In the current economic downturn, more and more Americans are joining in the hunt for jobs. Positions that once received ninety resumes are now seeing applications in the hundreds.
Industry standards that once applied to resumes are now doubly, even triply true. You’d heard that employers skimmed through resumes before? You can only imagine how quickly they toss through the pile now.
With your resume as a single sheet in that huge stack of paper, creating a pertinent, easy to skim document is more important than ever. So more and more people are taking steps like hiring a professional resume writer to aid them in their job search.
Some people question the ethics of enlisting this type of aid, implying that you cannot present yourself in a genuine manner with the use of such a service, or that the need for help is a manufactured need, or even that the type of help provided leads to a non-accurate representation of one’s skills.
However, these statements seem to stem from a misunderstanding of what it is that the professional resume writer does.
To start with, what is a resume, exactly? It’s a marketing tool that advertises your skills and experience.
In your business, is it unethical to hire a marketing firm in order to sell your product? Probably not. It’s only logical to hire experts to help you in areas where their expertise is needed to improve sales.
A proper resume writer won’t represent you in a way that is not genuine. It is against our code of ethics, and would damage our reputations as professionals.
Let’s face it, in a consulting-type business, your reputation is really all you have. Not to mention that representing clients inaccurately would cause real problems for them, once uncovered.
What does a resume writer do? We take information, that you supply, of your past jobs and accomplishments, your education and experiences, your old resumes and supporting documents, job positions you are interested in and anything else you think we will need for resume preparation — and present you with a new document, tailored to the type of job that you’re pursuing while showcasing your strengths and promoting your value.
We have industry knowledge of certain words that will catch the boss’s attention in your line of business, and they know how HR filters documents. For one thing, did you know that these days, resumes are often scanned by computer for certain keywords?
Let’s be honest, the first thing we all do when faced with a huge stack of paper that we have to weed down to just a few sheets, is to get rid of as much as possible, as easily as possible. So, the first scan, whether by computer or an individual is for weeding out the chaff.
Industry hiring experts know what keywords are typically used in the computerized process and can ensure that your resume includes them. We also excel at aiding people in camouflaging gaps in history.
We are resume experts, and we know how to make yours clear and readable — after all, if those two attributes aren’t met, the rest falls by the wayside.
Job-hunting has never been a walk in the park, and these days, it’s even harder. You’re staring down the barrel of double-digit inflation rates, and unemployment statistics are showing numbers that have never been higher.
How do you get a job, then?
Well, you treat every minute that you’re unemployed like you still have a job, and you do: The job of finding yourself a job.
First things first, take a hint from the old adage, “Dress for the job you want, not the job you have.” Right now, the job you have is…none. Dress every day in the clothing you’d show up in if you had the job you really want. You’re showered, shaved, hair fixed, and nails clean. The reasons for this are simple – you’re looking for a job, and your job right now is as Employment Professional, the person for whom work will come soon. There’s another big reason for being dressed professionally at home; you’ll be less inclined to fall into really bad habits, including sleeping too late, lolling about on the sofa watching TV, cruising the Internet for anything not job search-related, goofing off when you should be getting a job. Not saying you have to wear a suit every minute of the day, but getting up in the morning, brushing your hair and teeth, and getting out of your sweats is a good place to start.
Looking the part serves a couple other purposes. You’ll feel better if you’re looking better. Right now, your self-esteem might be a little low or a lot low, and taking care of your appearance will go a long way towards making you feel a little better about yourself in general. Confidence is key when searching for a new job.
Okay, so you’re dressed up and nowhere to go? Wrong. Take a left at the kitchen and head straight for your computer. You’re going to be performing a huge number of tasks, so maybe stop at the kitchen for a cup of coffee. Is your resume in order? Is it updated with your most recent info, professionally presented and edited for content and spelling, on good stock and ready to send by itself, or with a good cover letter and references? Do you have your references lined up? Do you know your salary requirements, in case those are requested? If you don’t have all this ready, open up your word processor and knock that out.
Now, get online and go to every job search site you can find and plaster your resume everywhere. Anyplace that sounds remotely like something you’d be interested in, make sure you’ve researched the company and position, and have a cover letter ready to send directly to that company, every detail specifically tailored for that employer.
Get on all the social networking sites you can find. Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, LinkedIn…Get the word out to friends, family and previous business associates that you’re seeking employment. Make sure your contact information is up to date, and you’re easy to find.
