Monthly Archives: September 2011

Heavyweight Debate: PDF vs. Word Résumés

Pdfvsword_Sept_2011_web You’ve decided what style of résumé you need, you’ve got it written, and you’ve taken it through a résumé boot camp. You’re ready to start applying. With more companies requesting digital copies of your résumé, you may be wrestling with what format to choose.

The great format debate has been raging for more than six years, and job seekers and HR professionals are still split down the middle. In this corner, applicants are sold on the stability and security of having an Adobe PDF résumé. And, in this corner, Employers and HR professionals are standing firm on the ease and efficiency of the Microsoft Word résumé.

Word Documents: The Current Heavyweight Champion

Most HR professionals who go through résumés prefer receiving them in a Word document. The vast majority of businesses have Word on their computers and employees are accustomed to the program. They like being able to easily copy and paste the information and send résumés, with the personal information excluded, to their employers. The drawback is that what your résumé looks like on your screen, may not be what it looks like on another computer. There are several versions of Word, and some older versions may not be able to read files saved in newer formats. Sending Word files with the .doc file extension instead of the newer .docx are less safe and have been known to pass viruses.

The People’s Champion: PDF

Having a résumé as a PDF will keep the formatting of your résumé the same on anyone’s computer, whether it’s a Mac, Linux, or PC. PDFs are also more secure than Word files, which means they can’t easily be doctored or changed. Unlike Word documents, it’s very hard to put a virus or dangerous software on a PDF file. Adobe, the company that created the PDF format, has free software that enables computers to read them, and most computers already have the software installed. Microsoft Word has the option to save files in PDF format as well. For these reasons, many prefer to have their résumés in PDF format.

The Lightning Round

Opinion on the debate seems like an even tie, but there is one factor you should consider before deciding which format to choose. Economic times still aren’t the best, and companies are still seeing a huge influx of résumés every day. More companies are using software called applicant tracking systems that systematize and choose résumés based on key words the company dictates. According to a Bersin and Associates Talent Acquisition Systems report, about 61% of North American companies have some sort of applicant tracking software.

There are about 55 different applicant tracking systems being used. Even to this day, very few can read PDF files. While these systems are getting better, it’s still a long shot before the majority of systems start reading PDFs. Your résumés may be safe, secure, and structured, but it won’t matter if your content can’t be read.

And The Winner is…

If you’ve networked with someone and they would like to see your résumé, you may want to go ahead and send the PDF. A professional who has taken interest in hiring you will appreciate the sleek format and structure of your résumé that you spent so long perfecting. If you are applying to a big company with an automated online application site, try using the Word file to ensure the automated system reads your accomplishments. You may want to paste your résumé into Notepad or WordPad and save it as a .txt file. That way, you are guaranteed the programs will pick up on your keywords.

Where do you stand on the debate? Do you agree with this strategy? What would you do to improve the situation? Sound off in our comments. I’d love to hear what you have to say.


By Jared Cole

The Dangers of Sitting

Dangersitting_Sept_2011_web For thousands of years, we’ve worked for a living with the sweat on our brow and using the arms and legs we were given. But, in modern times with the advent of technology, many have traded their elbow grease for electronic gadgets, worn out chisels for office chairs, and muscle strength for mobile service. The British Medical Journal Group reports adults spend an average of 9.3 hours sitting down a day, not including 7.7 hours the average adult sleeps every night. The BMJ’s findings about the effects of increased sedentary behavior are quite alarming. We’re hoping you’ll stand for this.

Getting Down With the Sickness

Research indicates that extended stretches of sitting and lack of whole body muscular movement is being strongly associated with obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and an overall higher risk of death. For years, physicians have recommended 30-60 minutes of exercise every day to counteract the effects of a sedentary lifestyle. But, with the popularity of big screen TVs and the Internet causing adults to be inactive after work, the recommended workout routine isn’t helping battle diseases linked to idleness.

Rise to the Occasion

There are many things you can do at work to improve your health, but getting active is the most important factor to consider. For many, working in an office and sitting at a desk for eight hours a day can make it difficult to find opportunities to get moving. Here are some simple tasks for you to do at work to help get your body going and the blood flowing.

Talk to Your Co-Workers.

Instead of typing an email or picking up the phone, walk to your co-workers’ desk when you need to speak to them. This face-to-face communication style has been shown to improve office relationships, and it will help get you moving.

Use the stairs. Do you really need to use the elevator to go up two or three stories? You might save time and get a spark of energy taking the stairs to your office. If you work in a large skyscraper, stop on a floor a few stories below and take the stairs the rest of the way.

