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.

 

 

Explaining The Gap In Your Resume


So you’re feeling pretty good because you’ve got yourself a job interview! You feel you’re off to a good start having made a really solid first impression, and your advanced preparation has paid off in the first 4 questions they’ve put to you. Just as you feel your confidence growing, one of the interviewers furrows his brow and asks you about a gap in your résumé; those years that seemingly can’t be filled in with work, volunteering or education.

Like any other planning and preparation you do ahead of a job interview, you also need to anticipate as best you can, where you might be exposed or weak. When you look at your résumé with an objective eye, you’ll be able to spot such issues, and a gap will stand out. Remember that you’re likely to be interviewed by people who are experienced interviewers; who dissect resumes on a regular basis, looking for both the strengths someone will bring to the position and potential liabilities.

To best respond to questions about a gap on your résumé, you need to first understand why this is such an issue for some employers. A gap on a résumé could show a variety of potential issues; and by issues, I mean problems. Any number of things could be the reason; a mental health breakdown which required you to quit your job, taking time off to have children and raise a family, being fired and unable to land another position, relocating from one area to another requiring you to quit a job and set up yourself all over again. There could also be time off to go back to school and school didn’t work out. In this latter case, the applicant may not have put school on the résumé because they dropped out of the 3, 4 or 5 year program after 2 years and decided not to put the incomplete schooling on the résumé. The same could be for omitting to include several short-term jobs; positions that didn’t work out and aren’t relevant to the job you’re after now.

Understand that while you know yourself extremely well, the people you’re seated before in a job interview may no absolutely nothing about you other than what they might get from looking you up on social media. When an organization is considering making an investment via hiring you, they want to know as best they can what exactly they are going to receive in return. They know at the moment you’re at your best, both in clothing choices, posture, grooming and of course the way you talk and the content of your answers. It is in the end, a performance of sorts. Questions that probe are designed to get beyond this polished image and get an idea of the real you.

Now if you’ve been off to have a child or two, saying so will be definitely honest, but it will possibly raise new concerns about your absenteeism to care for sick children, attend school functions, and limit the amount of focus you have on your job even – if you’re the type of parent who is going to be having your child check-in with you several times a day when they have a question, get home from school, go to a friend’s house, or even just to chat. Such concerns accelerate if you happen to be a single parent, for now you have no one to share required trips to the school and all those distracting phone calls. It’s not that companies dislike children and are prejudiced against employees that have them but rather, they have a business to run and the business requires employees who are focused on doing their job and consistently present to do it.

If your children are now school-aged and you’ve got a reliable childcare provider – and a back up provider, say so. Address their potential concerns and prove you’re fully aware of the commitment the job before you demands and you’re up for it.

If you took time off to care for someone and that person no longer requires care, say so. Maybe they are now in a long-term care facility being cared for, they’ve passed on, or you’ve got other people providing the care freeing you up to work. Again, you’re attempting to prove that the reason you weren’t working is no longer an issue, and you’re in a place to focus fully on yourself and committing to work.

Now, it could be that you’ve taken more time off from work than you had originally planned. In the case of say, being terminated, needing to rebuild your shattered ego and find some new line of work because your former job was too stressful or you just weren’t very good at whatever it was. While this may be the case, best not to share absolutely everything!

Consider explaining that you took time to look at what direction you wanted the next phase of your work life to look like. Perhaps you gave yourself the gift of time to reassess your strengths and interests and instead of just taking any old job which you weren’t invested in to fill a gap, you researched where you’d be most happy and where your skills and experience would serve you best. In the end, what you learned and discovered is both the job you’re applying to and seated before the person in front of you.

Anticipate the question, prepare your answer.