Troubleshooting for resumes

by Derek Loosvelt | March 10, 2009

This article is excerpted from the Vault Guide to Resumes, Cover Letters and Interviews.
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What you do if you didn't go to college

If you're a recent high school graduate, list your education as "Diploma," and then the name of the high school and its city and state. For those who lack a college education and are applying for professional jobs that usually require a college degree, there are ways around that barrier. You could sign up for a term's worth of classes relevant to your career goals at your local college and then list those classes individually as "Relevant Coursework," including the rest of the college's information as you would a normal education listing. Many universities and community colleges also offer non-credit evening classes at low prices. Another possibility is to not include the education section at all. Let your experience speak for itself.

Lack of experience

As already mentioned, volunteer jobs are great ways of receiving work experience in a field that you haven't yet been able to break into as a paid employee. The jobs can be listed exactly like regular positions (title, achievement list, dates) -- there is no need to indicate that it was a volunteer position on the resume. If you do openly list a volunteer position on your resume, the question may arise of what you used as income during that period. If you're proud of your wage-earning position at that time, and believe it contributes to your job goal, list both, and indicate that your volunteer stint was a "concurrent volunteer position."

If the paying job you had while you performed your volunteer position was basically irrelevant to your career goal, you may, of course, omit it. You may also mention it in your description of your volunteer position, by putting "Concurrent with" and the position and company name of the job. You thus relay that information in an honest manner, while still downplaying its relevance to your job objective.

Age

Age is an issue at every job. Your employer will often have a sense of their ideal candidate's age as well as qualifications. Yes, it's illegal, but nearly inescapable. So what are they afraid of? Well, let's look:

Too young:

  • Insufficient experience
  • Lack of maturity
  • Inability to demand respect
  • Threat to the older and entrenched

Too old:

  • Professionally demanding
  • Slow to learn new techniques
  • Lack of high-tech knowledge
  • Older than management

Whatever the reason, you need to know how to counter those biases by creating a resume that will get you in the door for the interview and allow employers to evaluate you on a personal basis.

Most readers assume that your earliest listed employment began as soon as your education ended. Since most applicants from graduate college at 22, employers will assume you did too. If you feel you are too young, listing jobs you had while you were still in school can wipe the water from behind your ears.

Choosing the functional form is also a good choice.

For those who fear they're too old, dropping your graduation date and some earlier positions from your resume will also seem to move up the starting date of your work history. The only thing you need to remember is that, from the date of your first listed position until the current time, all gaps in your employment history should be avoided.

If you are planning to drop earlier jobs to make yourself look younger, but still want to list some of those positions to reveal your wealth of experience, you can list those positions in a "Previous Experience" note at the end of your Work History. Avoid listing the years you held these jobs. Simply list the company name, your title, and the number of years you were employed in that position, as opposed to the actual dates you held the job.


This article is excerpted from the Vault Guide to Resumes, Cover Letters and Interviews.
Read more excerpts or purchase the guide
Discuss the job search at Vault's Job Search Message Board.
Find the right position for you on the Vault Job Board.

Filed Under: Finance


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