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 “email@example.com” or “firstname.lastname@example.org.)”
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.
Years ago you could count on your job search having a beginning, a middle and an ending, just like a good fairy tale. At the conclusion of a job search, you would put all your energy and attention into succeeding in your new job. That would be pretty much it until the next time you were ready to make a change. Not any more. Continuous job search is becoming more the norm than it was in the past.
Active versus Passive Job Seekers
Traditionally, job seekers have been divided into those who are diligently looking for a new opportunity and those who are open to the idea but have done little if anything to promote themselves in the eyes of potential employers. A third category is employed individuals who aren’t particularly interested in making a change because they’re happy to stay where they are. If you’re in that category, you probably don’t even consider yourself a job seeker. However, that doesn’t mean you might not be in the near future, either because of a shift in your outlook or because you’re driven to it by a change in your circumstances.
For example, your employment situation might appear to be stable; you’re well compensated and have interesting work to perform, as well as enjoyable colleagues and a good boss. In that case, you aren’t likely to consider a job search in the foreseeable future. The operative word, however, is “foreseeable.” Suddenly you learn that your company is the target of an aggressive acquisition attempt by a competitor. Realistically, you know your secure job is at least now more questionable than it was, and you feel a need to move from not being a job seeker at all to at least becoming a passive job seeker.
Continuous Job Search is Common
I receive a newsletter published periodically by Express Employment Professionals. In their September/October issue, I read the following: “According to a study by CareerBuilder and Inavero…, 69% of full-time employees are regularly looking for new job opportunities, while 30% job hunt on a weekly basis. With the digital world at our fingertips, it is difficult to distinguish between an active or passive job seeker. 74% of workers find new job opportunities online, 68% come across them through traditional networking, and 67% through job boards. Most employees come across job openings on a regular basis and have no problem looking into new opportunities.” (Staffingindustry.com – Oct. 10, 2012)
Are you among that 69% who are keeping an eye out for new opportunities or maybe among the 30% who maintain their job search on a weekly schedule? Even the smaller of those two groups represents a lot of job seekers contemplating a move and taking steps toward it; the larger group includes over 2/3 of potential job seekers.
Why Maintain a Continuous Job Search
Whether you like it or not–and many of us don’t–you can find yourself in need of a job change (and, as noted above, sometimes when you least expect it). The savvy, career-minded employee (at whatever level–newbie to senior executive) knows it’s a smart idea to take appropriate action before a crisis erupts, rather than waiting until it hits. If you have a well-thought-out career management plan, with actions to take on a more or less scheduled basis, you’re almost certainly going to be miles ahead of those who don’t exercise that kind of forethought. Staying in fairly continuous job search mode could be your ticket on the bullet train while your competitors are stuck on the milk-train with frequent stops or on the broken-down train that’s stalled on the tracks.
Where would you rather be?
Whether you call them staffing services, employment services or something else, does the use of staffing services in your job search make good sense?
That depends (you knew I was going to say that, right?). In some circumstances, such agencies can be a useful tool when used in conjunction with other, stronger job search techniques. At other times, they can provide more frustration and aggravation than you want to deal with. It might be helpful to take a brief look at what staffing services are and what they do or do not do for job seekers.
What are Staffing Services?
There are at least two types of staffing services, employment services, or whatever term you choose (I use them interchangeably): direct placement and temp or temp-to-hire services. (The latter used to be called temp-to-perm, but I don’t think anyone uses the term “permanent” in relation to employment any more.) They have a lot in common, and for my purposes I’m treating them both the same here. These services do want to place candidates in positions with companies–that’s how they make their money. Consequently you might think your staffing service rep is highly motivated to find you a great opportunity and will work closely with you to achieve that goal. Well, not necessarily.
First, it’s important to understand that employment services don’t make any money until they place someone in a job or temp assignment. They take a pragmatic approach to that, which generally means getting someone into a slot–maybe any slot–as soon as possible while meeting their agency’s revenue objectives.
