Update Your Resume and Stand Out From the Competition

March 27th, 2015

Your resume has served you well in the past…After all, this document helped you land the last position you stepped into a few months, years, or decades ago. And now you’re on the market again, and you’re exploring any move that might grant you an edge over the other applicants in the pool. Instead of submitting the same old document with a few new entries added to the “work history” section, consider giving your entire resume a top-down overhaul…or at least a fresh new look. Here’s how.

Start with your layout.

Just like fashion and interior décor, document styles and layouts tend to shift with the times. Don’t submit a 1995 resume for a 2015 job search. Explore your options and choose a color and theme that suggest market-savvy professionalism and reflect your personal brand. Check online for effective samples, and make the best possible use of the features available in your version of Word.

Update your summary.

Take a hard look at the most important section of your resume: your four line summary at the top of the page that briefly explains what you’re looking for and what you can do. Even if you’ve been working in the same industry for a long time, your goals and abilities have probably evolved. Don’t be afraid to delete this section and start over. But salvage some of the language and phrasing that adhere most tightly to your core message.

Update your education.

If you’ve earned any degrees or certifications, of course you’ll want to add these to your education section. But make sure you also add any individual courses or training sessions you’ve completed. Include the courses in which you’re currently enrolled and list your anticipated completion dates. While you’re at it, take a close look at some of the entries that pertain to your earliest educational accomplishments. If you’ve moved beyond high school, take your high school details off the list. If more than three years have passed since you graduated from college, remove your GPA.

Update your work history.

Add an entry to this subheading to account for your most recent position (or positions). But as you do so, keep moving through every line of this section and tweaking your existing text to fit your current goals. Your target employers may be looking for specific skill sets that aren’t reflected in your current text; if so, make sure you shift the focus so your entries highlight the accomplishments and responsibilities that will help you shine. Work keywords into your text as well so you’ll be more likely to make it past scanners and search engines.

For more on how to update your resume and improve your odds of landing a job, reach out to the staffing professionals at PSU.


Is Your Long Interview Process Costing You Top Talent?

March 20th, 2015

When you get excited about a potential new candidate, do you act quickly and expediently to bring her on board before your competitors can move in and scoop her up? Or do you engage in a long, convoluted, multi-round interview process, dragging your feet and sorting through one bureaucratic hassle after another until you finally make a formal offer weeks later? (Or even months later?)

There’s an easy way to tell of your interview process is efficient and on track: if it is, you’re hiring the candidates you want. If it isn’t, you’re losing many of them before you have a chance to sign them on. Here are a few ways to attract and keep top talent by streamlining your system.

Reduce your pool.

If you feel obligated to interview twenty candidates for each open position, ask yourself why. Is this a genuine matter of due diligence? Is it a legal requirement? Are you trying to be fair, or trying to temper your risk? If you don’t honestly need to schedule 20 interviews over the course of three weeks in order to make your decision, reduce your pool to ten, or even five.

Reduce your overall sessions.

Don’t schedule more than three rounds of interviews per candidate. If you think you need meeting after meeting in order to gain answers to all of your questions, think again. Tighten your questions so each one provides more meaning and covers more ground. And if you think that forcing your candidates to jump thorough endless hoops will help you weed out the less committed, that’s also a mistake. In fact, this alienates talented workers who have other options. While the better applicants jump ship and accept offers elsewhere, you’ll be left with only the desperate by the time you reach round ten.

Don’t leave a lag between acceptance and offer.

Too many employers believe that a verbal confirmation will be enough to lock down a candidate and end her job search. But this is simply not so. After you share the good news with your candidate, make sure your formal offer arrives in her mail or inbox within a week. If your key HR personnel are out of the office and can’t sign the paperwork, find a workaround. Do whatever you have to do to complete the process and exchange the necessary signatures. If you don’t act quickly, your competitors will.

Never leave your chosen candidates waiting by the phone.

An employer who fails to follow up or provide feedback within a week of the interview raises serious red flags in the minds of most candidates. Would you want to work for a company that treated you this way? Within one week, contact your candidate with a firm answer or at the very least, a firm timeline.

For more on how to attract and secure the most talented applicants before they slip away, contact the staffing experts at PSU.


