9 Resume Myths that Piss Me Off

Me when I hear some of the advice people are getting about resume writing.

Me when I hear some of the advice people are getting about resume writing.

There is a lot of misinformation floating around regarding what is acceptable in resumes and what isn’t. What frustrates me most is that there are people out there sharing this “advice” as fact, and other people, out of fear, are taking that advice seriously.

Last week, I was chatting with my friend’s colleague and we got on the subject of resumes. Here’s what she said:

“I need to update my resume because I know you’re only supposed to use 3 bullet points per job now.”


WRONG.

But, it isn’t this person’s fault. There’s bad advice EVERYWHERE. I hear of from friends, clients, and even online.

And I’m hear to put a stop to it.

I am a reliable source. 

  • I’m a Certified Resume Strategist with the Career Professionals of Canada. 

  • I’ve had samples of my resumes evaluated in 2019 by fellow Certified Resume Writers this who called my work “exceptionally strong”.

  • I also review hundreds of resumes per year as a hiring manager.

If you can’t trust my advice... who can you trust?

(As you can see, the title wasn’t an exaggeration... I really am pissed... yay emotions!)


Now for the helpful part...


The Myths:

1. Your Resume has to be One Page

Unless you’re applying to a job that specifically asks, then no, there is no rule about page count. The goal is to show the hiring manager that you will be good at all the things they need you to be good at. For most of you, that’s going to take more than one page.

If they don’t ask for a specific page count, here’s my suggestion: write a two page resume, unless you are a student or new grad (one page should suffice for you), or you are an executive and/or have 15+ years experience (you could afford three pages).


2. Limit Bullet Points to 3 per Job

There is no limit on bullet points per job. It’s all about prioritizing how you use your space. Typically, your most relevant jobs will use more bullet points than less relevant ones. 

*I’ll often include 6-8 bullet points for the most recent job and then 2-3 for older ones.

My advice is to use as much space as you need to show them exactly what you did, as long as it’s relevant to what they’ll want you to be able to do for them.


3. Your Current Job should be Written Exclusively in Present Tense

Yes, when you’re describing the job duties which you currently do on a daily or yearly basis, you should use present tense. But if you’re writing about accomplishments in that same role (which you should be), then those should be written in past tense (because you already accomplished them).


4. You Only Need One Resume

It’s true, you only need one Master Resume, but you should have several slightly different versions for each job you’re applying to. You should be carefully looking at each job posting, identifying what they need you to do in that role, and then tweaking your resume to highlight those skills.

Also, if you have any branding tools involved in your resume (headlines, values, career highlights, key skills) you should be altering those based on the job you’re apply to as well.



5. Its All About Keyword Matching

Using keywords is important but do not obsess over it. I had a client once who’s old resume was filled with nonsensical phrases that had nothing to do with his actual experience. He was proud he had scored an 86% on Jobscan (God, I hate Jobscan), but was confused why he hadn’t gotten a callback for a job in 3 years.

Remember this... easily comprehensible resumes are important and honest resumes are even more important. 

Also, if you overuse keywords, automated scanners are going to dismiss you for “keyword stuffing”.



6. You Need a Pretty, Modern-Looking Resume in 2019

I honestly wish this one were true. There are so many beautiful resume templates out there but sadly, we have the dreaded Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) to compete with.

Most ATS scanners aren’t sophisticated enough to pick up on things like multiple columns, graphics, or even creative headings. Sadly, the truth is, a simple resume format is the most effective. Sorry, buddy.



7. Bullet Points Should Only Be One Line

WRITE THIS DOWN —> A good bullet point needs: at least one action verb, specific/quantifiable detail on what YOU did, and a tangible result of this action. 

If you can fit that in one line, great. If it takes two, that’s fine as well. If it takes three... it better be a very important accomplishment, otherwise, try writing it more concisely. 

Most bullet points I write are two lines.



8. If I Practice for Interviews, I Will Come Off as Rehearsed and Not Genuine

Sorry, I know this one’s not resume related but it makes me so mad so I’m including it.

This one’s wrong for three reasons:

  1. You don’t have the exact questions they’re going to ask so there’s no way to practice word-for-word. 

  2. You’re just practicing the skill of responding to questions so that you can formulate a nice cohesive interview answer.

  3. Contrary to this theory, the more you practice, the more natural you start to sound. Unless you want those oh-so-natural long-awkward pauses and non-nonsensical repetitive answers to be what they remember you for. I’ve interviewed hundreds of people and it’s easy to tell who has practiced and who hasn’t.

I know practicing seems scary (which is the real reason people don’t do it), but you should be a lot more scared of going into an interview without any practice.



9. You have 6-10 Seconds to Catch Someone’s Eye with Your Resume

I’m not debunking this one, so much as telling you that it’s pretty much true

This is why branding, and an easy-to-read layout are critical. 


Need help updating your resume and launching your career to the next level? HIT ME UP!




7 Business Books That Helped Me Start My $16,000 Side Hustle

Greg Reading.jpg

If you’ve read any of my previous blog posts, I’m sure you know that I’m an avid reader (and rereader) of business books. For every book I’ve read, I make sure to take at least one major concept and integrate it into how I’m running my business.

In my first year, 2018, I made a little over $8,000 running my Resume Writing business and this year, as of July 21st, I have already surpassed $8,000. I owe a lot of that to reading and listening to podcasts. I’m going to do another post of my favourite business podcasts, but for now, let’s talk literature.

Tiny Disclaimer: I am a registered Amazon Affiliates member, so if you click through these links and purchase the book, I will get a (laughably small) commission. However, I’m only recommending books I have read and which have significantly helped me get this side hustle running and growing!

 

1. Rich Dad Poor Dad: What the Rich Teach Their Kids about Money that the Poor and Middle-Class Do Not by Robert T. Kiyosaki

How it made me feel: This is the first business-related book I ever read and it got me FIRED UP! Rich Dad Poor Dad opened my eyes to the possibility that I was headed down a seriously wrong path if I wanted to gain any kind of financial independence. It also made me feel a little overwhelmed by how much work I had ahead of me, but that’s why I kept on reading more business books!

What it taught me: This book taught me many of the mistakes most people make when they think they’re building towards a sound financial future, and why most people work they’re whole lives only to live a modest retirement with frequent financial headaches.

When to read this: Read this if you’re starting to feel like the track you’re on might not lead to the life you’re dreaming about.

Times I’ve read it: 3

Check it out!

 

2. The 4-Hour Work Week: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich by Timothy Ferriss

How it made me feel: This is the Mecca of all business books for a budding entrepreneur. I still get butterflies when I see this on my bookshelf. Tim Ferriss has designed a blue print for not only creating financial freedom, but also creating a time-flexible lifestyle that I (and many others) so desperately want. Tim’s step-by-step guide also makes me think… I can do this!

What it taught me: Tim’s “Definition”, “Elimination”, “Automation”, “Liberation” formula helped me to craft a vision of what I want my life to be and craft a plan of how to get there.

This book taught me how to work smart and not hard and stop wasting the enormous amount of time when I thought I was being “productive”. It has also made me far more efficient in the workplace and a much higher-performing employee (bonus!).

When to read this: When you’ve decided you want to make a change in your work/financial situation but you don’t know where to start.

