Original post on www.careerwizardsinc.com/blog

Anymore, editing resumes is only a small portion of what I do.  Instead, I teach students how to write a resume the right way in the first place.  Over 80% of the resumes that I am asked to edit must be completely rewritten due to five common resume mistakes.  Some of these mistakes used to be acceptable resume writing practices, but times have changed and if you want to be competitive in today’s job market, you must change with the times.

  • 1. Passive Voice: Have you ever started a bullet point with “responsible for” “participated in” or “assisted with”?  At one time or another, every job seeker has probably written a bullet point in a passive voice.  What makes this a mistake is that passive does not sell, ACTION SELLS.  Without action, you cannot have results. When you sit down to write your bullet points begin the sentence using action words such as developed, introduced, accelerated, built, designed, etc. Using action words makes your resume more hard-hitting and compels the reader to keep reading.
  • 2. Quantifiable Results: I am amazed at the number of resumes that I see with bullet points that only state the tasks performed in a job with no mention of the accomplishments that followed. If your efforts resulted in increased revenue of 45%, make sure you include that valuable information in your resume. Your ability to communicate quantifiable accomplishments such as volume, percentages, and numbers will greatly differentiate you from the competition.  Prove your value wherever possible.  Failure to do so is a huge mistake.
  • 3. Objective Statements: My advice to job seekers is to omit an objective statement and replace it with a statement of purpose or summary statement. Objective statements typically focus on what the job seeker wants and not on what the company needs.  If well written, a statement of purpose or summary statement will promote the job seeker’s value, and as a result, what the job seeker wants.
  • 4. Personal Information: You may want the employer to know more about you, but the resume is not the place for personal information.  Honestly, this information should not be shared during the interview process at all.  Marital status, number of children, or place of birth bear no weight on your marketability for the position and may eliminate you as a potential candidate.
  • 5. Grammar: Let me start by saying that spelling and grammar mistakes are the most common reasons that hiring managers toss resumes into the trashcan. Rule number one to avoid these resume mistakes, never trust spell check.  For example, lead is a word, but it is an error if meant it in the past tense form of the word, which is led.  While spell check would not catch the error—a prospective employer will.  Another error often overlooked on resumes is properly capitalizing words. One of the most common places that I find these errors is the resume heading.  Yes, I said it, the heading.  If you live on Smith St. be sure that you do not type Smith st.

Your resume is the story of your career experiences and achievements.  Errors discount your value and minimize your ability to communicate the value you bring to a prospective employer.  Your resume is the hiring manager’s first impression of you.  Remember that old adage, “You never get a second chance to make a great first impression”.

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Where’s the Beef?

March 28, 2011

Do you remember this series of commercials from Wendy’s in the 80’s?  The little old lady is standing next to her friends and they are staring at this massive bun, only to open it and find a little bitty beef patty.  What a disappointment!

Managing your brand is just like this.  You have to have a great package (hb bun), but the key is to also have a big juicy pattie in the middle. We don’t want to open the bun and find that there is no content, nothing to sink our teeth into, nothing to water in our mouths.  We want the real deal, flavors, thick meaty patties with all the fixins.

Job Seekers: It is great to be polished on the outside, but you have to know and understand the value of what is on the inside.  If I unravel that bow, I want to see something substantial in that gift.  Know yourself and what you have to offer.  It is great to be humble, but you still have to know what you have to offer. Know your skills.  If you don’t know your skills, ask people close to you what you are good at and see what they say. Take some professional or personality assessments to help provide the terminology to use to describe yourself.

And stop comparing yourself to other burgers. How could Wendy’s, Whataburger, and Burger King make it in the shadow of McDonalds’ success?  By not comparing, by being different, by differentiating themselves, but knowing what they have to offer and to whom they want to offer their product.

So I encourage you to not only package your professional image well, but really focus on what you have to offer a prospective employer.  Google a list of skills and circle the ones you think you are good at.  Then think of tangible examples of how you have demonstrated those skills within your professional or academic work.

And don’t forget…Always show me the beef!

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For your viewing pleasure: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ug75diEyiA0

If you have been in the job search for very long, there is one question you hate to be asked:  “So how is the job search going?”  While people ask this question with the best intentions, the recipient actually hears “Why haven’t you found a job?”  The job seeker feels like he or she has been knocked down yet another peg.  Admit it. 

Instead of feeling defensive and defeated, I challenge you to use this as a great opportunity to ask for advice and help.   Be honest yet genuinely interested in receiving guidance and direction.  If people ask you about your job search, they might also be very open to offering you guidance as well. 

A good response when someone asks you about your job search might go something like this:  “I have been networking and sending out resumes; however, I have not secured any offers to date.  If you are interested and willing to do so, I would really appreciate sitting down with you for a few minutes to get your input.”  Depending on your relationship with this person your questions may range from general to quite specific. 

The next time someone asks you how your job search is going don’t answer with “fine” or something sarcastic and walk away.  If you are in the job search, you need as many cheerleaders and champions as you can get.  Ask advice from anyone who shows an interest in helping you.  And remember that just because you receive advice doesn’t mean you have to act on it, but you never know where you will find your most beneficial contacts and job leads.  Keep all doors WIDE open.