Second, you need to be aware that you are part of a numbers game and will rarely, if ever, get really close, specialized attention from a staffing representative. You’re not the only candidate he or she is trying to place somewhere.
A Place for Staffing Services in Your Job Search
Although it might sound as if I’m knocking staffing services and their employees, I’m not doing that across the board. I’ve had resume-writing clients in the past who worked for employment services and were dedicated, hard-working people with strong integrity. However, they often didn’t stay with a company any longer than they had to in order to find a better one, because there were so many agencies that rated candidates much lower on the scale than volume and profit. Like any sales person, those clients had quotas to meet, and they were usually expected to do whatever it took to fill their quotas.
What you most need to know about using staffing services in your job search is that they can be worth including if you don’t spend an inordinate amount of time “chasing” them, jumping through hoops for them, or expecting your rep to aggressively pursue an opportunity you either have interviewed for or are hoping to interview for in the near future. If they present you with a good job opportunity you wouldn’t have known about otherwise, you owe it to yourself to spend a reasonable amount of time and effort in pursuing that opportunity. Just understand that it’s their job to sound enthusiastic and get candidates pumped-up about possibilities, but it’s your job to hold realistic expectations about the results the enthusiasm can and will produce.
In other words, don’t let involving staffing services in your job search negatively affect the time and energy you put into more significant areas of that search. Networking and other active job search tools, including diligent research into companies and opportunities that aren’t available through staffing services, still represent your best bet for conducting an effective job search–one that produces a desirable job in the least possible amount of time.
In reality, hindsight might be the only career management “vision” that is 20-20; however, hindsight is not the best career management tool. It can give you insight into mistakes you have made in your career management, which is potentially useful after the fact, but heavy reliance on it will put you seriously behind the curve in terms of making wise and successful career moves. Hindsight is re-active; 20-20 career management is pro-active. It doesn’t take a genius to see that 20-20 career management offers many more benefits.
What Smart Career Management Can Do for You
Although you might not be able to make your career management planning and execution truly 20-20, you can take a number of steps that bring you much closer to that goal. Just to name a few:
- Realize that you don’t need to and shouldn’t try to “go it alone.” Smart career management recognizes that seeking out a variety of experts and other valuable resources maximizes your time and expertise. Others might well see red flags you miss and alert you in time to take corrective action.
- Keep your periscope up when you’re under water, so you can spot trouble looming on the horizon. In other words, even if you’re swamped with work or otherwise preoccupied with things you have to accomplish, you can’t afford to relax your watchfulness about what is going on around (and above) you.
- Think strategically and long-range, not just short-term. Although your situation might appear smooth and satisfactory right now, you don’t want to assume it will continue that way indefinitely–or even that it really is as smooth and satisfactory as it seems. Alertness and contingency planning are your friends.
- Focus on building and increasing your value to employers (current and potential) every day, in nearly everything you do as a professional. What is “good enough” today might fall short tomorrow, and although you can’t anticipate with certainty the events tomorrow will bring, you can do your utmost to ensure that you are as ready as a human being can be to make the most of it–make it work to your advantage.
Evaluate Your Career Management Periodically
Career management planning resembles trying to hit a moving target. Smart career managers (whether active or inactive job seekers) know that they can’t coast on past successes and/or count on serendipitous happenings in the future. However, they focus keen attention on what they reasonably can count on and do something constructive about, as well as preparing for what they can’t foresee. This means they evaluate their situation periodically (every year at a minimum; every 6 months or so is better) and try to determine whether any significant factors have changed or seem likely to change in the coming months.
It’s important to adopt this approach not only within your organization but also with regard to events and conditions outside your company, your industry, your geographical location, etc., etc., etc. In some horse races, the horses wear blinders to keep them from being distracted by what’s happening near them. Your career management, however, is not a horse race!
If you receive periodic performance reviews from your current employer–or have received them in the past from former employers–are you using them as a job search tool? If not, you might be missing a good bet!
