logo"/

Expert Resumes. No Baloney.


Layoff PendingLayoffs can happen to the most hard-working, competent individuals. The world economy still sails in troubled waters, and there is simply no way any one person can stifle the ups-and-downs of the market’s turbulent seas. The best you can do is be the best employee that you can be, and when the scow runs afoul of any iceberg, be prepared.

Signs of an impending layoff:

  • In the past few weeks or months there has been no work to do; no emails in your inbox, and no responses to those emails you’ve sent.
  • Not only have your hours been cut, but you’re asked to pay a larger share of your company-sponsored health plan premiums.
  • The budget for that professional development/training course you were promised at the beginning of your employment? It’s been cut, or just plain eliminated.
  • There’s no talk of any next step with you in mind at your company.
  • Your mid- and year-end performance reviews are a farce: your boss is neither paying you attention or offering you feedback; clearly he/she wants to get this meeting with you over as quickly as possible.
  • You’re on Facebook, YouTube or Twitter three hours a stretch…and no one cares.

 

Ways to get ahead of the game:

  • Prepare for departure. Get your resume, cover letter and LinkedIn profile together. Having your career documents ready-to-go will boost your confidence and minimize your concern about a potential layoff. In fact, you may be seen as a more relaxed and confident employee and therefore, will be among the last to be let go… if multiple layoffs are in the cards for your company’s future.
  • Solidify your footing before it’s too late. Arrange confidential meetings with other department heads at your company to discuss opportunities there; ideally you can come to the table with a sales pitch that involves how you can help them to get more done for less (assuming that the slowdown is organization-wide). In other words, as the waters start to rise over your head, try to wade over to higher ground.
  • Remain professional. If you’ve decided to go the interviewing-for-new-job route, speak positively of your accomplishments and time at your latest company. If you played an active part in attempting to pause the hemorrhaging of jobs—even though you were unsuccessful—share that strategy with your potential new employers. This will prove that you’re not the type to jump ship, become bitter, etc., when the going gets rough.

 
Note: there is no reason for you to bring up any layoff history during an interview. Try to re-shape questions of “Why did you leave there?” into “Why are you interested in working here?”

 

Eliminate age discrimination on your resumeLet’s get right to it. Here are some helpful techniques to offload the years from your resume:

 

  • The summary (profile) section of your resume gets immediate notice because it’s the first hodgepodge of words to be encountered by your target reader. Be sure that it includes accomplishments of recent projects; references to cutting-edge technologies and processes that you have put to use on the job; and professional development/advanced degrees/certificate programs that you’ve recently completed.
  • Tally in your “interests” section a physically challenging activity and/or goal (e.g. “Mountain Climbing: On track to climb all 52 peaks of Mt. Olympus by 2016”). Yeah, right… but who’s to dispute it?
  • Remove accomplishments from your experience, education and skills sections that are moth-eaten in any way (e.g. No one uses FileMaker Pro or WordPerfect anymore).
  • Use a “happening” font, like Calibri or Georgia…yes, these things are superficial but what the heck? A couple clicks of your mouse (or sweep of your hand) and you no longer appear a dinosaur, mindlessly cavorting around Times New Roman. It is that awareness that says something positive about you, not the simple change of typeface.
  • Remove your earliest jobs held…entirely.
  • Remove your graduation years if they date you.
  • Include details of your achievements in a relevant professional association, especially if you hold a leadership position there. A potential employer will care less how old you are once they realize you’re still able to open doors to trends–and contacts—inside your industry.

 

Sure, it’s possible that your age may not be a prime factor in every application you submit; it’s even possible that revealing you’re no millennial will help make you that much more attractive a candidate. However, believe me when I say that you’re doing no damage to your reputation—or ego—by making your capabilities seem as currently relevant as possible. It also makes for a far more attractive resume since there is no longer a need for endless paragraphs to contain eons of work history. Your resume is therefore easier to read; always a plus in today’s competitive marketplace.

spelling bee champion logo

Resume Deli Challenge: There are five commonly misspelled words in this blog post that spell check won’t catch…can you?

Comedian Bill Burr jokes: You ever spell a word so badly that even spell check can’t come up with any suggestions? (Spell check) I’ve got all the words right here…and yours doesn’t look like any of them!

Called out on an error by spell check, Jim Gaffigan, another comedian, snaps back: Duh! That’s someone’s name, spell check! You’re so dumb…I was right and you were wrong!

