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25 Tough Problems

Look in THE RESUME CATALOG: 200 Damn Good Examples
for resumes that illustrate solutions to the following 25 Tough Problems.

#1. Should I keep my resume chronological or switch to a skills format?
#2. What if I want a more flexible resume, not chronological OR functional? See pg 273
#3. What if my job objective is complicated to describe? See pg 273 of Resume Catalog/1996 ed.
#4. What if I have more than one job objective or want a generic resume?
#5. How do I know what skill areas to put on my resume?
#6. What if I have hardly any paid experience? See pg 274 -- Also see Answer #9 on FAQs page
#7. What can I do about gaps in my work history?
#8. What do I do with my scrambled-up work record? See pg 274
#9. How do I get rid of the "job-hopper" look on my resume? See pg 274
#10. What if my old job title understated my actual level of responsibility?
#11. What if I don't have a degree, but did take some classes? See pg 275
#12. What if I don't quite have my degree or credentials yet?
#13. How do I show part-time jobs while I was in school? See pg 275
#14. How can I avoid age discrimination, with a 30-year work history?
#15. What if I stayed with one employer for a very long time? See pg 276
#16. What about jobs I held many years ago? See pg 276
#17. What can I do about an embarrassing job in my work record?
#18. What if my last workplace has a confusing-sounding name?
#19. What about androgynous names that aren't clearly male or female?
#20. What's a good way to list technical skills or special knowledge? See pg 276
#21. How could I include a more personal statement about how I work? See pg 277
#22. How do I translate my military background to civilian? See pg 277
#23. How do foreign-born job hunters list their education and work history? See pg 277
#24. How do I adapt a resume to promote my consulting services? See pg 277
#25. Can I make a snazzy looking resume with a standard word processor? See pg 277
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#1. Should I keep my resume chronological, or switch to a skill-based format?
 General guideline: The standard chronological format works well if you're staying in the same field and moving up in your career--especially if your work history shows continuous progression, or if you've worked for prestigious companies.
A skill-based ("functional") resume may work better if you're making a career change--especially to a different field or to a much higher level of responsibility. 
Look at the following resumes (in The Resume Catalog) which illustrate the above guidelines on format choice:
Chronological resumes:
Page 19, Janet - continuous upward mobility in her chosen role of management
Page 154, Richard - seeks to move up in the emergency medical services field
Skill-based / functional resumes:
Page 242, Richard - applying his emergency-work skills to a new field, fire-fighting
Page 255, Denise - no previous cruise experience, but shows how her skills apply
 
#2. What if I want a more flexible resume format--not strictly chronological or strictly functional?
 
Look at the following resumes (in The Resume Catalog) which combine the best features of functional resumes with
the best features of chronological formats:
Page 44, Anne - accomplishments, then job content in chronological order
Page 54, Deborah - most recent job described from the skill perspective
Page 114, Charles - again, most recent job described in functional detail
Page 125, Michelle - two overlapping jobs, each broken down by skills

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#3. What if my job objective is complicated to describe?
 
Look at the following resumes (in The Resume Catalog) for ideas and solutions to this problem:
Page 56, Christie - strategic spacing and punctuation makes it easy to read
Page 58, Lani - Like Christie above, uses spacing and punctuation for clarity
Page 116, Christiane - makes it simpler and clearer through spacing and layout
Page 126, Sarah - bullets make it easy to see which classes she could teach
Page 228, Mary - a bold first line, and well-placed bullets, enhance readability
Page 258, Julia - two short columns, very easy to read
 
#4. What if I have several different job objectives--or I want a more
generic resume I could use for all kinds of jobs?
 
General guideline: It is much more effective to use several different targeted resumes than one "generic" resume to cover a range of job possibilities. Exception: When there is considerable functional overlap among two or three different jobs you are pursuing, then you can mention the two or three objectives on ONE resume. But keep it brief, using actual job titles rather than rambling descriptions.
 
Here are examples (in The Resume Catalog) of two different targeted resumes for the same person:
Page 34, Carol - personnel analyst
Page 135, Carol - program development, elderly
Page 154, Richard - EMT Supervisor (EMT = Emergency Medical Technician)
Page 242, Richard - fire fighter, entry level

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#5. How do I know what skill areas to put on my resume?
 
General guideline: The skills you need to document on your resume are those most relevant to your stated job objective, and you can find out what they are in several ways:
-- by carefully reading the classified ad for the job;
-- by reading the employer's official job description;
-- or (best of all) by doing a little "informational interviewing," which is simply talking directly with someone who already works in a similar job.
Page 232, Margaret - good results of informational interviewing
 
#6. What if I have hardly any paid experience?
 
Look at these resumes (in The Resume Catalog) for ideas and solutions to this problem:
Page 126, Sarah - expands fully on the experience she DOES have
Page 130, Hannah - volunteer experience given highest priority
Page 42, Bill - taxi driver with volunteer experience
Page 201, Brian - lists all the coursework recently completed
Page 219, Vicki - describes her class projects in detail
Page 224, Andrew - emphasizes his recent internship and volunteer work
Page 257, Matthew - does a lemonade stand count?

