Does Your Resume Send the Right Message?

 

What message do hiring managers get when they read your resume?  Without realizing it, you may be sending mixed messages.  Aligning your job search with your current goals is a part of the resume-writing process many people don’t even stop to consider.  As a result, resumes can sabotage your job search due to a presentation of mixed skills and conflicting messages about your goals.  Be honest with yourself – what are your job search goals? Are you looking for more creative opportunities? A career switch? More money?  What’s most important to you right now?

Whether you are aware of it or not, your resume communicates your feelings about the job search, present situation, and future goals.  “Uncertainty” may be the strongest message hiring managers will get from your resume – a message not likely to instill confidence.  In fact, such “confusion” will probably land your resume in the “slush pile” where it will not be read at all.  However, careful analysis and simple organizational “tweaks” can make all the difference in getting your resume read and transform potential deficits into strengths.

Clear Job Goals – Where’s the Money or Self-Fulfillment?

Consider some basic questions about your job search.  Are you asking “where’s the money”?  Are you feeling unfulfilled and perhaps even unappreciated in your current career situation?  Do you long for a change in your career or are you seeking more flexibility in your schedule?  Do you have dreams of what you would really like to be doing but feel “stuck” just earning a living?

As a society, work expectations have changed drastically over the last couple of decades.  It is assumed most people will have a minimum of 7 different positions throughout their work-lives. Realistically, it is probably twice as many – although that reality doesn’t have to be as daunting as it sounds. What it actually represents is the culmination of the slow mentality shift away from “corporation as caretaker” that used to be part of a life-long career.

That change can give you greater flexibility, but with freedom comes responsibility – as the saying goes. Your responsibility is to figure out what you want for yourself – it’s never too late to decide what you want to be when you grow up (smile).  Crucially, if you have not figured out what is most important to you in your search right now, your resume is likely to reflect that indecision.  Take a few minutes and think about what you really want to do and then identify what you can do at this point in your career search.

Diverse Job Experience

Now, let’s get down to looking at your work experience.  How consistent has your work history been?  Do your positions demonstrate a clear progression of increasing responsibility or seem more like a “mash-up” of seemingly unrelated job experiences?  The latter description can certainly work against you if not carefully crafted into a cohesive resume.  These diverse experiences can become strengths and increase your value to an employer if “packaged correctly”.  Diversity can be an asset in today’s complex work environment.  If you are able to “connect the dots” for the employer by presenting a common thread that includes your passion for excellence, curiosity, and drive to make things happen, you can immediately move to the top of that pile of resumes on the hiring manager’s desk.

A varied work history – whether across industries or simply a number of different positions within the same field – doesn’t have to become an obstacle to the perfect job.  A bit of planning can help determine optimal presentation at this point in your career.

 

Transfer of Skills

A practical place to begin is with skills that can easily translate as strengths across industries.  Common examples include communication, leadership skills, and strategic planning.  You can start by thinking about how these “transferable skills” have been part of previous roles.  Those are areas to emphasize as that common thread mentioned earlier – think about your strengths and make those skills the core of your resume and job search.  Once you have done that, it is similar to decorating a family tree around the holidays – the ornaments in our analogy become those unique accomplishments you want proudly displayed in each specific position, while the “common thread” holds everything together.

Provide structure for your job search by presenting a resume to potential employers that sends the right message. Clarifying the purpose of the resume at this point in your life will present a cohesive “package” to hiring managers.  An authentic representation will land the job because of the consistent clear message about your strengths and skills.

Author: Alesia Benedict, Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW)

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Who Makes a Good Professional Reference?

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Employers place a lot of value on references, because these provide both an insight into how well you work with other people, as well as a subjective perspective on who you are.  While a resume is something that you can spend time tweaking and perfecting on your own, a reference isn’t entirely in your control, and is therefore more honest in some respects.  For this reason, it’s crucial that when you are deciding whom to ask for a reference, you choose someone who will not only sing your praises, but who will also be able to speak intelligently about you and give hiring managers a more complete picture of who you are and how you work.  Here are some individuals you should consider:

Your Current Employer

Few people will have a better understanding of how well you work for someone than your current employer.  Hiring managers like to speak to referrers who have a current, realistic take on the candidate being reviewed, and so they will take a lot of stock in what your current boss has to say.  Before you list this person as a reference, however, make sure that you have discussed with them your plans to find another position – otherwise you could find yourself in some hot water.

