Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Job Seekers Swiss Army Knife

No matter where you are in the job search process, from new grads looking for their first position outside of academia to individuals who have been out of the workforce for several months or years. Every one of us has a tool that can be used in a multitude of different ways. However because it is so commonplace a tool, we don’t give it the respect that it deserves and it becomes neglected. The tool in question is the resume, a document that every job seeker has but do they use it effectively.

Historically resumes formed the largest part of the application process; everything was based around that piece of paper. Today things have changed; networking and branding are strategies that have increased in importance across many, if not all fields of work and the versatility of social media seems to have pushed the humble resume into the background.

Despite this a resume can still make or break your chances of finding employment. Not only is your resume a record of the work that you have completed, it can be the foundation of an online portfolio; it can demonstrate how your brand has impacted your career and your clients. It’s what you use to sell your skills to the networking contacts that you have made and if you are like me, it’s a simple way of refreshing information prior to going into a job interview. Today’s resume is a tool that can be used in many ways, not just the ones I’ve listed, so it is important to ensure that your resume is as effective as it can be to assist you in your job search.

In a recent survey I conducted on LinkedIn, over 50% of the 21 individuals that responded stated that their resume generated only 1 – 5 resumes within the past 6 months. One commenter even mentioned that his resume is the thing that is letting him down in his job search. This isn’t the first time that I’ve heard that statement either, many of the clients that I have dealt with inform me that they have a resume but it’s not getting them anywhere.

One of the common mistakes that job seekers make with regards to their resume is that they think along the lines of ‘one size fits all’. Basically they can take the resume they have and then use it to apply for every job under the sun; the problem is that doesn’t work. In their survey of Canadian Resume and Interview Trends, Wright Career Solutions (www.thewrightcareer.com ) showed that the majority of respondents to their survey indicated that one of their pet peeves were resumes not tailored to suit the requirements of the job.

With so many people competing for jobs now employers can receive literally hundreds of resumes, by tailoring your resume to the actual job not only will you make it easier for keyword scanners to pick out your resume from the crowd; employers will also see that you went the extra mile to address the solution to their problem. In doing this not only do you demonstrate to employers what you have done but more specifically it demonstrates what you can do for them as part of their company.

While there are a number of different tips that can be given about the design and creation of resumes that can vary from industry to industry. There are five particular things that will remain true no matter which industry you are looking for work in.

• Include a relevant skills / competence profile in the first third or half of page one. Make sure to highlight things like achievements to grab the employer’s attention

• Read the job description and tailor the resume to it. Yes it means extra work but if you are truly interested in getting into that career or finding that dream job a little effort shouldn’t be an issue

• No matter what level of career you are looking for, make sure your resume is clean and professional looking. Only include graphics, colour or extra information if it’s appropriate to your industry and will add weight to the application

• Proofread your resume, the second major pet peeve of employers in the Wright Career Solutions survey was poor spelling and grammar. A little thing, such as a typo, can be big enough to cause you not to get the interview

• Keep your resume updated with skills, experiences and achievements. This is particularly important when you are actively employed as you never know when you may need that document