How Do I Describe My Weaknesses in an Interview?

This is the question almost everyone asks when preparing for a job interview.  Normally people have a good handle on their strengths and can list those with no problem, but the weaknesses almost always create an obstacle for them.  Oftentimes, the dilemma is that they don’t want to mention a weakness that makes them sound…..well….weak.  Thankfully there is no right or wrong answer and the truth of the matter is EVERYONE has strengths and EVERYONE has weaknesses.  It’s just a matter of how you communicate them.  While you want to be honest, you don’t want to raise any unnecessary red flags.

Now, there are 3 important things you want to remember.  First, instead of describing it as a “weakness,” describe it as “an opportunity to improve.”  Just simply changing the wording, instantly makes it seem less horrific.  Secondly, when answering this question end on a positive note and have a way to fix it.  This says to an employer that you are already aware of the issue and you are being proactive about correcting it. Thirdly, only have 1 or 2 areas that you need to improve. This is NOT the time to get carried away and list all your insecurities. Remember, you are trying to get a job so don’t air your dirty laundry!

OK….I have a feeling that you’re probably still not convinced.  You’re not completely sold on the idea of being able to tell someone your less than flattering work habits in an eloquent manner.  You’re still skeptical aren’t you?  At this point you’ve probably recalled a job interview that you’ve had in the past where you were asked this question and instantly began panicking.  Luckily for you, today is the day the panicking stops.  You’re going to get the help you need to be able to successfully get through this portion of the interview without sending your potential employer running for the hills.  So, let’s just get right to it…let’s turn those “weaknesses” into “opportunities to improve.” Below are some examples of the most common “weaknesses” and ways you can present them more positively.

1)  Arriving late for work or not completing tasks on time

“An area that I can improve is my time management.  I realize that things must be done in a timely manner and not being on time affects the overall flow of business. In a team environment, everyone depends on each other so timeliness is important.   To help with this, I have begun to set reminders for myself throughout the day and set my watch 5 minutes early.”

2) Fear of public speaking

“An area that I can improve is my public speaking because sometimes I’m concerned that I might not be communicating effectively. I try to overcome this by practicing in advance and being very familiar with my topic.  This puts me at ease and allows me to connect with my audience and deliver a good presentation. I know the more I practice,the better I will become in this area.”

3) Trying to be a perfectionist or not feeling confident in your work

“An area that I can improve is not trying to be a perfectionist.  I have to constantly remember to not be so hard on myself and give myself room to grow. I believe that once I become more skilled at a job, I will be more confident and not feel the need to spend so much time double checking my work.”

4) Taking on too much work or not knowing how to say no to others

“An area that I can improve is not taking on too much work and learning how to say no to others.  I am very passionate about my work and I like to stay busy.  However, sometimes I can get a little overwhelmed. I am learning that it is okay to not be busy every second of the day and taking a break can sometimes be very helpful.  Also, I know my co-workers will understand once I explain that I’m not able to help them because my plate is already full.”

5) Bringing your work home with you instead of leaving it at the office

“An area that I can improve is not bringing my work home with me at night. Oftentimes, I continue to worry about things at work after I have left for the day.  I am learning that it is very important to have work-life balance so that I can have time to spend with those that I care about. If I find myself thinking about work after hours, I just make a note as a reminder to take care of it the next day.”

6) Needing to improve your leadership skills

“An area that I am working to improve is my leadership skills.  I like for things to be done efficiently so it can cause me to sometimes get a little frustrated.  I am learning to take a step back and be confident in the skills of others.  If I feel something needs to be done differently, I make sure I am clear with my expectations and give my team the tools they need to be successful.   Communication is definitely the key.”

So you see…it can be done.  Saying what your “areas of improvement” are doesn’t have to be a scary thing. You can present them in a way that shows your potential employer you are just like everybody else – NOT PERFECT!  Your particular weakness might not be listed above, but I’m sure you can tailor your answer based on the few examples I gave.  Remember, there is no right or wrong answer and ending on a positive note makes all the difference.

Happy Interviewing!

Today I Woke Up With No Job (6 Tips to Survive Unemployment)

This statement has been true for me 3 times in my career. Each time was a little bit different – 2 times I had advanced warning and 1 time I did not.  With each period of unemployment lots of different thoughts went through my mind.  What happened? Why me? Was there anything I could have done to avoid this?  Did my manager know more than he was telling me?  What am I going to do?  I was also thinking to myself – I am intelligent. I have an advanced degree. I’m professional.  I’m not lazy and I know I am qualified to do several types of jobs.  So why am I unemployed?

I have fully come to understand how not having a job (and a job title) is directly correlated to your sense of self-worth and self-esteem.  Do you have any idea how humiliating and humbling it is for someone to ask you where you work and you have to say, “I don’t have job” or “I got laid off” or “I was fired from my job.”  Trust me….it’s not a good feeling at all.  Then on top of that people keep asking you about it every time they see you or talk to you, which just adds to the “shame.”

Nonetheless, each unemployment period was a great time of reflection for me. I was able to ask myself some very pertinent questions. Who am I? What do I like to do? What am I good at?  What am I passionate about?  Where do I want to be in 5 years?  Why didn’t I save more money?  Were the job and my co-workers really that bad? And ultimately, what have I learned from this experience?  So if this is you right now and you woke up this morning with no job, I am hoping to give you a few tips that may help you cope with this time of unemployment and uncertainty.

1) Get Some Rest

Let me repeat….BE SURE TO GET PLENTY OF REST!!  When is the last time you slept past 9:00?  (I’ll wait.)  Well, now you can!!! It won’t be long before you are back in the “rat race” and having to set your alarm clock to get up at 5 or 6 AM, so enjoy your leisure lifestyle while you can.  I know some of you have a spouse and/or children who depend on you and you still have to get up each morning at a certain time, but you can make up for it by taking a mid-day nap.  Ya know, it occurred to me one day how busy I get and how little time I have to actually spend in the house that I am paying for.  I realized one day that I never really spend anytime in my guest bedrooms.  So while I was unemployed, I made up for it by taking naps in those rooms during the middle of the day. If you really want to be a rebel, don’t even get dressed and just lounge on the couch most of the day.  Hey, you are paying to live there so be sure to get your money’s worth!! Get some rest.

