Yesterday we celebrated American independence. 238 years ago a bunch of men gathered together and put together a document that would forever change the path of the people living on this continent. But it didn't end there.
Over the next seven years, the people of the colonies fought tooth and nail for their freedom, many times coming close to losing their bid for autonomy yet never giving up.
In celebration of America’s independence, take the time today to celebrate your own independence. Think about what you have done in your past that has led you to where you are now. Take time to plan out where you want to be 5, 10, 20 years from now. Look at the steps needed to achieve those goals and then start putting together a document (résumé) that will help you start on that path. Print it out, take a quill pen (or the nearest ballpoint) and sign your name across the bottom just like John Hancock.
You've taken the first step to the rest of your life!
We all know that it is important to put together a solid résumé in order to get a great job, but what exactly should you include on your résumé to get you noticed?
Highlight Your Skills
The number one way to get your résumé noticed by a recruiter or hiring manager is to focus on skills that you bring to the position that other candidates cannot. Be sure that any skills you have that are related to the position are featured at the top of any job history. If the skills are such that you have developed them over the course of your career in a variety of positions, consider setting up a “Skills” section at the beginning of your résumé.
If an employer doesn't know that you posses the skills they are looking for, they will never bring you in for an interview, left alone offer you a job so get those out there where they can see them.
Don’t Include Unnecessary Information
One of the biggest mistakes I see in résumés is that there is too much information. A general rule of thumb is that no résumé should be longer than two pages and if you can find a way to get all the important information on one page, I strongly encourage it. Being able to have one concise page with all the pertinent information in one place can be a huge asset.
By eliminating anything that doesn't apply to the job in question, you naturally bring more attention to what remains. This is the classic rule of addition by subtraction.
Don’t Limit Yourself
Just because you didn't hold a specific job title in a previous position doesn't mean there aren't skills that you can apply to a new one. Look at the example of a teacher. Someone who has been in education for ten years applies for a job as a training manager at a Fortune 500 company. He has never had formal management experience, but as a teacher he has learned to manage the diverse backgrounds of 20-30 students on a daily basis. Additionally, he has experience teaching a variety of subjects and adapting the curriculum to his current set of students.
These are all qualities that directly apply to a training manager position and could make the teacher described above an excellent candidate for the position. He may even get more attention than someone who just has management experience and doesn’t bring any teaching/training background with them.
Spend some time focusing on what you bring specifically to the position at hand and always be sure to tailor your résumé to that position. Remember that one résumé does not fit all.
It’s time for another reader response.
Ramit writes-“I have been associated with a single organization without the need to switch jobs [after college]; but I fear someday when I will feel stagnated here, I may be pretty ill equipped in the job market on the resume front.”
A friend of mine (we’ll call him Joe to protect the innocent) recently lost his job. He had been working for the company for almost ten years. One afternoon the entire senior staff was brought into a conference room and told by the CEO that they had to let go of nearly half of Joe’s department. Upon hearing this, Joe immediately pulled up the most recent copy of his résumé to start sending it out to prospective employers.
Joe’s résumé was almost four years old. The last time he had updated it was when he was promoted to the job he was about to be fired from. There was a whole slew of responsibilities and functions of his job that were missing. Joe did his best to go through and update his résumé, but he told me that he felt like there were things he missed because he just couldn’t remember them.
The key to maintaining a great résumé is keeping it updated. Set a reminder for yourself in Outlook or Gmail that will occur once a quarter or every six month and remind you to update your résumé. When you do, print out a copy and make annotations on it where you would be able to enhance something or add new roles and responsibilities. I cannot say enough about having a Master Résumé on file where you can keep all information you might ever need for a job application.
My friend Joe realized that his new job was not going to be exactly the same as his last job, but that was OK. He looked back at projects that he had been a part of and realized that there were several presentations that he had contributed to in terms of the artwork and graphic design. He had always loved art and wanted to do something with his art.
Have a Portfolio
This may sound like something that would only be useful for artists or musicians, but it can apply to just about any position. Anything your produce in your daily work (projects plans, newsletters, new processes, even reports) can be added to your portfolio as demonstration of your ability.
Keep a Goal in Mind
You may have heard the adage that “you interview for your next job every day.” This is absolutely true and it is import to make sure you know what your plans and goals are. Take some time each week and assess where you are in your career and where you are trying to go. Write down your plans and refer back to them regularly.
If you see yourself going in a direction that leads you away from one of your goals, take the time to redirect and make sure everything you do at work is helping you achieve your career goals.
Joe did manage to find a new job just a few months after finding out he was being let go. He brought samples of the presentations he had worked on with him on interviews and was likely hired due to two things. First, he was able to show the interviewers some of his past work. That work provided evidence that he wasn’t just someone who liked to draw stick figures. Secondly, he had experience that was completely separate from his art and that made him a well rounded candidate for the job.
Even though Joe now has a great job doing work that he loves, he still makes sure to keep his Master Résumé updated. He even has two different templates for his résumé, one that is in a more traditional text format and one that incorporates graphic elements that he may use for more artistic work in the future.
Have more questions about writing your résumé? Leave them in the comments below.
A few weeks ago I asked you to send me some of the things that you find hard about writing your résumé. I will be tackling some of those in the coming weeks as blog topics.
Terrance wrote in-“I am not a writer and so I have a hard time crafting my experience on paper. I can talk about what I did but it is also hard remembering everything that I have done.”
I can completely understand this trouble. Some people are natural talkers. They are comfortable telling their story to people face to face but they lock up when they sit down by themselves to tell that same story. Let’s look at a few tips t get around this.
I have written about this in the past but it bears repeating. Make sure that you have a complete Master Résumé handy at all times. This document includes every job (yes, even babysitting or delivering papers in middle school) that you have ever held along with every responsibility that those jobs entailed.
