Thanks to those who attended my webinar today on 20 Top Resume Challenges. In this short half-hour course, I give you an overview of the major points you need to know to write a modern resume.

Here is the replay, and the slide deck and related Forbes article are referenced in the YouTube description.

Stop fighting. Start writing!

Image credit: Adobe Image

forbes-coaches-council-logo “Why You Need a Strategy Before Writing Your Resume”

Many business leaders and others struggle to write a compelling resume, even those who make multimillion-dollar decisions on a daily or weekly basis.

It is not an easy task to sum up one’s professional life in a couple of pages, whether you have scores of accomplishments or relatively few.

Read more in my first article on!

Anne Marie Segal, career and leadership development coach, author, resume strategist and member of Forbes Coaches Council. For further articles and press, please click here.

Address Strong Superhero Success Professional Empowerment Stock
Is your childhood fascination keeping you from your dream job today?

Are You Judged By Your Email Address?
A Resounding Yes!

If you have an email address that starts like any of the ones below, or something similar, and you have wondered why you have had a hard time getting any traction in your job search, this is a post you need to read.









I’ve called this post “Immature Email Addresses Need Not Apply” because I can tell you from countless conversations with recruiters and hiring managers that they LOVE to see goofy, inappropriate, overly personal or hard-to-read email addresses. It makes their job easier. Resume, meet trash can. (Well, they actually cringe to see them with otherwise highly qualified candidates, because it puts everything else about the candidate’s application into doubt.)

Recruiters and hiring managers LOVE to see goofy, inappropriate or hard-to-place email addresses. It makes their job easier. Resume, meet trash can.

One of the important vetting points for a job candidate is to determine whether he or she has good judgment. Whether you’ll be a law firm associate, marketing manager or receptionist, if you don’t have good judgment, you are missing one of the essential elements that makes a good employee. So demonstrating your bad judgment in the very document that is meant to market you is clearly counterproductive to, if not fatal for, your chances as a job candidate.

You would be surprised how often I need to say this to clients, and it is not only junior people who have never held a job before. I have had this same conversation with executive candidates who have been in the workforce for 20 years or more.  I would guess that everyone knows someone who has the “wrong” type of email address to grace a professional job application, but few of us know how to tell our friends that they need to change it.

Don’t use an email address that includes your street address, is awkward to type, alludes to your hobbies or religious beliefs, or is anything other than an easy derivation of your name. Outside of a professional context (a world that is admittedly getting smaller and smaller with social media, if not disappearing for most of us), you can email from, or whatever you like, but not in the job search or on work-related matters thereafter, if you want to be taken seriously.

Keep your resume out of the trash can.

Judgment. It’s that important. Review every aspect of your resume and other career documents to see if there is any hint (or shout) of bad judgment, from an immature, unprofessional, irrelevant or hard-to-spell email address or otherwise.

Email addresses are not the time and place to get creative.
Not when you are in job search mode.

People often want offbeat email addresses to express their individuality. That’s great, go crazy, but create a new one for your job search. In a very small number of highly creative fields, a call-attention-to-your-uniqueness style of email address can work (although none of the above addresses are actually creative, just off the mark). In almost all cases, however, the tried and true combination of is the best bet. In addition, some career experts recommend that Gmail and Hotmail are the best servers to show that you are a tech-savvy candidate. If the firstnamelastname combination is not available, lastnamefirstname, firstnamelastname10, firstnamemiddleinitiallastname and other combinations of one’s name and initials make your email (and, by extension, your job application) easier to find and retrieve among a pool of hundreds or thousands of candidates, so you can get the call for the interview and job offer.

On a similar note, if you use your married name professionally, don’t use your maiden name in your email. If you use your middle name as a first name, don’t start your email with your “real” first initial (unless it is also on your resume), so if someone wants to start typing your name, they know which letter comes first (which often populates the “To” field in their email message).  If you have a difficult to pronounce or spell last name that is 29 letters, consider shortening it to 5 or 8 letters in the email, cutting it off at a natural breaking point. In all cases, what you are trying to do is make it easier on the person recommending, interviewing (and, hopefully, hiring) you.

Keep your eye on the prize. The purpose of a job search is to get the job. 

