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The Now, The New & The Next in Careers

Resume & Cover Letter Articles

Stay ahead of the curve with insights from our CTL Associates.

  • 06 Dec 2015 10:44 PM | Marie Zimenoff (Administrator)
    By Lisa Rangel, CPRW, PHR, CEIC, CJSS, MCS, SNCS & OPNS

    Staying current in 2013 on Executive Resume Trends can be a daunting task. However, we have used the proverbial crystal ball to research, identify and outline various trending items that today’s top executives need to know to stay ahead of their competition and optimize their compensation in today’s competitive landscape. Consider at the following executive management resume trends when writing your resume:

    (1) Write your resume to be found by recruiters using Boolean search terms. Corporate and search firm recruiters use Boolean search terms in search engines (Google, Bing, Yahoo), social media sites (LinkedIn, Pinterest, Facebook Open Graph, Twitter Search, etc…) and other association niche sites to find talented executives. Bottom line is if your executive resume does not include these phrases used naturally in your resume, your resume may not surface in the search results. Be sure to keyword optimize your document.

    (2) Ensure your resume is ATS friendly. Complicated graphs, ornate graphics, tables, charts and other electronic document ‘flair’ may not really ‘fly’ when it comes to your resume getting processed properly by an applicant tracking system (ATS). Use font type, font treatment (bold, italics), borders and shading elements to give your resume a distinct look, without inhibiting its digestibility into ATS systems.

    (3) Have visual versions of your traditional, content resume. What do I mean by this? Consider an infographic of your experience timeline to post on Pinterest, a video resume on Vine or YouTube or a PowerPoint displaying your successes on SlideShare. Not only do these forms demonstrate your presentation savvy, it can also speak to various audience types that flock to these different sites. It can also help you be found more readily by recruiters, as your information is catalogued by Google Search and other search engines in a multitude of ways.

    (4) Give your resume a marketing collateral feel by using branding elements in your content and visual choices. Utilize every aspect of your executive management resume (words, colors, borders, font type, font size, shading elements, etc.) to brand yourself and make you and your resume memorable in the mind of the hiring manager. Be sure your unique value proposition is communicated clearly to the reader immediately!

    (5) Realize the top ¼ of your first resume page is prime real estate. Use it to capture your reader’s attention, keep them engaged, keyword optimize your document and visually set yourself a part from the competition. That is a lot of work to be done by a small section of your resume. Don’t waste it.

    (6) Use achievement based bullets and not job description bullets when describing your work experience. Employers want to see how you succeeded at a certain function—not simply that you were responsible for the function. How you made money, saved on costs, streamlined processes and contributed to the corporate culture in measurable manners is what you need to outline on your executive resume.

    (7) Move past just having a LinkedIn Account and consider employing other social media venues to promote your brand and cultivate new professional contacts. See where other professionals in your industry congregate online and open up accounts on those sites to see what traction you can gain and real time information you can find to make your communications more precise.

    (8) Please just stop using objective statements—this is not really even a new trend, but some executives really feel the need to put one on the resume. And it just needs to stop! Summaries are the new resume writing technique (ok, not so new technique) where you describe how you will add value to the new employer’s requirements.

    (9) Use whatever resume length is best for you—but not a word longer than it needs to be. Concise writing is still king!! The one-page, two-page or multi-page rule has become less hard and fast and really is dependent on the person’s background and industry. But realize, just because you write it does not mean it will be read. Keep your reader engaged in 5-10 second increments no matter how long your resume is.

    (10) Customize your resume for each exploratory inquiry and defined job application you make. The more you know about the job, make the customization specific. The less you know about the job, make the customized elements of your document more broad to appeal to a wider range within your discipline and/or industry.

    Email: lisa.rangel@chameleonresumes.com
    Twitter: www.Twitter.com/lisarangel
    Phone: 917-447-1815

  • 06 Dec 2015 10:11 PM | Marie Zimenoff (Administrator)
    By Brenda Bernstein

    The content of most cover letters that come across my desk, both at the University of Wisconsin Law School and in my business, are bland and unexciting. They sound like everyone else’s letters. I call them gray. And gray doesn’t stand out. It just blends into the background.

