Education Career Services

August 26, 2009

What’s the goal of a résumé anyway?

August 26The other day I was going through résumé revisions with a client and got the comment, “This reads like a marketing piece.”  Believe it or not, this is the best approach.  According to the American Marketing Association, the term “marketing” refers to the “activity or process of creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value.” 

What’s the goal of a résumé anyway?  This may be a surprise to many, but the goal is to convince the audience that you’re the best fit for the position.  In this sense, it’s important to position yourself as someone of value above the competition.  Think about it, marketing is meant to be catchy, persuasive, and compelling.  Why not present your experience and skills that way?

A mistake people make is providing too much information or not enough.  Difficult as it may seem, the idea is to come up with a balance between too much and too little.  There are many techniques to gain balance.  As such, I suggest you introduce your skills with a brief branding statement without burdening the reader and provide examples to back it up.  Break it up into sections for easier navigation.  And most importantly, don’t bog the reader down with mundane details or responsibilities that are implied for someone within your field, position, or degree/diploma.

The point of your material is to demonstrate how you do your job and do it better—ultimately, how you impact the bottom-line.  Think of it from your own experiences with marketing.  If you look at two different marketing pieces—which one would you be more inclined to go with?  The one that’s plain and looks like every other piece of advertisement or the one that’s innovative and gets right to the point?  Ultimately, the hiring decision-maker is your customer and you are trying to sell your skills.

As everyone has heard before, the point of a resume is to get you in the door for an interview.  What happens next?  Recently, I was asked for a last-minute resume for someone who was having their first “real-world” interview coming up after having finished college the month before.  She was going in for a phlebotomy/registrar position and what I had to work with was her experience as an esthetician in a beauty salon and (luckily) a little bit of hospital volunteer activity.  Connecting her client interfacing skills with patient interaction, I was able to give her a unique spin.  However, during the interview, the interviewer, résumé in hand, asked, “So, how will your past experiences apply to this position?”  She hesitated because she honestly wasn’t sure. 

Being prepared and knowing your stuff is critical when going in for that first interview.  Keep in mind that no two positions are exactly the same.  This requires you to identify and understand your transferable skills from position to position and from company to company.

Think of yourself as a value-add product and start marketing.  Oh, as with any marketing initiative, that means doing your research and being prepared to back it up.  No matter how compelling a résumé is, going in for the interview prepared is your chance to close the deal.

Sigmarie Soto, CPRW
Senior Writer
Career Services International
Education Career Services

August 20, 2009

Cover Letter help and “MUST Do’s”

As Danny pointed out in a previous blog post, personalization is key in the world of cover letters.  While it requires a bit more effort, the results more than make up for it.  But even for those who are sold on tailoring each letter to its audience, there are still sticky questions regarding how to achieve your communications goals.

First, a few “musts” about cover letters:

•  You MUST present a compelling reason to review your resume.  If your first four sentences don’t make me long to see your resume, you’re already out of contention.

•  You MUST be short and to the point.  If blocks of text make your letter look like a chore rather than a light introduction, my attention has already turned to other candidates.

•  You MUST address my needs.  If I read your letter and don’t immediately know where you fit in my organization and what value you can deliver in such a role, you won’t hear from me.

Auguest 22 AmyYes, it’s a tough hurdle to jump in writing a convincing cover letter that—dare I say it?—still shows a bit of your personality.  Following are the answers to some frequently asked questions I receive from clients:

•  How do I address my cover letter?  Please, at all costs, avoid “Dear Sir or Madam.”  Find a name, a title…do anything but resort to this lavender-scented archaism!

•  How do I reflect information from a job posting?  With anything but a parrot’s sensibilities!  If I write that I am looking for a proactive, go-getter with great client service skills, NEVER write in your cover letter that you’re a proactive, go-getter with great client service skills.  I’m going to receive 100 letters that use precisely that formulation.  Get the message across, but do it in your own way…and back the statement up with your own achievements.

•  How do I write a letter to existing network contacts?  Once you have a great cover letter for “cold call” situations, reworking it for contacts you know shouldn’t be too tough.  Keep in mind, your friend or acquaintance will likely forward your letter and resume to the folks doing the hiring, so the achievement-focused language should stay the same.  Rather than soften it up, consider your opening and closing.  Where can you insert references to your relationship, a recent conversation, or other mutual interest?  How can you make your call to action specific to what this individual has to offer?  Consider asking contacts for a meeting to discuss opportunities they might be aware of or for the favor of forwarding your resume along to their networks.

I have more than one cover letter.  Do I need more than one resume?  In my experience, multiple versions of a resume rarely serve a candidate well.  One document reflects the core of what you offer, while the others are generally offshoots, less well defended and less effective overall.  If you are one-part creative director, one-part marketing director (as I once was), it’s better to reflect this in your resume than to create two separate documents.  By shorting one side, you’ll find you present yourself as only half a creative director rather than creative director with value-add marketing skill.

