Resume Writing

10 Essentials Resume Tips When Submitting Online Applications

In some companies, online application systems screen resumes before a person does. That means that if your resume doesn’t meet specific requirements, it could be screened out, never even getting a chance.

You may think this only applies to larger companies, but small to medium-sized companies use basic electronic screening tools as well. For example, if you submit your resume via Indeed, recruiters and hiring managers can set search criteria that help them create a short list of all applications submitted.

Here are my top 10 tips for ensuring your resume successfully gets through online systems.

1.      Carefully answer knockout screening questions. These are the questions that you need to respond to before uploading your resume. By answering a question wrong, you may take yourself completely out of the running.

Also, don’t take too long as some companies track the time it takes you to complete your online application.

2.      Stick with standard headings for each section on your resume. The online systems look for headings in your resume to know how to categorize information. By sticking with general headings like “Work Experience” or “Education,” there’s a greater chance your resume content will show up in the right places. 

3.      Job titles matter. Specific job titles are very common search criteria. Your application may be more successful if your most recent job title matches the job posting title.   

If it makes sense, adjust your job title to align with the posting. For example, I used to be called a Career Strategist, but the industry terms for the type of work I did was Case Manager. If applying online to a Case Manager position, I’d change my job title to Case Manager instead of Career Strategist.

4.      Incorporate keywords from the job posting. Carefully review the posting to ensure that you are using the right keywords in your resume.  To test your keyword alignment, use Job Scan. You can use industry acronyms, but make sure you also spell them in full form as well.

5.      Know what will scan. You may have a beautifully designed resume, but keep in mind that graphics and images won’t scan. And systems can also struggle to read text in columns and text boxes.

That doesn’t mean that design doesn’t matter or that you shouldn’t use more graphic elements. It just means that those elements won’t be parsed in an online system. Eventually, human eyes will scan your resume and this can help you stand out.  

6.      Spell properly.  Of course, you want to ensure that you check your spelling and grammar before submitting a resume. But it’s even more important with online applications. If you misspell a critical keyword, the system isn’t smart enough to know that.

7.      Don’t cheat. The advice used to be to put the job posting in white font at the bottom of your resume in hopes of tricking the system. But systems have gotten smarter over time and using out-dated tricks like this could result in your application being black-listed.

8.      Put your contact information in the right spot.  For online applications, you should keep your contact information at the top of your resume. If you put it somewhere else, it can easily get lost. Also, do not put your contact information in the header as not all systems can read information in headers or footers.

9.      Resume length doesn’t matter. You have probably heard that a resume shouldn’t be longer than two pages. Well, with online systems, it doesn’t matter. Focus on using the space you need to explain your background in alignment with the job.

10.   Keep your font simple: Stick with some of the more popular fonts like Calibri, Arial, Cambria, Garamond, or Times New Roman.

Hope this helps you with your next online application.

Warmly,

Kristin 

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.

The Anatomy of a Resume that Gets Noticed

To find work in today’s labour market, it’s expected that you submit a well-written, polished resume which outlines your best skills, experience, training, and accomplishments. And as resume formats have evolved over time, it’s raised the bar on what’s expected by future employers.

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 2017, we surveyed over 60 hiring experts including hiring managers, HR professionals, and recruiters across a wide range of industries. Here’s what we learned. 

1. Target your resume: Hiring managers want to see you made an effort. They want to hire someone who wants to work for them, not just someone who wants a job. For each position you apply to, be sure to adjust your resume to highlight your best skills, experience, and training.

2. Check your spelling and grammar: Spelling and grammar mistakes are the #1 turn-off for hiring managers. Be sure to check, double-check, and check again before sending out.

3. Be organized: Hiring managers scan your resume in 5-10 seconds. Make it as easy as possible for them to understand what you can do. 

4. Use a common font: Hiring managers don’t care which font – it just needs to be an easy-to-read font. Creative fonts don’t earn you extra points.

5. Limit the length of your resume: The average resume should be two pages. If you are at a senior level, it’s acceptable to have a longer resume. If you are junior, you may only need a one-page resume. Everyone else? Stick with two pages.

6. Utilize the correct date format: Use the month and year format for start and end dates in your employment history.

7. Limit your bullets per section: No one has time to read a dense list of bullets. Identify what is most important. Generally, 5 – 7 bullets per section is the golden rule.

8. Incorporate keywords: Use the job description to identify industry keywords and integrate those keywords throughout the resume.  

9. Use action words: When describing your work and accomplishments, always start your statements with a powerful action verb.

10. Explain your value: Instead of listing tasks, explain what you achieved. How did the company benefit from your performance? How do you do this job better than someone else might? Or what would get missed if you were away for an extended amount of time? 

11. Write accomplishment statements: Under your work history, write accomplishment statements using the PAR (problem – action – result) method.

12. Quantify results: Find tangible examples of what you have done and use numbers and percentages to describe how you made a difference.

13. Explain gaps or short-term employment: Gaps or short-term employment causes concern for hiring managers. If you have a recent employment gap on your resume, address it briefly.

14. Design matters: Hiring managers appreciate a nice-looking resume. In particular, they like the use of bold font to draw attention to important information.

15. Show personality: Reviewing resumes can be tedious, especially when job seekers use generic phrasing or unnecessary jargon. Be unique and memorable in your wording.

16. Send it in PDF: Most hiring managers want your resume submitted in PDF, but always follow the instructions, first and foremost. 

All the best in landing your next opportunity. If you want to read more about our survey, you can download our exclusive guide here. 

All the best in landing your next opportunity. 

Kristin 

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.

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. 

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.

 

Resume Formatting Hacks You Should Try

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As a resume writer, I love formatting and design! But sometimes formatting is the element that causes the most amount of grief for a job seeker! 

Here are a few of my secrets to successful resume formatting. Please note that I am using examples from Word 2016. 

Left Alignment for Dates

I love the look when employment dates are properly aligned to the left. It helps the reviewer quickly get a sense of your work history and keeps things nice and tidy.

The challenge is when you have a line of text that requires both right and left alignment. Here is how you can easily do this.

To left align in Word, look for a small box to the left of your ruler. Click on it until you get to the backward L. 

Then click into your document where you want to the break between left and right alignment to happen. Click on the ruler to place the left alignment.

Once you have set the alignment, make sure your cursor is in the space where you set the break between right and left alignment. Hit the tab button and see your text fly over to the left!

Creating Differentiated Headings

You need to make your resume as easy as possible to read. One of the ways that you can do that is through using headings.  Here are a few easy ways to quickly make your headings stand out.

Option 1: Add a Line.

Adding a line to a heading is easy. Type in your heading and keep your cursor on the same line. Make sure you are on the Home tab. Then click the arrow beside on the picture of the quadrant box (Borders) in the Paragraph section.  Select Bottom Border.

Option 2: Add a Shade

Another option for making your heading stand out is to use Shading. Type in your heading and keep your cursor on the line. For this option, again make sure you are on the Home tab. This time, click on the arrow beside the paint can under the Paragraph section and select the shade colour that you desire.

Option 3: Use Capitalization

One additional way to make your headings stand out is through using capitalization. Did you know there is an easy way to switch between lowercase and uppercase in Word? Under Fonts, select the Change Case button (Aa), you will then have the option to choose a variety of options including UPPERCASE.

Though content is important on resumes, it is also critical to make sure that your resume is eye-catching and easy to read.

Hopefully, these formatting tips will help you create a resume that stands out!  For more inspiration, check out these resume samples. 

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.