December 14, 2010 by Joyce Richman · Comments Off
We haven’t had a heart to heart about resumes in a while and it’s high time that we did. What you’re sending out isn’t getting the response you deserve. Here are just a few of the reasons why that’s happening:
- You may not know the difference between a resume and a promotional piece.
- You’re using the dump and stir method (dump it all in, stir it around, and let the reader figure it out).
- You’re providing information that only a mother could love.
What can you do? Let’s start with the basics.
What is the difference between a resume and a promotional piece?
A resume is a synopsis of your work history. It begins with right now and goes back in time; fifteen years is far enough. You don’t need to introduce it with a summary, it’s already a summary. You don’t need to include an objective unless you are changing career directions. If you include one, make it clear, concise, and to the point. If it sounds self promoting, leave it out.
Each work entry should be accompanied by a brief series of accomplishments that are described in measurable, quantifiable terms. Resumes are built on facts. That’s what separates them from puff pieces.
Grammatically speaking, write in the active voice, go heavy on action verbs, light on adjectives, and leave out articles and personal pronouns.
You probably know to keep your resumes brief and on point. You aren’t an exception to that rule, so please, comply.
Only you know which jobs most closely match what you do best. If you put every skill imaginable into your resume, you send a message that you don’t know. Prospective employers, search firms, and employment agencies have neither the time nor desire to figure that out for you.
If you’re not sure where you’re taking your career, get help. Get it before you write a resume. Get it before you network. Get it before you interview for a job.
We’ve reviewed several thousand resumes over the years. Many are attention getting for all the right reasons: they’re easily read, clear, succinct, forthright presentations of experience and accomplishments.
Others are attention getting for the wrong reasons: they’re overwritten, overloaded, and over the top. Put these under the category of “resumes only a mother could love”. Here are a few examples of please don’t:
- Please don’t include the names of your children, partners, spouses, or pets, in any order.
- Please don’t include more hobbies than the time it takes to do them, particularly if you intend to hold a job at the same time.
- Please don’t list arcane activities, organizations, or societies. They don’t mean anything to the majority of those who read these things.
- Please don’t include your social, political, or religious affiliations. Omit your age, the date of your high school graduation, and that glamour shot you love so much. You are providing more information than is appropriate to the workplace.
Here are a few please do’s.
- Please (always) send a cover letter along with your resume. (Your cover letter gets to brag and your resume doesn’t dare).
- Please have a human spell check your resume after technology has finished the job. (Humans understand syntax better than machines do).
- Please stop procrastinating!
Many folks delay the inevitable when the assignment seems ambiguous, the outcome can’t be measured, and the product will be judged by strangers. It’s a wonder that anyone writes a resume.
Nevertheless, the time is now, the subject is you, and no one can say it better than you can. If you need more help than books or computer software can provide, call a career counselor.
* * * *
Yes! You may use this article by Executive and Career Coach, Joyce Richman, in your blog, article in your blog, newsletter or website as long as you include the following bio box:
Joyce Richman (www.richmanresources.com) has been specializing in executive and career coaching since she started her own practice in 1982. She works in a variety of environments including: higher education, manufacturing, sales, marketing, media, technology, pharmaceuticals, medicine, banking and finance, service, IT, and non-profit sectors. A member of the adjunct faculty at the Center for Creative Leadership, Joyce is certified to administer a number of feedback and psychological instruments. Joyce is a weekly guest on WFMY-TV and the career columnist for The Greensboro News & Record. She is the author of Roads, Routes and Ruts: A Guidebook to Career Success and co-author of Getting Your Kid Out of the House and Into a Job. A popular speaker, Richman conducts seminars and workshops throughout the United States, Canada and Europe. Her coaching profile can be found at TheCoachingAssociation.com.
August 6, 2009 by Joyce Richman · Comments Off
Earlier I answered questions from a frustrated job seeker who, despite stellar credentials and carpet-bombing the area with resumes, hadn’t landed his first interview. We spent some time together discussing his resume, and I provided the candid feedback he requested. It wasn’t pretty.
His resume was too long, too wordy, and too hard on the eyes. It contained too much jargon, and was written in a format many interviewers reject outright.
Yep, those last five words got his attention, too. What format is routinely rejected? It’s called “functional” and instead of listing companies, job titles, and dates of employment, it categorizes and organizes strengths and experience in topic/paragraph form. It’s an attractive concept, easy to write and easy to understand but most interviewers haven’t taken to it. Here’s why: When employers are pressed for time, which is the norm, and faced with stacks of resumes, they want to be able to take an efficient glance (20-30 seconds) and quickly grasp what candidates have done and where they’ve done it. They want to focus on accomplishments and read them in bullet points. To achieve that they prefer resumes that are uniform in presentation and written in “reverse chronological style”.
