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Ask Victoria | I Want To Make My Resume Stand Out, But How?

A line of light bulbs, only one is lit.

Our next installment of Ask Victoria features questions from three readers with actionable resources that they (and you!) can take to the job search. Read below for my take on the questions!

Dear Victoria,

I usually embrace technology in the workforce because it allows our work to remain current, relevant and efficient...but, I hate submitting applications and resumes online. It seems a counter-intuitive way for hiring managers or recruiting representatives to find that "diamond in the rough" they are looking for.

Nevertheless, my question for you is, what is the best way to follow up with a company once a resume and application is submitted to their database? Is it appropriate to send an email directly to an HR representative if you happened across his or her name while researching the company?

Thank you for your answer!

Sincerely, Vilma

Hello Vilma!

I’m sure many of our readers can relate to the frustration of online application systems and agree that they don’t necessarily yield the desired results! In fact, I recently interviewed a hiring manager who said that she had an informational interview with a potential candidate. The candidate was not right for the current role she was hiring for, but the her passion for the organization and astute understanding of its needs and how she could contribute was evident. About a year later, she hired her for another role. If the hiring manager went by the candidate’s resume alone, she never would have brought her in! She wound up finding a superstar who was a great fit for another position.

So yes, follow up after you’ve sent your application. You can look for an HR representative at the organization, but even better is to locate the hiring manager for the position. The HR representative or recruiter is the one who will be screening the applications, but the hiring manager will make the decision. When getting in touch, anticipate the hiring manager’s “pain points”. In your note, briefly address the points and how you can contribute to resolving them.

For your next applications, proactively seek to connect with individuals who work at the organizations you’re applying to. Create your targeted employer list, identify a key player at the organization, and contact them. Remember that at this stage, you’re not asking for a job. Rather, ask questions about the organization, the work they do, what type of people succeed at the organization, and what the department needs in its staff.

Let us know how things go!

Our next two job seekers- Jeannette and Sabrina, both want to know how to tailor their specific experiences on their resumes:

Dear Victoria,

How do I explain my accomplishments if I'm working as a Home Health Aide?

Thank you, Jeannette

Dear Victoria:

I am a former college English teacher who is returning to the workforce after homeschooling three young children for a year. How might I incorporate this experience on a resume or a CV? My goal is to return to teaching, either adults or preschoolers.

I appreciate any advice that you may have.

Sincerely, Sabrina

Hi Jeannette and Sabrina,

The format for outlining your accomplishments on your resume will be the same no matter what type of job you have. It is true that some jobs are structured in such a way that it is easier to pinpoint quantifiable results and accomplishments. However, there are many types of accomplishments you can include on your resume under your respective positions.

Rather than focusing on statistics or hard skills, your accomplishments will shine when you illustrate your soft skills. To start tracking your accomplishments, you can review the suggestions in this Idealist Careers piece.

What are some of the best ways to identify your soft skills? Think about the attributes that a stand-out employee in your career field would have. Let’s look at each of your fields:

Home health aide

A good home health aide probably needs to have- rapport with the patient, listening skills, ability to understand the patient’s needs. Also include expertise in working with a particular type of patient (those with Alzheimer’s, dementia, ADD, physical disability, etc) and anything unique about your specific work environment. For example, maybe you work with one patient extensively, and have developed a strong relationship with that person. You might be able to quickly identify changes to the person’s health and well-being because you know them so well. Or perhaps you have several patients and your strength is in being adaptable to different personalities and environments.

Homeschool teacher

Sabrina, in your case, your homeschooling experience is quite relatable to returning to the teaching profession. Think about your accomplishments that will transition well to the classroom environment. Outline the types of lesson plans that were most successful, and any other outcomes you feel would be of interest to an employer.

You can list your homeschooling experience in the same format that you would a paid position. I would suggest including all your teaching experience (homeschooling included) under a heading titled “Teaching experience”. List all your teaching experience in reverse chronological order. Include the “Homeschool Teaching” entry with your dates of involvement, and a description of your responsibilities and accomplishments. For ideas on crafting your homeschooling entry on your resume, check out these samples.

Regardless of the position, think about the other attributes that best describe you and what you can offer the hiring organization. Of the attributes you list, which are you most known for among your supervisor and colleagues? These are the ones to outline on your resume. Hone in on those that make your experience unique and the value you bring to your organization and the people you serve.

To your success,


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