    A Little Gray is Okay
    A bit of basic information is necessary in the first paragraph. You need to communicate what job you’re applying for and where you found out about it. But if you can “wow” your reader in the first paragraph, you are well on your way! Impress them with the most important and relevant qualities you have to offer, and make it clear you know you will fill an important need of the company.

    Time for a Paint Job
    The middle paragraph or two is where you have a chance to show your true colors.

    The “gray” cover letters I tend to see look something like this:

    “I have spent the last ten years gaining experience in X. At job A, I did B, where I gained experience in C. At job D, I did E, and gained experience doing F. At job G, I did H, and learned J. I therefore feel that I would be an asset to your company.”

    I hope you agree with me that it’s time for a makeover!

    Painting Your Passion
    Stop blending into the background! The cover letter is your opportunity to paint yourself in bright, eye-catching colors — as someone who would bring personality and flair to a position, or true problem solving or negotiating skills, or, at the very least, some passion.

    How do you do that? Tell a story that shows them who you are.

    If I were writing a cover letter, for instance, I might talk about how I won the trust of a contract manager who had been ready to pull a contract from my organization. One of my clients wrote about how he successfully negotiated a conflict at work and obtained payment from a customer who was refusing to pay. Another wrote about his quest for the perfect problem to solve.

    These stories will catch an employer’s eye and paint a picture of a real person, with experience and attributes that reach beyond a list of resume bullets.

    Take My Advice!
    I’d like to share with you the following letter, which I received from a student at the University of Wisconsin:

    Thanks for our talk earlier today. I appreciated your straightforward honesty. I felt like a naive kid who was suddenly given a cover letter awakening.

    Now, I took your advice withOUT a grain of salt. I took it straight and changed most everything. I am ashamed to call the last documents I sent you “cover letters.” I wouldn’t have wanted to interview me. Sad. In these new cover letters, every sentence gives information that cannot be quite gathered from my resume. I really tried to pour some personality and passion into these and keep the reader’s attention. I can actually be proud of these letters.

    This student says it well. Give them new information, NOT a regurgitation of your resume. Pour in some personality (purple?), passion (red?) Throw in some anecdotes (green?) And you too will be able to say you are proud of your cover letters.

    You’ll be a lot more likely to get that interview, where you really get to show them who you are.

    Email: brendab@theessayexpert.com
    Twitter: www.Twitter.com/TheEssayExpert
    Phone: 608-467-0067

  • 06 Dec 2015 10:03 PM | Marie Zimenoff (Administrator)

    By Jack Mulcahy, ACRW 
    Jack Mulcahy Resume Services

    If I had a dollar for every client who “didn’t want to brag” on his or her resume, I’d become twice as wealthy as Bill Gates within a month. They’re perfectly comfortable talking around the subjects of how they kept costs down, but not on the part they played in keeping costs down. If I try to draw them out on these accomplishments, it becomes a life-and-death struggle. They would rather talk in generalities such as “conducted cost analyses that saved money,” or “managed marketing team of 12 professionals.”

    When you ask them why they minimize such terrific accomplishments, they say something like, “Well, I didn’t want to brag.” or “I don’t want them to think I’m too much in love with myself.”

    If this sounds remotely like you, you need to realize that a resume is a commercial. And like all commercials, it’s supposed to tout the best features of the “product,” which in this case is YOU. After all, would you buy a soap that simply told you its ingredients? Or a laundry detergent with a commercial that told you it was only as good as its nearest competitor? Of course not! So why are you doing this to yourself on your resume?

    If you want a resume that will work for you, you need to tailor the resume to the specific job you’re seeking. (And you have been doing that, haven’t you?) You also need to scrutinize the ad or job posting so you can match what the employer is seeking with what you’ve done. You have to make that employer see that not only are you the best candidate, you’re the ONLY candidate. You want that employer to visualize you already doing the job advertised, and doing a super job at it.

    A resume is not the place to be shy and self-effacing. Not if you want to get that job. You must think of yourself as the only candidate, with the resume showing initiatives and achievements to prove that claim. To see what I mean, let’s compare these two statements from the original and modified resumes of a customer:

    Original Version: Interfaced with Executive Team on Corporate HR communication strategies and worked with outside counsel to resolve high-risk issues.

