Years and years ago, shortly after college, I went to the local print shop and picked up a box of freshly minted résumés. Even though I only got 100 -- the minimum press run -- they were expensive, printed on buff, off-white paper with my name, address and contact information (a single phone number!) embossed in black at the top.
My education and employment career to that point were spelled out for all to see, in the hopes that some newspaper editor would be so impressed with my credentials -- a bachelor's degree in English, part-time night-time assistant manager of a shoe department -- that they'd hire me for a reporter position immediately. Even though I was just out of college, I somehow had acquired two single-spaced pages of experience with various companies in various capacities.
Once it was printed, there was no changing it; this document was going to determine my future.
Times have changed.
And then again, not so much.
In the ensuing decades an industry has developed to help people get jobs by crafting résumés for you. There are dozens of such services in our region, and there are many more that operate nationally online. They'll create a résumé for your specific industry -- IT/engineering, medical, federal, executive level -- pinpointing your strong suit so as to dazzle the potential employer with your accomplishments.
But before you spend hundreds of your hard-earned dollars paying someone to list your previous jobs, let's meet Tony Beshara, Ph.D.
"I don't want to cut the résumé writers out, but there's no reason to pay someone to write it for you," he says.
Beshara is president of Dallas' Babich & Associates, Texas' oldest placement and recruiting firm, according to Beshara. He's also the host of the weekday The Job Search Solution program heard at 7:30 a.m. on radio station 1160/KVCE AM; the name of his show is also the name of his book. He has another book, Unbeatable Résumés: America's Top Recruiter Reveals What REALLY Gets You Hired.
He hasn't needed a résumé of his own for a long time -- 38 years -- but he's on top of what's current when it comes to creating an effective résumé.
"What you want to do is state very simply where you worked, what you've done, how well you've done it and the success you've had," he says. "Put that in the very top of your résumé in terms that a high school senior could understand."
A single page, a page and a half, not more than two pages, max.
"The mistake that people make is they write down names of companies as though everybody in the world knows what they do, and they don't; you need to state very clearly who you worked for, what the company did and how well you performed doing it. It's that simple."
There are more involved résumés, known as curriculum vitae or CVs, that take a narrative form rather than a structured list. Those can go much longer than two pages and go into specific detail, but "those are really more in the academic and scientific circles," Beshara says. "Those people in those businesses know which they ought to be doing, a résumé or a CV. They're in a totally different ballgame than most of us in business."
Unlike my first résumé -- sent via snail mail to prospective employers (because there was no other choice) -- résumés today are most likely transmitted electronically as an attachment to an e-mail. That affords an opportunity to tailor your résumé because you can easily make new versions specific to a job.
"Yes, [you should] have targeted résumés," Beshara says. "Address what you've done before but target specifically to a specific type of job.
"For instance, there are some salespeople who do as much account management as they do hunting for new prospects; they may run into a job where the emphasis is on account management so they would emphasize their building on accounts and increasing the sales to the accounts that already exist, where in another situation they may emphasize their ability to pick up the phone and do a lot of cold calling and prospecting."
And now get ready for a cold bucket of reality: "You've got to remember your résumé isn't going to get you hired," Beshara says. "Your résumé is just supposed to get you an interview.
"Your résumé indicates what I've done for others, here's what I can do for you, interview me.
"Most people spend way too much time and effort preparing the résumé because it's something they can control and they think it's going to get them a job, and it's not, and they have way, way more faith in it that it's going to get them a job than it does in reality."
Did we really need to know this?
"Sixty percent of the time résumés are not even read by the person whose doing the hiring. They get read by somebody who really doesn't know that much about the job or they go into a black hole somewhere."
That would be the company's Human Resources Department. "The Hiring Roadblock Department, I call it," he says. He's not laughing.
And as for applying online, "My personal opinion, if you have to apply online to some online thing, you're wasting your time, it's a black hole."
More effective, he says, "and this is going to irritate a lot of people, but the way you do it, you pick up the phone. If you are an accountant and they're looking for an accountant, call their comptroller. You say, 'Hi, I'm an accountant, and I understand you're looking for an accountant. I'm an excellent guy, I've got 10 years of experience, I have excellent skills and a tremendous track record. My company's been sold. I'd like to come see you tomorrow -- would that be good?' "
Beshara makes it sound easy. "I didn't say it's easy. It's simple, not easy. Real simple."
The personal touch is effective because most of America is not employed by Big Business, with thousands of employees and layers of employment bureaucracy.
"There are 7.5 million businesses in the United States," he says. "The average business has 60 employees. Ninety-eight percent of businesses have less than 500 people; 99 percent have less than 100."