Yes, 2012 is starting the wind-down. However, I think resume advice for 2012 is still a good topic. For one thing, with probably few changes, you can reposition the resume tips for 2013! Some of what you will see below should be just commonsense, but if you have not considered these points recently, the refresher might be timely .
Resume Advice: What Experts Say
I should probably qualify the term “experts.” From my perspective, this refers to individuals who are dedicated professionals in their field. That includes professional resume writers and hiring managers who have a clear understanding of what they need to see from candidates. It does not include “hobbyists”; that is, people who write resumes with little or no training and just as little understanding of what it takes for job seekers to capture the right attention from targeted companies. Of course, I’m biased; not only have I been writing resumes professionally since 1993, but also I belong to 3 professional associations whose members are committed to providing exceptional assistance to the individuals they work with. I’ve seen what many of them can do, and they have my highest respect.
For a basic but useful look at resume advice for 2012, you can’t go wrong by reading “7 Things Every Resume Needs In 2012” by my colleague Miriam Salpeter. Here’s one part I particularly liked:
“Age discrimination, unfortunately, is a fact of life for experienced job seekers. However, there is more you can do to make yourself seem modern, relevant, and qualified for the jobs you want than simply dying your hair or updating your wardrobe. One key to job search success: an up-to-date, contemporary resume that doesn’t make the reader assume you last applied for a job in 1995.
Here are some tips to help you create a resume an employer will appreciate: Include links in your contact information. Include links to social media profiles (such as your LinkedIn URL) in your resume’s contact information. If you use other social media tools professionally (such as Twitter or Facebook), include that information as well. Simply listing these will help someone reading your resume picture you as a candidate who is keeping up with modern communication tools. Use a professional email that doesn’t reference your age or family status. (For example, avoid “firstname.lastname@example.org” or “email@example.com.)”
Other Resume Advice to Ponder
- Address employer needs: Does your resume reflect an understanding of the needs of the employers–assuming, of course, that you have the kind of background and skills they need? If not, you have some work to do. Identify and articulate critical areas in which you can add value that speak to the most important needs those organizations have.
- Limit the length of your resume: If that means only one page, regardless of the situation, I have a problem with it. True, conciseness is increasingly perceived as desirable–especially if people will be reading your resume on their smart phone or similar device. However, conciseness without careful attention to the value and impact of the content is worse than meaningless. It can damage your chances for consideration.
- Put your photo on your resume to personalize it, or use a video to show employers what you can do: For the most part, we still say that you should skip the photo if you’re not in a field such as entertainment. I also have reservations about using video (because of the possibility of discrimination). However, if you do decide to give it a shot, make sure you do it with professional quality.
I could mention numerous other pieces of advice, but you can Google “resume advice for 2012″ and get a bunch of links to check out. Just remember to read with a slightly skeptical mind about any sweeping claims made.
You might understand that your resume becomes part of the hiring process as soon as you start submitting it to prospective employers for positions you know they have open. However, you might not realize some of the ins and outs of how recruiters and hiring managers deal with your resume as part of their hiring process. I believe any insights you can get into that could prove useful in conducting a successful job search. That’s why I particularly enjoyed reading a new article by Dr. John Sullivan, “What’s Wrong with Using Resumes for Hiring? Pretty Much Everything.”
Problems regarding resumes and the hiring process
I’ve read a number of articles by Dr. Sullivan, and I don’t always agree with everything he says, but this article makes a lot of good points, so I highly recommend reading the whole thing (I can only touch on a few high spots in this post). Sullivan lists 30 problems and divides them into 5 categories:
- Top 5 factors that most negatively impact the quality of hire.
- Content-related resume problems.
- Non-job-related factors that could impact the quality of the submitted resume.
- Format-related resume problems.
- Problems with the typical resume assessment/screening process.