Five Skills and Traits Most Employers are Looking for

March 13th, 2015

In our modern digital age, employers are looking for a few core traits that carry over across multiple industries and apply to candidate searches at almost every level. These core qualities that contribute to the image of the “ideal employee” differ from the traits employers valued a few years ago, and these items may not be high on the list a decade from now. But at this moment in time, if you hold these qualifications, it’s a good idea to let your employers know.

Written Communication

Connectivity has become faster and easier than ever in 2015, but as it happens, the preferred mode of communication for most us is still rooted in the written word. Surveys suggest that even as voice messaging and video conferencing technology advance, people still prefer to convey important messages by text or email rather than by phone. But this means that the ability to write a concise, clear, and respectful message is now more important and more valuable than ever.

Comfort with New Technology Platforms

Of course you don’t have to be able to maintain a network, implement a back office management system, or dismantle a firewall to be considered “tech savvy”. But you do need to understand that the commonly used tools for communication, presentation, scheduling, and data management are changing all the time. And if you’re able to quickly master new forms of office technology (even the ones you haven’t seen yet and the ones that have yet to be released) you’ll help your employer accomplish more at a faster pace.

Teamwork Skills

Great employees know when to lead, but they also know when to follow. And they can transition seamlessly between the two whenever the needs of the company and the demands of the situation change. If you know when it’s time to step forward and when it’s time to fall back and play a supporting role, you’ll win friends AND shorten the path to your career goals.

Conflict Resolution

If you can look around a room and understand each of the players involved in a key conversation, that’s great. If you can determine exactly what each person wants and how they plan to get wherever they need to be, that’s even better. And if you can actually use your problem solving skills and propose answers that help everyone get what they want, then your skills are worth money, and employers are looking for you.

Creativity and Flexibility

These terms have lots of different meanings depending on the context in which they’re used, but in a corporate context, “creativity” usually means finding unconventional solutions to unsolvable problems. And “flexibility” usually means accepting changes to the established plan without warning or preparation. If you can come in on a day when you haven’t been scheduled or complete tasks outside of your job description, that’s flexibility. If you can break the letter of a rule while still respecting the spirit, that’s creativity. If you have both, you’ll go far.

For more on what it takes to land a great job and survive in the modern working world, reach out to the staffing experts at PSU.


Are Neutral Reference Checks a Warning Sign?

March 6th, 2015

Obviously, you’d think twice about a candidate if you reached out to one of his references and received a clear and straightforward warning. If the candidate voluntarily chooses to list someone who then proceeds to bend your ear with a description of all of his faults and flaws, that’s a red flag. But of course this scenario doesn’t take place very often. Most candidates choose references who can be trusted not to behave this way.

So if most references offer glowing reports, where should you set the bar of basic expectation? Should you raise an eyebrow if a reference stops short of wild hyperbole? What does a bland, neutral response actually say about your candidate? Here are a few things to keep in mind as you read between the lines.

Search for Signs of Enthusiasm

At the very least, a reference should be responsive to your attempts to make contact. If you find yourself leaving more than three voicemails over the course of a week, and the reference makes no effort to return your calls or reach out to you by email, this may be a sign of trouble. Some former employers who have nothing nice to say simply choose to say nothing at all.

Keep your Questions Difficult

If you ask easy questions, you’ll get obvious answers. These include yes-no questions like “Was this candidate a pleasure to work with?” and “Did you consider this candidate an asset to the workplace?” Of course these answers will consist of a string of yes’s. Keep your questions open-ended and thought provoking, and you’ll get more meaningful results. For example, try these: “Have you ever had a chance to witness this candidate in a leadership role? Please describe the outcome.” And “Can you name one task that you would rather give to someone else besides this candidate?”

Try to Establish a Connection

Keep your tone friendly and warm, not robotic, and you’ll encourage the reference to speak from the heart. If she opens up and offers unrehearsed, unguarded information, you’ll have an easier time reading between the lines of her remarks.

Watch out for Signs of Indifference or Disinterest

A positive reference usually involves an enthusiastic person who eagerly supports the candidate’s bid for success. Great references care deeply and personally about the outcome of the conversation. If the reference seems less concerned about the candidate’s fate and more concerned about his own role and his own risks, that’s a problem. If he seems to qualify and water down every statement as if he’s afraid of a lawsuit, or if he rushes to end the call quickly, take note.

For more on how to keep your reference checks meaningful and interpret signs of trouble, reach out to the staffing experts at PSU.

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