While you are cautioned to check your resume for factual errors, sometimes inadvertent errors get introduced. This can happen, especially when someone else is editing or critiquing your resume. The information on your resume is used for more than assessing whether you’re fit for a position. Once you are hired, this information may find its way onto a Web biography, into a company brochure or even on a SEC filing, as Yahoo’s CEO recently discovered to his dismay. Career information accuracy starts with the content you share on your resume.
Your resume will go through several incarnations over the development of your career. As you progress to higher level positions, it may be tempting to leave the proofing and fact checking of your CV, resume or career portfolio to a personal assistant. Do not make this mistake. Personal assistants come and go, but the inadvertent errors they may introduce into important documents such as your resume stick around. These errors can create career havoc for you, calling into question your credibility and your attention to critical details.
Check everything that is published about you and your career. It starts with your resume, but you also need to check the copy on the program that introduces you as a guest speaker and outlines your credentials. Make sure if you are being introduced at a conference or lecture that the host has your facts straight. This may not seem like a big deal until you realize that your lecture was taped and put on the internet with inaccurate details. People often assume that the “facts” they find on the internet are accurate, and they do not bother to do verify those facts on their own. An impeccable reputation is critical to your career success. Make sure that any information that is out there about you, starting with the content on your resume, is accurate.
Very few people stay in one career or even one job for decades anymore. Moving from one job to the next is one way to acquire skill sets relatively quickly. Once you acquire those skill sets, you may feel as if it is time for a career change. Your resume can help you reach that next career target in a couple of ways.
The career objective on a resume is sometimes a long, run-on sentence that doesn’t really say a lot about who you are or what you are looking for in a career. However, using a career objective effectively can help you when you are looking to change careers, but do not have experience in the career you are targeting. Succinctly state which skills you do have and how you want to use them. For example: I want to use my design skills to present museum exhibits.
Look carefully at job descriptions for your next targeted career and pick out the skills you have now that will transfer to this career. For example, while you may never have designed a museum exhibit, your art gallery event planning and exhibit design are both assets in your targeted career because they are also skills used in planning and designing museum exhibits. Environmental design skills are also a plus in staging a 3D exhibit where foot traffic patterns and how people interact with the exhibits are important. Highlight your transferable skills in a skills summary and show how you used these skills in an Accomplishments and Experience summary on your resume.
When you have a strong resume that clearly states the position you want, you have a greater chance of capturing the attention of the reader and moving on to your next big adventure.
If you are like most people who have been job searching during this recession, you have sent out hundreds of resumes. It takes a lot of time to do this, but it may only take one interview to give you the opportunity you need. Organization is key to cutting down on the time it takes to apply to jobs.
Create two folders on your desktop. One is for resumes. Name it “Resumes2012.” The other folder is for job descriptions. Name it “JobDescr2012.”
Use a uniform way to name each resume you create. You should be tailoring your resume to match the skills/qualifications in each of the jobs your applying for. Even if you only tweak a few words on an existing resume, you should still rename it.
Create names each resume keeping in mind your word processing program’s file naming protocol. Use something like SmithIBM0512, where Smith is your last name, the company to which you are applying is “IBM”, and follow that with the date. Make sure you change the company name on each resume you send in, even if you decide not to edit the resume. A hiring manager at IBM, for example, will not appreciate receiving a resume labeled Xerox and may see this as a lack of attention to detail. You may think it is not a big deal, but it is a major mistake, just like if you have a job and send one client’s paperwork with their name on it to a different client by accident.
Save a copy of each job description to which you apply. Do not rely on the description to still be online when you get an interview call 3 months after you’ve applied. Name the job description file something like IBMauditor0512, with IBM as the company, auditor as the position and 0512 the date on which you applied.
If you are diligent about organizing your job application files, you should even be able to pull up a job description when a recruiter calls you out of the blue, in response to your resume submission. Having the job posting information at your fingertips will show recruiters and hiring managers that you are organized and ready to take on a new job.
If you have worked full-time for only one employer at a time, the Employment History section of your resume is going to be pretty standard. You list the names and locations of the companies you’ve worked for, your job titles, and a description of your duties. It is pretty straightforward to write and easy for a recruiter or hiring manager to see your career progress.
However, writing your employment history when you’ve been contracting and freelancing is a bit different from full-time, permanent employment and can be tricky. If you are a contractor through an employment agency, while you may work at Company X, you are actually an employee of that employment agency. Some contracts specify that you cannot list Company X on your resume, which means you must list the employment agency and a description of your duties that also describes the company. So, for example, if Company X is a software design company, you may list one of your duties as software testing for a software design firm without specifying Company X. Other contracts may allow you to list “Company X contract through ABC Employment agency.”
