Posted: February 17, 2015
By: Clay Cerny

Some people say always at the end.

Some say always at the beginning.

I say: "Be suspicious of people who say 'always.'"  They usually follow rules without having any reason for doing so.

I put education where it does the most to help a client look like a highly qualified candidate.  In most cases where a client has relevant experience, education goes last.  However, if a candidate has recently received a new degree or certificate that enhances her marketability, why not put that information first?  Similarly, most new graduates should have education as the first element on their resume because that is their primary selling point.  But this is not always the case.  Some new graduates have worked while in school and have relevant experience.  In those cases, education should be placed after experience.

My simple rule is:  What does the employer want to see?  Put those elements first.


Posted: June 24, 2014
By: Clay Cerny

I recently read an article that listed 10 words employers don't want to see on a resume.  After each word, the article listed a percentage of employers that did not like a given word.  None of the words had more than 20% rating, which means that most respondents didn't care about a given word.  Worse still, many of the words listed in the article are often featured in job posts.  My take away from this article is that we should worry much more about showing why we are qualified to do a job than worry about one word a hiring manager or HR manager might not like.  Anyone who rejects a resume based on one word must have a great pool of talent.  My advice is to find words that show your strengths and qualifications.  That is what employers want to see.

Posted: June 13, 2014
By: Clay Cerny

I was helping a recent graduate today, and she made the mistake many of her peers make by saying, "I have no experience."  It is important to treat professional skills and knowledge learned in school as something an employer needs.  Avoid referring to classes or teacher, which only underscores that you were a student.  Instead, in both your resume and during interviews, present skills and knowledge as qualities that you can apply on the job.  If you're stuck on what you have taken from your degree, get together with some friends and talk about how you can apply what you did in school to what you will do on the job.  Another good source of information is job postings.  Collect 5-10 job posts for the kind of job you will be seeking.  Highlight what the employer is looking for and match it to what you have learned.  Don't look back.  Look forward.  Practice showing an employer how you are ready to go to work.  That's your first job.

Posted: February 27, 2014
By: Clay Cerny

I agree with most career experts that networking is the best way to look for a job.  Networking can open doors to jobs that are not advertised.  On the other hand, for every job attained by networking 1.5-2 jobs are found by applying to jobs posted online.  There is a myth that such jobs aren’t real.  If that were true, companies like Indeed, Monster, and CareerBuilder would not exist.  The key to a good job search is to have multiple ways of looking for work.  Start with network and applying to jobs online.  I also recommend targeting specific companies that fit your goals and skills.  If you’re a high income/high skill worker, it might be prudent to add recruiters to your list.  Whatever methods you use, keep your job search forward and moving forward.  Nothing beats persistence.

Posted: January 27, 2014
By: Clay Cerny

A client called today to go over some points before a job interview.  He was worried about a small gap in his resume and the level of his Excel skills.  I reassured him that a small gap was not a problem.  I also pointed out that his Excel skills may not be a problem.  He would learn more about that during the interview.

While it is important to think about any weak points before an interview, it is more important to know and be able to present your strengths.  Here’s a simple way to evaluate your strengths: Why are you good at what you do?  Make an inventory of your achievements and success stories.  Be sure these points are highlighted on your resume and that you are able to present them during a job interview.

We tend to focus too much on the question: What can go wrong?  That leads us to think about our weaknesses.  A good interview must convey competence and confidence, not weakness.  Know your strengths and be able to sell them.  That’s the key to a good interview.

Posted: January 17, 2014
By: Clay Cerny

I have a client whom I will call Ann.  She has worked for more than 20 years as a manager of college book stores and has a special expertise in her field.  When Ann met me, we discussed the option of writing two resumes.  One focuses on her career in the college bookstore industry.  However, her skills also fit as a retail manager, which is her plan B career.

In one version of Ann’s resume, we emphasized her experience and skills working in a college bookstore environment.  That version uses words that do not appear in the more general retail version: text book, student, professor, book returns.  We also named specific schools where Ann has been a manager.  In the retail version, Ann’s resume looks to broad transferable skills that any retail manager would need.  We stripped out those duties and skills that were specific to college bookstore positions.

Look at your resume and see if you, like Ann, have more than one path to a job.  Make sure that your resume focus on the skills and experience that fit each type of position.  It takes a little longer to manage this type of job search, but it also enables job seekers to have more opportunities.  In a tough job market, having more options is a good thing.

Posted: November 25, 2013
By: Clay Cerny

Too often resumes simply convey basic qualifications for a job.  This information is important, but it is equally vital to show the value you will bring to a new employer.  Describe the achievements that will set you off from other candidates.  Think of achievements this way: How have you been a hero at your previous jobs?  If possible, quantify your success stories, but you should tell them even if you can’t represent every success with a number.  Here are a few examples of how you can present achievements on a resume:

•      Won several accounts from a major competitor (Symantec).

•      Achieved year-over-year growth of 25% for license renewal.

•      Increased market share from $100,000 to $900,000 in one year.

•      Reduced cell phone costs for 500 units by conducting detailed research of market and price trends used in negotiation.

•      Cleared a back log of 50 overdue performance reviews.

•      Ranked #1 of 75 Account Executives.

•      Completed an average of 500 projects per year.

•      Established protocols and procedures for a new PET CT Department.

•      Recognized by supervisors for providing outstanding customer service.

•      Consistently exceeded goals for productivity.

•      Achieved 110% of goal in the first year; planned and delivered 500 events.

•      Launched social media and email marketing to reach younger consumers.

•      Played a key role on a team that improved workflow in the Emergency Department by 20%.

•      Entrusted with customers’ confidential data during computer repairs and data migrations.

•      Achieved +$1 million in saving by negotiating price reductions outside of the market.

How have you helped your employer or former employers?  Find a way to make these hero stories part of your resume.

Posted: August 23, 2013
By: Clay Cerny

In writing a resume, it is important to show how you are qualified.  In recent posts, I’ve talked about reviewing job postings and speaking to the employers’ needs.  At the same time, a good resume will show what makes you better than other qualified candidates.  To do that, you need to include relevant achievements and success stories. How do you define these elements?  My simple method is to think about what you’ve done that goes beyond the normal job duties and has a positive impact on the company.

Here are some verbs that might help you identify achievements and tell your success stories:
















Posted: June 7, 2013
By: Clay Cerny

I frequently work with clients who have just completed an undergraduate or graduate degree.  They usually list only the degree.  Some will note organizations they belonged to or scholarships that helped them pay for schools.  There is a problem with this information: Employers do not care about it.

I work with new graduates to identify areas of knowledge and skill that they will take from school to the workplace.  Rather than list classes, which only tell the employer that you are a student, review 5-10 job posts for positions that interest you.  Note job requirements and skills that you can take from your time in school and include these elements in your resume.

For example I’m currently working with a client who received an MBA with a concentration in Human Resources.  After reviewing job posts, we identified the following items for his resume: HR & Labor Law, Compensation, and Strategic Planning.  Be sure that you only list areas of skill and knowledge that you could use on the job.  Do not list any item that you could not discuss well in an interview or any skill you could not perform on the job.

If you are a new graduate, take full advantage of the knowledge and skill you offer an employer because of your education.  Demonstrate the value of your degree in a way that will be relevant to the employer’s needs.  Most importantly, don’t present yourself as a student.  Play up what you learned in school that a potential employer will care about.  That’s the way to get a job even if you lack professional experience.

Posted: June 4, 2013
By: Clay Cerny

Has a supervisor or client gone out of her way to say that you’ve done a good job?  Did you include that success story on your resume?  Too often, my clients only think of achievements as something that can be quantified.  However, it’s just as impressive to hear that a boss or customer is impressed with our work.

Here are some examples:

•  Recognized by a national account for solving a problem that enabled a new system roll out at 1,000 locations.

•  Praised by a supervisor for taking on added duties after a company reorganization.

•  Ranked by industry peers at a national conference as a “Top 10% Leader.”

Where can you find such testimonials?  Check emails from your boss and clients.  Review annual reviews.  Look over any recommendations you’ve received from peers on LinkedIn.

I’m not recommending that you fill your resume with these mini-testimonials.  One or two are usually enough.  If you cite any type of achievement too often, the reader starts to yawn.  Think about those situations where you have received some outstanding praise.  That’s something you want potential employers to know.   Highlight it in your resume.