The power of targeting and alignment

September 20th, 2017

When I started JibberJobber people would ask “who is this for?”  Or, “who is your target market/audience?”

I would say, enthusiastically, “EVERYONE!!”

Of course, all job seekers should use it. That’s a no-brainer. But if you are applying to colleges and you want to keep track of those applications and follow-up, JibberJobber would be great, right?  If a grandma, far removed from her career, wants to keep track of the birthdays of her grandkids and grand-nephews and grand-neices and inlaw, etc., she could simply set up JibberJobber to get birthday reminders.

Pretty awesome, huh?

Yes, it is pretty awesome. However, in this message of “everyone” people start to hear “everyone except me, specifically, because I’m unique.”

My product was aligned towards these three groups of people (job seekers, college hopefuls, and grandmas) but my messaging started to say “we don’t focus enough on a particular problem to the point of being expert at that problem.”

And people look for the expert solution.

Last week a good friend asked me to review her resume. Ironic, because I had just written this post: “Will you review my resume?” How to Review someone’s resume

One of my questions to her was “what job is this for? What will you use this to apply to?” Her resume was general, covering what she thought was her accomplishments and skills, and it could be used to apply to a variety of jobs (kind of).  At least, it wasn’t targeting one particular job. It wasn’t “limiting” her to a job.

In short, my response was that this was a great start at creating what we call her “master resume.” A master resume has EVERYTHING on it, and can easily be pages and pages long.  You never send someone a master resume, but you use it to create a targeted resume.

Why?

Because the master resume doesn’t have the right marketing message, and we all know that a resume is a marketing document.

The master resume says “I’ve done a lot of amazing things, and I’m probably great at most things,” while the targeted resume says “I’m the right person for THIS job, and here’s proof.” You use language and substantiation that is aligned with THAT role.

I can’t overstate this enough.

Years ago, when I was in my job search (Jan 2006) I used a resume that was NOT aligned with the jobs I was applying to.  Guess how well that went?

If you want to me like me, one of the biggest job search failures, use a general purpose or “good enough for anything” resume.

If you want to land a job, make sure your resume is 100% aligned with the role you are applying to. I know it’s extra work, but it’s work that is imperative.

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“Will you review my resume?” How to Review someone’s resume

September 13th, 2017

Raise your hand if you love it when someone asks you to review their resume.  Me neither.

It’s not my thing. I don’t have the brain to go into the detail on something like that… maybe it’s just that I don’t want to be your eleventh grade English teacher… maybe it’s because resumes are boring… maybe it’s just because I’m not nice.

Or, perhaps I assume that what you are really saying is “take my resume and you’ll be so impressed, you’ll feel obligated to send it to a bunch of people at your work, or in your network…!”

Okay, all of those excuses are my problem. The truth is, if you are a close friend I’ll definitely check out your resume. However, I also send you to some other resources who are much, much, much more qualified than I am to review your resume.

Having said that, if you ever feel like you should, could, or want to review someone’s resume, here’s my primer on what to look for.  I’m no expert, so take it for what it’s worth.

Proofread: You are looking for typos and grammar. I look for consistency in periods at the end of the bullets. I hate it when you have a bulleted list and some lines have a period while others don’t. Aside from that you are looking for any typo (too easy to do, hard for the job seeker to find), or grammar that just doesn’t make sense. Also, look for a strong action verbs at the beginning of each bullet, and consistency on each bullet with these verbs.

Messaging: What is the primary, main message the resume conveys?  Is that aligned with the role they are applying to? This is critical. If someone wants to list their entire history, but only 30% of it is relevant to what they are looking for, their resume will not be effective. A resume is not a brag sheet… it’s a marketing document. Make sure the marketing message is the right message for the audience and purpose.

Substance: The resume should be meaty. The reader should walk away thinking “wow, this person is qualified! They have done some great things in their career!” The easiest way to do that is by quantifying achievements… that is, are there percentages (“increase production by 400%”) or hard numbers (“decreased expenses by $200,000”)? I’m not saying that has to be on every line, but every time a resume shows a quantification it strengthens the message that you really get results.  The hiring managers wants someone who will get results (as opposed to someone who might just bring drama, be a warm body, etc.).

