Writing a Great Resume, Creating a Personal Brand, and Networking
Networking with employers, recruiters, and other career professionals is essential for finding employment. Personal branding plays a key role in networking and includes designing and writing a great resume as well as creating professional and engaging social media profiles.
Finding employment is a full-time job that requires a solid personal marketing plan. Resumes, cover letters, thank you notes, follow-up letters, networking cards, professional email addresses, and social media all require attention and fine-tuning for creating a positive personal brand that interests employers.
Creating a great resume often requires a lot more than just a detailed work history with job descriptions. Computers and the Internet have changed the way recruiters find job candidates, so resume writing must incorporate certain techniques that will yield a good search ranking. Resumes are required for almost every position, which is sometimes frustrating and confusing for more seasoned workers who have never needed one before. Suddenly, great writing and proofreading skills are necessary for interview consideration, yet many jobs do not required these skills.
Enlisting the services of a professional resume writer, interview coach, and career planner is especially useful when navigating the job market. Having a basic understanding of some of the more common hiring and job seeking practices will help you maximize the value of any assistance you receive and prepare you for the challenge of finding employment.
80% of jobs are not posted and are found through networking.
A job may not be posted for many reasons, but that doesn't mean a company isn't hiring! Many job seekers speak with employers at job fairs about posted positions, but often find out about other positions that aren't yet posted, but may be a better fit. In fact, job fairs are excellent networking opportunities! Go with the intention of building relationships with recruiters rather than getting a job. An employer may not have the right position for you now, but they might in the future.
Interviews are also a great networking opportunity! If the interviewers like you, they may become powerful allies in securing future employment with the company, even if you are passed over the first time around. Always send thank you notes after interviews.
Rejections are opportunities to interact with recruiters and stand out from everyone else. If a rejection email comes directly from a company representative, or provides you with contact information for further questions, send a positive message thanking them for considering you for the position and asking how you can become a stronger candidate for future positions. Some job seekers are offered another job using this strategy.
If the employer's first choice doesn't work, they might remember you and offer the new opening to you. If another position opens up, they might offer you employment after a few months. By positively responding to rejection, you demonstrate that you handle conflict well and are open to professional development. These qualities are not as common as one might think, and are an asset to any company.
Focus on pursing employment that is the right fit for you. Let friends, family, and acquaintances know that you are seeking work. If they send you job postings that are not what you are looking for, do not correct them. Instead, be gracious and thank them. As long as they think they are helping you, they will continue to think of you, and it might lead to the perfect job. Post on Facebook, update your LinkedIn Profile, and work it into conversations.
"I just completed my first marketing course! I really enjoy this kind of work and could see myself doing this for a long time. If you hear about any job opportunities for an entry level marketing professional, I'd really appreciate hearing about it! Thanks!"
40% of all hires are referrals.
Employment referrals are the result of effective social networking and can be generated by engaging personal and professional connections on social media and during face-to-face meetings.
Do not overlook any resources! Referrals are made by employees, friends, and employment professionals outside of the organization. American Job Centers (AJC), such as Michigan Works!, are often overlooked by most job seekers because they carry the stigma of "the unemployment office," but this free, public resource contains some incredibly valuable assets. Many offices are staffed with education and career professionals who are heavily networked with area employers. AJC employees and partners will not just hand you job, though. You must demonstrate that you are a serious and reliable job seeker.
Maximize the benefit of your local AJC by participating in workshops and other skill-building activities, being open to their ideas and methods, and following through on deadlines. They want to help you get a job and will happily refer you to their network of employers when appropriate opportunities arise. Be careful! If you come across as negative and disagreeable, many will not refer you to their valuable employer network.
Referrals are incredibly effective for getting job offers, but people are careful about who they refer. If someone has the influence to get you in front of an employer for a job opportunity, that person has a valuable relationship with that employer. Wise people will guard their connections and refer only those who are positive, professional, and proactive. Be that person.
Job postings attract 100s of applications.
The circumstances surrounding the number of applications an employer receives are varied. Highly desirable and well-known employers may receive hundreds more applications than lesser known employers. More applications are submitted for positions with lesser minimum requirements and decent pay. In fact, positions that require less education are not necessarily more sought after, but likely to receive more applications simply because unemployed job seekers are fulfilling an unemployment insurance requirement of completing a certain number of job search activities per week. In fact, some employers have received thousands of resumes for certain positions.
Different types of employers are flooded with applicants for various reasons, including location and the presence of higher education programs in the area. Conversely, employers seeking highly-skilled workers may have a difficult time recruiting qualified individuals. Metropolitan Detroit has an abundance of employers seeking engineers, but the applicant pool is smaller than the demand.
