Tag Archives: resume

Resume Tips from Career and Resume Expert, Cliff Flamer

9 Apr


Imagine standing in line with over 500 other people, trying to get noticed. How would you stand out? I know a crazy costume or megaphone comes to mind, but what if you were all wearing black and white? As crazy as this seems, it’s what’s happening everyday when we apply for jobs. With the unemployment rate at an all-time high, more and more people are competing for the few positions out there. But before you can even get into have an interview, you have to pass the resume test, so how do you make yours stand out from the rest of the stack?

After asking around in person, Facebook, and Twitter, I found that most of us have the same major questions when it comes to Resumes.  Lucky for us, Cliff Flamer, resume writer, job search coach, and Executive Director of BrightSide Resumes agreed to answer these questions. With a masters degree in Career and College Counseling, and a previous recruiter in the Silicon Valley, he has indisputable knowledge to share:

Let’s start with the most common Resume question: Should the resume fit on 1 page or go to 2?

[Cliff Flamer] Ah yes…the eternal question. For recent grads to mid-level professionals I suggest 1 page. Also, career changers often benefit from a 1-pager; it helps them to avoid seeming overqualified with all the wrong qualifications. If you must go for 2 pages (and some recent grads certainly have the experience to warrant this), make sure page 1 is enough to sell you in itself. (Check out his post on this topic here)

What is your biggest resume pet-peeve?

[Cliff Flamer] Flowery language that doesn’t say anything. Here’s an example: Multifaceted business professional well-versed in developing influential relationships with key decision-makers integral to the inner workings of the prosperity of multi-million dollar organizations that…Blah blah blah. Even professional résumé writers turn out this kind of rigamarole. It may be impressive to English majors but not to hiring managers. (I’m an English major by the way.)

What is the biggest mistake you see on resumes?

[Cliff Flamer] Including generic job descriptions instead of quantified accomplishment statements. If you’ve read even one book on résumé writing, you’ve heard this before but it’s still where most people err. You’re unique, so too should be your résumé. The easiest way to accomplish this is to show the impact of what you do. In other words, what do you see happening as a result of your efforts. For example, anyone can Market products but how successful are YOU at doing this and what approach do YOU take?

With the millions of people applying for the few jobs that are out there, how can you make your resume stand out from the rest?

[Cliff Flamer] You’re going to hate the answer to this but…it depends. There is no silver bullet with résumés but following the above advice about accomplishment statements is a good beginning. That and a clean, sharp format. Never, never underestimate an easy-to-read format. White space is your friend.

A question that has come up a lot is, whether or not you should put your objective on your resume, and change for each position you apply to. Do you think you should?

[Cliff Flamer] I’ve definitely heard this one before. Personally, I think Objective Statements are outdated, just like serif fonts and aol accounts. That said, you absolutely must make 2 things crystal clear within the first 5-10 lines of the résumé:

-What job/industry/functional area of company are you shooting for; and
-Why are you qualified to do it

This can be handled in tons of ways, depending on what experience you have. For recent grads, you can start with your Education. For people currently doing the work they want to do in their next position, you can get right into experience, especially if the job titles match. For someone with a lot of experience or irrelevant recent experience, consider building an introductory section that highlights you relevant skills outside the context of the job you used them in. In Résumé Speak, this is called using a combination format; it’s by the far the most popular format of all professional résumé writers. The word “combination” refers to combining a lengthy skills summary with a subsequent (detailed) chronological work history.

With, a few years of actual experience out of college, how many jobs should you put on your resume (ie. highschool/college part time jobs)? How far back would you recommend going?

[Cliff Flamer] I just worked with a client today who has her Spelling Bee Championship from Middle School on her résumé. And you know what? It’s a darn good idea. As long as it’s not the centerpiece of her résumé (or education section), this award could serve as a hook in that your interviewers might want to “use it” to break the ice or start a “get to know you question.” The other benefit is by saying she was in the spelling bee, you can infer that she had a pretty good work ethic way way back. I mean, how many spelling bee renegades do you know?

The point of my story is go back as far as you need to to dig up relevant or interesting work experience. And don’t be shy about coming out and saying you did something in high school or during the summer before Freshman year of college. Give the accomplishment context so it’s clear you’re not trying to over inflate. Also, it’s always impressive to mention that you worked your way through college or held a part-time retail gig while in school.

In terms of the number of jobs you should put, I’d only limit the amount if you have tons of short-lived positions in your work history. Pick out the jobs you liked or that are most relevant to your new target job, being careful about leaving gaps of more than 6 months between positions.

What about job gaps? Would you recommend taking something small, in the meantime and if so should you include this on your resume?

[Cliff Flamer] The criteria for a job gap is changing. I think it’s okay to have “job gaps” of 3-6 months on your résumé. Honestly, that’s how long a job search can take! But once you’re out of school and out in the workforce, anything over 6 months and especially over a year needs to be addressed.

