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.
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?
The horse and buggy.
Archers as a military weapon.
35 years with the same employer.
What do each of these have in common? They were all considered the primary way doing something, and at some point immediately became a relic and a thing of the past. If there is one thing that remains constant, it is change. To assume something will never morph or evolve makes no sense if one simply looks back on history. Just because one cannot conceive of what that change will be doesn’t mean one is not eventually coming. For example, if you were not involved in tech, did you REALLY see the ability to make free Skype phone calls and pay your bills over something called the Internet back in 1985?
As resume writers, we also have to look at our industry and anticipate where the changes will come that will affect our core value to our clients. When most people think of a “traditional” resume writing service, they think of either an 8.5 x 11 piece of paper that is mailed in to an employer, or an electronic version of the same document uploaded to job boards, company websites, or emailed to a recipient. But is this where the evolution stops?
We are already seeing LinkedIn become a major player in the job search game. LinkedIn not only provides job seekers with job postings and a medium for posting information similar to one’s resume, it offers excellent networking opportunities (STILL the #1 way to find a job). But even with LinkedIn, one still needs their content to be well-organized, concise, written in the appropriate voice, and proofed for grammatical correctness and phrasing consistency. Considering these development needs, us resume writers still provide immense value to our client base. But can we conceive a scenario where our unique skill set would be obsolete? It is worth consideration.
In one scenario, I imagined a nationwide and centralized database used by the majority of employers consisting of job seekers’ “vitals” regarding their employment history, education, training, affiliations and other qualifications. But in such a scenario, a change in career would be difficult. With a system used for employment purposes that is strictly data driven by past hard facts, it would be difficult to change your career path, as such a database would not likely be able to account for lesser-used skills and experiences that would translate to the new target. Because of this, even a tool like this would require a vehicle for creative input to ensure that the applicant can show the reader where they match up with the position requirements for the new career goal. Without it, one would be stuck in a particular career path with no way out.
I think my job is still safe. At least for now. No telling what the future holds.
A few days ago, I was chatting with a friend about the subject of business financing and proper loan documentation, when the subject of resumes came up. Now, this subject was a little off course from where the conversation was, but it was a very interesting sidebar. The things he said mirror much of what I have told clients on many occasions, but it was interesting to delve into the subject with him to see what his personal experiences were when dealing with applicants and their resumes, and how he and his colleagues viewed certain scenarios.
My friend often worked career fairs and he and his colleagues would collect hundreds of resumes at a time, with the ultimate goal of trimming each of their stacks down to around 20 to 25 resumes. According to this professional, there were two major criteria that immediately resulted in the elimination of 75% of the submissions:
1) Resumes Longer than Two Pages ““ As a busy H.R. professional, my friend felt that the applicants did not respect his time by submitting unfocused three and four-page documents. It showed not only a lack of awareness of (or respect for) the process, but also demonstrated an inability to communicate briefly and succinctly. It is very rare that one’s qualifications cannot be communicated well enough in a two-page resume to convince the resume reviewer that you are worthy of an interview.
2) Resumes Littered with Grammatical and Spelling Errors ““ When one is trying to convince a potential employer that they are a stronger applicant than the next person, one of the worst things one can do is to submit a resume and cover letter without thoroughly proofreading it. It demonstrates a lack of attention to detail and an inability to communicate in written form, which most positions require at some point. After all, you are looking to get a job where you are likely to be required to represent an employer internally and externally. Sending emails or other written communications that are difficult to read and full of errors looks bad on both you AND your boss.
My H.R. friend said that he and his colleagues would actually have contests to see how many resumes they could eliminate before packing up to leave for the day, often trimming 75% of the resume submissions before the event was even over, meaning the elimination of most of the competition before the resumes had even been read.
Beaten before the start of the race.
Next time you want to know why the phone isn’t ringing, think about this … and not just the state of the economy. I’ll say it again:
SOMEBODY’S ALWAYS BEING HIRED SOMEWHERE. WHY ISN’T IT YOU?
For everything there is a season. Conversely, there are times when things are out of season. When it comes to landing employment, that “low season” is essentially from mid-November until after New Years.
During this stretch of the year, businesses are usually operating at half-strength, both physically and mentally. It is usually around this time that employees request extended vacations and time off. And the staff that remains is more worried about Christmas parties and shopping than they are work. As such, hiring usually grinds to a halt around this time.
Now, what does that mean or you? Well, this is prime time to get your resume and cover letter in before the big push back to productivity starts after January 1st. When all employees return to work after the start of the new year, it’s “catch up time”. By making a solid push in distributing your resume over the holidays, your resume should be right there in the first week of January for hiring managers to review. Also, you have a leg up on your competition that decided to take it easy during the holidays to pick up on the search after January 1st.
So after your thanksgiving turkey and football, get right back to work. Send out those resumes with reckless abandon to position yourself at the head of the line. Don’t let Christmas activities interfere with the search either. Block aside some time everyday to tend to the job search. Who knows, maybe the best Christmas present of all is waiting for you in January: a good paying job!
William Mitchell, CPRW
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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”.