It Is Your Resume – So Why Are YOU Not In It?

why aren't you in your resume

You found the perfect job to apply to. You meet all requirements and can do the required duties in your sleep. This is a no brainer. You submit your resume and wait for that phone call.

Surely they will call you immediately upon reading your resume and offer you the job. It is all there in black and white – you are the perfect candidate.

But they do not call.

And don’t call me Shirley. Showing my age on this one, but darn it, that was a funny movie and I couldn’t help myself.

Why did they not call? Did some cataclysmic event happen that prevented your resume from being received? How could they not see you were the perfect candidate? What gives?

Perhaps they did not see the full you, the one that is a perfect fit for that position. How is that possible? Because you were left out of your resume.

Let’s try an experiment. Take out your resume and read it from a hiring manager’s perspective, not as the author.

Read the entire thing, top to bottom, read every word. Now, describe the person that you just read about.

Can you?

Or can you just give a list of duties that the person on that paper was hired to do?

That is how the most important element of your resume may be missing – you.

There are two important elements in putting you back in your resume: your value and your voice.

Value

If your resume is structured in a manner that simply gives job descriptions of your current and former position you are not representing yourself. You are giving a dissertation on the jobs accepted by that candidate in your hands.

Detailing job duties is not conveying competence or value. It is simply telling the reader what you were hired to do. No one cares what you were hired to do; they care what you did.

Why is it important that you performed those duties?
How did you perform them better than anyone else in that position?
What value did you add to your team, company, clients or stakeholders?

When you describe how you did what you did and how others benefited you are demonstrating value rather than stating duties. Employers are looking for value, not bodies.

Voice

Who are you?

The next step is putting a “face” to the person. Think of it this way, when you read a book, you mentally create an image of the characters based on the words the author chooses to use. This is why I can never watch a movie of a book I have read: The Firm and One for the Money are perfect examples.

Choose your words carefully. They should resonate with you as a person and your work style. Use these words when you describe how you did what you did:

How did you work with the people you work with?
How do you perform your duties?
How do you approach new tasks or challenges?
How do you complete or overcome them?

Have you ever been in a crowded room not knowing a soul? By the end of the event you find the one person that you have something in common with? You seem to be drawn together. Using words that accurately describe you and your working style will draw organizations that best support you to you.

Bringing It All Together

Bring you back into your resume to give the reader the full picture of who you are, what you have to offer and the value you bring to teams, leadership, stakeholders, clients and organizations.

To bring your voice and value to your resume, take each duty or bullet point and think about:

Who did you work with?
How did you work with them?
What did you do?
How did others benefit?

This will open up the thought process to go beyond a job description into the full breadth of what you bring to an organization, team or clients. From there you can then paint the full picture that is you and allow the reader to truly see how you are that perfect fit for the position you desire.

✰✰✰✰✰✰✰✰✰✰

As the Founder and Principle of Career Polish, Inc., a national career coaching and practice firm, I am a Brand Strategist, Professional Resume Writer and Career Coach. I work with individual clients, sales teams, leadership and companies to identify, strengthen and effectively communicate their brand, engagement, commitment and most importantly – their value – by learning and leveraging LinkedIn, networking, communication, relationship management, presence and influence.

I help people get from where they are in their jobs to where they want to be in their careers.

Click here – CareerPolish.com – to find out more about Career Polish and what we can do to help you.

Why Writing Your Own Resume Is So Darn Hard – And How To Get Over It

why is writing your own resume so darn hard

It is time. You have decided you are ready to leave that mind-numbing, life-sucking job of yours, go after that next step or change careers all together. You have finally decided that now is the time to go after it.

You create a plan, maybe just in your head, but you have a plan. Get your resume together, your LinkedIn profile cleaned up, let your network know, research, identify and conquer. Great.

So you begin – sitting down at your computer with an old resume or a blank page and start to let the career history and amazing points about you flow.

And you sit….and sit….and sit…..

A great thought just came to mind and you write that out like a masterpiece. Perfect, now just to fill up the rest of the page. But then that little voice in your head starts talking:

“Really? You think that is good? Sure, but for you? That is pretty boisterous, don’t you think? I mean c’mon, you really think you are all that and the bag of chips?”

Scratch that last thought.

And you sit….and sit….and sit…..

Research! That’s it, research how to write a resume or what companies are looking for – that is what you need to get started.

Oh. My. Goodness. Could there be any more information on how to do this and could it contradict just a little bit more? One page, no two; fancy-smancy, no plain and concise; bullet points, no paragraphs – seriously, make it stop.

At some point a level of frustration comes over you and you say to yourself, or in your outside voice, “Why is this so hard?! It is about me for crying out loud, I know what I have done!”

Welcome To My World

Would it surprise you to know that two of the largest groups of professionals I work with are Human Resource and Sales Professionals? One group can read a resume like no one’s business and the other can sell anything. But they, too, struggle with writing their own resume.

