As a Certified Professional Resume Writer with more than a decade of experience in recruitment, the question I get asked most often is, “What’s the single most important piece of advice you can give to a job seeker?”
The answer is simple: Continue reading
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.
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.
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.
Today’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.
The Applicant Tracking System (ATS) is a piece of sophisticated software used by many large companies to collect, sort, screen, rank and track candidates that respond to their vacancies. If you’re shooting for a role in an organization with a couple hundred employees, chances are, they are using some sort of an ATS to sift through the resumes and cherry pick the best matches. Only these select few are then assessed by a Hiring Manager. So if you’ve spent days, weeks, or months sending out resumes to no avail, here is the harsh truth: no matter how well-qualified you are for the position in question, your application might have been cut by the ATS.
That, however, is no reason to get discouraged. Though all recruiting systems are different, there are ways to make your resume more ATS-friendly, thus, dramatically increasing your chances of getting invited to the interview. Here are some do’s and don’ts to keep in mind!
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.
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:
– 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!
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.
Many people think that in this day and age sending a cover letter is pointless. Some are convinced that their resume already contains all the necessary credentials. Others infer that HR’s are too swamped with applications to read any cover letters at all.
However, even though you never know whether the cover letter you have carefully crafted will end up being read, you should write and send it every time. Why? Because most Hiring Managers will give your application bonus points just for submitting one. After all, the fact that you took the time to write a cover letter demonstrates your motivation, initiative and genuine interest in the position. And if actually read, an effective letter will set you well apart from other candidates.
So don’t forgo a chance to get bumped to the top of the employer’s list and follow these five useful tips to take your cover letter from passable to powerful:
1. Be focused
The cover letter gives you a perfect chance to state your case and present yourself as the best possible candidate for the position. Take advantage of this opportunity to demonstrate your professional value. Tell the HR what makes you better than others. Do you have any accomplishments you’re proud of? What can you do for your potential employer?
And in case you were wondering: yes, that means you write a different cover letter in response to each job posting you apply for. You can either create a general template and add relevant details for every application you send out, or have a long comprehensive version of a cover letter ready, deleting unnecessary facts to suit each vacancy.