In order to secure a job you must have a resume. There is really no way around it. Not only must you have a resume, but it needs to be professional and accurate. In order to get you started, here are the basic elements of any good resume. You might already know most of these, but in case you didn’t, here they are:
- Heading: this includes your name and contact information. It should be easy to read and centered on the top of the page.
- Career Summary: this is a 5-7 sentence summary of what you have done and are capable of doing. It focuses on your brand, expertise and experience. You need to let the company know what you can do for them.
- Qualifications: this is a short bulleted list of your skills and qualifications for the job (i.e. keywords of the job position, keywords of what you’ve done “Process Implementation” or “Territory Sales”, etc.).
- Experience: this gives a brief summary of your prior work experience. Include company name, your job title, your supervisor’s name, and a brief summary of what your duties were.
- Education: this gives a brief overview of your highest degree of education and/or any additional education that pertains to the job. This could include classes or certifications in a certain area that would help you perform well for the company you are applying to.
Those are the main elements of a good resume. Remember to keep it clean, concise, and easy to read. Also, keep it up to date and accurate–do not add fluff or fake jobs to your experience (you’ll be caught).
These tips will get you started and as you apply for more jobs you will become even better at creating and adapting your resume for jobs.
When you are looking for a job, there are different types of ads to which you will respond. Some will be Craigslist style where you send your resume to a recruiter via a randomized email address. Others will be ads with an Apply button that you click. This button may take you to a company or recruiting agency website where you will be prompted to set up an account. However you apply, most resumes are parsed into an applicant tracking system. The resume is parsed by extracting certain information such as name, contact information, work history and education, and this information is used to populate the fields of your applicant tracking system record. The good thing about submitting your resume this way is that you do not have to fill in long, repetitious forms for each position with information that is already on your resume. The bad thing about parsing resumes is that in order for the applicant tracking system to parse your resume correctly, your resume needs to be very plain in format and text.
Diacritics, such as those accent marks found over the e’s in the word “resume” may cause your resume to be parsed incorrectly. Common parsing mistakes include your name ending up in the incorrect fields, one phone number that is parsed into several different phone number fields, incomplete address and missing work history dates. Incorrect information in these fields may mean that your resume does not come up in a candidate search run by a hiring manager.
Improve your chances to be called for an interview by casting a critical eye over your resume. A plainer resume format that should parse easily uses bold and plain text only. We create “ASCII” or .txt (plain) versions of your resume for just this reason– applying online and working with recruiters. Leave out the unusual diacritics and the ampersand (&). An ampersand will cause havoc when a resume is parsed. Clearly demarcate resume sections by adding a couple of line spaces between each section. If you are uploading a resume to a company’s applicant tracking system, you may have to fill out some fields by hand, while others are populated by the system. Check all fields for accuracy before you hit Send.
The plan used to be that if you did not know what you wanted to do after graduating from college, then you could temp for awhile. You could try on different jobs and figure out what you liked without making a commitment. It could take you a few weeks or a few months, and all the while you would be earning some money.
That plan or blueprint has changed in these times of recession. More and more, the jobs offered out there are listed as “temp, ongoing” or “temp to perm.” Employers are trying out the candidates that they choose to hire without investing a great amount of money in terms of pay or time in terms of training. If it works out, you may be hired from a temp position into a permanent one. However, this means you have to be willing to take a gamble: low pay and no benefits now for higher pay and benefits later. You also need to hit the ground running. Offices are running very lean these days, with a few people doing a lot. People who temp or do contract work often feel as if they keep having to “start all over again,” paying their dues to get into a better-paying position.
How you perform your job is important. It can be tough in a temp position because the permanent people may feel like there is no justification in investing time to help you learn the ropes. It is also difficult to live on a low salary while trying to figure out how to pay for basic things such as health insurance and health care. However, if you want to be considered for a higher-paying, more permanent position, you have to do the job well.
This is a situation where a strong resume can help you. A resume not only gets you an interview. It can also help you negotiate your way into a more permanent position. Combine a strong job performance with a resume that illustrates that you have the education and skills to perform a higher level, permanent position. Watch for on-the-job information that you can use to make you a compelling choice. You may have skills on your resume that you are not using in your temp position now; however, you need to highlight those skills that make you a valuable asset to the company, so valuable that they will want to keep you on permanently.
