So…What Do You Do?

Focus Your Job Search

This article is Part 1 in a three-part series about focusing your job search. Stay tuned for our next installment, coming next month!

Part 1: So…what do you do?

Don’t you hate that question? You get it at parties, you get it at job fairs, you even get it at the dentist! I don’t know about you, but I’m a lot more than just my work. If I’m a job seeker, though, my resume is not the place to tell you who I am.

Employers get hundreds (sometimes thousands) of applications for every position that they post. This creates a mountain of reading that recruiters just cannot do. Often, computers read your resume first and rate it based on how relevant it is to what the recruiter wants. Or, if you’re an overworked recruiter, you read really fast (i.e. 6-10 seconds per resume).

“Who” is a complicated question that gets to the core of our humanity. “What” is a lot easier to communicate. And in recruiting, it’s how we evaluate a candidate for further consideration. In this article, I want to get your resume from “Who” to “What.”

So Many Questions!

One of the hardest parts of the job search is knowing where to start. Full time work provides a location to work, equipment to work on, a community to support and direct you, and, in most cases, clear instructions on what to do on a day-to-day basis.

When you are seeking work, that can all go out the window very quickly. Job searchers must now turn inwards and answer a couple of deep questions.

  • What do I want to do?
  • What can I do?
  • What place (where) do I want to do it?
  • What do I expect from my work?

I have found these questions to be the most basic as well as the most troubling. I ask you to ask yourself, because every day that I’m at a job fair I ask job seekers, “what do you do?”

They say:

Entry-level job seeker: I can do anything!

Experienced job seeker: I can do everything!

Everyone Else: Whatever you want. I just need a job!

I get it…but I can’t help you know yourself. Before ever talking to a recruiter you should have an answer for these questions. We’ll take a deeper dive into each, but first you need to gather a few tools:

  • A copy of your resume you can write on
  • A pen
  • A highlighter

What do I want to do?

For just a minute, I want you to imagine a perfect world where you don’t need to work but instead just want to work. What would you do? I want you to ignore the lightness of your wallet and the anxiety you feel about being around the house all day.

You don’t need to get as granular as defining your job title, but you do need to narrow it down to a few things you want to do. For example, if I wasn’t working at Peak Performers I would enjoy:

  • B2B or technology sales
  • Digital marketing
  • Starting a board game company

But I’m going to make this harder. You now need to answer this question in three words or less. Write them at the top of your resume where it’s so big you can’t ignore or forget what you wrote. Go ahead…I’ll wait.

Here’s what I wrote:

What I want: Business Development / Recruiting

What can I do?

Now, write down a list that ignores your list of what you want to do. This list is for the things you can do whether you want to do them or not. Here’s where I want to you get really specific and list all of the things you can do. Here are some of mine:

  • Email marketing
  • Search engine optimization
  • Pay per click marketing
  • Direct to consumer and retail sales
  • Sourcing government opportunities
  • Writing requests for proposals and/or business proposals
  • Technical recruiting
  • Writing fun content like this!

By the way, this is the most important part to recruiters and companies. Many will train you, but they want you to come in being able to meet the minimum job expectations.

Guess what: now I want you to condense this list down to just three words. Maybe you can do a lot! That’s great, but what are your key skill sets? What would jump out to me as a recruiter? Write these skills down on your resume.

What I can do: Sales / Marketing / Recruiting

What place (where) do I want to do it?

The easy answer to this is “within a X distance drive.” Let’s include this and then go beyond the physical location. You should also consider things like a welcoming environment, a company with a social mission, a younger/older workplace, a progressive/conservative workplace, etc. These are going to be different for each individual. Here’s mine:

  • A company where I can directly help other people
  • A company where I can make the world a better place
  • A company within a 30-minute drive
  • A company that has windows visible from my desk from which I can look out
  • A company that is open with communication and feedback

In. Three. Words. Just three. Write them at the top of that resume!

What place I want: Austin / Positive / Sunshine

What do I expect?

Now we’re getting into the nitty gritty of the job details. Realize that expectations may have to be compromised, but it helps to write them down. Start with the most obvious expectation and the reason most of us go to work each day. Again, here’s my list:

  • I expect to make $XXXX
  • I expect XXXX kind of health insurance
  • I expect XXXX other benefits
  • I expect to have some level of autonomy in my day-to-day work
  • I expect to be valued for my creative contributions
  • I expect to work in a team-oriented environment
  • I expect to maintain a work-life balance

We expect a lot out of our work. As well we should. We spend a lot of time there! But get this down into three words.

What I expect: Autonomy / Compensation / Balance

Congratulations!