With the current state of the economy, jobs are a bit more challenging to come by. For this reason, it is more important than ever that you have a properly planned resume. A poorly planned resume can result in missing out an interview, which can be devastating in this market.
If you are an older job seeker, avoid putting certain dates on your resume. There is no reason to tell an employer how old you are, but if you mention on your resume that you obtained your bachelors degree in 1975, the interviewer will be able to do some quick math and determine that you are very likely in your 50s. Employers are legally not allowed to discriminate based upon age, but there would be no way of knowing that an employer had done so if you don’t get the job. Instead of putting dates on your resume, simply put facts. For instance, list what degrees that you have, not when you obtained them.
If you are an older job seeker, only list relevant information on your resume. For example, if you are a computer programmer, no one cares about how great you were with DOS back in the day. Listing all of the years of experience that you have with DOS only gives hints to your age. Instead, highlight all of the relevant experience that you possess. If you are in the field of technology, generally only the last ten to fifteen years of your experience is truly relevant to your employer. Focusing on the achievements that you have had in this time frame makes you look incredibly marketable while avoiding any possibility for age discrimination.
If you are a younger job seeker, play up all of your experience, but leave your high school and college graduation dates off of your resume. There is no reason to give your interviewer a reason to write you off based upon your youth. As with the older job seekers, it is illegal for employers to discriminate against you, but if you don’t get the job, there would be no way for you to know that you were discriminated against. Be certain that you mention all of the clubs that you are or were a part of, especially if you held an office or leadership position within the clubs. Play up any volunteer experience that you have.
All job seekers should focus on listing their skills and accomplishments on their resume as opposed to simply listing their job responsibilities. Being a cashier does not sound like it would have much relevance when applying for a management position, but you can show how being a cashier brought out your abilities to multi-task and manage large sums of money responsibly if you play up those skills on your resume. Be sure to remember that your potential employer wants to see how you, your personality traits, your knowledge, and your skills will enable you to be an asset to their company. If you explain how you will be an asset to the company in your resume, then you are much more likely to grab the attention of recruiters, land an interview, and get a job. Don’t give the HR staff at your dream job any reason to write you off before they’ve even met you.
I recently had a client call to have his resume done, and in the course of our discussion, out popped a confession that he had two misdemeanors. They were five years old, but still, not good. He has faced many obstacles during the job search, even though his misdemeanors had nothing to do with a job or anything work-related.
Even if you have a conviction, or have served time, you still need money to survive. Typically, this means you need a job of some type. But, if you have tried to find a job with a conviction on your record, you will have noticed that it’s very hard to get employers to accept that you’ll be a great member of the team when you’ve broken the law. Here are a few tips to get you started in the right direction.
First, try consulting legal aid about getting your record expunged or sealed. This isn’t available for every case, but is worth looking into. Once a record is expunged, it can’t be opened again, and the matter is considered resolved.
You will need to take whatever job you can to begin rebuilding your credibility. It’s possible that you’ll have to accept employment below your previous standard of living – even working in fast food or service industries. Even small jobs like this can help lead you to bigger things later. You can see if any of your personal contacts are looking for people. Even with a record, it’s much more likely you can get a job through networking and friends than you will through replying to job ads.
There may be community programs that can assist you in finding employment. These are usually in cities and not often available in rural areas, and may have other stipulations attached to them. However, employers that agree to work with these programs won’t be “surprised” about your record. Also, these offices have a number of resources, and may be able to help you learn new skills.
Small and local companies are often better bets than huge corporations, for the simple fact that they lack the legal layers of bureaucracy that are designed to shield a company from any liability whatsoever. Another avenue for you to consider is self-employment. Skills such as construction, plumbing, or auto repair a record won’t come into play at all. If you have an entrepreneurial streak, you should consider these opportunities.
Regardless of what you do, it’s unlikely that a job is just going to fall into your lap. Don’t get discouraged, and know that there is a job out there for you somewhere. It will probably take you longer to find, but don’t harbor false hope. Rejection happens even to applicants who have sparkling records and job histories. Don’t be afraid to seek emotional support from friends or family.
