Talk to a guy before you name your number in salary negotiations.
This is the fifth in a series of six posts on salary negotiation published in partnership with PayScale.com.
The latest Census data shows that women earn 78 cents for every dollar earned by our male counterparts. You’d think we’d be livid.
But in fact, while many of us are angry about this inequity in a general sense, several studies have shown that women are not all that upset about being underpaid on an individual basis. The research shows that women report the same levels of satisfaction with pay as their better-paid male colleagues, even when controlled for occupation and position in the food chain.
Academics call this (frankly depressing) phenomenon “the paradox of the contented female worker.”
Those in the ivory tower have been attempting to explain this since social psychologist Faye Crosby coined the term some 40 years ago. But one recent study of Texas attorneys published in the Employee Responsibilities and Rights Journal offers a plausible—and interesting—explanation.
Survey participants tended to base satisfaction with their salaries on the salaries of those people who were similar and proximate, says the study’s author H. Kristl Davison, an assistant professor of management at the University of Mississippi. “So essentially what happens,” she says, “is that women choose other women who are also lower paid as references and then end up with a lower sense of entitlement to more money.”
In other words, we are undervaluing our work because other women are undervaluing their work. And so the vicious underpayment cycle continues…
So how do you break that cycle, at least where your own lovely pocketbook is concerned?
The clearest implication of the study is this: When setting your expectation for pay for a job, don’t base your desired number on anecdotal evidence from your female peers.
Instead, start by gathering data from sites like Payscale to find out the average pay for the field, position, and location, regardless of gender. But—since women’s lower pay will be figured into these averages—also ask higher-level men in your field for their input.
“Asking male mentors can be very advantageous,” says Davison, “because it offers the perspective on what males are paid and because males talk about pay more than women do.”
You could say something like, “Bob, I’m going for this job as associate marketing director at a Fortune 500 company and they’re asking me for my salary requirements. I’m not sure what to say for that size of a company and wondered if you had any thoughts?”
(While mentioning a figure can help anchor the conversation in actual negotiations, avoid doing so here, since what you want is the other person’s uninfluenced opinion.)
And then when the interviewer asks for your salary expectation, you can say, “It’s my understanding from my research that jobs of this level pay in the neighborhood of $96,500,” or “I consulted my former boss Bob Smith, who’s now a V.P. at your competitor Quadroodle, and he told me the going rate is $96,500.”
(Note: Using a specific the number can make you sound more authoritative—so avoid rounding off too much.)
In a world where women all too often punished for being too assertive in salary negotiations, framing your argument around benchmark numbers and using a high-level ally to bolster your case can help you walk away with more money and your likeability in tact.
And that is the ultimate glass-ceiling breakthrough.
More from this series on Money.com:]
- The 10 Commandments of Salary Negotiation
- How to Tell If Now Is a Good Time to Ask for a Raise
- The Best Answer to the Question, “What Are Your Salary Requirements?”
- The Ultimate Millennial’s Guide to Negotiating Salary
More on salary negotiation from PayScale.com:
If you're itching for a career change in 2015, here are some fast-growing, high-paying options that have yet to hit the mainstream.
Good news, job seekers: employment opportunities look bright in 2015. Staffing levels are expected to rise 19%, according to ManpowerGroup’s annual Employment Outlook Survey. Robust hiring gains are forecast for the “usual suspects,” says Payscale.com’s vice president Tim Low—namely retail, healthcare, and technology. But peel back those broad categories, and you’ll uncover high demand for unique talents and skill sets and a bunch of new jobs you may not even know existed.
“As we shift away from conventional jobs and move forward into the information economy, there are a growing number of opportunities for workers to transfer skills in seemingly unrelated fields,” says Stephanie Thomas, researcher and program director at the Institute for Compensation Studies at Cornell University.
Additionally, job titles are becoming more diverse, says Scott Dobroski, career trends analyst at Glassdoor, an employer review website. “Employers are looking for innovative ways to do business and are therefore [allocating money] to brand-new positions,” he says.
So if you’re itching for a change in 2015, here are some ways to break into these high-paying, still-under-the-radar careers—all of which are growing at a rate far greater than the 11% national average.
1. If you’re an: executive assistant or medical administrator, consider becoming a… NUCLEAR MEDICINE TECHNOLOGIST
What it is: Don’t let the title scare you off; the position only calls for a degree from an accredited program, so no med school required. This health care professional operates specialized equipment including computed tomography (CT) scanners, gamma cameras, positron emission tomography (PET) scanners, and other imaging tools that physicians and surgeons use to diagnose conditions and plan treatments.