I’m sure up to this point you have followed my instructions very, very carefully. I have every confidence that your resume now has 12 words written on top. Right?

Here’s mine:

Business Development /Recruiting
Sales / Marketing / Recruiting
Austin / Positive / Sunshine
Autonomy / Compensation / Balance

This word list gives you a distilled look at what I’m looking for in a job, as well as a list of what I should present on my resume for best results. Now the real work begins.

Edit Your Resume

A common misconception is that resumes should be only one-two pages. A resume should be as long as it needs to be provided that:

  1. It accurately and concisely represents all of you
  2. Is long enough to thoroughly address everything that a job description asks for

We’re going to make a generic resume from which you can start. You will constantly be editing this resume for every single job for which you apply.

  • Highlight: I want you to highlight everything on your resume that points strongly to one of the words that is written above. It can (and usually should) be the word itself.
  • Circle: Anything that may be relevant for a job. Education is a good example; you may well need or should include it on your resume, but often the role you’re applying for does not explicitly require it. Often, these circled items will be listed on your resume but de-emphasized.
  • Cross Out: There’s probably a lot of stuff left on your resume. Cross it out. These are like hoarding shoe boxes or 1980s Christmas decorations or Beanie Babies. Channel your inner Marie Kondo and throw it out.

Respect Your Time

There’s an even more important reason you wrote down those 12 words. You need to make sure that all of your job searches focus on all or most of these words. You should not waste your time with “maybes.” In recruiting, when we look at your resume and think, “hmmm maybe,” that means no. That means we’ll put it off to the side and then forget about it because we’ll eventually find the resumes to which we say, “Yes, yes, YES!”

Getting to Who

You remember Who? Who remembers you and misses you dearly. It’s not that recruiters and HR managers don’t care about Who…it’s just that resumes are not the appropriate place for it. “What” is clear and objective. It’s also what catches our attention in a stack of resumes.

The interview is where you get a chance to show off your “Who.” I could tell you that I love to bike ride, I’ve traveled all over the world, I design board games, and I love to swing dance. You’ll get to know me as a funny, social guy who loves puns. Get to the interview by first answering “What.” If you answer correctly, the interviewers will love the “Who.”

Best Job Hunting Websites in Austin

One Recruiter’s Opinion: Best Job Hunting Websites for Austin Texas

By Myles Wallace, Technical Recruiter for Peak Performers

There are a lot of job hunting websites out there.  We often get asked which are the best ones to use? Short answer: all of them.  It is so easy to get your resume multiple places that you might as well.  The bigger task then becomes managing all those resumes and the correspondence you may receive from recruiters.  

That said, here’s one recruiter’s take on the top job search websites for job seekers to get noticed in Austin, TX.  

#1 Monster – A long time industry standard, Monster continues to be on every recruiter’s bookmark bar.  This is often the first place I look given the robust search tools available and often a place that many professional job seekers will automatically put their resumes.  Monster allows you to upload your resume as a pdf, Word document, or from a Dropbox or Google Drive file. Monster will also help you create a job searching profile right on their website.  Monster is often compared with Indeed or Careerbuilder and is just one of those job hunting websites you will probably end up using.

#2 Work in Texas – WorkInTexas.com may not be the most user-friendly interface but you will often be required to create a profile if you’re filing for unemployment benefits in Texas.  Don’t think this tool can’t be valuable, though. Your career advisors will use it to help match you up with potential jobs, and recruiters like me peruse it regularly for candidates that have recently joined the job market and may not be visible on other platforms yet.  Also, since many job seekers do not fill out complete profiles, WorkInTexas.com provides a unique opportunity to stand out from the crowd.

#3 LinkedIn – Increasingly, LinkedIn is being used by recruiters to search for living, breathing resumes.  In the recruiting community, some rely on it so strongly that they’re advocating the discontinuation of the resume (I don’t think we’re there yet.)  Nevertheless, if you know someone — or know someone who knows someone — LinkedIn can be a valuable tool. You can draw extra attention to your resume when you connect with a contact and/or send them a personal message through the LinkedIn platform. A LinkedIn profile can direct the viewer to specific credentials and expertise, and often the most regular users of the site are those who are currently employed but entertaining other options.

#4 Glassdoor – Glassdoor wins points for most insights into companies — but, you can find jobs on it too!  Employees past and present are encouraged to post anonymously about their employment experience: including wages, other benefits, work environment, and their personal experience.  As with all online review platforms (*cough* Yelp *cough*), the voices of those who had a bad experience can often drown out the silent majority who had a good or fine experience, but Glassdoor does seek to mitigate this by collecting as many reviews as possible.  Still, take what you read with a grain of salt and use Glassdoor to get an idea of what you’re walking into with a company.

