Top Résumé Strategies for Older Workers

Modern resume close-up.

Updating the Résumé

Depending on when you last updated your résumé, the expectations could be quite different. For example, many résumés now have a summary or headline statement in place of former objective statements.

With advances in Microsoft Word, formatting and visual appeal can also make a strong impact on your résumé. Selecting the appropriate font and margin size can allow you to maximize space and increase readability.

 

Select a Format

There are chronological, functional and combination résumés. Work with a Certified Professional Résumé Writer (CPRW) or American Job Center Representative to determine which format is best for your situation. A brief overview of the top three formats include:

 

Chronological

This style focuses on work history, listing your most recent position first and working backwards (reverse chronological order). This style shows the timeline of your work experience and is the most common type of résumé.

Recommended for:

  • Advancing within present career field.
  • Steady work experience with limited or no periods of unemployment.
  • Experience relating directly to the work sought.

chronoutline

Functional (also known as Skills-Based)

Focuses on skills and experience instead of work history. The marketing strategy with this style is to use practical (functional) sections as opposed to chronological work history.

Recommended for:

  • No previous employment.
  • Employment gaps.
  • Frequent job changing.
  • Career changers or those in transition, to focus on skills gained as opposed to chronological work history.

Note: Most functional résumés exclude dates of employment, but this can raise a red flag to employers. It is best to include dates. If jobs were only for a few months, considering just listing the year you were employed. (Ex. “2013” versus “March-May 2013”)

functionaloutline.png

Combination

Emphasizes skills, experience and chronological work history. This style is divided in two parts. The top third uses functional sections to market relevant qualifications and/or career accomplishments, while the remainder focuses on work history.

Recommended for:

  • Career changers or those in transition, to emphasize transferable skills.
  • Applicants with strong work histories that want  to provide an overall picture of skills, experience, and accomplishments.
  • Combining skills developed in a variety of jobs or other activities.

 

combooutline

 

Top Résumé Strategies

 

  • Limit dated experience to the last 15-20 years. Recruiters and hiring managers tend not to view experience past 20 years as so much can change. If you want earlier experience highlighted on your résumé, consider adding a functional section without dates, such as a summary or accomplishments section, to include these details.

 

  •  Limit the résumé to two pages. If you are changing careers, one page may suffice, depending on your experience. The goal is to be concise and make the résumé easy to scan quickly. You can provide your LinkedIn profile URL to invite the reader to learn more about you.

Note: If you are providing your LinkedIn URL, make sure your profile is complete and matches the target position of your résumé. Your LinkedIn profile should not repeat your résumé, but complement it.

 

  • Emphasize skills for the position. Use the job posting as a guide to develop the language for your résumé and include any relevant computer skills. You may need to modify your résumé for each job. Using the same résumé for every application may not yield positive results.

(For more on matching your skills to a position and determining your “fit” for the job, check out “How to Stop Screening Yourself Out.“)

 

  • Describe career accomplishments. The résumé is your marketing tool to highlight your career history and capabilities. Do not wait for the interview to share your biggest accomplishments.

Think of your accomplishments in terms of the S-A-R method- explain the Situation, Action you took, and the Result of that action.

Chronological sample of achievements (incorporated into work history):

chron

Functional sample of achievements (in its own, dedicated section, placed within the top third of the résumé):

functional

  • Address gaps in work history. Explain what you did during the gap. This could include volunteer work, training programs or describing the skills you developed. The goal is to briefly explain the gap so the recruiter or hiring manager won’t make assumptions. Avoid providing personal information.

 

When writing your résumé, keep in mind it may go through various stages. Work with a résumé writer or job coach at an American Job Center near you to get started. Browse samples from résumé books and make notes to yourself about how you want that style to work for you. Print out job postings for positions that interest you. All of these steps will help you develop a résumé that will present you well and impress hiring managers.

 

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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.

#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.

#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.

Addressing #Education on Your #Resume

education

The Education Section of a resume has many purposes.  It shows the highest level you completed, if you’re a recently graduated student, additional honors or awards, and perhaps a solid GPA.   Regardless, many people must handle this section differently to market themselves effectively.

