Podcast: Recruiters Will Respond to Your E-mailed Resume if They Can Read It!

Podcast 2

Resume ASCII Conversion — Recruiters Will Respond to Your E-mailed Resume if They Can Read It!

Converting a resume to ASCII before applying online for a job might make the difference between having your resume read and having it ignored. Creating an ASCII conversion of your resume makes a clean document suitable for human readability and applicant tracking system searchability. A certified advanced resume writer might be your best resource for proper resume ASCII conversion.

Resume Color: When in Doubt, Leave It Out

The Question of Resume Color

Time and again I get questions about using color in a resume design. The questions read something like this:

  • Should I use color in a resume?
  • Which resume color will make mine stand out?
  • Do recruiters and hiring managers love or hate resume color?

Some say color is the kiss of death in a resume. Some love it. I say “it depends.”

Before you even think about which shade of green to use in your resume, make sure your resume content is the best it can be. Don’t even think about designing your resume—color or no color—until you’ve written stellar content that highlights your best accomplishments. The design is window dressing for the content of your resume, not the other way around.

multicolored hands

Colors in Your Resume: Help or Hurt?

When you are sure that your resume content markets you in the best way possible, then start to think about the way you want to present it. You can make excellent resume content highly visible with careful use of color. Some good ways to incorporate color include:

  • Using a subtle color shade to call out a text box containing important resume skills.
  • Incorporating rules (lines all the way across your resume page) in a color that highlights section headings in your resume.
  • Drawing attention to your bullet points with a clever use of color in the bullet design.

It should go without saying that the color of the body text in your resume should be black. Only black.

Color in a Resume Depends on What You Want to Telegraph to Your Future Employer

If you are not completely sure that using color in a resume will help you, don’t use any color at all. You definitely won’t go wrong by being ultraconservative in your resume design approach.

For example, if you work in a very conservative industry, such as finance or banking, you’re not likely to win over a hiring manager who wants someone conservative like her. You wouldn’t appear at your interview wearing bright green socks with your navy pinstriped suit, so don’t be flagrantly untraditional in your resume, either.

On the other hand, if you’re a graphic designer, and you want to show off your skills in a concrete way, take advantage of your skills and add a cleverly designed element to your resume. Use color in a way that shows your flair, cleverness, and capability.

The Truth Is Somewhere in the Middle

Most people aren’t corporate bankers or artists: They’re regular people seeking regular jobs. If this sounds more like you, then simply use common sense about color. As a professional resume writer, I like using color. However, I know that “less is more.” The most important part of the resumes I write—and the most important part of your resume—is not the design. Rather, the most important message in your resume is why you are the ONLY person for the job.

Amy L. Adler, MBA, MA, CARW, is president and founder of Inscribe / Express and your partner in your job search. I write exceptional resumes and cover letters that get interviews for savvy job seekers. Contact me at 801-810-JOBS.

Soft Skills—The New Hard Skills?

Do Resume Writers Need to Unlearn Conventional Wisdom?

Imagine my surprise while perusing a recent copy of Newsweek, when I read an article called “Does the World Still Have Talent?”

thinking

Thinking about change--How adaptable are you?

http://www.newsweek.com/2010/05/27/does-the-world-still-have-talent.html. Most of the article reflected the idea that with the tremendous unemployment currently plaguing our economy, companies are still having huge problems recruiting the very executives who might be able to lead them through these tough times. Growing companies in emerging markets are having a particularly tough time keeping up with their management needs.

So the most striking comment in the article became the following, which related to individual adaptability on top of superior technical skills:

[S]kills that were previously seen as gloss on the CV—adaptability, foreign-language skills, ease in other cultures—are part of the core job description of managers.

Unlearning What We Think We Know as Resume Writers

Clearly, these types of comments have serious implications for the way we resume writers do our jobs, and as our client bases become more and more internationalized. We need to ensure that we include these types of soft skills as well as the more “wonky” (as Newsweek called them) technology skill sets. How hard will this be for us as a group? I imagine it will be pretty tough to teach old dogs new tricks; we need to adapt with the times, keep our own knowledge abreast with changing times, and, as always, produce top-tier career documentation that will get the interviews our clients need for the jobs they want.

