Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Dealing with Age Discrimination and Employment Gaps

You've heard the saying, "You're not getting older, you're getting better." Well maybe so, but employers don't necessarily think that way when scanning resumes. Unfortunately, many of them shy away from hiring seasoned people because these pros are perceived as inflexible, over-trained, and worst of all, too expensive.

Likewise, what if you have gaps between jobs? It's not that you decided to drop out for a while to find your inner self or lost a job and couldn't get hired. Perhaps you had a baby and took some time off. Maybe you suffered an injury or had to take care of an aging parent. Whatever the situation, many people have employment gaps for very legitimate reasons. A resume doesn't show why the gaps are there and employers often don't take the time to find out. How do you get past age discrimination or explain why you didn't work for a few years?

Your resume can overcome either obstacle in subtle ways that establish your capabilities. For instance, to overcome age discrimination, consider limiting your experience to 15 years for a managerial job, ten years for a technical job, and five years for a high-tech job. Leave other experiences off your resume or list it without dates. If you have gaps in your employment history, consider highlighting what you did during your time off. Perhaps some volunteering, part-time consulting, or freelance work encompassed the skills or experience the company is looking for.

You could also use a functional resume rather than a chronological resume. When you write a functional resume, you list your skills as they apply to a specific job. With this format, your resume explains what you can do, what you have learned, and what precise abilities you bring to a new job. Although not many job applicants use this format, it is often far more effective than the chronological resume in answering the prospective employer's most important question: "What skills do you have and how can they help me in my company?" This format is especially effective for job hoppers, career changers, people just entering the job market who have little work experience, and applicants who have been out of the job market for an extended length of time.

Your goal is to only use information that is directly relevant to the job you are seeking. This is honest as well as fair to your prospective employer. After all, if you're a 50-year-old applying for a job in accounting, why would your prospective employer care that you worked as a counselor for five-year-olds at Camp Gichi-Goomi when you were 16 years old? That's exaggerating the concept, but you get the point.

A word of advice: No matter how you deal with employment gaps and age discrimination, always tell the truth. Always.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009


by Darlene Zambruski, ResumeEdge.com, ResumeEdge.ca Managing Editor, CPRW, SME

The use of social networking via Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace has changed the landscape of personal interactions. The same is true for the employment field. Today, job hunters can use networking sites to reach a wider group of individuals in their field. Your best source for this is LinkedIn.

Daily, I answer questions from candidates on this site. My answers, along with those of other experts, help individuals to navigate the currently unfriendly waters of job search. By joining LinkedIn and posing questions or readings the answers to others’ inquiries, you may be able to gain an advantage over your competitors.

Some of my previous answers on the site, include:

"Business cards" for students and non-professionals?

“You should absolutely consider using business cards. It will help you stay in the potential recruiter and/or hiring manager's mind. I have seen business cards with a professional photo of the individual or their work product (if they're in an artistic field) on the front of the card. Very impressive. On the back, you should list your qualities, skills, and accomplishments, personal websites (if any) as they pertain to your job search - somewhat like the opening summary of a resume. Darlene Zambruski ResumeEdge.com, ResumeEdge.ca Managing Editor Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW)”

Does it help in an interview or career fair if the job seeker has a business card to include with his resume?
“Anything that can help you stay in the potential recruiter or hiring manager's mind should be utilized. I have seen business cards with the individual's professional photo or work product (if they're in an artistic field) on the front of the card. . .very impressive. On the back of the card, could be a summary of your qualifications and skills, much like the opening summary of a resume. Be certain to include accomplishments. There are numerous internet and local printing companies that offer excellent work product at a reasonable price. I'd suggest using these sources for your business cards, unless you have a top-quality printer at home and you choose a high-grade paper. Darlene Zambruski ResumeEdge.com, ResumeEdge.ca Managing Editor Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW)”

Hey which fonts are readable by machines & search engines when I post my resume online?

“We use Courier New, Times, Arial. To be safe, you might want to turn your Word or Works resume into ascii/txt. You should have no problems with that. Darlene Zambruski ResumeEdge.com, ResumeEdge.ca Managing Editor Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW)”

What is the "value" of working with a career marketing company?

“It would depend upon the company, including their credentials, years in the business, partnerships, and success rate. Individuals looking for assistance in writing their resume and honing their job interview skills would do well to determine if the company they want to hire is a member of an industry organization, such as the PARW (Professional Association of Resume Writers), and if the company writers are certified as CPRWs and CEIPs. Next, they should determine if the company is a resume writing or job interview partner with any major company, for example the Wall Street Journal or the New York Times. Are they a member of the BBB? Do they guarantee results (be wary of those sites, it's impossible to guarantee results when the actual job hunt is in the individual's hands). If an individual has trouble organizing their professional data and 'blowing their own horn', they would do well to hire outside experts. It takes the strain off them, provides a fresh perspective, and results in a document and marketing plan that's professional and proven. Darlene Zambruski ResumeEdge.com, ResumeEdge.ca Managing Editor Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW)”

What should a 21st century resume look like?