But I Want It NOWWWWWW…

September 29, 2010

Yes, I am mocking Veruca Salt from Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory.  I wonder how many readers will have this movie line in their minds for the rest of the day.  I know I will. 

Let’s face it when we are looking for employment, we want a job now – right now as a matter of fact.  The thought of the lengthy process of networking, writing resumes, writing cover letters, interviewing, and everything else involved is daunting. 

The most important thing to realize about the job search and career management is that it is a process not a task.  It’s a marathon; not a sprint.  Starting a new job is a major life change.  Major life changes and the decisions leading up to the change do and should take time. 

Be prepared for a job search that could last months.  Prepare for those times that your energy and patience will be low.  Create a “cheerleading” squad if you will to pull you out of that valley and keep you focused through this marathon.  You want to avoid being exhausted in your job search and seeming desperate.  Create a support system to keep you fresh and energetic. 

Don’t let yourself be a Veruca Salt in your job search.  You know what happened to Veruca right? 

Have you ever heard the statement:  “Be part of the solution, not part of the problem”?  WOW!  That statement is powerful although it is not pleasant to hear either.  As a job seeker, your challenge is to find employment.  Your added challenge is to navigate through this economy towards successful employment and a career.  Easy to say but difficult to execute wouldn’t you say?  An effective job search requires patience, tenacity, and most importantly, flexibility.

Have you ever walked through a maze? I have, and I do not enjoy them.  Either way, have you ever tried to walk through a maze only to hit a dead end?  What do you do?  You do not back up only to try the same strategy again, right?  No, you go at it through a different path.  You might hit another dead end, but you keep trying new paths to get through the maze. 

The same approach holds true with the job search.  If you have applied online to dozens of positions with no response, it is time to realize that you need a new strategy?  This plan isn’t working for you.  Stop walking into the same wall over and over again because, frankly, you are now the root of your job search problem. 

If you are getting interviews but no callbacks, your problem is not your resume, so asking endless people to help you with your resume at this point is not what you need to do.  My guess is that you need to address your interviewing skills.  Identify the root of your job search problem and develop strategies to overcome it.  Notice I said strategies not strategy.  Plan A might not be the right avenue for you.

In the job search, it is important to be tenacious and patient enough to not give up too quickly but also wise enough to know when it is time to scrap Plan A and move on to Plan B.

With any challenge you face in your job search, do not give up and blame the economy or your lack of experience for your situation.  Ask yourself, “What am I going to do about it?”   The person who just complains that nothing they are doing to find a job is working has now become part of the problem.    The person who looks at the facts and asks “What am I going to do about it?” is the solution-driven job seeker.  I like being solution-driven myself.  What about you?

In years past, Career Fair was a time for job seekers to speak with employers face-to-face and present a resume to hopefully result in an interview and potential offer.  With the Internet and movement to online resume submissions, many employers—certainly not all—have stopped accepting the paper resume at Career Fairs using their online system. 

With this latest trend, job seekers often ask if attending Career Fairs is worth the time.  My answer is YES.  To use a corporate buzz phrase (I try not to use them often), think “outside the box”.  Look beyond immediate gratification.  Career Fairs are well worth your time.  Let’s look at a few scenarios that prove my point.

  1.  You walk up to a career fair booth and strike up a conversation with the person at the booth; however, the representative cannot take your paper resume.  You are directed to apply online.  Okay.  Proceed as directed, but please continue to use the time with this employer to ask further questions about the position, career path and company in general.  Look for a nametag, and write down the employer representative’s name and a few notes about your conversation.  After the Fair, send a targeted resume and cover letter to the representative you met along with a few points from your conversation.  You can find the address online or call the company’s corporate general number.  This information is extremely easy to find.  You will be surprised. 
  2. You walk up to a booth, and the employer representative quickly informs you that the company is only attending the Fair to fill specific positions which does not pertain to your functional interest.  DO NOT WALK AWAY!  Stay for a few moments to either ask for the name of the proper person for you to contact or at least ask a few questions about the company.  Then when you return home, either write a letter to the contact name you were given or network your way to the correct contact.  Write a targeted resume and cover letter and be sure to note your conversation with the company representative at the Fair. 
  3. You walk up to a booth, and the employer representative is the correct person for you to contact yet knows that the company will not be hiring for your area of interest right now.  Once again, DO NOT WALK AWAY!  Stay and talk with this employer.  Communicate your interest in the company.  The reason that company is there is to build relationships for the future; however, many job seekers do not take advantage of this opportunity at Career Fairs.  This is the perfect example of how relationship building turns into opportunity for the future.  You will be an A-Lister with this company for the future.  And remember to contact this employer after the Fair and continue to build your professional relationship.

Job seekers should use every opportunity to learn, to network, and to make the best impression possible.  Any face time you can get with an employer is well worth your time, money and effort.  The key to Career Fair success is thinking “outside that box.”