My Job Seeking Advice

resume-800pxNow that I am retired and no longer have a slush pile of resumes flowing across my desk, here is my advice to job seekers.

When writing a resume, keep in mind that the reader has reviewed at least 30 resumes before getting to yours.

They are most likely in a foul mood and only want to know two things:

  • Does this person have what I am looking for?
  • What kind of person is this?

The Cover Letter

If you choose to include a cover letter realize it means there is yet another page to turn and you damned well better deliver…

Here is my favorite cover letter of all time and yes, we were looking for an extremely obscure skill.

Dear Evaluator,

I see you are looking for a person who is skilled at [Obscure Skill]. To be brutally honest, I have never done anything like that before – but then I doubt if anyone else has either.

Take a look at what I have done. You can see I have learned a lot of difficult things and I didn’t know a blasted thing about them when I started.

I would imagine in few years you will no longer need me to do [Obscure Skill] but will desperately need me to do something else that no one has even heard of… least of all become skilled at.

Think about that.

I apologize if this sounds like arrogance, it is not, it is confidence.

Let’s talk. You will find that I am actually rather humble and easy to get along with.

Yours truly… applicant

The Resume

The web is full of sound advice and great resume writing templates. Allow me to add my two cents worth. I would have loved to include this resume guide with all of our job postings but the multiple layers of management above me would not allow it.

If only someone had included this summary when their jobs were posted…

Professional Summary:

  • If you are even tempted to use a word like “Synergy”…  Go Away.
  • We are not looking for go getters, team-players or people who can think outside the box. If your accomplishments fail to demonstrate these things, you will not convince us here.


  • List things you are actually skilled at.
  • Warning: three paragraphs of alphabet soup and jargon only show that you are unskilled at communicating. It makes us wonder about what else you are not good at.


  • Please do not tell us that you are the CEO of a one person company. If you are, who is your file clerk?
  • If you have a huge gap in employment, don’t be bashful about it. Taking a year off to change diapers or hitch-hike through Slovenia is not a mark against you. It tells us you have more on the ball than all the other candidates combined.
  • Do not ramble on.
  • If you have been fired from a job, tell us you were fired. Honesty is refreshing, we hire people for that. We will find out anyway. Extra points go to anyone who writes: “I was fired from my very first job because the boss was a jerk, on second thought, I was the jerk. Lesson learned.”
  • If you worked at McDonald’s throughout high school, we want to know that. It shows us that you know how to show up every day on time and deal with obnoxious customers and coworkers. That kind of skill is golden.


  • Do not list your degree unless it is in engineering and we are looking for an engineer. On the other hand, if you studied something unique and interesting like Fermentation Science, we are all ears.
  • Please do not try to impress us with an ivy league degree. We would only worry about why you are applying here.
  • If you have multiple degrees, hide the fact. It only shows that you have spent a ridiculous amount of time and money on school – which clearly demonstrates that you are not all that brilliant.

Author: Almost Iowa

42 thoughts on “My Job Seeking Advice”

  1. Great post, Greg. In recent years I’ve probably read 283.74 megatons of job seeking advice. Amazingly it all sounds alike. This was both fun and real. Thank you. Huge hugs.

  2. Loved this! Most job ads are so standard and information packed that you never know what to mention in your cover letter let alone if your CV is good enough. Job ads should be just as honest as applicants should be in their applications. Too bad society doesn’t approve and this will quite possibly never happen.

    1. I certainly am no expert on writing resumes – but from reading them for years, I appreciate the resumes that give the evaluator a sense of who the candidate is and what they are skilled at.

      I remember when applying for my first job, the guy across the desk asked, “what can you do for me?” It is a question that every resume and every cover letter must answer and answer well.

  3. This is great and actually excellent advice. I tell my farm volunteer applicants – One page – I have a Thirty Second attention span – Make it good! Though my husband’s headache of a son is looking for work at the moment and every application he comes across is online. And already only one page! c

  4. Can I tell you how glad I am that I don’t have to worry about cover letters, resumes, CV’s, or interviews anymore (creating OR reviewing)! You just made my day… and now I’m gonna take a well-earned nap.

  5. My cover letter:
    Dear so-and-so:
    I am the guy you need. I am skilled at showing up on time and kissing the boss’ tushy. Whatever you say or do is okay with me. I have years and years of experience at both. You will never regret hiring me.

    The kid just out of college, he won’t be on time. And his expectations are huge. You have to be careful with that guy. He’s ambitious too. He will be stabbing you in the back before you know it. Me, I don’t even own a knife and I wouldn’t know how to use it if I did.

    I come from a long line of serfs, and you know we serfs work cheap. That kid won’t work for peanuts the way I will. He can’t afford to what with all that student debt. I never had student debt. Shucks, I didn’t even graduate from high school. I learned everything I know on the streets.

