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10 Improvements You Can Make to Your Resume Right Now

10 Improvements You Can Make to Your Resume Right Now

resume

    I spent several years behind a desk at an employment agency. The first thing we would ask any client was how recently they had updated their resume. The question’s objective wasn’t really about making sure that every applicant had their most recent job down on paper — instead, we wanted a chance to assess just how bad each resume was. Some people had well-crafted documents ready to send out immediately, but a surprising number had more of a rough draft. When we ‘updated’ a resume, we could address the other errors that we found. Most errors are actually easy fixes: just running down the checklist below could whip the average resume into shape in a matter of minutes.

    1. Ditch the funky fonts.

    Hard-to-read fonts are a fast way to get your resume on the bottom of any HR manager’s stack. Stick to something simple, like Helvetica or even Times New Roman — and while you don’t need to put it in 72 point, don’t drop down below a 10 point typeface either. I know that the designer in you is crying out, but as emailing a resume becomes common practice, it’s crucial to use fonts everyone has.

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    2. Put your skills up front.

    Most employers care more about your skills than anything else. Sure, they’ll want to know where you learned your skills — past employers or schools — but putting your skills right below your name lets you convince a hiring manager right off the bat. As long as you’ve got the appropriate skills and certifications listed for a job, you’ll at least make it past the initial resume review — the one where all the unqualified applicants are filed in the trash can.

    3. Proofread past spell check.

    Just about everyone runs a spell check on their resume. But I’ve seen so many typos that a computer can’t catch: misused words, misspelled business names — I’ve even seen a resume with the applicant’s name misspelled! You should always read over documents to double check them, and if you can get a friend to read over your resume, go for it.

    4. Make everything match.

    If you’re sending references and a cover letter along with your resume, make them match. Print them all on the same kind of paper, use the same fonts, and make your writing sound like it’s all from the same source. At the very least, a prospective employer will be able to keep them all together if they look the same. You’ll also present a more professional front. If you’ve got the opportunity, try to make your portfolio, website and other materials look like a cohesive whole with your resume — most employers will be looking far beyond your resume to decide on your application.

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    5. Minimize your job descriptions.

    In a perfect world, you wouldn’t need to describe each position you’ve held. Your title should say it all. But many people wind up with responsibilities above their pay grade: if that’s the case, it’s reasonable to include that information in your resume. But try to limit other descriptions. If your job title was ‘accountant,’ a hiring manager can generally figure out what you did.

    6. Put dates at the end.

    Most people load the front of their resumes with dates — “2005-2008, McDonald’s, Cashier” — but, to a certain extent, prospective employers don’t actually care about the dates you worked. Move those dates to the end of the sentence, instead, and put the important stuff up front.

    7. Don’t leave big gaps in your timeline.

    Been out of the workforce for several years? Don’t just leave a big hole in your job history. List your volunteer work, time spent taking care of an elderly relative — anything you did during that time that could be construed as work. Many HR managers assume that there’s always a significant reason for someone to leave the workforce, and they rarely assume anything positive.

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    8. Keep religious information out of it.

    Don’t list anything that could be the basis of discrimination. The issue is not that some HR managers are likely to discriminate against you on the basis of religion or anything else; instead, that sort of information makes a hiring manager cringe because just seeing can open her up to all sorts of accusations. The same goes for including a head shot for any job opportunity that doesn’t actually require it.

    9. Align everything.

    No matter what you lay out your resume in, you can generally make the alignment pretty simple. It is crucial, though: jagged lines of text look unprofessional and make most resume reviewers more than happy to move on to the next one.

    10. Adhere to your industry’s conventions.

    Your industry may have a specific style of resume or CV that has become the norm. Try to stick with those conventions. If a prospective employer is looking for an employee in your industry, they’ll be looking for a resume in the conventional style, containing conventional certifications and terminology to prove that you really are familiar with the industry.

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    Having a polished resume ups your chances of making it through the various levels of the application process. If a hiring manager gets a large number of resumes in response to a job listing — an especially common problem lately — she may use even small problems with a resume as a way to cut the number of prospects down.

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    Last Updated on August 16, 2018

    The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder That Works)

    The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder That Works)

    No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

    Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

    Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system”.

    A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

    Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

    In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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    The power of habit

    A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

    For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

    This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

    The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

    That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being six hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

    Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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    The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

    Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

    But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

    The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

    The wonderful thing about triggers (reminders)

    A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

    For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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    But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

    If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

    For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

    These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

    For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

    How to make a reminder works for you

    Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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    Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

    Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

    My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

    Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

    I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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