#5 Indeed – Personally, I’m not the biggest fan of Indeed in terms of their pricing structure and the way their resumes often appear to recruiters.  That said, there are a lot of other platforms recruiters use that tie into it. Many Applicant Tracking Systems can already search Indeed and many other commonly used recruiting tools like Ziprecruiter or Mightyrecruiter access it’s immense database effortlessly.  Indeed boasts 200 million unique visitors every month and is used in over 60 countries. In this recruiter’s book: Monster wins quality, Indeed wins quantity.

#6 Google – Known for disrupting marketplaces and aggregating hoards of data, Google recently rolled out an updated job search platform that seeks to solve the problem of the same job being posted multiple places.  Does it work? Sometimes…kinda sorta. What you may not realize is that you’re already using it in your normal searches in that it aggregates data from multiple other job search sites to help cut out a few steps for the job seeker.

This is just one recruiter’s opinion, but hopefully it helps those who are looking for a job. The good news is that there are many valuable tools out there to help you find a job!

6 Tips for Resume Writing

Your resume gets you the interview . . .  you get the job!

Resume writing can be a long process with lots of conflicting advice.  As a recruiter for Peak, I’d like to share some of our recommendations and then also share tips from other top websites. One thing that recruiters and hiring authorities agree on is that the purpose of your resume is to provide a snapshot of your experience and skills with an emphasis on how they relate to the job you want.

  1. Tailor your resume. This can be hard, especially if you are submitting your resume to a lot of different places. Making your resume specific to the job really does help it jump out to recruiters.  Are you applying for an Administrative job?  You need to say explicitly how you’ve worked in similar roles before or had experiences in different roles that exposed you to similar environments.  Your resume should include relevant experience like answering the phone, responding to customer questions, generating reports, coordinating schedules, etc.  Are you applying for a technical role?  Be detailed about the kind of technologies you know and experience you’ve had.
  2. How long should it be? This varies. On the Information Technology side of things, I look at a lot of highly technical candidates. An IT professional’s resume should reflect the technologies they’ve worked with and the environment—it’s not uncommon for me to see 5-10 page IT resumes. On the Office Professional side of our business, resumes are being reviewed for less technical roles and successful applicants will focus on experiences but also keep it briefer, around two pages in length.  Regardless, I recommend that job seekers build multiple versions of their resumes of varying length and details to submit depending on the job and the organization.
  3. Make it readable but not ostentatious. Remember tip #1? Tailor your resume.  We work with state agencies and many are more conservative in the kinds of resumes they’re looking for.  They’re screening for experience and hard skills first and will get to know you during the interview.  On the other hand, if you’re applying to work for an ad agency, your tailored resume should probably be flashy.  Know your audience and write to that audience.
  4. Don’t date your experience or credentials. It can be tempting to go all the way back in your work history, especially if you’re a late career job seeker. However, conventional wisdom holds that you do not need to date experience in your resume that is older than ten years. If you possess relevant but dated experience, include it in an ‘other relevant experience’ section omitting dates. Note: also remove graduation/completion dates from schools/training that you have attended.
  5. Avoid unnecessary personalizing details. We recommend not disclosing anything in the resume that is overly identifying in a personal, non-job relevant way.  No photos of you, your spouse/partner, your kids, your pets.  Avoid mentioning your political affiliation, your religion, your heritage, your favorite ice cream flavor…just ask yourself if it’s necessary for the hiring manager to see this side of me on paper?
  6. Read it out loud. Ready to hit the submit button?  Take an extra ten minutes to read your resume out loud.  You are your own best editor and reading your resume aloud will help you catch awkward phrasing, extra words, and sometimes even misspellings.

Was this helpful?  You can read our other two articles on resume writing (Professional email address resume tips) and (What’s in a name? resume advice).  Ready to send us your tailored, pitch-perfect resume?  You can do so online.

Don’t just take our word for it.  Many recruiters have different opinions on this subject.  Here are some tips from Monster and here’s what Glassdoor has to say.

Resume header: Your professional email address

One of the most common resume “uh-oh”s I see is with email addresses. Is it overly picky to care about someone’s email address? Here’s the point: this is just one of the many elements that can contribute to a professional image.

It might seem obvious that certain e-mail addresses do not convey professionalism. Hotmama78@hotmail.com? I’ll take your word for it, but our office might not call you in for an interview.Benchpress247@yahoo.com? Unless I’ve advertised for a personal trainer, that’s probably not relevant.

