Career Calling

February 22, 2014

How to Find Key Words

Many clients despair that they cannot find key words for their occupation.  In fact, they are easy to find if you look in the right places.

1.  Start with job posts.  For key word research, I recommend using 8-10 posts.  Note what words are repeated from post to post, especially for hard skills and technology.  For example, terms like cost analysis, budgeting, MS Excel, accounts payable are the kind of words that employers will look for when scanning resume.

2.  Perform a similar review on any LinkedIn contacts who are in similar professions.  Pay careful attention to the skills section in each profile.

3.  Research any job descriptions for the function you perform.  These documents can be very detailed, so be careful about selecting key words that match the job function you want to perform.

4.  Some websites post key words.  The problem is that these lists often cover all types of a profession from entry level to executive.  You need to identify those words that fit the level of experience for the kind of you want to pursue.

It’s important to have the right key words in your resume and LinkedIn profile.  To find them, study what your potential employer is looking for and how similar professionals describe themselves.  That’s the model for key word success.

February 20, 2014

Personality and Soft Skills

I’ve come across several resume experts who say that it is impossible to convey personality on a resume.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Soft skills and qualities give an employer a good indication of the kind of person you are and the kind of worker you will be.

For example, a word like flexible indicates that someone can fill different roles.  It is important to follow up on this point in the resume and show how you are versatile and able to take on different roles.  Similarly, a popular word in job postings that I often use in resume is proactive.  Someone who is proactive either prevents a problem from happening or solves it without being told to do so.  These are just two examples of how a personality can be conveyed as part of a well-written resume.  Here are a few other terms that you can use to give an employer a sense of what you offer:

detail-oriented

outgoing

creative

dedicated

persistent

customer-focused

self-motivated

self-starter

Many job posts include these terms.  Find a way to integrate them into your resume so the employer can tell who you are as well as what you do.

January 31, 2014

Wordy Resumes

It’s true that employers read resumes quickly.  However, you still need to give them something to read.  A client recently showed me a resume that looked good, but said nothing.  It gave no reason to hire her beyond broad generalizations.

A good resume has content that is relevant to employers.  It is not wordy because it shows why a candidate is qualified for a position.  A resume becomes wordy when it includes elements that are not relevant to the employer.  Over 10 years, I’ve found that employers will read two page resumes formatted in a paragraph style.  They will do that if they can quickly see that the applicant might be a good employee.

Don’t hide your skills.  Sell them is a good resume that is rich in content and relevant to the employer’s needs.

January 21, 2014

Don’t Clog up Your Cover Letters

Filed under: Resume Writing — claycerny @ 10:32 pm
Tags: , , ,

Prospective clients often bring me cover letters that are thicker and longer than their resumes.  I ask: If a hiring manager doesn’t want to read a long resume, why do they want to read a longer cover letter?

My philosophy is simple.  Keep your cover letter concise and focused on your strongest qualities.  State your current duties in a sentence.  Sprinkle in a few of the soft skills that employers ask for in job postings.  Don’t repeat specific details that will be played out in the resume.  Use the cover letter to drive the employer to the resume.  Keep it short and focused on the most important qualities you will bring to a new employer.

P.S.  There is one exception to what is said above.  Some employers, very few, give specific instructions about what they want in a letter.  In those rare cases, be sure to address what the employer is looking for.

January 3, 2014

Start the New Year with a Fresh Resume

Just as some people change fire alarm batteries at the fall time change, the New Year is a good time to look at your resume and update it.  The first question to ask is if your resume still fits your career goals.  Are you doing the same thing?  Looking for a promotion?  Attempting to change careers?  If you’re not doing the same thing, your resume needs to change.

Even if you’re not making a major change in your career, the New Year is a good time to take stock of what you have accomplished in the past year.  Before you edit the resume, make a list of your success stories from the last year.  Compare these achievements to those currently listed on the resume.  Refresh any dated material and add new elements.  You don’t have to add everything you’ve accomplished over the past year.  Add only those examples that make your resume stronger.

Finally, test important details that are easy to miss.  Is your contact information (address, phone number, and email) correct?  Have you learned any new software or technical skills that should be added?  Have you completed any new education, training, or certification?  Have you joined any professional groups?  Give your resume one more good review.  This time your goal is to take off any information that is dated or no longer relevant.

The New Year is a great time to plan and make changes.  If you’re plans include career advancement or finding a new job, remember to refresh your resume.

December 14, 2013

Resume Formats

A client looked at a sample of my resumes and said it was exactly the way a resume should be formatted.  I asked her why she said this.  She heard an expert say so on the radio. While an easy sale is always nice, I challenged her thinking a little.  Rather than thinking one way is right or wrong, the key question to ask is about function and strategy: How does it work?

My priority in a format is to create something that is easy to read.  To do that, I arrange my work using a combination of paragraphs and bullets.  I also avoid frames, lines, and boxes except for a line at the top of the page.  Some resumes are formatted with great attention to graphic design.  There are two problems with this approach.  First, heavy formatting that makes a resume look good also makes it harder to read.  Rather than the eye moving from word to word and line to line as it would on the page of a book or magazine, it has to jump from box to box.  Worse still, some formatting features (headers, footers, tables) cannot be read by scanning software and never make it to a human screener.  What good is a great looking resume if it is never read by an employer?

My biggest problem with formats and functions is the claim that “bullets are easier to read.”  Every time we see a bullet, we stop reading.  So the all-bullet resume involves a series of start and stop actions that make it difficult to understand what a person does.  A well written paragraph (block) that describes job duties is easier to read.  Bullets are great to describe success stories and achievements, places where you would want a potential employer to stop and think about what you have to offer.

Never accept any resume “rule” as right because some experts says it is.  Go behind the “rule” to think about function and strategy.  There is no one size fits all.  While I use a similar format in all of my work, it changes from client to client based on what elements I want to highlight.  To put it simply: Beware of simple rules, especially when they involve resume formats.

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.

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