Q&A with Sydney Henriques-Payne, Director, Talent for Education Pioneers (and EP Alumna)
1| What’s the best way for applicants to translate who they are and what they have done in a resume?
As a recruiter, I want to learn who you are as a professional and understand your career trajectory from reading your resume. This is the best way for us to begin a conversation about where you want to go and what you want to do in your next role.
Most recruiters are going to read your resume first (and may not read your cover letter), so be sure it’s strong! A resume is a great “teaser” to share how your skills are aligned to the role you are applying for. Make sure the content clearly outlines your past roles, responsibilities and the outcomes you achieved in that role. Ask yourself, “What evidence do I have of being successful in this role?”
If you’re coming from outside of an industry, your relevant experience may buried deep in your chronological work experience overview, or fall into volunteer experiences. Feel free to change the format of your resume to highlight the experiences that are most relevant.
For example, let’s say you’ve worked in banking and are interested in transitioning into education. Highlight any related social impact work that you’ve done. Volunteering as a tutor at the Boys and Girls club is a great example. You may want to move that experience to the top of your resume in a “relevant work experience” section.
As far as sharing personal details on your resume, like your interest in running marathons or water skiing, make sure you feel out the culture of the organization is to determine what’s appropriate. Read the bios of the organization’s staff to see how they present themselves for an idea of what others share!
2| As someone who hires in the education sector, what do you look for in candidates’ resumes that someone hiring in another sector might not? What makes education unique?
While a recruiter in any field will look for culture-fit for the organization, the education sector usually looks for philosophical alignment with the mission of the organization in addition to general culture fit. These characteristics are totally related!
At Education Pioneers, we’re strong believers that individuals who have work experience outside of K-12 education are assets to K-12 education. So, I look for things that show me commitment to or interest in education even when formal professional experience in the sector is not on someone’s resume.
Key indicators of that can be volunteer experience, a mention of an applicant’s personal K-12 experience in a cover letter that shares his or her interest in working in the sector, among other things. I often look for student-first language. For example, saying “students with disabilities” versus “disabled students” shows an emphasis on placing students first and can often be an indicator that the applicant understands the importance of people-focus.
Everyone in every industry is looking for highly qualified people with transferable skills. The education culture fit requires someone to be invested in all kids having a high-quality education and a belief that all kids can learn.
3| Let’s talk about internships, short-term opportunities, and professional development experiences. How can people use them to pivot into a long-term role or to move ahead in a current role?
One of the things that’s valuable about fellowships like the Education Pioneers Fellowship, or programs with a short-term timeframe, is that you’re working on a discrete deliverable. Opportunities like those usually have clear guidelines for success. You may only have five bullet points of experience for that program or fellowship, but it will be really strong because you worked on a concrete project.
Ideally you’d have clear outcomes for every role—be sure to synthesize your work into discrete deliverables that show your outcomes—but it’s easier to synthesize when it’s a shorter term project. For shorter-term or temporary roles, list that it was short-term or temporary so recruiters don’t think you left quickly. Be ready share more about this short term experience, too.
If it’s an EP Fellowship, flag that you participated in professional development while working full-time and highlight the competiveness of the program, like the number of Fellows in the cohort, and the key leadership competencies you focused on during programming.
For one-off professional development or trainings, in general, if you have other evidence of those same skills in the body of your resume, use the outcomes. If it’s not a value add, don’t waste the space. Remember – resumes are teasers that get you an invitation to the main event: an interview.
For example, if you attended management training and you also have a direct report, there is no need to add that training to your resume. I know that you have direct management experience and that is often more valuable! The more tangible, outcomes-driven resume you have, the better off you are. If the training doesn’t result in a certificate, it may not be worth highlighting in your resume. Instead, hold on to additional context about your professional development for your in-person interview to add evidence of your capabilities.
4| As someone who looks at a lot of resumes, what advice would you give to candidates on how they can make their resumes stand out?
Short and sweet is better. A resume is supposed to give a recruiter a good sense that you have a track record of success and are outcome driven. Give recruiters the highlights of your accomplishments that you want someone to latch onto—and that will get you invited to an interview.
Be sure to show the outcomes of the work you did (not just the inputs, or what you did). I want to know what the outcomes were from the inputs. Using data and numerical results here can make you resume stand out. I want to understand the depth and breadth of work you do, how much you’re touching and how deep your work goes. Leave the anecdotal stuff out and focus on the outcomes.
Also, remove things that are over 10 years old, unless they are super relevant. Resumes are teasers, they’re self-promotion that is going to get someone to want to talk to you more. Focusing on outcomes is really important. A lot of people have a hard time letting go of content.
It’s hard to cut down a resume to page, but one to two is typically the industry preference. If you have under 10 years of experience, try to keep it to a page exactly! If you have more than 10 years of experience, having a two-page resume may be more your speed. Just keep in mind that it will likely be a truncated version of your full-length resume with the “highlights.”
It’s okay to have multiple versions of your resume: one with everything you’ve ever done, and then one that’s edited down. It’s great practice to update your resume every year even if you’re not looking for a job. Accomplishments can be really self-affirming. And when you keep track of the great things you’ve done, it makes your resume easier to update in the future.
Lastly, make sure your resume is readable. You want to include as much content as possible, but also have a fair amount of white space. Make sure the font is big enough to read. Last, but not least, I will also advise you to stay away from photos and clip art. Recruiters will find your professional photos on LinkedIn if you have a profile. Keep in mind, we’ll likely look you up on social media also. So, when you’re job hunting – be sure your photos and social media content are things you’d want a future employer to see!