    So, as you can see, I am your guy. And did I mention that I show up on time and kiss the boss tushy.
    Job Seeker

    1. “I didn’t even graduate from high school. I learned everything I know on the streets.”

      My brother worked as an operating system software engineer for the old Control Data during its heyday. His boss did not finish high school, instead he worked for years as a DJ. Like Ronald Reagan, he had an uncanny knack for explaining extremely complex things to management.

  6. Love this! Laughed at the example. Interesting advice! Some companies require a specific format (set up) for resumes. Some healthcare systems for example require education, specific experience & certificates. Glad I’m retired and all that resume writing is a thing of the past. 🎶 Christine

    1. I totally agree with you about required education, experience and certificates – but I would also caution candidates to read between the lines and differentiate between boiler plate must have’s and rock solid requirements. Often an employer will say XX required or comparable experience.

  7. Amen to that! Like you, I have been forced to review too many resumes during my life and very few stand out. It’s always surprising how unoriginal, messy, inaccurate and egotistical they all sound. After a while, they all blend into one another, until that special one stands out. If only more people understood that originality and substance is a great selling point…

  8. Great advice. I’m retired but still working at fun jobs. My problem seems to be that my “real” job experience is too many years behind me. I interviewed last year for a job similar to what I did in the “real world”, nailed all the answers. Can you do this? I’ve done it for this and that and even more. But was not hired. Too old for that company?

  9. Great advice. I have seen some truly awful resumes. The sad thing is that some of them came through a headhunter or a school placement office. It’s very hard to make your resume unique, but it’s really easy to make it look stupid.

  10. I like your advice and clearly, you were ahead of your time. With the thousands of resumes that come to companies today the keyword search program makes creativity obsolete. My daughter applied to a job that was a perfect fit. She was among 100 applicants and then one of ten. Yes, she got the job because according to the search exec she was a better fit than all the others. Her resume popped up with the rest because she had nailed the keywords. It kept rising to the top because of the keyword match. The last ten were face to face interviews. Without her keyword use, she never would have gotten an interview and the company would have had a less qualified person. This is a big sophisticated financial services firm. She learned the importance of keywords through an honest discussion with a big service company exec who told her the inside story.

    1. Keywords eh? Kind of contradicts my advice about alphabet soup on the skills list. I can see employers doing a keyword search on a huge slush pile of applicants. Being government, we had to look over and score all the resumes. It was a chore and we learned pretty fast how to spot the candidates that we were interested in.

      But being mindful of keywords is really good advice.

      I never put much stock in college degrees – but others do, so people should take my advice with a grain of salt. I am even leery of certifications…unless they are required. My entire approach is, if you are applying to play third base, show me you can play third base.

      1. Good way to look at it and I think most companies want the same thing. The alphabet soup advice is still good. The keywords need to be taken from the job posting and populated through out the resume. Today the applicants have to design the resume around the job description. There is no longer a one size fits all approach. When I was working I just added the last position at the top and shortened the ones at the bottom to keep it to two pages. That method doesn’t work anymore.

    1. I imagine there are a lot of people looking for jobs today. I would have hoped that they prepared and sent out their resumes months ago. I have to say that I found my time in government deeply rewarding but then there were times when it was like running wildly through a house of mirrors.

  11. Have you read Charles Murray’s book, The Curmudgeon’s Guide to Getting Ahead? You’d love it. One of these days, I’m going to write a “review” of it — it’s not only good for the young’uns writing resumes, it’s also good humor for the old fogies who have to read them.

    You’re reminded me why choosing self-employment was such a good move, all those years ago.

  12. OMG, I am so happy to be retired and my resume writing days are behind me! Clearly, judging by this post, it’s just as much an ordeal for the guy on the other side of the desk.

    1. It is a horrible and heartbreaking task for the evaluator. You are literally holding people’s future in your hands and you feel so bad for the ones who you know are blowing it.

  13. Amazing that these skills aren’t taught in college. We are hiring now and I’m flabbergasted at the crap we are seeing. Prepackaged junk where they just insert the company name and throw it to the wind. “Cover letter and resume required” clear on the job listing and no cover letter. It’s pretty crazy.

    1. You might have noticed a theme in this essay – about what is not taught in college.

      There were only two people who I recommended to be hired on the basis of education and both were indeed hired.

      One was a drop-out who elegantly demonstrated how she educated herself. I would have hired her on the spot after reading her resume but the powers that be required an interview, the interview sealed the deal.

      The other one was a Phd candidate from the U of M who was studying particle physics. He had no hope of a job in his field but demonstrated in his cover letter that he had a remarkable ability to solve complex problems and had absolutely no ego. You might recognize the cover letter.

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