There are some professions we as resume writers see come and go with the winds of change. For example, once the car came around, that horseshoe guy needed to put together a resume fast to find another source of income. But there are some professions that are likely to stand the test of time. Human Resources is likely one of those callings that will be around for a while.
A common mistake that job seekers make when trying to develop a strategy for constructing their resumes is assuming that they need to communicate the totality of their skills and experiences to every reader. This sounds like a viable plan on its surface and it is an understandable assumption from the perspective of the applicant. But the key to success, CONSISTENT success, is to always put yourself in the seat of your reader. It is always about the other side of the desk during your job search. Does the hiring manager really need to know the “whole” story right up front? The answer is usually no.
Hiring managers don’t really care about everything you’ve ever done in your career. When there are 100+ resumes and cover letters that need to be cut to 20 by the end of the day, this simply is not realistic. The employer has a specific set of problems that need to be solved at the end of this process. Your resume’s job is to quickly explain how you are the ideal solution to their unique problem. Now of course, if your background is consistent with the needs of the current position, you really don’t have that issue. But if you are an applicant submitting a resume that has expertise in three or four areas, you need to beware.Â
Stressing a diverse background with no focus may communicate to the reader that you lack focus and dedication to use of the skills they are looking for. It will also confuse a reader during a brief review because they will not search through the entire resume for the skills and experiences they need to see. After all, the resume before and after yours told them everything they need. The only times a the broad brush stroke approach actually works for your resume is when you are seeking consulting positions or perhaps applying to grad school, where knowing a little of everything may be just what the reader wants to know. But that is likely it.
Be sure to make the focus the relevant experience and skills of each position, even if not in the standard job description. For example, if your last job title was a Database Analyst but you are seeking a position as a Project Manager, address all of the project management related duties and projects you worked on first, even if they were secondary in priority. After all, they will be top priority for your reader. Ensure your profile/summary section communicates focus on the target positions. Research the keywords related to your new target to ensure the database has something to hold onto and your reader.Â
Your chief concern is creating a “perception” where the reader sees and feels you as the type of professional you’re trying to become. In 15 seconds, so in our example above, the reader should get the sense they are reading the resume of a Project Manager, not a “Database Analyst who has a little project management experience”. See the difference?
Press On My People!!!
“One arrow does not bring down two birds.” – Turkish proverb
I work with many clients who bring a multitude of skills to the table. In the performance of job duties, this can be a tremendous blessing. However, with regard to the career search process, this can be a curse if not handled correctly on the resume. It is not uncommon for job seekers to attempt to “communicate the breadth of my experience” evenly on one resume. While it sounds quite admirable from the job seeker’s end, it does not work for the person on the other side of the hiring process who needs to know quickly what it is you have to offer that will help them to solve their immediate problem.
Think of the situation this hiring manager is likely to be in. They (like everyone else) are overworked and underpaid, with subordinates who are tugging at their coat tails, while their supervisor is on them about two other projects due. And oh, by the way, they need to get this stack of 110 resumes down to a workable 15 by the end off the day. Now, if your relevant experience is underdeveloped on your resume due to spacing issues and also buried within content covering three or four other vastly different career path concepts, what is the likelihood that he/she will see it? And even if they do, the resume is likely to come across as a little scattered and unfocused.
It is always better to approach one’s resume from the perspective of the employer. What are they looking for? What is the priority? Does my background consist of this and what is the best way for me to convey that in my resume to communicate that to them quickly? What the reader should feel when they read your resume is “I see you need A, B, C, and D “¦ well I bring that to the table in spades, and it is primarily the direction I am pursuing in my career.” What a brad resume communicates is “I can do a little of this, a little of that “¦ I am okay either way and have no particular direction”.
Which applicant are YOU going to hire?
Just think about the database implications. If a position has, say, 15 keywords that would ideally ping the database and show you are qualified, how may are likely to be missing because you decided to cover four other targets with different keywords in your resume?
