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TIP TUESDAY: The Secret to a Great Resume

Let’s be honest: the job hunt can feel excruciatingly painful—and intimidating. Sure, your Linkedin profile could be airtight, your references flawless. But if your resume bombs, so does your chance at acing your interview. On top of that, hiring managers only spend about six seconds on a resume—research says so!—which makes creating the perfect one even more crucial. What is the typical job seeker to do?

Forget everything you thought you knew about resumes, including summaries and volunteer experience. According to experts, the secret to a great resume lies in the results.

Here’s what they mean: Listing your accomplishments on your resume with adjectives like “detail-oriented” or “self-motivated” might seem impressive to you. But odds are the employer won’t believe it until you prove your worth with numbers.

“If you want to make that indelible first impression on a hiring manager, you must show movement and real progress, and quantify your accomplishments with real, hard data,” Brian de Haaff, CEO of Aha!, wrote for Huffington Post. “Your results-focused resume will present a more accurate snapshot of who you are and what you can do—and clear the way for others to see that too.”

Take, for example, a descriptor like “Successfully trained the customer success team to improve customer communications.” Although the task itself sounds impressive, de Haaff suggests trying this instead: “Created 25 template responses and trained the customer success team, reducing average response time to under two hours.”

See the difference? According to de Haaff, the second descriptor provides a clearer picture of the direct impact you made on the company. Plus, quantifiable achievements do more than spice up your resume. Regardless of whether you’re a new grad or an experienced job hunter, they also tell a story about your past success, work ethic, and credibility, de Haaff says. And for employers, that detail can make or break your chances of landing the all-important interview (not to mention the job).

{from Reader’s Digest}

TIP TUESDAY: Axe These 7 Words from Your Cover Letter

Tedious, yet mandatory: writing a cover letter to pitch your qualifications and your personality in only a few paragraphs is usually the most difficult part of applying for a job.

The worst part: as a general rule of thumb, a cover letter can make or break your likelihood to get called in for an interview.

“Cover letters give you a way to make a first impression and to directly address the key requirements of the position, helping to get you past the initial screening and encouraging the HR officer to read a little deeper,” explains business psychologist and executive career coach Kate Sullivan. “The best cover letters present you as a unique person with valuable skills, telling a story about your background and experience that lets the recruiter immediately envision you fitting into the company culture. It should always be customized to the position and its requirements and should hook your reader in like a great novel.”

The one firm rule for a cover letter is to keep it short: No more than two or three short paragraphs. And don’t revisit every single big job you’ve had, because they can see that on your resume. The cover letter exists purely to distill your achievements and put them in a new light.

Take the following advice of career experts and coaches who shed light on the type of words you should probably CTRL+F and ‘Delete’ out of your cover letter ASAP.

Never say ‘never’ – literally

While a wildly different endeavor, consider the last time you went on a bad first date. Was the person negative? Or difficult to get to know? Since your cover letter is the first introduction into who you are and what you offer, using an absolute word like ‘never’ isn’t recommended by career coach Cheryl Palmer.

She explains that some entry-level applicants or those who have recently switched direction may be tempted to over-explain their lack of experience. Instead, she says to make lemonade out of those lemons.

“Remember, if you are a new graduate or someone transitioning into a new field, it is understandable that you don’t have experience in that area yet,” she notes. “Instead talk about internships you may have had or experience that may not be directly in the field but is still relevant.”

Always avoid ‘always’

Another absolute word, that while positive, can be misleading in your cover letter. Why? The person reading it doesn’t know you, so his or her first assumption could be that you are exaggerating.

Instead, replace the ‘always’ statement with a few examples that demonstrate why you would be the ideal hire. These should include accomplishments you’ve had in other jobs, noting measurable proof that you can speak more to them when you’re called in for a face-to-face chat. This will prove your credibility and how ‘always’ on top of your game you really are.

To ‘whom’ it may concern is no one

Sullivan notes that ‘to whom it may concern’ is an outdated way to approach job applications, especially when you have the Internet. Because you can search for the names of whomever might be your future manager or the director of HR at the company you’re trying to land a gig at, addressing them anonymously appears lazy and shows you have little interest in the company.