Freelancers often compile the Employment History section of their resumes by listing a title such as “Freelance Website Designer”, the dates during which they have been freelancing, and something along the lines of: “Client list includes: Companies A, B, and C. However, you must be careful. If your freelance agreement specifies that you cannot list an individual company for which you have done web design, then don’t do it. Also, do not misrepresent your work and state on your resume in separate entries that you worked at each company as a web designer. Listing the companies this way can be construed as you were a full-time employee when you really were a freelancer. You must make it clear that it was freelance work and not ongoing work.
Before you start writing, know what your contract and freelance agreements allow/do not allow you to publicize on your resume. If you’re really struggling with the format and word choice, consult with a professional resume writer who is skilled in creating resumes for contract/freelance clients.
After years of attending classes, studying, and taking exams, you have finally graduated! You have your degree in hand and are ready to start your job search. So, what’s your first step?
Even in a strong economy, starting out on the job search is never easy. In a down economy, it can be even harder. However, there are plenty of things you can be doing to get your job search started off on the right foot.
Your resume is the first impression you give an employer. The content, format and style should be created in a manner that represents the value and expertise you offer, as well as appealing enough to stand above the stack of resumes the employer will be receiving for the open position. If you aren’t comfortable writing your own resume, consider consulting a professional writing service to help you out. Professional writers are trained to create individualized resumes that generate interviews.
Research professional organizations within your industry. Many have jobs posted on their sites, as well as have details of upcoming job fairs and other networking events. If you know of friends or colleagues involved in any of the organizations you’re interested in, contact them to see if it would benefit you to join as well.
Start now preparing for future interviews. While your parents and friends may give you interview tips, they won’t be there holding your hand during the interview-you need to be ableto dazzle an employer on your own! Have 1-2 outfits readily available for interviews, as well as copies of your resume prepared to take with you. Read blogs and books that offer interview advice and if you have time, always research the company before you head into the interview. Being able to speak the company language will show the hiring manager you are serious about joining their team.
Resume formats may be similar from country to country, but the acceptable content can vary depending on where you live. If you are a foreign citizen looking to work in the United States, check out the resume differences before you send a resume to a US company. What you put on your resume may inadvertently cost you a job because employers may make negative inferences about some of the information that does not need to be on there.
For example, putting a picture of yourself on the first page of your resume may be done in several European countries, but it is not the norm here. Even if you are an actor or a singer, a professional headshot usually accompanies the resume instead of being placed on the resume. Decisions about you as a candidate should be made based on your skills, not your degree of attractiveness.
Leave off your marital status and the number of children you have. It is illegal in the US to ask if you are married or if you have children. This information could imply that you may have competing needs between work and family. For example, you may need to call in sick because one of your kids is sick and you must stay home with him. Or you may need to leave work early on a regular basis to pick up your daughter from daycare.
Religious and political affiliations do not belong on a resume unless they directly relate to the job for which you are applying. For example, stating your religious affiliation on your resume if you are looking for church organist jobs may help you. Or, showing that you’re a Democrat on your resume would be appropriate if you are looking for a position on a Democratic campaign.
Hobbies and interests used to be sections on a resume used especially when a resume was pretty short and needed filling out or when the hobby or interest directly related to the position. They are not used as much now on American resumes. Be careful if you do use these sections. The information you share can damage your chances of getting a position. For example, if you belong to Insulin Pumpers Group 75 of Detroit because your child uses an insulin pump, a potential employer may think you have diabetes. This could be used to discriminate against you, even though discriminating against someone with a chronic illness is illegal in the US.
The usual advice about the length of a resume is that it should be no more than two pages. However, in a recession, people are desperate to find jobs. One of the ways people try to make themselves look more impressive as a candidate is to add a lot of extraneous or irrelevant material to their resumes. The results are usually a two-page resume with a bloated header, tiny margins, small fonts, long run-on job titles and a lot of repetition, which a recruiter will not read. If this is what your resume is beginning to look like, then it is time for a resume check-up and a resume update. While a resume update will add more information to your resume, there are other areas in which you can begin to cut out extraneous information.
Start with the header. Unless you really do live in two places, you do not need more than one contact address. Choose two main ways to contact you directly, perhaps a cell phone number and an email. Remove that long, run-on career objective. Your resume should speak for itself as to what your career objective really is, unless you are trying to use your current skill sets to switch into a new field. If this is so, keep your objective to one or two sentences at the most.
