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?

 

Understanding Teamwork


“Must be a team player.”

“Must be able to work independently and in teams.”

Some version of the above appears consistently in job posts these days. So much so in fact, that I’m getting kind of numb to reading over and over again in the resumes I start with a line that reads, “Can work independently or in teams.” I shudder just writing it there myself. Oh my goodness please don’t put this on your own resume and look exactly like 95% of all the other applicants you’re up against. B O R I N G !

Like any job requirement listed by an employer, it is imperative that you understand what the employer is asking for and why the position requires that particular skill set. When you understand the, ‘why’, you’ll find you suddenly have a much better grasp of their need, and so, when you include that skill or ability on your resume, you’ll do a much better job of presenting it, rather than just looking like you used copy and paste to get it on your page. How unimaginative!

I mean just think of the people on the receiving end, going over all those resumes they received. Imagine yourself in their shoes, and objectively ask yourself whether your own resume would stand out when yours, like most of them have the exact same words in that one line; “Work well independently or in teams”.

So what does it MEAN to work a team? Depending on the job, it could mean you listen to others, cooperate, share ideas, show flexibility, cover when co-workers are off, pitch in, collaborate, cooperate, support, encourage, engage, initiate, share resources, accommodate, etc. For a job involving teamwork you have to have excellent communication skills and sound interpersonal skills. Your team might be made up of people at your same level of seniority, but your team could also include interns, junior partners, senior management, front-line workers, administrative support staff. The folks on your team will not necessarily work in the same physical location if you think about it too. Could be they work in another department in the same building, on another floor, or across the city, in another province or state, or even on another continent.

Depending on the above, your teamwork might happen when you work face-to-face, over the phone, teleconferencing, face-timing over the internet, via email or fax, maybe even working collaboratively in a team with people you’ll only ever communicate with using a keyboard. Of course, for many of you reading this, your team will be comprised of your closest co-workers; the ones you physically engage with every day.

So first off, understand what the team looks like in the job you’re applying for. And there’s something not everyone thinks of when they do envision the type of team they’ll work with. Every team has a set of values, and it’s these values that they demonstrate as they go about their work. If you don’t know what the values are a team holds in high regard, it’s going to be hit and miss when you’re in an interview and trying to demonstrate what a great fit you are. If on the other hand you’ve done some advance work finding out what the team you’ll potential join holds dear, you can align yourself with that same set of values and you’ll then talk and act in such a way that it makes it easier for the employer to see you fitting in.

On the team I’m on for example, flexibility, creativity, and collaboration are values we hold. Anyone joining our team might show up at work and suddenly find that due to the absence of a co-worker on the team, their assigned role for the day is changing. That means in turn you’d have to be or learn quickly to be, flexible, adaptable to change. All the workshops we do involve working either alone or with a co-facilitator. Hence, collaboration and accepting the ideas of others is a job requirement. Positive interpersonal skills are essential because you’re not always in agreement with how a day will pan out, and when you’re making adjustments on the fly before an audience, they will be watching to see how you both interact with each other, consult and amend everything from switching the order of your lessons, shortening or lengthening a topic, adjusting break or lunch periods etc. And when the day is done and you’re tidying up, you need to work together to make adjustments, evaluate how things are progressing and turn to preparing for the next day.

Armed with all of that, it feels so inadequate to just say on my own resume, “Work well in teams.” How badly I would be marketing my abilities!

I might however say,

  •  Collaborate and work productively in team environments where flexibility, creativity, leadership and strong interpersonal skills are highly valued

Now I’m packing a lot more into the teamwork angle. I’ve included 4 traits that fit with what I’ve read or learned the employer values. Now imagine my every bullet was enhanced and strengthened in a similar way. Or rather, imagine YOUR resume was strengthened in a similar way.

What’s important to is to prove through your accomplishments which you document on the resume that you’ve actually had these collaborative team experiences. Just making an idle claim that you work well in teams isn’t good enough; it might not be true.

