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Everything You Need Above the Fold of Your Resume to Get an Interview in 6 Seconds

Phone Talkin' by Martin Cathrae of Flickr

Phone Talkin’ by Martin Cathrae of Flickr

WARNING: This article is chock-full of expert space-saving tips. Shhh. Don’t tell the other professional résumé writers I shared this.

You used to have a whopping seven to ten seconds to grab the attention of the reader and elicit an interview. Tracking studies of recent years suggest that you may only have six seconds, perhaps even less. Whether these studies are scientifically credible or not, my practical experience has taught me that the more time you can save the reader in making a decision about whether you make the short list of candidates or not,  the less friction there is between you and sliding into your next job.

The prime real estate of your résumé lives above the fold, in other words, what the reader can see on their computer screen before they have to scroll down. They most likely will take a few extra seconds to scroll down, check through the dates of your work history, and examine your education and training, but it is what they see first that determines if they scroll down with a perception of optimism or skepticism. Your mission throughout the qualification and interview process is to inspire the employer to be more focused on your value and contributions and less focused on any potential risks you pose.

Here is what you can do in the top fold of your resume to compel recruiters to put their hand on the phone to call you for an interview before they even realize they’re making the call.

 

Contact information

This may seem very obvious. Of course, you want your future employer to be able to know how to contact you after they excitedly see your resume and understand your value. You also need to know that your contact information should not be stored in a header. Very often, applicant tracking systems do not extract and store data from headers, footers, or tables.

Expert space-saving tips:

  • Fit all your contact information on one line.
  • You do not need to include your street address (unless you are filling out a government application that requires it). City, state, and zip are enough.
  • You do not need to identify a phone number as a phone number or email as an email.
  • If you have a very long LinkedIn URL (even after customizing it), use a link shortening tool like bit.ly.

 

What you want do

Let people know what you WANT to do. Employers will not assume that you are automatically going to be pursuing a title that was identical to your last position. In fact, if you were in your last role for three years or more, a company offering strong career development would more likely want to assume that you are ready for the next step. Do not make the reader invest time trying to figure out where you fit in their organization. It is true that titles can vary from company to company, so it is best to find a two to three word phrase that best describes the function, role, or contributions that you AIM to make. Only list your current title if you are hoping for a completely lateral move.

While this may seem obvious, the positions for which you are applying (or, preferably, for which you are getting recommended), have to correlate with the role you identify in your headline. If they do not correlate, you can either not expect a call back, or expect that when they do call back you will spend more time talking about what makes you think you can do this role, and less time on how successfully you can fill this role.

Expert space-saving tips:

Place your role at the very top of the résumé, perhaps even on the very top line across from your name, like below, rather than using an extra line in between your contact information and your summary. Once you identify this role, you can use the first few words of the summary to offer an alternate title, or an even more clever “Noun Action Verb” phrase* that visually depicts the impact you make. See the example under the next section.

* We offer mad-lib-like DIY content building tools for your summary, résumé, and LinkedIn profile.

resumeexample-05162016


Make sure you’re qualified

When you read job descriptions you can see very clearly, usually, how many years of experience an employer wants and what the required skills are needed to succeed in that job. Make sure they know right away that they are getting what they want. Quantify the years of experience that you have or the level of expertise that you possess in the top three to four skills that are required to be successful in the job you are pursuing.

Expert space-saving tips:

  • Start out with your overall years of experience, and if it is niched to particular industry you are pursuing, say that right away.

E.g. “Profit Optimizer offering 20+ years of pharmaceutical experience.”

  • When you mention your other skills in the summary, put them into the context of the value they have enabled you to offer throughout your career, and take it EVEN further by depicting the impact of that.

E.g. Utilize vast knowledge of hundreds of financial products to customize packages that meet very specific client needs and cultivate rapport and loyalty among the client base.

  • You may also want to include a list of three to twelve key skills associated with the job. Instead of tables, (which as I stated may not be stored in an applicant tracking systems) use columns.
  • Some people use functional breakdowns.

 

How you do it better/different

You can see from the example above that is very possible to use fewer words and yet paint a compelling picture of what it would look like to have you adding value versus any other equally qualified candidates. Additionally, you can assume that while candidates usually come to the table with a unique blend of experiences, they will not be interviewed if they do not meet the minimum qualifications. In order to move past them, you will need to sell a unique brand. You will receive interviews based on meeting qualifications, but you will receive offers based on how you mesh with the people and culture of the organization. Do not just say you do it better; let the reader know HOW you do it better. What is your unique approach, experience or perspective that enables you to deliver in a way others do not?

