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    Friday
    Apr282017

    Bad Advice from Career Professionals

    Twice in the last two weeks, I have had inquiries from people who have worked with career coaches. Each one, as advised by the career coach, ended up with a resume that would not perform well where the recruitment process included the use of an applicant tracking system or ATS (enter "applicant tracking system" in my website's search window, "free career advice" in the right hand column, for lots more info).

    Now, if these clients lived in rural or town environments, where the employers were likely small employers with no need for ATS-assisted recruitment, this would be fine.

    Shockingly both clients had had help from Canadian university career centres and each one lives in a different, large metropolitan area.

    Here's what not to do.

    1. Do NOT create a functional resume. These don't perform at all where ATS are used to evaluate submissions. They don't even perform well when human beings review this type of resume! ATS are programmed to "read" and score reverse-chronological resumes only. And as for recruiters, they like to know specifics of what level of responsibility you held, what you did, and your impact at each position you held, not that overall you have great relationship building, leadership, and communication skills.

    2. Do NOT use a fancy templated resume format. The advanced programming in some of these - tables, columns, page border, text boxes, shading, etc. - is not reliably, 100% ATS-friendly. Stick to "best practices" as described in the blog posts you'll find when you search "applicant tracking system" on my website.

    It amazes me that the ATS continue to "hide in plain sight."

    Sunday
    Mar262017

    Does it matter where you get your job search advice?

    Sometimes I am booked a few months in advance and must refer clients who prefer more immediate assistance to colleagues. I have sourced only two resume writers whose writing quality - grammar, strategy, composition - I admire. These two also have "high touch" client service similar to my own. And their resumes "look nice" too, with pristine spacing and formatting. :-)

    Last week, one of these referred clients, whose resume was written by one of these colleagues, reached out to me. "I'm not landing any interviews" was his message, and he asked if I would review the document.

    Now, in the past, I've had a few of my own clients contact me with a similar lament. In each case I was able to identify what the actual issue was and was confident of doing so for this referred client.

    Here's the story.

    The original resume was strategized to land the client entry into an MBA program, which it did.

    Post graduation, the client sought out input from the MBA program's career coach, and then launched his job search.

    On opening his resume, I immediately saw an issue. Knowing my colleague's style, I had a hard time understanding why he would have elected to do this one particular thing, which was problematic in today's recruitment process. You see, page one had no name and no contact info.

    Probing the client, I discovered that it was the career coach who advised him to make room on page one to add a few lines of content by removing his name and contact info because, after all, "your name, phone, and email are on page two and three."

    What this career coach wasn't aware of is the implications of the use of applicant tracking systems (ATS), so prevalent in today's recruitment process. He wasn't aware that ATS have certain formatting as well as content requirements.

    I suggested to this client that once he amends this issue, he will likely see an immediate relief from his non-performing resume.

    Also, because the original resume was strategized to the MBA program requirements, not this new job search, I made a few suggestions for "tweaks" that will quickly fix that issue too.

    The lesson here? It does matter where you get your job search input. Although I do not give "advice," I do advise with reasoned and seasoned insights into questions of resume strategy, interview coaching, and job search tactics. Not all resume writers are equal in their own pursuit of professional development and thus not all information is accurate.

    When looking for expertise, be sure to consider more than price point; you must look deep into credentials to determine whether you can trust a professional's credibility.

    Monday
    Mar062017

    Do cover letters really matter?

    Today I listened to a webinar offered by US-based National Resume Writers Association. The topic was a recruiter study with 273 responses - including two Canadian sources - from recruiters and hiring managers.

    One of the questions, of many (and I plan to address others in the near future), was on the cover letter's importance.

    Guess what? As I've been telling clients throughout my 11 years in full-time service, some recruiters will read it, some won't, but you need a good one just in case your dream job's hiring manager does like to read cover letters.

    The survey did find out a few interesting points, though. Apparently recruiters/HR hiring managers will read the cover letter IF a) it's targeting the specific job posting AND b) it's not fluff. LOL No definition of fluff was provided, but I'd hazard a guess that if you provide "a)" you're okay and are not being fluffy.

    So how do you target the job posting? These ideas have been sourced from the two books as you see on this blog.

    1. Customize each letter. I cannot stress this one enough. Match the requirements, echo the company's values, saturate with keywords (hard skills, soft skills and attributes, educational credentials, and employment details).

