QUESTION: What does the current job-search and employment landscape look like and what are the trends and best practices that we currently experience?
Resumes, Cover Letters, LinkedIn Profiles & Other Career Marketing Communications
- Google has replaced the resume as the preferred introduction to job seekers. Dick Bolles, author of What Color is Your Parachute? and a true pioneer in the employment industry, was recently quoted as saying, “Your Google results are the new resume.” Today’s recruiters are using Google searches and LinkedIn to source candidates instead of trolling job-board databases.
- It’s essential to keep it short. Forty years ago, resumes were one page listings of an individual’s work history typed, of course, on onionskin paper. Ten years ago, resumes were two, three, or four pages long, extolling a candidate’s qualifications, successes, deliverables, value, highlights, traits, and more. Today’s resume replicates the earlier trend as we work to keep it short (one to two pages; rarely any longer). However, today’s resume also incorporates all of same elements as the longer resumes – qualifications, successes, value, and accomplishments; it’s simply written tighter, cleaner, and leaner. Shorten two sentences to one. Eliminate an extra bullet point. Summarize all of the tech skills into one line. You can do it!
- Culture fit more important than ever. As recruiters and hiring managers work tirelessly to identify the right candidates for their organizations, one of the most important criterion they use today is culture fit. They want to know if a job seeker will perform well within their company, within their management structure, within their communications infrastructure, and so on. Resume writers, career coaches, and others are working harder than ever today to communicate a strong message of culture fit when writing resumes, letters, and other job-search communications.
- Resume “extras” require extra thought. With all of the focus on writing short and to the point, what do you do when you’re working with a client who has lots of great information – important information – but it’s never going to fit onto one or two pages? This might include publications, public speaking engagements, media appearances, technology qualifications, projects, consulting engagements, international experience, or more. Today’s savvy resume writer knows to briefly mention these items, include enough substance to make them valuable additions to the resume, and then include the rest of the information in an addendum.
- Web portfolios are here to stay, but are they? If web portfolios had ever really caught on, they’d be the answer to what to do with all of the extras. With just a click or a tap, a hiring manager would be able to move seamlessly from educational qualifications to professional experience to honors and awards to executive consulting engagements, and down the list through each component of a candidate’s experience. However, as career professionals, we’re well aware that web portfolios have not caught on as so many of us had anticipated. By now, many of us thought they would be mainstream. Today’s reality is that only a small percentage of job seekers use them, either because they’re too much trouble to create and maintain, but more likely because recruiters and hiring managers simply don’t spend the time to review them. They would rather glance at a resume, skim a LinkedIn profile, or do a keyword search through their ap plicant database. That’s today’s market and the one in which we need to work right now.
- Resume branding is a must, particularly for professionals, managers, and executives. A personal brand is an authentic differentiator that identifies and communicates the unique value of an individual clearly and concisely and with 100% accuracy. Once someone’s brand has been uncovered – through a coaching, counseling, or resum E-writing process – it should then be clearly conveyed in every communication of that professional’s career portfolio – resume, career bio, cover letters, thank-you letters, LinkedIn profile, and everything else. One consistent brand equals one consistent message of value and a resume that gets noticed, an interview that gets scheduled, and a job offer that’s made.
- Brands extend beyond resumes and job search. Today’s professionals, whether in active job-search mode or happily employed, know they need to continually work on building their brands, expanding their brand messages, and building stronger networks, online and off. They know that it’s best to have all of the pieces in place (i.e., contacts who understand them and their value) before they ever need them because our employment landscape continues to remain challenging, to say the least.
- Core Competencies section returns to the resume forefront. Using a Core Competencies section near the top of a resume is something that many resume writers have done for years and years. However, for others, it had fallen out of vogue. Today, it’s making a resurgence because it coincides with the 140-character mentality of keeping everything as succinct as possible. Plus, it’s quick and easy for a visual review and works great for automated keyword searches.
- Resumes rich with STARs, CARs, OARs, and SOARs get the most attention and drive the most action. If you’re not familiar with these acronyms, STAR means situation, tactic, action, results; CAR means challenge, action, results; OAR means opportunity, action, results; SOAR means situation or opportunity, action, and results. This type of information adds remarkable value to today’s resumes by instantly communicating proof of what a candidate has learned and can immediately apply to the hiring company.
- Testimonials add power. One of the strongest elements you can add to a resume today is a testimonial in which someone else extols a job seeker’s skills, talents, achievements, and value. Professional resume writers use testimonials quite often – in resume headers and footers, in shaded boxes, in summary sections, under job descriptions, and in other places where most appropriate. Many of us believe that these give job seekers a truly competitive edge and a lot of credibility to substantiate their value.
- Visuals and graphics add power to a resume. Today’s resumes often incorporate visual images, graphics, tables, charts, icons, logos, text boxes, borders, and shading (although generally not all of this in one resume). These enhancements are practically a must for people in visually creative professions for their resumes to demonstrate their design talents. For just about all job seekers, these visuals provide an instantly competitive edge because they’re distinct and get noticed and, bottom line, that’s what resume writing is all about … getting noticed from the crowd. Be appropriate and judicious in your use of these enhancements and be consistent from document to document, website to online resume, business card to stationery.
- Objectives are beginning to r E-emerge … or not. As always, the subject of putting an objective on a resume was the subject of fierce debate. Resume writers focus their words on communicating a candidate’s value and not on stating what the candidate wants from a company. However, resume reviewers (hiring managers and recruiters) want to know – in an instant – what position(s) the candidate is qualified for. That leaves a wide chasm between the two and is much of the reason for the perpetual discussions about objectives. A huge percentage of today’s resumes solve that problem by beginning with a headline that clearly communicates “who” the candidate is and “what” they want. An example headline for a sales professional is “Multilingual Sales Executive & Key Account Manager.” Resume writers are happy with the wording and presentation of headlines, and hiring professionals can instantly f ind the information they want.
- Paper resumes can still be your clients’ best bet. Hand-in-hand with the use of visual enhancements such as borders, tables, and logos is the concept of paper versus electronic resumes. Today’s answer is simple … there is a place for both. Although we may not use the paper resume as often as in years past, in some circumstances it is the very best option and that’s not expected to change any time soon.
- Resumes must answer the “right” question. In years past, resumes were focused on what job seekers wanted. Not anymore! The focus of every resume must be on what’s in it for the hiring company. What value will they get by hiring this applicant, and how quickly?
- Cover letters cannot overcome incomplete or weak resumes. For decades, studies have shown the same results… one third to one half of the time, recruiters and hiring authorities don’t read cover letters. As such, resumes must stand on their own and include critical information that, if left out, would exclude them from consideration for a particular opportunity.
- E-letters have different rules. E-letters are continuing to replace traditional cover letters as electronic messages have become the dominant method of business and job-search communications. Although designed with the same objective as a traditional cover letter – to introduce the job seeker and incite interest in the resume (and the candidate), E-letters have a few important distinctions. First, the E-letter is contained in the email message and not sent as an attachment. Of even greater importance is the physical layout of the E-letter; namely, the critical content of an E-letter must be above the scroll line (just like in a newspaper when journalists want their stories above the fold line). Understanding that, you can now appreciate another big difference between the two. E-letters are very short and direct, becoming more so with each passing day. Traditional cover letters remain one third to one half to one full page.
- Resumes are no longer the introductory tool they used to be. There is no doubt that the resume remains a vital component for most job seekers and, in fact, still is the primary tool job seekers use to generate interviews. However, in today’s more complex, more sophisticated, and multi-channel job- search market, at times the resume is presented after the initial introduction or network contact, rather than as the first point of contact – and that’s okay. Career professionals must teach clients to use their resumes and other career marketing communications wisely and appropriately.
- Career bios can often be an appropriate introduction tool. This is particularly true for managers and executives in transition or considering transition. Giving someone a resume communicates the message of “I’m looking for a job,” whereas a bio is more low-key, great for sharing at informational interviews and making new contacts. Today’s bios are written in a diversity of styles and structures, with the single goal being to position an individual for their next opportunity. Bios can be written in first or third person and can be structured in sentences or phrases. They can focus on skills or achievements or both; showcase technological or artistic expertise; have bulleted highlights or not; include some personal information or not; include educational credentials or not; feature a photograph or not (it’s a nice touch and definitely personalizes each interaction). Just as with resume writing, there are no steadfast rules.
- Microsoft Word is the “right” resume software and format for today. Word is the dominant global word processing software and is the standard upon which almost every Applicant Tracking System (ATS) is built. As such, job seekers today must create a resume in Word (.doc) format. The newer .docx format is not yet widely accepted, so rather than risk the chance that their file can’t be viewed or opened, job seekers should always opt for the lower-level .doc format. Plain text versions (saved as .txt files) are also important because they are the best format to paste into online job applications. Today’s technology has not yet reached the point where, universally, online applications can read Word files accurately and interpret them correctly, so everyone must also have the .txt version. Similarly, ATS and scanning systems are not all capable of reading pdf files, so unless specifically requested, a pdf file should not be used for onli ne applications nor with resume scanning and applicant tracking systems. Word is the single solution today.
- Twitres is an interesting and advantageous technology innovation. Job seekers who are active on Twitter can use Twitres (www.twitres.com) to display their resume. All they need to do is upload a copy of their print resume and it will appear as the background on their Twitter page. This is a great tool especially for younger job seekers.
–Text from Career Thought Leaders Consortium “Findings of 2010 Global Career Brainstorming Day: Trends for the Now, the New & the Next in Careers.”