How your skills translate: Attention to detail and good interpersonal skills—already at the heart of your current job—are crucial. Nuclear medicine technologists must follow instructions to the letter when operating equipment; even a minor error can result in overexposure to radiation. A background in math and/or science is a plus.
Why it’s growing: “Jobs are developing rapidly at the intersection of health care and technology,” says John Reed, senior executive director at IT staffing firm Robert Half Technology.
Education requirements: 2-year associate’s degree and 1- to 4-year accreditation program. For more information on requirements, check out the Society of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging (SNMMI), or use this state-by-state map for a list of accredited programs in your region.
Average salary: $71,120
Projected job growth through 2022: 20%
2. If you’re a mechanic, handyman, or computer repairer, consider becoming a… MEDICAL EQUIPMENT REPAIRER
What it is: Someone who installs, maintains, and repairs patient care equipment. However, given the sensitive nature of medical technology, specialized repair skills are required. These can be obtained through an associate’s degree in biomedical equipment technology or engineering; workers who operate less-complicated equipment (e.g., hospital beds and electric wheelchairs), meanwhile, can typically learn entirely on the job.
How your skills translate: Troubleshooting, dexterity, analytical thinking, and technical expertise—skills already in your toolbox—make for an efficient medical equipment repairer.
Why it’s growing: The increasing demand for health care services assures rapid growth for this specialty.
Education requirements: Typically a 2-year degree in biomedical equipment technology or engineering. Go here for information about obtaining a certification for Biomedical Equipment Technician (BMET).
Average salary: $44,180
Projected job growth through 2022: 30%
3. If you’re an IT specialist, computer programmer, or Web developer, consider becoming a… DIGITAL RISK OFFICER
What it is: To prevent data breaches—and better protect sensitive client and customer information—employers are beefing up their cyber security forces. A digital risk officer proactively assesses risks and implements security measures.
Why it’s growing: Recent hacks at Sony, Target, and Home Depot have put more companies on high alert. “Regardless of industry or size, if you have sensitive client information, you have to look carefully at what your security threats are,” says Cornell’s Thomas.
How your skills translate: Your analytical mindset, computer savvy, and problem-solving skills apply to the core responsibility of a digital risk officer: outthinking cybercriminals.
Education requirements: 2- or 4-year degree in IT and digital analytics certification. You’ll likely start as an information security analyst and need to complete a risk assessment training program as well.
Average salary: $153,602 for a chief risk officer, according to Payscale estimates.
Projected job growth: The field is so new that specific data isn’t available, but by 2017, one-third of large employers with a digital component will employ a digital risk officer, reports IT research firm Gartner.
4. If you’re a nutritionist, rehabilitation counselor, or athletic trainer, consider becoming a… HEALTH-AND-WELLNESS EDUCATOR
What it is: Previously outsourced, many companies are now hiring in-house specialists to offer health-and-wellness advice and services, says Brie Reynolds, director of online content at FlexJobs.com, which saw a spike in job postings for this position. The educator works with employees individually to assess personal health issues and create strategies tailored to each person’s needs.
Why it’s growing. Health improvements made by employees not only curb insurance costs but also boost job satisfaction, a key ingredient to retaining talent. Some employers are tying financial incentives to health-and-wellness achievements—discounting health insurance premiums for employees who lose weight, quit smoking, or lower blood pressure, among other behavioral changes.
How your skills translate: Pure and simple, you’re a “people person.” Your ability to connect with individuals and motivate them to make behavioral changes will come in handy when promoting healthy living strategies to workers.
Education requirements: 4-year degree and health education specialist certification. The National Commission for Health Education Credentialing has information on requirements and eligibility.
Average salary: $62,280
Projected job growth through 2022: 21%
5. If you’re a management consultant, consider becoming an… INDUSTRIAL-ORGANIZATIONAL PSYCHOLOGIST
What it is: Companies hire industrial-organizational psychologists to improve work performance, job satisfaction, and skills training. This person is responsible for managing and developing a range of programs, including hiring systems, performance measurement, and health-and-safety policies.
How your skills translate: Your ability to assess an organization’s structural efficiency will serve you well in your new job. Like you, an industrial-organizational psychologist must work well with corporate clients to identify areas for improvement and increased profitability.
Why it’s growing: While not new, this lesser-known job tops the BLS’s list of the fastest-growing occupations. Chalk it up to its track record of success; surveys show the position effectively boosts work performance and improves employee retention rates.
Education requirements: Master’s degree. Check out Careers in Psychology for more information.
Average salary: $80,330
Projected job growth through 2022: 53%
Correction: The original version of this story misstated the equipment that nuclear medicine technologists can operate. They can operate CT and PET scanners but require additional certification to operate MRI equipment.