2) Reassess Needs And Wants

Unemployment is a perfect time to reflect on what you really need and want in your career.  Do you want to switch industries? Do you need a job with flextime so you can drop your kids off at daycare?  Do you want a job where you don’t have to go into the office everyday?  Do you want a job with a 15 – 20 minute commute?  Assess what you want and absolutely have to have in a job. In addition, you can Google ‘free career assessment test’ and take one of the many tests online to see what career might be best for you.  Even if you are an experienced professional, it may not be a bad idea to take the test just to affirm your strengths, weaknesses, personality type, etc.  The more honest you are with yourself and where you are in your career, the easier it will be for you to find a job that works best for you.

3) Develop A Plan

While I do suggest that you get some rest, I also highly suggest that you develop a plan of action after you’re done resting and reassessing. Your plan at minimal should consist of the following:

a) Updating your resume/cover letter – I suggest that you let a professional do this because you have an emotional attachment to the information and may not be able to market yourself appropriately.

b) Uploading your resume and setting up job search agents on websites – You may want to do a few general ones (indeed.com or simplyhired.com) and a few that are specific to your industry and city.  Five or six websites should suffice.

c) Saturating your network – Once you’ve updated your resume, send it to those in your network and let them know what you are interested in.  LinkedIn is great for increasing your network and communicating with people who may be able to help you.  You must also attend networking events and job fairs.  Remember, sometimes you have to be bold to reach your goals.

d) Applying for jobs – I know it seems silly to mention this, but I need to make it clear that you should be applying for jobs until you actually get one.  Don’t get the ‘big head’ and think just because you got through 2 or 3 interviews, you are guaranteed the job.  Even if you are 99% certain you will get the job offer, KEEP APPLYING TO OTHER JOBS!!!

4) Set Daily/Weekly Goals

If you are going to file for unemployment, they will have a goal for you which may be 4 or 5 job search activities each week.   But aside from that, you should set your own personal goals.  Determine what you want to accomplish each day and week.  Now, I will be honest and say that looking for jobs everyday can be a very monotonous and draining process.  So it is necessary for you to switch up your routine.  Some days you may get up first thing and look for a job and network with others.  Other times you may relax during the day and do your job searching at night.  During one of my unemployment periods, I would take my laptop to Barnes & Noble once a week and have lunch.  I would stay there 3 – 4 hours looking and applying for jobs; however, the time went by so fast because I was in a different environment.  For each time of unemployment, once I met my goal I stopped looking for the remainder of that week.  So if I met my goal by Wednesday, I didn’t look for a job Thursday – Saturday.   This actually motivated me to stay focused and find my jobs to apply for early in the week.

5) Get a New Hobby / Stay Involved

Think about all the times you said, “I wish I had more time to _____________________.”  Now you do!  Take advantage of the extra time you have to do the things you couldn’t before.  You can repaint your kitchen.  You can go on a field trip with your son or daughter.  You can get a membership to a gym or enroll in a salsa class.  If you are already involved in the community through your sorority/fraternity or a non-profit organization, be sure to stay involved.  This will keep you motivated and give your brain a chance to think of something other than your unemployment.

6) Reward Yourself For Your Accomplishments

Of course I don’t know where you are financially, so only you can decide what is an appropriate reward for yourself.  For some it may be something as relaxing as a manicure/pedicure or as simple as going out for ice cream or a movie.  For others it may be a weekend trip out-of-town or front row tickets to a concert.  Either way you should have rewards for yourself when you have accomplished those goals listed above.  It will keep you energized and motivated.  Even though you are unemployed, you still have to take care of yourself and your mental health.  Go ahead and spend a little on yourself…..you are worth it!

As you get older and mature, you realize you are much more than what your job title says you are.   You are much more than the name tag they gave you to wear at work. Use this time of unemployment to really get to know and fall in love with yourself. Who are you really? Being unemployed for some time can be a bit of a good thing.  I know it doesn’t feel good right now, but it will work out for your good.  I’ve learned to describe my time of unemployment as a time of transition.  I have learned to be still and listen to that small voice that says – YES YOU CAN and YES YOU WILL!  I know this isn’t what you had planned for your life, but guess what – dreams change.  Your dream job is right around the corner and it will be the perfect job for you.  Now let me boldly proclaim to you what I have had to whisper several times to myself….hold on, the best is yet to come!  This too shall pass!

Human Resources Q & A – I Asked the Questions You Wanted to Know

I recently spoke with 3 Human Resources professionals and asked the questions YOU wanted to know.  They gave answers to the questions that they felt most knowledgeable about.  HR Professional 1 has 17 years of experience, HR Professional 2 has 15 years of experience, and HR Professional 3 has 20 years of experience.

1.  Does someone from Human Resources or the Hiring Manager actually look at ALL the resumes that are submitted for a job?

HR Professional 1:  It depends; if an overwhelming number of good resumes are received, the H.R. Department will not review all the resumes. The H.R Department will stop screening resumes when they have a sufficient number for interviews.

HR Professional 2:  Yes, in most cases the hiring manager will review the resume. If it’s a large company the recruiter will filter through resumes and then pass them on to the hiring manager.

2. How many resumes on average are submitted for each job that is posted?

HR Professional 1: The number varies from the time of year the position is posted. More resumes are received from May – December due to new grads entering the workforce.

HR Professional 3:  200.  It truly rangers from 100 – 700.

3. Does Human Resources or the Hiring Manager actually read cover letters?

HR Professional 1:  Sometimes but not always. The H.R. Department is more concerned with what is on the resume.