IF YOU’RE A CURRENT STUDENT OR RECENT GRADUATE…

…without much work experience, have your education precede your work experience on your resume.  Currently, your education is your more marketable offering, as opposed to professional histories.  Students and recent graduates should provide any of their school information that can help replace a lack of experience.  A competitive GPA may attract an employer seeking an intern or new employee (but note the use on GPA for non-students or graduates below.)  There may be networking opportunities if you seek work through an alumni association or student center as well, depending on what your schools career advisory department has to offer.  Any clubs, activities, or committees where you had a role of leadership or assisted in new developments could work here as well, just as long as those groups do not show your political or religious preferences.  If the hiring manager doesn’t hold a similar world view, advertising this information may hurt your chances of obtaining employment.

IF YOU’RE DEGREE ISN’T COMPLETED YET BUT WILL BE…

…in the next couple years, you can note the “Degree Awarded” date as a projection.

EDUCATION

University of Maine

Environmental Science

Projected Graduation Date:  May 2015

IF YOU FINISHED YOUR DEGREE YEARS AGO…

…place this information near the bottom, or on page two of a resume, so it doesn’t waste the valuable space your professional experience will utilize.  The typical standard is to not provide any dates in education unless they were within the last five to ten years.

EDUCATION

University of Massachusetts

Bachelor of Arts Degree – Business

As far as GPAs go, unless it was something outstanding such as a 3.8 or higher, I would leave it off.  This is a cause of contention among other resume writers, but my thought is this:  what is the purpose of showing your GPA?  To show the employer you did well in school?  Employers typically focus more on your professional accomplishments, as they are more relevant to their needs.  GPA’s just show, at the very worst, that you may still crave grade-based approval- which is not helpful in the world of work.

These days I don’t believe it matters so much where you went to school, as long as you attended some of that schooling in person.  Online colleges are a lot more cost effective these days if you work and complete your degree during your off hours.  However, if you’re a current student without any work history, attending school solely online, you will have to join some type of group or volunteer organization to show an ability to work as part of a team.  Essentially, you want your resume to show how you have interacted with coworkers, and hopefully, what positive results came from that interaction.

IF YOU LACK A FOUR YEAR DEGREE…

…but are only missing a few credits, you can label your education as a “Bachelors Candidate.”  Example below.

EDUCATION

University of Rhode Island

Bachelor of Science Candidate – Psychology

Another option would be to state what your major was, but without listing dates or Degrees Awarded.

EDUCATION

University of Connecticut

Major – Spanish

Concentration – Communcation and Language

IF YOU LACK A HIGH SCHOOL DIPLOMA OR G.E.D…

… one option may be to only list the name of the high school you attended without dates, and list your area of focus.  Such as:

EDUCATION

John Smith High School

Concentration:  Fine Arts

Another option I tend to use more and usually prefer, is foregoing the education section altogether.  Instead, list the relevant industry or management trainings, whether they were work sponsored or not.  Instead of “Education,” this section can be labeled “Professional Development” or “Industry Training and Education”  or any title that fits the courses detailed in the section.

PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT

Management training courses sponsored through the American Management Association

  • Business Analysis Essentials
  • Negotiating to Win
  • Leading with Emotional Intelligence
  • Customer Retention
  • Mastering Google Analytics
  • Getting Results without Authority

The goal is to gain a job interview while minimizing any red flags.  If you’re a current student or recent graduate, you need to market your education to minimize the lack of experience.  If you have professional experience, there are various strategies to minimize any potential red flags if there is a degree requirement in the position.  When a specific degree isn’t a direct job requirement, showcasing achievements and quantifying duties can help get your foot in the door to an interview.

It’s Over: When Your Last Job Ended Poorly

By George Bernocco, CPRW

boss yellingA common question people bring to me is that they have difficulty selling themselves because their confidence was shaken. Most recently, by their previous employer terminating them, or even tormenting them. The reasons these job seekers bring to me can vary from unfair treatment, they couldn’t stand the work, unreasonable requests from the employer and making a mistake. Whatever the reason may be, you are looking for a new opportunity and you are stuck on what you should disclose to your new potential employer about your last job. I have a few pieces of advice about how to handle this delicate scenario.

