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.

Digital Headaches

The Skinny on On-Line Applications

By Uri Allen, CPRW

One of the biggest complaints I hear from job seekers is how much they hate/loathe/dread the online application. For those with little to no computer skills, online applications are yet another hurdle they have to overcome in order to stay competitive with today’s job market. My boomers (and some Gen X’ers) complain that the online application is just too impersonal and that if they could only talk to someone…in person. My Gen Y and some of my millennial clients complain that the application process is too long and what’s with those stupid tests they make you take? And did they just ask the same question twice? It seems as though each generation has their own complaints but one thing they can all agree on (for once) is that online job applications are the pits. So why are so many employers using this format? For this blog post, I will delve into the world of online applications and see if there is indeed some method to the madness that has so many frustrated job seekers looking to office space their computers.

Don’t take a bat to your computer just yet!
office-space-fax

IT’S A NUMBERS GAME

OK so let’s face it…it’s an employers market out there. With an abundance of job seekers looking for work, employers are often overwhelmed with the amount of applicants they receive when they post a position. For a single job posting, employers on average receive about 250 applications. An article on ere.net went on to post these staggering statistics:

Although it varies with the company and the job, on average 250 resumes are received for each corporate job opening. Finding a position opening late can’t help your chances because the first resume is received within 200 seconds after a position is posted. If you post your resume online on a major job site like Monster so that a recruiter can find it, you are facing stiff competition because 427,000other resumes are posted on Monster alone each and every week (BeHiring).

It’s no wonder with numbers like that, employers needed a way to effectively manage the responses they were getting. With the job market being in the toilet for so long, job seekers find themselves in dire straits and begin to apply for ANY job, even if they were not qualified for it which drove up the number of resumes a potential employer needed to weed out. This weeding out process was costing employers to spend a great deal of time sifting through resumes to find qualified candidates (time=money) and thus, Applicant Tracking Systems come into the picture. These tracking systems (i.e. online applications) allow employers to filter out erroneous applicants and applicants that don’t meet qualifications set by the employer.  This, above everything else, is probably one of the biggest, if not the biggest driving factor in the reason why so many employers are turning to online applications.

Some others boil down to simply convenience. Online applications allow employers to gather LOTS of information and the new applicant tracking systems allow this information to be organized and cataloged alot easier than paper applications. Online applications also level the playing field and give everyone the same starting advantage (so to speak…not so much for those less computer savvy). Whereas in the past an application might be rejected because of messy handwriting, these online processes allow job seekers to neatly and completely fill out applications. Those little red asterisks tell you exactly what you need to fill out and what you might have missed which can be a huge PLUS for job seekers who tend to miss or overlook things on an application.  These tracking systems can also accept resumes and aggregate assessment test results and keep everything in an orderly fashion so that an employer can pull up the information at the drop of a dime. So while it does seem like an impossible inconvenience, there are some pluses for job seekers and some ways that you can make your online application process easier and more effective.

1) Become computer savvy. These days there is really very little excuse for not knowing how to use a computer. They are such an integral part of our society, you are putting yourself at a huge disadvantage if you don’t learn how to use one. Visit your local CTWorks or One Stop center and take some computer classes so that you don’t take yourself out of the running for your dream job because you lacked the computer skills to apply for one.

2) Have (and use) a plain text version of your resume when pasting into the text box of your application. Fancy formatting is great if you are attaching it but all that does is jumble up and make your resume look weird when you are trying to paste it into a text box. The folks over at Dummies created this great tutorial that will walk you through the process of converting your resume to plain text. Use a plain text version when pasting to avoid any formatting weirdness.

3) Meet the qualifications of the job posting. If the job posting says the position requires advanced Excel but your computer skills don’t extend far beyond playing Farmville on your iPad, you would fare better to find a position that didn’t include a skill you lack. It’s a waste of time for both you and the employer to apply to positions that you do not meet the requirements for. With such an abundance of job seekers, there are plenty out there that will meet the requirements and all you are doing is setting yourself up for rejection by applying to jobs that you are not qualified for.

4) Fill out all of the required fields. With real information. I was shocked when I heard that someone had recommended that job seekers skirt around filling out their birthdays and social security numbers by inserting all 0’s in to the fields. This is a sure fire way to raise some red flags and get your application tagged for the garbage pile. Employers use this information to perform background and criminal checks, so it’s important that a potential employer isn’t confusing you with someone else with a less savory background. Many employers also use secure sites so your information is less likely to be compromised. For some tips on safe online usage, another one of our CTCG bloggers Erica created a great infographic about staying safe online.

5) Treat it like a paper application. Proofread everything, make sure that all of the information is correct and accurate to the best of your knowledge. Online applications hold the same weight as paper applications are a legal documents so be sure to be honest on the application as well. If an employer finds out you fibbed on the online app, you could be terminated from your position. When attaching cover letters and resumes, treat them as you would if you were handing them to an employer…tailor the cover letter and resume to the position, highlighting how your skills and abilities are a good match to the posting and make sure these are error free.

While the above tips can’t guarantee 100% that your resume won’t end up in the black hole abyss of the internet, they can at least make the process a lot less painful and awful. If you have any tips to share about navigating the world of online applications, leave a comment!

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.