Times I’ve read it: 3

Check it out!

 

3. You Are a Badass at Making Money: Master the Mindset of Wealth by Jen Sincero

How it made me feel: This book gave me permission to pursue a better financial lifestyle. It talks about the limiting mindset many of us have around money and the psychological reason many of us have chosen to take a safe, timid financial path. This book oscillates between giving me that heavy feeling on my chest and energizing blasts of hope and empowerment.

What it taught me: Sincero helped me identify my negative relationship with money and put me on a path to re-examine my financial mindset and open me up to the possibilities which I am able to pursue.

It also empowered me to share exact dollar amounts when talking about money (see title of this blog) which has helped me to have much more meaningful discussions about money with more people.

When to read this: If you’ve ever felt a bit icky thinking about or talking about money.

Times I’ve read it: 3

Check it out!

 

4. The $100 Startup: Reinvent the Way You Make a Living, Do What You Love, and Create a New Future by Chris Guillebeau

How it made me feel: Chris Guillebeau has this innate gift to make the process of starting a business seem simple and possible. He fills this book with a dozens of real world examples of people who started a business, investing roughly $100, and grew it into something big. While other books made me feel excited (and occasionally overwhelmed) The $100 Start Up gave me my first sense of calm.

What it taught me: This book taught me where to start! Guillebeau walks you through defining your idea, crafting a one-page business plan, and how to start making money with a minimal investment (as a side, the initial investment in my business was about $220 for web hosting and an email service, so this definitely helped).

When to read this: When you’ve decided you want to start your own business but before you know exactly what you’re going to do.

Times I’ve read it: 1.5 (just skimmed it the second time)

Check it out!

 

5. The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg

How it made me feel: When you’re starting a business while still working a full-time job and trying to have a life, finding time, energy, and willpower to get things off the ground (or expand) can be daunting. Charles Duhigg breaks down the psychology of habit forming and how we can use that to construct a life where working towards our goals is automatic. For a more detailed look at how I’ve incorporated the lessons from this book, see my blog How I Make $1,000 per Month Riding the Subway.

What it taught me: Duhigg’s research taught me how to build time into my daily schedule for business development without needing to use up precious willpower to get to work. He helped me discover how to work, when to work, and how to reward myself so that I can handle all the clients I do (coming up on 100!) while still driving the business forward and not letting it take over my entire life!

When to read this: Read this if you’ve started a business and if you’re having trouble finding time and energy for the rest of the commitments in your life.

Times I’ve read it: 1… plus I listened to him walk through the concepts in a podcast.

Check it out!

 

6. Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook: How to Tell Your Story in a Noisy Social World by Gary Vaynerchuk

How it made me feel: Gary Vee (as the author likes to be known), is probably the most high energy public-figure/entrepreneur out there. I picked up this book during the third month of my business (March 2018) when I famously made exactly $0. This book is focused on content marketing through social media and it had me saying, “Aha!” and “Ohhhhhhh!” a lot. Lots of good revelations about how to build trust with your audience through providing high-value content online.

What it taught me: Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook is full of screenshots of actual social media ads which real companies have used. Gary Vee breaks down each ad and tells you why they are good and bad. This book got me back on track and helped me to start bringing in clients who weren’t in my inner circle through social media marketing.

When to read this: If you have started a business and you’re ready to expand your client/customer base.

Times I’ve read it: 1

Check it out!

 

7. Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World Deep Work by Cal Newport

How it made me feel: This book gave me two very distinct feelings. First, it made me feel like I had superpowers. By following Newport’s advice, I have been able to find my flow-state and get a load of high-concentration work done in a short period of time. Second, it made me understand that we have natural limits to our concentration and that I shouldn’t feel bad when I start to lose my focus.

What it taught me: Cal Newport taught me how to structure my workflow so that I can really drill down and do deep, concentration-intensive work, and still have plenty of time for family, friends, and relaxation.

When to read this: Whether you have a business or not, read this one if you’ve got a lot on your plate!

Times I’ve read it: 2

Check it out!

Let me know if you found this helpful! And please comment with any business books you think I should read next!

How I Successfully Pretended to Run a Business for the Last 18 Months

It’s time to get something off my chest. For the past year and a half, I’ve been pretending to run a business. What I do isn’t running a business. I’ve created an avenue for self employment. It’s not scalable, and therefore in my eyes… not a business. I would love to transform this into a business, and here’s how I’m going to do it!

How I Make $1,000 per Month Riding the Subway

Me on the first day the subway came all the way to my work! Sorry for the dramatic Insta-filter ;)

Me on the first day the subway came all the way to my work! Sorry for the dramatic Insta-filter ;)

Hi, my name is Greg Langstaff and I make a little over a $1,000 every month riding the subway. Am I really good at riding the subway? After all these years, I’d like to think so. But no, I’m not just getting paid for sitting here looking pretty (notice I said “here” because I’m writing this on the subway). 

As many of you know, in January of 2018, I launched my resume writing and interview coaching business. And if you’ve been following closely, you’ll know that over the first little while, I had some ups and downs, including earning $820 in my second month and then $0 in my third.

After nearly a year of experimenting with various marketing and promotional tactics including organic Facebook content, word-of-mouth, paid Google and Facebook Ads, and registering with the Career Professionals of Canada, I started to experience a reliable flow of candidates that would earn me anywhere from $1,000 to $1,400 per month. 


Lots of Clients… Not a lot of Time

The challenging part was, when would I write all those resumes and cover letters? I still have  an 8:30am to 4:30pm job and I also live with my girlfriend, Ariana, who I like to spend time with in the evenings, so I can’t just work into the night. I also try to hit the gym 3-4 times a week and I don’t miss a Raptors game if I can help it. Also, friends. They take up time too!

It takes me anywhere from 1.5 to 4 hours to write a resume (depending on my familiarity with the industry and how useful my phone call with the client was). Cover letters take another 45 minutes or so and then an additional chunk of time for the LinkedIn makeover. I’ve been working with 5-7 clients per month so as you can tell, the time adds up. 

So not wanting to give up any aspect of my life, or cut back on clients (and income), I scoured my schedule in search of a time when I could get this writing done. I tried waking up at 6:00am to start writing, but after even two days that turned me into a zombie. I tried doing work at home on the weekends, but that just made me sad. I tried working on lunch breaks at work and that had some success but it just wasn’t quite enough time. 


Then… a Miracle 

I tried writing during my commute. Every morning I walk 8 minutes to the subway station in downtown Toronto, sit down for 40 minutes and arrive just steps from my office. The subway is fairly empty because I’m leaving downtown when most people are coming in, so there is always a seat. 

Right there, I found 1 hour and 20 minutes per day (nearly 7 hours per week) for writing. That’s more than enough to get through 1.5, even two clients a week without even touching my social life. Between that time and the odd lunch break here and there, I’ve managed to almost completely avoid letting writing interfere with my home or social life. 


Building the Habit

Writing first thing in the morning or after a tough day of work wasn’t easy at first. I’m somewhat of a morning person but after work, my brain often feels like mashed potatoes. 

However, I’m a big believer in habit forming. I have read The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg twice (weird brag, I know), and using the tactics in his book, I was able to completely take the willpower out of writing on the subway. There is literally no decision making process at all. 


