Job Seeker Login: Create Account | Forgot Password?

Archive for the ‘Dear Sam’ Category

Dear Sam: Job seeker should use résumé to paint a competitive picture

leave a comment

Samantha Nolin#webDear Sam: I am 43 years old and have 20 years of work experience in sales, management, customer service and business ownership. I recently returned to school and graduated with a degree in finance last year.

I am beginning my job search in the finance sector. Should I list my entire job history on my résumé, as I have done in the past? My résumé is in chronological form. What would be your suggestion? — Tracey

Dear Tracey: First of all, congratulations on your recent graduation.

To answer your question: No, you probably should not list your entire 20-year career on your résumé.

I imagine you will need to position your candidacy at a more “junior level” since as you don’t have finance experience in your background, so presenting 20 years of work experience would only make you seem overqualified and too expensive.

Instead, present your most recent experience, maybe seven to 10 years, and utilize your course work and any class projects to infuse your résumé with finance key words.

Depending on the abundance — or lack thereof — of relevant projects you have to present, you could even consider adding a section to your résumé that highlights your academic experiences.

Doing this would allow you to fully explore your newly gained knowledge of the finance industry. You can also add those ever-so-important key words to your résumé, and push less-related experience to the bottom of Page 1.

When presenting earlier, non-finance-related work experience, be sure to market the transferability of those positions so the experience qualifies — rather than disqualifies — you for your current career objective. Best of luck in your job search, and in your new career.

— Samantha Nolan is a certified professional resume writer and the owner of Ladybug Design, a full-service resume-writing firm. Email resume or job-search questions to dearsam@arkansasonline.com. To find out more about Nolan, visit www.ladybug-design.com.

Written by Linda Garner-Bunch

October 19th, 2014 at 4:00 am

Posted in Dear Sam

Dear Sam: Don’t hinder job search with out-of-date approach

leave a comment

Dear Sam: I’m really struggling to see why my résumés aren’t effective. I’ve explained what I did at each job and highlighted accomplishments, and I still don’t get a response. I even developed multiple versions with different objectives noted. Help! — Rachel

Dear Rachel: Your résumés don’t contain qualifications summaries; instead, you use very valuable real estate at the top of Page 1 to present an objective statement. While defining your purpose or objective is important to the development of this section, instead of simply stating your objective, you should develop the section to “sell” yourself for the roles you are seeking.

When screening résumés, hiring managers are more interested in what you can do for the company than what you want. Since an objective statement typically focuses on what you want, it really serves no purpose. In addition, objective statements have not been commonly used on résumés for more than a decade, so including one immediately ages your candidacy.

Let’s look at your objective statement:

“Seeking a competitive position in an organization with room for growth where I can contribute support in an administrative-assistant capacity.”

What is that statement really saying? It’s obvious you are applying for an administrative-assistant position — after all, the hiring manager is reading your résumé. Everyone is seeking an opportunity with room for growth, so that really isn’t “news” to the reader. So, in that very important real estate on Page 1 of your résumé, you are literally not adding any value whatsoever.

Instead of this statement, develop a qualifications summary based on a primary objective, presenting a brief summary of your key qualifiers related to your current career target. Engage the reader or screener by infusing appropriate keywords throughout this summary and the remainder of your résumé.

Most candidates struggle with their qualifications summaries.

Tip: Start writing your résumé from the bottom up, beginning with the easier sections and leading to the summary. Writing the summary last can be easier because you will have a clear picture of what you have to offer your target audience. Writing this section immediately after creating your résumé also helps, as your background, qualifications, education, etc. are very fresh in your mind.

Consider using a qualifications summary like this:

“Customer-centered administrative professional with experience juggling multiple accountabilities spanning office management, executive assistance, human resources, accounting and customer service. Extremely detail-oriented, perform additional responsibilities based on a reputation for ability to multitask, prioritize assignments and follow through on all projects. Comfortable in fast-paced, deadline-focused environments where team-based collaboration and communication are critical. Problem-solver who seeks creative solutions to avoid escalations and optimize client satisfaction.”

Do you see how this adds value to your candidacy and actually shows what you can bring to the table? This strategy will also ensure that your résumé does not reflect old-fashioned standards.

