Five Résumé Tips That Can Land You a Job

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MIJE Staff
April 16, 2014

This week in Diversity Chat, we have a Q-&-A on résumés and job hunting with veteran editor and recruiter Jodi Schneider. She has volunteered time and helped many journalists make the transition to new work through her “resume doctor” workshops. Read on for Jodi’s excellent guidance. - MIJE Staff

1. What makes a résumé effective in this market?

Résumés have changed, along with journalism and the media landscape. If you haven’t updated yours in a while, you may be surprised by what you need and don’t need to emphasize.

First, remember that this is a snapshot meant to encompass highlights of your experience, showcase career successes and provide contact details. It is not meant to catalog every job, internship and position you’ve ever held. If you have more than a decade of news media experience, you’ll have to pick and choose what to emphasize and include.

Mid-career journalists in particular are often surprised when I mention this, yet hiring managers tell me all the time that less is more with résumés. Try to limit it to one page. If you simply can’t, aim for a page and a half, leave it for a day or so, and return to see whether you can cut more. Usually, you can.

A résumé is an electronic document these days and should feel like one, with lots of links to your work. Note your LinkedIn profile at the top, along with contact information. Dates should be left to the side. You don’t need months, just years. You don’t need to put a physical address at the top, especially if you’re job hunting in a market away from where you live now, as many employers won’t pay moving expenses and may count you out right away.

List just an email address and check constantly for incoming mail. List a mobile phone number that you check regularly. That’s key. Prospective employers won’t wait more than a day, and sometimes not even a few hours, before moving on to the next person on their list.

With your résumé, you’ll need a cover letter tailored to this particular position, letting the employer know why you’d be a good fit for the organization and this job. Also, include clips or video showcasing your work and, if possible, link to a Web site displaying your recent work. Don’t think of the résumé as a clearinghouse that must carry the weight of your career search on its own. It’s just a snapshot, meant to get the attention of the hiring manager, who will contact you for more information.

2. When writing your résumé, what reader should you have in mind — a machine sorting keywords or a person?

People worry about including keywords in résumés. In government and some other fields, résumé-sorting technology picks up on keywords. Yet that’s not how most people get their jobs, even in those areas. The best way to get a job is through people you know, and even better, have worked with you and can explain in detail to a prospective employer why they’d like to be your colleague again.

Be more concerned about assembling a résumé, onscreen and on paper, in simple terms and a condensed, easy-to-read format that shows off your skills and experience. Most hiring managers print out résumés as well as look at them electronically. Think about who you know — and who you know who knows someone who knows someone — at places you’d like to work. Then determine how to get your résumé in their hands so they can pass it along.

3. Do résumés matter, or is it just who you know?

As indicated in the previous question, placing your résumé in the hands of people who can relay it to those in position to hire is key. So, yes, who you know is important. Yet you don’t need a specific “in” with a hiring manager, especially early in your career when personally knowing people at high levels of companies is very difficult.

Instead, network like crazy with people who are at your career stage and at places you’d like to work, now and in the future, so they can mention you for openings that pop up. Think broadly. Alumni associations, trade groups and affinity groups are good places to get to know folks. For instance, business journalists, environmental journalists and investigative reporters and editors all have groups. Don’t just show up occasionally. Get involved. Become an officer, head a committee, agree to plan the next event. You’ll get to know people better that way, and they’ll see you in a leadership role.

4. What’s the place of social networks in the job hunt?

You should have an active profile on social networks, but too many people mistakenly restrict their networking to social networks, expecting that people they “meet” there will circulate their résumé. It doesn’t work that way. Think of your social networks as a place to forge relationships and obtain contact information. Do that so you can know these people better in the real world and determine who you know in the real world may know them. It’s information gathering.

Twitter can be useful for “branding” yourself and attracting followers on specific subjects on which you’d like to promote your expertise. Make this job-related and concentrate on subjects that you’d like to focus on in your next job. Facebook is fine for expanding a network and forging relationships. LinkedIn is your best bet for job hunting virtually, though it’s a myth that recruiters troll LinkedIn profiles looking to bring you your next job. It’s a good place to connect with people you want to meet for informational interviews and who may be able to connect you with people at places you want to work.

5. If the last time you wrote a résumé was a decade ago, how do you start deconstructing and reconstructing? First step? Next step? After that?

I’d start by writing, or rewriting if it’s been a while, your LinkedIn profile and using that as a template for an electronic résumé. It has all the elements — contact information, keywords that distill your strengths, chronological experience, references. If you take that and expand it, that’s a great start to a résumé.

Again, don’t worry about listing everything you’ve done. People sometimes become overwhelmed and don’t redo their résumés. Think of it section by section, with contact information at the top, then strengths, experience, education and references. If you act as though you must do just one page, force yourself to write tightly. If you put together a résumé this way, you’re off to a very good start.

Every writer needs a good editor. Typos are a killer. Show your draft to a trusted friend or friends who have good judgment. Ask where they would cut, where it seems flat and whether it sounds like you. Only after doing that, ask what’s missing. You’ll be surprised how often people say you should cut rather than add!

Jodi Schneider is a veteran newsroom manager, trainer and recruiter. She is the editor in charge of congressional and tax policy coverage for Bloomberg News in its Washington bureau. She has been a senior financial editor for The Washington Post, U.S. News & World Report and Congressional Quarterly. At CQ, she founded and directed a program for recruiting and training its journalists and analysts. She is a past president and active member of the Society of American Business Editors and Writers.



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