Story holes: After you read through the resume do you feel like something is missing? Specifically, if your friend is trying to paint a picture of their expertise, or show what they have done in the past (something that is valuable to the job they are applying to), is there a complete, compelling story? I’ve seen resumes that start to build up to a narrative and then end it at a point where I think “did you do anything? Or did you fail? I don’t get it…”  (see note below on cover letter)

Distractions: On the other end of the spectrum from story holes is having stuff that should not be there. Is there information about roles that is better suited for a different job? In other words, perhaps your friend worked as a gear head at one company, but they are applying as an analyst at another company. They need to bring out skills that an analyst has or needs… don’t talk about the screwdrivers they were so good at. Instead, talk about how they analyzed screwdriver brands, quality, etc. to pick the best screwdriver for the job.  Think: transferable skills. Again, this isn’t about listing all the stuff they have done (brag sheet), rather it is about showing they have the skills and experience to do the job they are applying to. If something does not support their main message, or show they are qualified for the job they are applying to, take it off.

Those are the main things that I look for on a resume. It doesn’t take terribly long to do this… it’s pretty clear where a resume is missing the mark. As long as you think of a resume as a marketing piece that is trying to compel the reader to think about you differently, and not just a list of cool stuff you’ve done, you should get closer to a great resume.

Finally, let me talk about the cover letter.

I recently had a call with a recruiter who said “send me your resume, and an email with either a few paragraphs or bullet points to specifically talk about the main things my client wants.”  This is also known as a cover letter. I believe a cover letter is a “must!” A cover letter is a great complement to the resume, and can fill in some gaps that a resume just isn’t formatted to address. Like, “I’m perfect for this job because,” “I want this job because,” “Here is a little more information about your particular needs, and how I fill those needs.”

Maybe the person getting your resume should already understand that you are the best person, the right fit… but remember, they have a bunch of resumes that all kind of look the same. Writing a few paragraphs to show you are the right fit, add more information that just don’t belong on a resume, and even express enthusiasm is well worth your time.

Now you have the cheat sheet to review someone’s resume… I hope this can help you help them. If you are a resume writer who does this for a living, feel free to add your two cents in the comments!

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Five Purposes of Resume

March 31st, 2017

jacqui-barrett-poindexter_headshotJacqui Barrett-Poindexter, Master Resume Writer, wrote a great post titled I disagree with career experts who claim the resume has just one purpose.

I have heard, and have probably written about, the one purpose for a resume: to get you into an interview.  But Jacqui’s post brings up some great points.  She says the five functions of a resume, in addition to getting interviews, are:

  1. Equips interview conversations.
  2. Focuses your career message and saves you time.
  3. Conveys your value to interview committee members.
  4. Supports professional reputation.
  5. Spurs deeper interview conversations.

Check out her post for deeper thoughts on each of those.

One of the most important things to understand about a resume is that the resume writing process is a process of self-discovery, understanding what value you bring to potential companies, framing your value proposition(s) in appropriate and compelling ways, and even gaining self-confidence that is grounded in fact.

If you didn’t get any of that from your resume writing experience, you might want to call a resume professional.

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How Much Should You Pay for a Resume?

March 9th, 2017

bridget_brooksI recently saw Bridget Brooks’ blog post about this.  If you are considering paying for a resume writer, and are confused about the range of prices you are getting quoted, you really need to read her article:

“How much does a resume cost?”

Before you pay $5 for a resume (yes, really), understand what you are buying, and what you should pay.

If you are getting ready to cut a check for a few thousand dollars, make sure you are hiring the right resume writer.

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The Resume Black Hole: Disappointing Proof from CareerXroads

June 26th, 2015

In a Wall Street Journal blog post (For Job Seekers, the Black Hole Persists), there’s disappointing and perhaps disgusting proof that the resume black hole is there.  Like anyone in a job search needs to read an article to know it’s there.

But for the rest of the world… there’s no question.

Thanks to Mark Mehler and team at CareerXroads, who put together a fake resume each year and send apply for jobs at companies listed on Fortune’s “best companies to work for” list, we can see how these best companies treat applicants.

If this is how the best companies treat applicants, how do the worst companies treat applicants?

To be fair, the list is of the best companies to work for, not companies who have the best, most respectful hiring process.

Employers (should) know that if you are rude and disrespectful to a job seeker during any part of the hiring process, they remember your company and form new opinions about your products and services that run deep and stay for a long time.

