5 Ways to Give your Résumé a Makeover
(This is from an article just published by CareerBuilder.com and MSN.
We were among the resume experts from around the U.S. who were interviewed.)
Fashion and what’s in style change over time—and so should your résumé. What may have been a trendy way to format five or 10 years ago could now be considered outdated. And with technology changing how jobs are found and applied for, being current is more crucial to your job search than ever. Whether you’re just putting together your résumé or feel like your job search is in a rut, take the time to update your résumé’s look with these five tips.
1. Swap out-dated categories for modern information
Résumés used to serve as a very different form of introduction than today. While hiring managers used to wonder who you were and what you were looking for, as well as if anybody could vouch for you, today’s hiring process is much more streamlined. “Today, like the understanding of the unspoken objective, everyone knows that a job candidate will provide references when and if they advance to the next stage of the hiring process,” says Karen Southall Watts, business coach, consultant and author.
Instead, find a way to use your résumé’s valuable space more wisely. “The top third of your résumé is prime real estate and should not be home to something as obvious and outdated as an objective statement,” says Watts. “The reader already knows you are looking for a job like the one advertised. It’s better to put a personal branding statement or skills summary in this key area.” Below your contact information, write a short summary of your achievements, years of experience and highlight your skills.
2. Use the latest technology to your advantage
When designing your résumé, keep in mind both who and what will be receiving it. Bruce Blackwell, managing partner of Career Strategies Group in White Plains, NY, says, “Rule number one is to keep your design simple! Make sure it is compatible with the résumé database programs used by employers and recruiters. Called applicant tracking systems, these programs electronically ‘read’ incoming résumés, parse their keywords and slot them into a database file. Résumés with headers on the name and address lines, with bullet points in the contact area, with fancy lines and other graphic effects, often cannot be read and end up in the garbage.”
Having more than one format of your résumé is crucial to your search. Watts says, “There should be a résumé that works no matter where you need it to go: A printed paper version for traditional employers, a PDF version that can be scanned and a hyperlinked version that ties to samples of your work or your social media links.”
3. Skip the buzzwords and instead give specific results
Instead of describing yourself as the most hard-working, creative, talented team-player, quantify your success and include achievements in your work experience section. Michelle Proehl, president of Slate Advisers in Sunnyvale, CA, says, “Emphasize specific actions and the results achieved. For instance, saying that you ‘Identified $1M in administrative cost savings that enabled the sales team to add headcount’ is far more powerful than ‘Conducted analysis of division financial plan and budget.’”
Abby Kohut, human resources executive, recruiter and author of “Abby’s 101 Job Search Secrets,” says, “Avoid buzzwords designed to sweeten your résumé, but don’t really hold any meaning. With more companies relying on computers to vet résumés before sending to hiring managers, it’s crucial to weave the appropriate keywords into your résumé and professional online profiles. Learn the difference between a buzzword and a keyword, and your résumé will rise to the top on the stack.”
4. Give context to your experience
While you may know what your past places of employment did or believe a company name is big enough to be recognized, hiring managers may not. Jon Mazzocchi, partner and general manager in the accounting and finance search division at WinterWyman, a recruitment firm in Waltham, MA, says it’s crucial to give context to your past employment and what the business did. “Even if the hiring manager is familiar with your past employers, it is a good idea to point out the similarities between those companies and the one you hope to join. Similarities in size, culture, and industry definitely help.”
5. Give every detail a professional polish
To avoid quickly being discarded, triple-check your résumé for errors and be sure you’re presenting yourself as a professional. When it comes to getting in touch with you, Watts says it’s important to give multiple contact methods. “It’s highly unlikely that HR is going to send you a letter in the mail. Your résumé should include a phone number, an email, your social media links if you use them professionally and your website if you have one.” Laurie Morse-Dell, personal branding coach in Bismarck, ND, adds, “Make sure you have a professional email address. If your email is or could be perceived as vulgar, cutesy, juvenile or cheesy, get a new one.”