When I get on subway. 

  1. Sit down.

  2. Turn off music/podcast. 

  3. Open laptop. 

  4. Start typing. 

When I arrive at my station: 

  1. Hit save. 

  2. Close laptop. 

  3. Exit train 

*(oh damn, as I was writing that line, I literally arrived at my stop and had to exit the train. Now I’m continuing to write this a couple days later. Welcome to this meta/behind the scenes tangent. Okay back to what I was saying). 


What Makes a Habit Stick

According to Duhigg, there are four essential elements to building a successful habit. Here are mine. 

The Cue: A recurring event that triggers the desired behaviour (e.g. waking up is the cue for brushing your teeth). My cue is getting into the subway.

The Behaviour: The thing you want to do. For me, this is writing resumes or blog posts or whatever is on tap. 

The Reward: This is the reason for doing what we do. For brushing your teeth, it’s a clean mouth and a nice smile. For me, it’s clearing out my to-do list and having a free schedule. 

An Internal Driver: It’s the subconscious driver that motivates us to continue with the habit. The internal driver for brushing your teeth is that satisfying tingly feeling you get after you’re done. For me writing in the subway, it’s relief from the fear of people yelling at me for not delivering their documents on time (if you’ve read my “How I Paid off $12,000 of Debt in Six Months while Enjoying Guilt-Free Spending” blog, you know the fear of being yelled at has always been a great motivator for me). 

Final Thought

Life’s good! I had a problem and I solved it! Onto the next one :)

If you know anyone who’s struggling to form a good habit or make a lasting change (or find a time to write), send them this blog. I’d really appreciate it and hopefully they will too!



How I Paid off $12,000 of Debt in 6 Months While Enjoying Guilt-Free Spending

Greg+on+the+water.jpg

On a chilly December morning in 2016, on the cusp of turning 29-years-old, I woke up with a panicked realization that I was about to become a full-on adult and I knew absolutely nothing about money. 

I had a Bachelor of Arts in Professional Writing, and a Master of Science in College Student Affairs, and despite being fairly well educated, my financial education was pitiful. My parents never talked about money, they never shared how much they made or how they budgeted, and the subject seems taboo around most friends so I was very much in the dark. 

To cope with this lack of information, I had developed a fool-proof plan for my financially ignorant self. I called it, “Spend as little as possible so I don’t run out of money to buy food and die of starvation”. Though physiologically safe, this plan did not provide a lot in the way of an enjoyable lifestyle.


How I Got into Debt

Finishing grad school in July of 2014, I owed my bank and the government a combined total of $45,000. I was unemployed for about 5 months because I desperately wanted to stay in the U.S. but, as a Canadian, that meant I needed to find a university that was willing to hire an entry-level administrator on a work visa that they were saving for distinguished international research professors. My determination to prove I was worth the investment had me basically living in my University Career Center (which eventually sparked my interest in starting my resume writing business, so in hindsight, I can’t complain about that).  


A Brief Look at My Dark Days

Because I was unable to find a job in the U.S. but I was too stubborn to move back to Canada, times got tough. My girlfriend of the time was paying for most of our expenses and my dad had to wire me money a couple times, though he refused to call it a loan because he didn’t want to burden either of us with any pressure for me to pay him back (really sweet, but also an example of how money wasn’t a subject we wanted to hover on for too long). 

Without a clear sense of direction or any kind of financial stability, I essentially melted into a shell of my former self. I lacked my normal confidence and I lost my drive to do much of anything aside from play NBA 2K14. It was a whole ordeal and I plan to blog about that in more detail in the near future, but for now, let me just tell you, it sucked.


Okay, Happy Time Again!

In November 2014, I made the big decision to move back to Canada. Luckily for me, I had worked so hard on developing my resume writing and interviewing skills in my attempt to earn a U.S. work visa that I was immediately hired to the first job I applied to back home!

The job was at my undergraduate institution, York University, planning the new student transition programs and the salary started in the low $60K range with an annual step progression. 

The First Plan is Not Always the Best Plan

I spent the next two years paying off debt using a new financial plan I called “Spend as little as possible so I can give all my money to the bank and the government so they don’t yell at me for owing them money” plan. 

The plan worked. I was paying off about $850 per month and then whenever I had a substantial chunk of cash in my account, I’d ship it off to either the bank or the government to lower the principal on the loans. 

By December of 2016, in just 2 years of working, I had paid off $33,000, which is about $1,300 per month. I remember feeling proud that I was able to do that with only my fear-based system to drive me. 

Beware of the “Fear-Based Savings Plan”

The problem with the fear-based system is that it causes a lot of discomfort. I hadn’t been on a vacation in years. I only owned three pairs of pants. I rarely went out for dinner or even lived the luxury of buying myself blueberries. It also caused a lot of arguments with my girlfriend, which you know if you’ve experienced any money-centric agruements, is the worst. 

So, on that frosty December morning, I woke up and made a decision. I was going to learn about money and take control of my money. Here’s how I did it!

The Second Plan… The Much Better Plan

Within that month I read about 8 personal finance books and one, The Millionaire Next Door: The Surprising Secrets of America’s Wealthy, by Thomas J. Stanley, Ph.D. and William D. Danko, Ph.D. stressed the importance of creating a personal budget to guide your spending. 

Now, I’ll admit, I’m a bit of an Excel nerd, so it didn’t take much convincing for me to build a spreadsheet to track all my monthly expenses versus my income. By doing this, I was able to not only track and adjust my spending, but I was also, for the first time in my life, able to identify money I could spend on myself, guilt-free!

I built the budget by making a row for every recurring monthly expense: food, rent, phone bill, metropass, toiletries, gym membership, haircuts, etc. Then I added categories for things I’d have to save up for monthly that I wouldn’t be buying every month like clothes (pants) and gifts (oh yeah, I was also a terrible gift giver during this era. Just ask my mom and her bag of Starbucks coffee beans).

Then, after looking at all the money I was obligated to spend each month to keep my life moving, I could see how much was left over to put into student loans. By budgeting, I was able to see that I could comfortably up my loan repayment from $1,300 per month to $1,600.



The Best Part: Guilt-Free Spending and Logical Discussions about Money

After calculating all the monthly expenses, and upping my loan repayment rate, I still had a few hundred dollars left over. So I then created a “Dating” budget line, and an “Entertainment” budget line and even a… “Vacation Fund” budget line where I started putting money aside for my first trip in years! 

Adding these pieces to my personal budget meant so much to me. It significantly reduced my financial anxiety while allowing me to spend money on myself and my loved ones without stress for the first time in my life. 

As things got more serious with my girlfriend, Ariana, it got easier to talk about spending together. Instead of saying “those cherries are too expensive”, I was able to say, “I only have $45 in the grocery budget for this weekend so if we want those cherries, we can’t have the watermelon”. I find it so much easier to talk about money with literal numbers than in the abstract. 


Paying Off the Loan

Paying off $1,600 a month from January to May allowed me to whittle down the final $12,000 pretty quickly and then in June of 2017, I submitted one final lump sum of nearly $4,000. I was done! Debt-free for the first time in 8 years with a fully paid-for education. 

It felt great!