A Past Employer

A past employer is also a good person to turn to, especially if you haven’t worked too closely with your current employer.  It’s especially helpful if you had a particularly close relationship with your previous boss, and if they can provide a more valuable insight into who you are.  Depending on how much time has passed, it’s probably a good idea to refresh this person’s memory by summarizing some of the highlights from your working relationship, as well as to update them on some of your current professional endeavors.

Your Professor

Many individuals just entering the working world will turn to professors to vouch for them, and this is just as acceptable as asking an employer to refer you.  A professor will have a solid idea of your work ethic, your ability to collaborate with others, and your overall intelligence.  He or she will likely focus on the transferable skills that you possess, which you can utilize in the workplace.

A Coworker

If you feel that you cannot turn to an employer for a good reference, consider asking someone you work with.  A coworker can speak to how well you work in a team; they can also discuss your ability to take the lead on certain projects or help others with their work.

A Customer

Depending on your line of work, another individual to consider as a potential reference is a satisfied customer with whom you have worked closely.  This person can speak about your professionalism, your ability to get the job done in a timely manner, and your communication skills.  A customer who is willing to go out of their way to provide a good reference speaks volumes about your character and working style.

These are just a few of the many individuals whom you can ask for a reference.  Other examples include business contacts, teammates, family friends, and more.  Any person who is able to speak about your work ethic, leadership skills,  ability to learn, value as a team member, and so on, is a possible reference.  Just make sure that you ask them before you start giving away their contact information to hiring managers!

Until next time,

The Doostang Team

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Ace the Resume and the Interview!

By Alesia Benedict, CPRW, JCTC – GetInterviews.com

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Think it’s too early to consider questions you will encounter during an interview?  The answer is a resounding “NO”.  It is never too early.  In fact, thinking about questions you will be asked can strengthen your resume and create a consistent impression as you formulate your “brand” for potential employers.

Consider the first impression you want to deliver to potential employers and hiring managers.  You control first impressions by being meticulous about details contained in your resume, and that process can help you develop consistent answers to commonly asked interview questions.  The resume begins to build your brand, reflecting positive impressions of you from very first glance to final reading.

Convey Strengths instead of Weaknesses

Focusing on “duties or responsibilities” emphasizes your reporting to others.  A better presentation showcases your initiative, creativity, and ability to exceed expectations on your own efforts.  A description of your role as an “underling” can diminish the power of accomplishments. Balance accurate job descriptions with a presentation of your skills as achievements to convey strengths.

Present a Progression of Professional Growth

Using a chronological resume provides a progression of accomplishments and professional development, culminating a forecast of the next step in your career.  The progressive professional summary replaces the old career objective with a sense of how your talents can complement the potential employer’s mission and “bottom line”. Past success predicts future contributions.

Don’t Detail Reasons for Leaving Past Positions

Although most interviewers will ask the reasons for leaving your more recent positions, you don’t want to use the limited space in your resume to explain this part of your professional history.  These are definitely answers you want to prepare for the interview, but extensive explanations in the resume direct the reader’s attention away from your strengths. Prepare to provide answers during the interview, but not before.

Ask Pointed Questions About the Company

Appropriate questions can highlight research you have done about the company’s strengths and new directions.  Do not use the interview to explore salary or benefits. Avoid including salary history in your resume as well, so you don’t under-estimate the ceiling before negotiations even begin.

Highlight Unique Skills

Compare your job history and accomplishments to other likely candidates.  What skills are unique and which are considered routine?  Using common software, such as Microsoft Word or Excel, is unlikely to distinguish you from the 100 other candidates.  Analyzing current trends in the field and creating forecasts to help the employer stay one step ahead of the competition, however, are clear strengths that set you apart.

Handling Conflict

How have you managed difficult situations successfully, such as counseling or terminating an underperforming staff member?  Have you facilitated consensus among a diverse team? Quantify these successes in typical results you are likely to produce for the new employer, such as increased productivity or team cohesiveness.

Managing Competing Demands

Multi-tasking is a common requirement in most positions, particularly as companies downsize.  Have you effectively managed and delivered multiple projects simultaneously? What about directing teams remotely? Have you over-delivered despite challenges of tight time-frames and reduced budgets? These are valuable skills that deserve the spotlight in your resume.