Of course, if all the reviews do is say you are “9 out of 10″ or “4 out of 5″ or something else equally vague, they might not be very useful. However, in the cases where your manager has actually provided thoughtful, pertinent feedback and comments on your performance, the review can serve as a potentially valuable job search tool.
Savvy job seekers know they cannot afford to overlook this tool if they want to conduct an effective job search and land a desirable position. I might have touched on this topic before, but as with many other things, it could stand repeating, especially if you’ve been overlooking the potential benefits of “mining” your reviews for useful information.
Value of Performance Reviews in a Job Search
Well-written (or even decently written) performance reviews offer several potential value points, including the following:
- Independent third-party validation of your contributions and accomplishments, rather than you talking about yourself.
- Reminders of value you contributed that you have since forgotten about or didn’t realize was especially important.
- Alternative to letters of recommendation you can’t get for one reason or another, either because you’ve lost touch with the person or because the company prohibits them from writing such letters.
Suppose, for example, you made a herculean effort that was largely responsible for getting a critical project back on track, which ensured on-time completion. Saying that about yourself could sound immodest at best and much like arrogant bragging at worst. On the other hand, imagine the effect if your manager wrote in your review, “Jean dedicated a huge amount of time and energy to overcoming a tough problem and getting project XYZ back on schedule. That meant we were able to finish on time and satisfy a key customer.”
See the difference? You can share this comment in an interview or even perhaps quote it briefly in your resume or cover letter. It gives concreteness to your statements about the value you can bring to the prospective employer.
What Performance Reviews Can’t Do for Your Job Search
Realistically, you can’t share your all of your reviews (or even all of one review) with prospective employers. For one thing, it’s likely that some of the information would be considered company-confidential or proprietary. So you need to be selective and conservative in what you use and how you word it. You also can’t–or at least shouldn’t–embellish the details provided in the review. If, for example, your boss told you privately that you had outperformed everyone on the team but didn’t put a statement to that effect in your review, you have to let that one slide. Not only could it sound like bragging but also you can’t support it with proof.
What If You Don’t Have Performance Reviews?
Let’s assume you work for (or have worked for) unenlightened employers that don’t conduct any formal evaluation of their employees’ performance. However, you might have received–or have ways of documenting–written confirmation of something you’ve done that was valuable to the company. Maybe it was in the form of a memo or email, for instance. Keep a copy of that in your file (which should be retained at home, not solely in your work space). You never know when it might come in handy.
Also, keep at least a rough log of things you’ve accomplished that you believe were valuable; it’s useful as a memory jogger, if nothing else.
P.S. I’ve been absent from this blog recently because for two weeks I had to operate my business on a backup laptop computer after my PC “died.” I maintained a degree of functionality that way, but it’s not something I want to repeat any time soon! Fortunately, we had just done a complete backup of my files (I hope you do that for yourself, as well), so I didn’t lose key data, but it was still a productivity hit. I am delighted to be “PC-functional” again!
Salary questions are probably one of the biggest concerns I hear from clients and potential clients (with benefits being a related issue). Two sides of the coin could be involved: (1) the salary history and/or salary expectations of the job seeker; (2) what the company will probably pay and how to get an idea of what that amount (or range) might be. I always recommend that job seekers do their research to find out things like what the going rate/range would be for someone in their field, with their experience, at their level, in the geographic region, and so on.
One reason you should do this, of course, is so you will have at least a sense of what is potentially available to you, but also so you can compare your background with the general group of job seekers who might be similar to you and develop some insights into your probable salary range before starting a serious job search.
However, a big “nut to crack” is the part about getting employers to divulge useful information about the salary range before you jump into the interview process. It too often seems that companies want you to divulge that kind of information about yourself and are absolutely unwilling to reciprocate. However, it now appears that benefits could be as touchy a subject as salary. In fact, I just read an interesting and provocative post by Nick Corcodillos (Ask the Headhunter) that has to do with benefits information being withheld pending offer acceptance! Really?
