Does Volunteer Work Look Good on Your Resume?

Have you been thinking about joining an organization or doing volunteer work?  Are you unsure whether it makes a difference or not?  When I suggest volunteering or joining a professional organization to people I advise, most respond with they don’t have time.  Actually, it doesn’t have to require a lot of time.  You can volunteer as much or as little as your schedule permits.  It could mean a few hours a week answering phones, handling correspondence, mentoring a youth group or assisting an organization with its website.  Being able to show volunteer work on a resume demonstrates that you have interests beyond the office/classroom.  Nothing in the rule book says that when you list experience on your resume, you had to be paid for it.  Experience is experience whether paid or non-paid.  Every day millions of people do important work for which they are not compensated.  Volunteer work and involvement with professional organizations is one way you can gain legitimate experience in your field.

It’s no secret that employers look at volunteer work and professional affiliations when screening candidates.  Not having it will not necessary keep you from getting a job, but it does let employers know you can network and foster positive relationships in the community.  This may prove to be beneficial if you are hired with them because you can get new clients and new business for them.  It makes you more well-rounded.  Almost all volunteer responsibilities require some kind of skill that an employer could use – definitely if you are in a leadership position.  Most professional organizations are geared towards a particular industry and can bring you closer to employers in that industry.  It is a good way to network as some organizations have local, state, regional and national levels.

When listing volunteer work on your resume you can list it as “Community Involvement” or “Professional Organizations” or “Volunteer Work.”    If you had a leadership position and it is related to your field or a field you want to go in, combine your volunteer work and jobs and call it “Relevant Experience” instead of “Work Experience.”  Saying work experience implies that you got paid for it and “relevant” could be paid or unpaid.  Then list your accomplishments while volunteering just like you would list your accomplishments for a job.  When you are in a job interview, be sure to describe your volunteer work in terms of your achievements and highlight the skills that you learned.  For example did you raise $10K?  Did you manage a budget or accomplish goals on schedule?  Did you get experience with public speaking, writing reports or newsletters?  Did you plan projects or train other volunteers?  All of this could show that you have the ability to motivate others and be a leader.  Describe your activities and achievements fully.  Don’t overstate what you did, but be sure to give yourself the credit you deserve.

15 Quick Tips for Your Interview Day

Your interview day has finally arrived!  You are ready but nervous.  What should you do?  What should you not do?  What will happen in the interview?  How can you convince the employer to hire you?  I know all of these questions are going through your mind but relax….you will be fine.  Here are some quick tips to get you through your interview day.

1.  Dress professionally – less is more.

This is definitely something you want to prepare in advance.  You shouldn’t get up the morning of your interview and be frantically looking through your closet for something to wear.  It should be taken very seriously as it is part of your first impression….and most importantly it should be PROFESSIONAL.  Decide the night before what you will wear and bring to the interview.

2.  Arrive 15 minutes early. 

This is to give you time to gather your thoughts just before the interview.   Use the extra time in the lobby to look over your notes one last time and observe the atmosphere.   Remember, the interview starts as soon as you walk through the door and they are watching you.  If you happen to arrive more than 15 minutes in advance, just wait in your car.

3.  Turn your cell phone completely off.

The last thing you want to happen is your phone ringing or vibrating in the middle of your interview.  So you should turn it completely off or leave it in the car.  You don’t want the employer to think that if you’re hired, you’ll be distracted by family and friends calling you all the time.

4.  Be nice to everyone you meet.

It is very important that you DO NOT underestimate the receptionist.  If you encounter the parking lot attendant or custodian, be nice to them as well.  They could have more say in whether you or hired than you may think because they could tell the hiring manager about your rudeness.  Plus, if you get hired you don’t want to already have “enemies.”

5.  SMILE and have a nice, firm handshake.

You got an interview so SMILE!! You should be ecstatic to be there!   Remember, your handshake says a lot about you and it displays your confidence at the beginning and end of the interview.  A nice firm grip with 2 – 3 pumps will suffice.  If you have sweaty palms, very inconspicuously wipe your hand on your pants or skirt just before you extend it.

6.  Let the interviewer be in charge and match his/her style.

You are in the employer’s “territory” so let them be in charge and determine the pace of the interview.  Each employer has a different style so you have to figure out what it is and match it.  Some may be straightforward and just want to ask you back to back questions and some may have a more laid back approach and be open to small talk.  Keep in mind, if they don’t like talking to you in a 30 or 60 minute interview, why would they want to hire you and talk to you everyday?

7.  Have several copies of your resume and references (or letters of recommendation) available.

Even if you have already submitted your resume online or emailed it to the employer, bring extra copies anyway.  Besides, you may be interviewing with more than 1 person and they each need their own copy.  If your resume has changed since you initially submitted it, just let the employer know that you wanted them to have an updated copy.  It’s not a bad idea to have your references/recommendations ready because it shows you’re prepared.  If you don’t give it to them in the interview, you can always attach them when you follow up (see tip 15).

8.  Make eye contact and be mindful of your body language.

Both of these directly relate to your confidence.  Generally, you want to make eye contact the majority of the time and occasionally look away. A little trick is to look at the person’s nose or the space between their eyes and it will still look like you are making eye contact.  For your body language, make sure you always have a pleasant expression on your face and you’re not slouching or messing with your hair.  Try to keep your hands in your lap.  Ladies, cross your legs at your ankles if you’re wearing a skirt.

9.  Have paper and a pen to take notes during the interview.

This is because you won’t remember everything.  It also shows that you are interested in what’s being discussed.  Prepared for the interview = prepared for the job.

10.  Be conversational and have adequate answers to their questions. 

The interview is the only way an employer can tell if you’ll fit into their team.  So you want to give them plenty to go on by having adequate answers to their questions – not just 2 or 3 sentences.  Think of it this way….if you asked your friend what they did over the weekend and all they said was, “I watched tv and did the laundry.”  What would you think?  Of course, you would think they were leaving out something and you would want to know more.  Don’t leave the employer wanting to know more.  Adequately answer their questions by telling a complete story.

11.  Be very familiar with the company.

Do adequate research on the company AND the department you will be working in.   The key is to identify what they do so you will be able to communicate how you can help.  This research will come in handy when they ask, “What do you know about this company?” or “What attracted you to this position?”

12.  SELL YOURSELF!!! 

If you can do this very confidently, you have accomplished 75% of your goal.  Most people are very bashful in this area because they don’t feel comfortable talking about their accomplishments.  Actually, the interview and the resume are 2 places where you can brag on yourself and not be seen as arrogant.  Your task is to convey your skills and qualifications so employers know they need YOU at their company.  Even if you are unsure how to answer a question or if it seems like the interview is going rather badly, stay positive.

13.  Have at least 3 questions to ask the interviewer.

I know you’ve been made to believe interviews are one-sided and you have to just answer their questions and that’s it.  Erase that from your mind and know that you should ask questions to see if the job is a good fit for you as well.  Ask questions about the daily duties, company culture, management style, expectations, current issues (so you can offer a solution on the spot), etc.  You can write them down and read them right from your paper.  Not having any questions = not really interested in the job.

14.  Find out what the next steps are.

You should be confident that you will get to the next steps after the interview, so ask what they are so you will be prepared.  It’s that simple.

15. Follow up within 24 hours.

Get the interviewer’s business card to send a thank you letter (or e-mail).  If you had multiple interviewers, send a thank you to everyone individually.  Mention something specific from the interview so that they remember you and realize that you pay attention and retain information.  It’s important to do this in a timely manner because you want them to get your thank you BEFORE they make their final decision.

BONUS TIP:

Take a moment to gather your thoughts before answering difficult questions.  It really is okay.  You don’t have to respond the second they finish asking you a question.  Taking a moment will keep you from saying “um” and rambling as much.

 

10 Tips to Getting a Job Long Distance

There used to be a time some years ago when employers would readily hire candidates from out-of-state.  Not saying that they don’t still do it, but I believe they don’t do it as much.  Now, it is still possible to relocate to another city, but you must have a strategy and let employers know your value.  In other words, why should they hire you over someone else who may be local?  They are probably thinking it will take you longer to actually be able to start the job and you may require relocation assistance and these wouldn’t be issues for a local candidate.

I have relocated twice in my career.  The first time I relocated from Missouri to Dallas and the second time was from Alabama to Dallas.  (Yes, I relocated to Dallas twice!)  Since I have been asked about this subject a lot recently, I thought I would share some of the bumps and bruises I encountered when relocating and give you tips to get around them, which should make your transition smoother.

