Friday, March 10, 2006

Should I Hire a Resume Service?

You’ve updated your resume, sent it out to companies and recruiters, but you aren’t hearing anything back. Is it your experience, or is it your resume? Resume writing services can improve the response you get to your resume because they know what employers look for. They can “package” your experience to present it in the best possible way.

You may decide a professional is what you need to help you with your resume. But, before you decide to hire a pro to redo your resume, take a critical look at it yourself. Here are a few easy improvements:

  • Check your formatting. Is the resume easy to read, is the type large enough, is there some white space?

  • Make sure you have an objective that clearly states what kind of job you are looking for. Make it short and clear. It’s the first thing people read.

  • Make sure the important things about your experience are as close to the top of the resume as possible. If you have more than 5 years experience, move your education to the bottom of the resume (unless you are seeking a position where education is more critical than experience).

  • Pretend you have no knowledge of yourself or your industry. Is your resume still understandable?

  • Consider adding a very short descriptive phrase under each company, telling what the company’s product or service is. For example, “CRM Automation Solution Company”. This helps recruiters and hiring managers better understand how your experience relates to their opening.

  • Use bullet points to list your achievements under each previous position. This format is easier to read and also shows what you accomplished in a position. Avoid listing tasks that were included in your job description and instead state what you achieved.

  • If you aren’t comfortable with your writing skills, enlist a friend you trust to review your resume for you.
Resume writing services offer a good service and generally are worth the money you will invest.Try these changes first and if you still aren’t getting the response you need, it’s time to call a professional.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Help Me Change Careers!

This is based on a question one of our readers sent. “I’ve been in software sales for about ten years and I’m tired of it. I’ve been successful but I want a position that isn’t so ‘intense’ and that doesn’t have me traveling 3 nights a week. I don’t have a clue how to go about making a change though without starting over in an entry level position (and salary). Can you help?”

It’s not easy to give up the security of a successful career. But, sometimes it’s about work/life balance. More time at home and less stress can make taking a lower paying position worthwhile. Here are some ideas on how to find your next great, successful career:

  • Make a list of the things you like to do. Not just on the job, but your hobbies and interests should be listed as well. If you had a choice (disregarding money) what would you want to do every day that would make you happy?

  • Taking that list, do a keyword search on some of the major job boards. This will give you some ideas about the types of positions available that use these interests and skills. Do the same search on some of the search engines for even more ideas.

  • Now that you know some of the types of positions you might be interested in, start to refine your list. What experience do you already have that would be important to your new employer? In other words, what “bridge” can you find from where you are to where you want to be?

  • Use previous industry experience to find a new job in a similar industry. In our reader’s case, he has experience with a software company. Perhaps his passion is education and he might be great at a software training position.

  • Find companies that utilize these positions. There are numerous sites on the Internet that let you research companies to find this information. Visit their website to learn more about them and then contact them to let them know of your interest and what you can offer.

  • Network. Who you know is at least as important as what you know. Let your friends and business associates help you with ideas and getting your foot in the door of a new company.

Remember, it’s not impossible to change careers at any point in your life. It’s never too late to find something you can be excited about every day and truly look forward to doing!

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Get Your Resume Read!

Whether you’re sending your resume directly to a company, responding to an ad on the Internet or emailing your resume to a recruiter, there are some basics that will help you get your resume read by the right person. Take a look at these tips before you email your next resume:

  • Include your resume in the text of your email. Make sure when you do a cut and paste to include the document that the formatting is still clear. If you have bullet points or other formatting characters, clean those up to make the resume presentable in the body of the email. Attach a copy in MS Word as well.

  • Use only MS Word attachments. With the proliferation of computer viruses, many companies will either block or automatically delete emails that have .exe files, graphic files or any other type of file attached, included .zip files.

  • Although .pdf (Adobe Acrobat) is an acceptable resume standard, many automatic database programs used by companies can not read these attachments. If you are using this, include your resume in the body of the document and consider attaching it in MS Word as well.

  • Avoid fancy formatting. Companies receive a large volume of resumes and almost all of them automate the process of initially reviewing the resume. Information contained in a text box or as a graphic may not import into their system.

  • Don’t use headers and footers. If your contact information is in the header and footer it will be lost by some of the automated systems and the company will not be able to contact you.