Anne Marie Segal is a career coach and résumé writer for attorneys, executives and entrepreneurs. She is currently completing her first book, on job interviews, which will be available in early 2017. To join her monthly mailing list and receive a preview of the chapter on value propositions, please click here and write “Book Preview” in the comments section.


[Note: Any reference to actual email addresses in the above is unintentional. These addresses are cited for illustration purposes only.]

© 2016 Anne Marie Segal. All rights reserved.
Photograph above from Adobe Images.

We all read the articles – some of us more than others – about how recruiters take 30 seconds or less to review a resume, making a snap decision about whether or not to delve in further and actually recommend someone for a job. One came across my email just this morning, “A top recruiter on what anyone can see after 30 seconds with your resume,” by Ambra Benjamin.

Ms. Benjamin echoed what others have written, with her own take on the matter and a very readable article, giving advice like including keywords but not “stuffing” your resume with them, showing a career progression and minding the gaps. Armed with her and other key advice, it should be easy to know how to put a simple two pages together, right?

So why is it that so many of us sit at our desks, writing away, deleting, rewriting and generally getting stuck on where to start, where to end and what to put in the middle? A friend recently suggested that the only way he could revise his resume on his own was to start with a blank piece of paper and try to imagine each role in his head, without worry about names, dates and details. While this might work for some, a blank page is an even greater source of anxiety and writer’s block for the majority of us, even those who call ourselves writers.

Getting a resume professionally written is another option, of course, although if you don’t choose a high end writer who really takes the time to get to know you and has an understanding of your field, combined with a feel for resume writing and knowledge of the career marketplace, your resume can come out stale, miss the mark or, worse yet, sound like every other candidate on the block. (Full disclosure: I do offer high-end, personalized services and can work with you to improve your clarity in thinking and writing, prepare you for interviews and generally ease this frustrating process.)

For those who are stuck and cannot entice the resume muses to give up their secrets, here is a five-point plan to help cure the craziness:

shutterstock_340110563 resume ball

1) Identify and focus on your target market. Who is your audience? What do they want to know about you? We tend to internalize and think about our resumes as an exercise in self-reflection. They are, but not to the point of self-indulgence. The very practical, immediate purpose of such self-reflection is to create a marketing document that communicates a narrative of our professional lives to others. To do that, take the attention off yourself and put it on your reader.

2) Take a current version of your resume, and cross off everything that doesn’t matter. Many of the resumes I read, especially ones from high-achieving candidates, are overloaded with information. If you follow my posts, you know that I have written about this. Emphasize the experience and skills that will make you the top candidate for the job you are looking for, which are also generally the ones that are the most important, complex parts of your job.

3) List your accomplishments. What did you accomplish in each role that went beyond showing up and doing what “anyone else in that same job could do”? Weave your accomplishments into the discussion of each job. Get specific, while still giving an overall picture of the role. Also, don’t forget that numbers are your friend. If you can quantify something, and it makes sense to do so, then include that information and be ready to talk about it in an interview.

4) Use a modern format. If you haven’t updated your resume for ten years, do your research to understand what modern resumes in your industry look like. If you are in a creative role, you can stand out with a creative format. If you are in a more conservative industry, stand out with substance, not form. In either case, don’t just dust off the old version and add new information. It’s like sporting an old suit that’s gone out of style.

Even if you are in the top 1% of candidates, don’t be fooled into thinking that you “don’t need a great resume” because “your experience speaks for itself.”

Stop and consider: who are you competing against for the same role?  

5) Check LinkedIn and other online sources about yourself. As Ms. Benjamin noted, recruiters scour the web to make sure your presentation about yourself is accurate and consistent across your resume and other sources. If your online materials are detracting – obnoxious, needy, overly political and the like – this information will become part of the portfolio for your candidacy. Match your resume to LinkedIn and other sources, so you tell a consistent story, and take the same care to present yourself online as you do in your offline written documents. Also, take a fresh look at what you have already posted on LinkedIn. Sometimes, there is inspiration from a lingering, helpful “prior version” of yourself that can recharge your resume writing.

Using the five-step plan, you will be much closer to starting and finishing a resume that jumps off the page and says HIRE ME.

As a final point (and echoing #1 above), remember that while your resume is all about you, more importantly, it is also about what you can do for the employer in your target role. As children, we are loved for being cute, funny, special or just who we are. As job candidates, we are there to solve problems. What problems do you solve and how can you convince your readers – the recruiter, hiring manager, etc. – that they should choose you?

