6 sources of accomplishments for your résumé

The other day one of my résumé writing workshop attendees told the group she couldn’t think of any accomplishments from her last job. As I’m known to do, I told her she wasn’t thinking hard enough. Silence.

She’s an administrative assistant and, like we’ve all heard before, she was just doing her job. I began by asking, “Did you reduce your boss’ stress?”

“Yeah,” she said. “He told me I organized his life. He’d be lost….”

“Do you have that in writing?” I interrupted.

She smiled. “He sent me e-mails saying this. They were really great to read.”

“Did you keep them? Forward them to your personal e-mail? Did you keep a brag e-mail folder?”

No she hadn’t. I’m not one to harp on past mistakes; but this was a mistake, and a good lesson for the rest of the group. I didn’t need to say more; the lesson was learned.

Normally we think of quantified accomplishments as the only ones that matter—they matter a great deal—but what others write and say about you also matters. Take the following accomplishment for an administrative assistant:

Created an electronic filing system that reduced paperwork and increased productivity, prompting the following statement from the VP of operations, “You’ve made this office much more efficient.”

There are very talented people who don’t have access to dollar amounts or percentages to quantify their results. This is where what their boss said can be used as an accomplishment. If this is the case with you, consider the following sources of accomplishments for your résumé:

  1. E-mail is fair game. If you’ve received e-mail from you supervisor that touts your accomplishments, hold on to it and store it in a safe place, like a brag e-mail folder. I do this when I get e-mails from my customers thanking me for the help I’ve given them.
  2. Voice-mail can be used, as well. If your boss compliments you, consider using it on your résumé and other written communication. You might want to get your boss’ approval before you use her words in a public forum; it’s only courteous.
  3. Performance reviews are an obvious source of fodder for your résumé. These are professional documents that are often placed in your employee folder, used to justify promotions and raises if your performance is consistently good. Receiving outstanding marks on your performance reviews are certainly reason to tout them on your résumé.
  4. Verbal comments from your former boss can also be used on your résumé as quotes. “Director of marketing commented, ‘Josh, your ability to build and foster relationships has helped Company X achieve the financial success we’ve striven for.'” It’s especially important that you’re both on board with this, just in case she’s questioned about it during a reference check.
  5. Thank you cards from customers/clients speak to your customer service and other skills you’d like to highlight on your résumé. Have you received cards that thank you for your help and caring nature, or assistance in closing a large deal? If so, ask the sender if you can quote him on your résumé.
  6. LinkedIn recommendations have been used by my customers as fodder for their résumé. Not all employers will see your LinkedIn recommendation, either because they’re not on LinkedIn, or aren’t Internet savvy; so take advantage of what your connections have written about you.

Given that it’s difficult to think about accomplishments that are quantified using numbers, dollars, or percentages; don’t discount what your supervisors and manages have written or even said about you. You may want to set them apart as quotes or integrate them with accomplishment statements. Keep in mind that some industries, particularly high tech, may not fond of quotes. To others, quotes carry a lot of weight.

You’ll receive many opinions of your résumé; rely on 10 sure things

10Whose advice should you follow when you’re writing your résumés? Knowing the answer to this dilemma may require a crystal ball, for without it you won’t be 100% sure of who will provide the right answers.

Do you heed the advice of professional résumé writers, recruiters, HR, or hiring managers? They all offer good advice, but their advice will be different. In fact, you can ask 20 résumé experts their opinions on how you should write your résumés, and you’ll get 20 different answers. So who is correct?

The answer is the person who invites you in for an interview is correct. Résumé reviewers are somewhat subjective when they read résumés, and sometimes there’s no rhyme nor reason.

While one person may like accomplishments listed upfront, another may prefer them listed in your employment section. While one person prefers two-page résumés, another might favor one-pagers. While one person may not be concerned with flowery prose in your professional profile, another may hate it, as I do.

The point being, you’re the one who needs to decide if your résumé is ready to go. Do you want to drive yourself nuts by having a slew of people give you their “expert” advice, revising your résumé twenty times over?

Now, there are certain rules on writing effective résumés that you should heed in no particular order. These are ten sure things that need to be in place to offer you the best chance of success.

  1. Quantified results are a must*. Employers are not interested in a grocery list of duties; they’re drawn to significant accomplishments that are quantified with numbers, dollars, and percentages. Did you simply increase productivity? Or did you increase productivity by 55% percent?
  2. Please no clichés or unsubstantiated adaptive skills. The new rule is to show rather than tell. Yes, you may be innovative; but what makes you innovative? Did you develop a program for inner-city youth that promoted a cooperative environment, reducing violent crime by 50%? If so, state it in your profile as such.
  3. Tailor your résumé to each job, when possible. Employers don’t want a one-fits-all résumé that doesn’t address their needs or follow the job description. It’s insulting. By the way, for all you job board junkies, a résumé using the Target Job Deconstruction method is an adequate alternative to tailoring hundreds of résumés.
  4. Your résumé needs to show relevance. Employers are interested in the past 10 or 15 years of your work history; in some cases less. Anything you did beyond 20 years isn’t relevant; the technology is obsolete. Age discrimination may also be a concern, so don’t show all 25-30 years of your work life.**
  5. Keywords are essential for certain occupations that are technical in nature. They’re the difference between being found by the applicant tracking system (ATS) at the top of the list or not at all. (ATS are said to eliminate 75% of applicants.) Again, job board faithfuls must have their keywords peppered throughout their résumé.
  6. Size matters. Some employers are reading hundreds of résumés for one job, so do them a favor and don’t submit a résumé that doesn’t warrant its length. The general rule is two pages are appropriate providing you have the experience and accomplishments to back it up. More than two pages requires many relevant accomplishments. In some cases a one-page résumé will do the job.
  7. No employer cares what you need. That’s right; employers care about what they need. If you happen to care what they need and can solve their problems and make them look good, they’ll love you. So drop the meaningless objective statement that speaks only about you and not how you can meet the employer’s needs.
  8. Start your résumé with a punch. Below your name and contact information lies your branding headline. Within approximately 90 characters you can capture the employer’s attention with stating what you do and in what capacity. Project Manager doesn’t do it like: Project Manager | Lean Six Sigma | Team Building | Enhanced Product Line.
  9. Make it easy to read. Your résumé should  not only be visually appealing, it should be visually readable. Employers who read hundreds of résumé s will glance at them for as few as 10 seconds before deciding to read them at length. Make your résumé scannable by writing shorter paragraphs, three to four lines at most.
  10. WOW them. Use accomplishments in your Performance Profile. That’s right, grab their attention with quantified accomplishments early on. “Volunteered to assume the duties of website development and design, while also excelling at public relations, resulting in $50,000 savings for the company” will entice the reviewer to continue reading.

At some point you need to go with what works—a résumé that will land you interviews. I don’t care if it’s written on a napkin and delivered in a Starbucks’ cup (it’s been done). If it’s getting you interviews, go with it. If it isn’t getting you interviews, there’s something lacking on your résumé, but carefully chose one or two people who can offer you sound advice. And remember the 10 must have’s on your résumé.

* It is agreed that not every positive result can be quantified with numbers, dollars, or percentages, particularly if you don’t have access to these figures. To simply say you increased…or decreased…can be enough.

** In some cases, executive-level jobseekers, more years of experience may be more helpful. A superintendent of schools with 30 years of experience will probably have more luck than one with only five years of experience.

Photo from Andrea, Flickr

5 sections of a résumé and LinkedIn profile that show your value


valueIt’s often said that the employer is the buyer and you’re selling a product, you. As impersonal as it seems, it’s true. Your product is excellent. You’ve achieved great success in the past and will continue to do so in the future.

However, the buyer won’t know of your potential for greatness if you don’t present both a powerful résumé and LinkedIn profile. Because it is no longer enough to simply submit a résumé. No, you need both.

So which sections of your résumé and LinkedIn profile will effectively show your value to employers?

Résumé

In response to a job ad your, résumé will be the first document the employers will see, so your value must show immediate impact. If not, your chances of getting an interview are very slim. The following sections of your résumé will contribute to demonstrating your value:

  1. A value headline tells potential employers your occupation, as well as your areas of expertise. It quickly tells employers why you are the person who should be brought in for an interview. But it’s not enough.
  2. A Performance Profile section that contains more illustration of your skills and experience and less fluff will show you as someone who does rather than says. No more than three to four lines are necessary if your content is sound and relevant for the jobs you’re pursuing. Wow statements, accomplishments, always help to show your value.
  3. Key skills in your Core Competency section for the positions you’re pursuing. Highlight skills that are required for a particular position–perhaps 6-8–but also include tie-breaker skills. You must fully understand the requirements of the position in order to know which skills to list in your Core Competency section.
  4. Job-specific accomplishments in your Work Experience will effectively show your value to the employer. The more relevant accomplishments you have in this section indicate your ability to perform well in the future. While a grocery list of your former/current responsibilities might seem impressive, accomplishments speak volumes.
  5. Keywords and phrases common to each position will give your résumé a better chance to be selected by Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS). Don’t be so concerned about the ATS that you produce a résumé that is poorly written; strive for a document that is optimized for the search engine, as well as one that shows your written communication skills.

LinkedIn profile

A consistent message of your value demonstrated through your résumé also applies to your LinkedIn profile. While your profile and résumé are different, they are similar in how you deliver your value.

Erik Deckers and Kyle Lacy, Branding Yourself Blog, wrote about the power of LinkedIn, 20 LinkedIn Case Studies for Branding Yourself. So take it from them; LinkedIn can be a a great way to show your value.

  1. Like on your résumé, a Value Headline will tell potential employers exactly who you are, as well as what your areas of expertise. Your headline and photo are what visitors to your profile will see first. Together they must make a great first impression.
  2. Your profile Summary will be different than your résumé’s Professional Profile; it is written in first- or third-person, but it must brand you as someone who demonstrates direction and value to employers. To some this is considered the most important section of your profile. You’re allowed 2,000 characters, whereas your résumé typically contains 150 characters. Tell your story.
  3. List your outstanding technical and transferable skill in the Skills section. This section on your profile is similar to the Core Competency section on your résumé. The skills you list must show your proficiency, as opposed to your familiarity.You will be endorsed for your skills, but also request recommendations from your former supervisors.
  4. Your Employment section may be briefer than your résumé’s, highlighting just the outstanding accomplishments from each job. Accomplishments speak louder than simple duty statements and are the most effective way to show your value. Or you can duplicate your résumé’s Work Experience section. The choice is yours.
  5. Keywords are just as important to have on your profile as they are on your résumé. Employers will only find you if your profile contains the keywords they enter into Advanced People Search. Your goal is to be on the first four pages–10 profiles per page–to be found by recruiters and hiring managers.

Some additional components of your LinkedIn profile which will show your value are ones not found on your résumé. The most obvious is a highly professional or business casual photo. Another useful area of your profile is Media which allows you to share PowerPoint or Prezi presentations, copies of your résumés, videos, and various other files.

Push and Pull Technology. Combining both documents, will show your value more than if you use a résumé alone. The résumé to respond to job ads and your LinkedIn profile to pull employers to you will be the powerful punch you need in your job search. (Read about the differences between the resume and LinkedIn profile.)

7 reasons why recruiters and employers dread reading a résumé

Here’s a fact: Very few people like reading résumés, especially those who read hundreds of them a week. Ask any recruiter or employer. I critique and write résumés as part of my job. I’ve read hundreds of them and have conducted numerous critique sessions, but I’ve got nothing over recruiters and employers.

The only bright spot in this whole process is reading a résumé that doesn’t give me a sharp pain between my eyes, one that is relatively sound. A résumé that is outstanding–now, that’s a WOW moment.

Once you understand that recruiters and employers are not dying to read your résumé, you can focus your attention on writing one that pleasantly surprises them, one that prompts them to recommend you for an interview. To entice them into inviting you in for an interview, you must avoid making the following mistakes:

1, An apathetic approach to writing your résumé. Don’t let your apathy show in the quality of your product, which shouts, “I’m not into writing a résumé. It means I have to think about what I did.” This sentiment comes across loud and clear from people who feel this way. They resent having to write a résumé and would like others to do it for them. Do not rely on others to write your résumé; it’s your responsibility.

