Job Search: It’s Resumes: The Make, The Method and The Madness


06:49 Monique:     Jessica, how has the resume writing business evolved in the last, let’s say five years?

06:55 Jessica:     Great question. So, it’s really changed a lot as far as the resume writing styles and focuses that we have when we’re working with clients, but also the industry as a whole has just grown. It’s blown up. And now there are resume writers all across the board, some who are specializing in niches. So now, we are seeing this big move from generalized resume writing services to more niche resume writers and resume writing services. So, as the industry expands, I foresee that really happening a lot more that we’ll see more niche resume writers instead of more general-focused ones.

07:33 Monique:         And when you say niche, is that in reference to an industry or a particular sector?

07:39 Jessica:     So, there’s a couple of different things that I’ve seen. We’re seeing the branch off between resume writers who write for all different types of industries to those who are focusing now on a specific industry. So, maybe they’re targeting federal resume writing, or one of my very dear colleagues is a STEM resume writer. So she focuses on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. And then there are other resume writers who focus specifically on the career level of their clients. So, you have ones that work specifically with students and early professionals, ones like us who work with more of your mid to senior-level job seekers and executives. And then you have those who work with just the mid-range, mid-career professionals, or even those who are focused on working with ambitious women versus a broader audience.

08:28 Monique:     And so, as I think about some of the young professionals that I’m supporting as a coach, I’m just wondering, when you think niche, is it even possible for, let’s say someone with an MBA, they’re highly interested in social impact and entrepreneurship? So, with just some of those qualifiers, is that someone who would find a resume writer that can be really specific to where it is they’re going professionally?

09:00 Jessica:     I don’t know of one resume writer that specializes in that mix of industries and specializations or interests, I guess I should say, but I would look for... If I were them, I would look for a resume writer that they resonate with, who let’s say has samples on their website of similar clients that they’ve worked with. I would look for somebody who’s written similarly or someone that has a ton of experience and invest a lot of time upfront in the getting-to-know-them process. A really great resume writer can really write for any industry because their job is not necessarily to know every single facet and detail of the specific industry. Their job is to know how to uncover and pull out those hidden accomplishments and the value and the experience that that particular client has, and then to articulate that on the document. So, a really great resume writer can do that, no matter the industry of the client. But I know that there’s a lot of job seekers that really prefer working with a resume writer that deeply understands their industry.

10:03 Monique:     Something you mentioned of resume writing styles, how does one gain that type of clarity?

10:16   Jessica:     So, there’s a couple of different things that I am seeing that’s going on in the resume writing industry as a whole. And as a resume writer, it’s a little disheartening because I’ve been in the industry for a long time. And there’s like this wall between resume writers who are more resume designers. So, they take the client’s content that they already have on their old resume, and then they input it into a new format or a new template, but they’re not really gathering new content, and then writing that content in a fresh, new way. They’re taking what the client already has and they’re putting it in a fresh new style. And so a lot of times, we’ll see job seekers who’ve worked with resume writers that have just taken their content and put it into a different format or a different template and they’re not seeing the same results that they would get from a resume that took everything into consideration and really dive deep into their career history and their accomplishments and how they add value, and then found a fresh new way to articulate that as well. So, I see this dichotomy between design and content. And it’s really not one or the other, it’s both.

11:32 Monique:     Because that’s interesting. The first thing that came up for me as you were referring to the resume designers is, okay, it’s one of the primary benefits because you want to stand out from the crowd by having a resume that is flashy or stylistically, is appealing, and is then the trade of the content sometimes. It sounds like that’s what I hear you saying is happening,

12:00 Jessica:     Right. And I think a lot of... especially maybe newer resume writers have this vision in their mind that resume writing is more design than it is focused on content. And so I would just encourage job seekers who want to work with a resume writer to really do their research and understand that particular services process because every resume writing service has a different process. And if you’re one of those job seekers that is having a hard time articulating your accomplishments and conveying your value and making sure that your resume reflects everything that you’ve done, then you want a writer who’s going to do an interview and a consultation, and who’s going to dive deep into the content and your experience as opposed to someone that’s going to create maybe like an info graphic resume or a graphically designed resume, because those things, those are great, but it’s the content that really jumps out at the hiring manager, not just the design. You’ve got to have the content to back it up. And that’s what really stands out.