Why does it feel so uncomfortable writing your own resume? Three reasons:

Fear, nakedness & monotony

Fear of saying the wrong thing, not saying it in the right way, not using the right format or looking like an idiot.

Nakedness in being in the center stage spotlight and feeling like you are bragging.

Monotony in that what you have been doing has become “just part of my job” and the value that you bring has been overshadowed, covered up and buried in the everyday and expected.

Conquer the Madness

Fear

First, realize you are not the only person that struggles with this. No matter what position someone is in their career, they can struggle with this so relax.

The most important thing you need to “say” in your resume is your value. The reader wants to know what you can do for them and why they want to talk to you rather than the 300 other candidates. This is their most important question.

Turn this around in your mind from describing yourself as an individual to a professional there to solve their problem(s). What is the position, requirements, industry, issues, expectations, audiences, scope and relevancy? Identify these main components to speak to them in your resume.

Next, fight against giving the reader bullet points of your job duties – this is what you were hired to do and no one cares what you were hired to do; they care what you did.

Demonstrate your skills by creating bullet points that speak to who you work with, how you work with them, what you do, how you do it and how they benefit. Not each of these elements will be represented in each bullet point; however it is a good place to start in getting the feel for demonstrating value.

Write this in a manner that is conversational to you, as though you are explaining to someone who has never met you what it is you do all day. Then fine tune it in resume language.

Oh yes, resume language. It is horrible, isn’t it? Incomplete sentences, feeling like you are fluffing when you just want to say something in five words or less.

Stop it. It is not about you. It is about the reader. Your resume is your story, which you get to tell in the way that you want the reader to understand. Any good story must create interest. To create interest you must speak to what is important to them and in doing so paint a picture.

Think about reading a novel. You form an image of a character based on the words the author uses. The reader is doing the same about you. Use words that resonate with you. Be descriptive not for the sake of being flowery, use words to emphasize and create a sense of ownership, expertise, commitment, passion, innovation, excitement or confidence.

As far as the formatting – there are no hard fast rules for resumes. Sure, there are some general guidelines, but nothing concrete “DO NOT EVER DO THIS” because for every one of those, I bet we could find 20 articles telling you to do it.

This is your story, the words and imagery should reflect you. Go to Google and type in “resume sample” then click on images. Look at all those resumes. Do not read them! Just look at them. Which one is your eye drawn to? Use that format. If you like it you will be more likely to promote it.

As far as the one page versus two pages – the person that matters to the most is the person reading your resume, which you will never know their preference. You have a fifty-fifty shot here. What is more important to the reader is three things: 1. Tell me what you are applying for, 2. Tell me how you qualify and 3. Make it easy for me to find and understand in your resume.

Nakedness

It is so very uncomfortable talking about yourself. That bragging thing is a confidence killer. By using the demonstrative process it takes the bragging issue out of the equation and instead becomes a matter of you stating facts.

If you are really struggling, approach it as though it is not your resume. If this was your best friend or spouse how would you write it for them? We beat ourselves up much too quickly and jump at the chance to promote those we love. Love yourself.

Think of this – if you do not tell someone how good you are, who will? Your mom or spouse cannot hand deliver your resume to them and give them a sales pitch for you. And if they do, there are way bigger issues at hand than struggling to write a resume.

Monotony

This is the forest for the trees syndrome. We have been doing something for so long that it becomes routine. It is probably unnoticed or unappreciated by your current employer or become expected (perhaps why you are leaving) therefore you no longer see it as added value.

Break it down, start at the beginning. Go back to when you first started. How did each job evolve? How did you get from one step to the other? Not in terms of “here are my responsibilities and my accomplishments” but the real story. Tell your story to the computer. Type it out.

Get out of resume mode and get into conversation mode, that is when you will start to recall the story and that is when those lost points of value start coming back to you.

If you have some generalized statement on your resume, like, “Implemented a standardized X program” break it down. How did you implement it, why was there a need, who identified it, how did the process start, how did the implementation go, what were the hiccups, how did you solve them, who were you working with during the process, how did it benefit people?

There is a gold mine of value in answering those questions. You can demonstrate a number of skills: communication, project management, strategic thinking, problem solving, collaboration, team building, leadership – and the list goes on.

If You Need Help

Even after this article, you may find that you want help in writing your resume. You may be able to conquer those three monsters, but then it is a matter of time.

How do you find a person to help you? First, do not ask your friends. They will say it looks good even when it doesn’t either to pacify you or make you go away. For more on that, here is a related post on that:

It would be shameless for me to, at this point, say hire me. So I will not. I am not the right resume writer for everyone and not everyone is the right client for me.

Writing your resume is a personal endeavor. It is important to find a professional that is a good fit for you. The professionals in my field take different approaches, just as the professionals in your field do.

What are your priorities when having your resume done? Cost, time, quality? Know your priorities before you do your research. There are companies that will promise a 24 hour turn around, some offer very low prices – there are writers to fit everyone’s needs.

