Resume Trends: What Do Hiring Managers Really Think?

This is Part 3 of our series on What Hiring Managers Want in a Resume, based on a survey of 60 hiring managers I conducted with Lisa Stephen in October 2017. You can read Part 1 and Part 2 here. 

In the past few years, we have seen emerging trends such as more visual infographic resumes, integration of video, and personal websites/ portfolio sites. 

So what do hiring managers think of these approaches? 

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Infographic Resumes

There's no doubt, a well-done infographic resume is stunning. But is it enough to capture the attention of a hiring manager? 

Positives:

Captures attention: 61%

Good networking tool: 30%

Concerns:

Not enough info on experience and skills: 20%

Won’t get through the online application system: 12%

Possible discrimination: 42%

Feedback:

Some of our survey respondents found the information overwhelming and they didn't find the graphs very useful. Though it's visually appealing, a few found it difficult to scan to find useful information. This type of format works well for creative, marketing, or design positions. 

Video Resumes

We were curious to see if video resumes would be the next up-and-coming resume format.  We asked if a video resume could be used instead of a standard resume in an application. 

The hiring managers said NO! They need to be able to scan information quickly. The rule of thumb is 5-10 seconds to see if a candidate is viable. Clicking and watching a short video is way too much work for them. 

Then we asked, "Could a video resume be used to enhance a standard resume?"

And yes, 41% would look at a video resume but also want to see a standard resume first. The key here is that your standard resume needs to capture attention first. Only then will a hiring manager be willing to invest time in watching a video. 

Portfolio Sites

A friend of mine was doing some hiring and she noticed that a number of candidates had portfolio sites, showcasing their work. We commonly see this for creative positions, but these positions were administratively-based. 

So we asked, "Would you look at a portfolio site if a client included a link in their resume?"

And we found that 50% of hiring managers would be open to that. 39% said it depends and only 7% said no. 

Again, like the video resume, employers are open to looking at a portfolio site, but first, your resume needs to be good enough for them to consider you a viable candidate.

Kristin Vandegriend is the founder of Career Story where she has helped hundreds of her clients successfully transition to work they love. She supports her clients to uncover their strengths and communicate to get what they want in the workplace. 

Connect with Kristin at kristin@careerstory.ca or sign up to get her monthly career and job search tips straight to your inbox.

 

8 Productivity Tips for Busy Professionals and Business Owners

People often tell me that I’m lucky as I run a business from home. But at times, I find it hard to maintain productivity – sometimes I would rather be at an office, away from my messy kitchen or the piles of laundry that our family produces.

Early in my business start up, I made a commitment to myself that I’d treat my work-from-home job with as much professionalism as an office job. Each morning, I get up early and get dressed (no working in my pajamas) before heading down to my office. 

Now two years into my business, I've found some ways to streamline my workflow and improve my productivity. Here are some of my tips along some amazing nuggets of advice from a few other professionals and business owners. 

1. Get Focused on Your Important Tasks: This is critical. My friend, Cathy Kuzel from The Connected Woman puts together a clear schedule of business actions each day. It's easy to get caught up in "busy work," but not accomplish those big items that will help you move forward in your career or business. 

2. Keep Your To-Do List Full: When I’m swamped, I hustle. Where I struggle is when things get slower. In times like that, I make a long “to-do” list of all the lower priority items that I had been meaning to get to. I need at least 15 things on my list to feel motivated. Maren Hanson, Regional HR Manager at Whole Foods, suggests using the Outlook Task section to keep organized. 

3. Find an Accountability Partner: I work better under pressure. When I find myself procrastinating, I find an accountability partner, often someone in my field, with whom I can share my goals for the week. Usually, we’ll check in at the beginning and at the end of the week.

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4. Use a KanBan Board: My husband introduced me to the idea of a KanBan board and I love it! Using a whiteboard, you write down your tasks on sticky notes. Then you set up your board with the following categories: To Do, In-Progress, and Done.

As you start and complete tasks, you move the sticky notes across the board. I love the satisfaction of watching my Done section fill up with sticky notes!

5. Tidy Your Working Space: My work space gets chaotic, quickly.  Sometimes, to improve my productivity, I need to take 10 minutes to organize and clean. It truly makes a difference in clearing my head.

6. Use Technology: Knowing that I only have a certain amount of time makes me more focused. I use the timer on my phone to get into a more focused work mode when I have a specific task to complete. Business Development Coach, Lisa van Reeuwyk suggests using the Focus Keeper or Pomodoro app. 

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7. Get Rid of Distractions: Turn off your social media while working and clean up your inbox. Recently, I unsubscribed to a variety of advertising emails. It wasn’t adding any value to my life and my head feels clearer without those distractions.

8. Use Outlook Signatures as Templates: My friend, Sharon Graham, shared this amazing tip which I use all the time. You can set up template emails in Outlook, using the signature feature. Now to populate an email, I simply click on the appropriate signature.

If you have any other productivity tips that work for you, let me know in the comments.

All the best. You got this.

Kristin Vandegriend is the founder of Career Story where she has helped hundreds of her clients successfully transition to work they love. She supports her clients to uncover their strengths and communicate to get what they want in the workplace. 

Connect with Kristin at kristin@careerstory.ca or sign up to get her monthly career and job search tips straight to your inbox.

Hiring Manager Resume Pet Peeves, Must-Haves, and Red Flags

What do hiring managers look for in a resume? 

We asked and they answered.

In October 2016, Lisa Stephen and I conducted a survey of 60 hiring managers across a variety of sectors, asking them about what their pet peeves, must-haves, and red flags were when it came to resumes. 

Pet Peeves

What do employers find most frustrating about the resumes that come across their desk?

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Spelling and grammatical mistakes topped the list. One employer shared that communication skills are critical in any job. The resume is the first indicator of whether a candidate has those vital communication skills. It’s also about respect – employers want to see that the candidate has put in an effort.

