Tips for Successful Resumes #1

A resume is not likely to land you a job, but it is a critical step in being considered. Flawless execution is expected. Don’t give the hiring manager any reason to move your resume immediately to the “reject” pile.

What a Resume Is and Isn’t – A resume is a summary of your professional experience, education and skills. It should focus on accomplishments. A resume is not a summary of your job responsibilities for each position you’ve held.

Formatting Matters – For an initial resume review it is likely that someone will spend less than a minute reviewing your resume. If you want them to spend more time and really see what you have to offer, it needs to be concise, easy to read and the key information must be easy to find. Your resume should not exceed one page unless you have more than seven years of experience. Be sure you use white space to keep it visually appealing.  You must have your contact information – address, email and telephone – so they can easily reach you if they are interested. You should always use a professional looking email address with just your name – avoid cute nicknames etc. when job searching. Quickest path to the reject pile is typos or grammatical errors. Be sure to proof your resume and carefully and have someone else proof it as well.

Open Strong –They first thing they read should give them a quick sense of who you are and what you could do for them. I strongly recommend starting with a summary statement focused on your key transferable skills and core competencies. Whenever possible, focus on key words from the job description. The summary gives the reader a lens through which they read the rest of your resume. Catch their attention from their first glance. Employers I work with find a summary statement preferable to an objective.  Often job seekers have specific objectives that do not relate to the job they are applying for.

Core Competencies – Highlight the key transferrable skills you bring to the table. Where possible, focus on your core competencies that tie to the employer needs in the job description. Focus on the strengths you bring to the position. Make them want to read more.

Honesty is the best and only policy – A resume is the factual history of your work experience.  Do not embellish or over-state your accomplishments or responsibilities.  Employers value integrity and you demonstrate that by being honest and forthright in all your interactions, starting with your resume. Many companies will use outside firms to perform verifications with prior employers and schools.

In the early stages of the recruiting the process, your resume is you. It needs to represent you professionally and accurately so they will want to know more about you. While you resume will not likely land you the job, it needs to catch their attention so you will advance in the process.

Watch future postings for additional resume tips.

Advertisements

Overqualified for the Job You Really Want

You’ve found the perfect job posted and are excited to apply. As you reread the job description, you realize that you exceed the qualifications posted for the position. Instead of immediately admitting defeat, take a more proactive approach.

The Job Description is a wish list. Employers provide a detailed listing of what they are seeking in the “ideal” candidate. Why wouldn’t an employer want someone with ever more skills and experience than they need? Often they worry that the employee will be bored, will expect much higher compensation or is using the job as a placeholder until something better comes along. Hiring and training a new employee is an expensive endeavor so they want to be as successful as possible in identifying the best candidate while minimizing their risk.

This is not the time to just submit your resume online. If all they are looking at is your resume, you may well not make it to the pile they will invite for interviews. Increase your likelihood of success in two ways. Submit a well-written customized cover latter that focuses on your transferable skills and your strong interest in the opportunity. If there is a specific reason you are interested in this opportunity even though you would be considered overqualified, address that in your letter. Show them that you have a genuine interest in this opportunity as a logical next step in your career. Be careful not to sound cocky by assuming you are overqualified. Present it as the possibility that some may perceive your experience as being overqualified but address those concerns proactively.

Also, network within the company to learn more and to identify an internal supporter who can pass your resume to the hiring manager with a recommendation. If you find the right contact you can be candid about your concerns about the perception of being overqualified and can share your motivation for seeking this position. They can become a strong internal advocate for you. Use very opportunity to stand out from the crowd of candidates. Do not mention skills you are lacking, focus on the positives you bring to the job.

If this truly is the “perfect job for you,” go for it but be sure to put your best foot forward to increase your likelihood of success.

