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Resume Writing and Career Transition Coaching for Jobs in Florida

Over the years, we have written dozens and dozens of informative articles on resume writing and a wide variety of career-related topic matter for publication in newspapers, regional magazines, websites, career fair promotionals, and job connection tabloids, as well as for internal promotions. Here are a few selected career articles that have consistently received favorable comment from readers. We change these from time to time, so re-visit our site whenever you have a chance.


Let there be no mistake: next to your driver's license, your résumé is the most important document in your working life. It is your primary method of contact with a prospective employer. Many times, it is the first impression that an employer has of you and your abilities.

Failure to understand the role of the résumé in the job hunting process, and not appreciating the level of attention that should be given to its preparation, can result in unnecessary frustration, disappointment, rejection and extended periods of unemployment.

The résumé's role in the job hunting process is to win job interviews-nothing else. No interviews, no job. It's as simple as that. And when your résumé is working for you, it is competing against many other résumés for the attention of the prospective employer. The challenge for job seekers and career changers today is not so much to be qualified for the vacant position, but to beat out all the other applicants competing for the same position. Your résumé is, then, a marketing instrument that must successfully promote your value to prospective employers, gaining their attention and winning an invitation to a job interview. You probably already knew all of this. The big question is, How to do it?

A Change of Attitude
Begin with a change of attitude about the résumé, and promise yourself that you will spare no effort to make sure you have a superior presentation of yourself on paper. The resume is a deceptively simple-looking document, but in actuality it is a very difficult and challenging one to create. The résumé is not a job application form. It is advertising media, and when you describe your talents you are writing advertising copy. The résumé's "voice" is a staccato of short, incomplete sentences with little or no standard punctuation, and never uses the first-person personal pronoun. Looking at pictures of other people's resumes will not be of much help in writing your own résumé because you are looking at a finished product, and will not see the creative process of selectivity. Many times, what's left out of a résumé is as important as what is left in.

Perhaps the most difficult challenge in creating a competitive résumé that consistently wins job interviews with top employers is successfully presenting one's value from the employer's perspective. Quite naturally, most job seekers write their résumés from a personal, subjective perspective and get so caught up in presenting job descriptions of previous positions that they are unable to see the forest for the trees. They end up describing their jobs and their employers, losing sight of the fact that they should be selling their own talents and value.

The successful résumé takes the perspective of the employer, giving consideration to what the problems and needs of the company might be, and making an effort to focus the presentation of talent, education, expertise and background of its owner toward those problems and needs. This requires "going the extra mile" to find out as much as you can about the company, its industry and its competitors. One of the most common criticisms of résumés by Human Resource professionals who read them by the thousands each year, is a lack of focus in those areas of talent sought by their companies.

Beating the Clock
Organization of the information in your résumé is equally important. It should be arranged in such a way as to make it easy for a busy department manager or Human Resource professional who gives it only a quick scan to see what it is that you bring to the table in exchange for the wage you expect. Frequently, because of the large number of applicants, the initial scan of an applicant's résumé may be only ten or twenty seconds. I recommend that after presenting your name, address and telephone number, you begin your résumé with a Summary of Qualifications. Done properly, this summary will help you beat the ten-to-twenty second clock.

The reason the initial scan given a résumé is so brief is because the goal is not to select the final candidates, but to reduce the overall number of applicants down to a more manageable number. The first scan reduces the résumés to three stacks, a "yes" stack, a "maybe" stack, and a "no" stack. Once the first scan is completed, the next thing that happens is universal: they pick up the "yes" stack. And here's the point: If your résumé didn't make the "yes" stack on the first pass in which it got a ten-to-twenty second look, the likelihood of you winning a job interview is practically zero. Someone in the "yes" stack will get the interview and the job.

Image is Everything
As you create your résumé, never lose sight of the fact that you are creating an image of yourself for someone who is a complete stranger, who has no idea of your personality, your physical appearance, your vitality, your intelligence or your ambition. Your résumé is the only asset available to the prospective employer to determine whether you are the kind of person they need. Pay close attention to the kind of document you are preparing for them.