Secondly, our survey respondents wanted to see resumes that were specifically targeted to the job they were applying for.  Resist the temptation to simply apply to everything without changing your resume!

And third, organization is key - content needs to be easy to understand and get through.

We have such a short time to make a good impression. Employers are often scanning resumes for about 5-10 seconds. If we can capture their attention – show the connection to the work they are hiring for, they will take more time to dig into the content. If your resume is too hard to get through, it will get chucked.

The Rise of the Indeed Resume

Do you use Indeed to apply for jobs? On the Indeed platform, users can upload their resumes and when they see a position they like, they can simply apply with the click of a button. The problem with this approach is:

  1. Resumes are not tailored to positions – which is one of HR’s pet peeves.  Inundating HR with resumes that don’t show how you fit their role, is simply spamming. 

  2. They all look the same. The Indeed format strips away formatting and design that can help you stand out.

  3. Indeed doesn’t give the option of using a targeted cover letter which is an important element in the application process.

Instead of applying through Indeed, try alternative methods of applying like through the company’s website or via email.

Red Flags

What causes the most amount of concerns for hiring managers?

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59% of the employers we surveyed were most concerned when someone had a pattern of short-term employment.

If that is you, it would be wise to indicate why.  Perhaps companies closed, or the positions were contract positions. Anticipate what concerns the reviewer might have about your past work history and then ensure you address those in your application package.  

Because resume targeting is so important, it makes sense that 49% of employers get worried when they see unrelated experience to the job that you are applying for. You may have your reasons for applying to this position, but you need to clearly evidence why you are a good fit for the job.

Gaps in employment or no recent employment are less of a concern than many people think. If you can provide a rationale, many employers are willing to still consider you as a viable candidate. You can put a short note on your resume and then also address it in your cover letter.

Standout Elements

What, then, is the key to an amazing resume? Having a beautifully designed resume can make a difference, but what do employers really want to see?

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Evidence of past work experience related to the job!  No big surprise here.

Your resume needs strong content MORE than it needs a sleek design or layout.  Consider using bold font to help important information stand out.

Resume Advice

Other important insights from our employers regarding resume content and design.

  • Show personality!  People hire people they like. “Let me see your personality shine through - don't just provide technical details.”
  • Including keywords is key! “Include keywords from the job posting when relevant to experience.”
  • Design and readability do matter (though not as much as content.) “Add a splash of color and leave blank space”

 

Kristin Vandegriend is the founder of Career Story where she has helped hundreds of her clients successfully transition to work they love. She supports her clients to uncover their strengths and communicate to get what they want in the workplace. 

Connect with Kristin at kristin@careerstory.ca or sign up to get her monthly career and job search tips straight to your inbox.

What Hiring Managers Want in a Resume: Survey Results

Resumes ARE the backbone of a strong job search.  A well-crafted resume can greatly energize your job search and generate the opportunities that you truly deserve. 

Resumes are about YOU, but they are FOR HR and hiring decision makers. As you build your resume, you will get all kinds of advice. But what really matters is what the decision makers are saying.  

In October 2017, I partnered with Lisa Stephen to put together a survey of over 60 hiring authorities including hiring managers, HR professionals, and recruiters across a wide range of industries. 

We wanted to know what most employers wanted to see when it comes to resume mechanics. Do they care about page length, font, file format or length of experience represented? It turns out that they do... 

A Reasonable Page Length

Google “resume page length” and you’ll find a variety of opinions. Our hiring managers had a clear preference for a 2-page resume. That being said, 30% of respondents say that it depends on the type and level of the job.

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A Useful Date Format

We asked if employers wanted dates with only the year OR in the month/year format. We found that most employers (77%) wanted dates in the month/year format. If only the year is included, it is difficult for an employer to know if the applicant worked one day or 12 months in a specific role.

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Enough (But Not Too Much) Experience Represented

How many years of experience should you include on your resume? We found that 49% of employers want to see up to 10 years of experience while another 21% look for about 10- 15 years of experience. Very few wanted to see more than 15 years or all of a person’s work history.

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The Correct File Format

Then, what’s the preferred format to get a resume in? 79% of our respondents preferred PDF while only 5% strongly preferred Word.

The most important piece of advice is that you need to follow the instructions on the job posting!

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The Right Font

Most of our respondents didn’t care, though it seemed that sans serif fonts were preferred over serif fonts. The key here is that it’s easy to read!

Stay tuned for Part 2 and Part 3 of this series. 

Kristin Vandegriend is the founder of Career Story where she has helped hundreds of her clients successfully transition to work they love. She is passionate about supporting her clients to uncover their strengths and communicate to get what they want in the workplace. 

Connect with Kristin at kristin@careerstory.ca or sign up to get her monthly career and job search tips straight to your inbox.

When a Career Coach Goes to an Interview

I advise clients on interview strategies, often with very positive outcomes. But talking about something and doing something yourself can be two very different things.

So, what happens when a career coach finds themselves on the other side of the table?

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This past summer, a professional acquaintance of mine posted a part-time, contract career advising position up at a local university. Having heard about the progressive work this careers centre was doing, I decided to apply.

As any good job seeker would do, I created a targeted resume and cover letter. I then messaged my contact on LinkedIn to let him know that I had applied.

I didn’t hear anything for a while. Just at the point when I wasn’t sure that I was going to get a callback, I got one. Whoo hoo!

Interview Preparation

My next task was interview preparation. I know that stress can mess with my mind and reactions during interviews, thus making preparation critical for me.

1. Question Brainstorming:  I brainstormed as many interview questions as I could think of including this critical question. I knew this team valued theory and practice so I created some questions for that. I then wrote out responses for each answer.

2. Practice: I had to take my own advice – I advocate for clients to record themselves answering interview questions.  So as awkward as it was, I video-recorded my responses. I then listened to my answers to ensure they were complete while also catching any annoying verbal habits (Apparently, I often start my answers with "So" or make this weird clicking sound) or poor ways of explaining information. 

