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Episode 14: Relauncher Resumes that get you Hired with Tamara Dowling

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In our final podcast episode for this season, iRelaunch CEO Carol Fishman Cohen speaks with Tamara Dowling, resume-writing expert and Owner of about that killer resume that best positions you for the jobs you are interested in.

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Carol Fishman Cohen: [00:00:00] Welcome to 3, 2, 1, iRelaunch! I'm Carol Fishman Cohen, CEO and co-founder of iRelaunch...the industry leader in career reentry resources. In each episode of 3, 2, 1, iRelaunch we'll be speaking with guest experts in the career reentry space to help make your transition back to work smooth and successful

Today, we're talking about the relauncher resume. Our guest today is Tamara Dowling, Senior Writer and Director of, a resume and social media profile writing service. Tamara has written hundreds of career related articles and has contributed to six career books. She has also written thousands of resumes for executive, high-tech and management clients, and has won several awards for resume writing, including awards specifically for relauncher resumes.

We work closely with Tamara to provide resume and LinkedIn profile advice to relaunchers.

Hi Tamara! Thank you for being with us today.

Tamara Dowling: [00:01:11] Hi, it's great to be here. I'm excited to talk with you.

Carol Fishman Cohen: [00:01:14] Yes. We're very excited to talk with you as well because resume writing is so challenging for any job seeker, but especially for the relaunchers who have excellent professional experience but don't know how to deal with the career gap on the resume and we really want to understand that in some detail today...and talk about special situations that are affecting relaunchers that relate to the resume. So I want to dive into one of the questions that we get asked frequently, and that is that people are advised to know in today's job search world, to have separate resumes for each job that they're applying to, that they should customize for each job. And so people get concerned about having these different resumes out there, but only having one LinkedIn profile. So we were wondering about your thoughts on how do you reconcile the two?

Tamara Dowling: [00:02:20] Sure. Resumes are most effective when focused on a goal. So a candidate would have one resume version for each career goal. So for a particular opportunity, the candidate would customize a most cases, this would involve just making modifications to the profile, which is the summary statement that opens the resume and the core competencies section, which also is sometimes called an areas of expertise section, which follows that profile.

So to determine how to customize your resume, we advise candidates to review target job postings, or an employer's website to get inspiration. Basically you want to know what the employer is looking for and their values for their job requirements. So that's how you do the resumes, you might have multiple resumes versions.

But with LinkedIn, you have one LinkedIn profile. So on LinkedIn, you have one profile that everyone sees, so the way to handle that is you, you craft your summary statement on LinkedIn to cover your possibly two or three job targets.

Carol Fishman Cohen: [00:03:27] And is that the case if you are looking into different let's say you are trying to make a decision on which way you want to relaunch your career and your background is in architecture, but you're also a graphic designer and you would consider taking jobs in either area. Is there a way to unify that on a LinkedIn profile and the summary or elsewhere so people who were looking at you as a candidate for either graphic artists work or architecture would feel that it was relevant?

Tamara Dowling: [00:04:09] Yes, what I normally do is, you know, we spend a lot of time with our clients. And so I talk with someone and I get to know them so that we can identify a common theme to their career. So sometimes you're right. Sometimes career paths could seem so very different, but we try to find something that unifies it and we craft a summary that tells a story, puts it all together, so that when someone's looking at it, they would seem like a good candidate for both goals.

Carol Fishman Cohen: [00:04:41] Got it. Thank you. Let me ask you another question that has become more of a recent issue because here at iRelaunch, one of the things that we work really hard on is working with employers to create reentry internship programs. So these are programs typically for people who have taken career breaks of two years or more, and they come back into a 12 week or some kind of a short term internship program and then either they get a permanent role after that, or they don't and then they move on to continue to job search, not at the same company where they did the internship. But because these internship programs are now getting very specific in terms of eligibility requirements, they will sometimes say you have to demonstrate you've had a complete career break for two years or more. And then for other non internship positions that you might be applying for, you might intentionally want to illustrate, you know that during your career break, you were in volunteer work that was relevant to your career goals, or you took a particular course, or you did some paid work, some paid part-time work or occasional consultant work. So how do you recommend people reconcile those two?

Tamara Dowling: [00:06:08] Again, this would in most cases would require two different resumes. One resume would be targeting the reentry programs. And so for that resume, we recommend being very straightforward and having a career break statement and the career break statement would be under the experience header on your resume and it would be placed in the actual break. And so it, it would actually break, you know, it might say career break and with the dates next to it in parentheses, we might say career break and then say, 2004 to 2010, or if they're still in the break, we might say 2004 to 2016, and then underneath it a very brief statement communicating that they chose to take the break. So we say something like choosing to take a career hiatus to raise children or care for an ill parent or whatever it might be and keep it short and sweet. For the other situation when you're looking for positions in the broader market, not a reentry program, we would get to know the client too, to learn about what they've done during that break.

