How long should my resume be?

resumelengthI get this question a lot, usually from students and entry-level job seekers. The answer? It depends, but always strive for concision.

Regardless of your experience level, if you can keep your resume to one page while also telling enough of your career story to entice hiring managers to call you, kudos! But if you can’t, don’t automatically resort to deleting valuable information. Depending on your background and current career aspirations, a multi-page resume may be completely appropriate.

The length of your resume should be driven by the amount of content you need to relay to your next employer in order to get the interview. As you put your resume together, weigh every bit of information carefully and ask yourself, “Will this help me get hired?” Most new grads and inexperienced professionals won’t struggle to keep their documents to a single page, though some may have plenty of worthwhile information to warrant a two-page resume (impressive school projects, internships, and awards, for example). Executives might be able to fit the basics (summary paragraph, key skills, employment history, education, etc.) within two pages, but require a third to include professional and community memberships, speaking engagements, publications, or other supplemental yet potentially impactful details.

We’ve all heard that hiring managers spend mere seconds initially reviewing a resume. In my opinion, this doesn’t mean your resume has to be one page; it means that what you have in your document’s prime real estate matters the most—more on that here—regardless of how many pages your resume is.

If you’re satisfied with the content in your resume but it’s falling just barely onto a second (or third) page, check out the tips from my previous post, I need a one-page resume!

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Master the Telegraphic Writing Style

telegraphThe Key to a Concise, Skimmable, and Impactful Resume

Many professional resume writers, including those on the iHire team, use a telegraphic writing style. Broadly defined, telegraphic writing (originating with the age of the telegraph), is a clipped form of composing a message that allows you to say as much as possible with the fewest possible number of words.

In the resume world, being concise and to the point is essential. Hiring managers aren’t interested in reading multiple-page documents, but at the same time, you don’t want to leave out vital details that may help you land in the “yes” pile. Telegraphic writing is a great solution for this dilemma.

In the resumes I write, I use a telegraphic approach that eliminates pronouns (I, me, my, our, etc.) and filler words (a, an, the, etc.) wherever possible. Want to see the telegraphic style in action? Check out the examples below.

EXAMPLE SUMMARY SECTION

Traditional Style:

I am a highly compassionate, perceptive, and client-centered professional with demonstrated skills in case management, trauma-informed assessment, and treatment planning. I am a recent MSW graduate eager to utilize and expand upon my competencies in clinical social work for clients of all ages and wide-ranging needs and diagnoses. I am an outstanding writer and interpersonal communicator, creative problem solver, and valued member of interdisciplinary teams with a positive and collaborative attitude.

Telegraphic Style:

Highly compassionate, perceptive, and client-centered professional with demonstrated skills in case management, trauma-informed assessment, and treatment planning. Recent MSW graduate eager to utilize and expand upon competencies in clinical social work for clients of all ages and wide-ranging needs and diagnoses. Outstanding writer and interpersonal communicator, creative problem solver, and valued member of interdisciplinary teams with positive and collaborative attitude.

EXAMPLE JOB DUTY & ACHIEVEMENT SECTION

Traditional Style:

I participated in the day-to-day management of a multimillion-dollar portfolio in the construction loan department. I reviewed/verified the accuracy and completeness of documents, disseminated files for processing, and continually monitored our system data for correctness. I produced files in adherence to federal examiner regulations. I resolved customer issues, answered billing, payment, and exception questions, and gathered necessary information.

  • I aided with decreasing our departmental loan exception rates from ~80% to less than 10%.
  • From 2010–2011, I took on an expanded role at my supervisor’s request to fulfill additional duties of generating and recording loan documents such as notes and deeds via bank software.

Telegraphic Style:

Participated in day-to-day management of multimillion-dollar portfolio in construction loan department. Reviewed/verified accuracy and completeness of documents, disseminated files for processing, and continually monitored system data for correctness. Produced files in adherence to federal examiner regulations. Resolved customer issues, answered billing, payment, and exception questions, and gathered necessary information.

  • Aided with decreasing departmental loan exception rates from ~80% to less than 10%.
  • From 2010–2011, took on expanded role at supervisor’s request to fulfill additional duties of generating and recording loan documents such as notes and deeds via bank software.

Consider Using a Ranked Skills Section on Your Resume

rankLast month, I provided a few tips for working critical key skills/qualifications that you don’t have (yet) into your resume to increase your chances of making it past an ATS screen. Now suppose you’re reviewing a job ad and have the desired skills, but aren’t necessarily an expert in all of them. Is it misleading to list certain items on a resume, even if your understanding of them is rudimentary?

A great way to put your best foot forward and appease the ATS without feeling like you’re stretching the truth is to categorize the core competencies in your resume. Clearly ranking and visually separating skills can be advantageous for a variety of job seekers, including:

  • Career changers with entry-level experience in their target industry backed by expertise in other areas
  • New graduates with classroom AND relevant on-the-job experience
  • IT pros with varying degrees of proficiency in a large number of programs, systems, languages, etc.

Simple classifications could include Expert, Proficient, and Basic, though feel free to use synonyms that you’re more comfortable with or utilize more levels.

How should you set up a ranked skills section on your resume? Here’s an example for an administrative professional:

KEY SKILLS

Expert: Scheduling, Customer Service, Data Entry, Expense Reporting, Purchasing, MS Office Suite (Word, Excel, PowerPoint)

Proficient: Bookkeeping, Payroll Processing, Market Research, New Hire Onboarding, QuickBooks, MS Project

Basic: Database Design, Website Content Management, Adobe CS

How to Keyword Optimize Your Resume (Even If You Aren’t a Perfect Match)

emptyboxIf you’re looking for a job these days, chances are you’re spending the majority of your efforts online. And if you’re applying to openings online, your resume must be keyword rich. Those keywords have to correspond with the specific skills listed in a job ad in order to appease an applicant tracking system (ATS), if that potential employer is using one. But what can a job seeker do if they don’t have all the qualifications listed in the ad?

First, let’s discuss the “don’ts.” Don’t throw skills into your resume willy-nilly just to trick the ATS. A human will read your resume eventually, and if you land an interview, you’ll have to back up your claims. Don’t try the old hidden or white text trick, either. A simple click of the “Show/Hide” button or CTRL+A can expose your lame attempt. Finally, if you don’t have at least some of the qualifications listed in the job ad, consider applying to another opportunity that’s more appropriate for your background.

So, are there any “honest” ways to add skills to your resume that you don’t have? Here are a few ideas:

  • Create a section titled “Areas of Interest” or something similar. Make sure these are highly specific and relevant to the job you’re applying to (not to be confused with hobbies). Or, mix skills you have with skills you’d like to have in a “Skills & Interests” section.
  • Add a line to your summary paragraph that states, “Eager to expand proficiencies in [missing skill 1], [missing skill 2], and [missing skill 3].”
  • Take a class (perhaps even a free MOOC) with the missing keyword in the title, and list the course title on your resume in your “Education & Professional Development” section.

Note that none of the steps above are better than actually obtaining the desired ability. Simply working the right words into your resume won’t guarantee you an interview or equal ranking among candidates who DO have the preferred qualifications, but it should at least increase your chances.

Make Your Resume Shine with the Top Skills of 2015

The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) published the results of their Job Outlook 2015 survey a few months ago that identified the top skills employers are looking for on a candidate’s resume:

NACEJobOutlook2015

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Have all of these skills? Great! Now all you have to do is work these into your resume summary and core competencies section and wait for the phone to ring, right?

Almost. What separates a strong resume from one that’s clearly packing in all the keywords it can is proof. Real-world instances of how the job seeker used these skills to make an impact. Consider this concrete example of how to display leadership in action:

Rallied 5-person team together to meet top client’s demands, including mid-project changes in scope, schedule, and resources; completed assignment on time and above client expectations, resulting in $50K in additional business.

Some of these attributes are more difficult to demonstrate on paper than others, especially soft or subjective ones like “friendly,” “tactful,” or “risk-taker”. It’ll take some creativity, but it isn’t impossible. Let’s take a stab at “friendly”:

Earned reputation as go-to customer service associate for handling escalated client calls; maintained positivity and professionalism in all communications and consistently upheld 5/5 scores on post-call surveys.

Oddly enough, many of these skills also show up on the “never use these words on your resume”-type lists making the rounds on career advice websites and social media. Do hiring managers want to see these skills or not? To be fair, many of these articles go on to explain that employers want to see how you put these “cliché” skills into action, not just bullet after bullet of empty language. So in addition to including these highly desired traits in your resume, remember to back it up!

Recruiting, Gamification, and Your Resume

gamification

On Wednesday, Yuki Noguchi’s story “Recruiting Better Talent With Brain Games And Big Data” aired on NPR’s Morning Edition. Aside from reviewing resumes and conducting a series of interviews, some companies are now trying out behavioral science-based games to evaluate the cognitive and emotional traits of potential candidates. In short, how people play a game gives employers further insight into how they think, learn, and strategize. Combined with big data, hiring managers can make smarter decisions, boost retention, and lower turnover.

Is using non-traditional methods like games to recruit talent a new idea? As cleverly pointed out in Tim Hawk’s recent LinkedIn post, “The Award Goes To…Recruitment (and The Imitation Game),” Alan Turing used a single crossword puzzle – printed in a newspaper for anyone to try – to recruit team members to help crack the Nazi’s Enigma code in World War II. The small group of individuals who were able to solve the puzzle was brought in for one more challenge – complete another cryptic puzzle in a certain amount of time.

“After 15+ years in the recruitment industry, this is the first time I can remember seeing the historical significance of what the recruitment process had contributed toward ending World War II,” wrote Hawk, iHire.com’s Business Development Director. “While in the theater surrounded by other patrons, I was proud this film so prominently featured the recruitment industry and a candidate assessment process like gamification to help find Turing’s team.”

I am very interested in and excited by the idea of gamification in the hiring world. Job seekers have a chance to prove themselves in an objective – and fun – way, while also potentially learning something new about themselves. I see these games as a compliment, not a replacement, to the resume. This is a way for candidates to demonstrate the skills listed in their resume in real time, and unless the job is something so specific as breaking a communications code and the talent required something so focused as mathematical genius, a game won’t quite be enough. So don’t throw out your resume just yet; instead, be ready to play a game next time you apply for a job.

10 Year-End Reflections to Improve Your Resume

2015So, how was your 2014?

Before marching into 2015 and leaving this year in the dust, I would encourage you to take a moment to reflect on your top achievements and “wow” moments. None of us had a perfect year, and being mindful of where we fell short is important too. Fortunately though, we get to pick what we do (and don’t) highlight on our resumes to market ourselves in the best possible light.