Take 10. If you have an office job that involves mostly computer work, schedule 10 minutes every hour to get up and stretch. If you’re pressed for time and have to keep working, carry out duties that can be done standing, like filing folders or making phone calls.

Take a hike. If you don’t use your whole lunch break to eat, spend half of it taking a leisurely walk outside.

Stand when answering the phone. If you can, walk around your desk or office during the call. 

Park it. Get some extra walking time by parking your car a longer distance away from work. Try parking the farthest space from the building. If you use public transportation, get off one or two spots before your destination and walk the rest of the way. 

There’s an app for that. If you have a smartphone, there are several applications and executables that help monitor and encourage activity. Morsel is a mobile program that gives you small, easily achievable actions you can do to avoid stillness. Activities from Morsel, like “Stretch your arms out to the side and move them in circles 10 times,” get you moving without disrupting your co-workers.

Adults who perform frequent physical activity, like going to the gym and playing sports, but work at desks and sit the rest of the day are now being labeled by physiologists as “active couch potatoes.” These active couch potatoes are still as likely to suffer the same health risks as those who do not exercise regularly. When working at your desk, consider taking a few minutes to get active.

If you have a desk job, what do you like to do to improve your health?



By Jared Cole

Spice Up Your Commute With One Simple Thing

Spicecareer_sept2011_web For many, the commute to and from work isn’t always the most enjoyable experience. Sometimes it can be tedious, drawn-out, and create stress when trying to navigate through the heavy traffic when all you want to do is get home and relax after a hectic day at the office.

Commuting and Your Health

Gallup-Healthways released the 2010 Well-Being Index, an assessment of the health and well being of U.S. residents. Gallup-Healthways surveyed commuters on how they felt about their emotional and physical health, work environment, and life in general. The study showed that the longer the commute, the less happy and healthy commuters felt. 

If you have a fairly long drive to work, and want to decrease your stress and increase your happiness, you may be interested knowing that a little aromatherapy can help in big ways. One simple trick can help make you feel better by spicing up your commute, literally!

A History of Spices and Spice Stimulants

Humans have been utilizing spices for preservatives, flavoring, embalming, and medicinal purposes as far back as 2800 B.C. Specifically, peppermint and cinnamon have been used in folklore and medicine because they were seen as having magical properties to ward off evil spirits. At about 1 A.D., the value of cinnamon was worth 15 times its parallel weight in silver, according to Roman author Pliny the Elder. 

Scientists are still researching the effects of these spices today by studying how beneficial cinnamon may be to reducing blood sugar levels in diabetics. Researchers are also looking into the effects of how smelling spices can alter our attitudes and behaviors. Studies have shown that the presence of peppermint and cinnamon odors can enhance motivation, performance, and alertness, decrease fatigue, and serve as central nervous system stimulants in commuters.

So, if the stress and fatigue of your commute is becoming too much, grab a cinnamon or peppermint air freshener for your car and breathe it in. The aromas will help boost your mood and your attitude. Plus, as an additional bonus, it will keep your car smelling good when you have to give a coworker a ride, drive a carpool to work, or have sweaty children in the car after soccer practice.

Homemade Air Fresheners You Can Make on a Budget

Purchasing air fresheners for your car can get expensive, especially since some last longer than others. Budgets may be tight and you may not have the time to go out and grab some when you spend so much time commuting anyway. There are several recipes online that can help you make your own fresheners that may last longer than most found in common supermarkets.

To learn more about making your own cinnamon and peppermint scented car fresheners, you can follow some of these helpful links we’ve found to help you get started. These recipes are so easy, you don’t have to stick to just peppermint or cinnamon. You can use these for your house too. There’s nothing like coming home from a long and trying day at work to one of your favorite scents. If you are at your wits end and the drive to work is making your blood boil, go ahead and put a little spice in your life. You’d be amazed at how much better you feel.

Looking for more tips and tricks to add some pizzazz to your daily commute? Check out our Refresh Leadership blog to learn more. If you have a long commute, what other ideas have you come up with to help make it more bearable?


By Jared Cole

Health Care Options For Recently Unemployed

Insuranceforseekers_sept2011_web In a previous article, you read about health insurance considerations for job seekers who’ve recently graduated from college. While it’s important for those starting out in the workforce to know their coverage options, those with years of experience who suddenly face cutbacks and layoffs can be just as overwhelmed. And, things can get even more complicated if there’s a family involved.

If you’ve been laid off from your job and are looking for work, there are several options to make sure your family is protected from life’s emergencies.


