4 ways to reconnect with employers’ needs

Job seekers are too often disconnected from employers' needs

It is up to Job Seekers to show how they are qualified, and to reconnect with employers’ needs.

I recently attended an Employer Forum to discuss their opportunities and needs. Several gave the same complaint:

Job seekers are failing to show how they are qualified for the positions to which they are applying.

Most job descriptions will include Required Qualifications, and Preferred Qualifications. When possible, the employer of course chooses to interview applicants who meet the Preferred Qualifications.

Too often, though, applicants do not show that they meet even the Required Qualifications.

For Job Seekers, if you do not meet even the Required Qualifications, do not bother applying. Otherwise, you are wasting your time. This is why job seekers submit 50, 75, 100+ applications and never get a callback.

On the other hand, it is possible that you do meet the Required Qualifications, but your resume or application is not connecting with employers.

There is a better way.

1.         Understand who you are. Are you a manager? A customer service representative? A food service worker? A warehouse and distribution associate? You can be more than one thing, but know who you are. Connect with employers by applying for positions where you can demonstrate a skill set.

2.         Rethink your resume. How often does your resume use the phrases, “Responsible for” or “Duties include?” Saying you were responsible for a duty does not say whether you are skilled at performing the duty. Connect with employers by demonstrating achievements and accomplishments.

3.         Speak in the employer’s language. If the employer seeks a Customer Experience associate, and you talk about your stellar Retail Sales experience, you are not connecting. DO NOT claim that you have experience that you do not have, but there are different ways to describe your experience. Two applicants being equal, the employer will choose the one who connects by demonstrating a fit into the company culture.

4.         Above all, your resume must match the job description. If the position requires 2 years experience and you cannot show 2 years experience, do not apply. But if you can show 2 years experience by combining your experience across multiple previous employers, then connect with employers by framing your Summary of Qualifications to match their needs.

Do not be the applicant who mindlessly hits the Submit button day after day, wondering why you never get a call back.

Success doesn’t come to you. You go get it.

I want to hear from you. Connect with me on FacebookLinkedIn and Twitter, or leave a comment below, and let me know what you think!


Book Review: “Unemployed but Moving On”

Cheryl Butler Long, in her book, Unemployed but Moving On, identifies herself as a “Workforce Development Specialist for a mid-western state” (I believe Missouri, based on the references in an appendix). She has been doing workforce development longer than I have, and she has worked with more job seekers than I have. She writes with a blunt, sarcastic wit of someone who has seen and experienced a lot.

I do have issues with the negativity of the tone. Basically, Ms. Long is saying (this is not a quote), “The economy sucks, there are not enough jobs for everyone. You probably won’t get hired, but if you follow my advice, you might have a shot.”

Now, the economy does suck. There are more job seekers than there are jobs. And the jobs that are available are not equal to the jobs that were lost. However, I know that there are jobs out there for those who are smart about their job search, and are willing to put forth the effort — which does not include simply submitting your resume to hundreds of online job opportunities or complaining about how bad the job market is. I have been hired three times since the Great Recession started in 2009, I’ve enjoyed each of the jobs I’ve held, and currently love what I do.

Despite the negative sarcastic tone, I find myself agreeing with much (but not all) of what Ms. Long says: decide what you want to do, make sure your resume includes all the appropriate key words, always attach a cover letter, and prepare for the interview.

Ms. Long includes a very helpful chapter on how to deal with criminal convictions, which I rarely see addressed in any job-search book.

She says in one chapter that she was in junior high during the Beatles’ invasion, which by my math means she is in her mid-60s (which, dear readers, is why you never go back more than 10 years on a resume!). This may explain why she is fascinated with computers, spending three pages talking about how the world is different now thanks to computer technology.

She also includes a chapter talking about how one is likely to face discrimination if over age 40, female, gay, or speak with a non-English accent. Sadly, she offers no advice other than to expect it.

Overall, while I agree with much of the book, it is difficult for me to recommend it. The sarcastic negative tone might work when speaking to a group, when you have immediate feedback about how the group is accepting it. In writing, absent external feedback, there is no uplift of mood.

I deal with hope. I am confident that there are jobs available for those who are smart with their job search and put forth the effort.

Success doesn’t come to you. You go get it.

Long, Cheryl Butler. Unemployed but Moving On! Smart Job Searching in a Web-Based World and a Sucky Economy. Manasas Park: Impact Publications, 2012. Print.400000000000000522352_s4

I want to hear from you. Connect with me on FacebookLinkedIn and Twitter, or leave a comment below, and let me know what you think!

6 steps to create content for a resume

I have cautioned before that you cannot have just “a” resume that you submit to every employer; you need to customize your resume for each position to which you apply.

That said, you do need to have a “base” resume to start from.

