A quick “resume tips” Google search will provide thousands of suggestions on how to improve your resume to get hired. Students come to us frustrated that they send out hundreds of resumes without a single response. So, are resumes still relevant? What is their purpose?
You may be surprised to learn that a resume, no mater how perfectly crafted, will not get you the job. The resume’s only purpose is to get you in the door and talking to a decision maker at the company. The resume exists to tell your story in a clear, concise, and compelling way so the employer wants to learn more. Think of your resume as a marketing document: it helps tell your story, build your brand, and communicate your value. I’ve looked at tens of thousands of resumes throughout my recruiting career so here’s the inside scoop on how readability, communication style, the summary section, and content are interpreted by recruiters and hiring managers. With these tips you can build a better resume that will get you in the door and talking with a decision maker.
First and foremost, employers want to quickly review the pertinent information. A recruiter may have upwards of 100-300 applicants for one entry-level job. If that recruiter is managing 18 positions…well you can do the math. They don’t have a lot of time. So, choose a design and format that is easy to follow. It is tempting to get flashy with graphics or sections in order to make your resume stand out from the crowd. This can actually work against you if it prevents the reader from finding your qualifications. Align your design with your industry and know your audience, a resume for social media marketing will have more leeway than one for an accountant.
Use a basic but modern font like Helvetica, Arial, or Century Gothic in a font size between 10-12. Use different types of fonts or typeface to guide the reader’s eye to your name, sections, employers, or highly applicable experience. Recruiters & hiring managers look for similarities between the work you have done and the role they are hiring for. So if you have worked for a competitor or held a position with this exact title make sure they know it at first glance.
Education should be the first section. At this stage in your career education is a vital qualification so make sure it appears at the top of your resume. After a couple of years it can move down as you glean important experiences that makes you uniquely qualified.
Nearly every job posting lists “strong written communication skills” as a key requirement. Your resume is demonstrating how strong, or poor, your communication skills truly are. The verbiage you chose provides insight into your communication style so be professional, clear and concise. Be descriptive using full sentences versus listing specific tasks. Use proper grammar and stay consistent on your tense. Not only do these small errors demonstrate poor communication skills they also illustrate a lack of attention to detail.
You’ve heard the statistics, recruiters/hiring managers spend 10-30 seconds looking over a resume to determine if the candidate is qualified. Summary sections have replaced the objective section and are the go to spot for the reader to get a quick overview of who you are and what you can bring.
The most effective way to illustrate your experience is by first describing the responsibilities in 2-3 sentences, then bullet your accomplishments or specific projects. Make sure to customize these bullets to bring the most relevant experiences to the top of your list. Whenever possible quantify your experience with numbers, dollar figures, percentages, or time frames. Rather than noting that you “thereby increasing productivity” say “resulting in 25% faster run rate and 10% fewer errors”.
Key words have become increasingly important as most companies use Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) to house and access applications and resumes. Recruiters can actually search their ATS to find current or former applicants with specific skills. An ATS can also be set-up to screen out resumes that do not have specific key words and experience listed. To ensure your resume isn’t automatically eliminated from consideration, go through the job description and incorporate the description’s key words. For example, change “customer service experience” to “client service experience”, the exact words used in the job description. Also make sure your resume demonstrates the soft skills they are looking for versus just listing the key words.
The use of Applicant Tracking Systems also makes it important to have a Skills Section where you can list your technical and ancillary experience. This is where you should list any languages you speak, programming languages, or systems experience. This is also the place to list any pertinent interests, for example if you are applying to Conde Naste it is important that you highlight that you are an “avid traveler having visited 48 US States and 16 Countries”.
Include any on-campus activities, or volunteer experience that is relevant to the position or company. In addition to highlighting relevant experience it demonstrates an interest in, and commitment to, your chosen profession. Recruiters and hiring managers want to hire employees that are engaged, curious and driven and they will infer this from your extra-curricular activities.
A few additional considerations to keep in mind are:
- Keep it to one page. There is a general 10-year rule; meaning if you have less than 10 years of experience you should have a one-page resume. If you would like to elaborate further do so on your LinkedIn Profile. 60% of employers report checking candidate’s social media so include additional information or examples of your work.
- Save your resume as PDF before emailing it to ensure the recipients system doesn’t change your formatting.
- Be smart about naming your file. Not only should your file name be professional but also it should be searchable. Use something like John Smith Resume so the hiring manager or recruiter can easily find it among the various other resumes they receive.
