The Résumé Writer
A man walks into Dr. Cheryl Minnick's stuffy basement office and hands her a thick paperback textbook on résumé writing. He says it's from the library. She opens the front cover, sees the publication year is 1994, and promptly hurls it into a trash bin. Minnick has a right to do this. She is a nationally certified résumé writer, one of only 36 in the world.
Minnick's is more than qualified as a university internship coordinator. Though she works on the side, most full-time résumé writers are exclusively privately employed with the pros charging thousands of dollars per hour. The money Minnick makes in the five hours it takes her to write a professional résumé equates to four days of pay at UM. “She probably makes less than every student she helps get a job,” says business school Director of Career Advancement Janel Queen.
But Minnick's not in it for the money. "My goal has always been to help students find their passion. That's my passion," she says. That's why for the 12 years she's been at UM, she's averaged 120 student résumés a month. She never charges students and never writes for them; instead teaching them how to fish for themselves. "That's what college is about," she says, "learning."
Minnick got into professional résumé writing seven years ago when her office was told everyone had to find and attend a job training workshop. An ad in the paper had already caught her eye and she set off to her first National Résumé Writers Association conference to hone her skills.
Minnick had long noticed qualified students weren't getting internships and the conference showed her why. Résumé writing wasn't just writing, it was coding. She had an epiphany, “I thought oh my God, that's why our people aren't getting positions!”
2006 marked the first year that online applicant tracking systems became big. Around 140 websites are responsible for millions of applications to tens of thousands of jobs. Computers do the grunt work once reserved for human resources drones: Stratifying pools of hundreds of thousands of applicants into only the choicest candidates.
Minnick hears a lot of people complain that after submitting their résumés into a system they never get any response. She says this is one of the biggest problems with these systems. “It can be silly little things that don't get you an interview,” says Queen. A résumé submitted in an incorrect file type won't go through. Even fonts with serifs might not work. Every system is different.
But Minnick is slick, a résumé writing database analyzing hotshot. "I can trick any applicant tracking system," she says. She knows the ins and outs of every system by heart, going so far as to email the system's programmers, or contact the marketing department for info that's not overtly disclosed.
She's developed the skills to get inside of what she calls each system's “metric” the keywords a company tells the system to look for in a given application. If your résumé doesn't have each of those keywords the machine drops you. Minnick knows how to give the robot what it wants so that when the massive pool of applicants is whittled down for review by an actual human her students make the cut.
Minnick says “A résumé is a marketing campaign, it used to be a bio.” She says although résumé writing has evolved drastically in just half a dozen years some of the innovations go back more than 500.
Minnick says that even on his résumé (another of his inventions) Leonardo da Vinci was ahead of his time. While applying to be the Duke of Milan's spymaster Leonardo put his skills most pertinent to the job application at the top of his résumé (designer of siege weapons), with less pertinent skills (painting and sculpting) at the bottom. Minnick calls this “top-loading”.
Professional résumé writers long believed top-loading gave applicants better chances based on the simple logic of reading English. We read left to right and top to bottom. According to Minnick most employers spend an average of six seconds deciding whether a résumé should progress further, so the skills they're looking for should be placed in the top left of the page. But just as technology changed the application process it changed résumé writing as well.
Earlier this April an online job-matching service released data compiled using an eye tracking software used to follow a subjects vision across paper. The data showed old style résumés did not match up important data with the area reader's eyes spent the most time on.
Minnick adapted to this game changing discovery immediately. Her résumés are now written in the “modern style” which prioritizes info in areas the eye lingers longest. She says writers must know "human psychology and computer analytics," in addition to writing and composition.
It's hard for Minnick to pin down how many people she's helped, but according to Queen “She's touched every single business student.”
UM senior Blaine Hauglie was one of them. After attending one of Minnick's business school résumé workshops Blaine sought her help further and to great result. “I completed an internship with Microsoft over this last summer which ended with me getting an offer to return in July after I graduate,” Haugile says.
Microsoft was so impressed with Haugile they are now holding a recruitment drive at UM's' School of Business Administration on Oct. 17, a first for the University of Montana.
Helping get the internship was not the only way Minnick helped him says Haugile. “Cheryl has allowed me to be able to confidently send my resume somewhere and know that if I didn't get an interview, that it probably wasn't because of my resume but because I was not right for that position.”
Minnick even helps students outside her sweltering office. Her one woman crusade has become statewide. She lectures at UM's business school at least twice a semester, and has led seminars across Western Montana in the hope of getting the state back to work.
She even cuts her private customers a special deal: A discounted résumé in exchange for a promise that in the future she gets to send prospective interns their way. Every one of them has taken the offer.
While students head off to internships Minnick stays put eagerly toiling away. Another day another batch of résumés to tinker. Some stand out in her mind. Students have interned for Nike, the Red Wings even the White House. One she remembers most of all. A UM student beat out 4,000 other applicants to intern for the Boston Celtics with an expertly written résumé colored in green, white and black.