Thoughts from resume writers and job seekers alike are welcome.

Amy L. Adler, MBA, MA, CARW, is the owner and president of Inscribe / Express, professional provider of career documentation. Contact Amy at for a free consultation about methods to improve your resume.

Salt Lake City Job Club Presentation: “Re-Think Your Resume: 10 Tips for Jobseekers”

On Thursday, May 27, 2010, I had the distinct pleasure of presenting “Re-Think Your Resume: 10 Tips for Jobseekers” to the Salt Lake City Job Club, sponsored by recruiter and job coach extraordinaire Mary Cosgrove, owner and principal of What’s Working Well.

I spoke for about an hour to a lovely group of job seekers from a variety of industries on a variety of tips and tricks that they can use to improve their resumes. The topics I addressed ranged from methods to promote the first third of the first page to overall presentation and design. The handout I provided, Words You Can’t Use in a Resume, detailed my favorite resume words—and my least favorite.  I received many insightful comments from the audience as well, especially from the HR professionals attending at Mary’s request.

She invited additional these HR experts to join me in a round-robin critique of the participants’ resumes. So for about an hour, I had the opportunity to meet so many Job Club members one-on-one.

It is my hope that my comments informed the processes that these job seekers are experiencing; they should all know they are more than welcome to use me as a sounding board at any time.

Many thanks to this wonderful group and to Mary Cosgrove for this terrific opportunity.

Resume ASCII Conversion Experiment: Object Lesson

Converting formatted Word documents to ASCII is confusing

Because ASCII (plain text) conversion for resumes sent within e-mail messages is so critical and common to current practice, I now include it as a service for resume writing clients. Everyone has e-mail now, and hiring managers are no exception. It’s your job to make sure that what you send to them in the body of your e-mails is as readable as what you see on your own screen. For this reason, you need to convert your resume to ASCII, or plain text before copying into the body of your e-mail. Otherwise, what you send inevitably will not be what your receiver reads—he or she will simply get a messy document that takes too much time to sort out. Your potentially excellent message will be lost in the medium, and your resume will wind up in the trash.

To prove the value of ASCII conversion, I did a test case and sent myself a variety of e-mails containing a few different resumes I wrote for clients, just to see how they convert. I learned a lot from this experiment. Overall, the conversion is poor, and it largely depends on the settings that the reader has determined, ranging from font set to reading preferences (HTML vs. plain text) as well as the e-mail client (reader) the person is using. In other words, the only predictability in the output was that it was, well, unpredictable.

The following are the types of errors I discovered in my quest.

Font Conversion
The bullets and special characters turned into odd-looking wingdings or foreign alphabet characters that I didn’t choose in my original design. Because you don’t know what font set the reader will have on his or her e-mail, you have to assume that the font conversion will be messy and unpredictable at best. The result is a hodgepodge of characters that might or might not correlate to what you actually intended to write.

Display
All of the formatting was lost. Tabs, spacing, text formatting, font, everything. The only element that was retained in the conversion was capitalization. In a good resume design, the resume writer uses underlining, bolding, italics, and indenting to clue the reader into what is important. That element was completely lost in the test case, which made the document look like a long, bland page of undifferentiated text.

Rules (lines between sections) showed up in my test e-mails, but not necessarily how I designed the original resume. You can guarantee that if you don’t convert your document to ASCII properly, what you had centered or shaded will appear at the whim of your recipient’s e-mail client (reader). Whatever the settings are on the reader’s end are what will determine the way your resume appears. It’s guaranteed it won’t look like your lovely formatted Word version.

Paragraphs were included as one long line with no text wrapping. This is simply unpleasant to read—one should not have to scroll horizontally to read the whole message.

Spacing after paragraphs was unpredictable and often too deep. These kinds of spacing errors are messy and unappealing—and they take up extra page space when your resume is printed.

Footer and Text Box Information Is Lost
In my test case, the address was in the footer, and the e-mail and phone number were included in a text box at the top of the document. Both were lost in the conversion. A hiring manager won’t be able to contact you if you don’t appear to have included your key contact information.

