Dear Sam:

I am seeking a job as an Accounting/Operations Manager. Half of my

experience (aside from education) comes from running a family-owned

(i.e., my husband is the President) business. I've been meeting with

recruiters and submitting my résumé for consideration online for

certain opportunities, without much luck. Could working for a family

business affect my ability to get a job? How do I overcome this

challenge? - Elena

Dear Elena: Absolutely,

often presenting experience with a family business is immediately

discredited as it is assumed you did not have to do too much to get the

job nor keep it. It is so unfortunate that this can be the assumption,

or that other inaccurate assumptions are made, because having worked

for a family-owned business?growing up?and now as a business owner

myself, I know how hard you must have worked and the value you gained

in being given the opportunity to wear multiple hats during your tenure.


overcome this, you need to present your experience in the same way as

you would any other professional experience. If it is difficult to hide

the fact that this is a family business (i.e., if the business has your

last name in it), then I would pull out highlights of your career and

place them in their own section before presenting the employer’s name,

your title, and the remainder of your professional experience section.

If the company name will not immediately be seen as a family business,

then you could present a more traditional reverse-chronological résumé.

The point would be not to showcase that you worked for a family

business, so as to avoid the reader discounting the experience.


mentioned presenting this experience in the same manner as any other

professional position, as I see a lot of résumés from candidates who

really dilute their experience which occurred in a family business.

Another fault I see often is candidates who try to communicate too much

about the diversity of their experiences, positioning themselves as a

jack of all trades and a master of none. Just be careful to present

select aspects of your background (i.e., those operations- and

accounting-related) that are going to market you well for your current

career objective. Best of luck to you!

Dear Sam:

I read your column every week and need some assistance. I have had to

leave a position involuntarily and I am not sure how to handle this in

my résumé as well as the interview. I have 30+ years of professional

experience, so you can imagine that this came as a shock. I am a

self-starter, motivated to do a good job, and educated. Everyone who

knows me is in shock. So, I am on a new path for a career change and

looking faithfully every day for a new opportunity! I need some

suggestions on how to handle this. – LK

Dear LK:

I'm sorry to hear that you were let go from your position. As you

haven't had to look for a job in some time, I am sure this is a

difficult situation. Let's first address the résumé. There is no reason

to include the reason for leaving a position on a résumé, so really

that is not a concern. You can, however, utilize certain strategies

within your résumé to curb some of the negativity hiring managers may

feel when they hear that you were let go involuntarily.

As you

have 30+ years of experience, I am assuming that you had many good

performance evaluations. If so, pull out quotes from some of them to

include at the top of your résumé. This will be great reinforcement

when you tell the hiring manager that your separation came as a shock.

If you don't have access to these, try to have a former peer or

supervisor write a recommendation letter from which you can pull out

quotes and also present at the interview. If you still have a good

relationship with your former manager, you could also ask for a letter

from him/her attesting to your performance, only if you feel doing so

would result in a positive reference.

Additionally, be sure that

you focus your résumé on your past accomplishments; doing so will

diminish the impact of an assumption that you were let go for

performance reasons. Also, include the promotions you have had over

your tenure to show that you were rewarded for a job well done.


you will need to formulate a response for the inevitable Why did you

leave your last employer? question. First, try to put aside your hurt

feelings, as hard as that can be at a time like this, as it is crucial

that you not portray any sort of anger or assignment of blame during an

interview. Instead, prepare a confident and honest response to the

question, ending on a positive note focusing on what the experience

taught you. Perhaps this could be related to affording you the

opportunity to assess what you want to do at this juncture in your

career, and seek a position where you are a match for the organization,

its culture, and your shared goals. All the best.

Dear Sam:

I am in a quandary and need some advice. I have more than 15 years of

experience in the human resources arena, look at hundreds of résumés

each week, and can't seem to create an effective résumé marketing MY

skills! As evaluating the effectiveness of a résumé is part of my daily

job, I find it frustrating and mildly amusing that I can't seem to

write my own. Also, as human resources people are going to be looking

at my résumé, I'm finding it difficult to figure out what to tell them

that they don't already know. How should I go about developing an

effective résumé as a seasoned HR manager? – Sonya

Dear Sonya:

Don't feel bad; I have heard the same comments time and time again from

the majority of my clients in the human resources field. Perhaps, as

you know so much about résumé writing and are trained to have a

critical eye when reviewing résumé content, it is difficult to have the

objectivity you need when creating your own masterpiece! In any case,

let’s go through some ways to create an effective résumé when you are

an HR professional.

As an experienced HR manager, you likely

have exposure to all generalist areas. Be sure that you use your

qualifications summary to highlight the breadth of your knowledge. I

find that using a paragraph summary of your most notable achievements

and experiences, followed by a bulleted list of noun phrases exploring

your generalist involvement, often works best for seasoned HR

professionals. This strategy allows you to focus on the factors in your

background that differentiate you from the competition, while still

incorporating all of the appropriate keywords.

Next, be sure to

highlight your professional affiliations and/or certifications. As you

know, the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) is the leading

professional organization for the industry, and highlighting membership

reinforces your commitment to continued professional development. If

you do have any of their certifications, such as the Professional in

Human Resources (PHR), Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR),

or Global Professional in Human Resources (GPHR), be sure they are

highlighted prominently, even adding the credentials after your name at

the top of your résumé. These coveted certifications play a key role in

differentiating you from other highly qualified candidates.


showcase your accomplishments, adding quantifiers to demonstrate the

level you have achieved within your career. There is a big difference

between being an HR Manager of a small company and being one for a

5,000-employee organization with multiple sites and a union presence.

If the quantifiers work for you, be sure you leverage these to further

differentiate yourself from others. I can't stress enough how the

accomplishments section will play a key role in your evaluation, so

take some time to review what you have done that was over and above

your general responsibilities as an HR Manager.

As you noted,

the reader of your résumé likely performs the same or similar functions

to what you have done in the past. Having said that, you certainly

don't need to go into extreme detail about everything you have ever

done within the generalist arena. Certainly make a note pertaining to

the areas that you have managed, but only go into detail when the

efforts in a specific area were out of the normal scope. For example,

you wouldn't need to tell the hiring manager that recruiting entailed

placing ads, screening résumés, reviewing competencies, and

interviewing candidates, as they are all too familiar with the

functions entailed within such a role. However, if the recruiting you

performed involved utilizing numerous channels, including job fairs,

temporary agencies, and recruiters, then you would likely want to note

this extensive level of involvement within the arena.


when you have developed your résumé, it might be helpful to have a peer

or friend read it over. You are going to be more critical than most

when it comes to finalizing your résumé, and you don't want that to

hinder getting your résumé out there working for you.