- Proof read, proof read again, then have others proof read! Small grammatical errors can disqualify you on the spot.
One final tip, and it may be the most important resume advice we have. Don’t rely on your resume! It is estimated that 98% of job seekers don’t make it past the original resume screening. There are a host of reasons that the recruiter or hiring manager may not even see your online application/resume. So while building a better resume will help market your candidacy you must network to get in the door. Feel free to continue to apply online but follow it up with a phone call or email to someone you know at the company. Network your way to the recruiter or team through LinkedIn. This will get you noticed and ensure your resume is seen. Then, thanks to these tips, you will clearly demonstrate that you are someone special that the recruiter/hiring manager needs to talk with. Which is just the beginning, the rest is up to you!
Need more help with your resume? Join us on Wednesday, June 21st from 1:00-3:00 pm for a Rock Your Resume workshop. You will learn what recruiters and employers look for and how to avoid common mistakes. We will teach you how to develop a resume that tells your story, emphasizes your skills and communicates your value. Register at www.careerprepsite.com/events
When looking for a job it is important to consider not only what you want to do but where you want to do it. Companies are going to great lengths to attract and retain employees through a wide variety of employee benefits and perks. It is hard not to be impressed by the on-site gym with yoga classes and a rock-climbing wall, free massages, free food, cafeterias that look like a 5 star restaurant, and take your dog to work days. Some companies even offer employee concierge service to pick-up your laundry, get your oil changed, and any other miscellaneous errand that will make your life easier.
However, too often job seekers mistake benefits and perks with corporate culture. Check out any number of “Best Places to Work” lists and you will see accolades for a company’s numerous perks and benefits. A company’s culture is oftentimes reflected in the perks they offer employees but certainly not defined by them.
Corporate culture is intangible and hard to define. It is a compilation of the company’s size, industry, beliefs, values, processes, people, and history. It is the personality of the company. Not to mention the fact that more important than any perk is what YOU need and what makes YOU happy. Trouble is, that can be equally as intangible and hard to define.
When working with clients I always ask, “What are you looking for in a company?”. Far too few have an answer. I would argue that answering this question is one of the most important steps in your job search. Knowing what you need and what makes you happy will help you not only know what you are looking for in a company but will help you evaluate whether or not a company’s culture suits you.
I believe there is no better way to judge how well a company’s personality fits you than by examining your own personality. What are your interests, passions, style and values? For example:
- Do you like to make decisions quickly and act on them? Then a smaller, more nimble company may be best for you.
- Do you need structure, processes and guidance? Then a larger company with a formal training program may be right for you.
It is also important to recognize that your needs may evolve as you move through your career and life. If you are just starting out, perhaps a large company with a strong mentor network and history of advancing their employees is what you need. If you are a new parent perhaps a flexible work schedule and on-site childcare will make you happy.
Personally I’ve worked in large companies to start-ups with varying corporate cultures and luckily found what I needed to make me happy in most of them. I’ve had access to video game rooms, ping-pong tables, shuffleboard, gyms, on-site free massages, and beautiful offices with designer furniture. Yet, while nice to have, none of those things made me happy or gave me what I needed. For me it has always been about the relationships. I have been fulfilled and happy in my work because of the fabulous people I get to work with and for. I need and am motivated by interacting with others (classic extrovert but we will save that analysis for another time). Regardless of the company size or perks, I look for a company that values collaboration, rewards not only individual but collective achievements, is supportive and friendly, and where everyone is enthusiastically working toward and invested in shared goals.
So, how does an extrovert who is motivated by relationships run a two-person company and work from home? I do miss my numerous co-workers and bosses. I miss contributing to broad team efforts. I miss hearing about my friends’ lives on a Starbucks run. However, I have everything I need and everything I look for in a company. I get to work with an amazing business partner with whom I can brainstorm as we enthusiastically work toward our shared goals. I collaborate with amazing clients, schools, universities and companies and celebrate our individual and collective accomplishments. I am blessed to meet and work with inspiring young adults and their wonderful supportive families. Plus, at this point in my career and life I need to challenge myself to try new things. I need the freedom to build strategic initiatives and execute my ideas. Our two-person company has everything I need to be happy! I’ll admit, there is one company perk that I truly value…Take Your Dog To Work Day, EVERYDAY!
Chloe at the office
Calling all December Grads, if you read Part I of this article you have spent the last month with RR&R (Redo, Read & Research). You have Redone your resume and LinkedIn Profile. You have Read and Researched to learn all you can about your 10 Target Companies. You have held at least 5 Informational Interviews. Well done!
