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.

Set goals, not resolutions

Happy new year!

A new year brings a fresh start. It’s a great time to commit to making positive changes, both personally and professionally. Many of us set new year’s resolutions, despite the harrowing statistic that 80 per cent of them fail by February.

Want to avoid becoming a statistic and make lasting changes this year? Try setting SMART goals rather than simply making resolutions.

What’s a SMART goal, you ask? SMART goals are:

Specific – Call out the who, what, when, where and why. What exactly do you need, or want, to do?

Measurable – Numbers are everything! Without metrics, you won’t be able to know if I’ve achieved a goal, or how far you need to go to get there.

Attainable – The end result needs to be attainable based on your skills and experience.

Realistic – Be honest about what you can achieve. Consider your workload and available time to tackle the steps you need to take.

Time-bound – Map out the milestones between now and a deadline for achieving the goal.

Find out more about setting SMART goals here.

Goals, career, job, resumeAt the start of 2018, I set a goal to gain recognition of my project management expertise and skills. I applied the SMART model to this goal so that I knew when I achieved it. Success meant obtaining my Project Management Professional (PMP) certification by February, and applying my knowledge to manage a significant project at work from March to August.

This year, I have some new goals on my mind. They are to dedicate more time to Pencil Skirts & Punctuation (as a reader of this blog, I’m sure you’ll appreciate that one!), and to run a 10 km race in June. My next step will be to make these into SMART goals.

Have you set goals for 2019? Take a few moments now to jot down what you’d like to achieve. Follow the SMART model and make it more likely that you’ll get there.

As we move through the year, I’ll continue to check-in to see how I’m progressing toward my goals. Hopefully, I do well enough to share my progress here. Until then, I wish you a healthy, happy 2019!

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

Job recruiters share how to get hired

If you have a job interview coming up, you probably want to make the most of your face time with the company. Whether you’re working with a third-party recruiter or an in-house hiring manager, these nine tips from recruiters, compiled in a video by Buzzfeed, can help you prepare for your interview. Scroll down to the bottom of this post to watch the full video!Resume, cover letter, job interview, career, public relations, project management, Pencil Skirts & Punctuation, Laine JaremeyTip 1: Don’t lie
In an interview, people might say that they’ve worked at a company when they haven’t, or that they have a degree when they don’t, thinking it will give them a competitive edge in the hiring process. If the recruiter, hiring manager or the company’s pre-employment screening department are thorough, it’s likely that the truth will be revealed. Depending on when that happens, you may not get a second interview, or a job offer can be rescinded. The worst part of that scenario? You’d never know if you would have been successful with the company had you just told the truth.

Tip 2: Nail your resume
What are recruiters’ top tips for a great resume? They include:

  • A resume shouldn’t be longer than two pages (or one page double-sided)
  • Highlight the things you’re most proud of first, then list your work experience
  • Avoid using unprofessional fonts like Comic Sans or symbols like Wingdings
  • Only include information that’s relevant to the position, without oversimplifying too much

Tip 3: Do your research
Find out about the company and the role that you’re applying for. Learn as much as you can by visiting the company’s website and social media channels, look them up on Glassdoor, or have an informational interview with a current or former employee. Know what about the company makes you want to work there. Bring print-outs of your findings (like a recent press release) to an interview to demonstrate that you did research and understand the company.

Tip 4: Don’t come in sick
If you have a communicable disease, like pink eye, a cold or the flu, be honest about it with the recruiter, hiring manager, or other person who arranged the interview. Be as flexible as you can about rescheduling it.

Tip 5: Dress appropriately
Do research on the company’s dress code as you prepare your outfit for your interview. Then, dress one “notch” above it. For example, one recruiter described his office as “business comfortable” and would want a candidate to demonstrate that they fit into the dress code. Depending on the industry you’re in, wearing a three-piece suit to an interview may not be appropriate. Find more tips about dressing for a job interview here.

Tip 6: Know your greatest weakness
This question can indicate how honest and self-aware you are. Recruiters or hiring managers can generally tell if you’re being genuine. When sharing an actual weakness that you want to work on, be sure to follow it up with how and why.

Tip 7: Know when to negotiate
Be transparent about your salary expectations from the beginning so that both you and the recruiter or hiring manager can find a salary level that all parties are happy with. However, be aware of the salary band for the role you’re applying for. It’s unlikely that a company can exceed the band’s upper and lower limits.

Tip 8: Ask questions
Have at least three questions to ask the recruiter or hiring manager at the end of the interview. Where do you start? The following questions are helpful because the responses can serve as a “cheat sheet” for what to do in the first three months on the job if you get it.

  • What can I do in the first three months to be successful?
  • What do the first 30 to 90 days look like in this job?
  • How can I immediately add value in this role?

Tip 9: Keep calm and carry on
Sometimes a person who isn’t hired may overstep when engaging with the recruiter or hiring manger after getting the bad news. Requesting a Linkedin connection is fine, but following and messaging them on other social media channels or showing up at their office won’t be well-received. If an opportunity doesn’t work out, stay calm and professional. The recruiter may end up having another job that’s a better fit down the road.

Do you agree with these job recruiters’ tips? Share in the comments.

Image credits: Pixabay.com; Buzzfeed.com.

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

Is it time for a change?

Have you ever made a change in your career?

Resume, cover letter, job interview, career, public relations, project management, Pencil Skirts & Punctuation, Laine JaremeyWhether it was from one job to another, from one industry to completely different one, or a change in the patterns of how you work and lead others on a day-to-day basis, a career change is a big transition. But, have you ever thought about how when you make these types of changes can impact your success?

I was inspired to think about how I would respond to this question myself after reading the March 2018 issue of ELLE Canada. In an article called “Say When,” journalist Sarah Liang reports on a new book called When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing, by Daniel Pink. This book covers the scientific research linking the timing of decisions and their outcomes.