If your résumé contains misspelled words, the vision you create of yourself is that of someone who is either (1) ignorant, (2) careless, (3) doesn't know how to use a dictionary, or (4) doesn't care one way or the other. A recent survey sponsored by Office Team, a California-based staffing firm, revealed that 76% of employers will eliminate a job applicant whose résumé contains typographical errors. Forty-five percent said a single typo was enough to reject a candidate. And if your résumé is computer typeset but still contains misspelled words, the image you create is that of someone whose computer skills are so minimal that you haven't learned how to use the spell checker.

A résumé that is printed on cheap, flimsy off-set paper sends the message that its owner is also cheap. A résumé that has stains, bent edges or other slights sends the message that the owner is sloppy or untidy. A news article in the Florida Times-Union reported an interview with the Human Resource Manager of a major corporation in which the manager said that over 5,000 responses to his company's employment ads in the Wall Street Journal were thrown into the trash that year because of the appearance of the envelope. Truly, image is everything.

Your résumé should never be printed on anything less than 24 lb. paper. Personally, I prefer all- linen papers, although there are some nice fiber ones. As to color, white is "safe," but I prefer color. Advertising professionals will tell you that color greatly increases reader response, and the résumé is advertising media. A survey of senior corporate managers and Human Resource professionals was taken a few years ago, and when asked about color in résumé, the response was interesting. If you combined the number of respondents who said the color of the paper had no influence whatsoever, with those who said they preferred ivory/creme, the percentage was over 70%. Thus, Las Vegas odds-makers would tell you the surest bet is to print your resume on ivory/creme paper.

Don't fold your résumé and stuff it into a No.10 envelope. Send it in a 9x12 envelope, and enclose a meaningful cover letter with it. If you are faxing your résumé but also have the mailing address of the prospective employer, send a hard copy on your nice linen paper as well. No one ever lost a job opportunity because they went the extra mile.

The One-Page/Two-Page Controversy
Opinions abound over whether a résumé may have multiple pages, or should be limited to one page. The word, " résumé" is from the French language and means to summarize. The whole idea of a résumé presentation is that a genuine effort should be made to make it as brief and tightly focused as possible. The primary purpose of the résumé's content is to firmly establish your qualifications for the job for which you are applying. The goal is to convince the prospective employer that your talents and abilities would be of value to the company, and that you deserve a job interview. Never sacrifice content for page count. If the breadth and depth of your experience takes two pages, then so be it. However, if the essential message of your background can be captured on one page, don't stretch it into two pages in the belief that you will seem more experienced because of the second page.

Summing Up
Keep a heads-up attitude when preparing your résumé. Give quality time to its preparation, and bring your full intelligence to bear. This is not a document to be done while watching 20/20 on television, or knocked off in some cavalier fashion over the weekend. Make a conscious effort to take the prospective employers' perspective and visualize your talents through their eyes. Remember, it's their job and their money. You will not win a job interview if you fail to convince them that what you would bring to their company is worth more than they will have to pay you. Think value, as you write your résumé. And don't lose sight of this important fact: Your résumé is working for you in the most competitive moment of the entire job hunting process, when you are competing against hundreds of others for the same job-and you're not there in person. Your résumé is YOU. Read your résumé carefully, ask friends and professional peers to also read it and give you some feedback. Is the image you have created, the best, the most accurate and most comprehensive image you could transmit to a complete stranger? If not, then you are not competitive in the marketplace. Go back to your computer and give it another shot.

Tell Your Friends!


Perhaps one of the most valuable contributions that the process of creating a résumé can make to the job hunting efforts of those who are in career transition is insight into one's value in the world of work.

It may be that you will write your own résumé, or you may elect to hire a professional to do it for you. Either way, the process will generate some important questions that can produce a sometimes sobering, but always useful assessment of your marketability in today's increasingly competitive workplace. Here are a few of them:

(1) What key qualifications do you think your next employer will be looking for?