HR Professional 2:  Yes, the cover letter gives the recruiter a summary of the candidate applying instead of having to review the resume in details.

HR Professional 3:  No. I do if I have time and something isn’t making sense when I read their resume.

4. How closely does a candidate’s experience need to match the job description to be considered a good fit?

HR Professional 1:  For most positions the candidate’s background does not have to match, but the resume must show that the candidate has the potential to be trained for the job. This conclusion can be drawn based on the candidate’s degree or volunteer work in the community.

HR Professional 3:  Very closely.  If not, I would hire an internal person and train that person.

5. How often are companies utilizing phone interviews to determine the top candidates? How many phone interviews are done on average?

HR Professional 1:  My company will conduct a phone interview for a referral out of state. Otherwise we will not conduct a phone interview.

HR Professional 2:  Some companies are using videos to interview candidates as well as phone interviews. 10 to 15 depending on the position needing to be filled.

HR Professional 3:   As the recruiting person, I am interviewing everyone on the phone. Then I decide if they should come in to meet the manager. We conduct online interviews for remote candidates instead of flying them in.

 6. Do employers view candidates on social media as a way to eliminate them? If so, which social media is utilized the most and what are employers look for?

HR Professional 1:  My company does not have a social media policy in place, so we were advised by legal counsel not to utilize this tool.

HR Professional 3:  LinkedIn.  I like to connect with the person, see how much time they spent on their profile and if it lines up with their resume.

 7. What are you typically looking for in a background check? How far back do you go?

HR Professional 1: We go back 10 years. We are looking for felony convictions. A conviction does not necessarily mean the candidate will be denied employment.

HR Professional 2:  This is industry specific.  For an accounting position we are looking at the person’s background to make sure there’s no fraud or theft in their past. For drivers or anyone dealing with customers no illegal activity or warrants, etc. In some cases 7 or more years if they have violations.

 8. If a former employer is listed as a reference, what information can they legally provide?

HR Professional 1: Most companies will only provide dates of employment, position and whether or not the candidate is eligible for rehire. If the candidate signed a release salary information may be disclosed.

HR Professional 2:  Dates of employment, job title and if they are still employed there.

9. Do companies sometimes check your credit report? Is that legal?

HR Professional 1:  It is legal if the position is a management position and the candidate is required to qualify for a company credit card or the position involves working with money.

HR Professional 2:  Yes, they can check your credit report if you are applying for certain positions and it is deemed legal in certain areas.

 10. What are some illegal interview questions?

HR Professional 1: Where were you born? Are you married? Do you have children? How old are you?

HR Professional 2:  Birthdate, marital status, religious, etc. – anything personal.

11. Why does it take so long to make a job offer?

HR Professional 1: Waiting on reference, degree and background checks. Also, new hire paperwork must be sent up the chain of command for signatures.

HR Professional 2: There are several factors: budget for the position(s), background and reference checks etc.

 

 

 

20 Resumes Myths Dispelled

1.  The purpose of a resume is to get a job.

NO! The purpose of a resume is to highlight your qualifications for a SPECIFIC job so you will get an interview.   Thus, the resume leads to the interview.  After the interview is the follow-up, job offer and THEN the job.

2.  You should have 1 resume and use it apply for all jobs.

FALSE!!!  This is the worst thing you could and really is a waste of your time.  You should have a general resume to use as your foundation and then tweak your resume for EACH job that you apply for.

3.  It is best to use a resume template and just fill in your information.

The best thing to do is to start with a blank document.  This will allow you to format and space the document how you want as templates could limit your space and not be easily manipulated.

4.  It is always best to use a chronological format.

This is simply not true!  The best format to use is the one that highlights your qualifications the best whether that is a chronological, functional or mixed format.   The chronological format normally shows progression in your career and education.   The functional format focuses on your actual skills and not when or where you got them.   The mixed format is a mixture of the two.

5.  Your resume should go back as far as your first job and include all the jobs you’ve had.

Generally speaking, your resume should go back only 10 years and include previous/current jobs that are relevant to the job you are seeking. However, there are some exceptions.  If you are seeking a senior level/executive management position, the employer will probably want to see ALL of your experience which will qualify you for the job.

NOTE: If you are using a curriculum vitae (CV), it can be as long as you want it to be.  CVs are typically used in the following industries: education, research, medical, dental, and those seeking a Ph.D.

6.  Your resume should only be 1 page.

If you have enough experience/education to require a 2nd page, then by all means don’t short change yourself trying to get it to fit on 1 page.  (Tip:  Decrease your margins on your resume to 1/2 an inch and that will help with the formatting and give you more room to work with.  Be sure your name is on each page in case they get separated. Also, never print on the back of the page.)

7.  It is okay to use any font and font size.

You should always be mindful of the industry you are pursuing and what is acceptable for that particular industry.  It would be safe to stick with fonts that are legible.  However, DO NOT use Times New Roman because that is the default font in Microsoft Word and everyone uses it. To make your resume instantly stand out, pick another font.  Your font size should never be less than 10.  Your name and headings can be up to font size 16 or 18.  You want these 2 things to stand out the most for obvious reasons.

8.  Resumes should have no color or designs on them.

It is okay to use color in some instances, just be conservative.  I have seen resumes with the name and headings in a different color than the body of the resume.  Again, be mindful of the industry you are going into.  Color may be more acceptable in Marketing or Advertising versus Accounting or Information Technology.  If you have a personal design or QR code (www.qrstuff.com) that you have created, it is acceptable to use that as well.

9.  The objective should list the specific job or industry you are targeting.

There should be NO OBJECTIVE on your resume…..I repeat…….NO OBJECTIVE!! That is old school…say 1995…..and we don’t do that anymore.  Most objectives are very generic and you sound just like everybody else.  Objective:  Seeking a challenging position in a successful company where I may utilize my skills and have an opportunity for advancement.  Sound familiar?  DELETE IT NOW!!!!

