What Do You Want In Resumes You Receive?


One of the social media articles which came my way this past week showcased a, “winning resume” from what they stated was a large number of submissions for an annual contest. This resume had colour, broad bands of headings, was filled with numerical stats and while visually impactful, I couldn’t help wonder about whether or not such a visually busy resume would even get by the applicant tracking software used by many employer’s.

Now if it did get by, and if it found it’s way to the people making interviewing decisions, there are a lot of people who need to start overhauling their resume designs and advice. I’ll be one of them. Hence, I think it only wise for us in the business here in Canada to check in from time to time and ask employer’s what they want in the resumes they receive.

As is always the case, it’s important when reading articles – any articles – to determine the source. I can tell you this resume winner was from the United States. Maybe resumes of such ilk are in vogue there, but in Canada, I’ve yet to see a big push for resumes that were so busy; had colour, etc. Can I make these myself? Sure I can. The question is whether I can or not, the question is really whether I should in order to give those I partner with the best competitive edge.

So it’s out there as a question; what are you looking for in the resumes you receive?

 

Let’s Clean Up That Resume


How much can be written on the subject of resumes that hasn’t been covered before? Well, it doesn’t matter and that’s not the point I want to make today. What I do want to advise or remind you of are some of the most common mistakes I see with respect to resumes; mistakes that are made daily. I tell you up front that I’m picky when it comes to critiquing resumes and that’s a good thing if it helps you submit a document that’s error-free.

Let’s get right to it then. Get out your resume and pick up a pencil or pen. As I mention things to look for, note anything that needs attention on your document and then take the time to make the necessary revisions. Here we go….

Let’s start with what ends sentences; periods. These are not necessary at the end of each line that starts with a bullet. However, whether you use them or not, the one thing that is a definite no-no is to switch between sometimes using them and sometimes not. Be consistent. Personally, I remove them altogether. Not a big deal you say? Being inconsistent reveals poor attention to detail.

As for those bullets, make sure they are aligned throughout the resume and the best style to use is the round black dot. Why? Round black dots are sharp, crisp and don’t distract the reader’s eye from actual content. Forget the cute little scissors or the small hammer. Stand out for what you actually have to say, not your ability to click on a bullet.

Watch for that single letter, ‘s’ which can suggest to a trained resume reader that you did not in fact write your own resume. While this may in fact be the case, you don’t want to advertise this as it works against your intent to come across as authentic and genuine; capable of representing and marketing yourself. Add the letter, ‘s’ at the end of a word – typically at the start of a bullet, and the language switches from 1st person (you talking about you) to 3rd person (someone else talking about you). See the difference below:

  • Work well in teams
  • Works well in teams

The first bullet is in 1st person language; the word, ‘I’ is implied at the start. In the 2nd bullet, the word implied at the start switches to, ‘she’ or ‘he’ – as if someone else is talking about you. If you’ve had someone else actually craft your resume, they may have made this error themselves but it’s up to you to pick up on this.

The next thing to look out for is the use of italics. Yep, that entire previous sentence is in italics and this is used often to draw attention to something important. Unfortunately italics isn’t recognized and read by all ATS (Automated Tracking System) software. What it can’t recognize and read gets skipped therefore, and whatever you were drawing someone’s attention to just scored you a fat zero which could be the difference between getting your resume even viewed by human eyes.

As for fonts, stick with a uniform size 12 and I’d suggest using Arial. Look at almost any companies resume guidelines page and you’ll see that size 12 is the overwhelming favourite. It’s big enough to read comfortably yet small enough that you can get what you want to say nicely contained in a tight document. Please don’t vary your font size or styles throughout the resume. It’s hard on the eyes, and while you’ll definitely stand out if you do vary your font, it won’t be in a good way.

Another common mistake is to vary the size of the spaces on your resume. Look at yours now and see if you’ve got a uniform space after each heading on your resume. Some people will have a single space sometimes and a double space at others. Same goes for spaces after job titles and before your bullets associated with that job. In this case, remove the spaces and connect the two. This makes it easier for the reader to see what goes with what, especially when they are reviewing many resumes in addition to yours.

