How to Promote Volunteerism on Your Executive Resume
Updated May 27, 2018
I received an interesting question that actually mirrors a question I get from my private clients quite a lot: Can I use volunteer work on a resume? This individual wanted to know whether hiring managers like what she has done, or will they consider it fluff? Her story is much like those of many who have experienced a gap in their career histories, whether voluntarily or involuntarily. This person has all the hallmarks of a top hire: She’s a college graduate, super smart, well-read, is a true knowledge seeker and seeker of truth, and has led major organizations with multiple reporting layers. Unsurprisingly, she sounds like many of the executives with whom I have worked over the years. How can she promote her career history on her resume, even though the majority of her work has been in volunteer roles?
First and foremost, it’s important to recognize as an article of faith that work is work, even if it’s unpaid. Never lose sight of the fact that what you do every day has relevance for your job search strategy, because you’re doing something important and valuable. And exploring what you like about the various volunteer roles you have had can help you narrow down your career target as well.
Examples of this type of volunteer work from which your resume can benefit can include:
- Sitting on the board of a non-profit institution.
- Volunteering at a church or synagogue.
- Leading programs as part of your child’s PTA.
- Organizing an event, such as a food drive or fun run.
- Serving as a Boy Scout or Girl Scout guide.
- Coaching a sports team.
There are, of course, many other types of volunteerism that can bolster your job application process. The crucial thing to remember is that you must couch your leadership contributions and your accomplishments in the same way that you account for them with your regular paid positions. Remember, work is work, even if it’s unpaid.
Let’s look at a few possibilities in which volunteerism can amplify your executive resume and your executive job search strategy overall.
Volunteerism that Supports Your Return to the Workforce
The first possibility is that you have been out of the workforce for a while, whether for family obligations, layoff, sabbatical, travel, or any other reason you’ve chosen to take yourself away from your career for some extended period of time. Now that it’s time to go back to paid work, you need to capture and organize your volunteer work to showcase its value.
To execute on this well, you should include volunteer roles as actual in-line work experience, and you’re not obligated to reveal the exact amount you were paid or not paid to do the work. The process of describing what you did every day and the successes you created are just as valuable – if you can prove that your expertise parallels the knowledge and experience that your career target requires.
Write down all of your volunteer work and the ways in which you improved or added to the organization. The categories of expertise can be leadership and management, financial responsibility, operational expertise, sales of ideas / services / goods, marketing, and more. These are exactly the types of knowledge and proven ability that your future audience needs to know you have, and they are subject to the challenge-action-result strategy that you’ve heard me talk about before in many other podcasts on this show. I’m not going to go in to the CAR strategy here, but rest assured that you can use the challenge-action-result method even when the work you have done is unpaid.
Each of these volunteer roles, and the promotions to leadership you might have experienced as well, become “jobs” in your resume, and they should be listed exactly the same way as your paid work is detailed. You make absolutely no distinction between your former paid work and your volunteer work, because they both are strongly reflective of the expertise your future hiring executive needs you to have to be successful in the role to which you’re applying.
Volunteerism that Supplements Your Ongoing Paid Work
A second flavor of using volunteerism on your resume is useful when you have had a largely intact career timeline but want to add to your career history some skills and expertise that your paid work doesn’t demonstrate.
Including volunteer work on a professional resume can be a critical way of ensuring that a hiring manager understands the full flavor of your experience. For example, your professional career might be a greased rail to success, but it might lack a specific dimension that you need to promote. By highlighting your volunteer experience, you can show that you have many types of expertise, not just the kind that you get paid for day to day.
Let’s say that you are a senior vice president of finance, and you want to demonstrate your expertise in operations and team leadership, so that you can move into a broader role, perhaps a chief financial officer position. You might offer up your recent work as the chair of a committee for a local nonprofit, a role you’ve held for several years. You then describe the scope and value of that work, for example, how you fulfilled the mission of the organization through the role, how many people you guided to that goal, and how you overcame multiple challenges along the way.
