“If you show your resume to ten different people, you’ll get 12 different opinions,” said Katz Media Group’s Director of Recruitment, Paige Soltano in a recent Resume Writing Workshop sponsored by the Center for Career Development.
Over 30 BMCC students and alums attended Soltano’s talk, which covered everything from resume basics (it should be easy to read) to the subtleties of what certain formatting and word choices say about a person.
From an HR director who’s seen it all
“GroovyLady at yahoo dot com doesn’t count as an email address,” Soltano told the group. “HotMama, LadiesMan doesn’t count. Use your real name.”
Soltano, who recruits new employees for all 19 regional offices of Katz Media Group, the nation’s leading media sales and marketing firm, also commented on resume trends such as leaving off the applicant street address—she’s against it—for fear of being excluded for out-of-region jobs.
She was candid about her own career path, which models the flexibility of today’s complicated job market demands.
“I got into HR by accident,” she told the group. “To this day, I don’t know what I want to do. But I like it for now. I’m a matchmaker, of a sort. I match people to appropriate jobs.”
She gave insider’s tips, such as advising students that when placing a resume online, to subtly load their objective with a few choice words from the job posting. Many employers use software such as the Applicant Tracking System, she explained, and this might ensure their resume gets flagged.
Another tip: “If you send your resume to nine different companies, you could have nine different objectives,” she said. “But don’t send two objectives to the same company.”
There’s no magic formula
Not unlike writing students who insist a formulaic essay structure ensures an “A,” the workshop participants seemed determined, at times, to ferret out precise “rules” of resume writing; a secret to crack the code of finding a job.
“What font am I supposed to use?” “How many bulleted items should I include for each job? Up to 18? 12?”
While there are no definitive answers to many resume quandaries—“It’s personal,” Soltano responded more than once—she spun something useful out of every scenario students brought up.
And she wasn’t shy with her own opinions: “Leave out your photograph. If your GPA isn’t strong, don’t include it. If you have a phone interview, don’t lie on the couch; sit up straight—it comes through in your voice.”
When asked if a cover letter was still necessary, she spoke from her own experience as an HR Director.
“I post a job, I get 350 resumes. So no, I’m not reading your cover letter, but every HR person is different.” She suggested that if people do feel more comfortable including a cover letter, they should at least not attach it—“That’s more work for the person reading it”—and instead, put it in the body of the email.
Pros and cons of using social media
“Everybody on Facebook?,” she asked the group. “I’ll tell you a secret. HR people spend their days on Facebook. Use your privacy settings. If you’re tagged in photos, untag them.”
Soltano did recommend the networking Web site Linked In, or as she called it, “Facebook for professionals.” She stressed that while social media can showcase a person’s accomplishments and interests, it has to be used strategically.
Ultimately, she told the group, getting a job “isn’t because of who you know, but who you get introduced to, by who you know.”
“Look around this room,” she said. “Everybody in this room is the beginning of your network.”
But I’m just a student!
Since many students’ accomplishments are more academic than professional, Soltano gave ideas on how to position college experience so it pertains to the job they want.
Volunteerism, extracurricular activities, and even certain classes and school projects warrant a place on a resume, she advised—as long as activities outside class don’t appear to overshadow a person’s studies.
“Chess club?,” said Soltano. “Shows critical thinking. Theater club? Shows you can think of your feet. And sports are really important. It shows camaraderie, and discipline.”
One student shared he was captain of his baseball team, and in job interviews, would describe how the team solves problems together. Soltano instantly took the role of interviewer. “So tell me,” she said, “how do you handle it when team members are divided in how to work something out?”
Object lesson? “Anything on your resume is fair game.”
Maximizing minimum-wage experience
“I don’t have as much work experience as a lot of people,” said Sonyeris Sanchez, a student attending the workshop. “So I have to make it really stand out. I’m here to find out how to do that.”
Soltano deftly honed in on Sanchez’s situation, and applied it to the group. “Has anyone ever worked in a restaurant? Bartended? Has anyone worked in retail?” Many hands went up to all three. “You fold clothes at the Gap? That takes precision. Find a way to leverage it into the job you want.”
A common denominator to much of the students’ employment experience, she pointed out, is customer service—a highly valued component of entry-level jobs in a number of industries.
For example, she said, being able to stay calm, and turn problematic customer interactions into something productive, builds success for starting-level media salespeople, at her own company.
The next step
The long-term next step, obviously, is to finish school and then, armed with an associate degree and having found a job, enjoy what the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics reports to be a 21% increase in income from that of a person with just a high school diploma.
For support and guidance negotiating the many steps till then, students can visit the Center for Career Development, room S-368 on BMCC’s main campus, and access a wide range of services—resume feedback, access to online job banks, career counseling, and more.
Whatever resources a job seeker turns to, tenacity is a must, Soltano stressed, and so is treating the resume as a living document, one that grows as the applicant’s skills accrue and sense of direction sharpens.
“You can try it one way,” she concluded, “and it if doesn’t work, change it.”