It is very easy to think that, when you have sent out hundreds of resumes, those resumes disappear into thin air. However, if you post your resume online or email it in response to a job ad, your resume usually gets stored in a database. This database could be a job aggregator like Career Builder, or it could be an applicant tracking system for a company or staffing agency. Just because you do not get a response to your job application, it does not mean that nothing is done with your resume.
What is does mean is that you want to be careful who gets access to your resume and the information on it. Many people eagerly post their resumes on a job aggregator only to be contacted for jobs they do not want, such as franchise opportunities or life insurances sales or other jobs that require you to put thousands of dollars down to get started. One thing that smart job seekers do is to create an email separate from your personal ones for just this purpose, that way your personal email won’t be bombarded with annoying spam mail. If the company is interested in you, they will email you. However, be sure that you regularly check both your email inbox and spam for messages from potential employers.
Putting your resume on LinkedIn is also another way for your resume to ‘live on’. As LinkedIn can be used as an online version of your resume, it will still be working for you even when you aren’t in an active job search (as long as you keep up with your profile and don’t ignore it).
It’s important to remember that once your resume is ‘out there’ in cyberspace either on a job board or LI, it will stay there until you remove it. Be strategic about where you put your resume and you will have better results.
Running a business entails making a business plan before you start the business and following up on that plan once the business is up and running. You should treat your career the same way. Do not wait for your employer to offer you opportunities to develop your skill sets. Even if you do have a job right now, you should continue to network. Find out what is happening in your career field, who is hiring, who is firing. You should know the career trends so you are the one who decides when you make your next career move, not your employer.
The days of the company taking care of your career development are long over. While you do not have to become a business entrepreneur, you have to be an entrepreneur when it comes to your own career.
Think about how you come across professionally on your resume, in correspondence and on the telephone. What type of professional do you want to be? How are you going to brand and market yourself? Your brand is your reputation or how people see you professionally. You may never need an executive bio, but it is a good exercise to write one anyways because it helps organize your thoughts on who you are professionally and how your career development has progressed.
Salary negotiation can be one of the most stressful parts of getting a new job. On the one hand, it is exciting to think about a new job and the possibility of earning more money. On the other hand, it can be nerve-wracking waiting to hear what your new salary will be. Do you accept the salary offer, negotiate it or reject it? What if you make a mistake and accept a salary offer that is too low, or try to negotiate one that is too high? These events are unlikely to happen if you do your homework before you get to the salary negotiation stage.
A salary calculator can help you with this important homework. It can give you an idea how much your current salary is worth in another city. It can also give you median, low and high end salaries for given positions and industries in a geographical location. Some salary calculators allow you to compare the cost of living between two cities. You can compare the cost of living between the city you are in and the city where you have a job offer, or the cost of living between two cities where you have job offers. These calculators aid you in thinking practically about moving for a new job. Remember to factor in whether your new employer will pay relocation costs. If the employer does pay relocation costs, find out what the cap is on those costs. If you go over the cap amount, say, by hiring movers to move your grand piano, you may end up paying the extra costs.
You are more likely to get the salary you want if you go into a salary negotiation meeting with facts based on the information you gathered from salary calculators and other job search resources. This information backs up your work experience and your education. You put a great deal of energy into both, so make sure you get what you are truly worth.
It used to be that you always ended your resume with the line “References Available Upon Request.” Now that statement is mostly left off of resumes because it is deemed a given that you have references and you will be able to produce them when asked. However, if you have been job searching over a long period of time, you need to recognize that your reference page or list is not a static list.
Who you use as a reference will depend on the type of job you are applying for. For example, it would be better to use a former boss who supervised you at the IT help desk when you apply for your next help desk position rather than someone who supervised you as a cashier. Professional references, people with whom you worked or who have supervised you, are usually preferable. However, some positions may allow you to use personal references too, friends or community members who know you well.
Keep in touch with your references. Make sure that everyone on your reference list is someone who will give you a positive reference. How do you know if they will give you a positive reference? You ask. Don’t hint around. Ask each person on your potential reference list, “Are you able to speak highly of my skills and qualifications to potential employers?” If you sense any hesitation in their response, do not use that person and move on to the next person on your list.
Provide each person on your reference list with a current copy of your resume or curriculum vitae. Also give each person the job description for which you are applying or at least a summary of the type of position you would like. This way, when your reference(s) is called by a hiring manager, he/she can speak with some knowledge of how your qualifications fit into the job requirements. Keeping in touch with your references helps them better able to speak to your strengths so that you get the job. It also provides good opportunities to network.