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How to show off the essentials on a resume

Stormtrooper, Star Wars, Lego, Storm, Trooper, Wrong
Show off what makes you a better worker

There are a lot of generic traits that people like to list on a resume. Here’s a few:

“Hard working”


“Good attitude”

“Fast learner”

“Great leader”

Writing these down is a waste on any resume. They’re useless. They’re essential for almost any job, but they’re completely useless to list.

Anyone would say they’re “hard working” or “have a good attitude” if it means getting a job. The people reading your resume know that.

If you really are one of those descriptions? Prove it.

People who love their job prove it every day. They volunteer to help, come in early, leave late. Outside of work, they’re still working in related associations, help forums, and other networks because they love their job. Someone like this is most likely going to fit “hardworking, dedicated, good attitude.”

Then they never show it on their resume.

What PROVES that you’re a hard worker? What PROVES that you’re dedicated?

Working extra hours. Working in your field in your free time. Breaking production or sales records.

Fast learning? My son was working at Five Guys as his first job years ago. He was told to watch training videos and read the manuals. He did. He showed up to work and by the end of the first day was training the guy who had already been there a week.

No one expected him to read the manuals. Especially not on his own time.

He got a raise at the end of his first week. He put up posters showing records for most potatoes chopped in a minute and other similar jobs (he held nearly all of them). He was hard working.

Shortly after starting to work for them, he was made a manager.

Those are excellent pieces for a resume. “Broke multiple production records, was training other new workers on my first day, promoted to manager after a month” are all extremely valuable to have on a resume.

Prove that you’re outstanding.

Something To Do Today

What essential skills do you have? List what you’ve done to prove it on your resume.

Second place is useless

Second place isn’t useful when hunting for a job. First place gets a job. Second place gets nothing.

That’s only after you get the interview. You need to have one of the best resumes to make it to the interview stage.

Figure out what’s different between you and the competition. Why can they get an interview when you can’t?

1 job. 100 resumes. Do the math.

80 resumes are tossed in the trash by the receptionist after a 10 second review. Another 10 get trashed after maybe a minute long read through. The remaining 10 get sent to the hiring manager. He picks out what he believes are the 3 best for interviews.

100 –> 20 –> 10 –> 3 –> 1

A vanilla, generic resume won’t get you an interview. What is the difference between you and the losers?

The first step is making it past the receptionist. They chucked 80 resumes because they looked like they were the least qualified. What makes you look qualified for the job? Put those on your resume in big, bold letters. Even if they’re so “generic” they’re expected for the job, if they can’t tell you have it easily, you could get chucked with the other 79 resumes.

Make it as easy as possible to see the basic requirements that you meet on your resume and you’ll make it past the receptionist.

The second step is getting the hiring manager to like your resume. Just like the receptionist, they’ll scan to check for minimum requirements. Then they read for attitude, ability, and something special or unique that makes you stand out.

The best things to make you stand out make you look like a “mini me”. They want someone who can do the job as well as they can, if not better. You need to be able to help with their problems.

You don’t always know what their “problems” are, but a good idea would be either staying within budget, increasing revenue, or better serving the customer. Your resume needs to show how you will help him meet his goals.

Think: what about you makes you stand out?

I wrote a resume planning book and a resume planner to go with it. It has a number of questions and ideas to help you stand out in your resume. It explains many of the types of questions you need to answer with your resume, and how to show your past experience applies to this current opening.

Focus on the best and most important parts of your resume.

Something To Do Today

Grab the resume planner and go through it step by step. It’ll take a bit to complete, but it’s necessary and worth it.

Hiding employment gaps in your resume

I may know a lot about writing resumes (I wrote the book – literally), but I occasionally see new ways to make a resume stand out.

Today I saw a fun one. A guy hadn’t been working for the last year or two. Generally, not working for more than about 8 or 9 months makes it really really hard to get any job. There are a lot of standard ways to hide that you weren’t working. For example:

Railway, Platform, Mind, Gap, Mind The Gap, Travel
Self Employed2018-2019
Most recent job2015-2018
(most recent job ends before current year)
Wal-Mart Greeter2018-2019
(irrelevant minimum wage job)
Developer at [spouse’s company]2017-2019

With these, it sounds like you didn’t want to be (effectively) unemployed. If you’re Self Employed, list your clients. Use big, exact numbers. 63,844 is better than 64,000.

If you haven’t worked at all and it’s a big gap, list any projects you’ve been working on while looking for a job. Charity work that happens to be in your field is great.  

If you have a minimum-wage job as filler, please don’t list it on your resume. It’s better to have a gap than to have something like that on your resume.

If you were kind of working for a friend or your spouses company, it doesn’t look great if they’re a small company, but it’s better than nothing. If you REALLY have been working there, use big, exact numbers. They catch eyes and make it sound like you were working.

These all work, but I’ve got a new favorite. I mentioned that I saw a new one today. The guy listed all the places he had traveled to over the last year or two, and how he was going to at least one new place a month. He had various states and monuments listed, as well as Europe, the Baja Peninsula, and more.

You can call it a sabbatical, if you want.

