Archives for how to write a resume

If You Are Braving Résumé Writing On Your Own, Some Expert Tips

As an expert in a professional field, you face very different challenges than most other job seekers. Advice that you have been given by anyone outside of your industry could be misguided. If you are going to invest time and/or money in your résumé, you might as well know if what you are doing is going to get you results. We will examine the various ways your résumé can be received and the best ways to maximize the appeal of your résumé since there are many different kinds of individuals that will be reviewing it.

Here are some guidelines specific to IT résumés:

“Big” is relative

When it comes to your experience, start with what you accomplished. What were the challenges you and/or your department were facing?  If this was an official initiative, what is the size and scope of the project? How many users were affected? Detail what you used and how you used it to conquer the challenge. Include the result in quantifiable means whenever possible.

Do not enforce the usual page limits on an expert-level résumé. Hiring managers and recruiters need to know exactly what a candidate has done. Vague résumés will often get passed over for “lower hanging fruit.” Adding these details can make a résumé longer, but a non-technical recruiter, sourcing specialist or administrator would find it difficult to locate you among applicants and qualify you otherwise. Mid-level professionals, especially consultants can very acceptably have a 2-3 page résumé and executive or senior professionals can acceptably have a 3-5-page résumé, so long as the experience is relevant and written concisely. There is no need to add or subtract content strictly based on outdated length “rules.” As a caveat, you have to know your audience, too. If your audience wants the facts and only the facts, get to the point!

It’s all in the details

Any application/suite/module, database, language, tool, server, operating system, protocol, switch/router, etc. that you wish to continue working with should be included in the résumé. When a potential employer reviews your résumé, they want to know more than that you have worked with X technology. They want to know how much and how in-depth your experience is. The technology should occur proportionally as frequently in your résumé as you had worked with it. Frequency of keywords increases your relevance in the results of a keyword search making you further up on the list of candidates to call for further qualification. Include versions.

Some companies require a résumé to include 80% of the requirements listed in their posted job description. The initial gatekeeper has a checklist that includes the number of months/years of experience for each requirement. They systematically divide how many boxes are checked by the total number of requirements to see if you make it to the next round. In order for a skill to be considered a valid qualification, it must be substantiated. This doesn’t mean that your potential employment is always measured by these methods. It is evident that you should always include all details of your experience that are specifically requested in a job description. 

Alternate spellings

As you write your job descriptions, think about the step-by-step processes. Include tools, methodologies, applications that you involved and any corresponding acronyms.  Scan job descriptions posted by employers to see what variation of terms they use. For example, M is a common way to refer to MUMPS. Caché is a version of Mumps (which is a language and a database, so make sure that is clear). When applicable, add the alternate term in parenthesis a couple of times throughout the résumé. This will ensure that keyword searches will extract your résumé regardless of which variation the individual is using to search.

Training/Certification/Education

Placing this section at the top of your résumé versus the bottom is dependent on how much these qualifications are going to generate interest in an interview. Some certifications are very sought-after. Certain schools produce alumni that are highly recruited. If you know that this applies to you, make your credential obvious as an acronym next to your name or somewhere in a concise executive summary. Include a section at the bottom with the name of the establishments from which you received any training/certification/degree, even if it is a foreign university. Omitting it automatically generates doubt in the reputation of the establishment.

A lot of candidates put the logo for the certification they have received on their résumé, which looks great. However, applicant tracking systems usually do not store graphics or formatting because it takes up too much space/memory. The certifications should also be listed in text form (Acronym + full spelling).

Wasn’t me

It is not as important to a recruiter what your team or manager accomplished as what YOU had to do with it. Give yourself credit for your contributions. Avoid phrases like “involved in,” “contributed to,” and “attended.” These phrases communicate that things happen around you. If your résumé does not show off HOW you contributed, what your involvement was, it may have the opposite effect you want it to. It may make you look like an observer rather than an achiever. Conversely, do not take credit for other’s accomplishments. I often had candidates explain things in “we” terms. For example, “We reviewed the code, identified errors, and worked with the developers to remediate the problem.” What was really meant was that the individual reviewed the code, identified the errors, and the project manager worked with the developers.

Tell them what YOU did, not what the team or manager did, or you may wind up in a role that you are not qualified to do. Gaining employment by misrepresenting your abilities and experience can be the most detrimental career move. It ruins your credibility in a small world where recruiters move around and warn each other about the people that ruined THEIR reputation. Remember, résumé rules forbid the use of pronouns. In most cases, you can remove the pronoun or replace it by specifying who is meant by the pronoun without losing meaning or comprehension.

 Mingle it!

Most transition resources will tell you that networking is the best way to gain new employment. It is true what they say, “It’s all about who you know.”  This can be discouraging for people who are not lucky enough to have family connections, but you can always go out and meet people.  The good news is that there are new ways to introduce yourself completely virtually.