3. Research: I did as much research as I could about the department. I looked through the website and their blog. I reached out to current employees.

My Interview Day 

1. Logistics: I researched where to park ahead of time and I knew which building I had to go to. It took longer to get to the building than I expected so I was glad that I gave myself lots of extra time.

2. Timing: In the past, I have shown up ridiculously early to interviews. This time, I practiced restraint. I waited in another part of the university until closer to my interview time and arrived in the Career Centre only 10 minutes ahead of the interview time. (Tip: Employers don’t always know what to do with candidates who arrive extra early.)

My interviewers, Tony and Deanne, made me feel comfortable. They cracked a few jokes which broke the ice. As Tony and Deanne asked me the interview questions, I felt mostly prepared. But for two questions, I felt that I could have had stronger answers.

One of the questions was related to what career theories and student development theories I use in my work. Initially, I panicked as I didn’t know anything about student development theory. But I took a deep breath and realized that I could focus on what I did know instead.

I bit back my honest tendency to point out my deficiencies (can anyone else relate to that?) and instead spoke about all the career theory that I integrate into my work.

Secondly, I was asked to share about a time that I facilitated a workshop. Launching into my explanation, I forgot to clearly wrap up my story with what the outcome or result was. Thankfully, Deanne was gracious enough to prompt me by asking a clarifying question.

I prepared several of my own questions for the end of the interview, but only asked two. In previous interview settings, I had gone overboard with asking questions so I wanted to ensure that I got good information without over-burdening the interviewers.

After the Interview

My goal for the interview was to provide great responses but to show up as my authentic self. I wanted to ensure that if I was offered the job, I would be a fit within the team.

After the interview, I reflected on my responses, wishing that I had added this or not said that. But there was nothing so egregious that I felt that I needed to offer additional clarification.

Within 24-hours, I sent a thank you email, outlining my enthusiasm for the work along with my references.

Then I waited. Tony was great at keeping me in the loop regarding their progress. My references also kept me updated on when they received reference calls. (Tip: Ask your references to let you know when they get a call.)

Finally, I got the call, offering me the position! Working as a Career Educator for the past few months, I’m delighted with my decision to join this team.

Best of luck with your next interview. To find out about my interview preparation coaching, click here. 

Kristin Vandegriend is the founder of Career Story where she has helped hundreds of her clients successfully transition to work they love. Kristin is passionate about supporting her clients to uncover their strengths and communicate to get what they want in the workplace. 

Connect with her at kristin@careerstory.ca or sign up to get her monthly career and job search tips straight to your inbox.

 

 

I Don't Know What To Do With My Degree In...

Got a degree, but don't know what to do with it? 

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If you are like 90% of students at any given university, you went to school to better your career options and improve your ability to find work. However, come graduation, it can be difficult to determine the direct correlation between a degree in Geography or Arts & Humanities with the jobs that are out there.

If you need a little help brainstorming career possibilities, I want to share two of my favorite resources. 

Based on the Canadian National Household Survey, researchers in Ontario looked at survey participant's education and occupation. From this, they created an interactive graph that maps out people's education and identifies which industries people now work in. With the exclusion of Health Sciences and Education, participants were widely dispersed throughout various industries, regardless of their education.

My second brainstorming recommendation is using LinkedIn's alumni finding function.  Simply head over to your alma mater's page on LinkedIn and click See Alumni. From there, you can type in your degree and LinkedIn will provide information on industries and top employers who hire people with your type of degree. 

Don't get stuck thinking that you only have a few career options. There's a whole wide world out there, waiting for you to explore. 

To find out more about our story-based career coaching, please click here

Kristin Vandegriend is the founder of Career Story where she has helped hundreds of her clients successfully transition to work they love. Kristin is passionate about supporting her clients to uncover their strengths and communicate to get what they want in the workplace. 

Connect with her at kristin@careerstory.ca or sign up to get her monthly career and job search tips straight to your inbox.

 

4 Essential Elements of a Captivating Resume Profile

Many resumes open with a profile or summary section, outlining the key attributes, qualifications, experience, and skills that the job seeker brings to the position they are applying for.

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Some of the most common wording that I see in profile sections are:  

Works well independently as well as in a team

Motivated self-starter

Personal attributes like: reliable, analytical, responsible, resourceful

Able to multi-task or work in a demanding environment

Though this may accurately describe the applicant, hiring managers have seen this type of wording so many times before that they may just skip right over the profile.

The resume profile section is a lost opportunity for many job seekers.  A well-written and designed profile can draw attention to your best attributes, building intrigue for the hiring manager to read more.

Here’s an example of a Before profile.

Here’s an example of a Before profile.

As you can see, the job seeker lists multiple personal attributes. And based on what I know of this person, they are all true!  But I wanted to make him stand out so here’s how I transformed his profile section.

Sample of the profile transformation

Sample of the profile transformation

  1. I did a keyword analysis on the job posting and incorporated them throughout the profile as well as in the Key Skills section. These are the skills he possesses that best match the work he is applying for.
  2. I used a bold font to highlight the most important information. This helps the reader easily skim over the content. We did a survey of hiring managers and this was one of their recommendations. 
  3. I recommend no more than three lines of text per paragraph. Keep it short and sweet, yet loaded with information on the value you provide.
  4. Demonstrate you have the qualifications that the job posting asks for. Hiring managers want to see that you have identified your "best match" skills, qualifications, experience, and education in alignment with the job posting. 

Kristin Vandegriend is the founder of Career Story where she has helped hundreds of her clients successfully transition to work they love. Kristin is passionate about supporting her clients to uncover their strengths and communicate to get what they want in the workplace. 

Connect with her at kristin@careerstory.ca or sign up to get her monthly career and job search tips straight to your inbox. 