Let’s reflect on the title of this post: “Is it time for a change?” There’s more to making a decision than simply going with your intuition or what you feel comfortable doing. Be strategic. The timing of changes or other important milestones in your career can have long-lasting impacts.

“The secret to success is actually getting strategic with the game-changing “whens” of your working life, from major pivot points to the minutiae of the daily nine-to-five.” – Sarah Liang, ELLE Canada.

When does timing make an impact on a career, according to the article? There are four times to consider.

  1. On your mark, get set, go! Although people often can’t control it, when you start your first job can mean boom or bust for your career. The research tells us that those who graduate university in years with high unemployment earn 2.5 per cent less than peers when the rate was low, even 15 years into your career.
  2. All good things come to an end. I’ve heard that it’s important to stay in a role for three-to-five years to give you an opportunity to evolve in the job, and to also appeal to potential future employers who might be reviewing your resume or career history. The article reports that being in a role for three-to-five years is a prime time to seek a boost in position or pay at a new job.
  3. Can’t get you out of my head. You may find yourself thinking about getting a new job or changing careers at certain times of the day or the year. Things like energy ebbs and flows during the day, holidays throughout the year, or even your work anniversary may trigger thinking about moving on to something new.
  4. Like a boss. Good leaders do things like respond to their team members’ emails in a timely manner, and schedule review meetings in the mornings when staff are generally more alert.

It’s clear that looking at the bigger picture in terms of the timing of your career as a whole when making decisions has an impact on both the big and small things, affecting overall success.

How has timing impacted your career? What other milestones or moments make an impact? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Image credits: Elle Canada; Pixabay.com.

When will equal work = equal pay?

No matter what women have on their resume or how well they do in a job interview, chances are they won’t get paid the same as their male counterparts when they get the job. In Canada, a woman earns 74 cents for each $1 earned by a man.

If you think that there are extenuating circumstances that result in this disparity, like women working part-time more often, women putting their careers on the back burner to raise a family, or women accepting lower-paying jobs more often, not so fast! These are just some of the myths that lead people to believe that the gender-based gap in pay isn’t real.

The fact is that women don’t get paid the same as men for the same work.

From the perspective of a woman in the workforce, I find this both discouraging and frustrating.

60 Minutes screen shotHowever, a recent 60 Minutes episode has shed light on what’s being done about this issue. It featured a corporation that has recognized the pay gap and its strong leadership is contributing to the fight against it.

In this segment, 60 Minutes interviewed Mark Benioff, CEO of Salesforce, a company that offers customer relationship management software. He discussed how his company is prioritizing pay equality.

As a company that’s been named as one of the best places to work, Benioff expected that the pay gap wouldn’t exist at Salesforce. He decided to execute an organization-wide audit of positions and salaries based on gender to uncover the truth. Benioff admitted that he was surprised when the audit revealed that gender-based pay disparities did, in fact, exist there.

What happened next makes this story notable: Benioff acted on the results and fixed the problem. He revealed that in one year, resolving the issue cost the company $3 million (USD). I’m assuming that when he took this action, he was considering the advice of Salesforce’s human resources executive working on the project (notably, a woman), who advised him that if the audit revealed an issue, the results couldn’t be simply read and filed away – they would need to act to correct them to keep the company’s integrity  intact.

Benioff also noted that he recalled sitting in meetings with high-level folks in his organization, and noticing that the room was filled with exclusively men. He remarked that this practice had to stop, and moving forward, wanted to see women involved in every meeting, proactively giving women the opportunity to bring their perspectives, ideas and approaches to the table when it mattered.

Woman leading a meeting

Once his eyes were opened to issues with gender-based pay at Salesforce, Benioff has described pay equality as one of the big social issues that he’s gotten behind, and has started to spread the word. Other recent social media-based events, one of the more well-known ones being #EqualPayDay on April 10, are also helping to get the truth out and debunk the myths.

Why does spreading the word matter? In the 60 Minutes interview, Benioff said he believes that ending gender-based disparity in pay is one of the doors to gender equality, at the same level of importance as having equal opportunities and being free from harassment.

I’m inclined to agree with him.

What are your thoughts on Salesforce’s move toward implementing equal pay for equal work? Has the leadership in your workplace addressed this issue? Share in the comments.

Image credits: Pixabay.com; CBS News.

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

Free career resources from the Toronto Public Library

“The best things in life are free.”

If you have a Toronto Public Library (TPL) card, this saying is true when it comes to ways to boost your career.

TPL provides access to helpful resources for searching for a job, refining your resume, and updating your skills and knowledge.

Career-related workshops

The fall 2017 edition of TPL’s What’s On publication lists some career and resume-focused sessions at library branches. They cover:

  • An introduction to LinkedIn
  • Job market opportunities
  • Resume writing and critiquing
  • Improving interview skills
  • Networking and job search tactics for newcomers to Canada

resources

Online education at lynda.com

LyndaTPL card holders have access to lynda.com for free. Lynda.com provides “over 3,500 video tutorial courses led by experts on web design, software development, photography, business skills, home and small office, project management, 3D + Animation, graphic design audio, music, video editing and more.” This perk gets you a Premium monthly membership, which has a value of $29.99 per month.

Completing courses at lynda.com can increase your knowledge of tasks you’re doing on-the-job or that you’re curious about, impress your boss, and boost your resume or LinkedIn profile.

Need a library card?

September is National Library Card Sign-Up Month, so there’s no better time to get or renew your card. Further to the TPL resources listed above, the other benefits of having a library card are numerous. You can get a TPL card if you live, work, go to school or own property in Toronto. Learn more about getting a card here.

Image credits: Laine Jaremey; Lynda.com.