Resume review and revamp

Jason Ferrara of with Tess Vigeland's resume.


Tess Vigeland: We just heard plenty of good advice on how to navigate a tough job market. But the single best tool to get your foot in the door? Your resume. So this week, I sat down with Jason Ferrara of, which is based here in Chicago. And we asked for his thoughts on what should and most certainly should not appear on your resume.

Jason Ferrara, welcome to the program.

Jason Ferrara: Thanks for having me.

Vigeland: I have to tell you, I'm a little bit apprehensive here to have you doctoring my resume, because I really haven't changed the format since I left college, 20 years ago.

Ferrara: The first piece of advice I would say is, some summary of your experience or objective of the type of role you're looking for. That can tell a hiring manager "does this person have the right skills that I need or not?" I happen to think that chronological order is the right way to do it. That's what hiring managers are going to look for -- where has this person been, this year, last year, five years ago.

I think what you have for education is just fine. I like the honors that you have down here, and I like the volunteerism you have. Obviously, you have interest beyond what it is that you're doing in your experience.

Vigeland: So it's still OK to have things that aren't necessarily relevant to the job, but that speak about you. I have volunteerism. I have seen resumes where people, for example, list their interests.

Ferrara: The information on your resume should be relevant to the job to which you're applying. So, if hiking is relevant to the job that you're applying for, then great, put hiking on there. If you're going to be a park ranger, that's probably a prerequisite.

Vigeland: Sure.

Ferrara: If it's not, those are things that you can omit from a resume. And they may come up in an interview situation. But you don't have to have them on your resume. Volunteer work can also be important if you have a resume that may have gaps of employment on it. But during that time in which there's a gap in employment, you were active in your community, and you did things that were volunteer work -- that's work in it of itself and it shows that you have stayed busy, and it shows that you have other interests and it shows that you're interested in work.

Vigeland: Now, I have here broken one of the cardinal rules that I was told when I was first starting out, which is, I've got two pages. And one of the big rules was always "gotta be one page."

Ferrara: Mainly, it depends on your experience. So, you graduated from college in 1990, you've had plenty of experience. You should be putting all the relevant experience on your resume that you can. And if that takes two pages, that takes too pages.

Vigeland: Anything else on my particular resume? Again, not that I'm looking.

Ferrara: Well, number one, I think it's great that you want to review your resume at this point. Because a resume is something that you should have prepared and ready all the time. One of the things I would say are metrics. So, surely, you're measured in some way at your job, whether it's ratings or something. Hiring managers really react to this quantifiable pieces of information.

Vigeland: Well, let's take a look at another resume. We invited listeners to send in their resumes and we picked from about 100 of them that came in over last weekend. And we have Betsy Miller, and she's from Kennewick, Wash. Taking a look at her resume, tell us a little bit about her.

Ferrara: Betsy has a law degree and Betsy has a tremendous amount of experience, not just because she has a law degree, but because of the things that she has done in the military in her past. But looking at her resume, it's difficult to figure out exactly what she wants to do, like why has she created this resume? What's she looking for?

Vigeland: So she has a lot to brag about, but you're not necessarily going to see it without really diving in.

Ferrara: Exactly. I mean, all the things she has in here have so many transferrable skills. And that's really important with the economy now is you've gotta grab onto those transferrable skills, because you may not be able to work in the industry that you're most used to working in.

She says here she's managed 216 employees and a $2.5 million budget. Those are skills that many people just don't have. That's a lot of people and a lot of money. Doing that well means you have certain prioritization and organizational skills. She really needs to draw those out here specifically.

Vigeland: And how would she do that? Is that, again, a mission statement?

Ferrara: Well, Betsy is definitely in need of a career objective that is customized to the type of job she wants.

Vigeland: Any other suggestions in terms of format or simple things she could do to make it stand out?

Ferrara: She has a lot of text here, break that text out into bullets and actionable items with numbers and quantifiable things is really good. She has these great statements at the end of each paragraph, "I love what I do, and particularly enjoy working from home," "I'm best behind the scenes," "I prioritize quickly." These things are perfect a cover letter, not necessarily a resume, because they're not really that scannable. So she could pull those out of here.

She also gives some personal information, which is irrelevant to almost every job she would apply for. So, I'm happy that she's happily married and has been for 25 years, she doesn't have any children, she's in excellent health -- those are things about her that don't need to be expressed on a resume.

Vigeland: Well, before I let you go, I know you have seen hundreds and thousands for resumes in this position. So, what is the worst thing you've ever seen someone do with their resume?

Ferrara: Some people have sent their resume through on personal stationary, but personal stationary that had pictures of teddy bears on it. Unless it's a teddy bear manufacturing company...

Vigeland: Build-A-Bear?

Ferrara: It's probably not exactly what you need to be sending. Gaps in employment, there was one the job seeker explained their gap in employment, because they were in prison.

Vigeland: Oh boy.

Ferrara: The reason they were in prison is because this person had stolen a pig, but that it was only a small pig. So it wasn't that big of an infraction.

Vigeland: Well, Jason Ferrara, senior career advisor here at Thanks so much.

Ferrara: You're welcome. Thank you.


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