Whether you are actively looking for a job or not, reflecting on the past year’s successes will reenergize you for the year to come. Plus, your future self will thank you for taking the time to gather these essential details should the need for an up-to-date resume arise unexpectedly.

An internet search for “reflection exercises” will mostly bring you tips for educators, but many (such as this 20-question list from Minds in Bloom) can be adapted for a professional’s retrospective. Find a quiet spot, ready your laptop or pen and pad, and reflect on the following (I would suggest a freewriting approach):

  1. What critical objectives did you meet/exceed and how?
  2. What are the top 3–5 projects you are the most proud of completing in 2014?
  3. What new skills did you learn this year? What existing skills did you strengthen?
  4. How were you recognized for your accomplishments? A promotion/new job title? A formal award?
  5. How have your day-to-day responsibilities changed/grown?
  6. What major changes/challenges occurred in your department, and how did you overcome them?
  7. How did you help others in the company shine?
  8. What new initiatives did you contribute to?
  9. How would your direct reports, colleagues, and/or supervisors describe your year?
  10. Have your career aspirations changed? If so, why?

If your employer completes annual performance reviews, you may have already documented a majority of these things and can further reflect on a more personal level. Either way, capturing your key accomplishments at the end of each year (or even better, as they happen) will make it far less overwhelming and time-consuming to update your resume in the future.

9 Common Career Transitions

And the Transferable Skills that Support Them

careerchangeAs a resume writer, I frequently work with individuals who have made or are seeking to make significant career changes from one industry to another. Some of the most critical elements of an effective career-changer resume are transferable skills – the experience and qualifications from Career A that will help the job seeker succeed in Career B.

Below are a few common career changers along with examples of applicable transferable skills.

  1. HR to Social Work: Conflict Resolution, Assessment/Evaluation, Advocacy, Documentation, Reporting, Interviewing
  2. Sales to Recruiting: Account Management, Networking, Relationship Building, Cold Calling
  3. Educational Leadership to HR Leadership: Performance Evaluation, Change Management, Employee Relations, Staff Training & Development, Regulatory Compliance, Hiring/Recruiting
  4. Nurse to Medical Billing & Coding: Charting, Filing/Recordkeeping, Medical Terminology, Patient Relations
  5. Retail to Financial Services: Customer Service, Needs Assessment, Product/Service Knowledge, Cash Handling
  6. Medical Device Sales to Radiologic Technology: Customer Service, Technical Troubleshooting, Medical Terminology, Data Entry, Filing/Recordkeeping
  7. Law Enforcement/Public Safety to Nursing: Assessment, Emergency Response, Communication, Documentation, Patient/Public Relations
  8. Legal Services to HR: Filing/Recordkeeping, Documentation, Staff Support, Regulatory Compliance
  9. Real Estate to Insurance Sales: Networking/Community Relations, Relationship Building, Marketing, Account Management

Regardless of the career change you’re making, be sure to go beyond simply listing your transferable skills somewhere in the resume. They should also be demonstrated with concrete examples of how these qualifications were effectively put into action and the tangible results of your efforts (sell it; don’t tell it). Plus, highlighting achievements from your prior career will give you an advantage over new graduates with little to no professional experience.

Including company descriptions in your resume

It may seem counterintuitive to write about anything but yourself in your resume, but in certain cases reserving a few lines to describe your employers can be a strategic move. It can help to define the size/scope of your responsibilities if you held a leadership role and show career diversity if you’ve worked for (and succeeded within) a variety of organizations. This is also an easy way to explain acquisitions, name changes, or closures.

Here are two ways to present employer information in your resume:

Beneath the company name and location and above your job title and job description paragraph:

ABC Company, Frederick, MD                       2008 to Present

Animation production studio with 15–25 employees and annual revenues of $8M–$10M.

Controller

Provide accounting expertise and human resources management. Report directly to CEO regarding strategic planning, business development, and company’s financial status. Oversee accounts receivable and payable, monthly and annual close, and cost management.

Worked into the first line of your job description paragraph:

ABC Company, Frederick, MD                       2008 to Present

Controller

Provide accounting expertise and human resources management for animation production studio with 15–25 employees and annual revenues of $8M–$10M. Report directly to CEO regarding strategic planning, business development, and company’s financial status. Oversee accounts receivable and payable, monthly and annual close, and cost management.

Regardless of the format you choose, remember to be brief and consistent. Give just enough information about your employers to set the scene for your unique contributions.

I need a one-page resume!

Tips on effectively limiting your resume to a single page

one pageThe general rule for entry-level job seekers is to limit your resume to one page (and rarely a challenge for this demographic), but experienced candidates may also find themselves with a resume that is just one or two lines onto a second page. Follow these tips to bring your resume within one page without cutting significant content or selling yourself short.

Adjust your margins. I recommend going no smaller than 0.5” all around to preserve readability and retain ample white space.

Edit for concision. “Developed and managed a training program that was used throughout the company” can be trimmed to “Developed/managed companywide training program.”

Edit for widows. Eliminate those pesky words that take up an entire line.

Avoid tables, columns, or other space-hogging design elements. These items have their place in certain formats, but take up more space than a standard paragraph or bulleted list.

List your job title on the same line as your employer name, location, and dates. For example:

Manager: ABC Company, Frederick, MD                     2007 to 2008

Combine sections. Do you have separate Education and Professional Training sections? How about separate Professional Memberships and Community Memberships sections? Consider merging them.

Last but not least, edit for relevancy (if you haven’t already). It can be tricky to decide what to cut, so as you review your resume, ask yourself this question: Who cares about this? If the answer is anyone but your future employer (including yourself), perhaps you should cut it. Also, requesting an outside opinion from a trusted colleague or mentor can be extremely helpful in the editing process.

While beliefs vary on how long a resume should be – and the appropriate resume length will change from job seeker to job seeker – it can be agreed upon that concision and clarity are essential. If you can fill two pages with stellar content, by all means, use a two-page resume. If you can tell your whole story in one page and compel the reader to interview you, even better.

Infographic Resumes

To Infographic or Not to Infographic: Thoughts on the Infographic Resume Trend and a Few of My Favorites

Defined briefly, an infographic is a visual representation of information. As a resume writer who firmly believes that content should drive format, I will admit that infographic resumes make me a little nervous. Is content still “king” in an infographic resume? Are they appropriate for all job seekers and industries? What about candidates with very little “infographable” data in their career histories?

When executed correctly, an infographic is interesting, informative, easy to understand, and, in my opinion, a unique piece of digital art (sorry template users) with just the right amount of personality and cleverness. If you are considering transforming your existing resume into an infographic, I would encourage you to keep these things in mind as well as your audience. An infographic resume is still a resume and should quickly provide the reader (hiring manager) with the information they need to make an informed decision. Additionally, don’t consider your infographic resume a replacement for your traditional, ATS-friendly resume. Use each version when appropriate.

There are a lot of great – and not so great – infographic resume examples out there. Below are a few of my favorites because they all achieve 3 things: readability, simplicity, and quality content. If you think an infographic resume will help you in your job search, create one and put it to the test. If an infographic resume will stand out in your industry for the wrong reasons but you like the idea of a colorful, eye-catching document, consider sticking to the design tools available in your word processor to amp it up.

https://www.behance.net/gallery/Infographic-resume/2552849
https://www.behance.net/gallery/Infographic-resume/2552849
http://www.jackieladd.com/images/infographic_resume.jpg
http://www.jackieladd.com/images/infographic_resume.jpg
https://m1.behance.net/rendition/modules/24467033/hd/2ff65463cefb1d64a98f5ee1bdb888e2.jpg
https://m1.behance.net/rendition/modules/24467033/hd/2ff65463cefb1d64a98f5ee1bdb888e2.jpg
http://www.rashaproctor.com/infographic-resume/
http://www.rashaproctor.com/infographic-resume/
http://www.bestinfographics.co/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/mandahl-infographic-resume.jpg
http://www.bestinfographics.co/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/mandahl-infographic-resume.jpg

Resume Tips for HR Professionals

As an HR professional, it is critical for your resume to emphasize your participation as a true business partner and trusted resource for staff on all levels, not just your function as another administrative arm of a company. Your desire to remain current with employment laws and best practices, thorough understanding of the needs of diverse workforces, and strengths in effectively tying corporate objectives with individual goals are also key “selling points.” Additionally, HR technology is booming and new tools are being introduced all the time, so the ability to readily learn and implement these systems is essential.

Are you a new graduate? Consider highlighting applicable coursework and school projects (even if they were hypothetical). Include leadership roles in school or community organizations and present any relevant internships in a traditional chronological format with day-to-day duties and achievements. Unpaid experience is still experience.

If you are an HR assistant or administrator, focus on critical support provided to higher-level HR personnel, technical competencies, filing/recordkeeping skills, database management abilities, and contributions to key projects. Emphasize dependability and flexibility, including the willingness to take on new responsibilities.

Mid- to executive-level HR professionals often have great stories to tell on a resume. Keep it concise, but be sure to cover the challenge, action, and results when possible. Were you specifically hired to reverse low employee morale? Mention the tactics used and by how much morale improved as evidenced by increased retention rates, satisfaction scores on surveys, and other measurements. Did you work with a mix of union and non-union workforces? Be sure to include those details as well as any applicable accomplishments such as resolving grievances. Were you brought into a company to create its very first HR department? Describe the policies/procedures and programs established, HR personnel recruited, and systems implemented as well as their direct impacts: enhanced compliance, improved performance, and/or streamlined operations.

For individuals making a career change into HR, make the focus of your resume’s prime real estate (the first half of the first page) on transferrable skills and accomplishments. This is best achieved through a hybrid or functional format. For example, I’ve worked with several educational leaders seeking HR roles in other industries. In their case, I let recruiting/staffing, change management, multi-campus oversight, and training and professional development experience shine in a way that can be readily applied to a wide range of organizations. Another common transition is sales to recruiting: relationship building, assessment, and account management skills are a few of the transferrable qualifications to emphasize for these individuals. Furthermore, I’ve often found that if a career changer has leadership experience, many of their duties are HR related by default (especially if they worked for smaller companies and/or ran their own business).

An effective HR resume shows an individual’s balanced dedication between people and processes: saving costs without sacrificing employee benefits, facilitating major company changes without losing staff engagement, and recruiting top talent while also cultivating leaders within existing workforces. As an HR professional, you understand the importance of a strong resume, so be sure to put your best foot forward!

