Staffing Articles

Is There a Slogan in Your Resume?

Too often, candidates think a job search is all about selling their specific skills. Skills are only commodities. They get you in the door, but they don’t win you the job. HR managers now receive 100 or more resumes per job posting, so it’s easy to get lost in the resume shuffle with dozens of other candidates. How can you stand out and get selected?

A great way to do that is to take a lesson from Madison Avenue, the masters of marketing, and develop a “slogan” of your own. Slogans – or “branding images” or “taglines” – work by promising you a benefit for using a particular product.

What’s Your Benefit?
Employers don’t buy just skills. They want to know how you can be an asset to their bottom line. This boils down to only two areas where you can provide a benefit:

  • How will you help an employer make money?
  • How will you help an employer save money?

When you answer this question, you set yourself apart from most of your competitors. The best way to accomplish this is to develop your own slogan. Called a “Unique Selling Proposition” (USP), this is a short sentence that describes a major, unique benefit that you can offer your next employer.

Add Strength to Skills
For example, if you’re a project manager you have a number of skills, such as software, hardware and management expertise. Trouble is, most other project managers competing with you have the same skills. If you think further, though, you find your particular strength might be your ability to identify and solve problems early in your projects.

So your USP goes something like this:

“Seasoned project manager with a strength in identifying and solving problems.”

Find the Money
Now add one more item, and that’s the benefit to the employer. Since employers buy “making money” or “saving money,” try to find a way to attach dollars to it. This is called monetizing your benefit and it’s what will separate you from every other project manager you compete with. It may take some research or calculations but it’s well worth the effort.

Try to arrive at a conservative figure for how much money you helped your employer make or save on a given project, sale or time period. In this case, our project manager calculated that he helped save his employer over $3 million in a three-year period while he completed over $12 million in projects. His USP becomes this:

“Seasoned project manager whose strengths in identifying and solving problems have saved my employer over $3 million while completing over $12 million worth of projects during the past 3 years.”

By placing this one sentence front and center at the top of his resume (as a “summary” statement), magic can start to happen. No longer is this candidate a commodity. The employer can clearly see the benefit of having an employee who can bring their special talent to help save $3 million.

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Stand out Online to Land the Job

Do’s and Don’ts for Online Resumes
As a job seeker in the electronic age, it’s important to be savvy when it comes to online tools that will help you land your next job.

Online and “traditional” off-line resumes share some similarities. Both serve to show potential employers why you are the best candidate for the job.

“The content of online and off-line resumes is basically the same,” says Hannah Seligson, author of “New Girl on the Job: Advice from the Trenches.” “But it’s even more important that your online resume stand out. With an online resume, you are dealing with a critical mass, as opposed to an off-line resume that is usually handed to a personal contact.”

So what can you do to ensure that your online resume will impress employers? Here are some do’s and don’ts for creating a winning online resume.

Do: Make Your Online Resume Keyword-Rich
Meg Montford, of the career coaching firm Abilities Enhanced, says that keywords are vital for online resumes. Montford suggests searching through job postings for your industry to find common terms, and make sure those words are in your resume. Montford also advises job seekers to spell out acronyms to increase hits to your resume.

Lindsey Pollak, author of “Getting from College to Career: 90 Things to Do Before You Join the Real World,” agrees. “Since a computer will be scanning your resume before a human being ever sees it, you need to ‘speak’ in a language a computer can understand.”

Don’t: Embellish
Just because you’re posting a resume online doesn’t mean its OK to embellish your qualifications.

“Don’t over-inflate what you’ve done,” cautions Seligson. “There’s a funny scenario where a vice president of the company, who is doing the hiring for an entry-level position, reads the job applicant’s resume and says (sarcastically),’Wow, sounds like you’ve already had my job. It doesn’t seem like you need to start at entry-level.’ It’s better to say less and have it accurately reflect what you did in previous jobs than to over-inflate -something most hiring managers can see right through.”

Do: Be Positive
Many disgruntled employees have been fired for airing their frustrations about their jobs online for the entire world to read. Montford warns that it’s important not to accumulate digital dirt that could cost you your current and future jobs. “Keep your online identity positive. Recruiters and companies go to the web first to screen candidates, so it’s vital to have a positive presence,” says Montford.

Don’t: Overlook the Power of the Web to Sell Yourself
There are numerous options available on the Internet for promoting yourself to employers. Don’t overlook blogs and your own resume web site as unique ways to reach out to potential employers.

“Every job seeker should have a blog and a keyword-rich resume on their own web site,” says Montford. “You can blog about your industry and comment on articles and issues related to your field. Just remember to keep your comments positive.”