It’s not you, it’s me.

No matter how bad things ended, it is best to not go into why you hated your last job at an interview or with anyone you network with. Whether it was the work you had to do, your bosses, coworkers or people you served that drove you away, keeping the emotional aspect out is important. This may be difficult in the middle of the interview or networking event when you are asked the question: “Why did you leave your last job?” So what do you say if you can’t tell the story about your boss being a complete jerk? Let’s step back and look at the larger picture. Employers are well aware people look for jobs, and then move on to look for other jobs. Very few people stick to a one job career, especially in this economy. So why do people transition to new careers, whether willingly or unwillingly? The most general and simple response is that the last job was not a good fit. Now why it wasn’t a good fit varies from person to person, whether it was career goals to disagreeing with the company’s policies and procedures. My advice to you, when asked about what happened at your last job, is to start off about how the company was not a good fit. From this point on, several things can happen:

  1. The interviewer will push for more information about what specifically happened.
  2. The interviewer will ask why it wasn’t a good fit, and from your answer try to determine if the company you are interviewing for IS a good fit for you.
  3. The interviewer will understand and move on to the next question.
  4. The interviewer will push you to bad mouth your last employer.

Number three is ideal, but more than likely number one and two are the most common. If number four occurs, you may want to reconsider working for a company that encourages bad mouthing an employer. If you are asked to give more information, you should keep things general and focus on what you want for your career. A great way to answer is to mention how you are looking for an opportunity that is a better fit, and go into how the position you’re interviewing for is that opportunity. This may come off as avoiding the question the interviewer is asking, but in reality they are looking to disqualify you immediately if you start bad mouthing your last job.

Why can’t we be friends?

Job seekers often make the mistake that professional references are supervisors. They forget about coworkers or even clients they’ve served that can vouch for the work they’ve done. Employers sometimes do want to call your most recent supervisor. Do not make the mistake that they will call them every time. Employers need to verify that you’ve worked at the company you listed on their legal document (job application). To do this, most of the time they contact human resources. Human resources usually states three simple facts to your potential employer:

  1. Date of hire.
  2. Last day of work.
  3. If you are eligible to be rehired.

If you are curious as to what your last employer would tell an employer, I advise you contact your last employer’s human resources department and ask. Some jobs do request if they contact your previous employer on their application. Answering “No” may be problematic in that you may be viewed as you have something to hide. Just remember that when they ask the question, this does not mean references. Usually they will ask for references on a different section of the application, or a different sheet of paper. When you cannot use anybody from your previous employer (coworkers, clients, supervisors), you should utilize other professional references from different employers or volunteer work. You may also use personal references that can attest to your personal attributes.

Letting go is the hardest part.

Your resume is a marketing tool to get you in for the interview. You don’t have to put your entire employment history on this document. Usually you are supposed to put relevant employment history, or any jobs you want them to consider as important, on a resume. The resume is not a life story, and I’ve critiqued my fair share with reasons why the person was let go. Some fast facts as to why to never include separation reasons on your resume:

  1. Putting why you were let go can disqualify you from any jobs.
  2. The conversation about how your last job ended should be at the interview.
  3. It wastes space.

If you choose not to include your job entirely on your resume, that is within your right. There are problems with that, however. You might end up with a large gap in your employment history, and employers will want to know what you have been doing. Just remember that the resume and job application are two separate items. The job application might ask for your most recent employers, in which it is a legal document where you sign it to verify it to be true. Just remember: Resume is a marketing tool, job application is a legal document. Read through the job application carefully, as they may only be asking for employment history you wish to be considered relevant.

Don’t be discouraged as most people are not at one job the rest of their lives. Moving on to a different job could be a great opportunity for you to grow professionally. It can be difficult to accept what you have lost, or there may be feelings still surrounding the departure. Just remember that you can pick up the pieces and move forward. Focusing on your career goals is a way to start the process into your new employment opportunity. Focusing on what you want, and not what happened, will get you into the grove again.

iheartmynewjob