Healthcare and Medical Resume Writing Tips

When writing resumes for healthcare professionals, it is all about quality, competence, versatility, and compassion. As a Certified Resume Specialist in Healthcare & Medical (CRS+HM), I understand how critical it is to strike the perfect balance between hard and soft skills while still keeping the reader engaged. Specialization in a specific patient population or medical discipline will help you stand out. Degrees, licenses, certifications, and other credentials are required in this industry whereas they may simply be preferred qualifications in others. Quantifiable achievements for this field are different from other career paths as well. Instead of highlighting increases in sales, achievements such as growth in patient satisfaction levels, expanded caseloads, decreased safety incidents, reductions in supply costs, and improvements in inspection ratings will make your healthcare resume shine.

Here are a few of my key observations/insights for the following healthcare professionals that I write resumes for on a regular basis:

Nurses: Often a nurse will tell me, “I just did my job,” but after asking the right questions and digging deeper, I will find ample information to include on their resume. For example: filling in as a Charge Nurse during their supervisor’s short-term leave, covering the night shift independently, creating a new way to organize patient charts that increased HIPAA compliance, participating in quality improvement programs, or leading training sessions for new hires. Essential skills to emphasize (and demonstrate with concrete examples) are a collaborative attitude, ability to handle fast-paced and high-pressure settings, and an unwavering focus on patient care and safety.

Pharmacists: The interesting thing about writing resumes for pharmacy professionals is that the subject matter (and overall resume strategy) will differ drastically based on their specific background: retail/community, hospital, mail order, nuclear, etc. A retail/community pharmacist might have increases in revenue to tout, whereas a hospital pharmacist might have participated in committees or research endeavors. Additionally, I have worked with many pharmacists wishing to make a change from one setting to another, presenting the challenge of highlighting transferrable skills and accomplishments that will create excitement for their intended audience.

Healthcare Administrators: Though primarily involved in the business side of things, healthcare administrators should equally show their dedication to profitability as well as quality patient care on their resumes. While they are not performing medical procedures, these professionals are expected to create and maintain efficient work environments for those who do. The specific medical settings they have experience in should be mentioned (hospitals vs. private practices, for example) as well as their ability to liaise between multidisciplinary medical team members, patients, and community resources and navigate the complex and ever-changing insurance landscape.

Radiologic Technologists: Entry-level radiologic technologists (including career changers) are among my most common clients. Quantifiable achievements can be difficult to come by for this role – especially for new graduates – so I will often focus on skills gained and the diversity of clinical rotations completed. In many cases, I will create an expanded skills section to cover exams performed and equipment systems used as well. To supplement that, accomplishments might be earning the trust of superiors to train others and/or work independently, being recognized for consistently producing top-quality images, or receiving personal commendations from patients and family members for delivering outstanding care. For career changers, I will include a brief line in the summary covering their transferrable skills or a separate “Additional Experience” section at the end of the resume to show those skills in action and potentially help the job seeker stand out against brand new professionals.

It may be difficult at first to look beyond your day-to-day job duties, but by asking yourself (or getting a colleague to ask you) those probing questions, you’ll discover the unique skills, qualifications, and accomplishments to include on your resume. Remember: as a healthcare professional you chose your career path for a reason – to help others – so be sure to carry that theme throughout your resume.

Referrals – The Key to a Successful Job Search in 2014

Last Friday, Danielle Crabb (iHire.com’s Resume Analyst Supervisor) and I attended the 2014 Career Thought Leaders (CTL) Conference: “Framing the Future.” Though we were only there for one of three days, we enjoyed 5 sessions packed with novel insights into what’s happening now and what’s happening next in the job search and career development worlds.  While a wide variety of topics in recruiting, targeting, and resume writing were covered, a common theme throughout the day was referrals. Who you know is more critical than ever in getting that dream job.

  • Gerry Crispin of CareerXRoads labeled referrals as the “silver bullet” of a successful job search, sharing that an applicant with a referral from a current employee is 14x more likely to get the job compared to an applicant without a referral.
  • Adrienne Alberts, Program Manager of College and Workforce Inclusion Programs for the American Red Cross, stated that referred employees lead to higher retention as well as better culture fit, quoting the adage “birds of a feather flock together.”
  • Steve Dalton, author of The 2-Hour Job Search, called referrals the “new currency” in hiring decisions and emphasized the importance of systematically building a network. Furthermore, hiring managers take advantage of referrals to avoid the “resume slush pile” and make their lives easier.
  • Cheryl Milmoe, ACRW of Cardinal Expert Resumes, made a great point that successful job seekers should market themselves like CEOs and be the VPs of their search. Executives use their network, not just online job boards, to find opportunities. They know their strengths and successes and are prepared to communicate their selling points to others at a moment’s notice.

So how does a job seeker get valuable referrals? Network! Use resources like LinkedIn or professional organization directories to identify your existing connections as well as potential new ones. Get out from behind the computer and set up informational meetings. Let your connections know you are looking for a new position – you never know how few degrees of separation away you are from a key contact.  Another common point made by several of the conference speakers was the importance of a plan. Keep track of your networking activities – individuals you’ve connected with, when, where, what was discussed, and next steps.  When you meet with potential referrers, take the stance of an individual seeking their valuable insight (not a desperate job seeker). While technology reigns supreme in many areas of the job search and you have to play its game throughout the application process, personal connections and relationships are critically important in a market where the majority of employers and recruiters won’t settle for less than the perfect hire.

The 2014 Job Search

A Few Interesting Facts & Figures

We’re three months in to 2014 and with the first day of spring behind us, what better time than now to reexamine the current US job market and refresh our perceptions of the employment outlook. Here are a few recent stats I found on resumes, job searching, and the employment market in general:

  • According to the Bureau of Labor & Statistics’ latest Occupational Outlook Handbook, here are the fastest-growing occupations with projected growth rates of 45% or above (2012–2022): industrial-organizational psychologists, personal care aides, home health aides, insulation workers (mechanical), interpreters and translators, and diagnostic medical sonographers. In terms of most new jobs, personal care aides and registered nurses are projected to lead the pack with 520K+.
  • CareerBuilder recently surveyed 2K+ hiring managers and found that 17% spend 30 seconds or less reviewing resumes.  While we’ve been told this for quite some time, the surprising part of the survey is that 68% stated they spend less than two minutes. Those extra seconds make a huge difference, but job seekers should still be highly strategic when developing their resumes.
  • The latest ADP National Employment Report states that private sector employment increased by 139K jobs from January to February; goods-producing employment rose by 19K with 14K of those opportunities coming from the construction industry.
  • ManpowerGroup’s Q2 2014 Employment Outlook Survey predicts that US hiring will hold steady for the 3rd consecutive quarter with a year-over-year outlook improvement of 2%; only 4% of US employers plan to reduce headcounts (among the smallest percentages in survey history).
  • According to a global study by LinkedIn, the most overused buzzword of 2013 is “responsible.” Others on the top ten list include “strategic,” “creative,” “innovative,” and “driven.” I generally take lists like these with a grain of salt, but including the passive phrase “Responsible for…” on your resume is a big “don’t.” The others should be used sparingly, and as always, use a wide vocabulary to keep your resume interesting.
  • Telecommuting is a hot topic these days, and to quote a recent New York Times article, “the typical telecommuter is a 49-year-old college graduate — man or woman — who earns about $58,000 a year and belongs to a company with more than 100 employees.”

Overall, these figures indicate that the job market is improving. While you can readily find expert opinions that range from highly optimistic to doom and gloom, maintaining a positive attitude during your search is essential regardless of the current atmosphere. Stay informed, set realistic expectations, and embrace challenges as opportunities to grow personally and professionally.

Save It for the Cover Letter

We can all agree on the major “don’ts” when it comes to personal data on a resume: date of birth, nationality, spouse name, child name(s), physical characteristics, irrelevant hobbies or interests, etc. On the other hand, there are times when a piece of personal information is beneficial (or necessary) to share, but doesn’t fit well into the concise, “results-only” tone the resume should maintain. Below are a few of those categories along with examples of how to address them in a cover letter.

Travel/relocation preferences or plans

  • I would be more than willing to travel or relocate for the right opportunity.
  • I will be relocating to Virginia by the end of the month and am currently seeking professional opportunities in the Fairfax area.

Salary requirements

Note: it is best not to include this unless requested by the employer as part of the application process.

  • Please note that my salary requirements are in the $30K–$40K range.
  • I understand that average salaries for this type of position currently range from $55K–$60K, and I would anticipate a comparable salary from your organization.

Special circumstances

  • I have submitted my 2-week notice to ABC Company and my last day of employment will be February 15, 2014.
  • I will be on assignment for my current employer in Texas for the next few weeks, however can readily travel back to New Mexico for an interview with a few days’ notice.
  • Over the past year, I took time away from the kitchen to travel worldwide and immerse myself in various cultures and cooking styles. I now look forward to bringing these new insights as well as my extensive knowledge of American cuisine to your restaurant.
  • In 2009, I took a hiatus from my professional career to raise my family. I completed numerous online courses in marketing during this time to keep my skills up to date and am now eager to re-enter the workforce.
  • I would be more than willing to start with a contract, part-time, or volunteer role within your organization.

Specific reasons for making a career change or leaving a recent role

  • Though highly successful in construction, I discovered that my true passion lies in social work after volunteering for several years with the Rescue Mission.
  • Last year, I witnessed an EMT save my close friend’s life during a medical emergency. I was inspired by the care she received and have since enrolled and graduated from an EMT training program to begin my new career in this field.
  • My position at ABC Company was eliminated following their acquisition by XYZ Corp. last week and I am eager to continue my career in advertising.

When you come across a piece of information that seems “iffy” to include on your resume, consider working it into your cover letter where the writing style is more personal and the structure more flexible. As always, keep your audience in mind when deciding what to include in either document – if it will not help you land your next role or answer a critical question, leave it out.

Can I leave this off my resume?

Strategically dropping past positions from your career timeline.

Your resume’s key purpose is to land interviews, not serve as an autobiography. As a concise marketing document, what you don’t include on your resume is just as important as what you do include. This applies to minor details like antiquated computer programs as well as significant data such as past positions, and what you should not cover in detail or leave off entirely will change as you progress in your career.

Depending on the position, it can be easy to make the decision to cut it. For example, while pursuing my degree, I worked part-time in retail between semesters. This won’t benefit me in my current career path and occurred several years ago, so there’s no need to take up precious space on my resume to cover a few month-long stints. The skills I gained during that time are valuable, but have since been strengthened and demonstrated within more advanced, long-term roles.

