In June, NAPW was delighted to host one of our HERizoninsights webinars, focusing on Writing an Amazing Resume and Cover Letter. Over the course of 60 fact-filled minutes, TORI-nominated, Top-Ranked, and 3X-Certified Master Resume Writer Emily Kapit provided a multitude of “must know” tips to help make resumes stand out to recruiters.
Over 1,300 people logged in to be part of this fantastic session. Emily was able to give some excellent guidance and share her knowledge with the audience, but we were inundated with questions and requests for further help and advice.
Emily has kindly agreed to spend further time with us and answer some of the most salient questions….
For example, if you want to stay in the same industry, we’d want to demonstrate in key areas on the resume (i.e., Branding, your Profile, and the Core Competencies sections) that you are a subject matter expert in your field with a strong knowledge base and key skill foundation, in addition to pointing to a few select achievements. For the Experience section, we’d want to show growth in that sector (pointing out promotions, if possible) as well as focus greatly on both your sector-specific and transferable skills, tying in the key achievements to distinguish you. Lastly, we’d want to show your formal education and, if available, professional development connected to your field and any leadership/management experience within it.
If, on the other hand, you wish to switch sectors, we change the strategy a bit to tell your story from a different perspective. Rather than focusing on your industry-specific expertise, we would want to demonstrate a more general pattern of excellence as well highlight your transferable skills and achievements. Your Branding, Profile, and Core Competencies will be more general in nature, and your achievement tied into the Experience section will also focus more on the transferable components of your background to date. We’re still telling the story of your career and demonstrating a consistency of excellence, but removing the industry focus. This makes a big difference!
Remember: regardless of sector or level, all resumes these days should have Branding elements, Profiles, and Core Competencies sections. These are quite standard and take up space. Once you get to the Experience section, my approach—and that of many peers as well as the recruiters/hiring managers who read resumes—is that if you truly have enough real, achievement-oriented content, it’s pretty likely that you are easily making it to a second page. This may not be true of everyone, but if you’re cutting examples of how you’ve been impactful just to make it to one page, you are then removing key info and likely hurting yourself.
Now, there are exceptions. Format changes everything, so if you’re aiming for a shorter document, you can do so with a more streamlined format. Additionally, many college and post-college students (young professionals) do have enough internships, externships, extracurricular activities, scholarships/awards, etc., to justify a second page, but not all will. I don’t suggest adding “fluff” to get to a second page. This individual should highlight what he/she does have and has done to date as well as indicate a thirst to succeed.
Lastly—and this is key—a second page actually means at least 1 1/3 pages (as opposed to one page and two lines on a second page). If you find you’re in that second category, I suggest playing with your format and line spacing a bit to get down to a single page. You can have a second page on the next version of your resume!
With that said, I suggest thinking twice about LinkedIn. Yes, it is social media, but it’s in an entirely different category than the Facebooks, Twitters, and Instagrams of the world. Having some presence on LinkedIn is as expected these days as having a resume. Would you apply for a role or walk into an interview without one? Surely not. But hiring managers and recruiters expect you to be on there, and they will quickly move on to a candidate whose background they can see on LinkedIn.
The good news is that you can—and should—control what info is on your Profile and who can see it. My suggestion is easy: establish a strong Profile that is on par with your resume (the two should not have identical content, though) and then make decisions in your security settings about what info you want people to see if they aren’t connected to you. You don’t have to accept every LinkedIn request, and you can have a strong presence on there while still controlling who can see what. A little bit of LinkedIn best practices will go a long way!
Second, think about the transferable skills needed in a target role, and even study a few job descriptions that align with your job search. What stands out as skills you have and can demonstrate success in? Make sure to note those in your Core Competencies section, and speak to them as achievements in the Experience section.
By very clearly indicating your career-long consistency of excellence as a theme throughout the resume, recruiters and hiring managers will more likely want to at least have a conversation about how you can continue that track record for them going forward. Good luck!
With the rise of computers and the web in the last two decades, sans serif fonts have become more prevalent on all document types, as they are easier to read. As such, crafting a resume in only Times New Roman is pretty uncommon, though you might see a serif font used as a header for a more conservative, traditional sector such as law or finance.
Generally, you want to keep your font size between 9 and 11, depending on the specific font, as some are crafted to be bigger than others. Stay consistent on size within a single font type on your resume—for those of us who look at resumes often, the slightest inconsistency within a font choice can be glaring!