Please pay attention to your spelling and grammar. When proofreading your document, you may actually read what you intended to write rather than what you actually put down. For this reason, proofread very slowly; slower than you would normally read it. When you do this, you brain will pick up more mistakes, and it’s always a good idea to have someone else look over that resume before you send it away. You worked hard on it so take the extra few minutes to give it a real thorough check.

Finally, pick up your resume and look at it objectively. You know what job you are applying for and you know your strengths and what qualifies you, etc. However, look at your document as if you were unfamiliar with this person. Have you made it clear what job you are even applying for? Would you be hooked in the first 5 seconds and be motivated to read on?

Look if you’re going to do a resume, do it well. These are just some of the picky small things that could damage your presentation. The good news is they are quick fixes for the most part and easy to clean up. All the best when crafting yours!

Take The Advice Of Professionals


There’s a black t-shirt that keeps showing up on my Facebook page with writing on it that says, “If at first you don’t succeed do what your Employment Counsellor told you to do in the first place.” Yes those brainy folks at FB have found a way to send me a feed that fits perfectly with my line work – lo and behold I am an Employment Counsellor and yes many a time my colleagues and I say to each other, “If they would just do what we suggest things would be so much better!”

Maybe you’ve got something similar showing up on your social media pages and the job title is specific to what it is you do too? I wonder. It does go to show how the information we provide online helps others target us directly with their marketing all the way from products we can buy to ads we view on our pages. Be careful what you search for online. Am I buying myself one of these t-shirts? No, but I do kind of want one even though I wouldn’t wear it to work!

Think about the message though and you can view it two ways; the first is of course to see ourselves as the expert; the all-knowing wise ones who hold all the secrets to happiness and success. It can come across as sanctimonious, smug, cocky, perhaps even arrogant. On the other hand there’s a lot of truth in that message. After all, anyone who is an expert in their field and has been in it for a period of time has to know more than the average dabbler into the field.

When the brakes need fixing on our cars we typically head out and seek the services of a brake professional; it’s just too important when you’re driving down the road at 90 km and have to stop suddenly to put your life and the lives of others in the hands of anyone else. I know I certainly wouldn’t go to my neighbour who happens to work at a cemetery and expect him to knowledgeably and expertly fix my breaks. I could of course, but I might find my family needing his professional services for my own funeral and the last thing they would do is leave my burial and final send off to a brake professional. That’s ludicrous.

Yes I am often perplexed and amazed when, in my line of work, I encounter numerous people who have trusted their job search tactics and specifically resume and interview help to friends, family and friends of family. “Who did your resume?” I sometimes ask at the outset to see if the person did it themselves or got assistance – and this before even looking at it. “Oh I got help from my sister”, is the kind of response I often hear. “And what does she do for a living?” I might ask only to be told any number of jobs – all of which I trust the sisters of this world are pretty good if not great at – but alas, resume construction and crafting is not numbered upon the areas in which they have expertise.

What gets more interesting is that as the critiquing starts when doing a resume consultation, the owner of the resume often gives up all ownership and responsibility for the content and design, blaming the person who made it for them. In fact many are quite happy and ready to tell me that some other, “professional” did it for them. Well, as I point out to them at this point, no matter who did or does a person’s resume, if your name is at the top of the page, you have to take full responsibility for content, design and how it markets you overall.

Just like in any profession, some people are better at it than others. You’ll find the professional who is on top of their game, using best practices, changing with the times who updates their skills and is the go-to person getting top results. You’ll find the professional who used to be engrossed with striving for the best but who is now coasting on their record and riding into retirement no matter how many years off. You can find the young professional who has all the right intentions and knows some of the latest and greatest but who lacks life experience and who’s gusto and energy outmatches their actual skills.

So getting help from a professional doesn’t guarantee the result you might hope for. Good advice is to ask professionals – no matter the field – about their credentials. How long have they been doing what they do? What’s their track record for success? Can they provide references you could contact? How do their fees stack up against others doing the same work? Not all professionals are the same nor are they…ahem…professional.