On the other hand, it becomes tricky when the position being considered for omission was recently held and/or is relevant to your current objective. For example, suppose a job seeker held a position for less than a month and decided to leave due to the company’s operational standards (or lack thereof). This job seeker has a steady career history and removing this position does not result in a gap, so not mentioning it in their resume’s professional experience section is a strategic move and makes sense. And, as a general rule of thumb, positions held for less than 3 months do not need to be covered in detail. However, if this position was held for several years, I would highly recommend it be included on the resume and painted in the most positive light possible. An unexplained gap in your career history will work against you.

Keep in mind: the position you delete from your resume may appear in a background check, so be prepared to address it if brought up in the interview. Also, your resume and a job application are two different things. If an employer’s official application specifically requests that you list ALL of your work history, be sure to thoroughly follow the instructions.

If you’re concerned about being “called out” for the omitted position(s), another strategy is to create an “additional experience” section at the very end of your career timeline that only mentions your titles and the companies’ names:

Additional experience: Manager, ABC, LLC, Baltimore, MD; Project Coordinator, DEF Enterprises, Washington, DC; Administrative Assistant, GHI, Inc., Harrisburg, PA

Because dates aren’t listed, you can break out of the chronological constraints and only provide minor details for select roles. This strategy also works well for mentioning positions held 15+ years ago – they aren’t discounted completely, but also don’t make the job seeker susceptible to age discrimination.

When considering what to include or not include in your resume, ask yourself these questions: Will this information help me achieve my goal or be relevant to the reader (hiring manager)? If the answers are no, leave it off or limit the space it takes up. Omission may not necessarily be a form of lying when it comes to your resume, but think carefully about what you decide to cut and be sure that all the details you decide to include are 100% accurate.

Is Your Resume Ready for the New Year?

Prepare your resume for 2014 now and be ready to hit the ground running.

Unless you’re in retail, business tends to slow down over the holiday season. It can be tempting to put your job search on pause, but don’t – use this “downtime” to revisit your resume and ensure it’s ready for 2014. An object in motion tends to stay in motion, so don’t lose your momentum. Improve your resume now to avoid a hectic scramble on Dec. 31. Get a head start on your New Year’s resolution and all those other job seekers who will begin updating their resumes after the first of the year.

  • Do you have any new skills, qualifications, or credentials to add?
  • Have you recently completed any training courses?
  • Did you just wrap up a major project with your current employer?
  • Have your job responsibilities evolved since you last wrote your resume?
  • Have you recently volunteered your expertise for any community organizations?
  • Is your resume on par with the latest best practices in resume writing?
  • Has anyone else reviewed your resume lately? Don’t underestimate the value of an outsider’s perspective!

Dawn Fischer, an iHire Senior Job Coach and Certified Recruiting Specialist, advises job seekers to remain active during the holiday season because 1) employers are hiring, and 2) other job seekers put their searches on hold, so there is less competition. And, with all the great networking opportunities that arise over the holidays, make sure your resume is ready to go at a moment’s notice.

While it’s critical to keep your job search alive during November and December, don’t forget to put time aside to relax with your family and friends. Let the positivity of the holiday season recharge you. Manage your schedule wisely, plan ahead, and approach 2014 with a renewed focus and a strong resume.

Applying to Jobs Internally

Preparing your resume and cover letter for the next step in your career

A great position has just become available with your current company – are your resume and cover letter ready? If you work for a smaller organization and are a perfect fit for the role, the application process could be pretty straightforward and the next logical step in your career. If you work for a larger organization or are targeting a new department, you may be up against multiple contenders or not have personal relationships with the managers or team you are trying to join. Either way, it is critical to prepare your job search documents just as if you were applying to an external position and put your best foot forward.

Resume

Adjust your summary and key skills sections to match the position you are applying to (just as you would for an external position). Update your resume with your current role, ensure all past roles are presented in past tense, and remove details for positions from 10 or more years ago if space becomes tight. Include detailed information regarding job duties and responsibilities. Even though you are applying internally and your interviewers may be familiar with your position, be careful not to sell yourself short and leave off important data. Be very specific when touting your achievements – and as always – make sure the information you include is 100% accurate. Your reader will know immediately if the truth has been stretched, or have the ability to easily check your facts with someone else who works with you.

Cover Letter

Customizing your cover letter is essential when applying to an internal position. Your cover letter must speak directly to your audience. A generic message will not work. Be very specific about why you wish to make this career move, what you plan to bring to the team, current initiatives you are excited to participate in, and what you have accomplished thus far for the company. Because you are applying internally, you already know about your company’s mission, culture, and goals and you should tie these in to your letter. If another team member recommended that you apply for the role, mention them. Networking and “who you know” is just as important for an internal job search, especially if you work for a larger organization.

No pictures, please.

Reasons for Leaving Your Picture off of Your Resume

If you have considered including a picture of yourself within or attached to your resume, don’t do it. Even with the use of social media platforms for job searching, headshots still do not belong on a resume. Here are a few of the main reasons why you should not include a photo of yourself on your resume:

  • It won’t convert or be compatible with ATS. Many online resume converters will not translate photos (or any other images) within a resume. Some may discard them all together while others may include a blank box with a small red “x” in it. Either way, you are taking up precious space on your resume for a picture that won’t even be seen.
  • It puts HR in a difficult position. Including a photo of yourself on your resume gives hiring managers details that are illegal to consider in hiring decisions. Some companies reject resumes with photos right away to avoid the issue entirely.
  • It is irrelevant and distracting. Let your qualifications, experience, and accomplishments speak for your professionalism.
  • It may send an unintended message. By including a photo, what message are you really sending? Are you telling employers your looks will help them make the decision to interview or hire you?

Why Hire a Professional Resume Writer?

Advantages to working with a professional resume writer.

September is Update Your Resume Month. If you are a strong writer and have the time to research modern resume writing strategies, the need to hire a professional resume writer to assist you with improving your resume may not be necessary. For others, leaving this often daunting task in the hands of a professional proves to be a worthy investment. Here are a few key advantages to hiring a professional resume writer:

  • Expertise. Simply put, professional resume writers are professional writers that write resumes. They are experts in their craft and have mastered both the “art” and “science” of resume writing. Certified resume writers must either attend training programs, submit samples, and/or pass exams to earn their certification and reach a set amount of continuing education credits to maintain their credential.
  • Quality writing. You may do very little writing and/or are not required to be a strong writer in order to succeed in your field. However, a successful resume is a well-written resume. Hiring a professional resume writer results in a quality document that concisely and strategically sells you to your next employer.
  • Dedication. Professional resume writers choose this occupation because they are driven by their clients’ successes and enjoy working with people. Helping others achieve their employment objectives is at the core of their professional goals. And of course, they enjoy writing quality documents.
  • Personalized Service. Great professional resume writers take the time to fully understand your current objective and career history before developing a custom document unique to your specific situation.   
  • Time savings. By hiring a professional resume writer to write your resume, you save time and frustration and can focus on other areas of your job search. This is a highly valuable resource for those who are currently employed, are building a resume from scratch, or haven’t had to search for a job in many years and don’t know where to start.
  • Outsider’s perspective. Professional resume writers expertly analyze your experience history and ask the right questions to uncover critical details (qualifications, accomplishments, etc.) that you may not have even thought of or have overlooked. It can be difficult to step back and take an objective look at your own experience.
  • Insider’s perspective. Through research, conferences, training programs, and other continuing education opportunities, professional resume writers remain current with the latest job search trends. They keep up to date with hiring manager preferences, application strategies, and more.

Ask Someone Else

Utilize Outside Resources to Write Your Resume

I often hear from my clients how helpful an outside perspective can be when developing a resume. It can be difficult to remember everything you accomplished because you lived those experiences each day and were simply too busy achieving great results to document all the details. A colleague can help you separate “business as usual” from the truly substantial impacts you made.

Here are a few ways to jog your memory with the help of others:

  • Interview past/present coworkers, friends, and family members.
  • Review official job descriptions for your positions.
  • Reference performance reviews and written accolades from colleagues, supervisors, and clients.
  • Ask for an objective review of your resume to be sure you aren’t selling yourself short.

Quick Guide to Professional References

How to Create a Professional References Document

Providing professional references as a job seeker is certainly not a new practice, however there are two main points to keep in mind for today’s job search:

  1. Do not include “References available upon request” at the end of your resume. Employers know you will provide references if they request them, so there is no need to use space on your resume to state the obvious.
  2. Create a separate document for your references and only supply this information upon request or at the interview. With so much of today’s job search occurring online, you do not want your references’ contact information falling into the wrong hands or your references being contacted by a potential employer without the heads up from you.

At the very least, you want to provide your references’ full name, title, company, address, email, and phone number. Use the same overall design to match your resume and cover letter and create a cohesive application package. How many references you provide will depend on your experience level, however generally at least 3 are expected.

Example References Format

John Andrews

President, Market Street Advertising

123 Pleasant Ave.

Frederick, MD 21702

555-555-5555

jandrews@marketst.com

Andrea Chase

Manager, The Home Agency

456 Main St.

Frederick, MD 21702

111-111-1111

andrea.chase@home.com

Linda Smith

Associate, Custom Design, Inc.

789 Elm Dr.

Frederick, MD 21702

222-222-2222

lindas@customdi.com

Multiple Experience Sections On Your Resume

How to display separate experience paths

The first half of the first page of your resume should be reserved only for the information that will create the most excitement for your target audience. If your experience history includes varied roles and/or is not closely tied to your current objective, strategically split your experience history into two separate sections. You may find that your second experience section is not worth including on your resume after all, however this strategy does help you determine what, where, and how to include information on your document.

For example, a recent BSN graduate may create a “Clinical Rotations” section for page one and an “Additional Experience” section for page two outlining previous roles that are not directly relevant to nursing, but could emphasize transferable skills.  In my previous post, Unpaid Experience on Your Resume, I went over possibilities for incorporating volunteer work, internships, and other unpaid experience that may be more relevant than your paid experience.  Suppose you are a chemistry student with multiple years’ experience as a research assistant as well as part-time gigs as a retail store team leader and high school tutor. In this case, creating separate “Relevant Experience” and “Additional Experience” sections would be advantageous to ensure you can fit all the important information – summary, key skills, research experience, and education – on the first page and push the other details to page two. By separating an otherwise potentially lengthy or random experience section, you have more room for other sections that deserve first page space.

Unpaid Experience on Your Resume

Do internships, volunteer work, or other uncompensated roles “count?”

