Archives for resume writer

The problem with modern résumés

I’m going to say something that has made me very unpopular with my creative students and something that may get pushback from other résumé writers, even though they know it’s true.

Even though conventional résumé formats are unexciting, they are still necessary if you are going to apply online. 

Admittedly, I have been using the same template/format for 10 years, and it’s not without its own headaches at times. It’s battle-tested, however, and it’s proven that content is still king. 

In 2019/2020 when I was teaching senior Communication majors at Cabrini University, I got a lot of pushback from students (and some faculty) to allow the students to apply their own “flare” and highlight their graphic design skills. They were free to do so, but not for the class’s résumé assignment, due to my priority – to make sure the students graduated with powerful, usable tools that will help them own their own career paths. I knew many of them would face formatting specifications with which they would need to comply in the careers they chose, anyway. 

The Word document requirement didn’t make me popular, but it was one of those things I felt, one day, they would appreciate. Much like when I, at first, was disappointed by my college poetry professor’s strict rules about applying various poem style rules.  I had an expectation that I would have the freedom to let my creativity flow, but later, when working in radio where content had to be exactly timed, and then in recruiting when following the firm’s formatting and branding rules, I realized that it was actually an enjoyable (though sometimes frustrating) creative challenge to find the best way to convey something when there are character limits – like a word game. I invited my students to reframe and welcome the challenge. Let’s just say it’s a very good thing we did the résumé early in the semester, as challenges were abundant shortly thereafter. 

I found in the first two semesters at Cabrini University, no matter what software or apps my students before were using, we were all spending far too much time resolving technical formatting issues rather than focusing on the content, and I could not help them very much with other word processing tools. Many had ignored the ATS compatibility rules I gave them, like – no text boxes or tables (text-only ATSs exclude this content, and that can sometimes mean their name and contact information doesn’t make the cut), no borders (they cause printing issues when printer margins differ from Word settings), and stick to a bullet/symbol menu that translates across Word versions (otherwise they show up as any variety of non-aesthetic non-sense).  They were also learning how to relay their unique brand by including details that spoke to how students accomplished, not just what they accomplished. This helped them resonate culturally with employers-of-choice. These details were often sacrificed for format. Again, between format and content, content is king – always. 

In my last semester, I supplied them with my own Word template and required them to use it. This didn’t solve all formatting issues (if you work in Word, you know it’s quirky sometimes), but at least I could show them how to fix them.  The template uses formatting that is (supposed to be, and mostly is) compatible and similar across versions of Word.  

Many of them didn’t even have Microsoft installed on their computers, so we had to find a way for them to download Word at no additional cost to them. 

With pressure from students and my faculty supervisor to be more flexible to make it easier and more enjoyable, I wanted to validate that a Word/text-based résumé was still required for ATS (Applicant Tracking System) compatibility. After all, technology had come a long way. 

I invited Melissa Burke of Blue Plate Minds, a staffing and placement firm specializing in creative careers, to hop on a Zoom call with one of my students who gave me the strongest pushback. I told this student that if Melissa said that it’s no longer required to have a Word/text-based version of your résumé, I would completely waive the requirement and accept any format. 

It’s unfortunate, but with over 250 different applicant systems and far better technology available than was available 15 years ago when I was a daily ATS user, some ATS systems used by employers still require a Word or .txt document. In order for my students to be as marketable as possible for opportunities, even though a firm like hers specializes in creative jobs, they still needed a Word document. We all sighed. Creative agencies hardly touch Word, but smaller, family-owned companies and even larger Fortune 500 companies still used ATS and backup storage systems with file size limits or ATS that lack the ability to parse (analyze for keywords) résumés in formats other than Word. 

Even though I was teaching them how to build and leverage a professional support network to generate opportunities and momentum that afforded them top-notch choices, applying online remained their default job search activity. 

With my visually creative clients, we forge a partnership where I focused on content and they owned the format, with the agreement that they would have a text-only Word version where PDFs were not an accepted format for online applications. 

All formats dictate character limits for reader-friendliness, so sometimes the format has to be decided first, 

In truth, I would have abandoned this format long ago if my clients insisted on never applying online as a plan A. What they have found, however, is even when they follow the recommended Plans A-D,  potential sponsors and network contacts who are not able to help (follow the link for 5 reasons that happens), will direct them right back to applying online, and crossing their fingers that someone responds. In these cases, they need to comply with the format requirements of whatever ATS their target companies use.

