Elite Resumes has been providing successful executive resume writing and job search coaching since 1993. Martin Buckland, Principal of Elite Resumes, is one of North America’s leading authorities on highly effective executive resume writing, high impact cover letters, successful job-search strategies, executive coaching, personal branding, interview tutoring and social media career strategies.
Your professional resume has a huge impact on the direction of your career. This document represents a potential employer’s single first impression. It is necessary to make sure it’s a good one. Making a faux pas creates a negative impression in the minds of hiring professionals and can severely impact your chance of getting the job you want.
Therefore, to ensure your resume stands outs, avoid:
1. Highlighting Your Responsibilities.
A future employer wants to get a sense of how you stand out from the hundreds of other applicants. Rather than merely listing your duties, detail what you accomplished in each job, or what I call STAR stories.
Think about how you specifically helped the company grow, or save money, or become more efficient. It’s your actions and results that entice a potential employer; not a laundry list of job duties.
Highlighting your accomplishments shows you’re someone who takes their job seriously by adding value and will increase your chance of getting an interview.
2. Grammatical and Spelling Errors.
This may seem like a no-brainer; however, it’s vital to ensure that your resume is free of grammatical and spelling errors. While it’s tempting to think that minor errors are not going to be noticed, or that they are not a big deal, they are.
Grammatical and spelling errors give the impression that you don’t pay attention to detail or that you don’t care, neither of which are appealing attributes for a future employer.
Grammatical and spelling errors are a relatively easy fix. Set your word processing spell check to the right language. Job hunting in Canada? Make sure you set your software to Canadian English. Read your resume out loud so you can hear how it sounds. Read it backwards which forces you to read each word versus skimming the document. Additionally, having someone else review your resume to catch any errors you may have missed always helps guarantee the document is top notch.
3. A Generic Resume.
Employers can sense authenticity. Therefore, when you send out the same resume to 100 different companies without personalizing it for the job you’re applying for, employers will see right through it.
A generic resume gives the impression that you’re desperate for a job without any true interest in the company you’re applying for. A generic resume could destroy your chances of making it to the next hiring round. Employers expect you to take the time to review the job posting and match your resume to their requirements.
4. Omitting Employment and Education.
Gaps in employment or the lack of dates gives the impression that you’re trying to hide something, which does not sit well with hiring professionals.
Be sure to include all your employment history and the dates of the degrees you’ve earned to ensure future employers do not feel as though you’re trying to deceive them in some way.
5. A Resume that Is Visually Unappealing.
Avoid underlining, headers and footers, using more than two fonts, or adding pictures on your resume.
A resume that is simple and easy to follow will not only give the impression that you’re professional and organized, but it will also increase your chances of landing an interview.
Contact Elite Resumes for a free critique from a Certified Professional Resume Writer to ensure your resume is free of faux pas and gives a great first impression to the next decision maker that can help you land your next interview.
No one enjoys misery, but you can become so focused on what’s wrong and uncomfortable that you lose sight of who can change it. Are you intent on being unhappy in your job? Are you so centered on counting your sorrows and discomforts that you’re ignoring the solution? While you can’t change corporate culture or your boss, you can choose to manage your own career and find a new job.
It’s not your employer’s job to manage your career, it’s yours. No one else will ever be as dedicated to your career development as you, and it’s up to you to set goals, grow your skills, and reach for the next rung on the ladder. Don’t wait around for someone to change the company or decide it’s time for a promotion! Reach out and make it happen for yourself.
If you’re unhappy in your job, what other positions do you have the skills to do? What other teams in your company are looking to fill open positions? It’s up to you to research the possibilities to move from an unhappy situation to one that’s a better fit.
Is it the corporate culture that makes you uncomfortable? Work on brushing up your most valuable skills, polish your personal branding, get your resume ready, and start networking to find a better place to work.
Feeling stagnant and bored? Do some research to set your next goal. Do you need to go back to school for an executive MBA? Learn state-of-the-art skills to become more marketable? Consider a sideways promotion to cross-train for a management position? Start working now to get ready for a job search to reach that next goal for your career.
Don’t become so intent on your unhappiness that you overlook the solution. You are the captain of your career, if you don’t like where it’s going, change course! Make the changes that will make you happier. It’s up to you!
While at an IT networking event, one of my team members was given a chance to watch a series of first impressions happening all around her. A young man caught her eye, and she watched as he made an impact everywhere he moved through the event. He had prepared well for the opportunity, but fell slightly short on nearly every criterion on my lists for making a great first impression. There was one perfect element that made him stand out, and held the attention of every hiring influencer in the room. Can you guess what it was?
Well dressed. Yes, his suit was pressed, his tie matched his socks, and his shoes were shined. That was true of a sea of young professionals there to make connections. Like many his age, though, his cell phone was ever-present in his hand.