And if they have significant experience, we might place it in that section. Let's say it's, you know, it could be unpaid work. It could be consulting or part-time work. And so we could put that information right into the experience section.

Carol Fishman Cohen: [00:07:38] I just want to point out to our listeners that, if you had significant paid work during your career break, if it's been regular consulting work or a part-time job, it's quite possible that you just might not be eligible for one of the internship programs, because of that pretty continual level work that you've had while you've been on a career break, even though you consider it a career break.

It's kind of up to the companies in certain situations how they're going to interpret that work experience that you have, but you do have to be open to the possibility that it will disqualify you for those reentry internship programs. And then you would be looking elsewhere to companies that would hire you directly and outright into a position without participating in a formal internship program.

Okay. So one thing Tamara that you were just touching on is how you portray certain types of experience, maybe unpaid experience, on your resume. And I want to talk about how that looks on the LinkedIn profile. So if you would you ever put a career break on your LinkedIn profile? Or alternatively, if you did substantive volunteer experience and it's directly related to your career goal, for example, if you were going into construction management and you managed a weekend build for Habitat for Humanity, then that's something you'd probably want to have in the main body of your LinkedIn profile, because it's so relevant, but that's just my opinion, and I was wondering if you had a different opinion in terms of where to put that kind of experience.

Tamara Dowling: [00:09:28] Yes. And, and this is one of those situations, and I think you'll find that I say this a lot is...every client is different and so we talk to them and understand their history and their goal to come up with the best strategy.

However, there are basically two ways to do it. One way is to place that information into the experience section. So that would be, as you said, if it's really substantial, you know, maybe they held a board seat and it was practically a full-time position, even though it was unpaid and they had significant responsibilities that are similar to their goal. So what they did supports their goal. In that case, it's a great idea to include it in the experience section, let's say that it's experience that's, still, it's still great to volunteer, but let's say it doesn't rise to the level of something that supports your career goal or uses your best skills...then that's something that you can place under the volunteering section on LinkedIn, there's a project section where you can store that information. So that's one possibility. Another thing is if you're applying, you mentioned the reentry programs...If you're applying for a reentry program and you send a resume that has your career break statement and you don't have your unpaid and your volunteer work in the experience section, but then you go to your LinkedIn want that you want that to be aligned. So you want to make sure that if you put your unpaid work in the experience section on your resume, you do that on your LinkedIn and vice versa, because as you said before, it could disqualify you.

So if someone looks at your resume, you can assume they're going to be looking at your LinkedIn.

Carol Fishman Cohen: [00:11:18] That's a very good point. Thank you for underscoring that. Now I want to move to a different topic. This is another one that comes up. People talk about different types of resume formats...the chronological resume, where you simply list all of your experience in reverse chronological order, the functional resume where you might pick and choose from certain areas of your background and highlight those on your resume not necessarily in chronological order. And then what's been called the hybrid resume where you have some sort of highlighting of certain experience, probably on the top half of the resume, but you still list somewhere on there a reverse chronological listing of your experience. We've heard from recruiters that they really hate the functional resume because they have to spend time piecing together someone's work history, and if they have to spend too much time on that, they'll just toss the resume. So I wanted to, know about your thoughts on those three different types of resumes and especially assuming that the, functional resume is not going to be chosen as an option...what do you think about the hybrid resume and what types of things should you pull out to feature on the top part of the resume and do you do that through bullet points or text or how do you do it?

Tamara Dowling: [00:12:42] Okay. I definitely agree that the functional resume is no longer appropriate for the reasons that you mentioned. So that leaves us with the reverse chronological and the hybrid. Both of those formats are generally accepted and I recommend them both, but we would decide based on the client's situation. Both of those formats start with a really strong profile statement.

And that's generally in a narrative format as opposed to bullets. I think it's best to keep it to, you know, four, five lines at the most. And it should tie in with the needs of the employer. So it's based on what you offer, not what you want. So it's a profile of your value as opposed to an objective statement.