Do: Be Cautious
Finally, realize that your current employer could be privy to your job search when using online resumes. Keeping a low online profile while employed may be your safest bet.

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Make Yourself a More Attractive Candidate

Build your skills and boost your chances of getting a job.

Spend some time enhancing your product: You. You want to make yourself as attractive as possible to potential employers.

Developing your writing, speaking, planning and organizational skills can make you a stronger candidate and help you find a job.Plus, these skills can make your job search go more smoothly.

The Write Stuff
Your writing muscle weakens unless you exercise it regularly. There are many ways to improve your writing skills:

  • Read more. Reading helps you develop an ear for good writing and build your vocabulary. The more you read, the better you’ll write.
  • Take a writing class at a local adult education program. Many are affordable and require you to write on a weekly basis. The instructors will also critique your work and help sharpen your skills.
  • Pick up a copy of the classic guide, “Elements of Style,” by William Strunk Jr. and E. B. White. It’s arguably the best little book on writing you’ll ever read.

Communication Keys
Strong presentation skills can help you interview and network more effectively.

In some positions, presentation skills are a job requirement. But these skills will serve you well in almost any job. Here are some ways to improve your presentation and public speaking skills:

  • Attend local public speaking seminars or classes. Many adult education programs offer short, affordable seminars that provide tips on presenting and speaking.
  • Try to speak in front of a group as often as possible. Like all skills, public speaking takes practice. Even simple speeches, like giving a toast or sharing your thoughts at a book club meeting, can help you become more comfortable speaking in front of a group.
  • Find a friend to help you practice. Ask a friend to be your audience for a mock presentation and give feedback on your performance. Or, if you’re not yet ready for constructive criticism, videotape yourself and critique your own performance.

Time Is a Wastin’
Like most people, you probably often wish that you had more time.

While you can’t add hours to the day, you can learn to use the time you have better.

Effective time management makes you a more productive person, period. Honing this skill can help speed your job search and make it go more smoothly. It’ll also show an employer that you’ll be a productive worker who can prioritize projects and accomplish tasks.

Here are some resources to help with time management:

  • Find a system to log appointments, meetings and tasks. Whether you choose an inexpensive notebook or a pricey personal digital assistant, you’ll be able to track how you’re using your time.
  • Designate time in your calendar to work on important projects, and then minimize interruptions during that time. While multi-tasking can be useful, working on too many things at once makes it difficult to complete any of them.
  • Research time management seminars. The Franklin Covey program is one of the most popular.
  • Pick up a copy of “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” by Steven R. Covey. This inexpensive, best-selling book is a great place to start.

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Phone Interviews: Tips to Get Called Back

Some people think phone interviews are easier than in-person ones. Often, those people are wrong.

In person, it’s easy to tell if an interviewer is tuning you out if you notice them staring off into space or sending messages on their BlackBerry. On the phone, you (and the interviewer) are missing out on important visual cues. You can’t read the interviewer’s body language.

So, how can a job seeker really dial into an interviewer’s demeanor to tell if she’s bored, distracted or underwhelmed?

Find a Happy Place
In the absence of sight, hearing becomes sharper. And interviewers can easily hear distraction over the phone.

Once you’ve scheduled a phone interview, locate a calm, quiet place where you can focus. Make sure you’re not near a computer, TV or anything that will draw your attention away from the interview. Tell anyone who has access to the space that you are not to be disturbed unless catastrophe strikes.

Next, have a pen and paper handy to take notes during your interview. You should also have a copy of your resume so that when the interviewer refers to your experience, you can both literally be on the same page.

Finally, consider your attire, particularly if you’re interviewing from your home. It’s your prerogative to wear sweats, but may we suggest something closer to business attire? You’ll feel more professional – and thus, you’ll sound more professional.

Speak Easy

  • As soon as you answer the phone, you’re on!
  • You want to start your phone interview off right. And, because the interviewer can’t see you, she’s listening even more carefully.
  • Make a conscious effort to sound upbeat and enthusiastic.
  • Smile. Interviewers can hear you smile – and smiling can put you in a better state of mind. (Don’t believe it? Try smiling when you’re in a bad mood.)
  • If you feel your confidence wane, stand up. Standing can make your voice sound more powerful.
  • And always remember to breathe. It will help you stay calm and sound more relaxed.

Sounds of Silence

  • A phone interview isn’t just about speaking. It’s about listening.
  • To listen carefully, try closing your eyes when the interviewer is speaking so you can focus on what is being said.
  • This technique can also help you read the interviewer’s mood. Is he interested and enthusiastic, or bored and distracted? Is the interview conversational? Are questions and answers flowing easily?
  • Listen hard after your responses. Did your response prompt additional questions or make the interviewer hesitate?
  • If the interviewer seems distracted, use one of the powerful questions you were saving for the “Do you have any questions?” section of the interview. A well-chosen question can re-engage him and put the interview back on track.

Practice Makes Perfect

  • The best way to prepare for a phone interview: Practice.
  • Have a friend play the role of interviewer on the phone.
  • Provide her with some practice questions to ask. Give her a copy of your resume and have her come up with her own questions too.
  • Test different techniques while you’re talking to her. Close your eyes while listening, stand while talking, smile while speaking. With her feedback, decide what works best.
  • You should also consider taping the conversation and listening to yourself afterward. You may be very surprised by what you hear. Finally, ask yourself, “Would I hire this person?”
  • If the answer isn’t a resounding “yes,” get back on the phone and get better prepared.

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Mastering the Interview

The job interview is your proving ground, the place where you must demonstrate why you are the best person for the job. Making that powerful statement that you’re the best of all the candidates requires the three Ps: Preparation, Presentation and Perception.

When you walk into an interview, the more prepared you are, the better the chances are that you’ll succeed. Memorize everything you put on your resume and cover letter and be prepared to explain each item. But you should also be ready to talk about more than just yourself. Get to know your future employer.

Warren Davis, the Director of Recruiting and Employment for RadioShack, emphasizes this point. “Your resume and application are fair game. Candidates should study themselves and the company with whom they’re interviewing.”

Read industry trade magazines, visit the company web site, and do a company search on Yahoo! Finance to find current news about your prospective employer. Be prepared to demonstrate what you know about the company and the industry.

Michele Stagg, the Director of Human Resources at Banana Republic, says she is consistently impressed when candidates work their skills into the context of company news. “The more an informed candidate can tie past experience to the requirements of the job they are interviewing for, particularly in terms of what the company is doing, the better.”

Another important part of preparation is making sure you look the part. Choosing what you wear is so important that it deserves its own article – Interview in Style.

Keep in mind that you are marketing yourself to everyone you meet. The more people you leave with a good impression, the better your chances are of being remembered. Project yourself as someone who is thoughtful, helpful, and prepared.

Effective presentation includes being in the right place, at the right time. If you’re late for the interview, you could inadvertently tell your interviewer that you’re not right for the job.

With 35 years of experience in HR, Peter Ackerson, Specialist Leader at Deloitte Consulting, has been directly involved in hiring hundreds of candidates. When it comes to job interviews, he’s seen it all. “There’s nothing worse than getting a call from someone who is hung up in traffic or went to the wrong office,” he explains.

Once you arrive, introduce yourself to the receptionist and turn off that cell phone. “Having a phone go off during an interview is a real turn off,” says Ackerson.

According to psychologist Albert Mehrabian, more than half of our communication is nonverbal or body language. Stagg agrees. “Body language is exceptionally important. Positive, upright and open body language shows self confidence and interest.” During introductions give a firm handshake and then take a seat facing the interviewer.

When you go over your resume focus on your accomplishments instead of reiterating job descriptions. Presenting yourself as an active problem solver will show an employer that you can contribute and succeed in the role. Stagg agrees that this technique can make a fantastic impact. “Give very specific examples of your qualifications. If you have qualifications in financial analysis, give examples of projects you worked on where your analysis was necessary. Describe your experiences that tie in to your skills or qualifications. Even better, tell me how those will help you meet the requirements of the role you might fill in our company.”

The best way to know if your interviewer is getting what he needs is to ask questions. Susan Vobejda, the VP of Marketing at HotJobs elaborates, “When your interviewer asks you a complicated question, don’t launch into your answer straightaway. Make certain you understand what is being asked.” A clarifying question, or restating the question in your own words saves you from wasting your interviewer’s time, and demonstrates that your are a careful listener. Asking the right questions can also demonstrate your ability to think strategically, and help you decide if the position is right for you. To that end, Stagg suggests ending the interview with this question: “What are you looking for in a candidate to fill this role?” If the answer turns out to be something that doesn’t match your expectations, then you need to speak up.

Many candidates are so intimidated by the interview, they forget that the interviewer has a stake in seeing the candidate succeed. Peter Ackerson describes his attitude going into an interview as one of “hopeful skepticism.” They don’t want you to fail; they want you to show them why you will succeed with their company. The sooner they hire you, the sooner the search can end.

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