Here are some highlights from the blog post:

“… his CV was loaded with the keywords needed to float to the top of today’s automated job-applicant software.” So in this test, they are playing to the ATS algorithms.  Note this is not about networking in, talking to the hiring manager, etc.  It’s all about the resume strategy, and, optimizing the resume.  Yes, do that, but also network into the company!!!

“He was also not a real person, a fact noted at the bottom of his one-page resume.”  Later in the blog post you learn that only 2 out of 100 companies spotted that.  Of course an ATS isn’t going to look for some statement that this is a fake resume, but from this might we deduct that 98% of companies have no human involvement for much of the process? Mark Mehler, founder of CareerXroads, suggests that “recruiters [only] read the first three paragraphs of a resume.”  Lesson?  Make those first three paragraphs awesome and engaging!

“…64 never sent Stein any notification that he was not being considered for the job for which he had applied.” This has bothered me for a long time.  Companies, please  give me ANY notification of a status update!!!  I know you have legal and HR breathing down your necks to say nothing, but for goodness sake, be humane!

There’s still a lot of work to do. I’m not talking about automated technology.  I’m talking about basic, respectful communication, and managing expectations.

Until that gets figured out, folks, please do not solely rely on the spray-and-pray resume blasting strategy.  No JibberJobber user should ever say “I’ve sent out 1,000 resumes and I got nothing… no leads.”  Maybe you will send out 1,000 resumes, but JibberJobber users should use a networking strategy that far outweighs any time spent sending emails and applying to jobs online.  I know it seems harder, but this is how you’ll get closer to getting your next dream job!  Make me proud!

 

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The Truth About Resume Writers

June 1st, 2015

I didn’t hire a resume writer when I was in a job search.  Why?  Because I couldn’t afford it.

And, because I was smart enough to write my own resume.  Heck, I had worked my way through a CIS degree, and an MBA, and by that point, had had a great career.  SELF MADE.  I was smart, motivated, etc.

Why should I hire someone, for hundreds of dollars, to write a one or two page resume?

One or two pages.  Bleh. I had written papers in college that were many times that length.

So I wrote my own resume, and I spun my wheels in a depressing job search, when the economy was strong.  I got nowhere.  And I didn’t understand why.

I didn’t understand that an experienced resume writer would have been able to help me understand why.

What I’ve come to learn is that a “resume writer,” many times, is much more than a resume writer.  Let me rewrite that: A resume writer is much more than a typist.

When you hire a resume writer, you are hiring someone who is in your corner, rooting for you, cheering you on, and sometimes, coaching you.  I’m not saying they are a coach, but if you email them and say “I am not getting anywhere… what am I doing wrong?”, they might put on their coaching hat and say something like “my other clients are doing this thing, have you tried that?”

If I had hired a resume writer, I know that writer would have said “Jason, you are doing this thing wrong… fix it!”

Resume writers are in the trenches with you.  And they have been in the trenches hundreds, maybe thousands, of times.  They have seen many successes, and many failures.  They learn from job seekers that have gone before you.  Many have seen the cycles of great economy/cruddy economy.  They have an understanding of the past, and a vision of the future, and can be your lighthouse helping you navigate a seemingly hopeless and dangerous journey.

Resume writers get a thrill when you email them and say you landed a job.  They share that huge win with their Facebook friends (I’m friends with many on Facebook, and see these messages shared regularly).  It’s a second payday for them.  Sure, they charge money, and they should.  This is not charity work. They are experts at what they do. More important, they bring value to you…. and they should be rewarded for that.  Their first payday is when you pay them money.  Their second payday is when you say “I landed!!”  Honestly, I’m not sure which is worth more to a resume writer.  In many cases, the second payday is more meaningful.

Think I’m blowing smoke yet?  I’m not. I know these people.  I’ve been to conferences with them. I email them.  I have broken bread with them.  They genuinely care about your success, as much as they care about being experts in their field.  They want to bring their best game to you, so you can move forward in your career.

Recently I saw a Facebook message from my friend in Wisconsin, Julie Walraven.  This message shows her passion and excitement, and level of concern that she puts into her client relationship.  This message could just have easily been shared by Charlotte Weeks in Chicago, or Adrian Kelly in Australia, or Dawn Bugni in North Carolina or Shahrzad Arasteh in Maryland or Kelly McClelland in Florida or Robyn Feldberg in Texas or Ann Brody in Chicago or Carrie Luber in New York or… the list could go on and on.  These career professionals are not mere typists (although they do that very well).  Here’s Julie’s Facebook post:

julie_walraven_resume_writer

Find the right resume writer, career coach, or career counselor, and I guarantee they will echo this same enthusiasm and commitment to your success.