Benefits Information Kept Secret by Companies
Someone wrote to Corcodillos about a job offer he had received from a major company that had an acceptable salary , but the headhunter he was working with indicated the company had a policy of not revealing benefits information until an offer was accepted! According to Corcodillos, the usual rationale is that the company’s benefits package (and maybe its employee policy manual) are competitive secrets or confidential and can’t be disclosed to non-employees. This is crazy! As Corcodillos puts it, “They invite you to join the game, but you can’t see the rules in advance. You may make an investment in the company, but you may not see the financials.”
By a real stretch of the imagination, I can see where companies might come up with this rationale, especially if their management is paranoid. Does that make it acceptable for them to do all the taking and none of the giving with regard to information-sharing during the interview-to-offer process? Not by a long shot. That stance puts all the risk burden on you as the job seeker. As we all know, life isn’t always fair, but this situation is beyond unfair–it’s potentially hazardous to your financial and emotional well-being. What happens, for instance, if you accept the position and then discover that a critical aspect of the benefits package falls seriously short of what you needed and expected?
Walk Away from Overly Secretive Companies?
Under some circumstances, you might decide that the company’s lack of willingness to share key information justifies declining the offer. However, that could mean giving up an opportunity that would prove beneficial to you in the long run. You might come up with your own approach to this situation. In case it’s of interest, though, here in a nutshell is what Corcodillos advised his inquirer to do:
Call the CEO’s office and tell whoever answers that you’re ready to accept a job offer, but no one (including HR) can satisfactorily answer a question you have. When (and only when) someone from the CEO’s office rather than HR agrees to talk to you, you explain the issue and politely but firmly refuse to go back to HR to deal with it. Corcodillos goes on to say, “”I’d tell the headhunter you have your own policy: I need to know what the entire offer is–including the benefits.“
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.
This is not the first time I have talked about Facebook and your job search. The topic is one of those that refuses to go away for job seekers, however much they might want it to! However, this tip actually is not one of mine; it comes from a blog post by Joshus Waldman of Career Rocketeer, titled “How to Protect Your Private Life on Facebook During Your Job Search.” If you are not using Facebook at this point, the tip might still prove useful in the future.
How to Protect Yourself on Facebook during Your Job Search
Of course, the simplest way would be just to not participate on Facebook at all, but that’s probably a bit extreme. Whether or not you actively use Facebook as a tool in your job search (some do, some don’t), you don’t necessarily want to exclude yourself from it just because you happen to be conducting a job search. While there’s more than one approach you can take to participating, one no-brainer is to consider carefully before you post personal items you might not want prospective employers to see. This also requires reminding yourself that anything on the Internet has–or at least can have–a life that goes on practically forever. I’ve talked before about protecting yourself and your online reputation by using various means to drive potentially negative information way down in the search results, but it’s certainly much preferable to keep such information from appearing in the first place, if you have the choice.
Waldman’s Tip about Facebook and Your Job Search
Waldman has written a new book called Job Searching With Social Media For Dummies, and his post refers to information that appears in that book. In particular, he talks about what you can do if you receive a Facebook “friend” request from someone who’s a recruiter at your dream company. If you’re uncomfortable giving that recruiter access to all the material you post on Facebook but don’t want to make him angry at you, what do you do? Briefly, this is what Waldman recommends:
- Create a Limited Access friends list using the Account drop-down menu and the Edit Friends option.
- Set up custom privacy settings–again, with the Account drop-down menu and the Privacy Settings option.
- Add your new Limited Access list in the Hide This From section and click on the Save Setting button.
Caution: Facebook doesn’t have the best reputation in the world for managing its privacy settings as carefully and consistently as you might like, so I suggest checking periodically to make sure they’re still the way you want them. That applies especially to situations such as maintaining a Limited Access friends list. You want to avoid inadvertently granting access to your “excluded” information by assuming that your privacy settings will remain the way you established them.