Volunteer Work as the Basis for Your References
Last, your volunteer roles can serve as a source of references for you. If you had any type of reporting relationship with leaders of a volunteer organization, it’s a good idea to ask them to write you a letter of recommendation on the organization’s letterhead commenting on your contributions. These people can also become excellent sources of references when you need to give names and numbers to interviewers of people who can vouch for your excellent work ethic, ability to organize projects and teams, and so on. These leaders likely will know you well and be able to describe your success and contributions to their organizations, and, because you have done an incredible job, they are going to be willing to share a few words with your future hiring executive as well.
Examples of the types of individuals who might serve as excellent references from your volunteer work include:
- The executive team of the group to which you donated your time and expertise.
- Event leaders, when you directed a portion of the event.
- Co-organizers, who can comment on your excellent team spirit and ability to motivate the group.
- Your direct report team.
- A beneficiary of a nonprofit event.
To conclude, your professional paid work history is not the only type of work that belongs on your resume. By putting your volunteer work on a resume, you can expand on and elaborate on what makes you special and what makes you unique and the only one who can do what you do in the way that you do it. In short, volunteer work on your professional resume enhances your brand.
Never Send a Naked Executive Resume
or, Why Write Cover Letters?
Cover letters are those documents that typically accompany the executive resume you send out to prospective hiring teams. If we assume that the audience for your executive resume are humans (feel free to ask me about why applying online is 100% time wasted), then cover letters have two audiences: one is people who read cover letters, and one is people who don’t read cover letters.
What does this principle of having two audiences for your cover letter really mean? It means you have to have a cover letter, because you should never send a naked resume. But the truth is, you don’t know if your audience is going to read it, so if there is even a small chance they might read your cover letter, then you should have a good one.
What makes a good cover letter? First, a good cover letter to start out is not a generic “here I am, and I’m ready to apply for this job. I read it in an online job that there’s this job available and you could consider me.” That message is impersonal and bland. To get more personal and to ensure that your cover letter resonates with your audience, you have to start thinking about what the job specifically is asking for and infuse some of your background with respect to your audience’s expectations in this cover letter.
As you mention relevant points from your executive career history, highlight the key achievements that you think are going to be relevant to this particular audience — in the context of what this company is expecting. So don’t even start to put pen to paper until you have done some research on the company and the role as well as have thought about culture fit, language choice, and all the factors that are going to appeal to your audience.
Quite recently, I was writing a cover letter for an outside sales leader. The job posting was truly revealing. The language was something like this: “Have tattoos? Great! Show off your ink. Like to come in with pink hair? Great! We love color.” Clearly, this audience is a little bit looser, friendlier, less buttoned-up than say a company that merely says “Please submit your salary requirements.” You can learn more about the company culture, beyond how the job posting reads, on the company website, specifically the “about us” section.
One other key element you need to include in your cover letter, typically after you describe your expertise, is the two “asks.” In other words, your cover letter is meant to introduce your resume so you want to invite your reader a) to look at your resume for additional information, and b) to ask for the interview. You don’t ask for the interview because it’s expected; you asked for it because it matters to you, and you want your audience to connect with the fact that you care about getting this interview.
In conclusion, you have to have a cover letter because you don’t know if your audience is going to read it or not, you know not to send a naked resume. As you prepare your letter, always let them know you are passionate about what you are asking for, because your enthusiasm for the role will be critical to their interpretation of your candidacy.
Your Executive Resume: Measuring Your Outcomes with Hard Numbers and Visuals
Using Numbers and Metrics in Your Resume to Prove You’re Really “That Good”
Normally, when we think about resumes, or historically what they looked like, we think of an HR job description—a colorless description, or “This is what I did.” It’s bland, it reads like HR-speak, and often includes the dreaded “responsible for.” Your executive resume needs more than this.