With that said, you also have the option of saving your perfectly crafted and formatted .doc or .docx as a text file (.txt) for less-sophisticated online submission systems. Doing so will remove the format but keep the content intact, making it more likely to get past Applicant Tracking Systems (ATSs).
Ideally, though, you want to make online submissions the secondary part of your job search tactic. Focusing more on identifying companies/roles, connecting with people directly in those companies, and sending your documents to those individuals tends to be a far more effective strategy. You may still have to submit online, but it will be more of a formality.
One additional point is that on your Early Career Experience/Prior Work History section, you don’t necessarily need to include dates (though you should include them for more recent work history). This tactic is effective for those who don’t want to draw attention to having worked for 25+ years but want to still show growth. Lastly, if asked what your earlier dates were, you should be ready to speak to them.
Full-Time Job in the Same Sector: we would handle this resume much the same way we would for anyone who has been working in the same field for a while and wishes to stay there. We would concentrate more on the last 12-ish years (up to 15) in depth and show an abridged career trajectory with select achievements up to that point. We would also show your industry-specific knowledge throughout your Branding, Core Competencies, and the main Experience section, focusing on achievements.
Part-Time Job in the Same Sector: the tactic would be similar to above, but we would alter some of the Branding and specifics of your Profile to point to more of a part-time role.
Full-Time or Part-time in a Different Sector: if you are planning to switch sectors, and regardless of whether you plan to pursue a full-time or part-time role, we would want to identify what that sector is and pull out key transferable skills and achievements that we would then focus on in the Branding, Profile, Core Competencies, and achievements in the Experience section(s). The only difference for a part-time role in this case versus a full-time one would be how we speak to that goal in the Branding/Profile.
Bonus Point: regardless of your overall goal going forward, leveraging your network will be quite important. Identify a few ideal places where you want to work, and think about who you know in those spots or people you need to know. Connect or reconnect with them as needed, discuss your goals, and ask who they suggest you speak to in order to learn more about the company itself. Build relationships! This will go a long way in getting your resume to the right person. This is true for all job searches, regardless of age, sector, or level, but absolutely key for those seasoned professionals who wish to keep on working.
With that said, the resume is still a place where we want to handle the education piece carefully. I would ask you a few questions first so we can then craft an optimal Education section for you.
Do you have any college credits? If so, we can show that you attended school and indicate a course of study without indicating whether or not you got a degree.
Second, I would want to know if you have done any professional development coursework in the last 20 years. This would include any webinars, seminars, professional certifications, conferences, etc. If you have, we’ll show it and really concentrate on it quite a bit.
Third, I would want to know about any professional associations, volunteer work, etc., that we can include in the resume. We would want to speak to those anyway, but absolutely want to highlight this information to demonstrate your well-roundedness.
Aside from points 1 to 3, we would want to ensure the Branding, Profile, Core Competencies, and Experience sections that come before the Education section point directly to your career-long pattern of excellence and highlight specific achievements throughout. Our strategy here is especially key: by showing the recruiter/hiring manager how deep your skill set is and that you are known for excellence, you will be setting yourself up for more interviews. That’s not to say that a hiring manager who absolutely must have candidates with college degrees won’t pop up every now and then. But if that person can clearly see how amazing you’ve been in the last two decades but refuses to speak with you because you don’t have a degree, consider whether or not you really wish to work with that person anyway!
My approach here is multifaceted: we need to think about what you did before you left the workforce, what you want to do going forward, the connection between those, any volunteer work and/or professional development you may have done in the last few years, as well as the relevant ways in which you’ve grown as a mother and potential employee during that time. Once we have that info, we would craft the resume around those points and then translate that over both to LinkedIn as well as to how you discuss your background and goals in conversations.
From a networking perspective, I would also suggest thinking about targeting some companies and/or people about whom you would like to learn more. Set up informational meetings and ask questions. These conversations are more about getting to know people and their companies than about you. People will likely ask about your goals, and certainly speak to them but concentrate on gathering information and building inroads. Continue to meet with people and fine-tune where you want to be, and further develop a network of people to whom you can send your resume/cover letter when the time is right.
There are also great organizations out there that focus on getting moms back into the workforce (check out The Pregnancy Pause) as well as on support for moms looking to return to the workforce in a part-time/flexible schedule capacity or to shift to that altogether (check out Mompowerment).