Know Your Industry

Heather, a friend who is an instructor at a local college and teaches résumé and cover letter writing, wrote to me in response to my post Christmas Trees and Résumés. In it, she said:

“For some companies the answer is yes – you do need to include everything.

“I work with students who are trying to obtain jobs in the research field… Research companies require that the applicant write every job they have had on their resume – even if that position had nothing to do with this field and if it lasted only a month. There are so many problems and concerns with animal rights activists, they have to be sure about who they are hiring. Their security is very tight and they do extensive background checks – both criminal and professional…

“I’ve had individuals with extensive work histories attempt to cut down their resumes and send them to these companies – only to receive a phone call questioning them on why everything wasn’t listed. Or if they scheduled an interview and it came up during that time they worked at a certain position but it wasn’t listed on the resume, they are going to question them and not view them favorably…

“To show you how specific they are, if someone has a gap in their work history which is greater than six months – the applicant needs to be very prepared to explain and prove why they have that gap. I had a student who had taken time off from the work industry to raise her children. A certain company required her to make copies of her children’s birth certificates to verify that she indeed had children during the times she stated.”

It was very interesting and educational to receive this correspondence from Heather because the examples she cited certainly deviate from the majority of industries (as both my anecdotal experience and the overwhelming advice on the Internet suggest).

The takeaway from her e-mail is this: people should know their industries. Heather provided a perfect case-in-point where the typical advice does not apply, and would actually be detrimental to job seekers in that field.

Whether you are in school or currently working, you will need to keep your résumé up-to-date so that it is ready to go when necessary and be knowledgeable of the interview process (the types of questions usually asked, customary parts of the interview, etc.) Different sources of industry-specific résumé and interview advice available would include:

  • instructors in your core classes
  • college advisors
  • campus career center (very willing to work with both current students and alumni)
  • industry mentors

Do your application materials and knowledge of the interview process reflect the norms of your industry?

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