Career Calling

November 26, 2013

How Are You a Hero?

Too often resumes simply convey basic qualifications for a job.  This information is important, but it is equally vital to show the value you will bring to a new employer.  Describe the achievements that will set you off from other candidates.  Think of achievements this way: How have you been a hero at your previous jobs?  If possible, quantify your success stories, but you should tell them even if you can’t represent every success with a number.  Here are a few examples of how you can present achievements on a resume:

•      Won several accounts from a major competitor (Symantec).

•      Achieved year-over-year growth of 25% for license renewal.

•      Increased market share from $100,000 to $900,000 in one year.

•      Reduced cell phone costs for 500 units by conducting detailed research of market and price trends used in negotiation.

•      Cleared a back log of 50 overdue performance reviews.

•      Ranked #1 of 75 Account Executives.

•      Completed an average of 500 projects per year.

•      Established protocols and procedures for a new PET CT Department.

•      Recognized by supervisors for providing outstanding customer service.

•      Consistently exceeded goals for productivity.

•      Achieved 110% of goal in the first year; planned and delivered 500 events.

•      Launched social media and email marketing to reach younger consumers.

•      Played a key role on a team that improved workflow in the Emergency Department by 20%.

•      Entrusted with customers’ confidential data during computer repairs and data migrations.

•      Achieved +$1 million in saving by negotiating price reductions outside of the market.

How have you helped your employer or former employers?  Find a way to make these hero stories part of your resume.

October 2, 2013

Why Cover Letters Should be Concise

Clients will often present me with cover letters that cover an entire page.  They go into great detail to recreate their resume as a narrative.  I prefer a more concise presentation that outline key skills and attributes (a sample).  There are two reasons for doing keeping your letter tight.  First, if employers doesn’t want to read a long resume, why would they want to read long cover letters?  Second, it is a cover letter.  The function of a cover letter is to inform the reader about a document that is included with the cover letter.  Ideally, it will say something that makes the reader want to read the document. Keeping your message focused and concise is the best way to convince an employer to read your resume.

September 18, 2013

We Say. We Do.

I interview clients to obtain information needed to write a resume.  Many of them, as many as a third, talk about their work as “We”: “We follow a Six Sigma Methodology for project management.”  “We measure sales success based on new accounts.”  I’ll often stop clients who do this and remind them that employers do not hire “we.”  They hire you.  Whether you are writing a resume or interviewing for a job, it’s important to let the interviewer know what you can do.

When you use collective or team-based language, the employer has no way to understand what you did.  Some people are uncomfortable using the first person, but it is necessary if you want to give the employer a clear picture of what you can do, what value you will bring to the company.  It is equally important to use language that anyone in the industry will understand.  When a client uses something that sounds like company jargon, I’ll ask: Will anyone working in your industry understand that term?  If not, it’s time to do a little translation.

Keep the focus on you and the value you will bring to the employer.  Practice saying sentences that start with “I.”  The employer needs to know who you are and what your best selling points are.  Don’t exaggerate your skills and achievements.  But it is equally important that you don’t undersell what you have to offer.  Know why you are good at what you do and be able to tell that story to potential employers.

September 6, 2013

Specific Cover Letters

Normally I advise clients to use a concise cover letter that introduces their resumes and qualifications.  This goes against the “rules” posited experts who say that every cover letter must be unique.  Most employers don’t need the added information that belongs in the resume, not the cover letter.

A recent trend has altered my thinking to a small degree.  Some employers are asking job seekers to write cover letters that address specific questions.  In those cases, the cover letter must speak to that concern or you will not be considered as a candidate.  It is important to carefully read a job post to be sure that you are addressing its specific requirements.  If the employer asks for a specific cover letter, which occur in less than 5% of the job posts I’ve reviewed, your letter needs to be written to the terms of that job post.  Otherwise, you can use a template model that sells your value as a professional and pushes the employer to read your resume.

September 4, 2013

Foggy Language Hurts Your Resume

A client brought me a resume that had been written by a professional service.  She was seeking a role as an administrative assistant, and she was especially troubled by two job descriptions that were each one sentence long:

1.   Effectively performed a variety of duties within office settings at several organizations; consistently demonstrated a strong work ethic and capability to adapt new environments.

2.  Conducted numerous daily responsibilities entailing optimal organization, coordination, scheduling, and issue resolution for a fast-paced department compromised of 205 personnel.

Both of these sentences suffer from the same problem.  They are packed with generalities that do not address an employer’s needs.  We do not know what skills or experience the job seeker is offering an employer.  Compare these two examples:

1.  Supervised business operations for an electrical contracting firm.  Processed a payroll for as many as 20 employees.  Managed accounts payable and accounts receivable. Wrote correspondence, and took dictation from the owner.  Coordinated transfer of documents needed to close contracts.  Maintained office supply inventory and ordered new stock.  Answered phones, routed calls, and took messages.  Kept  the office clean and organized.