Alas, this is where spelling mistakes seize to be funny. For even a single gaffe on your resume, cover letter, thank-you note, portfolio, web site, blog site, etc. will make you, too, a joker.

Resume Deli evaluates hundreds of resumes per year. When we point out spelling mistakes the response is usually, “What’s the big deal? It’s just one small mistake…” Oh, if only I had the proverbial nickel for every time I herd someone say that!

Fun Fact! 72% of job applicants who claim “high attention to detail” on their resumes also have at least one spelling or grammar mistake on these very documents (based on a sampling of 300 resumes submitted to Resume Deli).

Somewhere between second grade and the water cooler…between No. 2 pencils and handhelds…we became a society that can’t spell worth a dam. One of the major reasons for this development is that of pure laziness. (You mean I have to review everything I write? Jeez, that seems like a lot of work.) Another is our penchant for texting, which with all its acronyms and shorthand (OMG!) has left recruiters and employers wondering AYSOS (are you stupid or something)?

Like it or not, proper spelling and grammar count when you are trying to land a job. Here are several tips to keep in mind when working on your resume:

Tip #1: Don’t abbreviate

Removing the bowels from a word and adding a period at its end doesn’t constitute an abbreviation! Mngr. is not an abbreviation for Manager or anything else as far as I’m aware.

Tip #2: Prove that you’re detail-oriented

When a job description calls for a candidate with “strong attention to detail,” that doesn’t mean you should write “detail-oriented” in the summary section of your resume. It means that all of your work product—beginning with your resume, cover letter and LinkedIn profile—needs to be well-written, without spelling or other mistakes…especially if you’re targeting a position that requires strong writing skills.

Tip #3: KISS (Keep it simple, stupid!)

In the phrase, “Managed Walgreens’s Pharmacy Department,” “Walgreens’s” is correctly spelled. Walgreens is a company name. It’s a singular entity and so the possessive form requires an apostrophe followed by an “s” even though the word Walgreens already ends with an “s”. It’s a well-established language rule. But that’s not the point. It doesn’t matter if “Walgreens’s” is correct. It looks horrifyingly wrong! My guess is that there are about 25 people on the planet who know that Walgreens’s (the possessive) is correctly spelled. Bottom line: don’t send out a resume or cover letter with words that look misspelled, even if they’re not. It’s just not worth it.

An even simpler example: The word “centre” can be spelled as such (origin: Great Britain), although “center” is the more common spelling in the U.S. Play the odds and use the more familiar form. Your resume isn’t the place to demo your avant guard language skills.

Tip #4: Don’t use the word “liaison”

Liaison is one of the outcast words in the dictionary. No one knows how to spell it. And even if you manage to spell it correctly, chances are you’re still going to misuse it (liaison; liaison to; liaison with…). You can’t win here. Just avoid it.

Tip #5: Trust spell check

In fact, set your word processor to automatically correct words as you type.

Tip #6: Don’t trust spell check

Spell check is like a new employee. It wants to make contributions and fix things even where nothing’s broken. Spell check alters proper names and fails to acknowledge that some words have come into existence after it was programmed. Also, spell check often overlooks words that are spelled correctly, though misused in context; and no employer wants to read about your work in pubic affairs (OK…spell-check caught this one).

Tip #7: Find friends who spell better than you do

Remember when you were a kid and your next-door neighbor Billy (that geek) used to crush you in two-player Speak ‘n Spell? You hated Billy, right? Well, let bygones be bygones, because now you need him! Send your resume and cover letter to a trusted friend…or two…and have them proof-read your documents. Instruct them to be brutal.

Tip #8: Consider a professional resume-writing service

Though, unlike your friends, we will charge a fee to rewrite your resume, you can be more confident about the final product!

Job HoppingHaving a resume that discloses your job-hopping ways is not the death knell it once was.

Whereas bouncing from one job to the next was once seen as a lack of focus, or an inability to keep a job, today’s job market views job-hoppers as driven, resourceful, on-the-rise and highly sought-after.

Thanks to the soft job market and the rise of the freelance class, recruiters have become well-acquainted with resumes that feature a variety of short-term jobs. But the key to gaining recruiters’ acceptance lies in how you present your work history: which employers, positions and accomplishments you choose to highlight, and which you actively withhold.

Keep in mind that a resume is a marketing document—not a tell-all exposé. You are under no obligation to share via your resume every full-time job, freelance gig and consulting assignment you’ve ever held. In fact, doing so can be harmful.

