Dear Sam: I am 63 years old and have been retired for 8 years. I retired from a Fortune 100 company with the idea of returning part-time, but unfortunately my daughter passed away and I became involved in helping to raise my granddaughter. I am now ready to return to work part-time and need help with updating my résumé. How do I handle the 8-year time gap on my résumé? Most of my career has been in administrative support with the last 15 years in sales and customer support. How do I condense a 40-year career into one page? I know I don't have the same computer skill set when I left work but I haven't lost being efficient, caring, and accurate. - Shirley
Dear Shirley: I'm so sorry to hear of your loss, how fortunate that you were able to step in and take care of your granddaughter. To get back to work on a part-time basis you would need to create a combination résumé. In a combination résumé you would open with your qualifications summary communicating the high points of your administrative and customer service experiences and skills, never mentioning your absence from the workplace or rusty technical skills. Next you would present a Career Highlights section where you would note key contributions and experiences from your career, possibly even organizing these bullet points by functional area (administrative support, customer communications, project coordination, process design, etc.). In the Professional Experience section that follows you would present your roles (about 10-15 years of work experience, not 40 years!) with key responsibilities. You would also include years of experience in this section, being sure to minimize the impact of the dates-and recent gap in employment-by not placing dates in a lot of white space on the page. By this I mean simply place dates next to other information and not right aligned like we do on so many résumés. Lastly, do not worry about fitting all of this information on one page. The one-page-rule is an old adage and does not need to be followed today. Instead, be sure the qualifications summary provides the information necessary to screen you in during the review process, leaving potential disqualifiers-gap in employment and amount of experience-to fall lower on the résumé or possibly to page two. If you follow this strategy you will develop a value-based résumé that promotes your qualifiers and minimizes your disqualifiers. Best to you and your family.
Dear Sam: I'm writing with a question regarding the follow-up process for a job application or résumé submission. I have always heard that follow-up correspondence is appropriate and contributes to the notion that you're eager and thorough. However, with technology now in the driver's seat of most application processes, I find that companies almost always say No phone calls or emails please. This lack of opportunity to follow up on your résumé, or even on the hiring process in general, makes the application process an extremely passive experience for the applicant. Do you have any suggestions for appropriate follow-up methods in lieu of this common standard of no contact? Or am I just at the mercy of the system? - Tony
Dear Tony: When a company requests that you not send emails or place a phone call then you can always submit a follow up letter with a second copy of your résumé via mail. To do this, create a second version of your cover letter stating that you are reiterating your interest in the opportunity. Use the letter to convey your related experiences, skills, and qualifications and how they align with the organization's needs. You will be one of the few candidates who send a follow up letter and résumé so despite not being able to follow up via phone or email, this may be what you need to differentiate you from the pack.
Dear Sam: I am an older job seeker with a cutting-edge résumé. What I need to know is whether it would be appropriate to include my credit score on my résumé. I heard that employers may check an applicant's credit history and, as I have a fairly good score, I thought placing it on my résumé may help my chances in this dire economy. - Mick
Dear Mick: You would never want to place your credit score on your résumé. If you feel compelled to communicate that your background and credit check results will be superb, perhaps place a brief reference to that toward the end of your cover letter. Instead, focus on developing a résumé that really markets your experiences, contributions, and skills in the best possible manner. You mentioned you had a cutting-edge résumé-and thank you for sending it so I could take a look-and I hate to say this but you really do not have a résumé that is marketing you appropriately. Specific areas necessitating improvement include removing the objective statement, trimming the half-page qualifications summary, focusing on accomplishments/contributions and not day-to-day responsibilities, and dramatically improving formatting to make your résumé a must read piece. I would suggest looking at recently written professional résumés-from books at the library or on websites like mine-to see what today's effective résumés look like. I'm certain you can transform your résumé into a cutting-edge presentation of your background, helping you get your foot in the door at which time you can communicate your solid background and credit references. Best of luck.