 

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New Course: Resumes and Self-marketing (for Software Developers)

April 14th, 2015

Last week my newest Pluralsight course went live: Resumes and Self-marketing for Software Developers

This is a course on what to do with your resume… how to use it to self-market, and basic understanding of the resume as a marketing tool.

Remember, for any Jason Alba course you watch on Pluralsight, and as many times as you watch it, you can get an additional 7 days of JibberJobber Premium… no limit! Follow these steps (or scroll down and watch the new video below the image to see exactly how to watch this for free, and get additional Premium on JibberJobber!).

Here’s Pluralsight’s announcement on Facebook:

 

pluralsight_course_resume_facebook

 

Not sure if I’ve had anything on Facebook associated to me with that many likes!

Here’s the video on exactly how to do this:

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Example of an ATS (Applicant Tracking System): ApplicantPro (and how to beat them)

November 14th, 2014

Let’s go a bit deeper on the Applicant Tracking System conversation that we started with Louise Kursmark’s comments.

When I see stuff like this it reminds me of when I first learned about it, when I was a job seeker, thinking how unfair it was that I had my stupid Excel spreadsheet to track my job search, and the people I was sending my resume to and interviewing with had sophisticated software.  No more!  Now the playing field is leveled, since you can use JibberJobber…. !

Want to see what an ATS is/does/looks like?  I found this company while poking around the internet and started digging around. I went to the Tour link and saw this 1:30 video.  If you are wondering what HR and recruiters might be using to figure out if you are worthy of an interview.  Here’s the video:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=toBBvkurG-A]

Sound interesting?  Here’s a 14 minute video from Gillian Kelly, a career pro and outplacement provider in Australia, talking about beating the ATS:

Remember, this does not apply to every company you apply to. Some will use an ATS, some will not (even if they have it).  My recommendation is still to network into the company before you play the “resume black hole” game.  That’s not a fun game.

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Break Down Expert Job Search Advice (say NO to the ATS!)

November 5th, 2014

louise_kursmark_headshotLet’s dig into the post from yesterday, and dissect some of Louise Kursmark’s advice.  It’s a short article, but there’s simple stuff that every job seeker needs to be doing. Lines from her post are in bold, my comments are not bold, and indented.

>> I think that obsession(with gaming the ATS systems) is a distraction from the real work of job search.

Again, you are hiding from the job search.  There is no silver bullet.  ATS is one tiny aspect of the job search, don’t become obsessed with gaming it.

>> Even if your resume is a perfect match for the job posting, you have a very small chance of being chosen for an interview. 

Why? Because statistically, jobs posted online are not real jobs that are begging real people to apply. Some (probably those from big companies) have already been filled with internal candidates, but are posted just to satisfy regulations or policy.  Others are, unfortunately, and without integrity, fake jobs that are luring people in just to collect names and numbers.  Sometimes they are just feeling out the market, and seeing what’s out there.  But for the real ones… have you heard how many people apply to openings?  It’s way to many, really.  And those that are getting through are not necessarily the right candidates.  Many right candidates are getting weeded out through errors in the logic of the automated system.  They don’t call it the “resume black hole” for nothing.

>> … it’s easy to spend a lot of fruitless time trying to rise to the top of a very large pool.

Lots and lots of people are playing this losing game.  Why throw your hat into a system that is proven to be so ineffective and discouraging, and really, one that doesn’t really work?  Especially when there are more effective ways to land a job.

>> My advice: Have a keyword-rich, simply formatted resume that stands a reasonable chance of making it through the ATS.

And here is the simple truth about what you need for a resume.  Keyword rich and simple format.  That’s it.  Do that, then MOVE ON to the next part of your job search strategy!

>> Then, spend less time applying to posted openings and more time getting referrals into the companies you’re interested in.

Get out of the resume black hole and go compete in a different space… the competition is much easier, and nicer, because too many people are afraid to network, or are doing it entirely wrong.  Be the person who learns to love it (you don’t have to be an extrovert to love networking), and do it RIGHT!  Also, to Louise’s points, do this purposefully and strategically, not haphazardly.

>> Use your network to find a connection, ask for an introduction, and start a dialogue.

