The Value of Narrowing Down Choices

Credit to Sue Stone, textile artist, Womanwithafish blog post.

Credit to Sue Stone, textile artist, Womanwithafish blog post.

Along with the craft of writing, I love to craft with a needle. In exploring various needle arts, I ran into a series of videos on a curious topic: the value of narrowing down one’s options. The videos were produced by the two sons of a textile artist from the U.K., Sue Stone. That is her work in the photo above.

Theirs was a compelling lesson in the trouble with overly broad choices. I shared that series with a friend who is a gifted fine artist and who finds it extremely difficult to focus on one medium. She sculpts, paints, faux finishes surfaces, and even crochets, taking that humble folk art form to a whole new level! But she cannot stick with one art form and thus brand herself and make her way as an artist.

There is a lesson here for today’s job seeker. Attempting to prove that you’re good at too many things is not effective today. The reason is simple: software is programmed to look for words - key words - related to one type of job only. Thus, if you can be a scientist, a researcher, or a supervisor, you’ll need three resumes. Each of these roles has a different set of key words/phrases typically associated with that role.

For those clients who could go in one of two or three ways, I suggest that to narrow down the focus - and save tons of time in job searching too - a prudent move is to select one. The choice can be based on fiscal need (lots of opportunities = faster time to a paycheck), great for an unemployed person. Or, it can be based on the desire to finally go for that “dream job.”

With my skill behind the resume’s content, my client can land more interviews for that quick turnaround job offer or finally land an interview for that career change or step up “dream job.” A well written, strategic, custom, and targeted resume simply gets results. It cuts through the applicant tracking software system “gatekeeper” role and cuts through the noise of the many applicants today’s job seeker is usually up against.

Since 2007, I recall only a few clients who elected to have me compose more than one resume, with two distinct targets. One client, as I well recall, had a resume selling her into a nurse educator’s role as well as a medical equipment sales professional/account executive role. She was equally qualified. But it was her choice to immediately go with both. Others, who have taken a chance on landing interviews with one resume only have not returned for a second version. They invested in one quality resume. In so doing, they invested in themselves, in their career, their earnings, their potential, their contentment.

Yes, narrowing down options is a good thing.

If you need help, New Leaf is here to be of service.

Cheeky Resume Content

Photo by Fischer Twins on Unsplash

I often provide a prospective client with a complimentary resume review - a free critique. Sometimes I see things on a resume that I guess the writer didn't see.  And as things so often happen in twos and threes, recently I had two such resume "oopsies"!

There is a popular resume template available on MS Word. It offers the job seeker a spot to prominently display his or her initials in a large circle on the left side of the page. On the right side go the name and contact details. Well, this particular client's initials did not lend themselves to an initial-only short-form. Let's just say that the two letters spell the rather less refined version of "baloney." 

Yes, big, bold, front and centre - well, left justified, but you get my drift. (It reminds me of someone I know who didn't consider that their daughter's initials spelled a most unfortunate disease abbreviation.)

Now, if this person was in marketing, maybe it would have tickled a funny bone or two and been a "plus." But aiming at a C-suite position, I have no doubts that even if the reader prided him or herself on being an enlightened sort, I am of the opinion that most humans have little control over subliminal impressions.  

If this client chooses to work with me, I will not be referring to the client as "BS." 

Now, the second takes us from business into the realm of medicine. 

I am working with a young doctor on the other side of the border. This physician is employed with a gastroenterology unit. Gastroenterology, in case you're drawing a blank, has to do with esophagus, stomach, small intestine, colon and rectum, pancreas, gallbladder, bile ducts and liver.  All those lovely innards that keep us going.

This particular physician chose to shorten the workplace title to read as follows:

Medical Staff, Gastrointestinal Ass., Name of Hospital, Name of City and State.

Hopefully you see the "cheeky humour" in this statement. Once I pointed out the link between the area of focus and the short form, this newly minted doctor had a good laugh. S/he will be changing this immediately. 

Funny stories, but the point is, proofreading is important. And it's not always spelling or a misused comma that is at fault. Sometimes, it's in the "oops" oversight category. 

Love my job, love writing resume, and if you don't, do let me help you out! 