10 Easy Ways to Kick Your LinkedIn Profile into Shape

Is updating your LinkedIn profile part of your “To-Do” List? If so, here is your checklist to ensure that your LinkedIn profile is looking good! 

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Profile Picture. Make sure you have a professional, up-to-date profile picture. It needs to be crisp with a non-distracting background. Add a professional background picture.

Professional, Personable Tone. Write your profile in the first person, using a professional, yet personable tone. Do not copy your resume to your LinkedIn profile.

Completed Profile. Fill out all the relevant sections as incomplete profiles receive less credibility. Build up content in your Summary and your most recent job as this is viewed first.

Keyword Optimization. Know what keywords you want to be found for and integrate into your LinkedIn profile content. Look at your Skills & Endorsement section. This section should be representative of your key skills.

Make It Mobile Friendly: Make sure that the first 80 characters (spaces included) of your Summary states the work that you can do. This is all that is visible to mobile users without having to expand your Summary section.

Projects Sections. Use Projects to fill in additional information under your Experience.

Evidence-Based. Provide evidence of the work that you can do with both words and media samples. Stay away from generic descriptions and filler words.

Tangible Skills. Focus on hard skills as opposed to soft skills. It is more likely that a hiring manager or recruiter will search for a skill like “data analytics” or “cost accounting” than “relationship management” or “communication skills.”

Readability Matters. Organize the information in your summary and experience so it is easy to read. Always use proper spelling, punctuation, and capitalization. Insert enough spacing to make it skimmable.

Keep It Concise: Quantity is not better than quality. Be concise and focused in your message. It is OK to be way under the 2000-character limit if you are doing a good job of communicating the work you can do.

If you can check off each of these items for your LinkedIn profile, congratulations!  If your LinkedIn is still not where you want it to be, find out more about how I can help. 

Kristin Vandegriend is the founder of Career Story where she has helped hundreds of her clients successfully transition to work they love. She supports her clients to uncover their strengths and communicate to get what they want in the workplace. 

Connect with Kristin at kristin@careerstory.ca or sign up to get her monthly career and job search tips straight to your inbox.

What You Need for an Exceptional LinkedIn Profile

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Your LinkedIn profile is your professional web presence. Though you may have a portfolio site, website, or virtual resume, your LinkedIn profile has the highest probability of being seen due to search engine optimization.

You need a LinkedIn profile that clearly communicates the work you can do.

What do you do best?  What do you want to be found for?

Think of yourself as a “business of one.” A good business is crystal clear on the services and products that it offers. You need that same clarity in your profile. (And stay away from those tempting, yet meaningless filler words.)

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Don’t start writing until you identify your primary and secondary audiences.

One of the challenges that you may run into is writing your profile in a way that speaks to ALL your audiences. This could be prospective employers, current or future clients, colleagues, or networking connections.

You need to decide what you want to use LinkedIn for. Are you looking for work? Are you building a business or prospecting for clients?

Once you know your purpose, the hard work begins.

Research keywords that you want to be found for.  Look at your Skills and Endorsements section – are the skills you have listed the ones that you want to be found for?

Look at LinkedIn profiles of people in similar roles. What do you like or not like about their profiles?  Review websites of companies who do similar work to what you do. What words or phrases grab you?

Write it all down.

Now, what’s your unique value proposition?

Chances are that other people can do what you do.

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What makes you different?  How are you better? How can you solve the problem that your potential employer or prospective client faces? 

Try to distill your value proposition into a simple phrase that you can use in your headline.

Struggling to figure out your value proposition?  At Career Story, we specialize in helping you uncover and communicate your value.

But be careful. Here’s what most people miss out on LinkedIn.

LinkedIn is about relationships. A good networker connects with people in a meaningful, thoughtful, and friendly manner.

But most profiles on LinkedIn, a networking platform? Bland. Generic. Sterile.

Imagine going to a party where someone talks about themselves in formal language for the entire evening. No thanks!

All that to say that it’s important to build your LinkedIn profile in a friendly, professional way while still precisely capturing the depth of your skills, experience, and training.  

Integrate stories as evidence of competence.

The best LinkedIn profiles include micro stories that demonstrate personality, motivation, and skills. Let people get to know you.

In an increasingly competitive market, you will be up against others with similar skill sets. In the end, employers will choose the person who fits best within their company culture.

Again, it’s about building the relationship with your audience. Your content on LinkedIn is your ticket to fostering this relationship.

Want to be taken seriously? Take your appearance into consideration. 

You need a good profile picture. No ifs or buts.

It doesn’t need to be a professional picture, but it should be a head-and-shoulders shot with a non-distracting background.  No wedding photos, vacation shots, or poorly cropped pictures. 

Just a high-resolution picture of YOU looking happy. (Remember you want to make friends here.)

And add a background picture. Pixabay has a wide range of “no attribution necessary” pictures you could use.

Lastly, write your profile for readability.

One of my writing rules for LinkedIn is no paragraphs over three lines.  Make it easy for anyone scanning your profile. Use spacing and icons to organize information.

And remember, more is not better.  The goal is clear and concise communication, written in a friendly, professional way.

Kristin Vandegriend is the founder of Career Story where she has helped hundreds of her clients successfully transition to work they love. She supports her clients to uncover their strengths and communicate to get what they want in the workplace. 

Connect with Kristin at kristin@careerstory.ca or sign up to get her monthly career and job search tips straight to your inbox.

Build a Compelling Resume in 7 Steps

Your resume is your gateway to a new job opportunity. It is your first introduction to a recruiter or potential employer. So, what you put on your resume will determine whether you get called for an interview.

If you are applying for work, but not getting interviews, your resume needs a revision.

I recently worked with a client whose resume was not getting responses from employers. After six months of job search, she was demoralized. I rewrote her resume to highlight her relevant, marketable skills and experience.  Within a few weeks of applying with her new resume, she accepted a job offer.