Expert space-saving tips:

  • Use words that will pack the most visual punch, and you will not have to use as many words. In a little less than two lines in the example above, we qualified this candidate as deeply knowledgeable about financial products, a required skill for the position.
  • We also DEMONSTRATED rather than STATED this candidate is customer-focused and that she maybe able to bring clients with her. Clichés have little meaning to the reader, but clients have great value!

 

Your most recent experience

Regardless of what components and sections you include above the fold, do not exceed the fold. Leave room to start your actual professional experience. Some recruiters will even tell you that they do not read your summary at all and to exclude it. That is because summaries are hardly ever compellingly written – TRUST ME. If you are adding value by branding yourself with this section, AND you are providing content that the recruiter can use to write the candidate marketing summary for their client, it is worth including. The point is, though, getting to the point. All of the space-saving tips above are meant to help you utilize as little prime real estate as possible while adding the most value.

The faster you can help the reader complete their agenda, the faster they can pick up the phone. Here are some bonus expert reader-friendliness tips:

  • Use a font of at least 10.5.
  • Do not overuse formatting enhancements (bold, italics, underline).
  • Some studies suggest that color in résumés attract the most attention and many other recruiters will tell you that the content is all they care about (unless you are a graphic designer).
  • For that reason, do not use pictures– they can visit your LinkedIn profile to see the person behind the résumé.
  • Put the company and city on one line, the title underneath, and put all dates along the right margin using columns (you may need to go to formatting settings to make sure that the columns are not of equal length and can be adjusted to accommodate longer company names/cities).
  • Start bullets all the way over at the left margin.
  • Do not use abbreviations, even for months.
  • Use numerals whenever possible, but strike a balance and put numbers into context of challenges and skills applied, as well as the impacts. People remember stories, not numbers.

 

E.g.

 

resumeexample-0516201602

[This is where a role/company summary would go, where you can explain your functions and save the bullets for achievements.]

 

Remember, if implementing these tips (while designed for the avid do-it-yourselfer) becomes a large investment of your time, consider allowing us to take over. These are not the only tricks up our sleeve. The sooner you get into your next job, the sooner you can bring in income, and our résumés have been known to maximize salary offers, so they are worth the investment.

 

Is Your Résumé Outdated?

Resume - Glasses by Flazingo Photos of Flickr

Resume – Glasses by Flazingo Photos of Flickr

Has it been more than five years since you searched for a job? Do you remember the last time you looked at your résumé? Do you still believe in the use of an objective? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, it is time to update your résumé. Most people believe that adding a few bullet points about what they have done in the past five years is adequate. They make these small changes and start submitting their résumé. One major reason people hate going near their résumés is because it forces them to remember what they’ve done professionally over the past few years. It is a fact that the more time that passes, the harder it is to recall everything, unless you have kept track of your accomplishments somewhere.

The longer a résumé has not been reviewed, the more painful or frustrating it can be to update. Here is a more timely focus to consider- as the New Year approaches, assess your employment goals and take some time to be intentional about your career direction. Update your résumé based on where you want to be in the future as a reference for what to include about the past. Be conscientious about your BRAND. This is critical- we are not just taking about a few résumé updates, but reinventing your brand to fit your future goals.

If you have not been actively searching for a job in the last few years, the process of revising your résumé can be intimidating. Even if you are not actively searching for work, NOW is still the time to update your résumé. You may not need a job today, but your employment circumstances could change in an instant. Keeping an updated résumé is useful because an opportunity could present itself at any moment. You could meet your next boss ANYWHERE. A quality résumé branding and writing process takes five days for a first draft, and a comprehensive review process can take another three days. If a position is open, and you are given the opportunity to be the first in, be ready to strike! If 70% of the workforce is disengaged from their job, and you are one of them, this advice can help YOU.

 

What you need to know about the evolution of résumés

Résumés have evolved over the years. For decades the evolution has been slow, but in the last five-to-ten years there have been dramatic shifts in what résumés are and what employers expect from them. Mashable has tracked résumé standards throughout five hundred years of history. Here is what you need to know from the last three decades:

  • In the 1980s it was acceptable to include a fax number with a résumé because of the popularity of fax machines. It was during this time that formats with 1”+ margins, sub-headers in the left margin, and content indented to the right became popularized.
  • In the 1990s email became a popular way to send résumés. Still, résumés kept the formatting that became popularized in the 80s.
  • In the 2000s interactive résumés were popularized. By the end of the decade large margins were out, and the use of white space gave résumés a less cluttered appearance. Objectives were replaced by professional headlines and summaries, branding allowed job seekers to demonstrate their value to employers, and keywords made it easier for résumés to be found in applicant tracking systems and online databases used by employers.
  • 2010 to now- Résumés can be shorter, but it depends on the field. For years the myth that résumés had to be one page was prevalent. Actually, two-to-three pages are the standard for senior professionals and executives, and some fields require even more extensive documentation. Résumés now contain social media links and a LinkedIn profile can serve as a good companion.