As the job applicant, it’s your responsibility to curate your experience; in fact, being able to do so in and of itself shows that you understand your target employer’s challenges and hiring needs. Don’t be afraid that you’ll be “found out” for having not listed your complete work history; rather, if you’re questioned about it, use the occasion to describe your reasoning for having done so. That pitch should demonstrate how it tune you are with your future boss, and will place a feather firmly in your cap.

Happy 2015!I was a ninja turtle for Halloween. I mean, I dressed up as a turtle. (You knew what I meant.) My son insisted I be the Donatello to his Raphael. But the fact is, I would have dressed up anyway. For me, Halloween is that last bit of the year that’s still entirely of that year. With November comes the holiday season, inclusive of New Year’s, and so everything happening now is already with an eye toward 2015.

So let me be the first to wish you and yours a Happy 2015! And to offer you some advice for making it the best work-year you’ve ever had. How? It’s simple, and takes just 15 minutes per week. Here’s what I suggest you do:

Every Friday, take 15 minutes to jot down what you accomplished during the week. Use the following list of guiding questions to help you along:

What ideas did you come up with?
What meetings did you attend?
Who did you work with?
Who did you help?
What new technical process or software did you use?
What deliverables did you produce or oversee the production of?
What deadlines did you meet/beat?
What positive change did you help to bring about?

Alongside your week’s accomplishments, file away all relevant presentations, reports, articles, blog posts, images, videos, etc…save even written (positive) feedback from supervisors, clients and customers. In other words, hang on to any and all “hard evidence” that supports your achievements.

Actualizing this simple pursuit on a weekly basis will produce tremendous benefits, such as:

  • You won’t have to rack your brain to come up with content for your resume, cover letter and LinkedIn profile when you suddenly need those documents—you’ll already have a library of content from which to choose.
  • You’ll know exactly what to write on your mid-year and year-end performance evaluations.
  • And you’ll have plenty of ammunition when it comes time to stake your claim to a raise and/or promotion.

And—like keeping a journal—setting up a routine where you write about and reflect on your accomplishments will help you crystallize not only what you’ve gotten done, but also what you like and don’t like to do while earning a paycheck, and what you’re good at (and not so good at) doing. All of this information goes toward figuring out what you want to be when you grow up (a Ninja Turtle?).

Hand buzzer in job interview handshakeEarlier in my career I found myself sitting in a corporate office, replete with clichéd leather couches, anxiously awaiting the start of my interview for a communications role. Trying to relax, I forced myself to stop going over questions and answers in my head and instead just enjoy the view from the 35th floor window. I had prepared. This interview was going to be cake.

But when the executive director walked in, the first thing he said, in a somewhat exasperated tone was, “Who the f–k are you?!”

Though taken aback (hey, who wouldn’t be?), I responded without missing a beat: “Well, sir…I’m the candidate you’re interviewing for the f–king VP position!”

Talk about your dramatic introductions! However, not only didn’t the interviewer throw me out of his office, but he seemed roused by the fact that I was willing to meet him head to head.

Granted, I don’t expect anyone reading this to walk into their next interview a la Al Pacino. Because, even in this particular episode, my display of spunk was not enough, on its own, to win the brass ring. No, some more influential strategy was necessary…

Here’s what I did that got me hired:

First, I completed an impromptu assignment.

I followed up on a concern that my interviewer had voiced during the interview (In my case, it was writing a report on an important trend then happening in the industry). I did the necessary research and in the course of doing so, I picked up all kinds of information (facts and figures I would not have paid much attention to unless I had given myself the assignment). I included these findings and insights, as well as my own conclusions, in the report I subsequently submitted.

By doing all of this I demonstrated a) my special interest in the job; b) my understanding of the company’s concerns; c) my ability to problem-solve; d) my notable research and writing skills; and e) my proactive work ethic. Needless to say, the company was impressed.

Next, I learned as much as possible about people in the organization.

During that job interview, I was made cognizant of the names of several people within the organization. With that information in hand I proceeded to learn as much as I could about them. I searched out their professional and academic backgrounds, as well as what and how their current presence within the company fitted in with the establishment’s overall goals. (The company website and LinkedIn were good starting places for investigation.) Some of these individuals had blog sites and other social-networking accounts. I sought these out and left thoughtful comments where appropriate.

This further testified to my singular interest in the company. It also confirmed my proficiency with social media—a much admired and sought-after piece of know-how in today’s workplace (as I’m sure you know).