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#7. What can I do about gaps in my work history?
 
General guideline: Make a POSITIVE, unapologetic statement about what you WERE doing.
 
Look at these resumes (in The Resume Catalog) for ideas and solutions to this problem:
Page 18, Molly - home management
Page 48, Stephen - grad student
Page 89, Claudia - maternity leave and family management
Page 99, Lydia - full-time parenting and graduate student
Page 152, Patricia - family management
Page 159, Carole - family/maternity leave
Page 164, Cynthia - avoids a gap while job-hunting
Page 175, Joanne - travel and full-time student
 
#8. What do I do with my scrambled-up work record?
 
Look at these resumes (in The Resume Catalog) for ideas and solutions to this problem:
Page 15, Helen - job progress is made clear
Page 22, Marla - explains the nature of the business where it's not obvious
Page 87, Mack - reverses the usual chronology to change the emphasis
Page 158, Carole - strategic formatting makes it clear
Page 167, Fran - consistency in layout makes for clarity
Page 190, Judy - a good compromise, where a lot of explaining is needed
Page 229, Mary - free-lance jobs presented in a compact paragraph
Page 230, Carolyn - creative layout makes it seem less confusing
 
#9. How do I get rid of the "job-hopper" look on my resume?
 
Look at these resumes (in The Resume Catalog) for ideas and solutions to this problem:
Page 72, Anthony - lumps temp jobs together
Page 81, Stephen - combines two short-term jobs
Page 87, Mack - odd jobs while seeking full-time employment

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#10. What if my old job title understated my actual level of responsibility? Or didn't indicate what I really did?
 
If (for example) you were called "Administrative Assistant" or "Secretary" but in fact you had Office Manager responsibilities, then you could describe yourself fairly and accurately as "Office Manager."
(IMPORTANT NOTE: Remember, if the job was in the recent past and you intend to use your old boss as a reference, you will need to graciously let him know what you're doing and why, so he can back you up on this.)
 
Another example: In some major universities and government jobs, hundreds of people all have the same job title ("Senior Clerk," "Administrative Assistant," "Program Assistant"), which is actually a PAYROLL title. On the resume, it helps to add a job-descriptive title along side it. (Student Academic Advisor/Principal Clerk)
 
#11. What if I don't have a degree (or it isn't relevant) but I did take some classes?
 
Look at these resumes (in The Resume Catalog) for ideas and solutions to this problem:
Page 36, Margaret - mentions 112 college units
Page 45, Mary - shifts emphasis from her degree to her on-the-job training
Page 78, Joy - spells out her recent business training

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#12. What if I don't quite have my degree or credentials yet?
 
In the EDUCATION section, you could say:
B.A. due April 1997, Accounting – Golden Gate University
or
M.A. candidate, Career Development, JFK University (anticipated 6/97)
 
In the SUMMARY section, you could say:
Graduate degree in Career Development pending at JFK University.
or
B.A . in Anthropology; elementary teaching credential pending.
 
Look at these resumes (in The Resume Catalog) for more ideas and solutions to this problem:
Page 94, Lynne - listing the academic major, where there's no degree
Page 117, Fereshteh - eligible for equivalent U.S. credentials
Page 165, Elizabeth - Graduate studies in expressive arts, in progress
Page 201, Brian - degree anticipated soon
Page 262, Rachel - B.A. in progress

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#13. How do I show part-time jobs while I was in school?
 
Look at these resumes (in The Resume Catalog) for ideas and solutions to this problem:
Page 73, Anthony - shows that his work history is concurrent with schooling
Page 77, Estelle - uses "summer or "weekends" to explain
Page 81, Stephen - helped his father in the summer
Page 258, Julia - fourteen-year-old has lots of ambition
Page 259, Charlie - golf caddie and handyman
Page 260, Karen - summer internships
Page 261, Valerie - summer volunteer job
 
#14. a) How can I avoid age discrimination, with a 30-year work history?
b) And what if they say my MA or Ph D makes me "overqualified" for the job?
 
a) General guideline about AGE: Don't set yourself up for age discrimination. In both the Work History and Summary sections of your resume, you don't HAVE to mention ALL of your work history. You can go back only as far as necessary (say 10-15 years) to document a substantial--but not TOO substantial--record of employment.
 
For example, even though you may actually have 30 years of experience as a teacher, it is ALSO honest--and may serve you better--to say in the SUMMARY section:
Fifteen years experience in public school teaching.
or
Over 15 years experience in public school teaching.
 
Call your "Work History" section "Relevant Work History" or "Recent Work History."
This tactic has been used on a number of the resumes in THE RESUME CATALOG.
 
Eventually (at the job interview) you may have to deal with age discrimination, but at least you'll have a chance to get your foot in the door FIRST.
 
b) General guideline about EDUCATION: Don't scare employers off with excess credentials. In both the Education and Summary sections, you don't HAVE to list ALL your education and credentials. If you WANT or NEED a job for which you might appear over-qualified, list ONLY the level of education that's appropriate and expected for THAT position -- and save your Ph D for a future resume when you apply for a higher level position.
In this case, head up your "Education" section with the term "Relevant Education" to justify the omission if you're ever questioned about it.

