## General Discussions

I have not had to do a professional resume in a very long time.  I have about 20 years of MT experience.  I have some medical office experience (MT).  I have some experience working in a HIM department (MT) but I was also answering phones, pulling charts, putting charts in order.

None of this is relevant to coding experience, although I do believe it does help me offer certain skills to my future employer.

How far back do I go with my job experience?  Do I go back the 20 years and list my prior office/clerical experience in the HIM department (mostly MT work)?

The MT field has been brutal to us who have been in the field for a very long time.  There have been multiple employers in a very short time (due to me being a 1099 and the companies losing their accounts, etc, being bought out by the other big MT companies).  I know this could appear negatively on a resume, but certainly people who know this industry know this is what is happening out there.

Suggestions on how to approach this please.

That's a very good question! I'm going to throw a couple of ideas in here, but my ideas are NOT written in stone. These are just ideas to consider. I hope others will also add to the conversation.

There is no one-size-fits-all answer, because there are lots of variables. In other words, we don't know who will be looking at and evaluating your resume. Do they practice age discrimination? If so, going back 20 years might be a red flag for that particular job, which may or may not be a bad thing because they shouldn't do it.

I wonder if you might include near the top of your resume a category such as

RELEVANT WORK EXPERIENCE:

Past experience includes HIM duties including putting charts in order, pulling charts, answering phones, and transcribing medical reports.

Then, just list your last 10 years or so of jobs.

My answer's a little different from Linda's. :)

My usual rule of thumb is to list approximately the last 10 years' worth of employment, with three caveats.

Number 1 is that in most cases, the resume should only take up one page.  If you have so many entries that it's stretching to a second page, start trimming.  Some of that may be trimming the length of each entry, some may be trimming the oldest entries altogether.

Number 2 is if you have little or no work experience during the last 10 years, but something from earlier that you can list, use the older experience to fill out your resume a bit more.

Number 3 is if you had something directly applicable to the new job in a position you had more than 10 years back (i.e.if you were a billing specialist 12-14 years ago and you're applying for coding now, or a court reporter changing to MT), go ahead and include it.

Similar to Linda's note about age discrimination, one thing I would NOT include is your high school graduation unless it was within the last few years, and then only if you don't have much else to include overall within your resume.

Hi Kristi,

My question is similar to yours.  I have medical office experience from 22 to 23 years ago.  I worked in a doctor's office doing front office, back office, and some billing.  Two of my references are from this office, my supervisor and coworker.  I really don't have other references, other than Linda and Glenda :) since I have been working as an MT for the last 12 years.  Should I include the years I worked there or just that I worked there?  In between this job and MT, I worked for the post office as a remote encoder (strange coincidence, huh?).

Also I do have a bachelor's degree from 1991 in computers.  Should I include the year I graduated or just the fact that I have it?  1991 was a completely different world back then, no internet, no laptops, no cell phones.  Not sure how to handle that one, but am looking for advice.  Sorry if I highjacked your post or your question, maybe it can help both of us and others in the same position.

Thanks,

Ask Glenda to give you a template. At least I THINK we have one for medical coding. Otherwise we need to get one, right?  :)

You might do something like this, with the most important thing first, because many of them only read the top 5 lines before deciding whether to toss the resume or put it in the 'to-be-considered' pile.

Again, my ideas here are not set in stone. Different ideas are welcome and encouraged. Someone may have a better way than my idea, which is off the top of my head to answer your question.

MEDICAL CODING CREDENTIALS

CCS through AHIMA

CPC-A through AAPC

RELEVANT EDUCATION

2012 - Graduate, The Andrews School program in Medical Coding

1991 - Bachelor's degree in computers   (however you want to phrase that)

RELEVANT PAST EXPERIENCE

Medical front office and back office, including some billing.

THEN, put your dates. Most HR offices won't go much past the first couple of lines, so start out with  your most recent work experience.

EMPLOYMENT

Let me work on a couple of possible templates. I'll be back.

