Tips for Attention Getting Resumes #2

In order to have an opportunity to sell yourself to the hiring manager with an interview, your resume must sell you first.  Your resume needs to catch their attention and show them that you have experience and expertise relevant to this position.

Summarizing Your Professional Experience – This is a critical section of your resume.  Always list your most recent position first.  If you have had multiple positions within the same company, show the overall dates for employment and then dates for each specific position with the most recent first.  If the company is not well known, include a brief, one-line description of the company to provide context.  Bullet points should focus on your accomplishments in each position.  Why was the company better off by having you in that position at that time?  Do not list your job responsibilities.  When possible, quantify your accomplishments with the impact on the company – increased sales by 20%, reduced turnover 10%, identified cost savings of more than $50,000.  You should focus on the accomplishments that would be most relevant to the employer, not necessarily what you enjoyed the most.

If you are early in your career and your professional experience is limited, be sure to include summer jobs, part-time employments, internships and even volunteer work.  Identify accomplishments in each role.

Focus on Action – Every bullet point under your professional experience should start with an action verb.  If it is a current position, use current tense.  For all prior positions, use past tense.  Action verbs include words such as managed, implemented, designed, reduced, prepared, and many more.  Avoid passive phrases such as “responsible for” in your bullet points.

Academic Experience – The employer also wants to see your academic qualifications.  If your degree is recent and relevant you can choose to list it prior to your work experience but for most resumes it should follow the professional experience section.  List the school you attended, the dates you attended and the degree you earned with your major noted.  If you graduated with an honors status such as “summa cum laude” you can note that as well.  While you should never list all your specific courses, if you are a recent graduate with limited experience you may choose to highlight a few, relevant classes.  If you were a leader of a student group of were actively involved in campus activities, it is great to include that on your resume but it should be listed separately under activities.  The only time you would ever include high school on your resume would be if you did not have a college degree.

The professional experience and academic sections of your resume are important and deserve careful attention to detail in your preparation.  Ask someone else to proofread it for you to ensure that it is clear.  Avoid company jargon or acronyms.  With these sections complete you are well on your way to a successful resume.

See future postings for more resume tips.

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2015 Networking Tips #1

The single most critical step in the job search is networking and unfortunately it is the most frequently overlooked step.   According to the U.S. Department of Labor, more than 80% of jobs are filled through networking.  Many jobs aren’t advertised or publicly posted these days.   Networking helps you successfully tap this hidden job market.  If you are looking for a job, you can’t afford to avoid networking any longer.  Here are some tips for successful networking:

Why network?   There are several benefits to networking.  You will learn about different companies, different functions and roles that interest you, the critical skills required in your desired field and gain insights in the company hiring practices and priorities.  Your networking efforts also build you a network within your target companies to provide access to the hidden job pool, to act as an early warning on open positions and serve as an internal advocate.  Networking is the most critical step in the job search.

More is not always better.  So often, frustrated job seekers feel that spending more time on the computer looking at job boards and applying for open positions will increase their chances of landing a job.  The majority of online applications are never seen by the hiring manager.  You could be the most perfect fit for the job and if your only connection is through an online job board the chances of you landing that job are slim.  Resist the urge to spend hours behind the computer and get out to network.  It will greatly increase your chances of landing the job.  Check postings at your target companies at least once a week and do a weekly scan of the online job boards.  You should spend ten times more time and effort in networking than you do on the computer if you hope to succeed in your job search.

Getting Started.  I always encourage job seekers to start with the low hanging fruit – people you know when starting a networking process.  Ask your friends and family who they know in the companies on your target list and in the field you are most interested in.  Ask your friends’  parents and your parents’ friends.  Use your alumni network.  Look for former colleagues on Linked In.  Starting the process with “warm” contacts helps you build your confidence so you can continue to expand your network.

Build Your Network.  Always ask each networking contact who else they can introduce you to.  Once they know more about what interests you they likely have contacts who can be helpful.  If you respect their time, listen well and say “thank you” they are likely going to be willing to make referrals.  Ask them what professional associations they belong to and what meetings they find most valuable.  These groups can provide many valuable connections.

Be Open To Random Connections.  If you are focused on networking and have a clear sense of your target companies and your career interests, it can be amazing where you will find connections.  You could find your next connection at the neighborhood barbecue, a social event with friends, an adult education class, or sharing a seat on the train or plane.  Ask people what they do and where they work.  You can learn a great deal and can make valuable connections.

