Jeff Lipschultz’s Blog

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Breaking the Rules of Resume-Writing

As old as the art of resume writing is, you’d expect there to be changes in standard practice, right?  After all, the way we communicate has changed dramatically, both in content and speed.  We like our information given to us Just-In-Time and in Sound-Bytes.  However, many resume writers still provide the same formula in presentation, format, and content to be included.

My guest blogger, Brendan Cruickshank, Vice President of Client Services of Job Search Engine, provides his thoughts on the subject, and of course, I couldn’t resist adding my two cents along the way.  If you know me at all, you’re not surprised. 

See if you agree with our thoughts.  If not, feel free to chime in within the Comment Section.


Thinking Outside the Margins:

Five Old-Fashioned Rules of Resume-Writing that You Should Break

Brendan Cruickshank Job-hunting can be a job in and of itself – and it’s a job that has changed over the past several decades. The rules of resume-writing that applied in the 1980s don’t always apply today. Here are five old-fashioned rules that you would be well-advised to break:

1. Your resume should be no more than one page. The length of your resume depends on you and the job you are applying for. If you are a recent graduate, chances are that you don’t have enough experience to justify more than a page – but if you do, don’t hesitate to run a little longer. On the other hand, if you feel strongly that you want to keep your resume to one page, but you have more experience than will fit, the solution is to include a link to a web site where a potential employer can get the rest of the details.

Jeff’s Two-Cents:  Couldn’t agree more.  Many hiring managers first review a resume on their computer, not paper.  There are no pages to turn, just scrolling down.  Often times, you don’t even notice you’re on page two or three.  The key is to include all pertinent info, but be concise.  I’m not a big fan of a second source (link to a web site)–don’t make your reader do extra work to learn the pertinent facts.  A good use of links:  examples of your work.

2. You must include an objective or a summary section. Most career advisers still swear by this, but my feeling is that you should include personal objectives or a summary at your own risk. A well done summary can do wonders. But I can’t remember the last time I saw one. Most summary sections, and most objectives, are full of corny jargon that make the job candidate sound sycophantic and brainless.

Jeff’s Two-Cents:  I definitely agree an Objective statement is not needed when you are applying for a job that matches your background.  If you are changing your career path (i.e., from Finance to Sales), you’ll have to spell that out (likely in a cover letter or email).  However, I think Professional Summaries are critical.  The first one-fourth of Page 1 must tell the reader who you are and what you’ve achieved.  As cautioned above, stay clear of the generic, mundane phrases:  A team-player who contributes to the bottom-line of successful companies using clear communication, excellent problem-solving skills, and keen decision-making.

More on this topic is covered in a video with Peggy McKee–link is below.

3. You must include an education section. Whether or not you include an education section depends on you – and whether or not your educational background will help you in the job you are applying for. If you didn’t finish your degree, mentioning the college you attended for only two years will only draw attention to the fact that you didn’t finish. There is no need to mention your high school diploma or where you attended high school.

Jeff’s Two-Cents:  I agree.  Keep in mind, Education includes training and certificate programs.  Where you have applicable skills through training include it.  Often times, I tweak resumes to have the heading:  EDUCATION and TRAINING.

4. Include a letter of reference with your resume. If you include something like this, it is most likely to be thrown into a file and never looked at again. Likewise, don’t add a line to your resume that says “References available upon request.” Instead, bring names and phone numbers for your most recent supervisors when you go to your interview. Most human resource managers will not check references for all job candidates, just for the ones they are seriously considering hiring – so they won’t check any references until they have already talked to you.

Jeff’s Two-Cents: Correct.  And do you really want to bug your references that much?  You want to have them called only when the hiring manager is serious.  And obviously, if you hold references until asked, you will know when to give your references a head’s up on who might be calling them.  Some hiring managers will ask for three completely different references than provided.

5. Print your resume on the nicest paper you can afford. This rule is an outgrowth of the rule that says you should wear a suit to your interview. You should still wear a suit to your interview if you can, but printing a resume on special paper is just silly.

