Eight Commonly Asked Questions
Many of the questions from our AOL Jobs readers focus on resume writing. Here's a roundup of some of the most commonly asked.
1. What's the best style: chronological or functional?
Most recruiters and hiring managers prefer a chronological format. Omitting your work history and just showcasing functional skills will raise a red flag for many. If your career history has gaps or shows employment in different, unrelated fields, it makes more sense to stress functional skills over chronology, but never omit the chronology entirely.
2. Are there power words to avoid?
Job seekers should avoid overused phrases -- terms like "team player," "quick learner," "detail-oriented" or "great communicator" -- and opt for action phrases. Instead of writing that you have strong communication skills, explain their impact on making sales, helping customers or teaching someone how to do something.
3. How do you explain a short tenure that was out of your control?
If you were downsized, the company closed, or if you left an employer to return to school or start a family, let your reader know that by including an explanation in the resume.
4. Should the resume be 1 or 2 pages?
Many job seekers with less than 10 years experience only need one page, but as you progress through your career, two is generally more appropriate.
5. When an online posting asks for salary history and requirements, should those be added to an existing resume or submitted on a separate document?
Never document your salary history on a resume and, if possible, don't include it on other documents. Past salary is usually an inappropriate benchmark. If you feel you must disclose salary, give a range that accounts for total compensation and includes things like overtime, bonuses, etc.
6. Should you always include a cover letter?
Research suggests that a little more than half of hiring authorities read cover letters and the other half do not. But you never know which half you are going to get, so it's prudent to include a cover letter.
7. Do I need to mention the references in the resume or provide them when asked?
The phrase "references available upon request" is unnecessary on a resume. Employers will ask you for references when they want them and few will check them until an offer is extended or they have determined that you are a final candidate. The reality these days is that references are available without request...more and more hiring authorities are trolling the Internet to see what information they can find out about candidates. Make sure you have audited your online identity...particularly if you have a Facebook or Myspace page.
8. What components are included in an effective resume? What guarantees an interview? What can almost certainly land you the job?
A good resume includes a profile to highlight the candidate's overall value-add, a competency section to list core skills, and several accomplishment-focused stories that prove how you have helped the companies you support make money, save money, save time, grow the business or keep the business. A strong resume can help secure interviews, but most people get their interviews through people they know. It is critical that job seekers have a strategic networking plan and not rely solely on the resume.
During the interview, the candidate must be able to prove through accomplishment-focused metrics-driven stories that they have the skill set, knowledge and experience to succeed in the job. They also need to be able to prove that they are a good fit for the organization, so be sure to read up on the culture and history of the company before the interview.
Interviewing is not a science and a lot of the process is subjective. The relationship you build with the hiring manager is more important than your skills. They can teach you skills, but they can't change who you are.
Your best strategy is to be prepared with multiple stories that prove your success. This helps minimize uncertainty on the hiring manager's part and build a connection with them.
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Barbara Safani, owner of Career Solvers, has over fifteen years of experience in career management, recruiting, executive coaching, and organizational development.
Barbara partners with both Fortune 100 companies and individuals to deliver targeted programs focusing on resume development, job search strategies, networking, interviewing, salary negotiation skills, and online identity management.
She is the author of Happy About My Resume: 50 Tips For Building a Better Document to Secure a Brighter Future and #JOBSEARCHtweet and her award-winning resumes are featured in dozens of career-related publications.