I am a firm believer that any relevant and relatively recent experience, whether paid or unpaid, is valuable. New skills were gained and existing qualifications were strengthened, with or without a paycheck.  If displayed accurately, unpaid work has a place on your resume and can work to your benefit. Volunteerism, internships, clinical rotations, etc. can help to cover employment gaps, show investment within the community, and/or demonstrate a commitment to professional development. A few things to keep in mind when including unpaid experience on your resume:

  • Give these roles as much space on your resume they deserve, and no more. Are they highly relevant to your current objective? Consider including substantial details on the resume. Not highly relevant to your current objective? Perhaps just list these activities within a “Professional & Community Affiliations” or “Volunteerism” section, including organization name, your role, and a sentence or two summarizing your involvement.
  • Be sure to label this experience accurately so it is clear to the reader that these were unpaid positions. Designate your roles appropriately. A few examples: Volunteer Project Manager, LPN Student, Finance Intern, Group Leader (Volunteer). When I include unpaid positions within the experience section, I label this section “Experience” or “Experience History,” not “Professional Experience” to avoid possible misinterpretation.
  • It can also make sense to create a separate section for unpaid experience on your resume. For example, if you are a nursing student with 5+ rotations and your prior paid experience is not very relevant, using a separate “Clinical Rotations” section and placing it ahead of your “Professional Experience” would be advantageous.

Design Ideas for Resume Core Competencies

Effective ways to display your key skills

We have covered the importance of resume core competencies in past posts, and you likely understand by now how application tracking systems (ATS) work and how prevalently they are used by employers. While it is critical to know what to include in this section of your resume, it is also very important to carefully consider how you present your key skills. Remember, your resume will be viewed by a human after the ATS approves it, so make sure you appeal to both audiences.

Your core competencies section serves two purposes: to help you get past the ATS and provide the reader with a succinct and easy-to-read list of your top skills. Be sure your key skills are brief and dynamic action phrases (project management, client satisfaction, database management), not complete sentences or vague descriptors (go above and beyond, organized, think outside the box).

Quick Recap of Core Competencies Tips:

  • Review job postings to see the latest buzzwords employers are scanning for.
  • Gather a list of 10–20 key skills.
  • Place your core competencies section in the top half of your resume.
  • Create a visually appealing design.

Design Ideas:

Beneath the Summary

Beneath

Above the Summary

Above

To the Side of the Summary

Side

Key Skills Headlines

Headline

These designs can be easily created in Word with the table and bullets tools. Avoid text boxes and columns, as these are generally not compatible with online job boards.

Resume Writing Tips for Accounting Professionals

Guest Blog by Freddie Rohner, CARW, CRS + AF
iHire.com Resume Writer, freddie.rohner@ihire.com

As a Certified Resume Specialist in Accounting and Finance (CRS + AF), I write a lot of resumes for “numbers people.” The best thing about working with clients in the accounting field is that there are a lot of opportunities available at any given time. No matter what business sector a company operates in, they will always need a dedicated employee to take care of their money. However, because there are such a wide range of opportunities, that means that the resume must not only be focused on accounting in general, but rather the particular specialty or expertise you have to offer.

Writing resumes for accounting professionals requires strategy, a detail-oriented approach, and most importantly, a focus on accuracy and “the numbers,” just like the industry itself. As with resumes for other fields, the basic ideas remain the same: the resume must begin with a summary paragraph identifying what you have to offer an employer before moving on to cover your core competencies, professional experience, achievements, educational background, and other information such as licenses/certifications, additional training, affiliations, and community involvement.

The most vital aspect of writing an effective resume for accounting positions is to keep it simple and adjust your strategy depending on your career level and desired position. Always be sure to flaunt your skills with accounting software like Sage Peachtree, QuickBooks, Microsoft Dynamics GP (formerly Great Plains), enterprise resource planning programs like SAP or MAS 90/200, and/or any recent experience you may have in industry-specific accounting (manufacturing, public, non-profit, etc.).

Upper-level accounting professionals like Chief Financial Officers and Controllers require a strategy that highlights the contributions you have made to the company as a whole. Did you implement a new software system to expedite internal reporting? Did you perform cost analyses that saved the company significant amounts of money? Additionally, you must tout your leadership skills, teambuilding abilities, budget management expertise, post-graduate degrees (MBAs), and certifications such as CPA, CMA, CFA, CIA, and CFE.

Mid-level accounting professionals such as Accounting Managers, Auditors, and Staff/Senior Accountants will also need to show a requisite level of leadership abilities, but for this level of job seeker, the hands-on work of accounting must be highlighted. Did you effectively manage accounts payable/receivable duties? Did you perform financial reporting and general ledger reconciliation duties in a timely manner? Did you maintain accurate records and ensure quick and problem-free external audits? The proficiency with which you can supervise and perform the “nitty-gritty” accounting work is what will separate you from the crowd and ensure success in your job search.

Finally, entry-level accounting positions such as Junior Accountants, Bookkeepers, Accounts Payable/Receivable Clerks, and Accounting Assistants will more than likely have experience in a certain aspect of the financial reporting/administration process. For this reason, the best way to present yourself in this early stage of your career is to highlight the specific experience that you have within the accounting field and tout your soft skills and intangibles like abilities in customer service, vendor relations, data entry (and accuracy), technical troubleshooting, and records management.

When writing your resume for positions in the accounting field, the most important thing to keep in mind is that the document must answer that simple question, “Why would this candidate be the best applicant for the position?” Always keep the reader in mind when writing your resume and be sure to focus on your results and specific expertise to prove to the potential employer that you’ve solved similar problems to theirs in the past and have the skill set needed to help them manage their business effectively.

Don’t Use Official Job Descriptions Verbatim on Your Resume

Why you should create unique job duty paragraphs

It can be tempting to simply copy and paste in your official job description into a paragraph when writing your resume, but don’t do it! Yes you perform these tasks, but do hiring managers want to read a laundry list of duties when looking for that one perfect candidate? Your job description can certainly be a starting point for this portion of your resume, but it is not written in the concise and dynamic tone that your resume needs to be effective. Consider these reasons for creating your own content from scratch:

  • You may feel as though you are “reinventing the wheel” by writing out your responsibilities, however official job descriptions are dry, very extensive,  and were not written to generate excitement. For example, “exhibit a positive attitude” and “complete other duties as assigned” may be in your job description, but will those phrases really do anything for your resume?
  • Your actual job duties may have changed significantly since you were hired. Your responsibilities may have expanded, so using the job description will sell you short. Conversely, you may not actually perform all of the duties listed in your job description, so including it verbatim on your resume will be inaccurate and misleading.
  • Do not Google your job title and pull exact phrases from similar positions available at other companies. Job ads are a great guide for keywords to include, but do not copy and paste content from these word-for-word. Hiring managers will recognize their own work.
  • By creating your own content, you are also showing that you are invested in your career and committed to putting your best foot forward. Copying/pasting verbiage from a job description could very well land you in the “no” pile for laziness and a lack of originality.

Your resume should be completely unique to your qualifications, experience, and achievements, as you are a completely unique job seeker. Resist the urge to cut corners when writing your resume. It will be well worth the time.

Hobbies and Interests on a Resume

Are they ever relevant?

Most lists of “Resume Don’ts” include hobbies or interests, advising you to leave those off of your resume and save them for the interview, ONLY if appropriate. Scrapbooking, bird watching, or jigsaw puzzles, for example, are activities that will most likely not help you land an interview and therefore do not warrant space on your resume. However, I do believe there are instances where your hobbies and interests may be relevant to the position you are currently targeting and can help add that little extra something to your document. These unique bits of information will help make your resume be memorable (in a good way) and stand out among the stack. Consider the following hobbies and the desirable skills they might portray:

  • Marathon running: commitment to health and wellness, determination, perseverance
  • Coaching youth sports: teambuilding, leadership, motivation
  • World travel: diverse perspective, collaboration, adaptability
  • Repairing antique automobiles: mechanical aptitude, attention to detail, quality-driven
  • Competitive chess: problem solving, focus, analytical/critical thinking
  • Pageantry: public speaking, self-confidence, engaging personality
  • Flipping old homes: resource/budget management, risk assessment, project oversight

Always remember to continually analyze the information on your resume and ask yourself, “Will this help me land my next job?” If you can’t readily say yes, think carefully about utilizing space on your document where every bit counts.

The Job Search Portfolio

Beyond the resume and cover letter

The resume and cover letter are must-have documents for a successful job search, however it can be a challenge to squeeze all of your experience and qualifications within 2 pages. Depending on your industry and career level, you may have much more to share with potential employers. Creating a job search portfolio enables you to provide hiring managers with all of the “extras” that may very well set you apart from your competition.  It is also highly beneficial for you to have all of these documents in one place to readily send to employers upon request (and to show off your preparedness).

Here are a few items to consider including in your job search portfolio:

  • References page(s)
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Accolades from clients, coworkers, and/or supervisors (commonly titled “What Others Say”)
  • Executive bio
  • Project lists – especially relevant for construction or architectural professionals
  • Work samples – especially relevant for writers or designers
  • List of publications and/or presentations
  • Media engagements
  • Personal statement
  • List of additional training, professional development, etc.

You could take this a step further by hosting all of these documents on a website and including a link or QR code to the website on your resume. Always be cautious of what you decide to post online – for example, you don’t want your references’ contact information falling into the wrong hands.

Resumes for Career Changers

Tips for job seekers breaking into a new industry

Career changers are “starting over” in a new industry, but this doesn’t necessarily mean they are entry-level job seekers and should follow all of the resume tips for fresh graduates who are truly new to the professional world. You’ll likely be up against this population as a career changer, so it’s critical to not sell yourself short and clearly show employers what you have to offer that your competition does not – professional experience. Despite the industry, real world experience is invaluable.

The key to an effective career changer resume is the inclusion and emphasis of transferable skills. What are transferable skills? Any qualifications deemed valuable across multiple industries. For example, let’s consider a professional with a 10-year career in outside sales who now hopes to become a nurse. In addition to the specific clinical skills that will be gained in school and rotations, this former sales professional brings relevant expertise to the table: building relationships and establishing rapport with diverse individuals,  managing and updating account records, solving problems efficiently, setting and exceeding performance goals, multitasking, working within a team, etc.  Next let’s consider a retail store manager who recently achieved a Master’s degree in HR and wants to break into the HR field. This candidate most likely hired and trained staff, conducted evaluations, set schedules, processed payroll, and various other HR-related tasks as a retail store manager. All of these skills are transferable into a new industry and should be emphasized on the resume.

In terms of format, career changers are almost always best served with the functional or hybrid approach. Despite the specifics of your career history, and as stated in other posts, always consider your audience when determining what to include in your resume. Every bit of information in your resume should generate excitement for the reader and be relevant to the position you are targeting. As a career changer, this strategy will help you decide which transferable skills to highlight, how much detail to include for your previous career, and which accomplishments will be interesting to your new audience.

Guide to Plain Text Resumes

Three common resume file types you will see employers request are Word, PDF, and plain text or ASCII. We discuss the basics of each of these in a previous post, however the plain text file requires a few extra steps beyond a simple “Save As.”

Pros and Cons of Plain Text Resumes

When you transform your Word or PDF resume into a plain text file, it loses all of the formatting/design elements and is stripped down to one font style and size. You can add a little design with extra spacing, all caps, and/or the symbols found on your keyboard, otherwise it’s clear why this type of resume is called plain text. While this isn’t a very visually attractive file, there are many reasons why employers request it: small file size, compatibility with various word processors and applicant tracking systems, and it’s easy to copy/paste or attach to an email.

How to create a plain text (.txt) resume file

Open your resume in Word or other program you may have. If using Word, go to File – Save As and select Plain Text from the drop down menu. You will then have a .txt file of your resume, which will open in Notepad.

Plain Text Resume 1.1

Another way to create your .txt file is to open the resume and use Ctrl+A to select all content and Ctrl+C to copy all content. Next, open Notepad and use Ctrl+V to paste your content in as plain text.

Here is the Word version of a resume:

Plain Text Resume 2

And here is the same resume copied/pasted into Notepad and saved as a .txt file. Be sure “Word Wrap” is selected (found under Format) to ensure your content fits within the Notepad window.

Plain Text Resume 3

As you can see, a little more work needs to be done to clean up the file and make the presentation as clear as possible. Add spacing between sections and replace special characters with common characters (remember, only use what is available on your keyboard):

Plain Text Resume 4

It’s far from pretty, but having a plain text version of your resume on hand and ready to go will save you a lot of time in your job search. Don’t create a plain text version until you have finalized your Word or PDF version. Plain text files are difficult to proofread and edit, so make this transformation your last step.

Resume Core Competencies by Industry

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Specific key skills to include in your resume

Core competencies and key skills sections are hot topics among today’s discussions about resumes. In fact, “core competencies,” “ key competencies,” “area of expertise,” “core qualifications,” and “key skills” are among the top search engine terms that land job seekers on my blog. Commonly individuals are looking for industry-specific skills to include on their resume, searching for things like “office manager resume key skills” and “sample science resume with core competencies.”

Below is a list of sample keywords per industry the iHire Resume Writing Team has compiled. Use this as a guide only – your best source for the right keywords are job postings themselves, which we cover in a previous blog on how to analyze job ads and create your core competencies section.

Don’t see your specific industry below? Leave a comment on this post and I’ll add yours to the list.

Accounting Resume Core Competencies

Financial Analysis, Tax Preparation, Accounts Payable/Receivable, Internal Controls, Reconciliation

Construction Resume Core Competencies

Project Management, Material Planning, Vendor Relations, Regulatory Compliance, Design and Development

Culinary Resume Core Competencies

Menu Development, Budget Administration, Inventory Control, Customer Satisfaction, Kitchen Management

Customer Service Resume Core Competencies

Conflict Resolution, Records Management, Workflow Planning, Scheduling, Customer Satisfaction

Dental Resume Core Competencies

Case Management, Scheduling, Recordkeeping, Patient Relations, Pre- and Post-Op Care

Engineering Resume Core Competencies

Product Design, Value Engineering, Root Cause Analysis, Process Improvement

Human Resources Resume Core Competencies

Talent Acquisition, Performance Evaluation, Succession Planning, Change Management

Legal Resume Core Competencies

Case Management, Complex Litigation, Alternative Dispute Resolution, Legal Research and Writing

Logistics Resume Core Competencies

Warehouse Management, Inventory Control, Production Planning, Shipping/Receiving

Network Administration Resume Core Competencies

Network Setup/Installation, Server Architecture, Intranet Infrastructure, Configuration Management

Nursing Resume Core Competencies

Case Management, Patient Relations, Treatment Planning, Scheduling, Emergency Response

Pharmacy Resume Core Competencies

Inventory Control, Drug Utilization Review, Prescription Verification, Customer Service, Regulatory Compliance

Quality Control/Quality Assurance Resume Core Competencies

Regulatory Compliance, cGMP, Sample Preparation, Statistical Process Control

Radiology Resume Core Competencies

Diagnostic Imaging, Case Management, Patient Relations, Recordkeeping, Patient Safety

Science Resume Core Competencies

Research Methodology, Laboratory Management, Data Collection and Analysis, Report Generation

Secretarial/Administrative Resume Core Competencies

Records Management, Customer Service, Data Entry, Report Generation

Social Services Resume Core Competencies

Case Management, Crisis Intervention, Community Outreach, Substance Abuse Counseling

New Year, New Resume

By Natalie Urquhart, CARW

Quick tips for updating your resume.

A new year inspires change. Even if you are not actively searching for a different position, channel some of that energy into updating your resume so it is ready to go if a new opportunity arises. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you revitalize your document:

  • Contact information. Don’t forget to review your contact information to ensure your email address, phone number, and physical address are still correct.
  • New targets. Changing careers? Targeting a different industry? Update your resume to reflect this. Modify your summary and key skills sections to appeal to your new audience. If you have a “Select Achievements” or “Career Highlights” section, be sure to include content that is relevant and exciting to hiring managers in your new field. Do your research to find out which buzzwords you should include.
  • New qualifications. Did you achieve a degree last year? Receive a certification? Master a software program? Enroll in an academic program? Add these details in to your resume. Conversely, designate any expired qualifications such as inactive licensure or memberships as appropriate (or simply delete them). Be sure all of the content in your resume is up to date.
  • Pay attention to dates. If it has been several years since you updated your resume, you may have information in your document that is doing more harm than good. Generally, dates and details from 15 or more years ago should be eliminated.
  • Adjusting your career history. Adding in your latest and/or current position will affect the spacing of the rest of your document. Check to see if your resume spills onto an additional page and consider eliminating your furthest back position to make room for the new one. If a current position on your old resume is no longer current, be sure to adjust the dates and ensure all content is presented in past tense.
  • Review the entire document. Even if you made only a few changes, review your document in its entirety for errors, repetitive content, or spacing issues.
  • Create multiple file types. Once you have finalized your new resume, create Word, PDF, and plain text versions to meet the varying requirements of online job boards and applications.

Avoiding Repetitive Content in Your Resume

Be creative and use a wide vocabulary to keep the reader’s attention.

It can be difficult to avoid utilizing the same action words over and over again in your resume (especially if you have held similar roles throughout your career) however, with just a little extra effort and creativity, you can add variety to your resume’s content and make it that much more inviting to read. You’re selling yourself to potential employers, so make sure your resume advertises your qualifications in a professional, compelling way.

Starting every job description paragraph off with “Responsible for…” won’t generate much excitement. Content such as “Directed daily operations,” “Orchestrated day-to-day functions,” or “Governed team of 30+ personnel” makes your content more dynamic.

Did you increase annual revenues from zero to $2M, or did you propel  them?

Some repetition is understandably unavoidable. For example, you want to sprinkle key words and phrases throughout your resume to match the requirements in a job posting as closely as possible. Using a synonym in this case may sound odd or work against you. For instance, if “Quality Control” and “Inventory Control” are two critical keywords employers are scanning for, replacing “control” with “manage” or “oversight” to avoid repetition would not be advantageous.  Instead, strategically space these words apart on the resume if possible.

As always, use the thesaurus cautiously. If your sentences read strangely as a result of trying to avoid repetition, utilize your best judgment and let that one slide.

Here are a few common resume verbs and excellent synonyms to consider using in your document:

Manage

Administer

Direct

Delegate

Engineer

Facilitate

Govern

Head

Instruct

Lead

Maintain

Mastermind

Mentor

Officiate

Orchestrate

Oversee

Preside

Regulate

Supervise

Superintend

Spearhead

Steer

 

Develop

Build

Conceptualize

Construct

Craft

Create

Design

Devise

Draft

Establish

Formulate

Foster

Found

Forge

Invent

Manufacture

Generate

Endeavor

Deliver

Conceive

Produce

Spark

 

Improve

Expand

Expedite

Empower

Enhance

Enliven

Correct

Innovate

Inspire

Intensify

Modify

Optimize

Perfect

Progress

Rebuild

Realign

Reengineer

Renovate

Revitalize

Strengthen

Transform

Upgrade

 

Increase

Advance

Accelerate

Augment

Amplify

Boost

Catapult

Develop

Elevate

Expand

Explode

Extend

Enlarge

Graduate

Lift

Magnify

Maximize

Multiply

Overcome

Proliferate

Promote

Propel

Push

Raise

Strengthen

Is your resume inviting to read?

Take this quiz to find out!

How long is your resume?

  1. 1 page
  2. 1.5–2 pages
  3. 3+ pages

What font is your resume in?

  1. Book Antiqua, Calibri, Cambria, Times New Roman, Garamond, Georgia, Arial, and/or Tahoma
  2. Century Gothic, Palatino, Comic Sans, Kristen ITC, and/or Monotype Corsiva
  3. Rage Italic, Algerian, and/or Curlz MT

How many font types do you use?

  1. 1–2
  2. 2–3
  3. 4 or more

What size font is the body of your resume?

  1. 10–12
  2. 8–9
  3. 7 or smaller

What color is the bulk of the text in your resume?

  1. Black
  2. Dark gray or blue
  3. Yellow

How many colors do you use overall?

  1. Just black
  2. Black and 1 or 2 other colors
  3. 3 or more

How much white space is on your resume?

  1. At least half an inch on the top and bottom and a few spaces between each section
  2. One space between each paragraph
  3. As little as my printer allows

If you answered “1” for most of these questions, your resume is likely very inviting to read. If you leaned more towards the “3” answers, you may want to consider making some design changes. View your resume both on screen and on paper. Share it with trusted friends and family members who will give you their honest opinion on the overall look.

Keep your audience in mind at all times – even if lime green is your favorite color, it may be distracting from the most critical part of your resume: the content. You may have been able to keep your resume within two pages, however shrinking the font down to such a small size that it’s difficult to read defeats the purpose. Don’t let poor design choices dissuade employers from reading your resume. Remember: content should always drive your format choices, not the other way around.

Contract Positions & The Umbrella Format

How to strategically display short-term positions on your resume.

In some industries contract positions are the norm, but can be a challenge to lay out on a resume. Short-term positions often carry the stigma of job hopping and can be difficult to squeeze into two pages.

A great strategy to use for displaying contract roles is the “umbrella” format. Suppose you have freelanced, worked for the same parent company, or been employed by the same staffing organization since 1995, however traveled extensively across the country to complete projects for a variety of clients. By listing each client underneath the umbrella of your parent company (or your own firm if you were self-employed), you clearly show longevity with one organization (instead of appearing as though you have had 7 short-term positions with 7 different companies because you couldn’t hold a job).

Depending on the amount of assignments and scope of responsibility, you may also opt to include specific details for only your top projects. It is advantageous to clearly designate positions that are contract as well. Don’t force the reader to draw their own conclusions about why you were in a specific role for a short period of time.

Umbrella Format Example

Using quotes from others on your resume.

Let someone else say it for you!

A letter of recommendation is powerful in itself, but have you considered pulling a particularly strong segment of that letter and featuring it on your resume? An accolade from a former client, employer, or colleague describing how wonderful you are in their own words can speak volumes about you as a professional, boost your credibility, and add a nice touch to your resume.

Keep it brief

I would recommend including no more than 3 lines from the letter of recommendation (any more will affect readability) and no more than 3 separate quotes. Remember, this is a feature of your resume, not the main focus.

Amend Strategically

If you want to use bits and pieces from a long sentence or separate parts of the letter, be sure to note changes you make since you are attributing this content to someone else. For example, use ellipses to show eliminated areas and brackets to show modifications:

Original quote: “Jane was our Administrative Assistant for two years. She is a truly hardworking professional. She came to work on time, was courteous, and completed many special projects that saved our office time and money.”

Modified quote: “[Jane] is a truly hardworking professional. She…completed many special projects that saved our office time and money.”

Keep in mind – your modifications CANNOT alter the meaning  or intent of the quote.

Attribute Accurately

An anonymous quote doesn’t hold much water. Be sure to include the person’s full name, job title, and company they worked for (or worked for with you). These details give the reader critical context into who is recommending you. For example: John Anderson, CEO, Ocean Enterprises.

Formatting

I find it best to italicize the entire quote. This will help the quote stand out and be recognized as “separate” content compared to the rest of the content in your resume.

Placement Ideas

Not sure where to place your quote(s)? If you are using a highlights section on your resume, quotes fit nicely before or after your bulleted list. Or you can use the quote as a bulleted achievement with your career history, leading in with something such as, “Received numerous commendations from superiors including, ‘[Jane] is a truly…’” If you have a particularly strong and succinct quote, it may be ideal to place it above your summary as an overall introduction.

The interview before the interviews.

Questions to ask yourself while preparing the experience section of your resume.

Whether you are starting from scratch or making improvements to your current resume, you may be wondering exactly what kind of details you should include when describing your career history. How much is too much? What exactly do employers want to know? Can I just use the content from my company’s job description?

When describing your work history, it is easy to either 1) include so much detail that your resume is long, uninviting to read, and repetitive, or 2) include insignificant information that leaves the reader unsure of who you are. Your resume is about your specific experience and should tell your specific story. Your job duties and responsibilities may be similar to others, but no two job seekers are exactly the same. Consider the details that are unique to your experience.

Conduct this self-interview (or have a friend take notes on your answers) and you’ll have pages of details to work from in determining what to include in your resume. I’ve always found that paring down substantial information and selecting the “best of” is much more advantageous vs. struggling to create resume magic with just a few details.

  • Who did you work for? What did your employer do, make, or sell? Where did your company stand against its competitors? How many people were in the company? Who did you report to and who reported to you? By describing the various environments you have worked (and excelled) in, you’re telling the reader interesting details about your unique experience.
  • Why were you hired? It may be simply because you fit the qualifications for an open position, or perhaps you were hired for a specific reason: to open a new location, to turn around struggling operations, to help support sudden growth, etc. By disclosing why you were hired, you can tell a complete story from beginning to end.
  • What were your duties/responsibilities? The challenging part in answering this question is finding the balance between too much and too little information. Think about your audience and the types of responsibilities required for the position you are targeting. Include those relevant job duties plus others that showcase your comprehensive abilities. Think of the “who, what, when, where, why, and how.” For example, “Generated monthly reports” doesn’t tell the reader much, however “Generated monthly inventory reports for executive team in support of key operational decisions” tells so much more. It may be tempting to copy/paste your job description here, but you’ll quickly lose yourself in the minutiae of tasks and your resume will lack creativity and be easily forgotten.
  • What were your major achievements in this role? This is the final and most critical question to answer. Your accomplishments are unique to you and are the key highlights that will stand you out against your competition. Be sure to include specific measurements whenever possible – percentages, facts, figures, etc. – to further emphasize your impact. Think again about why you were hired. Did you meet/exceed those expectations? You’ve already described your daily duties – how well did you perform them and what were the direct results of your efforts? Even if you are unsure of the monetary effect you had, think about how you improved a process, achieved greater responsibility based on performance, expertly handled conflicts, and/or managed extremely heavy workloads. Relevant accomplishments will vary by position and industry. Always think of your audience and the details that will excite them.

Project-Based Careers

Techniques for incorporating your project portfolio into your resume.

For some job seekers – construction project managers/superintendents, architects, graphic designers – including a detailed project list is highly advantageous. For professionals in these industries, completed projects tell their career history in a much more tangible way compared to only including when and where they worked and what their duties were. Employers clearly see where their expertise lies based on real world examples.

How to include a project list

You can incorporate a project list within any of the three resume formats (chronological, functional, or hybrid). If you have 2–3 significant projects to highlight for each of your past positions, it would make sense to utilize the chronological format and include the projects as bulleted achievements. If you have a very lengthy project list, did not complete major projects in each past role, or want to highlight projects from 15+ years ago, creating a separate project section would be the better strategy.

If you showcase your project list in its own section, remember that it’s best to limit bulleted lists to 7 at most for readability. If you have an extensive project list, create an addendum page with your complete list to provide separately. Not sure which projects to include? Consider your audience. If you are applying to a residential construction position, select your top 7 residential projects that will appeal the most to that hiring manager. If you are targeting a broader audience, compile a set of projects that showcase diversity. Or simply include the top 7 you are most proud of accomplishing.

What to include in your project list

Beyond the basic details (project title, client, location, value) include more information to tell the whole story of that initiative. You should never count on the reader to make the right assumptions about your resume’s content. Outline the scope of the project in terms of necessary steps, size of the crew, any obstacles or challenges, involved organizations, etc. If you came in under budget or ahead of schedule, be sure to mention it and include the amount of time and/or costs saved. If this was a creative project, mention innovative design features, client satisfaction, and/or the impact your work had on the company following the launch of your design.

Sample Project List

  • Back & Spine Wellness Center, Fenwick Island, DE (2012): Oversaw $700K new building construction project for medical group practice, designing 8.4K sq. ft. facility and completing mechanical, electrical, and plumbing (MEP) details. Finalized project 20% under budget.
  • The Serenity Day Spa, Sterling, VA (2011): Managed schematic design through construction administration duties for 3-story, 6K+ sq. ft. facility with 18 spa rooms; project valued at $500K.
  • Pony’s Restaurant & Bakery, Frederick, MD (2010): Completed $100K enclosed balcony measuring 1.5K sq. ft. for restaurant established in 1854 and located in Frederick’s historic district. Finished project 2 weeks ahead of schedule.
  • Eagle Camp & Retreat Center, Phoenix, AZ (2005): Spearheaded $1.7M construction project following loss of church’s 110-year-old meeting/dining hall due to fire; directed design and construction administration of 11.4K sq. ft. facility consisting of dining area with seating for 240, restaurant-style kitchen, administrative office, and nurse’s room.

New Graduate Resumes

Tips for showcasing your unique qualifications as an entry-level candidate.

As a recent graduate, being a student has essentially been your full-time job for the past few years. This does not mean you have “no experience.” Internships, volunteer roles, major class projects, and other unpaid efforts all contribute to your experience and knowledge and can be a great benefit to your next employer. In addition to your degree, what you have accomplished along the way deserves space on your resume and will help you stand out among your peers with (seemingly) the exact same qualifications.

These general resume strategies for new graduates won’t apply to everyone. All job seekers, even if at the same level of experience, are different. Find what applies to you in the list below to piece together strong resume:

  • Summary and Key Skills. Even as an entry-level candidate, a strong summary and appropriate key skills section will work for you. Your summary may not be more than 2 or 3 sentences long, but can still encompass your enthusiasm, areas of interest, and special skills gained during your education.  Using a modified objective statement within your summary works as well if your prospective positions require skills you may not have yet. For example, “Recent graduate eager to continue advancing project management, scheduling, and quality control skills.”
  • Education – Expanded.  Your education section belongs within the top half of your resume. As a new graduate, the details tied to your degree are appropriate to include: graduation year, GPA, honors, scholarships, activities, thesis/research focus, select courses, etc. If you have a lot to show here, consider creating a separate section to highlight special projects and activities.
  • Internships and Unpaid Work. Not being paid for a position doesn’t mean it can’t be included on the resume. Provide details on your duties/responsibilities and any major achievements. If you are going to include unpaid positions, be sure to title that section of your resume appropriately: “Internships & Volunteerism,” not “Professional Experience.”
  • “Other” Experience. Suppose you recently graduated with a degree in environmental science and spent the summers tutoring children in your community. You don’t wish to land a job as a tutor, however the skills gained in your summer job – leadership, training, motivation, time management, attention to detail – may likely be attractive to hiring managers in multiple industries. Weigh your “other experience” against your current objective to determine if these roles warrant space on your resume and which details will work in your favor.
  • Play up the positives. You can’t change your age or years of experience. Entry-level job seekers do however have attractive attributes to hiring managers: enthusiasm, high energy level, eagerness to learn, trainability, flexibility, a fresh perspective. Sprinkle these qualities throughout your resume, and even better, back them up with real-world examples of how you turned around a failing project, encouraged a coworker to succeed, taught yourself a new software program, or found a better way to accomplish a task.

Section Series, Part 2: The Core Competencies Section

The Key to Keywords

Everyone’s heard of the Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) that nearly all employers are using to filter through the piles and piles of resumes they receive, however, not all job seekers know how to use this technology to their advantage. If you’ve ever applied to a position that you are well qualified for and receive an automated rejection email less than 24 hours later, chances are your resume failed the ATS scan. Without the right keywords in your resume, your document may never make it to the HR Manager’s desk.

The keywords section (commonly known as Core Competencies) is a critical part of a successful resume and fits right in with your Title and Summary on the top half of your first page. To create a Core Competencies section, gather around 10 buzzwords/key phrases that highlight your skills and areas of expertise and arrange them in a visually appealing way (remember, a human will be reading your resume after the ATS does):

Don’t know which keywords to include in your Core Competencies section? Look no further than the job ad itself. Let’s take a look at a posting for a Teller position with Capital One:

Can you spot the potential keywords this employer will scan for?

