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.

 

Update Your Resume: 6 Tips for Traditional and Modern Styles

This was originally posted on LinkedIn, accessible at: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/update-your-resume-6-tips-traditional-modern-styles-erica-tew-cprw

Everyone needs a resume. It isn’t only for those searching for work. This document can launch your career, market your experience, open up networking opportunities, and land you interviews for your next move. If you’re dealing with conflicting advice or are unsure where to start, I have some suggestions for you.

So what is a resume?

A resume is a combination of your skills, results, work experience, and education. Consider it a brief snapshot or advertisement about you, developed for a specific audience.

If your resume is a generic list of your past jobs and daily responsibilities, then it is time to update. This resume style may have worked well enough in the past, but if you want to reach out to new people, build your network or develop leads, then your resume will need a targeted focus.

laptop notebook camera

(image via DeathToStockPhoto)

Your development strategy should reflect your audience.

Identify the purpose of your resume: Who do you want to see it? What do you want to showcase? Where do you want to grab their attention? Think of your audience as you write your content and remove anything that does not speak to them. This extraneous information can waste space. For example, if you are changing careers, explain your career history in a way that relates your skills and abilities to the new position. Focus on transferable skills and accomplishments of your past roles.

Create media that would impress your audience. This doesn’t have to be developed for printed paper either: think larger. You could create a website (about.me is a great free resource for developing your own biographical page), develop an infographic (canva.com has low-cost or free resources to make effective visuals), film a marketing video (use YouTube, Vimeo, or Vine for free!) there is such a wide variety of ways in which you can express yourself and share information.

Get Social

If you are active on social media, share that on your resume. Provide URL links and cross-link from one account to another to allow your audience to connect with you on their preferred platform. You can even promote your resume, be it paper, infographic, or video, across those social links to gain a wider audience.

Some social accounts are used distinctly for marketing yourself as a job seeker. For example, Pinterest can be a resource to those in visual fields. You can share your resume, showcase your work, and follow companies. For a job search related Pinterest, take a look at the Connecticut Career Guidance Pinterest here.

Writing Tips

  1. Avoid “shortcuts.” When it comes to paper resumes, never use a generic template. Why not? Because most of them have a large amount of white space and put all of your information into tables. This makes updating the resume down the line an arduous process (where I normally will just eliminate all formatting until I have plain text outside of tables). Further, this type of resume may have difficulty being “read” for scanning in an online application.

(image via Flickr )

2. Stay focused. Although you may feel a need to explain all the details of each job and why you left, save that for the interview. Keep cutting and editing information until you can get to the root of the matter in a few sentences. A few key ways to do this are to eliminate sentences that don’t start with an action. Cut out references to “Responsible for…” and keep in mind you want to describe the past job. Think of what you did every day in the form of an action (Ex. Resolved customer concerns at call center), not a list of semi-related skills, such as, “customer service, phones…”

3. Make it readable. Now that you have developed your content, find a way to make it easy for someone to quickly scan it. Make use of bullet points or use lines to separate sections. Use bold or italics or small caps to draw your eye in to key sections. For contrast, what you want to avoid is a document that looks like a wall of text. Break it up so it is easier to digest.

 If you’re creating a video or infographic, remember less is more. For an infographic, use minimalist shapes and lines to lead the eye across the image as you tell your career story. Overwhelming the image with graphics and icons can be too distracting.

For videos, make sure you have a quality camera with good lighting and audio pickup. Definitely work with a friend to film yourself: rarely do self-made videos from a laptop camera look professional. There are plenty of software programs where you can edit scenes or delete bad takes. Use minimal graphics to emphasize key words or points throughout. For each scene, stick with the rule of 3: you don’t want to have more than 3 bullets during a scene. More than 3 bullets in a presentation or video can make information hard to retain.

4. Create your own sections. Feeling locked in by the traditional standards? “Objective,” “Work History” and “Education” are not the end-all of resume sections. Some writers call these sections “functional headers,” which allow you to break up your resume content in a way you see fit. If you want to emphasize technical skills, career accomplishments, or volunteer experience, create your own sections and expand on the areas. This can be a great way of getting to your matching job requirements or displaying your experience across the years in one cohesive section.