A good resume markets you for the work you want.

My client already had excellent skills and experience. The key to her success was a powerful resume that made those skills and experience stand out. Here's how to ensure your resume will land interviews. 

1. Do your research so you can target your resume.  A solid resume contains the right mix of information and history to prove to the employer that you are the right candidate. Without this research, creating a precise resume is near to impossible.

Your biggest clue is the job posting. What are the top 2 – 3 skills or qualifications that employers are looking for?  How do you match? Then ask yourself, “How can I best show this on my resume?” 

a targeted resume is not a list of job duties.

2. Share your stories of success. Most job seekers use their resume to list their past job duties. Instead use the valuable space to highlight the ways that you have contributed and added value in the past. Your resume needs to share your stories of success.

For each of your past jobs, ask yourself, What did I do, how did I do it, and what was the result?” Add numbers, percentages, and stories to show outcomes. You may not think you have accomplishments to share, but you do.

3. Highlight strategic information. Hiring managers and recruiters scan your resume within 10 – 30 seconds, which is a short time to make a good impression. Make sure that the most important information is highlighted in

More or fancy is not always best.

4. Readability is key. Design and format your resume to ensure information appears organized and tidy. Make it easy for someone to get the information they need. Use clear headings and a modern font such as Calibri, Cambria, Verdana, or Garamond.

You control the career story that you share.

5. Tell the right story through your resume. If your employment history is complicated, you are not alone. Many people struggle to know how to communicate why they have gaps, abrupt career transitions, or demotions. But no matter how complex your situation, you choose how you want to address it. With careful thought and strategic design, you can provide selective context, ensuring that your application will not raise any red flags for a potential employer.

Look Beyond the Resume.

6. Make sure you have also considered these critical aspects of a job search. Beyond your resume, you need the other pieces necessary to stand out in a crowded labour market. Before sending out your resume, make sure that you have:

·   Does your cover letter highlight your personality and provide the right context?   

·  Do you have a professional web presence on LinkedIn?  A potential employer will certainly look you up.

·  If you land the interview, can you confidently speak to your skills and experience in relation to the job?

·  Do you have a consistent personal brand across your job search marketing documentation and online presence?

7. Communicate your unique value proposition.

You bring a special mix of skills, abilities, training, and personality. Are employers getting a true sense of you through your resume?  Take some time to reflect on what makes you different from your competition.

If identifying your unique value proposition is a struggle, let’s chat. Writing about yourself is difficult for many people. But I can help you build a clearly written resume that resonates with employers.  

Kristin Vandegriend is the founder of Career Story where she has helped hundreds of her clients successfully transition to work they love. She supports her clients to uncover their strengths and communicate to get what they want in the workplace. 

Connect with Kristin at kristin@careerstory.ca or sign up to get her monthly career and job search tips straight to your inbox.

 

6 Secrets to Moving Into Freelance or Flexible Employment

Want to set yourself up for future career success?

Then you should get comfortable with finding contract, independent, or freelance work. In a study conducted by Intuit, research suggested that 40% of the workforce will work in some type of on-demand or freelance work by 2020.

For some, this concept is exciting. A chance for continual learning and varied work duties. For others, moving into flexible forms of employment can be daunting. Regardless of where you are at, you can start to take some steps to prepare.

Think of Yourself as a Business of One. One of the first steps is to stop thinking about yourself as an employee, but rather as a business of one. Like a business needs to be clear on what it offers, you need to be clear on what you bring and who you can help. Know what your brand is.

Career coach, Rebecca Beaton, says that when her clients can't articulate the value they bring, it translates into a struggle to find work. The ambiguity makes it difficult to build up a targeted resume, create a website, or even network.

Know Where to Look: Finding on-going work opportunities is often a challenge. Fortunately, several freelance sites exist, such as UpWork and Freelancer. But you will have the most success finding the sites specialized towards specific industries. For example, TalentMarketplace facilitates the recruitment process for project managers, analysts and coordinators.

Network Your Way There: But Beaton suggests that networking still is the #1 way to land new contracts. At the heart of it, people want to work with people they know and trust. So, spending the time to get to know others in a genuine way is key. Go for coffee, initiate a phone call, engage over social media, or attend networking events.

Build Professional Credibility: Building up visibility of your expertise is critical. LinkedIn is the ideal tool to showcase your professional background - think about it as being your “business of one” website. Make sure that your LinkedIn profile is rock solid. It should include a professional profile picture and clear content. Depending on your industry, you may also want to put together a separate portfolio site. If you are new to freelance or contract work, share your expertise through writing or speaking.

Keep Your Skills Current: To stay competitive as a freelancer, you must drive your on-going skill development. Conduct regular skills audits. You can do this by reviewing LinkedIn profiles of people in your industry or scanning job postings to identify what qualifications employers look for. But most importantly, talk to people. This will give you the most insight into market requirements.

Start Properly, but Quickly: But before stepping into contract work, Steven Ruggles, co-founder of TalentMarketplace, suggests talking to a lawyer or accountant to get your business infrastructure in place. He also recommends taking a “lean start-up” approach. Using this approach, you quickly launch your product or service into the market. Then as you get feedback, you adjust your offering until it aligns with what employers or customers want.

Even if you are happy with your current employment, you can serve yourself well by getting some of these building blocks in place to ensure your long-term career success.

Best of luck. You got this. 

Kristin Vandegriend is the founder of Career Story where she has helped hundreds of her clients successfully transition to work they love. She supports her clients to uncover their strengths and communicate to get what they want in the workplace. 

Connect with Kristin at kristin@careerstory.ca or sign up to get her monthly career and job search tips straight to your inbox.

 

8 Smart Strategies for Finding Working on LinkedIn

How are you looking for work? If you are like most people, you are cruising the online job boards, looking for the ideal opportunity.

But by the time you see an online posting, it might be too late. Even advertised jobs are often filled by a referral.