By mid-January employees are back from holiday vacations and companies are looking to the year ahead. This includes evaluating gaps on their current team or who they will need on their team to achieve their 2017 goals. With all of your RR&R you are well prepared to seize this moment!
Schedule time each day to work on your job search. I recommend at least 1 hour, preferably 2…some experts say up to 8. Whatever your schedule allows make sure you set aside time each day to apply for jobs, reach out to contacts, schedule informational interviews and update your network.
Continue to reach out to, and meet with, your “prospect list”. Meeting informationally with industry contacts can bring endless benefits including insights into the industry/company, introduction, validation or even a referral for your dream job. Make sure you let your contacts know your job goals, who they recommend you talk to, and how you should go about applying to work at their company.
Check out all job boards, postings, and LinkedIn creating a daily routine to work your way through your regular sites. Your Target Companies will post positions on their social media sites so make sure you are following them as well.
Manage your referrals, once a contact has referred you to someone in their network your behavior now reflects on them and they are invested in your search. Update them once you reach out to and/or meet with the person they referred you to. A simple thank you and update goes a long way to strengthening and preserving your relationships.
Keep your network updated! Post a fun but professional update on your social media sites. It not only keeps contacts updated on what you are doing but also reminds them that you are available. Email occasional updates to anyone you have met with. This can be as simple as sending them an article that made you think of them or a note wishing them a great start to their week.
When you apply to a position follow it up with an email to anyone you know/have met with at that company. Let them know how excited you are about the position, briefly why you would be great, and ask them to help you network to the hiring manager or recruiter. Make sure you reference the exact title and include the job number if there is one. Also attach a copy of your resume so they can quickly and easily forward it to others at that company.
We hope that helps! Good Luck!
Congratulations December Grads! The best part of graduating in December is there is less competition for jobs. The worst part is hiring for most companies slows down this time of year. Between the busy holiday schedules and year-end budget constraints it may be weeks or months before hiring picks up in force. So use this time for RR&R…Redo, Read & Research.
First Redo your resume and update your LinkedIn profile. Update with your new degree and take this time to customize your materials to focus on the job(s) you want. Include your skills and technology experience that are commonly sought after in your chosen profession. Hone your story so you are ready to make your pitch when the job market opens up.
Then Read and learn everything you can on your chosen profession and industry. Identify the largest companies and start-ups. Read industry publications and company websites. Set news alerts to push you industry/company specific news. Check out industry association and company social media pages. Quick Tip: Join industry Groups on LinkedIn. Many of them have career pages and you will be connected to all the other members of the group.
Through this process identify & Research your top 10 Target Companies. Learn all you can about their corporate culture, entry-level roles, structure and hiring process. Learn about their products as well as the company’s recent success and challenges. Then research who you know in each of your 10 Target Companies. Utilize your alumni network and LinkedIn to find connections. Build your “prospect list” and schedule informational interviews. Your contacts may be more willing to meet this time of year when work is slower for them as well. They will have invaluable insight into your Target Companies and how best to apply for positions when they open up. Quick Tip: Follow each of your 10 Target Companies on LinkedIn. It demonstrate your interest in their organization and you will get news and event updates via LinkedIn.
Finally, set a goal and make a schedule! Plan to have 5 informational interviews by January 16th, 2017. Schedule time each day for RR&R. If you do you will be ready to start your search in earnest by the 16th, just as companies are considering what positions they need to hire for. We will be there too, look for Part II of this article on Monday January 16th!
Happiness is a Journey, not a destination. We have all heard it before, but today I read this statement and it really resonated with me. So many people put off their happiness, they hinge it on what is to come. “I’ll be happy when I get that job, when I get that promotion, when I have fewer classes, when this semester is over” and so on, and so on. Yet we can all choose to be happy. No matter what your situation is, you can choose to be happy. I think of so many clients, friends and colleagues that have been unemployed and looking for work. They struggled, stressed and worried thinking they will be happy if they could just get a job. Then when they get a job they are struggling, stressed and worried wishing they had more time and freedom. Funny thing is, they didn’t use the time and freedom they had when they were unemployed because they were too focused on and stressed about getting a job. So today is a good day to enjoy the moment. Regardless of what you think will make you happy when and if it happens chose to be happy now. Be happy with today, with what you have and CHOOSE HAPPY.