Also both formats generally have either an areas of expertise section, or a core competency section. It's basically the same thing with a different heading. And that's a place where you store keywords. It's again, your top value, your job skills that you offer and that's for all across all industries and occupations, it's very helpful both when your resume is being scanned by an applicant tracking software, or when it's read by a human reader. So both resume formats start with those, and then they differ after that. The reverse chronological heads right into experience and details the experience just as it says, you know, most recent first and earliest last. And the hybrid is where we can, we can play around a little bit. So let's say your early experience is due next, and in the middle, you, you kind of went off and did something different. So you want to highlight that early experience. You want that on page one instead of page two. So that's where you could use a career highlight section and you can bring in, maybe five bullet points from the top of spanning your entire career that's most relevant. Some people will do, like in finance you might have transactions, highlights of transactions...,different industries ask for different things. High-tech you might want to feature your certifications up top before you get into your experience.

So the main thing is the top half of the first page, that is the money section of your resume. That's where you want to show your value. Then after that, that's when you back it up with your experience and your education and so forth, and your skills inventory to prove those things.

Carol Fishman Cohen: [00:15:13] Great. Let me just ask you a couple of details about some of the remarks you just I really liked that concept of career highlights as the way you're labeling that section of the resume. I like that language a lot, so I just wanted to emphasize that in case people didn't hear it the first time around.

I wanted to ask you a question about the high-tech for people who are computer scientists or computer engineers, certain programming languages, I feel that those should really be up top because I know certain employers are looking for people that have competencies in some of these languages like Python or R and if you have that competency, it should be really easy to spot and close to the top of your resume.

Tamara Dowling: [00:16:06] Right. Technology resumes, you're right. You need to get across those skills. So the main thing is to identify the skills next job, as opposed to a history of everything you know, because for many technologies who've been around for even 10 years, that could be a page, right?

So you want to study the job postings, understand your target job and what those requirements are and those are the skills you would feature on the top of the page.

Carol Fishman Cohen: [00:16:34] And let me ask you one detail about what you said on the profile section on the said four to five lines, which is different from four to five sentences. Is that correct?

Tamara Dowling: [00:16:46] Correct. That's correct. Lines on the page.

Carol Fishman Cohen: [00:16:49] Just wanted to highlight that as well. And then as long as we're on this topic, what do you think, you know, we hear two pages, but not longer than two pages for a mid-career professional. Does that sound like the prevailing wisdom?

Tamara Dowling: [00:17:05] Two pages is good for most candidates. Someone, an entry-level person with little experience, can probably get away with a one-page resume because they don't have as much to share, but for most professionals it's two pages. Sometimes with people in technology or people with a lot of credits to list, like a lot of presentations and publications, you know, those tend to be three pages. So what we do is we assess the information we have to work with and if it's going to be longer than three pages, and it's not a scientific or an academic CV, then we can create an addendum.

For example, some people have case studies they want to share if they're a consultant or maybe some people have a transactions list. Things like that, where it'd be too much, where if we put it on a resume, it might be four pages. So we hit the highlights in the resume and then we can always create an addendum to their resume, a separate document, to go into that great detail.

Carol Fishman Cohen: [00:18:01] You just mentioned CV. Can you talk about the difference between a resume and a CV and does that have to do with publications and are there certain professions that absolutely require a CV and others where you would never want to use one?

Tamara Dowling: [00:18:18] Yes. Well there are two different types of CV. So, one category is the academic/scientific CV. And another is CV where, in some countries they call a resume a CV, but it's a resume. So I'll talk about the ones that are academic scientific CV. Yes, they are different. They're the same in that they start with a profile because you want to put your resume or your CV into context and often we include an areas of expertise. The difference with a CV is that you have oftentimes in academia and in the field of science, you have so many publications, research projects, posters, patents, all these things. And you know, it's not unusual for someone to have a 12 page formal CV in those fields.

Carol Fishman Cohen: [00:19:06] Got it. That's very helpful, thank you. And the other comment that you made that I wanted to just dive in a little bit deeper on is these automatic tracking systems for resumes. So, when people upload their resume to an online resume portal, do they upload it in a PDF form to sort of make sure that the formatting is locked in or do they upload it in a non PDF form because that somehow helps with the keyword search piece.

Tamara Dowling: [00:19:37] That a great question because misinformation is out there about using a PDF resume, and actually the ATS, it's called ATS and it's applicant tracking system, or applicant tracking software...many of them cannot read a PDF. It comes across as a graphic, therefore it's dumped. And I've had clients say...I've sent so many resumes out, I'm getting little response or no response. And we find out they're using a PDF and they resubmit with a Word document and they start to get a response. It's simply because they're being booted. So definitely don't use a PDF in your job search unless the employer or recruiter specifically requests a PDF or says that they can accept a PDF because you risk being booted from that applicant tracking software system.

Carol Fishman Cohen: [00:20:26] Is that new? Because I thought they used to tell you to submit a PDF because otherwise the formatting can get really messed up?