1) START EARLY IN YOUR JOB SEARCH

You should start your job search 6 – 9 months in advance to give yourself plenty of time to plan.  Since you will be relocating there are a lot more things to consider than if you were just getting a job across town.  Starting early gives you time to save your money for the actual move.  You will also need to use your vacation/sick/comp time sparingly as you may need this time to make multiple trips to your desired location for interviews and house hunting, etc.

2) TAKE YOUR ADDRESS OFF YOUR RESUME

This is to level the playing field so employers won’t automatically discriminate against you because you are not local.  Yes, your phone number will still be there, but employers know people have cell phone numbers from all over so this doesn’t necessarily give away that you live somewhere else.

3) LOOK AT JOB WEBSITES SPECIFICALLY FOR YOUR TARGETED AREA

So, if you wanted to relocate to Dallas you would look at  ‘jobsindallas.com’ or ‘dallasnews.com’ or ‘dallasjobsite.com.’  You can also simply Google the job you are looking for in the city you are looking to move to.  For example, ‘Engineering Jobs Dallas, TX.’  You may be surprised at the results and discover more companies that hire for your position than you think.  It also might not be a bad idea to work with a head hunter/recruiter in the area.

4) PICK 10 COMPANIES YOU’D LIKE TO WORK FOR

You will have to do some research because you MUST target your job search.  If not, it may take longer for you to find a job.  Pick 10 companies you are interested in working for.  Once you have identified those companies, submit your resume whether they have a job opening or not.  60 – 80% of jobs are never advertised.  They may not have an opening now, but they may once they receive YOUR resume.  Once they see your resume, they may realize that they need someone like you at their company.  Remember, you want to relocate so you have to BE BOLD!!

5) USE LINKEDIN TO CONNECT WITH EMPLOYERS

Go to the ‘People’ tab on LinkedIn and do an advanced search.  Enter the zip code of your desired location and select the industry to find employers.   You can also look for those who  have a certain title and work for a certain company…particularly the 10 companies you identified.  Be sure to personalize your invitation request when you connect with these employers.  Flattery still works!  You can say something like ‘Hi Ms. Smith, I was very impressed with your profile and I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn.’

That’s it…..nothing more…..at first.  You must have a very subtle approach.  After they have accepted your connection, wait about 2 weeks and then mention that you are trying to get some tips on the industry.  Ask if they could give you some advice and perhaps some feedback on your resume.  BINGO!!  You get your resume in front of an employer.  You will just have to feel them out after that to determine your next steps – informational interview, asking to pass your resume on to someone else, chatting with you on the phone, recommending job websites, etc.  Under no circumstances do you ever start off by saying “I WANT A JOB WITH YOUR COMPANY!”

Also, join groups on LinkedIn for your desired industry and location.  If you want a teaching job in Dallas, you would join ‘Educators Dallas-Ft Worth.’  This will connect you to more employers and also other professionals in your industry who may be able to give you some insight.   People are nicer than you think but DO NOT STALK THEM!!

6) CHANGE YOUR HEADLINE ON LINKEDIN

This is the part immediately under your name on your profile and it is a way to market yourself.  You want to definitely showcase your 3 areas of expertise so employers can find you.  You can say “Human Resources professional seeking opportunities in Recruiting, Employee Relations, or Workforce Planning.”  Now be careful…..because your current boss may be watching!  So if you think that might be the case change “seeking opportunities” to “with expertise.”  This will at least let an employer know what your experience is in.

Also in the Summary section on LinkedIn you can actually say you are looking to relocate.

7) SET UP A SKYPE ACCOUNT

Do this if you haven’t done so already.  This will come in handy for your interview and again level the playing field.  And of course, practice answering interview questions on Skype (see my blog “How to Prepare for a Phone/Skype Interview”).

8) WRITE TARGETED COVER LETTERS

Your cover letter is your time to make a personal connection with the reader.  This is where you can mention that you will be relocating in the near future.  If you are willing to pay for your own relocation, then say that as well.  You can mention that you will be in the area soon and you would love the opportunity to interview (see the next tip).  Most importantly, let them know that you are available for a traditional, phone, or Skype interview.

9) PLAN A TRIP TO DESIRED LOCATION

This is probably the most strategic thing you should do if you want to relocate.  Plan a trip during the work week so you can do interviews – informational and traditional – whether you have any real job prospects or not.  You have to show employers that you are serious about moving and have to make interviewing you convenient for them.  Remember, you are at a slight disadvantage than local candidates by being out of town.  So you have to take the extra step.   When you connect with these employers (Tip #5), try to set up an informational interview FACE TO FACE.  The whole point really is to turn the informational interviews into real interviews, so you should treat them as such and be prepared.

