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Your Resume Could Be Better: Try These Tips

April 27th, 2018

Your resume will be your very first opening salvo in your relationships with most potential employers, so if this document represents the first contact an employer makes with your name and your personal brand, you’ll want put your whole heart into the little details that can help make it stand out. In other words, no matter how great your resume may be, there are always small ways to make it even better. Start with these simple but often-overlooked moves.

Keywords, keywords, keywords.

Every search algorithm works differently, and the keywords that grab attention on Linkedin may not work as well for your favorite job board, or your target company’s HR database. So cover your bases by making sure these three keywords appear in your document at least once: Your target job title, your target geographic area, the name of your industry (hospitality, healthcare, manufacturing, etc), the full and accurate title of your most relevant former job, and your proudest and most relevant five skill sets. Add any other words you think your target employers might type into a search bar, but start with these.

Spacing.

A resume that’s hard to read will quickly fall through the cracks, so make sure your document provides an easy and pleasant reading experience both on screen and in hard-copy form. Keep your font large (nothing smaller than 11 points) and leave generous spacing between your lines and headings. If you fear that might push valuable information off the page, don’t worry. Just expand to two pages and carefully summarize your points.

Stick to tradition.

There are some times and places during your job search when you’ll benefit by going off script and doing things your own way. But formatting your resume should not be one of those times. When your readers scan the page in search of specific information, they should quickly and easily find what they need. So give your headings standard titles (“education”, “relevant experience”, etc) and place them in a recognizable order. Save your unique branding and personality for the next stage of the process.

Include a summary.

The top of the page, just under your name, should contain a few lines that provide readers with the most important elements of your message. Assume that your readers may only read the summary and may base their entire assessment on what they see there. In some cases, this is exactly what happens. So put your best selling points (including your ability to write a succinct and artful summary) into your summary.

Clarify your intentions.

Know exactly what you’d like to do and build your resume around that type of work or specific job title. Super vague resumes that attempt to fit any job description can be confusing and off-putting to readers who are searching for signs of a match. Don’t suggest that you’re great at everything and will accept any job, anywhere. Hone in on what you actually want.

For more information on how to create a resume that sets your apart, contact the job search team at Merritt Staffing.

Candidates: Prepare to Answer Questions About Past Employment

March 23rd, 2018

As you sit down with your prospective employer during your interview, you can expect to answer questions about the future; you’ll be asked what you want to do next, where you see yourself in a few years, and what you’ll contribute to the enterprise after you’re brought on board. But you’ll also be asked about the past, and your interviewers will want to know what you’ve been up to, and why, and for whom. Here’s how to handle questions about events you can’t change and decisions you’ve already made.

Don’t be relentlessly positive.

If your entire past comes across as one unbroken, blinding ray of sunshine and unmitigated success, your interviewers will naturally assume you aren’t providing the full story. In an interview, it’s better to let your honesty shine then your “success” (however you define that term). Managers are familiar with the type of smoke that gets blown in the interview setting, and they won’t be impressed by a candidate who seems never to have experienced a single mistake or setback. But they will be impressed by a candidate who tells an honest story, appears refreshingly self-aware, and feels comfortable with his or her unique set of likes, dislikes, strengths, and limitations.

Demonstrates these two core skills.

As a candidate, you’ll stand out if you can do two things, things that far too many candidates can’t do at all: connect and learn. If you can treat your interviewer as a friend and respected colleague who deserves to see you as you truly are, you’ll instantly set yourself apart. Small things like eye contact, honesty, engagement, and fearlessness can further this effort. You’ll also stand out if you show the ability to learn from mistakes and problems. If you cling to platitudes or myths instead of trusting your own experience and listening to what it tells you, you’ll have trouble gaining your interviewer’s confidence.

Stories carry more weight than explanation and exposition.

If your employer asks why you left a previous job, you can answer in either of two ways. You can explain, or you can tell a story. If you explain, you may say something like “I had no voice with upper management. I had useful ideas, but they were not implemented.” If you choose the other route, you’ll tell a story about a specific appearance of this specific workplace dynamic. Your story will leave a greater impact and last longer in your interviewer’s memory than your explanation. The same applies to questions about your accomplishments. Set the stage and tell the tale, don’t just share your accomplishment as if you’re reading it from a list.

For more on how to impress interviewers while describing your professional past, turn to the job search experts at Merritt.

Employees: Make Yourself Indispensable

February 23rd, 2018

After a grueling job search, you’ve finally received an offer, and it’s one you can happily accept. Congratulations! Now it’s time to put that exhausting search behind you, prop your feet up, and take a well earned relaxation break. After all, your new employers have already indicated that they’re impressed with you and pleased to bring you on board. Mission accomplished! Right?

Not exactly. Instead of treating a job offer like a chance to relax, treat the next few months as an opportunity to insert yourself into a new system, weave your way into the social fabric, and quickly make yourself indispensable. Gain a foothold now, and you’ll thank yourself later— Especially on the day you miss a beat and you need to rely on your bank of established capital to protect you.

Meet everyone and remember their names.

Don’t just let yourself be introduced; make an effort to shake hands and exchange names with as many new faces as possible during your early weeks on the job. Say hello and greet people by name when you see them. Now is the time. Turn this minor gesture into a solid habit. As you walk around, keep your eyes up and your expression friendly.

Be responsive.

Especially at the beginning of your new job, respond to every message and call. Eventually this may become impossible, but keep up this expectation as long as you can. When you start to fall behind and delete messages as a matter of course, learn to filter and prioritize the messages from those who need you most. But at the beginning, give everyone a chance to experience your best and most responsive self.

Don’t do everything.

You may have been advised never to use the phrase “that’s not my job”, and instead to rush forward eagerly, obey every command, and serve the needs of everyone around you, no matter what they ask. This is bad advice. Don’t roll up your sleeves and grab every single wrench or mop that’s handed to you; instead, prioritize the tasks that require your unique skill sets. First, do the things that nobody else can do. When you finish those, then move on to the areas in which you don’t excel, have minimal training, or aren’t as qualified. Your cheery can-do attitude won’t be welcome when you really can’t or shouldn’t handle the task in question.

Be kind.

Be kind to the busy manager who can’t give you clear instructions. Be kind to the frazzled direct report who needs a deadline extension. Be kind to the rude person in the hall who rushes past you. Be kind to the client who needs help, even if they aren’t part of your account. Be kind to people who behave in ways you don’t understand. You’re new here, and many of your questions will be answered in time. Your patience at this stage will serve you well later on.

For more on how to adjust to your new job and make the most of your first few weeks, contact the career management experts at Merritt.

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