How to Look Good on Paper

MC's Cubicle Coach offers road-tested tips for buffing up your résumé so it passes the three-second test. (See the résumé below.)

Rule #1: Leave the Lucida font for wedding invitations.

a. Save this handle for your nerve.com account.

b. Your objective is to get a job. Oh, and to learn how to spell.

c. Interesting, yes, ho-hum, does not compute, no politics, yawn, ribbit, scary, maybe they'll offer you some on the way out.

d. Reverse chronology, please.

e. Great if you want to be Britney's nanny; otherwise, cut.

f. Better:

* Credited with pinpointing the pencil-skirt trend six months before competitor

* Company sold $27 million in pencil skirts in '08

* Quoted on Access Hollywood and in USA Today and Marie Claire

g. Out of order — and a lie.

h. Better: "In five years, I moved up from an intern at this Fortune 500 widget producer to a supervisory role overseeing production at every stage, from mold formation to, uh, whatever stages are involved in making widgets."

i. Time gap! You'll be asked about it. Whether you were dealing with family issues or serving a sentence in a country-club slammer, be prepared to explain.

j. Like hot pink cardstock, jargon is a résumé killer.

k. Lose it, unless you're applying for a technical job. We know you know how to use a computer.

l. No year of graduation — you're over 45. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but it says that you think there is.

m. Gratuitous — unless you're Jodie Foster or LeBron James.

n. Guess what? I don't need your permission.

o. Poetry and inspirational quotes: great for the soul, not for the CV.

p. One page!

resume-tips-mc-ex-lg.jpgShow Off Your Mad Skills

Brazen-but-brilliant truth-stretchers:

If you ... once yelled "Hi, Mom!" behind a reporter on the local news

Spin as: "On-air talent."

If you ... were the captain of your HS field-hockey team

Spin as: "Led a team to goals."

If you ... slept with the lead singer from Franz Ferdinand

Spin as: "Celebrity wrangler."

If you ... decoupage

Spin as:"Producer of multimedia presentations."

If you ... constructed a loft bed with two-by-fours you found

Spin as: "Experience in structural engineering and waste management."

If you ... order the chimichanga de pollo at Tumbleweed and the moo goo gai pan at Panda Express

Spin as: "Multilingual"

If you ... collected the $20 bar tab your best friend owed you

Spin as: "Managed accounts-payable."
—Sarah Z. Wexler

Tricks of the Trade

Don't bother blindly blitzing the town — instead, bypass the résumé black hole with these bold tactics:

Swallow your pride. No job search is complete until you've exhausted your Outlook address book. That means everyone — touchy-feely Uncle Bob, your cheapskate ex, even former bosses. "Personal connections can uncover job leads that aren't advertised, and they can get your résumé to the top of the stack," says Alison Green, author of the Ask a Manager blog.

Don't get fancy. HR reps at many large firms don't even read résumés, but instead use automated software that scans for relevant keywords. Maximize your chances by avoiding highfalutin terms ("interfaced to maximize product-development workflow") to describe your experience.

Go back to school. Your alma mater keeps tabs on all former students, no matter how long ago they graduated, so it can hit them up for donations. Ask the alumni office — it has a vested interest in your success, after all - for referrals to grads in your field.

Stroke some ego. Be bold and solicitous with people who have the power to hire, advises HR consultant Peggy Andrews. "Call the person you want to work for and say, 'I'm very interested in learning how you did X, Y, Z — can we meet to talk at your convenience?'" she advises. "People love to share their success stories."

Grab a name tag. They're snoozy, awkward, and occasionally expensive. But there's no better place to schmooze up employers than trade seminars and conferences. Plus, who couldn't use another refrigerator magnet?

Get hooked up (no, not that way) with a Facebook ad. These days, job seekers are literally buying exposure to employers using Facebook ads, which can be targeted by location (tech companies in Silicon Valley) or interest (graphic design). The downside? You'll pay per click.
—Shyema Azam

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