(I did this and it works! I had sort of been getting the run around by an employer I really wanted to work for.  I’d had numerous phone conversations with this employer and he seemed to like me but was hesitant to make me an official job offer.  So, I planned a 3 day trip to Dallas and left him a message letting him know when I would be in town and I would love to stop by just to chat with him in person.  Once I made it to Dallas, I called him again and he told me to meet him for lunch.  I did and the next day he officially made me a job offer!   I would like to believe my assertiveness had something to do with it.)

10) DO RESEARCH ON SALARY / COST OF LIVING

Now, I didn’t do everything perfect on my first relocation to Dallas.  This is where I messed up because I didn’t quite realize the difference in the cost of living.  So consequently, I didn’t factor that into my salary negotiation.  I now know how important it is so make sure you have done the appropriate research to know the difference.  You can use www.payscale.com/cost-of-living-calculator to figure out the difference between your current city and your desired city.

So there you have it….ways you can position yourself to get a job long distance.  As I mentioned before, it’s not impossible but you do have to be strategic and have a definite plan of action.  These tips worked for me and I’m sure they will work for you as well.

Happy Relocating!!

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.

8 Things to Consider When You DON’T Get the Job

There will be times when you seem to do all the right things and STILL don’t get the job.  Maybe there are some mistakes you are making that you are not aware of, or honestly, it may not really have anything to do with you at all.  Employers sometimes post jobs and go through the interview process even though they already know they are going to promote someone within the company.  Depending on their company guidelines, they may have to post jobs anywhere from 14 – 60 days just to give others a chance to apply.  At any rate, there will be a time when you don’t get a job.  Here are some tips to help you assess the situation:

1.  LOOK AT THE BIG PICTURE

I know it’s disappointing but it’s not the end of the world.  You didn’t get the job, but you did get an interview which means you were qualified.  Don’t start doubting yourself and your skills.   Think of it as a learning experience.  Every time you interview you get the chance to practice selling yourself, get feedback on your resume and find out what employers in your industry are looking for.  You are just getting more prepared for your next interview.

2.  SEND A THANK YOU TO THE EMPLOYER

Even though you did not get the job, you still want to be professional.   The appropriate thing to do is thank the employer for the opportunity to interview and ask that they keep you in mind for future opportunities.  You never know……something could open up in 3 months or that employer could refer you to someone in his network.   I would imagine most employers don’t get a thank you from candidates that they did not hire, so sending one could prove very favorable for you.  Remember to always be professional – whether you feel like it or not.

3. GET FEEDBACK FROM THE EMPLOYER

Either call or email the employer and ask them for feedback.   You want to know what you can do to improve your interviewing or negotiating skills.  This is strictly for your professional growth – not to ask them to reconsider their decision.  Keep in mind, some employers will give you honest feedback and some won’t, but you won’t know if you don’t ask.

4.  CONNECT WITH THE EMPLOYER ON LINKEDIN

AFTER you have learned that you definitely did not get the job, then you can connect on LinkedIn.  Don’t connect while you are still waiting to hear back.  It may come across as too pushy or make the employer uncomfortable while they are trying to make a decision.  Connecting with them on LinkedIn is a way to stay in touch with the employer as sometimes they post job openings to their network.  Also, every time you post something or update your own profile you show up on their homepage as well and it reminds them of who you are and what you do.

5. EVALUATE THE PROCESS

After you have gotten feedback from the employer, you really should do a self-assessment to see what you could have done better.  Did you match the style of the interviewer?  Were you likeable? Did you have SPECIFIC answers to questions?  Did you follow up to the interview in a timely manner?  Were you on time and dressed professionally?  Did you ask questions in the interview?  Did you negotiate your salary appropriately? Did you follow ALL the instructions you were given during and after the interview?  Was there something that came up in your background check that could have prevented them from hiring you?  Did your references/previous employers say good things about you?

6. PRACTICE INTERVIEWING

I strongly suggest you practice answering interview questions EACH and EVERY TIME you have an interview.  Even the most seasoned professional should practice answering questions so that it comes across natural and addresses the employer’s needs.  Interviewing is not just simply rattling off answers to questions – you MUST have a conversation with the employer and have SPECIFIC examples of your experience.  Every time you practice you will come across more polished.