Online methods of networking include e-lists, user groups, LinkedIn, Facebook, Quora, and many more.  Whomever you do not know now, you can meet in cyberspace. The point of networking is to generate leads and referrals for employment. Referrals are recruiters’ favorite way to find new candidates, so an e-mail subject stating “John Smith referred me” is GOING to be opened and given priority! Remember that you can also introduce other people and the more you do it, the more it will be done for you. If you want to know the best way to present yourself to strangers, read How to Guerilla Market Yourself, Get What You Deserve! by Jay Levinson and Seth Godin.

Remember, too, that once you make an online connection, the most effective and efficient way to further it is through voice-to-voice communication, whenever face-to-face communication isn’t possible. Pick up the phone and convert online relationships to offline relationships.

Call!

Unfortunately, the résumé you send may never reach a person. Sometimes applicants number in the hundreds to thousands and it is not humanly possible to review that many résumés, let alone send a response.  What can you do to make sure that your résumé doesn’t sit in a dummy inbox? Call!  Follow up.

Your résumé displays experience, skills, accomplishments, education, and certifications. What is not evident is your motivation. Your dedication to finding a job is an indication of how motivated you will be to bring value to your next position.

Your value and your ability to mesh with a company’s culture is what gets you a job offer.  If you reach voice mail, leave a polite invitation to learn more about what you can bring to this position. Say your number S-L-O-W-L-Y and spell your name so the recruiter or hiring manager can locate your résumé prior to returning your call.

Now, if the return call does not come, leave another message the following week reinforcing your enthusiasm for the job. Try a different venue, like LinkedIn or Twitter.

It is okay to keep trying. Sometimes, it can take four or five calls. You would probably be surprised how often the person called THANKED me or my client for diligence in following up. Most people don’t want to or mean to be unresponsive. So many of us experience time poverty. Empathize.

DO NOT leave any trace of a guilt trip. Understand that “Drop everything! This is HOT!” is the nature of a recruiter’s day. Priorities flip-flop and zig-zag. Plus, few people would be motivated by undue guilt, and do you want that to be their reason for calling you? Out of guilt?  Be patiently persistent. It may not get you a job, but it will most likely get you a response and a chance to introduce yourself.

 

I can do bad all by myself – Mary L Blige

Many people can relate to this song

Karen Huller, author of Laser-sharp Career Focus: Pinpoint your Purpose and Passion in 30 Days (bit.ly/GetFocusIn30), is founder of Epic Careering, a corporate consulting and career management firm specializing in executive branding and conscious culture, as well as JoMo Rising, LLC, a workflow gamification company that turns work into productive play. 

While the bulk of her 20 years of professional experience has been within the recruiting and employment industry, her publications, presentations, and coaching also draw from experience in personal development, performance, broadcasting, marketing, and sales. 

Karen was one of the first LinkedIn trainers and is known widely for her ability to identify and develop new trends in hiring and careering. She is a Certified Professional Résumé Writer, Certified Career Transition Consultant, and Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist with a Bachelor of Art in Communication Studies and Theater from Ursinus College and a minor in Creative Writing. Her blog was recognized as a top 100 career blog worldwide by Feedspot. 

She is an Adjunct Professor in Cabrini University’s Communications Department and previously was an Adjunct Professor of Career Management and Professional Development at Drexel University’s LeBow College of Business  She is also an Instructor for the Young Entrepreneurs Academy where her students won the 2018 national competition and were named America’s Next Top Young Entrepreneurs.

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.

 

Turn that attitude into gratitude: A momentum-generating motto

Photo courtesy of ram reddy - "Celebrate the New Begining | 2009" (http://bit.ly/1AZ2Rtz).

Photo courtesy of ram reddy – “Celebrate the New Begining | 2009” (http://bit.ly/1AZ2Rtz).

The title of this article is among the many maxims that I have begun to recite to my daughters in the quest to set them up for success. While I’ll take full credit for making this a “thing” in our household, the concept is not really original. You can find this advice among ancient Hindu scriptures, woven into Iroquois culture, in the bible, and at any personal and professional transformation seminar.

I often speak to real estate investors at REIAs, or Real Estate Investment Associations. At these meetings I discovered a few investors with an extremely positive mindset. They believed in the phrase, “Celebrate All Wins.” The phrase comes directly from Than Merrill, the CEO of FortuneBuilders, one of North America’s largest real estate education companies. “Celebrate All Wins” recognizes building a business isn’t easy, and it is important to always take a moment to celebrate victories and positive achievements. Every time those achievements are reflected upon it creates a positive reinforcement loop that helps build momentum. The beauty of this mindset is that it can be applied to every aspect of life, including your quest to elevate your career.

Do you take the time to celebrate the little victories in your life? Forming this habit means celebrating your victories all of the time. Start by celebrating victories at night, then at night and in the morning, then three times a day, and then whenever you think about it. It will lead to being in a grateful and successful mindset MOST of the time. Reflecting on positive outcomes is an important counter-balance to negative emotions. Studies reveal that people are often more likely to remember bad life experiences over good experiences.

