About to Toss Your Resume/Cover Letter Out the Window?

Posted on April 2, 2009. Filed under: Resumes | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

So there you are…staring at the Microsoft Word page. Maybe it is just a fresh document, or maybe you are trying out one of Word’s overused résumé/letter templates. You’ve read up on all the “rules,” the plethora of do’s and don’ts. You think you have a pretty good handle on how a résumé and cover letter should be put together. After all, people tell you that you’re a good writer. You know all about proper usage of white space on a page.

So why does everything you seem to write come out like a bad marketing promo? It ranges anywhere from bloated to desperate to not bad, but not you. In fact, you’ve pretty much just described everything you aren’t or don’t want to be.

Or perhaps you’ve gone the other way. You thought you created a masterpiece the first time around. It was so exquisite, you were just sure that someone would hire you without even bothering with an interview! But, alas, that did not happen, and the reaction has been lukewarm at best.

What went wrong? Why can’t you seem to capture your professional essence on paper?

Here are my three theories:

1. Self-writing is one of the hardest types of writing there is. A résumé is essentially an autobiography of sorts. (Although, it should by no means be as extensive or as personal as an autobiography!) Ask anyone who’s written an autobiography, and they will tell you that it is one of the hardest things to do. Either you come off sounding too arrogant (and, yes, you can do that with a résumé; marketing does NOT equal arrogance; marketing equals convincing your audience that you can solve its problems) or you come off too flat.

2. Your résumé is too self-focused. To avoid the problem in theory #1, the more you keep your audience at the forefront, the more effective you will be. And the easier the writing process will be. That is why a broad résumé doesn’t work too well for a job seeker. There is no direct audience with whom to connect.

3. All writing takes practice. Résumé writing is so different from any other form of writing. You don’t write in sentences, except with the cover letter. You don’t include the first person, again except with the cover letter (and even then you want to keep it minimal). There is a strategy to organizing the writing that often gets overlooked by job seekers. Contrary to some beliefs, it is not a laundry list of job descriptions. It can all sound simple, but unless it is something you do on a regular basis, it can be hard to implement.

So does this mean I think that a professional résumé writer is your only hope? No. But I do think you need to be realistic about it, and if you are going to do it yourself, you need to ask yourself the following questions:

1. How well do I really know my target market? Have I sufficiently researched my industry enough to know what hiring managers are looking for? Am I up-to-date on the latest keywords and terminology?

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that because you have spent the last 10 years in a particular field, you are necessarily well versed on that field on a global level. Corporations, even very large ones, often have their own verbiage and abbreviations that do not always translate into the field at large. Plus, many companies, again even very large ones, are not always up to the latest standards and trends.

2. Can I realistically match up my skills with the company’s needs? Is my audience too broad?

If your audience is too wide, you are going to end up all over the place, detailing things that no one but you cares about. Job seekers do this a lot. They get hung up on certain accomplishments or attributes that they think are really impressive. And for good reason; these were significant events in their careers. However, that doesn’t mean your target market will put as much emphasis on it as you do. If you don’t have a clear audience, then you won’t know for sure how to approach representing it.

3. What do I know about formatting a document?

Whatever you do, do not follow a Word template. Too many people do; plus, the templates are not very good. Many of them have objective statements, and you should no longer be using objective statements.

So who am I anyway? Why do I think my advice is so valuable?

My name is Stephen Van Vreede. My company is called No Stone Unturned, and I have spent 15 years on both sides of the corporate hiring experience.

The short story is that I have an MBA in Marketing from Villanova University and a dual B.S. degree in Finance & Logistics from the University of Maryland. I am a certified professional résumé writer (CPRW) and a member of the Professional Association of Résumé Writers and Career Coaches (PARW/CC). As I mentioned, I paid my dues in the corporate world eventually running a large-scale call center for a major truck rental company, and I have spent the past 7 years with No Stone Unturned, assisting job seekers in achieving their goals.

In February 2009, I launched a new group job hunting networking site: NoddlePlace.com. It is absolutely FREE to join, and you have access to everything on the site. Come check it out at NoddlePlace. You can also follow me on Twitter.

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Supercharge Your Job Search: Use Jack Bauer-like Tactics to Find Your Ideal Position

Posted on March 3, 2009. Filed under: Job Search Tips | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

If you have ever seen 24 on Fox, then you know who Jack Bauer is and what he is all about. If you have not seen this counterterrorist agent “on steroids” in action, just know that he is willing to do anything to get the bad guys. Whether you like Jack or not, or don’t even know him, you may be asking, “What in the world does this have to do with my job search?” Well, read on and I will explain.