10. You should list all of your education/certifications/training.

Generally, I would say list what you have earned in the last 10 years.  Definitely remove high school once you have obtained an Associate’s or Bachelor’s Degree.  Once you have been out of school for 10 years, remove the graduation date because it will age you.  Of course, there are exceptions such as education and the medical and dental fields where it is necessary to show your comprehensive education.

11. You should only include experience on your resume that you were paid for.

This is 100% false.  Your resume should include ALL experience that qualifies you for a particular job – whether paid or unpaid.  So it is quite acceptable to include volunteer work, community involvement and professional organizations on your resume.

12. If you have worked multiple positions/locations for a company you should list them separately on your resume.

You can list them separately; however, it would probably be best to combine them to show a longer work history with the company.  Below is an example of someone who has worked 2 positions in 2 different locations for one bank:

Chase Bank                Dallas/Plano, TX           2005 – Present

Branch Manager (2010 – Present)

  • Accomplishment 1
  • Accomplishment 2
  • Accomplishment 3

Bank Teller (2005 – 2010)

  • Accomplishment 1
  • Accomplishment 2
  • Accomplishment 3

13. You  should include information about your employer on your resume such as company website, address, phone number, etc.

Absolutely not!  The resume is about YOU not the employer. Don’t waste space on your resume with company information.  All of these things go on an application.  If you want to highlight a specific contribution that may be listed on the company’s website, you can include a hyperlink that will take the employer directly to your accomplishment.

14. You should put the exact month and year that you started and ended each job.

It is unnecessary unless the employer specifically asks for you to include this information on your resume.  Not including the months gives the illusion that you worked somewhere longer.  This may be helpful for those who have job hopped and/or only worked short periods of time at a company.

15. You should put ‘References Available Upon Request’ at the bottom of your resume.

This is old school as well…..say 1985.  You should list 3 professional references on a separate sheet of paper with your name at the top and have it already prepared to provide should the employer ask you for it.  You want to include the following information: Name, Title, Company, Email Address and Phone Number.  Be sure to call your references ahead of time, send them a copy of your resume, and let them know that a potential employer may be calling them about you.

16. It is best to upload and send your resume as a Microsoft Word document.

The best way to save and send your resume is as a PDF document to ensure that the formatting does not shift.  Also, this keeps your information from being altered.

17. You don’t need to bring your resume with you to an interview because the employer already has it.

False!  This is a huge misconception.  You should ALWAYS bring at least 3 copies of your resume with you when you go for an interview.  You may be surprised and be interviewed by multiple people and they each need their own copy.  Also, your resume should always be printed on resume paper for a more polished look.

18. You should staple your cover letter, references and business card to your resume.

NEVER put a staple in your resume!  If it is more than 1 page or you want to submit it along with additional items, always paperclip them.

19. You should only update your resume when you are actively looking for a job.

Actually, you should constantly update your resume – probably once every 6 months.  You may not remember every skill you acquire or training class or accomplishment.  So it is best to update it consistently so that when you are ready to submit it for a job, you do not have to think about everything you have done for the past 2  – 3 years.

20. An employer will take 2 – 3 minutes to look over your resume to determine if you have the skills they are looking for.

FALSE!!  Employers receive nearly 100 resumes for every 1 job that they post.  So they will initially take 10 seconds to browse over your resume to see if they like you or not.  Ten seconds will determine if your resume goes in the ‘call pile’ or the ‘do not call pile.’  Use your 10 seconds wisely!!

 

12 Tips to Promoting Yourself (and Not Waiting for Your Supervisor to Do It)

One thing I have learned in my career is that no one else really can promote you – you have to “promote yourself.”  Sure the physical promotion may come through your supervisor recommending you and filling out the paperwork to approve it, but you have the power to ignite that process.  By thinking about where you want to be in 5…10…or 15 years, you can start working towards your goals NOW.  There are many different paths to success but here are some tips to help you along the way.

1.  DO YOUR CURRENT JOB WELL

I think this goes without saying so I won’t go into too much detail.  Of course, you must be performing satisfactorily in your current role if you would like to be promoted within your company.  Having a positive attitude might be a great add-on as well!!

2.  GET A MENTOR

80% of people who get promoted have someone higher up on the “food chain” who speaks favorably of them.  That being said, identify someone who you feel you can learn from and has been where you are trying to go.  This may be your immediate supervisor or someone 2 or 3 levels up from you.  You can actually have several mentors and it can be as formal or informal as you make it.  Maybe you have a set time to meet each month and you have questions written down or maybe you just chat whenever you can over lunch or on the phone.  Whomever you choose should be someone who you can trust to keep your conversations confidential.

3.  COME TO WORK EARLY / STAY LATE

In general you should be a few minutes early when you arrive to work.  I would say if you are supposed to be at work at 8:00, you should arrive at least by 7:45.  And as soon as the day ends at 5:00, you shouldn’t always be the first one out the door. Most managers work longer hours than their employees and if you want to be promoted, you should go ahead and adopt this practice. Coming early and staying late also shows flexibility and dependability, which is viewed very favorably in the workplace.

4.  DRESS “UP”

If you would like to be promoted, you must look the part and this means dressing a little bit more professional than what is required.  Take note of how management in your office dresses and follow suit (no pun intended).  If you notice that male managers wear a shirt and tie and the female managers wear heels, then you want to do the same.  Your supervisor has to already “see” you in the role you desire and this is somewhat determined by how you dress and carry yourself.

5. TAKE ON ADDITIONAL TASKS

You will be viewed as a team player if you occasionally take on more tasks than you are assigned.  Take the initiative to see if any of your team members need help.  Your manager will notice this.  Now, make sure when you take on these additional tasks your own workload doesn’t fall by the wayside. (See tip #1)

6.  ASSIST YOUR SUPERVISOR

Assisting your supervisor is key.  He will more than likely be the person doing the promoting and/or be your main cheerleader, so he must see your value and potential.  Do whatever you can to make his workload lighter….WITHOUT being the “teacher’s pet.”  You just simply make yourself available to assist when needed.