    2. Speak to the decision maker. Every piece of writing, to be effective, must speak to an audience's "buying motivators." (Hint: in hiring, buying motivators are related to the bottom line or to reputation in not-for-profits.) If you don't demonstrate that in the past you've not cost your employers' money, but helped them earn or keep revenues, you're not "selling yourself" and not likely to outperform other interviewees. And yes, the cover letter is an ideal place to sell you as a candidate. Every step of recruitment is about you, as a job seeker, conducting a self-marketing project.

    3. Deal with obstacles. I have done this successfully for clients, from those with disabilities to those who job hopped a bit too much. Either be up front and refer to an accommodation that has worked, or turn the perceived obstacle into a great advantage. Perception can be tweaked!

    Of course, good grammar and a clear writing style are also necessary.

    BTW, you'll find my sample letters in these books! Eleven are now in the Best Canadian Cover Letters series and I have three in the newly published Modernize Your Job Search Letters, a US publication.

    TIP: Please check that your cover letter isn't saturated with "I" statements, a common trait of many cover letters. Replace a few with phrases such as "You can count on me to," "Past supervisors will vouch for my (work ethic, ability to ...)."

     

    Wednesday
    Feb082017

    The Strategic Resume

    Google tells me that one of the definitions of "strategic" is carefully designed or planned to serve a particular purpose or advantage.

    As a Master Certified Resume Strategist through Career Professionals of Canada, this well describes how I compose a resume: I carefully design each client's document to achieve that client's particular purpose. My work gives each client an advantage.

    Misconceptions about what a resume is and what it is not continue to plague the job hunter. For great, detailed information, check out Modernize Your Resume, which holds one of my submitted samples. It's one of two resumes that hold a special place in the legacy of my work as they helped two European clients land jobs in Canada in the same field and in a unique geographic region. The clients are friends and their lifelong dream was to do what they did: land jobs in Canada's far north!

    But back to strategy. The strategic resume's content is carefully selected, which means that I consider what to include and what to exclude.

    Let's say a client who works as an administrative assistant by day wanted to add a seasonal, part-time retail position to fund a special holiday plan. That resume would not speak to filing, emails, creating supportive documents, or using Excel spreadsheets, as these are not part of the retail vocabulary. Rather, I would zero in on transferable skills and knowledge - communication, establishing rapport and building relationships, ability to learn new software (for Point of Sale training), and personal interest in fashion, kitchenware, hardware, whatever the product of interst may be. I'd refer to training in conflict resolution, to proof of productivity in a fast-paced environment, to reliability and stamina perhaps.

    Strategy is customized according to the goal. If a client wishes to step out of the ranks and into management, my work is to uncover proof of leadership, which has countless examples - critical thinking, taking calculated risks, making tough decisions, committee membership, etc. Each person has something for me to build on, and I have many ways of unearthing these, if the client him or herself struggles with self-awareness.

    If you are looking to make a transition, a strategic resume is critical. Without one, you'll waste your time applying to job after job without making progress. If you need help with this, New Leaf Resumes would love to support your goal!


    Thursday
    Jan122017

    Student Summer Employs and Co-ops

    I've had a rash of parents contacting me for help as their university kids seek either summer jobs or co-op placements.

    This is a case where "one size does NOT fit all" is important to remember. My answer to one dad explains why. I've renamed his son, Jasper, for confidentiality. The suggestion of a Day Camp Team Leader builds on Jasper's past summer employment experience. Here's what I wrote:

    Is Jasper in need of a resume to find summer employment or to land a co-op post? The resume's content and focus would differ according to its goal.

    If the resume is for non-education related summer employment, it would not need an expanded Education section. Rather, I would want to incorporate transferable skills. Let's say Jasper was applying to be a Day Camp's Team Leader. I'd need to find examples of leadership, good judgement, reputation for ethical and safe choices, great relationship building, listening skills and so on. If, however, he was planning to apply to a construction position, I would find examples of resilience, hard work, working in all weather, good attendance, record of safety, use of tools and machinery, and so on. Each position has different "buying motivators."

    And if it's for co-op placements, then the Education section gets to shine as his recent studies hold relevant knowledge. In past employs I would still find transferable skills along the lines of dependability, good work ethic, getting along with people, taking direction well, showing initiative.

    So, you see that there's a great deal of strategy that goes into content! That's what creates an effective, influential resume that lands interviews.