Monday, March 25, 2013

How to Approach Writing a Resume When You’re a Jack of All Trades

By Adam Dachis 

Many job applicants do more than just one thing, and that can make getting a job difficult because employers often prefer you're great at one specific thing. Having many skills is fine, however, if you focus your resume and treat it like a sales pitch. Resume expert and co-founder of resume grading service RezScore explains:

A resume is not a fact sheet. You do not need to, and should not, include everything you've done, even if it was very important to you or to the company. Your resume is an advertisement pitching a prospective employer to decide to call you. That means you focus only on them—what do they want to hear? If they care about your sales experience but not your IT experience, for example, then don't include your IT experience because it won't help you. The bottom line is to write an employer-focused resume. If the thing you spent 10% of your time on is going to be what you spend 90% of your time on at a new employer, then that's the thing you spend your time talking about.

It's just like sales: figure out what the customer actually needs and then craft your pitch. If you pitch a car by focusing on speed because that's what you think is most important, but your customer actually cares more about safety, you will lose the sale. The same principle applies to resumes.

It might be tough to let go of those important deals from time to time, but you have to remember that your resume's goal is to get you an interview. When you're in the interview, you'll have an opportunity to talk about your other skills if they seem relevant to the job. Keep your resume focused and relevant, even if that means leaving a lot out, because if your employer has to look for relevant experience on a text-heavy document you're probably not going to get a call.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Avoid Getting Fooled Into a Bad Job by Asking These Questions

By Alan Henry 

If your job sucks, and there's nothing you can do about it, you may be tempted to look for another one. Be careful: remember job interviews are sales pitches as well as candidate evaluations, and all that glitters may not be gold. Here are some ways to cut through the pitch and find out if you're walking into a situation that may be as crappy as your last one.

We've mentioned before that job interviews are an opportunity for a potential employer to learn more about you, but also for you to learn about the company. The trouble is that they're also a sales pitch: you pitch yourself and your skills to the company, and the company pitches itself to you in the best possible light. It's not uncommon to interview for a job, think everything is great, and work there for a few weeks only to find out you're expected to travel more than you thought, or the hours are much longer than advertised, or your boss is nothing like he or she was in the interview.

You don't have to be fooled though; a couple of pointed questions during the interview will help cut through the fog. Over at On Careers, they suggest a few interview questions you may want to ask (if the position you're applying for warrants them):


  • What is the turnover rate for this position?
  •  Do you have any statistics regarding employee engagement? (Some companies do surveys.)
  • Can I see the full, official job description?
  • Who will I be working with most and can I meet them?

  • Can you tell me about the company culture?
  • Can you tell me about the dynamics of the team I'll be working with?

Some of these may be a bit more direct than you want to be, and some hiring managers may not have the data on hand that you're looking for, but it's safe to ask about things like turnover, to see the full job description, and even what the person who was doing the job you're applying for is doing now (eg, whether they quit or got promoted.)

Similarly, asking about the company culture and how well the team you work with likes each other and gets along with one another are great ways to determine whether you'll be working with a tight-knit team that actually enjoys one another's company or an adversarial set of colleagues who can barely stand one another. Also, research the company a bit on the web and see if you can find testimonials from old employees on sites like Glassdoor. That information can go a long way to help you make a smart decision if you're offered a job.

A Trick To Get Your Resume Past Applicant Tracking Systems

By Vivian Giang

When you apply for a job at a larger firm, there's a high chance that your resume will be scanned by a filtering software for words related to certain job vacancies.
 This kind of automation process will also reject your resume if it doesn't "meet traditional, business-dictated document formatting," writes Rick Gillis in his book Job!: Learn How to Find Your Next Job In 1 Day. 
Here are some formatting rules that Gillis says job seekers should follow to create a filtering software-friendly resume:
  • Do not place your contact information in the header of your resume, because filtering softwares can be set to ignore headers and footers so there is a risk this information will be deleted.
  • Choose a conservative font such as Verdana, Arial, Tahoma, or Calibri. Gillis says that serif fonts, such as Times Roman or Cambria may be rejected by screening software.
  • Do not use any script fonts.
  • The smallest font size to use for the body of your resume should be 11 point. "Any smaller and you're probably asking for trouble."
  • No graphics or logos.
  • Do not format using tables.
  • No borders.
  • A one-inch margin top and bottom is best.
Do not use any lines that cross the entire page from margin to margin, because "some filters have been created that will reject a document for nothing more than having a single line run continuously across the page," he writes.