Many resumes I see woefully undersell past achievements. A typical warehouse worker, for example, might include,

  • Picked product
  • Packaged product in cardboard box
  • Attached label and shipped product.

Now, this job seeker is a laborer and not a resume writer. And, the job seeker is guessing about what is important to employers.

So, how does a job seeker know what employers are looking for, and what to include on a resume?

Ignoring format for now, there are a few simple steps anyone can use to create employer-relevant content for resumes:

Step 1: Decide what job title you want, whether you want to stay in your current occupation or switch careers.

Step 2: Go to O*NET Online. Enter your job title in the “Occupation Quick Search” box. Find the occupation title that best describes your actual role. This opens a page that lists common Tasks, Tools & Technology, and Knowledge / Skills / Abilities for the occupation. Print the page.

For example, a search for “Warehouse” brings up “Laborers and Freight,” which when printed, results in seven pages of Tasks. You did much more than just “picked product.”

Step 3: You likely do not have experience with everything on the O*NET list. Circle what you have done.

Step 4: Next, find seven to ten job descriptions on a job board for your title. For this step, I suggest a major job aggregator, like or NOTE: You are NOT applying for the position; you are simply looking for the description. Print them.

Step 5: Circle the common key words from the descriptions you printed.

Step 6: Compare your list of Tasks from O*NET Online with the key words from the job descriptions. Then, create a resume that incorporates the overlap.

You now have a base resume that you can begin modifying.

Next, you will want to add your unique benefits and accomplishments.

Success doesn’t come to you. You go get it.

Agree? Disagree? I want to hear from you. Connect with me on FacebookLinkedIn andTwitter, or leave a comment below, and let me know what you think!

Dealing with gaps in your work history

In the days immediately after the State of the Union Address, President Obama called on companies to revise their hiring practices so as to not discriminate against the long-term unemployed. I am encouraged that a sizable proportion of some of the largest companies in the US are agreeing to do so.

And yet, the stigma remains among many employers – if you have large gaps in your employment history, or are currently unemployed, then you must not be employable.

Many of us have gaps in our employment history. There are honest and legitimate ways to fill most gaps on your resume, to address gaps in a cover letter, and to explain gaps in an interview.

First, honestly assess why you have gaps. From there, we can devise a strategy:

I became ill / injured / took some personal time. If it is just a few months and a while ago, then don’t worry about. If it lasted several months, or is the reason for your recent unemployment, then you might address in a cover letter that you “took a personal sabbatical, but I am now ready and eager to resume my career as (POSITION), using my (SKILLS…)”.

I left my job to take care of an ill family member. You were a Caregiver, and you can claim so on a resume. If you are seeking a health care field, this is directly relevant and you can flesh out your Caregiving accomplishments.

If this was an interruption of your career, you might include only a line or two on a resume so as to concentrate more on your relevant experience.

If your family member passed away and you spent some time closing the estate, then you were an Estate Manager.

I was incarcerated. What did you do while you were incarcerated? Did you work in the library / commissary / laundry, even if only a few hours per week? Then you were employed by the State and can put it on a resume (check with a Career Developer for proper wording for your jurisdiction). Did you finish a degree or complete a certification course? If relevant to the position you applied for, then include it on a resume. NOTE: Do NOT include on a resume that you were incarcerated!

I have had jobs I am not proud of. I have had clients who have been exotic dancers, web-site models, drug dealers. I do not judge. You were Self-Employed, and should include on a resume. You do not need to include exactly what you were doing, but you can include your relevant transferable skills (marketing, appointment setting, delivery, sales, etc.). Be prepared, however, that employers are likely to be intrigued and will want to know more (self-employed people impress me, so I would ask), so spend some time thinking and practicing what and how much you want to say. DO NOT LIE! But you do not need to give the whole truth, either.

I was a homemaker. You were a Family Manager. List everything you did as a homemaker and translate into transferable skills (planned and prepared nutritious meals, purchased supplies and maintained inventory, established a budget and tracked spending, taught/tutored, etc. and etc.) You may not have been paid, but you do have a vast amount of transferable experiences.

It just took / is taking me a while to find a job. What have you been doing? Have you picked up a certification? Finished a degree? Volunteered in a capacity that furthers your qualifications for the position? Then include on a resume. Note that Volunteer work does not need to be listed under a section labeled, Volunteer. Just include it as work. No one needs to know you were not paid.

Did you write a book? Volunteer in a capacity that is not directly related to what you want to do? Whatever the case, you can say in a Cover Letter that, “While I have looked for my next opportunity as a (POSITION), I (DID WHATEVER YOU DID). But I am eager to resume my career and believe my skills match what you are looking for…” (and then tell them why.)

