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May 2016

Job Seeker Series – Resume & Cover Letter Do’s and Don’ts?

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We screen HUNDREDS of resumes every week…..and we can tell you that a huge number simply don’t get a pass mark!!! Frequently throughout the we will be frustrated by the format of resumes and commenting on the poor quality.

As per my last blog – What Jobs Should I be Applying for ( – the information I’m putting out in this blog is not wrapped in fairy floss…..I’m giving REAL WORLD information and perspective….no BS or hot air!!!

Your resume is meant to be a clear overview of your experience, skills and qualifications.

When I’m screening applications for a particular role, I ALWAYS go straight to the resume…..not the Cover Letter. If the role I’m recruiting for requires a particular qualification, then I will look for this first of all…..If you don’t have the qualification…..then I don’t look any further (eg Town Planning, Civil Engineering, Accounting qualification etc).

Next….I go to your employment history……looking at the most recent and working backwards. I have liaised closely with my client to profile the role along with the experience and skills required. So I’m looking for these in your employment history…….If you don’t have these listed…..then I don’t look any further.

I’m also looking at how long you were in each of your previous roles……are there gaps in your employment (and do you say why)……how relevant is your experience (ie same or similar industry)…..are there spelling mistakes or errors.

Only then if everything checks out, do I look at your Cover Letter.

My PET HATES with resumes… Major don’ts:

  1. No dates in your employment history – only the years. 2013-2014 could mean that you worked there 2 years or 2 months…..the lack of dates normally means that you are covering up short periods of employment and/ or gaps in your employment…..and therefore I’m already suspicious.
  2. Employment history listed from oldest to newest…….why on earth would you want me to review what you did 10 years ago instead of looking at your current experience and skills…..and why make it harder for me to compare your skills and experience against the requirements of the position?
  3. Qualifications listed at the end…..and lacking details.
  4. Missing Personal Details – ie Phone Number, Email and Address
  5. Poor format in general… font is too small or a colour that is difficult to read, too wordy and not clear

When putting your resume together or updating try to put yourself in the shoes of the Recruiter, Hiring Manager or Business Owner…….they know what they’re looking for…….you’re definitely not the only applicant – it is a very competitive market out there…….and they are going through a SHORTLISTING PROCESS.

So make it easy for them to see that you have the qualifications, experience and skills that they’re looking for……and don’t leave room for them to make assumptions!!!

Here’s my Resume Tips:

  1. Start with your basic Personal Details – Name, Phone, Email and Address. If you live a long distance from the place of work, then include how you will handle this….ie planning to relocate closer…..businesses do not like to employ people that have to commute for an hour or more…..if your commute will take more than an hour and you have no intention of moving closer….then seriously consider whether you should apply.
  2. Detail your RELEVANT Qualifications – If you’re applying for a Bookkeeping role, then your Hairdressing qualification or Responsible Service of Alcohol will not help you to get this job – INCLUDE What the Qualification is…..when you gained/ completed it……where did you do it ie Southbank Tafe, QUT etc.
  3. List your RELEVANT Technical Skills or Experience… again in the case of a Bookkeeper…..I would expect to see MYOB, Zero, Quickbooks, Accounts Payable & Receivable, Payroll, BAS Preparation etc
  4. Then detail your Employment History:
  • From Current and work backwards
  • I would suggest including up to the last 10-15 years and then just list the remaining under “Prior Employment History”.
  • Include the Month and Year – eg Jan 2013 to Current or June 2009 to Dec 2012.
  • Then your Position Title.
  • Next the name of the Employer.
  • I sometime see resume where the applicant has included a very basic summary of what that business is/ does……& I find this VERY helpful as it saves me having to Google.
  • Use dot points to list the Primary Duties & Responsibilities you had in each role –maximum 10 dot points (REVIEW THESE AND MOVE THEM IN ORDER DEPENDING ON THE SPECIFIC ROLE YOU’RE APPLYING TO…..READ THE ADVERTISEMENT AGAIN).
  • Provide your reason for leaving each position – They’re going to ask you at interview anyway.
  • If you have a gap or gaps in your employment history provide a reason – eg overseas travel, study, parental leave, care for elderly parent etc…..don’t allow for incorrect assumptions to be made.

5. Provide work related Referees – Contact Details (Name, Position, Company, Phone, Email) for 3 Managers/ Supervisors from your most recent positions……try to include someone from your current role – even if it is someone who no longer works there.


