Does SEO help your resume?

There’s a lot of talk about the electronic resume screening systems.

Some people feel they are unfair because it allows the employer to disregard experienced candidates based on specific factors that may not really determine their ability to do the job. It is viewed by some as a way to narrow the applicant pool when companies receive 200-500 applications per job. That may be true in some cases.  However, if you are constantly finding yourself lacking a specific requirement, you either need to upgrade your skills or you are not looking for jobs that match your skills

Other people feel that these systems give technically literate folks a distinct advantage. It might in some ways. However, it’s a reality of our world that technical skills are required to work some of the most basic jobs. Many states have training programs for people who need to upgrade their skills to remain competitive. Ask at your state unemployment office.

If you have the technical skills and the job requirements in terms of education and experience, how can you help your resume move to the top of the pile? One way is to add SEO to your resume and cover letter. This doesn’t mean to go crazy stuffing your application materials with words. It does mean that properly phrasing and describing your experience can help. Getting past the automated screening tools and landing an interview may well be worth the cost of hiring a good resume writer and/or job coach.

How to write a teenager’s resume

Teens and tweens don’t have traditional resume information. Some college students still lack a traditional employment history too. It’s the old story “you have to start somewhere.” That means it’s up to you to convince an employer to give you an opportunity. The first challenge is to create a meaningful resume without being so nontraditional that it means nothing to a potential employer.

Start by making a list of things that you’ve done throughout school. Include special school projects, awards, summer camps, workshops, clubs, small jobs, elective subjects studied. If you have an exceptionally high grade point average overall or in a particular topic, especially if that topic applies to the job you seek, list it.

Next, sort the list out chronologically (in order of dates). Look at each item and try to think of skills that are used and how those skills might apply to a job.  For example, a school crossing-guard or campus host for special events must be reliable, punctual, observant, follow the rules, and be polite. He or she deals with parents, teachers, and students every day. A student council member most often develops good listening and public speaking skills, follows meeting procedures, deals well with people, and is well organized.

If possible, avoid listing organizations with religions, sexual, or political attachment.  If you have nothing else or that’s the majority of your experience, use it–especially if you are under 18. In my personal opinion, employers are less influenced by these things when hiring students or part-time help. You can worry about being politically correct after you have a real job long enough to prove yourself.

Now, create the first draft of your resume from the information that is relevant to your job search by putting the information in reverse chronological order. That means you need to list the most recent experience first and work backward. Be sure to include start and end dates and the location, which includes school or business name, city, state, and person who supervised or taught you.

Make a list of potential references and their phone numbers. Don’t put the references on your resume. Just have them available on a separate sheet. Don’t list your MySpace or Facebook page either, unless it is totally clean and scholastic in appearance. If you have anything on your pages that is weird, wonky, funky, or possibly illegal, take it down before you look for a job. I’m serious.  Over 50% of employers really check social media and are influenced by what they find.

Read Resumes for Students for more tips. Most of the resume tips on my website also apply to students.

Resumes for Students

Students, and parents, need to get past the idea that it’s still easy for kids to get a quick summer job at McDonald’s or run around the neighborhood mowing lawns. Times have changed.

Labor laws are so cumbersome and difficult to monitor that some businesses simply don’t hire kids under eighteen anymore. Neighbors don’t want the liability of kids working around their homes with or without power equipment, and they don’t want to give access to anyone when they aren’t home. This isn’t without merit. Home owner’s insurance might not cover them if they get hurt. That’s a lot of risk. Where does this leave kids who want and/or need to work?

First, you–the student–must accept the fact you have a great deal of competition. Your competition may be willing to cut their hair, wear a tie, and work on weekends, even when it means missing a great party. The nature of the working world is that employers call the shots. There are more workers than jobs. Even adults with many years of experience and advanced degrees are working longer hours for less money. If you want to work, you have to be willing to do what’s asked regarding appearance and job duties. You’ll also need to accept the fact you won’t start out making what you think you deserve.

Second, you need a good resume that points out what you have to offer. Resumes for students create a challenge, but it’s possible to develop a resume at any age. Include clubs and student activities, special awards, short-term jobs, volunteer projects, special interests or summer workshops. All of these things help build a profile of a person an employer wants to hire when you look for your first job.

Third, talk to adults you know about providing references. Tell people you know that you are looking for a job. Ask for references from anyone you’ve worked for, or with, who can testify about your ability, skills, and responsible behavior. If you can’t think of anyone, volunteer for a project at a church or school. You will need a reference or two that aren’t family. It is a bit of a dilemma, but you can find ways to build references.

Send in your questions. If you have questions, other kids do too.

Is your resume out of date?

Resume styles change, just like technology and educational requirements. In a job market where hundreds of people apply for every opportunity, you want to look your very best. Here are five tips to help your resume get to the top of the stack.

Most people have an email address, which should be included with the address and phone number. That said, the email address needs to be professional and use your name. Try not to get msmith4985. Try other combinations of your name and initials. Definitely do not use crazymary@whatever.com.

Many people are also on LinkedIn and have professional profiles and recommendations on other sites too. This type of website address may be included if you are a professional. There are several reason to not include it too, but you can be quite sure most employers check social media and find it anyway.  It may be wise to fine-tune your social media sites before embarking on a job search.

On the other hand, if you have a Facebook or MySpace personal website, don’t put it on your resume. If it’s got some really “interesting” information, you can try to clean it up. Just be aware that many things don’t go away and can be found in online searches. Over sixty-percent of employers check social media sites when hiring and admit to being influenced by what they find. You may not like it, but that’s what happens. You decide what’s more important, total freedom on social media or a paycheck.

Every resume should be tailored for a specific position. The changes may be minor, but the resume must fit the job. Don’t let canned job titles and incorrect terminology for the industry get your resume discarded.

Sell yourself with a professional summary, not an objective. Today, companies want to know what you can do for them. They have no interest in hearing what you want.

Make achievements stand out. Use bullet points, active verbs, and results to describe your experience. Be specific about achievements, such as “improved sales of widgets 25% in 2009.”  Every job has something that can be quantified. Think about what was on your last review. How is your job performance rated? A secretary might say “improved production 20% by reorganizing the file system.”

Keep your resume easy to read. Don’t try to cram twenty years of experience into a single page resume. You can’t do it. On the other hand, don’t stretch a year of experience out beyond reason. Old guidelines say keep it to one page. That won’t always work for long careers and technical/professional resumes, but that’s not a license to write a book. An easy-to-read, well-organized resume is the top priority now. Avoid lengthy paragraphs of text that take a lot of time to read. Recruiters and managers are unlikely to spend the time. You have about 90 seconds to get their attention. Scary, isn’t it?