Posts filed under Resume

Job Search Toolkit: Résumés - Your Story on Paper (Part 6)

I'm excited to approach the sixth post on a seven-part series on résumés.  To date, we've gone over the following:

  • Résumé Header
  • Education
  • Professional Experience 
  • Accomplishment Statements

Today, I'd like to share more about when and how to include "non-traditional" experience on your résumé.  "Non-traditional" experiences are jobs, volunteer positions, or projects that do not directly relate to your career path (not professional experiences like internships, co-ops, and full-time positions) but demonstrate transferable skills.  Non-traditional experiences are especially important early in your career when you do not have years of professional experiences to fill up a page of your résumé.

So what are the transferable skills you might want to highlight?  As I think about someone new to the workforce, I tend to look for these skills or competencies regardless of where they acquired them.

  • Work ethic
  • Proactivity
  • Ability to balance competing priorities
  • Creativity
  • Problem-solving
  • Humility
  • Willingness to take responsibility
  • Teamwork
  • Comfort with ambiguity

Experiences like part-time jobs, volunteer positions, class projects, and school organizations are great places to acquire these skills.  Oftentimes, when I see someone with a sparse résumé it's because they have a lot of non-traditional experiences that are not included in their résumé.  This is especially common for college students and recent graduates since they do not have years of professional experience to draw on.

If this is the case for you, the easiest method I have found is to brainstorm times when you have demonstrated the skills and competencies listed above and to use this list to round out your résumé.  For example, work ethic could mean working 20+ hours a week during college while graduating in four years, creativity might be growing the non-profit organization you started on campus from one member to 300 and raising money for a cause, and comfort with ambiguity might be the time you learned a new language and spent a semester abroad.  College is rich with opportunities to develop the skills that will make you competitive in the workplace, and your résumé is the place to highlight these experiences.

Non-traditional experience should be added to your résumé in a similar way as professional experience; focusing on accomplishment statements rather than a list of activities.  In the case of a job, this would fit in your experience section in chronological order.  For other experiences like volunteering, leadership, and special projects, I create a new section titled "Philanthropic and On-Campus Involvement" or "Academic Related Projects".  From here, I list out the specific experience just like a job or internship: name of the organization, date(s) of involvement, and location.  Under this, I add in three to five accomplishment statements.

What kinds of valuable experiences do you have that are not on your résumé?  Is there an opportunity to enhance your story by adding this information?

Posted on December 5, 2015 and filed under Job Search Toolkit, Resume.

Job Search Toolkit: Résumés - Your Story on Paper (Part 5)

Finally, the "Experience' section.  I wanted to go through each section of the resume in detail before this one to give appropriate attention and importance to the entire document.  Most people focus on their experience, filling in the other parts as an afterthought.  I've placed resumes in the "no" pile long before I reach the experience section due to poor formatting or typos.  Each and every square centimeter on a resume is critical; it can make or break your career opportunities.

After making it through the top portion of a resume, I take 2- 3 seconds to skim their experience.  I’m looking for quantifiable accomplishments and results.  In the hiring process, the best indicator of future performance is past behavior, so I want to understand how the person performed in the past.  Did they achieve goals?  Did they save $10,000, increase revenue by 5%, or improve cycle time  by 20%?  Oftentimes, people write down a task list or a job description in their experience section, as if describing their previous job duties qualifies them for a future role.  I throw these resumes out.  I do not care about what you did in your previous job(s), what I care about is if you did your previous jobs(s) well.

The other important thing to remember is that this one piece of paper is serving as your first impression.  The reader might not get the opportunity to meet you first, so your charming personality or great elevator speech cannot help you.  Your resume must be able to stand on its own and represent you as a professional.  

It’s a bit like preparing for a first date.  You both want to make a great impression, so you dress up, go somewhere nice, make sure your car is clean, open the door, etc.  One year later, date night probably looks a little different, right?  If your resume is your best impression and it isn’t the most fantastic description of you, maybe it isn’t even good, what does that say about you and how you would perform after you get a little comfortable?

There is a lot to cover when it comes to experience, so today I’m going to focus on the most important: accomplishment statements.  Here are two examples; one using the job description methodology and one using accomplishment statements.  Which one jumps out to you?

