6 Resume Tips from Employers

As an Employment Services Specialist, I find it valuable to reference specific employer preferences/concerns when offering job search advice, presenting workshops or justifying resume edits. So, when I had the opportunity to attend a career fair recently I made a point to talk to recruiters, HR personnel and employers about resumes. I wanted to know what they liked and what common mistakes they saw. Here is what I found:

List a professional email address on the resume. I was ready to write this off as a cliché until I heard it cost someone an interview. Employers consistently mentioned this as a common mistake found on resumes! Check your resume, if there is something other than a combination of first/last name take a few minutes and create a new email address.

Customize the resume to each job. Yes, this is tough to do for career fairs since there are many employers and you might not know who is attending. Your best strategy is to try and find an attendees list, identify a few employers from that list to target then build customized resumes accordingly. If you have to use a generic resume, still provide one to the employer but get a business card and tell them you will email a customized resume later in the day (or next day). An added bonus is you’ve created a follow up opportunity.

Headline Statements are awesome. The headline statement is an occupational title geared toward the job you are seeking. On the resume it appears just below your contact information. The Employer likes this because it is easy to identify the candidate’s job target.

Self-serving Objectives are not awesome. Again, kind of a cliché, yet still mentioned as a common mistake. Remember, employers want to see how your skills benefit them not that you want a full time position with opportunities for growth and fulfillment as a…

Don’t fear the applicant tracking system. Applicant tracking systems are tools to help organize the chaos associated with hundreds or thousands of applications. Follow best practices when completing online applications and resumes such as using proper grammar, matching wording to job requirements, etc. Instead of blaming applicant tracking systems for not getting interviews, work on things you can control like having a resume critique and networking.

Print resumes on resume paper. Resume paper enhances the appearance of the document and shows you are willing to go that extra step. Most resumes employers see at job fairs are printed on regular paper which detracts from the quality. Resume paper and printing is available at no cost at American Job Centers across CT (www.ct.gov/dol).

Looking back, I am glad I took advantage of the opportunity to network with hiring personnel and employers at the career fair. I met very nice people who were willing to share their insight on resumes. If you are considering attending a career fair or are searching for work, hopefully these tips will help you land an interview.

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#Resume & Job Search Advice for Older Workers

1) Do not list every job you’ve ever had.

Your resume is not your life story. Think of it as a marketing document to sell your experience, skills, and achievements. This document should be customized specifically for the job you are targeting. In simpler terms? If you are applying for a job as a Manufacturing Manager, your experience as a part-time barista during college may not hold any value. If you are concerned about leaving a job out of your resume because it may show a gap in employment, then focus on the transferable skills. What details can you draw from that experience that will impress a hiring manager in the Manufacturing industry?

2) Do not provide unnecessary details.

Why did you leave your last job? That is a common interview question. Information about plant closures or involuntary discharges does not need to be listed on the resume. Instead, develop an answer that will briefly explain what happened without going negative. Wait to share this answer, if asked, during the interview.

Personal details such as marital status, appearance, health conditions, or children, should not be on your resume. Keep everything related to the job. Sharing personal information is not only unnecessary, but it may also open you up for potential discrimination. Marketing your skills and abilities is the focus.

3) Unless you need a CV, try to keep the document to two pages.

This isn’t a hard rule, but most hiring managers prefer if resumes stick to one or two pages. If you have over ten years of working experience, two pages may suit you better than trying to squeeze important information onto one page. If you are changing careers, maybe one page of related skills and experience may be enough. A combination of selecting only appropriate information needed to market you well for the job and formatting skills for margins, font size, and spacing to make the document readable, will help you stay within the one to two page maximum. Keep in mind, hiring managers do not get a lot of time to read through everyone’s resume. The resume is your advertisement explaining why the hiring manager should interview you, and you do not want to waste that space. Grab the hiring manager’s attention by showing how you can make an impact to the company: show a history of achievement, a competitive skill set, or any variety of details that relate to the job.

4) Do not use a generic resume objective.

With the competition for job openings, you need your resume to stand out. If the very first section under your contact information states you are “Seeking a rewarding and fulfilling full-time opportunity at XYZ Industries,” then the resume will probably not make an impact on the hiring manager. The standard resume objective only serves to share what you want from the employer, not what you can do for the employer. The standard resume objective may also be risky if there is an oversight and it isn’t customized. No employer would want to see a resume stating the objective is to work for the competition.

Make this first section show who you are and what you can do. “Results-oriented Manufacturing Manager offering proven record of improving processes and optimizing resources” can pique interest, especially if followed by a section that highlights specific, related career achievements.

