Have Adjectives Lost Their Cachet?

No cliches

There must be 100 websites out there touting lists of the “best adjectives for resumes.”

Words such as:

Skillful    Exceptional     Industrious     Motivated       Driven       Enthusiastic

As a quick review, an adjective is a word that modifies a noun. In the descriptor “seasoned professional” seasoned is the adjective. [For more information about adjectives, see one of my favorite explanations: School House Rock.]

Adjectives are often praised as “power words,” and encouraged at every turn by job boards, bloggers, resume wizards, and even career strategists like me. There is even a website with an adjective list that suggests where you can find other adjective lists. And no, I’m not going to embed the link to that one. Please indulge my flippancy, but I am SO over adjectives on resumes.

It’s easy, maybe even automatic, to reach for these words. You may already have the ones listed above and others like them on your resume right now, but look . . . so does everyone else. Of course you’re going to say these things about yourself. After all, it’s you you’re talking about during a time when you’re trying to impress people. Unfortunately, what it will probably do is come across sounding like what everyone else is saying—during a time with it’s crucial to set yourself apart from the rest.

Let’s be honest, if you directed a 15-member project team in the middle of a budget cut, company re-organization and mission direction change yet despite the economic down turn, finished on time and under budget, that beats the heck out of saying you’re a: determined professional committed to results.

If you’re using adjectives in your resume, chances are you’re doing it because you’re not including enough quantified and qualified evidence of your accomplishments. (Note: I said accomplishments and not responsibilities. More on that in a future blog post.) If you have a resume, go through it and highlight all of the adjectives. Then rework those sentences by adding information that answers some of the following questions:

  • How much?
  • How often?
  • How long?
  • With what result?

While in your positions, did you save time, save money, save a client relationship, increase profit, reduce errors, create a new process/procedure, improve an old process/procedure?

It’s not always possible or practical to eliminate all adjectives from your resume. However, when you write specifically about the ways in which you’ve benefited the companies you’ve worked for, you can turn:

Dedicated self-starter with exceptional communication skills.


Delivered over 20 presentations to groups of 50+ participants averaging 4.8 on a 5-point evaluation scale.

Remember, if you are a Bellevue University student, faculty member or staff member, and would like assistance with your resume, or other career services, please e-mail careerservices@bellevue.edu We can help.

Are Thank You Letters Really Necessary?

I’ll answer this question with a resounding YES!  To illustrate one very dramatic reason for saying this, let me tell you a story—a true story.

I was working with a recruiter recently who was interviewing on campus for a position with her company.  I asked her how much value she and her hiring managers place on thank you letters from candidates after interviews.  Here’s what she said:

“Just the other day, I was helping one of our hiring managers review candidates.  We had narrowed the list to two, both of whom possessed strong qualifications for the position.  We carefully reviewed their resumes as well as their performance in a series of three interviews, but still couldn’t come up with anything that set one candidate apart from the other. At that point, the hiring manager sat back and asked me if either one had sent a thank you letter after any of the interviews.  I checked their files and found that one of them did send a thank you, but the other one didn’t.  The manager just looked at me and said, let’s hire the one that sent the thank you!”  Then she said, “I think that answers your question.  A high quality thank you letter can make the difference in whether or not a candidate gets the job offer!”

So again, YES, thank you letters really are a necessary part of your job search.  They can set you above and apart from other candidates.  And, by taking the time to write and send a high quality thank you letter, you are letting the employer know you are very serious about working for their company.  The letter also gets your name in front of the employer again, and gives you the opportunity to stress your qualifications for the position.  Finally, everyone appreciates it when someone thanks them for their time and effort.

One very important tip: be sure to send your thank you letter within 24 to 48 hours after your interview.  Any later, and it doesn’t carry nearly as much weight.

Posted on April 14th, 2015 by

Deal Breakers

Deal Breaker

We write a lot on this blog about job search strategies, networking strategies, interviewing strategies, and the like. Our focus is on sharing content that will make you successful at obtaining your ideal job.

With this blog post, I’m going to address another aspect of successful job search: Knowing when to walk away from an offer.

Improvements in the economy are steadily turning the job market into one that is more favorable for job seekers. As companies continue to add jobs, they are encountering one large challenge:

Not enough qualified candidates.

The improved economy means more people are finding jobs. So now, employers that are grappling with this new reality are more open to changing requirements, adapting qualifications, and negotiating the more flexible aspects of benefits such as vacation time.

Do Research

Doing research on a company is still important. It informs your decisions regarding what the company stands for and whether the organization is a good fit for you, your talents, your goals, and your expectations.