Performance under Pressure

Typical examples of this quality include being calm under pressure, bringing structure to chaos, and rapidly responding to unexpected obstacles. Not all candidates bring these high-level skills to the interview. Demonstrating a history of consistent performance despite challenges conveys your value in being able to manage unexpected obstacles by innovating process and procedure.

Turning around Failure

None of us like to think about shortcomings, however interviewers often want to know how you perceive past failures to gain a sense of your own objectivity and ability to grow from challenges and constructive criticism.  Be cautious about how you present these scenarios.  Remember, you are not talking with your best buddy no matter how comfortable you may feel with the interviewer.  Package the “failure” in the context of how you turned it into a success by emphasizing a short time-frame or major results achieved.

Establishing Credibility

Describe how you establish authority as you take on a leadership role.  Do you use the position to create leadership or cultivate respect in leading by example? Do you unintentionally sabotage your authority by being too much of a worker bee?  Is your status as a Subject Matter Expert your basis for credibility?  Each approach creates a different type of respect, affecting interactions with your team.  Review your work history in the context of what kind of leader you have been and what kind you want to be.

Where do you want to be in 5 years?

This classic interview question can provide the framework for your resume.  Your answer should build on your individual career progression by highlighting accomplishments in each position that provide logical steps toward your 5-year plan.  Be certain your plan is career-related. Your life-long goal of being on the pro-golf circuit is unlikely to help get that coveted position you seek. Ideally, your 5-year goals dovetail nicely with the mission of the company where you plan to interview.

Translating the Big Picture Produces Results

Reviewing your answers to likely interview questions and incorporating them into your resume will help you present a consistent brand to potential employers.  Your ability to condense the big picture into a practical presentation of skills and accomplishments provides an example of your planning and communication strengths to potential employers.  These skills can translate into success for you in the interview process, as you translate your big picture into positive results from your resume.


About the Author: Alesia Benedict, Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW) and Job and Career Transition Coach (JCTC) is the President of GetInterviews.com, the country’s leading resume writing firm. They provide professionals with customized, branded resumes and career marketing documents. Her and her firm’s credentials include being cited by JIST Publications as one of the “best resume writers in North America,” quoted as a career expert in The Wall Street Journal, and published in a whopping 25+ career books. Established in 1994, the firm has aided more than 100,000 job seekers to date. All resume writers are certified writers. GetInterviews.com offers a free resume critique and their services come with a wonderful guarantee — interviews in 30 days or they’ll rewrite for free!

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Doostang News November 1: Time to Consider Those Transferable Skills!

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Being able to identify and highlight your transferable skills is crucial in transitioning to another industry, or even to another job.  Not every job is the same, and hiring managers may not entirely relate to the tasks you list on your resume.  But if you can fit your talents into one of these five main categories, you’ll present a resume that is much more to the point:

Human Relations

This category relates to any sort of interpersonal skills you use to deal with people in the workplace.  Think listening, sensitivity, cooperation, empathy, or motivation.  Chances are that if you worked with people at any point during your last job, you’ll bring some of these skills to the table.

Communication

Communication is all about effectively conveying knowledge and ideas to others.  It also has a lot to do with how well you receive information from others.  Are you a great writer, speaker, or listener?  Can you negotiate, persuade others, pick up on nonverbal cues?  If so, then you are likely a great communicator.

Research and Planning

This is just what it sounds like – the ability to seek out information and to formulate new ideas for the future.  Any time you come up with new proposals, find an alternate solution, solve a problem, define a need, or set a goal, you are engaging in research and planning.

Organization, Management, and Leadership

This one is all about rallying your troops and leading them into battle.  A good leader will coordinate plans of action, initiate new tasks, delegate responsibilities, teach, and manage conflict.

Work Survival/Professionalism

This last category includes all of the day-to-day skills that get you through the workday and promote an effective working environment.  Skills such as showing up to work on time, meeting goals, paying attention to detail, and organizing fit into this category.

Even if you’re applying to a job from a field in which you have no experience, there’s always a way to pull from what you do know or have done on the past, and make it relevant to the unfamiliar.  So the next time you apply for a job or draft a resume, bear in mind these transferable skills and show them what you’ve got!

Until next time,

The Doostang Team

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