5) Customize a cover letter with every application.

Similar to a standard resume objective, many applicants send the same generic cover letter. The cover letter can be a great opportunity to showcase writing skill and further make the match for the employer as to why you would be a great fit for the position. Do not reiterate your resume, but highlight a few key points and explain how your skills could benefit the company. Conducting some research before applying can help your cover letter stand out even more. Does the company have regular community service involvement? Share your volunteer experience to show why this company, specifically, would be your ideal company (in addition to why you are qualified for the job). Furthermore, if a specific colleague from your network advised you to apply for the job, the cover letter can be your opportunity to mention them. Employee referrals are more likely to get a chance to interview than someone going in “cold”.

6) Register for online job applications.

Nearly every company will make you complete an online job application. Hesitancy to provide personal information is understandable. However, many companies make applicants register with their website prior to applying for the job. In some instances, this registration can enhance the applicant experience (but we all understand, in many instances, this can feel like a major pain in the neck). For positive example, by registering on some company application websites, you can check the status of your application, maintain a log of jobs to which you have applied, continuously update your resume, and upload additional documents to make applying to future positions easier and easier. Not all websites are like this, but many registrations allow you to access certain features that may make applying a little easier. What the job seeker must do is maintain a list usernames and passwords, kept in a secure location or create log-in IDs and passwords you can easily remember. Only in very rare circumstances can you “bypass” the online job application. Even with getting a referral and interview by networking, there may still be some HR protocol to keep an application on file for every employee. Depending on how many applications you submit to companies, this list may be long, so organization is crucial.

7) Learn how to tell if a website is secure.

When registering to application websites online, you may be asked to first provide your name, city of residence, and birthdate. This is the same amount of information needed to create an email address. It is smart to play it safe; do not arbitrarily give out this information. In the same respect, online job applications cannot easily be ignored because they request this information. A few key features to look for are the “s” in the URL. A typical URL starts with “http://example…” but a secure page will have an “s” after the “http” such as in https://examplewebsite.com. HyperText Transfer Protocol and HyperText Transfer Protocol Secure. Additionally, there will be an image of a lock, either in the address bar, or placed somewhere on the bottom of the browser. When you hover your mouse over the image of the lock, there will be more information available about the security of the website. If you view the Certificate of Security, you can see whether or not the Certificate is still valid. If it is valid, you are usually safe to proceed forward. This advice also applies for online shopping, when you must enter your credit card information, or a variety of online activities. For future reference: review this infographic.

8) Most importantly, network.

Networking is one of the most successful ways to learn about job leads. Keep in touch with family, friends, past co-workers, neighbors, and anyone you know who may be able to keep an ear out for you. Make a list of your contacts who work at a company you would like to learn more about, or who may have contacts at a company for which you want to work. General etiquette will always apply; don’t expect everyone to be willing to help, but the more people that know you are looking, the more people you will have who can possibly get you information about a potential lead. Always try to offer your help for anything before asking for any favors, or show willingness to help out if needed.

Volunteering can provide recent experience on your resume as well as help build your network. Going online and joining social networking sites will also make networking easier. LinkedIn, Twitter, and even Facebook (among many other sites) can be used for professional networking purposes. In a previous post, our author George provided a break-down of the top ten social media sites, and how you can use them for job search.

Overall, a successful job search means you employ various methods until you find what works for you. Network in person and online, get your resume reviewed by both colleagues in your field and CPRWs at a local American Job Center, customize cover letters to market more of your selling points, and don’t be too nervous to fill out an online job application if you need to. There are many other strategies out there. This experience can be a learning process, and the American Job Centers offer many no-cost workshops to help you build skills or learn new ways to search.

Formatted vs Plain Text: Why every job seeker needs a dual-formatted #resume.

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Having (and utilzing) both a formatted and a plain text résumé  is like a peanut butter cup. Each ingredient is great on their own, but so much better when you have both!

By Uri Allen, CPRW

These days, job seekers are inundated with so much conflicting information and suggestions; it can be hard to figure out what is the best way to format a résumé. Job seekers feel they are often faced with the decision to either make it look attractive or format it for practicality. In reality, every job seeker should have their résumé formatted both ways, both plain text and a fully formatted visually appealing version. A plain text version may not pack the visual punch on paper and a formatted version may look amazing but may cause problems when interfacing with Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) so it is imporant to have both and know when to utilize them. Here are some guidelines to help you decide which version you should be using and when.