Most people out of a job probably can’t reasonably afford to go to Europe, but there are generally places to go touring. This is amazingly effective because it makes it seem like you WANTED to be unemployed so you could go to all of these places.

When you can’t or don’t get a job for an extended time, it looks like there is something wrong. Either you got fired for something awful, or you’re not skilled enough, or something else.

If it looks like you didn’t want a job, that you didn’t need to search for a job (because you were so wildly successful), it will help you out on your resume.

Something To Do Today

What can you put on your resume to make it sound like you wanted to be unemployed instead of desperate to get a job?

A resume planner

Sidenote: Sorry for the lack of updates. We’ve just hired a new employee and it’s been soaking a lot of time. After Thanksgiving weekend, I should be back on the regular Monday-Wednesday-Friday schedule. Thank you for reading!

Good resumes are hard to write from scratch. Coming up with a list of jobs and responsibilities is easy. Figuring out what makes you different from everyone else is very hard.

I’ve put a resume planner up on our website.

Please offer suggestions on how I can improve it.

Go through a copy even if you already have a resume. It can help you find out ways to improve your resume.

Take some time over Thanksgiving to fill it out.

Something To Do Today                                         

Grab one of the resume planners. Does it have topics you haven’t addressed?

Grinding your gears

Steve points out issues in customer service and manufacturing and gets promoted for it. Tom pointed out those same problems last week and gets poor performance reviews and was put on probation once.

Tom said to his supervisor, “I can’t believe anyone is so stupid that they let this happen.  What kind of idiots are running this company?” His supervisor would need to be non-human to take criticism like that without getting offended.

Steve went a little easier. “I think we can save time and money if we make a few changes here. Should I go talk to the supervisor in that department to see if he thinks this would make sense?” Somehow, Steve got lauded when Tom got spurned.

Rusty, Old, Engine, Mechanical, Aged

Keep the business engine running smooth and happy

A Business Engine

An engine needs fuel, but if you let it run forever, you’ll burn out the engine without grease. If you want to destroy it faster, add sand.

Grumpy, accusatory people make the people around them grumpy. The best workers are happy to be there. They’re more productive and get work done. People who want to be at work function similarly to the grumps. They make the people around them want to be there.

Watch your attitude when it comes to problems. Are you adding sand or grease to the problem? Which is more likely to get you a raise or promotion?

Something To Do Today

Check to make sure all the improvements you started are in your job journal. Make estimates of how much money or time you’ve saved. Things like this show why you deserve a raise, and look great on a resume.

Preventing Miserable Non-Competes

Fight over non-competes or they’re go for your throat when you get your next job

Non-competes suck. Not that it’ll keep me from having my employees sign a terrible non-compete, but I still give them options.

A comedic non-compete from a ways back was with Jimmy John’s, a fast delivery sandwich joint, similar to Subway. They had a very strong non-compete that every employee making a sandwich had to sign. They couldn’t work for a competitor for two years, even if they were just making $7.25 while putting together sandwiches. A competitor was effective anywhere that makes sandwiches (possibly your own kitchen?).

It’s just slightly overkill when it’s a minimum wage job, and they can sue your butt off if you forgot about it.

Getting enforced on a non-compete

Depending on the state, anything can happen in a contested non-compete violation. I’ve heard in California, it’s almost impossible to enforce a non-compete. In Tennessee, it’s impossible to get out of one. Even in California, avoid the non-compete instead of contesting it after the fact.

Getting enforced on a non-compete sucks. I had a perfect manager accept a job at a new company, only to get slammed by a non-compete. In a few seconds and a phone call from a lawyer, that opportunity vanished into thin air.

Personally, I want the smallest non-compete I could get my hands on. “You are not allowed to help steal customers you worked with directly for one year after you leave.” Something similar works in most situations.

An extra qualifier I’d want: “If the company cuts my pay, rearranges my bonuses so I earn less, or fires me for anything besides dishonestly, I can work for anyone I choose.”

Sadly, those contracts are never going to appear in a contract. They still give an idea for what to look for in a contract.

Don’t be afraid to cross out the non-compete clause in a contract before signing it, or portions on the clause. Bring a sharpie to any place where you’re expected to sign a contract. For a short video on that, check out our YouTube here.

Getting a friend a job

People, Workplace, Desk, Break, Relax, ColleaguesThis programmer didn’t have any experience using the language and tools the company software was developed in. He hadn’t programmed in 2 years. He was still one of the best programmers I have ever met. He managed to get hired without any of that. Not even an interview.

He started off putting together an excellent resume showing off how he was totally and completely awesome. The key was he had a friend working at the company. His friend took his resume directly to the owner and dropped it on his desk. He said “This guy is better than me. You should hire him. You should also pay him more than me. He’s really good.”

The boss called up the programmer and invited him to show up the next day to take a look. If he wanted, he could sit down and start working immediately. After he proved what he was worth, he’d get his pay adjusted appropriately.

As backup, the programmer had a glowing letter of recommendation from his former employer. Didn’t need it.

If you have a friend you believe in, that’s how you get them a job where you work. They need to be the best. If they really are, your boss will appreciate the help.

Also, note that there doesn’t need to be an opening to do this. If there was, they could have just applied online although this gets bonus points for being extra dramatic.