7.  IMPLEMENT NEW IDEAS / PROGRAMS

Regardless of what industry you are in, the ultimate goal of every company is to save money while making more money.  If you can initiate an idea that does either one of these, I would say you are well on your way to being promoted.  Companies normally identify some annual goals and perhaps a slogan for that year, center your idea/program around this.

8.  EXPRESS YOUR INTEREST TO BE PROMOTED

A lot of times people are never considered for promotions because no one knew they wanted to be promoted.  Also, your manager can’t groom or prepare you if he doesn’t know what area you are interested in.  Now, of course you shouldn’t walk into your manager’s office on day 1 and say you want to be promoted, but after a reasonable amount of time you do want to express your desire to move up.   Be sure to have an idea of what role you would like, so you can find out how to get promoted for that particular job.  Make sure you keep the lines of communication open and have frequent meetings with your supervisor.  Most employee reviews happen once a year, however, you should ask to meet once a month to discuss your strengths and opportunities for improvement.  This eliminates surprises during your annual review.   Ultimately, you must be patient and persistent because most promotions do not happen overnight.

9.  BE A DEPARTMENTAL LIAISON

When other teams/departments have an issue, you want them to think of you as the ‘go to guy.’   Learning a skill that no one else in your office knows how to do or being the best at something almost ensures this.  This way other people outside of your immediate department also recognize your value, which could give you more options as far as what areas you could be promoted to.

10.  GET MORE EDUCATION / TRAINING / SKILLS

Look into the job you want and see what education and skills are required, then do what is necessary to fill in any gaps you may have.  Get a certification, take an online training course, get better at public speaking, start a blog, join professional organizations and attend professional development workshops related to your industry, etc.  Oh yeah….as you’re doing all this, update your resume!

11.  GET LETTERS OF RECOMMENDATION

Getting letters of recommendation from those who you’ve done business with could prove extremely beneficial for you….especially if they are your clients.  After you have successfully completed a project or closed a deal, don’t be bashful about asking for a letter of recommendation.  Remember, you have a goal you are trying to reach – promotion. Three letters of recommendation should suffice.  And it doesn’t always have to be a formal letter.  If a  client emailed you praising your work, keep that email and use it as a recommendation.

12. KEEP A PORTFOLIO WITH YOUR ACCOMPLISHMENTS

This is actually something you could do for your entire career.  You should include things in your portfolio such as recommendation letters, certificates, awards, special projects, education, training, etc.  When it is time for your annual review, you are ready to show your value to the team. Use as much hard data as possible – numbers, dollars, and percentages.  Some companies may have a shared drive where they track all projects, but I highly recommend that you keep track of all your projects yourself.

BONUS TIP:  Not all promotions are vertical.  You may make a lateral move and it still be a promotion for you and get you well on your way to your ultimate goal.  Also, don’t get caught up in job titles.  Regardless of what the job title is, it is about the work you performed and what you accomplished.

12 Things You Should Remove from Your Resume NOW

1.  MULTIPLE PHONE NUMBERS AND EMAIL ADDRESSES

Employers are very busy and will not call you or email you at multiple places.  You should put the BEST phone number and email address to reach you.  They may only have 3 interview slots and may make an appointment with the first 3 candidates that they speak with.  When you are job hunting, you should check your voice messages and email on a regular basis so that you can respond to the employer in a timely manner.  Slothfulness in this area may very well cost you an interview.  By the way, the email address and voicemail greeting should be professional because it is part of your first impression.  You may  need to create a separate email address just for interacting with employers.

2. OBJECTIVE

Objective:  Seeking a position in a growing company where I may utilize my skills and have an opportunity for advancement.

Objective:  To work in a professional, challenging environment that allows me to best utilize strong negotiation and communication skills with opportunities for career advancement.

Either of these sound familiar?  I can guarantee you employers have seen it a thousand times.  Employers already know that’s your goal.  Objectives are old school and not necessary anymore so don’t waste space on your resume with this.  Start right away with your Key Skills/Core Competencies.  Use keywords directly related to the job description.

3. PROFESSIONAL SUMMARY PARAGRAPH

Professional Summary:  Results-oriented and versatile professional with proven success in managing complex projects, growing revenue, and resolving both interpersonal and operational issues. Keen understanding of sales and marketing concepts and applications. Adept in building collaborative relationships with professionals from diverse backgrounds and at all organizational levels.

Professional Summary:  An accomplished multi-tasked professional with an expertise in communications, interpersonal and organizational skills,  solution focused, and result oriented with a history of exceeding   objectives. A decade of successful experience in, customer service, mortgage and real estate support with organized strengths in account maintenance, review document control and record management functions.

That was A LOT to read, right?  Well, think about how employers feel.  After about the 12th resume it all starts to blend in.  They don’t want to read essays and long paragraphs and they certainly don’t want to “dig” through to figure out if you have what they are looking for. Make it easy for them and list your skills in bullets and short phrases.  You have 10 seconds to get their attention…..that’s how much time determines if your resume goes in the “look at again” pile or “do not look at again” pile.

4.  OVERUSED WORDS / PHRASES

Motivated, Team Player, Great Written Communication Skills, Multi-tasking, Interpersonal Skills, Organizational Skills, Results-oriented, Customer Service, Detail-oriented, Excellent Time Management Skills, Typing – 55 wpm, Flexible, People Person, Hard Worker, Reliable, Dependable, Dynamic

If you use any of these words, your resume will sound just like everyone else’s.  Your resume is your time to shine.  You should think about what makes you unique.  What is your brand?  What are your areas of expertise?  Consider who will be reading your resume and use buzzwords for your industry.