Do your homework. If you are going to employ a 24 hour turnaround company, look at their site and know what to expect. Talk to the professionals and get a feel for how they approach you and your resume. Do you communicate well with each other, in other words, do they get you and what you want out of this?

Do you need someone that will tell you what to do or someone that will expect you to be a contributor in the process? Know yourself and what you need.

Let It Begin

When you start this process, be gentle with yourself. It can be frustrating and you are a novice creating a new sales piece; however, you are the expert on the subject. Take your time and take breaks. Work on it then walk away, come back with a fresh set of eyes. Copy and paste your work into a word cloud to make sure you are emphasizing the main keywords. Tagcrowd.com is a great site for this.

If you were never taught how to write a resume, what makes you think you are should know it all right now? Take the pressure of the search and perceived expectations out of it and start by telling your story to your computer.

Let it evolve, review it as though it was not yours and enjoy the process of rediscovering your value.

✰✰✰✰✰✰✰✰✰✰

As the Founder and Principle of Career Polish, Inc., a national career coaching and practice firm, I am a Brand Strategist, Professional Resume Writer and Career Coach. I work with individual clients, sales teams, leadership and companies to identify, strengthen and effectively communicate their brand, engagement, commitment and most importantly – their value – by learning and leveraging LinkedIn, networking, communication, relationship management, presence and influence.

I help people get from where they are in their jobs to where they want to be in their careers.

Click here – CareerPolish.com – to find out more about Career Polish and how we can help you.

Resumes: Tell Me Your Story, Don’t Sell Me a Line

sales guyI am not a big fan of being sold anything. When it starts to happen, my special BS radar is activated quite quickly. I thank my son for this radar, he helped me fine tune it as a wild teenager. He was a master BS-er.

I can sense pretty quickly when it goes from showing me the value of something and trying to convince me or get me to buy into something. When I was looking at vacuum cleaners, it was sounding off like a siren. The sales person was trying to tell me I needed the fancy-smancy cleaner that had all these bells and whistles for all types of floors.

I have two types of floors: dirty and hairy. I have three dogs. They either shed or bring in the great outdoors. I need a vacuum cleaner that picks up dirt and hair. My floors are hardwood and low pile carpet. Nothing fancy.

But there he was, insisting on fancy-smancy that could navigate from hardwood to carpet in an instant. I don’t need that. My transition is a flight of stairs. I found our conversation sounded a lot like this:

“But it has this great feature” – Sales Guy
“But I don’t need that” – me
“But you might” – Sales Guy
“But I don’t” – me
“But you might in the future” – Sales Guy
“But I don’t now” – me
“But wouldn’t it be nice to have for when you do need it?” – Sales Guy
“No. It would be nice to have three dogs that don’t shed” – me
“Oh, we have another fancy-smancy that has a shedding attachment” – Sales Guy

And so on. I think he made that last part up.

I went to another store and told that Sales Guy about my floors and dogs. He said, “Then all you need is this one, it is on the low end and will do the job for you just fine. Here’s what it does….” Sold!

He told me, not sold me.

The same principle applies for your resume. When people read your resume, their BS meter is up and running and on high alert. Why? Because they have read too many sellers rather than stories, too much fluff and not enough substance.

One of the most common statements I hear when talking to people about their resume is that they do not know how to convey or communicate their value. I will ask them to tell me about a piece of their history and they tell me a story. Then I tell them to use what they just told me.

When you tell your story, including what you did, how you did it, who it helped and how it helped them – that is telling your value based narrative. When you use job description bullet points and unanswered claims – that is selling a story. It does not even sound like you.

The key to a good resume story is including three parts: demonstration, value and you.

Demonstration

Rather than use job description bullet points that tell the reader what you were hired to do, write statements that actually tell what you did. No one cares what you were hired to do, they care about what you did and the value it provided. What did you do and how did you do it?

Value

Not everything is measurable in numbers. Value is added in many ways from creating a more efficient system, training others for them to utilize new technology more quickly, opening communication between departments for collaboration – these are just a few value adds that are not measurable. The value comes in who received benefit from what you did and what the benefit was that they received.

You

Does your resume sound like you? It should. Just like when you read a book and form an image of the characters based on the words provided, people reading your resume are forming an image of you based on your words. When the resume image and the phone/in person image match this gives them greater confidence to believe what you have said; it gives you credibility. When they do not match, the reader wonders which one you are, and are they going to hire the wrong one.

If you are a behind the scenes kind of guy, do not use outgoing words like dynamic, innovative, driven etc. Use words that are professional and convey your energy and work style. If you are a go-getter kind of gal, then use words that reflect that persona.

Story Telling

One last tidbit on how to write your story – stop trying to write it in resume language! No one talks like that and it is not something that comes naturally for most people. Trying to write your resume each round in resume language is going to stress you out. Stop it.

Instead, have a conversation with yourself and write it out. Get on your computer or laptop or whatever you can type or write the most quickly on and take one piece at a time. Start small to get the ball rolling. Take a bullet point.