Job seekers’ perspective on resumes and the hiring process
Sullivan’s articles are generally written from the perspective of HR/recruiting professionals, but he does sometimes include points that can be useful to you as a job seeker. For example, in this article he mentions the following:
“Resumes do not include information on all of the key assessment criteria – candidates are generally assessed on four criteria: 1) are they qualified? 2) are they available? 3) are they interested? and 4) do they fit? Because most resumes are really simply job histories, they thus only address the first criterion … are they qualified?….If you ask candidates a simple question — Does your resume accurately reflect what you are capable of doing? – the answer is almost always no.”
My comment here is that your resume absolutely should not be just a “job history” and absolutely should reflect, to the greatest extent possible and reasonable, “what you are capable of doing” for the prospective employer. Otherwise, it will probably make you sound like all the other applicants who are pursuing that position. Standing out from the competition as a highly qualified and potentially valuable candidate is what it’s all about! If you’re simply #499 in a line of 500 applicants, why should the company want to consider you?
And here’s another critical point: “The candidate’s job results may be impossible to verify — many candidates fail to include the results and quantify their accomplishments, making the quality of their work difficult to assess. Others include results and numbers that may be exaggerated. Unfortunately, in most cases it is simply impossible for the resume reader to verify the accuracy of these numbers.”
What can you do about that? Possibly several things, but especially these:
- Use only facts (statistics, etc.) you are comfortable discussing in an interview. That means, for starters, that you know you achieved those results and can speak about them confidently. Also, you’ve presented them in a way that doesn’t violate the company’s confidentiality rights.
- Stick to the facts and provide solid support that indicates their validity, even if you can’t provide all the details in the resume. Whenever possible, use facts that can probably be verified in some way.
- If you can, use independent, third-party testimonials and verification in your resume. For example, a short quote from a senior manager or someone else with clear relevance to the situation can make a point that it’s hard for you to make on your own behalf. You don’t necessarily even need to use the person’s name, but his/her title (position) should be noted.
Again, I encourage you to read Sullivan’s entire article. It’s worth the few minutes it will take.
In a recent post on job search tools–specifically, TagCrowd–I promised the next post would cover Preptel as a job search tool. To be brief, life got in the way! However, from my preliminary research, I think Preptel is a tool you might want to investigate. It might help you cope with the aggravating trend toward forcing job seekers to fit their resumes into the ATS (applicant tracking system) mode if they want to avoid being prematurely ruled out by employers, so this post is a quick look at what Preptel is and does.
What Preptel Offers to Job Seekers
Preptel is a company that “provides Candidate Optimization services to improve a candidate’s chances of getting an interview and securing an offer.” [Quoted from their website.] The actual name for their Resume Optimization service is Resumeter(TM). It offers you help in customizing your resume to increase its odds of being reviewed and considered for an interview. Among other things, it can highlight errors and areas that could stand improvement in order to meet the specifications of the employer’s system.
The company’s Interview Guides give you a detailed analysis of how you stack up compared with other people who are applying for the same position as you are. It ranks your strengths and weaknesses in 7 major categories, including education, work experience and industry experience. Since I haven’t tried it out myself, I’m not sure how they access information about the people are who are competing against you, but I imagine that’s covered somewhere in their information that I haven’t read yet. In any case, it seems like a potentially useful concept.
Why You Might Want to Try Preptel as a Job Search Tool
According to the company, “job candidates have less than a 2% chance of getting an interview. Preptel is the first technology company to focus on improving a candidate’s chances by providing proven solutions to help a candidate be positioned for each job.” That’s essentially typical marketing verbiage, but it basically says you could be up against some stiff odds in trying to land an interview and they might be able to offer a useful option for improving your odds.
The good news is, you can check out their free trial and decide whether you think the service is worth hanging onto. If so, you’ll pay about $25 for one month or $50 for three months. It’s hard to see how you could go very far wrong with this arrangement.
