One of the most prevalent questions among job seekers is “How do I write a cover letter?” Most wonder what content to include, what format to follow and how long a cover letter should be. Here I will address these often asked questions to help job seekers perfect their cover letters.
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As a Recruiter, I am often asked, “Why do recruiters incessantly contact me about a job, only to disappear once I’ve been submitted?”
Let me assure you, you are not alone. The lack of proper follow through by recruiters is not only an epidemic, it’s also pretty lame. I’m going to expand upon some of the reasons this typically occurs, so you can be proactive when – not if – it happens to you.
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Whether you are a hiring manager or an employee, you’ve no doubt used a recruiter before. You may have some definite opinions about recruiters; either positive or negative. Especially in today’s job economy, recruiters can save you time and effort. Before working with a recruiter, there are a few evaluation questions you may want to ask, to make sure your recruiter is working with your best interest in mind.
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Competition is stiffer than ever these days; with many more qualified candidates fighting for the same job, what can you do to set yourself apart? In addition to some of the tips given in “10 Ways to Be Competitive in Your Job Search“, here are some tips for the actual interview, which can sometimes be the most nerve-wracking part for job seekers. Take consideration of the following tips to assist you in your next interview:
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With recent unemployment and layoff numbers, it seems there aren’t enough jobs to go around for all of those looking for work. There are things that you can do to improve your odds when competing for a job opportunity; no matter what that job may be. Take these steps to ensure you remain a “top candidate” for consideration during these tough and competitive times.
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So you’ve interviewed for that dream job and gotten an offer. Congratulations! Time to give your notice to your current employer. How will your boss take the news? Maybe he or she will begin looking for your replacement; however, there is a good chance they will make a counteroffer to persuade you to stay.
Here is what you need to know about counteroffers:
– Don’t flatter yourself, it has nothing to do with your skills/abilities. The likely reason you got the counteroffer is to buy your boss some time to find your replacement. Everyone is expendable.
– Counteroffers never work. Ever. Once you have given notice, you are seen as “disloyal” and no matter what your employer says they will replace you at the first opportunity.
– They may make more than one counteroffer! No matter how many times they beg you to stay, it’s still going to end in you being unemployed.
Additionally, it’s always best to keep the name of your new employer private. Some people will go to great lengths to impede your success if they feel a need for vindication.
There is an emerging trend among Web 2.0 specialists for presentation of their qualifications; the video resume. There are some evident pros and cons for this type of resume, as well as some resistance from HR professionals. For those candidates considering a video resume, especially for those in the social media field, my suggestion is to research, prepare and most of all have the ability to recognize if this isn’t for you.
Before deciding if a video resume is the way to go, consider these points:
Make sure you know the proper etiquette. Don’t just wing it. View other video resumes and decide what you like and don’t like about them.
The best approach is to be prepared with what you will say and present on camera. This type of “resume” will likely take you a few tries to get right. You don’t want to be too animated, however, you don’t want to look like a deer in the headlights either. Practice, if you have to. Have an “interviewer” if that makes you more comfortable. The video should be ideally 3 minutes or less and be well edited. You may have to hire someone to edit and/or record your video if you don’t have the right equipment or skills. This is generally not very expensive and a good investment if you plan to use a video resume. You should be dressed as if you are interviewing and good lighting and sound is a must. Most of all, have the ability to recognize if the video resume doesn’t do you justice. If you don’t think it’s a good representation of your true personality and communication abilities, then don’t do it – and most importantly, don’t send it!
The video resume can be a very useful tool in presenting your qualifications in a unique way. They do not replace a paper resume in my opinion, but are a great follow up and/or addition.
Further, video resumes allow you to showcase communication skills and personality; an essential component of most jobs – especially in Web 2.0 or Social Media environments, Public Relations, etc. For recruiters that work the national market or multiple locations, a video resume can be a great supplement to the phone interview. Having the ability to “see” the candidate before you present them to your hiring manager is important.