Resume Deli offers a jarringly realistic mock interview program and career counseling to help you perform optimally during job interviews and networking meetings. We’ll make you sweat a bit, but you’ll be ready for the big show!

6 more questions to ask during your job interviewEarlier this year I discussed 3 Questions You Should Ask Your Interviewer. Turns out there are 9 questions you should ask (oops!). Thus this addendum.

Be sure to put the following to your interviewer (and yourself) before you accept a new position:

“What will be my salary?” (And to yourself: Will this salary be enough?)

Career changers will often accept a lower salary in order to get a foot in the door. But one of those occasional “market corrections” could engender higher inflation, rendering your new salary even lower (in real dollars) than anticipated. So make sure you can pay for your necessities (like your mortgage or rent) before accepting the new gig.

“How (and how often) are raises, bonuses and promotions determined?”

If you prove yourself to be an adept worker, will you be rewarded with raises and/or promotions? How does the company link performance with prize? Is strong performance, in fact, valued and rewarded? Or, will you be in the same position, role-wise and compensation-wise, for the next few years?

“How much must I contribute to my employer-sponsored medical, dental and insurance plans?”

It’s great (it’s even now a requirement) to have health insurance, but having a company-sponsored plan available to you doesn’t mean you can afford it. How much must you contribute in order to participate as an individual, or with dependents? Will your company’s plan cover your same- or opposite-sex domestic partner? Some do, some don’t. You need to find out so you and your dependents can plan coverage accordingly.

“What is the 401k vesting period? When will I be fully vested in the company’s 401-K (or other retirement savings plan)?”

When you start at a new company, you may need to wait two, three (or more) years before your employer’s 401-K matching funds become 100% yours for the taking. In fact, you may need to wait several months or a year before the company will start contributing to your plan at all. This can mean a hit to your long-term savings.

“Can I telecommute part (or all) of the time?”

If working remotely is important to you, you should ask if that kind of flexibility can be had up front, before you accept the position. This, like so many other aspects of your work contract, are difficult to renegotiate after you’ve already signed on the dotted line.

“Will I have a window?” (I’m not talking metaphor here; I mean an actual pattern of glass fixed on the wall!)

This question is more about your day-to-day comfort. Imagine taking a job, only to find out on day-one that you’re sitting in a dark, stuffy, or cold basement. You may not care, but many do, and research suggests that natural light is part of a healthy work environment.

Sure, just simply having a job these days is nothing to offhandedly dismiss, but neither is your future or your physical well-being. Asking questions like these will make sure that your worth as a human being is not compromised. To not betray your best interests IS just as important as picking up a weekly paycheck. Please don’t forget this.

Get ready for interviews with Resume Deli’s hard-hitting and totally targeted Mock Interview Program. Use coupon code BLOG to save 10%.

LinkedIn LogoAre you getting the most out of your LinkedIn profile?

Growing your network is all about building productive relationships. As powerful as LinkedIn can be, if you’re not using it strategically, you’re not taking full advantage of all the platform has to offer.

Building Your Professional and Personal Brand on LinkedIn

Creating a profile is the first step. Make sure you include a headshot as well as a summary that describes you to a “T”. You want to flaunt to potential contacts what you are all about!

Headshots are important because they put a face with a name; establishing an immediate personal connection that isn’t possible through an email or phone call.

How much information—and personality—you include in your summary is totally your call; however, showing work examples will help build credibility and be a source of potential conversation starters. When I’m meeting a contact for the first time, I always make it a point to check out their LinkedIn profile first; so as to get a better sense of their past accomplishments.

Leveraging the Power of Shared Connections

Enough with the basics. Let’s get to one of the most powerful (and most underutilized) features LinkedIn has to offer —“Get Introduced”. It’s what allows you to connect with people that are outside of your network through a shared contact. It’s where the real magic happens!

All too often, people sit back and think just having a LinkedIn profile is enough. But that’s a passive approach. If you want to grow your network, “Get Introduced” will allow you to expand your reach far beyond what would have been otherwise possible.

When you find someone outside of your network that you’d like to connect with, just scroll down until you find the “How You’re Connected” information in the right sidebar. There you’ll see the “Get Introduced” option. When you click on the link, you’ll be prompted to select a shared connection and to provide a brief write-up about why you’re asking for an introduction (including a polite way for them to say no).

Being introduced by a shared connection is much more powerful than trying to “cold-call” someone. Yet, in all the time I’ve been on LinkedIn, I can count the number of “Get Introduced” requests I’ve received on one hand.