Monday, January 28, 2013

How to Pick a Career You Actually Like

By: Penelope Trunk 

Most career problems stem from the fact that we are terrible at picking jobs. We think we are picking a good job and then it turns out to be a bad job. It's almost impossible to pick a good job on the first try, actually. So don't think you'll be the exception.

Economist Neil Howe says that only 5% of people pick the right job on the first try. He calls those people "fast starters" and in general, they are less creative, less adventurous, and less innovative, which makes a conventional, common path work well for them. So it's questionable whether you should even aspire to be one of those people who pick right the first try. But, that said, we all still want to be good at choosing paths for ourselves. So, here are some guidelines to think about—whether it's our first career or our fifth career.


Don't Believe the Hype

We have a grass-is-greener approach to professions that are not our own. For example, this award-winnng video from Chipotle about farmers becoming more animal-friendly pretends that it's just a mental and emotional evolution for farmers to realize that going back to nature, and being good to animals, is what feels best, so they should do it. It's so easy, for example, to take the pigs out of an assembly line.

The Chipotle video is total crap, to be honest. It's not that farmers don't know that pigs on pasture is nicer. It's that there is no market for pigs on pasture because consumers won't pay enough to eat humane meat (without farrowing crates, for example, pork prices would quadruple). So the idea that being a farmer is so beautiful and back-to-the land is just absurd. Being a farmer is actually really complicated, hard entrepreneurial work with very low wages.

Another example of a hyped up job is a lawyer. You see their exciting life on TV: a gloriously safe path from college to law school to a high paying job. But behind the scenes, each year the American Bar Association conducts a survey to ask if lawyers would recommend their profession to other people, and the vast majority of lawyers say no.


Pick a Lifestyle, Not a Job Title

Look at the lives you see people having, and ask yourself whose life you would want. That's easy, right? But now look deeper. You can't just have the life they have now. You have to have the life they lead to get there. So, Taylor Swift has had great success, and now she gets to pretty much do whatever she wants. But could you do what she did to get there? She had her whole family relocate so she could pursue her dreams in Nashville. Do you want a life of such high-stakes, singular commitment?

Look at the successful writers you read. Most of them wrote for years in obscurity, risking long-term financial doom in order to keep writing. Do you really want that path for yourself? Marylou Kelly Streznewski, author of Gifted Grownups, finds that most people who are exceptionally creative have to give up almost everything else in order to pursue "creativity with a big C." For most people, that path is not appealing.
The same is true for startup founders. It's a terrible life, to be honest. Your finances will be ruined, you won't have time for anything else in your life, and your company will probably fail. So when you decide you want to do a startup, look at the life the person had before their company got stable. Most people would want to run their own, well-funded company and control their own hours. Very few people would want the life you have to live to get to that point.


Don't Overcommit

Testing out lots of different jobs is a great idea. Job hopping is the sign of someone who is genuinely trying to figure out where they fit. Quitting when you know you're in the wrong spot is a natural way to find the right spot. A resume with lots of wrong turns is not cataclysmic. You can hire a good resume writer to fix the resume so it looks like you actually had focus and purpose. (Really, I rewrite peoples' resumes all the time. It's about telling a story and everyone has a way to tell a good story about their career no matter how many times they've changed jobs.)

The important thing is to not overcommit to one path. Graduate school, for example, is overcommiting because if you don't end up liking that field, you will have spent four years gaining entrance into the field. Taking on college debt is overcommitting because you are, effectively, saying you will ony take jobs that are relatively high paying in order to service the debt.

Buying a big house has that same effect: you overcommit to a high-earning field. Very few people want to have the same career throughout their life. Leave yourself wiggle room to switch because there is little reason to believe you'll be able to predict what you will like in the future.

Daniel Gilbert, head of the happiness lab at Harvard, has shown that evolution has ensured that we are terrible at guessing what we will like. We guess that we will like stuff that is possible for us—that looks attainable—which is what makes us keep going in life. We are generally optimistic that things will get better. This is not rational because, for the most part, things stay the same in terms of how happy we are.
Gilbert explains in his book, Stumbling on Happiness, that we have a happiness set point, and that's pretty much how happy we are today and it's how happy we will be tomorrow. But evolution has made us certain that something will make us happier tomorrow. Which means we are generally poor at predicting what will make us happy since that was not a necessary trait in preserving humanity.

Gilbert says you need to try stuff to see what will make you happy. Do that. It's scary, because it's hard to find out that what you thought would make you happy will not make you happy. But then, it's true that being a realist is not particularly useful to human evolution either.

