Education Career Services

March 24, 2010

A resume dilemma… one page or two?

If I asked a hundred recruiters, hiring managers, or people walking at a mall, they would all have slightly (some radically) different responses to the question: How many pages should a resume be?  To help un-muddy the waters, let me give you my take…

True enough, some questions do not have a clear-cut answer… this happens to be an example.  Being in the career management industry for decades and being a certified resume writer, a certified career coach, and a certified interview professional, there may be nothing more confusing than page length.  Way too many things to consider which would disallow a blanket answer.

Regarding length, things to consider include social and economic conditions, industry expectations, and position being sought as well as experience level / background / accomplishments and your goals.  All of these elements should be considered and a proper strategy based upon those elements is paramount to a successful campaign.

Times, technology, and attention levels have changed and so have the medium of information exchange.  As such, I disagree with traditional strategies proclaiming that a one-page resume is a mistake or that it automatically puts the candidate in a diminished capacity.  Heck, 8 years ago, the traditional long-winded approach was accepted… but not anymore.  Today, hiring managers are time-crunched and want to know YOUR value immediately… much like a 30-second commercial.

The foundation of my dissent comes from the top three career management associations in the country.  To summarize, The Career Management Alliance, The Professional Resume Writers Association, and The National Resume Writers Association advocate a single page resume over multiple pages.  I summarized a few of the reasons for your quick review:

     1) There is a 12-15 second reader attention (you have only seconds to attract the reader and define value immediately—not 2 or 3 pages down the road as the reader will never get past the first page).
     2) Resumes, under current standards, should not describe an employment history beyond 10 years (15 years is appropriate IF there is a direct correlation and benefit).
     3) Our sensate culture expects instant proof in the top third of the page. The remainder of the resume will confirm the top third; this is best represented with a single page document.
     4) Though not directly asked, the associations recommend the chronological resume format NOT to be used… I state this as many multiple page resumes use a chronological format (would just hate to see you fall into that trap).
     5) The top three associations recommend an assertive semi-functional format (leading into the single-page format). This strategy is finding a great deal of success for executives, students, and entry-level candidates.

The reasons above are not all-inclusive or exhaustive. But remember, there are no clear-cut ways as much depends upon external forces and changing expectations.  For example, if an industry, position, or client is best served with a two-page resume, go that route; if you are unsure about what is best for your situation, make a comment here or contact me directly. I will be glad to throw in my two cents.

A final word of warning (not to confuse you more than I all ready have): there is no one right way but there are many wrong ways.

Danny Huffman, MA, CEIP, CPCC, CPRW
Owner, Author, Publisher
Career Services International
Education Career Services
407-206-5883 (direct line)
866-794-3337 ext 110


February 5, 2010

Super Bowl at what career cost?

Career management is not always about finding jobs, it’s also about examining potential factors causing unemployment and/or economic difficulties.  With this said, what gives with the topic?  Surely the game is about getting the gang together, having fun, and doing what our great ancestors (going all the way back to the land time forgot) did as they beat their chests after tackling a wild hog and NOT about spending a ridiculous amount of money without thought of who is really paying the bill.

Good news, the days of beating chests are back (at least for one long and expensive weekend).  With me so far?  Good.

This weekend, as you watch the Super Bowl and check out those commercials that may be the time to ask “who is really paying for the $2.5 million to $3 million 30-second price tag.  That’s not even including production, pre-marketing, graphics, and research costs, etc.  What affect does a super-buck blow-out have on my career and who is going to pay the bloated price for a bag of chips simply because a hottie pushes the delight?  Let’s take a pure economic approach to this for a minute and find out who loses and who wins:

1. General laborers feel the most pain in the form of lower wages and, in many cases, layoffs; companies are in business to make money and low-bearing fruit is ALWAYS the first to go.  For general laborers out there, no disrespect intended.
2. The average consumer is not able to purchase more than the bare minimum; meaning the price is above their personal equilibrium and most are barely balancing.  With fewer consumers working or working at low wages, the cost of the product must then increase to cover the exploding wages of the company power elite.

To summarize: the average person is paying the tab while our career prospects are being ignored for the sake of juicing the pocket of the few. 

Think about the money being spent for our brief entertainment.  Then think how Monday morning will find many still unemployed, underemployed, or unsatisfied with their job. 

1. Dr. Pepper’s recruitment of KISS in full armor and makeup… Gene Simmons has already been pushing the soda with their “Calling Dr. Love” ads.
2. CareerBuilder’s contest to award a $100,000 prize to those creating the most memorable commercial (truth be known, they aren’t bad as far as commercials go).

