The GREAT JOB SOONER Blog

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!

Do You Need a Personal Website?

Does Every Job Seeker Need a Personal Website?Online presence is crucial for job seekers, since recruiters routinely research and even source candidates through web searches. Social media platforms like LinkedIn are part of the equation. But do you need a personal website as well?

A slew of articles in recent years in publications like Business Insider, Money Magazine and Forbes have answered a resounding “yes.” But of course no one answer is right for every individual. So let’s think it through.

How far can you go with LinkedIn?

Many of the benefits of a website can be obtained with a great LinkedIn profile. Have you done everything you can to optimize this career marketing tool, both for the human eye and for search rankings? Don’t overlook optional sections like Projects or Awards, and the option to add media (photos, videos, documents or presentations) to make your profile engaging and search-ready.

And of course LinkedIn provides a blogging platform, Pulse. If you’re a good writer with something to say, blogging can demonstrate your professional expertise and communication skills. On Pulse you’ll have a built-in user base and traffic source for your posts, plus solid credibility with search engines – all of which would take time and effort to build if your blog is on a personal website.

A personal website, on the other hand, offers major advantages.

  • More space to showcase images and other content (projects, testimonials, etc.) in whatever format you like
  • No distractions in terms of ads, other people’s profiles, and so on
  • More control over how you appear in Google search results
  • Branding yourself as an up-to-date, tech-friendly professional
  • A contact form that makes it easy to reach you
  • Ownership; freedom from rules like LinkedIn’s user agreement

In balancing the pros and cons for your individual situation, consider your occupation and industry. How important is it for you to appear tech-friendly, media-savvy and skillful in marketing and/or selling something – like yourself, for example?

A personal website is more crucial for some than others, but most job seekers can benefit from having one. Done well, it’s a useful marketing tool that makes you stand out from the competition – an investment in getting a job and developing your career.

7 Ways to Use LinkedIn Recommendations to Impress Employers

6 Ways to Use LinkedIn Recommendations to Impress EmployersCan LinkedIn recommendations help you get a better job?

Absolutely. These powerful online testimonials are often seen very early in the hiring process, when they can contribute to first impressions – and even influence the decision to bring you in for an interview.

Look at it this way: what carries more weight to a prospective employer – your opinion about yourself (as expressed in your profile, resume, etc.), or what your past managers and customers say about you?

If you don’t have recommendations, request some (and give some, while you’re at it!).

Here are six smart ways to use LinkedIn recommendations to enhance your online presence and credibility:

1. Quote from them in your resume or cover letter.

Use very short, glowing excerpts – maybe 1-3 lines each. Insert one quote in a summary section near the top and/or another at the end of the resume. Or include a few within the experience, skills or education sections. Don’t overdo it.

2. Refer to them in interviews.

Use them to add a memorable sound bite: “You may have noticed the LinkedIn recommendation from my boss saying that I’m a miracle worker with Excel.”

Or to back up your own claim: “I really care about my clients – in fact, just last month, my client Tom Smith said those very words about me on LinkedIn.”

3. Quote a brief excerpt in your LinkedIn Summary.

This not only makes the summary more powerful, it also encourages the reader to scroll down and read the rest of that recommendation, and the others too.

“I’m honored that VP of Marketing Brenda Brown calls me ‘an endless innovator and incredibly fun to work with’ (see “Recommendations” below).”

4. Use them to “prove” your key selling points.

Let’s say the top three things you want employers to notice are (1) your track record of measurable results, (2) your advanced degree, and (3) your exceptional interpersonal skills.

Selling points (1) and (2) are verifiable facts. Point (3), however, is hard to prove to someone who has never met you. Get someone to vouch for those interpersonal skills in a recommendation.

5. Use them to counteract a possible negative in your profile.

For example, if you’re currently unemployed or have a gap in your work history, a positive recommendation from the boss can reassure prospective employers that your departure wasn’t due to poor performance.

6. Go beyond “what you did” to “how well you did it.”

It’s easy to describe your job duties, but harder to show what was special about the way you did your job. People who have worked with you can vouch for that, right there online for all to see.

7. Make sure your awesome testimonials will have plenty of chances to be seen by the right people.

Optimize your profile to be found by recruiters who are looking for an excellent candidate like you!

Used effectively, LinkedIn recommendations can be a powerful tool to enhance your credibility and get a new job.

Tips from the New Resume Writing Book I’m In!

Resume from Modernize Your Resume Resume bookBuild a more compelling resume by using the tips below from Modernize Your Resume, a new book of advice illustrated with resumes from noted resume writers including myself.

This image of the page featuring my resume for “Steven Sanchez” isn’t large enough for you to read. That’s okay, because the lessons it demonstrates are clear even from a distance.

One lesson this resume teaches is that even a professional publishing company can make a mistake. If you look very closely at three columns near the top, you may notice that the indenting is uneven.

You can believe this sent me running to my file to see if I had made that mistake in the original. Nope, this error was introduced in the editing of the book. The moral of the story is: proofread, proofread, proofread!

Now here are some words of wisdom from the book’s authors, Wendy Enelow and Louise Kursmark.

Start with the Wow!

Figure out what’s most impressive about your experience and skills – your key selling points – and make sure they appear prominently near the top.

This resume (used by the kind permission of my client, whose real name isn’t Steven Sanchez), starts with a concise headline, subhead and summary that immediately communicate his key strengths and skills. I wrapped up the summary with an rave recommendation from his LinkedIn profile. Wow!

Improve Readability and Skimmability

Avoid large blocks of text, which are daunting to the eye. Here there is no paragraph longer than four lines. Each bullet item is surrounded by white space.

Here’s how to do this in Microsoft Word:

  1. Select Paragraph in the Format menu.
  2. Under Spacing fill in “5 pt” or “6 pt” in the After field.
  3. You can quickly copy that format to other bullets by using the Format Painter function.

Integrate Your Critical Keywords

This resume is loaded with the important keywords from his target job postings – keywords like buyer, strategy, negotiation, team leadership and management. I front-loaded a lot of those in the “competencies block” (the section with the checkmark bullets) but didn’t stop there, making sure they appeared throughout.

These three tips above are especially significant, but the book describes many other ways to ensure your resume looks contemporary, savvy and powerful. You can buy it from Emerald Career Publishing.

Get Help from a Certified Resume Writer

Even the best resume books can’t talk to you, look at your experience, and strategize for your unique situation. Contact me for resume coaching or writing, if you want to ensure your resume helps you get a great job, sooner!

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) why they should hire you instead of someone else. What’s your brand, your unique selling proposition?

3: Keywords. Find them by analyzing job postings. The most important keyword is your desired job title. Others are the crucial and/or hard-to-find qualifications for the job, such as an advanced degree or a certain software, process or subject matter.

4: Accomplishments/results/impact. How did you make a difference for your past employers?

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

6: The right format for you. Strategically choose to include the sections that work for you, in the order that works best for you.

The only required sections are Name, Contact Information, Experience. Common additional sections are: Headline, Subheads, Summary, Core Competencies (or Expertise), Skills (or Technical Skills), Education, Awards, Affiliations, Volunteer Experience, Additional Experience, Interests (if relevant).

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 use any of the following: unusual or expanded fonts, graphics, columns, tables or symbols; unusual section headings, and all-capitals (except for the section headings).

If you want a more eye-catching version that includes these things, okay, but if you’re applying for jobs via websites or email, use your ATS-friendly version. You could attach the fancy version as a .pdf, just for human eyes.

8: Clear, concise writing.

9: Correct punctuation, capitalization, spelling and word usage. You’d be surprised how many errors you may be making. Even professional writers see a lot of red ink when a copyeditor or proofreader has gone over their work. Hire a professional resume writer or copyeditor/proofreader.

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.

Nail all of the above, if you want a strong resume that gives you the best shot at a job interview!