• Isabella Johnston

The Best Resume, LinkedIn, and Interview Tips To Help You Rise To the Top by Isabella Johnston

Updated: a day ago

When it comes to getting ready for the job hunt, you want to be sure to want to put your best foot forward. Kind of like dating! Check out my blog article about how a job search is like dating here, if you want to really think about how you should rethink your job search.

Back to the job search – from your resume, LinkedIn profile, and preparing for the interview – be sure to take a critical eye and keep it up to date. Your resume and LinkedIn should be mirror images of your job history. The other social channels, well make sure you keep what should be private kept private. Censor offensive language, over sharing information about your personal life, and keep a Rated G approach to what you share. You can get a point across without being overbearing.

Let’s start with your resume. This is the opportunity to stand out among all the other hundreds of applicants for the position you are applying. It should speak to your knowledge, expertise, and value you bring to the role. As a career coach who's reviewed thousands of resumes and served in various hiring capacities, I've learned the do's and don'ts of how to make a resume stand out. Here are eight resume tips:

1. Identify the value you bring to the position and the company. Do your research on the company to know their services/products, mission, vision, and social channels. This is your own Intel on the company and you want to be prepared when you get called in for the interview. This will help you to identify skills and knowledge you have that can help on paper.

2. Research the person you might be working with. If possible, you can tap into mutual areas of interest. Were you in the same club, sport, or social cause that the employer supports? What social responsibility does the company support? You might see you have common ground in that area also.

3. Determine what aspect of your career you need to showcase to demonstrate your knowledge, skills and abilities.

Usually when a company posts an open position, it includes a list of duties, required knowledge and responsibilities. Pay attention to information elsewhere in the job description as well, and read the company's reports, minutes of strategic planning sessions and other publically available documents. And don’t miss an opportunity to speak to the person who previously held the position, if you can.

Armed with this information, you'll have a better idea of what knowledge, skills and abilities to showcase when summarizing your career experience, volunteer experience, awards and any other recognition you've received. For example, if you're applying for a management or leadership position, try to showcase experiences that demonstrate your ability to manage and/or lead.

4. Ask yourself, "Why is this statement important?"

When preparing your resume, continually ask yourself, "Why is this statement important?" Share only high-level activities that demonstrate your ability to perform. A way to demonstrate this ability might be to include a statement like "Continually recognized for neutralizing potentially hazardous situations that would have resulted in fiscal deficits and instead enabling corporate leaders to secure multi-agency contracts averaging $30K."

5. Include activities that showcase your value.

Hand-in-hand with tip No. 2, include activities that best showcase your value. Ask yourself, "Why is this activity important?" and "If it weren't performed at the required level or better, what would have happened?" Case in point: If you hadn't handled a matter expeditiously using your project management skills, what would have been the organizational outcome?

Identifying what activities and experience a company will find valuable is sometimes hard to do when you're new to the job market or career path, so do your research: Speak to someone who was in the position previously, review the position description and look up the company online to gain a better understanding of the scope of the enterprise. Your research will also demonstrate your ability to take initiative. It shows the interviewer that you're determined to advance in a career and don’t want just a job.

Another way to showcase your value is by adding a career objective or qualification statement at the beginning of your resume. When doing so, make sure the content of your resume backs up or reinforces what you write. For example, your qualification statement could read: "Extraverted visionary seeking to further extend strategic planning skills to the health care profession." Just make sure that you include on your resume work experience that reinforces your strategic planning abilities.

6. Share the actions, purpose and results of each activity.

Wherever possible, when you list an activity under each position you've held, provide actions, a purpose and results. You can use a bulleted list or a paragraph to get your meaning across. When using bullet points, a good rule of thumb is to include three to four bullet points.

Take care not to write like a job description. For example, don’t write: "Reviewed manuscripts each day." Use powerful action words and adjectives. But refrain from using words and terms that you don’t normally use. Be you. Instead of "Reviewed manuscripts each day," you could write, "Successfully reviewed voluminous manuscripts daily ahead of prescribed deadlines for the purpose of justifying $1.4B of expansion projects to an executive director." Doesn’t the second example provide a clearer picture of what you accomplished?

7. Don’t use "I."

Avoid using "I" on your resume. Why? First, a person who's reviewing hundreds of applicants' resumes is likely skimming them. So aim to be as succinct as possible. Second, if a machine is scanning your resume, it will likely be programmed to locate keywords. Pronouns aren't keywords, so save space for more pertinent information. Instead of writing statements beginning with phrases like "I accomplished," use verb phrases like in the previous examples I shared above: "Successfully reviewed" and "Continually recognized for."

8. Instead of using acronyms, explain or define the terms.

Acronyms often stand for highly technical terms that only a company insider would understand, so make sure you explain their meaning whenever possible. Doing this not only demonstrates your understanding of the work, ideology or processes but also your ability to help the layperson understand complicated terms. This is an ability that may be expected if the position involves briefing high-level executives or officials.

If you can’t explain the acronym with one simple sentence, though, then just write out what it stands for. [Points three through eight were courtesy of Sandra Hill, Forbes Council Member]

Keeping Your Job Search Private

The last thing you need is for others to know what you are doing at work. Do not, I repeat Do NOT share your intent to look for another position. If you want to get fired that may very well come to light and happen sooner than you expect. No one will know if you follow these tips. [Points 9 through 17 are courtesy of Robin Ryan, Forbes contributor]

9. Don’t job hunt at work.

Define the time you can spend on this - lunchtime, before or after work, or on weekends. Likely that comes to about 5-7 hours per week. You don’t want to tip off coworkers that you’re on the hunt. Use your personal email and your personal cell phone if possible. Be careful who you text and who’s watching. Keep your phone on password protect and don’t let friends answer it for you or play with it.

Define your next move. Are you looking for a promotion? Is it a lateral career move or are you hoping to change careers? You need to go to Indeed to do some research identifying the next job and being clear on the title you seek.

10. Get your résumé and cover letter ready.

Take the time to create an effective résumé. Maybe you need professional help, especially if it’s been many years since you have been looking for a job. Today’s employers are looking for a very targeted résumé laced with your past results and accomplishments. Go online and read about Resume Writing and get through the Applicant Tracking System (ATS). Many job candidates never send a cover letter anymore. HR Managers say that if one is attached they usually read it. So to stand out, write a persuasive cover letter that outlines clearly how you can do the job. Open with a powerful first statement that explains your key strengths for doing the job. Mention skills and experience that hit the top requirements in the job listing. Always be sure your name, email and phone number are on the cover letter too.

11. Update your LinkedIn profile.

Before you start making changes, turn off notifications so your profile updates are not broadcast across your network. Second, don't tag your profile with “looking for a new job” — your employer may be watching. If it’s been a few years since you’ve updated the Profile, read this series of LinkedIn articles to help you develop your personal brand and be able to tap into the SEO needed to get recruiters’ attention. Update the “about” section and be sure your current job lists some key accomplishments. Check the Skills section since LinkedIn recently changed it. They now allow you to take a test and get a badge verifying you have a specific tech skill, Java, Photoshop, MS Project, Python, etc. This new article on Skills Assessment explains the details and what tests are available.

12.Remember loose lips sink ships.

You can share the search with a trusted friend outside of work or with your partner but watch out to not broadcast the fact you are looking. Keep your attitude at work on work and don’t develop a “I’m out of here asap” attitude as it may come through to others. I know one client told her work BFF and within a day it got back to her boss; seems the detail was too juicy for the work BFF to resist telling another worker or two. Outside of work, watch what you say on social media. No badmouthing your current employer! Some employers monitor Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts of their employees. Even if they don't, you never know who is connected to whom through the virtual network. Don’t ask for luck on your new job interview or inquire publicly what it is like to work at XYZ Company. Network with discretion.

13. Get prepared for job interviews.

Read a few books about job interviewing and write out answers to prospective questions you think you may be asked. Have a good answer as to why you want to leave your current employer. Noting that you want more challenge, seek to move up or that the company is experiencing a downturn and is preparing for layoffs are good reasons for moving on. Schedule interviews outside work hours as much as possible. Many employers will accommodate your request. If the interview is scheduled during working hours, consider taking a vacation or personal day. Some might use calling in sick or say they have a doctor’s appointment, but you can only do that once or twice. One client said she called in sick only to get a call from her boss minutes before the interview was to start wanting her on a conference call from home. She stumbled trying to think of how to get out of it. If you need to, take a day off so you won't be distracted or expected to work. This strategy allows you to show up and be professionally dressed in attire that is often viewed as “interview attire” and not usual work dress. No one sees you leaving and returning to your home.

14. Clarify your references. You offer these at the end of the job hunt process during the interview stage. Ask the employer to not contact your current employer. Almost all will respect this request. That said, you need references that can attest to your ability to get the job done. Former managers who have left the company are ideal. In David’s case he used a vendor and a former boss who had just retired. Just be sure the person you list is not going to tell your current employer. Always be sure to reconnect with references and get their permission and current contact info.

15. Cherry pick! Not all jobs are created equal. Only apply to the ones that look like good fits with companies you’ve researched and like the culture. This step saves a lot of time wasted on applying for just anything and getting overloaded. You still need to do your day job, so carefully selecting where to apply (and having LinkedIn advertising your skills 24/7) is the better strategy.

