Job Hunting Tip #1 – Hunting for a Job is a Job

My first advice is to treat job hunting as a job itself, especially if you are out of work and need to get back into the workplace.  Too many people feel that glancing through the classifieds, searching some online job posting sites and letting a few
friends know they are looking for a new job is sufficient.  But my strong recommendation is to introduce some discipline, planning and focus into the process.  Here are some ideas to consider:

  • Get up at roughly the same time you would for a regular job and go through your normal work day morning routine.  In fact, do better than that by eating a better breakfast, seeing the kids off to school or whatever you weren’t quite able to do when you had the pressure of being in the office by a specific time.  The main point is to not sleep an extra 2 hours every day and get yourself into a new rut.
  • Dress in business casual attire.  You can decide how far to go with this but the main intent is to put yourself into a serious work frame of mind.
  • Spend your full morning each day of the work week, up until lunch, in your new job – searching for a job.  If you’re following the various tips in this job hunting series, you should easily be able to spend 3+ hours per day.
  • Let your family know you’re “at work” during this time period each day.  For those of you that have worked from home, you know the drill.  But for those of you that haven’t, you don’t want to be interrupted with things that wouldn’t have been important enough to call you at work to discuss.  That’s the litmus test.
  • Set weekly targets for yourself.  How many email outreaches and/or phone calls are you going to make?  How many new companies are you going to investigate?  Keep track of progress and even consider assigning points to various tasks and accomplishments if you the analytical type.

The concept is simple.  Until you find a job, your job is finding one.

See the rest of my series on Job Hunting Tips here.  I also have a related series for Resume Writing and one for Interviewing.

Resume Writing Tip #10 – Optimizing for Search Tools

Most companies with revenues of $250M or more will use some sort of applicant tracking system, most of which have automated resume search and scoring capabilities.  Just like doing a Google search for something is expected to return results that most closely match your request, these tracking systems search through submitted resumes looking for pre-determined words and phrases.

So how do you go about optimizing your resume for these search tools?  Here are some suggestions:

  • Identify Key Words/Phrases
    The job descriptions for the positions of interest are loaded with the employer’s desired skills and traits for that specific position.  These are almost certainly scored by the automated search tool.  Any words and phrases that seem to appear in a majority of the postings you’re applying for should be embedded into your standard resume.  But don’t stop there, consider creating custom resumes for postings that happen to use some unique words/phrases, especially if they are used multiple times in the posting.  Also keep an eye out for industry-specific terms, buzz words and required or desired certifications.
  • Natural Use
    Remember that after hopefully scoring high enough through the automated search process, your resume will land on a human’s desk.  As you weave in the desired words/phrases, make sure to do so naturally.  In other words, the narrative should seem logical to the reader and not obvious that a bunch of desired words were jammed in.
  • Skills Summary Section
    If you decide to incorporate a skills summary section (see related post), this is a great place to work in the desired key words and phrases, especially those specifically related to skills and certifications (rather than leadership or personality traits).
  • Fonts, Formatting and Special Characters
    Be careful not to go too crazy with fonts, formatting and special characters because they can throw off the automated search tools.  Stick with the standard set of fonts, don’t incorporate borders/boxes/images and where you have bulleted entries use standard bullets (rather than some fancy graphic).

See the rest of my series on Resume Writing here.   I also have a related series for Job Hunting and one for Interviewing.

Resume Writing Tip #9 – The Post-Interview Audit

If you haven’t searched for a job in a while, then you’ll be updating your resume and using it without knowing how good it is.  Of course, you should get advice from family members, friends and former work colleagues.  But there’s another hugely valuable audit tool to gauge the effectiveness of your resume.  It’s the post-interview audit.

After conducting any sort of interview using your newly updated resume (including phone interviews), immediately pull out your resume and ask yourself the following questions:

  • What did they specifically notice from my resume?  If they use phrases like “I saw that you _____.  Tell me more about that.”, then you know they got the information from your resume.
  • What did they not ask you about that you were really hoping and expecting they would?  Potential formatting problems and an opportunity to use the Quick Glance Test described in a related blog post.
  • What did they misunderstand?  In other words, they asked you a question and you found yourself clarifying their initial observation or conclusion.

You should do this following your first few interviews and after any interview that went especially well or especially poorly.

See the rest of my series on Resume Writing here.   I also have a related series for Job Hunting and one for Interviewing.

Resume Writing Tip #8 – Upper Management Positions

If you are interviewing for a position on the senior management team, there are a couple of additional resume sections that can help if you have the background and experience to populate them.  Such sections include the following:

  • Board Positions (including advisory boards)
  • Mergers & Acquisitions – describe each one, including the value and your involvement before and after.
  • Funding and Capitalization – describe each occurrence that you had involvement in
  • Conference Speaking Engagements

Another dilemma for executives is the length of the resume.  This problem can be solved by having two versions.  The complete version that has all of the items in the list above and a fair amount of detail throughout should be called your Curriculum Vitae (CV) while the 3-page version should be called your Resume.  Your initial solicitations should be done with your Resume.  But in your solicitation, make it known that you have a more complete CV available upon request.  In fact, put this at the end of your resume in place of where you would otherwise put “References available upon request”.

See the rest of my series on Resume Writing here.   I also have a related series for Job Hunting and one for Interviewing.

Resume Writing Tip #7 – The Quick Glance Test

Here’s a great exercise that I tell everyone to perform.  Give your completed resume to a friend or family member that has not seen it before.  The less they actually know about your professional background, the better.  Tell them that you are going to give them a short amount of time to glance over your resume and then ask them to tell you what they remembered.  But don’t tell them the amount of time you are going to give.  Give them exactly 20 seconds to look at it. Then ask them what they saw or what they remembered.  They better have noticed at least 3 of the key things you want to be noticed or else you have a formatting problem.  This will most likely be company names that you worked for or job titles.  And possibly/hopefully something from your Skills Summary section, if you included one.

Then give them 40 more seconds to see if they can pick up most of the remaining hot points.  For a hiring manager looking through a stack of resumes, the first 20 seconds of reading will determine into which pile your resume goes (investigate further versus not a fit).  I’m not exaggerating.  A hiring manager with a stack of 30+ resumes has no choice but to spend about 20 seconds in their initial sorting exercise.  The ones that end up in the good stack will get a further look (the additional 40 seconds) to decide if they are a “definite phone screening interview” or just a “maybe for a second round if the others don’t work out”.

See the rest of my series on Resume Writing here.   I also have a related series for Job Hunting and one for Interviewing.

Resume Writing Tip #6 – Word Selection

This is critical, especially the action verbs that you choose to use.  For example, if you accomplished some particular objective, why use a verb like “met” when you could use “achieved” or “exceeded” instead?  Also, typically you should start out each sentence with an appropriate verb rather than hide the verb in the middle of the sentence.  Consider the following:

  • Good management verbs – directed, managed, oversaw, led, supervised, assigned, chaired, founded
  • Good administrative verbs – designed, developed, established, negotiated, executed, implemented
  • Good accomplishment verbs – achieved, exceeded
  • Good adjectives to describe yourself (cover letter, etc) – resourceful, innovative, action-oriented, self-motivated, creative
  • Try to avoid (too passive) – participated, facilitated, arranged, influenced, analyzed, responsible for

See the rest of my series on Resume Writing here.   I also have a related series for Job Hunting and one for Interviewing.

Resume Writing Tip #5 – Education versus Work Experience

If you have already had two or more jobs, realize that college is enough behind you that your Professional Experience section should go before your Educational information.  Also, the further college is behind you the less you need to include about it.  In other words, after 8 years and 2-3 jobs you only need to mention the name of the college and your degree (major and minor, if you have both).  You do not need to mention GPA or various areas of concentration (unless they are important to the career you are going for).  And if you graduated with honors, that’s always worth mentioning.

See the rest of my series on Resume Writing here.   I also have a related series for Job Hunting and one for Interviewing.