Talk about a missed opportunity!

Growing your network using LinkedIn requires a game plan; meaning you not only need all of the basics (headshot, summary, work experience, volunteer experience, etc.) but a blueprint, a scheme, a wonderfully drawn sketch…by which you can build connections in and out of your network and attract those who can assist your march up the yellow brick road.

Credit: Dilbert

Credit: Dilbert

When going to an interview, pretend (a little) that you are going to a dinner party…either with your own family, or some other clan. And be hip to the fact that certain topics are inappropriate at such assemblages.

Your political or religious affiliation

“I have contributed many man-hours as an event planner for the Democrats (or Republicans or Libertarians or United Methodist Church…)”

We live in a time when one’s social and spiritual affiliations matter less in the workplace than they once did. In the 21st century industrialized world, most societies no longer afford special status to one belonging to a certain religion or political party. So unless you can articulate such experience into a secular and/or arithmetic advantage, your best bet is to leave this evidence of personal devotion outside the door.

Your partying ways

“I didn’t have any problems finding the office; in fact, just last night I was at a bar right around the corner…”

The fact that you are familiar with the neighborhood where the business is located may be something for you and your interviewer to chat about; in fact, the topic may provide some welcome relief to cancel any anxiousness surrounding the interview. But that you were stoned at a nearby bar or friend’s apartment is not something that will necessarily meet with interviewer applause. And by the way…why were you out at all last night? Shouldn’t you have been home preparing for today’s interview?!

Your post-interview agenda

“After I leave here I’m going to meet an old colleague who works nearby for lunch.”

This sounds like a harmless, innocent mouthful to toss out during your interview, though your interviewer may, rightfully or wrongfully, come to the conclusion that you want nothing more than to finish this dialogue up as quickly as possible. And if this conclusion is entertained, it will definitely prejudice, in a negative way, your interviewer’s summation of your desire to work at his or her organization. The fact is, you shouldn’t make definitive plans for right after your interview. How could you have predicted how long the session would have lasted…or even that your interviewer—pleased with your performance—wouldn’t have preferred to conduct or continue the dialogue at lunch? (Hopefully, their treat…)

Are there exceptions to the rule for exploring at the dinner table or place of business these sensitive themes? Of course, but before you let loose, consider all possible interpretations of what you’re about to share with your interviewer…and then compare the potential risks to the likely rewards.

You’re at the interview, but you’re not AT the interview. Know what I mean? Meditating outside office buildingSure, you’re physically present in the sense that your body is sitting in a chair and your mouth is dutifully moving up and down, answering the questions being asked of you by your interviewer. But that isn’t enough.

They ask a question and you answered a different one. They parlay a pithy quip and you failed to either acknowledge it with a polite chuckle or return their effort with an adept witticism of your own.

Maybe it’s the knots in your midsection…or perhaps you’re concerned about having taken time off from your present job (and the suspicions swirling around your reason for doing so)…or maybe you’re plainly having a bad-hair day. In any case, you’re just not performing as your on-the-ball self might, and both you and your interviewer know it.

And sure enough, after about 15 minutes, the interview—and you—are history.

The solution for next time? Dispense with the congestion in your brain before you enter the office door:

  1. Clear your schedule. Don’t schedule anything else too close to your interview (in case it runs longer than expected), and arrive early so you can get adjusted to the place.
  2. If you’re employed, take official time-off from your job. Don’t try to “sneak-in” your interview during lunch, or in the hour before your workday begins. What if your interviewer runs late? What if he/she is enamored with you, and unexpectedly wants you to meet with someone else? Sure you can reschedule, but ideally you can stay-on and extend what’s already a positive interview experience for both parties.
  3. Stay in-the-know about news, movies and cultural events—especially those that pertain to your target industry. It’s common for small talk to revolve around these topics.
  4. If you’re prone to nervousness, take a yoga class or get some exercise beforehand (or do whatever relaxes you and gets you “in the zone”). Know what works for me? The old “carrot on a stick”: I line up a movie or a visit to a favorite lunch spot after an important interview…that way I know at least something will go my way!
  5. The old standby: Prepare. The more you know about your target company—its challenges, short- and long-term objectives and news items—the less you’ll need to rehearse in your head discussion points on these topics, and the more room there will be for you to relax and be yourself.

 

The ultimate goal: Make sure both your head and body are in the game; otherwise, both your head and body may find themselves sooner than later out the door!