3 Resume Questions We Hear All the Time

This week’s resume writing blog post will take on a mailbag format with questions from real job seekers.  Below I have listed out three questions related to resume writing that I received this week with my advice below each one.  We’ve noticed a lot of you have some great questions in the comments section so feel free to provide your own questions there at the bottom of the article.

Question:  Should I list every job I’ve held on my resume?

This question depends on your specific background.  We do not suggest that experienced candidates with over 20 years of experience list employers from beyond 20 years ago on their resume because doing so may “date” you and the resume may become too lengthy.  In some cases if you’ve transitioned jobs many times over a short period of time, it is also not advantageous to list each position.  If the job is not relevant to your intended target or was a short lived position (typically three months or less), it is in your best interest to leave it off the resume and avoid the stigma of being a “job hopper”.

Question:  Why did the Nexxt critique state that I should not use personal pronouns in my resume?

Different from your cover letter, a resume is traditionally a more formal and professional document that should not include personal pronouns like I, me, my, you, etc.  When evaluating resumes, we often come across candidates who describe their work experience in a more conversational tone on paper, which could be detrimental to your chances of landing an interview with employers.  The safest route is to write your resume without personal pronouns and leave that for your cover letter since it is less formal and a place for you to describe yourself in specific detail.

Question:  Should I have multiple versions of my resume?

Depending on your specific job targets, you may or may not need multiple versions of your resume.  We typically recommend that candidates tweak their career summaries, skills, and verbiage on their resume to match the specific job posting they are targeting.  Your work experience up to this point isn’t going to change, so look for transferrable skills related to your job targets that you have developed in your career and incorporate them in your resume.  If, however, you have two very different job targets with varying experience for each target, then it may be advantageous to have two resumes that highlight and emphasizes specific experiences over others.

I hope you enjoyed the first edition of our “Resume Mailbag”.  Comment below with any other general questions or topics you would like covered!

27 comments

  1. I feel the information help , cause were things I was thinking of when looking over my résumé that are told in this web. Page thank you!

  2. I was told by one Emploment Specialist not to list my exact amount of years at job (27 years) cause that would “date” me while another said I earned those years of service so to be glad to state it. I’m confused-wouldn’t not putting exact years of service be being dishonest? What if I put a different amount of years of service than the person verifying my employment states, doesn’t that make me look like I’m less than truthful? If I’m trying to hide my age they get date of birth anyway from ID, transcripts, etc. what should I actually do?
    Anna, VA

  3. I was also told to go back just 10 years of employment on the resume.I also took this to be dishonest and hiding something by not putting the real time, (17 years in my case).They told me that I could tell them the real time during the interview if asked.Seems to me that something like this would hurt me to get the job, not help me.Maybe not.I do understand why my local employment office says this to everyone though.It is so the employer will not discriminate against age.Everyone knows that this is illegal but most of the employers do it anyway.They are not stupid enough to tell anyone about it though.It is like speeding.Most people know that it is illegal to do,but they do it anyway and do not tell anyone.I just had an interview today and I made a custom made resume for the job.I made two.One with real dates of employment and one without.I asked the interviewer what one does he want and he first said the one without the dates then said the one with the dates.I gave him the one with the real dates.I will write back to let you know if I get the job.Not sure that this will hurt me too much since I only had two steady jobs in my past.One for 22 years in the military and the other at a large company for 17 years.Total of 39 years!

  4. My comment about age related issues. I have been looking for a job for a year and a half. I am a mental health counselor since 1997, my age is 76, I am not gray haired, nor do I act 76. I am friendly and competent, but there is age discrimination. Companies ask for your social security number, I had them ask for my age on a paper I filled out before the interview. Of course I don’t get the job. I thought I would always be able to help people, not so, younger people will not hire you. They think you are over the hill. I would love your comments, has it happended to you?

  5. It’s not only that they think you’re over the hill, it’s also that they think you’ll want too much money, and/or you won’t be as easy to push around as younger employees.

  6. I try and keep some specific dates off my resume, my age is 51. Don’t think of it as dishonest, rather as a smart strategic plan to landing a job. Age discrimination is a real problem as previously stated for multiple reasons such as salary and knowledge. I recently was turned down for a position at a local state hospital. I can assure you it was age discrimination. I had been working for them for over a year as a part-time, per-diem staff. The state required salaries based on post master’s experience. I filed a grievance with the EEOC and of course they found that it was not based on age discrimination. This is despite ten younger individuals being hired by this particular hospital. They can pay younger employees less and mold them as they please. It’s great for the young and horrible for older workers.