Of course, 2020 wasn’t the first time the desire to have a more modern-looking résumé came up, with students and clients alike. At Drexel, I taught business students, who already had Microsoft Word, and the requirement for the résumé being Word was established and enforced by Career Services. Even before that, though, most of my clientele had been tech professionals when I started my company in 2006, which was not surprising since I had been a Technical Recruiter in my past professional life. When I entrenched myself in the startup world in 2015, my tech clientele, which had been mostly Fortune 500 Information Technology professionals, started to include more entrepreneurial “full-stack” technical co-founders. They needed to do the opposite of comply – they needed to present themselves as revolutionaries on the bleeding edge of technology willing to take risks and break through barriers. 

Infographics (not to be confused with infographic résumés, which are really just more visually appealing, still quite text-based, but short-form, modern formats) were the ideal solution for these clients, who were attracting partners, co-founders, investors, and talent more so than employers. They were generating meetings versus interviews, and they work very well for that aim.

In summary, have a modern résumé or some other showcase document like an infographic, especially if you want to present yourself as someone who:

  • Is on the bleeding edge of trends (even though infographics have been around a while; they’re still newer than résumés)
  • Presents data in visually compelling and memorable ways
  • Has mastered branding

If you are conducting a conventional job search/career campaign that includes applying online, use a simple, yet clean format to: 

  1. Be ATS-compatible
  2. Keep the focus on content vs. image, which is still king to recruiters and employers
  3. Avoid printing incompatibilities that make your printed résumé print weird

The Word formatting features I consistently use to enhance the visual aesthetic are the horizontal line (NOT the one that automatically generates when you use successive dashes – that one’s a nightmare to move/edit/delete), columns, and full justification. I avoid the paragraph settings that create spaces and instead opt to adjust the font size of a blank line to 6 to separate content within an entry. Believe it or not, I use Word 2008, because I can easily (mostly) drag columns to accommodate long titles or city names across from dates. 

There are fun modern résumé writing contests and I have been tempted from time to time to enter, but believe it will attract people who want that to represent their brand, and then will be disappointed to learn that they will still need to invest in a content-rich, text-based résumé. 

Remember that your brand isn’t just your image; it’s the content of who you are that is the foundation for sustainable success. By all means, present yourself visually; just don’t sacrifice the content. 

Book a consultation to find out the best way to brand yourself for career optimization.

Taylor Swift – Style

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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 13-year-old leadership and career development 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 some of her students won the 2018 national competition, were named America’s Next Top Young Entrepreneurs, and won the 2019 People’s Choice Award. 

How Much Detail Should You Really Put in Your Résumé?

Both you and I know that there is no lack of advice out there, and one of the most frustrating experiences for those who are job seeking is how to figure out whose opinion is right.

I invite my clients and my students to run others’ advice by me, and I don’t make them follow my advice (though I do have to stick to rubrics I develop for my students.) I encourage them to run experiments but run them fairly scientifically so that they can achieve some objectivity.  (My blog post next week will talk more about how to do this.)

Just be aware that anything new will feel foreign and you will tend to be resistant to it. Once you know and accept that, you can get past it faster and open yourself up to the possibility of there being a better way.

When it comes to your résumé, whether you are going it alone or engaging a professional, the method you use has to make sense for what you want to accomplish. Reverse engineer what is right based on your goals.

For instance, my process is very front-end heavy (to ensure a consistent quality), and my branding services are an investment that I am committed to generating returns in the form of multiple, high-quality employment leads that represent greater satisfaction and (probable) better income.

However, if you are in a situation where you just need a job to make any income, and you refuse to turn down an offer no matter how badly it positions you for better opportunity or income, engaging me would be a waste of time and money. It won’t pay off as designed.

In this situation, you may be tempted to include every job you’ve had, because you “need” to appeal to any potential employer. What will happen is that you will only look appealing to employers who are looking for baseline skills, which usually result in you receiving baseline pay and working among baseline colleagues. This might be all you need right now – no judgment here.

In this situation, professionals like me are going want something more for you. That’s because we know it’s possible, and we’ll tell you to think about what you would really like to do, and what you have done in the past that you enjoyed, and what criteria your next employer needs to meet. We’ll challenge you to think about what this attractive employer needs to know about you and to only put in your résumé experience that matters to them. This is advice that you’ll likely ignore if your goal right now is survival. At a minimum, we’ll say, make sure that you include what you accomplished (not just what you did), so that they know you did what you were supposed to do, you did it well, and that it made a positive difference – the more precise and specific, the more believable and impressive you’ll seem.

