2016 Resume Tips #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.

Advertisements

2016 Maintaining Your Network

Networking is the single most important thing you can do for your career success.  The focus is often on building the networking but you also need to work intentionally to maintain your network.

Keep Your Network Up to Date

While it is important to make the initial connection, the true value of your network comes from strengthening those connections over time.  It is difficult for your network to help you if that don’t know what you are up to at a given point in time.  If you initiated your networking when you were searching for job, be sure to send an update when you have landed.  If you decide to go  back to school to pursue an advanced degree, let your network know.  Don’t make a nuisance of yourself but share significant and relevant updates.

Look for Opportunities to Add Value

The most effective networking is when you build a mutually beneficial relationship.  Look for opportunities to add value for key members of your network.  If you see an article that makes you think of them, share it with a note.  If you do a case in class that might be of interest to them, send a quick update.  If you know someone who may fit a unique need at their organization, make the connection.  Find ways to help those in your network.  It makes them want to help you.

Remember to Say Thank You

If a contact meets with you to share their experience and advice, send a thank you note.  If they refer you to another contact, send a note to thank them for the connection and tell them how helpful it was.  When people share their time and experience with you, it is critical to let them know you appreciate their support.

Express Appreciation

Holiday cards are often a valuable tool for staying connection but the question then becomes “which holidays does your contact celebrate?”  To ensure that you do not offend anyone in your desire to stay in touch, why not send Thanksgiving cards or new years cards or even happy spring?  If you see something that makes you think of this person, send them a note to let them know you are thinking of them.  People are more willing to continue to help you if they feel their efforts are appreciated.  If you try something they suggested, let them know you did and had great results.

2016 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.

 

 

 

2016 Accomplishments vs Responsibilities

One of the most common resume errors is to focus on responsibilities instead of accomplishments.  In doing so, the candidate significantly reduces their odds of standing out in the mountain of resumes.  To increase your likelihood of success, you need to focus on your accomplishments and quantify them where ever possible.

Responsibilities are the laundry list of tasks that are part of job description.  That is not relevant to a hiring manager.  The hiring manager wants to know what difference you made for the company by being there.  What happened because you were there doing this job?  Accomplishment statements demonstrate your successful results.

To effectively create accomplishment statements, identify the Situation, Task, Action and Result (STAR) for each experience.  Then, transform this information into a bullet for your resume.  Where possible quantify the result.  Begin each accomplishment statement with an action verb.

  • Situation/Task – Describe the situation you encountered or the task for which you were responsible. Think in terms of the business problem that needed to be solved.
  • Action – What did you do to address the business need?
  • Results – What was the result of that action?

 

Consider the following examples as transforming the “before” responsibility statement into the “after” accomplishment statement.

 

Before:  Managed contracts and change orders for each project.

After:    Managed contracts and change orders on projects to ensure timely completion within budget.

Before:  Managed all online adverting billing.

After:  Managed $7 million of receivable for online advertisements.

Before:  Helped promote financial products through direct interaction with clients.

After:  Promoted financial projects to clients, resulting in 30% increase in assets under management.

 

Put you best foot forward in your resume by focusing the hiring manager’s attention on what you accomplished for past employers to help demonstrate your ability to add value to their organization.  Accomplishment statements with quantifiable results will help your resume stand out from the crowd.

2016 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.

Is a Brand Name Necessary for Career Success?

As you start your career, how important is it for long-term success to get a brand name company on your resume early?  We’ve all heard stories of graduates who take a job at Google, Apple, IBM, GE, etc. and that experience sets them up for career success whether they advance within the company or leverage that experience for a new opportunity.

Should a job seeker hold out for a brand name experience at all costs?  Job seekers need to carefully assess both their career goals and the personal strengths to make the best decision.

If your goal is to work for the same company and advance within that organization, it is critical to land at a company large enough to support your future growth.  Is this company committed to promotion from within the organization?  Are there training opportunities available to advance your career within the organization?  Do you feel committed to the product or service they provide?  What is your tolerance for multi-level decision making processes?

If you are hoping to gain as much experience as possible, you may want to consider a smaller organization where you touch a wider variety of projects and gain a broader base of experience.  Do you want to do one specific thing and do it very well or do you want broader exposure within the function?  Are you flexible and able to adapt to changing priorities?

What if you really don’t want to risk of a small organization or the structure of a large one?  There are a multitude of options in between that can offer you valuable learning experiences and exposure as you grow and develop your career.

There are many ways to gain valuable and marketable experience.  There are many outstanding companies with strong managers and great learning experiences that are just not as well known.  Find a company you admire with products and services you respect and then focus on fit.  There are many jobs you could do in a wide variety of companies.  Find people you want to work with each day doing work that motivates you and keeps you learning and growing.

2016 Tips for a Successful Interview #5

Your goal in an interview is to land the job or at least be moved forward in the process.  For the employer the goal is finding the best candidate for the job.  While several candidates may have the appropriate skills to succeed in the position, employers use the interview process to identify and assess the best fit.  You want to make the best possible impression with everyone you meet in the process and you do not want to give them an easy reason to eliminate you from future consideration.  If there is a strong pool of candidates, they are often looking for small reasons to cut the pool.  Don’t make it easy to cut you.

 

Attire and Professional Presence

For interviews you want to always put your best foot forward.  While it is not likely you will get the job simply because you have the best suit, you can be easily eliminated if you do not make a good professional impression.  You want to project a confident, professional presence.  Always wear a suit and be sure it is clean, pressed and that it fits well.  Ladies, pants suits are fine but if you wear a skirt, be sure it is not too short.  Have a blouse that tucks in and is not low cut.  Men, the shirt should be pressed and the tie should coordinate.  Socks should match the trousers.  Be sure to polish your shoes.  When in doubt, err on the side of being conservative.  Be sure your hands are clean since you will be shaking hands.  Hair should be clean and well groomed.  Deodorant is critical but go easy or eliminate cologne since it can easily overpower an interview room.  Go easy on jewelry to ensure that it is not a distraction during the interview.

Demonstrate Your Interest Through Your Preparation

Be well prepared, it shows interest and professionalism.  Have questions prepared in advance that you want to ask.  You should have your references available in case you are asked.  Be sure you have verified and confirmed the contact information.

Be Someone They Want as a Colleague

Even if you are nervous, it is important to smile.  It demonstrates your interest.  While you are onsite for your interview, be pleasant to everyone you meet.  It is not unusual for a hiring manager to ask the administrative assistant or receptionist for feedback on candidates.    Arrive a few minutes early.  Ask if you can take notes as appropriate.  Give it your best shot – focusing on how you can meet their needs not on what you want.

Say Thank You

A handwritten thank you note should be sent to every person you interview with at a company.  Each note should be customized to the individual, referencing something that you discussed.  This is an opportunity to demonstrate your writing skills, your professionalism and your enthusiasm for the opportunity.  Each note should be unique since they will likely compare notes.  Thank them for their time.  Let them know what you are excited about regarding this job.  Let them know you want to be on the team.  If you know the process is moving quickly you can send a very professional email thank you note but should still follow-up with a handwritten note.  It is a differentiator.  So few people write handwritten notes anymore they are memorable.  Always get your notes in the mail within 24 hours of the interview.  In a tough decision between two finalists the decision may come down to who sent a thank you note.