The wealth of career programming at Library locations throughout the City is due in large part to our strong and ongoing partnership with Bow Valley College's Career Connection. Their experienced team of career practitioners visit Library locations to deliver Career Basics programs on resumes, job interviews, social media and job seach, mid life career change, and LinkedIn. Recently, we interviewed Carolyn to quiz her about some of the common questions addressed during her classes, and for insights into recent employment trends.:
Carolyn, you have been a career practitioner for over 10 years. How have employer expectations changed in regards to resumes and their formats?
I would say that the most significant change I have noticed is that employers want applicants to read and understand the job posting and target their resumes to the position. Employers do not want to take the time to ‘mine’ an applicant’s resume for relevant skills and experience to determine if the applicant is suitable for the position posted. A resume that is developed with the job posting in mind will effectively communicate to the employer that the job seeker understands what is required and has highlighted the skills that the employer needs to know about to determine the applicant’s suitability for an interview.
The solution? Use a resume format that places your Objective/Profile Statement and Highlights of Qualifications at the beginning of the resume. These two sections will allow you to profile your relevant skills and experience, as well as accomplishments, so that they are front and centre for the employer to see. If these sections are well written the employer will be drawn into the resume and will be keen to learn more about the intriguing candidate that is applying to their company.
Most employers like to see a concise and targeted two page resume that allows them to see the applicant’s employment history for about the last 10 years. A professional with more experience may expand their resume to beyond 2 pages. It is key for you to remember that a resume is a marketing document, and to avoid including (in great detail) everything that has been done in one's career. Emphasize what is relevant to the targeted position, and briefly mention or omit information that is not going to strengthen your position as a candidate.
More employers are posting jobs on Kijiji. How would you rate Kijiji as a job board, and do you recommend that your clients upload their resumes there?
Kijiji has become more popular over the last year or two as a job search site. As on all sites, one should be careful when applying for jobs or uploading resumes. It is important to verify who the employer is by looking up their company name in a phone directory or checking to see if they have a website. As a general rule, I do not recommend uploading resumes to job search sites. I think it is best to pick and choose who sees your information. Apply for positions that you locate, feel comfortable with, and have researched to determine if they are a good match for your skills and experience.
We’ve heard that over 90% of employers want a chronological resume. Do you agree, and why?
Yes, the majority of employers I have spoken with have said that they prefer a chronological resume. I agree that it’s an effective format, and the benefit to the employer is threefold: It allows them to see how your career has progressed, where you have gained your skills and experience, and the context in which they were acquired.
Some job seekers are distressed when they hear that a chronological resume is the preferred format of most employers. They may have had some gaps in their work experience and feel that this will negatively affect their ability to be invited for an interview. There are ways to develop an effective chronological resume if you have a gap in your work history or have had recent jobs that are not relevant to the position that you are applying for. Creating a section in your resume entitled relevant work experience allows you to profile early in your resume the jobs that you have held that are directly related to the position you are applying for while still allowing the employer to see the string of your work history. Having a relevant work experience section will still provide the employer with your work history, but the focus will be taken off the gap or less relevant work and put on to the work that you have done that makes you a great fit for the job.
Many Library customers come with concerns about short term employment contracts, usually 3 months or less. Is that a red flag to employers? Should those jobs be included on a resume, or do you have any strategies or suggestions for that predicament?
Short term contracts allow clients to gain experience in a variety of workplaces, work with diverse groups of people and sometimes be exposed to different types of computer software. This can be viewed positively by employers. I do not think that most employers would be concerned about short term contracts as long as the client states beside that job title in their resume that the position was a contract position with a limited term. Doing this allows the employer to understand that the applicant was not fired but was in a short term position. I think it is best to include short term contract work, especially if it is relevant to your job target.
There are varied opinions as to the importance of cover letters. Are employers really reading them?
There seem to be two types of employers when it comes to cover letters – those who disregard them and go straight to the resume and those who put a lot of weight in the cover letter. The dilemma here is that one never knows which type of employer is receiving their cover letter and resume. I always suggest to clients that it is better to send fewer applications and take the time to submit a well written targeted cover letter then to send a generic cover letter with each application. You will stand out from the crowd with a targeted cover letter and resume.