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5/6/12 - 5 Ways Preparing Your Resume is Like Doing Taxes

by Josh Tolan


Josh Tolan is the CEO of Spark Hire, which combines a video job board and online interviewing platform to enrich interaction between job seekers and employers.


As we bid adieu to yet another tax deadline, it got me thinking about how doing your taxes is very similar to preparing your resume. As humor columnist Dave Barry, joked, “It’s tax time. I know this because I’m staring at documents that make no sense to me, no matter how many beers I drink.” The same could be said when working on your resume.


In fact, the panic you may have felt during the weeks leading up to the deadline can be equated to the stress of preparing your resume as you begin a job search. Both require extreme attention to detail, and everything you put down can seem like a make or break move. However, creating your resume — typically the first introduction to a potential employer — doesn’t have to be left to a professional you visit once a year.

Here are five ways in which preparing your resume is like doing your taxes.


1. You Must Tell the Truth


Both taxes and your resume require complete honesty. You can be fined and charged for the cost of prosecution if you’re caught lying on your taxes. And if you lie to investigators, you can face double that for interfering with the administration of IRS laws — and you could potentially go to jail if you willfully lie or attempt to evade your taxes.

While you likely won’t be fined or placed in jail for lying on your resume, that’s no reason to avoid the truth. In most cases, HR departments do background checks and at least compare your social media accounts to your resume. Apart from being morally and ethically wrong, lying on your resume can lead to problems and will ruin your credibility for any future jobs.


2. It’s Time Consuming


Doing your own taxes through a system such as TurboTax can eat up a large chunk of your time. Last year, the IRS estimated that it took the average taxpayer 22 hours to prepare and file a Form 1040. With the average cost to prepare a federal and state return at $229, according to the National Society of Accountants, it works out to about $10 an hour for all the work you’ve done.

Similarly, preparing a good resume is a time-consuming process, and it is common to have to do several revisions before completing the final copy. Your resume changes all of the time as you update jobs, activities, honors and awards, as well as your ongoing projects, leadership experiences and achievements. Choosing the right words and phrases are critical in selling your marketable skills and experiences. If you keep your resume up to date, an update shouldn’t eat as much of your time as your taxes do.


3. Organization is Key


Being organized is extremely helpful when you sit down to do your taxes, especially if you don’t want to spend hours searching for documents. Even worse, you could risk overpaying the IRS hundreds of dollars by overlooking deductions and missing chances to itemize — opportunities that may well be buried in the forest of lengthy tax forms and updates that you must file every year.

The same concept applies when you go to update your resume. Effective resume preparation is really about getting organized before you start putting your fingers to the keyboard. Then, once you do get your basic resume drafted, you must remain focused on keeping your resume up to date. People often have difficulty creating or updating their resume because they haven’t kept track of dates, addresses, names, accomplishments, duties and other essentials. Once you have begun your resume (from hard copy documents kept nicely in a file), keep your resume clean and organized with concise writing.


4. You Must Decide Who Does It


For your taxes, you had two options — you either filed your own paperwork or hired someone to do it for you. Hiring someone to do your taxes is a good idea if you’re afraid of making an expensive mistake or overlooking an important deduction; U.S. tax code is complicated, with about 3,400 tax law changes since 2000. So even if you are very interested in personal finance, the more complicated your return is, the more you may want to consider hiring a professional.

When it comes to crafting a resume, there are also two options: going DIY or hiring a resume professional. According to blogger Penelope Trunk, an effective resume doesn’t just get you a job; it gets you the job you want. A good resume writer can help you reposition yourself to shift careers or make you look more high-level than you have been in the past. Many good resume writers can also help you to talk about your resume in a way that will allow you to turn an interview into a job.

However, many others stick with writing their own. For starters, writing your own resume saves you money. Plus, who knows your accomplishments and skills better than you? Formatting and creating your resume, and turning it an effective document is possible if you take the time and energy to assure it’s the best it can be.


5. Not a Lot of Fun


The bottom line is that writing your resume and doing your taxes are both necessary evils that are not a lot of fun. Having your resume together and ready at a moment’s notice makes it easier to prepare your cover letters, your video resumes and fill out job applications.

One thing that might help is injecting some humor into the processes. As Charlie Brown once said, “On Tax Day it is good to remember: No problem is so big or so complicated it cannot be run away from.”


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