I’ve heard some recruiters, and even some hiring managers, claim that no résumé should ever be longer than one page. For entry-level through 3 years of experience, I agree, with some exceptions being academics and scientists. For more experienced professionals, people who want a 1-page résumé are in the minority. Certainly, brevity is valued in the corporate world. However, sometimes one page is inadequate to deliver the details that are important to audiences who value them.

A résumé’s basic job is to inspire invitations to interview. But I hear many job seekers complain about the time that they spend going to interviews for jobs that they ultimately would never want to accept at companies that they would never want to work for bosses to whom would never want to report. The résumé can do much more than just inspire interviews. It can help employers self-qualify and disqualify themselves as potential fits for you. The offer goes not just to the most qualified candidate, but ultimately the candidate who has the greatest potential to be successful in that role, in that culture, on that projected path, with that team, for that boss.

If you want your résumé to do this, there are questions you can ask yourself to determine what to include based on your goals, not just general advice. These are also questions that can help you through the interview process to help you notice (by what questions they ask) if what is important to them is also important to you.

Do you want your future employer to care only what you were supposed to do, not that you did it or how well you did it?

Think about what you want your future employer to care about in all of their hires.

Have you ever worked in an environment where not everyone was held up to high standards of performance?

Think about working among people who only worked up to their job duties and did nothing further.

How financially stable could that company be if there are people on the payroll doing the bare minimum (or less)?

Would you wind up taking on more than your fair share of work, and, if you do, will that be recognized and rewarded?

Is the impact that you want to make going to be diminished by the lack of performance among others?

If you care about the performance of others around you, make sure your résumé reflects your ability to perform as an individual (first and foremost) as well as how the team contributed.

Do you want them to care only that you achieved results, not how you achieved results?

If your goals go beyond survival to making sure that your next employer’s values align with yours, then think about how they would do things and how they would want you to do things. For example, if all that matters are the results (not how they were achieved), where else in that company is there a focus on metrics over methods?

What would work be like if you worked among high achievers who would do anything to achieve?

Will a culture that only focuses on results lead to the company hiring people who will do anything for results?

How will that impact collaboration and team dynamics?

How will results be rewarded?

What might be sacrificed, then, for the sake of results? Are you willing to sacrifice that for results?

Are the how and how well important to you?

If the answer is yes, the challenge for many is how to add MORE context to achievements without adding length. I used to be frustrated by that task, but have found that if I approach it like a challenge – a test of my wordsmithing ability – not only do I enjoy it much more, but I complete the challenge successfully. I have developed a story formula that enables me to ensure that I have captured all potential impressive, relevant details of a story, and then use the visual layout of the story details to more objectively see what are the most important pieces of the story. Finally, I try to put them in a simple VERB (effort/action that directly led to results) > OBJECT (measurable results) + preposition/conjunction (due to/in order to) + intention/supporting details/additional impacts.

The White Stripes I just don’t know what to do with myself

The Whie Stripes i just don’t know what to do with myself from the album elephant

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 13-year-old leadership and career development 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 some of her students won the 2018 national competition, were named America’s Next Top Young Entrepreneurs, and won the 2019 People’s Choice Award. 

Celebrating 11 Years

Thank You by Andrew Bowden of Flickr

Ten years is usually the big milestone, and it was, but 11 is my lucky number and the year that I had been most excited to reach – a second decade in business to celebrate.

Rather, what is more worthy of celebration are the people I have met, engaged, helped, supported and been supported by. Also, the challenges I have overcome and the self-limiting beliefs that I have busted are worthy of celebrating.

I was very busy with business, grading, and preparing for my first destination girls’ trip (a celebration of the year my high school friends and I turn 40) on my anniversary, that I forgot to acknowledge it on the actual day, June 1st, prior to leaving.

But I arrived before my friends in Hilton Head, SC, and as I lie in a lounge chair over looking palm trees and the warm, gentle, loving ocean, I was overwhelmed with gratitude.