Once you do land a job, be sure to prove to the employer that you are a good hire. It’ll make getting the next job easier once you have an established work history. Work the extra hours, follow the rules, and take extra responsibilities whenever you can. A conviction plus a string of short, choppy jobs is a huge red flag to potential employers, and will shoot you down from almost any job. Don’t be a problem employee, and ride it out. Most background checks only go back seven years, and then after that, you will be in the clear.
An interview is your opportunity to sell yourself. Regardless of how much you may look the part, you need to answer the questions correctly to get the job. Interviewers ask key questions and look for certain types of answers. Honesty is always the best policy, but remember that it is okay not to offer information that was not asked.
Never bash your former employer.
It doesn’t matter if your last boss was the Wicked Witch of the Workforce, don’t say anything negative about your former employer. Instead of saying that you left your last job to get away from your boss that micromanages like it’s going out of style, say that you are looking for an employer that wants to utilize your talents and allow you to truly contribute to the company. Instead of saying what you hated about your last employer, focus on what you love about the employer that you are interviewing with.
It doesn’t matter if everyone you know uses double negatives and slang, don’t use them in your interview responses. Always make sure that you look and sound very intelligent and articulate in an interview. You might be a college graduate from an ivy league school, but if you speak like you dropped out of grade school in your interview, there’s a good chance that you won’t be getting the job. An interview is the place to be as professional as possible.
Always have questions.
Almost all interviews end with the interviewer asking you if you have any questions about the position or the company. Be certain to have some questions. However, avoid questions about pay, vacation time, hours, bonuses, and similar things that depend on you actually having the job. Instead, do some research on the company that you are interviewing with and ask a question about something that you read. This shows that you are interested about the company and have done some research.
Never say you were fired.
When asked why you left your last place of employment, never under any circumstances should you say that you were fired, even if you were. You could say instead that you and your manager agreed that your last position may not have been the best fit. Do not lie about why you left, but avoid using the words fired, terminated, and let go in your explanation of why you are no longer with your previous company.
It’s better to admit that there is something that you don’t know than to lie. If you find yourself put on the spot with a question that you don’t know how to answer, it is perfectly acceptable to ask for a moment or two to consider your answer. When you give the interviewer a well thought out response to the question that was posed, you can also make a point of emphasizing that you don’t make snap judgments and decisions, but instead prefer to think through how you are going to answer the situation. In many situations, this type of personality trait can be an asset.
With so many people currently seeking employment, a big question on many minds is how to decide what your job skills are worth. What salary are you willing to accept?
Your first task is to research: research, research, research. If you have a friend at the company, ask them how pay works there, and if they know anything about the position that you’re trying for. Some companies have tables of top, medium, and low pay for each title. This information can come in really handy when negotiating.
Especially look at new employee salary, if available. Keep in mind that their idea of proficiency may not be yours, just saying that you’re proficient in French doesn’t make it so in their eyes.
Call HR and get the name and full list of responsibilities for the position that you’re interviewing for. You can use this information to find a benchmark position online — essentially the commonly used title for what you’ll be doing. This will allow you to do accurate salary research.
Through various sources online you should be able to find salary ranges for different positions. If women’s and men’s pay information is available, use the men’s, even if you’re a woman! Unfortunately, it’s likely to be higher; in this way you can ensure that your negotiations are as fair as you can make them.
Take into account that location is a big factor in pay rate. What’s the cost of living at the job location? If possible, get average pay rates there and figure out what the salary range for your position is in that area, if you can’t find the specific numbers on that.
Often, employers like to ask about your salary requirements in advance. They can use this factor to weed out expensive employees or to offer you less, if you were previously underpaid. Instead of giving them this leverage, whenever possible, avoid giving any information. State that it’s negotiable, based upon job responsibilities.
If it’s impossible to avoid completely, give the range that you’ve come up with from your research. And when in negotiations, start at the top of that range, because you know the company is likely to want to start at the bottom.
Research has shown that women are less likely to negotiate for a higher salary than men are. It is believed that this is a factor that leads to lower pay for women. Women, take this into consideration: you are expected to negotiate. It is not unseemly to do so, in a polite and professional manner.
Do ensure that you go in knowing exactly what you’re willing to accept. Otherwise, you may feel pressured into accepting an offer that you’re not really willing to live with.
If the salary you’re offered is far below the range that you expected, verify that the list of responsibilities you used is correct. Verify the position title.
Keep your tone polite, even if you believe they are being unreasonable. Remember, everyone is a contact, in the business world. The last thing you want to do is burn a bridge.