2. Your résumé is a tome. It’s a five-page document consisting of every duty you performed within the past 25-years; and it’s so dense that the person reading it puts it in the “don’t read” pile simply because it’s nearly impossible to read. I recently glanced at a résumé that resembled what I’ve just described. I made no false pretense and simply put it down after two seconds saying, “I can’t read this.”

3. It lacks accomplishments. I know, you’ve heard this a thousand times. But it’s worth repeating because you want to stand out from the rest. Recruiters and employers relate to quantified results with dollars, numbers, and percentages. Many people think accomplishments should only be highlighted in the Work History section or under Career Highlights.

One or two of your accomplishments should be stated in the Performance Profile. “Develop processes that improve operations and result in double-digit revenue growth. ” A statement like this is meant to grab the reader’s attention. This assertion must then be backed up in the Work History with explicit examples and dollar amounts.

4. Failing to show recruiters and employers what you’ll do for them. Recruiters and employers don’t want to know what you did; they want to know what you can do. You’re probably thinking, “If my work history is in the past. That’s what I did. How do I show employers what I can do?” It’s what we in the field call prioritizing your statements, or targeting your résumé to each company to which you apply. In other words, illustrate how your qualifications and accomplishments match the employers’ requirements in order of importance.

5. You don’t know what recruiters and employers want. Many people don’t take the time to dissect the job ad to discover the most important skills and experience the employer wants to see on your résumé. If the ad is skimpy, go to the company’s career section on its website.

Better yet, if you know someone at the company or know someone who knows someone at the company, call him/her and ask more about the position. LinkedIn is a great tool for finding influential people at companies. The bottom line is that you can’t write a targeted résumé if you don’t understand the requirements of the job.

6. You lack keywords and phrases. As CareerBuilder.com points out, keywords are the skills applicant tracking systems (ATS) search for to determine if your résumé will be the first of many to be read by recruiters and employers. Your branding headline, much like the headline on your LinkedIn profile, is the first place on your résumé where you’ll utilize keywords. Then you will make sure they’re peppered throughout the rest of your résumé.

7. You apply for a job for which you’re not qualified. I know the urge to find a job, any job, is great; but don’t waste the time of a recruiter, employer, and you by applying for a job for which you’re not qualified. You may think there’s an inkling of hope that you’ll get an interview. But if you have only five of the 10 requirements necessary to do the job, there really is no hope. And this can be determined within the first 10 seconds of reading the résumé.

A woman in HR recently related this story to me, “I received a résumé in a USPS photo envelope (heavy duty mailer) certified mail.  The résumé is on lovely cream-colored card stock, beautifully formatted. The problem, she is applying for the Assistant Town Accountant position and for the last 10 years she has been a dog groomer.”


 

These are but seven faux pas you must avoid if you want to write a powerful résumé that is enjoyable to read and gets you a spot in the hot seat. Once you’re at the interview, you’re one step closer to a job offer.

5 steps to take when you can’t tailor your résumé to a particular position

 

ResumeWhen I tell jobseekers they should tailor their résumés for every position, their eyes widen. Some protest that this is too much work and one or two even become angry and profusely refuse to put in this hard work.

The reason I tell my customers to make the effort is because they need to speak to the needs of the employer. Further, this will impress the employer with their research of the position and demonstrate how they can solve problems the company is facing.

But let’s be realistic; this is not possible for every résumé you write, particularly if:

  • you’re posting your résumé on a job board where it will be stored in a résumé bank among millions of other résumés;
  • you don’t have a descriptive job ad and/or;
  • there’s no one to network with to find the real deal about the job for which you’re applying.

So what’s the solution?

In his Knock ‘Em Dead series, Knock ‘Em DeadSecrets & Strategies for Success in an Uncertain World, Martin Yate offers his Target Job Deconstruction (TJD) method as the next best thing to a tailor-made résumé.

“Your résumé,” he writes, “will obviously be most effective when it starts with a clear focus and understanding of a specific job target. TJD allows you to analyze exactly how employers prioritize their needs for your target job and the words used to express those needs, resulting in a detailed template for the story your résumé needs to tell.”

