Over the past nearly 20 years of strategic communication consulting, clients have more and more often turned to me for help recruiting communicators. That work has now turned into a significant portion of my business. As a result, I’ve managed the search for dozens of communication professionals. And, I’ve seen the good, the bad, and the truly ugly, in terms of applications, cover letters, résumés and interviews. Based on those dozens of searches and hundreds of interviews, I’ve developed these tips for job searchers.
1. LinkedIn profile
Unless you are in a witness protection program or running from an abusive relationship, you simply must have a LinkedIn profile. And it should be complete, accurate and up-to-date. If you’ve married or otherwise changed your name, make sure you are trackable with both names. I remember candidates from past competitions and I always consult LinkedIn for connections and any additional context.
2. A cover letter
Most postings will ask for a cover letter. Write one! This is both an opportunity to demonstrate good writing skills and also a chance to “sell” your candidacy. Don’t just summarize your résumé. I will have read it. And I want to answers to questions like, why you? Why this job for you? What special connection or skills do you have that are a great fit for this organization?
3. Résumé with results
The best résumés include not just your responsibilities, but also your accomplishments and results. What difference did your work make to your organization? Do you have measurable results? If you can show me this in your résumé, you automatically leap to the top of the pile.
4. A chronological and thorough résumé
Don’t worry about fitting your 20 years of experience in one page or two. Use reverse chronological order and tell your story thoroughly. Give less detail as you get further back in your career. I will be looking for specific skills and responsibilities. If you haven’t covered them, you won’t get credit. I’m fine with up to four pages if your career is long and varied, but two or three should be enough for someone mid-career.
It should go without saying, but I’ll say it. Proofread. You might be forgiven one typo, or one awkward construction, but you won’t be forgiven two or three. And liaised has a second i—always! And the past tense of lead is led, not lead. I see one of these errors on at least half of the résumés I read.
6. Readable résumé
Don’t get clever and try alternate graphic formats, photos and infographics that are hard to follow and may confuse online résumé sorting programs. Use a minimum of 12-point type. Not all recruiters and hiring managers are over 50 and struggle with small type, but many (including me) are.
7. Context is king
If you are from outside of the geographic region of the prospective employer or worked for a smaller organization that may be unfamiliar to them, provide a very brief context statement at the beginning of each of your jobs (e.g. Company X, specializing in what business, with sales of $Y, employed Z employees located around the world). And, if you are applying for a job in a different country, be sure to state clearly in your résumé and cover letter that you are legally entitled to work in that country.
8. Education matters
Include your degrees/diplomas and certificates, including graduation dates. If you had a different name then, include that. I’m a big fan of also including a summary of key professional development courses completed. That demonstrates continuous learning and may show some specific knowledge area required by a position.
9. Get the details right
Address your letter to the right person or company and spell their name correctly. Use the right title for the job you are applying for.
10. Don’t lie on your résumé
Not even little white lies. If you are caught (and it is surprisingly easy to catch people in lies), not only will you not get the job, you will be on my blacklist for future job opportunities.
Getting a new job doesn’t need to be as scary an idea as you think. Just like doing the work, it involves research, planning, writing and making sure that the job you are applying for is a fit for you and that you are a fit for the employer. I wish you all well in your searches.