Know Your Deal Breakers

It’s not possible to find out everything you may need to know about a company through research, networking, and the interview process. That’s why, when you’re offered a position, it’s a good idea to have a list ready of any remaining questions you have—questions with answers that could make or break the deal for you. Be sure to get the answers to your questions before you accept the job offer. Base your questions list on characteristics of your ideal job.

Here are examples of what some job seekers may consider deal breakers:

  • No Career Path in the Role
  • Few Professional Development Opportunities
  • Micro-management
  • Work-life imbalance
  • Poor Benefits
  • Unreasonably Low Salary
  • Lack of Diversity
  • Formal Work Environment

The questionnaire

Now, I’m not saying that you should demand the things on your list. On the contrary, these should be things your look for at the start of your job search and try as you can to target your job search to companies you know meet your requirements and expectations.

Rather than demanding, inquire about your deal breakers. Write down the answers given to you by the recruiter or hiring manager. If necessary, ask for twenty-four hours to think about the offer when you need to give more thought to your answer.

Weigh Your Options

Take into consideration how likely you are to receive another job offer. Are you freshly degreed with little or no experience; are you completely changing careers; have you had a series of less than successful jobs; were you fired from your last job; do you lack several qualifications; have you applied for only a few jobs? Do you just need something that will pay the bills right now? If so, you should weigh the potential for other offers against the offer you have on the table.

If you decide to turn down the offer, do it the way Amy Gallo suggests in her Harvard Business Review Article “… focus on what’s not a good fit.”

For more information about this topic, check out the following articles:

Monster.com – Not Your First Choice

Forbes.com – When to Walk Away

Good luck, and know that sometimes it’s OK to walk away.

Have You Heard of LinkedIn?

I talk about using LinkedIn to students and alumni almost every day.  Networking is a critically important part of any job search and LinkedIn helps you with it.

Why should you be on LinkedIn?  Glad you asked, there are several reasons:

  • You can connect to people across your career field and participate in relevant discussions about current issues in your field.
  • Recruiters use LinkedIn to source candidates.  A friend of mine, who is a recruiter, was contacted by someone about an interview for a new position when she wasn’t even looking.
  • You can follow companies, so you’ll see any positions they post and be able to identify people who may be connected to companies of interest.

How do you get started?

  • Start by creating an account at www.linkedin.com.  On the profile screen, there is a circle which shows your profile strength.  You want to get the circle as full as you can so people can find you.
  • Use the people search box in the upper right hand corner to look for anyone you know that you think could be on LinkedIn.  It doesn’t matter where they are geographically located or how you know them.
  • When you request to connect with people, customize the connection message so they remember who you are and how you know them.
  • Join groups including the Bellevue University Student, Alumni (if you’ve graduated) and Career Coaching groups.
  • Follow companies.
  • Do an advanced people search by clicking the word advance beside the people search box.  Check all four relationship boxes so you can search all of LinkedIn.  Put Bellevue University in the school box, just doing this today, April 1, 2015, I found 43,000+ people who are connected to Bellevue University.  Then, add your zip code and see how many are in your geographic area.
  • Now, that you’ve identified some fellow Bruins in your geographic area, start looking for people in your field or working at companies of interest.  Since they don’t know you, customize your connection message to something like “I see you attended Bellevue University.  I completed/am working on a degree in your field.  I’m looking to learn more about your field/company.”

Posted on April 1st, 2015 by

Dress for Career Fair Success

Career Fair 2011

As a Career Coach, I get numerous questions from students and alumni for advice on how to “catch” an employer’s attention at a career fair. One of the best pieces of advice I give them is to “dress the part.”  This advice comes from my personal observations at various career fairs. I have deliberately set aside time at these events to observe, unobtrusively, what happens in interactions between candidates and employers.

Here’s what I observed at just one event: A recruiter was visiting with a participant who was dressed very casually (jeans and tee-shirt). When another candidate stopped by who was dressed very professionally (suit and tie), the recruiter literally stopped her conversation with the casually dressed candidate and turned to the more professionally-dressed candidate. This really surprised me at first, but when looking at the situation, it told me a lot about what employers/recruiters are seeking. They don’t want to “waste their time” talking to people who aren’t serious job seekers. That’s their “take” on someone who isn’t dressed professionally.

We all know how important first impressions are—and for busy employers/recruiters, this is critical in determining who they will pursue, whether at a career fair or at any other interactions with potential candidates. So what does this mean to you as a job seeker? YOUR APPEARANCE AND DRESS are especially important, and you should dress as if going to an interview when attending a career fair.

But students tell me, “I’m just coming out of a class, and I don’t have time to go home and change.” My response—either dress for the event before class or bring your clothes with you and change in the restroom.