Confidential to HR Personnel: Consider that video resumes are not a means for finding a “barbie doll candidate”, but rather a precursor to an in-person interview. If a candidate sends a video resume that isn’t concise, well edited and planned – then I think that’s a good indicator of their overall abilities. Don’t lament about how you don’t have the time to sit through 20 minute videos. You’ll likely know in the first 30 seconds if it’s worth watching – about the same time it takes to review a resume and decide if you want to continue reading. I’ve listened to opposition from some HR folks warning of potential law suits, claiming it encourages discrimination. Let me ask you, how is it any different than interviewing someone in person? The same person that would hire someone based on how they look will do so regardless of the source, be that video or face to face interview.
Bottom line: It’s not for everyone. Doing your research and preparation is important in determining if this is the path for you, regardless if you are HR, the hiring manager or the candidate.
So the economy is in turmoil and you’ve suddenly found yourself without a job. What now? It’s time to update that resume, or in some cases, build one from scratch. What should you include; what should you leave out?
Before you get started, it’s important to know that a potential employer only spends about 30 seconds scanning your resume, initially. If they like what they see, they may spend up to 2 minutes reviewing it further. That’s a short window of opportunity to make a good impression.
Here are some helpful tips to guide you on your way to building a great resume:
- Always use a common, easy to read font; such as Times New Roman, Arial, Book Antiqua, or similar. Using an odd font not only makes it more difficult for a human to read your resume, but also more difficult for OCR software. OCR is Optical Character Recognition; it translates what it “sees” into predetermined data fields (name, address, etc).
- Bold Sparingly. Only titles, employer names/dates, headers and footers should be bolded. Too much bolding creates confusion for the reader.
- Use bullets sparingly. Bullet if you must; however, it is always best to use full paragraphs when composing your summary and/or work experience.
- Do not use tables. Ever. Every person that processes your resume, including recruiters who are often required to reformat your resume, will hate you if you use tables.
- Learn how to set and use tabs. Simply hitting the Tab key over and over until you get to the right spot isn’t proper formatting. Using set tabs will help your resume to have a more “even” appearance. Make sure dates of employment line up accurately, to make it easy to see the “years” at each employer listed.
- Text or Microsoft Word format are the preferred documents. Very few employers use WordPad, Works, WordPerfect, et al. PDF files are acceptable in some cases, but generally it needs to be a document that can be editable. This is especially the case when working with an agency recruiter; they must have the ability to remove your contact information before sending to their client.
- Your resume does not have to be 1 page. It doesn’t need to be 10 pages, either.
- A good resume includes a header with your full name, address, phone number and email address. Below that should be your summary (not an objective), a skills section, education and/or certifications and employment awards or accolades, and finally, your employment content.
- Do not include your hobbies, marital status, religious beliefs, number of children, charities or any other irrelevant information. While some experts believe that including this information will help the potential employer to see your “human” side or character traits, it won’t. It only distracts from your experience. Stick to relevant information only.
- Use an appropriate email address for your resume header. Email addresses like email@example.com are seen as unprofessional. Sign up for a free email account on Yahoo, Hotmail, Gmail or the like using only your name or initials. For example: Jane.Doe@hotmail.com or firstname.lastname@example.org et al.
- It is imperative to include skills used within the meat of the job description. Employers want to know when you last used your skills and in what capacity.
- If your experience spans more than 20 years, it is best to cut short the information regarding your early years of employment. Instead, include any relevant information in a summary. For example, instead of listing every employer for the last 20 years – include only those worked for the last 10. Summarize the rest, using a date range as your header.
- Keep your resume concise. Review and rewrite paragraphs if necessary. Your goal is to be informative without boring the reader.
- Last but not least, SPELL CHECK. Make sure you use complete sentences; do a complete read through to make sure what you’ve written makes sense when read out loud. You can also ask a friend or colleague to review and give their feedback.
- It is always best to send an electronic copy of your resume. Faxed or mailed copies of resumes clutter desks, fill trash cans and kill trees. Be green.
- Google other resumes of professionals like you, to use as an example. It’s always a good idea to include current buzz words pertaining to your position and industry. These buzz words change over time so if your resume has dust on it, it’s time to update those!
- When in doubt, consult with a professional. Resume writing is an art; if you aren’t a good writer it’s wise to invest in a professional to assist. This isn’t just a document, it’s your career!
These tips were written and contributed by Robin M. Eads, Talent Acquisition and Recruiting Expert; President @ A Place 4 People, Inc.
Have additional tips not listed here? Please share!