Again, take the direct route. I worked on a résumé a few days ago for an Operations Manager who took off about a year and a half handling family crises. During this time, she picked up a very simple office manager job (just a few hours here and there). Our solution to this “gap” was to be open and honest about why she took the cut in responsibility. Here is the exact quote from her résumé:

“Accepted temporary office position to keep skills polished while handling a string of family emergencies, offering ongoing support and counsel to each of the partners at this niche-market real estate firm.”

We went easy on the bullet points and just moved on to the next job. That way, we filled the gap and she still comes out smelling like roses. Seriously, who’s going to fault someone for continuing to work while taking care of their family?

What advice would you give to recent grads as they start their job search?
[Cliff Flamer] Create your own luck. Acknowledge the fact that even the best planned job search is no match for happenstance. I got a job at a community college career center from going to an Oakland As game. Make opportunities like this happen to you by getting out there in anyway you can: Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook will hook you up online but also consider volunteering, attending a conference, emailing a book author, going to church, interviewing a friend of a friend….Build a space where opportunity can flourish.

We appreciate Cliff taking the time to answer these questions for us! Be sure to check out his company, BrightSide Resumes, and award-winning blog for more expert advice.


How Long Should You Stay at a Job?

27 Oct

How long should you stay at your job for? I’ve been thinking about this question a lot lately. I’ve heard it all from, “Life’s too short to stay at a job if you’re not happy” to “Stay at least three to five years.” I know it looks bad if you change positions too often. If I was hiring someone for a position, and saw a resume filled with 6 month job positions, I’d be worried they’d do the same to me. But, if you took a position you aren’t happy with, should you be forced to stay to improve your resume?

After doing a lot of thinking on this, I realized the solution: Take longer to choose a job, and you won’t find yourself in this situation. True, there really is no way of knowing exactly what a position will be like until you take it. However, instead of rushing into a job once it’s offered, take awhile to really think about the job description, read the employee manual, ask people who have worked there, and think about how it will help fulfill your life goals. Looking back at the positions I had for less than 6 months, I don’t blame myself for leaving too soon, I blame myself for jumping into the positions too soon. In fact, I think I stayed at most of them a lot longer than I should have.

 Before you sign on the line, make sure your vision of what your job responsibilities will be, is in line with what the person hiring you envisions. Be specific, and if two months down the line you find yourself doing things that are not even close to what you were promised, let your boss know. Nicely bring up the fact that you, when choosing the position, were told you’d be doing something different. They may have forgotten that you were promised these responsibilities and appreciate you being honest with them. If they deny what they originally agreed upon, and make it clear these will never be your job responsibilities, it’s probably time to move on. 

Ask yourself, “Is this a Job I can see myself doing for awhile and being happy with?” If not, then, “Is the job at least giving me the necessary experience and knowledge for the position I’d like to eventually have?” If it isn’t, then grab your monogrammed mug, bamboo desk plant and find another job that will make you happy. I don’t believe in quitting, but I think quitting can also mean staying at a job you aren’t satisfied with, because you don’t think you deserve better.

Top Ten “Must-do” Things after Graduation

20 Oct

1. Learn To Cook: In all honesty, I have no idea what I ate in college. Probably because I was usually too hungover to eat anything other than pizza, mexican food, or hamburgers. Between racing to class, my dwindling bank account and the Decrepit state of our kitchen from the late night parties, cooking was not something I did often let alone think about. This is why after graduating, and settling in your own apartment, cooking is more of a possibility. In fact, after a long day at work it can even be relaxing, and a great way to bring friends together and meet new people. Browse your nearest bookstore for tips on cooking on a budget, and easy to prepare meals. 

2. Volunteer: You’ve heard it said before, ” If you don’t stand for something you’ll fall for anything.” Well, this is your opportunity to stand for something. Volunteering is a great way to become involved in your new community after graduation, meet people, stay busy, and spend your free time making a difference.

3. Travel: Remember when you were younger, and the feeling you got when you sprinted out on Christmas morning and saw the brand new bicycle with a huge bow on it from Santa? Well, that is the feeling you get once you have accrued enough vacation days at work to actually go somewhere. Take advantage of the time after college, when you aren’t bound to your class schedule or sick days. Grab your backpack, a close friend and go somewhere you’ve always wanted. Trust me, once you start your new job you won’t have this luxury. 

4. Meet with a Financial Advisor: The first thing you should do after college (now that Mom and Dad aren’t helping out with rent) is to sit down with a financial advisor at your bank. They will help you open your own bank account (if you haven’t already), start a savings plan, and improve your credit. 

5. Exercise: The easily accessible candy bowl/ nervous snacking/tired after work/sitting in front of a computer all day/free food in the kitchen/fully stocked cafeteria- pounds can sneak up on you after college. Join a gym, take a walk/run or hike to de-stress and look as great as you did before the Freshman 15.  