I have had two people in the last two weeks tell me they paid a professional $500 for their resumes. $500?! They looked slick and shiny and hadn’t in either case yielded the hoped for interviews for jobs applied to. Both resumes had mistakes; not things I personally prefer but outright errors. $500? In both cases I offered to revise what they had – no charge. I wish my brake specialist would do my brakes for free – even once!

Seek out and listen to professionals no matter the trade is good general advice; they, (we) know our stuff.

Getting Help With Your Resume? Think On This


As an Employment Counsellor, I constantly get asked the question, “Will you help me do my resume?” I have learned that for some people at any rate, what the question they are really asking me is, “Will you do my resume?” They omit the key words, “help me”.

I can tell you that the quality of the resume which is produced at the end is greatly influenced by the proximity and involvement of the person whose name is at the top of the page. If I do that resume on my own without the person beside me, it will turn out good but it won’t be as great as it could be. If on the other hand the person is on –hand and can add some insights and provides me with information that I can then incorporate into the document, the quality is markedly better.

Furthermore I have to add that one of the most satisfying things about helping someone out is the sharing of the methodology itself. Just, doing it for them certainly gives them what they wanted – an end product. However, working on it together and doing it with them empowers the person who through the process learns how to do future resumes themselves. Empowering others is something I find great satisfaction in.

Without being  present  and assisting in the creation of the resume, you’ll only see the final product and miss the thought process involved. Often a person will look at a document and be immediately impressed; they feel genuinely good about themselves on paper – as I would hope they would. However, that same resume doesn’t always generate the desired result – a job interview. The reason is that the resume I’ve constructed doesn’t match up with a specific job as well as it could because without the person’s input, the words I’ve selected to use or the skills I’ve highlighted are close but not the best they could be.

So I put it to you that if you are going to employ the help of an Employment Counsellor, Job Coach, Resume Writer or any other professional to assist you in making a resume that you stay involved. This is your best chance at ending up with a resume that not only looks good but will ultimately garner you more results. You don’t really know what you’ve got until the resume is out there and you see whether it gets you interviews or not after all.

Understand that resume writing has changed over the years. Years ago if you had someone make a resume for you, they would charge you a certain amount and for that you’d get maybe 20 or 30 copies of the same document. You’d then spread those precious resumes around and hope to get some results. Here in 2016, most professionals know that the resume they produce is targeted to one single job – not a single type of job you understand – just one job posting. If you want to apply for a second job, you don’t just submit the same resume you’ve had created. You would modify the resume you have slightly or greatly to match the specific needs of the second employer; even when the second job has the same job title as the first. Not everybody understands this message.

I had a fellow recently ask me to help him with his resume. Again, what he really meant was do it for him completely in his absence. When I asked him if he’d be willing to meet with me to do it together, he said, “Why would I be there? You’re the expert; I’d just be watching you. No, I’ll wait for you to finish it.” As much as I tried to explain the benefit of being in the process with me, he wasn’t interested in learning how to do it for himself, but only in having it done for him. I imagine that if he gets the job interview he is hoping for he’ll thank me. However, I also imagine that if the job interview isn’t forthcoming, he’ll rationalize that I’m not such the expert I think I am, and he’ll point the finger of blame in my direction instead of re-considering that his presence could have improved the final product.

No matter who you get to assist you with your resume, commit some time to go through the process with the person.

I caution you against using the services – especially if you’re paying the person – of someone who prefers or insists on doing it without you around. A lot of people on the internet are happy to take your money and send you a resume. Resist the temptation of these providers; go for locally done by someone who walks through the creation process with you. When you pay for someone to help you make a resume whom you’ll never meet, they can never produce a document as effective as someone with the same talent who meets you in person.

A good resume has to use your language, express things as you’d express them in an interview. Employers can spot a resume made by someone else easily if the person applying and the resume don’t match up. This can make you look dishonest or at the very least disingenuous; and as you should know, honesty is a highly coveted value employers hold.