Wouldn’t it be better to prove in your executive resume that you’re good at what you do by showing results? There’s no guessing when you can prove to your future hiring executive that you have succeeded in exactly the kind of ambiguity that their company is facing.
The best way to prove that you can deliver results is by providing measurements of your success—literally quantifiable numbers, metrics, KPIs (key performance indicators), or measurements of ROI (return on investment). Additional fairly simple avenues to explore include:
- The number the things that you wanted to and completed
- The number of people you recruited and onboarded (and maybe promoted)
- The number of new customers you drove to the business
- The total dollar amount of revenues, or their percentage increase quarter over quarter or year over year.
So these kinds of counts or measurements of change show a couple of things in your resume. The first is that you’ve accomplished the goal that you set out to, and you can benchmark those numbers against company expectations or industry standards. The second is that it shows that what you are presenting is incontrovertible evidence of your success. This is really important, because a hiring manager might read your resume decide that your strategies are not what their company needs right now, but they can’t argue with the veracity of your claims to success. They can’t look at that number and believe that you’re not telling the truth.
Because you’re always telling the truth in your resume (cardinal rule of resume strategy—don’t eve lie), then you are leveling with your audience. You’re saying to your audience, “I did this thing, and here’s the proof. Right here is the number that says I did what I was supposed to do.” If you’re targeting your resume appropriately, your audience is going to love what you have demonstrated, and if they need someone like you, you’re the ideal candidate for them to reach out to.
So, in your resume now that you have these numbers, how do you present them effectively in your resume? These metrics become the “results” in your “challenge – action – results” bullet points. Furthermore, you can present them visually. The first way to do this is to present your data in a table of figures. A well-constructed table, with labels, grids, and colors, can help your audience interpret the data the way you need them to understand your message.
Another way to present a series of data is to visually represent those numbers in a graph. It’s so easy for someone to look at a chart and understand that the numbers “go up.” Of course, your chart is going to be detailed, so a savvy reader who wants to drill down into the data will be able to do that, but even a cursory look at the chart will give a great high-level message.
You might be thinking that these are unorthodox approaches–I promise you they are not. Visual representations of sales figures that started out low and then went high, or operation costs that started out higher and then wet low, are going to hit your audience right in the gut. These images are plugging into exactly what your audience expects to know about their ideal candidate. So give them what they want and show them what they want in multiple modalities, not just in the text but as a visual representation as well.
The 80/20 Rule and Your Executive Job Search
You might know the “80/20 rule” as the “Pareto principle,” and you might have heard that, in most cases, 80% of your effort producing 20% of your results. You can apply this to your job search as well. So, if you think about your job search as having a beginning and an end, and it takes some amount of time to complete it, you can spend 80% of your time doing all the thinking upfront and 20% of your time doing the strategizing, or you can spend 20% strategizing and 80% spinning your wheels. So, which would you rather do? How would you rather spend your time?
Efficient Networking for Your Job Search
Let’s start with looking at the things that you can do to maximize your job search and put the most amount of strategy into it so that your only executing on the 20% and being really, really efficient. So, the first thing you should do is think about your network, and how you’re going to increase it effectively in person, on the phone, or on LinkedIn.
But what you want to do is start amassing some advocacy within organizations so that your first approach is not to the hiring manager. So what does this mean in practice? So what you need to do is think about the companies first of all that you want to apply to. This is really important. So start researching the organization and come up with a top 10 list of your favorite companies that you think would be perfect. You don’t have to commit to these companies right now, but you have to think about, are these the right organizations?
Make that list, do a little bit of research, and see if those companies are right for you. Now, within those, start looking at the people who work there. And these don’t have to be in your area of expertise. Rather, they should be people that you think are approachable and people you wouldn’t mind spending time with, but they don’t have to be in your area of expertise, and, by far, they shouldn’t be the hiring executive potentially looking for roles. And the really interesting thing about this is they shouldn’t be able to hire you anyway. So whether you have target positions in those companies in mind or not shouldn’t matter right now you’re just looking at the industry, looking at the job function and seeing if this organization is the right place.
Now take a hard look at who you want to talk to within those organizations. Make a top 5 or 10 list of people that might be interesting new contacts, and start making inquiries. And recognize that not everybody is going to respond to you, but those who do – because you’re curious and interesting and you think they’re interesting – are going to be happy to set up some time to chat with you. And so you go through this conversation and you ask them about why they’re there and what makes their organization interesting or what makes their day-to-day a fascinating ride.
At the end of your chats with each of these people, always remember to add a key question: “Who else should I be talking to?” And they may give you a name or two, or refer you to the right person, who is now even more valuable as you get closer and closer and closer to the person making hiring decisions.
So, as you’re doing this you’re asking everybody you talk to who else can I talk to, and pretty soon your list is going to grow and you’re going to have a lot of people – some who won’t respond to you at all and won’t be interested, but you’re going to have a lot of people who will be interested, and you’re going to turn those LinkedIn connections and warm leads and cold calls and whatever else it might be into actual conversations.
Efficiency in Learning about Ideal Executive Roles
What else can you do with this 80% of your time? You can start looking at job postings. And again, they may not be jobs that your top 10 list, but what you want to do is figure out are the commonalities across those positions. What are you really targeting? What is the critical mass of stuff you need to talk about as you have these conversations and ultimately get to the point of the interview? What kinds of things are they going to want to know about you? And, furthermore, what kind of requirements are outliers, meaning they’re only specific to individual opportunities? The more you know about your audience’s expectations, the better armed you are as you determine the strategy you’ll use in your resume, LinkedIn profile, cover letter, and the rest of your career portfolio.
What Not to Do with Your Time
Don’t Write Your Resume
So that’s a good sense of what you can do with that 80%. Notice that none of these include writing your resume or your LinkedIn profile, although you probably need both of those things. At this point in your search you can’t write your resume or LinkedIn profile, because you don’t know what to say until you learn what hiring executives’ needs are. So once you get to the point of having a really good understanding, not to mention a really good group of advocates within these organizations, then write your resume and career portfolio and make sure that the things that you have learned appear in multiple ways in each of these documents and you’re showing that you’re speaking directly to that audience.
Don’t Find and/or Pitch to Hiring Executives
The absolute wrong conversation to have starts with “Do you have a job for me?” or “Will you hire me?”. Both of those questions are binary, they’re yes/no questions, not to mention the fastest way to shut down a conversation. There is the chance that you walk in the person’s door and they immediately say, “Your’re hired!”, but that’s highly unlikely. The most likely answer is that the person responds, “No, I don’t have a job” and the conversation is over. In fact, there’s nothing else for either of you to say because you’ve both agreed that the transactional approach has yielded nothing on either side. So make sure that the conversations you’re having are not transactional–that they continue to be conversational and mutually beneficial. No doubt, you might talk about jobs that are available in the organization, but because that person you’ve chosen to speak to on a strategic level is not doing the hiring, you have to use that opportunity to get additional introductions to people who might be beneficial to your search. Eventually, you’ll triangulate on the right company, right networking contact (who might become your hiring executive), and the right job.
Don’t Send Out Hundreds of Resumes to Online Postings
Simply stated, you’re not right for hundreds of jobs, and no hundred jobs are right for you. I’ve explored why you should apply for only 6 jobs in your executive job search deeply, but the gist is this: Focusing your job search will yield much better results than a scattershot approach. Put another way, get off that hamster wheel and start doing the real work of executive job search.
Benefits of the 80/20 Rule in Your Executive Job Search
The benefit of doing 80% of thinking up front and using only 20% of your effort to engage in activities directly related to your job acquisition is that you get off the hamster wheel, on which you continually are working very hard and working up a sweat but getting nowhere. In other words, do not equate effort with output–rather, equate strategy with output.
What you Should and Should NOT ask During a Job Interview
Resumes have been sorted and you have been fortunate enough to find yourself in the interview pile. This means it is time to show this company why they need you on their team. There are many great ways to do so; there are also many ways to literally destroy your chances. Nearly every word spoken plays a part in the success or failure of an interview. The interview is the most important key to open the door to your future employment. How can you best put into words how valuable you are? What should you avoid saying during the interview? Here are some guidelines you may find helpful.
What You Should Ask
The ultimate goal of an interview aside from providing detailed information on experience, education and work history is to show a company that your goals and direction align well with the position that they are hiring for. This is an all-encompassing win. They want to see that you are on track with their vision for the company and the role they need to fill. To demonstrate this alignment the following questions or discussions may provide some insight.
- Ask about how good performers are able to grow in the position in question. You want to demonstrate your interest in long-term employment and show that you are eager to do all that is required of you. You are also willing to go above and beyond what is asked and show that you are interested in professional development opportunities, additional education and so on.
*This discussion may open the door for the potential employer to discuss advancement opportunities and potential increases in pay which may otherwise not have been talked about at this point, thus helping you gauge whether or not this is the position you are searching for.
- Asking about the traits that would be ideal in an employee hired for this position can also lead into a positive and helpful discussion. They will see the desire you have to not only be a good fit for them, but for the company and position to be a good fit for you. This also helps the hiring manager to be able to speak more freely as they are speaking in the abstract and not about anyone in particular, only of their “dream” employee.
- You should ask what the employer truly wants to accomplish with this position above and beyond the core duties. What would they desire you to be able to achieve? Again, this enables them to speak freely and may give you some great insight into how to get a solid foot in the door.
- If it feels appropriate, you may also want to ask about the positives and negatives of the company culture. This is mostly for your own information and to help you gain insight into whether you would fit in well.
What you should NOT ask
At some point during the interview you will inevitably be asked, “Do you have any questions for us?” This can be dangerous territory. We have all been told there are no bad questions, this is simply not true. Avoid uncomfortable moments by not asking questions or saying things such as:
- Nope, no questions! I think you have already answered everything.
That is just not acceptable, not if you are truly interested and have researched not only the company but the position as well. Be prepared with some questions that demonstrate the level of interest you have. Prioritize them in your mind. You may only get to ask one or two, but be prepared with a couple of extra questions, just in case. Not having any questions can be a display of lack of motivation and drive. You will be hard pressed to find employers that are looking for those qualities.
- Do people usually like working here?
You want to be more specific than this. So many day to day issues are perceived differently by different individuals. Would they really say no? Give them a better question to work with.
- I haven’t really done this type of work before but I think I can learn quickly.
Because they have already reviewed your resume, they will be aware of that fact. They are interviewing you anyway so don’t draw extra attention to any negatives. Obviously they were not worried about that, if they don’t bring up any lack of experience than you should not either.
- I had a horrible boss, have you heard of him?
Anything negative will leave a bad impression. Avoid criticism of any kind. While you may critically evaluate your former position, don’t critically evaluate anything or anyone else. You want to be positive and friendly. These are very important components of personality that you can be sure they are looking for in a future employee.
- Wow! That is really a great question!
This, while friendly enough, causes you to sound surprised by what you have been asked. It actually shows a lack of preparedness. If you have done your homework, you shouldn’t be caught off guard by questions that are asked of you.
These suggestions should help keep you on track and assist you in having a successful interview experience. Leaving a great impression ultimately comes down to having common goals, being prepared and friendly and doing your homework. You don’t want to land a position that is not a good fit any more than they want to make a mistake in hiring. Be honest and confident (not over-confident) and stay tuned into the social cues around you and you will be amazing!
By Brandy Higginson, Five Strengths Contributor
Image courtesy of photostock at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Cons of Working with a Recruiter
We have previously discussed the good that can come from a positive relationship with a recruiter; however, there are bound to be both positives and negatives in any recruiting situation.