15 Resume Mistakes


Have you ever worked on something important, felt it was perfect, submitted it with confidence and only then discovered you made some fatal error? Too late, you frantically search for some recall feature but alas, there’s none to be had!

Your resume could be just such a document. The only thing worse I suppose is being totally oblivious to your mistake(s) and continuing the practice of sending out flawed resumes. Yikes! Could this be why you’re getting very little or no positive results?

Having no way to provide feedback on your personal resume without seeing it, I’ve listed here some common mistakes I see on resumes. Check your own resume and see how you compare.

  1. You mistyped your email. Just last week I came across a resume with the word, ‘professional’ as part of the email but it was on the resume as, ‘professinal’. No one had caught it as they reviewed her resume, as the mind sees what it thinks rather than what the eyes see.
  2. Bullets don’t line up. Get out a ruler if it’s a hard copy or click and hold down the left mouse button on the ruler in MS Word to draw a straight line on your resume where your bullets are. Do they line up or are they off?
  3. Inconsistent use of periods. Look at the end of each line on your resume which starts with a bullet. Do you have periods at the end of some lines and not on others? Get in the habit of not using periods; period.
  4. Irregular capitalization. Nouns should be capitalized and so make sure any job title has a capital letter at the start of each word if there is more than one as in, ‘Customer Service Representative’.
  5. Dates don’t line up. Look at the dates on your resume. Are the dates all over the place or are they uniformly lined up on the extreme right where they should be? Lining these up makes it easier on the eyes; your resume is less cluttered.
  6. It’s all about you. If your resume starts off talking about what you want, stop! Employers want to know how you’ll benefit them, not the other way around. How is hiring you profitable?
  7. You added the dreaded, ‘s’. When you add a simple, ‘s’ to the end of a word, it can change the language from 1st to 3rd person. Suppose you communicate effectively as a skill. See how there is no, ‘s’ at the end of the word, ‘communicate’? That’s you talking about you. Add an, ‘s’ and it reads, “communicates well” and this is 3rd person; someone else talking about you. This suggests you didn’t write your own resume; someone else is talking about you. The entire resume now comes across as less than authentic.
  8. ‘Responsible for…”. Don’t start a line with, ‘Responsible for…”. Being responsible for something doesn’t indicate whether you are or were actually good at whatever you are referencing. It only indicates you are/were responsible for it. Maybe you actually performed terribly, but hey, you WERE responsible!
  9. Photo included. Get your photo off your resume and do it now! A growing number of people in Human Resources automatically dismiss resumes with photos included because they don’t want to expose themselves to claims of bias or personal attraction based on appearance.
  10. “References available upon request.” It’s a given that you’ll provide references when asked to do so. Including this on your resume is outdated.
  11. Repeating yourself. Look at the first words that begin your bullets. If you see the same word repeated, (sometimes even on consecutive lines) alter the words. It’s boring to read when you start multiple lines with the same words.
  12. Your qualifications don’t match. Job postings for the most part list desired qualifications. So pull one out that you applied to. Look at your resume and see if what they asked for was what you gave them. If yours don’t mirror the ad, no wonder you didn’t get an interview.
  13. Spelling errors. I get it. If spelling is an issue for you, it’s hard if not impossible to know when you make a mistake. Using a spelling and grammar check is good but a second pair of eyes is also recommended; as long as those eyes belong to someone with excellent spelling and attention to detail themselves.
  14. You included personal data. Get your age, sex, marital status, religion and nationality off your resume. By the way, is your age easily guessed in your email of all things? Yikes!
  15. You named your resume what? When you send your resume, people at the other end see what you called it as they move to open it. You didn’t call it, ‘My 2nd best resume’ did you? Someone I worked with did. Let’s go with a combination of job title and company name.

Okay 15 general tips for you to read over and more importantly use to improve your own resume. Maybe cleaning up your resume can be your goal for today. Resolving a job search barrier every day is a great way to feel you’re making positive moves to increase your odds of getting interviews and getting hired.

