Mind the Gap

If you have ever been to London you hear repeated announcements reminding you to “mind the gap” as you navigate The Tube.  While it is helpful advice, minding the gaps of your resume can significantly impact your job search.

Life happens.  Candidates end up with gaps on their resumes for a variety of reasons – some under their control and others completely out of their control.  What is a job seeker to do?

Be Prepared – Many interviewers will be drawn to the gaps on a resume and are likely to ask you directly about it.  If you are prepared to address the gap, it will likely not be perceived as an issue.  However if you fumble through a weak explanation, it tends to raise more questions than it addresses.  Have your story ready.  Focus on any positives that came out of this experience.

Be Honest – Do not list starting your own consulting company in the gap unless you actually did that.  If you never had a client, you never had a consulting firm.  Be honest and own the gap.  Employers do employment verification and background checks.  If you own the gap it is often not an issue.  If you misrepresent it, your integrity is then questioned and you could easily lose the job.

Do Not Bash A Former Company or Manager – Positively explain your gap without maligning a former company or manager.  Sure it stinks that they laid you off after two years of positive reviews.  It likely had nothing to do with your performance but more the cost structure of the company.  If you talk about what a jerk your manager was to eliminate your job, it raises a red flag about how you interacted with your manager.  Be honest but frame it as positively as possible.  Things happen.  Differentiate yourself by how your respond to those things you can’t control

Are Resumes Still Needed in 2016?

It’s 2016 and the pace of change increases each year.  Technology has transformed many industries – think Uber, Airbnb, Amazon and others.  In this technological age, do I really still need a resume?  As someone who works with employers on a daily basis, the answer is still yes.  The resume is still the foundation of the current recruiting process.  How do you ensure that your resume stands out?  With online applications, employers can easily receive hundreds of applications for a single position.  When they quickly scan your resume, you want to be sure to make a positive impression so you will advance in the process.   Or, if the company relies on an applicant tracking system, the software is making decisions based on your resume before a human ever reviews it.   Here are some key considerations:


Make it Easy for Employers to Contact You

Enhance your resume contact information with easy to use hyperlinks to your email and your LinkedIn profile.  Before they even meet you, they are impressed that you made it so easy for them to get to the next step.  Of course, it is critical that your LinkedIn profile is update to date and comprehensive.


Be Wary of Overly Creative Designs

If you are in a very creative industry, you will want a separate version of your resume that is more creative and visually appealing but even for creative jobs you need a basic resume that will make it through the scanner in the applicant tracking process.  No one will ever tell you that your resume failed the screen you just never get a response even when the job seemed so perfect.  Something as simple as lines across the page can cause a problem.  Beware of any creative formatting since it will likely cause problems.  Still to a very clean, professional resume format.  Don’t go crazy with fonts either.  Calibri or Cambia look more modern that Times Roman but don’t try something truly unusual or it could be rejected by the system.


Objectives are Dead

Do not start your resume with an objective.  That is seriously out of date because to be frank, employers don’t really care what you want to do.  They want qualified candidates who can do the work and add value for the company.  Instead, focus on a strong summary of your critical transferable skills.  Entice them enough with the summary to make them want to read more.  If you are applying for a variety of jobs, have different versions of your resume so you can provide a summary focused on the most relevant skills for the position.


Accomplishments Not Responsibilities

Your resume should not be a list of all the responsibilities in your job description.  It should instead focus on your accomplishments.  What value did the company receive by having you in that role?  Where possible, quantify the results.  A few bullet points of clear accomplishments with measurable results is significantly more valuable than a laundry list of responsibilities.




Key Words Matter

With computers often doing the initial resume reviews, key words are more critical than ever.  Review the job description and highlight the key words that are important to the company for this position.  Ensure that the relevant key words appear in your resume and cover letter.  If the job is truly worth applying for, it is worth the time to customize your resume and cover letter.  Increase the chances of getting your resume into the hands of the hiring manager by passing the initial screen.


Leverage Your Real Estate

Your resume should never exceed two pages and should be limited to one page if you have seven years of experience or less.  Maximize the value of your resume real estate by focusing more attention on recent and relevant experience.  Older jobs can be a quick bullet point so you can focus on the most relevant experience for this opportunity.  You are not writing a biography, it is a summary of your professional accomplishments.  While the words don’t have to be exactly the same, the experience on your resume should match your experience in LinkedIn.  Be sure to use bullet points that start with action verbs in the correct tense.  Avoid the obvious such as “references available on request.”


Be sure your resume is up to date and has no spelling or grammatical errors to ensure that you have the opportunity for a hiring manager to review your resume and determine that they want to invite you for an interview.


2016 Top Ten Resume Mistakes

While your resume alone will never land you the job, it is a critical component in getting you the interview and an opportunity to sell yourself.  To increase your likelihood of success, avoid these common resume mistakes.