Recruiters may be trying to fill positions that do not exist.
If you are familiar at all with companies that assist employers in hiring, you have probably come across this situation. You apply for a job that sounds like a great fit, jump through all the hoops only to deduce that there was in fact no actual position. Most likely, the company was beefing up their prospective employee pool but not actually hiring yet. This can be a frustrating waste of time, especially if you are currently working and taking time off to meet with recruiters. Keep your head in the game and ask important, informational questions early in the process. If there isn’t enough information available about a position and the timeline involved, chances are the position doesn’t exist today (although it theoretically could be coming available in the future).
You may be applying for positions that aren’t a good fit because you don’t have all of the information.
When dealing with zealous recruiters, you may come across one or two that are so driven to get someone hired that your needs and desires get pushed to a back burner. In these cases, you may be put into some uncomfortable situations and be found interviewing for positions that would never work for you. Should you find yourself in this unfortunate situation, be honest and tell the hiring personnel that you may not be well suited for the position they are interviewing for. If it feels appropriate you can ask if there might be a position open in a different department that you would be qualified to apply for.
You may be undersold.
At times it can benefit the recruiter to get you into a position at the lowest rate possible, maybe without much of a raise from your current position. While recruiters are working with both you and the prospective employer and hope to please you both, they are ultimately best serving the interests of the employer. They might try to undersell you in an effort to fill a position quickly.
To protect yourself, you will want to talk to many different recruiters and do your own compensation research to identify what you are truly worth. You may want to keep your past salary information private to gain as much information from them as possible. Remember, there are no rules where this is concerned; it is your right to keep your personal information private. You need to keep your own needs front and center. If you don’t feel like you are being valued appropriately, walk away.
Remember recruiters find people for jobs, not the other way around.
While most recruiters will try to do right by their candidates, it is important to remember who they are really working for. Be aware of the possibility that they might make promises they can’t keep—perhaps because they do not have as much insider information as the hiring executive does. Also, never sign a document stating that they are the only recruiter that you will work with. Above all, don’t pay them anything. A good recruiter, working in your best interest while simultaneously serving the needs of their direct customers (companies seeking rare talent), won’t be taking additional payments from you for current or future obligations. Be alert, and keep ultimate control of your future in your own hands.
By Brandy Higginson, Five Strengths Contributor
Resume Formatting: Do’s and Don’t’s that Help You Stand Out
Put yourself in the shoes of a hiring manager. Two resumes are in front of you; both are possible candidates for the open position. The first is littered with text, margin to margin, full of inconsistent fonts and format, and very little useful information stands out. The second resume is presented with consistent font and format, short bullets with precise information, and plenty of white space. Which resume would you rather tackle first?
The appearance of your resume is not as important as its content, certainly, but your presentation can affect your future hiring executive’s impression of your candidacy. In the example above, the two resumes contain two qualified candidates, but the difference is clear. A cluttered resume displays a cluttered style — clunky and disorganized — which is the last thing any employer wants in their ranks.
Resume content is always more important than its format; however, you do need to pay attention to how that content is presented. Make sure you’re following the Dos and Don’ts for good presentation of your professional resume.
Don’t use downloadable templates. On the one hand, the more generic your resume appears, the fewer seconds a hiring manager will spend glancing at it before putting it aside and forgetting about it. On the other, many templates are not built to present well across individual machines, so you never will be entirely certain that your beautiful layout will appear equally attractive on someone else’s computer, and especially not on a mobile device.
Bright paper or flashy clip art will catch the hiring manager’s eye, but not in a good way.
These kinds of tricks appear unprofessional. Resumes that bring success use a combination of a clean layout with strong content without resorting to flash.
While font choice is important, distracting choices can derail your message. Hiring managers should focus on content — your skills, abilities, and experiences. Don’t decrease readability by using more than two fonts in your resume. Using two complementary fonts, say one for headings and one for the body, highlights important pieces of the document while maintaining the integrity of the information.