Emily Hughes may not have placed first at the Olympics like her big sis Sarah, but she’s quickly on the rise in Silicon Valley
Nine years ago, Emily Hughes was at the 2006 Olympic games in Turin, Italy, skating before millions of TV viewers. Today, Hughes is in the trenches at Google working on Google Fiber, the company’s ambitious ultra-high-speed Internet initiative.
This 25-year-old former Olympian joined Google as a business analyst in November, and it was her love of competition – and an extraordinary tolerance for risk-taking and failure – that helped her land the job.
“I think in sports in general, there’s a lot of transferable skills that you can bring to the workplace,” says Hughes, who moved from Great Neck, N.Y., to San Francisco to begin her new gig at Google’s Mountain View offices. “In skating, every day, you fall and you have to get up. And falling is a pretty obvious failure. I’ve definitely learned from everything I’ve failed at.”
As you may recall from the 2002 Winter Olympics, Emily Hughes is the younger sister of Sarah Hughes, the world champion skater who copped the Gold in 2002.
“I remember, I was 12 or 13 when Sarah won,” Emily says. “Every day, I saw her go to the rink, I saw her train and I thought, ‘I think I could do that too.’”
But the road to fame was a lot harder for Emily than it was for her older sister. In 2001, at age 12, she competed in the U.S. Figure Skating Championship, but then a couple of years later, Emily failed to make the U.S. team. In 2006, she was the first alternate to the Winter Olympics, and after Michelle Kwan withdrew due to a groin injury, she was named to the team. But she finished seventh overall.
Amidst injuries and illnesses, her ambition never waned. Hughes went on to Harvard, and in her junior year, she decided to take a semester off to train for the 2010 Olympics. She failed to qualify.
“When I didn’t make the Olympic team, yes, that was a failure in a sense, but there were so many other things that I’ve accomplished because of it,” she says. For example, she had more time to join organizations such as Harvard’s “Women in Business” club and take on leadership positions on campus.
Her setbacks, she admits, also forced her to think to herself: “What is the bigger picture?”
After Harvard, Hughes worked at Deloitte Consulting and the International Olympic Committee, but she never found her true calling. Then last year, a friend who worked at Google told her about life at the Internet giant, and Hughes was intrigued. Google Fiber delivers broadband service at 100 times what Internet users are accustomed to. The service first launched in Kansas City, Mo., in 2012 and now operates in Austin, Texas, and Provo, Utah, as well.
“Every time I talked to her, she just raved about Google’s culture and her work,” Emily says, referring to her friend. “Before that, I hadn’t really thought about working at Google. I used Google every day, but it wasn’t something that I ever thought, ‘Oh I could go work there.’”
Her friend passed on some information about Google Fiber, and she applied. Clearing a first-round interview, Hughes went through six hours of on-site back-to-back interviews, with only a lunch break– not unlike the times she used to scramble to find time for lunch in a jam-packed training day.
Certainly, Hughes possesses the most critical quality that Google seeks in its employees. “The No. 1 thing that you look for is passion,” says Jonathan Rosenberg, who wrote the best-selling How Google Works with Google chairman Eric Schmidt. “You want the kind of person who is constantly learning.” Google’s career website notes that the company looks for people who can show they’ve “flexed different muscles in different situations in order to mobilize a team.”
Flexing different muscles — well, Hughes is a pro at that. “With skating, constantly being corrected and told how to do something differently has helped me take constructive feedback better,” she says.
Hughes is simply the latest in a lineup of former Olympians working at Google. The company claims to employ at least 10. Athletes, in general, appeal to the Googlers who do the hiring because a sports background teaches you to handle criticism and adapt.
Game Theory Group CEO Vincent McCaffrey, who helps companies recruit student-athletes, doesn’t know the Hughes sisters, but he theorizes: “I would imagine Emily and Sarah have probably received a ton of feedback in their life — some of it very direct and even harsh. Employers want to hire young people who are able to take constructive criticism well.”
Global services firm EY has studied the link between sports and leadership in the C-suite. In a 2014 global survey of 400 female executives, EY found that 52% played sports at the university level. Those women, like Emily and Sarah Hughes, honed their time management skills while juggling schoolwork and training — an excellent path to consistent overachievement.
Indeed, growing up in Great Neck, Emily and her five siblings (Rebecca, David, Matthew, Sarah and the youngest girl, Taylor) were all overachievers. All six participated in figure skating or ice hockey.