  7. Yes. I think that people over 50 have a harder time getting a job But they also make very good employees they hardly ever miss work and they are willing to work on the weekends and they don’t have to be out because of a sick child at home. Yes they deserve a little bit more money but they are well worth it. I do think that young managers will not hire older people young manager might have a degree to manage but they do not have the experience to know what is really really good for a company. I think that a company should have employees of different ages,
    ers will not hire an older person, They do not realize that this older person needs to make money to make a living just like a y oung person does,t think that the public really respects a business that has diversity in ages

  8. Can nobody keepca job longer than,five years thats looking on this site maybe your problem is that you need to jus be happy with what you have instead of looking for another job

  9. There is a lot of age discrimination out there. I am 57 and have excelled in my field. I was given a generous 1-year notice of lay offs from my company (thank you, ACA). I figured that was no problem, in one year I would shop around and land a fabulous position. Well, the year is over, and after numerous interviews where I was told that they were looking for someone with “less experience” I still have not landed a fabulous position or any position. I am willing to work for a lower-level position and accept a lower salary, I work hard and never miss time, my health is great and I work circles around younger colleagues, but every door slams in my face. When they do hire for each job it is always someone 15 or 20 years younger. There are fewer jobs out there and a definite age-bias.

  10. it is so much interesting and will continue to learn more about quality resume and cover letter.
    i follow online your lectures.
    thank you Beyond.com
    Michael Juach
    currently Logistics officer
    and dreaming for future proffessionalism in business & international relations

  11. Comments are valuable and encouraging in the since of being smart with my money. It’s imperative that our money works for us to replace income so that we own our lives and work if we please. This type of educational choices should be exposed in our school systems. Unfortunately, money and relationship skills are not taught but these areas are tormenting our culture.

  12. I have always used the same resume – just tailored to the position I was applying for. I quit a really good job last year because I felt what the owner and his cousin were doing was unethical. I looked for jobs and sent out resumes and went in for interviews – but didn’t get even and nibbles – been working since I was 12! and now I am 62!
    Anyways, a position was advertised for a full-charge bookkeeper/office manager. I applied and was hired and everyone on both sides is extremely happy. They asked me in the interview what I would look for in an employee, since they had about 200 and everyone had different personalities. I didn’t hesitate to state that “honesty and loyalty” were the most important traits I would look for. I think that was what got me the job – the previous bookkeeper of 21 years had embezzled over $527,000!!! I was also told I was hired because of my experience, that none of the other applicants had the experience (50 years) of doing what I do best. I am happy here trying to keep current and redo 2013 since it is obvious now that she really had no idea what she was doing (except stealing money). So, sometimes you DO get hired for having the years of experience – I feel I just lucked out on this job. The other
    ones I interviewed for, I felt they wanted a younger person.

  13. It is correct that most nursing programs never address the money issue importance. Developing good relationship skills with all around a nurse is vital as well as mastering tender communication skills, as this makes or brakes a nurse. Nursing schools focus education to refine clinical skills, competitiveness, and presentation. The more you know and the faster you can comply with orders the more valuable you are to some administrators eyes. It is difficult not to loose your sensibility and caring touch and attributes when you become a robot. Most everything that surrounds you is superficial and material, and patients have value because they are the source of money, nurses are at the disposal of a third parties, sadly most employee are the slaves to meet someone else tall dream. These areas are truly harsh tormenting realities of our culture.

  14. I may respond that if a person is starting back to the workforce after retiring and obtaining a small part time job to supplement retirement income, then I would suggest producing a full life employment professional life resume. Then any potential employer can obtain personal work career talent they might need in hiring a retiree or disabled person in legal hiring requirements in hiring issues under FEDERAL laws.

  15. Just my 2 cents about age related issues:
    Companies have gotten VERY SNEAKY about how they get this information. How? Have you ever been asked what YEAR you graduated HIGH SCHOOL? That’s how. When asked this question, I never give the correct year. Why? Because, after HS graduation, I worked for several years to build a little nest egg to attend college, and then joined the USAF for 4 years. Once I completed my enlistment period, I applied and attended college. So, I simply interpolate back a number of years and give that as a grad date. OOPS, my bad… when/if they ask that question during an interview.