3. Monster’s promotion to find a “NFL Director of Fandemonium.”  The ultimate winner will receive $100,000 and will be involved in various NFL activities including being on the field for the coin toss ceremony.

I tip my hat to FedEx, General Motors, and Pepsi who opted out of this years event; perhaps they have their eyes on employee development and keeping prices to a reasonable level.

Let’s loop back to the job search and tie it back in to the Super Bowl (after all, I have some ribs needing to be marinated).  A lesson can be expressed as the philosophy used in consumer marketing can also be adopted into your career search.  There’s a reason commercials are brief (other than the expense). 

To be effective, an advertisement, you being the product, has less than 20 seconds to get the decision-maker to contact you based on your commercial (resume).  Maximizing time management, the top third must convey value, detailing how you will make or save money based on your past performances. 

Then again, if I could spend $3 million for a 30-second commercial, I would just pay someone to write my resume for me while I go out chasing a wild hog… and this is coming from a certified resume writer!

Enjoy the game,

Danny Huffman, MA, CEIP, CPCC, CPRW
Owner, Author, Publisher
Career Services International
Education Career Services
407-206-5883 (direct line)
866-794-3337 ext 110

August 24, 2009

Résumé, Accomplishments Vs. Duty Statements

Question and AnswerA few weeks ago a question of interest was posted and the following is my opinion.  No doubt several individuals will differ from my opinion but it may be a good forum to throw ideas back and forth.  Let’s take a look at the question, details, and my response:

Question: “More duty statements and less accomplishments or more accomplishments and less duty statements on a résumé?”

Details: What are recruiters, HR, and hiring managers looking for? Is there a difference between roles? I’m seeing a lot of résumé that look more like grocery lists with little if no accomplishments. Is it important to list every duty a person has performed?

It’s all about value and developing a sense of trust in the candidates ability to get the job done. Being a professional writer and career coach, I encourage students as well as seasoned executives to focus on accomplishments in a STAR method. STAR= Situation, Task, Action, and Result.

In other words, your marketing material (portfolio, including your resume and cover letter) must depict a story in which the reader can identify with. This story varies from position to position, from industry to industry, and from person to person. Overall, not an easy task to accomplish but you don’t have to take the road alone.  If you are a current student, take portfolio and professional development classes and always work with your career services department. For the executive, there are great services out there to help you or to do all the work.

As a professor, I often explained to students that simply “claiming” to be the very best by way of duty statements is nice but, without support, this claim will not mean a thing for the reader. In other words, one must provide a balance (leaning toward metric-based proof) between a claim to be the right candidate and the proof (or support) of the claim.

To bring this to a conclusion, a list of duties is useless without proof.  Unfortunately, HR, recruiters, and hiring managers often look for different elements. HR and recruiters are more prone to like a list of duties in a chronological format whereas hiring managers are more interested in the immediate value you will bring to a particular position. For the hiring manager, metric based is the way to go and the format recommended by the top three career management associations in the US is semi-functional; NOT chronological (but format is a whole new subject and not for now).

Ask any professional writer, writing a resume is much like writing poetry (perhaps this is the reason why an excellent resume writer charges up to $2,000 a pop–and well worth it). When developing your marketing material, as in poetry, each word is included for a specific and relevant reason.  Each claim and each accomplishment must also be scrutinized for it’s purpose, value, and semantic meaning.

In the end remember a resume is not the tool which will land you the job…a resume lands you an interview. For students, partner with your career services department for additional support and their lending hand. For a seasoned executive, don’t go about writing alone and partner with a company you can trust.  Together, prioritize your value to match the position, company, and requirements and you will find success. On this note, if you would like a quick review or assistance in any way, let me know…it is what I do.

Danny Huffman, MA, CPRW, CPCC, CEIP
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June 1, 2009

(In)visible anger

The last few months I have seen (and felt) so much anger in just about all sectors of the market.  No doubt there is cause for so many ill-feelings as unemployment, foreclosures, higher gas prices, and on and on are no hitting harder each day.  As a professional resume writer and career coach, I hear heartfelt stories all the time.  Who’s safe from economic devastation?  Not to spoil anyone’s breakfast but no one appears to be safe.