Jeff’s Two-Cents: Yes, any paper will do, because most likely the interviewer will have their own copy anyway.  I always thought fancy paper was a distraction.  It’s like saying, the content of my resume isn’t so great, so let’s make it as pretty as possible.  Again, in the digital age, paper is secondary.  Although, always bring the extra copy.  One of my most recent interviewees didn’t, and my client was testing him to see if he’d bring it.  Never know…

Brendan Cruickshank has been involved in the online job search and recruiting industry for over eight years and has acted in senior client services roles with companies like and His advice is often sought on topics in employment and jobs trends from publications including the Washington Post, Forbes and US News & World Report.


Additional info:

Video with Peggy McKee on this topic:  Formatting Your Resume to Be Read!


March 3, 2011 Posted by | Guest Post, Resume Writing | 4 Comments

The Age-Old Question: “Does Volunteer Work Count?”

No matter what the economy looks like, unemployed job seekers will always have to contend with addressing the “Why.”  Why employed.  Recently, I posted an article about dealing with the unemployed bias in your resume or during the interview. To address this bias, one must market themselves even more strategically and be proactive in dealing with the void of employment on the resume.  As mentioned in my article, one such way is volunteering. Only skimming the surface of what this entails, I was grateful when a friend of mine offered to dive deeper into this.  Sheree Van Vreede, a certified professional resume writer and career coach offers this advice on the subject.


sheree profile Since I began writing resumes 10 years ago, one of the most common questions I have received from job seekers has had to do with handling volunteer work on their resumes. In the past, this tended to not be a major issue, as the employment market was relatively strong. If the volunteer position had some relevancy to the market the job seeker was focusing on, we might play it up a bit, but generally, volunteer work was an “end-of-the-resume” thing, if it was even included at all.

In today’s job market, however, with the national unemployment rate hovering around 10% (and higher in some areas), and with many individuals finding themselves out of work for several months, we are taking a much longer and harder look at volunteer work.

Is Volunteer Work Valuable In a Resume?

Without a doubt, volunteer positions can be a valuable addition to your work history and to your resume. If you are currently unemployed, and would like to improve your marketability, volunteer work can do the following:

  • Show to a prospective employer that your skills are fresh, not stale, and that you have been willing to get out there and use those skills.
  • Help explain how you have spent your unemployment time.
  • Demonstrate that you are a true team player willing to do what it takes to succeed and willing to use your time to benefit someone else.

Sometimes job seekers feel uncomfortable about including volunteer info because they feel it takes away from the main premise, which was to help others. My personal view is that whether you include it or not, the people you served were still served and benefited from your support. As long as you aren’t presenting your role falsely or making more out of it than it was, you should be proud, as you would be with any other accomplishment (perhaps even more so!), that you participated in such an endeavour.

How Can You Make It Relevant?

The best option for creating a win–win situation when it comes to performing volunteer work during your unemployment requires a little consideration, however.

Think about the types of volunteer roles that would be relevant to the position or industry you are pursuing. For example, at our firm, we recently worked with a candidate that had specialized in vendor and project management for a major financial services firm but had been out of work for two years despite looking for a project management position. However, for the past year-and-a-half, he has been directing a project to develop, fund, and implement a special exhibit at a museum. The initiative included project coordination, research, business development, and content design. Therefore, we were able to effectively leverage his activities with leading the exhibit development and launch as part of his project management skill set.

What Is a Balanced Approach to Take?

You need to consider carefully how you will present volunteer experience on the resume. If you are using it to fill an employment gap, you want to develop it enough that it doesn’t come across as fluff (filler material), but not so much that you deceive the reader into thinking it was a paid position. The best approach is to mention that it was a volunteer role in the paragraph describing your duties or in a short description of the organization (if you have included a company description for your other positions). This eliminates the need to place the term “Volunteer” in the job title. In other words, let’s market the role honestly, but let’s also be strategic about it.

If you are using your volunteer roles to expand on your skill sets and you don’t have an employment gap, creating a separate section to develop your volunteer work can be the ideal approach. In a separate section, you can streamline the entry by listing just the organization name, location, “job” title, and a few bullets highlighting your activities and achievements.

An important caveat here is to be careful not to overplay or underplay your volunteer work. My experience is that job seekers tend to do one or the other. As valuable as it might have been to the people you served, in most employers’ eyes, it is not on par with an actual paid position. So you might not get the reaction you are hoping for if you sell it too hard. However, underselling it could also end up being a missed opportunity for you. Remember that understanding how far to take something, whether it is in regard to your resume, networking, or interviewing (or life in general) is a fine art.

