Whether looking for consulting jobs on a project basis or full-time employment, many job seekers may be missing important opportunities to set themselves apart from the greater mass of those applying for the same positions by failing to utilize resources beyond their resume.
Job one in applying for any project position or job is making sure you highlight the qualifications the recruiter is looking for. This may seem obvious but you’d be surprised how many people overlook that step. It’s usually wise to modify a resume or CV on a project or job basis just to highlight relevant skills.
There are differences between project qualifications and resumes. Project qualifications are basically documentation of relevant skills. Your job history is less significant on a project basis, though sometimes a complete work history will be required on project bids. Normally a full history is not required, as most times you’ll be bidding as part of a consulting team already employed by or working with an outsource provider. The company isn’t hiring you as much as your employer.
When you are job hunting, your employment history becomes more relevant. You should definitely take the time to highlight your skills relevant to the job, but be sure to also focus on your accomplishments at specific employers. What good things happened as a result of the last company hiring you? And you’ll need to honestly explain gaps in your employment history. Reasons like going back to school to focus on new job skills or programming languages are not necessarily negatives – something to consider if you happen to be between jobs.
With those few steps you have separated yourself from 80 percent (some would argue more) of your competition. Highlighting relevant experience and job skills will almost always get you to the second cut. Once there you’re in a more competitive environment. Now you’re competing against other equally qualified people. A great resume, with focus on accomplishments besides skills, will put you ahead of another percentage of applicants. Now we’re down to maybe four or five people, at the most. Often there are no more than two or three at the very top before in-person interviews take place.
Once you’re at the very top of the pile then factors beyond your resume start to come into play. Right or wrong, employers these days will employ a wide range of resources to try and determine what kind of person you are. Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, Twitter and other social media resources will likely be combed for clues.
Instead of trying to hide your social media life, a better strategy is to make sure it all works together in your favor. That means going through everything, starting with your profile pictures. You’d be amazed how many job seekers leave party pictures of themselves online, sometimes including illegal activities. That almost never works in your favor and, if it did, you wouldn’t want to work there anyway.
It might also mean some of your more leisure-oriented friends may need to be trimmed from your friend list or blocked from posting on your wall. Unless you want a prospective employer reading a less than guarded account of your behavior at a weekend party with friends.
Be sure and play up volunteer activities, particularly if they’re oriented toward public service. If you don’t have any, start. The local animal shelter almost always needs help and you’ll get a double bonus if the volunteer service is related to your career.
Instead of sitting around until the next job came along, one enterprising programmer built an attractive and useful online application for people wanting to adopt dogs at the local shelter that was wildly successful. Not only could people select dogs that were currently at the shelter, they could set up a watch list for specific breeds and pet types. Frequently new animals had families on the way to pick them up the moment they were cleared for adoption. The shelter gave him a glowing reference and featured the application on their Facebook page.
The kind of reference that individual earned is better than gold. Not only was the gap in his employment history not relevant, he turned it into a giant positive.
Employers will not necessarily be looking for job related information, but to see if you’re a real and balanced person. So don’t feel like you have to make your social media presence a self-promoting billboard. Strive to show yourself to be a real and balanced person.