Emily and Sarah credit their father for getting them into skating. John Hughes is a Toronto-born lawyer who played hockey for Cornell University and was drafted by the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Emily recalls her mom, Amy, lining up all six kids in age order (Emily is second-youngest) and tying their skates at the community ice rink. Emily and Sarah, who started skating when they were about three years old, are different in personality — Sarah is gregarious with a big presence, while Emily is reserved and quietly personable — but as children, they were both “competitive in our own way,” as Emily puts it.
When 12-year-old Emily stood in the stands and cheered on her big sister for a Gold medal in Salt Lake City, she knew she wanted her own shot to skate on Olympic ice. “After that, I was like, ‘I want to be an Olympian too,” she recalls, adding, “A little bit easier said than done.”
Randy Appell, her chemistry and biology teacher at Great Neck High School, recalls teenage Emily dealing with her high-stress position. “The fact that her older sister had already won the Olympic Gold must’ve put an extreme amount of pressure on her. She may have felt it, but she never let it show.”
Sarah’s Olympic stardom landed her on the cover of TIME Magazine, and when Emily was heading to Turin four years later, she was cast as America’s great hope —another Hughes champion-in-the-making.
Her seventh-place finish at the Olympics that year was disappointing, but it was not the thing that would define Emily Hughes. She had other assets — her brain and her passion to succeed — to fall back on. She remembers her dad always emphasizing that she is a “student-athlete” and that “student” always comes first. Her parents never gave her or Sarah breaks on studying, even when they were training five hours a day. And given the choice to enroll in the regular chemistry class or an honors course, Appell recalls, Emily insisted she take the advanced class.
“I always brought my books everywhere,” she says. “I was going to every competition lugging this backpack around, or you know, doing homework in the car on the way to the rink. It was always important to keep my grades up.”
As for Sarah, who is now 29, she found a new path from the Olympics too. She’s executive vice president of business development at the Kingsbridge Ice Center, a $350 million project to build the world’s largest ice skating complex in the Bronx.
Both sisters refuse to have one-dimensional careers.“I was always impressed by how tough Emily was when we were younger,” Sarah says. “She would kill herself working, working, working, but somehow, she always found some time to have fun.”
“To accomplish big meaningful things,” Sarah adds, “you need to be focused but allow enough distractions to make it a fun and worthwhile journey.”
Resolved to increase your pay in 2015? These steps can help you scoop up a better-than-average bump.
A few years ago, you might have been grateful just to have a paycheck—even if it wasn’t as fat as you deserved. Today, you finally have the upper hand again when it comes to asking for a raise.
You can thank the rapid improvement in the job market in the last year for that. Unemployment is expected to drop to 5.4% by the end of this year, and 57% of companies say they are worried about retaining workers, up from 20% in 2010, according to PayScale.com’s Compensation Best Practices Report.
That’s putting pressure on employers to boost compensation: 82% plan to increase salaries for current employees this year, up from 73% last year, according to CareerBuilder’s latest jobs forecast.
“Workers should be feeling pretty good about their chances for getting a raise this year,” says CareerBuilder’s Mary Lorenz. Music to your ears, right?
The average worker should see a salary bump of 3%, according to estimations from Mercer’s 2014/2015 U.S. Compensation Planning Executive Survey. But those who are top performers or have in-demand expertise could see their paychecks rise even more. The average boost for the most valued employees will top 5%, according to Mercer.
To go from a so-so raise to a big bump up, here’s what you need to do:
Get on Your Boss’s Calendar
Don’t wait until performance-review time, typically in the spring, to ask for a raise. Not only will you have more competition from coworkers then, but budgets will already have been decided—which will make it harder for your supervisor to get you more cash even if he or she believes in your cause.
Assuming you and your company have had a good year—the latter also being a must—schedule a meeting with your supervisor ASAP before your window for the year closes.
Sure, even the most confident of workers may find it intimidating to call a meeting with the boss and ask for more money. But the odds are good that your boldness will pay off: A recent PayScale survey found that 44% of people who asked for a raise received what they asked for, and 31% more still got a raise, just less than they requested.
Collect Some Evidence
In the meantime, to help make your case, gather accolades from the past year.
Pull together emails of praise from higher ups, ask happy customers or clients to write testimonials for your work, and make a list of your major accomplishments, quantifying them as much as possible. Bottom-line-focused supervisors will especially want to hear about how you’ve boosted revenue or cut costs.
Put a Number On Yourself
“It’s important to go in with a number in mind,” says CareerBuilder’s Lorenz. “You should know your value and be able to go in with an idea of what you think you deserve and be ready to explain why.”
Your ask should be based around what others are getting, since you’ll shut down the conversation fast if you request a boost that’s out of the ballpark.