Since, in my opinion, no one is “protected” from crisis way, becoming prepared is the only sound practice in this crazy world!  So you’re asking how does one protect him/herself; good question.  Without any hesitation, I believe the first step is to recognize there are more people than available job positions.  Okay, what does this do?  Another good question.  Recognizing you are not the only contestant in a competitive market brings reality to a new level.  Since there are more people than job positions, you must develop a plan to increase your value, your worth, and your immediate contribution. 

What determines value?  On a company perspective, what can the job applicant do right now—not next week or even next month?  Recent graduates, you offer theory and perhaps a capstone, intern, extern, or a bit of experience to go with it.  Is this enough?  For some yes, for some no.  For experienced executives, knowing is not always enough either—you must be the top performer as well.

Let’s make a connection to American Idol for a moment.

Paula and Simon decreased hundreds of thousands of wanna-be’s to a baker’s dozen.  In most cases it was clear that the vast majority of applicants were pretenders; only a hand full truly belonged.  After months of hard work, the top ten dwindled to only a few.  Here’s where you come in….for the pretenders, lack of true talent (or value) will create a schism between the ones who can.  In career management, this schism is created and reinforced within 15 seconds of reviewing your cover letter and/or resume.  Leaving you with one approach: you must prove quickly that YOU offer value….and still no guarantee (this is where so much (in)visible anger comes into play).

Getting back on track, your cover letter MUST accompany your resume in EVERY situation.  Your cover letter MUST be tailored to EVERY job posting.  In other words, do not submit a blanket cover letter—incorporate words from the posting and from research about the job and/or company (if known).

Don’t submit a response to a posting without doing your homework.  How many contestants on American Idol blew their one chance by not knowing the words (and many still became angry at Simon for eliminating them due to lack of homework)?  In addition to creating a tailored cover letter to fit each job posting, so should your resume be constructed.  Do not submit a blanket resume under any situation.  If you do, don’t become angry at your invisibility!  Place key terms, your connection to the job, and what you can do for the company immediately. 

There’s no easy way to become “visible” but there are ways to shed light on your work and value.  These are tough times but that does not mean anger is the answer. 

Complete your homework, get involved in your career campaign, and never forget the words.

Danny Huffman, MA, CPRW, CPCC, CEIP
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April 16, 2009

Less is More

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Less is more. Since when?

I have seen my fair share of interesting resumes – some are fifteen pages with little useful information and some are one-and-a-half pages with…no useful information at all. It’s tough deciding what information is pertinent to include and what can be better left for an interview, especially if you’re looking at it subjectively. That being said, sometimes I get some initial push-back from clients when I turn their multi-page resume covering over thirty years of experience into one, sometimes maybe two pages. The reality is that decision-makers and even human resources professionals no longer have time to read through tons of information to maybe get a hint of the value you might bring.

Be stingy with the amount of information you choose to reveal about yourself and your career. Make them ask questions. When you get a phone call from a potential employer or even a recruiter asking for more information or asking you to come in, you’ll know the resume has done its job. Your objective with the resume is to garner some interest in what you have to offer.

What do you have to offer? Although you technically have a limited amount of space to work with, this is your chance to showcase achievements that are unique to your career. Instead of handing out a paper that lists the same responsibilities for each position or that looks the same as everyone else’s, show them what you can and have already done. Be specific without boring the reader with mundane details. Confusing? Consider the following two job descriptions – same person, same position:

  • Responsible for managing and supervising engineering team and department budget. Managed software development, including requirements gathering, management presentations, project scope and costing, contract development, and delivery. Handled training, end-user support, testing, and troubleshooting. Reported to the vice president of engineering and developed and submitted progress reports.


  • Led 35-person engineering team through full-phase software development, managing $30M annual budget; facilitated training, testing, end-user support, and troubleshooting.

The second example brings in the specifics without including information that is already assumed. Of course it’s easy to just add and add to a resume as the years go by, but by the time 20 years goes by, your fist position as a business analyst doesn’t mean as much anymore.

With recent or soon-to-be graduates, it’s always difficult to know what to include when information is sometimes scarce. However, what you have been doing in school, whether projects, internships, co-ops, or volunteer work, can be easily adjusted to show that you have the transferable skills decision-makers are looking for.

  • Communication (one-on-one and group)
  • Technical Knowledge/Skills
  • Team Collaboration
  • Time Management
  • Loyalty/Realistic Expectations
  • Writing Abilities
  • Professionalism (appearance and attitude)

Are there any instances where you demonstrated these skills, but thought it would never be important to mention? Share your experiences.