Example #1: Job Description

Marketing Analyst

  • Supported Director, Marketing with all deliverables for Tide laundry detergent and presented findings regularly

  • Created brand campaign based on market research findings

  • Completed market research, including focus groups, one-on-one interviews, and live demonstrations, for Tide laundry detergent

Example #2: Accomplishments

Marketing Analyst

  • Conducted market research for the Tide brand, including six focus groups, 15 consumer shadowing experiences, and purchasing analytics on over 100 million data points

  • Used market research findings to craft a new brand campaign, resulting in a 4% same store sales increase in revenue and a 10% increase in volume compared to a goal of increasing same store sales by 3% and volume by 8%

  • Presented brand campaign deliverables to the Director of Marketing for final approval prior to execution.  Director of Marketing made an exception and invited me to present the brand campaign at the Marketing Executives meeting due to the quality of the materials

 

The example shows two different ways to describe the exact same situation.  Example #1 is the most common, and will typically land you in the “no” pile.  What did this person do that was outstanding?  Example #2 is less common and moves to the top of the “yes” pile.  They get an immediate phone call to see if they are as good over the phone as they are on paper.  Their experience is impressive, and indicates that they will continue to perform this way in the future.

So how do you become a #2?  Take time to brainstorm your accomplishments, whether at work, internships, or campus clubs.  What stands out as exceptional?  Can you quantify it so others understand the magnitude of why it is exceptional?  It takes an investment of time up front to develop meaningful examples, but once you start, coming up with accomplishments is easy.  Take your examples and then try to put them in the order of a story so someone could read through and understand it.  Make sure to have others proofread it.  Put your best food forward, and always be honest.

 

Job Search Toolkit: Résumés - Your Story on Paper (Part 4)

The "Education" section of the résumé oftentimes is overlooked as a necessary placeholder to list colleges and degrees.  Done correctly, the Education section can elevate your résumé to the must-interview list, regardless of where you attended school.

During your time in school as well as up to five years post-graduation, your education section plays an important role in telling your story beyond listing where you went to school and what degree(s) you earned.  Here's why: employers look for people's behaviors, as past behavior is a great predictor of future success.  Undergraduate and graduate education is a great opportunity to demonstrate the behaviors that potential employers seek, and it's easy to make the connections.  For example...

  • A high GPA probably means that you're a hard worker who prepared for classes and exams.
  • Scholarships mean that you excelled in a particular area, and that you had the drive and determination to succeed in a competitive arena (sports, academics, etc).
  • Awards are similar to scholarships; you excelled at something and competed to win against a number of other qualified candidates.
  • Leadership and elected positions mean you inspired confidence in others to take responsibility for a student organization or event.  
  • Volunteer positions mean you care about other people and are inspired to give back to your community.

Applying this to the education section of your résumé takes it from the content in Example A to the content in Example B.

Example A

EDUCATION

Miami University, Oxford, OH;                                                                                           2004 - 2008

  • Bachelor of Science in Marketing and Supply Chain Management
  • GPA: 3.8 / 4.0
  • Vice President, Recruitment - Delta Pi Sigma Business Fraternity
  • Big Brothers, Big Sisters Volunteer

Example B

EDUCATION

Miami University, Oxford, OH;                                                                                           2004 - 2008

  • Bachelor of Science in Marketing and Supply Chain Management
  • GPA: 3.8 / 4.0; Graduated Magna Cum Laude; Top 5% of class and a Beta Gamma Sigma Business Honorary Scholar
  • Vice President, Recruitment - Delta Pi Sigma Business Fraternity: Selected by peers among five candidates to lead competitive recruitment program for fraternity membership.   
  • Distinguished Department Scholar: Chosen by Marketing department professors among all marketing senior majors (315 total) as the Department Scholar
  • Academic Excellence Scholarship: Awarded an annual scholarship of $15,000 (75% of tuition costs) based on high school and college academic achievement.  Self-funded remaining tuition.
  • Big Brothers, Big Sisters Volunteer
  • Study Abroad Experience: Miami University Luxembourg (Summer 2007)

Example B gives a much clearer view of the candidate and how their previous behavior will translate to future behaviors.  The candidate in Example B comes across as hard working, determined, socially-confident, and financially-savvy.  Almost everyone has these types of attributes and value to highlight, but rarely do I see a candidate highlight how well they did in comparison to others, especially in the "Education" section.  In some cases you could further expand the content later in the "Experience" section, giving a well-rounded view of your accomplishments during your undergraduate and/or graduate years will give employers a well-rounded picture of who you are.  This is especially important if you have less than five years of work experience, as the Education section is more prominent.

Job Search Toolkit: Résumés - Your Story on Paper (Part 3)

Fall.  It's my favorite time of the year.  The crisp cool air, memories of going back to school, and the feeling of being extra-motivated for the year ahead.  Now, I love going back to campus to recruit students.  The only memories I do not cherish are the years I was also job or internship-searching in the fall - it's much easier being on the other side of the interviewing table!  