(2) Of those qualifications which you currently possess, which ones do you think an employer would consider the most valuable?

(3) Of all your talents and qualifications, which constitute your greatest strengths and make you the most unique?

(4) We all possess a mix of hard skills, i.e., COBOL programming, and soft skills, i.e., interpersonal communication abilities. What are yours?

(5) What do you feel are your most notable accomplishments on the job? Name 3 or 4 if you can, and specify/quantify the results produced by each one.

(6) What particularly notable accomplishments have there been in your life, not necessarily on the job?

(7) What are the key skills/knowledge that you use on the job?

(8) What areas of talent, skill, or education have you noticed seem to be particularly valued by employers in your industry or career field?

(9) If you had to put together a list of "buzz words" related to your area of work, what would they be?

Quality time spent in a genuine self-inspection of what makes one valuable to an employer is a crucial first step in developing a résumé that wins job interviews and leads to a successful job hunt. Because the résumé is a sales instrument, a marketing tool that advertises and promotes your value to a potential employer, the better you know yourself the better you are able to communicate it to others.

The process of writing your résumé, or working with a professional résumé writer, is itself a form of career counseling and helps to clarify not only your current skill set, but identify those areas needing improvement to enhance your employability. And if you are contemplating a complete change of career field, the self-assessment aspect of the résumé preparation process prepares the way for identifying and acquiring the additional skill sets that qualify you for employment in your new career.

Tell Your Friends!


Okay. You discovered in your local newspaper's employment want ads what appears to be a great job opening. You immediately sent off your résumé and cover letter, and you have been waiting expectantly for a reply. Today's mail arrived, and joy of joys, there's a card acknowledging receipt of your résumé and it asks you to call the company to arrange for a personal interview.

DON'T CALL! At least not before making some preparations. There is a strong likelihood that the call you are about to make will not be a simple one of arranging for a convenient time to meet. The increased level of competition for the better jobs today has resulted in higher numbers of persons applying for job vacancies, and many employers have begun giving applicants a screening interview over the telephone. There you are on the telephone expecting to just set a time for meeting, and suddenly your call has been handed to someone who begins to ask probing questions about your abilities, what you know about the company, and why you think you should be hired. This is no time for fumbling around for creative thoughts.

The telephone screening interview is designed to save the employer the time and expense that might be wasted on a personal interview with an applicant who is not the most qualified for the position. There may be specific skills or knowledge which the employer requires and the applicant's résumé may lack a definite claim in those areas. Or it may be that the employer's advertisement has drawn such a strong response that the high number of applicants has made it possible to add selection criteria not reflected in their original advertisement. Then again, the purpose of the telephone interview may be simply to get a feel for the applicant's ability to communicate.

Whatever the reason motivating the employer to use the telephone screening interview, the best strategy for job hunters is to prepare for the telephone interview before calling. Have a copy of the résumé and cover letter which you sent on the table before you. Gather any notes you have about the company's background, and have prompt cards on the significant points you want to make in the interview. Review all of these before making the call. In fact, think of The Three P's of Interviewing: Preparation, Practice and Presentation.

Preparation Builds Confidence
The best remedy for those interviewing 'butterflies' is to prepare for the interview. Make it a point to look into the background of any company to which you are applying for employment. At the very least you should make sure you understand what services or products they provide. It will also be helpful to have some understanding of their industry and their competitors. One of the best and easiest-to-use resources for this sort of information is the CD-ROM-based Business Newsbank Plus found at many public and college campus libraries. Business Newsbank Plus provides full text news articles from hundreds of industry and professional publications and is an excellent resource for uncovering recent news events relating to a prospective employer. Another resource is Infotrac, which can be accessed at most metropolitan branches of a city or county public library system. Infotrac and its Investex files provide information on more than 8,000 U.S. and 2,000 publicly-held foreign companies, and its reports are written by over 60 respected Wall Street firms.