13:02   Monique:     Because I’ve definitely seen or been made aware of a lot of variety around resumes, like do you do a video resume or the info graphic, or some of these elements that you’re touching on. I’m thinking about, what are the results? I mean, is it really that content is key to format?

13:30   Jessica:     Well, the research and the studies that I’ve seen online, especially recently just within the last year or two, all point to the fact that content is what matters to hiring managers. They’re looking at your experience. That’s the number one factor in their decision to interview you. They’re looking at your past experience to see if it correlates to the specific opening, and they want your resume and your cover letter to be tailored to that specific opportunity. So, not generalized and not one resume that could go out to 10 different types of positions. So, the hiring managers, the recruiters, the employers, they’re really telling us what’s on the resume matters and the content is the number one factor in their decision of who to interview.

14:15 Monique:     Ah, okay. Well, and speaking of hiring managers, what is happening or what is taking place in the platforms that are being used for sourcing candidates such as LinkedIn?

14:32 Jessica:     So, one of the things that I found was really interesting, there’s an organization called Jobvite and they do a yearly survey of recruiters to find out where they are sourcing their candidates from. And one of the really interesting things is this past year, LinkedIn actually took a dip from being the majority, like 92% of recruiters and hiring managers went to LinkedIn to source candidates to now, it’s dropped to 77% and it’s more diverse in other social networks. So, I think what hiring managers are doing is they’re getting on Facebook and they’re getting on Twitter and Snapchat and all of these other social platforms to look for candidates. And LinkedIn still, by far, has the majority. That’s where the majority of hiring managers are going. But they’re also diversifying, which is great because actually, the majority of people that are using social networks to find a job and to ask for referrals are actually on Facebook, surprisingly. So, I feel like a lot of those hiring managers are realizing, “Hey, the people are on Facebook, so we need to go be on Facebook.” And I think that’s why LinkedIn had that dip this past year.

15:40 Monique:     And so Facebook has capturing some of what LinkedIn lost do you think?

15:46 Jessica:            I think so. The majority of hiring managers that are not using LinkedIn actively, I think that’s where they’re going because that’s where employees are making referrals of other companies, like letting people know that they’re hiring. People are posting on Facebook. It’s really funny because job seekers are so much more comfortable posting on Facebook and saying, “Hey, I’m looking for an opportunity,” than they are on LinkedIn. And I think that has to do with the fact that Facebook is more of a personal social network and LinkedIn is more professional. And if they’re job searching confidentially, they don’t want to go on LinkedIn where their boss might see and say, “Hey, I’m looking.”

16:26   Monique:     Interesting. And so I’m wondering, as you’re mentioning this about Facebook, is it just coming about organically through conversations or people being really direct, say I’m looking for a job? And is it something they’re posting on personal pages versus being in like a job seekers group on Facebook??

16:44   Jessica:     I have not seen a lot of action around job seeker groups on Facebook, but what I have seen is people using Facebook to look for recommendations of places to work or to post that places are hiring, just like they would ask for a recommendation of the best mattress to buy or a recommendation for a really good restaurant in the area. Now they’re going online and they’re saying on Facebook, “Hey, because of COVID, I was laid off. I’m looking for a new opportunity. Please let me know if you hear of anything,” which actually works out in the job seekers’ benefit because referrals are the number one way employers want to make a hire. And there’s so much more likely to be hired if they’re referred in. So, it’s good that they’re doing that proactively.

17:30 Monique:     And speaking of the social media and this digital footprint, I’m just wondering how important it is for today’s young professionals to maintain a current and dynamic footprint. And with dynamic, I’m just thinking like that regular engagement versus once a quarter, let me just post something.