The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985 provides short term coverage for qualified workers, their spouses, and their dependents after leaving their employer. The duration of coverage is determined by each state. The plan provided closely matches an individual’s or family’s existing coverage, but may be too expensive given the need for the individual to pay insurance premiums in addition of any co-payments.

If you have any questions about COBRA, check with your former employer, or visit the Department of Labor. If COBRA isn’t a feasible option or your benefits are about to end, make sure you start looking for something else two months before the plan expires.

Use a spouse or family member plan.

This option may not be available to the majority of job seekers because most health insurance plans through employers can only add family members once a year during the open enrollment period. Some policies do offer exceptions in situations of marriage, birth, or a change in employment status. Check your family member’s employer insurance policy to see if being added would be a viable option. If it is, this may the preferred choice.

Benefits of trade associations.

Your trade association, or professional associations like the Public Relations Society of America, may offer health insurance. Some of the insurance offered through associations is comprehensive and some is limited, so be cautious in assessing these options. Again, start your research early and see what options are best for you.

Find your own.

If you’re on a budget, consider a plan with a high deductible and lower premiums that will cover you for a major illness or accident. There are several places that can help you choose the best option. Check with your state’s insurance department to see which companies offer local health insurance. Another great place to start is to talk with your doctors or friends about which companies they like best.

Insurance has been a hot topic of debate for the past few years. Finding coverage isn’t easy and can be very confusing and time consuming. But it is vital to your wellbeing and the health of your family to make sure they are covered from life’s unexpected accidents. Take the time to learn the ins and outs so you can stop worrying about health insurance and focus more on the job hunt.


By Jared Cole

Health Care Options For Recent Graduates

Insuranceforgrads_sept2011_web Graduating from college is a commendable achievement, but it can take some time to secure your first professional job. Many times the biggest fear and headache of being an unemployed college graduate isn’t making enough money. It’s health insurance.

The hassle and confusion of finding heath care coverage can be overwhelming, especially when you’re fresh out of college looking for work in a still-struggling economy. But, there are alternatives for those just coming onto the job force.

1.     Stay on your parents’/guardians’ coverage. 

Often the easiest and most popular option is to remain on parental or guardian coverage, especially since the passing of the Affordable Care Act of 2010, which allows dependants to remain under their parents' or guardians' insurance until age 26. But, for some that may not be an option.  Restrictions and extensions of coverage vary by state, so make sure to check your state’s rules and regulations.

2.     See what your school has to offer.

Universities know that graduates seeking their first jobs have limited options. So, many have extensions of their student health insurance plans for recent alumni. Contact the university office or the alumni association in charge of the student health care plan to see if they offer any coverage to recent graduates

3.     Find your own coverage.

If you’ve graduated, or are getting ready to in December, and aren’t covered by your school or parents/guardians insurance, this may be your only option until you land a job. The most important step is to do your research. There are sites like Consumer Reports and that will take you through what coverage best fits you. Ask yourself how much freedom you want in being able to choose which doctors to see, if you need dental and vision coverage, and how much you’re willing to spend.

After getting hired, there are often still several insurance issues to consider. Many companies that offer health insurance have a mandatory evaluation period before new employees qualify for benefits. Keep this in mind when planning your coverage even after getting hired. Talk with the HR representative of your new company to find the option that will work best for you.

Finding coverage isn’t always easy, and can be very confusing and time consuming. But, it’s worth it in the long run to take the time to learn the ends and outs so you can spend more time focusing on finding that first job to start your career and less time worrying about your health insurance coverage.


By Jared Cole

National Staffing Employee Week: A Great Time to Say Thanks

NSW_Sept2011 National Staffing Employee Week just began and with it comes a time of appreciation for the 2.5 million men and women who make up the temporary and contract workforce in the United States. Many may think that only a small percentage of U.S. workers are temporary or contract workers. However, according to the American Staffing Association (ASA), 9.7 million workers are hired by U.S. staffing firms during the course of a year.

The Benefits of Being a Temporary Worker         

Being employed by a staffing company can provide flexibility that otherwise might not be available in an average full- or part-time position. It is reported by ASA that 88% of staffing employees said temporary or contract work made them more employable. And, 77% said it was a good way to obtain a full-time position. With this flexibility comes an alleviation of stress and an increase in career satisfaction that may not be possible in a traditional job.

In honor of National Staffing Employee Week, Express holds a contest to select the Express Associate of the Year and to find a truly remarkable associate to nominate to ASA for the 2012 National Staffing Employee of the Year. These associates are selected from nominations submitted by our 550 locations and are chosen based on the staffing industry’s 5 key messages.