Sigmarie Soto, CPRW
Senior Writer
Career Services International

February 20, 2009

Resume Darwinism

Survival of the fittest;” these four words highlight our current economic and employment condition.  According to NPR, global layoffs for 2009 alone will alter 50 million families negatively.  To remain on top, the best defense is a strong offense: one must actively engage in a proactive approach in their career management strategy or suffer the consequences.


The “resume” has changed over the last ten years, dramatically over the past two years.  The days of “resume as biography” are extinct and with it passive verbiage, extended length, and over-sized generalities and have been replaced by “resume as marketing tool” with a leaner, stronger, and metric-based approach.  Take a moment to objectively review your resume, taking specific note on its:


  • Focus: clear, concise
  • Tone: aggressive, confident
  • Verbiage: lean, metric-based, non-repetitive
  • Appearance: audience focused, ideal length
  • Strength: survivor or soon to be extinct

We have all seen significant changes within the social, cultural, political, and economical arena.  Adaptation is no secret and key to survival.  Resume expectations have also progressed.  The Career Management Alliance states it clearly: to survive, executives must update their resume once a year or will fall prey to those displaying progression.


Yesterday’s biographical essay has now been replaced by a marketing resume.  Has yours?  There is no better time than now.  As a professional resume writer, I have seen a ton of outdated material.  If you are a student or a seasoned executive, you owe it to yourself (and future) to review your documents often and objectively. 


If you need any quick reviews or have specific questions, do not hesitate to contact me via blog or email address.


Danny Huffman, MA, CPRW, CPCC, CEIP

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February 19, 2009

Professional Portfolio and Career Persona

For the past two evenings, 12 American Idol contestants sang to the world and, on a dime, the world turned ugly for 9. 


Several submissions ago we juxtaposed the show with career marketing; the similarities keep on coming.  Simon mentioned to one hopeful that he just did not look like an Idol; true enough (after further review) the contestant had the voice but there was no connection…hmmm, how many times have you heard that in an interview setting?


Resume development, career summaries/objectives, cover letters, and the way you present yourself beyond paper defines who you are and makes your career persona come to life.  Like it or not, you are who the person sitting across the table believes you to be.  The tricky part is getting Simon, Paula, or a hiring executive to see you as the “right” candidate.


I did not want to rush into any decision so I waited a lofty ten seconds before making up my mind as to who I liked (and this was before a single tone departed singing lips).  What does this mean to you, the student looking for a job or the executive seeking advancement or a career transition?  Pure and simple, it means you MUST impress instantly—even before any handshaking.  Be aware that the ways to lose the first round is to present sloppy material, dress inappropriately, or display a shaky character (never forget the words of a song and NEVER forget YOUR VALUE).


Value is what the hiring executive is looking for.  Value is what you bring to the company.  For the seasoned executive, value is hitting the pavement running, reducing costs, increasing production, developing processes, penetrating new markets, etc.  For the student, value is the foundation of knowledge and skills acquired in college or a university as well as the strength to complete projects.


Value believability is weighed by quantifiable accomplishments; in other words, the past predicts the future.  According to the Professional Resume Writers Association, 7% of people believe what they are told while 93% of people believes what they are shown.  When applicable, show the reader what you completed with facts, figures, and metrics.  As your career progresses, keep a journal of metric accomplishments and bring the total package to the stage for the judges to perceive. 


Much like American Idol, a successful career portfolio is not just what you bring to the table; it’s also the image presented and the ability to convince others you are the right choice.  One more thing, make sure you sing the right song by supporting the right objective on your resume.


Danny Huffman, MA, CPRW, CPCC, CEIP

Education Career Services:

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February 12, 2009

Resume Objective and Career Summary Required

Recently I was asked to describe the difference between an antiquated resume objective and a highly targeted objective and, in a nutshell, the following outlines my response:


First of all, one should understand the purpose of a career objective is to convey to a potential employer the candidate’s intent for employment or the career focus.  A resume without a highly targeted objective is like a one-size-fits-all document and most hiring managers will not waste time trying to figure out what the candidate wants to do or what the candidate has to offer.


In today’s instant age, readers simply do not have time to guess what you offer, much less what you want to do.  Years ago, truthfully not too many years ago, drawn out short stories acting as a career summary or objective were common place.


An antiquated resume objective lacks focus, is not straightforward, and may read like the following: “seeking a management position with growth potential in a progressive company.”  Needless to say, I have seen thousands with the same basic heading and I still do not know the candidate’s intent…this reads too much like a shotgun blast hoping to hit anything moving.  A highly targeted objective is specific and is typically limited to 3-5 words.  Take, for example, “Logistics Manager,” “Public Accountant,” or “Entry-Level Network Engineer” lets the reader know instantly what you are interested in doing. 