7.  REASSESS YOUR JOB SEARCH

You want to make sure you are applying for jobs that adequately fit your skill set, interests and career goals.  This will keep you from getting to the interview and realizing that the job is not a good fit for you.  Your job search should be targeted.   It really is a waste of time to apply for every job you come across.

8.  KEEP GOING

The best way to get over a job that you didn’t get is to keep applying for more jobs.  You shouldn’t suspend your job search until you have actually landed a job…..and there is a job out there with YOUR name on it.  So keep going!!! You didn’t get the job this time, but I am confident you will nail it the next time!

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.

 

How Should I Prepare for a Phone / Skype Interview?

Employers receive 100+ resumes for every 1 job they post. The whole process of posting a job, reviewing resumes, interviewing candidates, extending a job offer, and training a new hire is very long and tiring.  So, employers use phone/Skype interviews to assist them with the process.  By using these tools, employers are able to narrow down the potential candidates to the top 3 they want to bring on site.  That being said, there are certain things to consider with each one so that you make the most of the interviews.

1)      TREAT THEM AS REGULAR INTERVIEWS

They are still interviews and should be taken just as seriously as a regular interview.  Remember, you have to pass this stage to get to the next stage which is the on site interview.

2)      NO NOISE  OR DISTRACTIONS IN THE BACKGROUND

For phone interviews, you should not have any noise in the background i.e. music, dog barking, roommate talking, phone ringing, etc.  For Skype interviews, there shouldn’t be any distractions in the view of the camera i.e. messy desk, tv on in the background, etc.

3)      PRACTICE IN ADVANCE

Have a friend call you on the phone and ask you some questions so you get used to answering questions over the phone without seeing the person you are speaking to. For Skype, practice speaking so you will know how to adjust the volume.   See what colors show up best on the computer to help you decide what to wear.

 4)      EXPECT MORE THAN 1 PERSON TO CONDUCT THE INTERVIEW

Because they don’t have the luxury of interviewing you face to face they will more than likely have someone else sit in on the interview to help them get a feel for you.  So, don’t be surprised if you are interviewed by more than 1 person.

5)      SMILE AND BE ENTHUSIASTIC

 Use your personality and enthusiasm to make up for the fact you are not there in person.  Your excitement should be “felt” through the phone and the computer screen.

How Do I Turn Down a Job?

The key is to be professional and put yourself in the employer’s shoes.  Remember, he has gone through a long, rigorous process and in the meantime that workload for the open position has gone undone in his office.  He has a void to fill and probably needs to fill it pretty quickly.  He most likely received 100+ resumes for the position, conducted 5 – 6 phone interviews and selected you and 2 others to come on site for an interview.  Out of all those potential candidates, he picked YOU.

So, it is very important that you do this professionally and don’t burn any bridges.  You never know, you may want to work for this employer or do business with them in the future.  Here are some tips to keep in mind:

1)       DO IT ASAP

You want to do it as soon as possible so the employer can extend the job offer to the #2 candidate.  Again, put yourself in the employer’s shoes.  You would appreciate a speedy response if it were you, so reply to them quickly.  Pick up the phone and call the employer as soon as you know you will not be accepting the job offer.

2)      THANK THEM FOR THE OFFER

You want to make sure you thank them for thinking enough of you to extend the offer even though you have decided not to take the job.  It’s just nice to be nice.

3)      BE HONEST

You don’t have to go into a lot of detail about why you are turning down the job, but you can let them know that you have accepted another job or just don’t feel that the job is the right one for you at this time.

4)      PUT IT IN WRITING

They extended the job offer to you in writing so when you turn the job down, put it in writing as well.  Putting it in writing after you have made the initial phone call is just being professional.  Also, they will have it on file if they need to give it to Human Resources.

HERE’S AN EXAMPLE:

Dear Mr. Jones:

Thank you for extending to me the opportunity to join your team as a Marketing Analyst.  While I am appreciative of your offer and admire the work that your company does, I do not feel that it is the best fit for me at this time.  I have accepted another job offer which I feel more closely meets my career goals.  Thanks again for the job offer and opportunity to meet your team and learn more about your company.

Sincerely,

Jane Doe

5)      STAY CONNECTED

It is a good idea to connect with them on LinkedIn just to keep them in your network.  They may want to offer you a job in the future or you may want to apply for another job in the future.