Category Archives: Resume Cover Letter

“F” is for Focus

NY Subway by Nicolai Bernsten
NY Subway by Nicolai Bernsten

As a certified resume writer, I’m asked often by job seekers to construct effective resumes and cover letters. Being in the business for 15 years, there’s little I haven’t seen or produced. Over the span of these years, much has changed in format, style, content, and presentation… but one element has remained steady throughout the storm.

The significance of “FOCUS” has yet to fade, remaining an elemental factor determining results. Unfortunately, the concept seems to have been misplaced by many seeking career progressions.

Reason for bringing focus back to the forefront: This past week I was contacted by a potential client to develop a professional resume and cover letter as he had not found interview offers for months. After our initial consultation, I sent the usual post-consultation questionnaire in order to ensure we were on the same page and path.

To be fair, if answered properly and with insight, the questions I ask can be time consuming as they force introspection and objective clarification.

During our discussions and paper trails, client responses are not necessarily meant solely for document incorporation, they are springboard opportunities guiding the interview process and career coaching sessions.

Before I lose concentration on the topic at hand, focus relates to letting whoever receives your resume and cover letter immediately recognize the position of interest and what you bring to the table. As a writer, I insist all potential clients deliver a career objective, one or two ideal job postings, and a statement as to why he or she matches the dream job (from an employer’s perspective) BEFORE drafts are prepared.

Fair or not, I choose to work with very few individuals, only the serious ones committed to success. Discounting my support and expectations tells me the individual seeking help is not serious about professional progression… as a result, why would I waste my time and services?

Dealing with the potential client from last week, my questions to him: “Please locate and send a targeted job posting/description and where you see yourself professionally? My desire is to correlate objectives to your background, knowledge, skills, and abilities.

In this capacity, please send:

  •   The ideal job description/posting / Two paragraphs summarizing why a hiring manager would consider you as a viable candidate”

His response: “How much does a general resume cost?  I don’t have a target job, I wanted a edited copy of my current resume.”


Looking at the questions I ask during initial consultations, how would you respond? Would you make the effort to respond 100% or would you look for an excuse not to work on your career?

Put in another way: Are you FOCUSED?

Hate to break bad news, a “general” resume will not secure career progression. Perhaps an entry-level job will appreciate a general resume, but for anyone looking to go beyond entry-level, FOCUS on the job at hand, tailoring to the posting (or career objective), and do the homework (like investigating the questions asked above).

Focus fosters:

  • Writer confidence
  • Writer ability to sell him/herself directly
  • Writer to interview transitions
  • Hiring Manager’s ability to connect job to candidate
  • Hiring Manager’s confidence in the applicant


To be clear, resumes without a target will always miss the mark. For those uncertain about job titles, tasks, duties, and hiring manager expectations, I encourage you to take advantage of This free resource is a must – and should be one of your Internet favorites.

Seeking employment insight and career collateral, visit or if you are seeking material designed for those transitioning out of prison, check out and consider the most powerful book that will change your life: Walls, Bars, and Razor Wire… You Choose.”


Danny Huffman, MA, CEIP, CPRW, CPCC
Education Career Services:
Career Break Out:

Resume Dust Off

For most of us, the thought of a resume dust off is far from our mind. After all, these next few weeks are a time of cheer and holiday spirit… not a time for career considerations… or is it?

junk carIn an effort to keep Scrooge alive and kicking, I’m going to be a tad outlandish and propose we take a break from the cheer and update our resume while reflecting upon the myriad of professional accomplishments tucked away during the past 12 months.