Top 10 Tips for Acing Your Next Job Interview

By: Whitson Gordon 

Finding a job is tough enough as it is without having to go through harrowing interviews. Here's everything you need to know about nailing your interview so you can get through it stress-free.

10. First, Get the Interview

Before you can ace your interview, you have to actually get the interview. That means making an awesome resumé and making sure it gets through. Check out our top 10 ways to rock your resumé, and make sure to avoid the items that can kill your chances at getting the job (like a long history of unemployment). Once you're done, don't just send it in with the rest. Use your connections and a bit of ingenuity to beat that computerized system and get your resumé into the right hands. If you don't get the interview, find out why and use that to help you the next time around.


9. Prepare Ahead of Time

So you've got the interview, but you still have a lot of work to do before you walk into that building. Writer Alan Skorkin says the main reason most people suck at interviews is a lack of preparation. So, find out as much as you can about the company, research the job, and formulate a strategy to stand out in that interview among all the other candidates. Getting a cheat sheet together and studying it can help you out, too.


8. Make a Good First Impression

Your job interview starts the second you walk in the door, so be ready. Practice walking into a room if you have to. But more than anything, learn how first impressions work and do everything you can to make a good one: be on time, dress and groom yourself well, and be aware of your body language. Remember, just giving a damn will go a long way in your first impression—if you don't want to be there, they'll know.


7. Tackle the Tough Questions

Once you're inside, it's time for the hard part: answering the interview questions. Know the questions you'll be expected to answer backwards and forwards, and do some extra research on answering the really tough ones, like "what is your biggest weakness," "have you ever been fired," "tell me about a challenge you faced with a coworker," or even just the ever-vague "tell me about yourself." Most of your answers will probably follow a specific pattern, so when in doubt, fall back on the STAR technique. But most of all: learn why they're asking you each question and tailor your responses to their hidden motives. Don't be afraid to dance around questions you'd rather not answer, too.


6. Ask Some Questions Yourself

Your interviewer shouldn't be the only one asking questions. This is your chance to not only make a good impression, but learn a bit more about the job you're applying for. Ask a few questions that will make you look good, as well as some questions that'll show you whether this is the right job for you. With the right questions prepared, you'll be one step ahead of the competition.


5. Emphasize Your Good Qualities

You'll probably feel the need to be humble, but don't. Shameless self-promotion is a good thing in job interviews. In fact, it's the only thing you can really do to showcase your good qualities. If you don't have experience to tout, remember that potential is actually more valuable than experience: if you can show why you're a promising hire, you're in.


4. Avoid the Common Pitfalls

So you've learned what to do, but it's also important to know what to avoid. Even something as simple as negative body language can sabotage your chances, so make sure you aren't hurting yourself without knowing it. Research the subjects you should avoid and make sure you don't overshare, particularly when it comes to your personal life. As long as you don't raise any red flags, you should be good to go.


3. Recover When Things Go South

Hopefully, with the right preparation, your interview will go smoothly. But, if you end up answering a question terribly or hit a common brick wall (like claims of over qualification), learn how to turn the tide quickly so you can get back on good footing. If you leave the interview thinking the whole thing was a disaster, you can always request a second interview explaining the problems you had, too.


2. Follow Up Afterwards

Don't let your interview be the last they hear from you. If you follow up afterwards, you'll help them remember who you are, and make sure your resume doesn't fall into the abyss of the forgotten. Send a thank you note after your interview, and a short email later on to check in if you haven't heard back. Take into account how you've been communicating with them so far, though, as different modes of communication may be more beneficial. If you have a follow up interview, be sure to nail that too.


1. If You Don't Get Hired, Find Out Why

Not every interview will be a winner, sadly, even if you do everything right. If you don't get hired, the best thing you can do is find out why and apply that knowledge to your next round of interviews. Look back on your interview and think about what you could have done better, whether it's avoiding the "overqualification" trap or just simply using better grammar. There are any number of reasons someone might not hire you, and all you can do is use this round as practice for your next interview.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Ramp Up Your Job Hunting Over the Holidays to Get Your Resume in Front of People Easier

By Thorin Klosowski
The business world tends to slow down a bit as the holidays come around, and The Wall Street Journal points out that it's an excellent time to start getting your resume into places because it will get seen by the right people. 

