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Billboards, Radio Ads, and Resumes

How they are similar.

A common issue I see with resumes is that they contain too much information.To be really effective, a resume has to quickly grab attention, and generate interest in the candidate. The same is true for billboards and radio advertising.

My communications degree led to an interesting and fun career in broadcasting. As a radio DJ, I was required to record commercials that would air throughout the day. Many times, the salesperson, with the help of the client would write the ad and wanted it read “as-is”– as in ‘no changes’ to the copy. That meant a screaming ad, read at a fast pace that few would understand, or be compelled to keep listening. You can’t cram the business owner’s entire inventory into a 30 or 60 second ad. What gets attention in radio advertising? Long silence pauses. Short copy. Slower dialogue. Fewer Words. Just because you’re paying for 30 seconds, doesn’t mean the entire ad has to be filled with talking. What you’re seeking is results.

With Billboards it’s no different. When they have too many words, or multiple photos, no one is going to comprehend the message when they’re driving by at 60 MPH. The billboard has to be read in fewer than 5 seconds and pique interest.  Too much content and your message is lost.

Content also matters when it comes to your resume. Does it contain too much information? Does it relate to the reader’s needs? Does it get to the point> In advertising, good copy matters. On billboards, on the radio, and on your resume.

We’ve been helping career professionals get better jobs for 15+ years. If you need help streamlining your resume and cover letter, give us a call at 540-404-9175.

 

 

 

 

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Give your resume a facelift to look years younger

Don’t let your resume date you.

I review a lot of resumes, and have noticed a recurring issue with older career professionals. The resume offers up more information than it should. Those little hints that reveal your age, or make you look older than you are. When it’s time to update your resume, resist the urge to just add a new job on it, and ignore everything else. Instead, give it a facelift with these 9 tips.

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Resume Style – Less is More

Less is More graphic

Long before I became a resume writer, I studied broadcast journalism at Northern Arizona University. We were taught to write in the present tense, using short phrases, with easy-to-digest information. When I transitioned to resume writing, I took a lot of what I learned from writing for the ear, and applied it to job search documents. Short, attention grabbing, and easy-to-understand phrases.

I have routinely joked that I attend resume writing conventions where we argue over the comma. With resume writing we prefer the Oxford, or serial comma. I, and many other writers feel it adds more clarity to the sentence. Most US Style Guides have adopted the Oxford comma, but old school print journalists still follow AP Style, the last holdout where the Oxford comma is still not used.

Recently, my husband and I were discussing how vocabulary has changed since our country was founded. He told me he went back in and mentally inserted serial commas into the constitution and other historical documents and noted how much it changed the meaning.  Numerous arguments continue to this day about the intentions of our founding fathers, no doubt, because of a different punctuation style of that period.

Since the intention of a resume is to get job seekers noticed for interviews, I have thrown all conventional styles aside and have come up with my “Geary-style” of resume writing. I have taken different rules from different playbooks, be it, AP, Chicago, and Gregg, and kept what made sense for my audience, and made up my own rules were applicable. The style has worked over the past 14 years. In a nutshell, here are a few “rule-benders” that I use to gain attention for job seekers.

On resumes, we’ve all been taught that numbers jump off a page, yet Gregg Reference (Secretarial Manual) says we need to spell out one through ten. Why? I see no reason to spell out three, when 3 does the job better. I don’t care what Gregg reference says. It makes no sense on a resume to spell it out if it’s only going to be swallowed up in a sentence. Numbers work and they’re easy to comprehend.

Where don’t we want numbers? On the months and years  you worked. 1/10-7/6 is just plain hard to translate. Instead, use Jan 2010 – Jul 2016. That is so much easier for the reader to quickly grasp. Also, on resumes, we don’t use pronouns like with other forms of communication. It’s assumed that “I” wrote it, but “I” isn’t necessary anywhere on the document.

Another style rule I break is regarding CamelCase on email addresses and Linkedin urls. These addresses are not case-sensitive. And yes, I know the social media community is doing its best to hang on to a style that makes it difficult to read. But, what’s easier to read: 1strateresumes.com or 1stRateResumes.com? Think of the reader and make it easy for them. This style needs to be adopted across the board.

The bottom line with resumes is this: LESS is MORE. If you can quickly convey who you are and what you have to offer, you are likely to get more job interviews. It’s that simple. And when that happens, I’ve done my job.

 

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Scan the Headlines

It’s what we do.

Every day.

Whether it’s a Facebook news-feed or a newspaper, headlines help decide what we want to spend our time reading, or whether we should move on to another topic of interest.

