How to succeed in business by trying just a little

I was recently asked to speak at a resume workshop for college students. I have been hiring folks for nearly 20 years, and I’ve seen some resumes in my time. And the reality is, most resumes alone won’t get you the job. But plenty will NOT get you the job.

So here are a few of the tips I offered up to some soon-to-be job searchers on presenting their best resume foot forward, as well as a few other tips on job hunting. I hope these can also help you or someone you really, really want not to be unemployed.

Copy and paste is not your friend. I know that you are applying to 400 jobs. But I also know my name. And my company’s name. If you make a new cover letter from the previous one you sent, remember that cut and paste is out to get you. If the letter to me has my name at the top, but then addresses the letter as “Dear Mrs. Thompson,” I might detect that you were less than thorough. Also, if you repeatedly refer to your desire to work for the ABC Widget Company, when in fact I am with the competitor, the XZY Widgetorium, I will suspect the same. It’s not just the mistake that kills you. It’s the laziness or the carelessness. The Widgetorium can’t have that.

Keep it short. If you are new into the workforce, one page will suffice. Please do not send in a CV. If you are wondering what a CV is and your resume is more than one page, your resume is too long.

I, too, have read Dilbert. Don’t rely on buzz words. I know you’re adept at integrating cross platform strategies for dynamic workflow convergences. A list of your computer skills will suffice.

I may not respond. When I first began hiring people, the internet was in a fairly nascent stage. Most job applications required paper resumes, sealed in actual envelopes which were affixed with actual stamps that cost $0.32 each. Thus, it took some effort to apply for a job, and folks chose wisely and sparingly on where to submit. And I responded to each submission with a “Yep, I got your resume!” letter. Enter the e-mail world. Upon posting a digital want-ad, most job postings will be receiving resume submissions literally within minutes of clicking submit. Hundreds upon hundreds of resumes may come in for a job, many of them sent with a blasé and quick click of the mouse. It’s simply not feasible to respond to them all.

I’m not stalking you. But I am looking at your Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. I’m not asking for your log-in. I’m not hiring a detective. But if a quick Google search shows you in Cancun funneling a three-story beer while on the back of a burro wearing Mardi Gras beads (and yes, I mean both you and the burro), know that I may judge you. How will I judge you? Roll the dice, amigo.

I will never be wowed with your font. There are about four acceptable fonts to use. And they’re the plain, boring looking ones. Please don’t get fancy. I just want to be able to read what you wrote. Unless the job you are applying for is “creative fontographer,” Times New Roman or Arial is just fine.

Please don’t be cute. You know that super-funny viral resume you saw where that person zinged and pinged and had clever witty one-liners throughout? Please don’t do that. Pretty good chance I’m not looking to fill that one-liner funny guy gap the office has been missing. And even if you are clever and witty, one real concern with a resume like that I have – is this new person going to come in and try to earn Senior Superlative as Class Clown? Because that seems really, really horrible and everyone in the office will blame me for bringing in Chuckles the Zany New Guy. Be cool, at least to start.

Be direct, honest and earnest, and your resume can serve as a key to open the door to a face to face interview, where your personality and character will sell you to a future employer. I hope these help, and I really do wish you success as you embark on your job hunt.


Mrs. Thompson


Mike Gibbons was born and raised in Aiken, S.C., and now lives in Charleston. A graduate of the University of Alabama, you can e-mail him at or follow him on Twitter @StandardMike.

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