Before etching scribbles on your resume, let’s take a quick skills / development / accomplishment inventory. Take out a piece of paper, a writing utensil, and a creative mind as you begin at the beginning…

If employed, during the previous 12 months did you:

  • Receive a formal employee evaluation? If so, take out your copy as we rediscover the contributions that make you valuable. Highlight the positive aspects of your evaluation, taking note on key phrases or words used to describe performance. Were goals defined and met? If so, list each, your direct involvement, and what affect your actions had on the company’s bottom line.
  • Complete professional development courses? If so, what were they and how did the knowledge transfer to work performance or customer satisfaction? By the way, hands-on or online courses are a great way to show how you want to progress within the company and industry.
  • Earn special recognitions? When it comes to claiming “I’m the right candidate for the promotion or new job,” nothing is more persuasive than a third party referral or award.
  • Save the company money? Companies are always looking for ways to save on expenses or expand revenue. This said, did you make any positive operational changes or suggest a better (more efficient) way to get things done? For example, perhaps you developed a spreadsheet to eliminate scheduling conflicts or introduced a morale-boosting program.

If NOT employed, during the previous 12 months did you:

  • Complete professional development courses? There are many free online classes to get you back into the industry world. Let potential employers know you are NOT one to be “sittin’ on a simmer.” You want to stay in the loop, keeping fresh on new ideas and industry standards.
  • Partake in networking events? Now’s the time to refresh on what professionals in the field have shared with you. Take a few moments to reflect key ideas and suggestions from peers, Incorporating key words into your documents. Truth is, you don’t want to be talking 2012 in 2015…that would be just smack.
  • Perform in volunteer work? Companies want employees who care about and give to their community. This is a winning combination and should never be taken for granted.
  • Continue formal education? Definitely a no-brainer here. Consider including relevant classes on your resume and/or cover letter.

Naturally the above bullets are merely a quick snapshot of potential progressions one can gain over the months, you may have more to add or less. Either way, keep a strong attitude and know you are the right person for the job.

Now that you have thought about the knowledge, skills, and accomplishments earned this year, it’s time to prioritize the top two or three areas most relevant to the industry/position of interest.

An effective way to filter the list is to think as a hiring manager. In other words, if you were a hiring manager, would you find the information valuable? If not, don’t use it. If you feel the information is something the hiring manager should know in order to make a well-informed decision, include it in your cover letter and/or resume.

Entering the New Year, keep a professional journal handy so you can list and detail the great things you do. Information from this journal can then be used during your next dust off as well as interview preparations.

I’ve decided to conclude this moment by repeating the final words from our last reading… yes, it was that important…

Do yourself a favor, stop sittin’ on a simmer and commit to making 2015 a year of fulfillment. I’m simply asking you to devote TWO hours a day, adding up to ten hours of career stretching weekly. If this sounds like I’m asking too much from you… you are stuck on a simmer and can’t get up!

Hoping your career journey is an exciting and rewarding one.

For those interested in a professional career document review/coaching session, securing cutting-edge career focused material, or other professional employment empowerment services, visit or or contact me directly at

Danny Huffman, MA, CEIP, CPRW, CPCC
Education Career Services:
Career Break Out:

Sittin’ on a Simmer

Woman ShouldersHeard it over and over again… “No one is hiring during the final weeks of the year so might as well wait until mid-January to get things rolling again.” Though there may be a sliver of reality to the quote, this is not the season to be “sittin’ on a simmer.”

No doubt you’re asking what does “sittin’ on a simmer” mean. Here’s a quick reality check and what you need to do NOW to get off the back-burner and back into action.

You are “sittin’ on a simmer” if you:

  • Begin your morning looking for excuses NOT to begin your morning (attitude leads the charge, positive or negative)
  • Remain in your pajamas, slumbering around the house waiting for something to happen
  • Have yet to perform industry research and uncovering trends which may be helpful to your career advancement (and during interviews)
  • Have not conducted any professional development (online) courseware
  • Allow your cover letter, resume, and references to collect dust (not updating value-added accomplishments)
  • Refuse to engage in networking events designed to highlight and share your KSA’s to potential contacts
  • Make a conscious decision to put your career on simmer until season’s end (what the heck… what’s another week of feeling sorry for myself?)

