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First on resume: Education or experience?

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DEAR JOYCE: What’s the correct topic to list first on one’s resume? I think it should be education but my husband says it’s experience. Noting that you have written several books on resumes, what do you think? — C.S.

My rule in resume writing is to nab immediate attention by leading with your most qualifying factor, immediately after your profile. Typically, it’s experience when you’ve been in the workforce for at least one year.

But a good education can tilt hiring odds in your favor. Almost two-thirds of people in the U.S. labor force do not have a college degree — and make up the majority of workers in every state (excluding the District of Columbia). That’s the latest word from the Economic Policy Institute, an American think tank.


Job seekers often load their resumes with yesteryear phrases, such as “Responsible for” or “Duties included.” These introductory terms are a waste of the space you need to sell your qualifications for hiring.

Here’s a better idea: Populate your job search documents with verbs that quickly communicate a message of your value. Find 429 action-oriented verbs on a free list, “Resume Writing Verbs,” created by Emerald Career Publishing’s Wendy Enelow and Louise Kursmark. You can find the list at www.emeraldcareerpublishing.com; click on “Resources.”

DEAR JOYCE: I always seem to be a year or two short in an open job’s experience requirement — when two years are required, I have one; when three years are required, I have two. Am I wasting my time applying for an advertised job when I fall a bit short of experience requirements? — P.T.

You’re usually in the ball park, unless you’re trying to get through a government bureaucracy or you are being screened by an untrained person who has been given rigid parameters. Give it a try.

Analytical employers know that success doesn’t depend merely on how long you’ve done a job, but what you’ve achieved with it during that time. When you’re stuck in the experience corner and can’t get your application past a gatekeeper in the private sector, make a direct approach to the hiring manager, who, hopefully, has the authority to choose quality over quantity.

How can you identify the hiring manager? Read “Finding the Hiring Manager — Your Best contact” by Debra Wheatman at www.job-hunt.org.

DEAR JOYCE: I took an early retirement and now I’m bored stiff. I want to get moving again! How can I find out a company’s unspoken culture regarding the age of its employees? — C.H.S.

Watch recruitment videos for clues posted on a company’s website. You can deduce quite a bit from how its employees dress and groom. When you see gray hair in the mix, this may be a sign that the company encourages experienced workers to apply along with younger candidates. Additionally, ask members of your personal network for tips and suggestions of where to find happy hunting grounds.

For more on this topic, read “Being Older and Unemployed Doesn’t Mean You Need to Retire” at www.fiveoclockclub.com.

DEAR JOYCE: I have a two-week vacation scheduled with my wife’s family in her native country within the next two months. My problem is that I am interviewing with an interested company for a high-paying position I really want. What’s the best way to handle this situation if I get the job offer right away? — D.D.

I would grab the job and reschedule the overseas trip for your first vacation next year. Your wife may be willing to make a solo visit this year.

(E-mail your career questions for possible use in this column to Joyce Lain Kennedy at jlk@sunfeatures.com; use “Reader Question” for subject line.)

This article was written by Joyce Lain Kennedy and Tribune Content Agency from Careers Now and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

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