Use a strategic splash of color to emphasize particular information or graphical elements.
Spelling and Grammar Do
Spelling and grammar are small things you need to be conscious of through your resume. Spell check is not always reliable as it won’t catch every grammar mistake if of the words are spelled correctly. “To,” “too,” and “two” are often confused and can easily be missed in such a check.
White Space Do
White space on your resume is essential for the reader. Use reasonable margins as well as space strategically between sections of information. This gives the reader, a hiring manager or otherwise, a break and points of focus without using more obvious styles. While the information on your resume is important, you don’t want it to look like a page from a novel or high school essay.
Being consistent with your format throughout your entire resume will allow your reader to follow patterns. This makes your resume an easy read rather than a search and find. If you use bold titles for your current workplace, you should do the same for all other experience listed. Special note: Limit your use of bold, italic, and underlined text—if you try to make everything stand out, nothing will.
By Kaley Buck, Five Strengths Contributor
You were sure that finding that desired position or making a career change wouldn’t be that difficult. You had a solid plan and many different leads and ideas. So what happens when all those have run their course and you haven’t found or been offered what you were searching for. Is it time to call in reinforcements? Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of working with a corporate or executive recruiter.
Pros of Working with a Recruiter
Working with a career or job recruiter to find that position you have been searching for can provide significant advantages over simply submitting your resume or application on job search boards. Recruiters have unique expertise and can help you:
Find job leads that may not be released to the public
Often positions that pay more and have sought-after benefits are not simply posted on the internet. Companies that are hiring for these types of positions don’t want a deluge of resumes. Often, if you have a reputable recruiter, they are in the know, as they can be part of the company’s inner circle.
Introductions and relationships
There is something to be said about being introduced by a recruiter. Being presented makes you stand out from the crowd. This encourages the employers looking to hire, to take notice. It also puts a comfortable buffer between you and the employer. They keep an open line of communication about the position and can even help with negotiations on your behalf concerning salary, benefits and so on. It is also part of the job of the recruiter to match you to the position. Recruiters have a reputation to protect and will want to be sure that they are making contacts in positions that could be a win for both you and the employer. This saves you time, frustration, and extra leg work.
When a recruiter works with you, that relationship relies on confidentiality and discretion. This enables you to maximize your job search and protect your current position while you still are working at your current position.
The recruiter’s commission depends on the success of the candidates they are proposing to their corporate clients. They want to know all the details of your skills and experience in addition to having a complete understanding of what you are searching for, so they can present only their best talent to client companies. They also should be able guide you through the entire process from first contact to final interview. Although recruiters are paid by their company clients, when you are successful so are they. So consider them to be your advocate and let them help you land the position you are searching for.
By Brandy Higginson, Five Strengths Contributor
Image courtesy of adamr at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Your Resume Is Your Worst Enemy:6 Ways to Defeat it
Compiling an amazing resume is often described as the ultimate job search challenge. Truly, creating the resume that will secure an interview may well be the most difficult part of your job search. It doesn’t take much to land your shining finished product firmly in the “no” pile. There are turn-offs, red flags and simple mistakes that will send your resume straight into the garbage can. However, being aware of these common mistakes and avoiding them is half the battle. Let’s take a look…
Problem #1: Your resume is too lengthy, but you’re unsure of what to delete.
Deciding what makes the final cut on your resume can be a real challenge. Experts advise not to go further back than 10-15 years in your work history. Another way to determine this would be to not include more than your previous 5 jobs, whichever option is shorter. Descriptions of duties at each position can also take up a lot of room and is generally unnecessary. Using short sentences or bullet points can be great ways to simplify details. While there doesn’t seem to be a perfect length for a resume, one page seems to be the current trend with two-pages being acceptable if needed.