  16. Going along the lines of age….I have heard it’s not always a good idea to put college graduation dates because of this exact thing. Would you agree to skip this, if you can?
    Also, I am 45 years old and have a BS as well as an MBA. I was told by a recruiter of a large company to NOT list my MBA unless a position specifically wants a masters or MBA. I would consider this dishonest, especially when it asks for the highest level you have attained. It will come up in a background check and it seems dishonest. I also worked too doggone hard to get it.
    One other question: all these companies have EEOC forms you have to fill out. I know they have the ‘wish to decline’ option and they ‘say’ it has no influence on a hiring decision, HOWEVER…is this true? Does anyone have any experience with this?

  17. Age discrimination is alive and well. Some places ask for your birthdate and SS number for a background check. Actually they should wait until they offer you the job & you accept to get this info as they are not supposed to get a drug test just because they interview you.

  18. For individuals who have more years in the business or industry world, your best bet, from what I’ve been told, is 10 years max. If you’ve been with one company for 20 years, fine, list it and maybe a couple of jobs you had previously. You want to make sure the hiring party understands your skill set, not how many jobs you’ve taken on in your career. For me, I only list the jobs I’ve had since I started college. Everything before that, while valuable experience, is really irrelevant to my career aspirations today. I was in college for 8 years so I add jobs I had while in college, as well. This shows a proven track record of gained experience and disparate fields. Still not having a lot of luck getting a job, but I’ve been receiving calls for interviews.

  19. In regard to age questions prior to hire, it is ILLEGAL for companies to ask your age prior to hiring you. The only exception for this would be to ensure you’re over the age of 18, or if there is a BFOQ (Bona Fide Occupational Qualification) for an applicant to be within a certain age range.

  20. Referring back to the age issue and potential employers asking for your social security number would it make sense to write ‘furnished upon offer of employment’
    If ask why, couldn’t we say we are concerned (not worried) about theft, other personally identifible information falling in wrong hands and back it up with times when a SS# should be provided as in for the purposes of paying into Social services system? Its a lazy and sneaky way for an employer to learn about us and we should proceed with caution.

  21. Your resume is YOUR advertising material describing YOUR product with a limited amount of space … you should have no qualms about highlighting the aspects of your product that you think will appeal to the target audience of possible purchasers of your product, and omitting any details that don’t.
    But then you need to flip it, and look at your advertising material from the other side. Did you establish that you have the required skills and experience? Do you leave any obvious questions unanswered? Are there red-flags that would get your resume pitched into the trash can?
    A sterile vanilla resume doesn’t stand out from 200 other sterile vanilla resumes. If you let some of your personality shine through, that could cause some people to reject you. Of course, mathematically the odds are they were going to do that anyway. But it only takes one hiring manager to think “This person might be good/fun to work with” to lift you above the vast sea of vanilla resumes from vanilla candidates.

  22. So how do I handle a mid-life career change on a resume? I have spent 27 years working in insurance and now I am in culinary school and want a job in the hospitality industry working with food. However I’ve only completed one semester of culinary school so I don’t have a lot of commercial food experience. While getting a job in the food industry is not hard, it seems like people see the job history on my resume and automatically toss it because it is so far removed from what they are looking for. I would avoid a resume altogether but most of the places I want to work require one. What to do??

  23. We appreciate all the insightful comments and feedback on individual experiences relating to my post! Many of the questions have mentioned experiences with age discrimination and possible strategies to listing older work experience on your resume. I have had two previous posts that may be helpful for you to review: the first includes some general strategies to combat the perception of age discrimination and the second gives some information about crafting a functional resume rather than a chronological resume. To view the age discrimination post, please visit this link: http://www.theconfidentcareer.com/2013/12/video-combat-age-discrimination-with-these-resume-tweaks.html. To learn more about how a functional resume can help, please visit this link: http://www.theconfidentcareer.com/2014/04/tailoring-your-resume-for-a-career-change.html. One thing to remember when crafting your resume is that it is not always necessary to include dates for your education or for older work experiences. The goal of this document is to help open doors for you to interviews or networking opportunities. Sure, once you land the interview they will likely learn more specifics about your background and lengthy years of experience, but it is much easier to sell yourself in person than on paper. Finally, from our experience, our recommendation is to not sell yourself short on your resume regardless of the position you are targeting. So if you have an MBA or some other degree, certainly list it on the document – you never know what deciding factor could move you from the “No” pile to the “Yes” file. If you craft your resume the right way, you’ll land more interviews and give yourself more opportunities to succeed!

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