Anne Marie Segal is a career coach and resume writer. You can find her website at This article originally appeared on LinkedInPulse.

Read Me Fonts cropped

Until I started drafting résumés professionally, I never imagined I would have an entire post devoted to résumé fonts. Yet after some lively conversations with clients about the best fonts to use, I realize it is quite a helpful point to cover.

Fonts depend on many factors, including industry and seniority. More “serious” fonts should match more serious roles. Safer (even boring) fonts match roles where that is appropriate – i.e., where your job is safety, risk management or the like – while more creative styles fit better with creative endeavors. As a result, there is no “one best font” for résumés generally. You should take your cues from the fonts you and your colleagues (or those in your target field, if you are in transition) are accustomed to using.

Here are some favorites and generally acceptable fonts, in alphabetical order:

Arial – clean and easy to read, safe choice, which some may view as boring

Calibri – the default Microsoft Word font, very familiar

Garamond – old style font, timeless, polished elegance

Georgia – traditional alternative to Times New Roman

Times New Roman – universal font and very popular résumé choice, also safe like Arial

Trebuchet MS – sans serif like Arial, a bit different but still comfortable for the reader

Résumé Fonts

A few more points before I close:

  1. Uncommon Fonts. If you choose a less common font, make sure the text is highly readable and accessible by most users of Microsoft Word and other word processing programs. The worst case scenario can come true – your font is not supported, and your document looks like a mess on their screen.
  2. Use of Space on the Page. If space is an issue in your résumé (either you have too many words or too few), the font can change the entire look of your document.
  3. Limiting Your Font Use. Don’t use too many fonts within the document. It doesn’t look fancy, it looks disorganized. I generally suggest only one font. If you use a second one as an accent, be sure to use it consistently throughout the document (i.e., only for your name and contact information on both pages). The same rule applies for capitalization, use of bold, italics, etc.
  4. Colors. Just as you are careful with font, be careful with (and don’t overuse) colors. Again, take a cue from what you have seen in your industry as a proxy for what your target audience will respond to and expect.

If you have any input or questions about fonts, feel free to leave a comment at the end of this post. Thanks!

[Update July 2016: since writing this post, I have also started using Helvetica in résumés, so I’m adding it to my list of fonts. I continue to use Times New Roman generally in the legal field, as it is a font that lawyers are comfortable reading, and often (but not always) use a sans serif font for non-legal clients. I have generally stopped using Calibri as well.]

Copyright 2016 Anne Marie Segal.


shutterstock_160082594 (dominos)Let’s be very clear, résumés are exceedingly important, but they are not everything. No one’s career chances have ever been made by a résumé. You need much more than a great résumé to succeed, and your entire value proposition as a candidate or employee is not locked in the document waiting to be read.

On the other hand, while a résumé cannot make your career, it can certainly break it. Résumés fail every day. They make a candidate look too scattered, too junior, too specialized or too much of any other trait that is undesirable in general or a particular case and not enough of what an employer actually does want. In the hundreds of résumés I read last year alone, I can say that the greatest point of failure is that the résumé writer did not step back and consider what he or she was trying to communicate.

When I say the “résumé writer”above, I don’t mean a professional résumé writer, who through experience and detachment generally possesses the big-picture perspective. (That’s a large part of why you might hire one.) I mean Joe, Sally, Larry, Latisha, Ricardo, Li-Shin and every other job candidate out there who is writing a résumé on his or her own. If Latisha doesn’t put on her “résumé writer’s hat” and Larry doesn’t put himself in the shoes of the reader, neither of them will be very effective at communicating through the résumé medium.

Why is this task of writing a compelling résumé so important? Without exaggeration, millions of employees worldwide are held in the shackles of their current employment, unhappy, unmotivated and unable to move internally or into new jobs, because they have not mastered the skill of communicating their value through their résumés. Millions of others are unemployed or underemployed for the same reason.

You have one or two pages to make your case. Without fail.



In certain limited circumstances, as a job candidate you are already a known quantity as a professional, and the résumé serves more of a “confirmation” function. Most of the time, however, the résumé itself needs to build your case.