Now for the Cover Letter……yes you do need one…..if the advertisement asks you to provide any specific information….then you MUST do this here!! Failure to respond as specifically requested will usually result in your application not being considered.

Make sure the information you include is correct – I often see that people just use a template letter and forget to change their reference to the job, company or specific person….Your Cover Letter must be specific to the role you’re applying for!!

Ideally combine your Cover Letter and Resume into the 1 PDF document……this will make it easier for the Recruiter, Hiring Manager or Business Owner and increase the likelihood that your Cover Letter will actually be read.

Job Seeker Series – What jobs should I be applying for?

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Job seekers often become increasingly disheartened at not gaining interviews when they are applying for a stack of positions every week – which ultimately impacts on their self-esteem. Unfortunately, this is regularly due to the fact that they are applying for jobs that don’t match their experience and skill set.

More than half of all applications I screen are quickly discarded because the candidate is not even remotely aligned with the requirements of the role:
• Level 2 IT Help Desk……no IT experience what so ever
• Optical Dispenser/ Retail position asking for a minimum of 2-3 years retail experience……Hairdresser
• Architectural Drafter……Mechanical Drafter

It is clear that many job seekers either don’t bother to read the advertisement and consider the position details before they apply……or believe in miracles, fairies and unicorns.

Taking a “scatter gun” approach of applying for as many jobs as you can is simply a waste of your time!!!

Take a step back and put yourself in the shoes of the business owner or hiring manager………they are looking for someone who most closely meets the requirements of the job…..has similar experience…..will fit in with their work culture…..and is within the salary range that they have budgeted for……ie they’re going to take the person who is most likely to hit the ground running and stick around.

So here’s my tips on how to identifying the jobs you should be applying:
1. Be realistic about your expertise and what you bring to a role.
2. Read the advertisement properly.
3. Consider whether your expertise matches closely with what is described in the advertisement.
4. Consider the Salary against your expectations.
5. Consider the location of the job against your commute to get there.

Major don’ts……..don’t waste your time:

1. If you don’t have the experience and/or qualifications asked for in the advertisement…..then don’t apply. The requirements of the position are based on the operational needs of the business…..they’re not going to change just for you.

2. I like to put the salary range being offered in my advertisement where ever possible – this is so job seekers can consider it against their expectations before they decide to apply. If it isn’t in the advertisement (as I know many employers don’t include it), then it is included in the back end of Seek – so use your preferred salary range as a “search criteria” so you only review jobs that match your salary expectations……….an employer isn’t going to offer you an additional $10K because you’re wonderful – they have budgets and have already done their research etc.

3. If your commute to work is going to take an hour or longer… need to question if the job is for you. People tell me ALL the time, that they don’t mind a long commute and sitting in peak hour traffic……but the facts are that after approximately 9 months of commuting for an hour or more, people get tired of it…..they sit back and consider how much of their day is being lost – as well as the cost of fuel etc…..and then start to keep an eye out for a job closer to home. Employers know this and have been “burnt” by it before……it actually costs a significant amount of money to train someone up…..they don’t want to be back to square one in only 12 months……so it is likely that they won’t even read your application.

4. SEEK and other job boards make it sooooooo easy to just click on “Apply” and off goes your application…..Don’t fall into that trap…..focus on Quality rather than Quantity.


Have you packed your Career Map?

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When we are faced with sudden changes in our life, such as redundancy, we are often forced to re-examine what we actually want to pursue in life. Sudden change is often the catalyst, and even permission, to consider making significant changes to our lifestyle. Redundancy seems to make us question whether or not we should consider making that career change we dream about, but have otherwise been too preoccupied to consider.

Most career transition clients I work with are the result of redundancy; and for these clients there are often added layers of pressure and stress to find a job so that they can pay the mortgage. While they are generally able to assess all of their options and make a sound choice employment decision; most of my clients wish they had more time up their sleeves to allow them to embark on a career change or pursue their dream job.

So what happens? Job security and financial pressure overrides the ability to take the next step towards their dream job or career. This is making a decision out of fear; the fear of not paying the mortgage, the fear of not landing a job or the fear of making the wrong next move.

Career transition is rarely instantaneous – it takes time and planning. Career transition is also a multi-step process, with some professions requiring specific qualifications, which could mean committing to study or practical experience.

So where do you start? It gets back to basics – you need to know your destination. Once you know your destination you can plot your map from where you are now and work out the best way to get there.