Staying Debt-Free

I continued to use the budget for months after I paid off my loans in order to start saving for my investment portfolio and keep tabs on my spending. After a while, when I got a good handle on my expenses, I stopped keeping track and set up automation with my bank so portions of my paycheck each month would go into investment and savings accounts for things like retirement saving, personal development, and food. And I still know roughly how much I can spend each month on myself, just for fun :)

If you’re interested in budgeting your personal life, sign up for my mailing list and I’ll send you my personal budget template for free along with other similar stories and tips, and tidbits!





The Real Reason I Started a Business

Greg and John 2.jpg

Why did I start this business? Really?

This is a tough question. To be honest, I have written an opening paragraph and then deleted it four times now but that wasn’t getting me anywhere so I’m just going to try the stream-of-consciousness style of writing. Bare with me, please.

In December of 2016, as a 28-year-old man, I literally woke up one morning in a panic when I realized I knew nothing about money. I had always been frugal, but that was mainly because the extent of my financial plan was “spend as little as possible so you don’t run out of money to buy food and then die of starvation”.

Lying in bed next to my sleeping girlfriend, Ariana, I googled “Best books to learn about money” and found Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki. It was only $8.95 so I went to the mall and picked it up later that day. I read Rich Dad Poor Dad over the next three days and I can’t say I understood much (I’ve read it twice since and taken in a lot more), but it certainly got my financial blood pumping.

I read about 8 more personal finance books in the next month and also had a long talk with my most financially successful friend about savings, budgeting, and investing. After just a few weeks of vigorous, panicked financial education, I had designed a personal budget and created a master plan to pay off the last $12,000 of my student loans in 6 months on only my income as an early-career university administrator (see that story here).

Once I had the budget plan in place and got closer to sending in my final loan payment, I started to think about what I was going to do with all my extra money. I was paying off about $1,600 per month and I knew I didn’t want to just waste that money by immediately upgrading my lifestyle and taking on more expenses. I wanted to play the long game… I just didn’t know what that meant yet.

I did a deep dive into investment research, including reading The Intelligent Investor by Benjamin Graham, a 500+ page paper brick that the internet said was for “beginners”. It went waaaayyyy over my head. In the end, I decided to open a Tax Free Savings Account, and invest my money there using fairly safe vehicles like Exchange-traded funds (ETFs).

By July 2017, after one final large lump sum payment of over $3,000 (had to tighten the belt that month), I paid off my student loans and started saving to build my investment portfolio.

The weightlessness of being debt-free was incredible! I don’t own a home or a car (and don’t plan on doing so anytime soon either, but that’s a conversation for another time), so I really had no responsibilities outside of my day job at York University.

I had no debt. I had a reliable, unionized job with good benefits and an enviable pension. I could have stopped there and been fine, but something wouldn’t let me.

You can call this a blessing or a curse, but for as long as I can remember, whenever I’ve had a moment in my life where I felt like I was “good” and I could just coast, something bad would happen to me, usually health related. Maybe that’s why I was afraid to let myself relax, for fear of getting sick again.

I know a part of it was financially driven. Maybe I wasn’t satisfied with the passive 4% to 8% growth I was going to get from my ETFs. Maybe reading about all the entrepreneurs and lifestyle designers like Chris Guillebeau and Tim Ferriss during my quest for financial literacy had me dreaming of a life of financial freedom.

Most likely, it was a combination of fear, drive, and dreaming that revved my engine and got me moving. At some point between July and September 2017, I committed to the idea of starting my own business.

It didn’t take me too long to decide that I wanted to help people find jobs through resume writing and interview coaching. During my last few months in grad school, in 2014, I practically lived in the Career Center, (I’ll explain why another time, but trust me, it’s a juicy tale) and since then, I had become the go-to resource for friends and family members who needed help during their job search.

My next questions were, would people actually be willing to pay for my help, and how could I find those people? These two questions paralyzed me into inaction for several more months, but luckily, I’m a big New Year’s Resolution guy, so on January 8th, 2018, I got my shit together and launched the damn business (forgive the cursing, I just wanted to drive that point home).

Nearly 18 months later, I’m still going hard. Whatever the initial reason was, it was good enough to get me started. What’s more important is that I know now why I still run the business. I love connecting with clients and helping people feel confident about their job searches. It’s been very rewarding to learn how to market myself, develop my reputation and as resume writer and interview coach, and find new ways to expand my business.

As long as I’m able to help people and keep challenging myself, I plan to keep this thing running!


Starting My Own Business: 10-Months In!

Greg Balloons

Dear Mom... and whoever else decides to read this blog <3

Ten months ago today, I launched Greg Langstaff - Resume Writer & Interview Coach! Believe it or not, I'm still standing :) 

Since January 8th, I have served 43 clients (plus five currently in process) and I owe a great deal of that success to all of you who supported me. Thank you to anyone who passed my name onto some who needed help, or shared my promotional content online, or simply asked me how the business was going. Without you, I am but a lonely man posting memes on his Facebook page.

For all those following along the journey, here's how the first ten months have gone :)

The Money

I don’t think enough people share the cold hard numbers when they talk about their businesses, but like a good resume, I want to show you my specific and measurable accomplishments.

My initial goal was to make a modest $1,000 this year. I went onto hit that in February so I set a new goal of $5,000. I've honestly stopped keeping track of how much money I've made exactly (I guess I'll have to figure that out before tax season), but I can tell you that I'm somewhere north of $6,000. 


The Commitment

At the six month-mark (after some eye-opening spring travelling with Ariana), I decided that I liked running this business enough that it was time to commit. Here's a quick summary of what committing looks like for me: 


July: I registered as a Sole Proprietor with the Government of Ontario. 

August: I applied for and was accepted to the Futurpreneur Mentorship program for young entrepreneurs. I now have a great mentor who is helping me expand my business. 

September: Record-high month in revenue generation at roughly $1,200. 

October: I became a card-carrying member of the Career Professionals of Canada. 

November: I am studying for my Certified Resume Strategist designation which I hope to have by the end of this year. 


Lessons Learned

The first ten months have definitely dropped some knowledge into my lap. I've done my best to categorize those lessons for you. 


Marketing: You can get it for free, and you can pay for it too. 

I've had great success in posting useful content in my social media just to generate awareness in my business and tossing out the occasional sales pitch. To be honest, the content generation does get challenging, and I've been guilty of disappearing for weeks on end. It's a lot of work and I also worry about over-saturating my newsfeed and wearing out my welcome. 

I'm also starting to dabble in paid marketing (this is where it's great to have an experienced mentor). I’ve done a bit of Facebook and now I’m messing around with Google Ads a bit, which has proven to be fairly successful so far.


Service Excellence: I’ve also found that the best way to find new clients is to do a damn good job with the ones you have! About 20% of my clients have been referred by other satisfied clients. That's not a bad ROI for just doing your job with a smile... also it's nice to genuinely help people, but that’s not as measurable ;) 


People are Amazing: There are a lot of really great people out there. I'm so lucky to get to spend a hour on the phone with each of my clients, hearing all about their incredible lives. I have learned so much about so many different professions that I would have never learned if I hadn't started this business. Talking to people has been my absolute favourite part. 


What's Next?

Here's a quick taste of some upcoming initiatives for my business.

Certification: As mentioned above, I'm currently studying to become a Certified Resume Strategist. Just reading the textbook as already validated a lot of my earlier work and given me more confidence in my ability to help my clients. 

More Succinct Marketing Plan: Some of you may have heard that I recently moved in with my beloved, Ariana. And you may know that she is a digital marketing professional. So between Ariana and my mentor, I feel great about the direction my marketing strategy is heading in. 

Video Course: I've been talking about this for a long time now, but I swear I'm going to do it!


Thanks for reading! If you're thinking about starting a business or you recently started one and you want to talk, hit me up!


Lessons Learned from a 150-page Resume Textbook

Canadian Resume Strategist Textbook Cover

I recently became a member of the Career Professionals of Canada organization and as a new member, I am eligible to pursue my Certified Resume Strategists designation.

The first step in pursuing this designation is reading a 150-page textbook on writing great resumes. I’m almost done reading the book and I wanted to share some useful tidbits that I picked up along the way.

 

1. Think of your Resume as a Marketing Tool. In marketing, the object is to identify the potential buyer’s needs and cater your messaging towards them. For resume writers, that means carefully researching the target company, industry, and job duties in order to highlight the most relevant skills and accomplishments on the resume.

The book differentiates this from using the resume as a sales tool, wherein you might be tempted to just list all the best things about yourself regardless of what the employer needs.


2. Build your Resume around your Unique Value Proposition. Decide what makes you uniquely qualified for the position to which you are applying (i.e. Pilot Project Specialist, Software Solutions Sales Expert, Progressive Team-Builder, Innovative Problem-Solver) and use that as sort of a thesis statement which you back up throughout the resume.

Implementing this would mean using a headline or summary statement at the top of your resume such as “Safety-Focused Warehouse Manager” and following up with accomplishments like “Designed and implemented enhanced safety protocol company-wide; resulting in a 125% decrease in workplace injuries.”


3. Under work experience, emphasize accomplishments over job duties. Use SMART statements (Specific, Measurable, Action-Oriented, Results-Oriented, Time-Bound) to highlight things you accomplished in previous roles, rather than simply listing job duties.

Bad example: “Entered customer profile information in database”

Good example: “Generated 50-75 customer profiles per week using the ABC Software company database, utilized by account management team to increase customer retention by 15% in 2017”

4. Some random, yet specific tips. The tips above are very conceptual. Here are some very specific tips for you from the textbook.

  • Objective statements are out of style (“I would like to acquire employment at blah, blah, blah”) and that space can be used more effectively with a headline (example in point 2).

  • There is no set rule about page limit but lengthy resumes (over two pages) can be off-putting to recruiters unless you have a great reason to take up so much space.

  • Leave plenty of white space on your resume. An overly busy resume is tough to read and could reduce recruiter interest.

  • Avoid photos, logos, and graphics. Unless you are a creative professional or a model, just stick with good-old reliable “words”.

There were lots of other interesting tips and guidelines in the textbook, but I know my audience and that is probably enough information for this instalment.

If you need any help with your resume, I’m getting pretty darn good at writing them, so please reach out!

Thanks for reading!

Changing Jobs is Scary: Even for Me

5-minute read

Me and my amazing co-workers at an 80/90's themed Christmas party in 2015 &lt;3

Me and my amazing co-workers at an 80/90's themed Christmas party in 2015 <3

My friends, I have to admit something. Despite having helped dozens of people transition into new jobs over the past few years, the thought of doing it myself terrifies me.

Maybe it’s because I’m already in a great situation, maybe it’s because I don’t know where I’d go next, or maybe I’m not as change-positive as I thought I was. It might be a combination of these things or something else entirely, but the fact is, I’m scared to make a move. I think it might be therapeutic for me to word-vomit my feelings on the subject. Maybe you’ll get something out of it, maybe you won’t. I’m experimenting here.

Status Update

In 2014, I landed my dream job planning orientation at my undergraduate alma mater, York University. It was the first job I got out of grad school (see my about page for that saga) and I’ve been there ever since.

The first year was tough but as the learning curve settled down, I found myself surrounded by great people, working with awesome students producing meaningful work for people who matter to me. Awesome right? I still love my job and at the same time, I never would have imagined that I’d still be doing it four years later. So why am I still here?

I can think of two main reasons (and they are essentially the same reason) why I haven’t change jobs:

1. I’m afraid I won’t find an equally amazing work environment anywhere else. I have a standing desk. My coworkers and I play Donkey Kong and go for walks in the forest at lunch. My Director gives me the autonomy and support to flourish. And I deeply care about all 13 of the professional staff I work with, not to mention the amazing students!

When I think about how amazing I have it at work, and compare that to some of the horror stories I hear from other people about their work places... I don’t know… it just scares me that I won’t be able to find that anywhere else.

2. I don’t really know what I want next. About one year ago, I started to realize that I was stagnating a bit in my life. Same house, same job, same hobbies several years in a row. It felt weird and unfamiliar to me. All I knew was that I wanted to do something challenging, and I wanted to make more money. Rather than search for a new, harder, higher paying job, I chose to start this business (the beauty of word vomit is that I only just learned that about myself as I was typing). I guess I started this business partially because I could get what I wanted growth-wise without having to risk moving into a new environment.

In the student affairs part of my life, I still don’t have any concrete goals or next steps, and I’m certainly not about to make a change for the sake of changing.

I know change is a huge contributor to improvement. I guess at this point I’m afraid to risk losing what I have for something that I can’t envision.

Conclusion

Sorry, there really is no conclusion. I hate to leave this blog post so open-ended, but I’m afraid that’s the nature of the topic at hand.

If anyone is going through any similar feelings, or has any advice, I would sincerely appreciate your thoughts. You can comment below, or email me directly at greg@greglangstaff.com.

“400” people apply to every online job posting: 3 ways you can rise above them

4-minute read

Job Search Advice

Applying to jobs has never been easier. Find job online, upload resume and cover letter, repeat. Find, upload, repeat… repeat… repeat.

With the lack of effort required to submit a job application, it's not surprising that every study about the job market seems to reveal that an average of 400 people (or another intimidatingly high number) apply to each online job posting and that getting an interview is about as hard as getting into Hogwarts. In my hiring and recruiting experience, I have certainly have seen huge numbers of applicants for particular jobs; however, the numbers do not tell the whole story…  

What these statistics don’t capture is that the majority of these applications are, to put it delicately… "Weak Sauce". I know it sounds harsh, but most applications are straight-up incomplete. Those that are complete are typically generic. An “I’m scared-for-the-future-of-civilization-ily” large percentage of job seekers are simply trying to apply to as many jobs as possible, seemingly without the intention of ever getting one.

Because it is so easy to submit an application (a couple clicks and “voila”, right?) most applicants don't put in the requisite effort to get real consideration from a hiring manager. Their applications aren't being read and it's like they never applied in the first place. So rather than competing against 400 over-achieving Hermoine Grangers, the "real" applicant pool is more likely around 20-40. Seems a lot more doable now doesn't it?

So please don’t be intimidated when you hear those daunting numbers about how many people apply to every job online. The people publishing those statistics are just trying to scare you. But you are awesome! And when you’re really interested in an opportunity, you will put in the work and get yourself into the upper tier of candidates!