  • Spelling and Grammatical Errors—Your resume represents your professional brand to perspective employers so you want it to be flawless. You need to proofread it several times and then have someone else proofread it for you.  Many hiring managers will automatically eliminate resumes with spelling and grammatical errors.  It reflects poorly on your attention to detail.
  • Focus on Listing Responsibilities— Your resume should not be a listing of your job responsibilities. This is not a job description.  You need to focus your resume on your key accomplishments to demonstrate the value you brought to the company by being in this role.  How did you make a difference?
  • Lack of Quantitative Data—Where possible you need to quantify the results you achieved to put them in perspective. “Reduced costs by 20%” is more significant and impactful than “reduced costs.”  “Designed and executed an online promotion campaign which increased market share resulting in increased revenue by 30%,” gives the reader a sense of what you did and the result.  For companies that are not well known, it is helpful to give some perspective.  “A technology company with $250 million in revenue.”  Also add perspective where it helps someone understand the role and scope of responsibility, “hired and trained a team of 20 customer service representatives.”
  • Reliance on Acronyms—Avoid acronyms that are commonly used outside the company. Use English to explain the system or program  you worked on instead of company acronyms that no hiring manager will understand.
  • Focus on Your Goals—Do not start your resume by stating your goal or professional objective. The hiring manager really doesn’t care that your goal is to achieve a financial management position within five years.  Focus instead on a summary of your transferrable skills and competencies.  Capture their attention up front to make them want to read the rest of your resume.  Focus on what you can do for them.
  • Lack of Customization—Often candidates are pursuing opportunities in different lines of work. In those instances it is important to have multiple versions of your resume to demonstrate your relevant transferrable skills.  Your job history is the same but you may want to emphasize different skills and accomplishments depending on the type of position for which you are applying.
  • Inconsistent bullet points and tense— You should always use present tense for your current position and past tense for all prior positions.  Your bullets should also have a consistent structure and be easy for the hiring manager to read.
  • More is not better—Hiring managers are quickly turned off by long resumes. Seven years or less of professional experience should always be kept to a single page and resumes otherwise should not exceed two pages.  You should have more bullets for the current and relevant positions and significantly less detail on older positions.  The resume is meant to summarize your professional experience not provide a detailed accounting.  A resume that is multiple pages can quickly end up in the “no pile.”
  • Failure to use action verbs— All bullet points on your resume should start with an action verb.  Avoid phrases such as “responsible for” or “worked on”.   Use a thesaurus if needed to identify strong action verbs to convey your experience.  Be careful not to overuse the same action verb in multiple bullets.
  • Not enough white space – Some resume writers get very creative and cram as much as possible on the page by narrowing the margins and shrinking the font. This results in a resume that is difficult to read.  Many hiring managers won’t make the effort to carefully review a resume that is hard to read.  Better to focus on the key points and leave some white space so a reader can see the true value you bring.

Investing the time and energy to create a focused, flawless resume will pay off in your job search.

2016 Resume Considerations for Career Changers

Resume Considerations for Career Changers

So, you have decided to make a career change.  Your first challenge is how to structure your resume to fit the career you desire when your work history fits your previous career.  If you don’t put the effort into carefully focusing your resume, you will be lost in the pile of resumes from candidates who already have the relevant prior work experience.

Here are some considerations to ensure that your resume is noticed for those positions in your new career field.

Research and Networking

Don’t overlook the importance of research and networking to gain insight into the critical skills in your desired new role and the industry terminology to support it.  Understand what skills are expected or even desirable in the new field so you can objectively evaluation your transferrable skills.


Be sure to make your career objective clear in your summary.   Without stating a specific goal in your summary, think about how you describe yourself and your skills.  You are rebranding yourself with this resume so be sure you have a strong summary to capture the reader’s attention by clearly focusing on your most valuable transferable skills for the positions you aspire to hold in the future.  Remember, you are selling yourself.

Professional Experience

Your prior work experience is what it is.  You have to accurately reflect employer names, job titles and dates of employment since that will all be verified later in the process.  Instead of focusing on all past accomplishments, highlight the most relevant accomplishments for your new career direction.  Focus on the skills most critical in the new position.  Quantify your results whenever possible.  Avoid the temptation to include extraneous, irrelevant information.  Focus on your major achievements.

Other Skills and Activities

Employers want to hire a complete person.  Remember to include technical skills as well as language proficiency as relevant.  Also include volunteer activities or unique interests.  If you list an interest such as reading, be prepared to talk about the last book you read and what you found most interesting.  Often it is a unique interest that captures an interviewer’s attention.

Throughout the resume be use to accurately describe your experience and accomplishments but wherever possible use terminology that is relevant to the new career direction you have identified.