● Created workflow diagrams

This on its own screams “so what” – why does the reader care that you created these? It is your job as a storyteller to tell them the importance of this skill and more importantly what value it brings to them.

Under this bullet point start asking yourself some questions to get the ball rolling:

  • What does this mean?
  • Who do I create them for?
  • Why do I create them?
  • Who uses them?
  • What value does it provide for them?
  • How do they utilize them?
  • What is the result of them using the diagrams that I create?

Then type out your answers as though you were talking to a real person, not in resume language. Your answer does not have to be complete sentences or thoughts. Just start typing. Get the feel for it. The more you type the more you will begin to remember and also take yourself out of the forest for the trees syndrome. It can be as long as it takes to type it out, there are no rules here.

Once you get it all down then you can start bringing it together. Maybe you have two paragraphs on one little bullet. Fabulous! Take a look at it and see where it is taking you. If the value is that you help a department become more efficient, than that is the main point, not the creation of workflow diagrams – that is the true value and one that a prospective employer is going to care about because it is something you can do for them.

From there you can start fine tuning and condensing the thoughts into a solid, single bullet point. You may find that one single bullet point will lead to others. For example, you might find that in describing this bullet point you go off on a tangent about collaborating with various departments to analyze their productivity and optimization – this could lead to a whole new value statement.

Do not limit yourself to the confines of your duty based bullet points. You have more to offer than what you were hired to do. Your job with your resume is to convey your value, not tell them what you were hired to do. This can be done by taking your time, exploring what you did, how you did it, who you worked with and how you provided benefit. Once you open the door on one bullet, you will find a whole world of value that you have been hiding – and one that is worth reading.

Resumes – Looks Matter

looking over a stack of paperThe old saying is you can’t judge a book by its cover. I agree in theory, too bad in practice it is exactly what happens with your resume.

One of our most valuable commodities is time. We want more, we need more and therefore we create ways to streamline any activity to give us that precious gift of time. A downside of this is that often we make snap decisions or judgments based on looks.

When a hiring manager or HR professional has 300+ resumes to review, they have to come up with some system to review them quickly. Even the first step of sorting out the no resumes – it contains an element of quick decision based on first glance.

It has been noted that someone scans the top quarter of your resume from 5-15 seconds to make a determination of what pile to place you in; often they will do an overview scan within 1-2 to determine how much they are really going to look within that first 5-15 seconds.

Looks matter.

When I was a kid my mom would take us to the library every week. We would then peruse through rows and rows of books to pick out which ones we wanted to take home for the week.

We were drawn by looks: the cover and the contents. The cover had to get our attention. Then when we opened the book if it was small print, wall to wall words and no pictures, it went right back up to the shelf without reading the jacket.  If there were only a few words on each page without offering anything to get our attention – back it went.

The bottom line was if it looked easy to read, we would read it. The same principle applies here; however, it is now beyond easy to read and should be pleasing to read.

Here are two examples to illustrate my point:

What is your conclusion just based on a cursory glance? Perhaps one looks more professional, one took more time and care in creating their presentation, one has more to offer, one cares more about their position, one sees more value in what they do… A lot can be gleaned on that first glance.

Which would you read first?

In writing a resume, creating a look is the less daunting task (the writing is the hardest part).

There are many templates available to use for a resume, the one caveat is they are a template and may be difficult to manipulate for your own purpose.

What I suggest is to type in “Resume Sample” into Google and click on images.

Do not read them! You are just looking for something that pleases and catches your eye. You will see something like this:

Now let your eye wander and come to something that you like. The more you like your resume, the more you will send it out and sell it.

Pick one and recreate it in Word. Your most favorite friends in word are going to be Page Layout, Font, Bullets and possibly borders and shading. Now – go play with it. Have fun, try new things and it is ok if you get something totally out of whack. Your best friend will be the undo button! Save different versions as you go along.

If you are still struggling, check out your local library to see if they have a Word class or provide assistance. I am still a big fan of the library!

It is your resume, let it reflect you in a professional, eye catching way. Have fun with it and put in that extra time to make it your own, it will pay off for you!

I Am Sorry They Laughed at Your Resume – 10 Tips for Avoiding Resume Blunders

laughing in meetingEven before I was a professional resume writer and coach I heard about bad resumes. When a position was posted and resumes started to stream in, the bad resume jokes and stories circulated throughout the office almost as fast as juicy gossip.

People laugh at resume blunders. It is not nice, it is bad karma or against golden rules and yet it still happens. It will continue to happen, but I would like to make sure it does not happen to you.

So here are 10 ways to tweak your resume, cover letter and communication to make sure you are noticed for the right reasons and not as water cooler conversation.

1. Apply to the job that is posted.

A friend recently had a writing position open within her company and requested applicants attach a copy of their best work. A young woman attached a logo design. This was for a position in which the candidate would be writing, words, lots of words, not doing logos. To make matters worse, it was a bad logo.

Do mention the job for which you are applying, please do not make the mistake of assuming they will k now. Companies have more than one position open at a time, people finding candidates have many, many other things on their plate – make it easy for them by spelling it out.

