Resume Help/how to proceed


QUESTION: Hello Mr. Converse. I have a question for you if you are able.

I am currently job hunting after being a stay at home mom for 8 yrs. My last job lasted almost 5 yrs and I worked in a well known and reputable factory in my area. I really enjoyed that job. I like staying busy and it suited me well. I have applied for only factory jobs thinking it wil be easy to obtain employment due to where I worked before and the length of time. I'm finding that's not the case. I have so far just filled out job applications. So I have now updated my resume which hasn't changed job wise due to being a stay at home mom for so long but I did updated the 3 references I have listed. I know that's important to make sure the addresses and phone numbers are current.  I am not entirely sure if I need to write a cover letter tho nor am I sure about when its necessary and when its not not. But filling out job apps in my field and calling and leaving polite follow ups calls isn't getting me anywhere. So I'm thinking I need to step it up a bit to get their attention. I used to have really good manual dexterity which I've always been good with my hands and I'm a good worker, very meticulous and I honestly don't know where to incorporate that in my job applications. So. my.question do you is what should my next step be? I plan on applying for another job this week and and I want to make sure it has an impact this time. I welcome any insight if you are able to adcise based on what I've told you. Thank you for your time.


ANSWER: Hello Jaime,

There is a lot incorporated in your situation, so I'll do my best to address all your concerns.

First, let me be clear on the most difficult problem you face.  Your narrative doesn't indicate that you are aware of this, so it may come as a bit of a shock.  The main difficulty you are facing is that, in the present jobs climate, a large percentage of employers are not even considering applicants who have been out of the work force for six months or more.  And you've been out for eight years.  Perhaps in more robust economic times your length of service of five years previously might be enough to at least get you considered, but that is no longer the case.  The reason is that there are, of course, a lot of highly qualified individuals looking for work so the employers can be relatively picky.  But the larger issue for employers is that they view persons out of the work force for several years as being "not up to date" in terms of technology or a changing marketplace.  In other words, what might have been true in your line of work eight years ago, is likely not true today.  And employers view that as a large liability, particularly when there are workers applying who have been on the job much more recently and are, therefore, likely to be current with today's trends and techniques.

Second, the way you worded your history sounds as if you have not updated your resume except for references.  It is good that your reference information is current, but you need to understand what the purpose of a resume and cover letter is in the job market today.  Since you also asked about a cover letter, let me reference both here.  The purpose of both documents is quite simple though very few job applicants actually realize what they are supposed to do.  Your job with both documents is to demonstrate why you are the best candidate by responding to each job announcement individually according to the needs described in that announcement by the employer.  For example, the job announcement might list, as one of the desirable characteristics, that the successful applicant should "possess qualities of leadership."  Most job applicants might respond (if they do at all) by stating some vague unverified assertion such as "my friends tell me I have good leadership qualities" or something similar.  Contrast that with a person who states that "I led a quality-assurance team for my previous employer which Identified areas of quality control that could contribute to company profitability."  Which response do you think would be more impressive?  Right.  That's what you have to do ... and you have to do it for every one of the minimum and desirable qualifications listed in the company job announcement.  In the resume, each must be done in a 4-6 word bulleted item.  In the cover letter, you can be more expansive with your description, but don't make the common mistake of writing paragraphs in the resume.  That's not what it's for.  

Also, don't make the common mistake of sending out the same resume/cover letter to everyone.  Yes, you are the same person.  But every job and every employer has its own requirements.  It is your duty to match your qualifications to each individual job.  So, that means you have a resume rewrite to do for every application.  Ditto for the cover letter.

The reason what you are doing isn't working is that every other applicant is doing the same thing.  And they have likely been actively employed more recently than you have.  What you MUST do to even get an interview, is to set yourself apart from the other applicants.  In fact, this is so important that I used it as a subtitle to both of my books: "The Art Of Setting Yourself Apart From The Other 300 People Who Want The Same Job You Do."  If you don't do this, you're just another person in the pile.  And you can't get hired that way.