Beware of using what is termed as “filler.” This is an old trend that has gone by the wayside. At one time there seemed to be a misconception that having important words or different types of positions listed on your resume would increase your chances of landing an interview. This will not prove true if this extra information causes your resume to be so wordy and long that it is tossed in the trash bin. “More” is not “better” in when dealing with your resume. You do not want to appear to be someone who “dabbles” in everything; you want to show expertise or experience in a couple of areas instead.
Problem #2: You lack education and experience.
This can be a common problem as we search for positions that challenge us to better ourselves. When you find that job that mentions experience or education that you lack, you should still give it a shot. What do you have to lose by applying? Job listings tend to contain a wish list of sorts for the perfect candidate. Odds are, there isn’t going to be anyone that meets each requirement. Be honest in listing the education and experience that you do possess, don’t ever be dishonest. Even if your degree is in a completely different field, it still demonstrates your knowledge base and shows that you are a graduate. Fill in the blanks by expressing the interest and enthusiasm you have for the position along with a healthy desire to learn on the job. You may be surprised with the results.
Problem #3: Not only did you not stay long at your last job, you have a history of frequently changing jobs.
If you find yourself in a situation where you are wondering if a job should be listed, here is a common guideline. If you were at a job for less than two months, leave it off your resume. If the time spent in that position was over two months than in most cases you will want to include it on your resume. Such a short time frame spent in any position is bound to raise questions from a perspective employer, so be prepared to answer truthfully. It may be that the position wasn’t what you had hoped for or maybe there were economic problems that surfaced, whatever the case, be ready to discuss it.
A similar issue that you may face comes from hopping from job to job. While this may feel like a mark against you, that is not always the case in the eye of the hiring manager. Perhaps you advanced in status due to some of your job changes? Having the initiative to continue to search until you find what you are looking for and where you will happily stay may show the company in which you are applying for that you are in a real search for a long term career. As mentioned above, be prepared to discuss these job changes and the goal of each. Remember, no trash talking, that never leaves a positive impression. Avoid it at all costs.
Problem #4: You have sizeable gaps in your work history.
If you have time off between jobs that are long enough to draw questions it is a good idea to address these in your cover letter. Take comfort in the fact that with the economic slowdowns that have hit over the past decade gaps in employment history are much more common than they once were. State in your cover letter whether the time off was due to staying home to raise children or a tough job market, but do address it. If the length of your job search has reached a point that you must get something on your resume, then take up some volunteer or freelancing work and include that. As with anything on your resume, be prepared to have an open and honest discussion about it.
Problem #5: You are using outdated resume terms.
You want your resume to get noticed, but not for the wrong reasons. Below is a list of some of the terms you should now avoid even though they were popular in the past.
- References available by request (Of course they are, but either include them, or don’t mention them).
- Detail-oriented (aren’t we all? At least to some extent).
- Hardworking (actions speak louder than words; no one really believes this statement until they see it for themselves).
- Objective (very outdated, replaced with a job or career summary).
- Responsible for…. (Using this format will cause your resume to become to wordy).
- Problem solver (is this really unique to you? I don’t think so…).
- Team player (again, action and time will tell).
Problem #6: You include too much personal information and decoration.
Even though talking about hobbies, religion and marital status discloses a lot about yourself, you don’t want to include these details on your resume. You also don’t want to be the one resume that uses a bright pink cursive font. While you will get noticed, it will not bring the results that you are hoping for.
A professional resume is crucial in today’s competitive job market. The details can make or break you. Be sure that your resume shows a clear direction along with career goals that you are hoping to achieve without including information that would be deemed too personal.
Remember, every mistake you may have on your resume is completely fixable, don’t lost heart. Don’t make more of it than it is by taking yourself too seriously. Your resume isn’t a legally binding document. Your past employer isn’t going to proof read it for you. Your resume is a summary of your work history, education and experience, that’s all. It’s your journey, your path and experiences and your future. Take the time to prepare a resume that makes you feel confident or hire a professional resume writer to do so, but take pride in yourself and your accomplishments, whatever they may be.