Archive for August, 2009

Hard Skills vs. Soft Skills – Your Resume Is Counting On You!

Do you know the difference between hard skills and soft skills on your resume? Well you better get acquainted real quick because it can be the difference between 10 interviews and no interviews, between a new job and no job. Think I’m kidding? Keep reading.

I preach this every day… probably a hundred times a day. Okay well not that many but every client I speak with I explain the difference between hard skills and soft skills and how they relate to your resume.

Hard skills describe processes, procedures, industry specific jargon and are easy to measure and quanitfy. They are terms such as; account management, talent acquisition and development, client retention, data management, project management, accounts receivable and payable, product support, and new business development.

Soft skills are personality descriptors and people skills and not easily measured or quantifiable. They include terms such as; excellent communicator, great verbal and written skills, problem solving, providing support, listening, teamwork and more.

The next time you’re sitting in a staffing agency ask your recruiter what terms they use when searching for a candidate for a specific position. I guarantee you they’re not looking for an excellent communicator. They can gather that from your phone interview. What they are looking for is someone with the necessary skills, expertise, and experience in the right areas – those hard skills we talked about. If your resume isn’t chock full of hard skills and industry specific keywords you are doing yourself a great disservice and costing yourself weeks if not months in your job search.

Soft skills have a place too, but the best place is when the job description for the position you are seeking specifically asks for and requires those skills as a necessary and vitally important function of the job. I had one client about two weeks ago that was seeking a position in social services. This position had hardly no hard skill requirements. Basically, they were looking for someone with GREAT people skills. This is the perfect time to flaunt those amazing people skills. These types of positions or job descriptions are few and far between. Most job descriptions are looking for hard skills and real world industry expertise. Pay attention to what the job description is looking for and tailor your resume accordingly. I can’t repeat myself enough customization is key!

Now that you know the difference think about how each relates to your resume and your job search and implement appropriately.

Jessica Holbrook is a former Executive Hiring Manager for Fortune 500 companies and President/CEO of Great Resumes Fast. She creates powerful, customized, and targeted resumes that are guaranteed to get her clients interviews. For a free resume analysis visit or for a free phone consultation call 1.877.875.7706.

Categories: Uncategorized

Recent Response To Our Cover Letter Article

In a recent article I wrote about how *not* to start your cover letter. Our articles are frequently published on and as a result we occassionally receive comments. I thought this comment was a great one. We differ in opinion, but everyone’s experience is different and it is good to consider all view points. I really loved his alternatives and suggest you use them when/if appropriate. Please read below:


I’ve enjoyed reading many of your posts and have even incorporated several of your ideas and recommendations into the advice I’ve passed along as an executive recruiter prepping a candidate for an interview, as a résumé writer, and as a career coach. While you are right about how “not” to start a cover letter, I have to disagree with you on the suggestions you provided.

I’ve found that most cover letters are not read thoroughly before the résumé is read and then, and only if the résumé is strong will a hiring or HR manager go back to reread the cover letter. That might not entirely be the case when the letter is sent in the body of an email or as part of an online application, but almost always is if sent as a second attachment. We live in an era of bullet-points and people want to get to the meat of the matter. So the heck with the letter, let’s go to the résumé.

As a result, the letters need to capture the reader immediately and not threaten to hold him or her too long. The, “If you’re looking for…” or, “In today’s business climate…” kind of starts are looked at every day and make a letter too long. The writer needs to jump right into presenting a reason to make the résumé want to be read. It’s my opinion that the letter needs to be “all about you.”

These are a few of the alternatives I’ve suggested in the past.

“Throughout my professional history, I have built a successful financial management career with an emphasis in commercial banking. I have extensive experience in senior management including having held both the CFO and COO positions of a publicly traded bank with $4.5 billion in total assets.”

“Over the last 17 years I have worked for four companies without having changed locations, the last three each a successor to the previous three. With each change of ownership and company name, I was retained to assist with the transition during which time I was not only able to help the new company meet its goals and deadlines, but giving me an opportunity to prove my value and allow me to continue moving my career upward.”

Would appreciate your view point as well.


Best wishes in your job search!

Categories: Uncategorized

A Resume They Can’t Say ‘NO’ To.

August 24, 2009 1 comment

We could all agonize for hours or even days over every little point in our resume. What should I say, how should I say it, do I even know where to begin? But what we really need is a checklist to go by, something to compare our resume to and find out if it will withstand the test of the ‘hiring powers’ that be. Below you will find a checklist of what you need to ensure you create a resume they can’t say no to.