If you are still struggling with this section, check out books from the library, review the samples on my website, or ask a peer to help you identify your key offerings and value.

— Samantha Nolan is a certified professional résumé writer and the owner of Ladybug Design, a full-service résumé-writing firm. Email résumé or job-search questions to dearsam@arkansasonline.com. To find out more about Nolan, visit www.ladybug-design.com.

Written by Linda Garner-Bunch

October 12th, 2014 at 4:00 am

Posted in Dear Sam

Dear Sam: Hidden formatting characters can speak volumes

leave a comment

Samantha Nolin#webDear Sam: I am not a whiz with Microsoft Word and do not know how to turn off all the little markings that reveal my spaces, tabs and other formatting.

Also, the document has wavy green lines under everything — in addition to the wavy red lines that show my spelling mistakes.

Can the person I am sending my résumé to also see these things, or are they hidden for the recipient? — Kramer

Dear Kramer: Sometimes, the way a résumé is set up in a Word document speaks volumes about the candidate’s technical skills — or lack thereof.

Unfortunately, if you save your Word file with those hidden characters visible and with both the grammar- and spell-checkers turned on, the reviewer will indeed open your file and see all of those items.

Even if you turn the nonprinting characters off — meaning you have clicked on the little paragraph symbol in your Word document’s toolbar to hide these characters — the reviewer can easily turn them on if he or she wants to see your formatting prowess. I would imagine most hiring managers have better things to do with their time than analyze the way a document is formatted, but if you are applying for administrative roles, you should be very careful to ensure that your document is perfect, both with and without those characters visible.

For instance, using spaces to try to align dates on the right side of the page (instead of a right-aligned tab) will make you look like a novice user of Word. While you mentioned that this is indeed the case, you should still do your best to maximize your presentation. Be sure to brush up on your Word skills before a job interview.

Those little red and green wavy lines reveal your spelling and grammar errors. Any résumé will have green wavy lines beneath sentence fragments, which is perfectly fine. Just be sure to turn off the grammar checks and spell checks once you are 100 percent certain your document is perfect.

Of course, you can save your Word document as a PDF file and send that to hiring managers instead, which will bypass all of your concerns. However, when a Word document is requested, be sure your hidden characters are not overruling your administrative claims.

— Samantha Nolan is a certified professional résumé writer and the owner of Ladybug Design, a full-service résumé-writing firm. Email résumé or job-search questions to dearsam@arkansasonline.com. To find out more about Nolan, visit www.ladybug-design.com.

Written by Linda Garner-Bunch

October 5th, 2014 at 4:00 am

Posted in Dear Sam

Dear Sam: Creating generalized résumé to ‘keep options open’ may backfire

leave a comment

Samantha Nolin#webDear Sam: I am trying to develop a résumé that positions me for accounting — and possibly auditing — roles. However, if I see a position I want to apply for in another field (I was a nurse earlier in my career and am interested in exploring that again), I do not want to limit my options. How can I develop a résumé that keeps my options open? —Annie

Dear Annie: I hear this question all the time. Candidates are so afraid to close doors that they create résumés with no targeted content, and the result is a very diluted approach.

While keeping your options open on a résumé may seem like an effective strategy, it is actually quite the opposite. I understand the need to not limit options in today’s job market, but a one-size-fits-all strategy is rarely effective. Instead, you should identify a primary target, even if this means you have a secondary target that requires a modified résumé. If you present yourself as a jack of all trades, you suddenly become master of none — clearly not a good presentation of your candidacy.

Defining your purpose is the critical first step in crafting an effective résumé, a step that facilitates your understanding of what your target audience is looking for and what keywords to incorporate into your résumé. While you may think broadening the scope of your résumé will yield more responses, it will likely do the opposite.

Let’s take a look at your specific situation. When presenting your candidacy for an accounting or auditing role, your résumé should reflect your recent, relevant experience in those fields. Your language should incorporate accounting and auditing keywords, such as reconciliation, reporting, payables, receivables, general ledger, journal entries, compliance, etc., and you should use a traditional reverse chronological format. You may even omit your nursing experience, since it occurred more than 15 years ago and does not really enhance your candidacy.