A well-written cover letter serves a myriad of purposes.  At the most basic level of customization, it can highlight the posting to which you’re responding or the particular position you are applying for within an organization.  The best-of-breed letters, however, provide the lens through which to view the resume, underscoring the most relevant details and tying them together in a narrative package that says something no one else can. 

Amy Lorenzo, CPRW
Career Services International
Education Career Services

July 31, 2009

Are Cover Letters Useful?

Tomorrow I will be heading to Chicago for the MWACE conference and hope to meet lots of peers while there.  Being an exhibitor, it’s always nice to see a friendly face and yours would be more than welcome.  With this in mind, I encourage as many to offer suggestions on the material I created, your input benefits students from across the United States and Canada.  That’s right, my textbooks, instructor resource guides, workbooks, and guidebooks are used in over 150 campuses. 

July 31Being my first trip to Chicago, any ideas as to where to go for a great hot dog and/or pizza is appreciated.  I will also be visiting a few campuses along the way (between Iowa and Orlando); if you are interested in a campus visit and a personal review of my work, let me know as quickly as possible so schedules can be manipulated.

Enough of Chicago for now, let’s get into a question asked by a reader who was wondering if cover letters really are important…here’s what I have to say:

As a business owner, I always look forward to the cover letter and weigh it’s content and structure heavily.  According to the latest trends and the top career management associations in the US, cover letters are extremely important while a large amount of employers (approximately 1/3rd) disqualify the candidate if a cover letter is not included with the resume.

As a certified career coach and certified resume writer, I insist resumes will be accompanied by a cover letter.  As a former instructor, program chair, career director, and dean of academic affairs, cover letter inclusion was mandatory…at the bear minimum displays professional respect.

The purpose of a cover letter is to introduce qualities and characteristics a resume can not deliver.  The cover letter is slightly more subjective and is held to high standards of grammar.  This is the time to allow a glimpse of personality to be known…understand no employee is an island.  As a result, employers are interested not only in what you can do, but also the manner in which you can do it.

I’ve written several books on the topic and would be glad to share specific examples and issues at your convenience.  I can be reached at dhuffman@careersi.com.

Danny Huffman, MA, CEIP, CPCC, CPRW
http://www.educationcs.wordpress.com (blog)
http://www.educationcs.com (website)

July 6, 2009

Resume Purpose and Objective

Hoping everyone had a safe and groovy Fourth of July. As for me, kept around the house and made sure the four cats were not too frightened. Let’s get to career marketing and specifically resume development and need for change for a minute…the following represents typical questions I have dealt with over the years:

Questions

What’s hot in resume writing, what are some musts that should be included on a resume? What are some new tricks of the trade and methods that can help set you apart? In addition to work experience, what else should be included to make it stand out? Professional certifications or education credentials? New computer/software skills? Training? How important are all of those to making a resume stand out?

What’s hot in resume writing, what are some musts that should be included on a resume?

Resume development is much like home construction: tools of the trade are required.  Without tools, a frame can not be built.  Your frame defines the value you offer and this MUST be including on your resume in the first round of action.  Tom Cruise stated “show me the money” in a movie several years ago.  And so, the same stands true.  Most Employers hire not for charitable reasons, but for selfish reasons.  Your job at hand is to stand out from the pile upon pile of applicants by “showing your value.”  To do this, a frame of reference needs to be established quickly.  Frames of reference include (though not all inclusive):

  • Added Value/Unique Characteristics or Skill
  • Career History
  • Educational Background/Training
  • Relevant Certifications
  • Technical Expertise

Frames of reference are the support beams validating your target and confirming your ability to not only gets the job done, but to get the job done in the most cost-effective manner possible.

Are you the right person for the job? Are you representing yourself in an industry-specific manner? Are you creating the right first impression?  One has 12 seconds to 15 seconds to “show value,” are you?

How important are all of those to making a resume stand out?

Like a house without a proper foundation, marketing material without appropriate frames will fall from lack of support.  Standing out from the piles of peers is not an easy task but can be accomplished.

I will be glad to expand as requested

Danny Huffman, MA, CPRW, CPCC, CEIP
dhuffman@careersi.com
Education Career Services: www.educationcs.com
Career Services International: www.careersi.com

June 13, 2009

Diagnosing Your Job Search Problem Areas: Part 4a Perfecting Interpersonal Skills

Filed under: Uncategorized — EducationCS @ 1:33 am
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red-crossIn our beginning-of-summer job search rundown, we’ve covered how to put together a top-notch résumé and how to get that document in the hands of the right people.  For our next-t0-last installment, we’ll cover some techniques for setting yourself apart throughout the rest of the hiring process.

If you missed the earlier postings of this series, scroll down the blog and look for the red cross symbol.

Networking

In the last post of this series, we covered the importance of networking as the basis for an effective job search.  Keep in mind, however, that your contacts aren’t primarily interested in your job search—so a self-centered approach is likely to fall flat.  What to do?

–Brainstorm ways you can reconnect with former colleagues in a less demanding way than simply asking for a job.  You might be able to orchestrate social interaction.  Email and online networking sites also offer a low-stress, low-commitment way to reach out…but they may not result in a flood of new leads.

–Making new contacts?  Consider what makes you valuable to them.  Do you have information or expertise to share?  Can you volunteer some time or get involved in an event?  Then by all means, do so!  By giving first, you are much more likely to receive the intel and recommendations you are looking for later.

Follow-Up Calls

Most job postings request candidates not call, or they shield contact information to avert a constantly ringing phone.  In these cases, don’t buck the system.  Following instructions is a basic characteristic of a good employee.

If you’re doing direct outreach to companies, however, follow-up calls are an important part of getting through.  Send your information to the contact you’ve identified, give it a few days to arrive, then call to schedule a time to meet. 

Follow-up calls may also be appropriate at other times in the process.  If you’ve had an interview or been told a decision is forthcoming but don’t hear anything for a while, a call to the hiring manager is acceptable.  Ask if they need more information or if you can answer any further questions.  Also, quickly underscore your key value points and where they align with the position.  Don’t become a stalker who calls every day, but don’t let an organization think you’ve lost interest, either. 

“Can you send me some more information?”

Have you received a telephone call from a hiring manager or recruiter requesting that you send a more detailed résumé, a document in another format, etc?  Don’t let this opportunity pass you by! 

Repurpose this call.  Highlight your interest in the position and ask for more information, mentioning that you’d like to send the right follow-up materials so they can accurately evaluate you.  Get the contact talking about the organization’s needs, then demonstrate how well you fit them. 

And don’t just send your standard cover letter.  Write a customized note based on the information you gleaned.  Mention your conversation to help spur the contact’s memory.  Ideally, this will spur an interview.

Check back here for the next installment where we look at interviewing.

 

Amy Lorenzo

Sr. Writer

Career Sevices International – www.careersi.com

Education Career Services – www.educationcs.com

June 6, 2009

Cover Letter Perfect

Several days ago I was asked the following: “With so many sites and people offering advice, how does one write the perfect cove letter?

June 05_2009Being a career coach and professional writer, I receive questions of this nature often.  I’ll be the first to tell you, there is no such thing as a “perfect cover letter.”  When creating a cover letter (and resume) considerations must be taken into account, including your knowledge, skills, and abilities for a particular position.  Thus far, I’m not being specific, and there is reason.

Cover letter content is subjective and varies from individual to individual as well as from industry to industry.  As a result, I recommend you take a fluid approach to cover letter fundamentals and gather information from outside sources but do not be tied by it.  When I write for students through executive professionals, my goal is to use data triangulation and fuse client knowledge and practice into one impactful strategy.  In this way, cover letter subjectivity is replaced by an objective approach.

To bring it home, according to leading career management associations, effective cover letters must satisfy the following core fundamental rules:

Structural integrity: The typical cover letter consists of three or four paragraphs:

  • First paragraph briefly introduces a target and immediate value you offer.  This is the time to construct a foundation of your knowledge, skills, and accomplishments.
    • Second and third paragraph supports your foundation from the previous paragraph.  This is the time to prove you are the right candidate at minimal risk.  At this stage, the reader is not looking for what you “say” but what you “show.”  Numbers and accomplishments are critical as the adage “past performance predicts future performance” rules everything else.  As a result, many recommend the use of bullets (3 to 5) to draw the reader’s eye.
    • Final paragraph is your call to action.  Consider this the last round of a heavyweight match and the score is tied.  Suggest action and always follow up on it.
  • Solid perfection: Cover letters (as all documents) must be flawless and original:
    • Designed not from a generic template.  The mere design “tells” a great deal about the strategic vision and character of the author.
    • Formatted for reader-friendliness.  There should be plenty of white space to prove your ability to create an organized and efficient document.  If fonts or margins are too small or large, the message you are sending may not be in your favor.
    • Grammatically perfect.  Simply put, there can be no errors.  One error “tells” the reader you are sloppy, not careful, and/or satisfied with less than excellence.

 Your cover letter is not just an introduction; it is the written vehicle lifting you above the crowd and bridging your career dreams to reality.  Unfortunately, you may run across individuals and/or firms who take advantage of cover letter conflict.  So be careful and if you decide assistance is required, place yourself in the reader’s position and examine the finished product with an objective mind.  In any situation, trust yourself in knowing the elements of what makes YOUR perfect cover letter and follow the practice of the top two bullets. 

 I recently published my ninth book dealing with career management issues.  My latest, Resumes & Cover Letters: Writing to Stand Out, goes into great depth with today’s question.  I appreciate the opportunity to bring my research and experience into this question.

 Definitely let me know if YOU have any questions or would like to comment on today’s blog.

 Danny Huffman, MA, CPRW, CPCC, CEIP
dhuffman@careersi.com
Education Career Services: www.educationcs.com
Career Services International: www.careersi.com

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