Your Résumé Must Have These 8 Things

Are you nervous about your résumé format, concerned that it isn’t stylish and sexy enough to get you the interview? You aren’t alone. Here is a question that I just received, along with the answer that will benefit everyone struggling to write an effective marketing document.

Question: What are some of the best résumé formats you have seen?

Résumé formats are much less important than the information conveyed and the quality of the writing. If you have a good story to tell, nearly any document template will work. When I write for my clients, I start from the beginning every time and use fonts and layouts that best reflect the client’s personality, industry and career goals. Here are the must haves of your résumé:

  1. Use clear, readable font type and size. Print it and have a glasses-wearing friend read it. Is it clear and easy to follow? No? Redo it. Check spelling, grammar, punctuation and usage.
  2. Show contact information that makes you easy to reach. At a minimum, your name, phone and email address. Be sure that your outgoing voice mail greeting is professional sounding. Kill the ring back music. If I am a recruiter, I don’t want to listen to your favorite Stravinsky piece or Jay Z jam while waiting for you to answer. Be sure that your email address is professional, too. Create a new one if you have to.
  3. Start with a headline and concise professional profile. Avoid clichés like “results-driven detail-oriented professional with strong collaboration and multi-tasking skills.”
  4. Consider adding a “core skills” section to bullet your most marketable skills. Make it easy for a recruiter or HR person to see that you have what they are looking for.
  5. Use a chronological format for your work experience whenever possible. Your functional format is not fooling anyone, so why raise doubt by using this maligned format? Put your history out there.
  6. Limit the task descriptions that you use in favor of results and accomplishments. If you are an accountant, we know that you used GAAP and computers. Tell us how you led an audit that was supposed to take three months and got it done in half the time. Tell us how you created a new financial dashboard that was so well received that it is still being used today. Tell us why you are great. (See “Setting Interview Traps” for more on this idea.)
  7. Include relevant volunteer and community involvement information. If you are a sales person, your next boss might like that you are a member of civic organizations (you know people!).
  8. Finish it off with education and professional development. One exception: If you just graduated or are graduating soon, consider leading with education as it is your most marketable asset.

In summary, include information in an attractive, accessible way that will make employers want to talk to you. Make every word in your resume count, use a standard chronological format, and avoid gimmicks and fancy graphical flourishes. Substance counts much more than style.

Here are some tips on starting your résumé with power.

For some clean, professional sample resumes, see Resu-mazing Services Company’s samples page.

8 Job Fair Tactics

Job Fair Overhead Picture
Job Fair – Lots of People & Little Time to Impress

Have you ever gone to a job fair? Do you plan on it? If so, you have two choices. The first is to carpet bomb the place with your résumé. The second is to have a targeted approach and clear objectives. Guess which works better?

If you think that a run through the venue, where you will leave your résumé at every booth with a quick hello and a hand shake will bear fruit, you will be disappointed. If that is your plan, stay home and apply on line. As the recruiters and representatives at the booth receive these documents, they make quick decisions. There is the “no” pile and the “maybe” stack. Yours will not be where you want it.

Instead, have a strategy in mind and develop tactics that will give you a greater chance of success. Work to maximize the benefit of a face-to-face contact. Here are eight tactics.

  1. Research the companies and their jobs. Most job fairs have a website that lists the recruiting companies and the jobs available. Make a list of the ones for which you are qualified. Print it or carry it electronically. Work your list when you get there.
  2. Create a simple cover letter to go with your résumés. Each letter should be different and customized to each of the positions you want. At the least, include the employer’s name and two or three bullets on your qualifications relative to the requirements of the job posting. Use good paper and ensure quality printing.
  3. Have a concise introduction written and practiced. “Hi, my name is Bill Florin and I am here to share my résumé for consideration for the ____ job you are filling.”
  4. Be prepared to explain two or three things that make you qualified for the position. Again, you will need to research the job and review your talking points before approaching the recruiter.
  5. Have an answer for “What are you doing now?” Again, be concise. “My last employer went through a round of downsizing in the last two months, and I am looking to find a company that will benefit from my accounting expertise and drive for results.”
  6. Get business cards or other contact information if possible. Follow up immediately with a “Thanks, it was nice to meet you” email.
  7. Ask about next steps and the process to come. You will want to know this and set your expectations accordingly. You might not learn much, but it does not hurt to ask.
  8. Smile, say thanks, and move along. You don’t want to be a creepy job fair stalker, do you? Be good, be brief, and be gone.