Automation Job Losses vs New Growth Opportunites

Taking a Break from Writing Resumes with Some Tree Love

Taking a Break from Writing Resumes with Some Tree Love

Human Resources Director Canada today announced that Manulife is cutting 700 jobs as part of its digital business transformation. Most of the losses will be absorbed through attrition, but not all.

The automation of services, such as access to your own information, has long been moving away from the need to phone in. On-line self-help services are not at all new. But with the sophistication of Artificial Intelligence or AI, more and more types of information can be at one's fingertips.

Even in my own small corner of the business world, AI is making an impact. The newest versions of Applicant Tracking Software, the systems that many companies rely on to help automate parts of the recruitment process, are AI-enhanced. Progressing from the archaic "ASCII" resume version, an unattractive, plain-text, Courier font document, today's ATS-friendly resumes look positively radiant in comparison! Shaded lines and colour are fine, as are some enhanced features.

On the other side of the job search spectrum, I see that marijuana is having quite an impact. In my boutique resume service I have had two clients in one week - and more in the last year - seeking to apply to a few medical marijuana facilities. (On another note, I have a neighbour who has made an obscene amount of money from purchasing medical marijuana stocks, but that's a topic for an investment blog!)

From "field hands" to senior execs, there's a living to be earned in this employment newcomer.

That's me. I love tree hugging and getting "grounded." We all need a break!

Whatever your situation, New Leaf Resumes would love to help. Give me a call at 778 269 5627 and let's talk. 

Should you be worried about cultural fit?

Add personality to your resume and inspire an interview! Read on to find out how.

Add personality to your resume and inspire an interview! Read on to find out how.

Today I am prepping for tomorrow's client who is a Client Services Supervisor/Manager. His preferred realm is in IT, and his preferred employer, PeaceWorks Technology Solutions. 

This company wears its heart on its sleeve. The name artfully blends the social conscience with the service delivery.

And, as serendipity is at play today I read an article that explains how skills alone don't tell your story. I shared the link to the article below. (It's exceptionally well written with nary a grammatical error or syntactical stumble to be found. I so appreciate good writing!)

The idea of integrating personality, motivation, inspiration, social conscience, and more into a resume is one that I've espoused since I began this business in 2007. I firmly believe that everyone deserves meaningful work. In my mind, this means that the working environment must also match the job seeker's own values and preferred environment.

By subtly adding language that defines a person - and sometimes not so subtly, but boldly, it all depends - my clients land interviews with companies in which they are more likely to succeed because the company culture matches the person's own preferred style.

What good is a resume that sticks to skills only? At best it only puts the job seeker on par with her competitors. (At its worst, it leaves the job seeker suitable only for those jobs that might be characterized as "low lying fruit.")

Yes, those skills will impress the applicant tracking software systems (ATS), but the same list of skills will inspire only a ho-hum response from the human recruiter. The human reader needs to understand "the why, the how, to what result" context of work. The human reader is best if he finds himself admiring the job seeker's values - commitment to quality, unflagging championing of safety, sustained attention to improvements - as well as the job seeker's methodology.

What's wrong with adding a few words that give the human reader a genuine sense of the applicant's personality, values, motivators, strengths, talents, etc.? 

For resumes that ring with sincerity, beam with earned pride, and inspire with hope as the "perfect" candidate, contact New Leaf Resumes. I'd love to motivate your resume's reader to call you to an interview!

When your resume lands no interviews

Resume magic is doable! Read on.

Resume magic is doable! Read on.