If you can’t find the right person to address your letter to, simply ignore the opening salutation and launch straight into your letter.

Even though it’s easy to say ‘even though’ – don’t

Much like the compliment sandwiches that your mama taught you to practice when arguing with your roommate in college, setting up a sentence with ‘even though’ in your cover letter can send a Debbie Downer message to your potential employer. “I have seen cover letters where job seekers say something like, ‘Even though I have not worked with XYZ software before….’ This type of statement automatically points the reader’s attention to a deficit,” Palmer explains. Place the emphasis on what you have done, instead of what you haven’t.” For example, talk about software that you have used that serves the same purpose and/or is very similar to the software that the company is asking that job seekers have experience in.”

Really, really don’t say ‘really’

Ever have someone really, really like you, but you don’t quite really, really like them? It can be a turn-off, and the same goes for applying for a gig. Using ‘really’ may make you come across as over-eager or like you’re trying too hard. It also usually doesn’t add anything to a sentence: saying “I’m really good at Photoshop” is less effective than, “I have more than five years of experience using Photoshop daily.” Be specific instead of using generic adjectives to be sure you sound as suited for the position as you are.

Forget how you ‘feel’

True statement: you probably do feel like you’ve stumbled upon the most amazing, perfect job that you could ever, ever apply for. Also a true statement: your employer doesn’t need to know that, quite yet. In fact, having “feel” in your cover letter can make you seem less mature, secure or qualified for the opportunity; craft your cover letter in a way that makes the person reading it feel like you’re the surefire hire.

“State your qualifications as fact, and do the same with your assertion that you’ll make a good addition to the company,” Sullivan says. “Project confidence through your assertions, rather than hedging your bets by saying you feel that way, which makes it into an opinion – and opinions can easily be disregarded.”

The words “believe” and “think” can also make you sound uncertain about your abilities.

Honestly, ‘honestly’ is a big mistake

When you’re hired for a new gig, your first task is usually attending some sort of training where you learn about the ethics the company abides by. Even if you’re not saving lives or fighting fire, being honorable and trustworthy is considered a given in every workplace. So when you say ‘honestly’ – it might make you come across as insincere.

“The last thing you want is to have a recruiter questioning whether you’re telling the truth about anything on your resume or in your background,” says Sullivan. “Even in an innocuous sentence like ‘Honestly, I love accounting and can’t wait to put my skills to use for your company,’ it’s not appropriate and could backfire by sounding like you’re trying too hard to assure the recruiter of your feelings. Delete it!”

TIP TUESDAY: What Do Employers Really Need to Know About Job Applicants?

Employers invest significant time, energy, and resources in bringing a new employee onboard.  Recruiting, screening, and interviewing processes are all done with the goal of hiring an employee who will do a job well and work well within an organization.  So what do employers need to know to hire successfully?  And what are the things employers don’t need to know?

Need to Know:

Experience.  Does the applicant have relevant work experience (or other experience)?

Education.  Will the applicant’s education help him or her do the job?

Personality.  Does the applicant have the motivation, energy, and attitude that’s needed for the job?  For the organization?  Note—employers shouldn’t always look for an applicant who will “fit in.”  Sometimes the right person for the job is someone who will shake things up, bring a new perspective, or reenergize a team or department.

Not So Much:

Credit score. It’s apparent from recent legislation on state and local levels that employers don’t need to know whether an applicant has a good credit score—at least for most jobs.  The District of Columbia is the jurisdiction that most recently enacted a law that prohibits employers from asking job applicants about their credit history.  It joins 11 states that have similar laws. Generally, the laws allow employers to inquire about an applicant’s credit history if the job involves unsupervised access to large sums of money or to customers’ financial information.

Pay history. A new state law in Massachusetts and a new ordinance in Philadelphia prohibit employers from asking about an applicant’s pay history; similar legislation is pending in other states and municipalities, including New York City, where a bill approved by the city council awaits the mayor’s signature. Basing an employee’s pay on pay history instead of the market value of the position can be a disadvantage to workers who entered the workforce at a lower pay rate; and it can perpetuate gender-based pay disparities.

Not Right Away:

Criminal history. Several states and numerous cities and counties have enacted “ban the box” laws that prohibit employers from asking about an applicant’s criminal history on a job application. Many require employers to delay these questions until after an applicant has been offered a job.

