Years and years ago, shortly after college, I went to the local print shop and picked up a box of freshly minted resumes. Even though I only got 100 — the minimum press run — they were expensive, printed on buff paper with my name, address and contact information (a single phone number!) embossed in black at the top.
My education and employment career to that point were spelled out for all to see, in the hopes that some newspaper editor would be so impressed with my credentials — a bachelor's degree in English, part-time night-time assistant manager of a shoe department — that they'd hire me for a reporter position immediately. Even though I was just out of college, I somehow had acquired two single-spaced pages of experience with various companies in various capacities.
Once it was printed, there was no changing it; this document was going to determine my future.
Times have changed.
And then again, not so much.
In the ensuing decades an industry has developed to help people get jobs by crafting resumes for you. There are dozens of such services in our region, and there are many more that operate nationally online. They'll create a resume for your specific industry — IT/engineering, medical, federal, executive level — pinpointing your strong suit so as to dazzle the potential employer with your accomplishments.
But before you spend hundreds of your hard-earned dollars paying someone to list your previous jobs, let's meet Tony Beshara, Ph.D.
"I don't want to cut the resume writers out, but there's no reason to pay someone to write it for you," he said.
Beshara is president of Dallas' Babich & Associates, Texas' oldest placement and recruiting firm, according to Beshara. He is the author of "The Job Search Solution" and "Unbeatable Resumes."
He hasn't needed a resume of his own for a long time — 38 years — but he's on top of what's current when it comes to creating an effective resume.
"What you want to do is state very simply where you worked, what you've done, how well you've done it and the success you've had," he said. "Put that in the very top of your resume in terms that a high school senior could understand."
A single page, a page and a half. Not more than two pages, max.
"The mistake that people make is they write down names of companies as though everybody in the world knows what they do, and they don't; you need to state very clearly who you worked for, what the company did and how well you performed doing it. It's that simple."
There are more involved resumes, known as curriculum vitae or CVs, that take a narrative form rather than a structured list. Those can go much longer than two pages and go into specific detail, but "those are really more in the academic and scientific circles," Beshara said. "Those people in those businesses know which they ought to be doing, a resume or a CV. They're in a totally different ballgame than most of us in business."
Unlike my first resume — sent via snail mail to prospective employers (because there was no other choice) — resumes today are most likely transmitted electronically as an attachment to an e-mail. That affords an opportunity to tailor your resume because you can easily make new versions specific to a job.
"Yes, (you should) have targeted resumes," Beshara said. "Address what you've done before but target specifically to a specific type of job.
"For instance, there are some salespeople who do as much account management as they do hunting for new prospects; they may run into a job where the emphasis is on account management so they would emphasize their building on accounts and increasing the sales to the accounts that already exist, where in another situation they may emphasize their ability to pick up the phone and do a lot of cold-calling and prospecting."
And now get ready for a cold bucket of reality: "You've got to remember your resume isn't going to get you hired," Beshara said. "Your resume is just supposed to get you an interview.
"Your resume indicates 'what I've done for others, here's what I can do for you, interview me.'
"Most people spend way too much time and effort preparing the resume because it's something they can control and they think it's going to get them a job, and it's not, and they have way, way more faith in it that it's going to get them a job than it does in reality."
Did we really need to know this?
"Sixty percent of the time resumes are not even read by the person whose doing the hiring. They get read by somebody who really doesn't know that much about the job or they go into a black hole somewhere."
That would be the company's Human Resources Department. "The Hiring Roadblock Department, I call it," he said. He's not laughing.
And as for applying online, "My personal opinion, if you have to apply online to some online thing, you're wasting your time, it's a black hole."
More effective, he said, "and this is going to irritate a lot of people, but the way you do it, you pick up the phone. If you are an accountant and they're looking for an accountant, call their comptroller. You say, 'Hi, I'm an accountant, and I understand you're looking for an accountant. I'm an excellent guy, I've got 10 years of experience, I have excellent skills and a tremendous track record. My company's been sold. I'd like to come see you tomorrow — would that be good?' "
Beshara makes it sound easy. "I didn't say it's easy. It's simple, not easy. Real simple."
The personal touch is effective because most of America is not employed by Big Business, with thousands of employees and layers of employment bureaucracy.
"There are 7.5 million businesses in the United States," he said. "The average business has 60 employees. Ninety-eight percent of businesses have less than 500 people; 99 percent have less than 100."
RESUME WORDS TO AVOID:
When it comes time to craft your resume, you may want to come up with synonyms for what professional online network LinkedIn says are "the top 10 terms that are overused by professionals" in their resumes.
—Proven track record
TIPS FOR WRITING A COVER LETTER:
Don't forget the cover letter, the note that introduces your resume to the potential employer. Steve Lagerud, director of professional opportunities at DePauw University in Indiana, said, "There are three parts to the letter. The first, why are you writing? You have only two choices: To apply for a position or to request information.
"Second is the core of your letter. It consists of two to four single concept paragraphs highlighting what you know about the position and explaining what you will do for them. Specifically, you tell stories from your past that highlight your skills in the context of the new employer. It's helpful to use a simple formula that includes the situation in which you used a skill, the task you had in that situation, the actions you took to address that task and, finally, the result of your action. The writing should be clear, concise and lead the reader to see you working for them.
"Third, thank them for their time and consideration and tell them what you will do next. You have only two choices, to call them and find out about the status of your application or to wait."
MORE RESUME DO'S AND DON'TS:
Holly Paul, national sourcing leader for consultant PricewaterhouseCoopers, has these suggestions:
—Professionalize your contact information. Resumes featuring email addresses like ILovePuppies@internetserviceprovider.com  may not seem professional. Make sure your email address and the voice-mail messages on any phone numbers you list are 100 percent professional and appropriate.
—Include unpaid experience.
—Include only interesting interests. When it comes to listing interests or hobbies on your resume, only mention something that is particularly unique, uncommon or memorable.
—Delete the references reference. Don't waste precious space on your resume with "References available upon request." Potential employers will request a list of references if they want one.
—Don't lie. If you lie or stretch the truth, you could lose a job opportunity with that company forever.
—Proofread, and then proofread again. Have at least two other people review it for mistakes, misspellings and formatting glitches. You can never check your resume too many times.
Source: McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.