Plain Text Versions

A plain text version of the résumé is an integral tool for the job seeker who utilizes online job boards and internet employment search sites. Stripped-down, text only versions allow many online applications and tracking programs to easily parse information and pre-populate fields making the task of filling out these applications much more expeditious and time effective for the job seeker.

Plain text versions are also a preferred choice when emailing a résumé to an employer for a variety of reasons. Many employers will run emailed résumés through parsing or tracking systems and with a plain text version, the job seeker has less worry that the information will be properly scanned or read by these systems. Plain text résumés are also a safe bet since a job seeker can never really be sure of the word processing software employers are using to review emailed résumés. Avoiding sending a document with fancy formatting or stylish fonts and sending a plain text version almost always ensures that the résumé will appear consistently on your screen as it will on the employers screen.

Formatted, Visually Appealing Versions

However, the visually appealing résumé also has a definite place in the job seekers toolkit. The visually appealing, formatted version is great for those face-to-face connections such as networking, job fairs or interviews or when you are snail mailing or faxing the résumé to a potential employer.

There are a few things to remember when creating the visually appealing version. Make sure that the résumé has a good balance of white space; information shouldn’t appear too crowded and if possible, printed on a good quality résumé paper. Make sure to avoid consistency errors and don’t over format the résumé.

With any résumé, formatted or not, it is always a good idea to have the résumé reviewed and critiqued by a certified résumé writer. Often times, a certified résumé writer can identify things you may have missed or overlooked or they make suggestions to improve the résumé further. They are also trained in the most up-to-date methods and techniques to maximize your résumés effectiveness. Visit http://jobcenter.usa.gov/ to locate an employment center nearest you and set up a time to meet with a certified résumé writer.

When your #Resolution is to get back into the #Workforce: FAQ

By George Bernocco, CPRW

A new year brings about new promises, hopes, dreams and goals. Will this year be better than the last? In terms of the job market, we hope so. Over 1.3 million people are losing their unemployment extensions at the end of 2013 and now must look to the New Year with uncertainty about employment and employability. Let us look at some of the factors that will come into play for the 2014 job market:

Is the job market getting any better?

Yes. Slowly but surely the job market numbers have gotten better, especially towards the end of 2013. Every state is different, but Connecticut has improved recently in the fourth quarter. Unemployment rates across the board are shrinking, jobless claims are also going down and jobs are being created. The year to come looks promising when we observe what happened to the job market in 2013.

What will employers be hiring for?

Many different sources can point to many different directions, but I feel confident saying that technology and healthcare jobs will be at the forefront of hiring. Especially if any of the jobs cross over due to the new healthcare laws. Technology is an extremely important skill to have, whether is using a computer to creating an “app” for a tablet, the world has become more reliant on technology.

How will employers hire?

Marketing your skills successfully has always been the best way to get employment. I feel that the 2014 year will still be an “employer market” where companies can be pickier about whom they hire because of the amount of job seekers. Continuing to build a digital presence to get noticed by employers will follow through into 2014. Some of the items to obtain employment that will continue are:

  • Professional resumes and LinkedIn profiles
  • In-person interviews and videoconference/teleconference interviews
  • Cover letters and thank you letters; cover letter e-mails and thank you e-mails
  • Networking and social media
  • Online applications

Will I be paid enough?

Across the United States, at least 14 states (including Connecticut), will raise their minimum wages. Some of them are even adjusting their laws regarding how they go about raising the wage every year. The federal government is also looking at raising the federal minimum wage. Average rates of pay across the United States have increased by 3% for 2013, and are expected to continue for 2014.

Moving on towards 2014, our country is recovering from a long and difficult recession. The important part is that we are recovering and it may take a long time for the entire nation to feel parts of that recovery. Continuing to pursue your ideal opportunity, working on your digital presence and networking to break into the job market will all assist you in 2014.

Should old acquaintance be forgot,

and never brought to mind ?

Should old acquaintance be forgot,

and old lang syne ?

For auld lang syne, my dear,

for auld lang syne,

we’ll take a cup of kindness yet,

for auld lang syne.

new years

Sources:

http://www.shrm.org/hrdisciplines/compensation/articles/pages/2014-salary-increases-flat.aspx

http://www.npr.org/2013/12/24/256879640/living-wage-effort-eclipsed-by-minimum-pay-battles

http://www.careerinfonet.org

http://www1.ctdol.state.ct.us/lmi/index.asp

#WorkExperience in today’s #JobMarket

By George Bernocco, CPRW

“I’m looking for the right Tea Kettle to fit in my kitchen.”