(via printwand.com)

5. Don’t repeat. For example, if you create a “Career Accomplishments” section, do not copy and paste the same accomplishment and then list it again under the appropriate job in your “Work History.” Find a way to reword it and keep it brief. Choose one section to expand on this accomplishment and leave it there.

6. Proofread. Then have someone outside your field review it. Are you speaking in a lot of jargon? Try to make it understandable in case there are initial gatekeepers reviewing the material first. And of course, please do your best to avoid spelling or grammatical mistakes. Keep an eye out for formatting inconsistencies.

Most importantly: Don’t fret over “rules.”

Everyone has an opinion on resume writing, but you will develop the document or media you feel most comfortable sharing. When people use words like, “Always” or “Never,” take their advice with a grain of salt. There are no set rules in this project- only to create media that impresses your audience and furthers your goal. That goal may be an interview, a new client, or a new connection. Keep the media or document alive and change it every now and again to see what gains you the best results.

What strategies do you use when updating your resume? Let me know in the comments below. Our American Job Centers offer free resume writing resources, critiques, and workshops. Check out our Connecticut locations here.

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.

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.

#ResumeCritique FAQ

By George Bernocco, CPRW

magnifying-glass

I just came back from a job fair in which multiple people came to me with their resumes. All the resumes were very different but the people had one thing in common: stepping forward and asking for help. Resumes are a difficult document to produce: A professional history conformed into a computer document is not easy to create. As I have recommended and performed resume critiques, it can be difficult to receive the constructive criticism that a critique provides. Here are some frequently asked questions about critiques:

What is a resume expert and why does their opinion matter?

A resume expert’s job is to take your employable skills and market them the best way possible through your resume. Also, a resume expert is proficient at identifying grammar, formatting and spelling errors. The important part of getting the critique from the expert is to identify your skills correctly and without errors. If you choose to have your resume updated by someone other than a resume expert, be aware that you may not be receiving a quality product. If you have 100 people review your resume, you have the possibility of 100 different types of resumes. A non-resume expert can help identify mistakes, but their version of a resume may not be ideal for your field or may not match what employers are expecting. Resume experts research current hiring trends to stay informed about how to create better resumes for job seekers. The standard for a resume expert is to receive a certification for resume writing from an accredited organization (thank you Erica Tew), and you should always ask for verification of this certification.

When should I decide to get a critique?

When you determine you can make improvements or changes to your resume, and when your resume is not working for you. A resume’s main function is to get you in the door for an interview and if it’s not doing that job, then it’s time to schedule a critique with a resume expert. No matter what, you should always have your resume proofread for errors before submission, and a critique will cover that.

What should I bring with me to a critique?

Your document package (Cover Letter, Resume, List of References, etc), job posting(s) that you are interested in, any industry information you find pertinent, and an open mind.

I don’t handle criticism well, how should I go about a critique?

A successful critique should focus on what is working for you and what is working against you. The critique should highlight the positives and how to enhance them, as well as areas that need improvement. The resume expert should always explain what and why they are suggesting these improvements, and if they do not, you should always ask. In the end, it’s entirely up to the person who has their name on the resume as to what they are satisfied with. Successful critiques are a dialogue and a debate about what works and what does not in your interest.

What if I don’t have the tools or skills to update the resume?

Let the resume expert know, for example, if they recommend a table on your resume, that you are unsure about how to insert a table. They should be able to walk you through the steps. If you do not have the tools, like an electronic version of your resume or a word processor program, the resume expert should be able to point you in the right direction. Don’t avoid a critique because of the uncertainty about how to make changes.

What if I don’t agree with any recommendations?

First, make sure you vocalize your opinions during the critique. When the expert and you have the debate and justify each side, the dialogue produced should provide a direction for you to go towards with your resume. Ultimately, the resume is your document to submit and it is entirely up to you how you would like it to look.

When is the resume finished?

If we are talking about finished in terms of ready to be submitted, then it is done when you are satisfied with it’s ability to market your skills and it is error free. In general, as a resume writer, I would say it is never completely finished. Resumes are living documents that are always changing based upon the career fields you apply for. Labor market hiring trends, your career path, and industries can influence how a resume may look. Unfortunately, learning about resumes can also be about trial and error. That is why it is crucial to utilize critiques to improve your chances of getting an interview.

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.