There are eight steps Martin describes when writing your TJD (they can be found in his book), but I’ll talk about the most immediate steps for creating your résumé template.

1. The first task in creating your résumé template is to collect approximately six job ads for a position you’re seeking. Use websites like Indeed.com or Jobster.com. They use spider technology pulling from other job boards and deliver a plethora of positions from which to choose. The locations of the jobs matter not.

2, From there, you’ll note a requirement (skill, deliverable) most common for all six positions. Next, identify a common requirement for five of the six positions, a common requirement for four of the six positions, and so on, until you have a list of the most common requirements in descending order.

This will give you a good understanding of how employers think when they determine who they’d like to hire. It will also give you a foundation to write a résumé template, which you can modify whenever you send your résumé to a particular company.

Let’s look at a Marketing Specialist position in the Boston area. I managed to find six job descriptions by using Indeed.com. Listed below are the six most common requirements for this position.

  1. Common to all six companies is writing copy for direct mail and electronic distribution, including web content.
  2. Common to four of the companies is managing relations with appropriate departments.
  3. Common to three of the companies is coordinating projects with outside vendors.
  4. Common to two of the companies is researching competitors’ websites and reporting activity.
  5. Common to two of the companies is coordinating trade shows.
  6. Another notable duty is Photo shoots/animation development, which drew my attention, as I enjoy, but have limited experience in photography.

3. Now write your résumé. Given the above information, your new résumé should first verify in the Professional Profile your qualifications for the most common requirements listed. (Notice that many of the requirements are transferable skills, e.g., written communications, managing others, coordinating projects, researching, and your motivating pressure points. Others speak to your technical skills.)

4. You will next extract all the key words that apply to you and create a Competencies section including those key words, as your résumé might be scanned by large and even midsize companies. Don’t forget the strong transferable skills you possess.

5. Finally, you will prove in your Employment History what you have asserted in your Professional profile. Try to prove your assertions with accomplishment statements that are quantified. For example, Produced technical documentation, brochures and flyers which were distributed via e-mail and the company’s website, contributing to a 56% increase in revenue.

Final Note: I continue to insist that, when at all possible, my customers tailor their résumés for each job they apply, as it demonstrates their knowledge of the position and effectively demonstrates their qualifications to meet the position’s requirements. This is ideal when you have a list of your top 20-30 companies, the companies for which you want to show your love.

4 important principles of your job-search stories

Chinese Food2I remember being in a Chinese restaurant in Vancouver, Canada, where my four brothers, mother, father, and I were waiting for our food to come. My father was telling us a story about our favorite topic—how our parents met—and even though the food was late in coming, we were all enthralled.

I think we’d heard this story a bazillion times, but we couldn’t get enough of it. My father’s story began like it always did, after one of us gave him the directive, “tell us about how you and Mom met.”

In a way my father’s storytelling was similar to what job candidates must do at an interview when asked to tell a story. Often at behavioral interviews the employer will ask for specific events meant to extract particular skills from a job candidate.

A successful story includes the following principles:

Meaning. What meaning does your story have? Here’s a big hint: it must be applicable to the job for which you’re applying. Asked how your strong verbal communication skills made a difference at a specific moment or period of time, but instead you talk about a time you demonstrated strong written communication skills does not have meaning.

You’re a skilled writer who has been published in countless trade magazines. You go into great detail about this in your story. But you fail to realize that the employer seeks someone who can verbally communicate with the media, partners, OEMs, and customers. Your story lacks meaning. There was meaning behind Dad’s story for us; so much so that we didn’t mind the food coming late.

Form. In a Complete Interview Process workshop I lead, my participants construct a story using the following form: the problem or situation, approximately 20% of the story; the actions taken to meet the situation, 60% of the story; and the result of the action taken, the remaining 20%.

Some of my workshop attendees have difficulty keeping the situation brief. They feel the need to provide background information, which in effect distracts the listener from what’s most important—the actions taken to meet the situation. The result is also important, whether it’s a positive or negative resolution. Twenty-sixty-twenty is a good formula to keep in mind.