The biggest mistake of all continues to be mass producing a resume and handing it to many employers rather than targeting it to jobs you apply to. No matter how many times I say it, for some this comes as shocking.

Which Of These Has To Be On Your Resume?


  • Assertive
  • Loyal
  • Hard-working
  • Customer-focused
  • Client-centered
  • Empathetic
  • Cooperative
  • Self-starter
  • Experienced
  • Proven leadership

Looking over the 10 bullets above, you’ll see that each one of the traits described is likely to be perceived as a positive quality to have by many employers. This being the case, does it really matter which ones you include in your résumé and which you choose to omit? Or, as their all good, why not just include them all and remove the guess-work out of your decision altogether?

The simple answer to what to include and what not to lies in finding out what exactly the employer is looking for in the first place. So in the end, you might include some, all or actually none of the above. This is a basic principle that some who look for work don’t understand. Then there are job seekers who get the idea but don’t really see the value in taking the time to find out because it just seems like too much effort. After all, it would mean making alterations to their resumes each and every time they applied for a job and who has the energy to be fiddling with it given all the jobs they apply to?

Can I be direct with you here? It’s my goal after all to help you find your next job, and both you and I know you’d like that to be as soon as possible. I’ll pass on some advice and if you don’t like it, you’re in full control here. You can skim, read in-depth, re-read or click delete at any time.

Start by looking at a job posting. Please don’t overlook this most critical step and make some generic resume that you assume will appeal to many employer’s. Making a general resume and handing it to several employers makes about as much sense as a restaurant owner serving guests food without first asking his/her customers what they’d like to order. It may all be good food, but it depends on what the customer feels like eating on any given occasion.  You might figure everybody likes pasta, but some might want seafood or a wrap. Staff have to find out what the customer wants and then prepare it to their individual tastes.

With a job posting in front of you, use a highlighter or pen and identify all the words that describe the qualities, skills and experience this particular employer has identified as what they want. Okay, now that you’ve done this, your job is to make sure that these important words appear throughout your résumé. The more you do a good job of matching what they want with what you have to offer, the greater the odds of you getting an interview.

As I’ve said many times before however, it’s not as easy as just plunking down these key words in your résumé. A good and vital first step yes, but you’re far from done. A strong resume will add proof and not just make a claim. So anyone can say they are cooperative, but you’ll need to add proof in your document so it becomes more than just an idle claim. Take these two below as examples:

  • Team player
  • Excel at working cooperatively and productively with co-workers when working towards common goals and deadlines
  • Recognized as an enthusiastic and vital contributing member of the sales team for personally achieving 12% above designated performance targets

The first bullet simply makes an idle claim. Anyone can write this down; even someone who dislikes working with others intensely. There’s no proof, and it shows no real understanding of what working in a team means.

The second bullet is an improvement because it shows you understand that working in a team requires cooperation and productivity comes about as a result. It also is an upgrade because it adds the concept of working with other people to meet common goals; what everyone should be working towards.

The third bullet works best in showing how you go about working with others, in this case with enthusiasm; the number one thing an employer wants in those they hire. It also adds some descriptive words such as, ‘vital’ and ‘contributing’ and then goes on to add the proof – 12% above the targets a previous employer set. So you have the bare minimum but unimpressive, better and best in order.

Look again at those 10 qualities and traits that started this piece. See leadership up there? That’s got to be a keeper right? Well, not necessarily. If you’ve had positions of leadership before where you supervised others, it might not be as desirable on your résumé if the position you’re now going for is an entry-level job. In this job you’re applying for, you are the one being supervised, so your supervisory experience might actually work against you. Sure maybe once you land the job and are looking for a promotion it would be good to bring that supervisory experience of the past up for discussion, but not now.