Practice Makes Perfect
Practice is essential to mastering any endeavor. It's amazing how many people continue to insist on just "winging it" when it comes to job interviewing. You're unnecessarily inviting disaster by not practicing your presentation of yourself. Just about everyone has a video camera these days, or knows someone who has. Set it up on a tripod and have a friend (not your wife or husband) take the role of the interviewer. It's best to practice in an office environment if one is available. Be mindful of the clock and work not only to smooth out your presentation, but also to reduce the time taken in responding to questions. Study the video closely and look for distracting body language, language clichés, or weak responses.

Presentation is Selling
An interview is a sales presentation. Professional salespersons always know where they are in the presentation. Like a good story, a sales presentation has a beginning, a middle and an end. The beginning of an interview is your opportunity to ask questions. Professional salespersons ask questions to uncover the problems and needs of their prospect, then pitch their product as an answer to those problems and needs. Not a bad strategy for a job applicant. Don't be afraid to ask questions. The more you know about the responsibilities of the vacant position, the better able you will be to answer the questions asked in the middle of the interview. Let the interviewer control the middle portion, and make it a point to not talk continuously for more than two minutes. Watch for body language and verbal signals from the interviewer that the interview is coming to a close. Have some strategies in mind for summarizing your abilities and leave no doubt with the interviewer that you will accept the position if offered. Also, remember that an upbeat attitude, a sense of humor and a smile are powerful tools in a successful interview.

Tell Your Friends!


Probably one of the most misunderstood and underrated of all personal marketing documents is the cover letter. The very name, "cover letter," is so bland that it inspires hardly anyone and dangerously invites flippancy. Yet, the cover letter may well be the most important of all the various forms of correspondence a job hunter will use in the search for quality employment. It is a multi-faceted document that may be used for everything from answering employment ads and responding to requests for salary requirements, to the cold-call broadcasting of one's talents to selected employers who are not necessarily advertising a current job vacancy.

Competition Demands Higher Performance
Satchel Paige, one of baseball's greats, said "Don't look over your shoulder because something may be gaining on you." When today's job hunters and career changers look over their shoulders, they will certainly see a pressing horde of other job seekers frantically positioning themselves to win the attention of prospective employers. And that horde includes not only the unemployed, but millions of people who have jobs but want something better or different. To be competitive and stay ahead of other career changers, it is crucial to develop a job hunting presentation of oneself that is distinctive-markedly different in some way from what others are doing.

Combine Research With Sincerity
Recently, Accutemp, the world's largest employer of accounting and financial services personnel, had an independent survey conducted of the tens of thousands of cover letters it receives each year. The survey revealed that over two-thirds of the cover letters made no mention of the company or its industry. There's your first clue as to how you can be distinctive among job hunters. Join the minority one-third of applicants by taking the initiative to research the company you are approaching for employment. Gather current data and create a meaningful statement in your cover letter that sends the signal (a) that your letter is not a generic rip-off from some How-to-Write-a-Cover Letter book, and (b) that you have a genuine interest in their company. I stress the words meaningful and genuine because a mere off-handed parroting of information in a non-creative way will come across as superficial and phony-not the image you want to portray. I recently addressed a class of graduating seniors who were completing their Master's degree in Human Resource Management. Many of the students already had years of hands-on experience in Human Resource functions like employment screening. They agreed that the cover letter is important in assessing a job applicant, but were quick to add that they were unimpressed by shallow, insincere references to their company. Point: It isn't enough to just go through the motions.

Two Closing Points
The cover letter is a demonstration of your literacy, your ability to communicate-a vital and much sought after skill in today's team-oriented and computer-automated workplace. Tightly written sentences focused in presenting relevant talents and interests, carefully organized paragraphs, and text that is typo-free from beginning to end all send a signal of intelligence and education. The Director of Human Resources for a Fortune 500 company reported that in one year alone, his company eliminated over 3,000 job applicants because of incoherent cover letters. What you say and how you say it makes a difference.

Secondly, your cover letter should contain the basic elements of its purpose: who you are, what position or type of work you are applying for, how you come to be contacting them at this particular time, an amplification of the talent(s) you think most valuable to them (and if answering their employment ad, a focused response to each and every qualification mentioned in their ad), and a direct request for an interview. Be candid, be direct, be brief and sell, sell, sell.

Tell Your Friends!


Define Yourself

You must have a clear vision of who you are in the workplace-from the employer's perspective. Employers hire for value. Survey your skills, education and work experience for the value that answers the employer's question, "What can you do for me?", or "Why should I hire you (and not one of these other candidates)?"

  • Make a list of the specific abilities, specialized knowledge, technical know-how and people/communication skills that you bring to the table in exchange for wages.

  • Give thought to your personal values and life interests to make sure they are compatible with the areas of employment you are considering.

Examine the World of Work

At any given time there are identifiable trends in the world of work. Some economic activities are on the increase, driven by technology or market demands while other areas have reached a plateau, or maybe are sliding toward obsolescence. Focus your job hunting efforts toward those industries which are experiencing the greatest growth or change, and are upward-trending.

  • Learn to use electronic resources like INFOTRAC and Business Newsbank Plus to efficiently identify the "movers and shakers" who are most likely to be hiring TODAY.

  • Check out your local library for business information resources like The American Business Disc (CD-ROM) or Dun and Bradstreet's Microcosm (microfiche) to identify the "players" in your local business community.

Prepare Personal Marketing Documents

Next to your driver's license, your résumé(s) and cover letter(s) are the most important documents in your working life. Spare no amount of time and money in preparing them. Remember: The purpose of these documents is to secure a personal interview-no interview, no job! The most competitive moment in the whole job hunting process is when your résumé is competing against hundreds of others for the few initial interviews that will be granted.

  • The résumé is not a job application form! It is advertising media promoting a product-YOU. It should be upbeat, focused in the talent areas most valued by the prospective employer, and totally professional in presentation and appearance.

  • Computer typeset your résumé and print it on a high quality paper, preferably a 24 lb. linen paper. Keep in mind that your résumé may be computer scanned, so keep formating simple and avoid desktop publishing gimmicks.

  • Proofread your résumé several times for errors, and also have one or two friends read it not only to check for spelling errors, but coherence and organization as well. Typos, incorrect words and lack of organization suggest poor education, ignorance, lack of attention to detail and sloppiness.

Contact Quality Employers

Use the information gained from surveying the world of work to identify specific employers, then use every method available to contact them.

  • Information is the key to uncovering the "hidden job market." Any resource or method that is not used will result in missing quality job opportunities.
  • There is no one perfect method or technique for identifying and contacting prospective employers. The success rate of a particular method varies depending upon a myriad of factors including industry type, market demand, size of business community, nature of the work sought, and others.
  • Leave no stone unturned: use industry research and focused direct mail, personal networking, automated job lines, Internet job sites, recruiters and employment agencies, career fairs, state employment resources and telemarketing to spread the word of your availability. Remember: the greater the number of companies and people that know you are available, the greater the number of interviews you will get.

Practice Interviewing

Be prepared for a telephone interview, an increasingly common screening device. Do your "homework" on a company before returning their call to set up an interview. Prepare "prompt cards" summarizing what you know about the company and to help field the most likely questions about your abilities.

  • Read a good book on interviewing. Two favorites: 101 Great Answers to the Toughest Interview Questions, by Ron Fry, and Sweaty Palms-The Neglected Art of Being Interviewed, by Anthony Medley.


Ask your most important questions in the first 5-10 minutes of the interview, then let the interviewer run the show. Your initial questions should be aimed at finding out as much as possible about the vacant position. Thus armed, you are better able to understand and answer the questions that follow in the interview.

  • Always, always follow-up the interview with a brief, courteous letter. This letter may also be used as an opportunity to clear up or amplify some point that arose during the interview. End the letter with assurances that you are very much interested in the position, and would take it if offered.

Tell 			Your Friends!


When considering spending the several hundred dollars involved in hiring a professional service to create résumé(s) and cover letter(s), someone will argue, "This can't be all that difficult. Why not save the money and just do it myself?"

Our answer is simple: There are times when it is wise to cut costs and preserve capital. But when it comes to creating the professional presentation that will be responsible for winning or losing what may be your best shot at landing a quality job with a great company, this is definitely NOT the time to count pennies. For most people, the loss of one week of pay far exceeds all costs related to preparing one's personal marketing documents. All it takes is one missed opportunity for a job interview, and all money "saved" is lost.

The résumé is a deceptively simple-looking document, yet it is one of the most difficult of all forms of business communication to create. Deceptive, because at first glance it appears to be nothing more than someone's name, address and telephone number, a listing of places where one's worked along with job titles, job descriptions and education. In reality, the résumé is advertising media employing the most demanding form of creative copywriting. It is a type of writing that few people are ever called upon to perform.

An effective résumé, meaning one that consistently wins interviews against all others competing for the same position, is a marketing instrument whose content is written in a peculiar staccato voice that never uses the first person personal pronoun, speaks in the vernacular of the industry and somehow magically presents the owner's talents in a way that is particularly attractive to the needs of a targeted audience, the employer.

The difference between the level of professional services at and the writing skills of the average job seeker, whether college educated or not, may be summed up in one word: Practice. At, we are writing every day, all day long, and across the full spectrum of the world of work, encompassing virtually every career field and industry. We use the analogy of aviation flight training to demonstrate the essential ingredient of Practice:

Most people who want to learn how to fly an airplane will first attend what is called Ground School. Here the would-be-pilots learn basic aerodynamic principles that explain why an airplane flies. They learn the Bernouli principle of lift, and why the length of the chord over the top of an airfoil is longer than underneath. They also learn the functions of all the control surfaces, the flaps, ailerons, elevator and rudder. At the conclusion of Ground School, the flight students have a full intellectual understanding of how to fly, but no actual practice flying a plane. So, when they climb into the cockpit of a real airplane they will certainly crash if an instructror is not there to save them

In the same manner, it is not enough to merely realize the qualities that make for a successful résumé. Reading a book about how to write a resumé is like attending ground school. No matter what principles you may learn from the book, it is only practice, practice and more practice that will eventually result in an acceptable résumé. Most job hunters and persons in career transition do not enjoy the luxury of having the time to research, learn and practice creating the elements of a successful résumé. Wisdom, in this case, says a professional should be brought in. The stakes are simply too high to do otherwise. Now, the question for you is which professional?

We invite you to examine our credentials, consider our professional affiliations, and read the testimonials of our former clients. We are confident you will agree that is an excellent choice to assist you in your career transition efforts. We invite you to contact us to arrange for an initial, no cost consultation. And remember, we GUARANTEE that you will be successful with our approach.

© Robert H. Johnson, B.A., M.A., JCTC

Tell Your Friends!


Just about everyone will agree that the most intimidating phase of job hunting is the dreaded job interview: Sitting down with a total stranger to be probed and interrogated, then to negotiate terms of a relationship not yet fully understood, but one which will impact profoundly on the quality of one's life and family. However, it need not be so unpleasant, and the outcome more likely successful if only a bit of preparation and practice are brought to the process.

It is amazing how lackadaisically and nonchalantly many job seekers approach the job interviewing process, yet cannot understand why they dread it so much, why those "butterflies" are raging in their stomachs on the day of the interview, and finally, why the interview didn't go so well. First of all, those butterflies are the product of fear, and fear is the product of a lack of information. This is not the death-and-dying type of fear, but the more common garden variety of apprehension that comes from a strong need to succeed, yet having a feeling of little or no control over the outcome. Preparation and practice are the remedy for this condition.