With resumes, it’s no different. Recruiters need to know within mere seconds who you are and what you have to offer. In the news business it’s important that you don’t bury the lead. And it’s no different in the job search.

Think about it. If newspaper or magazine articles didn’t have a snappy, interesting headline, would you read that publication cover-to-cover in search of topics that interest you? Probably not.

So don’t leave your headline area blank. That’s the very first thing an employer will notice. Hint, it’s where the “objective” used to go. But don’t make it boring and vague either.

Here’s an example of a resume headline:

Multi-certified Job Search Consultant and Professional Resume Writer

Now the hiring director quickly knows what you’re all about, and whether they want to read further. It also has all the necessary keywords to get beyond applicant tracking systems.

With resumes, less is more. Remember that the next time you’re scanning a news headline or looking for a new job.

 

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Is Your Resume 1st Rate, or Out of Date?

It’s Update Your Resume Month again, and a reminder to anyone who writes their own: There have been changes over the past several years that can now bring your job search to a screeching halt; even if that resume worked wonders in the past. Here are five simple tips to get noticed, by recruiters and keyword scanners.

1. Dates of Employment: The object of your resume is to get the reader to quickly understand what you have to offer. They will also look at how long you’ve spent with your previous employers. Don’t make it a math assignment. First tell them in the summary you have 5+ or 10+ years of experience. The vacancy announcement will always stipulate the number of years of experience, so don’t make them go through every job with a calculator. They’ll burn through that 15 second scan in no time. Also, consider what’s easier for the brain to quickly comprehend. Is it Sep 2001 – Nov 2005 or 09/2001 – 11/2005? Numbers all mashed together take more time to translate to the reader than alphabet letters. Don’t spell out the whole month either. The first 3 letters save space and are still easily understood by humans and applicant tracking software.

2. Too wordy: The reality is we are nation of scanners rather than readers. When there’s too much text to wade through, the reader will give up and slide past all of it. Is it any wonder we see advertisements for pharmaceutical products in major publications with few words and a photo, followed by the small print on the following page listing all of the contraindications? Few people read that. Keep it simple. The rule of thumb is paragraphs should be kept to no more than 5 lines. Bullet pointed lists should not exceed 9 in a row if you want people to read it.

3. Logos, fancy fonts and graphs: Pictures can and do tell a lot, but with resumes keep in mind that automated scanners can’t see them. Also choose fonts wisely. Script, underlines, or any style that allows the letters to touch one another can turn your work or art into garbage characters.

4. SMALL CAP FONT: This particular font is usually used for names and sub headers, and mostly by professional resume writers. We used it heavily about 10 years ago. The only problem is it can’t be read by applicant tracking software. That means you may be submitting a really nice looking resume with no name at the top.

5. Use Numerals: Unless you’re applying for  job as the Editor of a magazine, most recruiters don’t care if you spell out the number seven (considered the most correct) or use the numeral 7. But which one just jumped out at you? Numbers matter and they save space. So feel free to break this rule depending on your occupation.

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Whiners Need Not Apply

Throughout my 14 years as a professional resume writer, I’ve done quite a bit of volunteer work at various job search clubs and halfway houses. Job search clubs are a great idea because when you’re low on cash and need help honing your job search skills, you can get help there. They do a better job than most One-Stop Centers. That being said, there are some people who show up, but refuse the help. It makes me wonder why they waste their time and mine.

Case in point, on more than one occasion, I have reviewed resumes written by people who have spent time arguing with me as to how a resume should be formatted, or questioning my ability to critique theirs. Mind you, these people have been unemployed for a long time, and when they did have jobs, they were for less than a year at a time. That’s when I know it’s not the resume that’s the problem, it’s the job seeker sitting in front of me. Complaining about previous jobs, bosses, lack of education, you name it. But (according to them) it’s never their fault.

Here’s a reminder. If a professional offers free advice to help you on your journey, be courteous and grateful. Because nothing will shut off the free faucet faster than whining about your situation. Every day is your job interview. When I come across great candidates and great jobs, I do my best to match them up. Unfortunately there have been times I had to overlook those “qualified” candidates because I knew from my encounters with them they would be too much for an employer to handle.

Attitude matters. Is yours in check?

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Graduating Cum Laude — You May Brag About it Again

When I first starting writing resumes 13 years ago, it was not uncommon for my clients to want tell future employers about how they graduated with honors. The universities use the Latin term “cum laude” on the degree to distinguish these hard working students. However, you may remember that spam emails were rampant early in the new millennium, usually adversiting websites containing adult content or enhancement drugs. Employers began using “spam blockers” to keep sexually explicit messages from ever reaching their company inbox.