Your "manual dexterity" and your "very meticulous" nature do not go in the resume.  It needs to be worked into the narrative of your cover letter.  And it needs to be done in a way that demonstrates a benefit to the employer.  That's what all this is about ... how do you and your skills make you the ideal employee for any company.  How do you know what they want?  Do your research.  Find out what the company does, how they do it, what they need ... and then demonstrate in concrete terms how you can fill that need.

My company writes these sorts of documents for clients, but I'd be willing to review yours free of charge if you would like me to take a look at them.  Send them to me at rdconverse at gmail and put "Resume" in the subject line.  

Hope this is helpful to you ... best of luck!


---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Once again thank you for your input and honesty. I greatly appreciate it. I do have a question pertaining to your answer. You said to tailor my resume/cover letter to suit the prospective employer's needs by knowing what they are looking/advertising for. In the case that they don't advertise they are hiring, then what? As an example, my last employer never advertises and they never have. That doesn't mean they don't hire bc they on occasion do and I know they are currently hiring. I'm sure there are other places that do that as well. So then how would I need to write a resume suited to them?

Also, based on your answer above, even if I manage to create an outstanding resume that only solves one of the above issues. I was thinking about trying a temp agency so I would have current experience. As much as I don't want to due to the fact that they don't pay well and there is no security it may help get my foot in the door so to speak. I've already applied at one back in august and they never have any positions when I call....maybe due to your above reasons. But would I still need an exceptional resume for a temp agency as well??


Hi Jaime,

When an employer does not advertise open positions, it is normally because they know they will have many more apps than jobs available, so they don't have to advertise; they simply don't spend the money to do it.  In that instance, you still need to do your homework.  Research the company, find out everything you can about them.  My advice to attendees during my jobs workshops is that you should know more about the company than they know about themselves.  Products and services provided, history, important people, award/achievements, news articles and much more are all things you should know about a company before applying.  Then, depending on your specialization, you write your resume and cover letter with emphasis on the company's needs based on current activity and past history.  You describe your talents in terms of what this company has done and is currently doing.  Make your resume and letter stand out because it will be focused on the company's needs ... not your desire for employment.  Very few job applicants do this kind of research, so you will separate yourself from other applicants by virtue of the effort you demonstrate and the knowledge you have of the company.

Yes, you still need to have a great resume even if it is for a temp agency.  Everything you send out should be, in your words, "exceptional."  Think of it this way: to nearly all employers you are what you appear to be on paper (or through your electronic submission).  That may not be fair, but it's the way the system works.  You only exist through the documents you submit until an employer meets you face-to-face.  So providing "exceptional" documents is what will separate you from the pack.

I received your resume in my inbox this morning so I may have additional comments for you when I get back to you with my critique.  For now, I would say that going the temp route may be helpful to you just for you to get back into the job market.  I don't yet know what industry or business you are in or much about you, but after reading your res, I should be able to give you a bit more focused commentary.

Hope the above helps; best wishes!


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Ralph D. Converse, Ph.D.


I can answer questions about general job searches, resume construction, crafting an effective cover letter, and how to prepare for, and conduct, a winning interview. My speciality is the field of education, but I also have extensive background in business and administration. I know what works and what doesn't work and I can make your application package stand out from the rest ... because that is what you have to do.


I have interviewed for, and held, dozens of jobs in a career going back more than 42 years. I have taught at all educational levels including middle school, high school, community college, and university. In more than 42 years of experience on both sides of the job-search process, I have interviewed hundreds of applicants and have reviewed literally tens of thousands of job application packages. I am the author of 12 Mistakes That Got Your Job Application Rejected ... And How To Fix Them! I conduct workshops for job seekers in a variety of locations every year.

Music Educator's Journal, Teaching Music, Music and American Culture (forthcoming, 2013), Last Teacher Standing: The Job is Yours Now! and 12 Mistakes That Got Your Job Application Rejected ... And How To Fix Them!

B.A. New Mexico State University; M.Mus. Southern Illinois University; Ph.D. University of California and University of North Texas

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