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In  light of this time of year, today I want to start going through résumés step-by-step, starting with the header. Every piece of a résumé is important, and as the first thing the reader sees, your header must capture their attention and make them want to keep reading. 

So, what should you include in the header?

Your full name.

Your mailing address.

Your email address.

Your phone number.

Sounds simple, right?  It should be simple, but I've placed people in the "no" pile simply due to their header.  Here is why...

An unprofessional email address.  Be safe and use your name as your email address, with a gmail or yahoo - type account that will not expire after graduation.  Never place your work email address on your résumé.

Formatting errors within their header.  I've seen multiple fonts, center and left justification, and countless other formatting inconsistencies in headers.  If something so simple has errors, I have no interest in reading the rest of the document.

An objective statement about "seeking a challenging position in finance" or "an internship that leverages my analytical skills".  Objective statements are the worst uses of space on a résumé.  If you are applying to jobs, what is your objective other than to gain employment in that field?  What purpose does it serve to list it on your résumé?  The objective statement is a present-day shortcut to the well-crafted cover letter, which is a must to set yourself apart in the job market.

Your header can be as simple as the following:

Easy, right?  Let your accomplishments and the professionalism of your résumé differentiate you, not crazy fonts or unique formatting that requires the reader to search for information.


There are nuances to each part of a resume, even the header.  I've included guidance on frequently asked questions.

Résumé Header FAQs

Where does the header belong?

I prefer to see a header center-justified at the top of the page, with the name on the top line and in a noticeably larger font than the rest of the information.  This makes it easy to remember your name and tie it to your information.

What name should I use if I changed my last name (e.g. due to marriage, divorce, etc)?

Your name is a key piece of your brand.  If you have legally changed last names and are using a different last name than what is commonly known, I recommend using your new last name, followed by née [former last name] all in parenthesis.  "Née" means "formerly" in French and is common terminology to indicate a last name change.  For me, this looks like: KaLeena S. Thomas (née Weaver)

If I am in college, should I use my college address or my home address?

It depends.  From a simplicity standpoint, using one mailing address is easier for the reader to navigate and it keeps the top of your résumé from being too "busy".  Companies use your mailing address infrequently, usually only to send you an "official" offer letter (most are emailed) and to set up new hire paperwork.  

If you are applying to smaller companies in different areas of the country while in college, seeing a non-local address may deter them as they may not typically fly candidates in to interview.  In this case, if your permanent address is a local address for that organization, use both your permanent and current address.  This will indicate that you are familiar with the area, intend to move back after graduation, and available to travel (likely on your own dime) for an interview.  If you want to move somewhere else specifically and can move immediately, it's oftentimes easier to move first and then find a local job.  It frees you up to interview any time without a commute and solidifies your interest in and willingness to move for an opportunity.

Should I use my university email address?

No, unless you are positive your university will keep this email address "active" permanently and you want to manage this inbox into the future.  Many universities will disable accounts a year after graduation, meaning those with your university email will get a bounce back rather than reaching you.  Why risk missing out on an opportunity?  Set up a free email using a configuration of your name (see example above) and route everything through this email.

Posted on September 19, 2015 and filed under Job Search Toolkit, Resume.

Job Search Toolkit: Résumés - Your Story on Paper (Part 2)

I had the pleasure of attending lunch with our new undergraduate co-ops from Georgia Tech on Friday.  What an impressive group!  They asked great questions, behaved professionally, and gracefully accepted feedback.  The entire luncheon consisted of our CEO, a couple members from my team, the co-ops, and myself at a great restaurant in Atlanta. 

Our CEO loves reading and reviewing resumes from the perspective of using them to understand the person and their motivations.  My team provided him with copies of each co-op's résumé in advance of the lunch, and he proceeded to study the content and mark up the formatting.  Over lunch, he shared feedback with each co-op, gave them the redlined documents, and had a conversation about his initial observations of them based on the content in their résumé.  While some of the feedback consisted of cleaning up the formatting, the more interesting observations were about what their résumé said about their personality, motivations, and aspirations.

My favorite idea related to strengthening your résumé was to start by making a list of the attributes you want to convey and the things you aspire to, and to then create your content based on this list.  For example, if you want to show that you are a leader, your résumé should highlight leadership behaviors and experiences such as being selected by your classmates or a boss to lead a group project, a vote by a sports team to be the captain, or a time that you started a project, task force, or club and had to inspire others to join you in this new venture.  Leadership is not about forcing your will on someone else, it is about inspiring others to follow you.  Make sure the content on your resume matches who you are.