2. Use proper grammar and spelling.

Another candidate stated in their cover letter, “I am current looking for a job relating in ….heard about your company which I am interesting.” Ouch. Please, please, please have someone proofread your resume. If you do not feel comfortable asking anyone you know I will let you in on a secret:

Libraries are one of our most forgotten gems.

Not only do they have wonderful staff that you can ask to help you in proofreading, they have great resources and often free classes. Go get your library card.

The statement “I worked four Big Company” will not appear with a red or green line in Word. It does not recognize the wrong “for” – proofread.

Spellcheck is not foolproof. Try reading your resume from the bottom up. Often we read what we expect to see and overlook small errors which a prospective employer zooms in on right away.

3. A little creativity goes a long way.

You want your resume to stand out, yes; however, keep in mind that an actual person is going to be reading it. To many font changes, colors, graphics and creative touches can make it difficult for someone to actually read your resume.

One candidate submitted a resume in all caps. It was small caps, but it was all caps nonetheless. She was yelling at the prospective employer, not a way to make a good impression.

4. Connect the dots.

It is not enough to read the job description; you need to use it as a blueprint. They tell you what is important for the job. Integrate those skills and factors into your resume. Make the connection; allow them to see that you are qualified for the position.

Write to where you want to go, not where you have been. Look back at your previous and current experience and tell your story so that it demonstrates the knowledge and application of the required skills and abilities. Paint the picture of you already in the job.

5. Exaggeration is entertaining and eliminating.

People who are forced to read resumes – and I say forced because I have yet to meet anyone who says they like doing this – read a lot of resumes with “fluff”. Over exaggerations, stretching the truth, lies; whatever you want to call them, they have seen it all. They tend to become skeptical and only believe about half of what you are saying – more on this in tip number six.

If you used Excel once to make a grocery list do not proclaim to be proficient or expert level.

If you are not familiar with the industry jargon, do not attempt to use it to fool them into thinking you are all that and the bag of chips. They will read your resume and proclaim out loud, “Liar, liar pants on fire.”

6. Demonstrate rather than simply state.

Telling them that you are the world’s greatest anything is not only an exaggeration, it is irrelevant. They are not going to believe you just because you said so, you have to prove yourself.

I once had a candidate that stated he should be at an executive level because he had a “CEO mindset”. He could not explain what that was but believed because he thought like a CEO and had a master’s degree that was darn well good enough to move from a floor sales position in retail to a executive position.

How do you prove it? Demonstrate. Instead of making a statement, tell them what you did, how you did it and the benefit that was received in you doing so. The proof is in the pudding.

7. Job descriptions are for job postings.

It is easy to copy and paste your job description into your resume as bullet points. But that only tells them what you were hired to do, not what you actually did. They do not care what you were hired to do, they want to know how you contributed and made a difference.

“Prepared reports for quarterly sales meetings.” = so what
“Gathered all sales data from three departments to prepare detailed reports utilized during quarterly sales meetings for projections, tracking and ensuring each representative was on target with goals.”

8. Desperation is not flattering.

Actual statements seen in resumes include:

“I just need a job”
“Give me a chance and I will prove it”
“I can do anything”

Along the same lines is telling them what you want, i.e., “I am looking for a job where I can utilize my skills and abilities to help a company grow and increase my knowledge.”

They do not care what you want. They care about what you can do for them.

Instead, open your resume and include in your cover letter what you bring to the table, how you can succeed at this position and provide the relevant proof to back up your claims. This is what is most important to them.

9. Cover Letters Count.

If they are read.

Not everyone reads your cover letter. Some people read it after your resume. Others read it before your resume. You just never know. It is better to have one and not need it rather than the alternative.

I have a friend who is the President of a company and he reads every cover letter for any position within the organization. He uses the cover letter as a filter. If there is a mistake then the entire package is dismissed, not matter what the qualifications of the candidate.

The Cover Letter is your introduction. This is where proper grammar, spelling and business writing comes into play. Do not assume that it will not be read and put little effort into it.

Open with why you are applying – not because you saw the job posted – but because you are a match to their requirements and you are interested in the position and company.

Use supporting paragraphs to demonstrate how you are the best candidate speaking directly to their requirements and expectations.

Close on a positive letting them know your interest and availability to discuss in more detail how you can do great things in the role and look forward to talking to them soon.

10. Common sense and courtesy.

A friend uses an auto response on their website when candidates submit their resumes. It sends a nice note letting the candidate know that their resume was received, would be reviewed and if it meets the criteria, they will contact them.

One candidate replied to the auto response email informing them that he is applying for X position and attached his resume and cover letter to his email.

They got it the first time, the same resume that contained errors and was in no way related to the position.

Follow up appropriately. There is a fine line between following up and stalking. Do not stalk, people do not like that. Check in, be upbeat, professional and helpful. Instead of asking when they think they will move forward or start interviewing; restate your interest and ask if there is anything else you could provide to assist them.