I’m sure that in you own job search you can relate to this. You’re more likely to recall those days where it seemed like nothing went your way. You may have had a hard time gathering references, or perhaps you botched a crucial interview. Too much of a focus on negative outcomes can cause our attitudes to change for the worst, and impede our personal progress. Slowly the thought, “I’m having a hard time finding work,” can turn into “I’ll never find a job.” By celebrating the little victories, you can empower yourself in your job search. This empowerment leads to JoMo, or Job Momentum. It is going beyond simply looking for job opportunities. JoMo is having several viable opportunities in play at the same time. It is the benefit of having choice, once again feeling empowered, desirable, and having negotiation leverage. JoMo comes from capitalizing on the achievements you celebrated during your job search.

Let’s start with some common goals and tasks. Make a note of why they should be celebrated:

-You achieved your goal of gathering 200 meaningful professional connections on LinkedIn. Many users on LinkedIn only set up a few dozen connections, or barely visit the site at all. If you’re actively maintaining your profile, and are taking the time to add professional connections, you’re far ahead of the curve.

-You found ten contacts in various target companies, who you can research. You take it a step further by researching them, sending them an introduction, and invitation to speak about how you can help their company. Then, even having five conversations and identifying two job opportunities among these contacts would be huge. You used your skills to get in the door for two viable opportunities.

-You had a goal to send out four highly-targeted résumés and custom cover letters for the week and you did it. Researching a company and crafting a résumé suited to that company takes time. A lot of people blast out the same résumé to multiple employers without bothering to customize them. You stood above the competition by learning all about your potential employer sent them a personalized résumé. In my professional opinion, job seekers need one effectively branded résumé aimed at their ideal employer, and a custom written cover letter that follows our “secret recipe.”

-One of your network contacts came through with a job lead. In the past you simply put these leads on the “to-do list” and never got around to investigating them. This time you didn’t let that lead go by the wayside. The biggest network in the world won’t do you any good if you never act upon the information you’re given. Taking the time to investigate a lead is a big step forward.

-You took the time to reconnect with a few old professional friends via personal messages and added them to your network. Both professional and personal friendships can be neglected over the years. Reconnecting with old friends can be a euphoric experience. Getting those old connections into your job network? It is nothing short of awesome as your network grows a little larger. When you’ve let your network go stale you may feel like recharging it is daunting, but it doesn’t take long. Everyone understands the tendency to let life get in the way of friendships. Small gestures make big differences and you can see momentum grow very fast with your past personal network, which will give you good energy to tackle your future professional network.

 [Click to tweet this article: http://ctt.ec/bjG9t]

-If you had prior job rejections, you made it a point to get feedback, so you’ll know where to improve in the future. It can be a humbling experience to ask why you were rejected. The majority of job seekers will never inquire about their rejection and may make the same mistake again. Learning where you went wrong in the hiring process is a huge achievement. I hear many job seekers complain that they ask for feedback, but get something generic, something they believe is a lie, or feel as though the real feedback is being withheld. All of this could be true, but it could also be energy-sucking speculation. Congratulate yourself for making the effort—remember—it’s the small victories that we have to look for and celebrate.

You get to choose how you celebrate, but some ideas include dancing, treating yourself to YOU time, making a small celebratory purchase, getting to watch your favorite show, upgrading your plain coffee to a peppermint mocha, or taking a bubble bath. It really doesn’t matter, as long as you allow yourself to revel in your sense of accomplishment and FEEL the sensations associated with it.

Keeping track of the numerous little victories in your job search can have a positive and sustainable snowballing effect. Imagine this: All of the job search achievements you keep track of are a fist-sized snowball. Because it is so small it is very difficult to push. At the start you have to get down on your hands and knees to keep the snowball moving. Despite the difficulties, you refuse to give up.  When you discover another achievement you keep the ball rolling. As you keep going gradually the snowball grows larger and it is easier to push. Before long, that snowball is the size of a boulder. These are all of the achievements you’ve counted and celebrated. You can actually stand back and marvel at how well the task you’ve set out to do is progressing. Keeping that momentum going no longer means getting down on your hands and knees, now it only takes a gentle push.

Instead of looking at the future tasks with dread, you’ll remember your victories and vigorously tackle your next job opportunity. Keeping the achievements you’ve accomplished in mind, you’re ready to take your job search to the next level. You have a sense of purpose, you know your foundations are strong, and you know you’re going above and beyond the average job seeker. Where discouragement has stopped others, you see nothing but opportunity. Every day is a new day filled with numerous little victories. Adding grit, or sheer determination, to your outlook on life can also enhance your job search. In my article, “Want Job Search Glory? Got Grit?” I describe how having grit can help you overcome challenges and help land you a great job.

What are some of the little victories you celebrate to create momentum in your job search?

Whitney Houston – Greatest Love Of All

Whitney Houston’s official music video for ‘Greatest Love Of All’. Click to listen to Whitney Houston on Spotify: http://smarturl.it/WhitneyHSpotify?IQid=WhitneyHGLO As featured on Whitney: The Greatest Hits.