Change Your Resume To Get More Callbacks (Resumes Part 2)
So last week, I wrote about some of the most common mistakes I see job seekers make while applying for jobs. Specifically, I shared 10 mistakes:
Mistake #1 You applied but didn’t follow up
Mistake #2 You sound generic on paper
Mistake #3 You didn’t research the company before applying
Mistake #4 You didn’t use keywords and strong verbs
Mistake #5 Your resume isn’t formatted correctly
Mistake #6 You didn’t match your resume to the job description
Mistake #7 You haven’t quantified your contributions to your current and previous employers and highlighted the ones that are most relevant to the position you’re applying for
Mistake #8 You are only applying for jobs that you meet 100% of the requirements
Mistake #9 You are “overqualified” and didn’t give enough explanation about why you are applying for the job
Mistake #10 You didn’t clean up the things you should have cleaned up! We are talking social media, pictures, email address, public record, personal website, etc!
We went over mistakes 1-5 in Let’s Get Your Resume to the Top of the Stack! Go check out that blog post and refresh your memory, because we are about to jump right into mistakes #6-10!
Mistake #6 You aren’t matching your resume to the job description
When an employer writes out a job description, they are essentially saying, “If I could clone my best employee that’s already doing the job, or attract the PERFECT FIT for the job, this is what/who it would look like.”
The problem here is that too many job seekers send off the EXACT SAME RESUME each time they are applying to A DIFFERENT POSITION. Do you see the error in this? Sending a vanilla sample to a chocolate factory isn’t gonna do!
Going back to mistake #3 (you didn’t research the company before applying).. If you didn’t take any time to adapt your resume to the job description, you clearly don’t want the job very badly.
The employer took the time to write out what they are looking for, and they want a candidate who took the time to explain why they are the match.
Using what experiences you do have, take the language they put in the job description and MIRROR it.
Here is an activity I recommend doing:
1.Highlight every skill or qualification the employer claims to be asking for. Circle skills and descriptive words that appear more than once throughout the job description (these are the key words/attributes they are looking for in their next hire, and that's why they use the words, or terms, multiple times).
2. Now go back over the entire job description and either double highlight (with a different color) or underline every skill, experience, or qualification that you do have (even if you aren’t an expert at it).
3. Now take out a blank sheet of paper and fold it in half. One one half of the page, write down all of the skills, experience, and qualifications that the employer asked for that you do have.
4. On the opposite side of the paper, write down the specifics of your own experience, skills, and accomplishments that show that you meet those particular needs of the employer.
5. Now if this is a job you seriously want, I encourage you to now go and refresh your knowledge about the company. Read their company “About” page on their website, and see what they are currently saying on social media. Use all this information to find out what the company is all about and what types of needs the employer has.
6. Look up the person currently doing the job [either on their website employee directory, on LinkedIn, or in a resume database in Indeed (you have to create an employer account through Indeed to see resumes in their database)].
This person is the current example of how the business has been meeting their company’s needs. See if you have any of the same skills and experiences as this person. Take note of the way they have written about their skills, experiences, and accomplishments.
7. With all of this information, you are now ready to hand tailor your resume, cover letter, and application materials specific to the employer's needs. Take your skills, experiences, and accomplishments and turn them into *power statements that you can craft into your resume and cover letter.
*I’ll go over power statements in Mistake #7.
Mistake #7 You haven’t quantified your contributions to your current and previous employers and highlighted the ones that are most relevant to the position you’re applying for
By this point in my life and career, I can easily say I’ve read somewhere in the thousands of resumes.
Want to know the most boring way to write a resume?
Oh, that one's easy! Just list off your previous job responsibilities.
Yep, that is an award winner for putting HR to sleep. In fact, maybe I should be the one to publish a nighttime sleep inducing series. I’ll just compile 60-70% of the resumes I’ve read over the last 15 years (don’t worry, I’ll only include the worst) and it’ll be good to go!
Guarantee on back cover: “If this doesn’t put you to sleep within 5 minutes of skim reading, nothing will!”
So if that’s the worst way to go about writing your resume, then what’s the best way?
List your contributions (a.k.a. your accomplishments).
What I’m getting at is that you want to take that “responsibility” you had at work and actually say WHAT you did with it. The best way to think about this is by sharing a result and then telling what the means were you used to accomplish that result.
I recommend that you keep what you did in the style of a bullet point (avoid paragraphs).
A power statement is a bulleted explanation of something you achieved or accomplished in a current or previous job role or experience. They are best when they are quantitative (use numbers) and share a direct result of your efforts. Now that doesn’t mean every bullet has to have some kind of accomplishment, but if the majority of them do, this is ideal.
A formula that helps a ton is APR: Action + Project + Result.
The ACTION needs to be a strong action verb that shows a skill or ability. Some examples include Directed, Monitored, Collaborated, Managed, Researched, Tabulated, Oversaw, Created. (Here’s a list of some great action verbs for different types of experience.)