Enough of the sittin’, time to take a stand in your professional career by:

  • Making a commitment to yourself (an affirmation by any other name) that today IS THE DAY for action (I will NO LONGER play the victim… I am valuable and nothing or no one will distract me from achieving my goal)
  • Researching companies of interest (go to the library if you are without Internet access), examine their mission statement, products, competitors, key players, and New Year goals (this is also where LinkedIn can become your ace in the hole)
  • Reviewing accomplishments over the past 12 months and developing stories behind each accomplishment (placing you at the advantage during the interview process as this adds confirmation and credibility—not to mention confidence). This is where the STAR format comes in handy:
    • Situation: What was going that required attention; was money or labor being wasted?
    • Task: What needed to be done and what would have happened if nothing had been done?
    • Action: What was your involvement; did you come up with a time-saving process or a way to improve customer satisfaction?
    • Result: What happened as a result of your direct (or indirect) involvement? How much money did your suggestion save? Did ratings go up?
  • Committing to attend a minimum of two networking events (and make sure you bring a confident/winning attitude as well as a value-laden elevator speech)
  • Reviewing and updating all career documents (online profiles included). This means taking advantage of any company research, industry trends, and your STAR stories.
    • When it comes to reviewing and updating documents, it may be in your best interest to have a professional resume writer review your material and offer suggestions for improvement. The fee is industry-reasonable while the rewards are potentially high. On this note, our writers conduct this service remotely to clients all across the globe. If you go this route (with us or another experienced career management company), make sure you feel comfortable with the secured professional offering this service. Rates for a formal written review and coach consultation ranges between $250 and $500, depending upon which company you select.

Securing a dream position during the month of December can be challenging, but this is the season of dreams coming true. To be blunt, the final weeks of the year are an ideal time to give your career documents a holiday workout.

Do yourself a favor, stop sittin’ on a simmer and commit to making 2015 a year of fulfillment. I’m simply asking you to devote TWO hours a day, adding up to ten hours of career stretching weekly. If this sounds like I’m asking too much from you… you are stuck on a simmer and can’t get up!

Hoping your career journey is an exciting and rewarding one.

For those interested in a professional career document review/coaching session, securing cutting-edge career focused material, or other professional employment empowerment services, visit or or contact me directly at

Danny Huffman, MA, CEIP, CPRW, CPCC
Education Career Services:
Career Break Out:
Follow Me on Twitter #dannyatecs

Cross Country Career: Cover Letter Construction

Image by Matthew Wiebe
Image by
Matthew Wiebe

Our last discussion concluded with: “The cover letter hooks the reader by giving him/her a reason to continue and consider you as a potential candidate;” now it’s time to delve into cover letter construction and considerations for those interested in treading external grounds.

Hiring Manager Hesitation: I need help immediately, not four weeks from now.

How does one counter hiring manager hesitation?

  • Recognize companies typically need help now, not next month is the first step. Your job in the cover letter (and subsequent interviews), reinforce why you are worth the added few weeks.
    • What makes you worth the wait and temporary inconvenience? If your cover letter does not address the concern, you will (most likely) not earn an interview. Perhaps you are exceptionally adept or offer unique knowledge, skills, and/or abilities. If you do, your cover letter is the place to impress.
  • Recognize there is risk involved, for both parties.
    • Hiring and training new employees is an expensive endeavor. Though there always will be risk with any new hire, out of town applicants are at an added disadvantage. What makes you a solid hire not only resides in what you offer, but for how long. For out of town folks with limited work experience or a weak track record, supporting an ability to stay in place (and with one company) is paramount.
    • Hiring managers intuitively question motives. If you are seeking to relocate, motives will be questioned… if there’s a problem, get over it.
    • For the recent graduate, the potential disadvantage can be reversed to become your advantage by highlighting how the new city fits perfectly for your new career and life-long journey. Now would be an ideal time to reflect on what it is about the region that makes the area so attractive… perhaps the mountains, culture, way of life, family, etc.