In a point in our economic history where jobs are scarce because entire industries are in danger of disappearing, this broad strategy will really find a lot of people languishing in the market for months and they won’t even know why.
I have been receiving a larger percentage of call volume than usual of people looking for a resume to apply to federal positions. But many don’t realize that the product is very different than their private sector counterparts.
First, while your average private sector resume is limited to two pages (many HR professionals and recruiters have openly admitted to tossing those that are three pages or longer), the federal resume is measured by character limits per section and not overall document length. Most federal vacancies allow up to 5000 characters per employment entry. They also usually allow 20,000 characters in the “Additional Information” section. That is a lot of information. To give you an idea of how much, I just checked one of the two-page resumes I did not too long ago and it measured 8000 characters total.
Next, while as resume writers, we usually like to target every resume, it is even more imperative for the federal process. Your keywords will determine if you even get past the initial cert part of the process. If your resume is low on content with poor keyword strength, you’ll lose out. Researching the job vacancies and those that are similar will provide you with excellent keywords and concepts to ensure you are addressing the needs of the position. If you are low on experience, another way to satisfy this is by including some of your coursework and even some course descriptions from your collegiate career.
When it comes to the position headers, federal resumes include several items that their private sector counterparts do not, such as supervisor names and contact information, physical address of employment, and even ending compensation (although some recommend leaving it off of your presentation version, it is requested when completing the online resume builder).
These two resumes are so different that you should never use one interchangeably. Be sure you have separate federal and private sector versions of your resume for optimal effectiveness when going with a two-pronged job search.
And try not to wait until the last minute to put them together, okay?
As we all know, one of the first things you are taught by anyone who considers themselves a resume writing professional is that you want to keep the document down to no more than two pages. Well, the “guideline” has not changed. But the frequency of the penalty for not adhering to it has.
As a certified professional resume writer, we understand that the document has to be “as long as it is interesting and relevant”. There are times when a three-page resume is justified (in my experience, this has only been for senior level executives, certain IT candidates, and academic CVs). But the economy has spawned a different reviewing environment that has to be accounted for.
As a member of several recruiter and HR manager groups on LinkedIn, I get to see a lot of “chatter” about what their days have turned in to. With the vastly increased number of candidates in the unemployment pool, many have come right out and said “If I receive a resume three pages or longer, I simply throw it out because I don’t have the time to go through all of that”. Now, THAT is scary. But when you have hundreds of resumes to review, you want applicants to get to the point.
Now, sometimes going to a third page just cannot be helped. But I can tell you from 14 years of writing experience that when done right, this is highly rare. I would say that of the resumes I have written, less than 1% have had to go to a third page. There are just too many strategies one can use to better organize and prioritize the information to say what needs to be said quickly. Remember you only have 15 seconds or less to make your pitch.
So, if your resume is unnecessarily pushing out at 4 or 5 pages, please beware … “The trash can-a-cometh”.
As a job seeker, there are many reasons why you may not have identified a job target. Perhaps you have grown weary of your current career and need a change. Maybe you were suddenly downsized and don’t feel you have the flexibility to be selective. Whatever the reason, consider spending some time thinking about the type of employment you will be seeking before having your resume written.
Your resume should not simply be a listing of jobs and education (in the industry, we call these “resume obituaries”). With an identified target, your resume writer can focus the reader on the skills most relevant to the goal you are trying to achieve. If you are seeking a position as a law clerk, you wouldn’t want your experience as a retail sales clerk dominating the resume’s landscape.
Your resume writer may be a talented one, but even a resume written by the best in the business is a shot in the dark without a clear and identifiable target. There are many factors that can affect your resume’s effectiveness, but this is one that can be prevented on the front end.
Make certain you don’t blow your resume budget on a crapshoot. Take time to reflect on your future so that the resume service that you select can do a good job of getting you there.
William Mitchell, Certified Professional Resume Writer
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