NEWS + ADVICE
Build a Better Job Search
Whether you are in the midst of a job search or just thinking about your next steps, this is a tough time. Companies are continuing to hire but are seeking to add more value with each hire. The economic impact of the coronavirus has people staying in their jobs and postponing retirement. Even government contractors with solid business books are worried about the economy, the impact of the national debt, and the future.
How Do You Move Forward?
Start with this basic understanding: hiring managers are looking for someone to solve a problem that is important to their success.
The hiring manager is looking for someone who clearly demonstrates they have the experience, knowledge, and ability to do the job. If you understand their need and make it easy to hire you, you will grab their interest.
So how do you become that person? Develop an effective marketing plan: a solid resume, social media presence, target employers list, and network.
What do you want to get from your next job? Maybe you’re looking to move up to a more senior role or be the ‘go-to’ person in your field. Perhaps you want an employer who offers something your current one doesn’t. If so, what? Why is this step vital to you now? Answers to these questions will help you choose the right job and employer to meet your goals.
This is your ad. It should grab attention so the hiring manager ‘must’ talk with you.
In sales, one of the first lessons is always to understand your ideal customer, all their traits and needs, to create compelling marketing and sales approaches. Since you’re selling yourself, that is vital here too.
Crafting your resume is easier if you have a thorough master resume with all your experience. If not, assemble any performance records you have. You may be surprised at the relevant achievements and results you had forgotten. Start with a blank sheet of paper. Updating your last resume is less effective. It usually is not tailored for the work you want next.
Prepare to develop your resume by looking in detail at the jobs and employers which interest you. You need to understand the minimum requirements and the scope of the work to know what past successes you want to show on this new resume. Your goal is to show what you do, with as little jargon as possible. The more difficult it is for a hiring manager to understand your past work, the less demand there will be for your services.
Once you are ready to draft a resume, create a Word document, the most commonly requested format. Skip fancy formatting or resume templates. You want easy to read fonts and sizes.
Start with the basics: your name, contact phone and email info, the URL of your LinkedIn profile or personal website, and your security clearance. Recently people are doing huge, often fancy, fonts for their name – that sends the wrong message and often causes problems if your resume is scanned.
Create a Solid Summary Section
The summary’s first few lines may be all the recruiter or hiring manager sees in their preview pane. It should be short and convey your story. Don’t waste space on total number of years of work experience – that is more likely to knock you out than to help. Never say retired here either – again the wrong message. These two items tend to make people think you may be too set in your ways or too expensive or too old. Consider:
- What do you find exciting about your work?
- What 2-3 work activities do you enjoy doing the most?
- Who relies on you for advice, support, mentoring?
- Start with the job you have or are seeking: Global IT Operations executive.
- Then add the details that make you shine: By analyzing current IT systems against increasing demands for data, cyber security, and reliability, I identified new AI and systems to support operations efficiencies which improved reliability and speed significantly.
- How I work: Relying on data analytics, growing solid teams, and building confidence among stakeholders are my strengths.
- A mission-focused summary: That variant starts with what you do in terms that any hiring manager will recognize, i.e. national security threat assessment.
- Then it moves into specifics: Lead inter-service teams to effectively address current and future-focused system needs. Defined national level assessment tools and training programs. Recognized for my communications and management skills across large projects.
Skip the list of skills – these are repetitive and generic, so hiring managers think of them as useless. They want to see what you have done and how you have progressed. The exception here is IT, where certifications and specific hardware or software is useful, along with years experience.
Make sure your summary speaks to the needs of the position you seek! I cannot tell you how many resume reviews I have done where I read the Summary and had to ask ‘what do you want to do?’ And far too many were not sure. You cannot write an effective resume or social media profile if you do not have a desired job in mind. If you are considering several different career options, you will need resumes for each.
The ‘Meat’: Professional Experience
If your Summary grabbed their attention, this is what makes or breaks your candidacy. You want to write this in traditional reverse chronological order. Start with the most recent job and go back no more than 10-12 years. It is a rare manager who cares about anything older than that on a resume. Save it for your social media profiles if you still think it adds value. Keep in mind:
- Unless you are a recent graduate, this section should be 65-70% of your resume. If you have more than 7-8 years of experience, use two pages.