This résumé will not be appropriate when applying for nursing positions; the keywords will not resonate at all. When applying for nursing roles you will need to turn your candidacy upside down: Use a combination format résumé so you can highlight your earlier professional experience as a nurse. Your qualifications summary will contain completely different content, and your core skills be quite different from those on your accounting résumé.

You should think seriously about your candidacy in the nursing field and consider whether you will truly be the most qualified candidate for a specific role. Just because you think you can perform a job does not mean the hiring manager will view your candidacy as strong enough to compete against applicants with recent, relevant experience. This can be a tough pill to swallow, but defining what roles you are highly qualified for is an important step in conducting an effective, rewarding job search.

If you want to pursue both career options, you need to develop two different résumés. Preparing a résumé to “keep your options open” will yield very little — if any — response and will significantly dilute the effectiveness of your job search.

If you only need one job, develop the most targeted résumé possible to increase your chances of getting a response from a prospective employer.

— Samantha Nolan is a certified professional resume writer and the owner of Ladybug Design, a full-service resume-writing firm. Email resume or job-search questions to dearsam@arkansasonline.com. To find out more about Nolan, visit www.ladybug-design.com.

Written by Linda Garner-Bunch

September 28th, 2014 at 4:00 am

Posted in Dear Sam

Dear Sam: Don’t follow outdated standards to create a résumé

leave a comment

Dear Sam: There’s so much, often conflicting, advice out there about how to create a top-notch résumé. Can you give me some key recommendations? — Jamison

Dear Jamison: There is far too much résumé advice floating around out there, much of which is dated and goes against today’s best practices. I spend a good portion of time educating clients about up-to-date résumé strategies and dispelling old advice that’s still being pushed as steadfast résumé “rules.” The following is some of the best, up-to-date advice for developing your résumé.

AESTHETICS AND FORMATTING

Lack of visual appeal is one of the major downfalls for many résumés. Many résumés are created using very common templates and are inconsistent in the use of fonts and spacing.

While content is very important in creating a résumé that will grab the attention of a hiring manager, the aesthetics of that document can either compel or repel someone’s interest. You must engage the reader through the use of a professional, visually appealing layout.

HEADING

While many believe this element is self-explanatory, I often see major mistakes in the heading. Your résumé heading should include your name, address, cell number and email address. You may also list your home phone, but only do so if you are the primary person answering the phone; you don’t want someone besides yourself to create a first impression.

Never list your work phone number unless absolutely necessary — and never list your employer’s 800 number; this implies that you do not value your current employer’s resources.

Also, be sure to check the greetings on your voicemails for all phone numbers listed. Make sure those greetings establish the first impression you are seeking.

Finally, take a moment to look at your email address and make sure it reinforces the professional tone of your résumé. I see many email addresses that contain birth years, ages and other personal information that should not be presented on a résumé.

QUALIFICATIONS SUMMARY

It concerns me that a large percentage of résumés waste space on a vague “objective” rather than a qualifications summary. Instead of simply stating your objective, this section — along with everything else on your résumé — should be developed to show how your skills and experience best qualify you for the type of position you are seeking.

Develop your qualifications section based on a primary objective, presenting a brief summary of key qualifiers related to your objective. To help engage the reader, make sure you understand the keywords for the positions that interest you, and infuse this section (and the rest of your résumé) with those keywords.

This high-level summary of your candidacy is the most difficult section of a résumé to write. As a tip, start writing your résumé from the bottom up, beginning with the easier sections and ending with the summary. I suggest writing the summary last so you will have a clear picture of what you have to offer your target audience.

Typically, when writing a résumé, I discover several key points in a client’s background that stand out as being the most important or impressive, and this guides my development of the qualifications summary. If you are still struggling with this section, check out books from the library, look at the samples on my website or ask a friend to help you identify your key offerings and value.

Read next week’s column for more tips on creating a great résumé.

— Samantha Nolan is a certified professional résumé writer and the owner of Ladybug Design, a full-service résumé-writing firm. Email résumé or job-search questions to dearsam@arkansasonline.com. To find out more about Nolan, visit www.ladybug-design.com.

