Tech & Work

Q and A with the Resume Lady

A resume expert who provided three TechRepublic members with resume makeovers has stepped up to the plate to defend her credentials and answer members' questions about her advice for creating top-notch resumes.


Recently, three TechRepublic members' resumes received a makeover from Nationally Certified Resume Writer (NCRW) Pat Kendall. The community response was overwhelming.

While around 20,000 members downloaded the resume makeovers, some said they took issue with Kendall's advice. Others simply had more questions.

Kendall took part in a discussion about the makeovers and gave answers to some members' questions and criticisms.

We've organized the members' questions and her responses in an easy-to-read Q&A format. Read Kendall's suggestions for resume length, her thoughts on creating an easily scanned resume, and her defense of the NCRW certification.

Download the resume makeovers
You can download the before and after resumes complete with analyses and suggestions from Pat Kendall. Her advice may show you a new way to organize your skills or refresh a resume that's grown stale.

Members' questions, Kendall's answers
Q: What about the ratio of pages to years of experience? What is the standard or appropriate amount of information to present compared to years on the job?
Kendall: Each situation is different, but in general, most people with more than 10 years of experience or more than three jobs will need two pages. In other words, length is determined based on relevance of information—what is right for the particular job seeker. Frankly, the number of words is not as relevant as having the “right” words. Many IT resumes are longer, as they include details that verify keyword skills.

Q: In the IT industry, what is the “hot” information to present? Skills? Job listings? Certifications? Education?
Kendall: In IT, as in all industries, the “hot” information is simply this: the right keywords. More than 80 percent of resumes are processed electronically, whether ASCII text downloaded into a database or a Word file scanned via OCR, so keywords—and optimum scanning accuracy when sending a hard copy—are critical.
Keywords can be any combination of skills, certifications, degrees, job titles, etc. When I begin a new resume project, I ask my client to research the job target and then send me two to three examples of that job target. From these representative samples, I pull out the keywords and use them to build the resume.
Obviously, it takes more than a scannable or well-written resume to land a job, but… the idea is not a "quick fix." The idea is to do what you can to improve your results!

Q: I've heard it's best to be very concise in a resume and leave out most of the details, yet it looks like there's a lot of text in the sample resumes. Why did you provide so much detail?
Kendall: Tech resumes tend to be longer, as many times we include more detail about earlier positions if they contain relevant keywords, as well as keyword-related training.
I've worked with many high-tech clients recently who came to me with “bare bones'” resumes because someone told them to “cut, cut, cut,” leaving a skeleton.
If the right keywords can be included in a credible manner on a one-page resume—great. If not, don't hesitate to go to two or (carefully) even three pages. The issue here is “relevance,” not length. Make the resume as long as it needs to be—no longer, no shorter.

Q: Most design and marketing professionals believe that using Times New Roman, a serif font, increases readability. Why do you recommend a sans serif font for resumes?
Kendall: I recommend sans serif fonts because they’re read more accurately when electronically scanned. If you send a nonscannable format and lose critical keywords [in the scanning process], as I pointed out in the makeovers, everything else can be in vain. ASCII files, for example, are input directly into databases (with no scanning). Hard copy resumes sent by mail or fax may also be scanned.
You'll get different opinions on this, but I recommend Arial over Times New Roman for the simple reason that it scans more accurately, especially in 10-point type. New scanning technology is more accurate, but plenty of older systems—or perhaps older HR clerks—need all the help they can get on the “document” side.
For those times when the resume is faxed, or when a hard copy is scanned for input into a company database, I want to make sure the scan is clean to maximize the keyword count.

Q: Is there really such a thing as a Certified Resume Writer?
Kendall: Yes, two organizations have a recognized certification process:

As former chair of NRWA's Certification Commission, I can tell you that writers must work hard to earn the NCRW credential. Before the exam can be taken, specific training requirements must be met, followed by the completion of a stringent, three-part exam and strict compliance with continuing education requirements to keep the certification valid. When I was chair of the NRWA Certification Commission, only 50 percent of writers were able to pass the exam on the first try.
If you have doubt about whether a particular writer's certification is valid, you can check the NRWA.com and PARW.com Web sites to verify credentials.

Editors Note: According to the NRWA Web site, candidates for NCRW certification must earn a total of 10 Continuing Education Units (CEU) within the three years prior to the certification exam. CEU points can be earned through activities like attending seminars and completing online training courses. To maintain their credentials, writers must complete 15 CEUs prior to the three-year certification renewal date.

About Pat Kendall
Kendall is the author of Jumpstart Your Online Job Search in a Weekend and the coauthor of eResumes: Everything You Need to Know about Using Electronic Resumes to Tap into Today's Hot Job Market. She owns and operates Advanced Resume Concepts, a company based in Oregon's "Silicon Forest."

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