The GREAT JOB SOONER Blog

10 Resume “Must-Haves”

10 Resume Must-HavesFor a great resume it’s important to include these 10 factors:

1. A clear focus on a specific role or type of job and how you are well qualified for it.

2. Emphasis on what you most want employers to remember about you – the top reason(s) that make you stand out as the best person for the job. Think of these as your key selling points.

3.  Skimmability. If a busy recruiter looks at your resume for just 10 seconds, what will they notice? Make sure your key selling points and other essential qualifications are so visible the reader can’t miss them.

4. Keywords. Find them by analyzing job postings. The most important keyword is your desired job title. Other important keywords are the most crucial qualifications for the job, such an MBA, channel marketing or JavaScript.

5. Accomplishments/results/impact. How did you make a difference for your past employers? It’s not enough just to list your duties – that’s just a job description, and it won’t sell you.

6. The right sections in the right order for your unique situation. Strategically choose to include the sections that work for you, in the order that works best for you. For example, if you’re a recent graduate or seeking a role in the higher education field, then your Education section should probably be near the top. Formatting is especially important – and tricky – when you’re revising your resume for a career change.

The only required sections are Name, Contact Information and Experience. Additional sections to consider are a summary (although you don’t necessarily need to give this a heading), Core Competencies (or Expertise), Skills (or Technical Skills), Education, Awards, Affiliations, Volunteer Experience, Additional Experience and Interests (if they’re relevant or they enhance your brand in some way).

7. Formatting that works well in Applicant Tracking Systems. An ATS is a system that “reads” resumes (generally only in .doc, .docx, .rtf or .txt formats) and uses the information to fill in a standardized candidate profile. Human resources personnel then do keyword searches through the profiles to find candidates to interview.

ATS’s are easily confused and may jumble or reject your resume if you include unusual fonts or symbols, nonstandard section headings (like “Relevant Roles” instead of “Experience”), or place crucial information in headers, footers, text boxes or graphics, none of which will be read by an ATS. Don’t use this kind of formatting.

8. Good, strong verbs, especially at the beginning of each bullet item in your Experience section. Here’s a good list.

9. Clear, concise, correct writing. With so many other resumes in the running, a confusing or wordy one may end up being discarded to save time.

As for the mechanics of English – correct spelling, grammar, word usage, capitalization, punctuation, etc. – you might be surprised by how many errors you’re making. Even professional writers see a mess of red ink when an editor has gone over their work. At the very least, hire a professional proofreader. You’d be surprised how affordable it is.

Even tiny errors like bad punctuation can subtly detract from the intelligent, well educated impression you want to convey.

10. Smart management of your career timeline. Be strategic in your choices about how far back to go, whether to include months or just years, and what jobs to include or leave out.

Making the resume look eye-catching and attractive with tasteful use of color, shading, fonts and graphics (while following the advice in #7 above!) can be helpful, but the 10 factors above are even more important.

Follow every one of these resume writing tips if you want a strong resume that gives you the best shot at getting the interview!

 

This article was originally published in October 2015 and has been updated for accuracy.

10 Ingredients of an Excellent LinkedIn Profile

10 Ingredients of an Excellent LinkedIn ProfileWhat are the must-haves for a LinkedIn profile that enhances your image and helps you advance your job search and career?

I could write a book on getting the most out of LinkedIn, but you probably don’t have time to read it anyway. For now, let’s just look at the top priorities.

Nail these, and you’ll stand out from most of the competition, whether you’re in job search, self-employed or simply serious about career management.

1. Branding.

Know what makes you stand out – your unique brand or key selling points – and emphasize it throughout your profile. If you don’t know what makes you a great person to hire or collaborate with, how is anyone else going to figure it out?

2. A Good Professional Headline.

This is just your title and company, right? Nope. This field is one of the most important for keywords as well as a first impression, so write a more branded headline than the one LinkedIn automatically generated. An easy but effective formula is to start with your job title, then add a dash or symbol followed by a tagline or mention of one or more of your best selling points.

3. Mistake-free Writing.

The vast majority of us, even professional writers, make mistakes in grammar, capitalization, word usage and spelling. Unless you received all A’s in English, you will probably benefit from having your profile copyedited and/or proofread by a professional. You can find a skilled pro via Yelp or free-lancing sites (or by asking me for a name) who may charge less than $20 to fix those little issues. It’s worth it!

4. Keywords.

What are the crucial skills, areas of expertise and designations your employers or customers will be looking for? These words and phrases need to be used appropriately throughout your profile to make it relevant. This helps your profile rank highly in search results when recruiters are looking for someone with qualifications like yours.  Hint: The most important keyword is your desired job title.

5. A Reasonable Degree of Completeness.

A fully developed profile is not only more engaging but will often have better search rankings. Write well-developed Summary (with special attention to the beginning, which is all that shows up unless the user clicks for more), Experience, Education and Skills sections, and don’t neglect Accomplishments (Certifications, Awards, Projects and so on). Added media such as images, PDFs or video are a plus as long as they support your brand.

One are where completeness is not helpful is to list jobs you held many, many years ago that are no longer relevant or that might subject you to age discrimination. Make a strategic choice about how far back to go.

6. A Good Photo.

The online world is very visual and becoming more so all the time. A good photo builds trust and makes you more approachable and memorable. Hire a pro, or have a friend take at least 20 shots in flattering lighting (for example, outdoors in the shade, or during the hour around sunset) and pick the best one.

7. Connections.

The more connections you have, the more chance you have getting introduced to insiders and referred into a job. Each new connection increases your odds of being at least a 3rd degree connection to any given recruiter, which makes it easier for her or him to access your profile and reach out to you.

8. Recommendations.

If an employer is interested in your resume, often their next step is to look at your LinkedIn profile for more clues about you, including social proof that you have the hard and soft skills they want. Ask for recommendations from colleagues and managers, which you can do by visiting their profile and clicking the three dots to the right of their photo. Endorsements (which show up in the Skills section) are less crucial but still useful to make the profile look good, and they may  improve your search rankings.

9. Consistency with your resume.

This doesn’t mean your LinkedIn should be identical to your resume – far from it – but the two should never contradict each other. Prospective employers may be suspicious when a job is omitted from your resume but included on LinkedIn, for example.

10. Good Choices in the Privacy Settings.

Log in and click the drop-down arrow under the tiny picture of you in the upper right-hand corner of any LinkedIn page, then select Settings & Privacy. Review and adjust your settings carefully, especially if you don’t want your current employer to know you’re looking for a new job.

Now, are there only 10 important things to know about optimizing your LinkedIn profile? Of course not. This is a good start, but why not request a free consultation to talk about your specific situation and how you can best use this powerful platform to get a great job sooner?

(Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in 2015 and has been updated for accuracy.)

Three 15-Minute Job Search Projects for Labor Day Weekend

With summer vacations ending, companies will be increasing the pace of their hiring activities. Here are a few small yet powerful things you can do to boost your job search momentum in 15 minutes each – less than an hour out of your Labor Day weekend.

Network at those barbecues and parties – but do it the smart way. Make a list of companies you might want to work for (you can do a quick-and-dirty, top-of-your-head list in five minutes, although eventually you’ll want to build it out to the recommended 40-50 employers). Then mention it to people you talk to over the weekend. Instead of asking people whether they know of any openings – which is usually a very short and sad conversation ending with “No, but I’ll keep you in mind” – ask questions about your target companies:

“Did you know I’m looking for a new job as a (whatever)? I’ve got a list of companies I’m interested in, like X, Y and Z. I’m trying to learn more about them, and not just what I can find out online. Do you have any advice?” Depending on who you ask, you may end up with some useful leads.

Make a plan to improve your resume and other job search materials, even if you don’t have time to work on it now. Get the ball rolling by buying a smart, up-to-date book like Modernize Your Resume by Wendy Enelow and Louise Kursmark.

Or spend a few minutes searching online for a good resume writer. Look for someone with experience, formal training, glowing recommendations on LinkedIn and/or Yelp, and certification by one of the major professional associations (listed in alphabetical order): Career Directors International, Career Thought Leaders, the National Resume Writers Association or the Professional Association of Resume Writers and Career Coaches. Contact your top three candidates and ask for a free consultation.

Or contact me for a referral. I rarely write resumes myself, but I know who’s good out there, and will be happy to make an introduction.

Start getting ready for phone interviews, which can happen unexpectedly. A “quick chat” with a human resources person can happen anytime if you’ve submitted a resume, and even if you haven’t, since recruiters are increasingly trolling through LinkedIn and other online sources to find likely candidates. Look into interview coaches (the advice in the previous paragraph applies here, too, and of course I myself provide interview coaching services), or get a book for a frugal, DIY approach. My own Get That Job! The Quick and Complete Guide to a Winning Interview is a steal at $4.99 for eBook, $10.99 for paperback – and Forbes said it’s “Excellent,” by the way.

An added plus is that preparing for interviews will boost your confidence and readiness for networking conversations. And because you’ll be coming up with stories about your work accomplishments, you may discover new material to improve your resume as well.

After you’ve spent 15 minutes on one or more of these projects, pat yourself on the back, forget about job search, get outside and enjoy some sunshine! Exercise and fun will replenish the energy you need to take your next steps. Good luck!

Want your LinkedIn contacts to know whenever you’re online? If not, opt out!

If I weren’t a subscriber to LinkedIn’s Official Blog I wouldn’t have realized that I – and you – have been opted into a new LinkedIn feature called Active Status that would let our contacts know whether we’re logged on and available for messaging.

Do you want that? I can think of reasons why you might not.

Personally, my reason for opting out is that Active Status might create an expectation that I will respond instantly to inquiries, and that’s not something I want to deliver, since I’m usually focused on a client meeting or a project. It often takes me a little longer to reply, like a few hours.

So I opted out by going to my Account > Settings and Privacy > Privacy tab > Manage Active Status.

On the other hand, if you’re looking to start a conversation with someone on LinkedIn and trying to find the right time to ping them, this feature could be helpful.

These images from LinkedIn’s post show what you’ll see if a connection is currently logged on and may be available to respond to your message.

online

If you see a green status dot with a white circle in the middle, this means that your connection is available only on mobile and will be notified of your message.

mobile

And here’s their quick video about how the messaging works.

As they say, “starting a conversation can go a long way in helping you get ahead in your career.”

If you’d like to reach me on LinkedIn or elsewhere, please ping me and I’ll respond – promptly, but perhaps not instantly.

Resume Writing Tips for Career Changers

When you’re not just looking for a new job but a new career, you need a new resume. Here are some crucial career change resume tips that will help you position yourself for your big leap.

Start with a relevant headline.

Write the job title of the  opening you’re applying for, such as “Marketing Consultant,” as a headline between your name and contact information and the rest of the resume. The top of your resume is a valuable spot for a first impression; don’t waste it on an empty word like “Summary.”

Build a compelling summary (just don’t bother labeling it as such).

If the first thing employers see is your Experience section, headed by a job that’s very different from the job you’re applying for, it’s easy for the employer to reject you, thinking “This person doesn’t have the right experience.” Instead, focus their attention first and foremost on your relevant qualifications. Here are some elements you might include in this summary.

Targeted introductory paragraph or bullet points: Here is where you summarize your key selling points or unique selling proposition. It might look like this:

  • BA in Business Administration with Marketing emphasis expected in May 2018.
  • Early experience as Marketing Coordinator, followed by accomplished sales career.
  • Extensive experience collaborating with Marketing as Sales Manager for top (industry) firms including X and Y.
  • Data-driven and highly analytical, as demonstrated by (very briefly mention an achievement or chunk of experience that proves this).

Keep this section very short, especially if you use a paragraph instead of bullets. Anything dense here is likely to be ignored.

Competencies block: List your skills and areas of knowledge using brief words and phrases such as “team leadership,” “project management,” “Salesforce,” and so on, so employers can see at a glance that you have the know-how. (Tip: A two-column or three-column arrangement saves space compared to a single-column list.)

“Translate” your Experience section to show how your skills are transferable.

Consider adding to your job title lines. Let’s say you’re seeking a position as a Human Resources Generalist, and your past job title was Office Manager – but half of the job really involved doing the work of a Human Resources Generalist. You can show that you were a de facto HR Generalist – without claiming you officially held that title – by writing it like this:

Office Manager (and Human Resources Generalist), Brown Educational Software, Inc.

Or if the HR duties were only a small part of the role, write this instead:

Office Manager (including Human Resources responsibilities), Brown Educational Software, Inc.

Either way, putting these important keywords in the job title will allow your resume to perform well in applicant tracking systems as well as in the eyes of the reader. (And you can do the same on LinkedIn, by the way.)

Emphasize what’s relevant. Describe your past job duties in terms familiar to the field you want to go into. For example, let’s say you used to do social media work and now you want to do grant writing for nonprofits. Some aspects of your previous job may not be transferable, but your ability to write concise, attention-getting content may be relevant and valuable.

The resume is just one component.

As important as your resume is, it isn’t going to get you into a new career by itself. More than other job seekers, career changers need to network effectively, get any additional training or experience they need, and so on. Plan a smart, up-to-date job search campaign in which your well-targeted career-change resume is one of many strong components.

How to Choose Your Profile Picture by Crowd-Testing It

Are people getting the right message from your LinkedIn or Facebook profile picture? What does it say about you – confident, likeable – or not? Here’s how you can find out, to help you choose the best profile picture for the impression you want to create.

The results may surprise you! I tested mine and got a bit of a shock, as I’ll describe below.

Here’s what you need to do:

First, make sure you have several suitable profile photos to choose from.

If you don’t, you can either hire a professional, who will take dozens of pictures. Or ask a friend, who should take, again, dozens of pictures. Because out of all those, you’re bound to have a few you can stand enough to move on to the next step – even if you hate seeing yourself in photos as much as I do!

Tip: Lighting is super important! Take advantage of what photographers call “the golden hour” outdoors – the period a little after sunrise or before sunset when the light is redder, softer and more flattering.

Then gather objective reactions by crowd-testing your profile pictures at Photofeeler.com.

You can test your photos in three categories: Business, Social or Dating. Photofeeler members will anonymously rate each image for certain qualities: competent, likeable and influential (for Business), confident, authentic and fun (Social) or smart, trustworthy and attractive (Dating).

Does it cost you anything? It’s free if you’re willing to either vote on others’ pictures to earn voting “karma.” To get more responses quickly you can pay a fee instead.)

Want to know what I learned from my Photofeeler tests?

I tested a couple of fairly similar professionally taken photos in the Business category and got roughly equal – and favorable – results. So far so good.

Photo A:

Photo B:

I wondered why the second photo got higher ratings for competent and influential. Was it because more of my suit jacket was showing? So I tried a less cropped version of Photo A, with these results:

Interesting. Maybe the jacket did make a difference. Or maybe it’s just that the 33 people who voted on this particular day were in a better mood.

I moved on to my Social pictures.

Here’s where it got more interesting.

I had two options for a Facebook profile. I thought both photos would poll pretty well, but apparently this one was making a lousy impression!

Photo C:

So I immediately swapped it out for this one (below). Same ol’ me – but having a very different impact!

Photo C:

My conclusion:

If you want to choose a profile picture that sends the right message, Photofeeler can be a useful tool!

5 More Reasons Your Resume Didn’t Get You an Interview

In last week’s post I pointed out five ways your resume can fall into that mysterious black hole in the HR department. Here are five more ways your resume can crash. Don’t let it happen!

Maybe you never heard back because…

…your resume wasn’t ATS-friendly. Many common types of formatting can cause your resume to be misread by applicant tracking systems, including: putting crucial information in headers and footers (which are ignored by the ATS), using a Word template, sending a PDF rather than a Word document (and .doc is still generally safer than .docx, by the way), putting a credential after your name, or using a “functional” format where job titles and companies are not immediately followed by descriptive content. Or maybe…

…it didn’t have the right key words. Both for the ATS and the human eye, it’s crucial to have the right keywords in your resume, especially in the job titles and descriptions. How do you know what they right keywords are? Look at the posting. Tip: The #1 most important keyword is often the job title, so if your company has given you a vague title like “Analyst II” but you’re applying for Data Analyst, write it like this: “Analyst II (Data Analyst)”.

…it didn’t fit the job. It’s usually not worth your time to apply online to jobs for which you don’t have at least 9/10 of the stated requirements, unless you have a connection.

…you don’t fit the mold. This one is painful to hear, I know. Even if you have all the qualifications, if your job history is unconventional you’re likely to be passed over. For example, if your most recent job isn’t similar to the job you’re applying for, or you’re applying at a large company when your experience is at small ones, or you’re self-employed (however successfully), employers may have a hard time imagining you in the role, and may simply move on to the next candidate.

…you didn’t have a connection (your job search strategy needs an overhaul). Any job seeker with a referral has a major advantage. In fact, all of the issues listed above can cease to be show-stoppers when you have a referral. This is why experts recommend that you spend most of your job search time cultivating referrals at the top 40 or 50 companies where you’d like to work. For tips on how to do this, read my post “How to Use Info Interviews to Get Hired Faster.”

Your resume doesn’t have to fall into a black hole. You can transform your job search practices to adapt to the realities of what works. If that feels like a huge challenge, don’t go it alone – work with a coach to plan and execute a cutting-edge search that gets your qualifications taken seriously.

5 Reasons Your Resume Fell into a Black Hole

You’ve sent your resume out for a dozen jobs this month, but it seems like it’s disappearing into another dimension because you aren’t getting calls. Sound familiar?

Chances are, one or more of the following issues applies to you. Maybe…

…you didn’t act quickly enough. Just because the job posting says “Apply by July 24” doesn’t mean they won’t already have settled on a short list by the 20th. Be the early bird.

…your resume stated what you did, but not how well you did it and what difference it made. Let’s say you planned, led and completed a project. Well yes, but lots of people could do that. Did you do it better? Was it more difficult than it sounds? Did you solve a problem that was threatening to derail the initiative, then get the project back on track to hit an outrageous 5-week deadline? If so, add that!

…your resume is hard to read. Resumes that are wordy (using five words where two would do), crowded (long sentences and paragraphs, too little white space), in a tiny font (try not to go below 10 pt.) or that look disorganized are hard to read. Like this paragraph was. (Too many parentheses.)

…you didn’t use a proofreader. Long before I became a job search coach I worked as a proofreader and copyeditor, correcting professional writers’ manuscripts. When I was done with them, nearly every page was marked with numerous corrections. Your writing is not as clean as you think.

Did you know you can hire a proofreader for less than $5 a page? You can’t afford not to. And proofread it yourself too, because nobody’s perfect.

…you only sent your resume to Human Resources. Yes, I know, you were instructed to send it there. But don’t stop there. Figure out who the hiring manager is, and send it to him directly as well – maybe with a follow-up phone call as well.

(By the way, there’s LinkedIn add-on called Hunter that helps find people’s email addresses.)

Have you solved these resume mistakes? Still not getting the interview as often as you’d like? Read the next post: “5 More Reasons Your Resume Didn’t Get You the Interview.”

Tell LinkedIn What You Want Changed! It’s Easy.

Are you annoyed, enraged or thrilled or just puzzled about LinkedIn’s new desktop layout? There are a lot of strong feelings about what’s been added – and removed! – in the new interface.

If you’re puzzled, read my post from last week about making the new layout work for you.

If you don’t entirely like the new look, then why not…

Let LinkedIn know what you want changed!

Here’s how.

  1. On your home page, just click the “More” link in the are to the right of the news feed. (See image.)
  2. Then click “Send Feedback” in the 3rd column from the left in the view that appears.
  3. From there, it’s self-explanatory – and very quick.

Of course there’s no guarantee you’ll get what you ask for – but you’ve got even less chance if you don’t ask!

LinkedIn’s New Look – 5 Steps to Make It Work for You

LinkedIn’s new desktop layout provides a more seamless experience across mobile and home – but will it make you look good?

Here’s what you need to do to ensure your profile is branding you the way you want it to – starting from the top and working our way down.

One: Brand Yourself with that Summary “Teaser.”

One of the first things someone viewing your profile will see, in the top box (often called the Snapshot), is the beginning of your Summary – the first 92 characters on mobile, 220 on desktop – along with a “See more” link. Not everyone will click to see more, so make sure those first words contribute to a relevant, positive first impression that supports your professional brand.

The truncation process eliminates line spaces, so you may find that those first 92/220 characters include words or sentences jammed together with no space in between, like this:

CATHY L. CURTISSustainability Consultant – Corporate Social Responsibility – Communicationscathylcurtis@gmail.com

To prevent that, use dashes or symbols (from the “Symbols” font on your computer) to separate the words, like this:

▒ CATHY L. CURTIS ▒ Sustainability Consultant – Corporate Social Responsibility – Communications –  cathylcurtis@gmail.com

Two: Pay Attention to Your “Articles and Activity.”

Since your recent posts and post “likes” now show up at the top of your profile, they’re much more noticeable. So make sure your posts support your professional brand. If you wouldn’t talk about a certain topic in a large meeting at work, don’t post it on LinkedIn. And if the last time you posted was a long, long time ago, it’s time to share some news or an interesting work-related article.

Three: With Job Descriptions Hidden, Make Sure Your Titles Speak for Themselves.

Your job descriptions are now hidden until the reader clicks for more. If there’s something super-important in the description – like the fact that “Analyst III” actually means you built websites – add some description to the job title field, in parentheses like this: “Analyst III (Web Development & Design)”.

That’s actually been a good idea all along, since job titles are a very important field to load with key words if you want your profile to come up high in searches for people with those skills.

Four: Claim Your Accomplishments.

Several sections that once were separate are now grouped under the heading “Accomplishments”:  Certifications, Courses, Honors / Awards, Languages, Patents, Projects, Publications, Test Scores and Organizations. You don’t need all of these things, of course. But by labeling them “Accomplishments,” LinkedIn has made them more important. Enough said.

Five: Be Aware of Other Changes.  

You no longer have a choice about the order of the sections. If previously you had Education or Certifications near the top of your profile to emphasize it, that’s no longer an option. Instead, use your Summary (especially those first 92/220 characters) to draw attention to what’s important.

Groups have not disappeared, but it’s less obvious how to find and interact with your Groups. Click the magnifying glass next to the search field at the top and then click the “Groups” tab that appears. Or scroll down to “Following” near the bottom of your profile and “See more.” Various changes have been made to how your Groups function, mostly to make it less spammy. Here’s more on that.

Advanced Search is still there, you just have to click the magnifying glass first.

The new Notifications page makes it easier to engage with post activity.

LinkedIn Posts is now called Articles and works differently in various ways. The bad news is that your articles are no longer shared with all your Connections. Here’s more info on changes in this area.   

Exporting your LinkedIn connections is now done under Account>Basics.

There’s a new messaging feature similar to Facebook Messenger with a chatbot for scheduling meetings with Google Calendar.

Tagging of contacts is no longer available, but you can do that and more with add-ons like Dux Soup.

Capitalize on the Power of LinkedIn to Build Your Brand

Despite Facebook’s recent entry into the job posting world, LinkedIn remains the preeminent professional networking site. Use it to your advantage!