Finally, no matter what, be careful that your volunteer work doesn’t infringe upon your job search time to the point where it is taking over business hours. And try not to pin too much hope on a volunteer position turning into a paid one. Yes, it does happen, but not as much as job seekers think (or hope) it does. Recognize it for what it is: An opportunity for you to serve and to use your time and skills productively.


In addition to being a certified resume writer and career coach with No Stone Unturned, Sheree Van Vreede is a co-founder of an online job seeker social network, NoddlePlace. To find out more about NoddlePlace or about the services offered by No Stone Unturned, go to You can also follow Sheree on Twitter as the @rezlady or through @noddleplace.

January 19, 2011 Posted by | Guest Post, Personal Branding, Resume Writing | 5 Comments

Fighting the "Unemployed Bias"

These days, it seems I’m often advising unemployed job seekers on how to approach having an unemployed stamp on their resume. Most employers realize that it hard to have a career path that doesn’t hit a bump in the road somewhere along the way, especially with the economy the way it is right now. The key to overcoming the bias associated with being unemployed is to paint your picture with the brightest colors possible.  Whether in interviews, resume submissions, or networking, there are key approaches to keep in mind.  My latest article for dives into this touchy subject.

Article:  Overcoming the Unemployed Bias

January 17, 2011 Posted by | Interviewing 101, Job Search, article, Resume Writing | Leave a comment

Formatting Your Resume to Be Read!

Chronological vs. Functional.  Objective vs. Summary Statement.  Paragraphs vs. Bullets.  Although debates will always rage on regarding the ideal resume format, I can tell you what I like to see (and my clients).  Fellow recruiter Peggy McKee and I discuss these topics in a video recently produced by her recruiting firm.  If you have your own view on these topics, feel free to share them in the comment section for this post.


November 2, 2010 Posted by | Guest Post, Resume Writing, Video, Working with Recruiters | 4 Comments

Are You Keeping It Real? Part 2

Does coaching your daughter’s soccer team count as management experience? If you’ve added clip art to PowerPoint presentations, are you a graphics artist? If you have written online restaurant reviews, does that make you a legitimate restaurant critic?

You might be surprised what pops up on résumés these days. Many job-seekers have been instructed to make past accomplishments seem substantial. But you can easily cross a line between real and exaggerated.

Read more about how to handle the truth in my AOL article:

Keeping It Real When Looking for a New Job


Related post: Are You Keeping It Real?

April 19, 2010 Posted by | AOL article, Interviewing 101, Resume Writing | 2 Comments

What Is Your Specialty?

Sometimes candidates have so many great experiences and abilities they forget what makes them stand-out.  In order to outshine other candidates for a job, you simply need to determine the most important requirements of the role and ensure they match your strongest capabilities and attributes.  Additionally, you need to make sure you are effectively communicating these in your resume and during an interview.  Read more about this in my Job-Hunt article for January.

Article:  What Makes You Special?

January 26, 2010 Posted by | Careers, Interviewing 101, Job Search, article, Resume Writing, Working with Recruiters | Leave a comment

Interview with Jeff: Daisy Wright’s Show ~ Discussing Working with Recruiters

I had a great opportunity to be on Daisy Wright‘s BlogTalkRadio Career Tips2Go Show this week along with Sarah Welstead (both in Canada!).  Sarah and I answered questions from callers that covered a lot of ground in the job search.

Link to the show:  All You Ever Wanted to Know About Recruiters, But Were Afraid to Ask.

Topics covered:

  • What makes a recruiter take notice of your resume.
  • Contacting a recruiter directly.
  • Managing your references and professional reputation.
  • Importance of “fit” with a company.
  • Dealing with a “hiccup” in your history during the interviewing process
  • Being honest and forthcoming with a recruiter to build a stronger relationship.
  • Checking backgrounds on candidates using Social Media.
  • Managing your Social Media brand.
  • Answering the “Tell Me About Yourself” Question
  • Making a recruiter your champion.
  • Approach to interviewing.

Related previous posts:

An Interview with Jeff- Answering the Question Why Should We Hire You-

Interviewing is Easy…if Done Right!

