December 5, 2008
Tailor résumés to catch the eye
The Associated Press
NEW YORK — Larry O'Toole worked as a legal assistant before switching to sales a few years ago. But he'd really like to work in a corporate training department.
The New Rochelle, N.Y., resident left his last sales job at a small manufacturer of industrial products in July. "All the work was done on the phone," he said. "I was not out selling the product itself. It just wasn't the (type of) sales I was hoping to do."
He's worked with a career coach, joined a public-speaking group to sharpen his presentation skills and spends time each day searching for work, but has not had any interviews in his new field of choice.
O'Toole believes the skills he's developed in prior jobs qualify him to do something like in-house corporate training, but his résumé does not show experience in the profession. So he faces a question common for those attempting to switch professions at mid-career — how to get noticed when applying.
An important step is to tailor his résumé to fit the criteria for jobs he's targeting.
"Your goal with any résumé creation today is to get the interview, and then in the interview you can tell your story," said Eric Winegardner, a vice president at Monster Worldwide Inc., parent of job-hunting site Monster.com.
At many companies, the first review of résumés is done electronically, because hundreds of applications are often submitted for one opening, Winegardner explained. And when companies with jobs to fill tap into a database like Monster's, they do searches through countless résumés "to try to find the perfect person in that proverbial haystack," Winegardner explained.
That means that while some mid-career professionals may remember the days when the way to get noticed was high-quality paper or a well-designed résumé, today it's more important for your résumé to contain the words or phrases targeted by impersonal software.
"You want to make sure you don't get missed accidentally, just because you didn't have a certain keyword in that electronic résumé," said Tyra Tutor, a senior vice president at MPS Group, a staffing firm based in Jacksonville, Fla.
That's not to say applicants shouldn't pay attention to the paper quality or presentation of the résumés they carry when meeting prospective employers, Tutor said. "But it's the electronic one these days that's going to get you to the interview."
For instance, she said, someone looking for a job in the technology field might pay attention to what software is mentioned in an advertisement, and if they know it, mention it by name on their résumé. "Sometimes, a recruiter may search that one software name, and if you haven't included it, maybe you get missed," she said.
Winegardner suggested looking at an advertisement as the "Cliffs Notes" for the job in question. "Those words that are on your posting are the same words that they are going to type in when they're searching through résumés."
The new résumé
Particularly for people trying to switch professions mid-career, Winegardner said it's important to approach résumé writing from a fresh perspective. A job hunter shouldn't hesitate to create multiple résumés based on what kind of job he's seeking. Each should be tailored to reflect the latest language of the field, which in some cases might require research upfront. For instance, in recruiting, the language has moved from "human resources" to "personnel" to "client capital."
Job seekers worried about too much detail should know the rule that a résumé should be one, or at the most two, pages long, doesn't apply to electronic versions posted on sites like Monster.com. "The version you create online should include all the information you need to include," Winegardner said.
Creating multiple résumés also means taking a look at your skills and experience and coming up with new ways to describe them. That doesn't, however, give license for less than the truth.
Keep it honest
"Conventional wisdom seems to be that job seekers think that employers expect a little embellishment, and that is simply not the case," said Winegardner. "Lying about one small little piece is considered grounds for termination at almost all companies."
Yet InfoCheckUSA, a company that does background checks for employers, finds widespread inaccuracies on résumés. About 10 percent of the résumés the company sees contain falsified education information, most often listing degrees earned when the applicant merely attended the school, according to Chris Dugger, InfoCheckUSA's president. About 30 percent have employment dates that are not correct, he said.
No one wants to be that one person in the job market who's lacking a credential he fears the competition may have. "But what is worse is having a job offer rescinded," Winegardner said, "or even worse, being terminated post-hire."
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