Use the job posting you apply to as a guide for which keywords to include in your Core Competencies section and throughout your resume. For example, keywords from the above posting could be: customer service, needs assessment, regulatory compliance, cash handling, supply management, transaction documentation, etc.  And, of course, be sure all the keywords you include on your resume are skills you actually have – if there’s a skill in the job ad that you can’t confidently defend, leave it off.

Remember – the ATS scans your entire document, so don’t be tempted to create a 100-keyword core competencies section to make sure you have all of your bases covered. You must appeal to both the computer AND the human eye.

Section Series, Part 1: The Title & Summary

Your 30-second commercial, on paper

For our section-by-section series on the different pieces of a winning resume, let’s start at the top: The Title and Summary. Title and summary sections are what replace the objective statement – our old, ineffective, and outdated friend who sadly does not have a place on the resume anymore.  Without an objective statement, how will employers know what I’m looking for? Exactly. Employers already know what you want – a job – and are more interested in why they should consider you for their open position. Instead of stating, “I am looking for an administrative assistant position that will utilize my organizational skills,” tell the employer that you are an administrative assistant by titling your resume with the position you are seeking, then go into a summary that starts with, “Highly knowledgeable administrative professional with 5+ years of experience and outstanding organizational skills.”  

Ever heard of an elevator pitch or 30-second commercial? Your summary section is just that – a brief, excitement-generating introductory paragraph that outlines who you are and what you have to offer. Let’s take a look at a few Objective Statement Makeovers:

Before

After

Before

 

After

 Before

After

Summary sections can be challenging to write, so take a step back and try to look at your career from the eyes of the employer. What are they looking for? What do I have to offer that other candidates don’t have? Take a shot at drafting a 3- to 5-sentence paragraph and copy/paste it over your objective statement. You’ll instantly see the difference it makes in marketing you as a qualified professional.

We’ll examine Core Competencies (a.k.a. keywords) in the next post: what they are, where to find them, and why they are so critical for an effective resume.

Repeat Offenders, Part 2

The top ten mistakes job seekers make in their resumes, continued.

Welcome back! I hope you’ve taken the time to update and polish your resume with the tips we’ve discussed so far. Here are the final 5 resume mistakes to round off our list of the top 10 most common infractions in resume writing. Upcoming posts will examine specific sections of the resume piece-by-piece with ideas on how to put them all together to create a resume that grabs the reader’s attention and lands the interview. (Don’t forget to click on “Sign me Up!” on the right of the page to subscribe to my blog via email for updates delivered right to your inbox!)

1.   What’s your name again?

You’ve crafted a beautiful resume, uploaded it to an online job board, and suddenly your contact information disappears. Why? Because you misused the First Page Header. Placing critical information, such as your name, in the header on page one is a big mistake. Most online job boards don’t process or “read” headers or footers, so that means the ATS and the HR manager on the other end won’t either. Make sure your contact information is in the body of your document, NOT in the header.

2.   Natalie is a writer.

Writing in third person about yourself is not only a bad choice on a resume¾it is awkward and inappropriate in almost all forms of communication.  After learning that one shouldn’t use first person pronouns on a resume, many job seekers opt to write in third person, which is worse. Employers may start to believe you have multiple personalities:

Mr. Davis is an exceptionally talented and award-winning Architect and Project Manager with 20+ years’ experience in large-scale commercial, residential, and institutional design. Mr. Davis is a seasoned professional with commitment to quality craftsmanship and thorough understanding of materials and constructability. Mr. Davis executes extensive schematics and ensures accuracy and compliance of organizational standards.

See how strange that paragraph reads? Remember, this is YOUR resume and you’re writing about yourself in your own voice. Using third person makes it seem as though someone else has said all these great things about you – if that’s the case, you need a “works cited” page.

3.   The good, the bad, and the ugly (fonts).

Word processing software offers us extensive choices in terms of font styles, however there are only a handful that should be used on a resume. The following are tried-and-true fonts that are attractive, easy to read, and universally compatible:

I know it’s tempting, but do not use highly decorative and “expressive” fonts that are unprofessional, distracting, and challenging to read:

4.   Long walks on the beach…

The iHire Resume Team sees quite the variety of interests and hobbies on the resumes we critique and rewrite: knitting, karate, ancestry, fixing old cars, staying in shape…

And even highly personal information: gender, age and/or birthday, spouse and children’s names/ages, religious and political views, dietary preferences…

And the list continues.  99% of the time your interests and extracurricular activities will NOT be relevant to your career objective, so don’t use up valuable space on your resume telling employers how you like to spend your free time. Bring up these subjects during the interview if you identify a common interest with the interviewer.

5.   Remember when…

Ageism (n: 1. discrimination against persons of a certain age group) is a very unfortunate yet very real obstacle for today’s job seeker. With so many candidates to choose from in the applicant pool, employers can be as picky as they want, knowing chances are the exact candidate they’re looking for is in their resume pile¾the right location, the right salary requirements, the right education, the right experience, and the right age.

Does your resume tell the reader how you old you are, or how old you could be? Do you have years listed from earlier than 1995? Do you include graduation dates earlier than 2005? Do you mention “30+ years of experience” in your summary?

While you can’t change your age or experience level, you can employ a few strategies to make sure you are judged on value offered and nothing else. Drop “incriminating” years, shorten extensive  timelines, even leave off outdated software or technologies – remember, this document’s purpose is to get you an interview, not tell your complete history.

Repeat Offenders, Part 1

The top ten mistakes job seekers make in their resumes.

To kick off my new blog about resume writing, what better way to start than with a list of the most common mistakes iHire.com’s resume team sees every day to give you an idea of what NOT to do before we give you tips on how to create the perfect resume for this challenging job market. I will be posting bi-weekly articles covering a wide range of topics in one of the most difficult tasks in today’s job search – creating your resume. I hope you find my insight helpful and please don’t hesitate to comment, ask questions, and spark discussions. Next time we’ll talk about 5 more “do nots,” such as writing in third person, including personal data, and the misuse of headers and footers.

1.       Do you have what I’m looking for?

Everyone has the same objective – to get a job. Years ago, before employers had more than enough applicants to choose from, an objective or goals statement was a welcome beginning to a resume. Now that the demand has reversed, your objective statement does little for you beyond taking up precious space on the top of the first page and showing you’re still following old-school ideas. Don’t waste space on your resume telling employers what they already know – you’re looking for a job where you can use your skills. Here are some objective statements from resumes the iHire team has recently reviewed, ranging from cliché to downright painful (all spelling errors kept intact):

Seeking a position that will allow me to utilize my wide-range production knowledge combined with my ability to work in a productive and positive manner.

OBJECTIVE:  sucessfully find a job

To obtain a position in a dynamic team environment that allows me to utilize and to expand upon my strong analytic skills.

To give an honest days work for an honest days wages

Dental Hygienist position-full time,part time or temp. in a friendly group or private office.

Challenging position with a company that encourages creativity and offers earned advancement opportunities.

2.       I am me.

The next offense (committed in several of the objective statements above) is using first person pronouns in your resume. Professional resume writing requires mastery of “resume speak” – a concise, hard-hitting approach that eliminates unnecessary “filler” words, including I, me, we, the, a, an, their, his, her, etc. While your resume needs to be written in first person (we’ll cover the mistake of writing in third person in the next blog), never use the extra stuff that makes your resume read more like an autobiography. Compare the following:

Fluffy: I am a highly knowledgeable Sales and Marketing Professional with more than 15 years of experience in high-volume retail operations. I have an extensive record of initiative and leadership resulting in measurable contributions to store profitability, productivity, efficiency, and strategic objectives. I have strong communication and organizational skills, the proven ability to work collaboratively with multidisciplinary teams, and the talent for managing key accounts.

Neat: Highly knowledgeable Sales and Marketing Professional with more than 15 years’ experience in high-volume retail operations. Extensive record of initiative and leadership resulting in measurable contributions to store profitability, productivity, efficiency, and strategic objectives. Strong communication and organizational skills, proven ability to work collaboratively with multidisciplinary teams, and talent for managing key accounts.

See the difference? Save the pronouns for your cover letter.

3.       I have references, you know.

Another previous trend that has fallen into the unnecessary category is including “references available upon request” at the bottom of your resume.  Similar to the objective, employers know that you are both looking for a job with their company and will supply references when they ask for them. More importantly, NEVER include your references or supervisors’ contact information on your resume. Create a separate document for this information and do not post it publicly. You don’t want your references’ contact information falling into the wrong hands – especially with so much of your job search being done online.

4.       Bullet happy

Bullets can be our friend, but their services are often abused on a resume.  We see so many resumes that are either entirely or close-to-entirely bulleted – every statement is part of a lengthy bulleted list. The reader has no idea where to start and may decide not to bother.  Can you quickly find the achievement in this list without reading every line:

  • Provide day-to-day financial reporting and general ledger accounting.
  • Processed payroll, handled accounts payable/receivable, and prepared federal and state tax forms.
  • Conduct year-end closing functions and complete corporate income tax forms.
  • Saved $7K per year in outside accounting fees by preparing tax returns internally.
  • Assembled and presented consolidated financial statements and relevant efficiency reports including ad hoc reporting.

How about now?

Provide day-to-day financial reporting and general ledger accounting. Processed payroll, handled accounts payable/receivable, and prepared federal and state tax forms. Conduct year-end closing functions and complete corporate income tax forms. Assembled and presented consolidated financial statements and relevant efficiency reports including ad hoc reporting.

  • Saved $7K per year in outside accounting fees by preparing tax returns internally.

Save bullets for the exciting details – results, achievements, and accomplishments.

5.       Repeat after me.

Take a look at this description of a job seeker’s previous position:

Sous Chef: Jefferson Hotel & Resort

  • Maintain in house menu specifications
  • Assist in banquet production
  • Assist in the development of new menus
  • Assist in maintaining proper production in line with food cost
  • Manage weekly ordering for the restaurant
  • Manage 8 restaurant line cooks

Seeing double (or  triple)? This person used the same verbs over and over again – this bores the reader and shows a lack of vocabulary and creativity. Don’t forget about the usefulness of a Thesaurus. For example, there are numerous synonyms that create more excitement than Manage – Facilitate. Supervise. Direct. Spearhead. Orchestrate.  Variety is the spice of resume writing!

Stay tuned for my next post featuring 5 more common resume writing mistakes. Have you committed any of these resume writing “offenses”? What are some of the challenges you face when writing or updating your resume? Are you a hiring manager or HR professional who has other mistakes to share? Tell us!