Dress for success would be #9, but we don’t have to talk about that, right?

Hitting job fairs? Don’t forget these tips.

Nobody loves job fairs, but think about this: Would employers do them if they didn’t hire some of those attending? Not likely; they wouldn’t spend the time and money. Don’t be disappointed if you don’t have a lot of success, but as they say about lottery tickets: Hey, you never know.

What has worked for you at job fairs? What hasn’t? Be sure to share your experiences by leaving a comment. Don’t forget to follow “Work” and share it with your friends!

How’s Your Lead

All writers know that stories that are going to be read need to start with a great lead. Those first few sentences, the first paragraph, must grab the reader’s attention. It’s true for newspaper articles, online stories and longer work. It’s also true for résumés.

In On Writing Well, the classic on non-fiction writing by William Zinsser, the author says this: “The most important sentence in any article is the first one. If it doesn’t induce the reader to proceed to the second sentence, your article is dead” (p. 9).

How is the first sentence of your résumé relative to this high standard? Go ahead, read it. Read it out loud. Does it say anything about you that will make the reader want to continue? Is it a true description of you and your accomplishments, or is it vague, generic hash?

Recruiters will make a decision to continue reading based on the first half of the first page. You have only a handful of words and a small number of lines to make your case and keep yourself in the hunt for consideration.

Try this: print a copy of your resume without your name at the top. Give it to a close friend or family member who knows you well. Ask that person to read it. What’s the reaction? Is it what you expected?

The first 100 words or so are some of the most important in your job search. Are they as influential and hard-working as you would like? Does sentence one flow and encourage the reader to move to number two and three? If not, get the red pen, eliminate the goo and make it sharp. Every word counts!

Bill Florin, CPRW is President of Resu-mazing Services Company. If you do any writing, get Zinsser’s book!

Busyness and a Better Tomorrow

“Busyness that moves you towards a goal and a better place is a good busy.”

All right, this is not the most profound thing ever spoken, but it worked for a client yesterday. I started working with a new person and she is in a tough place. She left her employer of eight years in the spring for what she thought was a step up. It turned out the she signed on with a maniac for a boss, someone not opposed to micro-management and public humiliation. The boss seems to enjoy it.

What is an employee to do?

In this case, my client has endured so much abuse after so much previous success that she seemed paralyzed and felt trapped. Unable to think and afraid to say the wrong thing, she has become physically ill from the environment. Finally, she did something about it and called me.

As we walked through the steps of how I could help her, I learned more and made some suggestions for her to move her search forward. After the conversation she commented, “I’m going to be busy this afternoon.” That’s when I came out with the line at the top, and she liked it. Here’s why.

When we are faced with a difficult situation, one that seems limiting and hopeless, even a small step can make a big difference. One or two activities that lead away from today’s pain and towards a better tomorrow get the mind realizing that all is not lost. The abusive boss is not a permanent fixture. The employee is one day closer to firing that monster.

If you feel like my client, like your situation is terrible and you don’t know what to do, think and act. What do you have to do to improve your situation? What small step can you take today and tomorrow and the next day? If your goal is to find a new job, break it down into smaller pieces, including things that you can do now. Here are a few examples:

“Tonight I am going to take one hour to write down my accomplishments from the last year and the things that make me marketable.”

“This weekend I am going to update my résumé with my accomplishments.”

“Today I am going to reconnect with two colleagues from my last job to strengthen my network.”

Every action will make you feel better and more able to tolerate today’s situation while you lay the foundation for tomorrow’s change. Activity leads to options, options to hope, and hope to change. Plan your escape and get busy on those goals!