Take your time in preparing your resume. This is your personal sales presentation. It is your story, tell it the way you want them to understand it yet make it applicable to their needs. Present yourself as the solution to their problem.

Once you have compiled your resume, take the time to break it down word by word to ensure it will hold up to any scrutiny that might ensue. Getting a job is a job in itself; prepare your resume and any additional communication as though your job depends upon it, because it does.

Why Your Resume Fails the 10 Second Rule

trash-can-fullFor the initial review, prospective employers are of the mindset “cut to the chase and make it simple.” Failing to do so will lead to failing the 10 second test.

The first thing a prospective employer is going to read on your resume is the top quarter of the page. Peak enough interest there and they will then scan the rest of your resume to determine if you go in the keep or go pile.

What is it that they are looking for in that top quarter? The answer to two questions:

What do you want?
What can you do for me?

If you fail to answer two questions, or make it difficult for the reader to find the answers in your resume, you get assigned to the no pile.

What Do You Want?

Put simply – what job are you applying for? Too often job seekers use a one-size fits all resume. The problem with this is twofold: one resume does not meet the qualifications for every job and using the same resume does not synchronize with an exact position.

State simply and early what position it is that you are targeting. The reader does not have the time or inclination to make the determination as to where you fit in the organization. They may have advertised for many different positions at the same time, so make it easy for them to know exactly what you are going after.

How to answer this question:

1. If you are applying for an Operations Manager position and have held this same position then use Operations Manager as the title for your resume, right underneath your letterhead.

2. Use the position title in your opening statement. “Operations Manager with 15 years’ proven success in….”

3. If you have not held this position title in the past or the desired position title is vague but have relevant experience, make a broader title statement. “Senior Management – Operations”

4. Use a tag line to expand upon and align your experience. “Executive Leader Proven in Improving Efficiencies and Production in Operations, Finance and Inventory.”

What Can You Do For Me?

This is the most important question that the reader has and it is vital that you answer this question first and foremost. The job market is not like the stock market in that past performance is not an indicator of future success. If you have provided value for another organization, odds are you are going to be able to transfer those skills to a new company, team and their clients.

How to answer this question:

1. In your opening statement make it clear who you served, how you served them and the value they received from you doing what you did.

  • Who you served can include specific or general industries, teams, clients or products.
  • How did you serve them incorporates your skill set both technical and soft skills.
  • The value the received is the win, increase revenues, expand territories, improve efficiencies and the like.

2. Incorporate the above points into your bullet points to demonstrate your worth.

3. Utilize key words for an Areas of Expertise or Proficiencies section. Zone in on the key words from the job posting and industry specific words. A great tool to determine the key words in a posting is www.TagCrowd.com. Copy the job posting and paste it into this site and it creates a visual word cloud to easily see the most used words.

Make It Easy to Find the Important Information

This is the visual aspect. It is human nature to be drawn to things that we find attractive. The key to an attractive or eye catching resume is balance.

How to visually improve your resume:

1. White space – Too much looks like you do not have enough value to fill a page and too much makes it difficult for the reader to read. A good rule of thumb is margins should be between .5 – 1 inch with the majority of the font between 11-12 point.

2. Spacing – Make sure there is a visual space between sections, headings and positions.

3. Titles – Use a larger font and bold for section headings and the title under your letterhead if using one. Borders are also recommended for a visual break.

4. Take it easy on the creativity – using a mishmash of different fonts, unique bullet points and overdoing the bold and italic throughout the resume may be immediately eye catching; however, someone has to read it in more detail and all of those visual differences may make it a strain on their eyes.

5. Create a letterhead – This is your personal branding statement, it is about you and therefore your contact information should be clear, visible and stand out from the rest of your text.

One caveat here: when applying online the company may utilize an ATS system – Automatic Tracking System – a scanning software of resumes to quickly determine the compatibility between your resume and the position. Some of these systems are key word driven, others are more advanced and able to determine context.

The original systems were only able to read only characters that appeared on your keyboard and would misinterpret any other formatting. (This of seeing an article title that has “&amp” in the middle of it.) To be safe, format your resume in an ATS friendly version removing borders, shading and non-standard characters. For tips on formatting resumes for ATS systems, click here: 15 Resume Tips to Hate Applicant Tracking System (ATS) a Little Less.

Tweaking your resume with these three key points in mind may just give you the edge to stay in the “yes” pile, rather than being relegated to the “no” pile.

-Lisa

Marketable Skills – Look Outside Your Box

Manuel came home last night and gave me a sly smile and told me Jesse gave him a compliment. If you have a teenager you know exactly why he was smiling. For those of you without children or have younger children I’ll fill you in – teenagers do not give their parents compliments. Of course it was a bit backhanded, but it was there.