Networking is the key to job search success but it is also an interesting journey.  Enjoy the people you meet along the way and learn as much as possible from each connections.  You don’t know which connections just might lead you to your next job.

 

 

2015 Tips for Success Interview #1

Great news, from the mountain of applicants for the position, they found your resume and the recruiter has called you for an interview.  Bad news, you are a bundle of nerves about the interview.  How can you survive this process and land the job you want?

Keep Your Perspective

  • Allow yourself to feel good about being selected for the interview.  Clearly they saw something in your resume and cover letter that makes them want to invest time to get to know more about you.  This is great news and should give you confidence.
  • Remember, the interviewer wants you to succeed.  If it is a recruiter they are anxious to find qualified candidates they can send to the hiring manager.  If it goes well, you’ve made their job easier.  If it is the hiring manager, they want someone who can do the job and that they will enjoy working with over time..

Prepare, Prepare, Prepare

  • The more prepared you are for the interview, the easier it will be to manage your anxiety
  • Review the job description carefully.  Have examples of work you have done that demonstrates your ability to perform in this new job.  If it is something you have never done before, share an example of how quickly you learned new aspects of your current job.
  • Research the company and the people you will be meeting ahead of time.  Have specific thoughtful questions prepared that you can ask your interviewer.  Demonstrate that you have done your homework.
  • Get a good night’s sleep the night before.  Don’t go to the interview on an empty stomach and stay hydrated.
  • Spend time with a friend or family member prior to the interview.  Tell them why you would be the best person for the job.  Before you can convince the interviewer, you need to convince yourself.  Go in feeling confident.
  • Identify sample interview questions and think about your answers in advance.  Don’t memorize them but feel confident about how you want to answer typical questions.
  • Have examples prepared for behavioral questions.  Be prepared to summarize the situation, identify the actions you took and the results of those actions.  You can find sample behavioral questions online for reference.
  • Picture yourself confidently presenting your job-related skills and answering the questions clearly and effectively.
  • Be sure you know where you are going and allow plenty of time to get there.

Focus

  • Arrive a few minutes early.  Use the waiting time to collect your thoughts and gather your confidence.  If you get sweaty palms, use the rest room to wash your hands.
  • Treat everyone you come in contact with at the company as if they have the authority to hire you.  You never know who will be asked for input.
  • Greet the interviewer with a smile and enthusiastic greeting.  Let them know you are happy to be there and are excited about the opportunity.
  • Maintain eye contact and listen carefully.
  • Take quiet deep breaths through your nose and exhale slowly through your nose to stay calms and focused.
  • If necessary, admit that you are feeling nervous.  Sometimes it helps relieve stress to verbalize it and the interviewer may have empathy.  Frame it as “Despite all my preparation, I still feel nervous because I’m so very interested in this opportunity.”
  • Ask if you can take notes, sometimes it helps relieve stress to be doing something.  Capture just high level points.
  • Stay in the moment – this is the best place for you to be at this time.  Don’t worry about anything else and don’t worry about next steps.  Stay focused on the interview.
  • Be a confident YOU.  Don’t try to be someone you are not.

Follow Up

  • Thank the interviewer for their time.  Reinforce your strong interest in the opportunity and ask about next steps.
  • Send a handwritten thank you note within 24 hours.  If the process is moving quickly send an email thank you as well.

2015 Customized Cover Letter #1

You see the perfect job posted online and you can’t wait to attach your resume and hit send.  Resist the urge.  Take the time to create a customized cover letter and it will increase the odds of the hiring manager reviewing your resume.  A resume is a historical look at what you have done in the past.  The cover letter is an opportunity to focus on the specific position of interest while highlighting your historical and transferable skills to meet their needs.  Do not assume that the hiring manager will take the time to “connect the dots” between your experience and their needs.  Writing a customized cover letter does that for them.

Focus on Their Needs – The hiring manager has a business need to meet so focus on how you can meet their specific needs.  They really don’t care about what you need and want.  Be very specific in addressing their needs outlined in the job description and show them how you can address their specific needs.

Highlight Transferable Skills – You may not meet every requirement in the job description but you bring valuable transferable skills to the position.  Focus on what you bring and the value it has to them.  Maybe you never worked in that industry before but if you have successfully transitioned to a new industry before, leverage that.  If you never used the particular software they use but have learned new systems quickly in the past, highlight that.