The reverse chronology outline benefits job seekers with stable track records. It sheds a negative light on individuals who, for a variety of reasons, have changed jobs more frequently than their potential employers will tolerate. Which is why short timers find comfort in a functional format that enables them to describe their perceived strengths and experiences without having to reference their lack of longevity.
If you feel like a job- hopping resume is getting in your way, you’ll want to reframe your record in a more positive light. That will require getting in front of an employer before your resume does. And that, dear friends, takes networking.
When you network effectively you can proactively sell your attributes and reposition your deficiencies without having to play defense and make up excuses to cover your past. Then, when you’re asked to provide a resume you can say (if appropriate):
“My resume is an outline of what I enjoy most and when I’ve been most successful. I’m a trouble- shooter. I can assist my employer in finding new and creative ways to solve business problems. Once the problems are solved, I’m ready to move on to the next challenge.
I’m looking for that next challenge now. I like to work with companies whose production numbers are slipping, product quality dropping and revenues sliding because I’m able to fix what’s broken and to anticipate what’s heading in that direction. I then replace myself by training others to do the same thing. Who do you suggest I contact who can benefit from what I offer?”
Don’t hide your job mobility, clarify it. If you’ve lost several jobs because companies downsized or went under, say so, and talk about your loyalty, hard work, and determination. If you’ve lost jobs because you were asked to leave, describe your strengths and your commitment to joining companies where you have opportunities to maximize those strengths.
Choose your jobs wisely. If you think you’re gorgeous, talented, and smart and your boss thinks otherwise you have a recipe for dismissal and your resume is chopped liver.
Increase your self-awareness by routinely seeking objective, timely feedback. Ask questions and learn from what you hear and what you see.
Not everyone is cut out to be in management. If you’re a great individual contributor that’s the job you should have. Not everyone is well suited to business, industry, or finance. If your heart is in not-for-profit, that’s what you should pursue. Take charge of your career and you’ll have a resume that does you proud.
* * * *
Yes! You may use this article in your blog, newsletter or website as long as you include the following bio box:
Joyce Richman (www.richmanresources.com) has been specializing in executive and career coaching since she started he own practice in 1982. She works in a variety of environments including: higher education, manufacturing, sales, marketing, media, technology, pharmaceuticals, medicine, banking and finance, service, IT, and non-profit sectors. A member of the adjunct faculty at the Center for Creative Leadership, Joyce is certified to administer a number of feedback and psychological instruments. Joyce is a weekly guest on WFMY-TV and the career columnist for The Greensboro News & Record. She is the author of Roads, Routes and Ruts: A Guidebook to Career Success and co-author of Getting Your Kid Out of the House and Into a Job. A popular speaker, Richman conducts seminars and workshops throughout the United States, Canada and Europe. Her coaching profile can be found at TheCoachingAssociation.com.
May 15, 2009 by Joyce Richman · Comments Off
I’m often asked to describe the “one greatest error job seekers make when looking for work”. Well, you’re already ahead of me if you figured that there’s more than one, so, I’ll go through a short list of some of the more common mistakes and missteps, and you determine if you’re in the midst of making any of them.
Let’s start with resumes.
Many job seekers, in an effort to be all things to all people, are writing resumes that make them look a mile wide and an inch deep. Their job objective looks like an advertisement for “Jack of all Trades, Master of None”. Instead of focusing on accomplishments, which center and inform the reader, they write job descriptions, which don’t. They include laundry lists of things they’ve been told to do and leave to the imagination whether they’ve completed any of them on time or under budget. It’s the resume that talks; unaware that no one’s listening.
The reader hasn’t time or patience to plow through boiler plate information, or to figure out what the applicant does best or wants to do next.
Savvy resume writers summarize career goals and job objectives and highlight applicable and quantifiable accomplishments that underline and support the direction they indicate they are taking.
The interview: Too many job seekers stumble and fall when asked to explain work history gaps that result from home stay, lay off, and termination. Interviewers are aware that there have been record high layoffs in the area, but that shouldn’t and doesn’t keep them from asking why it happened and how the applicants have filled their time (particularly if it’s been several months) since it occurred. The best response is the one that’s short, simple, and honest. Speaking of responses…
Too many job seekers are inadequately prepared for phone and committee interviews.
Phone interviews are tough. Applicants don’t have the benefit of traditional cues that let them know how they’re doing. As a result they can be easily distracted from the objective at hand: coming across as positive and energetic while delivering articulate, focused, well-edited responses to the questions they’re being asked.
The best way to prepare for phone interviews is to practice by phone with a career coach or a career-wise friend asking questions and providing feedback. Along with feedback on the content of the response, ask, “Is my voice appropriately animated, well modulated, and easy on the ear?” “Am I projecting energy and optimism?” “Am I confirming my understanding of the questions I’m asked, and if necessary, am I probing for clarification, before responding with my answers?” “Am I answering questions succinctly yet completely?” “Am I asking questions that are reasonable and appropriate?”