Carriage. Standing straight, making eye contact, the young man’s body language was clearly engaged. His nervous habit of rubbing the top of his head when thinking quickly was not on the lists, but it didn’t detract from his overall message of confidence and competence.
Handshake. When shaking hands, it was clear this young man had practiced, his grip was startlingly firm, the shake brief, and the eye contact steady. The hard grip merely emphasized his enthusiasm to meet everyone.
Introduction. Caught up in conversation, the young professional would often forget to give his excellent elevator pitch to introduce himself until midway through a chat.
Generosity. Did you guess? The gentleman was genuinely pleased to meet everyone at the event, offered ideas and information freely, and added value to every conversation he joined. He spoke highly of past and present employers, and showed interest and engagement when it was his turn to listen.
Every senior professional and hiring influencer in the room took notice of this young programmer, knew what skills he possessed, and had made a mental note of the job he was seeking. He wasn’t necessarily the most talented person in the room, but he stood out because he was generous with his time, attention, and knowledge. All of them agreed they would enjoy working with him. That, by definition, is a stellar first impression!
Interviews allow hiring influencers to decide if you’ll be a good fit for the open position, and for the organization. They’re a high-stakes marketing presentation selling YOU. So, you can have all the right skills, the best education, and great experience, but a poor presentation can distract from and even diminish the perceived value of the product!
Dress for success. Even if you’re interviewing at a casual IT workplace, wear a suit and arrive well-groomed. Time and again I’ve heard hiring influencers equate the desire for the positon to how formally the candidate dressed. Show respect and interest by dressing and grooming yourself conservatively, and with care. We’ve all encountered candidates who dressed down and that choice was perceived as either indifference or over-confidence.
Introduce yourself. Have an elevator pitch prepared, and learn how to give a brief, firm handshake. After your dress and grooming, introductions are your second chance to make a great impression!
Project confidence. Sit up, stand straight with shoulders back, make eye contact, and keep your posture upright and open. Keep your hands visible without fidgeting. This body language says you know your worth, and it’s considerable!
Slow down. Anxiety produces adrenalin. Adrenalin is the fight-or-flight hormone that gives you speed and power to either run from the bear or kill it! It’s useful in the wild, or during a mugging, but it can sink your interview if you let it. Keep your speech, walk, and gestures slow and smooth. Pace your answers, even if your thoughts are racing. This helps you look calm, confident, and makes your answers sound thoughtful.
Practice. Are there parts of this list that are difficult for you? Making eye contact feels artificial, or perhaps you’re used to slouching to read your phone screen? Elevator pitches are intimidating for many candidates, and so is a simple handshake. Practice with friends, your spouse, or even at networking events. Repetition in a lower-stress environment breeds familiarity and builds muscle memory, so that many of these things can become second nature even during interviewing.
A job search is stressful for anyone, but introverts can feel exhausted and overwhelmed at the prospect of interviews, networking, and subtle pressure to ignore their very nature and be outgoing and extroverted for even short periods of time. The very best advice for introverts on the hunt for the next job or the next step up on their career ladder is to be prepared, be practiced, and be true to your nature.
Update your resume, business cards, and social media. Make sure they match with exactly the same dates and job titles, skills, and education. Have your interview suit or dress cleaned and be sure it fits. Polish your personal branding, make sure you’re using a professional head shot or at least a photo where you look professional on your social media and website. Let your network know you’re looking for your next job. All of this preparation looks great to hiring influencers, and gives you more confidence in yourself.
Everyone feels a bit nervous going into an interview or new networking event during a job search. Practice your elevator pitch, practice your smile and your handshake, and practice a few behavioural interview questions. This repetition makes it easier to come up with things to say in the heat of the moment, it allows you to focus on your answer instead of your discomfort, and makes it easier to choose the impression you want to leave on hiring influencers. All that practice can feel a little false at first, but you’ll find that it allows you to point out your strengths and emphasize your skills, while turning your introverted nature into a positive.
Be true to your nature.
Seek jobs that play to your strengths. Introverts are often creative problem-solvers, diligent employees, and self-motivated. Avoid jobs that require working with large groups or public speaking if you find those tasks exhausting. Search for the jobs that allow you to work alone, in small groups, or in a quiet environment. While you must network, you can build your connections one-on-one if you are diligent about scheduling time with your contacts and save the big events for when you need to expand your network in a hurry. Highlight skills and experience that are focused in areas in which you’d like to work. You might have excelled at Debate Team in college, but that doesn’t mean that public speaking is a great match today.
Don’t forget to give yourself time to rest and rebound from each interview, network event, or practice session. You’re working hard on your job search, you deserve to have time to yourself!
