#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.

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#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.

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

By George Bernocco, CPRW

paperwork

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

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

 Always Send a Cover Letter

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

 Send Salary Requirements Only When Asked

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

 Watch Out for Scams

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

 Attach Anything an Online Application Asks For

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

Winning Cover Letter Strategies

By Erica Tew, CPRW

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

General “Rules”

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

Contact Information

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

Addressee

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

First Paragraph

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

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

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

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

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

Second Paragraph

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

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

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

Third Paragraph/Closing

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

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

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

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

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