City State Zip
405-123-4567
Education and Credentials:                     2012 - Certified Coding Specialist (CCS) through AHIMA #123452012 - CPC-A through AAPC #123452012 - Graduate, The Andrews School program in Medical Coding  2001 - B.S., Computer Technology       Relevant Experience:Coded outpatient blah blah blahEntered codes into abstracting/billing latformDeveloped blah blah blahParticipated in planning sessions (meetings) blah blah blahCompleted monthly blah blah blahPerformed medical front office and back office duties , including some billing.Compiled medical requests based on the claims data baseEntered Data in CMS data baseAssisted with blah blah blah
Computer Skills:Proficient in Windows, Word, ExcelKnowlege of PowerPoint, Access
            Experience:    January 2011 to December 2012Student-to-Graduate, The Andrews School Program in Medical Coding    January 2010 to January 2011Office ManagerXYZ Corporation, Lewisville, TX                  July 1990 to December 2009Medical TranscriptionistIndependent Contractor

First, decide which is more impressive, your credentials, relevant education, work history, or skills. Put the most impressive right on top where it won't be missed. Put the less impressive, usually relevant work history, lower down. If you have credentials, those MUST be the first thing employers see.

If you go over 1 page, take out extra spaces, be less verbose, put things on one line, as long as it still is easy to read.

If you have a very SHORT resume, add spaces before and after headings, make the headings a little larger. Separate some of the items so that you have more. For example,  EXPAND  "Performed medical front office and back office duties , including some billing."  Break it down. Be more specific.

Thanks so much for the information.  You girls are just plain awesome!!!  This helps me a lot, as I am getting ready to retire after 30 years and start a new career in coding.  It's good to know where to be "careful" on the resume.

You're welcome!

One more thing. The reason you put your credentials numbers on the resume is to make it easy for them to check to make sure you really are a CCS or CPC.

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You may stop reading here.  I wrote the rest and then came back here to say that I even confused myself!

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If you decide to read on after reading my disclaimer, I take no responsibility for confusing you. :)

Employers have to check claims of credentials (certification)  because people often either mislead (on purpose) or are ignorant of the fact that passing a coding course doesn't make you a certified coder. There are school that promote that kind of deception. Employers also check with me to see that a person actually is a graduate, because people occasionally claim to have graduated from The Andrews School when they didn't.

So, if you have credentials, provide proof by giving the number. Have a copy ready to send when requested. Otherwise, don't use the word "certified" anywhere. You get a Certificate of Completion when you finish a course, but that doesn't make you certified.  Clear as mud? I thought so.  :)

It all looks great to me.  What do you all think about LinkedIn?  I haven't come across an Andrews student yet.  Does anyone else have a profile and plan to upload a resume?  I'm strongly considering it.

I am always happy to review our graduates' and near-graduates' resumes.  There's also a graduate section that you'll each have access to here once you complete your course, and it also has extra tips.

If you want feedback personalized to you, just email your resume to me in the body of the email or attached as a .rtf or .doc file.  I'll look over it and make suggestions for how to trim, move around, or expand information to help you best present yourself.  These reviews can be pretty thorough, so it may be a couple of days or a week before I can answer you, depending on my workload.

-Glenda

When I was laid off in 2010 and went to a company to help rewrite my resume, I was told to only list my name, phone number, and e-mail at the top; definitely, no address (I don't remember the reason why now). Then, they said under professional experience only list jobs that were less than 15 years, so that's a bit different than listing 10 years, but similar. However, since I have so much experience to just make a category called Positions Prior to ____ (insert year), but don't put any years with those positions, only brief descriptions. They also told me to not put years when I received my degrees as the employers might try to figure out how old I was and then discriminate based on age, which I think they do anyway, and even with rewriting the whole thing, I still wasn't able to get another MT position. I guess I'm ready for a rewrite again after I finish here at Andrews.

Wonderful advice, Everybody!  I will be working on mine soon.