16. Get an employment letter. Before you rush in to tell your boss you’re leaving, get something in writing that outlines your date and agreed upon salary, and any other key details. Sometimes your current company may try to keep you. They may meet or beat the offer, or they may just say bye-bye. Don't expect a counter offer. Do be considerate and offer two weeks’ notice, which is as long as you believe the current boss won’t fire you in a rage. Yes, that happens. If that’s a concern, give notice on the last day you want to work.

17. Make copies. If there are any documents, contacts, files, etc. you want from your current employer be sure you have gotten all that copied off your computer before you give notice. You’ll instantly lose access and some of that info may be useful in the new job. Copy it, and put it on a backup drive or on a home or personal computer.

Interview Tips

18. Know when to bring up flexibility. It is not always obvious whether an employer is open to a flexible work arrangement. The default might be a traditional work schedule or location, and you may need to negotiate for flexibility.

You will be most effective negotiating for flexibility only after the employer is interested in you. Therefore, you don’t want to bring up flexibility prematurely. When you know the employer is serious about hiring you – e.g., they start selling you on the job or talk about the logistics of getting started – then you can broach the topic of flexibility. Prior to that, your focus should be on demonstrating your overall qualifications, knowing you can discuss flexibility at a later time. If you want to confirm that the employer is open to flexibility before you interview, ask people who used to work there or still work there but are not involved in your hiring process. Focus 100% on proving yourself to be the best candidate first, and save the due diligence for after the employer already wants you.

19. Highlight results. Employers hire to solve a specific problem. The job description often includes a laundry list of responsibilities and qualifications, but employers ultimately hire for results. The most effective way to win employers over is to focus the job interview on results you can achieve for this prospective employer based on results you have already achieved in the past.

With flexible jobs, highlighting results is even more important because you won’t be as visible as your colleagues. You’re on a different schedule or in a different place, so your employer has to trust you to get those results without seeing the work behind it. If you’re already inside a company, they have seen your track record. Before you’re hired, however, what you say during the job interview is your track record. Be specific on what you accomplished for others and what you can accomplish for this prospective employer. Ideally, you can show how working flexibly contributed to getting those results.

20. Outline how you would approach the work

In addition to the results you could accomplish, outline how you would get these results. With flexible jobs, the employer can’t see you work. A clear outline about how you would your approach the work will build trust with the employer since results aren’t going to materialize instantly. A clear strategy for your work also shows the prospective employer that you are self-starting and reliable – key traits for getting things done flexibly.

Outlining your work approach is also a chance to verify your understanding of the job description. When you and the employer discuss, not just the end result, but the process and the day-to-day activity, you get a much clearer picture of what the job really entails. Job postings can be wrong, and with flexible jobs where you may have less hands-on management to help you course-correct, you need to know from the outset what the relevant goals are.

21. Confirm the logistics

If you’re working a different schedule or from a different location, you’ll have different equipment, resources, potentially even log-in access. It’s easy to take for granted all the logistics supporting the workplace when you’re onsite and everything is provided for you. Once you’re working flexibly, you need to ensure you have the support you need.

During the interview, as you confirm what needs to be done and how you would approach it (points 2 and 3 above), listen for what the employer already offers or what infrastructure you might need to set up. If other people are already working flexibly, you probably will have all or most of what you need. But if you’ll be the pioneer, you should expect to invest additional time with IT, security, facilities and your colleagues. If you have done this in the past, these specific stories would be relevant examples to share during the interview – assuring the prospective employer that you can hit the ground running.

22. Make flexibility a non-issue or even a competitive advantage

If you check off points 1-4 above, you can convince an employer that you are right for the job. However, you also want to convince them that you are better than other candidates, including the ones who are willing to work the typical hours, schedule and/or location. One way to do this is to be the better qualified candidate overall, so that even if the employer feels like flexibility has a cost, they are more than willing to pay it in order to land you.

Another way to overcome the flexibility objection is to show how flexibility conveys an advantage. Pepper your interview with examples of how flexible work has increased your productivity, creativity or other tangible results. Have outside research on the benefits of flexible work readily available to bolster your case.

23. Use the interview process to bank in-person rapport for later.

The interview process, whether for flexible or traditional jobs, is a great opportunity to build rapport with the people you will be working with. If your flexible work arrangement means you won’t see these people as much once you’re working, take advantage of the interview process to get the in-person interaction you won’t have later. Focusing on rapport will also increase your likability during the interview process – a critical and too often overlooked factor in hiring decisions. [Additional tips courtesy of Caroline Ceniza-Levine with Forbes Council]

These tips will take you from building your resume, LinkedIn, and preparing for interviews. We totally want to acknowledge the Forbes magazine authors as the original source for this goodness. You will find additional tips that I sprinkled throughout the article that reflect my own spin on how to approach your job hunt to get the most out of your time that should yield results. Reach out to Isabella for speaking engagements, training, or coaching.

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