Now, if the job description itself mentions these words, then by all means, put them on your resume when applying to THAT particular job.  However, in general, leave these words off because they are not helping you and are doing more harm than good.

5.  “RESPONSIBLE FOR” and “DUTIES INCLUDE”

Again, these are overused.  You should be listing accomplishments for each job not simply what your daily duties are or what you are responsible for.  You are trying to impress the employer.  They want to know what you accomplished at your current/previous job that you can do for them. So, when listing your accomplishments, start with an action verb:

Initiated, Led, Managed, Supervised, Trained, Increased, Decreased, Organized, Implemented, Facilitated, Coached, Authored, Negotiated, Drafted, Coordinated, Recommended, Liaised, Communicated, Executed, Designed, Identified, Improved, Presented, Resolved, Recruited, Promoted

6. WORK EXPERIENCE THAT’S MORE THAN 10 YEARS AGO

Your resume is a snapshot of who you are so you shouldn’t try to list everything on there.  Employers want to know what you have done recently and know that you have kept up with the latest trends and technology.  Saying that you got “Employee of the Year” in 1998 only makes them think that you have not done anything else noteworthy recently, because if so you would have listed it on your resume.  Don’t “get married” to your resume.  In other words, don’t get into a long-term commitment with the things that are listed on there right now.  Actually, your resume is a work in progress until you retire.  (Sorry…but somebody had to tell you!)  You should constantly update it with the most recent accomplishments/skills/education and delete the things that are not so relevant anymore.

Think about your career over the last 10 years. What are your MOST IMPORTANT accomplishments?  That’s what you should list on the resume.  However, there are a few exceptions.  If you are applying for an Executive level position – Director of Operations or Vice President of Finance, they may be interested in more than 10 years just to see your total background.  Also, if you are going into education, you will probably use a Curriculm Vitae (CV) instead of a resume and this may cover more than 10 years.  In either of these situations still don’t get too carried away – accomplishments only!

7.  COMPANY WEBSITE AND DESCRIPTION

The resume is about YOU – not the company so don’t give attention to these things.  If an employer wants a description of the company, they can Google it.  I only suggest putting websites if it is a link to YOUR work.  If you did a website design or were the presenter at a conference, then list it or put the hyperlink on there.  Also, you don’t need the company address, supervisor’s name, supervisor’s phone number, number of hours you worked, or part-time/full-time status. All of these things belong on a job application.

8.  DATE YOU GRADUATED FROM COLLEGE IF MORE THAN 10 YEARS AGO

This will only age you because employers know that most people graduate from college at age 21 – 23, so they will just add up the years to figure out how old you are.  If they can figure out that you are 48, it may work against you if they are looking for someone younger who they can pay a lesser salary.  Plus, don’t date your education.  Technology and trends change so fast that whatever you learned 10+ years ago they are probably not doing now anyway…..or definitely not the same way when you learned it.

9.  HOBBIES / PERSONAL INTERESTS

Bowling, Hunting, Ballroom Dancing, Jogging, Reading, Traveling, etc. do not belong on a resume.  You can put them on your LinkedIn profile, personal portfolio, or discuss it over lunch when you get the job.  If you like doing community service as a hobby or personal interest, you should list it in a section entitled “Community Involvement” or “Professional Affiliations” so it gets the recognition it deserves.

10.  THINGS YOU DON’T WANT TO DO AGAIN

Your resume should always look FORWARD to the job you are trying to get and not just simply list things you have done in the past.  You are letting an employer know your experience and expertise by what you put on your resume.  Don’t take up space talking about things you don’t want to do again.   Putting it on your resume may cause them to ask you about it in an interview.  If you don’t mention it, hopefully you won’t have to do it on the next job.

11.  REFERENCES AVAILABLE UPON REQUEST

This is also old school.  Just go ahead and list your 3 professional references in a separate document.

12. TIMES NEW ROMAN FONT

Everyone uses this on their resume since it is the default font when you open Microsoft Word.  Change it to something else that is legible and still professional looking to make your resume stand out.

The 8 Biggest Mistakes Job Seekers Make

1)  Not Catering Resume | Cover Letter to EACH Job

Yes, this is time consuming but very necessary.  If you have 1 resume and cover letter that you send out to 25 jobs you have just wasted your time.  Employers are telling you exactly what they are looking for in the job description, so use that as your “cheat sheet” and cater your resume/cover letter accordingly.  Plus employers want to feel like you want to work specifically for them.  The cover letter is where you can make a personal connection with the reader and show the research you have done on the company.  You should mention accomplishments on your resume that directly relate to the job description.

2) Not Networking and Making Connections

60% – 80% of jobs are never advertised so if you are not networking to access the “hidden market” you are missing out on a lot of opportunities.  You should network before you really need to and have job prospects before you need them.  You never know who you might meet now that may be able to help you in the near future.  You should also have business cards with you at all times so those you meet will be able to contact you in the future.  When you meet someone connect with them on LinkedIn within 24 hours while they still remember you.  Be sure to personalize your invitation to include when and how you met.

3) Sticking to Traditional Methods

The days are long gone where you can just see a job online and apply and wait for the phone to ring.  That alone does not guarantee you a call for an interview.  Just like you are looking on the internet for a job so is everyone else.  You have to think of non-traditional methods that will set you apart from other candidates.  Some of those methods would be asking for an informational interview or connecting with employers first on LinkedIn; then very subtly asking them for tips on breaking into your desired industry or asking them to review your resume.  You can also mail your resume to an employer using snail mail.  Everyone likes to receive something in the mail so that will get the employer’s attention.  Also, sending a video resume, which is  your 1 -2 minute commercial, is a definite way to make yourself stand out.  You can send it to an employer right along with your regular resume.  Creating a “brand” on social media is almost necessary these days no matter what your industry is.  If you position yourself correctly you can let the job/employer find YOU.