Questions to Ask in Informational Interviews

The informational interview networking meeting is an opportunity for you to learn from your contact about his/her career, current job, company and industry.  Think in advance about what you hope to learn and have your questions prepared.  To help you prepare, here are some questions to consider:

Jobs/Roles

  • What are your current responsibilities?
  • What is a typical day like in your job?
  • What do you find most challenging about this job and why?
  • What interests you the least about this job?
  • What creates the most stress in this job?
  • What are the obstacles for someone entering this field?
  • What are the most desired skills, abilities and personal qualities you seek in candidates?
  • What jobs and experiences led you to this position?
  • What is the typical career path in this field?
  • What are your long term goals?
  • How has your job affected your lifestyle?
  • What courses in school have been most relevant to your work?
  • Do you usually work independently or as part of a team?
  • What is the key to success in your field?

Companies/Organizations/Work Environment

  • What do you like and dislike about the company?
  • Why did you decide to work for this company?
  • How are decisions made here?
  • What is the organization’s corporate culture?
  • How much work is done independently and how much involves group work?
  • How would you describe the work environment?
  • What are the organization’s long and short-term goals?
  • How does this company differ from its competitors?
  • How is the department structured?
  • What are the greatest challenges facing the company and/or department at this time?

Industries

  • How could someone with my background enter this field?
  • What are the challenges or issues facing this industry?
  • What is the current demand for people in this field?
  • What types of jobs are available in this field?
  • What can you tell me about the employment outlook?
  • What is the history of the industry?
  • What are your least and most favorite things about working in this industry?
  • Is there any reason you would recommend that someone not enter this industry? If so, why?

Targets and Contacts

  • Would you be willing to review my target list of companies and offer feedback?
  • What other companies should I be considering? Do you have contacts you can recommend in those organizations?
  • What professional organizations would be relevant?

Advice

  • Are there other people you know and with whom you think I should speak? May I say that you referred me?
  • What professional journals and associations do you recommend?
  • With the information you have about my education and experience, what roles do you think I should be considering?
  • To what industries, sectors or roles do you think my skills and abilities would best fit?
  • If you were just staring your career again, what would you do differently?
  • What advice do you have for a student entering this field?
  • Can you suggest opportunities to gain relevant experience in this field?

You will not be able to ask every question in a single meeting but think about what information you need to gain and use the questions to guide you.

Mentor Relationships Matter

For most business professionals, there has been a significant mentor relationship that helped shape their careers. Having a trusted advisor makes a difference when evaluating career options and next steps. At the D’Amore-McKim Graduate School of Business, we strongly believe in the power of a mentor relationship and proactively identify mentors for our MBA students.

Mentors are often alumni or trusted business partners. We match students to mentors based on industry, functional area and overall fit. Mentors meet with their students at least an hour per month to answer questions and share advice and experience.  Some mentors have invited students to shadow them at work for a day. Other mentors have taken students to an appropriate professional association meeting. Mentors demonstrate their confidence in our students by introducing the students to their personal network.

While the official relationship continues until graduation, many mentors and students are still in touch years later due to the strength of the bond they built while in the program. Mentors enjoy giving the students the benefit of their experience and students value the insight and advice from a trusted, impartial resource.

We truly appreciate the support of our mentors. They truly make a difference for our students.

Can I Afford to Switch Careers?

Switching careers can have a significant financial impact so it is important to carefully consider the impact of your career options.

If someone wants to switch careers, how can they make sure they remain financially stable through the transition – especially if they’ll likely be making less money?

  • Don’t assume that a career change always means making less money, do your research and focus on your transferable skills, demonstrate the value you do bring.
  • Most often you step sideways or slightly backward, you don’t necessarily start at the bottom.
  • Have a clear understanding of your baseline expenses and what you truly have to make to live vs the discretionary spending level you may be accustomed to. What are you willing to do without to make this work. How much of your savings are you willing to deploy to make this happen?
  • Sometimes if this is really something you want to do you need to explore supplemental sources of income. Can you work part-time evenings or weekends to bring in additional money. Are you willing to make that commitment to support pursuing this dream?

What are some things they should be thinking about when it comes to their finances?