1. An Attractive Format. Too much white space or not enough white space is distracting. This is the first thing a recruiter notices about your resume it’s appearance is critical. Does it look well organized and is the layout easy to read.

2. Please no objectives. I will probably preach this until the end time or until styles and trends change but objectives are no longer used and will only serve to hurt your chances. Objectives are limiting and all about you. What you need is a powerful, branded career summary that explains what you can do for the company, because let’s face it that is what it’s about these days.

3. Hard skills vs. soft skills. Use words that a recruiter would type in to a search bar to find you. When I’m doing a search on to find a potential candidate I’m not using the words great communicator, excellent verbal skills. I’m using software engineer, database management, accounts receivable, outside sales, business-to-business sales. Use the right terminology.

4. Give them your sales pitch. Create an opening statement that sells YOU. Basically a resume is your best sales pitch to a potential employer. You are showing them why they should give you a chance. Wow them with a killer introductory statement. Have you ever won an award? Are you a visionary leader? Draw them in with something unique that they don’t hear every day and something that describes YOU! Award-Winning and Top-Producing Sales Executive

5. How do you want to be viewed? Tailor your resume to the position you want. Complete customization is the best way to go. Look at the job description and then take everything you have done that applies to that position and emphasize it on your resume. You are customizing your resume to the specific position you want. There is no better way to knock the recruiter over the head with “Hey, I’m the perfect candidate”.

6. Keywords. Research, research, research my friend. If you don’t know what industry specific keywords are for the job you are trying to obtain research them. Although, if you’ve worked in the industry you should know what they are… they’re that technical jargon that you talk every day. Put that in your resume! Keywords are what will get you pulled up to the top in search results and keywords are what recruiter’s eyes are scanning for when they are giving your resume the initial 7 second review.

7. Wow them with the ‘good stuff’. Give them your biggest and best achievements, quantify them whenever possible, and really provide the details that are relevant to the position. If you increased revenue by 300% I would most certainly be leading off with that important fact!

8. Challenge, action, results! This is a resume writer’s secret weapon. Take each bullet point and ask what was the challenge I faced? What action did I take to address that challenge and what was the result of that action? Then take those answers and create a powerful statement. Use this formula for each bullet and you are well on your way to an amazing resume.

9. Be truthful. Coming from a background where I have a degree in Public Relations I tend to put a positive spin on everything. Putting a positive spin on something and misleading your audience are two completely different things. Be honest, but do it in a creative, attention grabbing way.

10. Go on, brag a little it’s okay. The biggest problem we run in to with clients is their inability to want to market themselves, brag about themselves or speak positively about their own achievements. I guess in the world we live in we are just so critical on ourselves constantly pushing ourselves that we forget all the great things we’ve achieved in our career. Well this is one instance where it is more than okay to pat yourself on the back. Go ahead, you deserve it!

11. Be assertive. Do not speak in first person with an I in the front of your sentences or in third-person. Here are some examples:

First person with the I: I managed 12 people in my department.
Third person: Mr. Jones managed 12 people within his department.
Assertive 1st person without the I: Managed 12 direct reports within the graphic design department.

12. Steer clear of these sentences. More than any other resume issue I literally loathe the use of these statements. I cringe every time I see them:

Duties included; Responsible for; Able to; Skilled in; Successful in; Ability to…

Those sentence starters are resume killers. Instead be DIRECT, use action verbs, and create dynamic sentences that follow the challenge, action, result format and are accomplishment-based.

13. Know which style works best for you and why. Are you trying to hide gaps in employment or job-hopping? Then a chronological format is not best for you. You should go with a functional or combo format resume.

14. Use bullets, but in moderation. What we normally see is a shift to one side or the other. Most people either have no bullets on their resume or have way to many, in fact I have seen resumes where every single line has a bullet. Use moderation my friend… everything is good in moderation. Too many bullets makes the resume look chaotic and no bullets makes it look disorganized and too long.

15. Shake it up! Here’s something you don’t hear often: Use a different font then Times New Roman. It is so boring and everyone uses it. You want to stand out even in the smallest ways so try spicing it up by using a creative yet professional font. Try tahoma, bookman, garamond, or verdana. But be mindful of font sizes some fonts in size 12 are too large for a resume and you should downgrade to size 11 while others are too small in 11 and should be used in a size 12. Just be mindful of what you are using and always print the document before sending off electronically to ensure that it is easily readable.

16. Page length. In most cases a resume should either be one full page or two full pages. One and half pages just doesn’t look as good as two full pages. Play with margins and font sizes or go back and add additional accomplishments to make the resume the length you need to look best.