In certain limited circumstances, as a job candidate you are already a known quantity as a professional, and the résumé serves more of a “confirmation” function. Most of the time, however, the résumé itself needs to build your case. As far as we have moved as a society into business-driven social media (LinkedIn profiles, etc.), in most professional fields the résumé is still the common currency and core document. We are a long way from the phrase “send me your résumé” being replaced with “send me your Twitter feed.”

Résumés fail because they don’t convince the right audience that you are a compelling candidate to interview.

#1 – Know Your Audience

When I work with résumé clients, the first point we tackle is knowing the audience., which is #2 above. To know who is your audience, you need to first know what roles you are targeting. In the attorney field, for example, a litigator résumé written to target a law firm won’t convey the key points if the candidate wants to move into an in-house role, public policy, human resources or education. The audience in each case is different, and what is needed to convince your audience that you are a good candidate is decidedly specific to each type of role. If you are writing a résumé on your own and in doubt about what your audience is looking for, the first step is to find out as much about the actual “work” of the target position. Job descriptions, informational interviews and other investigatory measures will help you clarify what is expected in each role.

#2 – Convince

Second, once you know your audience, your job is to convince the audience you are a good hire. Too often, candidates try to do this by putting more on the page. They don’t know what to emphasize, because they haven’t taken the time to get to know themselves or their audience, and they expect the reader to sort it out. The résumé in that case does not present a logical step-by-step narrative that walks the reader through the candidate’s strengths, talents, experience and value-add. The reader, of course, is busy and has much better things to do, like read the résumé of someone who has figured out how to write one properly (or get on with the business of actually working).

How do you convince employers to hire you through your résumé? Show them you can solve their problems and capitalize on their opportunities.

You can’t close the deal with readers/interviewers/recruiters/hiring managers/networking contacts if you can’t convince them you are a compelling candidate. And you won’t be a compelling candidate in most cases if you don’t know your own value proposition.

The most compelling way to close the deal is to know the problems, issues, opportunities, strengths, risks, threats, etc. of a particular employer (or class of employers) and present yourself as someone who can solve the problems and capitalize on the opportunities. Here are some concrete examples to make this clear. Imagine you had a class of jobs in front of you, and you needed to figure out what problems needed to be solved in each case: (1) the receptionist of a busy pediatrician’s office, (2) the safety manager at a manufacturing company, or (3) the execution trader for a hedge fund trading international equities. What are the so-called “pain points” of each? Does the doctor’s office need someone client-focused and organized? (Clearly.) Do they need to have experience in a similar setting? (Depends on what else they bring to the table and the employer’s biases, history of hires and successes/failures on that front.) What else does each role require and request of a candidate?

I have worked with many candidates who have not even considered what an employer’s needs are. So many, in fact, that I am no longer surprised by this omission of the key reason that companies hire in the first place – to fill a need.

Let’s think about #2 above for a moment – safety management. Say you want to move into (or move up in) this type of role, which is admittedly a very specific field. Here’s a sample job description (click here) from Lauren, an EPC contractor. If you were serious about this area as one or more possible targets for you, and this employer in particular, I would suggest you read related job descriptions to flesh out how “this type of job works.” While the present blog post is not about how to read a job description (stay tuned, one may follow), let me highlight a few key points that would help your résumé communicate that you a compelling candidate for this job or one like it. Start not with the writing, but with the thinking, namely:

(1) What does this employer do? At a very basic level, what is EPC (engineering, procurement and construction), what is the heavy industrial sector, and how does this translate into their day-to-day operations? 

(2) Who are their clients?

(3) What markets do they operate in?

(4) Who are their competitors?

(5) Since they are in a highly-regulated field that affects everything that they do, who are their regulators, what regulations are they subject to, etc.? (Note: see the references to OSHA, for example, in the job description. If you do not know what OSHA is and have not mentioned it on your résumé, you will be a very hard sell. Find a cheap training online, at the very least, to get you started, or do the research on your own. In other words, if you don’t have what you need, find a way to get it.)

(6) Note that all of the above points are about the employer. Only after you have considered the macro-view – what are they trying to accomplish and how does that play out? – then ask yourself the question, how does your targeted role serve to lead, manage and/or support the bigger picture? How can you help solve the employers’ problems, issues, opportunities, strengths, risks, threats, etc. How can you make them money, save them money, raise their reputation in the marketplace, keep them out of trouble or otherwise add value to the company?