- The most common format is: Job Title, Organization Name, and dates.
- Skip responsibilities – no one cares what you were supposed to do, they want to know what you accomplished.
- Go for bullet points that are mini-success stories. Talk about something you did that you enjoyed. Think of each as what makes you a STAR. STAR = Situation or Task, Actions you took, and Results you achieved.
Hiring managers want to see what you actually did and its impact – in terms that relate to their needs. That helps them see you in their job. Choose those achievements which match the critical elements of the desired job. Quantify results where you can.
Usually, your most recent job is the largest in this section with each preceding job a little shorter. There is no magic number of bullets per job. What you write here is what is most important and relevant to demonstrate why you are a great candidate for the job you are seeking.
Education and Professional Development
If you are a recent graduate, this is vital. Otherwise, it is mostly a checklist item.
For recent graduates:
- Show your most recent degree first, then any earlier degrees. Once you have a BA/BS, omit AA/AS and high school.
- Format as: BS, Cybersecurity, Carnegie Mellon University, May 2019
- Add in your GPA if it is a good one.
- Show any publications, research projects, or thesis that demonstrate your value.
- List internships here too – the job, the organization, and a line or two on the work.
If you are currently working on a degree and are within about 18 months of completing it, add it to your resume. The format is: BS, Cybersecurity, Carnegie Mellon University, expected December 2021
- Skip the details about your education since your work experience is what you will be hired for.
- Format as: BS, Cybersecurity, Carnegie Mellon University
Professional development is any recent relevant education or training or certification program. Also, list language skills here if that adds value. Don’t waste space on every training program you ever did or those not necessary for the job you seek.
Social Media Presence
Social media usage is a personal preference, but many recruiters and hiring managers will look at your online presence. Most are looking for information that adds to their knowledge of you. Note that almost half of companies indicate that something they saw on social media resulted in eliminating a candidate from consideration or a job offer withdrawn. It is wise to do searches on yourself regularly to see what comes up.
If you are on a professional site like LinkedIn, use it to enhance your value. Here is where you can show more details about your personality, experience, volunteer work and interests. Never contradict your resume! But you can expand it or write something different in your profile summary that complements what is on your resume.
If you are military in transition, use it to show your personal decorations rather than putting them on your resume. Add a brief explanation of what each award is given for. Use a profile picture in appropriate attire for your next job. Build a network here and consider joining groups in your field.
Follow your target employers and connect with people in your career area. Do not put your clearance on your profile as that is a deal breaker for a number of employers. If you have a personal website, showcase your knowledge and interests on it.
Use Twitter as a way to connect with people in your field and to maintain current knowledge. It is also useful for career advice – look for lists of ‘top career experts on Twitter’ for leads. Find the recruiters who work in your target companies too. Your tweets can help you build a solid reputation within your field if you choose.
Study after study talks about the career value of a strong network. Still,
many people barely pay attention to their connections – until they get worried about a job search.
If you already have people you regularly talk to about your career field or the larger issues in working, you just need to start talking to them. Discuss what you are interested in doing next and your target employers. Ask for information, references, or ideas, not for a job as few will have one to offer. Request market or compensation data from those in your field to enhance and check what you know.
If you have not focused on building a network before, now is the time. If you are on LinkedIn, you can easily find people you are currently in touch with as well as those you used to work with. Add in those you know from professional groups or your community. As you build your connections with people, you can ask for ideas and assistance. Past bosses or team leads make good recommendations or may serve as references.
Always remember that these are human connections. You want to make a real connection and learn about the person. You need to provide value to them as well as ask for help.
The development of this marketing approach to your job search shows how you create value. It allows you to demonstrate why you are a ‘must contact’ applicant to the target companies and hiring managers you target.
Patra Frame is ClearedJobs.Net’s HR Management Consultant. She is an experienced human resources executive and founder of Strategies for Human Resources. Patra is an Air Force veteran and charter member of the Women in Military Service for America Memorial. Follow Patra on Twitter @2Patra.This entry was posted on Friday, June 05, 2020 3:21 pm