  • What are your fixed expenses and your true living expenses?
  • What discretionary spending are you willing to give up?
  • What is your absolute floor? What is the minimum salary you can accept and survive? You need to know this and stick to it so you know when to walk away.

How can they make sure they’ll have enough money saved up?

  • You have to fully answer the questions above to look at your expenses and potential income to determine what if anything you will need to draw from savings each month. What are you willing to invest in this transition and for how long?
  • Can you avoid depleting your savings if you bring in supplemental earnings from a part-time job?
  • Do a very honest assessment of what your “floor” is in terms of salary and benefits.  Know what you must have to pay the bills. Discipline yourself to not consider anything below your floor. But taking a cut to get into a field you desire and where you can advance may be a good investment in your future.

Does switching careers automatically mean they have to start from the bottom in their new role?

  • You may need to take a step back but you do not necessarily have to start at the bottom.
  • Focus on your transferrable skills. If you do a lot of networking to learn what skills are required for success in your target organizations, you can really focus on selling your relevant transferrable skills. When you are bringing something of value to the table, your offer should be higher.
  • Also consider interim steps to get you closer to your desired career path so you can maximize your value add. You can build experience in your target field by leveraging your current experience. For example: I have an undergrad degree in accounting and was very successful in my accounting career. I completed my MBA and realized my passion was marketing and managing customer relationships. My first marketing job was with a financial software vendor who valued my accounting knowledge, my experience with financial systems and my connections in that field. I was able to make a very significant career change without stepping backwards. After several years there, I had the marketing experience to pursue the opportunities of my choice.
  • Identify what you bring to the employer that adds value and focus on selling those transferrable skills to avoid starting at the bottom.
  • If possible gain some experience in the new field by volunteering to do a project for a non-profit or even join their board. Not only does it give you experience you can leverage in the transition, it also demonstrates your commitment to the change.

Would education make a difference? Think about whether going back to school for a degree in the new field would propel your career forward in this new field. Explore options for scholarships and loans to support the expense. Consider programs that include valuable work experience in your new field.

Follow Up During the Job Search Process

You saw the perfect job posted. You meet the qualifications. You submitted your resume and cover letter. Now you wait. The waiting can be the most frustrating part for job seekers. When is it appropriate to follow-up at various stages of the process?

From the moment you first apply, you need to remember that recruiters and hiring managers are busy people. Filling this open position is far from their only priority. The company also has a process that needs to be followed. You don’t have to like this, but you have to accept it. No amount of follow-up from you or other frustrated candidates which change these basic facts.

Following Up On Your Application

If you submitted your application through a referral, wait at least 5 – 7 business days and then politely check in with your contact to inquire about status and next steps in the process. Check in just once. If you applied blindly, sending your application online, don’t bother to follow-up. It is unlikely that anyone will respond and if they do they will not likely share any valuable insights. You have to let the process play out.

Following a Phone Screen

You just completed a phone screen. You should send an email thank you to the phone screener before the end of business that day. Thank them for their time and the information they shared.  Confirm your interest in the opportunity (if indeed your are interested.)  Acknowledge any next steps that were discussed. This shows interest and strong follow-up on your part. To really stand out from the crowd, send a handwritten thank you note as well and have it the mail the next morning.

Following an In-Person Interview

Before the end of the day, send an email thank you to the interviewer. Thank them for their time and the valuable information and insight they shared. Confirm your interest and next steps. Refer to something specific you discussed. Again, write a handwritten thank you note to mail the next morning.

The Black Hole

If time goes by and you continue to hear nothing or the only update is the dreaded “continuing to evaluate candidates,” it is important to be patient and to respect the process. Aggressive follow-up or stalking can quickly eliminate you from any further consideration. Certainly if you receive another offer, it is important to reach out to let them know in case they are interested. If at least 7 – 10 business days have elapsed, it is acceptable to reach out once for a status update but not all companies will respond.

To help manage the process and your expectations, be sure to ask the interviewer, at EVERY step in the process what next steps they anticipate and what timeline they are pursuing. Knowing what to expect helps ease the waiting game.