What to add in? What to leave out? What to stress and how to prove it? These are the right questions to be asking yourself each and every time you sit down to apply for a job. Perhaps it seems like a lot of work. It’s actually not as much as you’d imagine it to be. In fact, because your résumé matches up well, you end up doing many fewer. Why? Because you land more interviews!

If Resumes Were Only About Key Words


More and more people are coming to understand that constructing a winning resume; one that gets you invited in for an interview involves ensuring the key words and phrases from a job posting are included in their résumé.

If that was all employer’s were looking for, you’d think they’d be receiving an extremely high percentage of such resumes, giving them the luxury of having many highly qualified people to choose from. You’d also think that if it’s just a case of putting these keywords in a résumé, anyone could consider themselves an expert by doing so. That’s not the case though; resume writing is a craft like any other endeavour, and there are those who are better at it than others.

This being the case, that resume writing is a skill; what would make some people believe that they can write one as good as anyone else? Especially if writing a résumé is something they only do when out of work and looking for a job. No, there’s got to be more separating those who craft resumes – and there is.

Your résumé you may recall from earlier posts, is your personal marketing document. It should therefore, or rather it must therefore, communicate clearly to the employer that bringing you in for a conversation will be worth their while. And by this, I mean that as their time is valuable (as too is your own), they have to perceive some benefit to be derived from meeting with you as a potential employee. Think, “How does hiring you benefit us?” and you’ve got it.

Many resumes fail to communicate this to an employer however. No, many resumes send the message, “I want to work for you so that I benefit in the following ways”. This message doesn’t appeal to an employer at all. Organizations aren’t in the charitable business of giving people jobs just so they can grow and learn new skills. Businesses have to be profitable, their workforces efficient, and how will hiring you achieve profitability?

So pull out your résumé – go ahead I’ll wait. You’ll find this useful trust me.

Okay so looking at the document, have a look at your stated qualifications. I would hope that what you have in this area responds to the stated needs of the company you are applying to. If it does, that’s good but that’s not all you need. Does each line stop there? Is that all you included? For example, if the employer says the successful applicant must have the ability to work well in teams, it takes more than just saying, “Team player”.  Maybe you said, “Work well with others” or “Work well in team settings”. Ho-hum, boring and pretty standard for a lot of resumes. If this is on your résumé, you don’t really think you’re making the best impression you could do you? Unfortunately, the answer for many is that yes, that is exactly what they believe.

  • “Work cooperatively with co-workers; self-invested in working towards common organizational goals, achieving efficiencies and maximizing profitability”.

The above has a lot packed in to that single bullet. First it communicates how you work with others; in this case cooperatively. Don’t assume this is a given. There are many people who work with others grudgingly, and although it may seem to an observer there is a team of six people in a situation, it’s really 4 team players and 2 others standing next to them working in their own silos.

The term, “self-invested” is an interesting term that stresses how the person is committed and motivated internally, without needing an employer to be constantly monitoring their activity. Self-invested people are not just present, they are present and engaged in what they are doing, taking pride in what they do. The rest of the bullet is just as critical. It communicates that you understand that achieving maximum profitability requires finding efficiencies; streamlining processes, looking for ways to get more accomplished requiring, speed, fewer distractions, less waste, commitment and a unified approach – ie. the common organizational goals.

Now imagine if your entire resume took what the employer is looking for and better communicated how hiring you will fulfill their needs and realize their end goals, and not just plop down your qualifications.

Take two resumes for a Cleaning / Maintenance position. The employer’s posting states that the job requires mopping floors, cleaning office areas. One resume states:

  • Skilled at mopping floors and cleaning office spaces

An exact match for the employer’s needs, but compare that to the 2nd resume:

  •  Proven experience mopping and cleaning office areas, achieving full compliance with Ministry Health and Safety standards; ensure offices are welcoming for staff members daily

In this second bullet, not only does the applicant have the required experience, they are demonstrating that they know WHY they do what they do and HOW the work they do contributes to the overall productivity of the organization. They get the big picture. Staff who walk in to a clean office start feeling good and ready to go. Staff who walk into their office any other way are immediately distracted, waste time complaining or making a report. Meeting Health and Safety standards keeps the staff healthy and at work, and not needing time off for illness. In other words, both employees say they can clean but one did a better job communicating they understand the big picture and how their role fits.