If companies are gearing up to hire people for the first quarter, they're looking for people right now. The office itself is typically a bit slower, but the Wall Street Journal suggests that's why it's an excellent time to reach out to hiring managers:

Workplaces that are open will typically be quieter, which is an ideal time to make that connection by phone, email or even setting up a lunch meeting, says Laurie Ruettimann, a human-resources consultant from Raleigh, N.C. "You're not competing with the regular rush of business. Just remember that many people work half days during the holidays or may work from home."

If you're on the job hunt, it's easy to relax into the holidays and wait for the new year. Instead of waiting, get your resume in now and it might make in front of the right person a little easier.

How to Generate More Interviews with Your Resume

By Anish Majumdar

It's a situation pretty much everyone finds themselves in at some point during their careers: sending your resume out to scores of recruiters and/or hiring agents...and not hearing anything back. Before you consider giving up on your ideal job, here are three powerful tweaks you can execute that will immediately increase the amount of attention your resume receives.


Develop a Clear Job Target

Specificity is one of the keys to a successful search in today's job market. Instead of going the "one size fits all" route with regards to your resume, research open jobs using sites like Monster and Indeed and start developing a database of positions that interest you. While you should ideally end up with a single job target, it's perfectly fine to conduct a job search across multiple targets. Just be sure to develop a separate resume version for each.

Insert the EXACT TITLE of the position you're applying for right at the start of the resume. 
This will minimize the chances of your document being mis-categorized or lost in digital limbo during the submission process.

Develop an opening paragraph that highlights why you'd be a great fit. 
Key experience at a previous job, a recently acquired degree or training certification, even soft skills such as team building/leadership or managing multiple client priorities are all examples of what might work within this section. Keep it brief, no more than 3-4 lines, and make sure it comes across as genuine.

Create a "Core Competencies" section. 
Look through the job postings you've gathered and make a list of skills that are frequently requested (that you actually possess). Now create a section beneath the opening paragraph that lists these skills. For example, a Marketing specialist could have terms like Marketing Plans, Corporate Branding/Rebranding, and Trend Tracking & Analysis within this section. Utilize bullets to differentiate between terms and keep things tidy.


Structure Your Work History to Support Career Goals

At its core, a resume is a personal marketing document. While most jobseekers know to leave off negative information such as why they were let go at a particular job or other workplace conflicts, it's the savvy ones that understand the importance of emphasizing and de-emphasizing positions within the "Professional Experience" section to support their career goals. Ask yourself the following questions to determine the optimal layout of this section:

Is the position directly relevant to the job I'm after? If so, begin the position with a few lines describing unique responsibilities, followed by a "Key Accomplishments" or similar section offering bulleted accomplishments. This approach provides the necessary context and really makes an impact visually.

Can I use the position to highlight soft skills or a unique aspect of my background? Many jobs that aren't directly related to what you're presently after can still hold value in these 2 areas. Use the same approach as above but make sure these positions take up less space within the document.

Is the position a liability? If you took on a role that was a significant step down in terms of responsibilities, salary, etc. or simply didn't work out, then it's worth considering leaving off entirely. As long as it doesn't create a major time gap within the resume, then simply skip to the next position. If it does, then briefly encapsulate the position within 1-2 lines and move on.


Eliminate Red Flags

One of the most frequent reasons resumes get rejected is due to "red flags" that pop up during the evaluation process. Here's the thing: being upfront about a potential vulnerability gives you the opportunity to control it, whereas ignoring it basically guarantees that it's going to be perceived as a negative. Here are the major causes of red flags and how you can keep them from becoming a barrier to your candidacy:

Lack of a clear link between stated career goal and work history. It's important to use the opening paragraph you developed in step #1 as a kind of running theme within your resume. Make sure that the skills and attributes mentioned here are expanded upon throughout your work history, particularly with regards to recent jobs you've held. Don't be afraid to be a little redundant if necessary. A clear link is crucial to establishing credibility during the hiring process.

Significant time gaps in your work history. While a gap of a few months between jobs won't raise any eyebrows, anything over 6 months needs to be addressed. Create a "Career Note" of a few lines and place it directly within your work history, between the 2 positions in question. Examples of information to include here can range from managing family responsibilities and fulfilling a personal life goal to taking an advanced training course or exploring new career avenues. Just make it clear that you weren't sitting around doing nothing.

Lack of necessary education and/or training. If you're currently obtaining a degree or advanced training in a particular area, don't wait until graduation to leverage it within your resume! Simply add the words "In Progress" as well as the anticipated graduation/completion date when listing it within the "Education" section and you should be good to go.