17. Go back and check for grammar, punctuation, and spelling. Having someone else go back and look at it will help a lot too. You can never go wrong with having a second eye review your resume and cover letter.

Take each of these points into consideration when creating your new resume and use it as a check off list once you’re done to make sure you have included everything you need to make a resume they can’t say no to.

Jessica Holbrook is a former Executive Hiring Manager for Fortune 500 companies and President/CEO of Great Resumes Fast. She creates powerful, customized, and targeted resumes that are guaranteed to get her clients interviews. For a free resume analysis visit or for a free phone consultation call 1.877.875.7706.

Categories: Uncategorized

Sell Me – Don’t Tell Me!

Sell Me Don’t Tell Me

The problem I frequently run in to when reviewing resumes is that people want to tell me what they did versus selling it to me. Telling me makes you sound like everyone else and frankly is quite boring. Selling me on what you did makes you unique, it makes you stand out in the crowd. When writing your own resume answer this one simple question and you can’t go wrong: “What makes me different then everyone else around me?”

Think about it for a second, what makes you better than all the other people who do your same job? Are you known for your extreme client care? Did you sell the pants off the latest product or service and as a result won multiple awards? Perhaps you thought of a new idea, brought it to your boss and they liked it and it led to a promotion. All of these things are what make you different then that other guy who is trying to get the same job you want. What you have to do is sell these achievements to the employer in your resume.

Here are a few examples of selling versus telling:

Telling Me:
Participated in the development of a new personal training program.

Selling Me:
Spearheaded the development of a new personal training program leading to a 30% increase in member participation and a 10% increase in new membership each quarter for 2009.

Telling Me:
Managed membership accounts

Selling Me:
Directed the processing of over 100 new membership account setups ensuring 100% accuracy.

Pioneered a new application process increasing ease-of-use and reducing the amount of time needed to process by 25%.

Delivered a solutions-focused method for reducing the amount of membership cancellations by 15% each quarter for 2009.

See the big difference? In each selling me example you’re showing me there was a challenge, action, and result. Here is they key: Think about what makes you different then phrase that information with the following in mind; challenge, action, result.

Here are the most important points to remember:
 What makes me unique?
 Sell it, don’t tell it.
 Challenge, Action, Result.

If you use the following formula you are sure to have resume writing success!

Categories: Uncategorized

Ever Been Asked Have You Done (fill in the blank)? What to say when you haven’t.

business professional 2Countless interviews that I’ve conducted or participated in have all had tragic endings because of the inability of the interviewee to answer the tough questions the right way. One of the most important questions you’ll be asked in an interview is “Have you ever done …?” What we’re looking for is real-world experience. We don’t ask you have you ever done something not directly related to the position or critical to its success. That would be a waste of an interviewer’s time. So you can bet if they’re asking you if you have ever done it, it’s because you need the experience to function correctly in the role. But don’t lose hope – if you haven’t done whatever it is they need that doesn’t exclude you from getting the offer. Use the answers below to coast through this uncomfortable question and sail right through to the offer.

Recently, I was providing my sister in law with some interview coaching tips and tricks for her first interview since she had been home with her children for almost 3 years. She was interviewing for a position that was slightly above her level and battling with the fact that she had been unemployed and a stay-at-home Mom for almost 3 years. On top of all that she had little in the way of real world experience. A couple months here and a couple months there, nothing substantial.

Her experience was mostly in customer service and retail and she was trying to go for a career change and move into a human resources administrator role so that all important question came up: What do I say when they ask me about something I have never done before?

After a brief pause I said you be honest and you say “I haven’t done that before but I am confident that I could do it” or “I haven’t done that before but I’m confident that if someone showed me how I could.” or “I haven’t done that before but I am a very fast-learner and I am confident that I could pick it up very quickly”.

Well the interviewers asked her about 3 or 4 different critical skills related to the position that she would need in order to successfully work in the role and she gave them those answers. She hadn’t done those things before but she knew she could. The interviewers loved her answers and told her they weren’t even going to interview anyone else. She had all the right answers. She was their first and last interview.

I can’t stress how important it is to give the interviewers the *right* answers to the questions. She was prepared and on her first interview landed the offer with no experience in the field, no work history for the last three years, and being a job hopper.

In my next article I’m going to discuss how to answer the job hopping question when someone asks you “Why have you had so many jobs”

Stay tuned there’s more to come.

How *Not* To Start Your Cover Letter

August 14, 2009 1 comment

On a weekly basis any hiring manager probably receives between 50 to well probably hundreds of resumes and cover letters. The key is to catch their attention from the start and the best place to do that is in your cover letter. So I am going to tell you what the worst possible way is to start your cover letter and then give you some creative alternatives to use instead.

This is the most boring intro line because everyone uses it:

Please accept my resume for consideration of the (XYZ) position within your organization. stopsign4c

What a snoozer! Everyone uses that line, let’s see… being like everyone else isn’t going to get you very far in your job search now is it? No it’s not. So what you need to be is different but more than different unique and valuable. Let’s take a look at some more creative and attention grabbing opening lines:

If you are spending too much time on tedious office duties and administrative tasks then I have the solution for you. My experiences in office administration and client services have equipped me with a multitude of skills including office management, business operations and exemplary customer service. I am confident that my application of these and my many other skills would be an asset to your company.

Customer Service:
It’s twice as hard to attract a new customer as it is to maintain an existing one. Unfortunately, this fact is often overlooked by many businesses. Delivering high-quality, responsive service is vital in (industry ex. Banking) and that’s exactly what you’ll get when you hire me. As my resume indicates, I have worked in client services for more than (number) years so you won’t have to go to great expense training me.

In today’s challenging economic climate, many people will respond to your advertisement. Few will be interviewed. One will be hired.

However …

Of the many to respond, few will be as qualified as I am, having in-depth experience in community and public outreach. No one else will bring my track record and the expertise I can offer – expertise that equips me to start delivering results for you immediately with maximum positive effect for your bottom line.

Integrity. Innovation. Initiative. If you had these qualities in mind for the position of (position title) then I suggest we meet to discuss the numerous qualifications I would bring to the organization. With my demonstrated track record of successfully directing pharmacy operations and introducing initiatives that directly impact the bottom line, I am confident that I would be an excellent fit for the position at (company name).

Of course these are only a few sample introductions and the remainder of your cover letter needs to be just as dyamic as the introduction, but nothing is more important then that initial first impression and you are sure to win them over when you choose something unique, creative, and captivating.

For a free resume analysis submit your resume to or visit us online at Great Resumes Fast to view sample resumes and cover letters and find out more.

Categories: Cover Letters

FREE Resume Evaluation – Does Your Resume Have This?

August 12, 2009 2 comments

My name is Jessica Holbrook and I will be providing your free resume evaluation. I have over 10 years experience in Human Resources Management and Recruiting. I have reviewed hundreds of thousands of resumes and interviewed hundreds of candidates. So the advice I give below is from real world industry experience. I also want to let you know that these remarks are not criticisms of what you currently have on your resume, but try to view them as opportunities for improvement. Because ultimately that is what they are, creative ways to make your resume stand our above the rest.

The first thing that always catches my eye is format. Your format MUST BE reader-friendly. Do not bore a recruiter with long paragraphs, run on sentences, and three pages of text! You should try something like 3-5 lines of text then bullet points underneath in the professional experience section.

The length is another issue. It is hard enough to get a recruiter to read a full two page resume having one that is three pages is killing your chances of getting an interview. You really should cut it down to two pages or even one if possible.

You should alter the opening 1/3 of your resume. I repeat myself over and over again but the MOST EFFECTIVE format is Strong Opening Statement (your sales pitch), Career Summary (and it better be good) followed by a Core Competencies Section (keywords, keywords, keywords).

Detail-oriented, results-driven, and ‘skilled in’ are all overused phrases that do not bring out your true qualities and uniqueness. Unfortunately, they are common phrases on every job seeker’s resume. Try alternatives like Performance-driven, resourceful, talented, sharp, and dynamic. These are less commonly used and will catch the reader’s attention more.

Avoid at all costs grammatical errors, tense issues, and incorrectly spelled words. One mistake can cost you the interview. Nowadays that is all it takes to land your resume in the trash. Try to always have a second or even third (in some cases) person review your resume to catch these little things.

I feel very strongly that your resume needs a powerful opening statement, captivating career summary, and strong core competencies section. The core competencies section will really play on your strengths and catch all those keywords that are so critically important to your resume and job search for that matter. Your resume must be keyword rich if you hope to have any luck finding a job in this economy.

One final piece of advice: Make your resume more contribution based than accomplishment based. A professional resume writer especially one with a background in interviewing can really help you draw out your accomplishments by asking questions that you probably never thought of before. We frequently have clients tell us, WOW that does not even sound like me, but I do all that stuff every day. Words are so powerful, and your resume really is about HOW it is worded more than what you have done. Unfortunately that is the case these days.

I would be more than happy to help you create a better resume and cover letter to help secure the type position you are looking for, we have over a 99.9% success rate securing interviews for our clients with their new resumes.

I wish you all the best in your job search because I know it is a difficult market out there.

Categories: Uncategorized