to name a few. Yet, Toffolo told me they’re among the easiest problems to address.
If you have been off for several months due to a coronavirus-related layoff or furlough, you can just add one line on your resume to note the gap. Longer employment gaps can be addressed in a similar way but with more detail, she said.
“Life happens. People in hiring know that. You just need to tell them what you were doing to put any concerns at rest.”
If you volunteered during the time off from work, Toffolo said you can add those experiences as a few bullet points under the line addressing your career gap.
While you wouldn’t put your age on your resume or CV, most people could calculate an accurate estimate based on the dates you list. Toffolo said you can remove the dates listed in your education section to help combat any unconscious bias that may arise in the recruiter or hiring manager.
“In terms of work experience, you may hear from other resume folks to cut anything older than 15 years,” she said. “I don’t necessarily agree with that. What you can do instead to mitigate that kind of math is to pick the highlights from your early career. Maybe use a small section called ‘early career highlights.’” The section is a way to show the foundation of your work experience.
If you’re worried about ageism, you should also avoid mentioning any out-of-date technology that wouldn’t be relevant in today’s job market. Additionally, she said to use a sleek resume structure and format — along with an updated email address from a commonly used provider, such as Gmail.
The world of work has changed dramatically over the past couple of decades. People — especially younger generations — rarely work at a single employer for the bulk of their careers. The shift has helped remove some of the stigmas around job-hopping. Yet, Toffolo said there could still be some concerns around someone who has had several jobs lasting less than a year listed in their experience section.
“If the roles are similar, you can condense them into a section,” she said.
A person who works in retail may end up losing work due to store closures, for example. If they were a “customer sales associate” at each store, the person could highlight that role with the employers and dates listed below to show they were working consistently in a position.
If it doesn’t make sense for you to condense short-term jobs, Toffolo said you should keep them separate but explain why the role was cut short (unless you were fired, of course).
While shifting norms have removed some of the stigmas related to job-hopping, it ended up distributing some of that concern to people who have stayed in jobs for many years without much movement. Those long-term jobs can suggest a lack of growth, said Toffolo.
“If you have lengthy tenure in one role, it’s important to bring out the progression in that role,” she said. “It’s important to highlight that growth itself… Just to show you didn’t do the same things for 10 years. Show there were variations in the roles.”
You can do that by listing the responsibilities you gained over time. Or, you can explain how your mandate at the employer changed over the years.
No college degree?
Many large employers are shedding requirements that candidates have college degrees to apply for jobs. While that shift has opened up many new opportunities to people, you may struggle to fill out the education section on your resume or CV.
First, you should avoid adding your high school degree and graduation to your resume or CV. Unless you recently graduated, there is no need to include it, said Toffolo.
Second, she said you should not make it look like you graduated from college or university if that isn’t the case. “One major misstep is that people writing their education sections suggest they have a degree when they’re really a few credits shy.” In those cases, she said the resume could say “coursework in English” and name the university.
“For someone who didn’t go to university at all, you wouldn’t be mentioning any university courses, but you should be putting professional development courses,” she said. If don’t have any courses to include on your resume or CV, you can eliminate the education section.
Many people are considering making career changes during the pandemic. Yet, they end up struggling when it comes to writing their resume or CV.
“What it comes down to is framing your accomplishments in a way that makes sense for your career pivot,” said Toffolo.
She said a person who works as an accountant may want to move into vendor management. If the person has some vendor management experience, she’d highlight that on their resume or CV and let their accounting experience take a backseat.
The challenge is more difficult if you don’t have experience in the field where you’re looking for a job. In those cases, she said you need to be putting in the work to make the move by taking courses, getting hands-on experience or other steps that show you’re putting in the effort and willing to learn about the field.
In addition to highlighting those steps on your resume or CV, Toffolo said you should be using your cover letter and LinkedIn profile to clarify your transition. “It’s not just the resume, it’s about the rest of your job search collateral.”
In addition to getting a second pair of eyes on your resume or CV before sending it out into the world, Toffolo said it’s crucial to know what job you want.
“I’m seeing so many people who want to write their resume before they know what they’re going after,” she said. “If you don’t know what that is, how are you going to write the resume? The before part of the resume is just as important as the writing and the submitting of the resume.”
How have you overcome obstacles on your resume or CV? Join the conversation.