Getting your foot in the door

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In an economy where job seekers significantly outnumber positions, distinguishing your credentials is essential. How can you stand out from the crowd?

According to online resumé service TheLadders.net, job recruiters wade through thousands of profiles and resumés with a ruthless eye for clarity and concrete information.

TheLadders literally tracked the eye movements of 30 professional recruiters performing job candidate screenings over 10 weeks, using a scientific technique to analyze how long and on what they focused on their computers. The study revealed that recruiters spend an average of only 6 seconds per individual resumé.

The study also pointed to how to make every second count. Clearly organized, concisely worded, informational resumés were far easier to read. Recruiters found evenly formatted, consistent resumés with less data “clearer.”

Eye-tracking analysis showed that recruiters spent 80 percent of their time on a few key pieces of information:

  • Name
  • Current job title/company
  • Previous job title/company
  • Previous position start and end dates
  • Current position start and end dates
  • Education

So how do you make the most of your resumé and online profile?

A cliché free resumé

The first step is self-reflection. What do you really want to do? What are you good at? Answering these questions will drive your job search and strengthen your resumé.

Think of three skills an employer would value. Do you have experience in a particular field or educational credentials already? Write down what you can do well.

Now cut any vague or clichéd words. Financial advice site WiseBread.com recommends avoiding overusing “I” and “me” in your professional material. Likewise, overcharged words like “love,” “passionate,” or “driven” can strike a too-personal tone.

On the other hand, words like “experienced” or “responsible,” can be so vague that they signify nothing. “Hard-working,” “team player,” “detail-oriented,” or “results-oriented” are also abstract. “Don’t try to impress by claiming things that employers take for granted in good recruits such as ‘hard worker’ or ‘punctual,’” says John Lees, author of the book Knockout CV.

“Instead of using weightless words, link your skills to specific results that demonstrate your competence,” recommends networking site LinkedIn.com.

Job site CareerBliss.com advises dumping phrases like “I am seeking a job/career/position,” “strong work ethic,” “written communication skills,” “hit benchmarks,” and “references available upon request.”

Author Lees suggests the following structure to your profile:

You: Who you are in terms of job experience.

• Where: What companies have you worked for?

• What: What skills and experience are you bringing to the table?

• Next: What job and company provides the right next step for you?

- Naomi Sheehan

Email etiquette

Although email has been around for decades, its importance in the workplace only continues to grow. In fact, smartphone technology now makes email preferable to a phone call in many situations because it is convenient, can be done from anywhere via phone, and is less obtrusive than a call or a text.

This convenience also makes embarrassing email mistakes more common, says career coach Barbara Pachter. In The Essentials of Business Etiquette, Pachter lays out some ground rules for good email habits:

1  Use a professional email address.

Use your company email address for work-related emails. If you ever have to use a non-work email address, make sure the address conveys your name, so the recipient knows who you are. Never use an email address that is inappropriate for work (like cutegirl84@…).

2  Make your subject line clear and direct.

“People often decide whether to open an email based on the subject line,” Pachter notes. “Choose one that lets readers know you are addressing their concerns or business issues.”

3  Refrain from automatically hitting “reply all.”

Not every email needs to go to the entire team, even if the initial message was sent that way. Consider who really needs to be copied on your response.

4  But always reply to your emails.

Be brief, even if only to acknowledge that the message was received.

5  Mind your tone.

Be aware that humor can be misinterpreted, and that people from different cultures communicate differently. What is funny or self-explanatory to one person might be interpreted as offensive or unclear to someone else. And use exclamation points sparingly. Too many can appear “too emotional or immature,” Pachter says.

Finally, Pachter recommends proofreading your message before sending it, including the subject line. Adding the recipient’s address last prevents accidentally sending an email out before it’s ready.

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