Your cover letter should be no longer than one page, the accepted average length is 3/4ths of a page. Consider taking a four paragraph approach:

  • First paragraph: Introduce yourself on a professional level. Briefly highlight the purpose of the letter (refer to job posting) and a primary reason why you are the right candidate. It is fine to mention a solid reason why the new city is of vast interest. Do not exceed four sentences for this or any other paragraphs.
  • Second paragraph: Make a direct connection between your background (experience and/or education) to the position. This is the perfect time for you to introduce your brand or unique value (something most other applicants are unable to offer).
  • Third paragraph: Highlight the company and city, drawing on how the combination is what interests your LONG-TERM goals. This part is critical as the purpose is to get the hiring manager to think: “hey, this applicant is not just looking for a job or a way out of a bad situation, he/she is sincere for the long haul—I gotta give him/her a call.”
  • Final paragraph: Don’t waste your final opportunity to hook the reader. Remind the hiring manager of a primary reason why consideration should be given. Warning: don’t repeat what was written previously. At the conclusion, establish a call to action and ALWAYS thank the individual when applicable.

Relocating is more common than in any other time in our history. By taking the necessary steps to recognize a few hesitations (and desensitizing them), you will increase the chances for a call back.

Even for those not considering relocation, the above bullet points and insight should be incorporated in your cover letter (and resume).

Hoping your career journey is an exciting and rewarding one, I am always here to help in the process.

For those interested in developing proven career success techniques or securing cutting-edge career focused material, including interview best practice techniques or how to write effective resume/cover letters? For those at a career disadvantage, take control by taking advantage of one of our most popular guides and learn ways to overcome barriers to employment (arrests and/or convictions). Visit for a complete listing of available support or contact me at

Danny Huffman, MA, CEIP, CPRW, CPCC
Education Career Services:

Holiday Season Vacation or Vocation

Knits By Elaine
Knits By Elaine

As the holidays approach, it does NOT mean that your job search must come to a halt.

I get it, with vacations and holiday plans imminent, you may have other things to focus on, and you may even wonder whether anyone is hiring at all. Truth is, if you find yourself uncertain about taking career advantage during the holiday season, let me assure you: Employers are hiring.

As many successful career seekers can attest, that perfect position may be one jingle away. Whether a college student on break, unemployed, underemployed, or changing careers, this holiday break can be an invaluable time to refresh and recharge your job search. But there are a few rules of the trade…

Career rule of thumb: Don’t panic.

Remember that it is the holiday season and anxiety has a way of pulling away from the task at hand: gaining your career advantage. The best thing you can do is stay proactive even when it seems like there’s nothing to do. The more prepared you are, the more confident you will be, and the more attractive you will be to employers when the time comes.

Right now, there are four things you can do before New Year’s Day:

Now is the time to reassess realistic goals and to make career affirmations you will keep. If your job search has not been producing the results you want, take a moment to objectively analyze your goals and company contributions. Taking your goals and contributions to the next level does not mean you have to change your mind when you’re done. This simple exercise of “refreshing” or “rebooting” has the potential to energize a second wind that will carry you through any stale point. Feeling confident and motivated, you are now primed for the research stage.

Whether you’re getting a much needed break from college or you’ve had plenty of time to yourself lately, now is THE time to research. Industry and company trends are readily available on the Internet, taking only an ounce or two of diligence. Specific research topics can include: How has the job market changed in the last few months in your area? What companies are most likely to be hiring in the New Year? What’s currently happening in the career field that you have chosen to follow? Another great place to research job-specific expectations is I strongly encourage an hour of your time to this site BEFORE your next career move. Truth is, a little bit of research can go a long way, and it can help you to know what direction to go after the holidays.

