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About this Blog

Debra Wheatman, President of Careers Done Write, provides expert insight to the job search process that puts your career in gear with tips for interviewing, networking, job search strategies and how to create a winning résumé and cover letter.

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Resume and advice blog from Debra Wheatman


Excellent Communication Skills? Prove It!

How many resumes have you read that included the well-worn line, “Excellent verbal and written communication skills?”  Too many!  One problem with over-used resume clichés is that the reader doesn’t take them seriously.  Another problem is that resume clichés are unoriginal; they demonstrate a lack of effort by the candidate.  

Is the answer to delete references to your excellent communication skills?  No, that is not the answer. In fact, it is very important to show competent communication skills.  In 2014, Adecco Staffing’s “State of the Economy and Employment Survey” suggested that 44 percent of employer respondents cited soft skills, such as communication, as the biggest skill gap among candidates in today’s market.  What is the best way to convey your communication skills?   You must prove it!  Here are five ways to prove your communication skills.

1.) Present a well-written resume and cover letter.

The first sample of your communication skills is often your cover letter (email) and resume.  Be sure it is strategically-crafted and error-free.  Many candidates seek the help of professional resume writers.  Even if you feel your resume is perfect, ask a professional writer to review it. Careers Done Write offers a free resume critique.

2.) Include examples of your abilities.

Employers want candidates who have proficiency in job skills and soft skills.  Communication skills are used in a wide range of job functions. Take care to include examples of job functions that you have performed in recent years.  This may include presentations, training workshops, and pitches to clients. It also includes writing reports, marketing content, articles, blogs, and newsletters. 

3.) Tout results of your accomplishments.

Actions speak louder than words.  Furthermore, accomplishments with measured results will help your voice to be heard over the competition. Take the time to recall examples of achievements that were driven by your communication skills.  Perhaps you created and delivered a new product pitch that led to a $134,000 sale.  That is how you prove your communication skills with an accomplishment.

4.) Interview well.

Some say interviewing is an art.  Truly, it is a skill that must be learned and practiced.  Perform research, so you are aware of potential points of discussion during an upcoming interview.  Learn as much as possible about the hiring employer.  Create a list of possible questions and rehearse your answers.  Beyond that, make a list of critical talking points that you want to mention before you leave the interview.  Seek an interview coach to improve your interviewing ability.

5.) Follow up.

Fortunately for you, not all candidates make follow-up contact. This is how you can keep your candidacy for a job alive, demonstrate your continued interest, and avail yourself of one more opportunity to convey your top values for the job.  Test the waters at the interview to determine if a follow-up phone call or email would be best.  Know when to be reserved.  Excessive follow-up can cut your candidacy short.

The Bottom Line

The best indicator of future success is previous accomplishments.   It is easy to chock your resume full of platitudes about your excellent communication skills, strong interpersonal abilities, and outstanding sales talent.  What will impress a prospective employer are solid examples of your accomplishments on your resume and a personal demonstration of your communication skills through effective interviewing and follow-up interactions.


Exceptions to Resume Rules

You know the rules, let’s discuss the exceptions. Resume standards are based on what has proven to be effective in the job market over recent years. However, there are exceptions to many of the resume rules. The following are the top five resume rules with exceptions.

Omit articles on resumes.

It is common to omit articles (a, an, the) on resumes to facilitate a quick read. However, there are times when the article is needed for the sentence to be clear.  The trick is to determine when the article is necessary for the clarity of the point you are making or if you are simply accustomed to including the article.  An example, when it is necessary, would be if the article is part of a company name, team name, product, or publication title. Another example is: “Sold products to middle market companies in New York, Kansas City, St. Louis, and the Southeast.”  Without “the”, the line would not be clear because Southeast is a region mixed in a list of cities.

Don’t include an objective statement.

It is standard practice to omit objective statements and opt for a profile statement that extols the top ways the candidate meets the needs of the hiring employer. Because objectives focus on the needs of the candidate (and not the employer), objective statements are considered outmoded. The only exception is specific situations in which a recruiter or hiring employer instructs the candidate to list the target position name at the top of the resume.

Keep your resume short.

In general, the advice is to create a resume that shares a candidate’s relevant history as succinctly as possible. For most candidates, that is a two-page resume covering ten to fifteen years of work history.  There are two general exceptions to this rule. The first is when a hiring employer asks the candidate to show their entire work history. The other exception is for scientific or academic CVs in which the norm is for candidates to show extensive lists of patents, publications, research, posters, and presentations. Some academic or scientific CVs are ten or more pages in length.

Never include hobbies on a resume.

This is a rule not often broken. The exceptions are if the hobbies or personal achievements support the candidate’s career, such as a life-long bowler with numerous championships applying for a position within the bowling industry. The other exception is if the personal achievement or hobby is exceptional and supports your brand, such as a three-time marathon finisher, former NBA player, or the winner of a prestigious art contest or something similar. An interesting hobby can be an icebreaker, but you will need to choose wisely.

The bottom line is that although standards are important and apply to the majority of situations, there are times when it is appropriate to break the rules. Did you see any rules above that you should break to support your job search? Remember that every job search is unique. If you are unsure about the resume strategy that is right for you, contact me. I would be happy to help you.


Branding Strategies for the Unemployed

It is easier to get a job when you have a job. This is true in most cases.  Naturally, the demand for a candidate increases when they are considered valued or sought-after by other companies.  In Hollywood, the idea is to work on hot projects, associate with other in-demand players, and stay in the media.  It is not too different for the average job-searcher.  Take five and study these strategies for the unemployed.  If you are employed, these strategies are beneficial to you as well.

Work on Hot Projects 

There is no shame in unemployment.  Corporate lay-offs are common, and there are times when an individual must leave a job for personal reasons.  The key is to stay active during your unemployment period.  Aim for “hot projects” that will enable you to continue to build your professional skills and network.  This could include leadership roles in community or charity organizations, teaching at a local or online college, consulting work and temporary assignments.  The adage, “a rolling stone gathers no moss,” applies here.  Meaning, if you keep busy doing relevant, meaningful work, you will increase your attractiveness as a job candidate.

Associate with Other In-Demand Players

Be mindful of how you spend your time and with whom you associate.  Seek other motivated professionals with common goals.  Successful people will inspire you to elevate your game.  Also, as you are seen with successful people, you will enjoy the benefits of the association.  In other words, you may be included in functions and discussions that lead to job opportunities.  Don’t underestimate the impact networking will have on your job search.

Stay in the Media

Celebrities may head to the Ivy when they want to be spotted by TMZ and their agents know how to leak news that generates media buzz.  The average job seeker is not seeking their 60 seconds on TMZ.  However, a wise careerist knows the value of LinkedIn, Twitter, and various blogs.   Update your profiles so it is rich with key words (search terms) that will enable employers and recruiters to find you.  Post interesting news, post links to career-related articles, and take time to “like” others’ posts.  Social media is an excellent way to stay relevant and ‘on the radar’ for those seeking professionals like you. 

The Bottom Line

If you are unemployed, you may face a slight disadvantage to employed job seekers.  However, you will benefit from the above strategies.  With diligence and wise choices, you can decrease the length of your unemployment and land a position that will keep you happy and productive.