The Art of Revision in an Effective #Resume Summary

“By the time I am nearing the end of a story, the first part will have been reread and altered and corrected at least one hundred and fifty times. I am suspicious of both facility and speed. Good writing is essentially rewriting. I am positive of this.” — Roald Dahl

Part of my job entails training colleagues on resume writing and general career counseling in order to be prepared to take on a competitive resume writing certification exam.  Through this great experience, my team in the office has had a lot of time to develop and revise training for colleagues of various technical and writing skills.  No matter what, the profile section of a resume has always been the most time consuming.  One newer strategy came a few weeks ago, that has worked fairly well for my own purposes for advice to coworkers and job seekers alike.

[As a warning, all that follows is a journey down the dark caverns of my mind- or rather, my thought process as it relates to resume writing and strategies that have proven to be successful.  Excuse my seemingly contradictory blog here, as I detail the benefits of being concise in a long-winded post.]

The profile statement is typically a paragraph section underneath a headline statement on a combination style resume.  Here is where the first sentence has to be an all-encompassing marketing statement, highlighting the most significant selling points of the client that speaks to the employer’s needs.  Every time we write one, I think of my time in a Shakespeare festival playing an evil sister in a reenactment of King Lear.  My close friend Stephanie played the other evil sister and we had to ‘fight’ over the same man.  The first time running through the play quickly, it took an hour.  Then for the audience, the goal was to do the play in a half hour.  Then 10 minutes.  Then 5 minutes…. Then all the way down to 30 seconds.  What started off as a snarky, witty back-and-forth between Stephanie and me became an all-out fight scene.  We literally took each other down on stage, trying to get the essence of the evil sisters relationship conveyed under the time constraints.

And I see you, staring at me right now, thinking, “Land the plane…” Well, consider the full 5-7 sentences of a full paragraph the 10 minute version.  The very first sentence is that 30 second version.  The half hour may be the full resume and its accompanying documents, and the full hour would be the resume accompanied with the interview process until the hiring decision.

Giving the employer piece by piece what they need and no more is another exercise in time constraints.  Giving them too much too soon could dance on the border of being irrelevant and the employer may lose interest or not see the worth amongst the wealth of information.

To avoid resume jargon that doesn’t market a client well, I suggest the following.

When crafting the Summary-

1.      Determine the unique selling points.  3-5 of them would be ideal.  Selling points are what the client has to offer the employer.  Did they make or save money?  Did they manage a successful project? Implement a new program? Just complete a competitive training course?

2.      List the unique selling points in order of significance.  Determine which selling points have the most impact and lead with them.  Those of still impressive but lesser significance can help close the summary.  With all else excluded, the first sentence has to function as a stand-alone sentence, able to market the client well as leading statement in case the employer only skims the resume.

3.      Without using adjectives, articles, and pronouns, write the unique selling points as full sentences.  Describe the selling point in detail without any descriptive words.  This may seem difficult at first, but will be well worth it.  Avoiding the use of adjectives makes writers use only the facts.  By using only the facts, the true selling point is discerned without any “fluff” that could be considered debatable.  Articles are all of our neuter words like “the,” “a/an,” etc.  Removing pronouns helps lead with verbs, providing more impact to each sentence.

Take the example sentence of, “She had a great idea and developed a new marketing program  that beat what most of the local competition was doing.  Customers were prompted to come to the store because seasonal special discount coupons were mailed by her, and the customers gave her lots of positive feedback, they were so happy to have a surprise discount.” 

If we remove the adjectives, articles, and pronouns, it becomes, “Had idea and developed new marketing program that beat what most of local competition was doing.  Customers were prompted to come to store because seasonal special discount coupons were mailed, and customers gave positive feedback, happy to have discounts.”

4.      Use an active voice.  In the active voice, quite simply. the subject does the action.  Example – Jane developed a new marketing program.

If we were to compared this with the passive voice,  the target of the action becomes the subject.

 Example – A new marketing program was developed by Jane.

How do we place the above selling point in the active voice?  We can break it down one line at a time.  The first line, “Had idea and developed new marketing program that beat what most of local competition was doing,” is already active because Jane/She is the understood subject.  We dropped the pronoun in step 3.

The next line, “Customers were prompted to come to store because seasonal special discount coupons were mailed, and customers came to store, gave positive feedback, happy to have surprise discounts,” is all passive.  “Customers were prompted” and “special discount coupons were mailed.”  To change this to the active voice, the sentence can be changed to say “Mailed seasonal special discount coupons to customers, and customers came to store, gave positive feedback, happy to have surprise discounts.”