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#15. What if I stayed with one employer for a very long time?
 
Look at these resumes (in The Resume Catalog) for ideas on how to present lengthy experience:
Page 15, Helen - shows advancement in her field while staying with one employer
Page 90, David - lists each position at one place, showing range of job titles
Page 172, Betsy - shows variety and responsibility
Page 230, Carolyn - focuses on advancement in the job
 
#16. What about outdated experience from jobs I held many years ago?
 
Look at these resumes (in The Resume Catalog) for ideas and solutions to this problem:
Page 113, Tudy - prior years: variety of positions
Page 197, Vreny - plus earlier store management in Switzerland

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#17. What can I do about an embarrassing job in my work record?
 
General guideline: Don't put things on your resume that could undermine your desired image.
 
For example:
Dolores was embarrassed at the name of her old workplace, "Uncle Bunnie's Incredible Edible," considering her relatively dignified current objective. But the experience was too important to omit, so we took liberties and changed the name of the workplace to "U.B.I.E. Restaurant," like so:
1985 Night Manager U.B.I.E. RESTAURANT, Rockridge CA
 
Another example:
Page 187, Jerry - "Truck Driver" job title changed to "Transportation."
 
#18. What if my last workplace has a confusing name?
 
General guideline: Since the names of some businesses give no clue to what they are about, merely listing them in your Work History doesn't give the reader enough information -- you need to add a few words of explanation.
 
These resumes (in The Resume Catalog) illustrate ideas and solutions for this problem:
Page 29, Rita - Seventy-Seven, Inc. = Hawaii real estate development
Page 68, Gelia - Shoreline Shipping, Inc. = international cargo shippers
Page 205, Rebecca - Bay City Unique Creations = private label design firm

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#19. What about androgynous names that aren't clearly male or female?
 
General guideline: Don't leave people in doubt. Even though it may be irrelevant to the job, readers are uneasy when they can't tell from your name whether you're a man or a woman.
 
Adding your middle name, or a Mr. or Ms. prefix, could solve this problem. See:
Page 186, Hollis - adds her middle name, "Ann"
Page 96, YonSoon - adds "Ms." prefix
 
#20. What's a good way to list technical skills or special knowledge?
 
Look at these resumes (in The Resume Catalog) for layout ideas to present special skills:
Page 22, Anthony - coursework
Page 87, Mack - accounting coursework
Page 104, John - lab skills
Page 201, Brian - coursework and equipment
Page 209, Martha - video/film equipment
Page 232, Margaret - home maintenance tools and skills

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#21. How could I include a more personal statement about how I work?
 
Look at these resumes (in The Resume Catalog) for ways to include a personal touch on your resume:
Page 42, Bill - tell what he believes in
Page 151, Ken - describes his professional approach and techniques
Page 236, Sister Mary - makes clear what motivates her
 
#22. How do I translate my military background to civilian?
 
Look at these resumes (in The Resume Catalog) for ways to apply military experience to civilian jobs:
Page 8, Charmaine - Army management experience applied to nonprofits
Page 46, Mary - emphasizing management training in the Army
 
#23. How do foreign-born job hunters list their education and work history?
 
See these resumes (in The Resume Catalog) for ideas on listing education and employment outside the U.S.
Page 16, Hellmut - Germany
Page 86, Sonia - Guatemala
Page 95, YonSoon - Korea
Page 103, Mark - Iran
Page 116, Christiane - Germany
Page 117, Fereshteh - Iran
Page 118, Sharon - France
Page 197, Vreny - Switzerland

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#24. How can I adapt my resume so it's clear that I'm promoting my professional or CONSULTING services-not looking for a job?
 
See the resumes (in The Resume Catalog) of these people who are seeking a professional affiliation, rather than employee status:
Page 12, Diane - health care management
Page 24, Carole - medical / nursing
Page 100, Rochelle - PC support specialist
Page 110, Nicholas - educational program development
Page 120, Elizabeth - educational program development
Page 151, Ken - body therapist
Page 152, Patricia - stress reduction and biofeedback
Page 228, Mary - free-lance writer/editor
Page 246, Donald - private investigator
 
#25. How can I make a snazzy looking resume
when I only have a standard word processor?
 
Look at these resumes (in The Resume Catalog) for ideas on attractive designs requiring only Microsoft Word and one or two fonts:
Page 15, Helen - horizontal lines and dingbats add appeal
Page 50, Christine - gray-shaded decorative bars for elegance
Page 68, Gelia - another variation of line-and-dingbat design
Page 106, Patricia - two fonts (Souvenir and Zapf Dingbats) plus a little shading
Page 161, Tracy - a design from "Ready-to-Go Resumes" software by Yana
Page 183, Denise - another "Ready-to-Go Resumes" design
Page 185, Ellen - a variation on the gray-shaded bar design
Page 218, Lynne - another elegantly simple design by Ron Weisberg
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