 

 

Helping Others Find Work: Step 1


Whenever helping someone find employment, I know two things; they want a job and they are only going to share what they think is needed for me to help them. There are many things which, having possession of that knowledge,  would help me help them meet their employment goal faster.

It’s not enough to simply say to someone you’ve just met, “Tell me everything – even if you think it’s not connected to your job search..” After all, it’s only natural for them to withhold past bad decisions, things they find shameful or embarrassing such as addictions, criminal records, firings, failures etc.

Now they might say, “I came to you for help getting a job. My personal business has nothing to do with that so can you help me get a job or not?” This should be totally understandable. Anyone taking this position isn’t necessarily belligerent or provocative, they may be simply unaware of how all these factors are connected to ultimately being successful or running into the same roadblocks in the future they’d experienced in both the past and present.

Step one is establishing trust. Never promise more than you can deliver; a job isn’t guaranteed . One approach that I typically use is to tell them that the quicker they trust me and share openly and honestly, the more I’ll be able to help them. Anything they tell me is confidential, and if they choose to open up and share their worries and concerns with me, I can help them with if or how to put this on a résumé and how to deal with this in a job interview. They are free to share as much or as little as they feel comfortable.

Now of course not everybody jumps at that offer and bares their soul. I don’t need all the details anyhow; just enough perhaps to help them find the right job in the right setting that will give them the best chance of long-term success. Let me illustrate what the right job in the right setting means. You see they’ve likely got enough skill to scan a list of jobs and pick out one that is a match for their previous experience. In fact, many well-meaning staff at employment agencies can do this with their own expertise. However, making a résumé to match that job isn’t enough. Even if they get an interview and get hired, it’s not likely they’ll keep that job unless the fit is a good one for both them and the employer.

To truly help someone find and land a job they’ll thrive in and maintain over the long haul, you have to invest in the person enough to find out where things have broken down in the past. Someone who has experience in the Hospitality sector but had to quit because of an overly demanding boss  who made inappropriate advances shouldn’t be applying to a job perhaps where they’ll be working late hours alone with a boss in a similar environment. While they may have the qualifications, they are unintentionally being set up to repeat a negative experience. Once is bad enough; two times might seriously undermine their confidence and have them question what they are doing to bring this on themselves when they aren’t to blame whatsoever.

Without asking questions to get at outside circumstances, you might also misinterpret behaviours you see as a lack of commitment too. Finding the perfect job 35 kilometres away from where someone lives might be reasonable to you, especially if they drive. However without learning they have a child with behaviour or physical challenges whom they need to be near to if needed, you might think they don’t really want to work when they aren’t enthusiastic about applying for it.

So we need to learn what’s going on beyond the job search. This holistic approach considers all kinds of factors beyond skills, education and past work history. It’s only when trust is established that the person you’re helping will share beyond surface issues. What else impacts a job search? How much time do you have? There’s their faith, family and social supports, income, housing, addictions, education, areas they’ve succeeded in the past, bad experiences, mode of transportation, childcare or caring for parents issues, mental and physical health, and the BIG one … etc. the etc., being all the other stuff that in their own situation is more prominent than all the other things you’d guess.

Finding out what motivates someone is critically important to finding out which job is right. So even when you know a person is definitely looking for a job as an Accountant, not just any Accountant job will do. Big firm, small firm, supportive environment or working largely in isolation? On a public transit route or do they drive? If you discovered their licence was suspended, maybe getting income from a shorter-term job outside of Accounting would be better to get the licence back  faster and THEN apply for the Accounting jobs? Who knew!