I had never, ever thought of age discrimination since I'm only 43, but I guess I need to be aware of it.  Unfortunate, since I consider myself to be young.  :)  I still have MANY good years to offer an employer, unless I win the lottery.  (LOL)

Inge, that's interesting about not including your address. I'm puzzled about that unless it's because you might be eliminated due to where you live, even before you've had an opportunity to interview. For example, I might not consider someone who lives in Guthrie, OK, but might miss out on a really excellent applicant who would be willing to commute that far. Then again, it may be for some other reason. If anyone figures it out, let me know.  In the meantime, I see no problem with leaving it OFF, as Inge's advisor recommended.

That's interesting Inge, I was thinking the same thing myself.  I graduated from college in 1991 and don't want to put that date for fear of age discrimination.  But I like the idea of putting positions prior to ___ and listing the jobs instead of the dates, that's a great idea.

I loved this discussion and appreciate everyone's input.  On another note, I do know that while applying online in the past for hospitals, there is an automatic "form" generator where you do list your most recent experience, dates, etc.  I guess in this case, only go back maybe 10 years.  But, if no relevant experience, then maybe not that far...

I believe a cover letter is a MUST.  Also, I did notice that there is usually a place where you could copy and past your own resume.

So, I'm thinking definitely cut/paste my own resume, have a cover letter, and don't go back too far with my work experience since I have no coding experience, only MT experience.

Many people agree with you about cover letters. I think they are fine as long as you don't make some of the mistakes people have made when I have posted job openings.  Here are a couple of paragraphs that I found annoying in cover letters. My thoughts follow each paragraph. These caused me to not consider two of the applicants who wrote those cover letters, and the third one was a little iffy.  :)

"I am really excited about working with your company. I will have everything whipped into shape in no time!"   [Pardon me? Where did  you get the impression that I was looking for someone to 'whip' my business into shape? That's not in the job description for the job you are applying for.  In fact, it scares me a little, so, no thanks.]

"I am including my resume. I know that you mentioned in the job announcement that you did not want the resumes sent by attachment. However, I did it anyway, because as everyone knows, the formatting will be bad otherwise." [Well, that tells me that you are a person who doesn't follow instructions. You are also a bit argumentative, so I don't think you are going to be able to handle this particular job.]

"I am bright, articulate, and highly motivated. I'm exactly what your company needs." [Maybe, but I'm not quite as sure as you are about that. I might allow you to interview unless I have enough applicants who are qualified and a little less braggadocious.]

Linda, I've always wondered what a good cover letter would look like. Years ago, it wasn't necessary to write a cover letter, you just would send your resume, but as I was told in 2010, times have changed and they keep changing, and as I will be applying for coding positions and not MT positions, I'm a bit perplexed as to what to say in the cover letter, i.e., I'm a graduate of Andrews School, having successfully passed both the CPC and CCS certification exams... In the MT cover letters, I would generally indicate my years of experience (although I was told this was a no-no, but I felt it important at that time) and that I would be an asset to the company to which I was applying. Perhaps that is why I rarely got interviewed? Your help in this is very much appreciated.

Personally, the silliness in so many of the cover letters makes me dislike them. Since we don't know how the HR people where you will be applying feel about them though, let's assume that they like cover letters. Let's also assume that they don't like silly ones. "I've heard all about your wonderful company and it's my dream to work there with you! I know I have all of the qualifications and attributes you're looking for. I'm the perfect fit for your needs!"   ARRRRGH! Now that's what I'm talking about when I refer to 'silly' cover letters. If you aren't sure about yours, read it out loud and pretend like you are the HR person reading it. You have 400 resumes, many of them being screened out due to the silliness in them. If reading it out loud in a dramatic voice makes you nauseous, work on it!  :)

So, what SHOULD go in that cover letter. You're very close. I would drop the "graduate of..." because (1) that will be on the resume and (2) you are applying on your professional coding credentials, not on the basis of having taken a course.

I would probably go with something like this. It doesn't limit you in any way, by saying "part-time" or "orthopedic coding position" or "outpatient", or anything else. You can always limit yourself later if they offer you something you don't want. Right now, you just want an offer. Use the term THEY use in their job announcement. Keep your version as close to what they say they want as possible. They want a medical coder? You are applying for that job they have open for a medical coder. They announced an opening for a medical coding specialist? You are applying for the job recently announced for a medical coding specialist.  You really don't need to say anything else other than how they can contact you. Don't give them any reason to reject you from the cover letter.