Start by seeing where your salary falls compared to others in similar jobs with the same skill set and years of experience, using sites such as PayScale.com and Glassdoor.com. Keep in mind that top performers may earn 10% to 15% more than these averages.
Put your findings in perspective by determining what’s realistic at your company. If you have a manager you’re close with, a higher up mentor, or a friend in HR, ask for insight on salary ranges for people at your level or on how much the company is budgeting for raises this year on average. If you’re a top performer and can prove it, you should feel comfortable asking for more than the average.
Make Your Ask
You’ve got your proof and your number, so you’re ready, right? Not quite. Ideally, you’ll want to do a run through of the conversation with someone, since practice will make you more comfortable when you’re in the moment.
You might start the conversation something like this: “Hey Jane, my department had a really great year in 2014, and I was hoping to get your feedback, talk about ideas going forward, and discuss my compensation.”
Then, dig into your successes. Since your boss may not realize all that you’ve accomplished, you should make him or her aware by pointing out a few key highlights from the “to-done” list you made. You could say, “I don’t know if you’re in the loop on everything I’ve accomplished this year, so I just wanted to point out of few of my biggest successes…” Bring up the testimonials where relevant.
Talk not only about your achievements but also about what you are going to tackle next. Your boss is more likely to reward you if you’ve got a plan for what you will do for the company, not just what you did.
Have a Plan B
The best outcome is a permanent boost in your salary. But if that’s not possible, ask for a bonus. One-time rewards, including spot bonuses and project completion bonuses, are on the rise as more companies worry about retaining employees, the WorldatWork Survey of Bonus Programs and Practices 2014 found.
Spot bonuses typically range from $2,500 to $5,000.
Be aware that income taxes can lop off up to 40% of the bonus, so ask if your company will “gross up” the reward so you actually get the whole amount.
Be Ready to Jump
You’re not always going to get what you want. If budgets are tight or layoffs are looming, your manager’s hands may be tied.
So you may have to leave to get that raise. But the good news for you is that even in good times, the biggest pay jumps come when you switch to a new job.
Job switchers simply have more leverage when negotiating salary, especially since the number of employees voluntarily quitting is at its highest since April 2008, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ quits rate measure.
That leaves employers with a lot of empty positions to fill, and they are showing their eagerness to put bodies in these slots: The average wage growth for job changers rose from 4.3% at the start of 2013 to 4.5% at the end of 2014, according to a report by the Kansas City Federal Reserve.
So whether you stay or go, the chances are good that you’ll make more money in 2015.
More on financial resolutions:
Your boss's decision to grant—or deny—your request could be influenced by a lot more than your performance.
Perhaps you’ve resolved to make 2015 the year that you finally get a big bump up in pay.
If so, you’ll first have to clear the biggest hurdle standing in your way: You.
Less than half of working Americans ever even ask for a raise and close to 30% are uncomfortable negotiating salary, according to a new study by Payscale.
It may help you feel more confident to go after what you want if you know the odds are generally in your favor. Of people who have put themselves out there to request better compensation, three quarters saw their paychecks go up: 44% received the amount they asked for and 31% got an amount that was less than they asked for. (Hey, that’s still something!)
That Payscale study also broke down the likelihood that those who ask shall receive based on annual salary, job, degree level, college major and state of residency.
You’ll have the best shot if you…
Once again, it’s good to be rich. The higher your annual salary, the more likely you are to have asked for a raise and the more likely you are to have received the raise you requested.
Individuals earning $150,000 or more a year were the most likely to see their employer match the exact raise they requested, with a 70% success rate. Only 8% of these high-earners saw their request for a raise go unfulfilled.
Meanwhile, only 25% of those earning between $10,000 and $20,000 saw their incomes increase by the amount they asked for, while 51% had their request for a pay raise denied entirely.
Somewhere in the middle? The good news is that if your annual income tops $70,000, you have at least a 50% chance of getting the pay raise you request.
Unsurprisingly, those who work in higher-paying jobs also have a better shot at having their compensation wishes granted.
Chief executives were 76% successful in getting the exact pay raises they wanted. First-line supervisors in the construction trades had their requests granted 62% of the time. Other high-wager earners such as financial analysts and electrical engineers rounded out the top five professions most likely to receive a requested raise.
Those with jobs that commanded lower annual salaries tended to have their requests for raises denied more frequently. Nursing aides and orderlies have the worst chance of getting the raise they want followed by security guards and cashiers. Below are the top five and bottom five occupations for getting a wage increase.
While the level of education a person has obtained didn’t have much impact on their willingness to ask for a raise, it did affect the likelihood that their wish would be granted.