The flipping of a calendar to a new year inspires us to make changes. Aside from annual renewed vigour to lose 10 or 20 pounds, stop smoking, leave the junk food at the grocery store, and call mom more often, few think to revisit their resume.
My last blog gave you ideas on what kinds of updates you might add to your resume, and how to phrase these. In this blog, I offer a few more ideas for those with resumes that constantly fail. Fail to ignite interest, fail to generate any calls to an interview. 
Know Thyself
Perhaps your resume has been cobbled together with bits and pieces from here, there, and everywhere in an attempt to fix what's wrong, cover all the bases, saturate it with key words? It could be such a hodge-podge of writing styles and formatting issues that when it's shared, it fails. The reader could be confused by the jumble, its lack of flow, absent context, and non-existent overall brand and message. And the formatting could recreate a resume into a haphazard mess.
If the resume's message is unclear, it is unlikely to gain traction. My suggestion is to start fresh, and with a focus on being authentic to who you are and how you work, begin anew to build a strong presence.
Ship It Out
Job hunting is a numbers game as well as a strategic one. Yes, your resume must sell you, but you must share that resume a lot. Some job postings are bogus. I'm not suggesting a conspiracy theory to perplex and confound the beleagured job seeker, but I am suggesting that not each job posting is current or valid. Sometimes, for example, an incumbent has already been selected, and the job posting exercise is simply playing out an internal policy.
For this reason, don't ever put all your effort and hope into one job application. Keep applying.
Verfity and Validate
Jim Rohn says it like this: “Failure is not a single, cataclysmic event. You don’t fail overnight. Instead, failure is a few errors in judgment, repeated every day.
Theres' another saying about stupidity as repeating the same action while each time "hoping" for a different result. 
If your resume is not working, do seek help. It truly doesn't have to be a never-ending cycle of click "send" and wait for a response that never materializes. 

Strategy and the Quandary of Sears ex-employees

The other day I read that within this decade, experts expect that many American malls will be empty (and I think we can assume that the Canadian experience will be similar enough to take note).

And who hasn't heard of the demise of Sears, with some 12,000 people across Canada soon losing their jobs?

The truth seems obvious: brick and mortar retail isn't holding up against the likes of Amazon and other internet-based shopping experiences.

If you know someone who is one of the 12,000 soon to be Sears ex-employees, do share this blog post with them. If there's a time a job hunter needed support, this is it: competing against a high influx of similarly experienced people is daunting.


The resume of old was a historical document, listing each job held, responsibilities of each position, with no info eliminated; however, today's resume is a stategic document, still listing the positions one has held, but with a spin.

What is the value of telling the reader that you used a point of sale (POS) cash register if the employer doesn't use one of these? Strategy means that info must be reinterpreted to demonstrate transferability or direct applicability. Here's what I mean:

  • Used advanced technology to process transactions - 12 different options - up to 100 times per day; over tenure, successfully learned 3 different versions and served as team's expert in each.

This bullet, still talking about using a POS system, uses strategy to demonstrate adaptability, tech-savvy skills, and serving as a team's top user of technology. It showcases lots of transferable skills.

However, if you're not applying to a position where using complex technology is useful, then you wouldn't use this bullet.

Perhaps you're applying to an Account Manager sales position. Here's another way to use your retail experience to demonstrate your suitability:

  • Upgraded sales skills annually, attending weekend workshops delivered by noted sales leader "Top Sales Inc.," and reliably led in department of 20 sales associates with highest dollar sales, 3 out of 4 quarters over the last 5 years.

Defining your performance with strategic content and context is what will get your foot in the door with an invitation to an interview. Strategy will distinguish you from your competition, whether you are in sales, customer service, procurement, training, people management, operations management, finance, or maintenance.

As a resume writer I put myself in the employer's/recruiter's shoes to discern what the position truly needs from a potential hire. And as I write, I make it as easy as possible for the reader to determine that my client is an ideal applicant. This is what each job hunter must do to "cut through the noise" of many job applicants.

It's not colour in your resume or delivering your resume to Human Resources with a box of chocolates that will distinguish you; it's demonstrating that there is real value in hiring you.

P.S. Along with strategy, there is a second piece to a strong submission in today's recruitment process: knowing how to navigate applicant tracking systems. For lots of details info, search "applicant tracking system" in the search window on the right hand side of my website page.

Setting a new homework record

As part of my client intake process, I ask  virtually every new client to complete a questionnaire. It's comprehensive, requires thought and review, and takes quite a bit of time.

No question about it: it is homework.

This pertains not only to new graduate clients, but also to my executive level clients. I compare my work to writing a university paper: it takes tons of research material to condense the info into a few short pages, rich with nuance and saturated in relevant, informative content. A resume must also have a strong ability to influence, that is, influence the reader to call my client for an interview.

