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Archive for the ‘Resumes & Cover Letters’ Category

When you’re putting together your application materials for college, you obsess over the essays, SAT verbal scores, and application itself. High school juniors and seniors freak out over writing-related documents–I remember all too vividly. But when we get to job hunting, we often get so wrapped up in interviewing skills and presentation that we neglect writing.  The truth is that all of these components are integral to a successful job hunt.

Kailee’s advice on how to stand out isn’t crazy or outlandish, but it’s useful. She recognizes the value of a well-chosen word and the inclusion (and exclusion) of certain information.

Most college students have a résumé listing their education, experience and activities. It fills up a standard 8 ½” x 11″ piece of paper and tells you nothing about who they are and what they want to do. When applying to jobs, that résumé gets thrown into a pile of hundreds of résumés just like it. So the question is: how do you stand out from the crowd and get your résumé to the top of that pile?

kailee-h1No matter what the position, I always start out by making sure my résumé displays how well-rounded I am. Employers want to see students that have good grades, extracurricular activities, and work experience on their résumé. Someone that has some experience in all these areas is a much better candidate than someone with a 4.0 GPA and no activities or work experience.

For each position or company, it is important to focus in on what makes you right for that particular job. From your entire history of school, activities and work experience, choose only what is most relevant to the job you are applying for. I like to have a different résumé for each type of job, so my experience matches the specific qualifications and responsibilities of that job.

When describing your experience, use action words to describe the responsibilities associated with each position. Also, do not be afraid to list specific accomplishments and awards you have earned – a résumé is the place to proudly display your hard work.

Lastly, your résumé is your first impression on an employer, so do anything you can to jump off the page and show your personality.

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We’re all quite special (or at least we tell ourselves we are), and we want employers to know. The tough part about that is we’re all different, and yet we have to use the same tools to convey our unique personalities to employers. The other day Bree told us what she’s doing to get noticed in a sea of applicants. Now it’s Natalie’s turn to offer up her method:

cbnatalieI’ve been told that a hiring manager will only look at your résumé for 30 seconds before putting it into the “yes” or “no” pile.  I’ve also been told that a hiring manager only looks at your résumé for 10 seconds before making a decision.

Either way, that’s not a lot of time to make an impression.

To help my résumé stand out, I’ve gotten it critiqued by as many people as possible. This list includes my old boss, both of my sisters, three different ladies at three different career centers on campus and my boyfriend. They each offered a slightly different opinion that together helped shape the most recent form of my résumé.

I think one of the most important things I learned was how to write effective bullet points. I was told that it’s more than what your tasks are at work, it’s how those tasks affected the company.

Example: Bullet A represents an impressive task that you may have put on your résumé, while bullet B shows how this bullet point can not only be impressive but it can stand out from the others —

A) Tutored middle school students in reading for two hours daily

B) Tutored middle school students in reading for two hours daily, increasing their average reading level by more than two grade levels

In addition to stating what you task was, you’re also saying why this task was important. This shows that you’re effective at your job and making a difference.

My résumé is constantly changing. I like to stay involved on campus to show that I’m well-rounded and versatile. My résumé is easy to follow,  (hopefully) doesn’t contain grammar mistakes, reflects how my actions made a positive impact for my companies and highlights a wide variety of involvement.

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One of the great constants of all job hunts is the need to rise above everyone else. No matter who you are or what job you want, the people who are memorable get the position. It’s not about being the craziest applicant, so don’t think dressing like a swan for your interview will leave a good impression…I mean, I suppose it could in some fields, but overall I’d say no.

Although the need to be unique among the crowd of applicants extends to all job applicants, college students and grads feel the pressure a bit more. Why? Well, you’ve just been educated in a university with thousands of other students who are all armed with degrees and looking for work. By default you’re already one-in-a-million. So here’s where you decide to dazzle them and get your job.

We asked our CBCampus Ambassadors what they’re doing to set themselves apart. Here’s what Bree had to say:

cbbreeCBcampus.com estimates that a résumé is about a 30-second preview of a candidate. So that means my years of education, volunteering, internships, experience and hard work boils down to a 30-second quick read on paper? That is not a lot of time to make an impact on an employer; especially an employer who is sifting through a stack of resumes that probably have the same kind of experience, GPA and activities that are quite similar to mine. Thankfully, my mom is a human resource director so I have a pretty reliable proofreader who has revised my résumé time and time again, always looking for ways to stand out and impress. And since my mom is in human resources, she has always encouraged me to get involved in college and look for opportunities to get experience so I have something to work with come job-hunting time. Along with that, here are some of the major adjustments I’ve made to my resume to make it stand out from the rest:

  • Formatting- my resume has unique format to it, one I’ve never seen in templates or how-to guides. It is still organized but the look has some variety to it.
  • Summary of Qualifications and Personal Statement: instead of an “objective,” I’ve written a brief summary of my strongest skills along with what I strive to achieve for myself and my company in the form of a personal statement. This explains my objective, but in a different way.
  • Always employed- I’ve done some freelance choreography work for small high schools and community theatres throughout the years. Although it isn’t something I’m constantly working at, “Freelance Choreography” is a job I’ve had since mid-high school. It shows consistency, responsibility, initiative and passion.
  • Accomplishments- in each of my jobs, including the basic serving jobs, I try to showcase my accomplishments that helped better the company. From awards I received to goals I reached, as many accomplishments as I can fit are found on my resume.
  • Tailor- if I am going for a specific interview or sending my résumé to a particular employer, I always try to revamp my it a little bit so it appeals to the company and job I’m trying to land.

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In a recent nationwide survey, CareerBuilder.com found that nearly one-in-four human resources managers said they receive, on average, more than 75 resumes for each open position; 42 percent receive more than 50 resumes. This survey was conducted online among 252 human resources professionals and 8,038 U.S. employees.

Other key findings:

  • The vast majority of human resources managers (78 percent) reported at least half of the resumes they receive from various recruitment resources are from unqualified candidates.
  • Thirty-eight percent of human resources managers report they spend one to two minutes reviewing a new application; 17 percent spend less than one minute.

With numbers like that, you need to know how to make your resume stand out among the masses.

Executive Quotes and Tips

Advice from Rosemary Haefner, Vice President of Human Resources at CareerBuilder.com:

  • “Human resources managers serve on the front lines of a company’s recruitment efforts and are often the gatekeepers of the interview process. Because they can receive a large volume of applications, you may only have a matter of seconds to make a lasting impression. Make sure to include a career summary at the top, which provides a quick snapshot of your skills and accomplishments.”
  • “Half of workers we surveyed said their resumes are not up to date. You should always have a current resume and portfolio ready to go because you never know what the next day will bring whether it’s a weak or healthy economy.”
  • “Fifty-one percent of human resources managers reported they use an applicant tracking systems to screen and manage their resumes. It’s important to incorporate keywords from the job posting into your resume because it will increase your chances of appearing near the top of the employer’s ranking of the most relevant candidates.”
  • “Many workers, especially those operating in industries that have experienced mass layoffs, are looking to new industries and professions to find opportunities. In these cases, your best option may be a functional resume, which lists experience by skill categories rather than chronologically.”
  • “If you’re a recent college graduate, make sure to include volunteer work on your resume as most employers consider this to be relevant experience.”

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Searching for a job can be hard work. There are many factors to think about and consider as you launch your job search. Experience and education are two critical aspects that every employer will look at.

But those same companies will also analyze you in more subtle ways. How do you interact with people? Do  your clothes and grooming project a professional appearance?

Potential employers will definitely be looking at your communication skills. They will analyze your face-to-face communication skills in an interview. And with the tremendous focus on interview skills, many people overlook the importance of written communication. 

How you express yourself in writing can be an important clue to companies about your job skills and your abilities. And companies may be even more likely to scrutinize those kinds of clues when your resume is long on learning, but short on experience.

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I realized that the blog has focused lately on getting you to a job, but it’s been light on some specifics. For example, tips for writing your résumé would be good to talk about right now. It’s one of the few factors in a job hunt that is universal to everybody, regardless of their position or industry.

Keep in mind that the résumé is the first (or second, technically, if you’ve included a cover letter—as you should) thing the hiring manager sees. It’s not going to land you the job, but it’s going to decide if you get a call for an interview or not. So as boring as you might find the process, writing and revising your résumé is a pivotal part of job hunting.

Here are some tips:
1. Update your résumé regularly. Whether or not you’re on the job market—maybe you’re not looking for a job while you’re in school or you’re at a job you like—you should be updating it. Why? Because you never know when you’ll be job hunting and chance are you won’t remember every accomplishment and role you’ve had months or even years ago. If you keep it current now, you won’t have to dig through your memories later on.

2. Keep it professional. I know, don’t roll your eyes, it seems like obvious advice. However, when you start to think about how many résumés are going to an employer and how you want to stand it, the urge to be cooky and funny rises. You can show your personality if you get an interview—a good sense of humor will pay off face-to-face. But you can’t control how you come across on paper, so don’t risk sounding amateurish on your first impression.

3. Find what works for you. As a recent graduate, or for many people who haven’t been in the workforce for very long, a standard résumé might not benefit your job search that much. Most people are used to chronological résumés that go through your work history, starting with the most recent job and working backwards. A functional format devotes most of its space to your skills and experience up front, breaking them down by relevant headings. For example, “Customer Service” could be a heading, followed by a list of duties you’ve performed. Then at the bottom of the résumé is a list of your job history. In a chronological format, you would focus on a previous job and then explain your duties. See which one gives a better impression.

4. Keep it relevant. If you’re in the fortunate situation of having a lot of experience in a variety of fields, you might improve your odds of getting a job if you weed out the work that’s not directly related. Employers like to see that you’re qualified for this specific job, so either leave out the jobs that don’t seem to have any transferrable skills or rephrase parts to show how they are directly related. A lot of skills are transferrable, you just have to show the employer why they are—don’t assume they’ll do the work for you.

5. Proofread. Reread it several times. Have family and friends do it, too. It never hurts to make sure your résumé is typo-free!

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In the midst of the holiday hustle and bustle, a lot of people forget that plenty of college seniors are graduating. They’ve worked hard to get here and they deserve recognition. Although the amount of December graduates is much lower than May graduates, there are still plenty of students eagerly handing in their last exams and papers.

Although a lot of people don’t recommend hunting for a job during these holiday weeks, a lot of experts disagree. Plenty of companies are trying to use up the budget before the end of the year. Also, with a lot of people too distracted with the holidays to job hunt, or maybe they think no one’s hiring and are waiting until January to start again, you’ve got less competition. So the odds are in your favor to find a job.

Here’s a quick way to jumpstart your search:

  • Update that résumé – Of course you know the importance of a résumé (at least I hope you do). But make sure you update it to reflect your graduation, final GPA, internships, and most recent work experience. You don’t want to walk into an interview with old information – you’ll look unprepared.
  • Network – Let people know you’re looking for a job. December is full of events that have you mingling with friends, family, and strangers. Whether it’s a party or a family-gathering, you’ve got the chance to mention that you’ve just graduated and are ready to enter the workforce. You never know who can help you, whether it’s your uncle, a former employer, or a friend’s relative.
  • Search – You won’t know what’s available if you’re not looking. Networking can help you, but nothing beats looking at job listings. With the Internet at your fingertips (I mean, you’re reading this online right now, are you not?), you’ve got a great resource for finding a job. Search by your major, by the title of the job you want, by location – whatever’s important to you. Just search. You could end up stumbling upon an opening you weren’t even looking for.
  • Apply, apply, apply – Naturally, applying for jobs is the best way to get one. A lot of new graduates are too scared to apply for jobs if they don’t meet every single requirement even if it sounds like a great opportunity. It doesn’t hurt to put forth the effort. If you’ve got a great GPA, a relevant major, and experience, you might be surprised that some companies will give you a chance.

Congratulations on finishing that degree, grads!

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