Your PROJECT is what you worked on. Think of the clients you spoke to, the surveys you conducted, the transactions of money you took, or the assignment you had to report on.
The final piece in the puzzle: you want to drive home your accomplishment with a strong RESULT. How much money did you make for the company? What attributes did you grow in? Did you have 0% incidents while on the job?
Here is an example of a complete bullet point:
“Directed 100+ volunteers raising $30,000 through 4 charity walks, increasing donations by 168%”
[I want to make a quick little side point for super grammar focused individuals (which should be EVERYONE on a resume). You know how back in school they told you that (in general) when you have a number, if it is below 10 you need to write it out as a full word? For example “four,” not “4.”
Well on a resume, that rule doesn’t really exist. See how in the above example I wrote “4?” That’s because seeing numbers is a GOOD, VERY GOOD thing when it comes to resumes. There is an exception to this: if you are applying in academia, you need to apply the standard rules of writing, and write out the full number “four.” Yeah, we live in a world with a lot of rules.
Like I said in my last blog post on resumes, “resume/cover letter/application writing” is really about the only area of writing I get super serious about grammar, haha. Ah. Other than that, I’m all ‘bout takin a chill pill!!! There’s enough in life to stress about!
Check out this article if you want to learn more about using numbers on your resume. Okay, back to what I was saying…]
Some of the best power statements start with the result you achieved and follow that result with “the means” by which you accomplished it. An example of this could be:
“Increased monthly sales by 50% in the past 2 years by creating a new demo method with our company software.”
Your RESULT was that over “2 years” you shot up “monthly sales by 50%” and the means by which you accomplished that achievement was by “creating a new demo method” with the company’s software.
These types of bulleted statements help a potential employer quickly and clearly identify what your strengths, skills, and abilities are.
When it comes to what to include and what to leave off of your resume, you only really want and need to share what is most relevant to the job you are applying for.
There are really only two reasons to keep information on your resume that doesn’t directly relate to the position you are applying for:
1. In as much as possible, you don’t want there to be large gaps of time unaccounted for on your resume
2. If the experience you are sharing shows other aspects of your character, work ethic, and overall abilities that you would want the hiring manager/human resources to know about.
Things like your management skills, your ability to oversee projects to completion, your capacity to work within the constraints of a budget – even if the current role you are applying for does not expect or ask for those kinds of qualifications, these are still EXCELLENT things to include on your resume.
Think it through logically. If you are applying for a computer programmer/engineer position, you don’t need to share all the details, the ins and outs, of the retail position you held ten years ago.
UNLESS you are trying to drive home your problem-solving abilities and capacity to think on the fly – AND there were obvious things you did at that company/store that clearly show that you excel in these areas and have those skills. Otherwise, it’s “unrelated work experience” and better to simply just list that job as somewhere you worked between _____ month of ____ year - _____ month of ____ year, and not go into bulleted detail about your job performance, while working there.
Mistake #8 You are only apply for jobs that you meet 100% of the requirements
So guess what… When an employer writes up a job description, what they are really trying to describe is what their ideal (or perfect) candidate looks like.
BUT, what a lot of job seekers think when they read that is, “Gosh darn it, that almost sounds like me, but I didn’t do X or Y, so I better not apply.”
Uh, hold up! Where did we [the employer] ever say, or whoever told you, that we are looking for someone that has done EVERYTHING on the job description?
Because whoever told you that – or made you think that – was lying to you!!!
Here is the honest truth: if you are reading a job description and you meet about 50% of what they are saying (and a good part of the 50% are things that are clearly labeled as REQUIRED) you should definitely apply for the job.
To be a stronger candidate, you should hopefully meet 60-70% of what is listed in the job description. Because the fact is this, employers are looking for people who show ability and willingness to be trained, learn, and take initiative. If you can get your foot in the door (and that is what applying for jobs is all about –it’s getting your foot in the door so they will interview you) you can tell and show them in the interview just what lengths you are willing to go to meet their business’ needs.
Also, according to research [*][*], women are more guilty at doing this than men – not applying for jobs unless they are a very close match to what’s in the job description. It has a lot to do with how we, as a society, socially condition people (good articles to check out: [*][*]). But just knowing this is POWERFUL so you can consciously start reframing the way you think about being “qualified” to do something (article on changing self-limiting beliefs: [*]).
Mistake #9 you are “overqualified” and didn’t give enough explanation about why you are applying for the job
So this one sounds like it may be the exact OPPOSITE of mistake #8, but don’t be surprised if out of the average of 12 or so different jobs you are going to have in your lifetime [*], if at some point people start labeling you as “overqualified.”
Here’s some advice on what to do about this: when it’s “your turn” and people start labeling you this way.