So, it’s critical to be proactive in building your network before you need it. And LinkedIn is an excellent platform to do that.

Your Ideal Network

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If you are serious about building up your career, start building up your LinkedIn network. Here are some easy steps you can take.

1. Identify companies that you want to work for. Go to the company page and follow each company. Log into LinkedIn daily to keep track of any company updates or job opportunities.

2. Look at the employees who are part of the company. Identify 3 – 5 people within each organization that you want to get to know. It can be someone at the same level who can give you insight into the company or job responsibilities. Or it can be a manager or HR professional.

3. Go to the individual profiles of each person. Click to “Follow” their activity. Make sure your privacy setting allows users to see that you have viewed their profiles.

4. Interact with the posts that they publish. Like posts and articles. Make intelligent comments or offer expert advice.

5. If they do not connect with you after several interactions, send a personalized connection request. In your connection request, be specific about why you want to connect. For example, you can ask for advice related to your next career step.

6. If you hear back, focus on building the relationship. The goal is to move your interactions off LinkedIn into a phone call or face-to-face meeting.

7. Research recruiters within your field and connect with them. Beyond having connections with employers, recruiters have an expert understanding of the labour market. They can provide information on skills, qualifications, and experience that employers are looking for.  

8. Follow your professional association and connect with individuals who work for the association.

Building Your Brand

In the meantime, make sure that you are doing what you can to build up your visibility as a professional in your own field.

  1. Start publishing your thoughts and ideas through LinkedIn Pulse.
  2. Update your LinkedIn status several times a week, but not more than once a day.
  3. Actively add new connections to your network. 
  4. Like or comment on updates or articles that your network publishes.

But, remember this is not a quick fix. This is a long-term strategy that works if you invest  time and energy. LinkedIn is about establishing trust and credibility. If you want help with your LinkedIn strategy, connect with us to find out more. 

Kristin Vandegriend is the founder of Career Story where she has helped hundreds of her clients successfully transition to work they love. She supports her clients to uncover their strengths and communicate to get what they want in the workplace. 

Connect with Kristin at kristin@careerstory.ca or sign up to get her monthly career and job search tips straight to your inbox.

Why the Post-Interview "Thank You" Note Matters So Much

You completed your interview and the next step is to send a “thank you” note. But if you think that the intention of the note is to simply to say “Thank You,” you are missing out on several key opportunities.

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The main purpose of this communication is to reiterate your interest in the position. The interview process allows both you and the employer to determine if there is a good working fit. After the interview, you need to let the employer know if you are still interested in the position and why.

Use this note to talk how you could add value to the role and fit within the company. Some companies value this expression of interest so much that they will not consider you as a viable candidate unless you send it. 

Did you miss the mark on an interview question? It's not too late to share extra information. In your note, reference the question and expand on your answer.

Though some people may tell you to send a physical card, email is an acceptable way to follow-up after your interview. But regardless the method you choose, make sure that you respond within 24 hours of the interview as the company may want to make a hiring decision within a short timeframe. A hand-written card has a greater chance of not making it there on time. Even if your card arrives promptly, what if the individual only checks their mailbox once a week or less?

Though you want to keep your note personable and friendly, don't make it too casual. It is still business communication. And keep it short. A few brief paragraphs will do.

After all the hard work you have put into your job search, don't miss out on this one last critical step to market yourself.

If you are stressing about your next interview, consider our affordable interview coaching. You'll feel much better, knowing that you are fully prepared. 

Kristin Vandegriend is the founder of Career Story where she has helped hundreds of her clients successfully transition to work they love. She supports her clients to uncover their strengths and communicate to get what they want in the workplace. 

Connect with Kristin at kristin@careerstory.ca or sign up to get her monthly career and job search tips straight to your inbox.

 

Quick Guide to LinkedIn Etiquette

You’re on LinkedIn, ready to move forward in building your career or business. But as you observe the behaviors of people in your network, you start to wonder what your strategy should be as it seems that anything goes.

Here’s how you want to approach LinkedIn if you are serious about building your professional brand.

1. Use a professional headshot on your profile. You want to look friendly and engaging. Remember, this is a networking platform and first impressions do matter.

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2. Personalize your invitations to connect. Review the person’s profile and tell them why you want to connect.

3. Be friendly in responding to connection requests and start a conversation. Get to know your network and find out how you can help them.

4. Share useful information with your network. The LinkedIn newsfeed provides many articles that you can pass along.

5. Watch what content you interact with. Any actions you take (such as liking or commenting on an article) are visible to your network. If you comment on content that is sexist, racist, political, or religious, you can harm your employment prospects.

6. Avoid saying anything negative about your employer via LinkedIn.

7. Respond to your LinkedIn messages within 1-2 days.

8. Don’t over-post to LinkedIn. Aim for several posts a week, but not more than one post a day.

9. Respond to recruiters that reach out even if you aren’t looking for work. Recruiters have a strong sense of what is going on in the labour market and can provide valuable information. 

10. Be a considerate human being. Acknowledge life events within your network like birthdays, promotions or job changes. Send a personalized message.

At the heart of it all, LinkedIn is a way to connect humans with humans. If you keep a person-centred approach on LinkedIn, you will be well on your way to building up a professional presence.

 

Kristin Vandegriend is the founder of Career Story where she has helped hundreds of her clients successfully transition to work they love. She supports her clients to uncover their strengths and communicate to get what they want in the workplace. 

Connect with Kristin at kristin@careerstory.ca or sign up to get her monthly career and job search tips straight to your inbox.

3 Ways to Make Better Career Decisions

Looking back, I wish that I experimented more in my career.

About 10 years ago, I wanted to transition out of the Human Resources field. I decided to finish my business degree with the intention of moving into management.

I had it all reasoned out. I liked to work with people plus I also valued responsibility and autonomy. On top of that, I enjoyed home renovation and decorating projects.

