resume, cover letter, screening, job, career, Laine Bodnar, Laine Jaremey, Pencil Skirts & Punctuation

The secret things resume screeners look for

Searching for a job is a job in itself! We put hours into our resumes. We often think that this effort won’t go to waste, as many of us assume that the person who reviews our resume will spend lots of time doing so. However, a study of the people who screen resumes revealed that they do so for only six seconds on average.

Yes, I said six seconds. To put that in perspective, it probably took you nearly 25 seconds to read the first paragraph of this blog post.

So, how do you get a person who reviews resumes, also called a resume screener, to take a longer look and consider you for the job?

Understanding the information that a resume screener is looking for, and providing them with it in an efficient manner, is critical.

Person typing on keyboard next to yellow watch

Focus on key areas of your resume

There are four key parts of your resume that resume screeners hone-in on to check if you’re a good fit for the job. These sections, and things to think about as you prepare them, are below:

  1. Work objective or career summary – In the interest of space, you may only include one of these sections at the top of your resume. Here you can highlight the value that you can bring to the organization right off the bat. Review the job description to understand key words and make sure they’re present here too.
  2. Relevant skills and qualifications – Are your skills and qualifications tailored to the job you’re applying for?
  3. Employment history – Have you demonstrated an upward trajectory in past roles with promotions at the same company, or when moving from one company to another? Are the jobs relevant to the position you’re applying for? Are there gaps in your employment history that you should proactively explain?
  4. Industry experience – Are your previous jobs in the same industry as the company that you’re applying to work at? If not, demonstrate how you’ve gained knowledge of the industry, and showcase transferable skills. 

Attention to detail matters too

If the role you’re applying for requires attention to detail and accuracy – and let’s face it, most jobs do! – you must review your resume with a fine-tooth comb. Common red flags for resume screeners include:

  • Incorrect company name or job title – Yes, this sounds obvious. But if you’re applying for more than one job, or if you’ve older versions of your resume, it can be easy to accidentally submit a document with incorrect information in these fields.
  • Errors – Typos and grammatical errors are prime examples. Factual errors, like discrepancies in past job titles between your resume and cover letter, or incorrect dates of previous employment, should also be avoided. Consider asking a trusted friend or family member, or a third-party resume/career services consultant, to proofread your documents to reduce errors.
  • Skimping on your accomplishments – Connect the dots for the screener by clearly stating your achievements in previous roles and make a positive impression early in the hiring process. This can be done in both your cover letter and resume, but don’t be too repetitive between the two.

Job candidates should also know that some companies use software, not people, to vet resumes as they are received. Learn more about how this software examines resumes here.

What other tips do you have for catching the attention of resume screeners? Share in the comments.

Image credits: Pixabay.com.

Freelancing: Friend or foe?

A recent Fast Company article on the current state of the freelance job market revealed, at least in the eyes of this media outlet, that “working for one’s self used to be the definition of the American dream – and, apparently, it still is.”

The article reports on the Freelancing in America 2018 study, which concluded that “Americans increasingly prefer to work where they want, when they want, and on the work of their choosing.” One in three American workers freelances, and 61 per cent of freelancers said they’ve chosen to work this way versus working in staff jobs more by necessity. Millennials are leading the pack. Forty-two percent of of 18-to-34-year-olds now freelance, up from 38 per cent in 2014.

The report on the study results makes it seem like freelancers are eating their cake and having it too. It reports that full-time freelancers are 21 percentage points more likely to say their work also allows them to live the lifestyle they want (84 per cent of freelancers say this versus 63 per cent of non-freelancers).

Freelance, resume, job, career

This paints a rosy picture of freelancing as one’s primary form of employment, which appears to be coveted by younger workers. But what the researchers don’t seem to ask is what about the labour market has made freelancing float to the top? And, has it become more common by choice or necessity?