2.  Supported 4 executives, working proactively to address each individual’s needs.  Maintained and updated each executive’s calendar.  Screened calls, took messages, and set up meetings.  Scheduled travel and lodging.  Set up and managed expenses accounts.  Created presentation materials, including PowerPoint files.

Keep the language of your resume simple and clear.  Make sure that it speaks to the employer’s needs. If a sentence feels too thick, break it down so it is easy to read.  Employers receive hundreds of resumes for most positions.  If you’re language is foggy, one thing is guaranteed: you will not be called for an interview.

August 23, 2013

How Did You Make a Difference?

In writing a resume, it is important to show how you are qualified.  In recent posts, I’ve talked about reviewing job postings and speaking to the employers’ needs.  At the same time, a good resume will show what makes you better than other qualified candidates.  To do that, you need to include relevant achievements and success stories. How do you define these elements?  My simple method is to think about what you’ve done that goes beyond the normal job duties and has a positive impact on the company.

Here are some verbs that might help you identify achievements and tell your success stories:

Increased

Enhanced

Achieved

Reduced

Improved

Produced

Generated

Developed

Completed

Established

Reorganized

Designed

Ranked

Represented

Mentored

August 13, 2013

What Does Your Next Employer Need to Know?

This is the only question that matters when you’re writing a resume or interviewing for a job.

Too often, job seekers talk about what they did on their last job.  They use the language of that company and discuss their duties in specific details that only apply to that job/company.  Prospective employers do not care about all of this information.  It is not relevant to their business problem.  Your challenge is to show how your previous experience and education will be a benefit to your next employer, not the last one.

I recommend that you start your job search by studying job posts for the positions that interest you most.  Review 5-10 job posts.  Identify common requirements and repeated “key” words.  If you build your resume and prepare for interviews by focusing on what employers need, you will find that you have more interviews and faster job offers.  It’s not about what you did in the past.  It’s all about what you have to offer you next employer.

August 6, 2013

Beware of Jargon

Every day clients bring me resumes and ask me what’s wrong with them.  Over half the time, the biggest problem is that they are written for the last job the client had, not the one she wants.  Often descriptions of jobs on resume are based on the company’s job description and are filled with jargon that would only be clear to someone working at the company.  It’s important to test your resume with this simple question:  Would someone who doesn’t work at this company understand what I am saying?

While it’s important to be honest in your resume, you do not have to speak the language of your former employer.  I’ve had clients tell me, “That’s how we say it,”  I inform them that prospective employers won’t understand it, and that’s all that matters.  Employers hire based on what you can do for their companies.  Think about what your next employer wants to know and use the kind of language you find in job descriptions, especially when you see a word or phrase repeated in several job posts.

Jargon kills.  Unless your applying for an internal promotion, cut it from your resume.

July 31, 2013

I Want the Employer To Know

A client told me that she wanted he potential employer to know about work she did early in her career when she was a teacher.  She is especially proud of having been named Teacher of the Year in 1999.  The problem is that she changed careers and moved to sales in 2003.  Her new employer needs to see what makes her a good sales professional, not that she was once named the best teacher in the state.  What we want to tell employers is not as important as what they want to know.  Let that be your first question in writing a resume and preparing for an interview: What does the employer want to know?

June 7, 2013

Show the Value of a New Degree

I frequently work with clients who have just completed an undergraduate or graduate degree.  They usually list only the degree.  Some will note organizations they belonged to or scholarships that helped them pay for schools.  There is a problem with this information: Employers do not care about it.

I work with new graduates to identify areas of knowledge and skill that they will take from school to the workplace.  Rather than list classes, which only tell the employer that you are a student, review 5-10 job posts for positions that interest you.  Note job requirements and skills that you can take from your time in school and include these elements in your resume.

For example I’m currently working with a client who received an MBA with a concentration in Human Resources.  After reviewing job posts, we identified the following items for his resume: HR & Labor Law, Compensation, and Strategic Planning.  Be sure that you only list areas of skill and knowledge that you could use on the job.  Do not list any item that you could not discuss well in an interview or any skill you could not perform on the job.

If you are a new graduate, take full advantage of the knowledge and skill you offer an employer because of your education.  Demonstrate the value of your degree in a way that will be relevant to the employer’s needs.  Most importantly, don’t present yourself as a student.  Play up what you learned in school that a potential employer will care about.  That’s the way to get a job even if you lack professional experience.

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