Use your actual job titles on your resume. Do not add words or change the titles to make them look more impressive. If your actual job title is 10 words long, then so be it. Be brief in your job duties, leaving out phrases such as “I did the books…” or “I am a go-getter who facilitated…” In general, you do not use the word “I” on a resume.
Keep other sections such as Education, Awards, Associations and Professional Development to just the facts. While it is important to show that you are a life-long learner, you do not need to list every workshop you’ve ever participated in, especially if it does not relate to the position for which you are applying.
Many college students join the Greek systems on their campus for housing, a meal plan and a place to socialize. Some also realize that it is a great way to build a professional network before they have to start the job search process at the end of their college years. Even if you are long out of school and in what career development theorists call the “maintenance stage” of your career, you should still put your Greek affiliation on your resume.
Fraternity and sorority membership benefits go way beyond building a professional network. Your affiliation helps reach out to hiring managers who have either been a member themselves or who know the value of participation in the Greek system. This could be the tipping point in your favor for getting that first interview. The Greek bond of fraternity brothers or sorority sisters may be enough to get a hiring manager to want to help you.
Greek system participation on your resume is a plus because it demonstrates that you know about teamwork. Many Greek organizations also participate in public service projects or what is known as philanthropic work. This shows your willingness to volunteer and give back to your community.
Get involved with the alumni group associated with your Greek chapter. Look for all of the places your alumni group may have networks set-up-your alumni association, Facebook or even on LinkedIn. People often feel uncomfortable networking with friends and colleagues with whom they have not spoken in many years. However, these types of alumni groups are set up to make networking easy. They also give an opportunity to help the active student chapters on campus, giving you more public service points on your resume.
What you need to remember is that when you come to apply for a job application your resume is their first impression of you. You might be the best person for the job but if your resume doesn’t showcase this in the right way, then you will seriously dent your chances of being successful.
One of the main things that you need to avoid is spelling mistakes and grammatical errors throughout your resume. You need to check and double check your resume to make sure that everything in it is correct. You will often find that even the simplest of mistakes will rule you out of the running for a job. Remember that it is likely a number of people will be applying for the same job so the person in charge of applications will be looking for reasons to take people out of the running – you want to make sure you don’t give them one!
Also make sure that your resume is precise when it comes to job experience and skills. You don’t want to be too general. You need to give them a reason to hire you so selling yourself is a must when it comes to your resume. Include information of previous jobs and the skills that these positions have taught you.
It can be tricky but try not to make your resume too general, or ‘one size fits all.’ If you are applying for different jobs, then you may need to tweak each version of your resume slightly to sell yourself for each of the different job types that you are trying. That way you can be sure that when you are applying for different job positions you know that your resume is as relevant as possible and gives you the best chance of success.
The presentation of your resume is also important. Along with it reading well and including the right information, you need to make sure that it is pleasing on the eye. Remember that they will be reading many different resumes so you need to make sure that yours stands out for all the right reasons. Keeping your resume clean and tidy, you want it to include all of the information that is needed without it being too cluttered and busy. Add a little color or a graph of your recent sales numbers, etc. You need to give them a reason to read your resume and by making it look like hard work to read you are ruining your chances before you even start.
A hiring manager may look at your resume and see that you’ve switched jobs every couple of years. Some would see job hopping or frequent career moves as a sign of a restless employee, one who cannot commit to one job and doesn’t stay in one place long enough to be properly trained. Others may look at you as a go-getter who job hops to acquire new skills in a fast-paced industry.
Job hopping is not for the faint of heart in a weak economy. Sometimes it is difficult to find that next job or change careers. However, if you do job hop for new skills, new projects, more money, more experience or to progress to the next rung on the career ladder, you have to make it clear on your resume why you are changing jobs so often. A functional resume which lists a skills summary, professional experience summary and your employment history may clarify your job hopping for a hiring manager. Noting (briefly) in your cover letter will let them know as well.
If you are job hopping to acquire new skills, list those new skills on your resume in your skills summary, in the job description and also in the training section if appropriate. Highlight new projects and show how they build on previous projects listed on your resume, if appropriate. While more money may be a motivator to switch jobs, stating that fact on a resume is not appropriate. You can illustrate that you received more job responsibility by a higher level title, more responsibility and more complicated projects.
All of these may indicate why you are job hopping. However, you still need to show potential employers that you are a dependable employee by being dependable in all previous jobs. Show up on time, finish all projects by their deadlines and before you move to a new job. Contribute in meetings and one-on-one sessions to add value to your present company. Good career management is obvious when your previous employers are willing to give you a good recommendation.