2016 Addressing Gaps in Your Resume

What is a job seeker to do if there are gaps in your resume?  This occurs most often when there is a break between employers.  Gaps often jump right out at the hiring manager reviewing the resume so prepare in advance to addresses these issues.

Honesty is always the best policy.  Honesty is not just the best policy but the only policy when it comes to your resume.  It is a factual history of your employment and is subject to verification in background checks.  Just the facts please.  Do not embellish or leave things off because you’d rather not talk about them.

Years vs. months.  Job seekers often draw unwarranted attention to their gaps by listing each employment by month.  It is perfectly acceptable on a resume to list years only.  This allows short gaps to go undetected.  You may have to provide specific months on an application later in the process but you haven’t drawn undue attention to it early in the process.

Be prepared.  Be prepared with a response to the question about the gap.  If it is there, someone will ask about it in an interview.  Address the gap honestly without focusing on the negatives or being defensive.  Talk about what you did during the gap.  Did you volunteer?  Enhance a skill?  Take a class?  Be prepared to address the issue head on.

Don’t rewrite history.  Because it is critical to be honest, don’t create an alternative universe where the situation was very different.  It is what it is.  It happened.  Be honest but do so in a way that is positive, professional and forward focused.  Do not be defensive.  If you were laid off, do not blame others.  Just state that the company was facing challenging times, reorganizing, etc. depending on the situation.  Often less is more when it comes to explaining the speed bumps in your career.


Do Key Words Matter in a Resume?

Most websites and resume guidelines advocate the use of key words.  I am often asked by students and alumni why key words matter?

The Resume Review Process

It is often not a human making the decision on whether to advance your resume in the process.  Many employers rely on software to review applications and if your resume and cover letter do not contain the appropriate key words, you are eliminated from consideration.  You must make it through the computer screening to have any possibility of having a human review your resume and inviting you for an interview.

Regardless of your relevant experience and key transferrable skills, you may not emerge as a candidate for the position if your resume does not make it through the automated screening process.  The scanning software it set up to search for critical key words in your resume and cover letter.

How do I know which key words are critical?

The single most critical indicator of relevant key words is the job description.  Review the entire job description carefully and highlight the key words in the posting about the skills needed for success.  Be sure to include the applicable ones in your resume and cover letter.  It is likely that the software will be searching for critical skills identified in the job description.  Increase your chances of success by including words from the job description in your resume and cover letter.

Be strategic about how you use your key words.  Be sure they are in your resume summary and core competencies as well as in your cover letter.

2016 Resume Tips #3

In order to have a resume which has maximum impact on potential employers, you should carefully consider everything you include on your resume.  Allocating space to on your resume tells the potential employer that you consider it important.  Be sure you are focusing their attention on the things that matter most to them.

Keep the Employer Perspective in Mind – Yes, it is your resume and you need to tell them about you but you have greater impact if you prepare your resume with the employer in mind.  You will likely have more content than will fit on one page so when making decisions about what to include, keep the employer perspective in mind.  You should focus on the skills and experiences that are transferrable and most relevant to the employer.  It should be about what they need not what you want.  Consider how you can make a difference to a company and help solve their problems.

Don’t let it stand alone —  General rule of thumb for a successful job search, don’t ever send your resume alone when applying for a job.  If the position is worth applying to, it is worth preparing a customized cover letter.  This gives you an opportunity to clearly “connect the dots” between their specific needs in the job posting and your experience and expertise.  Don’t expect an employer to take the time to do that themselves.  Show them how you can add value in this role.  If you are applying online, be sure you follow all the steps required in the posting.  Don’t give them an easy opportunity to eliminate you.

Life Outside of Work – It can certainly be appropriate to show employers a glimpse of your life outside of work.  If you have volunteer experience, you can include a volunteer section.  Identify the organization, your role and the dates.  If you were involved in an organization that could be unpopular or divisive, carefully consider how important it is to include it on your resume.  If you have unique hobbies or interests, you can list those as well.  Sometimes these unique items make someone want to talk to you.  Avoid “spending time with friends and family” since that clearly doesn’t differentiate you.

Consider Having Multiple Versions – For most job seekers, a single resume is not enough.  If you are pursuing opportunities in different fields, consider having separate versions of your resume to focus on the most relevant skills in each field.  Depending on the specific job you are applying for, you may want to emphasize different accomplishments from your previous experience and you may want to update the key words in your summary to better align with the job description.  Yes, this is additional work but it can increase the likelihood of an employer wanting to know more about you.  Your work experience overall remains the same, but you can choose to highlight different accomplishments and skills depending on the specific opportunity.

You are the Product – In a job search, you are the product.  This is the most important sales role of your life.  Be sure your resume is the best possible reflection of you – your skills, experience, accomplishments and expertise.  Make employers want to meet you.  Make them want to have you on their team.