 

What modern résumés require

Résumés must now be tailored to a particular job and company. The days where a general résumé would suffice are gone.  Thanks to the LinkedIn and the prominence of personal branding, you can no longer be everything to everyone. You can be dynamic, and wear many hats, but you also have to know which employers want that and to state what resonates with them. Then you have to make sure they can visualize how you will fit into their company and avoid applying to targets that do not fit. This next part takes people into a conversation I have most frequently with people who have searched for a long time. They have been advised and decided that they MUST make themselves as “employable” as possible. This often means applying to multiple positions in the hope of being seen as flexible. However, as I state in my article, “More résumés ≠ better results” taking this approach means that the job they really want will escape them. Instead of coming off as employable, you strike a potential employer as desperate. Tailor your résumé instead.

Crafting a tailored résumé requires you to put on a marketing hat and to research your targets. This means finding out what a company wants and needs for a position. If you do not believe us (per above), ask an employer if they want someone who is willing to take anything, or if they would rather hire the person who can clearly articulate where they want to add value and demonstrate how they add that value.

 

Why your old résumé needs updating

Chances are if you have not taken a look at your résumé in several years the format is dated. Most hiring managers only spend an average of seven seconds looking at a résumé. If your résumé is difficult to skim, it increases the chances of an employer passing over your résumé in favor of a candidate with an easier to read résumé. Just imagine if this article had huge indentations, and was poorly aligned. You probably would not make it halfway through before you stopped reading. The same can be said about your résumé.

Poor spacing between lines, extra indentations, and typefaces that are not compatible with both Mac and PC make for difficult-to-read résumés. The most impactful changes you can make are to remove all of your indentations so the document aligns perfectly, and to decrease your margin size. LifeClever has an excellent visual tutorial.

The content matters just as much as the format. Résumés filled with clichés such as “hard working,” “team player,” “proven track record,” or “motivated” are so overused that they have become meaningless buzz words to most potential employers. Employers want to SEE these qualities in their candidates. Instead of telling a hiring manager that you have these qualities, demonstrate them. State HOW these particular qualities have manifested value throughout your career. Think of your achievements and how your particular attributes have helped you accomplish those achievements. Expand on those specific attributes in the experience section of your résumé.

Specific attributes also form the foundation of your personal brand. In fact, your personal brand is the foundation upon which the powerful content of your résumé is built. Branding allows you to better market yourself and to stand out from the competition. A brand communicates who you are and the value you bring to an employer. A brand also allows you to demonstrate to an employer what you offer above and beyond the qualifications listed on a position, how you are a good fit for the company, and the numerous ways you have made significant contributions to previous employers. To create and infuse your brand throughout your résumé consider your talents, your skills, your most valuable personal attributes, your passion, and what makes you stand out from other potential candidates.

Many résumés are read online. Keeping that in mind, it is important to use keywords in order to ensure your résumé is found by potential employers, but they must be used in context. Keywords are a series of words related to your skills, your experience, and the position you are seeking that employers use to find your résumé among other applicants. Some résumés without keywords are never even seen. While these words are literally the key to being seen by potential employers, using too many keywords can raise red flags and cause an employer to reject your résumé. Use these words with care.

 

Updating your résumé

If you have decided your résumé is in need of an update, we can help. Check out our video series “Scrap your résumé if it has these 10 things,” to guide you in the revision of your résumé. We also offer branded résumé writing services, including semi-branded low-budget options. If you want to update your résumé yourself, we have a DIY Résumé Summary Builder (it requires Microsoft Word 2010 or newer). To be ready for an opportunity at any time, tailor your résumé for your next ideal position, and update it at least every year, if not twice a year. Keep that file of achievements handy.

 

The purpose of your résumé is to entice employers to invite you for an interview. An old résumé may garner some responses from employers, but the response will be much higher with a résumé that is current with the times. The task of updating a résumé can be daunting, especially now that you know what is required of an effective résumé, but the more often you go through the process, the faster it goes. After all, having a powerful résumé will pay dividends when you are able to shoot it right over to your next boss that same day, and you are quickly invited to interview. Have the peace of mind knowing that your résumé is ready to go at any time, even if you are not actively searching for work. Consider it a critical component for your self-generated job security.