If you haven’t kept in touch with your network, look through your LinkedIn and your list of professional contacts. No matter how long it’s been since you were in touch with someone, wishing happy holidays is a great way to open that communication back up. During this revisit, don’t make the mistake by sounding self-absorbed by asking for a job. Many people may not take kindly to a year of silence and then, out of the blue, a job request. Instead of being overly aggressive, open up with holiday cheer and begin rebuilding that connection – it will benefit you in the long run.

When you last updated your resume, you probably made it shine the best you could and then put it away for another day. Here’s an idea, let’s make today that “another” day. Fast forward from last revision to now take advantage of the research you recently performed. By incorporating keywords from ONETOnline, industry research, and your professional development, you not only add depth to your selling swagger, you gain confidence.

Investing some time during this season will recharge more of your job search than you realize. Not only will it help you when it comes to making resolutions, but as the New Year approaches, you will be able to charge back into the job market more prepared than ever before.

If you have specific questions needing attention, email or submit comments and one of our professional career writers/coaches will handle with immediate care.

Interested in developing proven career success techniques or in securing cutting-edge career focused material, including interview best practice techniques or how to write effective resume/cover letters? Visit for a complete listing of available support. You may also contact us directly: to see how we can help you.

Rikki Payne, Career Consultant, Editor, and Writer
Education Career Services,
Follow us on Twitter #dannyatecs
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Your Career: Recharged and Relevant

Sometimes, it doesn’t take much to make you feel irrelevant.

Sometimes it takes a life-changing event.

DSC_0004Maybe you’ve lost your job recently, and you don’t know how likely it may be for someone else to hire you at this point in your life. Maybe a new-hire at your current job seems to threaten your career status.

Maybe you feel you’ve been performing on a lower level than you know you can, and you just feel like you’re in a bit of a rut.

Or maybe, and even better, you just want more: To know more, to learn more, to achieve more. This is an exciting place to be, though it can be uncomfortable if you don’t have the appropriate challenges in front of you.

Then again, maybe, you’re simply…bored.

If any of the above describes you, there are some great tools out there that will keep you recharged and relevant.

Refresh Your Network

When’s the last time you updated your LinkedIn account? Even if you’re not in desperate need of professional connections right now, it can only help to look at your network and your profile with new eyes, expand wherever possible. Hey, I know the hassles and how professional networks can be a total time drain but a nudge may be all you need. With this in mind, find one new person to professional connect with and you’ve introduced change into your life.

Learn Something New

Continuing education may initially sound like a no-brainer. But it doesn’t necessarily mean you have to go back to school. There are many prestigious colleges that offer free courses (sans credit, sadly) online, ranging from film and music to history and economics. Whenever you feel you may be getting stagnant, be it mentally or professionally, go to and add something to your current education.

Recharge Your Resume

Even if you haven’t been swept back into the job market just yet, pull your resume out and have a fresh look at it. Remind yourself of your experience, education, and skills. Rebuild your view of the asset you are, not only to your company, but to any team at any company. Go ahead and practice interviewing with someone you know and introduce a few affirmations or dedicated plans for the short term. Make the mock interview fun, but use it as a valuable reminder of your professional worth. This can give you a fresh confidence that can improve your overall demeanor and free up creative, productive thought processes.

We all go through peaks and valleys, so don’t think for a second you are alone. Good news is, you’d be amazed by what can be accomplished when you take small steps like these few mentioned above. Even if you are fully content with your life and your career, you stand more to gain by being proactive about staying content than by reacting to a sudden and desperate need.

Whatever you do, don’t let yourself get stagnant in anything. As Albert Einstein said, “Life is like a bicycle. To stay balanced, you must keep moving.”

Personally inviting you to share your career stories, send questions and professional stories my way.

For those interested in developing proven career success techniques or in securing cutting-edge career focused material, including interview best practice techniques or how to write effective resume/cover letters, visit for a complete listing of available support. You may also contact us directly: to see how we can help you.

Rikki Payne, Career Consultant, Editor, and Writer
Education Career Services,
Follow us on Twitter #dannyatecs
Education Career Services:
West Orlando News Online, Event and Career Columnist:

Career Etiquette: DOA?

Fact: Job postings are presented because hiring managers want YOU to be the right candidate for an open position.

DSC_0001Are you (or your student base) delivering or destroying on arrival? Before responding, take a look at what’s going on now… really… now.

Currently seeking a writer/office associate for our Longwood, Florida headquarters; for those interested in working with a team of professional writers and partnering with academic institutions, non-profit organizations, and individuals seeking career transitions, send cover letter and resume to

The above posting remains active, unfortunately.

Our management team is in the initial phasing-out stage and what is going on is rather disturbing: When it comes to candidates seeking employment, professionalism and career etiquette are an ignored strategy.

Let’s begin with a showing of several email responses in their uncut, uncensored form to the job posting mentioned a few moments ago:

1. “im interested.Evaluation: Grammar aside, responding to a job posting with two words is a slap in the face. By the way, no cover letter, resume, or sample was attached. Result: Not a chance to be part of our organization.

2. (No text at all) Evaluation: The prospective applicant submitted a dat. file which could not be viewed. No words were stated in the subject line; no words in the email at all. Our team replied with a Word of pdf format copy but a second dat. file was generously returned an hour later.  Result: Do I really need to say?

3. (No introduction or attachments—simply copied and pasted a resume to the open field) Evaluation: Without a cover letter or introduction, the resume lacked a reason to read… not to mention the disfigured display. Result: Another easy no even though this applicant did appear to offer a few positive attributes which may benefit ECS. Unfortunately the lack of professionalism forced a quick and negative reaction.

4. Four candidates did not submit a copy of their resume… is this really happening?

Our team could continue highlighting what not to do but I believe you know where this is going without further confirmation.

Over all, over 35 candidates responded to the writing position thus far. A slight majority (63%) did not supply a cover letter or formal introduction;
meaning most simply pasted their resume without forethought or intent to be called for an interview.

A total of one candidate appeared to perform research on our organization and the position (company name and contact was clearly stated within the posting). I say one because only one mentioned our company mission and/or products/services we offer.

Career etiquette means a brief introduction as to the value, contribution, and support as to why the candidate makes a good fit.

Career etiquette means designing a resume specific to the job posting, organization, and industry.

Career etiquette means letting the hiring manager know you really want the position… by way of following up.

5. Speaking of following up, NOT one of the 35 candidates submitted a follow up note, call, letter, telegraph, smoke signal, or message by pigeon.

Evaluation: Hiring managers know nothing about the candidate other than the job posting response. By not displaying professional courtesy (providing a tailored cover letter, resume, and follow up), you place yourself at a distinct disadvantage instantly.

With so much on the line, it would be a pity a few moments of diligence got in the way between an ideal/dream job and reality.

As a rule:
Compile a cover letter based upon the job posting and company research
* Send the resume as an attachment, Word or pdf
* Create the belief that you want the position by sending a follow up note, phone call, or both
* Professional courtesy will lift you above the many too busy on Twitter to show career etiquette

In regards to the open writing position, if you know of a writer in the Orlando area, send him or her my way. Before you do, make sure he or she follows proper career etiquette… or is that too much to ask?

Fact: Hiring managers desire the right information delivered in the right package and in the right way.

We’ll continue offering professional insight and review career marketing strategies so continue checking for the next submission. With this in mind, if you have career questions and would like a team of professionally certified writers and coaches input, don’t hesitate to ask.

For those interested in securing cutting-edge career focused books, including how to write effective resume/cover letters. Visit “Danny at ECS” on Amazon or go to for a complete listing of available products and support. You may also contact our staff directly: to see how we can help you.

Danny Hufman, MA, CEIP, CPRW, CPCC
Follow me on Twitter #dannyatecs
Education Career Services:
West Orlando News Online, Event and Career Columnist: