Category Archives: Resume Writing

23 quick Resume changes you can make today

Article by Belinda Fuller

23 quick Resume changes you can make todayThere’s always room for improvement! But so often, the people we meet just don’t have the time that’s necessary to bring their Resume up to scratch. Spending a couple of hours once a year updating your Resume and LinkedIn profile will pay dividends in the long run, and there are lots of simple small changes you can make today.

Taking time out to really clean up your Resume prior to beginning the job search process can pay huge dividends with your results. If you are applying for new roles and not hearing back, make some of these quick small changes to ensure your resume is catching recruiters’ eyes.

  1. Correct errors: Use the spelling and grammar checker in whatever application you’ve used to create your document to pick up errors, but make sure you read and re-read your application to pick up mistakes.
  2. Read it out loud: Printing out your Resume and reading it out loud helps more easily identify mistakes that may slip through the automated spell checker, or when reviewing content on a screen. It also helps you to identify clunky/hard to read sentences. Better yet, have someone else review it for you.
  3. Save it as a PDF: If your resume is in any other format, you can’t guarantee it will be viewed as you see it. Often the formatting looks fine on your screen, but doesn’t if opened by someone with a different software system. Saving as a PDF prevents this issue and ensures your document appears in a consistent way regardless of the system used.
  4. Name your file: Change the name of your Resume to <first name> <last name> Resume. That way, recruiters can quickly and easily identify you and your relevant material.
  5. Ensure readability: Use a common, clean font that is easy to read. Increase line spacing and font size if space allows. Add headings, sub-headings and bullet points and ensure formatting is consistent and pleasant to the eye. Consider adding some colour to make your format pop, and use the same design for your resume and cover letter to make your ‘brand’ consistent.
  6. Clarify content: The first person to review your resume might not be as knowledgeable about what you do as you are. It could be an assistant or a recruiter with general, not specific industry knowledge – so make it readable, relevant, and interesting regardless of the reader’s level of expertise.
  7. Include social links: Include links to your LinkedIn profile and other professional social media pages. Recruiters will search for and find you on social media regardless of how complete your profiles are, so optimising these and then including links just makes it easier for them to do their job.
  8. Activate hyperlinks: It’s likely that your resume will be read on a screen, so by making your email address, LinkedIn and other social profile links clickable – you’ll ensure its easy for the recruiter to learn more about you.
  9. Exclude irrelevant information: Since it’s illegal for employers to consider certain aspects when reviewing your application – you should delete them. This includes your gender, date of birth, marital status, and religion.
  10. Delete your high school information: Unless you finished high school in the last few years and you have very little work experience, there’s no need to include it.
  11. Place education after experience: Again, unless you’re a very recent graduate, chances are your recent work experience has more bearing on whether or not you’re right for the role. While recruiters might want to know you have a degree, it’s often not the most important aspect.
  12. Update your key skills: Ensure your skills and personal attributes are grouped under a section called ‘key skills’ or ‘key capabilities’. Remove anything outdated and ensure your skills match the requirements of the roles you are applying for.
  13. Remove acronyms: You shouldn’t assume that recruiters will understand what you’re talking about. Always spell out acronyms regardless of how common they are within your industry.
  14. Get rid of clutter: Unless you are a graphic designer, keep it simple. Remove photos and busy visual elements which usually just distract from the necessary information. Use bold, larger font sizes, dividers, and bullet points to delineate new sections and highlight specific content.
  15. Consolidate multiple positions in one company: If you held multiple positions in the same company, but they were similar, group them. For example, if you were promoted from an assistant to a manager – list the role as manager and state “promoted from assistant in <month> <year>” as an achievement. If the roles were quite different, list them separately. If you held several ‘acting’ roles – list them as bullets under your substantive or ‘regular’ role.
  16. Leave out irrelevant history: As a general rule, go back approximately ten years with detail, and then only include a brief summary of previous roles if highly relevant.
  17. Reduce lines that only contain one word: Go through your Resume and find ways to eliminate lines with only one word in them. Try editing previous lines to prevent this happening. It makes the document look cleaner and frees up extra space.
  18. Adjust the tense: Make sure tense and context is consistent. Generally, previous roles should be described in past tense and current roles in current tense, but whatever way you choose, just make it consistent.
  19. Focus on achievements: Clearly identify your value by focusing on how your company benefited by you doing what you did. This shows a potential employer how they might benefit by recruiting you.
  20. Quantify accomplishments: Where you can, include numbers and percentages or other ways to quantify achievements (estimates are OK but always be prepared to back these up in an interview if asked).
  21. Check punctuation: Again consistency is key – for easy reading as well as to show professionalism. Check the use of full stops, bullets, commas, colons, semi-colons, headings, sub-headings etc. and ensure consistency throughout.
  22. Ensure content is up-to-date: Make sure your most current information is referenced, including recently completed or in progress study, new awards and role accomplishments, newly developed skills, presentations you’ve given, or articles you’ve had published.
  23. Ask for help: Ask a few friends or professional contacts if you can view their resume for inspiration. Alternatively, ask them if they’ll review yours and provide you with their feedback.

Alternatively, why not enlist the help of a professional resume writer who can help you maximise your experience and qualifications to give yourself a better chance at your dream job? Our Resume Writers have been selectively hand-picked from around the country. They are professional writers with extensive experience writing resumes, cover letters, bios and selection criteria responses for both the public and private sectors.

Are you interested in getting assistance from a professional resume writer to prepare a winning Resume for your next job application? If so, please see our Resume Writing Services.

7 tips for finding a job in Australia

Article by Belinda Fuller

7 tips for finding a job in AustraliaIf you’re searching for a new job in Australia, but don’t have any local experience, you might be finding it difficult to secure interviews. “No local experience” might mean you don’t have a comprehensive understanding of our local laws and business regulations, but it might also mean you have good skills – it’s just that the recruiter doesn’t understand your overseas successes and their local relevance.

Depending on whether or not you’ve already arrived in Australia will dictate your approach. If you haven’t yet made the move, and you’re applying for roles from another country – inform the recruiter of your plans. While it isn’t always necessary to be in Australia to receive a job offer, your chances are certainly higher. It helps if you have firm plans about when you are moving, an address, residency or right to work details etc. – so make sure to include these in your application.

If you’ve already arrived in Australia – follow these simple tips to give yourself the best possible chance in the job market:

  1. Network: Think about who you know and who you might be able to connect with, then let them know you are seeking opportunities in Australia. You can do this via phone calls, emails, face-to-face catch-ups, and social media. Connect with people in your industry through LinkedIn, Twitter and other social media. Attend industry events and relevant seminars, join a local industry association, and search for internships or other unpaid work experience opportunities. Use LinkedIn to its full capacity – ensure your content is comprehensive and up to date, follow companies you’d like to work for and influential people in your industry, as well as joining relevant groups and forums. Post responses to questions to build your name and demonstrate your industry expertise – this will help you develop local networks.
  2. Review your resume: Ensure it conforms to Australian standards which focuses more around accomplishments and what you achieved in previous roles as opposed to day-to-day ‘responsibilities’ in isolation. Provide information about the company, the challenges, market demands, and competitors – anything that shows context or scope of roles you held, because local recruiters may not have any knowledge or understanding of your previous company in another country. Translate revenue, budget or other financial data to Australian dollars and make other relevant comparisons. Ensure overseas qualifications are applicable and understood. Depending where you worked, you could approach similar or competitor organisations in Australia.
  3. Check your application for errors: Ensure your application materials (including LinkedIn or other online profiles) use Australian (not American) spelling, with correct grammar, and don’t include any expressions or language that is native to your country of origin. Potential employers will see your name and country, and they may assume certain things about your communication skills. If your Resume is poorly written, this fear might be confirmed, making it hard for you to secure an interview. It’s a great idea if you have any doubts to ask someone who was born in Australia to review your documents for their advice. Even better, enlist the support of a professional Resume Writer who has the experience and skills to prepare a winning job application and/or provide specific Job Search Coaching Services to help you succeed in the Australian market.
  4. Be persistent: Finding a job takes time. Finding a job when you have no local experience can take even longer. You need to be persistent while remaining positive and upbeat. Employ job search strategies that others don’t often use. Ideas include identifying and arranging a proactive meet-up with relevant recruiters, being open minded about job titles and discarding preconceived ideas about your ideal role, and accessing the hidden job market.
  5. Be flexible: If you are struggling to secure your ideal role, think about other types of work such as contract, freelance, job share, or part-time work. Register with agencies for temp work and remain available and enthusiastic. Often consultants are less fussy finding someone with the perfect background if it’s only short term. Once you have proven yourself, you may be offered a longer assignment or other opportunities could open up. At the very least, you can move on with local experience (and more confidence), and it’s a great way to build your local network.
  6. Brush up on your English: If English is your second language and you think it may be holding you back, take some classes and practise speaking as much as possible. If you do not feel confident over the phone, call someone you trust to practise. Ask them whether they can understand you and get them to give you tips on your approach, tone, speed etc. Australians sometimes use less direct questioning styles than other cultures and we don’t tend to speak as fast as some other cultures either. Understanding these differences and ensuring your communication matches will help you succeed.
  7. Conduct some research: Know the industry, the company, and the role you’re applying for. Identify people in your profession who you can ask for advice regarding how your overseas experience might translate to local success. When you’re submitting a specific application, mention something about the company in your cover letter and relate that back to your experience – that could be the key factor that ensures you stand out in the recruiter’s eye as a viable candidate.

Finally, be patient. You’re not alone and while you’re waiting to secure your first role, there are several things you can do to increase your chances of success. Don’t take your unsuccessful attempts personally, but instead remain upbeat, confident, and consistent.

Would you like assistance from a professional resume writer or coach to prepare a winning Resume or conduct a customised job search for your next application? If so, please see our Resume Writing Services and/or our Job Search Coaching Services.

How to boomerang back to an old employer

Article by Belinda Fuller

 

How to boomerang back to an old employerThe concept of boomerang employees – or re-hiring ex-employees is not new, but it is on the rise. According to recent research, HR professionals are more open than ever before to re-hiring former employees. In the past, this practice was sometimes frowned upon – even if the employee had left on good terms – but now it’s becoming more and more common – and with good results for both employers and employees.

With this practice on the rise both in Australia and around the world – it’s worth considering as a viable option for your next role. Many companies that had to retrench workers in previous years are starting to increase their capacity again as business continues to improve. There are benefits to both employee and employer, but a few things worth considering.

Maintain Relationships

Firstly, as a boomerang employee, you have to maintain good relationships with your previous company and colleagues. This means ensuring any split is amicable and then making sure you keep in touch with colleagues and bosses (LinkedIn makes this easy). When you leave a job, do so on good terms by remaining professional and positive about your reasons for leaving. Draft a professional letter explaining your reasons and what you plan, then try to provide some positive comments about your experience. For smaller companies, a more personal approach might be better – think about sitting down with fellow team members or colleagues to explain your reasons for leaving. If your company conducts exit interviews, endeavour to remain upbeat – if this isn’t possible keep your answers short and simple.

Ensuring a Good Fit

Before making any decision to re-join an ex-employer, consider the reasons why you left and investigate whether they still exist. Likewise, make sure the things you loved about the role and/or company still exist. If you left to grow your skills in other areas, study or travel – your new skills will be attractive to a former employer. Not only do you know the company, but now you have an added level of competency they can leverage.

Sell Yourself

If you are approaching a former employer about returning back, be sure to have a goal in mind and then be honest with them about what it is you’d like. Try to communicate your new skills, competencies and experiences and how that would help the company in the future. They may not have something open currently, however if you articulate your new skills and/or direction they can keep you in mind for future roles – perhaps thinking of you in broader professional terms than how they saw you previously. If you’re after a more senior level role than the one you left, articulate the reasons why you think you’d be successful by incorporating examples of relevant accomplishments you’ve made in the role(s) since you left.

Remain Professional

While the whole process of being employed at a previous employer may be far less formal than if you were a new employee, don’t become complacent. Remain professional and focused and be prepared to go through the same selection process as others. The questions you get asked may be a little different and focus around your reasons for wanting to re-join, any new skills you will bring and how they’re relevant, what immediate benefits you might achieve for the company, and your thoughts on what will stop you from leaving again.

Becoming a boomerang employee has plenty of benefits for both the company and the employee. Employers benefit from someone who knows the business, culture and processes and this is a huge saving – both in time and the cost of getting someone up to speed. For employees, the knowledge and contacts you have puts you in a great place to ‘hit the ground running’ and achieve some quick wins in your new role.

Are you considering returning to an ex-employer? Would you like help from one of our professional resume writers to prepare a winning Resume that clearly articulates your value? If so, please see our Resume Writing Services. Perhaps you’ve secured some interest and would like help preparing for the interview? If so, please see our Interview Skills Training service.

How to stand out the right way

Article by Belinda Fuller

How to stand out the right wayWhat makes one person stand out from the rest in a job application and/or interview if everyone has similar backgrounds, experience and education? Being creative with your application is one way you can achieve this – but that doesn’t mean a scented application on coloured paper with a cute gift. It means articulating your value to the organisation in a way that resonates with the recruiter and helps them understand why you’d be a good fit. Some examples of how to do this include:

  • Talking about your achievements: Career achievements sell you to potential employers but many people struggle to convey these in their application. The recruiter doesn’t know (yet) how fabulous you are, so your content should be tailored to make an immediate impact. And immediate impact can only be achieved by showing them how valuable you could be to their organisation. Achievements don’t always have to be money or number focused – although it is great if they are. Think about things you do in your day-to-day work that benefit the business, the customers, and/or colleagues. Sit down with a pen and paper and brainstorm ideas where you have done things that you were commended on or that made you feel proud. Think about positive feedback received, times when you solved a business issue, projects completed, or new processes implemented. Maintaining an ongoing file with positive feedback or notes when something goes well will help.
  • Aim for quality over quantity: This applies both to the length of your application as well as the number of applications you send out. Our research suggests 3-5 pages for a Resume is ideal and keeping your cover letter to one page is optimum in the Australian market. Of course, there are exceptions to that rule, particularly where selection criteria needs to be addressed or for particular fields where certain information must be included. As a rule of thumb, keep your documents to this length and target jobs that you are a) interested in; and b) suitable for.
  • Tailor your message: Casting your net far and wide with generic applications only waters down your success. This applies to applications for specific roles as well as generic ‘feelers’ or ‘contacts’ via LinkedIn or other social networks. With applications, tailor your message to suit the role. Go through all the ‘requirements’ of the role and make sure you’ve covered off how you have the necessary skills, qualifications and capabilities by demonstrating previous accomplishments in those areas. Likewise with professional networking, if you’re reaching out to someone cold about a position within the company, respect their time. Tell them your name and why you’re contacting them with a brief description of what you’re hoping to learn from them or achieve. Utilise your existing network too – check whether you know someone within the organisation you’re targeting – or even associated with that organisation in some way, and reach out to them first to ask for a referral.
  • Solve a current issue: Conducting some research into the company you are interviewing with means you might be able to provide some educated insight into solving a problem for them. Showing how much you care about the role and the company during the interview by knowing about the organisation, the market, its competitors and customers will ensure you leave the recruiter with the knowledge that you’d be a valuable employee. By researching the company beforehand and preparing a list of relevant questions or perhaps highlighting a potential solution to an issue being currently faced is a great way to stand out.
  • Make your application easy to read: This includes structure, content, format and grammar/spelling! Use bullet points, sections, headings, achievements and white space to make your application appealing – and don’t be tempted to make it too fancy. Make sure you proofread your documents, and have someone else do it as well. Ensure the application is cohesive, clear, concise and accurate – and focused on why you’re an ideal fit for the role.
  • Be punctual, organised and professional: This might seem obvious but you’d be amazed how many people just don’t place the right emphasis on this point. For a physical interview, plan to arrive at least 15-20 minutes early to allow for any last minute issues, research transport/parking options prior to the interview day, and dress neatly and appropriately for the company. Take a copy of your resume, the position description, a pen and note paper. Don’t be afraid to take notes and ask questions to find out more about the role and the company, as well as providing a chance to highlight your interest in the role and stand out to the recruiter.

Our research indicates that while some recruiters do appreciate creativity and unconventional approaches, many do not. What is essential is that you can demonstrate that you have done your research and can show how serious you are about the opportunity. It takes a recruiter between 5 and 30 seconds to decide whether to read your application in more detail, so give them every reason to do so.

Would you like help making sure that your next application or interview helps you stand out in a crowded job market? If so, please see our Resume Writing Services or Interview Skills Training Service.

Do applicant tracking systems impact your job search process?

Article by Belinda Fuller

Do applicant tracking systems impact your job search processAn applicant tracking system (ATS) is an automated system that helps companies manage the entire recruitment process – from issuing the job ad and receiving the applications, right through to actually hiring the new employee. It’s basically a database that automates the collection of all the important applicant information and helps recruiters screen and select appropriate candidates. So how does this impact your job search process?

In today’s increasingly competitive job market, with many advertised roles regularly attracting hundreds of applicants, and some large organisations receiving thousands of applications each week, ATS programs are becoming more common. An ATS assists the hiring company to streamline the entire recruitment process but that also means your application may never actually be seen by ‘human eyes’. To ensure your resume makes it through the initial automated cull, you should follow some basic rules:

  • Identify and use keywords – read the job description or ad and make sure you include relevant ‘keywords’ in your application – but don’t stuff them in places they don’t belong for the sake of it. Employers are always looking for certain attributes in candidates – this can include specific qualifications, experience, expertise, skills, and even personality traits. By reading the job ad or job description carefully and making sure you cover all the areas mentioned, your application will have a better chance at being ‘selected’ by the ATS. You should also never assume that just because you have a certain qualification or title, the recruiter will know you have a particular skill. If the job ad mentions a ‘requirement’ be sure to explicitly cover it in your application.
  • Reference exact matches – use exactly the same language as what is used in the ad, spell out acronyms and don’t abbreviate words like Department (Dept) or Manager (Mgr). Take notice of how words are written – including plural words, abbreviations, and numbers (are they spelt out or referenced as a number?). For example, saying ‘customer service’ instead of ‘client service’ or ‘CRM system’ instead of ‘Salesforce’ can impact your chances that the ATS will ‘select’ you as an initial match.
  • Double-check your document – this should be obvious, but make sure to correct all spelling, grammatical and punctuation errors before you submit your application, as well as ensuring proper capitalisation of words.
  • Keep the formatting simple – it’s best not to include graphs, images, photos, graphics or logos. It’s far better to spend your time preparing great content with clearly defined sections, sub-headings and bullet points than include content which can confuse the ATS and cause it to produce gobbledygook for the recruiter.
  • Submit your application in the preferred format – upload your resume as a document in the preferred format specified in the job ad or online application form. Try not to cut and paste content where possible.
  • Follow best practice – when it comes to formatting your job history, follow best practice and make sure to include your employer’s full name, your job title and the dates you held the job. Always list your work experience in reverse chronological order – so start with your current or most recent position and work backwards.

Adjusting the content in your resume for every application does take more time and effort than sending a generic resume, but it’s worth it in the long run. ATS technology has transformed the recruitment industry and made it simpler for both the employer and employee to find the perfect fit. Follow these simple rules and give yourself a better chance at being selected. Remember though that once the ATS has ‘selected’ you as an ideal candidate, your application will be reviewed by human eyes so make sure it is visually appealing, easy to read, and not loaded unnecessarily with keywords.

Are you applying for jobs and not hearing back? Would you like some assistance to prepare an application optimised for an ATS? If so, please see our Resume, Cover Letter and Selection Criteria Writing services.

7 tips to tailor your resume

Article by Belinda Fuller

7 Tips to Tailor Your Resume

Have you been applying for new roles and not getting much response? If you do not tailor your resume to specifically suit the role, you could be limiting your chances. In a competitive job market, you need all the advantages you can get – so sending out a stock standard document probably won’t achieve the results you’re after. But where do you start, and what information should you tailor?

In my role as a Resume Writer, I have personally reviewed and advised more than 1,000 clients on their Resumes. Many of them aren’t great – after all, clients come to us for assistance and advice because they recognise their current approach is not working. That said, one of the primary mistakes I see is relevance of the content.

Many clients want to ensure they ‘cover all the bases’ and provide a resume that talks to many different roles. This is never our recommended approach for several reasons. You just can’t be all things to all people. Also, today more than ever before, the importance of specialisation cannot be underestimated because almost everybody is ‘multi-skilled’. Tailoring your Resume to specifically suit the role you are applying for helps you to highlight your specialist skills, and the unique reasons why you could excel in the role.

Your content should ideally fit a maximum of three to four pages and every word needs to count in convincing the recruiter you deserve an interview. It is much harder to write less than more – short, sharp succinct content takes time and effort but will achieve better results in the end. So where do you start, and what information can be tailored?

TIP # 1 – Research: the first step is to research the job ad carefully and identify exactly what the recruiter is looking for. Highlight the skills or experience that seem important and make notes. If the company is advertising directly, have a look at their website, and do a Google search for the company name to find out if any current company or industry events might impact the job. Writing just one sentence that references your knowledge of a current situation could mean the difference between success and failure at this initial stage.

TIP # 2 – Career Profile: we always recommend including a customised career profile in your Resume. The profile should introduce you and highlight what you bring to the role. It should briefly demonstrate your skills, experience, and successes, while highlighting how they add value. Most people see this section as fairly standard; however by customising the content to address individual job requirements, or even using the same language as the recruiter – you will put yourself a step ahead. Make it enthusiastic, passionate, easy to understand, concise and engaging – and clearly demonstrate ‘what’s in it for the employer’.

KTIP # 3 – Key Capabilities: once you know the recruiter’s priorities in terms of what they’re looking for, you can also customise your ‘key skills or capabilities list’. In its simplest form, this means re-ordering your list. Get more involved by rewording those key points and/or customising them to suit the job requirements. Think about what the role needs and demonstrate how you can provide it through some past experience, success, training, or education.

TIP # 4 – Job History: over time, some content may become less relevant to the roles you are applying for today, or perhaps the content is simply dated. It is a good idea to reduce the detail listed under older roles whenever you add recent content. Your Resume needs to convey the most important information about you and your past experience to get you in the door but without becoming too lengthy.

TIP # 5 – Order of Previous Roles: this is not something we recommend doing unless absolutely necessary because the Resume can become confusing if not done well. However, where we may recommend doing this is if you have highly relevant experience in your past work history, with the recent roles not at all relevant. In this case, you should make a new section called ‘Relevant Employment History’ then list the relevant roles. Move your other more recent role descriptions to a section called ‘Other Employment History’. This means that the recruiter will see your ‘relevant experience’ first but the title of the section will give some insight into why that experience is not recent.

TIP # 6 – Achievements: our research indicates that recruiters look for achievements while more quickly discarding resumes that are purely ‘responsibilities’ focused. Try to highlight at least two or three achievements for each role – but tailor them to support your ability to perform in the role you are applying for. Tangible achievements should be first priority, but you can also think about projects you’ve contributed to, collaboration with colleagues, extra responsibilities taken on, new processes you initiated, customer accolades received or major targets exceeded. Think about any aspect where you went above and beyond – chances are, recruiters will consider these achievements.

TIP # 7 – Referees: while it isn’t necessary to include names and contact details (unless specifically requested), or copies of written references, you should do so if the referee is highly relevant to the role you are applying for. An industry expert or well respected leader will certainly add value and credibility to your application.

A well written, tailored Resume won’t get you the job – that’s up to you to achieve at the interview. However, it will help you secure the all-important interview. If you follow these tips, you’ll be able to quickly and easily customise your Resume to help recruiters make that all important decision about whether or not that happens.

Would you benefit from some assistance identifying and articulating the most important information to include in your Resume so your next job application has a better chance of standing out? If so, please see our Resume Writing Services.

Email vs. Cover Letter: What do I Need?

Article by Belinda Fuller

Email vs Cover Letter What Do I NeedWith most jobs requiring submission of your work related documents to an online portal or sent via email, many of our clients are confused about the necessity to create and send a formal cover letter when the job ad doesn’t specifically mention it. Many people think that if you’re sending an application via email or even submitting online, then a cover letter isn’t required, but we don’t agree.

When clients ask our advice about this issue, our answer is ALWAYS YES – include a separate cover letter – no matter how you’re applying for a role and no matter whether or not the job ad has specified you include one. In addition, if you’re applying via email (rather than an online portal), also include a short introduction in the email. By supplying a customised cover letter with your Resume, you give yourself the best chance to stand out – and it’s the perfect opportunity to highlight the unique capabilities that make you an ideal candidate for the role. The email content can briefly introduce you and your motivations for applying.

We recently recruited for a writer and the facts around the applications we received are astounding. Our advertisement specified that applicants provide a Cover Letter addressing some selection criteria, together with their resume. Despite this specific request – check out the statistics:

  • More than half of the candidates who applied did not include a cover letter – even though the job advertisement specifically requested one. Those applications were not considered.
  • Of those candidates who did include a cover letter, less than half of them went on to address the selection criteria – even though the job ad specifically requested they do so. Those applications were not considered.
  • Many candidates mentioned their interest was focused around the flexible hours on offer, but made no mention of their interest in the role itself or what they could bring to the role professionally. This was a big turn-off and those applications were not considered.
  • Three candidates attached cover letters they had written for completely different jobs! Those applications were not considered.
  • More than half the applications contained spelling and grammatical errors. Those applications were not considered.

So while we always advise including a cover letter, we are not talking about a ‘standard’ approach. We advise customising the letter for the role by putting yourself in the recruiter’s shoes and thinking about why you are right for the role, rather than why the role is right for you from your perspective only. Pay attention to all the details in the job ad or position description. What does the candidate need to achieve in the role, what are the company’s issues, and how can you help solve them? Provide brief details of scenarios where you have achieved similar successes in the past – and always provide proof of the outcomes. Make sure to clearly and succinctly address any selection criteria or other specifics mentioned in the job ad.

For the email, keep it brief and reference your attached Resume and Cover Letter for context and detail. Use it as a way to provide a quick introduction. Don’t leave the subject line blank – use it to clearly reference the job title and specific reference number if applicable. While we recommend keeping the content very brief in the email, we also strongly encourage professionalism and proper writing style while avoiding abbreviations, ‘text talk’, overly familiar language, and emoticons.

The bottom line is – it’s not hard to stand out from other candidates – just including a tailored Cover Letter will often put you ahead of the majority of candidates! Even in job ads that have not specifically requested a Cover Letter – we always recommend sending one. Doing so creates a more concise and targeted picture of you and the value you can bring to the role. Our anecdotal evidence also suggests that candidates who include a customised Cover Letter with their application are more likely to achieve an interview.

Are you confused about the different content in a Cover Letter and email? Would you like assistance from a professional writer to prepare a winning Cover Letter targeted towards a specific role for your next job application? If so, please see our customised Resume and Cover Letter Writing Services.

How to identify your most important employability factors

Article by Belinda Fuller

How to Identify Your Most Important Employability FactorsFor most of us today, a career for life is simply not an option. We usually have several different jobs, with a variety of different employers, in various different industries or sectors throughout our working lives. This means we need to be flexible when identifying the factors that make us employable – those skills that help us acquire, retain and achieve success in a job.

So what exactly are ‘Employability Factors’? Basically they are the set of achievements, skills, expertise, and personal attributes that help you achieve success in your chosen career. Most employers seek candidates that have other abilities beyond just the required qualifications and experience. These are a more comprehensive or balanced mix of experience, soft skills, and value that you add in your day to day work.

I’ve written before about how soft skills can help advance your career so this is a great place to start. The most important soft skills for your chosen career don’t necessarily align closely with the technical knowledge or hard skill sets required. They relate to the way in which you interact with and treat others, make decisions, or react to different situations. They include:

  1. Communication: employers mostly seek candidates who can clearly and concisely articulate ideas and needs (both verbally and in writing) with a wide variety of people.
  1. Interpersonal: being able to develop working relationships is seen as one of the most important skills for any employee. It means you can empathise with others and build important relationships – with colleagues, superiors, clients, suppliers, and other employees.
  1. Creative Thinking & Innovation: competition is fierce across most industries today, so doing things the way they’ve always been done isn’t ideal. Having the ability to think outside the box to solve problems and make decisions can offer new perspectives or approaches and is a huge asset to any employer.
  1. Collaboration: the ability to work well with others and appreciate input from different team members is essential, and will result in higher levels of efficiency, effectiveness, and ultimately success for any organisation.
  1. Presentation Skills: being able to present ideas and information effectively is vital. This isn’t just about making formal presentations, but also includes speaking at informal meetings and preparing written reports, business or project plans, or more detailed strategy documents.
  1. Leadership: having the confidence and ability to influence other people’s decisions and outcomes is important. Leadership isn’t just for ‘leaders’ or managers, but is important for all employees to progress and succeed.
  1. IT Skills: most people need some IT skills to do their job. As a minimum, you should understand the basics of IT such as using the internet, sending and receiving emails, and using word processing and/or spreadsheet applications.

In addition to these soft skills, you should be able to identify the value you add. A great way to do this is to talk about your achievements because new employers don’t know your history – they need to understand the value you can add in the role, and  this can be achieved by explaining past achievements.

Achievements don’t always have to be money or number focused (although it is great if they are). This is where many candidates get bogged down – they don’t have a revenue generating role so they think they don’t have ‘achievements’. However, there are many different areas we can look to for achievements. Think about things that you do in your day to day work that benefits your business, customers, and/or colleagues. Sit down with a pen and paper and think about anything you did:

  • where you received positive feedback or praise from a colleague, superior or client;
  • that made you feel proud;
  • that solved an ongoing issue or problem in the business;
  • that involved working in a team – say a larger project that was completed collaboratively;
  • that provided a new way of doing something;
  • that reduced the time taken or cost required; and
  • that improved service or support, or the quality of the outcome.

Once you’ve identified these soft skills and past achievements, you have the basis of your most important employability factors – the reasons why an employer would choose you over someone else. It’s also important to have a good attitude towards personal development because employers want ‘lifelong learners’ – people who are willing to adapt, change, and constantly learn in order to do things better for their organisation.

Would you like help identifying and articulating your most important employability factors so your next job application has a better chance of standing out? If so, please see our Career Advice and Professional Resume & CV Writing Services.

Are speculative job applications worth the time and effort?

Article by Belinda Fuller

Is a Speculative Job Application Worth the Time and Effort?We believe the answer is definitely YES! Learning how to write an effective speculative job application can certainly pay off – especially if you are seeking to change careers or move up the career ladder. It can demonstrate initiative, keenness and a proactive nature – all great traits for any successful employee.

Speculative job applications are also a great way to put yourself in control of your job application process. We strongly believe if you’re only applying for advertised vacancies, you may be missing out on many other opportunities – as well as making your entire job search process much longer than is necessary.

Sending a speculative job application to a company that is not currently advertising a suitable position can get you and your experience in front of the right person at just the right time, and prevent your application from sitting in the same pile as everyone else’s. But what is the best approach?

Here are our tips for success:

TIP # 1 – Research the company: and how your skills and experience could benefit them. This does take time, but it will pay off. You’ll be able to quickly demonstrate how your background could be of value. In addition, you’ll have a good idea about how good a ‘fit’ you are, which will help you appear more confident if you do achieve that all important one-on-one interview.

TIP # 2 – Strategise: take time to define your offer and why a potential employer might like to meet you. Write down your key skills and strengths and how they fit the company’s goals and objectives. Try to identify benefits or ‘value add’ outcomes that you’ve achieved for other employers and relate that to the company you are approaching.

TIP # 3 – Use Your Networks: you can approach a company cold by sending a letter or email, but a better approach is to leverage your existing network. If you know someone within a company, don’t be afraid to ask them for help in ensuring your application is delivered. Just don’t forget to show your thanks and hopefully repay them with some information or advice in the future.

TIP # 4 – Write: put yourself in the potential employer’s shoes and write based on the ‘what’s in it for me?’ principle. This is an important part of the speculative process because you’re approaching them with no real idea about whether or not there are any relevant current or impending opportunities. Rather than just making statements about who you are or what you offer – provide proof of value or results you’ve achieved in the past. Your speculative application needs to be sufficiently interesting for the potential employer to want to talk to you more. You can only do this by showing them how you’ve achieved certain results or solved specific problems in the past.

Here’s a few tips on how to format your approach:

  • Use a formal letter writing technique – include your name and address details, the date, address the letter to a specific person (not just a title such as ‘Attention HR Manager’) and include their job title, and the company name and address details. End the letter with ‘Yours sincerely’.
  • Open with the reason why you are writing to them – mention what interests you. Explain you are seeking a new role and why you have identified the company as a potential employer.
  • Summarise your experience, skills and areas of expertise including recent achievements or successes (remember the proof mentioned above). Tell the reader why you are interested in exploring employment opportunities with their organisation, what you could bring to the company, and why you feel you’d be a good candidate.
  • Prompt a call to action by telling the reader how to contact you and what they will achieve if you speak further.

Once you’ve written your speculative application, don’t sit back and wait! Follow up with a phone call a few days later. Even if your letter hasn’t been read, this approach could increase your chance of success. Speculative applications are no longer being seen as presumptuous, in fact many employers love them because they save much time with recruitment! So what are you waiting for? 

Would you would like help crafting a speculative cover letter? If so, please see our Resume and Cover Letter Writing Services.

5 things not to include in your resume and why

Article by Belinda Fuller

5 Things Not to Include in Your Resume and WhyWhen it comes to Resumes – what NOT to include is almost as important as the information that’s in there. Your Resume needs to give the recruiter a great first impression but it will probably be one of many received. It’s therefore important to use the space and words wisely and ditch the unnecessary clutter.

It’s never been more important to get your Resume and job application 100% right the first time. Since it will most likely be one of many received, you need to give yourself the best chance at getting noticed. As Resume Writers, we often get asked why certain information hasn’t been included.

Here’s a list of five things we avoid and why:

1.  Career Objective: Don’t waste words stating what you want. Put yourself in the employers’ shoes. They need to understand immediately “What’s in it for me?” not what you’re searching for in life. Instead of your own personal career objective, we suggest including a career overview that provides a snapshot of who you are, your relevant qualifications, skills and experience – and the overall value you could bring to the role.

2.  Unnecessary Education: Unfinished degrees and high school details are mostly unnecessary. Putting a degree on hold could highlight commitment issues in the employer’s mind so we recommend excluding it altogether. Always include study currently underway – but state your ‘anticipated completion date’ so the employer knows how far along you are. It’s also not necessary to include high school information unless you’ve only recently left school. Once you have tertiary qualifications and/or some work history behind you, exclude high school details.

3.  Personal Information: It is not necessary to include age, height, weight, marital status, health, children, hobbies, religious, cultural or political associations so don’t waste space by doing so.

4.  A Photo: Unless you are a model or an actor, it’s not necessary. Since it is discriminatory to hire or not hire someone based on their looks, including a photo could be a distraction. Some recruiters even go so far as culling resumes with photos.

5.  Quirky Email Addresses: Having a 007 or Catwoman email address might sound fun but it just isn’t professional. Create an email address containing your first and last name/initials – or the best combination of these you can achieve.

You don’t usually get a second chance to present your Resume and it is arguably the most important part of your application process – without it you won’t get that all important interview and a chance to secure the role.

Are you interested in getting assistance from a Professional Resume Writer to prepare a winning Resume for your next job application? If so, please see our Resume & CV Writing Services and Job Search Coaching Services.