Red

Employer’s have an idea of what they are looking for. There are candidates who have done the job before which is one aspect of what makes a candidate qualified. Job seekers often think “Well, I have done this for years; I should be the top candidate for the position hands down.”  Experience is not the only thing an employer is looking for, and now more than ever it seems like having “too much” experience can hurt you. Let’s take this dynamic into visual representation, in which the employer is looking for a Tea Kettle to buy:

Job Posting

“Position: Exciting Youth Educator

We are seeking a unique individual to teach innovative ideas to a class of 8-10 year old kids through 6-week journey of creative product development. This unique course is hands-on, fast-paced, vibrant and meets once weekly.

Candidate(s) must be curious, confident, evolving, friendly, ground-breaking personality and versatile. Background in education helpful. Previous teaching experience is not a prerequisite provided candidates are able to connect with motivate and inspire students.

Other qualifications:

  • Passionate about inspiring kids of all ages through a combination of art, science, business and fun.
  • Ability to lead, supervise and engage a class of 16-20 children.
  • Strong communication and organizational skills.
  • Patient, enthusiastic and resourceful.
  • Ability to contribute positively to overall mission, marketing efforts and relationship with community.

Please send relevant information — hires will be made in the next few weeks.”

This is the kind of Tea Kettle the employer is looking for:

Modern

Cover Letters

Incorrect Response:

“I am inquiring about the position you had posted on your website. I am a Teacher with over 30 year’s experience in the school system having taught over 4,000 children. I have experience administering tests, homework assignments and curriculum. I am noted to be an excellent educator and received a Teacher of the Year award in 1979. I have been rewarded for my discipline abilities and maintaining a safe, quiet educational environment. I believe my experience qualifies me for the position, and please see the attached resume depicting my extensive work history. Please contact me at your earliest convenience to schedule an interview.”

The Tea Kettle that was marketed by this individual:

Older

The problem with the above cover letter, besides not incorporating any key words from the posting, is that the experience reflects an educator who’s personality does not reflect what the employer is looking for. The individual only utilized experience and nothing else, to suggest that he is qualified for the position. Experience cannot be the only determining factor is obtaining employment and employers are concerned with how your personality can mesh with the job duties.

Correct Response:

“I have a very strong interest in pursuing a teaching career at your exciting school. With experience working at the elementary level, as well as in activities outside of the traditional classroom, I have a diverse background with much to offer.

I am a friendly, enthusiastic individual with extensive teaching experience on the first, second and third grade level, in both suburban and urban school districts. I am passionate about working with children in dynamic and exciting environments that facilitate learning. I exhibit patience for lessons which allow me to break down sometimes complicated concepts to simple examples that my young students to grasp.

I am an active child advocate in my community as a volunteer at the St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital, and am constantly involved with ensuring proper education is taught to our youth. I can manage dynamic learning environments of up to 25 children in a fast-paced setting. I can also ensure excellent communication between colleagues, parents and students to create a productive educational experience.

My resume is enclosed. I will forward an official copy of my transcript along with references under separate cover. I will contact you next week to discuss employment opportunities. I look forward to speaking with you.”

The Tea Kettle that was marketed by this individual:

Basic

Experience is important, but it’s really a single element of the job hiring process. One must identify the key words used in job posting to identify the personality the employer is looking for. The employer likes to be able to mold someone into their ideal candidate, and the easier you are to mold the better chance you have of becoming hired.

Not too little, not too much: Attaching documents to your application

By George Bernocco, CPRW

paperwork

The job posting was designed to identify those who can read through and understand the job. The first part requires an ability to pay attention to detail. Words they use, required versus preferred, job description details and much more. I advise most people to go line by line, identify words the posting uses more than once.

The second part of the job posting is designed to test your ability to follow instructions. Usually the ad gives directions to those interested in applying for the position. These instructions are so important to the job application process because you must assume it is a test. If you fail to follow the instructions, your resume along with anything else you sent them will be put in a “Do Not Interview” pile. Here is how to secure yourself in the “Interview” pile:

 Always Send a Cover Letter

If the application just asks for your resume, it means your resume and cover letter. If the application states “Cover Letter Optional”, assume it is mandatory. With the vast amount of applications a company will receive, the easiest way for employers to weed out those not to interview is take out the ones who did not send a cover letter. Cover letters are standard and expected, even if the job application makes no reference to them. They are your first means of dialogue with the potential employer.

 Send Salary Requirements Only When Asked

Not all job postings require you to submit your salary requirements. If you submit them without asking, it can easily disqualify you because it is too high or even too low for the employer. When they ask, you should incorporate the salary requirements into a fourth paragraph of your cover letter. Be aware that some employers may feel the answer “Negotiable” is not a real answer to their question. If you are really unsure what to write, do your research into your field and go by the median salary in your career.