Those with post-graduate degrees were most likely to be successful in their requests, though success rates were highest for those with an M.B.A. (55%) and a law degree (59%).
Go figure that attorneys are good at negotiation.
Surprisingly, English language and/or English literature majors were the most likely to have asked for a raise (51%)—call it their way with words. Their requests paid off 49% of the time.
Those who studied public administration and social services were the most lucky in terms of receiving, getting what they wanted 56% of the time
Those whose college majors tended to land them jobs in the public sector, such as homeland security, law enforcement, firefighting and other protective services were least likely to have asked for a raise—perhaps because these jobs typically have set pay structures. Workers who came from these majors who did ask were only met with a yes 18% of the time, giving them the lowest success rate.
Alaska residents are the most likely to push for a raise, with 53% of the population having requested one (and they’ll need it to offset those heating bills). Residents of Rhode Island come in second with 51%, followed by Oregonians and West Virginians, with 48%. Dwellers of Massachusetts, Oklahoma, and Idaho tied for fifth with 47% advocating for a raise.
South Dakotans were least likely to ask for a pay increase, (31%), followed by residents of Arkansas (34%), Nevada (37%) and Nebraska (37%).
Alaskans’ assertiveness pays off, apparently, as they are also the state residents most likely to receive the pay increase requested. Delawareans were the least successful in their requests with only 32% getting the amount they were after. Below are the top six and worst six states for getting a raise request approved:
More from this series on Money.com:
CEO Brian Krzanich announced an initiative to bring more women and minorities into the tech industry.
Writers and editors at MONEY spend their days dispensing financial advice to others. Here's the advice they're following themselves.
If you have gaps of a few months in your work history, swap out the usual start and end dates for each position with years only
There is certainly a time and a place for a resume overhaul. Taking a couple hours to really clean up your resume is worth doing before you start a job search, or even just once a year as a tune-up.
But sometimes, you don’t have that kind of time. Sometimes, you just have a few minutes, and you want to spend them giving your resume a quick polishing-up. And for those times, we made you this list of resume updates that only take a few minutes, but that can make a big difference in making your resume shine.
Choose how much time you have, pick a (mini) project, and get ready for your resume to be that much more eye-catching.
If You Have 2 Minutes
- If it’s not done already, switch the font of your resume to Helvetica, Arial, or Times New Roman—in other words, make sure it’s not hard to read (or stuck in Word’s standard Calibri). Using a common, clean font may not make your resume the prettiest out there, but it will make it more readable (and less likely to be rejected by applicant tracking systems).
- Remove “References Available Upon Request” (if they want references, they’ll ask for them!), and use the extra space to add a detail about your abilities or accomplishments.
- Delete the career objective. That boring boilerplate “I am a hard working professional who wants to work in [blank] industry” is a bit obvious—why else would you be submitting your resume?—and takes up valuable space.
- Spell check (fo’ serious), and correct any mistakes.
- Save your resume as a PDF if it’s in any other format. That way, the formatting won’t get messed up when your resume is opened on a different computer.
- Change the file name from “Resume” to “[First Name] [Last Name] Resume”—it makes things easier for hiring managers and ensures your resume doesn’t get lost in the crowd.
- Remove your address. If you’re not local, recruiters might not look any further. If you are, recruiters may take your commute time into account and turn you down if they think it would be too long.
- In its place, add a link to your LinkedIn profile, as well as any other relevant social media handles (Twitter if it’s professional, Instagram or Flickr if you’re applying to social media or creative positions). Caveat: Never include Facebook, no matter how clean you keep it.
- Don’t want to drop your whole ugly LinkedIn URL onto your resume? (Hint: You shouldn’t.) Create a custom URL to your public profile using simply /yourname (or some similar, simple variation if somebody already has your name). LinkedIn has instructions on its website.
- Make all of your hyperlinks live. Your resume is most likely going to be read on a computer, so making things like your email address, LinkedIn and other social profiles, and personal websites clickable makes it easier for the recruiter to learn more about you.
- Omit any references to your birthdate, marital status, or religion. Since it’s illegal for employers to consider this when looking at your application (at least in the U.S.), they can’t request it (and offering it makes you look a little clueless).
- If you’re more than three years out of college, remove your graduation year. Recruiters only really want to know that you got a degree, and you don’t want them to inadvertently discriminate based on your age.
- While you’re at it, do a little rearranging, and move education down below your experience. Unless you’re a recent graduate, chances are your last one or two jobs are more important and relevant to you getting the job.
- To improve readability, increase the line spacing (also called leading) to at least 120% of the font size. To do this in Word, go to Format and select Paragraph. In the pulldown under Line Spacing, choose Exactly and set the spacing to two points above the size of your font (so, 12 if your font is 10 point).
