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.

Tuesday Tip: Foster your network

TT - Foster your network

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.

Tuesday Tip: Find your niche

TT - Find your nicheToday’s advice will be geared first and foremost towards new graduates and those working hard to obtain that status. Armed with college degrees, they often find themselves frustrated as to which career path to pursue, despite being full of enthusiasm and passion to join the workforce. (We know what we’re talking about as we’ve seen our fair share of Business Administration grads struggling with making a choice between manufacturing, sales, marketing, IT, e-commerce and whatnot.)

Now, wouldn’t you agree that expecting to hit the bull’s eye if you don’t even have a target is just plain silly. That same is true when it comes to job search – if you don’t know what you want to do and what you’re great at doing, you’ll be doomed to working in unfulfilling positions all your life. So take a minute to identify your preferred niche before you begin writing your resume. Here are a few tips:

  • Make a list of all industries that seem appealing to you. Then inventory your personal strengths. (Are you a great communicator? Can you strike a deal? Excellent at planning and organizing? Expert in microbiology?) After that search job boards for positions that

a) are in your desired sector,

b) require your level of education/knowledge, and

c) make use of your special skills.

Tailor your resume and cover letter accordingly.

  • If you’re choosing between several different career paths, try interning or job shadowing professionals that have already achieved something in each of your target positions to get a better understanding of whether or not you are a good fit for the desired role.
  • Have you been dreaming about working at a certain company? Then do some research to know more about their culture, hiring process, network with their employees, etc. If the new information does not change your initial intent, and there are no suitable roles for you at the moment, it might be a good idea to take a job you’re overqualified for/not that interested in, but only if it offers potential growth. That way you’ll get your foot in the door, learn about the company from the inside, set or adjust your career goals, and map out the next steps for moving towards them.

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.

Tuesday Tip: Don’t be arrogant or lie

TT - Don't be arrogant or lie

While it is important not to undersell yourself on your resume, going overboard and mentioning every single thing you’ve accomplished since high school is also not a good idea. The truth is, saying you’re a genius (or implying it) is not the same as demonstrating your confidence and competence. Such tactics won’t help you get hired – they’ll just give the recruiter an impression that you are a pretentious individual who won’t be a good fit for their corporate culture.

Lying is also a no-no. And yes, exaggerating does equal not telling the truth, so it’s another pitfall to avoid. If you’re tempted to make things look better than they actually are, remember: even if you do land the job you so desperately want, it will soon become clear what you can and what you cannot do.

Stick to the tried and true “Honesty is the best policy”. Combined with a healthy amount of confidence, this approach will make your resume, cover letter or LinkedIn profile extremely compelling.

Tuesday Tip: Eliminate typos, grammatical and spelling errors

TT - Eliminate typos, grammatical and spelling errors

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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Tuesday Tip: Don’t be too modest

TT - Don't be too modestYou’d be surprised at how many people feel uncomfortable talking about themselves, particularly when it comes to describing work-related successes. However, failing to mention your achievements is likely to greatly impede your job search. Practice shows that listing professional accomplishments on the resume gives you an instant boost in the eyes of a Hiring Manager, which translates into more chances of landing you the job interview.

So if you’re still struggling with recollecting your professional victories, try answering the following questions:

  • Have you exceeded sales or performance targets at the workplace? How often?
  • Have you suggested or implemented any improvements to operations or processes?
  • Have you saved your employer money?
  • Have you contributed to business growth in some way? (Expanded the client base? Attracted funding?)
  • Have you successfully completed any challenging projects?
  • Have you received any awards or commendations from your employer? How about praise from customers or clients?

Remember, if you did something well – don’t be afraid to own it!

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Tuesday Tip: Steer clear of going crazy with formatting

TT - Steer clead of going crazy with formatting

Using Curlz MT font coupled with boldface on a hot pink background will certainly make your application stand out among others; in a bad way. So in addition to ensuring that your resume is relevant and targeted to your desired position, make it eye-pleasing, or, at the very least, readable.

Unless you are a professional graphic designer, go by the “Rule of 2 or less”:

  • No more than 2 fonts. – Defaults like Times New Roman, Arial and Calibri are a safe bet, while Georgia and Cambria are great for headers. And don’t go lower than 10 pt in font size.
  • No more than 2 colors. – Aside from black or dark grey for the text, you may safely use light blue, grass green or some other neutral color to embellish section headers. Take care not to pick hues that are too bright, as these are distracting.
  • No more than 2 types of bullets. – And only one of them should be fancy (i.e. a check box or an arrow).
  • Boldfacing, italicizing, underlining and using small caps in a phrase all at once is overdoing it. Combining any two of the above-mentioned formatting tools is okay.

And here are a couple of other helpful tips:

  • Regardless of how much (or how little) formatting you decide to apply, make sure you leave enough white space.
  • Avoid lengthy paragraphs. Opt for bulleted lists and clearly defined sections instead.
  • Make sure your formatting is consistent. That means same design of headers, same font and size for the main text, same intervals between sections and so on.

Tuesday Tip: Don’t overuse jargon

TT - Don't overuse jargon

The importance of populating your resume and LinkedIn profile with relevant keywords can’t be stressed enough. However, you shouldn’t expect an HR Manager to be well-versed in all the technical intricacies of your job. With hundreds of resumes landing on their desks each day, they simply don’t have time to look up unfamiliar terms and abbreviations.

Therefore, it’s a good idea to make the job-related jargon understandable for lay people. For example, spell out the technical terms the first time you mention them and use abbreviations later on in the document. Otherwise, you’re risking not getting past the first gatekeeper.

Tuesday Tip: Remove irrelevant information from your resume

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It takes a Hiring Manager several seconds to scan your application and decide whether or not to consider inviting you for an interview. By cluttering your resume with information that is not relevant to the position you’re applying for, you are sabotaging your chances for landing that coveted job.

Here are some guidelines to help you improve your resume:

  • There is no need to mention your high school studies if you’re a university graduate.
  • Internships, college and summer jobs belong on your resume only if they are directly related to your target role, or if you have no other professional experience.
  • Objectives and “References available…” are outdated and take up valuable real estate that can be used for more important information.
  • Certifications, memberships and hobbies are to be mentioned cautiously. List only those that might contribute to your professional image.
  • Your headshot, marital status and religious views are most likely irrelevant. In fact, many companies will remove this information from your application so it does not affect their decision one way or the other.