 Watch Out for Scams

Identity thieves can easily make a posting look real and request personal information. You should always be cautious about who you are sending your information to. Call the places to confirm they are an actual employer. Always be wary if they ask for your social security card and/or birth certificate in the first stages of the application process.

 Attach Anything an Online Application Asks For

Online applications within a website usually allow you to upload all different types of documents. They could be transcripts, reference letters, reference names, or certifications. The website might list some of these as optional, but your best bet is to complete the application as much as possible. The closer you are to 100% completed, the more likely they will contact you for an interview. You should try to prepare these materials ahead of time as online applications can have a time limit to complete. Do not send every document you have if the job posting does not mention them and the job application has no place to upload them. Assume you can submit this later on when they ask for it. Employers are overwhelmed with the amount of applications as it is which is why they only request certain documents at certain stages of the application process.

Winning Cover Letter Strategies

By Erica Tew, CPRW

Most people are unsure of how to write an effective cover letter, but there are a few easy tips that can assure you’re submitting a great marketing tool that will complement your resume.

General “Rules”

The two rules of thumb I typically use when crafting a cover letter go hand in hand.  Avoid overusing the personal pronoun “I” and be employer-oriented.  If you reference yourself in every other line, chances are, you are not telling the employer what you can offer them and how you would be able to help them succeed.  Avoiding “I” in cover letters also strengthens the overall writing, which is an added bonus.

Contact Information

Your contact information header should mirror your resume’s header.  This small detail adds a level of professionalism and makes your documents appear like matching stationery.

Addressee

Get the hiring manager’s name, position title, and company address so your documents don’t get left behind while someone runs around trying to find “To Whom It May Concern” or the dreaded “Dear Sir or Madam.”  If you don’t know where to find this information, CT’s Job and Career Connection company search  can provide the names of company owners, human resources managers, or any person that typically has an influence in the hiring decisions.  You can also try to call the company and speak with a receptionist or administrative assistant to see if they can provide you with a name and title for the hiring manager.

First Paragraph

There are few opportunities to be bold.  If you don’t grab their attention right away, your cover letter may be overlooked.  Use the first line to say what you have to offer.  Talk about the industry.  Your resume’s profile statement may already have a very marketable opening line, so this can be reworded if needed.

If there is a specific opening, state the job title you are applying for in the first or second line.  This could be formatted in bold if you want to ensure its visibility.  Add where you found this position as well, whether it was online, in a newspaper, or from a referral.  For example,

“As a Retail Manager with a proven record of developing and implementing sales initiatives that increase company profit, I would like to discuss my contributions if hired as a Regional Sales Manager for ABC Industries.”

Attention-grabbing (provides overall value of developing and implementing profit-increasing initiatives,) employer-oriented (contributions to the company and position,) and stating the job title (in bold.)

If you were referred by someone to apply, state their name and position title in this section, and reference your attached resume.

Second Paragraph

The second paragraph is where you can state more specifically how your experience or accomplishments could be an asset to the company to which you are applying.  For convenience, many employers prefer bulleted lists, as they are easier to read while quickly scanning.  If you choose to use a bulleted list, preface the list with a statement that introduces the list as skills, qualifications, or past achievements.  3-5 bullet points would be best.  Adding too many bullets will make your cover letter seem crowded very fast.  Make use of formatting enhancements such as bolding and h e a d l i n e    s p a c i n g to ensure visibility and white space for maximum readability.

Based on research, state something you know about the company that you find impressive, exciting, or appealing, to show you not only want the job, but are knowledgeable about the company culture as well.  You can practice your Google-fu skills to find the employer and get this information.  An example for introduce a bulleted list using these techniques-

“In NewsWeekly you stated there is a need to expand your mobile department.  My experience in content management and programming languages can help your company achieve its goals.  A brief overview of my industry knowledge and qualifications follow:”

Third Paragraph/Closing

In this last paragraph, make an effective call to action.  Stating that you will call the employer is an assertive way to close.  If that feels too bold, you can say the employer may call you and provide a cell phone or email address in the paragraph.  For example,

“Should you find my qualifications of interest, please contact me at 555-555-5555 or by email at johnsmith@someemail.com.”

Always thank the hiring manager for their time and consideration, and if mailing, be sure to hand-write your signature.

You will always have to personalize each cover letter- don’t use generic templates.  Some of these tips with research may give you the winning edge to land your next interview!

As always, please feel free to leave any questions in the Comments section below. 😀