One of the questions in my homework is this "Do you have a favourite quote, philosophy of business or work, an oft-repeated saying?" The answer to this can give me insight into my client's working style, problem solving, relationship building, methodology, people management - I get a glimpse into what makes this person tick, and it helps me represent the person on paper with authenticity. 

A recent client has outdone all my previous clients - 12 years of full time work, more than a thousand clients - with the volume of quotes that exemplify her approach to life and work. She now holds the record in this category! Here are a few of the wonderful quotes this client shared:

"A dream doesn't become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination and hard work." - Colin Powell

"Seek first to understand, then to be understood." - Stephen Covey

"Pleasure put in the job puts perfection in the work." - Aristotle

"Obstacles don't have to stop you. If you run into a wall, don't turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it, or work around it." - Michael Jordan

I counted 26 quotes. They came from philosophers, books on leadership from current or past "gurus," sports figures, politicians, and even a few of her very own.

Not only are these useful for my own insight into my client, they will undoubtedly find their way into her resume. To facilitate her step up the career ladder - she is aiming for a role as an Executive Director - I will likely find parallels between a quote and her methodology and results, and include a select two or three in her resume and cover letter.

I could even suggest to the client that she select several quotes and create an additional - and unique - portfolio document. (I have an idea brewing!)

I stand behind my premise that it is not colour and whiz-bang design that will propel a job applicant to the forefront; rather, a job applicant will stand out by offering clear insights into how he or she performs, the results his or her performance has brought to a previous employer, and by inference, how his or her employment will positively impact the next lucky employer. (The exception may be for the client applying to a graphic designer job posting.)

With this mindset, I have created interesting branding pages and addenda for many clients whether in technology, finance, sports, marketing, operations, etc., from entry level to executive. Whether or not I conceive such an addendum depends on each client's efforts in completing the homework fully, with enthusiasm. So much rests on the intake process.

As one client put it, "There cannot be excellent output without excellent input." I am not a magician, conjuring up resume content out of thin air. I am a partner with each client, gathering information and transforming it from basic statement to influential - and completely truthful - marketing copy.

There is much power in the written word. I love my work!


Mixing the old with the new - screendoors and resumes

A few weeks ago my husband, Richard, and I visited my mom. She lives on her own, although at 80+, it's getting harder and harder for her to do so without help.

On this visit, I got my husband to replace the handle on her screen door. (I almost wrote "we replaced," but quite honestly, I didn't even watch, never mind help!)

A visit to the local Canadian Tire, new handle, random tools, and assorted paraphernalia in hand, Richard began his work.

By the end it was clear that not all of the old stuff would work with the new stuff and hubby couldn't use all the new parts. His solution was a hodge podge, but at least the handle was no longer a  hard to grip and uninviting looking handle, and the door could lock.

So often it's best to replace something in its entirety.

It's this way with resumes, too. An old version, maybe a template in its origins, with new bits and pieces added over the years, and perhaps more than one author along the way, often looks rather hodge-podgey. Rather than looking crisply designed, it feels random; rather than reading smoothly, it seems quite haphazard. It's like the difference between a fine, coordinated suit and tie versus your well-worn, at-home "comfies"; between a $40 and $7 bottle of wine; between a fun sundress from your local bargain shop and a custom made outfit.

Not much of a first impression, is it?

It's also this way with resumes that I first wrote for clients years ago. Recently a client from 2009 returned for a resume update. He said that he had added a few things over the years, but he now felt that it really needed my touch. And it did, from formatting to content, need my touch.

Since our initial work about eight years ago software has evolved, and the recruitment process has changed. His old version was no longer compatible with today's norms, not in the version of Word nor in the need to appease applicant tracking systems.

I overhauled it top to bottom, finessing even previously composed bullets (as many were shortened or even removed to keep his resume to two pages), ensured it met each of today's requirements. My client is once again ready to further his career as a top-notch Tool and Die Maker.

If your resume is anything other than pristine and crisp in its appearance and ultra-influential and targeted in its content, might I suggest that that may be the reason that you are not landing interviews? Sometimes it's not because recruiters don't know anything; sometimes it's because we are unwilling to spend the money on an entirely new "screen door"!


