How to make my tiny resume shine
October 25, 2014 9:12 AM   Subscribe

I'm applying for a position that's similar to one I held six years ago. There are two problems I have making a resume for the job. The first is that while I've had a similar position for two years, it's my only experience in the field. The second is that all my other recent work experience is in retail (as I left my full time job to become a stay at home parent). How can I best handle this on the resume and cover letter?
posted by drezdn to Writing & Language (6 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
 
You do it entirely in your cover letter.

If you have enough experience to drop items that aren't relevant from your resume you can, but in your case you have two choices. Have just the one item, or show a work history. I'd opt for the work history.

This also allows you to hyper focus on your primary job on both resume and cover letter. Only expound on your retail experience where it overlaps with you current field.
posted by cjorgensen at 10:39 AM on October 25, 2014 [1 favorite]


Your top section is your name, address etc. Next section = "relevant experience"; this is where you relevant history goes, with its dates. Be SPECIFIC about your achievements in this job, not just your responsibilities. Make sure it includes a bullet point for "tools/software used" if you want to be able to point to expertise you developed on this job. And describe your company - its size, what they make, etc. Don't assume anyone reading your resume knows or will look it up.

Next section is "other experience" and that's where your retail goes, in reverse chronological order. Same advice on details and achievements applies, and if there's anything you gained here make sure it's called out, like, if you were the person who had to deal with it when someone shoplifted or yelled or whatever, you can say "exercised reliable judgment and excellent customer service skills" and "tasked with resolving escalated situations from other cashiers" or whatever.

Only use bullet points. Never use paragraphs.

Do not assume anyone is going to read your cover letter. I review hundreds of resumes a week and haven't read a cover letter in years.

Proofread from the bottom instead of reading from the top.

Good luck!
posted by fingersandtoes at 12:42 PM on October 25, 2014


Do not assume anyone is going to read your cover letter. I review hundreds of resumes a week and haven't read a cover letter in years.

I'm exactly the opposite. If you can't sell yourself in a cover letter I'm not going to look at the resume.
posted by cjorgensen at 1:35 PM on October 25, 2014 [4 favorites]


A few years back, I knew a guy who had his mostest favoritest job a few years earlier and was currently out of a job. He traded me some skilled work to brush up his resume. I formatted as skills based rather than reverse chronological. He was happy and was soon employed at a job he liked a whole lot better than what he had been doing in recent years.

So just find a resume format -- there are several standard formats out there, easily dug up -- that highlights your qualifications for this specific job and does not overly emphasize "but that is not what I have been doing here lately." Skills-based instead of chronological is one option.

Also, I did the homemaker thing for a long time and found that framing my lack of work experience as due to that helped me a whole lot when the time came to get a full time job. In other words, emphasizing that I was not just some unemployed slacker, I was busy being a military wife and homeschooling mom, helped people see me as someone who had been doing stuff all those years, even if that stuff did not fit so well on a resume. Some people don't have any respect for the homemaker and mom thing, but some do and it sounds a whole lot better than "unambitious slacker," basically.

So it is possible to spin that to your advantage. (I mean, heck, you managed to work some! I did not. I went to school some, but no paid work, and I got a spiffy job at a spiffy company and people oohed and aahed when I told them where I worked.)

Best of luck.
posted by Michele in California at 2:47 PM on October 25, 2014 [3 favorites]


It also occurred to me that I filled up my resume with college classes taken during those years and volunteer work performed. So if you have stuff like that, use that.

And since I am here anyway:
Some people don't have any respect for the homemaker and mom parent thing, but some do and it sounds a whole lot better than "unambitious slacker," basically.

Yeah, my Jurassic-era upbringing is showing. sorry 'bout that.

posted by Michele in California at 4:08 PM on October 25, 2014 [1 favorite]


I would work on highlighting your soft skills; no matter the job, these are very valuable.

I've also heard to never use the past tense when describing your qualifications as it makes it sound like you did it in the past and aren't doing it now (something you are specifically trying to avoid) ; using a present tense action verb implies you still do that thing. So instead of "managed a project...." you could say, "managing projects...".
Good luck!
posted by NoraCharles at 7:42 PM on October 25, 2014 [3 favorites]


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