4) Disqualifying Yourself on Social Media

Now, while it is important to create a “brand” on social media, it is equally as important to do it the correct way.  93% of employers nationwide use social media for reasons to hire or not hire a candidate.  Because they receive so many applicants, employers will Google your name and look you up online for reasons to eliminate you.  Those reasons might be inappropriate pictures, profanity, discriminating remarks, or negative comments about job/supervisor.  I would suggest you Google your name once month to see what an employer will see when they look you up.  If there is something out there that may raise a red flag, delete it.  Having more “professional” things like a LinkedIn profile, professional Twitter account, blog or portfolio will counteract anything negative that may be out there.

5) Not Marketing Yourself Appropriately

Your resume, cover letter, online presence and professionalism in person are how you market yourself.  They should all match and you should be the same on paper, online and in person.  If someone didn’t know you and only had to use your resume, cover letter and online presence to “judge” you or initially get an idea of who you are, what would your image be?  Think about your top 3 areas of expertise.  Does your brand match up with those 3 areas?

6) Poor E-mail Etiquette and Written Communication

I recently had someone whom I’d never met send me an e-mail like this….

             hey dena its michael, here is an updated resume…thank you so much for taking time out of your day and helping me with my resume!

This was all the e-mail said….nothing more.  So, I explained to this person that if I had been an employer I would have deleted it without replying.  An employer is very busy and receives numerous job inquiries so time is very critical.  They are assessing you in various aspects and you never know what will cause a red flag.  You should never send an e-mail like you would send a text message.  If you’re not getting any responses to your e-mail, it could be your e-mail etiquette.  You always want to be very professional and use correct grammar.  Address the employer by Mr./Ms. with their last name until they tell you it’s okay to call them by their first name.  You can’t say you have great written communication skills on your resume and have a poorly written e-mail or cover letter.

7) Not Answering Interview Questions Adequately

There are several types of interview questions – traditional, behavioral, hypothetical, etc.  You should be prepared to answer all of them and you MUST practice. Even the most seasoned job seeker should practice answering questions in a manner that comes across natural and conveys what he/she can do for the employer.  That should be your focus – letting employers know what you can do for them and how you can solve a problem or fill a need that they have.

Traditional questions generally relate directly to the job duties and are asked to understand your background and experience better.  Behavioral questions are asked to see how you would handle certain situations.  Have SPECIFIC examples prepared for these types of questions.  Hypothetical questions are asked to see how well you think on your feet and perhaps to see what reaction the question will get.

For tips on answering the various types of questions, read my other blogs, view my videos on YouTube (www.youtube.com/denabilbrew) or look up the various types of interview questions on Google.

8) Not Following Up

It is very important that you follow up as that could be the difference in whether you get the job or not.  You want to follow up to an interview or networking event immediately – preferably within 24 hours.  Send them additional information about you – LinkedIn profile, letters of recommendation, portfolio, etc.  Thanking the employer for his/her time is a nice gesture and proper etiquette.

 

The Interview is not Over until You Follow Up

Oftentimes I am asked by job seekers what they should do immediately after an interview.  They are not sure why the follow up is so important, when and how to follow up,  and the age old question….”Should I send an e-mail, mail a thank you card or leave it with the receptionist on the way out the door?” 

Let’s tackle the first area….why the follow up is so important.  Say for instance, you are having an intimate gathering at your house and you post a notice on Facebook and 100 people respond saying they want to attend.  You know you can only accommodate a few people so you choose very carefully.  You finally narrow it down to the 3 guests you will extend a personal invitation to.  Those 3 people accept and come to the intimate gathering at different times.  You speak with each of them in great detail for an hour, give them a tour of your home and feel like you have gotten to know each of them a little better.   Over the next day or 2 you begin to wonder if your guests enjoyed themselves and had a good time in your home.  You check your mailbox and to your surprise you have received a nice thank you card from 1 of the guests saying they had a great time and were really appreciative of your invite.  You didn’t hear anything from the other 2 so you are now really wondering if they had a good time or if you should have even invited them in the first place.

It is the same way with the job interview.  The employer posts a job and 100+ people submit their resume.  The employer narrows it down to the top 3 candidates to bring to his office (his “home”).  During the interview he spends time going into detail about the company and job opening and perhaps gives candidates a tour of the facilities.  Afterwards, he is trying to decide who would be the best fit for his already established team.  He comes in the next morning and finds an e-mail from you thanking him for taking the time to interview you. You also attach other information to help him understand your background and experience a little better.  He heard nothing from the other 2 candidates.  Who do you think will stand out in his mind when he goes to make the hiring decision? Exactly! That’s why it is so important…..plus it’s just  nice to be nice.  Employers say that they appreciate thank you letters and it can make the difference as to whether they hire a candidate or not.  If there are 2 candidates that are neck and neck and the hiring manager needs to make a decision between the 2, he is more likely to lean towards the one that sent a thank you.

The second area…..when and how to follow up.  You should definitely follow up with an employer right away.  You want to do it while they still remember you and you have an opportunity to make a final impression on them.   Now, whether you e-mail or use snail mail or give a thank card to the receptionist on your way out the door, I don’t think it really matters.   All of these are acceptable methods and serve the same purpose.  The ultimate objective is to thank them BEFORE they make their hiring decision.  Obviously, giving a thank you card to the receptionist or sending an e-mail later that evening when you get home guarantees an immediate effect.  But having them receive a card in the mail from you is also a nice touch because we all like to receive something in the mail.  If you do decide to go with a thank you card, make sure it is professional and standard (nothing pink with flowers and polka dots).  It should be bare on the inside or have minimal words.  (Tip:  If you don’t have good penmanship, get someone else to write inside the card for you!)

Here is an example of a thank you sent as an e-mail:

Dear Mr./Ms. (last name):

It was a pleasure meeting you today.  Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to visit (company name) and interview for the _________________ position.  I was especially interested to learn that your company (mention something specific discussed in the interview).