You cannot control the selection process, but you can increase your chance of getting noticed by submitting a solid resume and applying for positions that you qualify for. Don't forget to follow-up when appropriate. Unless an employer specifically states not to contact them, submit your application, then call, email, or send a letter to the recruiter. Due to the volume of resumes received, contacting a recruiter after submitting an application can mean the difference between getting lost in cyberspace and getting an interview.
75% of applicants never make it through the Talent-Management Software.
It takes an average of 52 days to fill a job opening, partly because of the time and resources it takes to find and screen job candidates. The declining unemployment rate means that employers have fewer job candidates to choose from. In spite of the shrinking applicant pool, many employers refuse to compromise with hiring less-than-ideal candidates. The cost of hiring and firing is significant, so it is important to hire a solid, dedicated person who plans to stay with the company for some time.
Talent management systems are used to process applications and narrow the applicant pool down to a manageable size. Recruiters review the remaining resumes to determine which job candidates to call for the initial interview. Make no mistake: every phone call is an interview.
The chosen individuals are called in for interviews, but that does not mean they are the most qualified out of all of the job candidates. Their resumes made it through the filtering method used by recruiters. Their applications and resumes demonstrated that they met the minimum qualifications. While some employers will consider applicants who don't meet all of the qualifications, most employers will use minimum qualifications, such as education level, to filter out candidates. Minimum qualifications do not always get the interview though! Their resumes were probably also written with Search Engine Optimization (SEO) in mind, meaning they most closely matched the keywords entered into the talent management system, or the resumes most closely matched the job posting.
SEO is useful for making your resume competitive in a computerized environment. It increases your chance of getting noticed on various job boards like Monster, Indeed, and LinkedIn. You may apply for business analyst positions, but unless your resume actually says "business analyst" on it, recruiters probably will not see it. If you apply for a social media marketing position, your resume should also include the social media platforms and software that the employer uses. Tailor your resume for each job posting.
Many jobs are posted online for two to four weeks. Take advantage of this time to properly follow up with a recruiter after submitting the application. Ask if there is any other information you can provide to help them determine your qualifications for the position. Submitting your application early can give you a competitive advantage, but you may need to follow-up to give your resume a second chance and sell yourself.
Recruiters use different resources for finding job candidates. They may use their own applicant tracking system, LinkedIn, or any other job board. Each resource's search function may work differently, but SEO is certainly useful for increasing the likelihood that your resume will be seen.
Recruiters spend an average of 6 seconds scanning a resume.
The number of resumes that make it through the talent management system could still be overwhelming. Whether someone views your resume could come down to something as simple as the luck of the draw. A recruiter could take a thick stack of resumes, divide it in two, and toss one pile into the trash. The remaining resumes will be quickly reviewed to determine which will get further attention. This is when design and formatting are most important.
A well-designed resume will naturally draw the recruiter's eye to the key elements the recruiter is searching for. It will have a nice balance of content and white space—there will be no empty half-pages or large chunks of text. Most importantly, it will be visually appealing and professional, preferably with a splash of color, so that the recruiter's curiosity will be drawn into this resume that looks different from everyone else's. Such a resume might also be pulled out of the trash.
Many job seekers worry when their resume is condensed down to one page that does not give a detailed life history, but the shortened, well-organized resumes that tell recruiters exactly what they need to know are more likely to prompt a phone call for an interview. Large paragraphs of text are overwhelming. Choose the most relevant information, create STAR statements (Situation/Task-Action-Result), and create bullet points that begin with action verbs.
Comma use for anything but lists is usually a sign that a sentence can be written more smoothly and actively. Most people write complex sentences containing multiple prepositional phrases and passive verb usage, which makes it very difficult for a recruiter to understand what he or she is reading during that six-second resume review. What's worse is that these complex sentences often contain no real content. These cumbersome resumes are tossed out.
Reserve some resume sections for listing skills such as "Project Management, Public Speaking, Event Planning, Case Management." Resume headings are keyword opportunities, so replace "Work History" with more descriptive headings such as "Business Analyst Experience," "Marketing Experience," "Project Management Skills," or "Engineering Experience."
76% of resumes are thrown out because of unprofessional email addresses.
Successful job searching is largely about overcoming prejudices and misconceptions. One common misconception is that an email provider says a lot about a person's computer competency. Some brilliant, highly-experience, and adaptable IT professionals still have Hotmail accounts, yet Hotmail is often viewed by recruiters as antiquated. Some people are shocked that AOL is still around! Unfortunately, many recruiters will throw out resumes that have Hotmail and AOL addresses. You don't have to give up your precious 20-year-old Hotmail account, but opt for a more mainstream email provider for your job seeking needs. Better yet, purchase your own domain name!