Be Careful with the use of “I” – The cover is letter is about meeting their needs so be very careful not to overuse “I”.  Do not start every paragraph or multiple sentences with “I”.  Think about different ways to get your message across.  Keep it focused on them.

Do not use a generic letter – Most recruiters and hiring managers can easily recognize a template cover letter.  It typically does not relate to the specific job or even the specific  company.  Don’t waste the hiring managers’ time by sending generic letters.  Worse still, avoid the cut and paste errors of referencing the wrong company or position.  That is a guaranteed trip to the “no” pile.

Attention to Detail Matters – Be sure your letter has been proofread for spelling and grammar.  Most employers will consider it a sample of your business writing.  Worse still, don’t cite your attention to detail as an attribute and then have glaring spelling or grammatical errors in the letter.  That is a quick route to the “no “ pile.

A successful job search is the result of strategic effort.  It is not about how many positions you can apply to online.  A successful candidate is one who identifies the right positions and then submits a flawless resume and customized cover letter.  Further success comes to those who have also networked at the company in advance.  Don’t let the lack of a cover letter or a poorly written cover letter prevent you from advancing in the process.  If the job is worth applying to, it is worth the time to create a customized cover letter.

Job Search Strategy #1

Building Your List of Target Companies

To effectively conduct a targeted  job search, it is critical that you define a list of target companies.  To take a trip, you need a destination to entire in GPS.  You also need a target for your job search so you don’t expend valuable time and energy in unproductive aspects of your search.

Consider the Universe

Think about the types of companies you would hope to work for and start making a list.  Consider the industry and the products and services.  Think about location.  Consider size.  Do some initial brainstorming to capture a broad range of possibilities.  As you start to identify trends such as industry, do additional online research to identify other options.  You may not be aware of small to mid-sized companies in your desired industries without doing some online research.  At this stage, do not limit your thinking, just capture a broad list of possibilities.

Narrow the Focus

Now review your list and based on your very limited current knowledge, rank them based on your interest level as A – top priority, B – medium priority, and C – low priority.  You are not taking anything off the list at this point just focusing a bit for next steps.  I’d recommend capturing your data in a spreadsheet so you can continue to refine it as we move through the process.  For now, list companies and interest priority.  Sort by priority so your “A” companies are at the top.

Preliminary Research

For your “A” companies, do some quick research.  This is where you need to be careful not to fall into the trap of over-researching or getting distracted by online applications.  This is a quick review to further prioritize your list.  You need to do two things for each “A” company.  Check LinkedIn or your alumni database to see if there are alumni at that company.  Just yes or no on your spreadsheet in a column for alums.  Do not start looking up individuals, seeing what jobs they hold, etc.  Just yes or no, are there alums at the company.  Second lookup is on indeed.com.  Check to see if the company has posted positions in the last 2-3 months and if any were in your field.  Do not look up the jobs or apply right now.  Yes is the posted and Yes if there are jobs in your field.

Prioritize Your List and Start Networking

Now, resort your “A” companies so that companies with alumni connections and recent, relevant postings are now at the top of your list.  This helps you focus your search on the companies most important to you with the greatest opportunity to have an impact.  You will now work your way through your target companies in priority order looking to identify relevant alumni connections.  Ask for networking meetings and conduct informational interviews.  Learn all you can about those companies and their hiring processes.  Work to build strong relationships so you can an internal advocate when an appropriate position does post.  Keep track of your networking activity and what you learn about each company.  Make progress on networking in your target companies by setting weekly goals and holding yourself accountable.

Update and Refresh

As you work the process, it is likely that some “A” companies will drop lower on your list and you can repeat the process to move “B” companies further up the list.  Continue to use the same process to prioritize your list.  To effectively manage a job search, you should have between 30 and 50 target companies that you are working.

 

By prioritizing and monitoring your list you are focusing your networking on your top companies instead of random activities and this has a significant impact on your success.  Build a strong target list to lead you to success in your search.

2015 Resume Tips #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.

Searching for a Job in 2015

Is your new year’s resolution to find a new job in 2015?  Do you think this is the year to take a step forward in your career?  Whatever the reason, if you hope to have a new job this year, you need to start the journey now.

To support the many job seekers, we’ll focus the next few weeks on the basics:

  • Job Search Strategy
  • Networking
  • Resumes
  • Cover Letters
  • Interviews

Just as in planning a trip, you need a plan to define where you are going and you have to have the appropriate tools to be successful in the journey.   Best of luck.