A Word of Caution about This Job Search Tool
This cautionary note doesn’t necessarily just apply to Preptel. The key point is that you must have a specific job opportunity in mind for Preptel to evaluate your resume against it and against your competition. If you’ve designed your resume to fit a number of opportunities in a job field you’re interested in, the postings for the jobs might contain at least some elements that are different from each other. I assume that means you’d need to make changes in the resume to fit each specific job opportunity. Depending on your circumstances, though, you might figure it’s worth the trouble. Like many other situations, the final decision rests with you and what you think makes sense.
Should you leave your home address off your resume? This question has a variety of answers, depending on the circumstances and whom you ask. Some key issues include privacy, protection from identity theft, and trying to avoid premature rejection by employers.
Resumes: Privacy and Protection from Identity Theft
The privacy issue includes ideas such as not letting people know where you actually live when you’re sending your resume out into the world, presumably since all kinds of people will be seeing it and could make note of your address for purposes of their own. Personally, I think the likelihood of this happening is fairly remote, but I can’t say it would never happen.
On the other hand, protection from identity theft has become a serious issue in recent years. It’s something that can cause devastating problems for you through no fault of your own. For that reason, it would seem a reasonable precaution to avoid displaying your complete home address on your resume. When an employer becomes genuinely interested in hiring you, providing the address becomes a non-issue.
One possible alternative that I believe makes good sense is to list the city, state and ZIP code, without the physical street address. Another way to deal with this involves renting a mailbox that doesn’t look on the face of it like a mailbox address.
Resumes: Avoiding Premature Rejection by Employers
Sometimes employers set up screening procedures that look for candidates living—or not living—in certain areas. For example, they might be biased against people living in other geographical areas for fear they’ll be asked to pay for relocation or because they want someone who is well versed in the local culture and has local contacts. However, companies might have other reasons for using your resume’s lack of location information or inclusion of certain information against you.
The following are some points recently shared by one of my professional colleagues, Robin Schlinger, who is located in Georgia:
- If you eliminate the entire address and the client is applying for jobs in Georgia, they most likely will not be considered for the job, unless the client has really unusual, highly technical skills that are in demand.
- In Atlanta, it is not good enough just to live in/close to Atlanta. Due to transportation issues, people need to live in the right ZIP codes to get an offer.
- Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) check addresses or ZIP codes for proximity and will reject applications from applicants who do not fit the geographical profile.
Robin recommends that the resume indicate your mailing address if you’re not interested in relocation and that you rent a mailbox at a UPS store or other mailbox store in the general ZIP code area where you are looking for a job. You can also arrange to list the local address of a friend or relative, with his/her permission, and you can get a local cell phone number. Of course, with the current portability of phone numbers, an area code is no longer quite the location give-away it once was.
Be aware, however, that if you are currently working in, say, Texas and want to land a job in California, your resume is going to show a geographical discrepancy regardless of whether or not you include any location information in the contact section at the top.
First, I should state that as a professional resume writer, I could be considered biased. After all, if everyone wrote his or her own resume, people like me would be looking for another way to make a living. That would be a shame, because I love what I do–love working with clients to help them market themselves to employers effectively and love seeing or hearing their reaction when they get positive results. Having said that, I’m going to touch on three points that are often brought up by people who advise job seekers to do their own resumes.
#1: You Know Yourself Best–Write Your Own Resume
Claim: “You should write your own resume because no one else knows you the way you know yourself.”
The implication is that you have the best inside information and an outsider couldn’t possibly get to know you well enough to represent you effectively in a resume.
Fact: While it’s true that you probably know yourself in many ways better than someone else would or could, writing your resume requires understanding what’s needed to present you as a desirable candidate to employers. It can be very helpful to have someone who has a sense of perspective and isn’t so close to the situation–someone who also makes an effort to keep up on the job market trends and opportunities, challenges, etc.
#2: You Don’t Need Someone Else to Write Your Resume
Claim: “You can do at least a good job as the people who are representing themselves as professional resume writers. It’s not that hard to write a resume.”