Associate of the Year – April Birch

April_AOY“I had a hard time finding work when I was laid off, but Express helped me find a job in just a few days. But they didn’t just help me find a job, they helped me build my clerical skills. My experience at Express has taught me to focus on what I want from life. Now I’m going back to school to get my degree in education.”

— April Birch


First Runner-Up – Jamal Al Ameri

  Jamal 1

“I can’t thank Express enough for finding me work using my mechanical experience. This opportunity allows me to bring the remaining members of my family to this country and for us to live a life not otherwise possible.”

— Jamal Al Ameri



 Second Runner-Up -Colleen Horr

C. Horr 82411 (1) “Since joining Express more than 5 years ago, I have referred many associates and clients to the Plymouth Express office because the office staff makes you feel like a valuable part of the Express family. I am now currently employed full-time through the efforts of the Express Plymouth team.”

— Colleen Horr



2011 National Staffing Employee of the Year Nominee – Michael Coleman

Michael Coleman_Use


“Thanks to Express, I got a new start.”



— Michael Coleman



So, whether you are employed by a staffing firm or considering pursuing a new career path, take this week as a moment to take pride in the integral part you play in not only furthering your career, but also building a stronger economy. We salute your hard work and dedication.


By Mike Smith

5 Quick Steps for a Great First Impression

FirstImpression_Sept2011_web Like it or not first impressions carry some weight in your hunt for a new job. Whether you are heading to a job fair, attending a networking event, or going to a job interview you’ll want to make sure your first impression sends the right message.

1. Keep it simple.

When you’re networking or presenting work samples during an interview, chances are you’ll have a few belongings with you. While this is understandable, you don’t want to make it a nuisance. For example, if you’re at an association meeting make sure to have business cards in your shirt pocket or the outer pocket of a purse. You don’t want to have to dig through a backpack for them. In addition, try not to carry around a portfolio and a drink at a meeting, you won’t be able to shake hands or accept any handouts without awkwardly setting your other items down. Choose a simple glass or bottle of water at an interview over a cup of coffee that requires milk, cream, etc., it will help you stay focused on the meeting. Before you head out the door, take inventory of your belongings and see if you can leave anything behind that would reduce your personal clutter – remember less is more.

2. Check your scent.

Whether it’s heavy perfume or clothing scented with your favorite Thai restaurant, it’s best to be seen and not smelled. People can be sensitive to smells, and you wouldn’t want an interviewer distracted by your heavy cologne. Reduce scents by avoiding strong perfumes and scented lotions. Don’t eat at aromatic restaurants prior to meetings and make sure to combat bad breath after meals with mints or by brushing your teeth.

3. Match and mirror.

Take note of the mood and environment of any event and match your responses appropriately. You may typically be fairly informal in conversations, but if you’re being introduced as “Mr. Smith,” make sure to address others using their surname. If you’re at a company meal and no one orders an alcoholic drink, mirror their response and save your cocktail for another night. First impressions aren’t a time to make bold impressions. If your interviewer voices a strong opinion on upcoming legislation, it’s okay to share your understanding of the changes but avoid debating the issue at a first meeting. While it’s important to connect with others, it’s best to play it safe.

4. Step out.

The shoes make the man, right? Well not quite, but having clean and appropriate footwear does help set the right first impression. It’s not the time to break out your killer heels. Make sure your work boots have been cleaned from excessive dirt and repaired of any wear and tear. You don’t have to have new or expensive shoes, but consider taking your dress shoes for a professional shoe polish. You’ll be amazed what a difference this can make. Of course you can polish them yourself, but you need to do this sooner rather than later. When you’re heading to an interview, the last thing you want is to be late because you are cleaning your shoes.

5. Hats off.

Leave your baseball cap at home when you’re heading out to meet new people. Hats can make it hard for people to see your eyes, making conversation awkward. Also, fix your hair and avoid outrageous styles for first impressions. You don’t want people to remember your hair style, you want to be remembered for your thoughtful insights and engaging attitude. At the same time, make sure your hair is styled. Throwing it up in a ponytail may work for casual Friday, but when you want to look your best, put a little effort into fixing your hair.

While it may not be fair to judge a book by its cover, when it comes to first impressions, the best rule is to not do anything too extreme. While a conversational piece of jewelry is okay, wearing a tiara to stand out is taking it too far. Bringing a portfolio to show off your work samples is fine, requesting an easel for a flip chart and overhead projector for your PowerPoint is overboard. The less you have to handle, the more you can focus on connecting with your new contacts.


By Rachel Rudisill