17:49 Jessica:     Yes. I would say it is absolutely critical to their success in their career. And the reason why I say that is because, if they apply to a job, let’s say they go on their target company’s job site and they see an opening and they apply to it. When that hiring manager gets their resume, if they’re at all remotely interested, the very first thing they’re going to do is Google that candidate and then go to their LinkedIn profile to find out more information about them. I have employers who tell me all the time, “I go to LinkedIn to find out more. I go to LinkedIn to find out things that are not on the resume about the candidate to see if I want to interview them.” So, if you don’t have that presence on LinkedIn, then you’re not giving them that additional information that they’re looking for. So, that’s one facet of it. Then the second facet is that hiring managers and recruiters are sourcing candidates on LinkedIn and they’re looking for candidates on LinkedIn. So, if you’re on LinkedIn and let’s say you’re unemployed, so you have that green open-to-work banner on your profile picture, they’re looking for you. They’re looking at you. And when you were talking about the dynamic digital footprint, I think that’s so important because consistency is a part of our personal brand. And if we’re not consistently engaging on LinkedIn, if we’re not consistently posting on LinkedIn, then we don’t have a personal brand, a strong personal brand that employers and those in our network become familiar with. And I always tell job seekers, I’m like, “Engage, engage, engage. Don’t just scroll on LinkedIn. Actually, go on and post something and then look for thought leaders in your industry, and then leave insightful comments and feedback on their posts that they share. It increases your visibility with recruiters, and they’re more likely to contact you if they have an opening.”

19:41 Monique:     What is the watch out around social media and that digital footprint? Because I think they’re designed, the social media outlets are designed for people to be authentic and let their hair down and just sometimes respond in a crazy, wacky way, or maybe use some slang. How much of that is taken into consideration by hiring managers? 

20:08 Jessica:     Oh my goodness. So, one of the things that research has really shown us over the past couple of years is that hiring managers will go to Facebook when they’re doing candidate research. So, let’s say they went and they found you on LinkedIn. They contacted you for an interview and they’re seriously considering you. They might research you on Facebook to really get a better idea of the type of person that you are. And so, we advise clients, especially when you’re in a job search, be careful what you post because anybody can see it. And if you don’t want to be perceived as unprofessional, then you can’t post things that are unprofessional on your social media sites because hiring managers are going to go see it and it’s going to affect their hiring decisions. Hiring managers have been very upfront about that in the research that yes, we do go on Facebook and yes, we do make hiring decisions based on what you post on there. So, if you’re posting pictures of you drinking and partying and doing all of these other questionable activities that maybe are not in line with the company’s values, they’re not going to interview you. And they’re very open about that.

21:15 Monique:     So just be aware and proceed accordingly.

21:18 Jessica:    Yes, exactly.

20:21 Monique:     And so even for someone who’s comfortable in their role, they’re enjoying what it is they’re doing, they’re engaged, motivated, etcetera, what is the advice to that professional in terms of their resume? Is it still a smart thing to do every 12-month brush up on your resume, make sure it’s current? What’s the thinking there?

21:46 Jessica:     Oh, I love that question. That is such a great question because I work with so many job seekers that haven’t touched their resume in 10 or 15 years, and then they have someone approach them about this amazing dream opportunity and they have to scramble to get ready. And one of the really hard parts of that is remembering those accomplishments and details from 10 years ago is almost impossible. Never mind anything past that. And then if you haven’t updated it that long, it takes time. It takes time to do that. So, you’re losing time on those precious opportunities that come up unexpectedly. And then a lot of people get caught off guard. They might be laid off or let go or something comes up and things change and they’re not ready. So, I always tell job seekers that you want to update your resume every 6 to 12 months. And it doesn’t mean that you have to spend a ton of time researching all of the current day best practices and completely revamping it and all of that. No, just have a master resume file where every 6 to 12 months you go in and you update your best accomplishments, the challenges that you’ve been facing, how you address those, what the results were. You want to keep a living document of your results so that when it comes time to write your resume and update it and refresh it and job search, you’re ready and everything’s there. And that’s just a good best practice across the board for your own career management.