This, my friends, is networking.  This is more effective than going to network meetings, being nervous or shy, and then going home thinking “I networked!”  You may have, but what Louise is suggesting is to do it right, and go deeper, and be relationship-focused.

>> Rather than applying for a job, have a conversation about the company’s needs and how someone with your background might be able to help.

Again, this is networking.  And this hints to informational interviews as well!

>> Become a real person rather than a piece of paper or collection of keywords.

You do this by focusing on conversations, relationships and real networking, rather than throwing your resume into the black hole…

>> Even if you don’t (get interviews), you’ve built another strand in your web of connections that will ultimately lead you to your next job.

Building these strands, or let’s go further and say this fabric, is what I call career management. It is having strong relationships over time, not just during this hard transition, and it is helping people understand who you are (and how they can help you)… it is long-term.  It is the new “job security,” and it’s all in your control.  It’s why I say you need to use JibberJobber, forever! (yes, a little fanatical there, but I get to do that on my own blog :))

>> And isn’t it more satisfying to have a colleague-to-colleague business discussion than to be judged (and rejected) based on a mysterious set of keyword qualifications?

You know who has control over the keywords?  NOT YOU!  You have control over, which means influence on, your relationships and communication, but not on the arbitrary keywords that someone chose. And you don’t have control over who else applies, or how their resumes compare to yours in the ATS black box logic.  Work on what you can control… !

I love Louise’s no-nonsense advice… thanks again for letting me share it!

 

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What Is an ATS? Should You Care? #jobsearch #resume

November 4th, 2014

For a few years the new buzz word in training for resume writers is how to write a resume to get through the ATS system.

ATS is “applicant tracking system,” which is kind of like JibberJobber for the recruiter.  They aren’t tracking a relationship with YOU as much as they are tracking specific job openings, who applies, and who gets to have an interview with a human.

I guess that is tracking you, kind of. But only as far as that specific opportunity goes.  There is no relationship nurturing going on… it’s all about filling open jobs, and weeding out the high percentage of people who shouldn’t have applied in the first place.

You can imagine how resume writers want to write a resume that will get through the ATS, and eventually get to the live person.  I haven’t completely wrapped my brain around the technology, but I’ve understood that most jobs people are hired for are with companies that are smaller, and might not even know what ATS means.  I’ve focused my advice more on networking into a job than on monkeying around with your resume to get it better (which I call “hiding from your job search,” since you can do that for days and weeks and not really get any closer to getting an interview).

But I keep my ears open to what the experts are saying, and am always looking for any information I can share with you.  When I saw this article on LinkedIn from Louise Kursmark, I knew it would have important information.  I think this is a super-important perspective because she is a well-known resume writer who has trained hundreds, maybe thousands, of resume writers. Louise gave me permission to repost her article here (original post)… I hope this helps you with your job search strategy today!

ATS: I Couldn’t Care Less

louise_kursmark_headshotATS – Applicant Tracking Systems – cause a lot of twitter and chatter among job seekers and resume writers. I might even call it an obsession about finding the keywords, mimicking the job posting, and designing the document to get through the automated screener.

Personally, I think that obsession is a distraction from the real work of job search.

Even if your resume is a perfect match for the job posting, you have a very small chance of being chosen for an interview. That’s because your resume is one of dozens or even hundreds competing for just a handful of top slots. It’s likely at least a few other candidates will have qualifications that are slightly stronger or a background that’s just a bit closer to the ideal specified by the recruiter or employer.

So it’s easy to spend a lot of fruitless time trying to rise to the top of a very large pool. And when you don’t, you feel frustrated, discouraged, maybe even depressed and angry.

My advice: Have a keyword-rich, simply formatted resume that stands a reasonable chance of making it through the ATS. Then, spend less time applying to posted openings and more time getting referrals into the companies you’re interested in.

Use your network to find a connection, ask for an introduction, and start a dialogue. Rather than applying for a job, have a conversation about the company’s needs and how someone with your background might be able to help. Become a real person rather than a piece of paper or collection of keywords.

Chances are very good that you’ll be able to parlay many of those conversations into actual interviews for real jobs. Even if you don’t, you’ve built another strand in your web of connections that will ultimately lead you to your next job.

And isn’t it more satisfying to have a colleague-to-colleague business discussion than to be judged (and rejected) based on a mysterious set of keyword qualifications?

Thank you, Louise, for a real perspective and great advice!  There really is no way around doing some of the hard work in the job search!

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