Conclusions from My ASCII Experiment

The foregoing list of errors is from a cursory review of the e-mails I sent to myself—there might be other errors that your system, or your recipient’s system injects that neither you nor I could predict now. There are simply too many variables. Therefore, I suggest that if you are sending your resume via e-mail, you need to learn to convert to ASCII and present your resume well.

What’s a Resume For?

Take thirty seconds to brainstorm the answer to this question:

What is a resume for?

Possible answers:

  • Demonstrate your skills.
  • Give a hiring manager a reason to pay you some attention.
  • Encourage a recruiter to put you in his database of potential candidates.
  • Show what an outstanding employee you are.
  • Demonstrate your achievements.
  • List your education and certifications.

The list goes on and on—I’m sure you have a few ideas of your own.

But you’re wrong.

The goal of a resume is TO GET YOU THE INTERVIEW. That’s it. There are a million resume self-improvement sound bytes out there, some useful, most useless. But these are simply techniques for grabbing the brass ring.

Bear in mind that the only point of your resume is to market yourself in the best way possible to get the interview. From there, it’s all what you say, how you present yourself, and how you negotiate on your own behalf.

Demonstrate “Excellence” in Your Resume

Excellence in Personal Branding

BusinessWeek.com just posted an article on excellence. I remember the old book In Search of Excellence from the early 1980s, and personal branding strategist Dan Schawbel reminds of us of the power of that book. He takes the concept to a new level, however, in addressing personal excellence as a means to ensuring professional value in the marketplace.

I’d like to take this one step further by marrying the idea of personal branding in the job search with resume writing.

To start, the value of personal branding in a resume is well-reasoned. Resumes used to be a list of everything a job applicant used to do in the job. In fact, a recent resume client of mine joked—wistfully— that she used to simply copy her job descriptions into her resume, and that was enough to secure her the interviews she wanted.

The resume process evolved to using something we all know as the “objective statement.” Writing an objective statement was tantamount to requesting a perfect fit from an employer. This was probably easier to do when the unemployment rate was lower than its current 9.7% and companies were scrambling to fill their open positions before the operation down the street grabbed the best people.

Summary statements advanced from these objective statements to become an amalgamation of qualifications. Better than the objective statement, this technique is still used in many cases today, but I doubt you’d find a resume writer willing to write a summary statement.  Good resume writers are more likely to use the personal branding statement—a concise self-evaluation that succinctly identifies the reason a candidate is uniquely qualified to exceed every single one of a hiring manager’s expectations.

This is Schawbel’s “excellence,” translated into the process of achieving a job (rather than his explanation of the best way to keep the one you have). Your personal branding statement has to demonstrate in about the length of time it takes to read this sentence exactly why you, and only you, are the right person to jump into the position today and take it to new levels beyond which the ordinary candidate could not possibly go.

Can you do this? Are you that candidate? I bet you are—you just need to show it in your resume.  Your well-crafted personal branding statement will sing the tune the hiring manager wants to hear.

 

Guerrilla Resumes: Cons Versus Hiring a Pro

I remember first hearing about Jay Conrad Levinson in May 1993, when I attended the American Bookseller’s Association convention in Miami. He was a big speaker, and the buzz was that he had the line on new marketing techniques that would revolutionize the way businesses thought about promotions and new prospects.

Levinson has since expanded the Guerrilla franchise to dozens of books on a variety of guerrilla approaches to marketing yourself, your company, your brand—almost anything you can think of. The latest in this series of impressive products is Guerrilla Marketing for Job Hunters 2.0, published in 2009. This book came strongly recommended to me by a resume client of mine, who I happened to think was extremely bright and capable. I took her advice and looked for the book. To my surprise, several local Barnes and Noble branches had sold out of it, and I had to request it through our local library system just to get a copy.