When you need to apply for a job, simply access your Master Résumé and remove anything that doesn't apply to the job in question.
I recommend this not only because I offer this as a service through Best Word Forward but because I used to have trouble seeing the forest for the trees when I was writing my résumé. This is true about any writing endeavor and probably any artistic pursuit. Michelangelo likely had the vision of the Sistine Chapel in his mind, but it must be seen from the floor in order to appreciate the full beauty.
Your reviewer doesn't have to be a professional. I recommend finding a friend or family member with a teenage child and ask them to read over your résumé. For 90% of jobs, keeping the résumé simple makes more of an impact than over complicating it with big words. If someone in their early to mid teen years can understand your résumé AND repeat back to you what they read, chances are you are pretty close to the mark.
Do it in Chunks
Putting together can be a daunting task, especially when you don’t have a job and are trying desperately to land work. My last piece of advice is not to try and put together your full résumé all in one sitting. Just like any good writing, you should take some time to set down your outline. Start with just a list of your jobs and education. Once you have that framework in place, start filling in the details.
Give yourself a solid goal, perhaps one week to finish updating your résumé, and work on it a little bit every day. You’re not cramming for a test, you’re setting up your résumé to help you get a better job and improve your life. Make every second that you put into this effort count.
If you still have more questions about how to write your résumé, leave a note in the comments section or email me.
There is no one part about writing a résumé that is THE hardest part. Many people have trouble talking about themselves and especially lauding their accomplishments. They think that they are bragging and will be seen as pompous, but this couldn’t be further from the truth.
Your résumé is designed for one thing, to land you an interview. In order for someone to know if you’re worth interviewing, they need to know a bit about what you have done in the past.
My question to you today is what is the hardest part of writing or updating your résumé? Do you struggle with your objective statement? Does your education look too basic? Do you have trouble pinpointing what experience to include? Post a comment below with your biggest struggles.
This is my last post for a few weeks. I know I had pledged to post on this blog every Friday moving forward, but I have a planned vacation coming up and have decided to take a break from posting on the blog as well.
While I’m gone, I pose a question to you dear reader. What questions do you have related to refining your résumé or even starting one for the first time that you've just been too afraid to ask before now? Don’t be bashful. Someone else probably has the same question. So speak up and ask! I will review these questions when I return and you may see your answer as a future blog post right here!
I’m sure that these two weeks will go by much faster for me than for you. In the mean time, keep learning and make sure to put your BEST WORD FORWARD!
Would you leave home on a road trip without any idea where you're going? Of course not. How about flying a plane without a flight plan? Never. Whenever you travel, even if it's just a short trip to the store, you probably have an objective.
It should be no different with your career.
I have heard some people infer that objective statements are no longer useful and that employers don't look at them. I tend to disagree.
The objective statement in your résumé tells recruiters and interviewers exactly what your goal is. Having a great objective statement to start your résumé can make sure someone takes the time to actually read the rest of your résumé.
This can also be a drawback if your objective statement is generic and doesn't have anything to do with the job for which you have applied. Make sure that if you are including an objective statement in your résumé, you tailor it to the job. I have discussed carbon copy résumés here and here and the same rule applies to the objective statement.
The more you can tailor your résumé to specific jobs, the more it will be noticed.
I have mentioned in at least one previous post that the days of cookie cutter résumés are gone. With most big companies doing their initial hiring online, computers are doing much of the initial grunt work sorting through résumés submitted online, the use of keywords is becoming increasingly important. But what about when your résumé gets in front of a human?
Once you've passed the computers, it ultimately comes down to another human reading your résumé and feeling like you would be a good fit for the job they are trying to fill before evening meeting you. How can you do that? Be unique!
Having something unique to pique someone’s interest is key to getting noticed, but you also have to make sure that you’re qualified for the job and can contribute something to the position. That means making your résumé fit the job. A teacher applying for a position as a team manager could focus on her experience training people and working with very diverse groups. A former police officer applying for a position as a quality control operator on an assembly line could point to experience making split second decisions.
It simply comes down to two things:
Promote your unique abilities
Focus each résumé submission on the specific job you are applying for
With both of these in place, you will not be wasting the recruiter’s time looking at résumés that may not fit the position.
I am curious to hear from you what kinds of tweaks you make to your résumé when you are applying for jobs. Post in the comments below.
It is that time again. The Winter Olympics have arrived. By the time you read this, there will have already been one full day of competition in Sochi and the Opening Ceremonies will be in full swing.
Most athletes competing in the Olympic Games this month would consider just getting to that stage to be the crowning achievement in their sport. They have worked the better part of the past four years (if not more) to get to this point. Many have put other life goals on hold just to have the opportunity to walk into the Olympic Stadium representing their country.
Now imagine if you will that you are a recruiter for your company. Several résumés come across your desk for a new position that has opened up. As you are sifting through the stack, you notice one of the applicants has “Participated in Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia” listed among their achievements. I don’t know about you, but this would immediately pique my interest and at the very least make me consider bringing the applicant in for an interview.
My question to you today is simple. When you’re thinking about your résumé and how to make it stand out from the crowd, think about what would grab someone’s attention like the example I gave above? Most of us can’t legitimately put “Olympian” on our résumés, at least I know I can’t, but there likely is something that we can put on there that makes us unique and has the potential to grab the attention of the recruiter or HR director looking at our résumé.
Remember that the point of the résumé is to get your foot in the door and get an interview. If you can get someone interested in you before they even meet you, then you are one step ahead of other applicants from the beginning.
Jonathan Ytreberg is the owner of Best Word Forward, committed to providing the best resume advice and services to clients around the globe.