6. Find and Cultivate a Hobby: Sorry, but “going out with Friends” does not count as a Hobby, although most of us wish it did. After graduating, and starting your 9-5 job, find something that relaxes you and that you love doing. Take up a sport (running, biking, soccer etc), do something creative (sew, knit, paint, draw) or learn an instrument. Doing so will take your mind off of the busy workday, and the stress of figuring out your future.

7. Read: “You always want what you can’t have.” In college, this was the luxury to read a book for fun and not be thinking in the back of my mind, “What are you doing reading Harry Potter?! You have 400 pages of your biology book to read by tomorrow!” Now that your text books have hit the bonfire (or even better a used textbook site), read read read. And not just books, reading the newspaper, news sites, and articles will keep you informed of current events, and give you something to talk about with coworkers and friends. 

8. Update Your Resume: Now that you are graduated and are applying for full time positions, it’s time to make your resume more professional. Have your friends and family review it and give suggestions, and buy books to help you perfect it. Move that education section to the bottom, and the experience to the top- you are now a working professional. It’s important to have your resume, edited and ready to go at all times, maybe even carry a copy with you as you search for a job. It sounds nerdy I know, but you’ll thank me if you run into Steve Jobs at Starbucks. 

9. Drink Responsibly: Your body can’t handle the keggers, binge drinking and thursday night 2 for 1 specials anymore. Instead, have one or two drinks with dinner and sip don’t gulp. As you start your professional career, you don’t want to be seen around town acting like a frat boy at a Journey concert. And Let’s be honest, who wants to be the talk of the water cooler? 

10. Save a Little Money Each Week: If you are like me and struggle to meet rent every month on your entry- level salary, you may be wondering how this is possible. Really, putting aside 100 dollars a month (25 a week) is pretty reasonable for most people. You may have to stay in a night or two, or skip a shopping trip to do so, but it’s worth it in the long run. This is especially important with the state the economy is in right now. Lets say you put 100 dollars in your savings for 12 months. If the unthinkable happens, and you lose your job, you will have enough money to pay rent for a short while while you look for another job. 

Bonus #11: Vote!! It can be tough to vote in college, as you change residence often and have difficulty imagining life outside of your college bubble. But as you enter the real world, you start to see the policies you previously didn’t think twice about, affecting you. Get out there and register.

Tips for Writing a Cover letter: A Brief Intro

5 May

If you don’t think a cover letter is important, imagine this situation: You walk up to a person you have never met before at a party and randomly start talking about yourself. The person is probably going to be a little confused and wonder, ” Wait this person is interesting.. but who are they, and what is their connection to me? A better approach (and one you probably do) is first introduce yourself (your name.. how you know the party hostess.. why you are approaching them (could be simple as “I haven’t met you before”) and THEN you can begin telling them about all of the wonderful volunteer work, and jobs you have done! Okay maybe you wouldn’t go that far.. but you are getting my point. Introductions are a necessary part of our everyday lives, and this is why a cover letter is so important. It is a way of introducing yourself to the company and giving them incentive to look at your resume. Imagine receiving a resume without one. You might think,  “Wow this person is very experienced and seems like a great fit for this position, but who are they and why do they want this specific job at our company? ” 

There are many great books and website out there that have very helpful tips for writing an amazing cover letter. Before you begin, here are some tips to get you in line for an interview (instead of the paper shredder)

Have a great opening line: If you are applying for a good position (esp if you are using craigslist) chances are the person is reading a lot of applications besides yours. Grab their attention immediately and either mention a name who referred you, or connect to a common experience. Think of it like the conversation described above. When you meet someone and you both have a friend in common, it sparks conversation and keeps you both interested. 

Briefly Summarize your experience: Your resume will have this in detail, but using two or three relevant qualifications/experiences  will lure them in. For example, let them know a skill you posses, a time you used it and why that was unique. A lot of people might have “excellent communication skills” but using them to coordinate multiple events, and write excellent media briefs at your internship with NBC, is sure to grab their attention. Remember keep it short and sweet. 

Make a Powerful Closing: If you are saying goodbye to someone you just met and are interested in, chances are you aren’t going to end the convo with a simple  “Bye see you later!” Always indicate that you wish to have further follow- up and look forward to meeting with them in person. 

Address it to a specific person:  Addressing your cover letter to the specific person reading it, is always more personal and effective than a simple ” To Whom it May Concern.” This may require some detective work, but this is well worth it, whether it be through Google or contacting the company directly.

Proof-Read!!!!! Ask any hiring manager, and they will give you countless stories where people made some pretty big goof-ups on their cover letters. ” Enclosed is a ruff draft of my resume,” and, “Thank you for your consideration. Hope to hear from you shorty!” are great ways to get your cover letter passed around the office, but not for the reason you intended. Always read it several times and have someone else review it as well for errors. 

Avoid using a generic cover letter. If you are applying to a bunch of different places, it might seem tiring to have to write a unique cover letter each time. However, each company and position is different. If you are applying to similar positions, some of your letter may stay the same, however you should take the time to research each company and position, and make each cover letter unique.