Written by Linda Garner-Bunch

September 14th, 2014 at 4:00 am

Posted in Dear Sam

Dear Sam: Feel confident, build connections

leave a comment

Samantha Nolin#webDear Sam: I constantly receive LinkedIn requests to “connect” with people in my network, even from people I hardly know. I am not into social media and do not want to put myself out there for everyone to see, but I have also heard that I have to be active on LinkedIn because I am conducting a job search. Can you tell me what I should (and perhaps should not) be worrying about? — Steve

Dear Steve: LinkedIn is an incredibly valuable networking forum. The site not only provides you with the opportunity to deepen existing network connections, but also to capitalize on the networks of others and broaden your reach.

How can this be helpful in a job search? If you search LinkedIn for network connections that could prove influential in your search, chances are that the larger your network, the higher the possibility you may have a person of influence — or even a decision maker— in your chosen field already within your reach. Here are some tips that may prove helpful as you leverage the power of LinkedIn during your job search.

• You can be somewhat stealthy on LinkedIn — you can remain anonymous when searching other profiles, you can turn off activity broadcasts so your network is not alerted when there is activity on your account, and you can even block select connections from seeing your profile at all.

• Accepting connection requests helps expand your network and broaden your reach. LinkedIn “connections” are not like Facebook “friends.” Do not think that accepting a connection request means you have a personal connection with the individual; in fact, you may not even really know him or her. Accepting a LinkedIn connection request means, “Thank you for access to your network. If my network can be of assistance to you, I am happy to reciprocate.”

• Seek recommendations and endorsements for your top skills. There are tools built into LinkedIn that let you easily request recommendations from those in your network. Having recommendations attached to your professional experience adds value beyond what your résumé can typically convey and provides instant third-party credibility to your claims. I will caution you, however, not to reciprocate those recommendations. You want to have far more “recommendations received” than “recommendations given”; otherwise, your recommendations look a little disingenuous.

I hope these tips make you feel more comfortable when using LinkedIn and when accepting those connection requests. LinkedIn provides free webinars for job seekers; I suggest you check those out.

— Samantha Nolan is a certified professional résumé writer and the owner of Ladybug Design, a full-service résumé-writing firm. Email résumé or job-search questions to dearsam@arkansasonline.com. To find out more about Nolan, visit www.ladybug-design.com.

Written by Linda Garner-Bunch

September 7th, 2014 at 4:00 am

Posted in Dear Sam

Dear Sam: Should applicant disclose diagnosis or special needs?

leave a comment

Dear Sam: Should you ever reveal a learning disability on your résumé or in an interview? I have a 37-year-old daughter trained as a state-tested nursing assistant.

She was recently released from her job — after six years and nearly perfect attendance — for actions that may be related to her language-based learning disability, diagnosis of high-functioning Asperger syndrome and obsessive-compulsive disorder. These imposing-sounding conditions do not always present themselves in obvious behaviors and are more understandable if you know her conditions. She has not revealed these to her recent employer. Now, in looking for a new position, she wonders if and/or when they should be made known to a prospective employer.

Also, should we explain her situation to her most recent employer in hopes of obtaining a better understanding of the impact her disorders might have had on her job performance and recent release?

As a basically responsible, independent, homeowning adult, she wants to make it on her own — and in large part, she has done that. But there is concern that issues might compromise her future performance. As parents, we aren’t sure how to help. Through her entire life she has “fallen through the cracks” because her conditions are not serious or obvious enough for people to easily notice, and they are compensated for by her generous, gentle personality.

Now she is struggling to find a new position, a situation that plays to her weaknesses, and has to figure out how to deal with the inevitable questions about how/why she left her previous job. — Concerned Dad

Dear Concerned Dad: I am touched by your advocacy efforts for your daughter. I am also the parent of a child considered to have special needs — my son is currently navigating elementary school — and who may need accommodations when he enters the workforce.

I typically recommend not disclosing a diagnosis to a potential employer unless the candidate will require specific accommodations that would not be made for others. The general school of thought is that if an employer can detect your “disability,” it should be disclosed.

I performed additional research to ensure this was the right advice for you, based on your daughter’s diagnosis. From what I read, I would say this would still be the way to approach a potential employer. In 10-plus years and more than 7,000 résumés I have written, I have only disclosed a diagnosis a handful of times; most were related to vision or hearing impairments that would require accommodations and would be evident at an interview.