According to Forbes, the driving forces behind the freelance job economy are becoming more prevalent. These include education not meeting the skills that employers need, using “gig” workers to reduce employment costs (freelancers are often paid low wages and don’t receive health benefits), and bringing freelancers in to meet short-term project needs. The availability of communications technologies that support freelancers is making the growth in this job category possible.

Twitter responded by highlighting the complex issues at the heart of the study results, while also calling out Fast Company’s use of the word “deciding” in their headline. For example, @RevEricAtcheson explained some of the reasons that freelancing is a necessity, not a decision, for some. He said:

“Deciding to freelance” sure is a funny way of spelling “navigating a job market that has eliminated pensions, affordable health insurance, cost-of-living raises, and many other trappings of steady employment our parents and grandparents benefited from for decades.”

Freelance, career, resume, cover letter, Pencil Skirts & Punctuation

That said, freelancing has other pros and cons that should be considered. It can be a way for people to generate an income for their side hustles. Or, freelance work could allow a person to gain experience and references in a new industry as a stepping stone to a career shift, while still working full-time elsewhere to make a living. Saving time, energy and money on a daily commute by working as a remote freelancer might be a perk for some people, while others might miss being around colleagues on a daily basis.

So, although freelancing’s attributes are a good fit for some people, for others it’s likely done out of necessity if a full-time position, along with its security and relatively higher pay level, can’t be obtained.

What are your thoughts on the growth of the freelance job market? If you’re a freelancer, what advice would you give to others? Share in the comments.

Image credits: Pixabay.com; Twitter.com.

Resume, cover letter, job interview, career, public relations, project management, Pencil Skirts & Punctuation, Laine Jaremey

Quitting vs. crafting: How to get the job you want

Where do you see yourself in 10 years from now? How about 20?

Have you ever realized that where you see your career in the distant future can depend on your job today? The job-related decisions that you make now can play a role in the path your career takes, and can impact whether your vision of the future becomes a reality.

Two trends – job quitting and job crafting – present relatively new ways to approach your career. They are ways of obtaining job satisfaction, while also strategically building the career you strive for.

Job Quitting
The job-quitting economy is based on the premise that job seekers eye jobs that will be helpful for the next step in their careers once they quit them. Rather than accepting a job offer for its benefits, salary, corporate culture and promotion potential, so-called “job quitters” look at if they can gain the transferrable skills and experience they need to progress in their careers, whether the company’s reputation in the industry makes other companies desire its employees, and how the role can serve as a stepping stone to another more prized job.

As companies have transitioned from hiring less full-time and more contract workers, the job-quitting economy has naturally evolved as the mindset of job seekers changed to see certain jobs as ways of getting to a job with full-time perks down the road. But in today’s highly-competitive job market, full-time employees may approach their careers with a job-quitting mindset too.

The concept of a personal brand, which many consider to be helpful in landing a job, underlies the job-quitting economy. The transferrable skills gained in a role contribute a job seeker’s overall Me, Inc. package, which is what makes each person stand out from the competition.

Some drawbacks of approaching your career as a job-quitter could include less fulfillment at work, as you might not fully engage and reach job satisfaction if you only see your role as a stepping stone to the next one. Further, jumping from one role to the next after too little time may cause future potential employers to see you as a “flight risk” who could leave their company after too-short a time.

Resume, cover letter, job interview, career, public relations, project management, Pencil Skirts & Punctuation, Laine Jaremey

Job Crafting
To get the job you want, there’s another option other than making a huge change and joining another company. This option is called job crafting, which involves making incremental changes to your responsibilities or day-to-day experiences at work, resulting in increased job satisfaction.

How does job crafting work? To start, try listing the skills and abilities you’d like to have to progress in your career. Maybe gaining or advancing technical skills, business acumen or leadership abilities are important professional development areas for you. Then, get creative and make an inventory of the different ways that you could add these activities to your work. Once the list is complete, a conversation with your manager or other colleagues might be required to ensure that they’re aligned with your professional development ambitions, and so they understand why you are taking on new tasks.