This is actually one I’ve heard from a lot of job seekers over the years:
“I turned in my resume and application with ALL of my amazing credentials.. I even got an interview! But then the company sent me a rejection email. I don’t know what I did wrong, Ryan. Their message was super ‘nice,’ they thanked me for applying and interviewing but told me that they (the company) decided to go with another candidate – because I’m ‘overqualified’ for the position.”
See, the thing that you don’t realize is the company isn’t telling you that you are too valuable and should take those skills elsewhere..
What they are really saying is that “wow, you’ve done so much” (maybe you went to graduate school or worked your way up with your previous company into an impressive role) and they (this new company you are applying at) is a little concerned or worried that the salary, benefits, and position they have to offer you just isn’t going to cut it for you.
Their company is hesitant to pick you to fill the open role, because if all they can offer you is below what you “should” be making – because of your credentials or previous experience – then that “offering” will probably become not good enough for you real quick SO – bottom line – you won’t stick around for long.
Translation: they’ll have to replace you soon after hiring you.
Ultimately, the time it will take you to get up to speed on their company’s protocols will be a waste of training effort, time, energy, and MONEY, BECAUSE you’ll just find a better job somewhere else that can monetarily compensate you BETTER for your skill set. They aren’t going to be able to counter-offer and compete with that, so why not save everybody the headache upfront?
Now, this may or may not be how YOU feel about yourself and your qualifications. You may honestly be willing to work for less compensation because you value what their company values and are trying to transition into a new industry, but because they can’t read your mind, you need to relay your reasoning out on paper. It needs to jump out at them on your cover letter!
And on that note, you will likely need to be the one to bring it up in the interview too – STRONGLY explain your rationale for why you want to be there and work FOR THEM.
Mistake #10 You didn’t clean up the things you should have cleaned up! Social media, pictures, email address, public record, personal website, etc!
So the thing is this, we live in a modern world that operates off of technology. It is how you will apply for the majority of jobs you find, and it is also how your potential employers will weed out certain candidates.
Did you know that employers run internet searches on potential candidates? They look at what kind of social media presence you have, who you follow, and any kind of “stuff” you may have published publicly.
May I make a suggestion?
Run a Google search for yourself. See what kind of information comes up! If there is anything unfavorable--can you get rid of it? What about on social media? You bet they are looking there too! If you are the kind that likes to tweet your mind, is there anything out there you wouldn’t want your potential employer to be seeing?
Build your online presence into something you would be proud of having a potential employer see. (I’m going to talk more about this in a blog post on “branding” in a couple weeks. Look out for it!)
Places to begin building your public image:
1.“Clean-up” all social media--make sure your images (profile picture, cover photos, ANY and all other images – but especially the publicly accessible images) and public posts are what you would want a potential employer to see if they looked you up online.
Here is something that you need to think about: “Does my profile picture on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc., say: ‘I’m a professional’?”
Like that analogy, if a picture is worth a THOUSAND words, what does the picture you decide to use say about you? If it isn’t saying you are professional, REPLACE IT, NOW.
Use a profile picture that is actually of you. Not your dog or baby. Not ten people. Not your cartoon illustration of yourself, not your cute kids. You. Make sure the picture was taken in good lighting and is a front shot of you ( or taken from slightly above you) and you’re looking at the camera. Avoid pictures taken from below you (people don’t really want to see your nose hair!). Smile!
Wear something that looks neat and clean, doesn’t need to be a suit, but please, think about this like you are your future boss.. If an employer looks you up, what do you want them to see? Start thinking like an employer about these things…
2. Get on LinkedIn--create a profile that reflects who you are as a professional. (Not a bad idea to include the URL for your LinkedIn profile in the header of your resume.)
3. Be smart about what you have on a personal website or anywhere else on the internet!
If an employer is serious about their interest in you as a candidate, you can be sure that they will look up what kind of person you are on the world wide web.
Another word on that… What is your email address? Is the actual email address professional? If they (the employer) were to receive an email from you, what picture would be associated with your email address?
To come off as a professional, this is seriously one of the first places to start! My suggestion, just use your good old name your parents gave you @ whatever domain you prefer. If that name is already taken, try some kind of combination of your initials.
It is important to have a professional photograph of yourself as your email profile picture. You’d be surprised how many people overlook these important details.
ALSO, a BIG NO-NO: DO NOT put a picture of yourself on your resume. (This is standard information for jobs in the USA; if you’re somewhere else in the world you’ll need to find out what the standard is there). Please, please, follow what I’m telling you! This is not the place to show off your pearly whites. Save that picture for your LinkedIn and social accounts. We (the employers) are looking for a text driven document when it comes to your resume.
Okay, now take what you’ve learned and go and apply it! If you have questions about the particulars, bring them to our Refer Facebook Group. And once you get there, don’t be shy! Ask a question, because the odds are, when it comes to writing resumes, a lot of other people are wondering about the same things. We want you to start seeing more success rather than making the same mistakes over and over! Wishing you all the best, friends!!!
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