Satisfying Fullness

Yesterday I visited my mother. As usual she cooked up some lunch and I brought the dessert. And although usually I bake, this weekend was exceptionally hot and without air conditioning, I did not want to heat up my home. So I purchased a European style cheesecake at the Kitchener Farmers' Market. (I will note the vendor's name this coming Saturday and post it for those in the Waterloo Region.)

Oh my goodness. Oh my. Oh! It was beyond delicious - creamy, rich, flavourful, absolutely heavenly. My mother and I enjoyed it, small bite by small bite, with nary a word exchanged after the initial oohs and ahhs!

The secret is not in sugar or fake flavours, but rather in the full-fat ingredients. It is fat that makes a meal satisfying, not salt, sugar, or other add-ins. (Do some research and see if I'm not right!)

It got me thinking of resumes, this satisfying nature of a product. (What can I say? My mind finds correlations in the most obscure things!)

I can easily take a three page resume and distill it to a full, savory, filling two pages - without losing necessary information, key words, or context. I know which ingredients satisfy, like fat, and which are nothing but filler fluff.

With this ability, my clients launch successful job searches. See for yourself.

On a side note, the cheesecake transported my mom and me in time, back to the days we lived atop my dad's Queen Street TV store near Niagara Street in Toronto. Now a trendy area, back in the late 1950s it was a transitional ethnic area, full of Ukrainian shop owners, who like my mom and dad, were establishing themselves as Canadians. It was a gift of memory that reminded us of the delicious staples we purchased weekly from Pawych's Meat and Delicatessen. Memories! Yum!


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."

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.

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!

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.

New Year, New Job? 7 Steps to Ease the Way

Our fellow here may be reacting to stepping on the scale after a final New Year's Eve binge! Along with getting healthy after what seems like non-stop indulgence from Hallowe'en on, many folks consider transtitioning to a new job as a goal for the new year.

Or the fellow may be reacting to the thought of looking for a new position, as a job search can be quite daunting. It's a lot of work, takes a whole lot of time, and many are not sure how to begin, where to begin, what the heck to do! Here are 7 steps that will help.

1. Build your network - Actually, it's best if this one is an ongoing career management tactic as beginning networking just as you start a job search is a bit late for much effect. But, with perhaps 40% - 80% of positions not advertised or secured through networking, it's still worth a try.

2. Define your goal - You cannot get to a destination without a goal. As Alice famously said (the Wonderland Alice), "If you don't know where you're going, any road will get you there." You need to know what kind of job you're going after before you can write your resume, for example. There's no such thing as an effective "general" resume. If your resume doesn't immediately proclaim precisely which position your applying to and support your candidacy with a strong overview of why you're a great fit for that position, it's worthless.

3. Update your resume - Before you make any attempt at networking or applying to job postings, tackle your resume's update. Give yourself a challenge: try to make the content, every line of the resume, address the requirements of your job target. The profile, skills, experience, and education must all bring attention to actual or transferable skills, knowledge, and experience. The tighter your target, the less work you'll need to put in to "tweak" your resume and cover letter as you begin applying.

4. Update your LinkedIn - Not everyone must have a LinkedIn. Teachers do not. Nurses don't. But most professionals do. The LinkedIn profile doesn't replace the resume, at least not yet! But it must build on the same "brand" or message found in your resume and cover letter. An optimzed LinkedIn profile can actually attract recruiters/job openings to you! It's well worth the effort.

5. Know what you're worth - Conduct salary research to be prepared in case you're asked about salary. If the job posting asks you to state your salary expectations, you should do so.

6. Manage your online reputation - Every few months, conduct an internet search on yourself to ensure there is no "digital dirt" hiding in plain sight. Last statistic I read suggested that at least 90% of recruiters conduct such searches of the short listed candidates before selecting interviewees. Don't be out of the running because of a dumb Facebook post or nasty internet comment you forgot to delete.

7. Create an ideal target - Along with knowing the position you're aiming for, it's best to create a target list of companies you'd like to work for. Do you prefer established or start ups? Procedure- or creativity-driven? Traditional or fun environments? Will you commute or not? Does the company need to be green, ethical, have a community responsibility vibe?

This step will eliminate the work of applying to too many openings! Remember, it's a lot of work to apply to job postings; narrowing overly-wide options is a great time saver. Spend your time customizing each resume and cover to positions you want in companies you admire.

