Career Advancement Interview Tips Resume Tips Self Improvement

Tweaking Resumes: What to say and what not to say

Preparation is the main ingredient if we are to set off for any direction in life. It is also a flexible stance that one takes into consideration when facing changing situations. There are people who don’t believe in preparation but rather believe wholeheartedly in themselves. They believe that they know everything and there’s nothing else to learn from anyone. Have you met anyone like this? Are you someone like this? We certainly hope not. Those who believe they can talk their way through things may be successful in the first few tries but it certainly isn’t that way in the long run.

The same applies to your resume. It is your face before a selection committee. Your best valuable self presented. Not your personality so much but what you’ve been able to do and execute in your professional life. You may have a very good resume that yielded great results in the past, but suddenly it’s not working anymore and it seems you’re on a losing streak. Time for some changes then.


If you’ve ever been fired

This is a painful reality for some and it does happen one time or another in anyone’s career so it’s…. commonplace. It is best not to have it but the reality is it happens very often and the fault can lie on both sides. But does this mean you have to put the words “I was fired” on the resume? The answer is NO. You don’t have to because the resume is not a confession of your sins, it’s a job resume and you’re not in a court trial. Perhaps you didn’t even have to include that information unless you were asked to.

This question, “Have you ever been terminated ?” is something that is answered face to face and not written down. What you must do now is be targeted and limitedly honest. Do not lay blame on anyone but take responsibility for being terminated. Perhaps you were a late comer or you broke some rules on company policy. Take responsibility and own up even if most of it is not your fault. Keep it as short and simple as possible and do not try to focus on other elements to blame. That would be whining.

  1. Say, “I was told to go because I broke a company rule. (or rules)” or “I was told to go because I didn’t meet their expectations at the time”
  2. Don’t say, “I was told to go because I broke a company rule, but it wasn’t really my fault because the company changed their working hours.

Prior to every physical job interview, you may be given an application form and you will see that question, “Have you ever been terminated ?” I’ve met interviewers who were totally spooked when I confessed I’ve been fired before. The interview slowed down from there and no questions were asked. That’s not the mark of a good or professional interviewer in my opinion as risk is understood as part of the game.

So this is what we’re saying. There is a certain acceptable level of risk which both sides are taking leading up to trusting each other and this trust takes time to root in the course of working together. Your straightforward and firm tone of voice potentially signals honesty and having the courage to face that past wrong. You’ve already paid that price and now you’ve moved on anew without hiding anything. A good employer will understand appreciate this starting point of new trust and what’s better, there are no further questions on this matter.

So the conclusion again is that it’s far better to say this in person than to put it as a static line on paper. Whether you were at fault or not, it’s a rather personal and hurtful question, but one that can’t be hidden but rather shared verbally. A good and focused interviewer does understand that and does not spend their valuable time going on a witch hunt about you unless of course you appear to be hiding something. They just want to be sure you didn’t do something serious like stealing company money or information.

Understand that they are looking for capable people. That is their focus. They will only spare a few minutes on why you were terminated and move one from there. So your response should be brief, concise, limited, targeted and sincere. It must also satisfy them so they could move on from there without pressing you further.

Allaying their fears

Giving an assurance that you can be a better worker despite your termination will help you choose the right employer for yourself as opposed to their choice of hiring you or not. Remember that an interview is a two way affair. A person need not be branded to live in past failures but improve as experience is a good teacher. As the saying goes, “People always progress and they don’t regress”.

Make your interviewer feel that you’ve learned your lesson and moved on to progress and not regress. If they keep asking questions, it could mean:

  1. They’re not satisfied with your answers.
  2. They’re still hung up with the termination issue.

If it’s the first one, you know the answers as we’ve just discussed it. If it’s the second one, then this may not be the place for you. Just imagine showing up to work everyday with this black cloud over your head. It’s like you could be asked to leave again. So off you go searching for a better employer.

In closing, some extra points on how to tailor make your resume for different job.

  1. Create a Professional Summary according to their Job Description at the top of your resume.
  2. Don’t put this summary on the 2nd page or last one. Put it on the first page.
  3. Remember the 5 second rule – Concise information rather that paragraphs are better. Short and sweet and better than long and thick.
  4. Avoid A resume that has scattered information all mixed in with a lot of irrelevant boring information for the job applied. Irrelevant job experiences dilute the resume’s power.
  5. Print a copy of the job description and know what their needs are. Be relative to their needs.
  6. Make a targeted resume. Avoid sending out the same resume you’re sending to everyone else. Don’t just click and send, blasting resumes all over the place.
  7. Let a resume resonate with an employer who can say, “Yes, that’s the kind of person I’m looking for.”
  8. Create a capability or accomplishment statement out your entire resume.
  9. Save them unnecessary work. The employer has to sort through all the irrelevant information from hundreds of applicants to get to the right candidate.
  10. Most Importantly, a company’s Human Resources spend days sorting through candidates and their resumes, print the most relevant and put them on the CEO’s table. Save them this time consuming hassle by sending in a hard copy also. The ensures you a better chance of making that top ten list.