 

So, how do I rise above?

It might take a bit more time to apply to each job, but if you apply these steps, it won't take nearly as long to land something great!

  1. Target your resume: Comb the job posting for key words pertaining to the duties you'll be fulfilling and be sure to include each of those 2-3 times in your resume. Also, make sure the most relevant work you've done is featured prominently!

  2. Write a customized cover letter: Include why you'd like to do this job specifically and why you'd like to work at this company. Make them feel special (they better be special if you’re going to spend 40 hours per week there). Let them know you applied to this job for a reason!

  3. Look for additional requirements: Some applications will ask for a sample of your work, an answer to a short essay question, or even a transcript verifying your education. Missing these requirements is a one-way ticket to the “No” pile.

If you're serious about the job to which you are applying, I know you're will put as much care and effort into your application as you would on the job itself! If you do, the hiring manager will notice and you'll rise to the top of the pile :)

Why a Man was Running while I Phone-Interviewed Him... And 3 More Bizarre Interview Stories

bizarre interview stories

You all seemed to really enjoy the first time I did this, with my blog post: Why a Many Once Fell Asleep While Interviewing... And 3 other Outlandish Interview Experience, so here I am sharing four more bizarre interview experiences with you. 

As you're reading these, just remember the moral of the story. I survived, they survived, and no matter how ridiculous or uncomfortable an interview gets, everything's going to be alright. 

*Once again, to make this educational and not simply embarrassing, I’m going to formulate the stories as I recommend you formulate your interview answers, using the CAR method; context, action, result.

1. CNN MARATHON

Context: So you may remember from the previous installment, that two of my stories took place during an interview day at a university in North Miami. If you didn't read the last blog, that was the day where they all watched me peal a grapefruit with my bare hands, and also the day of the infamous, interview-panelist-falls-asleep mid-interview situation. 

Guess what... there's more stories from that day. Including this gem. 

Action: I arrived 15 minutes early for my interview (standard practice) and was instructed to have a seat on the couch in the lobby while they prepared for me. The lobby had a TV playing CNN (what is this, a dentist's office?) and I waited there for about 30 minutes, watching it until someone came and got me. After the first interview, they told me to wait on the couch until a tour guide arrived to show me around campus... which happened 45 minutes later. CNN count is now up to 1 hour and 15 minutes.

Result: I won't regale you with each account, but throughout the day, this happened several more times and within a total of 6 hours and 15 minutes on campus, I spent over 2 hours and 15 minutes sitting on that couch, watching CNN. 

The next day, they offered me the job. I graciously declined. 

 

2. WTH ARE GRITS?

Context: I flew to Ashville, North Carolina for a 2.5 day interview gauntlet with a lovely liberal arts university in the Appalachian Mountains. On the first night I was there, I was taken out to dinner by some very nice university staff to a local restaurant. 

Action: We were all chatting and getting to know each other at the restaurant. It was nice. I think they liked me. At some point, I asked what they all liked at this restaurant and they started raving about the grits. Now, I'm not your average Canadian boy, I know a thing or two about "the South", but I had no idea what the hell grits were. However, wanting to show my willingness to trust in others, I ordered my meal with a side of "the grits".

Result: I quickly found out that grits are basically soggy corn mush. Imagine oatmeal (which I hate) but corn. It looked like grey sludge in a bowl. It tasted like oatmeal (again... gross), but damn it, if I didn't *grit/8 my teeth and slurp down the whole bowl. They were impressed, but in the end, I lost out on that job due to visa complications. 

 

3. A BULL IN A CHINA SHOP

Context: I'm so sorry to do this... I'm sorry... We're going back to MIAMI!!! Same freakin' day as the CNN marathon, as the breakfast-for-one debacle, and of course, the man-falling-asleep-in-my-interview day. 

This time, it's the end of the interview day and I'm meeting with my would-be supervisor to have the standard heart-to-heart, where they tell you all about their management style, the office culture, and basically give you a final pitch as to why you should work with them. 

Action: The director I'm meeting with is a bit of a mess. He's a big reason that many of the events from earlier in the day have happened. He mentioned 3 times that he enjoys drinking at his students' events and now he's describing his management style. I'm going to "transcribe" what he said as best as I can remember (which is fairly well because I've told this story so many times). 

"My management style... well, I'm like a bull in a china shop. I'll walk down the hall on a rampage. I'll poke my head in your door, tell you everything you're doing wrong and then just leave before you have a chance to react. 

"If we're in a meeting, and you screwed up, I'll call you out in front of everyone. I won't mention you by name, but I'll describe everything you did and you'll know I'm talking about you. Later, you'll come to me a say, 'that stuff in the meeting was about me, right?' and I'll be like, 'you know it!'"

Result: The crazy part about this rant was that he really seemed to think these were major selling points and that people would be excited to work in this kind of environment. Here's the thing though... I was not. 

 

4. READY, SET, GO!

Context: I don't normally like to poke fun in situations in which I am the interviewer, mostly because when you're in a position of authority, it just doesn't feel right. This one; for some reason, feels okay. 

I was fulfilling my phone screening responsibilities as a member of the graduate assistant recruitment committee during grad school and I was about two dozen phone interviews deep when this lovely situation occurred. 

Action: I was speaking to a young man about his undergraduate experience when I noticed him breathing irregularly. I assumed this was just nerves (totally natural) and didn't acknowledge it. Then, the breathing got heavier and his answers started getting shorter and less coherent... then the phone cut out. 

Result: The guy called me back and I had to ask him what was going on. He apolgized and told me that he lost me when he ran through a building that had bad reception. I asked what he meant by running and he told me he had been running around his campus trying to find a quiet place to do the interview. 

This man did not advance past the phone screen phase. Find a quiet place to do your phone interviews before they begin, people!

Do you have any bizarre interview stories? 
Share in the comments!

How to Arrange Your Resume: Logically or Chronologically?

Arranging Your Resume

Much like a hiring manager reading your resume, I’ve only got about 6 seconds to catch your attention with this blog post, so I’ll tell you straight away:

In most cases, you’ll be better off arranging your resume in a logical order than sticking to the old fashion chronological arrangement.

Why?

Because the time we have to make an impression on the resume reviewer is so finite, your most relevant experience needs to be at the top of your resume. This means, if you are applying to a job as a Professional Tap Dancer, and you’re currently working as a Lion Tamer, but three years ago, you were touring around the world, tapping with the National Tap Dancing Society, the tab dancing job goes above the lion taming job, even though it’s not as recent.

Not only does the first job need to catch the reviewer’s attention to prevent you from being thrown in the electronic “no” pile, but the first job also sets the tone for how they view the rest of your resume.

Are you a Tap Dancer with some impressive alternative skills working with lions? Or are you a Lion Tamer who used to tap dance? The job at the top of your resume is your brand. Make sure it’s the right brand for the job you want!

 

How?

I know I explained the previous section beautifully, but I must add a caveat. We cannot simply throw chronology to the wind and list our experience in a dimension where time and space are fluid. We have to provide some structure for the resume reviewer so they don’t feel like they're lost in a bad dream while they’re reading our resume.

This is where we get creative with our headings.

