I've been talking to a lot of friends lately about my full time return to the work force. I have been a stay at home mom for almost 4 years now. I've volunteered and have been writing here at Nexxt but my resume still has gaps. Like any student or recent grad I worry that despite my knowledge, I might be lacking in actual recent experience. So I took to Twitter to ask how I could make my resume and cover letter stand out in the pile. Turns out my friend and well known Tech Mommy, Jennifer Banks (@JenBanksYEG) had just written a post to tell me exactly what to do! Thank goodness for friends with great expertise! Her tips were so great I wanted to share them with you! So here they are!
1) Don’t Be Afraid to Apply
A lot of companies write job descriptions based on their dream candidate. Truth is, these dream candidates don’t really exist.
If you have over 50% of the qualifications, send in your resume. Keep in mind that recruiters/HR professionals will look at your skills as a bigger picture as well. If you lack skills in one area, but have expertise in another, you will win out.
Once you apply for a position, most companies will keep you in their database. Even though you weren’t successful at this job opening, you are already in their database for another. It’s a win/win.
2) Getting Your Resume Read is a Lot Like SEO
When you are looking for something online, you Google it. Recruiters use their internal databases and records management systems much like Google.
If I was looking for a Software Developer who needed PHP skills and to work in WordPress, I would search Developer, WordPress, Edmonton and PHP. The more times these words appeared in a resume, the more relevant it was to my search. These resumes would come up first.
What does this mean to you?
- One page resumes will not come up as much in searches. My resume is nine pages long. The key is to lay out a good expertise section on the first page of your resume. Give the person reading your qualifications an overview and then the details if they want to keep reading.
- Write more in your roles and responsibilities in each position. Don’t be afraid to add content. That being said, don’t just add content to add content. Make sure it’s relevant to the job you are applying for.
- Add in your technical expertise. Don’t assume that a recruiter/HR professional knows that because you code in PHP you know SQL. Chances are, the first person who screens your resume has no idea what you do. They are just matching keywords from job descriptions to resumes.
Further to this, if you think that a design rich resume with elaborate graphics will get your information to the top of the pile, you could be wrong. If you upload a resume and submit it into an internal databases or records management systems, the software will try to lay it out in a template format. Your elaborate resume design will not be seen and in some cases, it will screw up the template so bad it can’t be read. Unless you are sending a resume to one person by email, I would not suggest using a design rich resume.
3) Personalize Your Resume
Your resume should never be one size fits all.
Each job description will have different skills that are required. Make sure your resume showcases these for each position. Change words in your resume to match the ones in the job description. If the company is looking for “excellent customer services skills”, make sure you have excellent customer services skills in your resume.
4) Research the Person/Company You Are Sending Your Resume To
If you are sending your resume to a recruiter, do your research to add something person into your cover letter/email.
One of the best emails that I received was one that asked me out for coffee. The person applying follows me on Twitter and knows that I love a good cup of coffee. Instead of a form email, this one said “I know you are a huge fan of pressed coffee, why don’t we meet up for a cup and we can talk more about the position”. Love this!
If you don’t know the name of the person who is going to be screening your resume, research the company. Look for:
- Products/services they offer that you use or have experience with
- Charities that they donate time or money to
- A vision/corporate values that you also believe in
If you are coming up against 2o or 30 people for a position, you need to show that you did your research before applying. Use the information above in your email or cover letter. This could be anything from “I use your software everyday and it has really improved the way I do….” or “I see that you are a huge supporter of the Alberta Cancer Foundation, I have volunteered for them as well..” or “I love that one of your key values is to embrace change. Change is an important…..”.
Once you have an interview, make sure you continue to do your research to bring up case studies or questions specific to the company/person in the interview.
In every one of my interviews, I ask “What do you know about me?”. If you can’t answer this in an almost creepy way, I will question your real interest in the postion.
Wow them by showing that you spent the time to research and understand why you would be a good fit for the position. This will set you apart.
5) Back Up Your Claims
If you say you are an expert in anything on your resume, back it up.
“Jennifer Banks is highly skilled sales professional with over 10 years of experience within technical fields”. This is good but, let’s kick it up a notch. “Jennifer increased sales in the IT department over 330% and brought in over 1o large clients within her first year”. Which one stands out to you?
Make sure you:
- Include stats
- Show case studies
- Link your resume to articles, blog posts or anything relevant to the position you are applying for
- Include your awards and training
- Have documentation to prove it
Your resume is your time to shine. Including stats and case studies will make your resume stand out.
5) Keep Yourself In the “Yes” Pile
The first thing I do when people send me a resume is look them up on social media sites.
I creep your Facebook. I read your Tweets. I check out your LinkedIn recommendations. I go through your website or blog. I Google you.
I look for the following:
- What are you saying about your current job?
- How do you interact with people online?
- Who do you talk to? What are you interested in?
- Can you spell?
- How are you going to represent yourself to our clients?
On more than one occasion, I have loved a person on paper then looked at their online presence and moved them to the “no” pile. My best piece of advice on this is to remember that anything you write online can be found by a recruiter.
Your skills are only a piece of being hired. I look for a cultural fit as well. If you won’t fit into the team or the dynamics of the company, you are not going to make it into an interview. Your online presence shows a glimpse into this.
Do you have any great tips to get noticed? Something that has helped you to stand out in the competative job search world?
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