There are several basic principles involved in how the character of Jack Bauer operates during any investigation. Employing these principles, in a somewhat less extreme format, in your job search can lead to astounding results.

Gather Intelligence

The first step in the process, and the one that many skip entirely, is to conduct some research on the market you are interested in. This includes learning about the players involved, their financial status, the geographies they serve, and other information that will help you identify the organizations you can target during your search.

Furthermore, try to find the names of people within those organizations that may be a decision maker or influencer to the hiring process. You can also try to obtain the names and contact information for others within the organization that may be able to refer or introduce you to the hiring manager.

Leverage Your Resources

Like Jack Bauer, you want to use all the resources at your disposal to help you with your search. He doesn’t save the world all by himself. He gets help from lots of people along the way. Some of these folks are those you would expect him to get help from, such as other personnel from other government agencies, while others are very unlikely sources of assistance. Consider all of your resources, and don’t discount people from your arsenal just because they don’t fit the typical mold of those you would expect help from.

Go On the Offensive

An all-out attack of these organizations is called for. Send them your resume by mail, post it to their website, email it to any contacts there, find recruiters that have relationships with them, and try cold calling the hiring manager directly to get an opportunity to explain what you have to offer them. Too many candidates are way too passive in this area of the search. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there and go outside your comfort level. This is your career we are talking about here. Can you really be satisfied with anything but the best?

Think of it as a life-and-death situation like Jack Bauer does. You must be willing to do whatever it takes to be successful in your search. The results will be most rewarding.

So who am I anyway? Why do I think my advice is so valuable?

My name is Stephen Van Vreede. My company is called No Stone Unturned, and I have spent 15 years on both sides of the corporate hiring experience.
The short story is that I have an MBA in Marketing from Villanova University and a dual B.S. degree in Finance & Logistics from the University of Maryland. I am a certified professional résumé writer (CPRW) and a member of the Professional Association of Résumé Writers and Career Coaches (PARW/CC). As I mentioned, I paid my dues in the corporate world eventually running a large-scale call center for a major truck rental company, and I have spent the past 7 years with No Stone Unturned, assisting job seekers in achieving their goals.
In February 2009, I launched a new group job hunting networking site: NoddlePlace.com. It is absolutely FREE to join, and you have access to everything on the site. Come check it out at NoddlePlace. You can also follow me on Twitter.

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Resume Tips for Financial Candidates

Posted on February 26, 2009. Filed under: Job Search Tips, Resumes | Tags: , , , , , , |

In today’s business environment, many candidates in the financial services arena, including banking, mortgage, and investment management, are hedging their bets and considering their options in the job market. However, they are concerned that little, if anything, will be available within their own field, so they plan to try their luck in other arenas. So what can you do with your resume if you find yourself in a similar situation?

Don’t Hide and Don’t Explain Away

One of the most common mistakes made by candidates who find themselves unemployed as a result of a bankruptcy, an acquisition, or a major downsizing, as well as candidates who are still employed but by a company or industry that is much maligned, is to attempt to hide information. Many others will spend a significant amount of space on their resume trying to explain how the predicament the company found themselves in was not their fault.

Employers don’t want to read that type of information because they are not interested in the type of candidates for whom nothing is ever their fault. Don’t get me wrong. The fact that your company went belly up or that stockholders demanded a massive layoff to achieve a temporary boost in the stock price is most certainly not your doing. However, employers get the impression from candidates that state that information on their resume that they are the type of person who typically blames things on everyone else. With the number of financial services organizations struggling, going under, or taking massive amounts of government—really taxpayer—money, a lot of job seekers will need to have a strategy on how to address these situations. Most will sympathize and some will empathize with your experience, as long as you don’t come across as desperate. So be straightforward about the companies you have worked for without listing all the reasons why you are no longer them.

Focus Your Resume

Do your best to target your resume for specific types of positions. You may feel like your experience does not translate easily into other areas, but that is simply not true. The more focused you get, the easier it will be to identify what employers are looking for and to gear the content of your resume to match their needs. Regardless of industry, employers today are looking for people that have a track record leading teams, improving processes, increasing revenue, and driving cost savings.

Don’t Lose Hope

I know it is easier said than done, but don’t lose hope. There is tremendous value in what you have done and even in the companies you have done these things for. Be confident in your background and don’t be squeamish about listing all of the information on your resume.

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