    Modified Version: Improved communication between various departments and Corporate, which enhanced workflow, lowered costs X%, and improved overall production X%.

    Can you see the difference? The first version presents a picture of a person who probably gave the hiring manager a limp handshake, hid his head between his shoulders, and never once looked the manager in the eye. His suit probably doesn’t fit right and he probably hasn’t shined his shoes since he was in ninth grade. We can visualize this because of what he said (or didn’t say) about himself and his work.

    In the second version, the job seeker is brimming with self-confidence.

    This job seeker described what he did based on the results he achieved. He not only improved communication, he also enhanced workflow, lowered costs and improved production. And what’s more, he quantifies those feats with numbers. This job seeker shows himself to be a true professional: he knows he is good, he knows why he is good, and he will (more than likely) keep getting better.

    If you’re ever going to get the attention of an employer, you must expand your thinking. You must recognize that you made a difference wherever you worked. You must understand how to write statements like the modified version; statements that show the impact you had on your previous employers.

    “If you build it, they will come.”

    Phone: 215-840-9032
    Email: resumejack@gmail.com
    Twitter: twitter.com/jackmulcahywrit
    LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/jackmulcahyresumewriter

  • 24 Jul 2013 2:16 PM | Anonymous

    By Nick Williams

    There are always more software programs to learn; every year thousands of releases appear and disappear from the software radar. It’s no secret that having a broad knowledge of ‘core’ software programs will leverage your CV from mediocre to ‘worth another read’. But how do you know which ones to spend your time on, which ones will get the most real-world use and which ones you could learn at home? Fear and worry not. As we have done the legwork for you and listed below what we consider to be the 5 most important (from a quality of CV perspective) software programs that you could learn from the comfort of your home. Mastering each will not only set your CV apart from others but will actually benefit you should you get the position you are applying for.

    Adobe Photoshop Elements

    Adobe Photoshop Elements is a photo editing program that provides you with tools to create and enhance your photos. Photoshop is the industry standard image editing software, so getting to grips with the stripped-down version will immediately put you at an advantage should you need to use the full version. There are many ways to learn Photoshop; either sign-up to a local Photoshop course or wade slowly through the thousands of tutorials available via YouTube or on dedicated websites. Learning Adobe Photoshop from home can be a daunting task, especially if you don’t know where to start. But once you begin with the basics, you will soon be pleased with your progress and employers will be pleased to see it on your CV.

    MS Word

    We wouldn’t think there are many computer owners who haven’t stumble across the behemoth that is MS word. But in actual fact there are still a large number of us who use different document creation programs... Microsoft Word is the most widely used software program in the office. It runs in homes, offices, small businesses and dorms all around the globe. Microsoft Office comes equipped with an intuitive interface that’s been reorganised and made useful with tools that create specific document styles like letters, academic papers and blogs. Learning Word from home is easy. Microsoft releases new tutorials and documents with each new version and these are free and allow for easy following for new users. These tutorials and guides teach users how to work with the vast archive of templates available in Word. Mastering Word is a must for the majority of office roles, and anyone seriously considering a position where letter writing, producing documents and so on are required tasks

    Microsoft Project

    MS project is a brilliant program for pretty much anyone, particularly those of you trying to get into a specific project management role or whose potential position could involve being a cog in a particularly large project. It's essentially the tool of choice for keeping teams (and individuals) focused and on track. Being able to read the Gantt charts and complete basic updates will put you in a very positive position. The basics can very easily be picked up from YouTube and you can hone your skills for free on a number of free online project tools. Having a good working knowledge of MS project can mean the difference between leaving the office and not. Get reading.

    Adobe Dreamweaver

    Part of Adobe’s creative suite, Dreamweaver is a brilliant starting point for anyone looking to get into any marketing, digital, publishing job. In actual fact, having a working knowledge of HTML will put you in a favourable position in most businesses these days. There are thousands of supporting tutorials which can easily guide you from the basics right up to HTML5. Knowing how to code transfers into hundreds of other programs and tools too, making your skill-set even more valuable.