They were talking about going to the batting cages and hit golf balls this weekend because Manuel said he needed to get a couple of buckets in as he has a tournament coming up. Jesse asked if he even knew how to play golf. He told Manuel that if it were baseball he would not question it, he knows Manuel can play baseball, but golf? You see Manuel is a former ballplayer and has coached for years. But Jesse had never seen his dad play golf or known that he has played before so he naturally assumed he could not play. Ah, teenagers. In Jesse’s mind his dad was a baseball coach, not a golf coach.

This got me thinking about my class this week. We had a great discussion about how you may have marketable skills or abilities that you have learned even if it was not a part of any job description. Our personal lives offer us a multitude of opportunities that we can draw from in giving examples of skills and abilities during an interview. Volunteerism gives us these same opportunities that we can include on our resume.

One word of caution – if you are using a personal example make sure it is not too personal and that it is relevant. The examples should illustrate your point and be able to demonstrate rather than just tell a story. Sometimes people get a bit too comfortable during an interview and forget the whole point – to sell yourself to that person. You want to show them that you are the right fit for that job: you have the skills, expertise, experience and ability to be the solution to their problem. Telling personal stories with no point does not help you; this is not a social call.

It can be done and to help here is a personal example: Someone once asked me if I could successfully handle multiple projects that were outside of my comfort zone and, if so, could I give them an example. I explained that when I was first brought into the financial industry I was required to earn my Series 7 exam with the Series 9 & 10 to follow at some point. Within a short time period my ex-husband was also diagnosed with advanced aggressive non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Over the next twelve months I was successful at my duties at my position; earned my 7, 63, 65, 9 and 10 Series licenses; spend every night and weekend at the hospital learning about dialysis, chemotherapy, and various tests and treatments as my ex-husband successfully battled cancer all while managing my young son’s school and sports responsibilities and activities. The person looked at me and said, “I would say that is a definite yes.”

Even with our job we have opportunities to learn new skills that are not listed within our job description. We get so ingrained in our position and title that we forget all of the abilities and talents that we have developed that are not tied to a position. Just because it was not in your job description does not mean you have not done it. Think about your last position and what the job description was when you first started. Now think about everything that you actually did – I bet the two lists do not match.

Stop selling yourself short and start thinking outside the box. You are your hardest critic, but for today, knock it off. Start listing out your strongest skills and abilities and then go back to everything that you have done in work-world, volunteer-world and life-world. Start writing down all of the things that you have done, can do and have learned or achieved. Odds are you will see there is much more depth to you when you look outside your cubicle.

If It Doesn’t Fit – Don’t Wear It

Mom & Jake blog picShort, shorty, tiny, pint-size, munchkin – these are all words that I forbid my son from calling me since the age of seven. I knew he was going to be over six foot tall and well, I’m five foot. Maybe a half an inch or inch more, but really, at this size it does not matter. I also made two other rules when he got taller than me: 1. Never pick me up and 2. Never, ever pat me on the head. Trust me this is a daily struggle for a 16 year old kid! And now that I have a 13 year old step-son, well, the fun just keeps coming…

I am petite, plain and simple. And the fact that I have a short torso and very long legs, well I think it is funny looking. When I first entered into the professional world all those years ago, I would wear long jackets thinking they elongated me. Ok, I know, at this height nothing makes me taller. What I did not realize is they made me look smaller, almost like I was a little kid playing dress up.

I finally realized that I needed accentuate my figure and embrace my pettiness. I bought suits that had short jackets and had them tailored. Huge difference! Now I look like a petite business woman, not a girl playing in her mother’s closet. The point of this drawn out story…is your resume fitting you?

Styles change, skill sets change, strengths change – is your resume changing with you? Or is it still wearing the god-awful 80’s hair band style? The one rule I will share with you on resumes: there are very few hard fast rules. Some things do not change, i.e., do not include salary information on your resume, a picture of yourself, any mention of race, religion or age. On the religion front, yes, it is acceptable to list your activities within the church. See, there are always exceptions! But the point is, are you updating your resume for your current style?

Your resume is intended to do two things. The first is to be your personal sales pitch. The second is to help direct the interview. If your resume does not fit you, absolutely like a glove, then it is worthless. If you have to review it before the interview to make sure you are in line with what it says, then there is a problem. It is not you.

I can write you one heck of a resume, but if it is not you I am really doing you a disservice. Shame on me. This is where I surprise a lot of my clients. I insist that we review the drafts together. They must be an active participant. If they say they like something I ask them why. Let me be honest, I am not presenting your resume so to solely trust one person for all decisions and direction would be a mistake. But do not get me wrong, I will guide and steer you to the direction that I think best fits you – but that is another discussion and I do not want to do a sales pitch here.

The point is whether you write your resume yourself or hire a professional, please please please make sure that it represents you well. The last thing you want to do is to be in an interview and be reading directly from that resume like it is the first time you have seen it. Your resume should be a compilation of your greatest skills, accomplishments and history. You – the very best that you have to offer an employer, what do you bring to the table, what problem are you solving for them, how can you make them money, how can you save them money, how can you improve client service – see where I am going here?