23:16 Monique     So glad to hear you say that, because I think, when I was at the Coca-Cola company in my thirties, I remember it was like a revelation, even though I had loved what I was doing, I was really motivated, fully engaged. And I somehow adapted a line of thinking that, “You know what, I’m going to keep the ink wet on my resume.” That was my saying to myself, to always keep them. In other words, keep it fresh. And for that reason, even for high achievers, you want to stay high achieving, and professionally, personally life has uncertainties. So, yes, you may be a standout star of the day. And so why not invest in a resume writer, a coach? engage with people now while you’re at the top of your game, such that you have your team in place, your trusted, knowledgeable team who you know, like, and trust in place for when it’s time to make a pivot versus, to your point, having to start everything from scratch. And then you’re doing all this research for resume writers. Now’s the time to be interviewing people such as yourself and learn about your services and make it a practice every 6 to 12 months to have that resume updated.

24:31 Jessica:     Yes. You always need to be prepared. 

24:35 Monique:     And so as a resume writer, Jessica, how do you balance the resume between where someone has been and where someone is going?

24:46 Jessica:     So, this is the tricky thing, right? This is where most job seekers struggle, is trying to get that balance. They’ll say things like, “Oh, my resume is just a laundry list of everything I did or all of my responsibilities.” And so the really great place of balance is focusing on the accomplishments and the results that you have and choosing ones that relate to where you want to go. And you really want to give those specific accomplishments and results center focus on your resume. especially if you’re trying to make a step up to the next level in your career, you want to focus on accomplishments and results that reflect the requirements of that role, things that would be beneficial to the company that speak to their needs and their pain points. And you want to make those things front and center. So, yes, your resume is discussing what you’ve achieved in your past roles. But since past performance is such an indicator of future success, when the employer sees those accomplishments and those achievements, they’ll say, “Oh, if they did that there, then they can bring that here and they can do that for us.” And so that’s why it’s so important on your resume not to focus on responsibilities and duties, but to focus on what you achieved in the role and to bring that front and center. And by that, I mean, have a section of your resume in the top third that points out some notable accomplishments. And then when you get down into the experience section, the work history section of your resume, make sure that your bullets are results-focused and the first couple of bullets under each position need to be the most relevant to what your next career move is, what your goal is for your next career move.

26:36 Monique:     And so your resume writer team supports their clients with that work.

26:41 Jessica:     Yup, absolutely. That’s what we do. That’s part of our interview process. We ask a lot of questions to really dig deep and uncover those accomplishments and the ways that the clients add value that they don’t even see or think of because they’re just so close to it.

21:55   Monique:         And so thinking of our current environment in this pandemic and what to go on the resume, I’m just wondering to what degree hiring managers are wanting to have a sense of how an individual navigates it this period in time, and what, if anything, is expected to be on the resume.

27:19 Jessica:     Ooh, great question. I have been talking about this for the last couple of times because those COVID, what we call COVID accomplishments, those things that are related to the pandemic are really important to describe on your resume. Research is showing that employers want to see flexibility, adaptability and how you’re working with technology that’s needed during this moment in time. And so, for example, using Zoom, doing video meetings, things like that are really important to employers. So, there’s other things that you want to bring up. We had a client that we worked with recently. He was a medical device manufacturer and he worked with a company that developed the breathing equipment that was needed for patients that were having pneumonia and breathing problems as a result of COVID. And right when the pandemic started to come out full force, he was able to secure all of these ventilators and these other pieces of breathing equipment that his clients, the hospitals needed so that he could supply them and they were not short on the equipment that they needed. And one of the things I love is his foresight was so... I mean, he just knew. Before it got really bad and there was all the talk of hospitals not having the equipment, he did that. And so, that was one of the accomplishments that we put front and center on his resume because it was related to what was happening right now and it showed the depth of his experience and his wisdom, and his adaptability in the environment that he was working in.

28:54 Monique:     Nice. Really nice. And so there is that balance, as I remind clients, a resume is one part of the story. It’s also being prepared to share those stories when it comes to the interview in a succinct, impactful way that underscores what the resume has conveyed. 

29:14 Jessica:     Yes, absolutely. 

29:15 Monique:     Really nice. A couple more questions before we draw to a close, what do you see as some common resume mistakes professionals are making at this stage, here we are in 2021?