Fact: Not everyone is a good writer, and you might be one of those not-so-great writers when it comes to doing your own resume. How good are your general writing skills, and how much do you know about the difference between resume writing and other kinds of writing? I used to teach English, but that wouldn’t necessarily make me a good resume writer. I’ve taken a lot of training from experts and maintain active involvement in professional associations to help me stay on top of things in my profession. Do you have the time, money and desire to do that?
#3: You’ll Be Wasting Your Money Hiring a Resume Writer
Claim: “Professional resume writers charge a lot of money and don’t do anything for you that you can’t do for yourself.” That’s one common claim. There’s also often the underlying, if not actually stated, view that resume writers as a whole are just out to get people’s money and don’t really provide any value in return.
Fact: Resume writing is like most, if not all, professions–the quality of people engaged in it can vary from charlatans to part-time hobbyists to highly skilled professionals to seriously great resume writers. I like to think of myself as belonging in the highly skilled category, but I aspire to join the seriously-great category one of these days. The people I know who are already in it are my mentors and my inspiration because they work amazingly hard to make sure they deliver the highest-quality results for their clients and have established very successful careers doing that. As if that weren’t enough, they give back to our profession in incredibly generous ways.
What does this mean to you? By all means write your own resume if you’re sure you can do justice to it and know how best to use it once you have it finished. No truly professional resume writer would urge you to do otherwise. However, if you’re not sure how well you can do it or if you try and it’s not producing the results it should, at least consider having help from a professional. Then choose one wisely.
P.S. If I can’t help someone who contacts me, for whatever reason (maybe he/she can’t afford me or we’re just not a good fit to work together), I will try to refer that person to someone who can.
Those of us who write resumes often like to use the concept of core competencies–possibly as a keyword-rich section of its own, maybe woven into the thread of the resume through concrete examples of the competencies, or in numerous other ways. I’ve certainly done this with my clients’ resumes many times over the years, and I thought I was pretty conversant with what the concept involved. That was before I got curious and started researching the topic a bit more. If you’ve been in the habit of including your core competencies in documents (resumes or otherwise), you might be interested in some of what I discovered.
Defining Your Core Competencies
To define your core competencies for prospective employers as part of your job search campaign, you should probably begin by understanding how the concept started. According to research source Wikipedia, the idea of core competencies is part of a management theory that originated with two business-book writers named Prahalad and Hamel, who defined a core competency as “a specific factor that a business sees as being central to the way it, or its employees, works.” What? This concept refers primarily to a business? And you thought it referred to something you’re particularly good at and want to offer to employers!
Here’s a bit more from the Wikipedia entry that might seem as if it’s more about companies than about you (bear with me on this for a few moments). The competency has to meet three main criteria:
- Has to be hard for competitors to imitate
- Can be leveraged to a lot of products and markets
- Has to contribute to benefits experienced by end-consumers
Where do you fit in? If you look carefully at the above points, it becomes clear that they can apply to employees or job seekers just as well as they can to companies. Your core competencies need to center around factors that are in some way unique to you. They should also be something that most if not all of your competitors can’t quite match, should be potentially useful in many different situations and environments, and need to deliver clear benefits to those who receive your services–your employer, its customers and so on.
So Where’s the Value in Your Core Competencies?
Just listing a bunch of fairly generic terms in a core competencies section on your resume will not communicate the value. For instance, you might believe your competencies include business acumen, customer relationship building, problem solving, and a number of other items. However, each of those can be applied equally well to many other job seekers or currently employed individuals. Unless you can add something that sets you apart, the list is basically meaningless. Just as an example, take “problem solving.” What if you can truthfully say you solve serious, longstanding problems that previous efforts have not overcome? Now we’re getting somewhere! You’ve done something that others haven’t been able to do and that the company really needed. (By the way, don’t go negative on this and start pointing fingers at those who made the previous failed attempts!)
What this means, when boiled down, is that your core competencies aren’t really worth mentioning unless they add clear value. Your resume and any other communication vehicles you use in your job search must take that into account. Otherwise, all you have is a laundry list, and employers don’t hire laundry-list employees.