If successful, the growth and changes that you achieve by crafting your job will move you toward your career goals.

Potential cons of job crafting? Your workplace, manager and co-workers must be open to your role evolving or a change in your job’s responsibilities. Without external support, your attempt at job crafting might end up being a flop. It also takes patience and time for your job to change into one with the attributes that you’re striving for.

Resume, cover letter, job interview, career, public relations, project management, Pencil Skirts & Punctuation, Laine Jaremey

Now that you’ve learned about these two trends, do you think you’ve ever adopted a job quitting or job crafting mindset in the past? If not, which trend do you think you’d be more likely to take on to shape your career? Share in the comments.

Image credits: Pixabay.com.

Resume, cover letter, job interview, career, public relations, project management, Pencil Skirts & Punctuation, Laine Jaremey

Canadians can now Google their ways to new jobs

Last year I reported on one of Google’s new search features for people seeking a new job: Google for Jobs. At the time, this tool was being piloted in the U.S., while Canadians were awaiting a launch within our borders.

Google’s job search functionality is now available in Canada.

What’s it like? For the purposes of this post, I did a quick search of communications jobs in my area, and really liked what I saw. The search results loaded quickly and were easy to review. I liked that there were tags listed across the navigation bar at the top of the page to filter the results, and the option to turn on email alerts for new postings under the search terms. Check out what the results looked like below.

Resume, cover letter, job interview, career, public relations, project management, Pencil Skirts & Punctuation, Laine Jaremey

Not stopping there, on April 26, Google announced a $1 million investment into a new platform, called the Employment Pathway Platform (EPP), which will provide even more search capabilities for Canadians looking for jobs. It will search based on commute distance, ability to work from home, industry, title and time commitment. What’s also cool is that this new platform will be the result of a partnership with Toronto’s MaRS innovation hub, and my company is located in the MaRS Centre (pictured below).

MaRS Centre West Tower

Once it launches, the new platform’s users can obtain a skills assessment, find jobs that match with current abilities and skills, and get information on courses that can help users build their skill sets.

This technology will help job searchers adapt to how the workplace is evolving. From automation to artificial intelligence, jobs today are changing at a rapid pace, and will continue to in the future.

This means that workers (including me!) must be open to continual learning and training opportunities to stay efficient, effective and competitive in the workplace. In fact, according to Inc.com, 91 per cent of the respondents of one survey said that the most successful employees are the ones who can adapt to the changing workplace.

Fortunately, the EPP will “pull together data skills and training options from multiple sources and then analyze a user’s existing skills and employment preferences against this.” Having data that will contribute to skills-building is definitely a perk for users of the future service.

The new platform that will result from the Google/MaRS partnership and investment is expected to launch next year. I’m excited to hear more about the new platform as things move ahead.

Do you think you’ll try the new platform once it’s available?

Image credits: Reuters; Erin Sugar.

Resume, cover letter, job interview, career, public relations, project management, Pencil Skirts & Punctuation, Laine Jaremey

Nine tips for successful informational interviews

Have you ever been on an informational interview?

If you haven’t heard of them before, an informational interview is a meeting with someone who’s already in an organization, field or industry that you’d like to get into, which doesn’t relate directly to a job opening. It’s an opportunity for you to learn, grow your network and get your foot in the door.

Informational interviews can help improve your career prospects. They’re especially helpful when you graduate or if you’re starting out in a new field. In fact, the effectiveness of informational interviews has been described as “engineered nepotism”. Essentially, if you don’t have an existing strong personal connection, an informational interview can have the potential to result in one.

Informational interviews have benefited my career. My first job at a PR agency was the eventual result of an informational interview with a VP there. We were put in touch through connections in our networks, so I didn’t know her personally before the meeting. That said, I diligently prepared for the meeting and it was a success.