Most importantly, your résumé and all content included should recommend you as a qualified candidate for the job who exudes professionalism and capability. By taking the time to put your best résumé forward, you’re sure to create a great first impression.
Hard job search facts of life learned by Dewey associates
Even if you are from a top law school and global law firm, winning in today’s marketplace takes more than just good credentials – it takes good marketing.
That lesson has become painfully clear to the many Associates and Of Counsel at Dewey LeBoeuf who have still not landed jobs following the collapse of that once-great law firm earlier this year. The powers-who-once-were at Dewey sponsored a job search seminar for their former colleagues in New York City last week. I was among a few career professionals who were asked to be panelists.
Differentiating yourself from other attorneys with similar experience, and getting past the obvious job search method of going online, hitting “apply” and praying, were the focus of my remarks at that panel. I addressed these topics, and more, during a formal presentation, and then spent several hours leading two different workshop groups and answering questions.
I shared the dais with Margarett Williams, an Assistant Dean of Touro Law School; Katie Calabrese of Paul Weiss’ HR Dept.; and Sheryl Odentz, an experienced law firm outplacement consultant. All are former attorneys who ultimately transitioned to the legal career counseling and human resource side. Each panelist brought a unique perspective to the presentation, and we all basically agreed with each other about how a proper job search should be done.
Showing potential employers why they should hire you vs. another attorney with similar experience, and being creative in your approach to job search by not relying on online postings and recruiters, are concepts that are valuable, if not critical, for all job seekers, young and old alike.
In a competitive market where the supply of qualified attorneys is greater than the demand for them – both in-house and in law firms – competing successfully requires a competitive edge, and breaking away from the clutter of the hundreds, if not thousands, of resumes that are received for jobs posted on the internet.
Even for cream-of-the-crop candidates like those from a great firm like Dewey LeBoeuf, applying the same old job search methods that everyone else is using is just not enough anymore.
I was pleased to be able to share my expertise with these young (and some not so young) attorneys, and would welcome the opportunity of doing so for you. Please feel free to give me a call so that we can talk about your career situation and how I may be able to help you.
Think recruiters can help you? Think again!
This is the toughest job market in 75 years, yet (allegedly) intelligent attorneys are being just plain stupid when it comes to their job search strategies.
If they want to remain ignorant fools, that’s their business – they can stay miserable in their jobs or watch themselves sink slowly into insolvency because they can’t find other work. Hopefully you are not like these poor schnooks — if you are smart enough to be reading this, then perhaps you really do want to make a positive change in your career.
I am a legal recruiter and job search coach who has talked with about 1,000 lawyers a year for the last 20+ years. Most of these attorneys are clueless about what recruiters can do for them. They don’t have faintest idea about what constitutes a “recruitable” candidate.
What I am about to tell you does not apply to executive recruiters, but most certainly does apply to legal recruiters. Go to Lawjobs.com or any other job site for lawyers, spend five minutes reading the postings, and you will see that what I am telling you is true.
In my practice, we started as career counselors, and eventually added recruiting to our services. As with any legal recruiters, we get 20-30% of a candidate’s first year salary as our fee. If you are in the $125,000 range and we place you, we will receive from $25,000 to $37,500. If we were to work with you on career testing and assessment to identify your career options, we would receive from $1,300 to $2,900 for the testing and evaluation, depending upon how many hours were involved in your testing program.
I am not stupid. Don’t you think I would rather make $25,000 for putting in the 20 to 30 hours so hours it would take me to find, screen and submit a candidate, than to make less than $3,000 for spending 12-14 hours on a career counseling case? Hello?
However, most of the people who call us are not recruitable candidates. We are able to help the few who are, and they make it economically possible for us to continue as counselors for those who are not. Truth be known, we actually prefer the counseling side so we are happy with this arrangement.
Here are the realities of the legal recruiting profession.