Of course, I was particularly interested in the chapter called “Resume Writing and Cover Letter Boot Camp.” I wanted to see what made his flavor and technique new and different. In fact, his techniques are exceptionally different from mainstream resume writing. His plan for job seekers is to develop a document that is so quick and dirty that it takes barely a moment for a recruiter or hiring manager to get the gestalt of a candidate’s expertise. This clearly plays into two problems that job applicants face:

  • The 20-, 15-, or 7-second rule. I’ve heard varying lengths of time, measured in fractions of a minute, that recruiters or hiring managers spend reading a resume. No matter which measurement you believe, you can be sure that it’s no more than the time it took you to read this bullet point—so your resume better be eye-catching and pack a huge punch.
  • WIIFM? Those in the candidate-selection driver’s seat don’t care about you, the candidate. They are only thinking, “what’s in it for me?” The resume has to deliver a powerful, unambiguous statement of capability from the headline through about the first third to first half of the first page. The rest might not even get read.

Levinson’s guerrilla resume, therefore, cuts as much fat as possible. He explains it this way: “[T]he Experience section…is limited to listing your job titles, company names, places of employment, and dates. Nothing more…. Your Guerrilla Resume is designed to make the phone ring, not tell your whole life story” (p. 110). I don’t think there’s a resume writer out there who would argue that a resume isn’t designed to make the phone ring—that is, to get the interview.

But his technique is clearly different. To start, he advises candidates to make a bulleted list of about 5-10 items delineating what we resume writers typically call “accomplishment statements.” He calls them “milestones” and/or “special skills.”  And this is where I differ in my technique from Levinson. The statements he models in sample resumes are far from goal-oriented, measurable accomplishments, of the type that really answer the WIIFM? questions that a resume needs to answer quickly. He recommends using phrases such as, “responsible for,” one of my personal least-favorite bland resume words (see 7 Words You Can’t Say in a Resume for others I can’t stand). None of his bullets begin with strong verbs. The bullets also are not parallel, which is jarring to even the most forgiving of readers.

Of course, the rest of the page contains the expected Education, Certifications, Languages, and Technical Skills sections. But I think this technique is wasting valuable one-page resume real estate on statements that certainly can be much stronger.

Should you as a job seeker choose the guerrilla resume technique, these are my recommendations to improve on an idea that is sound in conception, but lacking in presentation:

  • Include a summary or personal branding statement of 1-5 sentences that focus on hard skills and succinctly explain why you’re unique in your field, position, or industry. Skip the “high-energy,” “creative,” and “dependable”—of course you are, or you wouldn’t be worth hiring.
  • Write strong accomplishment statements that demonstrate how and to what extent you have produced successful results in every role you’ve undertaken.
  • Proofread, proofread, proofread. Ensure that each word is spelled correctly, each phrase is formatted in parallel with the others in the same section, and the typeface is clear and produced in a readable size. Study a book on print layout if you have to, so that you will know which dash is which, how to justify or center text, and how to make efficient and readable use of white space.
  • Take a look at some resume samples that made the phone ring and got the interview for the client.

Contact Amy L. Adler for a free analysis of your resume. Is it powerful enough? Want it to be stronger? Want to use the guerrilla technique? We can help you the way we’ve helped our other clients get the interview for the jobs they deserve.

Writing a Résumé That Shouts ‘Hire Me’: A Response to The New York Times

When I was a teen, I thought the perfect Sunday morning involved a sesame bagel with lox and a schmear, a cup of great coffee, and The New York Times (especially the Book Review section). In my current incarnation, I wish I could find more meat on that bone. I was particularly excited to read the headline “Writing a Résumé That Shouts ‘Hire Me’,” thinking that I would be getting the scoop on what the experts were saying about contemporary resume writing expectations. I’ve lately been thinking that we resume writers listen to one another too much, when we should be listening to hiring managers and recruiters more.

This article somehow disappointed me. The author cited one of the best in the field, Wendy Enelow, so I was really excited to hear more about what she had to say. I have participated in several of her training sessions, and she and Louise Kursmark always give incredible, specific advice. I wondered, however, if the author of this particular article simply cited some of Enelow’s published comments, as the comments, although true and helpful, were not exceptionally instructive. Altogether, the article seemed like a list of the what rather than the how in a cohesive approach to resume writing that many readers surely would need.

I’m still keeping my RSS feed to NYT_Jobs active, and I hope that in the future we see more about what the hiring managers want to see specifically.