Navigating Resumes: An Interview with Michelle Aitala of Red Poppy Resumes

Resume Cartoon Clip

Are you looking to update your resume? I recently had an opportunity to talk with Michelle Aitala of Red Poppy Resumes. Michelle served as a university career counselor, providing career consulting to various student groups. As a counselor she has coached numerous job seekers on effective resume writing, job searching, portfolios, networking, and salary negotiation. In addition, she has served as a contributor for several career-focused articles featured in Mademoiselle Magazine, Black Issues in Higher Education, The Journal of Career Planning and Placement (NACE), CareerBuilder, Quintessential Careers, and

If you are interested in updating your resume, seeking career coaching or are simply looking for tips to stay ahead in today’s competitive job market – this interview is for you!

9toFlyGirl: Please tell me about the services you provide.

Michelle: I provide professional and affordable resume and cover letter design services. In addition, I provide career coaching to keep clients on track during their job search. I help them with job search strategies and give them homework to set weekly goals. I consider myself a teacher because I teach client’s job search and resume skills so they can manage future searches.

9TFG: What is the traditional purpose of a resume?

Michelle: A resume is a very brief, short hand version of a candidate’s experience. It lists specific skill sets and abilities that match what employers are trying to fill. The purpose of a resume is to get an interview and get your foot in the door.

9TFG: What is the most important thing to know about resumes?

Michelle: There are actually two things:

1) There’s no right way to write a resume. It is up to the job seeker to have a document they feel comfortable using and that they know intimately, backwards and forward.

2) A resume isn’t you, the job seeker. You can’t convey who you are as a person or potential employee through the resume alone. That is why the interview process is important.

9TFG: How can someone create an effective resume if they have little experience? Say for instance a student coming right out of college?

Michelle: Whatever the career goal is, base the resume on that. Remember that the experience doesn’t have to be paid. Anything that gives you experience toward the goal of the job you want works. For instance: an internship, senior thesis, volunteer work or class project. It should be relatable experience in an environment where you used the same skills.

9TFG: How does one create an effective resume as a career-changer?

Michelle: Look at your past experiences and connect the transferable skills an employer would value. Consider the skills you learned in the past year that can be applied to a new career.

9TFG: What is the #1 common mistake made on resumes?

Michelle: I think there are two. The first is that candidates often include information employer’s cannot ask such as age, gender, marital status or a social security number. Some people even include a photograph which isn’t needed.

9TFG: Yeah I remember back in the day I used to put my social on resumes. Like as a teen looking for jobs.

Michelle: Exactly. And the second [mistake] would be not using a variety of strong action verbs to describe their experience. For example they may use a verb such as “assisted” or phrase like “responsible for”. Instead ask “What did I do to that project?” or “How did I effect it?”. Replace the passive verbs with strong verbs like “managed”, “facilitated”, “directed” or “collaborated [with]”.

9TFG: How significant is a resume today in the age of networking? (For example: Linked In; Gaining employment through personal connections)

Michelle: I think a traditional resume is still very significant. Those other methods are still rooted in the traditional resume. It is a starting point for networking. The individuals you’re networking with will eventually ask for your resume. For the interview the employer will need to see it as well. The resume is the starting point for everything else.

Though showing your resume in other formats is important as well. For example, some candidates have a website that shows their work [depending on the type of work they do]. Or a candidate may have something they bring with them on a tablet to an interview. It allows the candidate to have an extra edge or receive more attention than another candidate.

9TFG: It shows you made the extra effort.

Michelle: Yes.

9TFG: Should you keep a resume on you, business cards or both? How significant are paper formats today?

Michelle: Yes, you should keep both. Paper formats are still significant. You should keep a resume on you particularly if you’re going to an event like a job fair. If it’s a networking event, a business card is more appropriate. Make sure your business card includes your email address, phone number and a job title specific to what you want to do.

As far as digital formats, there are a few options out there. Some candidates use a personal website as a digital portfolio. I believe Google+ may have digital options to serve as a business card (see here). Also, the website Moo has a scan code system that allows someone to scan your business card to pop up on a mobile device. (Click here for more details) The technology allows an imbedded chip in the business card to be programmed to perform different functions. The person receiving it can scan it and automatically receive your business contact information, a link to your LinkedIn profile or website or online portfolio, connect to your social network, and so on. The amazing part is the business card owner can track activity online as well as change the action of the chip at any time.

9TFG: Wow. These are some great options. I personally struggle with whether or not to stay paper with the business cards or go digital. It’s a catch 22. Those that I want to give a paper card to might be strictly digital on one hand. On the other hand, I may try to go digital with another networker who still lives by the old school paper method.

Michelle: Right…it’s like are you talking to the person from a start-up that’s digital only or the 60 year old CEO who is more than likely used to the paper based form.

9TFG: Exactly!


Michelle: That’s why I’d recommend trying both. This way you’ll have something either way.

9TFG: Great point!

9TFG: How can readers contact you directly if they’d like to ask you a question or access your services?

Michelle: My website is: I can be contacted by email at:

Red Poppy_Michelle A Pic  Red Poppy Logo


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