  • If you’re responding to a job posting that has a reference number, use it. This makes sure your resume goes to the proper hiring manager for a current position and helps get your resume reviewed more quickly.

  • Don’t send an email with a link to your resume on the web. This requires an extra step (or two!) that many recruiters will not take.

  • Be sure to include a subject in your email. Due to viruses, an email that arrives with no subject is likely to be deleted without being opened.

  • Look over your resume to make sure that it includes keywords that would fit the job you are applying for. Automation has created more of a need for this since a keyword search often will be the way recruiters determine who they will call first for a position.

  • And the best rule: keep it simple. A one page resume that lists your accomplishments in an easy to read style is still the best resume to get the job!

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Another Source for Reference Letters

Frequently, people don’t think to ask for a reference letter until they are resigning from their job. However, a reference letter can be even more meaningful if it was written at a time when the individual accomplished something in their position.

The next time your boss compliments you on a good achievement, whether it was organizing a great project or exceeding your sales numbers, why not ask for a letter of compliment to add to your file? Don’t forget that a satisfied customer may also be a good source of a reference as well. These don’t have to be lengthy letters – just a quick note that you can save to show a future employer may help you in landing a new job down the road!

Saturday, December 31, 2005

Looking Forward to 2006

Happy New Year! The start of a new year can be a time of reflection on the past year, reviewing not only our successes but also the things that perhaps we didn't accomplish. For many people, this involves their career and may result in determining that it is time to make a change. Whether you are looking for a new job in your current field, or considering changing the direction of your career, this is a great time to do it.

The beginning of the year is a time when companies are ready to make changes too and are often considering adding additional personnel. If you haven't updated your resume in a while, do it now and start exploring what exciting new opportunities might be waiting for you. A great place to start is on some of the larger career boards. Search using some keywords of things you enjoy or would like to do and see what jobs are available in those fields. It's a great source for ideas, particularly if you're looking for a new challenge.

Have a wonderful 2006!

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Make it Easy to be Contacted

It’s almost the beginning of another new year and for many people that means they are considering a new job as well.

Here are four quick tips to make it easier for companies to contact you after they’ve received your resume:

  • Include your contact information in the body of your resume. If you use a header for this information, many automated databases do not extract the information correctly. This means an extra step for the person who wants to contact you as they go back through your information manually to find your email or phone number.

  • Include your contact information in your signature of every email. Even if you aren’t sending a full cover letter with your resume, put your email and phone number into your signature.

  • Include alternate ways to be contacted. If you have a cell phone, a home phone and a business phone (and are comfortable being called at work), include them all. In the last paragraph of your cover letter, mention times that are good to reach you.

  • Make sure your answering machine and/or voice mail is working. When you’re looking for a new job, make sure your outgoing message is professional as well. This is the first impression your potential new employer will have of you.

Friday, November 04, 2005

The Importance of References

It’s never too early to start compiling a list of references. Even if you are currently happily employed, give some consideration to getting letters of reference for future use. And, always ask for a letter of reference when leaving a job, even if you already have another position.

It is common today for companies to utilize background checks prior to hiring. While these will verify your employment, most hiring managers will still want to speak to previous supervisors, co-workers or clients in order to access your suitability for their position.

Here are a few suggestions to assist you in developing your reference list:

  • A reference your employer knows is the best possible reference. It isn’t always possible to have an “inside” reference, but consider who your employer might already know (or know of) in their industry and use that individual for a reference if appropriate.

  • Professional references in your specialty area, are always preferred with a former supervisor being the best selection. Recent college graduates should consider these individuals as potential references: extracurricular advisors, college administrators, and professors (preferably in your academic major).

  • Do not use relatives or your best friend as references. Employers want information on how you perform in the workplace.

  • Use references who are willing to take the time to help you. If an employer can’t reach your reference to speak with them it will only delay the interview process.

  • When requesting letters of reference, ask that they include the following information: Why they feel you are qualified for the type of position you will be applying for, their opinion of you both professionally and personally, how long and in what capacity they have known you.

  • Always wait until asked for references before you offer a list or letter to a potential employer. Have a list prepared that includes phone numbers (work and cell is best) along with an email address.

  • Be sure to call your references and let them know that they should expect telephone calls from prospective employers so they are prepared.
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