5.      Be concise but speak the employer’s language.  Now that we have dropped some unnecessary words, have understood subjects in the active voice, and a list of selling points in order of highest impact to lowest, we can edit the sentences further.  On a resume, you want to use as few words as possible to say your point.  Baroque, ornate sentences that flow on and on with continuous dependent clauses have no place on a resume.

Let’s take a look at how our summary line is going.  Now we have,

“Had idea and developed new marketing program that beat what most of local competition was doing.  Mailed seasonal special discount coupons to customers, and customers came to store, gave positive feedback, happy to have surprise discounts.”

35 words for one selling point is far too long.  Having one selling point take more than one sentence is also not the best marketing idea if high-value sentences are to be achieved.

Having a critical eye over what may be deemed necessary is crucial.  The first sentence begins with, “Had idea and…” Had idea?  Do we really need to say someone had an idea before they pursued something?  It is pretty safe to assume that before someone develops something new, they originally had an idea to do it.  Had an idea?  Dropped.

“Developed new marketing program that beat what most of local competition was doing.”  This new marketing program is unique.  No other local stores currently offer this promotion.  The real “meat” of the sentence is that she “Developed (a) new marketing program.”  What can we assume from the fact that it differs from what other stores currently offer?  Although “unique” was used earlier, I would not recommend calling something “unique,” because everyone thinks they are unique.  “Exclusive” perhaps?

“Developed new and exclusive marketing program.”  Now “new and” bothers me.  It may even be safe to assume that when someone develops something, that it will be “new.”  Typically, no one develops something that will not lead to some new change.  “Developed exclusive marketing program.”  There we go.  Next sentence.

“Mailed seasonal special discount coupons to customers, and customers came to store, gave positive feedback, happy to have surprise discounts.” Comma, comma, comma.  Everything about this sentence is dependent.  “and customers came to store, gave positive feedback, happy to have surprise discounts,” is essentially the result of this new sales promotion.

“Came to store” is just kind of, “meh” right?  I did X and customers came.  Since this is a sales-related statement, it may be more marketable to say, “increased traffic.”  From increasing traffic, there may be room for more sales.  Information on sales increases isn’t directly given to us, so we will continue with “increased traffic.”

Similarly, “gave positive feedback, happy to have surprise discounts.”  What we are really talking about here is “customer satisfaction.” 

Revisions in mind, we have now changed this too, “Developed exclusive marketing program. Mailed seasonal special discount coupons to customers that increased traffic and customer satisfaction.”

6.      Make the sentences showcase abilities to offer an employer.  The revision sounds very close to an achievement, which could be further developed into one for this resume.  For the summary section, remove the specific details and save them for the achievements section.  Revise the sentence so it is something they can offer a prospective employer, and the achievements section can become the “proof” section.

“Proven ability to develop exclusive marketing programs

that increase traffic and customer satisfaction.”

Where is it “proven?  In the achievements section below.

7.      Finishing touches: sprinkle in an adjective with a job title/phrase.  As opposed to being adjective heavy and editing them out, we originally removed all or most adjectives in step 3.  It is much more difficult finding the “meat” of an ability/offering when it is flooded by meaningless adjectives, but one adjective at the end of fine tuning the sentence is a great finishing touch.  This adjective can be used to describe the client, but avoid over-assuming or using clichés.  “Self-motivated” or “Results-oriented” may be on a lot of “No” lists, but I think they are safe to use.  It’s just a matter of quality, not quantity, when it comes to choosing these few adjectives.

For the job title/phrase, you can use the client’s current occupation, or a general term for their occupation- as long as it is not completely different from the job they are targeting.  Overall, I would only avoid using the word “professional” as a standalone.  If the person in our example is a manager in sales, we can call her a Sales Manager.

End result:

Results-oriented Sales Manager with proven ability to develop exclusive marketing programs that increase traffic and customer satisfaction.

18 words, one sentence from 35 words and two sentences, with the major change being only an increase in impact.  These steps take some time, but remember, like most writing- it is 20% drafting, and 80% revision.  Taking the time to critically revise makes a great impact on the resume’s marketability.  If this sounds like a lot to handle, feel free to contact me so I can get you in touch with a CPRW from a local job center in your area.