And there you go! You're all ready to launch your search. If you need more help, consider engaging a professional service to further ease your way into a new job, doing what you love, in a company you admire, and earning what you know you're worth! Happy New Year to all!

p.s. pop the phrase "applicant tracking system" into the search window to the right to make sure your resume is meeting these requirements"

Transparency in Recruitment

Every once in a while the question pops up of how much do you tell, what do you tell, when in the recruitment process. I was reminded of one such example recently.

I had submitted one of my resumes for inclusion in an online training course, Career Thought Leaders' E-summit titled, "Expanding Your Horizons: Writing for International Audiences." The resume I shared was accepted and I was asked to speak to the audience of international resume writers on behalf of Canadian resume norms.

My client's resume and cover letter earned him an interview. And although his situation isn't my best example of being open and transparent (that's coming up next), it does offer a peek into how to address a potential obstacle to hire.

Moving from Canada's west coast to Dubai, after almost two decades in Canada, could be a hurdle for a mid-level manager. I addressed it right up front in the first paragraph of the cover letter, as so:

It is exciting to think of returning to Dubai where I worked for 20 years, and where I learned to speak and write Arabic. At that time, I built relationships and grew business as a Sales Executive; now I would prevent and mitigate risk, and safeguard reputation and assets as a Health and Safety Manager with (name of the company).

Immediately the recruiter knows many powerful details, such as the client's eagerness to return, his many years of local experience, and his ability to speak the local language (he is not native to the region).

But the stronger example was this: I had a young client with brain damage. His mother hired me to create a resume for him in application to an entry level job in a municipality. I addressed the issue of brain damage in the cover letter. My reasoning was this: the issue would be apparent in an interview and some accommodation might be needed; it did not make sense to delay sharing this detail.

I am pleased to submit my application for the position of (insert title) with (insert municipality name). With 2 years of relevant experience, during which I have learned to complete each of the tasks required for this position, and during which I earned a reputation for hard work and reliability, I know that I am qualified. My experience also demonstrates that although I have minor brain injury from a car accident, it has not had a negative impact on my abilities to get the work done.

Not only did this client land an interview, but he also landed a job offer. His parents are thrilled, of course, as anxiety over their son's future is relieved.

But, I've also had clients where I have not shared details. Like one fellow who suffered intense depression following his father's unexpected death. Mental health issues are not always relevant, nor do the situations require accommodations, nor do they impact the work at hand.

In this client's case, I was able to cover his two-year sabbatical in another way, while remaining truthful to his experience. Luckily, how he spent his time was actually related to his job search skills.

If you're not sure how to handle a "sticky" situation, working with a professional can be helpful.


Exciting News to Share

September was an excellent month for recognition of my work, and I would love to share the two stories with you.

I have belonged to Career Professionals of Canada since 2007. As a fledgling writer, in my very first year as a full time, self-employed resume strategist, I was recognized with four awards - three for resume categories and one for professional contributions. Although I skipped a few years, not submitting any resumes for adjudication, since that time, I have earned another five awards for both resumes and employment interview coaching.

This year I once again won the best technical resume category. I am grateful for having my work recognized.


The second story again begins in 2007 when I submitted a technical resume to an opportunity to have a resume included in a soon to be published U.S. book, "Directory of Professional Resume Writers" (published by JIST Works and written and compiled by Louise Kursmark). Still a newbie, I fought with myself for a few days, alternating arguments of  "who do you think you are?" with "if you don't try you won't know." Thankfully the optimistic voice won out and my sample was accepted as one of only 40 or so resumes in the book

Since that time, Louise and Wendy Enelow, who often partner on projects, have been the source of more opportunities. I've had my resume samples included in their training packages and had a resume included in their first major publication, Modernize Your Resume (early 2016).

Early last week I learned that three of my cover letters were accepted into their next publication, Modernize Your Job Search Letters, due out in December. Here's part of the email content:

We are delighted to tell you that we’ve chosen to feature your work in our upcoming book, MODERNIZE YOUR JOB SEARCH LETTERS: Get Noticed … Get Hired.