1. Legal recruiters are used by firms and companies to find candidates who exactly match the specifications of an open job, and who have the requisite practice area skills and experience. Recruiters will not submit, for example, a plaintiff’s personal injury attorney for a commercial litigation position.
2. The prime market for legal recruiters is young lawyers with from 1 to 6 years of experience. Once you have crossed the 7th or 8th year mark, you are no longer considered “recruitable.”
3. Notwithstanding the foregoing, if you are beyond your 7th or 8th year, you can be recruitable IF you have a verifiable book of portable business. Depending upon where you live, this typically means $175,000 to $1 million.
4. The term “top academics” will appear in many recruiter ads. This means 1) top 10% or 15% of your law school class and 2) Top 10, 15 or 20 law school. If you were in the very top of your class – I mean, first, second or third — at a lesser ranked law school, you may also be considered.
5. Age matters in legal recruiting. Discrimination is, in fact, legal. A recruiter friend of mine who wanted my help in finding a candidate told me they wanted someone from the class of 2006, 2007 or 2009. “What about 2008”, I asked. “Oh no, no 2008s. They don’t have any slots for an ’08,” I was told.
6. Recruiters do not handle many in-house jobs. Two recent studies have shown that only 5% of in-house positions are filled by recruiters. Companies do not want to spend money on recruiters unless they have to. Nearly all law firm lawyers would prefer to go in-house. There is an oversupply of willing candidates that a company can attract without spending tens of thousands of dollars on recruiting fees.
7. When recruiters do get in–house assignments, it is almost always for an attorney with very specific skill sets in a particular discipline: SEC ’34 and ’36 Act, ERISA, pharmaceutical patents, FCC regulations and so on. They seldom use recruiters to find generalists.
8. Most often when a legal recruiter does get an in-house assignment, the hiring company wants a candidate with prior in-house experience. I think this is stupid, quite frankly, but it is what it is. As a career counselor, I once helped a law firm attorney land a position as a corporate general counsel. He then hired me as a recruiter to help staff his legal department. Like so many others, he only wanted attorneys with in-house experience. “But Bill,” I said, “you didn’t have any in-house experience when they hired you.” “Yes,” he replied, “but that was different.” OK, sure.
9. Recruiters are salespeople who are only interested in getting a fee. They do not care about your best interests, they care about their bank accounts. There is nothing wrong with this! They are paid to find people to fill positions. If you match one of their open positions, recruiters will try to get you to accept a job that you don’t really want so they can earn a commission. You are just a fee to them.
10. If you are at a career crossroads and are not sure what you want to do next professionally, recruiters cannot help you. Recruiters are not career counselors. They are not schooled in career assessment. They are not marketing professionals or trained resume writers. Most legal recruiters – in fact, every legal recruiter I have ever met – are former attorneys. They are deal-makers who try to find candidates who match an employer’s job specification.
Like many lawyers, you probably want to see “what else is out there” for you that is not another law firm job, that frees you from the nastiness of litigation and billable hours requirements, and that provides a more collegial atmosphere, better quality of life, and a consistent income. If you expect to achieve this through a legal recruiter, then good luck! I wish you all possible success. Stranger things have happened and you might get lucky – but probably not.
As an attorney, you are smart enough not to take on cases outside of your area of legal expertise; you refer the case to other lawyers who are more qualified in that area than you. Don’t expect legal recruiters to give you good counsel and assistance on issues that are not within their practice areas and which are outside their expertise.
WILL YOUR RESUME BE LOST IN A BLACK HOLE?
If it is not ATS-friendly, your resume is killing your chances for a new job. You are missing out on good opportunities simply because the hiring firm can’t find your resume — even though you sent it to them!
Technology has changed the way incoming resumes are processed. Most employers and recruiters use ATS, or Applicant Tracking Software, to automatically “read” a resume and slot information into a database.
In many cases, human beings don’t even see the incoming resumes, which go directly from an email in-box to an ATS to the database.