Make your list privately and be honest about what you want to convey and what you aspire to.  If you want to make a lot of money, write it down.  If you want power, write it down.  Your list might look something like this:

Attributes:

  • Leader
  • Giving
  • Strong Academics
  • Motivated
  • Determined
  • Team Player
  • Financial Acumen
  • Organized
  • Detail-Oriented

Aspirations:

  • Become a VP at a Financial Services Firm
  • Live in Chicago
  • Gain Experience in Private Equity
  • Start my Own Wealth Management Company 

Look at your current résumé.  Does it tell the story of who you are and what you want to be, or is it a list of jobs, internships, and academics in chronological order?  In many cases, résumés are just a listing of information without a consistent theme or story pulling the information together about the person behind the résumé.  I also see many résumés that have inconsistent formatting or are so disorganized I cannot follow them, leading me to believe that the person who crafted this document lacks attention to detail and organizational skills.  It's kind of like dating, where your résumé is the equivalent of a first date.  It's common to be at the top of your game on a first date, so if you went out with someone for the first time and they were rude to people, late, and generally obnoxious, you probably would not want to see them again.  It is the same concept for your résumé.  If the first thing a potential employer sees about you is poor grammar or formatting, their confidence that you can perform will decrease and they probably will not call you in for an interview.

Using this methodology can help you create a consistent message about who you are and help you position yourself for opportunities that are in line with your aspirations.Once you make this list, you can use the information to match experiences and accomplishments with each attribute and develop the content for your résumé.  I'll share an example of this in Part 3.

 

Job Search Toolkit: Résumés - Your Story on Paper (Part 1)

One of the most important pieces of career “real estate” you’ll create are your resume and cover letter.  Over time, your resume will evolve from focusing on your academic background to highlighting your professional experience.  It’s easy to forget about your resume until you need it, but keeping your resume updated every few months can help as you network and find new opportunities even if you aren’t officially in the job market.


The resume is commonly misunderstood of as just a listing of experience and education - it’s really your career “story” on paper.  The average reader spends 10 - 15 seconds reading a resume before making a decision on whether or not to connect with a candidate, so telling your story effectively and efficiently is crucial.  While your resume cannot convey everything about your candidacy for a job (your cover letter is critical here), it provides a forum to highlight accomplishments, qualifications, and relevant or transferable skills.  

There are some universal themes to keep in mind when creating or updating your resume.  If you are interested in personal, one-on-one support with your resume, The Savvy Young Professional also has resources available to simplify the process while polishing your resume to perfection.  More information is available on the Career Resources and Services page.

Getting Started: Top 10 Resume Tips

  1. Keep the content to one page in length for your first five to ten years in the workforce, with the most important information at the top of the first page (education while you are still in school, experience once you are in the workforce).

  2. Avoid writing “job descriptions” on your resume (e.g. a listing of activities for a job) and instead focus on accomplishment statements. The more quantitative your accomplishment statements are, the better.  For example:

    1. Job description statement: Created financial models to predict profitability of various business ventures and presented findings to the leadership team.

    2. Accomplishment statements: Created a financial model that minimized the time required to predict profitability from 15 hours per business deal to 2 hours by writing code and creating a simple user interface.  Presented findings of each deal to the leadership team, with 95% of my recommendations pursued by the company.  100% of these deals resulted in 12% or greater profitability for the company compared to the threshold of 9%.

  3. Customize your resume for a particular company and job so that you highlight your most important skills and experiences.  Make sure to use clear file naming to avoid version control when sharing your resuming.

  4. Use simple and consistent formatting to draw the reader’s attention to the content.  This includes consistent bullet points, font (black, Times New Roman), and spacing/indentation.

  5. Avoid wasting space with statements like “references available upon request” or a listing of basic skills like Microsoft Office.

  6. Highlight unique skills or programming knowledge if the job requires proficiency in certain applications or software (e.g. Adobe Photoshop).

  7. Include information that demonstrates a pattern of excellence such as scholarships, athletics, and awards.  This could also include selection data, such as “selected as one of two recipients for Scholarship X from over 100 applicants”.

  8. Include information on professionally-related endeavors outside the workplace or academics such as clubs, philanthropies, or boards of directors.  If you have a leadership role and/or measurable accomplishments through these endeavors, highlight this information in greater detail.

  9. Enlist friends and family to review your resume for formatting, grammatical, and spelling errors.

  10. Print your resume on high quality resume paper (white or cream).
Posted on August 9, 2015 and filed under Job Search Toolkit, Resume.