Tele-Seminar Recording- Working with Recruiters

November 19, 2009 Posted by | Audio, Interview with Jeff, Interviewing 101, Job Search, Resume Writing, Social Media, Working with Recruiters | 2 Comments

Can You Go The Distance?

Collaborative, creative, team player.  Self-motivated, quick-learner, top communicator.  Do these terms describe you?  Well, they should because apparently they describe just about everyone based on the resumes I’ve seen.  For certain, these terms are not original.  While discussing your talents within a resume or interview, you need to convey you possess these attributes.  However, job seekers should keep in mind these are not enough.

There is one attribute I don’t hear much about from candidates that I think may be more important than the others: ENDURANCE.  As an avid cyclist, this word comes up often for me, especially around the discussion of long-distance rides and races. 

In the working world, what connotations come to mind?  If an employee has strong “endurance,” he or she typically:

  • Do not shy away from tough assignments and gets them done on time
  • Is politically savvy and can manage through controversy
  • Can set action plans in place that are achievable (often times with limited resources)
  • Leverages constructive criticism to make themselves better
  • Sticks around for a while and looks to get promoted from within
  • Does not get bored easily
  • Takes few sick daysturtle

I’m sure the list goes on and on.  As employers look to bolster their teams, they want strong contributors.  All the common qualities mentioned at the top are important, but frankly, they are expectations of every candidate.

Endurance is something that is proven and displayed through solid examples.  The best examples relate how an employee rose above the rest to accomplish big things during tough times.  In my opinion, endurance is a differentiator.  It enables you to go the distance.


Related posts:

Resume Writers- Keep Your Plate Out of the Boiler

October 27, 2009 Posted by | Candidate Selection, General Musings, Interviewing 101, Resume Writing | 13 Comments

How Much Is Your Resume Worth?

Today I listened to the Recruiting Animal Show as he hosted quite a few Resume Writing Professionals.  One of the key questions raised centered around cost of service and its value.  As a recruiter who often helps his candidates improve their resumes, I know many need help in this area.

Why don’t more job seekers invest in their resume and get professional help making it better?  Especially knowing this is a critical part of the job search process.  It may come down to cost.  Here are two surveys which I hope shed some light on Resume Services.  Please leave your votes and feel free to comment at bottom of this post.

Author’s Note: After posting this article, I’ve had numerous comments submitted below.  Any job seekers questioning the value of professional resume writing assistance (and related services) should read through the comments by the experts below.

September 30, 2009 Posted by | General Musings, Job Search, Resume Writing | 74 Comments

Are You Keeping It Real?

Recently I was asked for some advice by a job seeker about what to say about being let go from his last job.  He was told by a friend to say he was “caught sending his resume out to recruiters and got canned.”  This was not what happened.

Some folks who are let go start up “consulting agencies” to show activity during the employment gap.  When I ask them how much revenue they have generated, many tell me they don’t even have any clients.

These are tough times.  There are good people who are out of work.  In the past, the “currently employed or passive candidate” might have seemed to be more qualified for a job opening than an out-of-work candidate.  However, in this era of the Great Recession, the “unemployed” label is not necessarily a stigma.  Many good employers know there are good candidates out there who have been victims of times.

With this in mind, job seekers, I implore you to KEEP IT REAL.

Lying or misinformation can often lead you down a bad path.  It is easier than you might think these days to connect with those who can confirm/dispute your past. Even if your “untruths” are not discovered until after being hired, the employer most likely will opt to fire you for this lack of good judgment.  This would only compound your resume detractors.  A very short tenure is even harder to explain, isn’t it?

Present your situation factually, and highlight the positives of your last employment.  If you were fired, you’ll need to share what you’ve learned from the experience and how it has shaped your career decisions going forward.  If it was a bad fit, then explain what a good fit for you looks like (it should be a perfect match if you’re doing your homework).  And if you were laid off, realize this is not uncommon right now.  You might be asked what prompted the layoff and/or why you were included.

Perhaps this is common sense to most.  That’s good.  For those who need the reminder, do your best to present yourself in the best light.  There is something to be said for good character and integrity.

Author’s note: This may be a topic that prompts your own thoughts on the subject.  Feel free to leave a comment for others to learn from.

Related post:  Are You Keeping It Real? Part 2

September 14, 2009 Posted by | General Musings, Interviewing 101, Job Search, Resume Writing | 14 Comments