- Need a little more space to work with? Reduce your top and bottom margins to 0.5″ and your side margins to no less than 0.75″. This will keep your resume clean and readable but give you more room to talk about what you’ve got.
If You Have 5 Minutes
- Remove anything high school-related unless you’re a year out of college or need to bulk up your resume and did something highly relevant (and awesome) during your high school years.
- Update your skills section. Add any new skills you’ve gained, and remove anything that is a little dated (nobody wants to hear that you have Microsoft Word experience anymore—they expect it).
- If you have lots of skills related to a position—say, foreign language, software, and leadership skills—try breaking out one of those sections and listing it on its own (“Language Skills” or “Software Skills”).
- Double check that formatting is consistent across your resume. You want all headers to be in the same style, all indentations to line up, all bullet points to match, and the like. You don’t want the styling to look sloppy!
- Find any acronyms, and write out the full name of the title, certification, or organization. You should include both, at least the first time, to make sure the recruiter knows what you’re talking about and so an applicant tracking system will pick it up no matter which format it is looking for. For example: Certified Public Accountant (CPA).
- Unless you are a designer or are submitting a (carefully crafted) creative resume, remove any photos or visual elements. On a more traditional resume, they generally just distract from the information at hand (and can confuse applicant tracking systems).
- If you have gaps of a few months in your work history, swap out the usual start and end dates for each position with years only (e.g., 2010-2012).
- Swap out a couple of your boring verbs for some more powerful (and interesting) ones (check out our list if you need inspiration).
- Swap out a couple of generic adjectives or titles (words like “detail-oriented” or “experienced” are overused and don’t tell a recruiter much) with stronger language that better describes your more unique strengths.
- Worked multiple jobs within the same organization? Learn how to list them right on your resume, then update it as such.
- As a rule, you should only show the most recent 10-15 years of your career history and only include the experience relevant to the positions to which you are applying. So if you have anything really dated or random, remove it and use the space to bulk up other sections or add something more relevant.
- Go through line by line and take note of any orphan words (single words left on a line by themselves). See how you can edit the previous line so they can fit—making your resume look cleaner and opening up extra lines for you to do other things with.
- Make your document easier to skim by adding divider lines between sections. Check out section three of this great guide to resume formatting from LifeClever for instructions.
- Include any numbers on your resume? Go through and change them all to numerical form, instead of written out (i.e., 30% instead of thirty percent). Even small numbers that are often spelled out should be written numerically—it makes them pop to the reviewer and saves space.
- Read your resume out loud. This will not only help you catch any spelling or grammar errors, but it will also help you notice any sentences that sound awkward or that are hard to understand.
If You Have 10-15 Minutes
- Look at your resume “above the fold.” In other words, take a close look at the top third of your resume—the part that will show up on the screen when the hiring manager clicks “open” on that PDF. That’s what’s going to make your first impression—so make sure it serves as a hook that makes the hiring manager eager to read more.
- Make sure you have no more than 6-7 bullet points for any given position. If you do? Cut and condense. No matter how long you’ve been in a job or how good your bullets are, the recruiter just isn’t going to get through them.
- Give your resume to someone who doesn’t know you well to look at for 30 seconds. Then ask: What are the three most memorable things? What’s the narrative? Take this feedback and think about how you can adjust your resume to get it closer to where you want.
- Similarly, drop your resume into a word cloud generator and see which keywords are popping out. If the most prominent ones aren’t what you want to be remembered by, or if there are important words that aren’t present, think about how you can tweak your resume to make that more clear.
- Go through your bullet points, and add as many numbers and percentages as you can to quantify your work. How many people were impacted? By what percentage did you exceed your goals? (And, yes, it’s OK to estimate as long as you can roughly prove it.)
- Pick a few statements to take one step further, and add in what the benefit was to your boss or your company. By doing this, you clearly communicate not only what you’re capable of, but also the direct benefit the employer will receive by hiring you.
- Consider adding a qualifications section. (Perhaps in lieu of your now-deleted “Career Objective?”) This should be a six-sentence (or bullet pointed) section that concisely presents the crème of the crop of your achievements, major skills, and important experiences. By doing this, you’re both appeasing any applicant tracking systems with keywords and giving the hiring manager the juicy, important bits right at the top.
- Update your resume header to make it pop. You don’t have to have a ton of design knowledge to make a header that looks sleek and catches a recruiter’s eye—check out this example for some simple, text-based inspiration. (Hint: Use this same header on your resume and cover letter to make your “personal brand” look really put together.)