Volunteer Matching: A Firsthand Report

Much has been said recently about the value of volunteering. Job seekers, including those in my seminars and classes, ask the questions, “Should I volunteer and can I include it in my résumé and LinkedIn profile?” Yes, you should. Yes, you can. The harder advice to give has been how and where to look for volunteer opportunities. Here is one option that I share not as an interested observer, but as a participant in the process. I hope that it helps and informs your thoughts on what you can and should do.

A few weeks ago, I was having a conversation with a long-time friend. We were catching up on each other’s career stories when he mentioned a website called Catchafire. Had I heard of it? No. Henry explained that it was like a Monster job board for matching professionals interested in volunteer opportunities with social-good organizations needing help. It sounded interesting and I investigated.

Catchafire allows volunteers (PBPs : pro bono professionals) to identify causes in which they are interested (e.g. childhood education, women’s rights, etc.) and their skills (e.g. accounting, web design, copywriting). The site then offers open assignments that it thinks are good matches. The PBP browses the assistance requests and, if interested, applies for the job. I decided to try it.

Here are a few observations from having gone through the process. First, if you are going to do this yourself, be prepared to spend some time to set up your Catchafire profile. The fastest and easiest way is to import your LinkedIn profile. Second, be prepared for a screening and selection process that is not unlike applying for a paying position. When a PBP applies for a job, the requesting organization and Catchafire’s team will ask questions and request work samples. This is more than just raising your hand and getting the gig.

Catchafire is able to pay its staff and keep the computers running by earning a fee from the organization requesting the services of the PBP. It’s easy to understand why they want good people who can and will fulfill their commitments. The non-profit gets professional services at a greatly reduced rate, far below market value. The volunteer gets the satisfaction of working on a project that best matches her or his skills while doing something that matters, and maybe has earned another résumé bullet. Plus, there is the intangible benefit of making new connections and getting your name and work more widely known.

I have been accepted for my first assignment. The writing work begins in October. I will be sure to share an update, including information about the organization for which I am working, as the effort gets going. Check it out for yourself and maybe you can Catchafire, too.

Check out these two blog posts for a little more about volunteering: Energized by Work and Ready or Not. Enjoy!

Awareness & Adaptability

Here is the tough truth about interviewing: every interviewer, company and day is different. The personalities of the people in the interview – whether in person, on the phone, or by video conference – will sway the encounter. You may have done all of your research and feel that you know the questions you are going to face, only to be disappointed and surprised by an unanticipated angle or a completely different line of questions. That’s where your awareness and adaptability become critical.

Awareness of Your History. Having a detailed awareness of your career history and accomplishments is mandatory. Only you know your story. If you have carefully reviewed your history as you wrote or refined your resume and have updated your LinkedIn profile with your best stuff, you have made a tremendous step in the right direction. By thinking about and reflecting on your accomplishments for these career marketing activities, you will help yourself to have the awareness, memories and stories ready to go for an interview.

Awareness of the Organization’s Culture. This important step is one that is often overlooked by job seekers. Most companies share a lot about their culture and priorities in very open and public ways. Read everything on the company’s career/employment web sites. If possible, get to know people in the organization and learn from them. Then take the step of thinking about how you can best craft your stories in a way that will resonate with your interviewer. Here is an example. Target Corporation lives by the motto “Fast, Fun & Friendly.” If you know this, you could consider how your career stories could be told in a way that show your quick and determined action to resolve a business problem or to exploit an opportunity while staying focused on customer service or employee engagement.

Adapting to the Question. You will have to take your stories and adapt them quickly during an interview. For example, you may be prepared with three stories of accomplishments and you might even have some thoughts of the order in which you would like to tell them. Your interviewer may ask a situational question that changes the order of your stories and the angle you take. Only by knowing your stories well will you be able to adapt. Your interviewer may ask, “Tell me about a time that you saved your company money and please be specific.” If you have a story that fits the question, you can tell the interviewer about the situation, your specific actions and the outcome. If you don’t have the stories memorized and ready, you may stumble through this question and give a weak or poorly told example.

