Inside résumés: When Patrick Pirtle, computer-aided drafting manager for Magnusson Klemencic Associates, a structural- and civil-engineering firm in Seattle, goes...

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Inside résumés:

When Patrick Pirtle, computer-aided drafting manager for Magnusson Klemencic Associates, a structural- and civil-engineering firm in Seattle, goes over résumés, he has specific standards.

“My department is in charge of creating graphic explanations for building construction,” said Pirtle.

“The drawings have to be clear, well-organized, accurate and pleasing to the eye. When I receive a stack of résumés, I expect to see these same things as one indication of how well the applicant will meet our needs.”

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And the manager has this to say about including personal information on résumés: “I’m not interested in their hobbies. I don’t care if they climb rocks. It’s nice to know if they smoke, as we have to keep track of this for our insurance carrier, but otherwise I don’t care. … I figure all the personal stuff is none of my business. If we work together and become friends, we can share this information later.”

He means after you get the job by being completely professional on your résumé.

Inside interviews:

“Since the beginning of time,” Cathy Hodson, a Web editor in Mundelein, Ill., has “hated” one particular question in a job interview. The question: “Tell me about yourself.”

Hodson says what she hates about it most is that “it’s such an open-ended question that I could never figure out what the interviewer wanted to know.”

But there’s a question she loves, and she was asked it in an interview a few years ago. “The best question I’ve ever been asked in an interview is, ‘What makes you laugh?’ Your answer is revealing, but the question is one few people have trouble answering.”

When Hodson was asked the question by Richard Dunn, editor of Plant Engineering magazine, published in Oak Brook, Ill., her response was immediate — and wonderful. “I answered ‘Outright mischief or glee.’ I got the job … but no longer work there.”

And why does Dunn ask that question? He said the “premise is that you can learn a lot about a person by knowing something about their sense of humor. … There is no ‘right’ answer to a question like this, but it’s interesting to see how people respond.”

He added that hiring Hodson “was a good decision and we were sorry when she left.”

The question about what makes you laugh makes much more sense to me than the far more popular and often paralyzing, “Tell me about yourself.”

Inside career changes:

Switching careers takes hard work and commitment. Joan Emrich, today an independent training and development consultant and owner of Emrich Associates in Wilmette, Ill., did just that to take on her present profession.

“After teaching and counseling in a junior high for eight years, I spent a summer finding and interviewing former teachers who were doing other jobs,” said Emrich.

“I learned about real estate, selling computers and many other professions.”

She talked to 30 people and realized she was interested in management training and development.

“I joined a professional organization, the American Society for Training and Development, volunteered for tasks and committees, networked with people I met at monthly meetings and found a job with a great company after about a year.”

She started her research for her job switch in the 1970s and got the job in her chosen field in 1977.

She has been a successful — and happy — independent consultant since 1988.

E-mail questions to Carol Kleiman at Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News.