Tamara Dowling: [00:20:34] It is new. You know ATS has been around for a while, but it wasn't prevalent...but now it's so common. I don't have the stats in front of me, but it's very common. Large employers, you can expect it. Recruiters, you can expect it. And most midsize, because ATS is very affordable now for companies of all sizes and it saves so much time. So you can expect that they're using it. Now some of them are sophisticated and can read a PDF, but what I say is why risk it? Because you don't know.

So it's better to be safe and have a nice clean Word document. So there's two different ways you would submit your resume. Obviously you'd follow the instructions carefully and if they ask you to upload, you would upload a Word document. If they ask you to copy and paste, that's when you use your plain text formatted document.

Carol Fishman Cohen: [00:21:24] Okay. That's also really good to know. All right, so let's move on. This is probably going to be our last question because we're wrapping up soon, actually it's the second to the last, because I have one additional question I want to ask you at the very end...but it has to do with showing your dates of graduation. Our population can be people in their forties or fifties, sometimes even older. People are concerned about should I include the graduation dates on my resume because automatically people will know how old I am? I guess a corollary to that and I don't know whether you have an opinion on this is do you put your picture in your LinkedIn profile, also potentially giving away your age, if you're concerned about ageism, which I should say is a totally separate topic and I'm hoping, we'll do a podcast on ageism as well. So anyway, what's your opinion, Tamara on the dates of the graduation piece?

Tamara Dowling: [00:22:23] Okay. So for education, if you are a recent graduate and you know, let's say in the last five years, you show your graduation date and the reason is you need to explain why you have limited history or no history.

So, absolutely for a recent graduate...after that, it's not required, it's not helpful. So after that you don't show a date for your graduation. Now, some people may say, well then how does someone know that I actually earned that degree? The answer is simple. You just make sure that you format it properly on your resume.

So you would start with your, the name of the university, the location of the university, the next line, spell out your degree. Again, that could be a key word so you want to spell out, "master of science"...some people use colon, some people use comma, and then you put your field of study and that indicates that you earned that degree.

If you have not earned the degree, there's a whole other discussion on that, but you want to make sure you're always forthright. So if he didn't earn it, that degree, you could put coursework and list your key courses, but if you earned the degree, spelling it out that way is sufficient.

Carol Fishman Cohen: [00:23:31] So wait, let me just, repeat this one more time. You're saying that if you have been out for over five years, that short amount of time you would, at that point stop putting graduation year on your resume.

Tamara Dowling: [00:23:49] Right? Because it's no longer necessary...the reason a date is put on the resume, everything on the resumes is a marketing document and everything you place on there is to market you to and position you for that target. So, if you have experience, if you've been out there for more than five years, it's not necessary to put the year for your graduation. It's a standard the past, it wasn't. So this is something that's become a standard, I would say, in the, in the past 5 or 10 years.

Carol Fishman Cohen: [00:24:18] And how do you handle that on your LinkedIn profile?

Tamara Dowling: [00:24:21] On LinkedIn, you have a choice. There's a dropdown menu where you select the graduation or the actually the years that you're there. And, if you already have your education set up on your LinkedIn page, the last time I checked it, doesn't allow you to go back and remove it. So you have to remove that entry...remove that education from your LinkedIn page, start over, enter it again and then this time don't select a date from that dropdown menu.

Carol Fishman Cohen: [00:24:52] Okay. Wow. I'm glad I asked. I didn't even realize that that's what you had to do. So we're heading into the very final minutes of our podcast and Tamara, I wanted to ask you if you had a favorite piece of relaunch advice, even if it repeats something that we already talked about during this podcast.

Tamara Dowling: [00:25:14] Okay. Well, actually, I don't think it's repetitive, but having worked with a lot of people reentering for various reasons over the years, I find that the first conversation I have with the clients is they're very defensive about it. They feel almost guilty for having taken a break.

And so they come across defensive when they share their history with me. So I always encourage clients to come out with a, a bold, strong launch, you know, relaunch. And that's what we try to do. We don't come across in a defensive way on our resume or LinkedIn and in our communication...we're proud of our entire history and we promote ourselves that way.

Carol Fishman Cohen: [00:25:57] That's great advice...and we say even carry that same mindset and approach into your interview. You know when someone asks you about your career break, you don't apologize, you acknowledge it, and then you move on to why you're the best person for the job. So it's very consistent to also have that same mindset when you're creating your resume. Thank you Tamara, for joining us today.

Tamara Dowling: [00:26:22] Thank you. I really enjoyed the time.

Carol Fishman Cohen: [00:26:24] It was great to have you. There'll be sure to visit us at in order to get the most important tools and resources for returning to work.

If you have any comments or questions, please email us at and be sure to visit our website

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