Dear Ms. ______:

I am interested in the position you have open for a medical coding specialist. My coding credentials include passing the CPC exam, through AAPC, and the CCS, through AHIMA. I may be reached by phone at (###) ###-#### or by e-mail at ---@---.

Thank you for your consideration of my application.

Respectfully,

Name, CPC-A, CCS

Notice that no matter how dramatically you read the above version, you can't make it sound very silly. It is what it is, a request for them to consider your application. If the HR person is very, very sick and tired of all of the drama (I'm the greatest coder you've ever met!) kind of e-mail and reads them all out loud in a dramatic voice, YOURS PASSES THE 'DRAMATIC VOICE READING TEST' and you will still be in the stack to be considered. The next one she looks at, the one that says, "OHHH how I hope you will allow me to show you what I can do! Please give me a chance to prove myself!---signed Yours Truly and Hopefully" will probably not make the cut. Neither will the one with all the cute fonts, or one that I'll never forget, written on lined, perfumed lavender notepaper. Keep it simple.

Linda, I love your comments regarding a cover letter.  I did not realize how little information should be included on it.  I like your sample. - short, sweet,and direct.  No mumbo-jumbo silliness.

Glenda, I look forward to having you read and go over my resume and cover letter in the near future.  :)  I am so happy that you do this for the students.  Many times, another pair of eyes will catch things that we will not catch.

Back when dinosaurs walked the earth, I owned a (small) resume business. That was very long ago and very much has changed, so I'd rather defer to the excellent and very specific advice being provided by Linda, Glenda and others here; but some basics remain, so I'll  chime in to agree with a few things --

1) By all means, keep the resume to one page only.

2) ZERO TOLERANCE FOR TYPOS. Don't trust spell-check, either; that won't catch the dreaded "lose/loose" or other such horrors... proofread and then proofread some more and then have others proof it too.

3) Yes, do keep your cover letter as concise as you can. Remember, it's about what you can do for them, not just how awesome you are, and you have only a few seconds to make the "keep" pile.

4) Just before sending out a batch of cover letters/resumes, do a thorough virus scan/malware scan of your computer. Do this even if you don't have a teenager who browses the Web on the same machine/network. Please trust me on this step--it's necessary. =)

Best of luck to us all!

Great suggestions, Pam!  Thanks for posting them.

Linda and others, I appreciate all your suggestions. I like the keep it simple style. Unfortunately, my resume is 3 pages, so I suppose I need to update it and trim it down, maybe get rid of some of my experience as an MT!

I'm really enjoying reading all the posts on this topic!  I have worked as a state employee for 29 years - 3 different departments, as well as a part-time medical transcriptionist for a small county hospital.  I'm so glad to get pointers from Linda and Glenda on resumes and cover letters - Especially the cover letters.  Back in the day when I graduated from high school, and then college, we were instructed to "build ourselves up" with that so-called"silliness" lingo in our cover memos.  I always felt uncomfortable about being soooo enthusiastic and rather phoney about who I REALLY was/am.  As a secretary, and reading a lot of cover letters from applicants over the last 29 years, I have silently "rolled my eyes" when a cover letter came in that was either too good to be true or completely phony sounding.  I've often asked myself "WHY" did (resume) educators feel we needed to pump ourselves up beyond what is realistic of the job we are applying for, when we know nothing or very little about the actual position, the dynamics of the office/business, as well as who we truly are individually. No, one shouldn't belittle themselves or lose confidence, but my gosh - we don't need to kill'em with our own praise of self-worth!  One should definitely eliminate the "drama" in a cover letter!

I would be glad to help you with that if you need me to take a look at it. Glenda is better at it than I am, but I have more experience with pages-long CVs. I'd be glad to help you get started on it while you study for that CCS exam. :)

How do I send my resume to Glenda?  What should I put in the subject section of the email to make sure she gets it?  Should I cut and paste it or can I send as an attachment?  Let me know.  Thanks!!!

I have a profile on LinkedIn, but no resume posted on there.  You can add me if you like...