When an employer or recruiter is checking a reference we are looking for three key components:
- What the reference says in response to our question about you.
- The tone with which the reference talks about their experience working with you.
- The length of the answer that reference gives in response to a question.
Part of being a recruiter or HR person is being able to understand what is not said during a reference. If an employer gives us short, one-word answer in response to the question we ask or uses a negative tone, that typically gives us pause. It is not always a deal-breaker if the answers are short or the tone is not that enthusiastic, however, we do take all things into consideration when checking references.
The best potential references to select to give to an employer or recruiter are those people who directly supervised your work. Recruiters and employers are not interested in talking to peers or personal acquaintances for the most part. Once you have chosen the people whose names you are going to give out, it is critical to personally speak with each person before a potential employer calls to check your reference. Additionally, references typically speak more highly of those people who they have regularly kept in touch with.
Finally, it is important NOT to list your references on your resume. It is appropriate to have a separate list of your references and to only provide that list once requested by the employer or recruiter. Otherwise, if you include your references on your resume they might be abused by people you don’t want calling them.
The most important thing in a resume is good formatting, followed by strong writing skills. If a resume is poorly formatted, no matter how well it is written, it will be dismissed. I typically delete any resumes that do not offer clean, easy to read formatting. This means: “Summary of Qualifications” at the top. The Summary of Qualifications can be anywhere from 2-5 sentences that clearly depict why you are qualified for the position. This should be followed by “Work Experience.” Your Work Experience should include strong action verbs followed by examples of your PEP. PEP is short for Productivity, Efficiency and Performance and is a term I have coined. It is important that you use bullets to draw out the reader’s attention and that your dates are lined up on the right hand side of the page with your employer’s name and your title on the left.
Finally, you want to have an “Education” and a “Skills” section. The Education portion should clearly list any Degrees you have attained, but does not have to include the dates that you attained those Degrees. The Skills section should list all of the relevant computer skills that you possess.
Avoid having a “Hobby” or “Interest” section, as for the most part employers don’t care.
I often see people in this market who are unexpectedly laid off or terminated and therefor, they do not have a resume prepared. This can cost them valuable time in finding their next position. With the current economic condition, it is critical to strike while the iron is hot. If you see a position posted online that is a strong match for your background and you wait 24 hours to submit your resume because you do not have a resume and/or your resume is not up to date, you can lose out on that position.
My recommendation is that you always have an up to date resume, and that every time you get a new position you add that position to your existing resume. This is what I call your “master resume.” Your master resume should have everything you have ever done listed on it and should be up to date at all times.
As different opportunities come up that you might be suitable for, you can adjust your master resume by adding or subtracting information to better suit the position your applying for.
The easiest way to put together is to utilized “Resume Wizard” in Word. Resume Wizard offers hundreds of different templates for a variety of positions.
You never know what is going to happen in this economy, so no matter how safe you think your job is, make certain that your resume is in mint condition and ready to go.