Job seekers should be bold on their resumes, cover letters

Sunday, November 5th, 2017 - Resume

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When preparing resumes and cover letters, job seekers shouldn’t be afraid to brag a bit about their skills and experiences.

That’s the type of advice Julie A. Parkman gives out on a regular basis to college students, alumni and community members seeking help from her office in their job search process.

Mrs. Parkman is the director of career services at SUNY Canton. Last year, her office assisted people hunting for jobs.

“What I see pretty much across the board is people not valuing their work,” she said. “People feel uncomfortable about making a bold statement. I tell them that they’re just providing evidence about what they’ve done.”

Giving an example, she said her office works with many students who have experience working on a farm, but are hesitant to include that on their resumes. She encourages them to do so.

“Farm work shows skills like responsibility, caretaking and stamina. It shows a willingness to get hard work done,” she said.“We should not be ashamed of our experiences,we should not play them down.”

Housed in the Miller Campus Center, her busy office is staffed with career coaches who spend their days guiding students and others looking for help landing a job. Their work involves conducting mock interviews, proof reading resumes and cover letters and giving advice about job search strategies.

“Your resume and cover letter are often the first impression you make,” she said. “You don’t want to have spelling errors. You don’t want to have punctuation errors.”

She said job seekers should also be careful how they respond to online questions that some companies ask before an interview. Some people make the mistake of writing as if they were answering a text message, such as using lower case and not being careful about punctuation, spelling and grammar.

“Often people confuse texting etiquette with written grammar etiquette and they’re not the same,” Mrs. Parkman said. “So you really have to be careful with typos. A cover letter can’t be shot off quickly.”

Mrs. Parkman suggests having other people look over and proofread resumes and cover letters.

She said resumes should not just be pulled off a Google or Microsoft template because they are not documents that are easily “movable.”

“Resumes are living documents. They need to be able to reflect not just a snapshot in time, but they grow with you,” she said. “Each time you apply you can move your relevant experience up higher.”

This is important, she said, because research shows that individual resumes are only looked at an average of 8 to 10 seconds by people involved in the hiring process.

“If you’re not looking good on that resume, if you’re not getting any calls back for interviews, the resume is the problem,” Mrs. Parkman said. “If you want it looked at longer, you have to put some work into it. You can’t just throw it together. There has to be a strategy and a marketing piece.”

Giving an example, she said it’s important to use strong, action verbs in experience statements.

“A resume should show what a person has done in the past and what they’re capable of doing in the future,” Mrs. Parkman said. “The best predictor of future experience is past experience.”

Mrs. Parkman also advised job seekers against using drugs, regardless of the job they’re seeking. Many companies conduct drug tests and failing one can cost a person a job.

“It’s not just in law enforcement any more. There are major, major companies who insist on drug testing,” she said. “I always tell our students as soon as they hit our campus, online they are beginning their professional career because the decisions they make now are going to impact their opportunities down the line.”

Job seekers should also be careful about their image on social media sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn. Instagram and Twitter. Pictures of underage drinking is a red flag for many employers.

“Human resource people can ask for user names and passwords,” she said. “People want to see if you are going to be a good fit for them.”

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