Aside from a professional-sounding address, for consistency of personal branding, I recommend an email address that closely matches the name on your resume. This kind of address has the added bonus of always being recognizable; it takes the guesswork out of a contact list.

Did you know that there are certain details that should not be in your email address? At Peak Performers we are widely recognized for our nondiscrimination advocacy. Unfortunately, not every other employer shares this value. To play it safe—and, again, to demonstrate that you’re familiar with professional, industry standards—I recommend an e-mail address that doesn’t include:

  • a reference to age or year of birth
  • race or national origin
  • religion
  • familial status (marriage, children, being a grandma/grandpa, etc.)
  • or a reference to any other characteristic that is a protected class under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

One of my favorite “inappropriate email address” real-life examples is the curse of a name that inherently sounds unprofessional. Ms. Goodbody, anyone? My guess is that if life has saddled you with a name like this, an email address is probably the least of your worries. For professionalism’s sake, the author over at SnagAJob suggests using a firstname.middleinitial.lastinitial@mail.com type of format. This helps Ms. Goodbody land that coveted interview–and gives her a readymade joke once the recruiter sees her resume!

Above all, the most important thing is that you give out an e-mail address that you actually check. The hazard of setting up a new, professional e-mail address (kept separate from your personal e-mail correspondence) is that you’ll forget to check it. The solution is simple: set up account forwarding. This way, you’ll be able to send and receive e-mails as a professional, with the convenience of being able to check both accounts wherever, whenever.

Since Gmail seems to be the most popular e-mail provider for these new, professional addresses, I’ll leave you with a tip on how to set up e-mail forwarding with Gmail.

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Resume header: What’s in a name?

As my favorite leading lady Julie Andrews once sung on screen, “Let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start.”

In this series, however, we’re not going to learn how to sing (at least that’s not the plan). Instead, we’re going to learn how to write a resume, starting at the top and working our way down. The Alps and singing nuns might not be involved (again, not in the plans), but we do guarantee you this: if you follow these guidelines, step by step, your resume will convey professionalism and help you look like you know how to get a job.

Why is it important that your resume conforms to certain standards? Recently, an eye-tracking study was conducted to discover how long, on average, a recruiter spends looking at each resume. The results will blow you away…

Six seconds.

That’s only six seconds of glory for you. How can you make the strongest possible impression, within that minuscule amount of time? Your resume needs to be clean, easy to visually search and scan, and yet tell a recruiter everything they need to know. Very, very quickly.

Your name

It seems overly basic, yes? But let’s start by thinking about how you write your name.

In today’s recruiting world, it’s important that your name be consistent across all of these many platforms we now use. We call this “personal branding.” And as any catchy advertising jingle shows us, consistency is the key to making your brand stick.

Do you go by your middle name? A shortened version of your first name? It’s not vital that your resume match your legal name, but it is important that you be consistent.

Here’s an example: Let’s say your full, legal name is Ronald Eric Smith. This is the name on your official forms of ID such as your driver’s license. However, everyone actually calls you Eric. Your professional-use email address is ericsmith@gmail.com. On Facebook and LinkedIn, you’re Eric Smith. Your resume might therefore read: R. Eric Smith.

Here’s another example: Let’s say your legal name is Ronald Eric Smith, but everyone calls you Ronny. Your email address and online profiles are all under the name Ronny Smith. Your resume might therefore read: Ronald “Ronny” Smith. Or, since this is a pretty well-recognized nickname, it’s not necessary that you specify it. But if you can’t stand being called Ronald? Then your resume should definitely read: Ronny Smith.

One more example: Let’s say your legal name is Ronald Eric Smith, but everyone calls you Rattlesnake. We’re sure there’s a great story behind that nickname, but this is neither the time nor the place. Your resume should read: Ronald Eric Smith, Ronny Eric Smith, Ron Eric Smith. Anything, really. Just please, not Rattlesnake!

Unprofessional nicknames aside, there are many name scenarios that quite possibly apply to you. For instance, you might have a name that’s difficult to pronounce. In that case, consider writing the pronunciation in parentheses, briefly, next to your name.

Lastly, if you have a pretty common name—Ronald Smith is a good example again—we ask you to seriously consider including your middle name on your resume. This will spare recruiters a name mix-up, and it will help distinguish you from other applicants.

For more insights into the nuances of what name you should put on your resume, check out these helpful articles:

https://www.pongoresume.com/blogPosts/180/put-your-brand-name-on-your-resume-not-your-real-name.cfm
http://www.theladders.com/career-advice/when-use-nicknames-legal-names

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