If your daughter feels she can approach her last employer and ask about the specific reason(s) for her release, and perhaps also what they will disclose to a potential employer calling for a reference check, I would recommend doing so. I would also encourage her to explain her conditions to that employer; this may impact any references they may provide for her. Perhaps, depending on the receptiveness and understanding of her past employer, she could even request a letter of recommendation based on the years of service she provided before the actions occurred that you believe resulted in her dismissal.

Your daughter will want to craft and practice her answer about the reason(s) she lost her past job; any discussion she has with her past employer will shape the way she constructs her answer. The key is to accept responsibility for her departure, communicate what she learned and show continuous improvement.

Based on experiences with my clients, along with research I performed, I would say that disclosing her diagnosis before receiving a job offer is not advisable. Instead, presenting her “differences” to an immediate supervisor, once hired, is the best way to ensure she will have the environment, support and understanding she may need in her next role.

— Samantha Nolan is a certified professional résumé writer and the owner of Ladybug Design, a full-service résumé-writing firm. Email résumé or job-search questions to dearsam@arkansasonline.com. To find out more about Nolan, visit www.ladybug-design.com.

Written by Linda Garner-Bunch

September 2nd, 2014 at 10:01 am

Posted in Dear Sam

Dear Sam: If it doesn’t add value, don’t add it to your CV

leave a comment

Samantha Nolin#webDear Sam: As an adjunct professor, I have created a CV (curriculum vitae) and embedded links to my website so potential employers will be able to view my training certificates, teaching evaluations, diplomas, and lists of seminars and other presentations. I was wondering what your take is on that approach. — Ben

Dear Ben: My first question is, do the links add value to your candidacy? If the answer is yes, I think it is a perfectly appropriate approach that could add to reader engagement for select hiring managers.

Since you attached your CV and I was able to see what those links provided, however, I question whether adding these links adds value in your case.

The training certificates and diplomas are really unnecessary. The reader generally will not assume you are falsifying information, so listing training on your CV will suffice; there is no need for someone to look at the actual certificate.

The lists of seminars and presentations are also noted on your CV, so there is no additional value in taking the reader to a link to see the same list again.

As for the teaching evaluations, because they are difficult to read and only a handful of the comments are really constructive statements from college students, I would suggest pulling select excerpts and placing them on your CV instead of sending the reader to a link where he or she will have to comb through lots of comments to find only a few really strong ones.

Lastly — and perhaps most important — your website is very outdated.

When you ask the reader to jump from your résumé to another source, the information they are pushed toward needs to be impressive, add value and reinforce the professionalism of your candidacy.

I fear you developed your website in the late 1990s, when we were all learning rudimentary Web development and design. Because of this, your website will actually reflect poorly on your candidacy and how relevant your skills are.

Granted, you are not teaching Web design or programming, but you should always consider the impression every aspect of your candidacy will make, both online and in person.

I am confident you can create your best brand on your CV without the use of external links, and that would be my recommendation. Best to you.

— Samantha Nolan is a certified professional résumé writer and the owner of Ladybug Design, a full-service résumé-writing firm. Email résumé or job-search questions to dearsam@arkansasonline.com. To find out more about Nolan, visit www.ladybug-design.com.

Written by Linda Garner-Bunch

August 24th, 2014 at 4:00 am

Posted in Dear Sam

Dear Sam: Solving résumé conundrums

leave a comment

Samantha Nolin#webDear Sam: I have found out that an out-of-state veterinary hospital I worked for earlier in my career has closed. Should it still be listed on my résumé? – Janet

Dear Janet: Absolutely! Can you imagine the holes we would all have in our résumés if we did not list employers who had gone out of business?

Just because a past employer no longer exists does not mean you do not explore your role fully. A potential employer will not be able to check these references, but not to worry — this is not uncommon and will not be the deciding factor in evaluating your candidacy.

If you are still in contact with peers or supervisors from that past employer, you can list them as references instead of a traditional human-resource contact.

Dear Sam: Is there a “best” font to use for your résumé? I have always used Times New Roman in font 12, but I keep seeing résumés that use all sorts of fonts and sizes. Is my way still “current”? — Andrea

Dear Andrea: You are right; today’s résumés use all sorts of fonts and sizes. Times New Roman is still the most common font, but it is overused and does have an “older” look to it.