That’s why, when a role became available at my level at the agency a month after the informational interview, the person I met with contacted me. She thought I could be a good fit based on what she learned about me in the informational interview. As I had already dipped my toe by meeting with her and learning about the agency, I was immediately engaged. So, we met again to discuss the role and I was interviewed by other senior members of the organization. As a result, the role was a great fit for me, and I was a great fit for the team.

This experience has made me believe in the power of informational interviews. Since, I’ve continued to participate in them, both as interviewer and interviewee. Based on what I’ve learned, I have some tips for acing informational interviews as your start off in your career:

Tip 1: Prepare as you would for a job interview – Would you ever go to a job interview without Googling the company and person you’re meeting with? Informational interviews should be treated the same way. In addition to reviewing the company’s website, check out the social channels of and recent news articles about the company, its leaders, its brands and the person you’re meeting with. Review your contact’s LinkedIn profile and consider connecting with them before or after the meeting. Show you’re really on-the-ball by weaving-in what you learned in your research during your conversation, or even print out and bring an article or two.

informational interview JPEG 3
Tip 2: Determine an objective – Understand what you hope to get out of your informational interview. Keep your objective(s) top-of-mind, and even mention them to the interviewee either before or early in the interview. For example, if you’re emailing the contact in advance, you could say, “I look forward to meeting with you to learn about your career path and the trends and opportunities you see in the industry,” if that’s what your objectives are. This will help the interview subject prepare, and as a result, you’ll get more from the meeting.

Tip 3: Prepare a list of questions – Make a list of questions to address anything you’re curious about – the person’s career path, something you learned when researching their organization, industry trends, their organization’s culture or their organization’s open positions (if they’re not posted online). Write the questions down in your notebook (see point 5, below) or print the list. Refer to them during the interview to demonstrate your preparedness and engagement.

Tip 4: Get ready to share a bit about yourself – Ideally, the interview should focus on the person you’re meeting with. However, it would be helpful for the interviewee to know a bit about you so that they have context when sharing information or advice. Rehearse a summary, also called an “elevator pitch”, about yourself in advance. Make sure it’s short, concise and clear. Learn how to craft an elevator pitch here.

Tip 5: Make notes – Bring a notebook and pen and jot down important things that your interview subject says. Write down questions that arise when they’re speaking and ask them later to avoid interrupting them. Even if you’re a digital record-keeper, writing down notes demonstrates to the speaker that you’re fully engaged. Making notes on a smartphone, tablet or laptop can have the opposite effect. (Still not convinced to write in a notebook? Richard Branson has a compelling pitch for using them!)

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Tip 6: Dress to impress – First impressions count. But, before you put on a tailored suit for an informational interview, keep in mind that in recent years, attire for job interviews and other professional meetings has changed, just as how people dress in the workplace has evolved. A suit is great, but not always necessary (hello, suit separates!). As part of your research, learn about the culture and dress code of the organization and industry of the interview subject to ensure your attire is appropriate. However, even if the organization’s dress code is very causal on a day-to-day basis, you should dress more formally to convey your seriousness and professionalism. Learn more about dressing for a job interview here.

Tip 7: Find an appropriate venue and time – Allow the interview subject to share their preferences for when and where they’d like to meet. Encourage a venue that’s close to their workplace to minimize their time away from work. Your interview subject might suggest a meeting room at their office. Or, coffee shops or casual cafés are usually good bets, but make sure you can get a table at the meeting time; you might even want to arrive early to secure seats. Don’t order drinks or food in advance, and offer to pay if you’re the one who called the meeting (although if you’re a student or if it’s early in your career, the interview subject may politely decline your offer!).

Tip 8: Be mindful of time – Arrive early and ensure the meeting ends on time. This shows that you respect the interview subject’s time, that you’re able to manage time effectively, and that you understand they have other priorities in their schedule.

Tip 9: Send a thank-you note – Express your appreciation after the interview in an email or, better yet, a card sent in the mail. I mean, who sends cards these days? It’s a unique way to stand out. Also, if someone introduced you, take the time to send them a short email to share that the interview occurred and to thank them for the connection.

I’ll finish up with a disclaimer. The result of my informational interview scenario, described above, was ideal for me at that time because I was starting out in my career and looking for a job at the same time a position became available. However, not every informational interview will result in a job offer. And, sometimes, that’s not your objective!

You might not be able to anticipate how participating in an informational interview now can benefit you down the road. Outcomes can include being approached regarding a job opportunity, increasing your technical knowledge, absorbing perspective based on the interview subject’s experience and gaining connections to the interviewee’s network.

What other tips do you have for making the most of an informational interview? Share in the comments below!

Image credits: Pixabay.com.

Resume, cover letter, job interview, career, public relations, project management, Pencil Skirts & Punctuation, Laine Jaremey
Video

Stand out with these 3 traits

A resume can get your foot in the door when you’re looking for a job. But, oftentimes hiring managers want a new hire to fulfill criteria that can’t be expressed on paper. Why? These traits will help hiring managers ensure that the candidate will benefit the organization in ways that go beyond just fulfilling their role.

What are employers looking for when they hire someone new? Emily Heward, co-founder of branding agency Red Antler, explains the top things she looks for in the video from Inc.com, available here.

Screen Shot 2017-05-30 at 10.54.49 AM

What are the three traits she looks for?

  1. Enthusiasm about your industry, your work and the company
  2. The ability to ask thoughtful, challenging questions
  3. Kindness

You can demonstrate these traits to a potential employer in different ways. Try:

  • Before even applying for a job, consider scheduling an informational interview with someone at the organization
  • Carefully crafting a tailored cover letter (learn more about that here)
  • Mindfully conveying these traits in an interview
  • Sending a thank you email or hand-written note after an informational interview or formal interview

Do you agree with the top traits that Emily Heward suggests? What other ways could you express these traits? Please your thoughts in the comments.

Image credits: Pixabay.com; Inc.com.

Resume, cover letter, job interview, career, public relations, project management, Pencil Skirts & Punctuation, Laine Jaremey
Quote

Can a strong personal brand help you land a job?

I’ve recently posted about the importance of cultivating your personal brand. ICYMI, your personal brand is the image or impression that you can establish about yourself in the minds of others so that they can easily identify what makes you unique, and what you’re considered the go-to expert or resource on. This group includes colleagues, contacts in your network, your employer or potential employers.

Brand 4 JPEGWhile I know that personal brands are important, I’m always on the lookout for new research and information. I recently came across a CBC Radio Spark episode that revealed that personal brands aren’t the ultimate predictor of career success.

The episode featured an interview with anthropologist Ilana Gershon of the University of Chicago. Gershon wrote a new book called Down and Out in the New Economy. In the interview, she explained that a shift in the relationship between employer and employee has resulted in the way that we present ourselves as “businesses” in the job search.

“We are imagining ourselves as a bundle of skills, of assets… that we’re constantly having to manage, and we’re also supposed to be continually enhancing them.”

Ilana Gershon

Gershon studied how people find work in today’s job market. I was surprised to hear that although job searchers are routinely told to work on their personal brands, Gershon found no evidence this was effective with hiring managers.

What made a difference? Sixty-one per cent of people got jobs through workplace ties and references.

Note that this study was conducted across many different industries. In certain industries (for example, PR and communications), personal brands may hold more clout and be a worthwhile investment of your time. Further, your personal brand may make an impact with others in an organization, beyond only the hiring manager.

What can we take away from this finding? Your personal brand is important. But it’s not necessarily going to be the deciding factor that gets you hired.

This confirms that there are other items to consider. For example, your connections, years of experience, skillset, understanding of the industry, education and designations play a role. Your portfolio, resume, references and interview skills are critical as well.

So, it’s beneficial to be well-balanced. Spend time thinking about and cultivating your personal brand in a way that works for you. But, also invest in the other elements of your professional and job search skills.

How do you stand out in the crowd of job seekers?

Image credits: Pixabay.com; cbc.ca (Ilana Gershon).