Adapting to the Atmosphere. As mentioned earlier, every interview will be different, and you need to be ready. You could face a one-on-one interview, a small group or a large panel. The interview may be conversational or very formal. It might even include numerous introductions and short interactions. Your emotional intelligence receptors must be on full alert to understand the dynamic and to adapt as needed. By knowing your material and your stories very well, you can devote more of your energy to this critical element and less to the hard work of recalling your stories.

You need to know your stories and must be ready to share them in detail and in a way that addresses the question you face and in a way that is appropriate for the environment. Make the effort to review and reflect on your performance so that you will be ready to adapt as needed. The work that you do will be worth it.

Other articles to help you prepare to interview:

Question 5: Why did you leave?

Question 4: When have you failed?

Question 3: Your greatest accomplishment?

Bill Florin, CPRW is the President of Resu-mazing Service Company.

Pocket-Size Résumé

Twice in the last week I have participated in conversations about personal business cards, useful for networking events and chance encounters. One conversation was with a friend, another on a LinkedIn group. In both settings, hot topics encompassed what the card should include, what it should not, and the value of this pocket-size résumé. Here are some tips on how to write it and make it work for you.

Let’s Start with the Basics

  1. Include your personal contact information. This means a professional and personal email address, not a work email that you lose when you leave a job. “Professional” means sticking with something that is your name and not much else. Examples: JoeSmith100@—.com, MaryLBaker10@—.com. Avoid potentially embarrassing email addresses.
  2. LinkedIn Profile Address. You have one, right?
  3. One phone number. Your best, can reach number that is yours alone. This is most likely your wireless number. By the way, check the outgoing message. Does it portray you as a professional? Re-record it if necessary. Now.

Brand Statement

What is your profession? What are you known for? Under your name, create a title that is reflective of your skills and career, but that is not dependent on your employer. You may be a divisional sales manager for your employer, but you should come up with something else for your personal card. How about this: “IT Sales Executive: Coach, Trainer and Leader.” This same brand statement could even be used on your LinkedIn profile.

QR Code: Yes or No?

Some people love it, others don’t. If you haven’t used a QR code before, it is that square scannable bug that you see on print advertising. Scan it with your smartphone and it directs you to some online content. The destination could be a personal website, blog, LinkedIn profile or anything else that you want. Be sure that if you use it, the destination is something that you want other professionals to see. If in doubt, leave it out.

Flip it Over

A business card has two sides. Use them. Think about your two or three most compelling selling points that you bring to the job market. Refine them down to a few bullets and get them on the card. Points that you have in your elevator speech can work well here. Or, you might change your elevator speech after forcing yourself to clarify your value proposition by going through this exercise. Whatever the case, be prepared to present yourself to people you meet and use the card to reinforce your message.

Complement Your Résumé

Be sure that the card and your résumé are communicating the same message using the same language. Think of them working together as a marketing kit, both presenting you with the same value propositions and both with special uses. You wouldn’t go to an after-work networking mixer with résumés, and you wouldn’t go to an interview with just a business card. The two work together and must complement each other.

Do you have a card that works for you? I would love to hear about it. Please comment and share your ideas.

Bill Florin, CPRW is President of Resu-mazing Services Company. Contact Bill for help with your job search, career management and personal brand questions.

Newsstand Résumé

Visit any airport news store or a Barnes and Noble, and you find rack after rack of magazines and newspapers, all shouting headlines to get your attention and your dollars. The same is true online, where we are all teased with silly phrases designed to get us to click (I still have never clicked on a “five weird tricks” link). Nobody does it better than the tabloids, though, with huge fonts and the promise of entertainment – and possibly a little news – for a buck.

Imagine your résumé up against this competition. Does yours have what it takes to get the attention of an overwhelmed, overworked and overstimulated screener? Does it say “read me” or “READ ME!”? More simply, is your best stuff in the top half of the first page? If not, your competition may get more attention. Here are a few pointers.