After your career objective, it becomes time to prove (via metrics) your value and immediate contributions with your career summary.  If you have any specific questions or would like to review your objective and/or career summary, do not hesitate to ask.


Danny Huffman, MA, CPRW, CPCC, CEIP

February 11, 2009

Resume Double Check

Over the past few months I invested a great deal of time reviewing, editing, and revising one of my career management books (Your Personal Career Marketing & Portfolio Essentials).  This particular book examines the complete career life-cycle from a graduating student to a seasoned professional; those interested can check it out at our educationcs website. 


Without difficultly; I found several issues needing attention and resolve.  My books and support material goes through several in-house editors, but not everything is caught.  In my case, being a professional writer, editor, and publisher does not guarantee common mistakes will not pop up now and then.  Leading me to the importance of YOUR documents and the need to have EVERY DOCUMENT PROOFED by an objective editor. 


When it comes to career management material (resume, cover letter, etc.), one mistake can prevent additional consideration.


The most compelling event highlighting the need to double-check came about last year when I edited a resume for a distinguished professional.  This individual was proud of the work he constructed and wanted a quick review from an expert in the field.  He stated his job position on the top of his resume (which is fine) as a Public Accountant…so far so good?  Unfortunately, and through several self-reviews, he did not notice the letter “L” was missing from the word “Public” (which is not fine).  Even less fortunate was the fact he sent his documents to over 25 companies – sure you are not surprised to hear no one responded.


Omitting one letter in the wrong word can destroy credibility instantly!


For those individuals creating and writing their own career material, the chances of errors increase dramatically.  Without doubt, securing a professional writer diminishes costly mistakes.  At a minimum, have a peer skilled in grammar to review your work.  For those wanting to know the in’s and out’s of the career life-cycle, consider investing in our book.


Reading work through your own eyes is a good start, but it is not enough.  Regarding my career management book, I secured a third party editor to pick up the pieces I neglected to catch.


Danny Huffman, MA, CPRW, CPCC, CEIP

February 10, 2009

Getting Creative… Not!

I reviewed a resume recently with a drawing of a warrior woman in leather and metal armor taking up the left side of the page from top to bottom.  And I applaud it’s inclusion.  The resume is for a costume designer/conceptual artist.  The colorful drawing was completely appropriate for it’s audience.

The same drawing on a graphic designer’s resume when applying for a job creating brochures for a mainstream company would be wildly inappropriate.  I say this because it appears (from the dozens of writer’s resumes I’ve recently reviewed) that creative professionals tend to blur their boundaries.dancerfairy

Everything on a resume should have a purpose, and that purpose is to show your benefit to the prospective employer.  Let me say that again; your resume is not about you, it’s about what you offer to fulfill your employer’s needs.  The fellow who sent me a six-page resume/essay on why he’s a writer, beginning with a lonely childhood and spritely imaginary friends and ending with the ability to paint the night sky with rainbow words of color does not demonstrate the ability to meet my professional needs.

Let’s look at another example.  Say Sears is looking for a web designer.  Should you include the web address for a personal website expressing your love for The Rocky Horror Picture Show?  Or the site you designed all about vampires and werewolves?  I’m going to go out on a limb here and say “no.”  Sears needs to know your ability to build professional e-commerce sites, so only include such site samples on your resume.

Returning to everything must have purpose, do not use clipart, webdings, or flourishes that satisfy your creative bent and have no other purpose.  If the prospective job DOES have a strongly creative element, match your creative additions to the needs of the company and be sure not to use copyrighted or trademarked material.  If Disney is looking for an artist to illustrate their children’s books, it will be very tempting to use Disney characters as border art on your resume.  While that is arguably fair use under copyright law, it’s better not to approach that line.  Use your own characters that coincide with the intended market.  Disney will not be responsive to bloody, child-snacking gnomes in the border of your resume.

In the same way, creative professionals should tailor their portfolio to be a targeted tool of display.  While your master portfolio should have examples of everything you ever produced, you should cull those samples for work relevant to your target company.

Employers do want creative people, but as Paul Newman put it in The Color of Money, they need to know if you can “flake off and on at will.”  In other words, creative individuals need to cultivate their professional muse as much as their fanciful muse, and know when to bring forth the right one at the right time.

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