Another email issue is security. My experience with Yahoo! is that it is frequently compromised. I've sent a lot of "change your password" emails to friends and family who use Yahoo! after getting spam from those accounts. You don't want a potential employer receiving malicious emails from your account.
Unprofessional usernames are entertaining, but do not project a professional image. Resumes are often thrown out for having fascinating email usernames such as "sexymanbearpig" or "ive_got_big_balls." You may really be a sexy ManBearPig or a raging AC/DC fan, but those usernames should be reserved for personal email use only. Your job search email should be professional, such as firstname.lastname@example.org. Google 's Gmail is an excellent choice that is customizable, has a user-friendly interface, and seems quite secure.
Over 90% of employers will find a candidate's social media profile.
Recruiters are on the lookout for risky behaviors that could affect work performance and tarnish the company's reputation. While it is illegal to ask certain questions in an interview, it is perfectly legal to search the Internet for publicly available information. They also want to know whether job candidates are adequately tech savvy, so the presence of social media profiles is preferred. In some professions, LinkedIn profiles are practically required. Are you current? Or have you been left behind by the electronic age?
Make sure you at least have a LinkedIn profile and that everything is properly completed using SEO. You should have a professional photo on LinkedIn. You don't have to go to a photography studio. Dress the part and have your job coach take it for you.
Be mindful of what employers view as risky behavior and minimize or eliminate photos and posts that could be used to decide against you. For example, profile and background photos are all publicly viewable on Facebook. These should not contain anything pertaining to politics, religion, alcohol, pregnancies, or anything else an employer might perceive as a possible risk. They want someone who is reliable, professional, productive, and will be at work. View your Facebook privacy settings and set them to "Friends Only," at least while you are looking for a job. You cannot control what your friends say and do, so properly adjusting your privacy settings will prevent employers from making judgments about you based on your friends.
Google your name and view everything that is about you. If something is negative or could be misconstrued, take action to remove it. If you have a criminal history and that comes up on the first page of search results, create social media accounts with your full name. These will often push down the negative and less popular content. This is when it is fortunate to have a common name. Searching for common names often brings up pages about doctors and other professionals, which pushes down content about you.
7 Job Search Tips
- Network! Let friends, family, and acquaintances know that you are seeking work.
- Develop strong professional relationships with those who can refer you to employers. Be reliable, positive, and gracious.
- Follow-up with employers after you apply for jobs. Ask them if there is any other information you can provide to help them determine your qualifications for the position.
- Create a professional, well-designed resume that implements SEO and STAR.
- Give your resume the 6-second test. Tell friends and family to play the part of recruiter and give them the minimum qualifications they should search for, such as a B.S. in Organizational Management, five years of management experience, and knowledge of Microsoft Office. They should be able to quickly and easily find this information.
- If you don't already have one, create professional email account. Gmail is a good choice.
- Make sure you have a social media presence, especially on LinkedIn, ensure that there are not photos or posts that might lead an employer to exclude you has a candidate, and search for your name on Google to see if there are any questionable results that need to be corrected.
Job Seeking Assistance
Enlisting the services of a career professional may help you overcome job seeking challenges. A professional resume writer will write a great resume that is rich in SEO and supported with STAR statements. This professionally designed resume will meet the six-second challenge with an easy-to-read format and an aesthetically pleasing format so employers can assess your qualifications with a glance.
Interview coaching teaches you how to identify the motive behind a question and how to answer it. It covers standard interview questions, behavioral-based interview questions (STAR), difficult questions about your history, and industry questions.
Interview coaching is often a process of self-discovery that results in easier and more confident interviewing. Many job seekers do not understand the value they bring to a company. An employer creates a position because there is a need. Most positions affect other people in the company, and identifying this network and how a job contributes to it is a very successful method for interviewing. Understanding how a job fits into a company prepares the job seeker to answer almost any interview question.
A career planner and job coach will help you identify a good career fit and your goals based on your strengths and weaknesses, likes and dislikes, and aptitude. Career planning and job coaching also consider skill building and education when creating your plan. Your job coach will help you navigate the job market and maximize the use of your job search tools.
The job market is quite competitive. Technology had streamlined the application and selection process, but it is not fool-proof. Rising above the competition to show that you are qualified and truly the best person for the job requires solid personal marketing plan. Partner with a career development facilitator to create your personal brand today!
About the Author
Diane Ursu is a writer and career coach based in Metro Detroit. She writes about employment and business strategies, recreation, health, and culture. She is a United States Army Veteran and an MBA Candidate at Northwood University. She earned a Bachelor of Science in Organizational Management from Spring Arbor University and an Associate of Applied Science in Diagnostic Medical Sonography (Ultrasound) from Baker College of Owosso. She lives in Wixom with her dachshund, Coriander, and enjoys business, cycling, cooking, and wine tasting.