Our decision was not easy because we received about 4X the number of letters we could publish! We made our selections based on your creative approach, powerful language, and spot-on strategy for the letter(s) that we will be featuring.

I have to admit that the recognition is important to me. I love to write and I am thrilled that my work  significantly impacts my clients' job searches.

Along with hearing back from clients with individual success stories, the recognition from impartial sources, industry leaders, also validates my efforts, reassuring me that my ongoing training - reading, self-study, webinars, conferences - is well worth it.

Thank you for letting me share! With gratitude, Stephanie

Interview Follies

I've heard it said that the job search is a numbers game. I believe it was Tony Beshara in the Job Search Solution.

It's not enough to send one resume; you must send many. You can't count your success just because you are prepping for two interviews; you must keep applying, as a recent client confided.

My client emailed: "

Wrapped up my interviews (whew). I did well but not sure that I am what they are looking for. One job isn't what they advertised (they are basically looking for a graphic designer) and the other, well the manager who interviewed me was totally disorganised, and made it pretty clear that i wasn't what she was looking for but she wanted to meet me (and then proceeded to read through my resume and writing samples while I sat there)."

I cannot justify why a job posting would claim the department is looking for a Manager of Digital Marketing when the team needs a graphic designer. It doesn't make sense from any point of view.

The second scenario I can explain to some degree. Perhaps there were few good candidates and the recruiter expanded the parameters so that at least five or so candidates could be interviewed. It's a bit of a "job security" strategy.

Sure it's not fair, but it's reality. And hey, it gave my client an opportunity to practice her interview skills (once the manager read through her submission).

It's a similar case with resumes. Not all land in bonafide opportunities. Some jobs are already pegged for an internal (or external) candidate, but to meet corporate policy, the recruitment process must be adhered to. Other job postings are ongoing recruitments for job pools or positions with exceptional turnover; you might hear in six months and you might not hear at all. Others may be "fishing expeditions" by companies who want to see what kind of talent exists out there.

Such is the way of recruitment. Unless you want to don a cape and take on the role of crusading for reform, there's no point in getting upset. Remember that recruitment is a numbers game and keep on going!

Of course, if you are not landing any interviews at all, perhaps you need a champion in your corner. If so, New Leaf would be honoured to work on your behalf.

The value of keeping your resume up-to-date

I am currently working with a digital marketing professional. She contacted me about a month ago. We've been taking our time with her resume, cover letter, and LinkedIn profile as she wasn't expecting to begin her job search for awhile yet.

You probably see where this story is going. Yesterday Joanne, as I'll name her, emailed that in a downsizing exercise, she was one of several to be let go.

With a new career portfolio well under way to completion - we're just finalizing tweaks - Joanne can skip the panic associated with updating an outdated resume, without which networking or a job hunt cannot begin.

Did you know that September is International Update Your Resume Month?

I've had other, potential clients, who contacted me a day or two before the close of their dream job posting, which they'd just noted online, panicked to get something together so as not to lose the opportunity.

Given that I prebook, sometimes up to two months in advance (and other times able to take a new client immediately - there's no predictability in resume writing), that quick a turnaround is impossible.

It's also impossible as quality work takes time. Gathering the information and composing a strategic resume, and other self-marketing documents, is perhaps equal parts analytical and creative efforts. I won't charge good money for a slap-dash, mediocre effort, and thus I have to turn them away.

Here is a list to get you started on your resume update, as per my own list of potentail sources of great resume, cover letter, and LinkedIn profile content.

- performance reviews

- talent, skills, personality, leadership, 360 feedback, and other assessments

- emails of thanks, awards of recognition, informal "attaboy/attagirl" corporate motivation strategies

- job postings: existing and new job prospects

- your "brag" or "me" professional file that hopefully you are compiling on a regular  basis

In addition, I often request that clients complete a homework questionnaire. (This helps me build the resume, but also prepares the client for a job interview.)

That's the list of documents my clients share with me before I begin working with them. And after I review their documents, I prepare more questions and conduct an intake interview that takes from 45 minutes to 1.5 hours.

I ask questions until I have the details that I know I can spin into gold on their behalf. No lying, no exaggeration, no embelishment, just an objective perspective and an expert's eye on how to showcase each client's skills in action.

