If youre among the 14 million Americans looking for work, you already know that in todays world, landing a job is less about pounding the pavement and more about pounding the keyboard.
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While who you know still matters, hiring--and therefore job hunting--has overwhelmingly gone digital; positions are both listed and responded to online. Unfortunately, human resources expert Patricia Sadar, says most resumes are written by antiquated 20-year-old rules.
The purpose of a resume in the past was to give a one-page summary of what positions youve worked and the responsibilities you had, says Sadar, CEO of HR consulting firm People2Strategy. Once you got to the face-to-face interview, you could then fill in any details about your accomplishments and sell yourself.
But these days, youre often applying on faceless websites or via email along with potentially hundreds of other applicants, making your resume the selling point. It cant just document your work history and responsibilities, says Sadar. It also has to differentiate you. If it doesnt, you wont get to the interview.
One-Size Does Not Fit All
Sada says the top two mistakes people make with their resume is that it is either: too generic or they make themselves sound like a CEO.
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She suggests making your resume customized to the position and its industry by highlighting relevant projects and skills. Carefully read the job description and identify desired experience or talents; if your former title was marketing specialist, but the job is for marketing coordinator, put this in parentheses so that your application isnt filtered out because it didnt contain these key words.
The goal is to describe your previous responsibilities and accomplishments in a way that showcases whats most important to the employer, says Sadar. The clues will be in the job posting. If you have any of the skills listed in the job description make sure they are evident in your resume.
But dont lie, advises Sadar, the truth will come out if you get to the personal interview stage.
While customizing your resume to every job you apply for seems like a lot of work, the labor market is so competitive right now that finding a job is now full-time job.
Show and Tell
Dont just list your job title, the number of many people you supervised and what your duties. A potential employer wants to know how you contributed to the overall success of the company. I was responsible for overseeing a $5 million budget. Big deal. What kind of results did you get?
People are shy about blowing their own horn, says Sadar. Theres a fine line between being conceited and outlining your key accomplishments. Your job title might have been comptroller, but what will really impress a prospective employer is if you can say, I helped streamline processes that reduced costs by 20%.
In Your Face& and Theirs
If you make it to the interview phase, theres more work to do. First stop, the company's website: be familiar with the firm's core values.
In addition to the standard advice of dont chew gum and send a thank you note, you should anticipate the questions you might be asked and prepare your responses. Dont let a typical ice-breaker questions stump people because they havent thought about how to reply. According to Sadar, when an HR representative invites you to tell me about yourself they dont want to know how many kids you have. Rather, theyre looking for you to tell them how is your experience relevant to this position.
Youve got to demonstrate youre committed to doing whatever it takes to be successful in this job, says Sadar.
Anticipate the tough questions, too. For example, if your background is in IT, but you dont have experience with the type of software mentioned in the job description, dont let that kill your chances. This means doing your homework and having a prepared response like, Ive researched this software and its similar to another Ive used. If offered this position, I could enroll in a class today so Im familiar with it by the time I start.
Sadar also says many job candidates send the wrong signal because theyre not watching their body language or are so nervous theyre not listening to what the individual conducting the interview. If youre not sure of exactly what an interview is asking, get clarification before responding. Be yourself, but be professional, says Sadar. You want to build rapport with the interviewer.
A few other tips from Sadar, who has authored two books on the subject:
- Dont arrive late to the interview
- Know the company dress code
- Dont wear heavy perfume
- If you smoke, eat a breath mint
- Your handshake should be strong, but not Incredible Hulk-like, and sweat free
- Be prepared to discuss one weakness and one past mistake. The interviewer wants to know if you can admit youre not perfect and what youre doing to improve
- Prepare three questions for the interviewer, but not about salary, benefits or vacation time. Instead, you might ask what s/he most enjoys about working at Company X or what characteristics the ideal candidate would have
- If youre meeting a prospective employer at a restaurant, its not about the food. Dont order the most expensive item on the menu and pass up the booze.
One final- and personal- piece of advice: You might not have a job right now, but if youre an American citizen, you still have the right to vote. Remember that next year.
Ms. Buckner is a Retirement and Financial Planning Specialist at Franklin Templeton Investments. The views expressed in this article are only those of Ms. Buckner or the individual commentator identified therein, and are not necessarily the views of Franklin Templeton Investments, which has not reviewed, and is not responsible for, the content.
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