29:27 Jessica:     Yeah. Okay. So, two of the biggest ones that I see are, which I already referenced one of them earlier, focusing on responsibilities and duties instead of achievements and accomplishments. So, employers want to see results and they want them to be quantifiable. And I get a lot of kickback from job seekers on this when they say, “Oh, I don’t have numbers.” So, numbers is not all about how much money you generated or how much money you saved. There are other things. So, one job seeker I was talking to, she did tours for groups that came to a historical site. And so she’s like, “I don’t have any accomplishments. I don’t have any numbers.” And I’m like, “Yes, you do. How many groups did you speak to a day? How many people were in those groups? Those are numbers that can be added and those things stand out to employers on your resume.” So, not including numbers, making it all about duties and responsibilities, that’s a big mistake. And then the other thing is using passive language. I see this a lot on resumes. The bullet points start off with responsible for or duties included or a proven track record of demonstrated success. These are all passive phrases that do not say anything. They don’t speak to the employer. So, we really need to change the language. We need to say “Implemented, created, managed, transformed, pivoted.” All of these active verbs, communicate the action that you took. And that’s what employers want to see. They want to see, how did you take action, what did you actually do, what did you achieve. And those words can be a very quick and easy way to improve your resume. 

31:07 Monique:     Nice. And again, that’s where I imagine the resume writers help make that happen.

31:12 Jessica:     Right. So that’s one of the things that we do. We put it in active language and we get rid of that passive language so that it speaks more powerfully to employers.

31:21Monique:     We started our time together, you referenced the range of resume writing skills, styles, and the niches in the resume writing space. I want to just spotlight you. What is it about you and your team that you want our listeners to know about the services you offer, really values-driven purpose that you have for your business? Because everyone has now options. And so what is it about you and your service that you want our listeners to know?

31:56 Jessica:     Oh, thank you for the opportunity. So, one of the things that I just love, I love working with job seekers that really struggled to convey their value and their accomplishments and being able to articulate those things. And so, that is my ideal job seeker, someone that just really struggles to put everything that they do into words that would stand out to a hiring manager. And so, because that’s who we love to work with, our process is designed to draw all of those things out. And so we don’t use worksheets or questionnaires or anything. And personal along those lines, it’s very personalized. We get on the phone with our clients. We talk to them for 60 to 90 minutes or more really just getting to know them, who they are, what challenges they’re up against in their job search, what their personal brand is, what their accomplishments are, how they stand out from other similarly qualified candidates. Those are the things that really make up a very strong resume that job seekers can be competent in using and one that will get more attention and results from employers. So, we really focus on that part of it. And then my heart is also to educate. And so, I do that a lot through blogs and podcasts and on LinkedIn, but we also do it with our clients. So, once they sign on with us, they’re getting ongoing job search education for months after they work with us, because I believe that your resume is only one tool in the job search process. It’s not the golden ticket. It’s one piece of the whole kit that you need to really have an effective and a successful job search. So, we put tools and resources and education information into the hands of our clients so that they can go out and be successful and make their next career move. And that’s what’s really important to me and where my heart is. It’s not just, “Hey, here’s a great resume. Bye. See you later.” It’s, “Hey, here’s a great resume, and here’s everything you’re going to need to know to conduct a successful job search along the way.”

33:59 Monique:     Well, and I love what you said about the personalization and having a discussion and supporting someone in emerging their values, because one of the things I found to be true is, our American way, you go and get a degree or you get a certain academic skill set and you’re supposed to get a job with a title and salary and all these external components. Yet, I find that when clients are dissatisfied, there’s some dissatisfaction going on, it often rests there. They are out of alignment with their values and that of the organization or feeling purpose-driven, wanting to do purpose-driven work, and feeling like the organization or the product or the service they’re representing is again out of alignment. So, what a terrific value add for clients with your team who, in just discussing the resume, also have an opportunity to unpack that and that values, voice taking into consideration in shaping up the resume.

So, Jessica, thank you so much for your time today. It really shed some additional perspective. We hear so many people out here talking about resumes. Everyone has the answer. And I love that you have a process that really is client-eccentric. It starts with them and what will be the best deliverable for that individual versus just fill out a questionnaire and get it done. 

35:26 Jessica:     Yeah, absolutely. Thank you. It was so much fun.

35:30 Monique:     My pleasure.