How's your resume these days? Outdated, not touched in 10 years, lost in a computer crash, still on paper? Don't wait and risk applying to your dream job with a sad, neglected resume that gets you nowhere rather than a strong, competition-busting resume that lands you an interview, get on it now.

After all, your earnings, pride, family security, comfort, and happiness are often tightly linked to your career.

If you need help, give me a shout! Email me at



Military Transition Resume Strategy

Over the last few years I have written a number of resumes for people planning to transition from military to civilian careers.

It's not an easy change if you think about it. No more uniforms or numerous ranks, different expectations, and fewer training opportunities, at least not at the standard offered by the Canadian military. (As a learning "junkie," I admit I am envious of the quality and quantity of training one can pursue with the military.)

There's also the issue of jargon. Military resumes are almost incomprehensible to civilians, as from rank to duties, a military career is steeped in a language all its own.

In a recent  overhaul of a military to civilian resume, I stripped away words such as heavy machine gunner, combat tour, heavy enemy engagement, private, corporal, battalion, platoon, regiment, warrant officer, and others. But I did leave terms that were relevant to my client's intended job goal in security - safe weapons handling and maintenance, radio communications, conducted operations, and patrolling. I also added a great deal more, selecting jargon, or terminology, appropriate to civilian security duties.

I changed the language to make sure the resume does not bamboozle the recruiter, translating into plain language for readability and sale-ability. I could hardly "sell" my client into a new role with words alien to the reader's comprehension.

It's a delicate balance, keeping info real yet understandable.

My strategies also include finding title equivalences. For example, I helped the recruiter understand my client's title like this:

Manager-equivalent (Master Corporal)

And under the title I offered proof of management level accountability, selecting what defined his role with information that sells him into his preferred, advanced role in security.

Creating a resume's strategy can be a challenge, especially in a major career transition!

Resume content that is concise, tight, yet influential

Recently I worked with a senior manager of operations and business intelligence employed by a large national company. I'll name him Ernesto.

98% of the time I partner with a client to build a resume from scratch, and support the resume with a strategic cover letter and LinkedIn profile.

Ernesto's project was unusual in that his existing resume was "decent" and he needed only a resume and for one purpose: to apply to an internal directorship at the urging of a VP, also Ernesto's former boss.

My client recognized that although he had been asked to apply, which although a good sign is no guarantee. In the VP's words "I cannot guarantee your selection as two other excellent candidates have applied."

Ernesto came to me to ensure that his submission was as strong as it could possibly be and to get some insight into interview strategies: he was determined to excel in each recruitment step.

Although I thought at first I would only be "tweaking" his resume, I did end up rewriting it, top to bottom. (The only section I did not change was the educational one.)

I wish I could show you precisely what I did! As I cannot, for confidentiality purposes of course, here are a few highlights:

- shortened it considerably - the original scrolled onto a third page and had tight margins. I expanded the margins and ensured the resume was two pages as another page was not needed or justifiable.

- rewrote the profile or summary - the original was 104 words on 10 consecutive lines, whereas my rewrite is 72 words presented in three, 2-line paragraphs. Although shorter, its impact is far stronger. Rather than focus on a synopsis of his roles, I created a branding statement. And by leveraging my own love of words, and inspired by Ernesto's description of his work (I sent him a list of specific questions to reply to), I found fresh language to replace several rather typical phrases.

- injected leadership language - for example: business-critical, reversed historically poor resutls, maximized resources, piloted shift and subsequently rolled out new method, and so on, which replaced ho-hum language such as "built, led, developed, delivered, prepared."

- shortened "additional interests" section - (which could also have been eliminated if space was needed), eliminating references to religion-affiliated volunteering as religion and politics are seldom required in a resume. (I have written resumes for clergy and for those whose careers revolve around a particular political party, where obvioulsy related details are needed!)

The final difference is that I created and supported a professional "brand." Ernesto has incredible analytical skills, far above the norm; he has the ability to gather information, listen to concerns, and serve as an objective mediator; and he reliably models and coaches not only skills but a collaborative spirit. The projects in which he is involved benefit greatly from his involvement.

I'm excited to see how Ernesto's career evolves; certainly he is now well poised to climb his preferred career ladder.