Dear Sam: I am struggling to get any attention or response to my current résumé. People look at my résumé and see that I have never held the specific job title I'm applying for, whether it is administrative assistant or receptionist. Although I've never held these titles, it is everything that I have been doing at my current job (plus my actual position) for the past 5 years. I also feel that the personality that people love from me isn't shining through my résumé either. I've tried numerous different attempts to get some sort of response and am at a complete loss at this point as to what to do. Is it okay to list my job title as an administrative assistant or receptionist? - Desperate

Dear Desperate: Thanks for attaching your résumé so I could see what you are submitting to prospective employers. In less than two seconds, I could see several issues with your résumé. Let me take you through what employers will see/think when they look at your résumé: (1) Uninteresting and non-differentiating design - You used a very common Microsoft Word résumé template, so you will immediately look like many others who applied for the same job. Incidentally, I use this same template when facilitating seminars, to show how you should not design your résumé. (2) You have a major typo in the first line of your résumé - did you know that 23% of hiring managers discard a résumé with one typo? If claiming HIPAA knowledge you should spell the acronym correctly; it's not HIPPA, even though I know it sounds like it should be. (3) Poor prioritization of duties - You open with your photographer/customer service role and immediately present a bullet point about resolving customer service complaints. This will make the reader wonder how well you did your job if you spent this much time resolving complaints, especially when it seems you are the one with direct customer contact. (4) Too many short-terms jobs - You have presented two jobs that you held for just a few months, when instead you could completely omit these short-term jobs-presenting only years of employment so not to show gaps-and focus on your customer service experience in a consistent retail setting. You could title this section Related Professional Experience to ensure the strategy is not looked at as misleading. This would bring alignment and fluidity to your résumé. (5) Vacant content - Let me ask you, if you have provided no explanation of what you did for a given employer, how do you expect a prospective employer to see the value in that experience? Don't put something on your résumé and then not explain anything about it!

Literally, these are the errors I saw in a very brief review of your résumé, and ones prospective hiring managers also will see. I urge you to revamp your résumé using today's standards. You don't need to resort to changing your titles to something that isn't accurate; you just need to do a much better job translating your experiences into the language that will attract your target audience. Check out books at the library or samples on my website ( for ideas on how to do this. You can absolutely have a fantastic résumé speaking to your administrative skill set; you just need to be more strategic about developing a great résumé.

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 (during my teenage years) 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.

To 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.

I 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!