There are three questions that can help you determine your ideal career or dream job.

1. What is my desired lifestyle?
That could be, I want a job that allows me to attend my kid’s school activities, I want to have flexible work hours or I want a job located close to home so I can reduce my commute.

2. What are my current skills?
List them all. Your ‘work’ skills that always make your resume.
Next, add to this list your ‘home’ skills (organisation, coordination, negotiation).
Finally, list all your ‘soft’ skills (effective communication, excellent listener, mentor).

3. What is my dream job or career?
This is the fun one… Let your imagination roll. If you find yourself stuck with “I’ve got to pay the mortgage”. Pretend, just for this exercise, that your dream job’s salary will more than cover of it. The idea is to remove the limitation of the ‘daily grind’ and dream a little.

Now we bring them all together – have a look at your dream job/ideal career and see if it aligns with your desired lifestyle; you may need to make a few tweaks, but align the two as best you can. This is your destination!

Now, refer to your skills list; this is your starting point. Ask yourself the following questions:
1. Which of my current skills can I use in my dream job/ideal career?
2. What study, experience or other skills you need to obtain to qualify for your dream job/ideal career
3. What’s the ‘gap’ look like?

Finally, create your map, making sure it includes any actions you need to take to ‘bridge’ the skills and/or experience gap.

A good map helps you avoid taking the road that leads to the river, but the bridge hasn’t been built yet. A good map helps you take the clearest, more direct path to your dream job or ideal career.

The moral of this story is: don’t wait until you’re made redundant to work out your next career move. Now is the time to create your ideal career or dream job. Now is the time to make your map – so you can be on the right road, not the one without a bridge.

Michelle Keeffe is a business and life coach from Speed of Life Coaching. She specialises in career transition and development, return to work coaching and life balance for busy people.

Michelle offers complimentary 30 minute consultations to discuss your career, business or lifestyle needs. Contact her at: or on 0400 215 277 to arrange a consultation time.

The Dreaded REDUNDANCY – Where did MY Job GO???

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In the recent weeks we’ve been looking at the constant changes in jobs with “Then and Now….Where have the Jobs Gone?? ( and “My Job has Changed Too!!” (… well as looking at what businesses should be doing to not just survive…but thrive “Business Owners – Look up and Live” (……… This week I’m turning the focus to employees and the dreaded REDUNDANCY.

As a recruiter, I speak with 100’s of people when they’re applying for positions…..and of course I’m asking the obvious question, “Why did you leave your position with Xyz Company”?

The responses vary, however, some of the most common are:
• The company was sold or bought out.
• The company decided to centralise that particular function interstate.
• Manufacturing was moved overseas.
• Downturn in the mining industry.

As I have pointed out previously….. jobs don’t just disappear over night……there are ALWAYS signs……you just need to be aware of them.

As an employee you will see little changes here and there…..positions not being replaced after someone leaves……small functions of your role (or of other roles) being passed to interstate offices or outsourced……workloads decreasing with a decline in sales. It’s up to you keep your head out of the sand – notice these things – and take some action.

Now taking action can take a number of forms:
1. Update your Resume and LinkedIn Profile to ensure it is current and accurately represents your skills and experience.
2. Start to monitor the job boards such as SEEK for another suitable role….and apply.
3. Consider upgrading or gaining relevant qualifications, licences etc.
4. Consider carefully if now is a good time to make a career change or sideways move to improve your long term employment options….and how to go about it.

In fact, I would recommend that everyone takes a regular review of their current job, career goals and personal circumstances and takes a PROACTIVE approach. Being prepared, current and on the front foot provides a safety net for your future.

Of course, doing nothing and just continuing to go to work and do your job is also a form of action…..or rather inaction.

If your Employment Profile needs a review OR you need help with the Action Checklist items above…..then make sure you’re following on Facebook ( as I’ll have a guest post from Michelle Keeffe who is a great Coach in this area later this week.

My Job Has Changed Too – Advertising….Then $1,000-$5,000….Now $200-$600

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In keeping with my current theme of the changing face of Jobs……I’ve taken some time to reflect on how my role as a Recruiter has changed…..and WOW it has really changed!!!

When I first started in recruitment back in the late 90’s (it doesn’t feel that long ago, but I know that it is……especially when I look at the technology and changes) jobs were advertised in the relevant newspapers…..and often at a significant expense.

Every week I would be liaising with my clients and considering where would be the best place to run the advertisement for their vacancy:
• The Courier Mail
• Sydney Morning Herald
• APN Newspapers
• Various specific targeted media such as The Local Government Job Directory

This would depend obviously on the role, where it was located and the budget for advertising. Often, the decision would be made to advertise across several media for high level or critical roles.

Now of course, each of these media had set deadlines to have ads finalised. Every week I would be working with the various Managers/ Business Owners to review the draft advertisements and make changes……..while liaising with the relevant Account Managers at the selected media to provide me with “Proofs” and quotes…….passing this onto the Managers/ Business Owners……cutting it back to reduce the cost…….getting another proof for approval…..and finalising prior to the cut off time.

Initially this was done by Fax…..and then moved across to email.

To run a small advertisement that really didn’t say much in it for a Receptionist would still cost at least $500 in The Courier Mail. To run a “decent” advertisement to try and attract quality candidates for a Team Leader role it would cost at least $1,200. And to run an advertisement for a Management or Director level role, the cost would be over $2,000………..and you would often decide to run the advertisement in the Sydney Morning Herald as well – resulting in the advertising cost being around $5,000!!!!

Almost all jobs had a specific close date as applications would come in via Fax or the mail.

With the wider introduction of email and most households having a computer, we were able to speed things up somewhat.

Then with SEEK hitting the scene……we saw the start of a major shift to Electronic…….Electronic job boards and lodgement of applications.

News Corp and Fairfax got on board and set up MyCareer and CareerOne – and for a while we were placing advertisements across both the newspapers and the various job boards (and I have no doubt that they were making some big $’s).

It seems that SEEK has won the Job Board battle hands down within Australia as I haven’t even considered CareerOne for a few years now…..and apparently MyCareer is now Adzuna (apparently).

Now I’m working with clients to decide if we want to use other sources such as LinkedIn as well as utilising Social Media……I’m even experimenting with a new App being developed “Video My Job”.

The average cost of advertising is now $200-$400…….and the ads are uploaded and updated directly (no more Account Manager who has to come back to you) and is instantaneous. Clearly this has been a major positive for Managers and Business Owners as the cost has been significantly reduced and we’re able to have candidates to review VERY quickly.

Once upon a time I would have a pile of hard copy applications sitting in a “Job File” to read through, make notes on, and sort into various piles… Very Good, Good, Maybe, No. I would then collated them within that order in the Job File and start from the top…….I would phone each of the “Very Good” candidates often leaving a message (which of course was on their home phone or work phone number – as mobile phones were still very new technology at that stage)……when I did get to speak with them, I would work my way through a myriad of questions to confirm basic information (such as salary, why they’ve applied, how much notice they need to be able to start etc).

Then I’d get them into the office for a face to face interview where I would analyse their employment history (how long they were really there, why they left etc) and to try and gain an indication of their “Job Fit” (nitty gritty experience, skills, capabilities, motivations etc) – before sitting them at a computer to complete relevant “skills testing” (ie typing speed, data entry, Word etc)…….all of this taking me approximately 1.5 hours per candidate.

Now a days I receive ALL applications via email. After a quick review of the applications, I then direct those who are potentially suited for the role through to a Link for an Online Application Portal – where they’ll answer a series of specific questions which provides details around salary, why they’ve applied, how much notice they need to be able to start etc… well as any specific technical details (such as for IT, Accounting or Engineering roles).

From there I’m able to shortlist more accurately before picking up the phone to speak with candidates…..resulting in less phone calls……and the phone calls being shorter as the candidate has already provided the basic information…..oh and I always call their mobile phone number.

After discussing details with the candidate and determining that they really are a genuine contender for the role…..I then use some you beaut video interview technology to get them “in front” of my client faster.

I’m now able to use technology to not only make the process more cost effect for my clients, but to speed it up while providing more information and giving them a “real” preview of candidates.

I still see many of my competitors, colleagues and experienced HR Managers who are VERY reluctant to change and embrace technology.

I’m not sure if this is due to lack of confidence with technology……not wanting to or able to put the time into experimenting or trialling…..or fear that they’ll do themselves out of their job.

I know for sure that RecruitLoop’s recorded video interviews and web-based platform have been embraced by my clients as it provides them with confidence to only spend time interviewing the “top” candidates……and increases the trust they have in me as their outsourced Recruiter…..RecruitLoop’s technology is my biggest selling point!!!

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