If the truth be told, few job seekers give more than a token effort to fully informing themselves about the employer they are approaching, and even less time in practicing the interview process. There is the classic tale of the job candidate who was being interviewed by IBM and was asked, "What does the acronym,IBM, stand for?" He had no answer, and was immediately disqualified as just another job shopper. Beyond desiring regular pay, benefits and a two-week vacation, today's job seeker better have a convincing answer to the interviewer's question, "Why do you want to go to work for us?"

At a minimum, you should inform yourself of a brief history of the company, i.e., when and where it was founded; whether it is the parent company, or a subsidiary of a larger company; the nature of its products and services; its stature in the industry, gross sales and whether they are rising or falling, and who are the major competitors. If the company's stock is publicly held, I strongly recommend reading the company president's message to the stockholders in the most recent annual report. This type of information is easily found on the Internet and in the Reference Department of most public and university libraries. Several of my favorites for this type of research are: (1); (2); (3) and the Wall Street Journal Background reports at

Another wise strategy when preparing for a job interview is to construct a 90-second thumbnail presentation of your value to the employer. This one and one-half minute presentation should be a bare-bones litany of the education, talent and expertise that justifies what the company will pay you for your time. Just the process itself in collecting and arranging this brief presentation will prepare you for many of the questions you might be asked, including the trap-door query, "Tell me about yourself." The 90-second drill is also valuable in handling the increasingly common telephone screening interview that precedes an invitation for a personal interview.

With preparation comes practice. Find a friend or professional peer, NOT your wife, husband or other members of your family, and set up as realistic an interviewing session as possible. Try to find a vacant conference room in your office building, or go to a friend's office after hours or on the weekend. As you structure the practice interview, keep in mind that you are expected to ask questions yourself. Put together a list of the criteria that are important to you, and compose diplomatic questions for the interviewer. In a sense, you and the employer are considering a form of marriage. There are questions to which you are entitled to ask. For example: (1) May I take a look at the job description?; (2) Do you have a performance appraisal system and what is the typical career track expected?; (3) Do you offer training?, and (4) Who will I be working for?

Depending upon a number of factors such as company size and the vacant position's level of responsibility, you may or may not encounter salary negotiations on the first interview. But sooner or later, you and the prospective employer will have to hammer out an agreement on your compensation. Keep in mind that compensation is frequently more than just money: quality of life issues such as child-care subsidies, paid vacations and sick leave are also values to be considered, not to mention health and hospitalization insurance. Latest U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics show that as of March 1998, benefits averaged about 28% of total compensation costs.

Salary negotiation is one of the most misunderstood aspects of job interviewing, and it is a topic deserving more attention than can be given in this brief article. But suffice it to say, the principles of preparation and practice are equally important to successful negotiation. A couple of my favorite resources for salary comparisons are: (1), and (2)

Finally, it is wise to consider that after all is said and done, it is not necessarily the most qualified person, or the one who will work the more cheaply, that gets the job offer. Studies in human nature tell us that we tend to like or dislike someone in the first 5 to 8 seconds of meeting. Job interviewing is a dynamic endeavor of engaging personalities, and while your qualifications are certainly important, you are also being measured for your compatibility with existing employees. Your best weapon here is your smile and, yes, a sense of humor. There's no better touchstone for help in this part of the interviewing process than the all-time classic, How to Win Friends and Influence People, by Dale Carnegie.

Remember, it's all about preparation and practice. To win a job offer, you can't have too much of either.

© Robert H. Johnson, B.A., M.A., JCTC

Tell Your Friends!


In earlier times, résumés were created on typewriters and mailed or faxed to potential employers. With the advent of e-mail communication and the soliciting by Internet job boards for ASCII-formatted résumés, plus the increasing use of Optical Character Recognition (OCR) scanning to digitize résumés for computer software management applications, it's a whole new ball game out there.

