Posts tagged #job search

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 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: Cover Letters - Your Secret Weapon

 

With classes starting for many universities over the next week, recruiting season will be in full swing in a few short weeks.  For post-graduates, late summer and early fall is a great time to search for jobs as it represents the start of a new fiscal year and new staffing budgets for many companies, meaning that there are more jobs being actively recruited right now.  In addition to updating your resume, it's important to craft a cover letter for every job application.

Your cover letter is like the socket wrench of your job search toolkit.  It customizes your application and helps explain to a potential employer how you "fit" a number of different jobs.  In my professional experience, candidates who take the time to draft a well-written cover letter confirm the following for me: they have strong written communication skills, they go beyond the requirements to make a strong first impression, and they are attentive to details.  These are three qualities I look for in any candidate, regardless of the job.

A well-written cover letter accomplishes the following in thee to four paragraphs: 

  1. Explains your interest and unique qualifications in a particular job or company
  2. Highlights specific accomplishments and your unique value as it relates to the fundamental job requirements
  3. Confirms specific (and proactive) next steps as it relates to the application/interview process

Done correctly, cover letters are challenging to write but well worth the extra effort because they help the reader understand your unique value relative to  other applicants.  A well-crafted cover letter is especially important in instances of high competition or where you may not have the exact background or qualifications for a role.  In the former, a cover letter will set you apart and articulate your passion for and value provided to the company relative to all the other candidates.  This is critical when companies receive hundreds or thousands of applications for a job and are sifting through candidates trying to decide who to bring in for interviews solely based on pieces of paper.  In the latter situation, a cover letter can help describe how your background experience is transferable to a different industry or function; for example, maybe your first job was as a business analyst for a brick and mortar retail company and you’re interested in a project management position for an internet-based food retailer.  While your title might have been an analyst and the company may be traditional brick and mortar, maybe you had some project management responsibilities in your analyst job that could easily get lost in a brief sweep of your resume.  Perhaps you were also involved in establishing the retailer’s website and introduction to online sales, and were instrumental in setting up and tracking a sales dashboard with KPIs that you used to present to management and draw conclusions on the website strategy.  While these are great examples to put on your resume in your accomplishment statements, it’s even more important to highlight these topics on your cover letter.  Think of your cover letter like an executive summary of your resume, helping the reader understand the relevance and significance of these experiences as it relates to their company.

The ten items below will help as you craft your cover letters.  For additional insight, you can reference sample cover letters here, download a cover letter template here, and learn about expert coaching services on the Career Resources & Services Page.

Top 10 Cover Letter Tips

  1. Always include a cover letter with a job application.

  2. Keep the length to one page and three to four paragraphs.  Your reader will likely have a lot of applicants to sift through, so conciseness is key.

  3. Use proper formatting, with the date and addresses of the sender and recipient at the top of the letter.

  4. Highlight your interest in the industry and company in the opening paragraph, using research to articulate an understanding of the organization and their industry.

  5. Avoid describing how the company will fulfill your lifelong dreams and instead on how you can channel your passion to add value for the company.

  6. Describe two to four accomplishments that directly qualify you for the job.  Reference the job description to understand the most important skills or qualifications for that particular job, and then highlight your specific experiences.  For example, if the job requires strong project management skills, you might have a dot point list with "Project Management" listed and an example of your abilities.

  7. Be confident! Do not include statements like “if you feel that I am qualified for the job, please call me at…”.  Never invite the reader to question your ability to do the job.

  8. Close the letter with a statement about next steps, noting that if you have not heard back by a particular date that you will reach out to their Human Resources department via phone.  

  9. Note at the bottom that your resume is enclosed with your cover letter.

  10. Always customize every cover letter, even if you are applying to companies in the same industry.  While it is easy to search and replace keywords, these tactics are obvious to a reader and pose too great a risk for error.

Before finalizing your cover letter, ask your family, friends, or an expert to review the content and provide feedback.  This could be someone in your University career services department, a peer with solid resume and cover letter experience, a parent or experienced colleague, or, best of all, an expert.  An expert will take the time to understand and articulate your story, help you put it on paper, and review everything with a critical eye to eliminate the risk of errors.  

Best of luck and happy interviewing!

Photo via http://www.litdrift.com/tag/writing/

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.