- Need to fill up more space on your resume, or feel like you’re light on the experience? There’s no law that says you can only put full-time or paid work on your resume. So, if you’ve participated in a major volunteer role, worked part-time, freelanced, or blogged? Add a couple of these things as their own “jobs” within your career chronology.
- If you need more space on your resume, check and see if any of your formatting decisions are taking up unnecessary space. Does your header take up too much at the top? Do you have any extra line breaks that you don’t really need? Tinker around with the formatting and see how much space you can open up (without your resume looking crowded or messy).
- Look at each bullet point and make sure it’s understandable to the average person. Remember that the first person who sees your resume might be a recruiter, an assistant, or even a high-level executive—and you want to be sure that it is readable, relevant, and interesting to all of them.
- Make sure all of the experience on your resume is updated. Add any awards you’ve received, new skills you’ve taken on, articles you’ve published, or anything else awesome you’ve done.
- Hop over to your LinkedIn profile, and make any updates you’ve just made to your resume to your summary and experience sections there.
- Email three of your friends or professional contacts asking (nicely!) for a peek at their resumes. You might be able to get some inspiration for your own (or even help them out).
- Get that baby out there. Find an awesome job to apply to with one of our partner companies, then get started on your cover letter with our easy-to-follow guide.
More from the Muse:
Try to include one “big idea” per email
Want to make a new year’s resolution that you can actually stick to?
One that will instantly improve your life and career, make your colleagues’ lives easier—and maybe change the world?
Commit to writing better, simpler, clearer emails.
The kinds of emails that people actually look forward to reading.
Chances are, you’re going to spend over a quarter of your workday dealing with emails, so if there’s one thing you choose to upgrade in the new year, you might as well start with your communication skills.
Here are 10 ways to take your emails from mediocre to majorly awesome—while inspiring other people to step it up, too:
1. Announce Your Intentions Upfront—and Get to the Point
“Hey! I know you’re busy getting ready for the conference, so I’ll get right to the point. I am writing today because…”
2. Try to Include One “Big Idea” Per Email
“The main thing to remember is…”
“The key takeaway from our conversation is…”
“The one thing I need from you, right now, is…”
3. Try to Use Statements, Not Open-Ended Questions
This: “I think launching the new campaign on Thursday is the best choice. If you agree, write back to say ‘yes,’ and I’ll proceed. If not, let’s talk.”
Not this: “So, what do you guys think? I’m open to everybody’s ideas!”
4. Be Surprisingly Generous
“Congratulations on your promotion. Very exciting. P.S. I left an inspiring book on your desk. Just a little something to usher in the next chapter. Enjoy…”
“I was thinking about your new project. Here’s a free resource that might help…”
“I’ve got a free guest pass for a local co-working space. I want you to have it. Enjoy…”
5. When Delivering Criticism, Be Respectful and Specific
“Thanks for all of your work. We’re getting closer, but the logo still isn’t feeling quite right. Here are three specific adjustments that I’d love for you to make.”
6. Show Your Humanity
“So sorry to hear that your dog passed away. Mine went to doggy-heaven last year. If you want to talk about it, I’m here. If you want to not talk about it (and go out for a coffee or do something fun), I’m here, too.”
7. Tell Your Reader What You Need—and When You Need It—Upfront
“Hey! Here’s a quick recap of our conversation—plus two questions for you at the end. I’d love to receive your responses by [date] so that we can keep moving forward on schedule.”
8. Occasionally, Send Emails That Include a Compliment, Not a Demand or Request
“Hey. You did a terrific job at the press conference. You were funnier than Ellen DeGeneres and totally nailed the message. Thanks for making our company look great!”
9. Whenever Possible, End With Some of the Most Beautiful Words on Earth
“No rush on this.”
“For your information, only. No action necessary.”
“No response required.”
10. Above All: Astonish People With Your Brevity
It’s not always possible, but try to express yourself in three sentences or less. Or as close as you can get. (Think haiku, not memoir.)
If you’re struggling to keep it brief, you might want to pick up the phone, have a face-to-face conversation, or spend a little more time thinking about what you really want to say. (My free workbook, Feel. Know. Do., can help you to organize your thoughts before you hit “send.”)
When you write better emails, you set a new barometer of excellence—inspiring everyone around you to communicate more clearly and effectively, too.
You might not be destined to be the next Dalai Lama or Mother Teresa, but helping to remove friction, irritation, and time-wasting misunderstandings from your workplace? That’s a big deal.
After all, one well-written email can change someone’s day, shift someone’s attitude, nudge a project into motion, or even change someone’s life. You never know what the ripple effects might be.
So, lead the charge. Be the change. Show your colleagues how awesome emails can be.
More from the Muse: