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A Resume vs. LinkedIn: What you need to know

April 24, 2012

I was invited by Resunate to guest host their #ResuChat event this evening  #ResuChat is a Twitter chat that discusses all things related to resumes and landing your dram job.  It is scheduled on bi-weekly Tuesdays at 5 PM Pacific / 8 PM Eastern time.

A common confusion job seekers have is how to use LinkedIn as a job search tool, so I answered several questions to compare and contrast a resume and your LinkedIn profile.

Isn’t a LinkedIn profile just an online version of your resume?

No, a resume and LinkedIn profile are not the same, but have similarities.  A resume is a tool to generate interest and interviews from employers for a specific job that you apply for.  A LinkedIn profile can also generate interest from employers, but it is a networking tool primarily.  Basically, a resume is outbound career marketing, whereas LinkedIn is inbound marketing – attracting employers to you.

Why should the resume and LinkedIn profile be different?

Because they have different purposes (outbound vs. inbound), they require different approaches.  In a resume you are constrained by space, formatting, and targeting for one job at a time.  On LinkedIn, you have more fields available, and can add to your “career story.”   Both the resume and LinkedIn profile need key words to be found in searches, but LinkedIn has more sections where you can include key words – header, skills, summary, job titles, job descriptions, etc.

 How does the LinkedIn Summary compare to a Professional Profile or Value Added section on a resume?

The Value Added or Professional Profile on the resume is in lieu of the Objective that was common practice to include 20 years ago.  The Value Added section should be short and sweet – with your TOP selling points.  Think of it as your elevator pitch.  The Summary on LinkedIn is longer (up to 2,000 characters).  It’s much more akin to a cover letter.  The Summary should be written in first person, tell who you are and what you’re about, as well as with whom you’d like to connect, & why they should connect with you.

What should be different about job descriptions on a resume vs. LinkedIn?

A job description on a resume should include a 2-3 sentence high level snapshot, followed by bullets with accomplishments.  The bullets are what sell you.  They tell the story of not just what you did, but how well you did it.  It’s important to keep the snapshot short because on resume, the more jobs you have to list, the less space you have for each one and still fit onto 1 or 2 pages that is ideal for most job seekers in the US (more pages are OK in Australia and some other countries).

On LinkedIn you have the same space for each job, regardless of how many you include, so you have some additional freedom.  But just because you have the space, doesn’t mean you should max it.  Stay relevant or you’ll bore the reader.  Also keep in mind that LinkedIn is public, so use extra caution not to disclose proprietary info or violate any confidentiality agreements. You also don’t want make employers or colleagues look bad on LinkedIn, so choose achievements carefully.  Don’t say you walked into a mess to clean up in your last job if your predecessor is one of your connections, for example.

If currently employed and looking for another job, what should be on LinkedIn profile?

If you want to keep your search stealth, turn off activity broadcasts, and hide any job search groups from displaying on your profile.   But also remember that even with  broadcasts disabled and hidden groups, posts in open groups are still public, so they could be found in a search.

If currently employed, LinkedIn should include a promo of your employer.  Candidates who seem “passive” or “happily employed” can be more attractive to employers.  Even if you are looking, prospective employers would want you to promote them – so it makes you look good.  As an added benefit, employer promos often include industry key words, which will help your search visibility.

How can I connect my resume to my LinkedIn profile?

The Import Resume feature does not work well, but there are other options.  One is to add the app to profile and upload a PDF of your resume to it.  Another is to create an Infographic resume on and link it under Websites.  Create a Power Point or video resume and upload with the Slideshare app.  If you have a blog or website, put your resume on it and link under Websites.

What should I do on LinkedIn to promote my profile once it is written?

The key with LinkedIn is to remember it is an interactive, proactive networking tool, not a static document.  Follow companies you’d like to target as employers – get updates on jobs, people movements, and industry trends.  Be open to forming new connections to expand your network, like in a live room.   I recommend a Power of One strategy, which includes 1 daily update, 1 group post, 1 answer, 1 new connection, and 1 personal message to a connection every day (see my previous blog post on this strategy here)

Want to see the full recap, including the input from other participants?  Resunate will have it on their blog here.

Do you have additional questions about how to use LinkedIn effectively during a job search?  Post them below and I’d be happy to answer.

Job Search Help: Is it Worth Paying For?

April 13, 2012
Should you pay for job search help?

This week I answered a question on LinkedIn that probably goes through many job seekers’ minds at some point:

Paying for job search help such as using headhunters, professional resume writers, LinkedIn, etc. Is it worth it? Why or why not?

My response was voted “Best Answer,”  so I thought I’d share an overview here and elaborate a bit.  Let’s take the question piece by piece, since it’s not all the same answer.

Headhunters and Recruiters

It was not uncommon 30 years ago for candidates to pay for a “Headhunter” or  to help them find a job, but this dynamic has shifted.  Presently,  the employer will typically pay the Recruiter to conduct a search.  Many Recruiters work on a contingency fee basis, meaning the company doesn’t pay them unless they find the right candidate – and they are competing with other Recruiters to find YOU.  So, they have a pretty strong motive to get you hired if you are the right person for the job.  What this means for job seekers is that you must be find-able!  If you make it easy for them to compare your skills to their orders (an order is a job opening), you’ll  have a better chance of getting presented to a hiring company.

It is important to also keep in mind that you are not the client in this relationship – the hiring company is. You are the product. It’s the Recruiter’s job to find you for a job, not to find a job for you.   The downside of working with recruiters is that they are in the business of sales – they must sell their client company and the job to their candidates – and sell the candidate to the company.   This means they will paint a rosy picture of the job opportunity and it’s up to the job seeker to do their homework to determine if it’s even a job they’d want.

Professional Resume  / LinkedIn Profile Writers

As a professional resume writer myself, I would love to say that every job seeker should hire one, but that’s just not true.   However, based on comments I hear from Recruiters and the resumes I see at job fairs, most job seekers need some kind of help.  Here are some things you should consider when determining if you should get help with writing your resume or your LinkedIn profile:

  1. Are you a highly skilled writer who has specific knowledge of the “do’s” and “don’ts” of resume writing?
  2. Are you familiar with all the LinkedIn fields and how best to use them to get returned in searches?
  3. Do you know how an applicant tracking system works? Are you familiar with both key word optimization and formatting issues that can determine if your resume will go into the ATS black hole?

Bonus Question: If you answered “No” to any of the above questions, do you have the ability and desire to learn, and the luxury of time to go through the trial and error process, even if it takes months?  

If you answered “Yes” to the top three these questions or the Bonus Question, you do not need to hire someone. You should purchase books, read industry blogs, and take advantage of the multitude of free services that are available to help job seekers through this process.  However, if you answered “No” to any of them, keep reading for more information to determine if it is “worth paying for.”

Let’s say you’ve already done the work yourself.   If that is the case, evaluate the response you are getting from employers on your resume.  If you are applying for jobs that are strong matches for your skills, you should be getting at least a 20% call-back rate.  If you aren’t, it’s a good sign that your resume could be improved.  People who hire professional resume writers are often folks who thought they could do it themselves, and 6 months later with ZERO interviews, realize they need help. If you’ve already given it your best effort and aren’t seeing results, it’s time to call in reinforcements.

If you are consistently getting interviews but no offers, you may not need a resume writer, but an interview coach instead.

So, is it worth the money? Let’s do the math. Most quality resume writers charge anywhere from $300 – $1,000+ Let’s pick a nice round number like $500 just as an example.  If your target job will be making $50,000 per year, that’s approximately 2.5 days’ pay. So, if you start getting interviews and your job search is shortened by anything more than those 2.5 days – you’ve made your money back.

It is possible to find some “resume writing” services online for less than $300.  Before you use them, ask:  How much expertise does the writer have?  How will the writer find out about your personal brand and accomplishments to know what to add or enhance on your resume to match your target position? Remember that they must make a profit, so how much time and effort do you expect to be spent on your order based on what you are spending?  Be sure you know the answers to these questions and are comfortable with them before you use a low-cost service.

LinkedIn Premium Membership

Many job seekers wonder if it’s worth paying for a premium LinkedIn membership.  There is no blanket answer to this question, but in many cases, it is not.  The benefits are really the added advanced search functionality, and the ability to see more analytic reports.  I recommend that you conduct an advanced people search to see the additional fields that will be available to you if you pay.  Are those fields that you would like to be able to use in a search?  Do you have a plan for what to do with the search results?   For me personally, I find that my LinkedIn activity in groups, personal messages to connections, and answering questions gives me a better return on effort than the advanced search fields, so I choose not to pay.  However, many people do see value in the paid account, so it comes down to a personal decision and whether YOU will use the additional services.

Should you pay for job search help?

The “is it worth it” question boils down to the same factors as any other hire-or-do-it-yourself purchasing decision:
– CAN you do it?
– Do you WANT to do it?
– Can someone else do it better?
– Is the service something you’re willing to pay for?

You can see the original Question and all 10 answers here: 

How a Job Hunt is Like an Egg Hunt

April 6, 2012

How, you are thinking, could an egg hunt possibly be correlated with a job hunt?  Actually, it’s not that far of a stretch.  Allow me to elaborate: Job seekers are the eggs.  Companies are the hunters.

Eggs start off looking pretty similar to one another.  They are the same basic shape, with slight variations in size and color – kind of like people.  We all have the same basic features – eyes, ears, nose, mouth, arms, legs.  We come in white, varying shades of brown, large and small.

When you apply for a job, you are trying to stand out among hundreds (sometimes thousands) of other applicants who have the same basic features.  Many will have a similar degree and work history, so if you only include your basic work history and job description on your resume, you’ll be just another egg.  So how do you go from looking like everyone else, to getting “found” and put in the egg basket?

STEP 1) Recognize that you ARE unique.  Even plain eggs have slight variations like a bump or crack. You are more than just your degree and / or work history.  You have personal strengths.  Know what they are.  Are you great with people?  Are you a skilled number cruncher? Are you uber-organized?  Define your top three strengths.  If you have trouble identifying them, look at your LinkedIn recommendations for themes – what are people saying about you?  If you have more than one person mentioning your high integrity, it should probably be on your list.  This will be the foundation of your personal brand.

STEP 2) Recognize HOW your uniqueness matters.  Educator Angela Maiers gave an inspiring Tedx talk last June, where she discussed the human need to MATTER (link is at the bottom – I don’t want you getting distracted and leaving just yet).  Her message is one that is essential to job seekers, who are often frustrated, discouraged, and feeling insignificant – like they don’t matter.  But each and every person does  matter. Knowing how you matter is key to believing that you matter.

When I interview clients, my goal is to get the details about their accomplishments that will show how they have mattered to their employers – and how they could make a difference for the next one.  Often the initial response is “I don’t really have any accomplishments” or “they aren’t significant enough.”   This is when I know I have a client who doesn’t recognize how he or she matters, so I have to get creative with my questioning.  You can do this for yourself, too.

First, take the list of soft-skill strengths you identified in Step 1.  Then ask yourself pointed questions that relate to each strength, and follow up with how it impacted the company.  For example:

STRENGTH: Organized.  QUESTION: Tell me about a time when you re-organized a system or process at work. 

SAMPLE ANSWER: ” Well, when I started, there was just one inbox for all types of incoming payroll forms, and no designated place to put things that didn’t need to be processed until a future pay period.  I created separate inboxes, and a filing system for each pay period so things didn’t get lost as much.”

FOLLOW-UP IMPACT QUESTION: How did that change affect employees or the company?

SAMPLE IMPACT ANSWER: “Since things didn’t get lost, there were fewer mistakes.  We went from 15+ manual or voided checks each pay date to only 1 or 2.  Employees weren’t unhappy anymore and I didn’t have to work overtime to fix the mistakes every pay day.”

Now we have a great accomplishment example to include on the resume.  But more importantly, this person now recognizes for herself something she did that mattered.

STEP 3) SELL your unique offering.  This is the equivalent of coloring your eggshell.  Inside, you are the same person, but outside you will be so much more attractive to employers hunting for an egg  just that color.  Now that you have a list of examples that show how you have mattered to your previous employers, it’s time to write them down in the form of an impact statement that helps them understand your value.

Here is how I would use the “organized” payroll example above in a resume:

“Restored confidence in payroll department by reducing error rate  more than 85%.  Organized paper-flow to streamline process, which facilitated a higher level of service to employees and reduced overtime spend by $2,000 per year.”

Note that the statement includes both qualitative (restored confidence…higher level of service…) and quantitative (85%, $2,000) details.  If you have trouble attaching numbers to your impact statement, consider the qualitative improvements and mention those at least.

STEP 4) “HIDE” in plain sight.  You don’t want to be the golden egg that is so well hidden no one finds it until it has gone rotten.  In job search terms, that means two things: key words, and social media.

Key words are how your resume will get found by applicant tracking system.  Use a service like Resunate to compare your resume with a job description to see how well you have matched it, and get suggestions of key words or phrases to add.  While this can be helpful, be careful to ensure that your resume still flows in a natural way and that you aren’t artificially adding words that aren’t applicable to your skills.

I'm hosting an egg hunt through my XeeMe profile until April 9th. This is the hidden egg for Friday April 6th.

Social media is like being able to clone yourself and be multiple places at once.  Go beyond the Big 3 (LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter).   The more “clones” are out there – the higher the likelihood that an employer will find you.  If you are wondering what other networks to use, you may want to visit my XeeMe profile for a list of my social networks.  You’ll notice that while they are all about me, each profile is slightly different.  Job seekers should also make each profile just unique enough to add value to your overall story.

So there you have it – four steps to being the egg that gets found.  Let me know what you think of this comparison below.  

I also highly recommend that you read the You Matter Manifesto by Angela Maiers, which can be found here (including the Tedx video)  It’s a powerful message that is relevant to everyone, especially job seekers who have forgotten that they matter.

Self-Sabotage: Are you hurting your own job search?

March 30, 2012

We all make mistakes.  We make money management mistakes.  We goof up at work.  We accidentally hurt our friends’ feelings.  And most, when in a job search, will make some tactical errors that can impact the outcome.  Here are some common errors that can set job seekers back, and how to correct them.

MISTAKE #1 – Self-Sabotage

I see this happen often, usually when the job seeker applies for a job they don’t really want.  They need a job, and they submit applications so they can say “See, I’m trying!”  But the truth is they either don’t want to work at all, or they just don’t want that particular position – so they unconsciously sabotage their chances.  This can happen several ways – completing an online application and not taking care with spelling and grammar – forgetting to attach the resume to an email – or neglecting to follow up with a Thank You message after an interview.

MISTAKE #2 – Bad Relationships

We all have them – that one person from our past who was our nemesis.  A co-worker you never really got along with.  A boss you couldn’t stand.  A client you could never please.   However, letting your personal feelings get in the way of professional relationships or common courtesy is a dangerous mistake.  Anyone from your career can resurface years later – as a hiring manager, client, employment reference, vendor or other authority.  When this happens, it can be tough to make up for past actions.

MISTAKE #3 – Over Sharing

Since 80% of jobs are found through networking, sometimes the hiring manager or someone else on the hiring committee may be a personal friend. It may be tempting to share information that you would typically share with that friend – like your husband’s unemployment as your true motivation for applying.  However, during the hiring process, expect to answer tough questions, especially if you have over-shared personal details that other employers wouldn’t have the advantage of knowing.  For example, “Why did you leave your last job?”  If you were fired, quit because of a disagreement with management, or because you wanted more money -you need to proceed with caution.  Another tricky question is “Why are you interested in this job?” If  you are returning to work after some time home to raise children (and you’re returning to work because you NEED to, not because you WANT to), or you really don’t want that job, but are hoping to move up the ladder quickly – complete honesty may not be the best policy.  The employer wants to know that you are 100% committed to working – and that you care about the job for which you are applying.

Unfortunately, any of these common mistakes can get in the way of a job offer.  If you’ve made any of these tactical errors, here are the lessons to learn:

  1. Take every step of the application process seriously.  Even when you think you are a shoe-in because you found the opportunity through networking, you just never know who will be influencers in the hiring process.  Even at the mom-and-pop shop down the street, treat your application, resume, and interview with as much care as if you are applying at a Fortune 500 company.
  2. Relationships matter. I once worked for a Vice President of Sales who commented that he made a point of treating every job candidate like a customer – because chances were, someday they would be. While you don’t have to be everyone’s best friend, making an extra effort to keep the peace and have cordial professional relationships can make a difference you may not even see for years to come.
  3. Tell nothing but the truth, but not the whole truth.   It’s important to keep in touch with our professional connections even when you don’t need a job. Often these professional contacts can evolve into personal friendships.  But when that friendship shifts to job-networking, always consider how the information you share will be perceived by the employer.

What about you?  Have you ever unconsciously sabotaged your own job search because you didn’t really want to work?  Have you ever make a crucial tactical error that you realized later?

The Power of One

February 24, 2012

Those of you who follow my blog every week know that I usually feature a job seeker on Facebook and the blog.  This week I’m participating in Freaky Friday, a fun idea from Mallie Dein at Go Creative Go! where we trade Facebook pages for a day.  As graphic designers and web designers, most Go Creative Go!  fans are small business owners, so this week’s blog will be on a topic that is relevant for both job seekers and business owners: LinkedIn.

LinkedIn offers a multitude of features and benefits for professionals, and I know how to use them.  I write LinkedIn profiles for job seekers and business owners.  I know how to optimize key words and get a profile to 100% completeness for Signal search optimization.  But I’ve been feeling overwhelmed by the volume of group email, discussion board posts, and spam.  I was having trouble filtering through the noise, so I it became easy to continue pushing LinkedIn activity to the end of my to-do list, and when I finally got there I would spend hours interacting until I felt overwhelmed again.  Sound familiar?

The main problem: I was lacking a clear strategy.

Earlier this week I participated in #LinkedInChat, a Twitter chat hosted by LinkedIn expert Viveka von Rosen (every Tuesday at 5 PM PST / 8 EST).  After a great chat about LinkedIn ROI, Viveka asked the question:

What strategies will you put in place to improve your LinkedIn ROI?

At that moment I had an epiphany: Simplicity

Just that simple prompt to come up with a quick answer about my strategy forced me to really think and I came up with a plan that I am excited about – and you may be too.  I’m calling it my Power of One plan.  The beauty is in its simplicity:

ONE Update per day.

LinkedIn updates (similar to a Facebook status) are now searchable with Signal, so it’s important to have an ongoing stream that includes key words on topics that my target audience would be interested in.  For me, that includes career and job search topics.  For job seekers, it would be topics Recruiters or Hiring Managers in your industry would search for.  For a small business owner, it should be related to your product or services.

ONE Answer per day.

LinkedIn answers are a way to establish your credibility as an expert in your field, as well as help out another person with a specific question.  It’s a way to give back and subtly market yourself while adding value to the LinkedIn community.  Just search the Answers section for questions related to your area of expertise, pick one and respond.  As an added bonus, other users can vote your answers as “Best” which adds even more credibility to your expertise.  Readers can then click on your picture and go straight to your profile to learn more about you.

ONE Discussion post per day.

I belong to a lot of groups (LinkedIn allows up to 50), and I find it overwhelming to keep up with the volume of posts in every group.  So I’ve decided not to try.  I will choose one group each day, and either respond to a Discussion Forum post, or start a new thread to generate engagement.  This helps to establish relationships with other group members, as well as add value, establish credibility and get my profile seen.

ONE New Connection per day.

My strategy isn’t to reach 20,000+ connections, so this growth pace (365 new connections per year) works for me.  And it’s doable. Even with my limited activity of late, I typically get at least one incoming connection request each day.  However, if I don’t, I will now make it a point to invite at least one new person to connect every day.  I’ll search for a LION (LinkedIn-Open-Networker), or I’ll invite someone I know from Twitter, Facebook, or interacted with somewhere else on LinkedIn.  If you decide to do this too, be sure to always include a personal message with the invitation to remind the person who you are, where you know them from, and why you’d like to connect.  It will make a big difference in your acceptance rate.

ONE InMail per day.

I am not a fan of spam or messages to multiple people.  I prefer 1:1 personal communication that enhances a relationship.  I am an open networker on LinkedIn, so I haven’t had a lot of prior communication with some of my connections.  My plan is to send a short personal note to one connection per day.  I’ll ask  something about a recent activity or their business.  Note that I will NOT be sending  “please like my Facebook page” or “please follow me on Twitter” messages, as those are blatant self-promotion that tends to immediately tune people out.  By showing a genuine interest in the other person, I hope that we can build a networking relationship that is beneficial for both of us.

In summary, the Power of One plan is this:

I expect this will take somewhere between 10-20 minutes each day.  This simple strategy will result in over 150 interactions per month (1,825 per year), which I hope will increase my ROI in terms of LinkedIn metrics and relationships that convert to sales for me or job leads for my clients.  I’ll be tracking some of the metrics suggested by Viveka von Rosen during the chat and on her blog, and I’ll post another blog after some time has passed to let you all know how those metrics have changed with this strategy.

Who’s with me?  Are you up for discovering the Power of One along with me?  Will you keep me updated about your ROI too?

UPDATE 2/27/12

Since I published this blog I’ve had such a great response that I’ve started a new LinkedIn group for anyone who would like to give this method a try.  It is open to everyone and will be moderated to prevent spam.  We can keep each other on track and share our results.  Please feel free to join us:

Power of One LinkedIn Group

Are you a Swiss Army Knife?

February 17, 2012

Brendan TrippToday’s featured job seeker is facing a dilemma that is increasingly common.  Brendan Tripp has had a long, diverse career that has developed his skills in a variety of areas.  He’s doing a lot of things right in his search – he’s active on social media, and he’s a regular contributor to a Chicago area job seeker blog.  Though he is qualified for more than one kind of role, employers are not responding, which has resulted in extended unemployment.  I asked Brendan about his experience, and at the end I’ll share some tips that may help Brendan, and others in his situation.

You describe yourself as a Generalist. If you could write your own job description and get hired today, what would that job look like?

It would be a communications gig that encompassed classic Public Relations, Web development, Social management, Conferences/Events, Publications (dead tree and digital), Audio and Video production, various Marketing elements, even Graphic design.

What have you done to try to target specific jobs?

I try to steer the attention in the cover letter to terms used in the job description.  I’m happiest when “wearing many hats” but am willing to go into a job that’s only using 1/5th or so of my skill sets. I’ve described the situation as my being a Swiss Army Knife .  One employer is looking for a Phillips screwdriver, I have all the function of the screwdriver, but they’re looking for something with a yellow handle, and the next is looking for a bottle opener.  I have 100% of what’s needed for the job, but they’re envisioning something else.  Most places [employers] these days are looking for a particular complex polygonal piece to specifically fit into a tightly defined hole, and if you’re bringing MORE to the job, it just confuses the recruiters and other gatekeepers.

Which of your previous jobs gave you the most inherent personal satisfaction? What was it about that job that made it a great fit for you?

I ran my own publishing company for a decade. While I worked 14 hours a day, 7 days a week on that (literally), I loved the immersion in it all … I used to quip that “I did everything but write the books” (which included editing, design, typesetting, contracting printing, negotiating deals, warehousing, pr/advertising, and yes, even sales) in that role.

I also really liked my last job, where I was Director of Communications for a “metaverse developer”, working primarily in the virtual world of Second Life. I had to invent systems for doing publicity “in world”, which was fascinating.  As the company shrank in the economy of ’08-’09, I kept taking over parts of the business when other people left … by the end I was publishing a line of books, cranking out almost all of our web code, doing the graphics, developing events (both live and virtual), and writing all our proposals, pamphlets, and promotional materials, on top of my main PR functions.

It’s bragging time. What career accomplishments are you most proud of?

  • I led projects where some simple regional PR grew brands (in the absence of any advertising) for major blue-chip clients
  • I turned what had started out as just a way to publish my own poetry into a respected niche press
  • I took a client’s mess of scattered web elements and pulled them into a Social Media based hub that hit “the Alexa hundred thousand” within a few months of its launch.

How does this illustrate your personal brand?

I suspect I have to go back to the Swiss Army Knife concept for a “personal brand” image.  I have experience doing a wide range of different functions, and producing excellent work in each.


Are you a Swiss Army Knife too?  Are you facing similar challenges in applying for specialized jobs?  If so, here are some tips from ResumeSmith you may find helpful:

  1. Use multiple versions of your resume.  If you are qualified for 5 job types, have a specific resume targeted to each kind of role.  While remaining honest about your work history, you can select only the accomplishments and skills most relevant to that kind of position to highlight.  Chose only the key words or skills required for that job to include in the summary, and instead of using a “Summary” heading, use “Qualified for JOB TITLE”.  In these cases, less is more.  To use Brendan’s polygon analogy: if the employer is asking for a hexagon, and you’re an octagon, leave off the additional two skill sets so you appear to be a hexagon.  By having  multiple versions of your resume ready, it saves time during the application process.  Any additional targeting can be addressed in the cover letter as Brendan has been doing.
  2. Only include the most recent 10-15 years of work history.  Many job seekers in Brendan’s situation are baby boomers, and are victims of age discrimination as well as discrimination as long-term unemployed.  There is no rule that says you must include your entire career history – in fact, many recruiters prefer that you don’t.  The only exception to this would be if you are targeting jobs where your oldest work history is the only relevant experience you have to offer.  For most job seekers, this is not the case.  So, leave older jobs off your resume and LinkedIn profile.
  3. Remove graduation dates.  Unless you are a recent graduate and you are relying on your degree as a primary qualification, there is no need to list a graduation date.  It reveals your age unnecessarily.
  4. Be sure to use the right resume format. Recruiters prefer Word documents (in .doc format, not the newer .docx) over PDF format.  Some ATS systems can’t scan your PDF for key words the way it can scan a Word doc.  Set your margins and page breaks to be sure it will look the same with other print drivers and on Macs. Additionally, if the employer’s ATS requires you to paste a text-only resume into a web form,  format it so that it’s still easy for a recruiter to read.  Even ASCII (text only) resumes can have line breaks to add white space, and you can use tildes ~~~ or equal signs === to create borders, as well as ** for bullet points.  Spend some time formatting your .txt resume once, and it becomes easy to paste it into web forms quickly and still have great formatting.
  5. Conduct a social media audit. Up to 80% of recruiters will Google you before calling for an interview.  They’ll check more than just your LinkedIn profile.  They’ll read your Facebook posts, blog posts, and anything else they find.  If you have anything public that you wouldn’t discuss in a job interview, you should either remove it or adjust your privacy settings to keep your personal life personal.
Certainly Brendan’s situation is not unusual.  Have you experienced a similar “overqualified” or “over generalized” issue?  Do you have any other recommendations for Brendan?


John Doe: Still Unemployed (for a reason)

February 10, 2012

On Fridays, I usually feature a job seeker who is doing something innovative in his or her job search.  I try to highlight a new idea, and keep it positive and encouraging.  This week I’m doing something a little different.  This week’s featured job seeker is  “John Doe,” who hasn’t landed a job yet because, well . . . he’s doing everything he shouldn’t, and not enough of what he should.  

This week I’ve been bombarded with examples of job seekers who are making some serious strategic and tactical errors.  I feel the need to call it out – to shout to the world “DO NOT DO THIS!”  I warn you that what you are about to read is harsh; it is intended to be.  This message needs to be delivered bluntly with no sugar coating or it will lose its impact.  Are you ready?


  1. You are passive.  You sit back and wait for or CareerBuilder to alert you when a job opens, and then you apply.  Furthermore, you apply for jobs for which you are clearly unqualified.  This annoys the recruiter, wastes your time, and gets your “unqualified” resume into the company’s Applicant Tracking System.  So, in another three months when they have a job you ARE qualified for, the recruiter sees the previous application, and realizes you are desperate and that you don’t respect his time enough to apply only for jobs that match your skills.  Then promptly screens you out.  Only 20-25% of jobs are filled from job boards.  Budget your job search time and efforts accordingly.
  2. Your resume sucks.  I mean really, really sucks.  And you have no idea.  Why does it suck?  First, it looks like thousands of other resumes.  Put yours and the next 100 applicants side-by-side and 95 will look just like yours. You either used a Microsoft resume wizard, or you just followed the “Objective, Experience, Education” formula that they taught you in school. I know some of you are thinking “No, mine is good.  I did my research online and worked hours on it.  I even found a great sample from a pro and used some of it…” [cue the exaggerated  Jim Carey voice]  Oh…REEEEAALY?  Well, not only are you plagiarizing and breaking copyright laws, but you are failing to differentiate yourself from the 300 other people who copied the same sample.  If you have doubts, I challenge you to Google a few phrases from the summary.  How many LinkedIn profile hits did you get?  “Well, no one will know anyway, who will Google my resume?”  The answer is every Recruiter or HR professional who notices that the writing style from the parts you copied does not match what you wrote yourself (or who has seen that same sentence four times this week).  It’s that obvious.
  3. You have digital dirt.  Recruiters regularly look for digital dirt before contacting a candidate for an interview  This is not news.  Most of you know this.  You may even think you have nothing to hide.  Well, think again.  Everything you post can and will be used against you in a job search.  I have seen the following examples of digital dirt recently: a job seeker’s public Facebook profile that was 90% political rants; a Twitter user who was openly criticizing recruiters during a chat; a foursquare user who tweeted they are now “Mayor” at a bar; and a job seeker blog where the author openly insulted Human Resources professionals, the hiring process in general, complained about waking up before 9 AM for an interview, and exhibited a prolific proficiency in profanity.  All of these examples came from people who were openly seeking employment.  You certainly have a right to your political views and social life.  But always, always, always consider how this post will look to an employer.  Is this what you want to be known for?
  4. You are not networking.  Live and online networking are essential to your search.  Even 15 minutes a day on LinkedIn can make a tremendous difference in your visibility to recruiters.  Expand your network to include members of similar industry groups, recruiters at your target companies, and LinkedIn Open Networkers (LIONs).  Help recruiters fill their jobs by referring others from your network when you notice a fit.  Share your expertise and knowledge  by answering at least one discussion post or LinkedIn Question each day.  Build credibility.  Then, get out and meet people in real life or pick up the phone to make a personal connection.
  5. You do not seek the RIGHT help. There is plenty of good, free advice available online, and also at many local career centers and universities.  There are even great books you can find at your local library.  If it is from a professional in the job search industry (and it is recent – a book written 15 years ago was good then, but may not be relevant now) – use it, absolutely!  Just because it is free does not mean it is worthless.  But beware you will also get a lot of BAD free advice, sometimes online, but more often from well meaning friends and family who are NOT professionals in this area.  If  you get conflicting advice from a professional and your sister-in-law, do yourself a favor and listen to the job search professional!

If you’ve gotten to the point where you think you have followed all the free advice you’ve found, and you are still hitting a wall, it is time to invest in yourself.  If you’ve invested thousands of dollars in your education, and more in specialized training to enhance your qualifications, why wouldn’t you be willing to invest a little more in marketing yourself effectively?  You lose hundreds of dollars each week that you remain unemployed.  If spending a few hundred dollars for a coach or resume writer will get you employed even one week faster, you’ll see a return on your investment!

  • If you get lots of interviews, but no offers, hire an interview coach.
  • If you send out hundreds of resumes, and never get a call-back, hire a resume writer.
  • If you have no idea what the problem  is, contact a career coach.

My point is, getting the RIGHT help from the RIGHT resource can make the difference between you and the next guy.  I could be that resource for you, but it doesn’t have to be me.  To find a qualified professional resume writer or career coach, search the Career Directors International website.  CDI members are truly the cream of the crop in the career services industry and I am proud to be associated with this organization.  There you will find honest, professional advice that help you get back on track.

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