It may initially move slower as you help this person with their job search. In the end though, you make greater progress, they feel valued, they come to understand trust you’ve got their best interests in mind throughout. They may tell you they didn’t like the lack of progress at first, but in the end, you’ll find more people keep the jobs they land.

When Sharing A Skill


Whether you’re a newbie or a long-time, seasoned veteran, you could be guilty of making a rookie mistake; sharing a skill and assuming the other person can do it without actually observing them try it on their own.

Now it’s not that you’re smarter than the people you’re sharing what you know with. No, it’s more than that. It’s that you’ve had practice over time and have come to master or improve what you once found new and they haven’t. If you make the assumption that someone who is nodding their head in the affirmative can do for themselves what you are instructing them on, you’ll be surprised to find they often can’t. The danger here is that when you do discover they can’t perform up to your – or their – expectations, you might actually even set them back further than when you started, as they wrestle with a drop in self-esteem and question their abilities.

Case in point, the dreaded resume. I know, I know, why that! Ah but it’s true my readers. Yes, as an Employment Counsellor I help many people daily and one of the most common things I’m passing on to those I help is how to craft a winning resume. This is something many people think is pretty simple to put together; they believe anybody can make one. On the one hand, this belief is absolutely true; however, not many can make an effective one, and that’s the difference. I regularly see people genuinely show they understand the suggestions I’m passing on, and most importantly, the reason behind those suggestions. Yet, if they sit down on their own to implement those ideas and suggestions, there’s often a gulf between what they understand and what they produce.

So may I suggest that when passing on a skill, do more than just tell someone how. Perhaps for the auditory learner; those who just need to be told how to do something, this might work. However, the majority of learners I’ve found need to not only hear what you’re passing on, they need to also see it done and then have the opportunity to try it themselves under some watchful guidance.

Again, it’s not that the learner is inferior to the teacher but rather, the teacher has had more experience learning a new skill, practicing it repeatedly and mastering the subject. A new learner has neither the practice doing what you’re passing on, or the time to have mastered what you impart.

A trap you also want to avoid is feeling somewhat smug about your superior knowledge in whatever you’re teaching and then making the leap to feeling superior as a person overall. Whomever you’re sharing your skill with is without question the expert in other areas; certainly better skilled say in what they do for a living than you are at the moment. So a trained and experienced Office Administrative professional might not be able to market themselves in a résumé as well as you, but they may well have superior knowledge about keyboarding skills, shortcut keys, use of tabs etc.. if you’ve never had formal training in Office Administration and everything you know on a keyboard has been self-taught, they just might be able to share a few things with you!

As I say, the majority of people I’ve come into contact with as an Employment Counsellor, Trainer and Facilitator learn best by being given the opportunity to practice newly learned skills. A tremendously good thing to do during this learning period is to give encouragement and recognize the skill development so watch your words. If they hold you in high esteem and value your opinion, they’ll be greatly influenced by both your praise and your corrective criticism.

I have found that taking a few minutes while sharing what I know, to learn something from those I’m working with does us both a lot of good. First of all, I learn and appreciate what this person can do; a little insight into a job perhaps that I only have a basic understanding of. More importantly by far however, the person I’m helping feels good that I’m both interested enough to want to know, and they experience some measure of improved self-worth in knowing what I do not. We are after all, two people with skills in different areas, both having strengths and areas to improve upon. We just happen to be in a situation where my strengths are being showcased and drawn upon. This however, doesn’t make me better overall, or in any way superior.

It is also of critical importance to recognize just how much a person can take in during your time together. If you’re working together for 2 or 3 weeks, you can pass on much more than telling them everything you’d like them to know when you’ve only got 30 minutes together. Your expectations of what you can share and what they can grasp and retain must adjust to the circumstances.

So share what you know while checking both the learners comprehension and ability to do for themselves what you’re sharing. Share to the ability of the learner in a partnership model; working together to pass on a skill or series of skills and not the model where one is the, “Wise One” and the other an empty vessel to be instructed. See if this makes a difference.