#3 – Be Compelling

You will notice immediately that this is a completely different approach to résumé writing than creating a “laundry list” of what you have done in the past. If you are perceptive, you will also notice that “it’s about them, not about you.” Compelling candidates won’t just want to fill jobs because they need a paycheck. Compelling candidates are compelling because they move beyond what’s in it for them and are focused on what they can do for the employer. (Which is how and why we all get paid, after all.)

If what I am proposing sounds like a lot of work, it is. Yet if you cannot find the energy to be fully engaged at the outset of a job, how will you possibly summon it up once you are in the job? The same attention to getting you hired will keep you employed and progressing along your career. If you don’t have it and cannot create it, you are in the wrong field, industry or life.

Referring back to points 1-7 above, you may ask how each of these are reflected in your résumé, which is the decisive question. The art of writing the résumé is to translate the employer’s needs (without simply repeating words) to show that you have the “right stuff” to meet their objectives for the role and the company generally. If you are applying to a set of roles that are similar (e.g., safety management roles across a range of companies or industries), the communication of what makes you compelling may be quite similar for each employer that you are trying to “sell” on your candidacy. Keywords play a role, certainly, and the essence of a compelling résumé is that it allows the reader to picture you in the role.

The essence of a compelling résumé: allow the reader to picture you in the role.

#4 – Focus on Getting the Interview

On the fourth and last point of failure, résumé writers often forget that they are generally competing for an interview with their résumé, not yet competing for the job. In other words, not every single point about why a company should hire you needs to be in the résumé. In fact, it shouldn’t run on that long, lest you run the risk of coming across as a candidate who cannot succinctly and effectively communicate. Remember: the résumé is the appetizer, not the meal. Your résumé’s job is to convert the recipient of your résumé into a reader and then into an interviewer.

Once you have the interview, go back to those 7 points above (and others), and make the same sale all over again. Convince your audience you are a compelling candidate to hire.

Anne Marie Segal is a résumé writer and a career and leadership coach to attorneys, executives and entrepreneurs. You can find her website here

WRITING SERVICES include attorney and executive résumés, cover letters, LinkedIn profiles, bios, websites and other career and business communications.

COACHING SERVICES include career coaching, networking support, interview preparation, LinkedIn training, personal branding, leadership and change management.

Bad cover letters are like drive-thru dating. Here’s why: hastily dashing off a cover letter is as likely to make a negative first impression as asking someone out on a date and then failing to put in the effort.

I would bet we can all agree that taking your date (especially a new one) through the drive-thru and munching on fries in the car – rather than an actual dinner that requires planning, some risk, thought and a small capital outlay – usually doesn’t bode well for a long-term, mutually beneficial relationship. The reason is obvious. A drive-thru date lacks the three C’s: creativity, curiosity and care.

A poorly written cover-letter lacks the three C’s:

creativity, curiosity (about the employer and its needs) and care.

Yet job candidates send what I would call “just plain bad” cover letters all the time to potential employers. That is, they send letters that clearly indicate they were in a rush, not wanting to take the time or spend the energy to understand the role or even make a good first impression.

Alternatively, they skip the cover letter altogether, which is like saying to that same date, “let’s take a drive past the fast food joints in town and not eat at all, because I couldn’t be bothered to plan or pay for dinner.” While some employers (and dates) don’t fuss over such details or want you bad enough to overlook this faux pas, there’s an etiquette to job submissions that should not be ignored unless you’re fortunate enough to fit into one of the exceptions above.

shutterstock_38753659 (drive thru)

Unless you’re fortunate enough to have a referral source who dispenses with the need for cover letters or you are a highly sought-after candidate (read: they want you badly enough), cover letters are part of the job search etiquette and should not be ignored.

To put it very simply: if you don’t write a strong, well-worded and error free letter, you may cost yourself a $60K, $100K or even $250K+ job. Put into more specific monetary terms, if you are unemployed, each month you are out of work is  1/12th of that amount. Alternatively, if you are in a job you hate, that same lost month can make you more discouraged and less motivated about going to work, getting out of bed during the week or finding a way to improve your situation. Short answer: getting your cover letters nailed down, in style and substance, is essential to any job search.

How can I make my cover letter stand out?