If you want to track your development, tape record the practice sessions. Just be sure to get prior permission from the person at the other end of the line.
Committee interviews can be challenging, not because the questions are harder, but because the distractions are so much greater. The key to success is “comfort”. If you’re comfortable in your skin, your clothes, in the room, in the chair, the committee is likely to get comfortable with you. Speak and respond as you would in a one-on-one interview: Answer the questioner with good eye contact and appropriate body language, and take care to include the group in your responses.
Many employers suggest that the primary reason interviews go badly is that applicants are inadequately prepared: “He didn’t seem to know what job he was applying for”; “The applicant said he didn’t know why he was terminated, and he was still angry about it.” “When I asked her to describe her strengths she said she’d been out of the workforce so long she didn’t know.”
What does that tell you? Among other things, you have to do your homework, whether you’re changing jobs or changing careers, returning from a lay off, a firing, an extended stay at home, or never having worked in a paying job.
Your homework assignment consists of doing company research (at minimum, read the company’s website), having multiple practice sessions with savvy coaches (male and female), and listening to, and learning from, candid, constructive feedback.
January 24, 2009 by Joyce Richman · Comments Off
Whether you’ve been fired, laid off, or asked to leave your job without knowing why, you’re left with bigger problems than having nothing to do on Monday.
The following questions address those concerns:
Q: I was fired from my last job. Do I need to indicate that on my resume?
A: A resume is a condensed version of your work history that lists the companies you’ve worked, the positions you’ve held, and the jobs that you’ve done. To highlight your experience, include accomplishments that you’ve made. Do not include the tumbles, bumbles, and fumbles of why they asked you to leave.
Q: Every time an interviewer asks why I’ve left a job, I freeze. I know that I’ve left for the right reasons, but somehow they sound all wrong. Interviewers seem to think that I’ve been terminated, instead of leaving on my own. How can I change their mistaken impression of me?
A: It sounds like your confidence melts when you’re questioned about the wisdom of your choices. Your best defense is a good offense. Introduce the subject yourself and explain, simply and candidly, your decision making process.
Q: I’ve really been struggling to get work. I know why no one is hiring me: I was terminated from my last job. I’m thinking seriously about not telling the truth and just saying that I left on my own. Can I get into serious trouble if I do that?
A: If hired and then found out, you can get fired for misrepresentation. How’s that for trouble? So you might want to rethink that option. While you’re at it, rethink the possibility that getting fired is what’s keeping you from getting a job. It may be something else, like the intense competition from a growing pool of the unemployed; applying for jobs that aren’t a good match; and/or ineffective interviewing. Rather than jumping to an uneasy conclusion (“I was fired”) and applying a dangerous consequence (“I’ll lie about it), work on the three areas you can control. 1. Apply for job opportunities that require your skills and abilities 2. Anticipate the tough questions you’ll be asked and 3. Be ready to respond to them openly, honestly, and with a candid self-awareness that indicates your maturity and firm grasp of reality.
Q: I was fired from my job and wanted to “learn from the experience”. I asked my boss for an explanation, but nothing he said made any sense to me. So, what did I learn? I learned that it makes no difference if you work hard or not, you can’t control the outcome. So, why bother trying? What do you think?
A: I think that you can’t control world conditions, the weather, the economy, and why people behave as they do. You can control your responses and your actions. Employers want employees with good people skills, who are focused, flexible, learn quickly and apply what they learn accurately. If you’re working hard but not making a difference, for yourself, or your company, you need to choose what to do about that. If you don’t, your company will inevitably do it for you.
Q: I’ve been in one field, with one company, for 15 years. Business is flat, I’ve been laid off, and my skills will soon be obsolete. What can I do for a living and how can I make a salary that’s consistent with what I’ve earned in the past?
A: You’ve rolled several challenges (outdated skills; make the same money; do something new) into one big question. I’ve rolled several responses into one big challenge.
- Inventory your assets, strengths, and abilities. They’re all transferable. Find companies that want what you have.
- Companies want employees who learn quickly and can quickly apply what they know. They want workers who are interpersonally savvy, appropriately self aware, flexible, resilient, efficient, and effective.
- You’ll need courage, time and money to learn something new and to connect that learning to what you do best. You can earn your way back to a salary you can afford but you’ll not earn your way back to where you’ve been. The future won’t look like the past. It never has, it never will.
December 13, 2008 by Joyce Richman · Comments Off
What are three rules that every good resume writer should follow?
On average, a company representative takes about twenty seconds to review your resume. Therefore, keep it brief and on point, saying as much as you can in as few words as possible.
- Outline the essentials without elaboration. Be succinct!
- Start with your current position and go back in time. If you did it more than 15 years ago, summarize it. Include three accomplishments for each key position you’ve held.
- Don’t use industry jargon. Write your resume so that someone in Human Resources understands it as well as someone in your specialty.