Not At All!

Protected characteristics. It’s a rare job that requires a job applicant to be of a certain age, race, color, religion, national origin, or sex (think female actor for a female role). If employers ask for information, it’s because they want the information. And if they want the information, it’s because they’re going to use the information.  At least, that’s what the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) “generally presumes” about an employer’s questions.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits employers from asking questions that are likely to elicit information about a disability before a conditional job offer has been extended.  Employers should avoid questions about an applicant’s history of using sick leave, history of hospitalizations, workers’ comp claims, etc.  Questions should be limited to whether the applicant can perform the essential functions of the job with or without reasonable accommodation.

To get the information it needs while avoiding information that’s irrelevant (and possibly unlawful), an employer should focus on the qualifications for the job in question and make inquiries that will help it evaluate how the applicant’s skills and experience align with those qualifications.

TIP TUESDAY: 15 Words to Remove from Your Linkedin Profile

by Melinda Lathrop

linkedin logoLinkedIn is one of the most important social media sites for marketers, so making a mistake on this network can be costly. Whether you’re looking for a job or trying to widen your circle of connections for potential clients, your profile on LinkedIn is a crucial component to your personal brand.

When crafting your profile, the biggest mistake that professionals make is having a generic summary. With over 414 million members on LinkedIn, how are employers and potential customers going to remember who you are if your profile echoes that of every other industry professional? Filling your summary with buzzwords will drive prospects away.

Here are 15 overused words that will make your profile fade into the background:

  • Leadership
  • Motivated
  • Creative
  • Enthusiastic
  • Responsible
  • Passionate
  • Strategic
  • Successful
  • Driven
  • Organization
  • Dedicated
  • Extensive experience
  • Patient
  • Innovative
  • Analytical

How can you clean up your profile and remove all these buzzwords?

1. Show; don’t tell. Your professional summary is the first thing prospects see after your profile picture. Maybe you know that you exert leadership qualities, but too many of these overused words in your summary are going to make it hard for you to seem superior to your competitor. Rather, use concrete examples of how you’ve exhibited these traits.

2. Start featuring your work. Don’t just say you’re creative; prove it. Each profile section enables you to upload media. Whether you offer a photo, a link or even a video, prove to your prospects that you truly are creative. The same advice goes for all the listed buzzwords. Prove your leadership skills by showing a photo of yourself at a speaking event or helping a co-worker. These skills can be showcased in many different ways, but you must show your readers rather than expecting them to believe it based on a few words.

3. Share relevant information, and communicate clearly. You might have the best communication skills in your office and influence others with your views and skills. Still, how will a prospect know that unless you offer specific examples? Continually publishing posts and offering your opinion in industry-related groups conveys your expertise. Participate in LinkedIn groups to highlight your acumen.

4. Connect with industry professionals. Showcasing your motivation is obvious if you are interacting with others in your industry. Sharing your opinion on news or commentaries shows your prospects that you care about your profile, your industry and how you are perceived.

5. Try using a simple synonym. In some instances, using an uncommon synonym can help you stand out from the crowd. For example, for motivated try using ambitious, determined, compelled, or for responsible use conscientious, accountable or reliable. Instead of falling back on empty terminology, cut the buzzwords from your LinkedIn profile and add great work examples instead.

Do you have any other buzzwords that you hate seeing on LinkedIn profiles?

 A version of this article originally appeared on LinkedIn.

TIP TUESDAY: Table Talk

Here’s a Tuesday Tip on making a good impression at your first interview. Such actions may seem insignificant on the surface, but remember – it’s the little things that will help YOU stand out when your competing with others who have similar job/experience qualifications.

After you shake hands with your interviewer(s), stand behind a chair until you are invited to sit down, or politely ask where the interviewer would like you to sit.   When you take your seat at an interview table, do not place personal items on the table–no cell phones, Blackberrys, handbags, briefcases, water bottles or coffee cups.  All of these things should be placed under your chair or on a chair beside you. You may place a portfolio or notepad and pen in front of you. If a beverage is offered, decline politely. Remember to sit up straight with both feet planted on the floor.