Of course, looking at these skills and aptitudes, one career choice seemed clear. Working as a manager at a Home Depot.

Somehow I managed to convince someone to hire me as a manager at Home Depot after finishing school.

First day on the job and I knew that it was a poor fit for me. My back hurt. Helping people select dishwasher options bored me. And I didn't look good in an orange apron.

Looking back, this seems like such an absurd career choice. But thing is that it made sense on paper.

The more I work in the career field, the more I am convinced that we focus too much on making cognitive career decisions. And I believe that we need to move towards making more experiential career choices.

What I should have done was taken a part-time job at Home Depot while completing my education. Or I could have taken on management related responsibilities within my current job. And I should have asked for advice from people who were working as managers.

But I didn’t. And instead, I learned my lesson the hard way. I lasted three months before I found another job.

If you find yourself in a similar situation, trying to make a career change, here’s what I would say to you.

1. Experiment. Let’s say you want to start a career in computer science. Before investing in many years of education, look for ways to test out if this is the right step for you.

For example, you could take on a self-directed programming project. There is enough information on the internet to learn basic programming.

When you work on it, do you find yourself absorbed or bored? Can you imagine doing a job like this for the rest of your life?

2. Talk to People. Do not decide on a career choice in isolation. The tendency is to base decisions on internet research or self reflection. Before you make any serious decisions, have an in-depth conversation with at least 5 people who are in this role. Ask them what their average day is like. What are the job prospects like? What is the work environment like? When I visit my computer engineer husband at work, the office is quiet. The silence would drive me crazy, but he enjoys it.

3. Don’t Make Education Your Default: If you can, get entry-level work before committing to education. This will give you a true sense of what the work is like. And you can develop some key relationships that can help your hiring prospects down the road.

Once you are in a job, find out what training or education your field values. Be wary of advice you receive from school admissions advisors, especially at private schools. They have a vested interest in your enrollment. If you do need further training or education, make sure your field of interest recognizes both the training and the school.

What about you? How have you made your past decisions? What do you wish you did differently?

All the best. You got this. 

Kristin Vandegriend is the founder of Career Story where she has helped hundreds of her clients successfully transition to work they love. She supports her clients to uncover their strengths and communicate to get what they want in the workplace. 

Connect with Kristin at kristin@careerstory.ca or sign up to get her monthly career and job search tips straight to your inbox.

Are You Using the Right Job Sites?

The very first job I applied for was at the Chilliwack Tourism Centre. I debated the merits of printing my resume on cream-coloured paper or using plain old white. I don’t remember what I decided in the end, but I remember dropping bringing my hard-copy resume off. 

Now it’s almost impossible to find a company that accepts paper resumes. It’s all about the online job boards. My clients often ask me, “What is the best online job board to use when looking for work?”

I would say that Indeed is my top pick. What is great about Indeed is that it is a job posting aggregator site. It grabs job postings from company websites and other job search sites and puts them all in one place. This makes it easy for job seekers to locate new work opportunities.

But recently, I came across a research study conducted by Reviews.com which identified the most functional job posting site. Their criteria included site usability, the strength of search algorithms, email features, and frequency/reliability of the postings.

What they found surprised me! Their top pick for best job site was Glassdoor. If you’re not familiar with Glassdoor, it’s a website that contains a wealth of information on companies. This site lets employees leave anonymous reviews of current or past employers. I have recommended this site to clients who needed to conduct company research. But I had not suggested it as a job board before. When I looked at the site again, I was impressed by the number and quality of postings on the site.

The runners-up for effective job posting sites were Indeed (yay!) and LinkedIn. I have definitely seen a lot more job postings through LinkedIn over the last year or so. With LinkedIn’s shiny, new interface, I suspect this networking site will continue to be a strong choice for employers looking to post jobs.

As most job seekers go directly to job sites when looking for work, using these job sites often means stiff competition. About 70% of jobs are still found through referrals or social media. But that doesn't mean that you shouldn't use job sites. Instead, balance your time wisely. Apply for the jobs that you are well-suited to while continuing to work on the rest of your job search strategy.   

If you want to expedite your job search, consider working with Career Story. We provide the professional job search help you need to find the work you deserve. Email Kristin at kristin@careerstory.ca for more information.

5 Ways to Stand Out on LinkedIn (According to Recruiters)

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Did you know that 73% of employers will “Always” or “Often” check you out on social media after receiving your application? This is what I learned after conducting a survey of 60 hiring decision makers including recruiters, HR professionals, and business owners.

Having a solid, professional LinkedIn profile can make you stand out as a strong candidate.

But what makes a good LinkedIn profile? I recently talked to a few recruiters and HR professionals to get their tips and tricks for how you can maximize your LinkedIn presence.

Write in a Friendly, Professional Tone. LinkedIn is moving from being proper and serious (“all business”) to being more friendly and personable. After all, it is a networking platform and networking is all about relationships.

Maz from Aughdem Recruitment recommends that you write your profile and experience in the first-person. Share your motivations, story, and your why!  Let your personality come out. People want to hire people they like.

In interacting on LinkedIn, be approachable and helpful. Share information that will be useful to your network. You can share pictures or personal stories if they are relevant to your network. For me, the posts that have had the most engagement have been personal stories and pictures related to my career.

Look to build connection by being friendly. If someone asks you to connect, accept and then send them a welcome message and try to get to know them better. Also, if you are sending connection requests, always customize your request.

Make Your Profile Complete and Neat: There is a balance between too much and too little information on LinkedIn. You need to provide enough detail so that employers understand what you are capable of.  Do not leave any sections blank.

Less is more. Each section (Summary and Experience) on LinkedIn has a 2000-character limit. I advise my clients to aim for approximately 1000 characters per section.

Vanessa, Talent Acquisition Specialist for Hemmera, stated that she looks for candidates to have an organized and tidy profile. This can be easily done by using icons as bullets and space between paragraphs.  