Traditional job applicants generally use the tested “Work Experience” and “Volunteer Experience” headings to organize their jobs. When we’re trying to bring our most relevant experience to the forefront of our resumes, all we have to do is customize the heading to suit our needs. Once we have the headings, we can list our experience chronologically within them. For example:

TAP DANCING EXPERIENCE

Tap Dancer                                                                  July 2011 – June 2015
National Tap Dancing Society                                           Montreal, Quebec

  • Something about tap dancing impressively
  • Something else impressive

Assistant Tap Dancer                                                   May 2010 – July 2011
Tap Dancing Society                                                         Montreal, Quebec

  • Something about helping others who were tap dancing impressively
  • Something else impressive

ADDITIONAL PERFORMANCE EXPERIENCE

Lion Tamer                                                                       July 2015 – Present
Toronto Zoo                                                                          Toronto, Ontario

  • Tamed the most ferocious of Lions
  • Taught sign-language to 3 lion cubs

It’s that easy, people. By providing headings, you help the reviewer follow your story, even if it’s not in chronological order. And by using the title “TAP DANCING EXPERIENCE”, instead of just “WORK EXPERIENCE” we’re branding ourselves loud and clear, “I am a TAP DANCER!”

*As a side note, you may be thinking... is Assistant Tap Dancer a real position? Does the Toronto Zoo offer a Lion Taming show? Can Lion cubs learn sign-language? The answer to all three questions is in your heart.

 

FAQ’s of Logical vs. Chronological Arrangement

Can I make a specific heading just for one job, even if it’s the only job I have worked that makes sense with that heading?

Yes. If the experience is relevant to the position for which you are applying. If it’s not directly relevant, you can lump other experience under an “ADDITIONAL WORK EXPERIENCE” heading.

What do I do about LinkedIn, where the work experience is automatically listed in chronological order?

This is where you can use your headline and summary statement to brand yourself. By default, your headline will be the same as your current job; however, we are free to edit this as we please. Use these two areas to talk all about how much you love tap dancing (or whatever it is that you love).

I can’t think of an appropriate heading for my relevant job. What should I do?

If you can’t think of a good job, or you want to run one by me, shoot me an email at greg@greglangstaff.com, and I’ll help you come up with something, free of charge!

 

Starting My Own Business: The First Big Breakthrough (3 Months In)

Resume Writer and Interview Coach

Last time I blogged about my entrepreneurial journey, I was one month in and despite not being able to spell "entrepreneur" without spellcheck, I was flying high! Since then the journey had been… I wouldn't call it a roller coaster, but a very least, a kiddie coaster. Maybe more of a bumpy train ride through a rolling valley.

What I'm trying to tell you is, things were going great, then they weren't, so I had to make some major changes and alter my tactics, and now they're going great again!

 

February - Everything is Awesome

February was amazing. I was still benefiting from the initial boost of publicity I received of when all my friends and well-wishers shared my launch and I generated enough leads to last about two months.

After earning nearly $400 in January, I doubled that mark in February with over $800 in income, surpassing my incredibly modest opening-year goal of earning $1,000. It was great! I was receiving repeat business, referrals, and one client even paid for a friend to receive my services as a gift. I’ve never been gifted before ;)

What I didn't realize while I was thriving is that I was neglecting a very important part of my business.

 

March: Part 1 - Uh oh!

I'm not going to sugar coat it for you, my dear reader, I made $0 in the month of March. The big nuth. I had one solid lead, whom I think I scared off.  Probably because I was so desperate to break my drought.

I must admit, for a brief period, in my over-dramatic state, I thought maybe the dream was dead. Two good months and then fizzled out like a sparkler on a birthday cake (not that sparklers last two months… just… they fizzle out. You know what I mean).

In retrospect, it was easy to see this coming. While I was working with all my initial clients, I disappeared off social media, my website traffic was virtually nil, and my word-of-mouth army had nothing to go on.

 

March: Part 2 - The Redemption

After feeling sorry for myself for a couple of lonely weeknights, I decided to kick my butt into gear. At least I knew enough to understand that marketing was my problem. So I signed up for a $0.99 trial at skillshare.com and completed at least four courses on social media marketing. In SkillShare, I stumbled across a fairly famous guy who seems to know what he’s doing, Gary Vaynerchuk, and I learned the concept of creating a relationship with your followers before you ask for something.

So I bought his amazing book Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook: How to Tell Your Story in a Noisy Social World and started crafting my Facebook marketing campaign (do I get a commission if you click on this link and buy this book? Hell yes, I do! But I wouldn’t recommend it if it didn’t help me monumentally). *Sidenote: I just bought his newest book Crushing It: How Great Entrepreneurs Build Their Business and Influence—and How You Can, Too, and I’m expecting even more awesomeness to come.

 

April - I’m a Believer

Using my rudimentary design skills on canva.com, I built up 2 weeks worth of content to post on my Facebook page and my own profile that was either personal to me, relevant to my services, or just topical what’s going on in the world. Then, on my 30th birthday, boom! I hit the world with my first “Right Hook”, a 30% off deal to celebrate my 30th.

What a hit! Within the week I confirmed six new clients and have seven additional leads who I may work with in the near future. That $28 book made me somewhere between $700 and $1200 in about 3 weeks. But what’s even more valuable is that I now feel like I’m doing this thing for real. I’m still learning, but the power of being able to generate interest in my business and build my brand strategically feels amazing.

 

Moving Forward

I’m very excited to be where I am today. I can’t thank everyone enough for all the support you have given me. The referrals, the social media engagement, the genuine interest in how it’s all going makes me feel like I can take this business to the next level and beyond.

Stay tuned for my next entrepreneurial journey update. I’ve got a couple of fun new projects in the works including a SkillShare course or two of my own, and another project completely outside the resume writing industry :)

 

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Meet the Robot Who is Scanning Your Resume... And learn to make him like you!

Resume Scanners ATS

Every single one of us has submitted our resume for an amazing job that seemed like a great fit, only to never hear back again. It can be soul crushing, but after a few such instances, we typically come to accept that our resumes are disappearing into a black hole somewhere.

Well I say, NO MORE! I’ve done some undercover sleuthing to determine exactly where my resume goes and what the difference is between getting called for an interview and disappearing into the abbiss. I have found the gatekeeper. He is a robot. His name is ATS, which, as his creators will tell you, stands for Applicant Tracking System.

In my effort to uncover how ATS thinks, what he likes, and how to please him, I posed as a potential customer with two ATS providers to understand how it works. Here’s what I found out that you can use to make sure your resume gets past the robot and into the hands of a living, breathing recruiter.

 

Who Uses Applicant Tracking Systems?

It was difficult to get a sense of exactly what percentage of the job market is using these robots, because I was getting different numbers from different sources, but the lowest I heard was that 75% of organizations use some form of automated resume scanner. Even if that’s inflated, the reality is, we need our resumes to be optimized for automated review.

 

What does ATS do?

ATS is an intelligent robot. He can manage the entire hiring process including recruiting candidates, reviewing applications and ranking candidates (scanning your resume and deciding if you get an interview). He can also do a whole bunch of fancy stuff to help the recruiters plan and organize the interviews.

The reviewing of applications and ranking candidates function is what we’re going to focus on here. Specifically, how do we make the robot like us and rank us among the top candidates so an actual human will look at our resume?

 

How do I please the All-Mighty ATS robot?

  • Master Your Keywords - Typically a recruiter will upload the same job posting to which you applied, into the ATS, and it will automatically pull keywords from that posting. Those keywords could be things like “Sales”, “Account Management”, “Social Media”, “Break dancing”, it all depends on the job. ATS wants to see those keywords on your resume.

Solution: The beauty of the situation here is that it’s no secret to us what the keywords are because they come from the job posting. Scan the job posting for any words related to key functions of the job and make sure to include them (word-for-word) 2-3 times each in your resume.

 

  • Use Standard Job Titles - ATS weights job title relevance highly. If you’ve got a wacky job title that doesn’t really explain your role, it could hurt your ranking.

Solution: Let’s say you’re an event planner and your most recent job was at a petting zoo. At the zoo, your official title was something bizarre like “Jamboree Master” and you’re now applying to a non-jamboree-related job. To get around this, you can include your standard job title in brackets like this:

Jamboree Master (Events Coordinator)                        January 2016 - April 2018

ATS will like this. He’ll like it a lot.

 

  • Include a Qualifications Summary - ATS, and the human reviewer who will later see your resume, will like to see those keywords near the top of your resume. The caveat here is that you can’t simply list keywords like “team-oriented”, “management experience”, “excel”, these mean nothing in the hands of an actual human reviewer.

Solution: In your Qualifications Summary section at the top of your resume, include 4-6 bullet points of concrete things you accomplished where you can work in keywords. For example:

  • Restructured assessment practices using Microsoft Excel at BloggersInc.

 

  • Keep Format Simple: ATS is a complicated robot in many ways; however, when it comes to resume formatting, he prefers things simple.

Solution: Use simple headings like “Marketing Experience” or “Sales Experience” or even “Work Experience”. Don’t use fancy margins or unusual arrangements. Simply list your job title, duration of employment, company name, and then your bullet points below.

For more information on writing Badass Bullet Points, check out my blog Why Your Resume is Betraying You… and what to do about it.

 

  • Spell out Acronyms: ATS is intelligent, but we don’t want to assume he knows all our acronyms. We have to teach him.

Solution: Instead of writing “RN”, ATS would be happier if you wrote “Registered Nurse (RN)” the first time it comes up. After you teach ATS the acronym once, you can start using “RN” on it’s own. He’s a fast learner.

 

Two ATS Warnings

  1. Do not overuse keywords. ATS is smart enough to know when you’re trying to take advantage of him. Resumes that “keyword stuff” are ranked lower. This is why it’s recommended to stick to using each keyword 2-3 times.

  2. Remember that ATS is not your only audience. You also have to write the resume in a way that will intrigue the human to which ATS will pass off the top ranked candidates. You have to use clear, resume-ready language, that a recruiter will like as well.

 

Want to know how our friend ATS feels about your resume?

There are a several free services that will let you scan your resume through an ATS and give you feedback on how it does. I sent mine to this one; however, they didn’t ask for a job posting that I’d like to apply to, so I’m not really sure where they intend to get keywords from.

I’ll update when I hear back to let you know how it goes.

 

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Why a Man Once Fell Asleep while Interviewing Me… and 3 Other Outlandish Interview Experiences

Interview gone wrong

I know this headline sounds bad. I promise, I did not bore anyone to sleep. However, in light of the upcoming April Fool’s Day (which is my Birthday, FYI), I thought it might be fun to revisit some of my most awkward and outlandish interview experiences.

My hope in writing this is that you will realize that interviews can be unpredictable and weird. And that no matter what happens, you will get through it.

To make sure this educational, as well as entertaining, I’m going to formulate the stories as I recommend you formulate your interview answers, using the CAR method; context, action, result.

1. A Fly on the Wall

Context: I was interviewing for a graduate assistant position in a university’s civic engagement office and I was being interviewed by two young men immediately after eating a big lunch.

Action: About 15 minutes into the interview, one of my interviewer’s attention was drawn away from me by a fly buzzing harmlessly around the corner of the room. He watched the fly intently for several minutes, seeming to entirely forget I was there.

After a couple minutes watching the fly, he stood up and started following it around the room. At this point I stopped talking and just watched. Then, in a flash, the man picked up a file folder and swatted the fly to death. He then apologized and we resumed the interview.

Result: I took a graduate assistantship in a different office at that same university, and the fly swatter later became my gym buddy. He never swatted me once.

2. Breakfast Anyone?

Context: I was interviewing for a full-time position as Student Activities Coordinator at a small university in Miami. I had a full day of interviews on their campus, starting with a group breakfast. Normally, these breakfasts are light-hearted conversations over a shared meal to warm everyone up before the interview; however…

Action: The “breakfast” they presented was a cafeteria tray of cold hash browns, bacon and some fruit, assumedly leftover from breakfast served to students, hours earlier. I filled my plate with as little as I could without being rude. Then, as I sat down with my interviewers, I realized that I was the only one with any food. They had “already ate”.

So as they sat watching me struggle to peel a grapefruit with my bare hands, the interviewers pulled out notepads and started asking me full-on interview questions! I understand that multitasking is important; however, but I had never felt so awkward in my life.

Result: They must have admired my grit for dealing with the situation, because they did offer me the job. However, due to the breakfast incident, along with item number four on this list, I had to decline the offer.

3. With Arms Wide Open

Context: I was at an interview conference in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, interviewing with 10 different universities, looking for potential graduate assistantships. My second interview was with two lovely people from the Residence Life office at the University of Kansas.

Action: One of the interviewers was sitting with her legs crossed throughout the interview. Little did she know, by the end of the interview, one of those legs had fallen asleep. The interview was in a small room with no desk between the interviewers and myself, so as this women stood to shake my hand, she immediately toppled forward into my outstretched arms. Luckily, I was able to catch her and no one was injured in the process.

Result: My act of heroism was not enough to overcome my lack of Residence Life experience, and I did not advance with the University of Kansas.

4. Wakey, Wakey!

Context: We’re back in Miami. Only an hour or so after the breakfast incident. I’m sitting down to interview with a panel of 10 of my "would-be" peers. I know what you’re thinking, “10 people is too many for an interview panel,” apparently one man on the panel agreed…

Action: I swear the other 9 people on the panel were deeply enthralled with my interview. But one guy just wasn’t feeling it.

He was wearing jeans and a hoodie… and he was wearing the hood… over his head. He was sitting less than 5 feet away from me. He wasn’t at the other side of the room, he was more-or-less right next to me. And about 20 minutes in, I just notice his head start nodding, and his eyes start drooping.

I kept it as professional as possible, answering questions, and smiling, but I couldn’t stop watching as this guy peacefully drifted into dreamland before my eyes. He would occasionally wake up and start smiling and nodding as if I couldn’t see his chin repeatedly fall down to his chest and his eyes fall shut.

Result: I got through the interview, thrilled to have this story to tell, and as I mentioned in story two, I did not accept when they offered me the job.

 

I have lots more of these ridiculous interview stories, including a time a guy was running during a phone interview, and a potential supervisor who bragged about his “bull-in-a-china-shop” management style. I will save those, for another time. 

Good luck with your interviews out there people!

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