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Is Your Resume Hot? Or a HOT mess?

I am so excited to have Vanessa Nieman, my dear friend, and fellow EA Advocate, join us as a guest blogger! When I met Vanessa in 2019 we immediately clicked and I have had the pleasure of watching her grow and expand in her career. She has so much to say to the Administrative community and I am over the moon that I can share her first article with you. If you haven't done so yet, follow her on LinkedIn! You are welcome!



I very recently made the decision to leave a role without another one lined up. [Reasons for doing so will be explored in future articles - stay tuned!] Being a 'doer' who takes great pride in my work as an administrative professional, with very few gaps in my work history, you can imagine what life has been like for me since making that leap.

After giving notice, and thinking now that it wasn't perhaps the best time for clarity or objectivity, I dusted off my resume, added my now former role, and began applying to likely-sounding prospects. Bear in mind, I had been recruited or referred into my past couple of roles, so my resume hadn't been top of mind for a while. And boy was this a huge mistake on my part! Initially, I did receive a few responses, asking me to provide video-pre-screens [not my favorite thing to do, I'm discovering] or to participate in phone pre-screens, which I giddily did, with zero results. I was most likely drafting on the fumes of my copiously-listed work experience and then dying at the gate [pardon any mixed metaphors, they are kind of a thing with me].

After this blow to my professional ego, as I mentioned, the response was zero, crickets. But then, at the end of that first week, I received a call, seemingly from the job search Universe. The gentleman on the call introduced himself as a consultant with a well-known local staffing agency who had reviewed the resume I had uploaded to the organization's website. He asked me if I was open to hearing his recommendations on how to tighten the resume up so it would be more effective and attract more response. At first blush, my pride flared up and my internal Vanessa started to craft a sassy retort to the gentleman about the awesomeness of my resume, yada yada. External Vanessa quickly squashed that response, swallowed her pride and agreed to listen to the caller's advice. That advice, and my side-bar commentary are as follows. For those of you out there in Job Search Land who are waaay more savvy than I am, your resumes may already reflect these tips and more power to you. When I applied these suggestions to my own hot little mess of a rezzie, I started receiving better results [read on for that info].

Tips for crafting a resume that will yield results

Lose the nostalgia - If you have more than 10 years of experience, Yay you, but don't put it all on your resume. Limit your job history to no more than the past 10 years. I have a lot of experience and I've always made sure to emphasize that, but now cringing that I may have been shooting myself in the foot.

Keep it short and sweet - Limit the long-winded objective or mission statement at the top of your resume to one clear sentence, or an 'elevator pitch,' as it was described to me. Below this, add short segments listing your skills and abilities, then your professional experience for the past 10 years, then your education and accolades, limiting the entire resume to no more than two pages total. Hiring brains will die past that point, regardless of how awesome your experience is.

Bracket your recurring functions - I came up with this idea on my own, after running it by my very intelligent adult son and my engineer, linear-brained husband. For most administrative professionals, the majority of our roles contain functions that recur, such as calendar management, expense reporting and travel arrangements. Event planning could also figure into that category. Instead of wasting valuable space listing and re-listing these items in the precious space meant for your professional history, I listed them in alpha order, with bullet separators, taking up no more than three lines total. I then added another two-line, bullet-separated segment directly below that, listing my technological proficiencies, or programs, platforms and apps that I had used across my experience, rather than listing them under each past role.

You did the things, but how did they help the organization? Very necessary advice and yet an 'A ha!' moment for me, was to not only list, in no more than two or three carefully worded bullet points, the stand-out, non-recurring projects or special highlights under each role, but also how those items tied back to organizational growth. As administrative professionals, we may not always be privy to the exact numerical outcome of our actions, but there are other ways of listing how your contribution added value. I wrote how my partnership in running a customer-facing event lead to further lead generation and eventual rise in revenue for the organization. General, but true and perhaps better than just saying that I helped lead a customer-facing event, period.

Be young at heart, but... Another key piece of advice that was a real 'duh' moment for me, and quite likely one of the key reasons why I wasn't receiving much of a response, was the thing that made me the most proud - my years of experience as an administrative professional. I was told that ageism is a real thing in the hiring world and to best avoid it, leave out anything that suggests your numerical age, such as '30 years' experience' or the year you earned your Bachelor of Arts degree. I touched on my experience instead, using terms such as 'extensive' or 'seasoned.' I didn't love kow-towing to the age haters, but I also need to work, and let's face it, I am nowhere near ready to retire!

One resume does not fit all - After this bit of advice, I discovered I had been doing 'lazy applying,' or dully firing off one standard resume for all roles I was considering, though a couple may have had a clear focus within different industries. Instead, and again my super-smart adult son backed this up, the 'modular' approach makes more sense, to initially craft a 'master resume' [again, no more than two pages, no longer than 10 years' experience] and then create modular, tailored resumes crafted towards each role being applied to, with carefully composed cover letters [no more than one page] to match. This approach can take up to an hour per application session, but the return on your time investment could be that next great role.

So, after reading all of the above [and thank you for doing so, since this is my first LinkedIn article!], you may be asking yourself, what has my return on this new, improved resume investment looked like? After completing the conversation with the angel advisor last Friday, and then spending a few necessary hours on the updated version, and then sending my new baby rezzie out into the hiring world earlier this week, I can report that as of EOB today, I have had several recruiters reach out to me with strong opportunities for either temp-to-perm or direct hire roles. I have also participated in several fruitful phone screens, and I have an onsite interview scheduled in the coming days.

My optimism took a hit in that first week after resigning, and I know employment Rome won't be built in a day [or two weeks even], but with this type of response to the new, improved resume, I had to share these bits of hard-earned wisdom out to those who may be window-shopping or actively job-searching, especially if you haven't done either in a few years. The hiring world changes quickly and I almost missed the boat, but thankfully for my angel advisor, I was able to correct my course and improve my chances, and I hope that sharing this advice helps someone else as well.

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Thank you for this. A visual of an example resume would be very helpful.


Vanessa Nieman
Vanessa Nieman
Feb 22, 2020

Thank you, dear Melissa, for sharing my article on your blog! I hope it helps others! 💞

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