Managing your career is not your employer’s job, nor your favourite recruiter’s. It’s your job. No one else has the same interest and commitment to your career and future as you do. In addition to social media maintenance, networking, and personal branding, every adult should spend some time every month on plans and goals. Below are 5 tips for career planning which will help you get started if you’re new to being your own manager, and will help you get organized and stay on course if you’re an old hand at it!
Chart immediate goals first.
Plan 2-5 years out in detail and hold yourself accountable for those plans and goals. Adding a few long-term goals is good, but your primary focus should be on the near future. Any further out than 5 years, and circumstances will change as you grow and develop as a leader. Do you feel that you need more education to reach the next level? Start looking into an MBA, executive MBA, or begin studying for certifications or licenses you’ll need to accomplish your goals. Concerned there’s no room for growth in your current job? Get ready for a job search!
As a colleague of mine points out, “Life happens!” Keep in mind that your personal and professional life can change quickly, taking you on a journey that looks quite different from your original plan. Starting a family or the need to care for an aging parent can delay your goals or give you a new perspective. A sideways promotion can offer new skills and experience that help you understand that different goals may be a better fit for you. Stay flexible and agile enough to accept and adapt to change as it happens.
Search your network for those who have already travelled a path you’d like to follow and ask their advice. Seek out people who are highly skilled leaders and learn from them. Then offer your own experience to others. The best leaders are those who enable their team members to reach their full potential and serve those they lead. There’s no better time to begin learning how to accept and offer valuable leadership!
Never stop learning.
Great leaders don’t rest on their laurels. They recognize there is always a mentor to seek at the next level and something to improve in themselves. Those who feel they’ve reached the top and stop pushing themselves, stagnate. A rigid outlook and narrow perspective have tanked more than a few businesses along the way. You’ll never become outdated if you’re still learning, growing, and reaching for what’s next.
From small victories to big wins, take the time to celebrate success in every form. One long, hard push to the top will wear you out before you can reach the first peak, much less the summit! And while you celebrate your personal success, remember to celebrate your employees and your mentors.
An Executive Recruiter is often the first gatekeeper to the position you want and to the organization you want to join. Even if you don’t get the first position the two of you speak about, once you’ve met with an Executive Recruiter and made a positive impression, you become an active player on the field of candidates for a variety of positions this same recruiter is seeking to fill.
Is there a difference in an interview with an Executive Recruiter and interviews with other hiring influencers?
Yes. The recruiter is looking to sell you to their client, the employer. They want to know about your skills, talents, successes, and values so they get a good feel for your fit for the position and the organization. There’s fewer behavioural questions, less interest in hypothetical situations and more focus on what you can do for their client.
You’re also expected to know the client. Do your research and make use of your network connections, online searches, and media such as LinkedIn and Glassdoor to learn as much as you can. Your recruiter can be a great source of insider tips, but only if you’ve proven that you are interested, passionate, and committed to getting this job.
What’s the same about interviewing with an Executive Recruiter and a potential employer?
Look the part: Dress well, sit up straight, maintain eye contact. Talk about former employers with respect and a positive attitude, and avoid getting too detailed. Be prompt, as this is the interview to get the interview! Do follow up with a thank-you email, and send it the same day as the interview. Listen carefully to the cues you are given, and the reactions you elicit: A recruiter wants to wow his client with great candidates, impressing the recruiter will lead to impressing the rest of your hiring influencers at the employer interview!
Summer is one of the best seasons for job-seekers. While common wisdom says that vacations and a slower pace mean a difficult time finding a job, I strongly disagree. The only better time for a job search is the winter holidays! When the vast majority of job seekers are waiting for autumn (or the end of those holidays), there are fewer candidates applying for open positions. This means it’s easier to get noticed and make a great impression. Why lie on the beach with all the other vacationing candidates when you can kick your job search into high gear and grow your career?
Here’s a quick list of what to do this spring to be ready for that summer job search season. If you’re even considering a career move, these are important tasks to finish before you begin sending resumes, calling recruiters, and interviewing!
Prepare your paperwork. While most resumes are now submitted online, you’ll need to update your resume with your most current achievements and make sure it’s readable by ATS software. Prepare personal business cards with your field of expertise and contact information that does not include your current work phone, work email, or company website unless it is your own business. You risk making a bad first impression when you job search using your employer’s email.
Curate your social media. Make sure your LinkedIn profile matches what you have put on your new resume, discrepancies look careless or dishonest. Use a professional (or professional-looking) and current photo for your profile pictures. Remove unprofessional details, concerning photos, and begin a regular schedule of posts relevant to your field of expertise. These can be as simple as recommending links for interesting articles on your industry, or as personal and complex as a discussion or opinion of an issue common to your field. You may want to separate your personal social media from your professional, too.