Something To Do Today

If you want to get a job this way, be way above mediocre, and have a perfect resume. Work on both. As a worker, you should stand out. Your resume should stand out as well.

Age discrimination in job openings

Old Age, Man, Elderly, Cold, Wrinkled, Character“I have completed all objectives as an executive for 37 years and was just laid off due to an industry downturn.”

To the wrong person, you just told them you were laid off for being an old worker who’s waiting to hit retirement. They wanted some young-blood go-getter with more energy who works harder. You just told them to discriminate against you because of your age.

In my experience, age discrimination is much more common than other discrimination based on race, sex, religion, or any other factor, though all happen. That’s reality. No one wants to hire someone who is marking time until retirement.

Regardless of age, you need to prove that you’re not just a place holder. Show off on your resume what all you’ve gotten done at your previous job. They need to see your enthusiasm. In particular, your enthusiasm for the job you’re applying for.

Don’t lie about it

The purpose of your resume is to get you an interview and no more. If you don’t want to show something on your resume, don’t! It’s a personal advertisement, and you shouldn’t put your downfalls on your personal advertisement.

If you don’t want to show that you worked the same job for the last 37 years and then got laid off, break it up. Instead of one long position, create a new entry for each different position or division you worked with. That gets the older dates off the resume, even and makes it easier to read.

Age discrimination isn’t nice. Any discrimination isn’t nice, but you have to consider it. Make your resume an effective advertisement for what you can and will contribute to the new job. Don’t show off how old you are unless you think it will help you get the job.

The same stands for anything else they might discriminate for. Race? Lots of discrimination against Asian-Indians in the US. Gender? Disability? Sexual orientation? Religion? Accept that you’re going to have to deal with it. Work harder, shine brighter, and they can’t ignore you.

Don’t make a big deal out of those characteristics. In 99.87% of cases, it will not change how you will do in the job. Not everyone needs to know everything about you.

Something To Do Today

Are you over 40? Start to consider age discrimination. Over 60? You are going to deal with it in every job you apply for. Make sure you deal with it properly on your resume.

Best companies to work for

I made over 150 survey calls in one week. In the end, I accidentally got a list of the best companies to work at in the industry.

See, in the end, most top level companies aren’t just the best at one thing. They tend to be the best at several levels. Lowest turnover rates, highest revenue per employee, et cetera, and even the best treated employees.

The owners of the best companies trust others, as well as the managers. They’re not worried about losing employees or keeping their numbers up as much.

The worst companies are trying to prepare for the worst scenario because they frequently are in the worst case. They’re losing employees and clients to competitors. In the end, they have to work much harder for every dollar they earn.

Everyone already knows the top companies in their area. The best and the worst already have their distinct reputations. If you’ve recently moved, you lose that sense.

It’s not hard to ask a few questions to a handful of workers in your area. “What companies are the best in our industry?” or “Who is your toughest competitor?” will give you a healthy idea of where companies stand.

I made 150 calls and got a lot of information in my niche, not that I spoke to every one of them. Asking those questions to leaders or managers in your industry can give you an excellent idea of where companies stand in relation to each other. There is little reason you should be employed by any but the best.

Something To Do Today

Make a list of companies in your geographic area that are in your niche. Start taking notes on comments you’re hearing about them. You should ignore comments from jerks and bad workers. If they are a great person and hard worker, pay extra attention. You’ll see which are the best companies.

Double your pay ASAP

Money, Money Tower, Coins, Euro, € Coin, SpecieA ways back, I had to tell someone they were critically underpaid.

How would you feel if you were told you were earning half of what you should be earning?

I called up another company near her home and they said they’d pay her double what she was currently earning. It’s rare, but this happens.

The new company then did NOT pay double. They paid the exact same as the previous company. Her pay was expected to grow to double over the next year or two. Her pay would increase as she hit specific goals to prove that she was worth that much. Over a short time span, her pay raise reached double.

I constantly have people who want to get a raise or a promotion. They also want to be paid to get the training it would take to get that raise. That’s not how it works.

You PROVE you’re worth a promotion or a raise, and you get it. No sane employer will pay you more because you said “If you pay me more I’ll work harder.” You have to work for the raise first and be worth that much before you get the raise.

Be worth the raise before you get the promotion.

There are a few ways to increase what you deserve to get paid.

  1. Gain experience

If someone had to train you to do your job, the hours your trainer was working with you were coming straight out of your paycheck, even if your “trainer” was the internet.

  1. Expand your skillset

Learn to do something new. It can get you started on number 3 below, and opens up a lot of new opportunities.

  1. Work on what your company needs the most

If your company needs help in an area, learn about it and use it. One of the simplest ways to climb the ladder is to help a manager with their duties.

Invest in yourself. YOU are your greatest asset. Treat yourself like it. You are worth it. Invest in yourself and you’ll become worth more. Then you only have to find someone who will pay you what you’re worth.

Something To Do Today

Who is way ahead of you in pay? Are they doing what you want to do? Who is not just earning a little more, earning a lot more? Invite them to lunch. Ask them how they got there and what you need to do to get there.