“First and foremost, a resume should convey your value proposition to an employer. To do that it should contain: 1. An opening summary with one (preferably two) quantified and relevant accomplishments for your new career goal, an overview of your skill set, willingness to relocate, language skills (bilingual, multilingual), and any pertinent certifications. 2. Accomplishment section: Here, you should list by company name, your quantified accomplishments (do not repeat those from the opening summary). Make certain your accomplishments dovetail toward the new position. 3. Professional Experience. Don't go all the way back to the first day you started working. Generally speaking, you shouldn't go back more than 10 to 15 years. Include only those job duties that are relevant to the new position you seek. Begin each bullet with an action verb. Be specific in your verbiage, not general. 4. Education. Include college and post college work. The above organization allows a hiring manager to quickly scan your resume and determine if you should be invited to interview. No hiring manager will scan a three to four page resume looking for data. It's important to remember that a modern resume is as long as it needs to be, provided it contains only relevant information for the new job search. Cut out the extraneous material. Darlene Zambruski ResumeEdge.com Managing Editor Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW)”

As you can see by the above – the questions are diverse, the answers comprehensive. LinkedIn is a perfect (and free) resource to ask an expert your pressing question so that you can get on with your job search.

My answers can be found on a daily basis within the Resume Writing and Job Search categories of LinkedIn.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Keep the Momentum Going

After you've written a great cover letter and resume and sent everything on its merry way, the real work of getting a job begins. Following up on all the resumes you've sent is not fun. Maybe that's why many don't follow up. It does take guts. No one wants to experience the downside of getting a straight out "No" or being blown off. Grit your teeth and do it anyway.

Following up demonstrates your drive and initiative. Someone who calls and says, "I have applied for such and such position. I understand you must be busy, but I would love to hear back from you because I am really interested in working for XYZ Company" is not only proactive, but also shows consideration for the employer's side of the process.

However, there is a fine line between aggressively following up and being downright annoying. From your perspective, you're anxiously waiting to hear if you got the job. On the other side of the equation is a stressed-out human resource manager trying to make a decision from a stack of resumes. Follow-up calls are acceptable … up to a point.

It's a tough situation. If you call and the recruiter has six positions open and 125 resumes for each one, no way will he or she stop and search through the piles. You are more likely to get voice mail anyway. Some advise to call after hours and leave a message. Then you've made it known you're really interested, but the employer doesn't have to respond, only note that you've called.

Employers who use electronic application processes usually have clear guidelines as to how they want people to follow up. They don't want to get calls to see if an application was received, since many automatically send out an acknowledgement or receipt. Some also have procedures in place for applicants to track their resumes online.

There is no way human resources people in large companies can physically get back to every applicant anyway. A corporate recruiter from a large asset management company notes that because of the tremendous volume of applications they get, their Web site clearly states applicants are not to call. So if applicants do call, it is seen as a bad move along the lines of "You are not following the process on our Web site. You have shown us already that you don't know how to follow instructions."

If there are no instructions about how an employer wants you to follow up, the consensus is to wait about two weeks and then have the follow-up call or e-mail. Most agree that if your cover letter states you will follow up in a specific time frame, follow up in that time frame. If you don't, you send the signal that you are not doing what you said you would do. How's that for a recommendation? In any case, err on the side of caution to ensure that you aren't pegged as pushy, irritating, or a waste of anyone's time.

For additional resources consider online marketing experts or SEO experts that can shape your resume and distribute to a wide audience.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Move Up the Ladder at Your Current Company

by Marcie Niedbalski, MBA, BS, CPRW, ResumeEdge.com Editor

Moving up the corporate ladder does not necessarily require you to gain employment at a new company. Many times employees can earn a promotion within their current company through initiative and hard work. In order to increase your value to your current employer, you need to continually enhance your qualifications and skills. The suggestions below may seem obvious, but often times are ones employees tend to overlook.

1. Volunteer for projects when they become available.Offering to lead projects shows your willingness to go above and beyond your assigned job duties, and gives you visibility with your superiors, whether in your own or other departments. It shows initiative and organizational skills while allowing you to increase your skill set and experience.

2. Be visible to other departments/areas.
You can increase your visibility to other hiring managers by volunteering for cross-functional projects. You'll gain exposure to employees in different areas of the company. Make sure you demonstrate a positive attitude and a willingness to help wherever you are needed.

3. Do an excellent job for your current employer.
Managers regularly check with their peers for a reference on internal candidates, and if your current manager sings your praises (and explains how you demonstrated the needed skills while working for him/her, even if they weren't part of your regular job), that will certainly be compelling to a potential manager.

4. Be willing to increase your skills through education.
There are many ways you can keep yourself up to speed on changes within your industry. While going back to school can certainly increase your skill set, it is not always the easiest or the least expensive way to learn. Instead, consider conferences, individual courses or local programs that can increase your knowledge without emptying your wallet. Also check to see if your department has money to use specifically for education. Increasing your skills will increase your chances of moving up the ladder.

As you look to move forward within your career, keep in mind that perhaps the fastest and easiest way to a better position is within your own organization. Be a team player, be a leader, take initiative, be visible to multiple departments, and give your current manager a reason to brag about your abilities to other hiring managers within the company. If you keep these simple suggestions in mind, you may just find yourself moving up the ladder at your current company.

Marcie has been a Recruiter for seven years, recruiting for all aspects of business. She has an MBA from the University of Memphis and a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from the Indiana University, as well as her CPRW (Certified Professional Resume Writer) credential. She has written or edited over 250 resumes/CVs/cover letters. Her areas of expertise include Information Technology, Marketing, Human Resources, Finance, Accounting, Operations, Sales, eCommerce, Engineering, Telecommunications and Legal. Prior to writing resumes she taught a college course on achieving employment goals after graduation, with resume writing a large part of the curriculum. She also volunteers at the City Rescue Mission, sharing her expertise on gaining employment. She works full-time as a Corporate/Technical Recruiter.

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