If you are asking, “Alright, shorty, how do I know if it fits me well?” I’ll tell you, but really, there is no reason for name calling here. Have someone else read your resume. Once they are done, ask them what they think are your biggest accomplishments and best skills. Does this match up with what you were trying to get across? Good! If not, then what did they read that was different. Did you really emphasize that you are accurate but they got the message of good time management skills? Then there is a disconnect. Is it a matter of choosing different words or a matter or highlighting other examples of your work? Go at this like a High School English teacher who is red pen happy. I know what I am trying to get across in this blog, but it is your interpretation that counts. Same with your resume.

Now you might have the questions, “You mentioned presentation – what is a helpful hint on that?” I will give you an example of how you can think of this in a different way (and thank you for no short names here).

Think of it as a really flowery outline from which you give your speech. Remember your note cards in Speech class? You could not put your whole speech on those cards so you had to put the highlights and fill it in when you were in front of the class. Your teacher graded you on not only content but eye contact. Same principle. You should know intimately every detail listed on that resume so you can give your speech without referring to it during the interview. There is nothing wrong with jotting a couple of key words or phases on your notepad that you take into the interview, but to be best prepared you should know your subject inside and out. After all, it is all about you!

Now, if you will excuse me, the 16 year old just got home. Let the short name parade begin!

They Are Watching You….

at grocery storeMidterms came out not too long ago. A few days ago the Head Varsity Baseball Coach emailed me about my son’s grades. (This coach is great, he really keeps tabs on his boys and helps ensure that they are a positive reflection of the team, the school and the community.) When I told Jake about this he asked why the coach was watching his grades off season – we are in the thick of football right now. I told him Coach is watching him all the time because he is one of his players. No matter what he is doing – Coach is always watching him.

This eerie concept applies to you when you are in the job market. You never know who you will run into or who has seen you so be prepared. Now, I will be the first to tell you if I am working in the yard or around the house and I need to run to the hardware store – I am not changing out of my grubby work cloths. But if you have seen my house or my yard you know that does not happen a lot. Give me a break, two teenage boys both involved in football and baseball, two dogs and two businesses run out of this house – are you kidding me???

However, more often than not, I take precaution to be prepared just in case I happen to run into a community partner, client or prospect. That does not mean that I wear the business suit to the grocery store, but I do dress in more of a business casual. Clean, fresh, no holes, wrinkles or tears, and fit comfortably but well. Men, that means either khakis or jeans and a golf shirt (or khaki shorts). Ladies, that means summer skirt or nice pair of shorts/pants and age appropriate top. I do stress age appropriate because I do not want to talk to a client in my “work around the house” t-shirt that has the bunny on it and the slogan “Its All About Me – Get Over It”. That is fine around the house, but not to a client! (and by the way, Jake got me that shirt!)

Perfect example – at the Northside BPE meeting Monday a gentleman talked about going to met someone at Paradise and his initial thought was to wear a pair of jeans and t-shirt. After more thought he realized that this is a place that a lot of business people frequent so instead he changed into a pair of khakis and golf shirt. Good decision, as he reconnected with a government official while in line and met two other contacts while waiting on his party. He said he was so relieved to have changed as he would have not felt comfortable having those conversations in his first choice of clothing. You just never know…. That guy behind you in the check out line may be your next employer or great contact to your next position!

Lisa K McDonald

Make the Most of Your One Play

jakes catch at hseMy son plays football. The first game he played offense and defense all game. Two touchdowns, an interception for 40 plus yards and was named Offensive Player of the Game. The next game they brought in a couple of receivers to give them some time, he was not pleased, but he was going to play defense all game. Before the game I told him he might get a play or two on offense so make the most of it. He went in for one offensive play. He was a receiver, caught a 35ish yard pass. He also was a maniac on defense and was named Defensive Player of the game. I would say he made the most of it.

Your resume has one chance and maybe 10 seconds to make the most of you. Someone reviewing your resume will scan the top quarter of your resume and decide in those 10 seconds or so if they are going to continue. You need to make the leap for that catch – put yourself out their early to let them know you are here to play the game.

So often I read through resumes and they include really good information. Information about accomplishment, money saved, increased clients, improved client satisfaction employee retention or money made. But these things are hidden further along in the resume – many times on page two. You are making yourself second string.

Once you have your strong Objective or Mission Statement follow that up with your accomplishments. Put the proof behind the words. Not only can you state that you are successful in increasing client base and sales, follow that up with your statistic of doubling sales boosting bottom line over $2 million in less than a five year period. If you state that you implement time and cost savings strategies, follow that up with how you implemented a new project management tracking system that linked all contributors and averaged a time savings of over 20% per job equating to cost savings for company and clients. Pretty good numbers to throw out there, huh?

Putting good solid accomplishments front and center allows you to make the most of your sales pitch (your resume) and gets you noticed more quickly. It also confirms that you have the talent and ability to back up your Objective or Mission Statement. Just like catching that one pass when is most needed. You increase your chances of being put in the game.

Lisa K McDonald

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