Compelling Headline. Does your headline make it obvious what you do and what you are looking to do next? Do you have a headline? If you can’t describe your career focus in a few words and display it in a headline, start now.

Concise Professional Summary. Develop a two to three sentence summary of what you offer your next employer. DO NOT include clichés that everyone uses and every recruiter hates. Out of the box self- starters with strong work ethics need not apply. IT professionals with experience in data centers and cloud-based application management experience…come right in!

Unique and Valuable Skills. If you have certifications, training or other formal credentials that are in demand, get them into the top half of page one.

You have seconds to make an impression and score an interview. If you are not getting calls, it could be that your résumé is boring and weak. Tighten it up, make it bold and make it work.

New Direction: An Open Letter

Today is the first day of the next step in my career and the first day of full-time self-employment. After years working for top employers, including Target, Edward Jones Investments, Kohl’s and others, Resu-mazing Services Company is now my sole focus. The experiences and responsibilities in the past have been tremendous as I have led teams of up to 500 people, focused on human resources, sales development and business operations and have gotten to know so many wonderful people whom I am fortunate to call friends. Today I must take everything that I have learned and make it work with my own business. I am sharing this letter with everyone for three reasons.

First, to say, “Thank you!” Resu-mazing Services Company started as a part-time experiment three years ago. As my clients had success with their new résumés and other career marketing materials, the referrals started to come. I believe it true that the highest compliment in business is a referral from a delighted client. Those compliments have become a regular part of the growth of Resu-mazing. Thank you to everyone who has made that happen and have witnessed that “Amazing Résumés Work!”

Second, to convey my commitment to you, my clients. So many of the people I have been able to help have become friends. These are relationships that I value and I get excited when my friends have success. By making this work my professional specialty, I will be better able to serve everyone, existing and new clients alike. For Resu-mazing to continue its growth trajectory, I must give it more time.

Third, you will be seeing new services from Resu-mazing. Being more accurate, you will hear more about existing services and a host of new services. You will see cloud-based value added services to make the Resu-mazing experience even better. One-stop personal branding and career marketing services, including pre-scheduled updates and content creation will be available very soon. These are just two services coming this summer.

My family and I are looking forward to this next step in my career. I am looking forward to making even more friends as I help others find success in their searches. You can look forward to more and better services and a true partner in managing and advancing your career. Thank you for reading this and for your ongoing support of Resu-mazing Services Company!

Bill Florin is a Certified Professional Résumé Writer and President of Resu-mazing Services Company in Monroe, Connecticut.

Your Résumé Can Be Too Concise

If you have spent any time working on your résumé and reading articles on how to make it effective, you have probably come across the advice to keep it clear, concise and as short as possible. That is great guidance, especially as recruiters and everyone else are so busy and have little time to spend screening any individual document and candidate. It has to deliver early to get attention. But too much editing and too little detail can hurt.

Last week I worked with a client for whom I was writing two résumés, a short version for a potential career change, and a longer, more detailed document for use in her existing career. The longer résumé was terrific. It had the right amount of information, shared her important accomplishments, and simply told her story well. The other shorter résumé was the problem.

This client was getting some advice from an internal advocate who kept challenging her to make it more and more brief. At one point, though, too many details that added context to this client’s excellent 15 year career history that has been full of achievement were at risk. We had to have a conversation that focused on this question: “If you didn’t know you, would eliminating these details hurt or help the reader understand you, your accomplishments and the unique value you offer?” She got my point and the potential edits were avoided.

This is not just a matter of opinion, though. Applicant tracking software (ATS) needs content to analyze, keywords in context, and if it isn’t there it can hurt a candidate’s chances of being considered by a human. The ATS package simply will not present you as a viable candidate.

Use the space you need to tell your story. Recruiters and the ATS software they use will reward your effort and decision.

Bill Florin is a Certified Professional Resume Writers (PARW/CC) and President of Resu-mazing Services Company in Monroe, CT.