Prepare for interviews. Practice your elevator pitch for smooth introductions, gather examples for those tricky behavioural interview questions, and consider how to answer questions about why you’re leaving your current position. Know your resume, so you can speak to your job history, too!
Write out your STAR stories. The act of writing these successes into a brief, powerful, and positive narrative of growth and achievement will leave you able to talk about them even on a moment’s notice. It’s great preparation for those unexpected opportunities!
Prepare your network. Ramp up your attendance at networking events, bring your business cards, and remember to add value to those relationships by offering news, advice, and helping others connect with open positions, too. Networking is a two-way street!
The time between jobs is not the right time to take a vacation or start on that “honey-do” list for those home-improvement or decorating projects that you’ve been discussing with your spouse. Toss the honey-do list and work your money-do list! Treat your job search like it’s your new job.
Take a day to work out the emotions of losing a job, then kick your career management and job search into high gear. Submitting your resume to three opportunities a day just isn’t enough, although I see plenty of clients who have followed that old, tired advice. Work smarter, harder, and get better responses from hiring influencers by using a planned, coordinated approach that shows your skills, experience, and expertise in the best possible light.
Afterward, when you have a new position lined up, set your start date with plenty of time for a vacation and that list of DIY tasks!
Hire a professional who can update your resume, format it so that it’s easy for computer software to pick out the key words and phrases, and makes a positive impact on hiring influencers.
Social media. Update your LinkedIn and other social media profiles to reflect your new resume. Remove any negative, risky, or unprofessional posts, tweets, or photos.
Make sure your photo, bio, and profiles are matching in basic content if not identical. Make sure the dates, job titles, descriptions, and key words match. Use a professional headshot so that your image is fresh, current, and professional. Begin a schedule of posts about industry issues, news, and solutions. It’s never too late to brand yourself as an industry expert. Schedule time every week to spend on your personal brand, even after you take a new position.
Suit up. Even if your industry runs to the casual side, such as IT, you’ll want to make sure you have an interview suit that announces your value as an expert and a potential employee.
Pitch perfect. Look at your new resume, your social media, and branding. Think about what you want, and where you want to go with your career. Then put together an elevator pitch that you can use when introducing yourself at interviews and networking events.
What is your dream job, your ideal employer, the next step? Take a good hard look at both your ultimate and close-up goals and make an effort to learn about what you need to do to prepare for them.
Reach out. Get in touch with your favoriterecruiters, your network, and even the colleagues and family members who might be able to offer a hand in getting the position you’re dreaming about. Network every single week, following up on the conversations you’ve had with emails, texts, or phone calls to ensure that your contacts know that you value their help in your job search.
When you see an opportunity, offer something of value to your network connections. It can be information about a job opening, advice about an industry issue, or an article that might offer insight.
Don’t forget that even after you’ve accepted that dream job, to work your money-do list. Not with the same time and dedication, but on a schedule that keeps you from ending up with an outdated resume, tired social media profiles and branding, and dusty elevator pitches. You are the only Career Manager you have, so be a hands-on manager!
We’ve all done it, that pep-talk in the car before you go into an interview. Why not make your car-talk a positive and effective one? Start when you leave the house, get serious about it when you arrive and park, and finish up as you’re walking into the building.
Be prepared. This is a must BEFORE the car talk, as you need to have laid out your clothes, printed your resume, and collected the things you need the night before.
Be early. Talk yourself right out the door and into the car, 30 minutes earlier than you think you need to. That thirty minutes can give you leeway for traffic conditions, time to get lost, and still arrive a bit early…with time for that car talk!
Stay calm. This is your mantra while driving to the interview. You are ready, you are a great candidate, and you will stay cool and collected.
Practice your elevator pitch. At least three times, introduce yourself, checking your smile and relaxed, confident posture in your rear view mirror.
Glance at the job description again. You know what key words you chose that you want to emphasize, and you’re ready to mention them in relation to your skills, experience, and character.
Glance at your resume. You know that you’re an accomplished candidate, these hiring influencers are going to love you.
Run through your answers to common behavioural interview questions. You have a few stories picked out of times you failed or took criticism and how you turned it around to a positive. You have some stories chosen of when your ideas were ignored and what you learned from that, and how you used that new knowledge to go the extra mile next time.
Breathe. It’s time to stop rehearsing, stop practicing. Breathe in for a count of five, hold for five, then release your breath for five. And again. You’ve got this.
Check your rear view mirror. Make sure you look calm and polished. Ready?
Ten minutes before your appointment, walk on in.
Be friendly. Everyone you meet could be asked about your interactions, so start with good manners and a great attitude.
Keep your phone hidden, your posture upright, and your stance open. Hold your resume if you’re feeling fidgety, but not your phone or tablet. You need to be ready to focus on your interviewers as soon as they appear.