    MS PowerPoint

    PowerPoint (as with Word & Excel) is part of the family of Microsoft Office programs. It consists of a large number of individual pages or slides. These slides may contain text, graphics, movies, sounds and other objects which may be freely arranged. In most sales and senior management roles applicants will be required to have an above average working knowledge of PowerPoint. In actual fact; more and more interviews include a presentation phase, which makes knowing PowerPoint less of a luxury and more of a necessity. In our opinion learning PowerPoint should be less about the technical side of the program and more about slide structuring and maintaining attention/interest.

    This article was written by Nick Williams, who is a marketing assistant at Acuity Training. Acuity is a hands-on training company based in Guildford, UK. Acuity has a large number of design and development focused courses, including SPSS, Excel training courses, Photoshop training and much more.

  • 08 May 2013 4:28 PM | Anonymous
    By Debra Ann Matthews

    Have you ever watched a big heavy equipment vehicle tear down trees, an old building or a wooded area? And within weeks, a new subdivision or shopping area emerges? I’d like to share with you 5 ways that you can run a bulldozer through your current resume to re-create a keyword rich, accomplishment-laden document that will generate interview requests for you.

    #1 – Run the bulldozer over all phrases on your resume more than 14 to 21 words. Dense, wordy text is cumbersome. ATS (applicant tracking systems) are looking for talented job seekers who understand how to be succinct in describing their skills.

    #2 – Bulldoze the boring look of your resume. Give it some flair and persuasive appeal with color, graphics or a logo to enhance its visual appeal.

    #3 – Bulldoze any paragraphs and quantify your explanations of achievements using %, # and $. For example, cut move in time for 3 tons of equipment across two time zones from 15 days to 5.

    #4 – Bulldoze your full address and incorporate city, state, email, LinkedIn profile address and QR code. Being socially relevant is more important to human resources than listing your full address. Most correspondence will initially be conducted via email. See LinkedIn.com and www.vizibility.com for more information.

    #5 – Bulldoze every sentence on your resume, making sure that the challenge, context, action and results from your job responsibilities are clearly and crisply noted.

    See www.job-hunt.org for additional resources on developing powerful resume content. Differentiate yourself from the hundreds of other job seekers by noting skills, trainings, endorsements, testimonies and your unique niche to help companies solve their company challenges.

  • 01 May 2013 4:34 PM | Anonymous

    By Kathleen Sullivan

    After an interview, many job seekers dash off a quick thank you letter, relieved that it is over and anxious to move on to the next step in the hiring process.  Some do not send a letter at all.  A hasty or forgotten thank you letter is a missed opportunity to make a good impression and sell yourself to a potential employer. Here is how to differentiate yourself from others vying for a job by turning your thank you letter into a sales tool.

    Show the employer you understand his business needs: Often, a thank you letter expresses appreciation to the interviewer for the meeting – and stops there.  Rather than merely thanking the interviewer for meeting, use the opening of your letter to show that he spent his time wisely with you. Acknowledge that you listened to the information he shared about his organization’s goals and challenges by specifically repeating them.  Build rapport with him by expressing your mutual interest in meeting these types of challenges. Then, use the next section of your thank you letter to prove that you not only understand his issues, but also have the expertise to help him resolve them.

    Demonstrate that you are the person to fill those needs:  Make the employer envision you as a problem solver and someone who could be a valuable member of his team.  Start this section of your thank you letter by highlighting the top three to five challenges the interviewer described.  Next, demonstrate you have the knowledge, skills, and attitude to tackle each issue. Using a bulleted format, propose solutions for each of the employer’s major challenges.  Be concrete in describing how you would achieve results.   Focus on results that involve making his  organization more productive, improving business processes, building morale, increasing performance, bringing in sales or new customers, and saving time and money. Now that the employer can see you as the answer to his needs, go for what you really want.

    Ask for the sale: A good salesperson always asks for the sale.  Do not leave this critical aspect of selling yourself unspoken in your thank you letter.  You have made your case about your enthusiasm about helping to achieve his organization’s goals and your qualifications for the job, so now be direct. If you have just completed a first round of interviews and a second round is being scheduled, express your interest in pursuing further interviews.  If interviews are completed and the employer is making a hiring decision, tell him how you have proven why you are the best candidate for the job.

    It can be difficult to see yourself as a salesperson rather than a job seeker.  However, all aspects of job seeking are a sales process, even a thank you letter.  If you leave an opportunity on the table, someone else will take advantage of it. Remember:  it is not the best candidate who gets the job, it’s the best salesperson.

  • 08 Mar 2013 5:25 PM | Anonymous

    By Debra Ann Matthews

    Think like an applicant tracking system and provide the key skills and key achievements as you detail how you made a difference in each of your jobs. Keep in mind that for most jobs advertised, all resumes will be scanned through a tracking system. Then if your resume is selected to go to the next phase, an actual hiring official will view your resume. They will be looking to understand how have you made a difference in your jobs. They will relate your past accomplishments to the company’s current problems and will seek the most experienced solution oriented team player to help complement their current team of problem solvers.  Here are 5 reminders to help you to write effective job descriptors for your resume:

    • Provide an overall explanation of your major job duties. The most important accomplishments and most recent achievements should be listed here.
    • Detail the secondary duties and special assignments accomplished in your current job.
    • Detail any assignments that you may have picked up because no one else wanted to do it.
    • Explain any committees or community service that you have been a part of, making special note to include any teams that you collaborated with or any special projects that you led. If you helped provide a strategic answer to a systematic problem be sure to highlight it in your job descriptors.
    • Start all descriptors with an action word and include keywords that reflect the essential knowledge, skills and abilities required to do your job. Make certain that your thoughts flow smoothly and that the order of presentation of your job duties in each sentence reflects your competence, your passion and your leadership in your profession.
  • 16 May 2012 5:12 PM | Anonymous

    By Lisa Chapman

    The purpose of the resume is to get you an interview, not necessarily to get you the job. Would you buy a car without a test drive? Companies want to test drive you, too. Your resume should tell a story, from beginning to end and answer these questions: Who are you? What have you done? What makes you special? Why should we hire you?

    How long should the resume be? As long as it needs to be, and as short as needed to keep the reader’s attention. Only give them enough information to make them want to keep reading. It can be very tempting to try and stuff in every bit of information about you and your achievements into your resume. Don’t. Your resume is a marketing document, not a “career obituary” of everything you’ve done and everywhere you’ve worked. Consider that in today’s world of smart phones and iPads, a shorter resume is more easily read by mobile devices.

    Resumes help you by showing potential employers that you are the right candidate for the position. Stand out from the crowd with a stellar resume. Words have power. Make your resume more powerful by using action verbs in your accomplishment statements. Resumes should always focus on results. Don’t write job descriptions. Don’t just describe what you did, but actually give concrete results that you achieved. Use captivating titles and strong keywords to draw the reader’s attention and to create a standout impression of you as a job candidate. Yes, you often only get one chance to make a first impression. Your resume is your first chance to make a good impression on a hiring manager.

    Resume Tips:

    - Don’t lie on your resume. Get hired because you are the right person for the job, not because you said the right things on your resume. Proofread your resume carefully to make sure that it is error-free.

    - Don’t forget how your resume looks. Even if you have the correct information on your resume, if the format isn’t outstanding, it may not get read or appeal to the hiring manager and you may not get an interview.

    - Never use your current employer’s contact information on your resume — and that includes using your work email address.

    - Make sure you update your resume every six months to keep it up-to-date, adding recent positions, additional responsibilities and accomplishments, as well as new skills, and education.

    - Don’t try to use the same resume to apply for different types of jobs. For example, you can’t use the same resume for sales jobs or procurement positions. Or the same resume for nursing jobs and pharmaceutical sales roles. Make sure you keep a record of the resumes you’ve sent.

    When you send out a resume, make a note of when to follow-up. The purpose of the resume and is to get you in the door. Your resume must get past the gatekeeper, whose job it is to screen paper out, not in. Once that happens, these documents have done their job.

  • 11 Apr 2011 6:11 PM | Anonymous

    By Gerry Corbett

    I recently did a search on resume tips on a popular search engine, and to no surprise found more than 37 million pages dedicated to some form of tips for resumes.   Everyone has an opinion; I am no different.  As I coach though, I have seen literally hundreds of resumes and have come to consensus about their content.  Resumes that paint a picture of a personality and tell a story about accomplishments have a higher probability of attracting interest and actionable attention.  Moreover, if you are in the market for an advertising, communications or public relations role, a stellar resume demands that you take the time to succinctly but creatively portray your abilities in quick but compelling fashion. So grab your keyboard or your favorite resume writer.

    The resume is about your character, personality and ability. Give it life by using action words that paint a picture of who you are and what is your value.

    Excite your audience. Do not make the resume a boring recitation of the tasks that comprise the jobs you have held. No one cares.  And no one will hire you based on the job functions.  They will only hire you if you fit the bill, can move the needle and suit the organization’s culture.

    Be creative and convincing in telling your story. Do not just list your jobs like some accounting table.  Use story telling techniques to weave the facts about you and the most interesting and important accomplishments of your career.

    Take the high road and make the glass half full not half empty. Sure you may have had challenges in your career.  You have had bosses that bossed but surely you have had leaders that have led.  In every phrase and every sentence keep the tone upbeat and reflective of your positive attitude about your success and the great job you have done for your bosses and employers.

    Make the resume fit each opportunity. No two jobs are exactly the same.  So do not use the same resume for every position that looks interesting.  Take the time to digest the job spec and tailor the resume appropriately.  I know, it may feel like work but if you take the time to target your chances of snagging an interview are greater.

    Employ the three E’s. Experience goes first in reverse chronology, Education second and Extra-curricular activities last.  When a hiring manager looks at a resume they want to know where you have been, “experience.”  Next they want to know where and what type of “education” you have under your belt.  And last, help the hiring manager understand what else you have accomplished by way of your professional affiliations, pro bono work you have done and any notable awards you received that can have bearing on your performance and abilities.

    Leave out skills, hobbies and references.  In today’s knowledge world, it is assumed that you know how to use a computer, can enter text through a keyboard and build a presentation.  So do not waste valuable real estate telling folks you have computer skills.   And forget the hobbies.  You are not going to be hired because you can play hoops or effortlessly drive a ball out of a sand trap.  Lastly, if they want a reference, they will ask.

    Grab their attention with your cover letter. It should not be a repeat of the resume.  Say something startling and provocative that opens the door to your resume.  Study the job spec and the company.  Is there something you can add to the firm that no one else can?  Is there some factoid about you that can be the wedge that leverages you into an interview?  What is the one most important value that you bring to the table?  Put it in the cover letter.

    Whether the economy is strong or weak, you need to have the best possible resume because you are competing with dozens or hundreds of other people.  Help yourself by looking distinguished, unique and savvy.  Words count, so make yours!

  • 08 Apr 2011 6:14 PM | Anonymous

    By Laurie Smith

    We often get so caught up in the nuances of effective resume writing that we as resume writers and career coaches forget to emphasize the obvious to job seekers. Here are some resume mistakes that truly aggravate hiring managers and will likely lead to your resume winding up in the circular file, or at best, lost in sea of resumes:

    • Writing with stilted, archaic "business" language. Write like you would speak in an interview. Show a bit of your personality.

    • Naming your resume file "resume." Picture a recruiter or hiring manager who receives hundreds or even thousands of resumes a day with a file name like this. Include your name in the file name, and to not let a single self-marketing opportunity slip by, add something indicating what you do, such as "Business Development Strategist."

    • Writing with liberal use of the words "I" and "me," which makes you come across as self-centered. First person is appropriate, but leave out the pronouns.

    • Composing your document in third person legalese, as if it were a Federal employment job description. For example, "Manages this....," "... to include this...." Yawn!

    • Bad mouthing a current or former employer. If you have nothing positive to say, please say nothing at all.

    • Allowing typos in your document. I can't tell you how many times I've seen "manger" for "manager" or, even worse yet, "mange." Another common flub is using "personal" for "personnel." The absolute worst is when you see a misspelled word in a heading, such as "PROFESSNAL EXPERIENCE"! Research shows that a SINGLE typo is enough to get your resume passed over. Inundated with resumes, hiring managers' inclination is to eliminate as many resumes as they possibly can from the stack—as quickly as possible, in order to get the screening process to a manageable level. Don't give them a reason to toss yours!

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