Achieving success. When the candidate has achieved success, a couple of things can happen. First, the employer may smile and indicate approval by saying, “Thank you. That was a great answer.” This likely means that your story addressed the meaning behind the question and adhered to proper form.

Or the employer may come back with follow-up questions, such as, “How do you know you saved the company money by volunteering to take over the webmaster responsibilities?” Bingo. You’ve gained the interest of the employer who follows up with additional questions.

Dad’s story about meeting mom was always met with follow-up questions from all five of us. Mom always blushed.

Preparation is paramount to success. There is really only one way to prepare for telling your stories. You have to completely understand what’s required of the position. Know what competencies the employer is looking for, e.g. time management, leadership, problem solving, problem assessment, and customer service skills. Based on this knowledge, you will construct five stories in anticipation of directives like, “Tell me about a time when you felt your leadership skills had a positive impact on your team…and a time when it had a negative impact.”

With all the practice Dad had telling his story about how he and my mother met, the stories got better and better as time went on. That was a great time in the Chinese restaurant in Vancouver. Not because the food was great—I don’t remember eating any—but because the story was what we all wanted to hear.

Photo courtesy of Flickr, Honey Bunny.

4 tips for promoting yourself in the job search

When I was a kid and made our town’s Little League baseball team, I ran to my neighbor’s house where my father was helping our friend fix a lawnmower. I burst into the garage and told my father with pride that I’d made the team. His response was to tell me not to brag.

I’ve thought for a long time that my father taught me that day an important lesson about humility. Now I’m not so sure it was a good lesson. It seems that we, as a society, don’t promote ourselves enough.

This is particularly true about my valued customers who need to promote themselves.

I read an article, Why You Should be a Shameless Self Promoter, in which the author, Kevin Daum, speaks of three reasons why entrepreneurs should promote themselves. It resonated with me because he broaches a topic that many people feel uncomfortable about, self-promotion.

While we need to self-promote, the author claims, we also can’t cross that line that is unclear to many. He writes: “So we need to shamelessly self-promote, loud, strong and often. And yet somehow we have to keep from crossing that line of being annoying and offensive.”

I understand there are reasons why my jobseekers don’t feel comfortable promoting themselves. One obvious reason is that their confidence is shattered; and when you’ve been kicked in the gut, it’s hard to muster up the ability to talk about yourself in a positive, objective way—which is to say, not brag.

But there are three tips the author provides entrepreneurs for “shameless self-promotion.” I agree with them but have adapted his tips for jobseekers. I have also added a tip of my own.

  1. Be interesting. Know what interests potential employers. If you have the same goals in common, this makes self-promotion all that much easier. This gives you free reign to highlight your accomplishments and related experience, as long as they apply to the job; which is an indication that you can repeat your accomplishments in the future.
  2. Be authentic. As a jobseeker, your accomplishments will seem more authentic if you have evidence to back them up, perhaps in the form of recommendations, awards, or outstanding references. What others say about you, I tell my customers, carries more weight then what you say about yourself. And always be truthful; never lie about your achievements. Lies will come back to bite you in the ass.
  3. Provide value. Any self-promotion has to have relevance. If the employer is looking for someone who has demonstrated superb written communications, you should not talk about the numerous presentations you gave before packed houses; you will come across as a round peg for the employer’s square whole. Think back to the times when you wrote the company newsletter and got published in trade magazines.
  4. Don’t over-due it. This is my own reason for self-promotion. Avoid using words like “great,” “outstanding,” “the best,” etc. It is far better to provide facts than conjecture. For example, “I was the best counselor on the staff“comes across as bragging without any substance. Better put would be, “Among my colleagues, I was given the highest-level customers on a regular basis. I was trusted by management to give them the service they needed.” Yes, you were the best.

The simple fact is that you as a jobseeker must promote yourself, because you can’t rely on others to be there by your side in your job search. The author talks about how we were taught not to brag, like the time I rushed to my father proud of making the town’s Little League team. Don’t brag, but don’t refrain from self-promotion when the time is right, like while networking or at an interview or in your written communications. The time is now.