Use Keywords: To be found on LinkedIn, you need to know what keywords to integrate into your profile. Recruiters or hiring managers use LinkedIn like a search engine, often using keywords like job titles, technology, and location to source candidates.

Look at job postings for your ideal position. Make a list of the keywords and then ensure they are sprinkled throughout your profile. It’s very important that you also have them in your headline.

Your Skills and Endorsements section should be a thorough representation of what you want to be found for. Be sure to review this section to make certain it showcases your best skills and knowledge.

Invest in a Good Profile Picture: The number one piece of advice that came from the recruiters and HR personnel I talked to? Have a good profile picture! LinkedIn is your professional web presence and a representation of your personal brand. You need to show up looking professional and friendly.

Be Mindful of Your Actions: Every time that you take an action on LinkedIn, it is publicly broadcast to your connections. Make sure that anything you publish, comment on or even like, is professional. You can easily damage your reputation and dilute your brand message if you are not careful.

And lastly, here’s a bonus tip from Lucas from TEKsystems. If a recruiter reaches out to you on LinkedIn, why not take a few minutes to chat with them, even if you aren’t looking for your next opportunity? Recruiters have a great sense of what is going on in the industry and if you can build up a relationship with them now, it could help you down the road when you are ready to make a career transition.

If you want to do a better job of getting noticed on LinkedIn, consider getting help to elevate your profile. We offer LinkedIn profile writing and coaching on how to better use the platform. 

Kristin Vandegriend is the founder of Career Story where she has helped hundreds of her clients successfully transition to work they love. She supports her clients to uncover their strengths and communicate to get what they want in the workplace. 

Connect with Kristin at kristin@careerstory.ca or sign up to get her monthly career and job search tips straight to your inbox.

How Targeted Cover Letters Get Interviews

Every Christmas, my family gets a Christmas card from one of my extended family members. It is always nice to know someone is thinking of us though often he just signs it without a personal message. One year, he didn’t even sign it. He just inserted his business card.

This makes me think of cover letters. Cover letters are an expected part of your job application. But how you write that cover letter makes the difference! 

If you write a bland, templated cover letter, you risk having the reader treat it like a generic Christmas card. Stereotypical and disposable. The sentiments don’t ring true and your seeming lack of effort could actually be a turn-off.

I appreciate that our family member makes an effort to mail a Christmas card.  But how much more meaningful would it be to include a few personalized lines? Sending cards at Christmas are culturally expected. But why go through the motions if it comes across as a formality?  

Let’s tie that back to your cover letter. 

Employers want to know that you want to work for them.  They will not find value in a cover letter that reads like a form letter.

Now imagine that your cover letter was clearly targeted it to the company you are applying to!  It showed that you had researched the company and were familiar with the job posting. In your cover letter, you shared about how you could fulfill the job responsibilities.  Your personality shone through and revealed your motivation to do the job.

That’s a cover letter that I would want to read!  

Kristin Vandegriend is the founder of Career Story where she has helped hundreds of her clients successfully transition to work they love. She supports her clients to uncover their strengths and communicate to get what they want in the workplace. 

Connect with Kristin at kristin@careerstory.ca or sign up to get her monthly career and job search tips straight to your inbox.

Open to a Career Move? Let the Recruiters on LinkedIn Know!

LinkedIn has recently introduced a new feature called Open Candidate. This feature allows you to signal to recruiters that you are open to new opportunities even if you are currently employed.

It is easy to set up.  Go to the Jobs tab and then click on Preferences. 

Click On for Let Recruiters Know You’re Open and then fill in the associated information.  

Your initial concern may be that recruiters associated with your company could see you. LinkedIn promises that they will not show your profile to anyone within your company or who works with your company.  

For more information on setting up this feature, take a look at this short tutorial. 

If you are ready to elevate your job search on LinkedIn, contact Career Story. We provide premium job search services that help you stand out from the crowd. Contact Kristin at kristin@careerstory.ca

The #1 Question You Should Prepare For Your Next Interview

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There is one critical interview question can make or break your chances of landing your next job. This question is often asked early in the interview process. So your answer is pivotal to whether you move forward or not. 

The question is, “What do you know about our company?”

As a recruiter, I used to do phone screening interviews for a screen door manufacturer. I would call potential candidates to ask a few questions including this question.  When I got to this question, the candidate would often stumble. They would respond vaguely based on the company name. “I think your company makes screen doors?”  Or they would say, “Where are you calling from again?”  Sometimes, candidates would recite information from the company website.

One of my friends operates a home staging business. She uses this question during phone screening interviews. If it is obvious that someone does not know anything about her company, she moves on.  Recently, she advertised for an accounting position. The candidate she selected had the accounting skills necessary to do the job. But beyond that, this candidate also expressed her motivation to work for a home staging company. She had researched my friend's company and was able to share how she could add value. 

Think about this from the employer’s perspective. Employers want to hire people who want to work for them, not just someone who wants a job!  When you can demonstrate that you know about the company and how you can add value, it makes you stand out!  

When you do your research, go beyond the company website! Employers do not want to hear their website information recited back to them. And in an age of accessible information, you can tap into a variety of information sources. 

Read the company’s blog.

Like their Facebook page.

Use LinkedIn to research who works there.  

Find out if the company has been in the news recently.

Try to talk to someone who works there already.

Because you could receive a phone call at any time, you need to do your research ahead of time. Keeping track of your job applications is critical to successfully answering this question! Create a spreadsheet or paper-based system that will allow you to quickly access information.

If you can nail this question, it will go a long ways to making a good impression!

Good luck. You got this. 

Cheers, 

Kristin 

Kristin Vandegriend is the founder of Career Story where she has helped hundreds of her clients successfully transition to work they love. Kristin is passionate about supporting her clients to uncover their strengths and communicate to get what they want in the workplace.