Other serif fonts that can be great options include Book Antiqua, Garamond and Cambria. If you want to create a modern and clean look, choose a sans serif font such as Tahoma or Calibri. All of these are great options.

Benchmark your font size off of Times New Roman font 11. There is no one perfect size — Book Antiqua works well at 9.5, while you may want Garamond at 11.

Don’t choose a font, however, that is not fairly common on all systems; otherwise, you may run into an ugly font-substitution issue on the recipient’s system.

— Samantha Nolan is a certified professional résumé writer and the owner of Ladybug Design, a full-service résumé-writing firm. Email résumé or job-search questions to dearsam@arkansasonline.com. To find out more about Nolan, visit www.ladybug-design.com.

Written by Linda Garner-Bunch

August 17th, 2014 at 4:00 am

Posted in Dear Sam

Dear Sam: Résumé not getting the attention your candidacy deserves?

leave a comment

Dear Sam: I am a registered nurse and work in a hospital emergency department. I have been employed with the same hospital for four years and am looking for a change. I have submitted résumés to various hospitals, but I am not having any success. I have attached my résumé, and would  appreciate your expert opinion. — Michelle

Dear Michelle: I definitely can provide insight into why your résumé is not getting the attention you believe your candidacy deserves. First, let me paint a picture of your résumé for readers.

The résumé opens with your contact information, which immediately transitions into a work-history section, where you present your past three positions (beginning in 2007), spilling onto Page 2. You describe these positions with a total of 87 words. Beneath each employer, you list five bullet points that range from one to six words. To illustrate this for readers, I am going to list one of the sections below:

TRIAGE

Care plan implementation per
24-hour observation unit patient care

• Direct patient care Adults/Pediatrics

• IV line placement l Medication administration

• EKG/Telemetry monitoring

Following this, you present your education (an associate degree) and certifications, closing your résumé with “References Upon Request.” Your résumé is a prime example of an underdeveloped presentation of your candidacy. Here are a few ways you can improve your presentation.

First, open your résumé with a summary section that highlights the key aspects of your candidacy. Why and how are you different from other qualified competitors? How is your experience unique? Why should you be contacted for an interview?

If you do not communicate these things to the reader, you will never make it through the screening process. With résumés reviewed for an average of four to seven seconds, the reader does not have time to evaluate how your experiences make you qualified.

Next, tackle your résumé’s lack of content. You can’t describe seven years of experience in only 87 words. Your very brief bullet points only communicate the expected parts of a nurse’s role. You must go further if you want to differentiate your candidacy.

Saying, “I can do the basic job functions” will not draw the notice of a hiring manager. To get the interview, your résumé must declare, “I can perform the role while adding value beyond expectations.” Prove this by providing evidence of your past contributions, ways you have gone above and beyond, ways you are different from your peers and opportunities you’ve had to contribute beyond the scope of a traditional clinical role.

Your education and certifications sections are fine. I would simply note that you do not need superfluous information, such as a complete address for an educational institution. The highlights in those sections are your actual degree and your credentials, so draw attention to those items with selective bold formatting.

Finally, don’t waste valuable résumé real estate by noting that references are available; in today’s age, that is assumed.

I know you can have a great résumé based on your experience; you just need to revamp your approach, rehabilitate your content and renew your formatting. 

See for an example of a well-organized nursing résumé.

— Samantha Nolan is a certified professional resume writer and the owner of Ladybug Design, a full-service resume-writing firm. Email resume or job-search questions to dearsam@arkansasonline.com. To find out more about Nolan, visit www.ladybug-design.com.

Microsoft Word - (c) ladybug-design, inc. - registered nurse sam

Written by Linda Garner-Bunch

August 11th, 2014 at 9:27 am

Posted in Dear Sam

Jobs Arkansas
CONTACT US

For more information or to advertise, in Little Rock, call Susan Webb toll free 1-800-345-2395 at ext. 3844 or in Northwest AR, call Cathy Wiles at 1-800-498-1991.
Click Here for Advertising Rates

ABOUT JOBS ARKANSAS

ArkansasOnline Jobs is Arkansas' premier employment destination. ArkansasOnline Jobs is hosted by the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. ArkansasOnline Jobs lists Arkansas employment opportunities available throughout the state of Arkansas.