Tuesday Tip: Don’t rely on clichés

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Let’s face it, peppering your resume and cover letter with terms akin to “result-oriented team-player” is not going to cut it these days. First of all, this tactic is used by so many job seekers, that it won’t help you stand out from the crowd. Secondly, relying on overused terms and recycled phrases tells the recruiter that you’re lazy, unimaginative, and unable to identify more meaningful aspects of your professional brand to present to the potential employer.

Clichés don’t make your resume more powerful, but here are some strategies that do:

What: Tailoring employment documents to the desired position
Why: To demonstrate your motivation, initiative, and willingness to positively contribute to achieving the employer’s business goals.

What: Using hard data, facts and numbers
Why: To prove you are who you claim you are and build credibility with the potential employer. Do emphasize your accomplishments instead of rambling about your duties, and don’t be shy to state how many people you’ve managed and how much money you’ve saved in your previous workplace.

What: Buzzwords
Why: To rank higher in the search results and to show you stay in the loop on current industry developments. But put them in context.

What: Words that project confidence and competence
Why: Weak phrases present you as indecisive and unprofessional. So drop them and opt for more meaningful alternatives.

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Tuesday Tip: Foster your network

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While the benefits of expanding your personal and professional network are well-known, and tactics for doing it successfully are available in abundance, the subject of nurturing existing contacts is often unjustly overlooked. However, keeping in touch with people you already know can drive your job hunting efforts just as effectively as making new acquaintances, if not better.

One tiny problem – reaching out to old contacts feels really awkward if you’ve last talked about 5 years ago. On the other hand, being annoyingly intrusive is hardly a good approach as well. So here some helpful tips on how to strengthen your professional brand and nurture your network:

  • Don’t be shy to forward interesting articles, suggest books, send invites to professional events and offer other information if you think the person you’re contacting will find it interesting or helpful.
  • Comment on your contacts’ status updates or group discussion posts. Sincere praise or gratitude for sharing useful information work just as well as intelligent input/feedback.
  • Ask people for advice or a recommendation – everybody loves to be considered an expert in their field. Just make sure you don’t come across as pushy or a suck-up.
  • Congratulate your network contacts on their new jobs, professional achievements (successful conference presentation, book publication, prestigious award) or personal milestones. Just saying “Happy Birthday!” is a great way to remind an old colleague about your existence and strike up a conversation to catch up.
  • Post status updates. That will give your old and new friends, colleagues and business acquaintances an opportunity to initiate contact with you.
  • Reaching out to your contacts a couple of times per year is a sensible and attainable target. However, the decision on the most appropriate messaging frequency ultimately comes down to you. Just remember not to spam.

LinkedIn 101: Reaching Out to Strangers

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It’s no secret that half of the available job openings are never advertised. In addition to promoting internal staff, companies often create new vacancies or fill existing ones when and if they know their target candidate is on the market. The harsh truth is – the HRs will probably skip going through hundreds or thousands of resumes submitted by total strangers if they already know someone who fits the bill.

So it’s no wonder that even qualified professionals struggle with getting hired. That is, unless they invest some time and effort into developing their network. With 225+ million of professionals registered on LinkedIn, you’d be a fool not to tap into that gold mine to identify and link up with some connections that might prove to be useful for advancing your career. And while the tactics for catching up with old colleagues and business associates seem quite straightforward, the art of reaching out to strangers is complicated for many. So what are the secrets to becoming a LinkedIn networking expert?

Tuesday Tip: Use Search Engine Optimization principles to your advantage

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Getting noticed by a potential employer is very similar to getting your website to show up on the first pages of Google search results. Your key to success lies in making your application documents relevant and easy to find. That way, when an HR looks for a professional in your field by browsing LinkedIn, employment websites, or even their company’s internal applicant database, your name shows up on top of the list. How do you accomplish that?

First and foremost, pack your resume, cover letter, and LinkedIn profile with buzzwords. Read your target job description carefully and incorporate the main concepts and phrases into your application documents. This strategy also applies to situations where you respond to job ads via any kind of automated system on the potential employer’s or recruiter’s website rather than by sending a good old email. And do try to include both abbreviations and full versions of key concepts, as you never know whether an HR will be typing in “SMM” or “Social Media Manager” in the search field.

If you are posting your resume on an employment website, such as Monster.com, and are targeting several job titles, create a customized version of your profile to match each alternative. That will dramatically improve your chances of being noticed amidst hundreds of your competitors.

And finally, take care not to go overboard with optimization and make sure you can back up each and every one of the claims you make on your resume.

Varying Verbs: Key to Adding Pizzazz to Your Resume

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Not so long ago I’ve shared with you a list of phrases that have the power to seriously sabotage your job hunt if used in a resume or cover letter. If you’ve already weeded these out of your employment documents, it’s time to move to the next level and add some meat to your job application. It’s no secret that a great writer creates compelling stories, carefully choosing each word so that their piece conveys information in a way that would evoke a certain response in a reader. Thus, an effective resume prompts the Hiring Manager to call the applicant for an interview.

Sadly, more often than not, HR’s end up going through piles of resumes crowded with unimaginative phrases that have been repeated so often that they have started to lose their meaning. Yes, I’m talking about endless lists of duties all starting with “managed” and “communicated”. The best way to turn your application into a piece of engaging writing that the recruiter will actually read is by adding some variety to your vocabulary. So here are some of the most overused verbs along with great alternatives that you should take advantage of:

Managed

coordinated — gives an impression that you’ve successfully juggled a number of tasks

oversaw/supervised — both imply that you have been directing both processes and people

Check out more helpful alternatives to overused verbs!

Tuesday Tip: Eliminate typos, grammatical and spelling errors

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We’re people, we’re not perfect and we all make mistakes from time to time. But in a world where one or two typos can cost you a job, you just can’t afford to be sloppy. What to do?

  • It’s a no-brainer, but you’ve got to proofread your documents, edit, and proofread them again.
  • Ask a friend to take a look. After working on a resume for a long time you’ve probably learnt each word by heart, so you might be missing some obvious errors.
  • For the same reason, sleep on it to see your documents with a fresh eye the next day.
  • Don’t rely on the spellchecker to do all the work for you. Otherwise you may end up having experience in “renovating horses” instead of “houses” and be an expert in “sock control”.

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7 Phrases to Remove from Your Resume

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You might not be aware of it, but by using weak words and phrases in your resume, you are sabotaging your own chances of landing a great job. These employment-speak clichés can make even the most qualified candidate come across as incompetent, dull, and lacking both initiative and confidence to succeed in the workplace.

Take a minute to go through your resume line by line and see if any of these seven phrases are the reason why you haven’t received as many interviews as you’d hoped for.

    1.  Responsible for / In charge of

Saying that you were “responsible for” or “in charge of” something does not mean you did it well. In fact, these statements create an impression that you might be hiding some major mishaps or know next to nothing about the subject in question. So spell out what your responsibilities entailed using active verbs. For example, instead of saying “Responsible for opening and closing the store”, write “Opened and closed the store independently every day” and add any other relevant details. A small tweak like that instantly makes your profile much more attractive.

    2.  Duties included

Again, by using this phrase you’re essentially saying what you were supposed to do instead of what you’ve actually achieved. Your best bet here would be to shift focus from your duties to your accomplishments.

But wait, there’s more!

Technology & Job Hunting: The Essentials

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Whether you like it or not, a good old-fashioned resume, while still essential to your job hunting success, is not enough to gain you that much needed competitive advantage anymore. In today’s information-driven society, your best bet is using technology to give your professional brand an edge that will get you noticed – and hired!

Your Social Media presence

There’s no denying that Social Media has become an integral part of our everyday lives. When it comes to the job search, Social Media provides a great way for prospective employees to explore target companies and connect with insiders. However, this is a double-edged sword. Pulling up candidates’ Social Media profiles is becoming routine for many Hiring Managers. And if you want to land the job, you have to make sure that your online reputation is not only impeccable, but also supports your resume.

  • Facebook – The recruiter should not see anything inappropriate or embarrassing on your public profile. That includes rude posts (especially about your current or previous place of work) and obscene photos. Also, be cautious about sharing your religious and political views.
  • Twitter – The same content limitations apply here. Do take advantage of the short bio section to drill down to the details and crystallize your “elevator pitch”. And confidently include links to your portfolio, website, blog, and LinkedIn if applicable.
  • LinkedIn – If you’re still not a member, get an account and make it work for you. Recruiters will check your profile to see if you’re a good cultural fit. So do be an active networker and make sure you have plenty of recommendations and endorsements.

For the creative types

Those working in the creative field, including design, marketing and even sales, should consider capitalizing on the following opportunities:

  • QR codes – Use them to lead the prospective employer to your portfolio, professional blog or personal website. However, remember to check that the website works properly (including the mobile version) and provide a URL in case the HR has trouble scanning your code.
  • Video and visual – Video resumes and infographics are gaining popularity, as they are a great way to attract attention to your persona and to truly stand out among other candidates. Just make sure you don’t get too carried away – no matter how good the production value, your creative resume will not score any points if the message it sends is weak or inappropriate.

Do you use technology for job hunting? Do you monitor your online presence, or stick to the tried-and-true methods? Share your experiences in our comment section!

LinkedIn 101: Your Cheat Sheet to Getting the Most Out of LinkedIn

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LinkedIn has hit a milestone with 200M+ registered users as of January 2013. Nevertheless, many people have only a vague idea as to how to use this unique tool for their career development or job search. “Do I need a LinkedIn profile?” and “Why can’t I just copy my resume into my LinkedIn profile?” are among the most popular questions that our clients ask. This post will answer these and many other LinkedIn-related inquiries and help you make your profile work for you.

Resume vs. LinkedIn – are they different?

In a word – yes. Although they both represent your professional persona, mentioning your experience, education and skills, they do it in fundamentally different ways. Think of a resume as an outbound marketing message advertising yourself. As such, it should be targeted to your desired position, concise, to the point, and emphasize your “features and benefits” as an employee.

LinkedIn on the other hand is akin to inbound marketing. It’s less formal, more flexible and offers you the freedom to let your personality shine. And while you might want to leave information about your college jobs, volunteer experiences and interests out of your resume (unless, of course, it’s relevant to the position you’re applying for), you can, and should, list it on your LinkedIn profile.

In short, your resume and LinkedIn profile complement each other. A powerful resume gets you noticed, while an effective LinkedIn profile offers recruiters an opportunity to know you better and ensure you’d be a good fit for their client/company.

So you’ve become a LinkedIn member – now what?