At no time will I ever advocate that you make up a job that you never did, or stretch dates beyond their actual time to bridge gaps, or otherwise provide false information. But I do advocate, you likely have more skills, qualifications, and most importantly experiences that employers seek. Use your full experiences to your advantage!

Success doesn’t come to you. You go get it.

I want to hear from you. Connect with me on FacebookLinkedInand Twitter, or leave a comment below, and let me know what you think!

Three truths about resume writing

I recently attended a Lunch-&-Learn where the host agency invited several guests from the Resume Writers Association. We broke into small groups, and my group included two professionals. I learned some tips that I will use with my clients, but what was most interesting is that even two credentialed resume writers disagreed about resume format and content.

This confirmed my philosophy that there are three universal truths about resumes:

1)  Everyone has opinions about resumes.

I tell my clients that if you show your resume to five different people, you will get at least six different opinions. I myself am likely to have two different opinions. Resume writing is much more art than science, and depends on your own background and experiences, the type of jobs you seek, the specific opportunity for which you are applying, and the preferences of the writer or reviewer.

2)  There are no absolute “rules” about resumes.

Anyone who tells you that a resume should be this, or should not include that, is laying a rule that may not actually exist. Employers are people, and people have preferences. While one employer may want to have a resume exceed one page to show the detail of your work experience, another employer becomes annoyed. You cannot please everyone. That said, there are best practices, and I share my opinions with my clients, but I am careful to emphasize, these are my opinions.

There are no rules, but I think most would agree, this needs some help.

There are no rules, but I think most would agree, this needs some help.

3)  At the end of the day, professional resume writers and workforce developers are not hiring anyone.

Workforce developers, professional resume writers and reviewers serve a valuable purpose. Many job seekers woefully understate their marketable skills and qualifications, and a good resume writer will help flesh out your experiences. I encourage my clients to get multiple points of views about their resumes, understanding that they are likely to get a lot of contradictory opinions.

You will not look far before finding someone who disagrees with some of my advice. We all talk to employers and have good reasons for our recommendations, but ultimately, it is your resume. Take all the differing opinions, make it your own, and use what is going to work best to market your skills, experience, and benefits for the specific employer.

Success doesn’t come to you. You go get it.

I want to hear from you. Connect with me on FacebookLinkedIn and Twitter, or leave a comment below, and let me know what you think!

Why a one-size-fits-all resume misses the mark

In 2009, I faced my own career transition when my company eliminated my position during a corporate restructuring. My now former company did the honorable thing and hired an outplacement service to assist me (the one takeaway I still remember: employers do not like facial hair. Goodbye, goatee!).

George Clooney could probably get away with facial hair. Not me.

George Clooney could probably get away with a beard.

A week later, I received a box in the mail with 200 finished resumes on nice paper.

I immediately did two things that turned out to be the among the smartest decisions during my career search:

  • I had the outplacement service send me an editable copy of my resume, and
  • I turned the 200 copies into scratch paper.

Quite simply, job seekers who send out the same resume to every employer are doing it wrong.

Successful job seekers cannot have a one-size-fits-all resume, because really, it is one-size-fits-none.

Employers receive, on average, 250 applications/resumes for every open position; many receive two or three times this. They will spend, at most, seven seconds with each resume before deciding to either read further or discard.

Who has time to read through all these resumes?

Who has time to read through all these resumes?

Additionally, two employers in the same industry, hiring for the same type of position, will have different needs.

All this together means that the successful applicant:

  1. is the one who meets and exceeds the needs of the particular employer as specified by that employer, and
  2. who also speaks the employer’s language, and
  3. who conveys their qualifications in the top-third of the first page.

I recommend, instead of an Objective, to have a section for Key Qualifications. Tell the employer why you are qualified, matching their words as much as possible. The Work History section of your resume then supports the Key Qualifications.

For example, both Employer A and Employer B require three years’ experience. The successful applicant will have a bullet point under Key Qualifications that explains she has four years’ experience; the Work History section will show that she has two years with Company X and two years with Company Y.

Employer A also emphasizes the Customer Experience. The successful job seeker will change the “customer service” references on her resume to “customer experience” for Employer A.

Employer B talks about Loss Prevention where Employer A was silent. The successful applicant will add a bullet point under Key Qualifications to explain how he learned to rack merchandise in a way to aid Loss Prevention (he might want to include this in the resume for Employer A, but must include this for Employer B).

Therefore, the successful job seeker will have a separate resume for each position with each company for which they are submitting resumes.

This does not mean that you have to start with a blank page every time; however, the successful job seeker is the one who puts in the effort.

Success doesn’t come to you. You go get it.

I want to hear from you. Connect with me on FacebookLinkedInand Twitter, or leave a comment below, and let me know what you think!