  • I had hardly enough time to pack or sleep because my clients, mentors, and partners have been referring so many leads to me, and because now more clients engage me to work one-on-one with them throughout their campaign, a much larger investment, and more prospective clients are asking to speak with references.
  • I am so grateful for the myriad of former clients who are thrilled to share their story and genuinely want more people to have a happy ending/new beginning just like them.
  • I am grateful that I can spend money on a jaunt without worry that the well will run dry and I will soon regret spending that money, both because I have a full pipeline and because I have busted the belief that I am un-deserving, that the world is a place of cruel limits and lack, and that just when things are finally going well, tragedy will strike.

These beliefs kept me from fully spreading my wings, and while my wings are still not as fully expansive as they can become, they are FAR wider than ever before.

  • I trust in God and the Universe.
  • I know that I am deserving of success, happiness and wealth, and the world is abundant in resources and possibility, as long as I am resourceful and open to possibility.

My 40s and this second decade of business are looking to be my most exciting and adventurous years yet, and I have had quite an exciting and adventurous life so far. But, again, it is not about the years, it is about the people.

  • I first have to thank my husband, without whom I could not have been able to stay in business this long, and most definitely would not have been able to be home with my daughters.
  • I want to thank my parents. Even though I probably would have started a business without their blessing, I was both surprised and relieved to gain their support from the beginning through now.
  • Thank you my former BNI referral partners with whom I still keep in touch and some who still refer clients eight years later. You helped me hone my public speaking and networking skills, and supported my business during the most critical time in a business’s life and at a time when it was critical for me to have a strong business as I ventured into motherhood.
  • Thank you to the hundreds of LinkedIn Workshop for Jobseekers attendees. It was your feedback that enabled me to develop a much stronger curriculum.
  • Thank you to the people in the dozens of organizations who engaged me to speak. I found a new passion in public speaking and, now that my kids are older, see this as a primary platform going forward.
  • Thank you to my first clients who took a chance on a young, but ambitious and knowledgeable résumé writer and career coach who probably seemed like a baby to you.
  • Thank you to the clients who gave me a shot as a work-at-home mom. I was so scared of being perceived as unreliable that I was uber stressed all the time about keeping a regular schedule with my babies. I did not have a lot of time to work one-on-one with clients as I breastfed every three hours for 45 minutes. Though I was more diligent than ever with my schedule, if ever there was a snafu (baby won’t nap, explosive diaper incidents, illness, etc.) you were more patient and understanding than I could have imagined. Your patronage was so appreciated. You kept my business going.
  • Thank you to the clients who helped me test and launch new products and services. Helping you overcome your challenges was a reason to develop solutions that would help so many more.
  • Thank you to my interns and assistants. My management and mentoring experience before I started my business was minimal, but while I created new opportunities for you to grow, you also gave me the opportunity to see what kind of contributor I could be.
  • To my virtual experimental teams, who allowed me to test out new tools and processes while we learned along side each other, we may not have had the outcome we intended, but I can say that a lot was learned, and none of us were afraid to fail. For that we should be proud and I thank you. I will try again with new insights that will help future teams achieve more success.
  • To my former mastermind community, thank you for the virtually magic synchronicity that was created. Again, we may not have created a permanent group, but the momentum gained during that time had a permanent, compounding effect on my business. Thank you.
  • Thank you to all my clients who were willing to be vulnerable and honest with me, and trusted that I had your back and would be compassionate in my stand for your optimal outcome. You should be so proud of how you expanded your comfort zones, increased your life skill level and confidence, and grew empowered to create a future that makes the life you want possible. You ROCK in a very EPIC way.
  • To all the vendors who have helped me with marketing, graphic design, editing, transcription, sales funnels, and more, thank you.
  • A HUGE thanks to my current assistant, Angela, who has been with me two years supporting the most growth the business has ever experienced. Without your efforts, I could never have focused my time and attention on what really mattered, our clients and major strategic initiatives.
  • Of course, I thank my kids. To be honest, they seemed like an impediment to business a lot of the time. This might sound awful, but I used to feel immense pressure to compete with emerging coaches who had no tethers and could attend all the cool events and who started to “take” all the great speaking engagements. It took a while to grow in my own confidence, to see that I am a uniquely gifted coach, that my audience was not being “taken” by someone else, and that I am a FORCE of nature. That last one is something I learned from my kids, from overcoming the challenges that parenthood presented while conquering product development, plus business development, plus client delivery. I can now instill in other moms that it CAN be done.