This posed a problem for job searchers who were highly qualified and graduated cum laude. That’s because, cum has a different meaning in English than it does Latin, and it became one of those words that triggered the spam blocker. Resumes that listed this phrase never made it to the intended recipient. Instead, the documents were sent directly into spam folders and deleted. Professional resume writers were told not to use the phrase at all, and instead write “with honors.”

As with everything else in the job search, the rules are once again changing. According to chatter this week in resume writer e-groups, the spam blockers from 2004 are no longer relevant, and emails sent back and forth among the members discussing the “cum laude” issue are not being rejected. Perhaps the software has become more context-based, although this is in no way a scientific study.

Does this mean we can go back to using “cum laude” on a resume? Maybe. I always tend to err on the side of caution when it comes to changes like this. However it’s nice to know that students who work hard, and earn top honors are less likely to be ignored anymore because of spam blocking software.

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An Experienced Job Hunter…

Who would you rather write your resume? Someone who’s been on a lot of job interviews? Or someone who’s been sitting behind a desk for 25 years, writing resumes, but never applying for jobs? This is kind of what gets my craw with a lot of (but not all) college career centers. They only hire those with Master’s degrees. That means not much in the way of real world experience (going out and fetching jobs) but theory only.

I’m a job jumper. There. I admit it. Not because I want to. Because I like the world of work, and that goes for applying for jobs and going on interviews. Every once in a while, I actually take a part-time job for a few years to continue to keep a pulse on today’s workforce.

There’s been tales told of the shoemaker’s kids having the worst shoes? Try writing a resume with a background of 80 or so jobs? Yes, we exist. But who better to help you with your career needs.

I’ve applied for a lot of jobs. There is no shortcut to experience, but you can learn from the experience of others.

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Your Document’s Skeleton Reveals a lot About YOU!

Did you know that every time you create a document in Microsoft Word you leave a trail? That trail includes just how seasoned you are at using the program. Are you starting with a template that someone else created? Are you setting and using tabs? Or do you just use the space bar to line up words and numbers? And why does this matter anyway?

It matters if you write your own resume. For one, the reader can turn on the paragraph marker (¶) to determine how attentive to detail you are. Whether you left extra lines between paragraphs, different font sizes to get everything to fit on a page, or you didn’t set your tabs correctly. You might claim you know MS Word on your resume, but in truth, the skeleton will give it away. So much so, that professional resume writers are required to have a “clean” skeleton when we submit items for publication.

Okay, so maybe you don’t plan to “publish” your document. But consider this: if your resume is submitted online through a resume parsing system, or is converted to a text format, it will look like hell. And that’s not a good impression when your job searching.

I remember when I first encountered the ¶ markers on a document. I thought to myself, “why would anyone want to work in MS Word with those things turned on?” I quickly learned to turn them off. Later, when I became a professional resume writer, and realized the importance of using ¶ in MS Word, I changed my mind. Using the ¶ marker quickly points out why the printer is spitting out an extra blank page (blame the cat leaning on the space bar). It alerts you to a extraneous lines, spaces, and inconsistent font sizes. You don’t need to keep it on when you’re typing, but it’s a good idea to turn it on to check and see how clean your work is.

Another thing to check in the document skeleton is the Properties. The Properties point out if you stole someone else’s resume and made a few edits, such as changing the name, contact, and employer names. Plagiarism doesn’t sit well with employers. The Properties also point out who the software was originally licensed to when the document was created. Some people use their employer’s computers to write their resume. Even if it was copied to a thumb drive, and added to over the years, that company name remains in the Properties. And it sure doesn’t look good when it matches the name of a former employer that’s on your resume.

Make it a point to add the ¶ marker to your list of tools when creating clean, crisp documents. It may make the difference between a job interview, or prolonged unemployment.

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Right from the horse’s mouth….

Part of my job as a career coach is to keep an eye out on burgeoning trends; know when trends become passe; and listen, listen, listen to what hiring authorities want and need to see on a resume to garner their attention. I read a lot of blogs and advice columns on the job search, and two of my favorites are AskAManager.org and AskTheHeadhunter.com Allison Greene and Nick Corcodilos are refreshingly candid, on how to land a job, and not end up working for jerks. Both provide insight that is spot on.

That’s why I was excited to stumble across a (new to me) blog, published in 2010. Head Smacking Tips For Jobseekers” which presents, from the manager’s point of view, why your resume is getting overlooked. Starting with “Don’t Name Your Resume, Resume.” I blogged about this very topic in 2007, and yet it’s still a common issue among job seekers. After you learn why it’s a bad idea, come check out this advice on how to best name your resume when sending it electronically that will put you ahead of the pack.