I hear this question all the time from my clients: how can I write an amazing cover letter that will get their attention? Truth be told, when I first started writing résumés, I thought that if I got the hard part (the résumé) out of the way, the rest (the cover letter) would be easy. Yet it isn’t so. The mental block that accompanies cover letters is just as strong as the one for résumés. In addition, the potential for missteps is equally high, which is unfortunate for job candidates, since the cover letter is often the document that triggers a make-or-break first impression.

Here are some basic factors to consider as you are writing a cover letter:

First, your cover letter should be written to a person. It’s not a love letter (or an actual date), of course, but your cover letter should nonetheless engage your reader. While keywords are important for automated submissions, a simple rehash of your résumé with the name of the position listed above and a “please contact me” closing paragraph do not a great cover letter make.

You are writing to a person. Make sure he or she wants to read it.

I’ve mentioned this to clients and in groups, and I am always surprised when I say, “Imagine you are the person receiving the letter.” I see a lightbulb go off. Yes, you are writing to a person. Someone who got out of bed in the morning just like you, wants to impress his or her boss with a good hire and may have the office next to you for the next ten years. Write to that person.

If you don’t have a particular person to whom you can address the letter, you can direct it to “Ladies and Gentlemen.” But remember, while it is not addressed to a specific individual, it will be read by a person at some point in the process. If you were an actor on stage you may not know who comprises your audience, but you would know (or assume) there is an audience. In too many cases to count, I have seen cover letters which appear to have been written under the premise that they will never actually be read.

Second, your cover letter should indicate that you have actually read the job description and want the job. Put down the pen or keyboard for a moment. Imagine that you are the potential interviewer, and you have two cover letters in front of you. In one, there is a generic rehashing of the person’s résumé or watered-down description of his or her skills. In the other, the candidate exudes confidence and demonstrates an understanding of and genuine interest in the needs of the employer. Which one makes you want to move to the next step with the candidate? For the avoidance of doubt, my vote is with cover letter #2. The first one is destined for the trash can, with as little aim and initiative as its writer had showed when sending it.

Third, your cover letter should explain why you are the right person to fill the job. How specifically can you add value to the organization and what examples can you give to show that you have made similar contributions in other roles? I am not suggesting that you need to show you are a round peg to fit into a round hole, but you do need to connect the dots for the interviewer, rather than expect him or her to do that for you. Again, comparing to the drive-thru example, if you couldn’t be bothered to make even a basic plan for your date, what can you possibly expect in return?

Fourth, delete any language that doesn’t communicate why you should be hired. Space is at a premium. Use it well.  

I would have written a shorter letter, but I did not have the time.
– Attributed to Mark Twain, Blaise Pascal and others

Fifth, if you need to explain a gap or other detracting element of your work history, give it a positive spin. Negativity is one of the biggest turn-offs in the job interview process, and starting a paragraph with “I am currently unemployed but….” or “although I have taken five years off from working….” can sound like you are someone who dwells on the downside. What can you offer to make yourself a compelling candidate while gently explaining what might otherwise be a red flag? Again, imagine you are the interview. What would make he or she excited about hiring you? How did you take that blow or setback and learn from it or create something positive with it?

Sixth, write well and proofread zealously. Even if writing won’t be a significant component of your job (and for most of us, it is), consider the cover letter an audition for how well you’ll write for the company. 

Lastly, read it again and make sure you cover the three C’s. Does your cover letter show creativity, differentiating it from all the other cover letters on the block? Does it demonstrate a curiosity about the company and the role, as well as what you could add to it? Finally, is it written with care, rather than a simple “drive-thru style” of how many cover letters you could bang out in a day?

If your job search has dragged on or been unnecessarily delayed, you may feel sometimes as if quantity – i.e., number of applications submitted – is what matters most. In the current job market, in which there can be thousands of applicants for each job, nothing could be further from the truth. Take the time to get it right.

Anne Marie Segal is a résumé writer and a career and leadership coach to attorneys, executives and entrepreneurs. You can find her website here.

WRITING SERVICES include attorney and executive résumés, cover letters, LinkedIn profiles, bios, websites and other career and business communications.

COACHING SERVICES include career coaching, networking support, interview preparation, LinkedIn training, personal branding, leadership and change management.

This post was originally published on LinkedIn Pulse.