Communication is a two-way street. It's not enough to merely transmit a message; it must be received on the other end for the exchange to be complete. If the résumé which you're transmitting is not in a format that is compatible for receiving on the other end, then you're spinning your wheels and stand to miss out on being considered for vacant job positions. Let's take a few minutes to get up to speed on OCR scanning. When you've finished reading this article, you might want to also read the article, Electronically Speaking: Résumés Via the Internet, on the differing techniques of ASCII-text transmissions for e-mailing résumés to employers and posting résumés to Internet job boards.

OCR Scanning

As the number of job applicants increases each year, companies are turning to OCR scanning of résumés to (1) eliminate having to physically handle and file bulky paper résumés, and (2) to change the résumés into an electronic format so they can be easily searched for the specific area of talent sought by the employer for a particular position. You want to make sure that the copy of your résumé which you have sent to the employer will present no problems for their OCR scanner, and that all of your information will be accurately recorded. Here's your check list to ensure a scannable document:

  1. Provide the prospective employer with the highest quality copy of your résumé, using a standard size 8 1/2 x 11, white or ivory/creme paper. Send your résumé unfolded in a 9 x 12 envelope and don't staple the pages together. The creases in a folded résumé can distort letters, and the staple holes may be read as letters.

  2. The safest typefaces to use are non-serif styles like Helvetica, Arial, Optima, etc., and the best font size is between 10 and 12. Avoid headings in font sizes larger than 20, and stay away from fancy script-type fonts or typefaces with long ascenders or descenders. Adjust the leading (the space between lines) to at least .95, and make sure no characters touch one another, especially any underlining. When characters touch an underline, the scanner tries to read the character and the underline as a single word. In general, avoid underlining when possible.

  3. However, horizontal lines drawn to make a distinction between sections of your résumé are okay. Just make sure no text touches the lines. If you're using horizontal lines, make them of thin or medium thickness and long, preferably from margin to margin. And use single lines, not a double or combo of one thick-one thin line.

  4. Don't use newspaper-style, multiple vertical columns of text, and while a digitized résumé of 10 pages is processed as easily as a single-page one, stay true to the spirit of the résumé: be brief and well organized, with content focused toward presenting qualifications directly related to the position for which you are applying.

  5. Bullets to set off paragraphs are okay, but use solid ones; bullets with cutouts in the center can be misread by a scanner as the letter "o." And avoid special characters like +, &, and %. Spell out the words "plus," "and," and "percent." Also, add extra spaces around slashes (e.g., advertising / marketing, not advertising/marketing).


I've saved the most important point for last and emphasized it with bold print because it is imperative to realize that the primary feature of the software applications that manipulate résumé information is the time-saving ability to search for candidates by specific skill areas, talent and work experience. To be effective in this new OCR-scanning environment, your résumé must contain the key words and phrases that relate to the type of position for which you applying. And it is NOUNS that rule the day, not the verbs, or "action" words around which most of today's résumés are built.

These keyword nouns (sometimes acronyms) may emphasize skill areas (mechanical engineer), level of education (Master's Degree), name of college (MIT), name of a branded company (IBM, XEROX, AT&T), languages (Spanish), industry (plastic injection molding), and industry or workplace designations such as "Fortune 500."

Keywords may also relate to specific elements or functions of the job. For instance, a high-tech company looking for a college-educated multi-state salesperson to sell its line of radiological products may set up a search using the keywords: multi-state sales; outside sales; medical sales; medical equipment; sales territory management; new product launchings; Bachelor of Science; Bachelor of Arts; major accounts; account management; radiology, end-user training and customer service.

Where to find the key words and phrases? The easiest approach is to survey employment want ads in the newspapers and trade publications, Internet job boards, and any one of the many career resource publications such the Occupational Outlook Handbook, or even the U.S. Department of Labor's new NAICS manual with its industry-by-industry descriptions.

And finally, the controversy over whether a separate key word section is needed at the top or bottom of the résumé. If you have done a thorough job of strategically placing key words and phrases throughout your résumé, the answer is no. Just be aware that if you've failed to send these key electronic "signals" to the prospective employer, your message may be overlooked by the system.

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