To be effective today, a resume needs design that is compatible with the leading ATS systems. Some of the resume templates in Microsoft Word, while visually appealing, cannot be properly scanned by an ATS. The use of headers for the name and address fields can also be a BIG mistake, because some systems can’t “see” the headers; in such cases, your name and contact information will be missing when your resume is printed out. Your resume will get deep-sixed. Next candidate, please!
Companies today are receiving 500 or more resumes for a single posting. Large recruiting firms and major corporations often report receiving 5,000 or more resumes per week! We recently received 148 resumes in less than an hour after posting a position on a job board. It would take a large team of people to process and properly categorize such a large volume of resumes, hence the need for ATS systems, which “read” your resume and put information about your academics, class years, honors, practice areas and so on into nice, neat, searchable slots. If the company is looking for a products liability litigator with asbestos and firearms experience, from the classes of 2007 to 2010, with moot court experience, it can do a search via its ATS system and identify candidates is less time than it has taken you to read this sentence.
It is a good idea to have an “ATS-friendly” version of your resume for replying to on-line postings, but also a well-designed, fully formatted version for use in regular mailings and interviews.
The march of technology is impacting job search at an incredible rate. I was at a webinar this week
on the use of QR symbols in resumes, which is going to be the coming thing. The QR symbols, which are now starting to appear in print ads, are read by smart phones and take the reader to on-line sites. In the case of resumes, the QR coding will lead the recruiter to the candidate’s Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn accounts and personal website.
If you do not have this type of on-line presence, you had better get with the program, and soon!
The only thing certain about job search is that the old ideas and methods will not produce new jobs today.
If you are an attorney looking for an in-house position, the competition is ferocious. It always has been. The quality of the people who are competing for in-house jobs is also extremely high.
In order to prevail over the competition, you need to be doing several things. Here is a quick check list of questions to ask yourself about your job search campaign.
1) Have you identified your Unique Selling Proposition? What makes you a better candidate than someone with like kind and quality of experience? If you do not have a clear “brand strategy,” your search will take much longer. You will miss out on interviews for jobs you could have won.
2) Do you have a well-defined Marketing Plan? Have you identified your target market, the people who can hire you, the companies where you best fit, and the information sources you need to stay current about changes affecting your potential employers? Have you established a specific methodology for your campaign? If you have not, you are trusting to luck.
3) Are you being creative in your approach to the job market? If you are merely posting your resume on job boards, responding to advertised positions on the internet, talking with recruiters and doing some networking, you are taking necessary steps. But, you are also doing what everyone else is doing! Even worse, you are missing out on literally 80% of the available positions, since that is the percentage of jobs filled each year that are not posted on the internet or listed with recruiters.
4) Do you have a strategy for reaching the Hidden Job Market? Since most of the available positions are not advertised or listed with recruiters, you will need more than old-fashioned networking to reach into this “hidden” market. There are many job search tools available if you look for them and know how to use them. (Part 1 of our “Innovative vs. Traditional Job Search webinar” lists 8-10 lead sources. How many can you name?) Knowledge is power. How knowledgeable are you about job search?
5) Does your resume show your accomplishments, or simply your practice areas? Your competitors have had essentially the same duties and experiences that you have had. What makes you more attractive than they are? If your resume isn’t showing results you have produced, you are under-representing yourself.
6) Do you have a compelling telephone introduction when calling the people who can hire you? If your plan for calling the hiring executives is simply to ask if they have seen your resume and would they like to meet you, your chances of arranging an interview are minimal.
7) Do you have a plan for reaching companies that are passively seeking candidates? Many organizations are thinking about adding to staff or replacing an out-of-favor attorney, but haven’t pulled the trigger yet on that process. Reaching organizations when new jobs are in the formative stage is a great way to pre-empt your competitors.
If you have (honestly) answered “yes” to these seven questions, then we applaud you and you probably don’t need us. But if you have answered “no” to even one or two of these questions, then you are likely to be spending a lot longer on your job search than you need to or want to.
We have guided about 2,000 senior lawyers through successful job search campaigns. Perhaps we can do the same for you.