I have included my LinkedIn profile/portfolio/website/blog* so you can get a more in-depth look at my skills and background.  I am excited about the possibility of becoming a member of your team.  If you need any further information, you may contact me at (214) 555-5555.  I look forward to hearing from you soon.  Thanks again!

Sincerely,

Jane Doe

* Pick just one to include in the thank you letter.

 

Test Your Resume IQ

See how much you know about resumes by answering TRUE or FALSE to these statements.

  1. Your references should be included at the bottom of your resume.
  2. You should list a home and cell phone number.
  3. You should only put experience on your resume that you were paid for.
  4. An employer will look at your resume for 10 seconds or less initially to determine if he wants to call you for an interview.
  5. You have to put every job you have had on your resume.
  6. When listing your jobs you should put the entire address (street, city, state and zip) of the company that you worked for.
  7. When putting the dates you worked at a job it is acceptable to just list the year.
  8. It is very important to have extra-curricular activities on your resume such as professional memberships, volunteer work, etc.
  9. It is okay to use a font less than size 10 on your resume.
  10. When mailing your resume to an employer, it is okay to fold it to put it in a standard envelope.
  11. To make your resume easier to read, it is okay to capitalize, bold or underline things.
  12. Having just one mistake on your resume could disqualify you from getting an interview.
  13. When describing your job duties, you should use complete sentences.
  14. A resume is more likely to be considered if it has keywords and uses industry terminology.
  15. Your education should always be listed before your professional experience.
  16. It is acceptable to decrease the margins to fit more information on the page.
  17. You must have an objective to let employers know what job/industry you are interested in.
  18. You should list your supervisor’s name and phone number for each job.
  19. A lot of employers use resume scanning software to “weed out” resumes.
  20. You should use ‘Duties include’ or ‘Responsible for’ to describe your job duties.

Below are the answers to the statements above.  If you did not get all the answers correct, you should consider having a professional Resume Writer restructure your resume for you.  

1.  F                 2.  F                 3.  F                 4.  T                 5.    F

6.  F                7.  T                 8.  T                 9.  F                 10.  F

11.  T               12.  T                13.  F               14.   T             15.  F

16.  T               17.  F                18.  F               19.  T             20.  F

 

FAQ – Recommendation Letters

1)  Are recommendation letters really necessary?

Absolutely!  They are very important as job seekers look for ways to stand out to potential employers.  Having letters of recommendation that speak favorably of your skills and qualifications can be the difference in whether you are hired or not.

2)  What should be in recommendation letters?

They should include how the person writing the letter knows you and for how long.  They should also mention your skills, qualifications, character, work ethic, personality, etc. – things that would make you a desirable employee.  If you want to make sure your recommendation letter states specifics things about you, submit a rough draft to the person you are asking to write the letter and ask them to use that as a guideline.  Sometimes they may just tell you to write the letter and they will read over it and sign it.

3)  Who should I get to write recommendation letters for me?

Recommendation letters can be written by supervisors, instructors, co-workers, advisors, pastors, mentors and clients.  Also, if you are a member of a professional organization or volunteer for one, the leaders of that organization can write a letter for you as well.

4)  How long should I know someone before I ask them to write a letter of recommendation?

At least a year (or close to it).  However, there is an exception for an internship/co-op which you may have participated in over the summer or for 6 months.  Another exception is volunteer work.  Perhaps you just helped plan a luncheon or community service event and the planning process was less than a year.  The person writing the recommendation letter in this instance could just focus on your planning skills for that particular event.

5)  How many recommendation letters do I need?

Three – preferably a letter from people in 3 different capacities.  For instance – supervisor, instructor and an organizational leader.  This would show how you are at work, in the classroom and in the community….3 different aspects.

6)  How long should recommendation letters be? 

3/4 page to 1 page

7)  When should I give employers (or others) my recommendation letters?

You can give them your letters of recommendation up front when you are submitting your resume or after the interview when you are following up with a thank you letter.  If you are trying to gain the business of a client or form a partnership with someone, recommendation letters will come in handy to speak of your previous work and business relationships.

8)  Should I print my recommendation letters on resume paper?

Yes.  Print the cover letter, resume and recommendation letters all on the same resume paper for a polished, professional look.

9)  Is it better to give names and phone numbers as references or have the actual recommendation letters?

I think they serve the same purpose and are equal.  Some employers say if they have the actual letter that saves them the extra step of having to pick up the phone and call.  While other employers say they like to be able to call a person’s references in case they have specific questions they want answered.  However, do not submit both….one or the other.

10) When and how should I ask for recommendation letters?

You should ask for recommendations NOW!!  You want to ask for them and have them before you really need them.  You don’t want to wait until you are ready to apply for a job and have to pressure the writer to give it to you in a short amount of time.  You want to give them at least a week to write the letter and have time to make any changes that might be needed.  Remember, they are busy and your request is probably not the only thing on their ‘to do’ list.

You should simply call or speak with them in person and ask for a letter of recommendation because you would like to apply for a job, apply to graduate school or have it to add to your portfolio.  Also, send them a copy of your resume so they will be familiar with all of your experience and skills.  Keep them abreast of your progress and be sure to inform them if an employer will be contacting them.  Don’t forget to send them a thank you letter.

11)  Are endorsements on LinkedIn the same as letters of recommendation?

In today’s job market, your LinkedIn profile is the new job application.  Having endorsements from those in your network, can give you the “boost” you need to be seen as a professional or expert in your field.  Since your profile will mostly likely be seen before the interview; thus the endorsements will be seen before the interview, that can suffice as letters of recommendation.  (Tip:  Include the hyperlink to your LinkedIn profile on your resume to make sure employers will see your endorsements.)   However, when you follow up after the interview with a thank you letter, you can still include your actual letters of recommendation as a “reminder.”