Scott Nichols – Certified Graphic Resume Architect!

Scott Nichols, Certified Graphic Resume Architect

In late 2019 Career Directors International offered a new certification opportunity. I quickly pounced, taking advantage of the promotion, knowing this was something I wanted to pursue. I wanted the challenge for 2 reasons. To push myself to learn and improve so I can offer the best product and service possible. And, to differentiate myself in an evergrowing industry of career development professionals.

The decision was unanimous. Here is an excerpt from the congratulatory email I received yesterday notifying me of my new designation:

” The certification committee unanimously passed your beautiful documents—commenting on the innovation you exhibited in writing and formatting and your solid understanding of incorporating personal branding, colors, designs, graphical elements and more, to suit a range of industries. Your feature piece disseminating your design choices for your selected document, rounded out what was a strong and competent portfolio of work. “

I look forward to continuing to learn and develop my craft. Currently, I am actively studying to become a Certified Career Strategist through the Career Professionals of Canada.

Up with growth!

An Easy Way to Prepare for Behavioral Interview Questions

how to prepare for behavioral interview questions

Behavioral interview questions are intended to help hiring managers gauge a job candidate’s ability to perform the work required and function will within the employer’s current existing culture.

For many, these questions can be scary or challenging. This can be for a number of reasons: our livelihood may depend on the job at hand and we don’t want to lose the opportunity, or we are concerned about rambling and not providing a concise response. Or, we simply haven’t thought of a good response to some of the more common questions like “what is a weakness of your?” or “can you tell me about a time you had a conflict at work, etc.”

As I mentioned in a recent video I created, preparation is key. While each of us has a different way of learning and preparing, I wanted to provide a very simple and effective exercise to help you prepare and feel more confident in your upcoming interview.

Here is a simple and effective way to help you prepare for behavioral interview questions:

  1. Write a list of 10 common behavioral interview questions (for your convenience, I’ve included this at the bottom of the article.
  2. For each question, write down 3 different responses.
  3. Rehearse each response aloud multiple times until you work out the kinks.

That’s it! The idea with writing multiple responses is that you are essentially creating a library of well thought out examples that you can choose from during your interview. Alternately, you are trying different responses on for size to see what fits you and what doesn’t.

Need a way to help you organize your responses? Consider the CAR method.

CAR stands for:

Challenge – What was the situation? What was being asked of you?

Action – What steps did you take?

Result – What was the outcome of your efforts?

Pro Tip: Keep your responses positive! Even if you are describing a time of failure, you can make it positive by conveying what you learned from the situation.

I realize that for some this seems like a daunting task, but your career is worth it. Some of us are very busy. I get it. Here are some suggestions to ensure your success:

  • Create an attainable goal to complete this exercise. For example, tackle 1 question a day for 10 days. You won’t spend that long on one question, and you will begin to build momentum. Mark it on your calendar. Or, write responses for 2 questions for 5 days. Whatever works for your schedule.
  • If you’re having a hard time starting this exercise, set a timer for 15 minutes and just start. 15 minutes isn’t that long, and once you get going, you’ll probably want to keep going.
  • Use a voice recorder app on your phone to record and play back your responses to see where you can improve. This is also helpful if an idea pops into your head and you aren’t anywhere near pen and paper, or your computer.

That’s it! By working through this insightful exercise, you are giving yourself a competitive advantage and setting yourself up for success. Preparing for common behavioral interview questions is key to feeling confident in the interview.

You can do it!

Here is a small list of behavioral questions to get you started.

Pro Tip: Do some research on the company you are interviewing for to see if they ask any typical behavioral interview questions. Sites like can be a good resource.

  • Tell me about a time you set a goal for yourself. How did you go about ensuring that you would meet your objective?
  • Give me an example of a time you faced a conflict while working on a team. How did you handle that?
  • Give me an example of a time when you did not meet a client’s expectations. What happened, and how did you attempt to rectify the situation?
  • Tell me about a time you failed. How did you deal with the situation?
  • Give me an example of a time when you were able to successfully persuade someone to see things your way at work.
  • Tell me about your proudest professional accomplishment.
  • Tell me about a time when you worked under close supervision or extremely loose supervision. How did you handle that?
  • When you worked on multiple projects, how did you prioritize?
  • Can you tell me about a time you had a conflict with a peer or supervisor, and what you did to resolve the situation?
  • Describe a decision you made that was unpopular and how you handled implementing it.

Need more questions? Feeling stuck? Contact Advanced Career Services today!

Easy New Year’s Resolution for Your Career

Career Resolutions

Easy New Year’s Resolution for Your Career

It’s that time of year to reflect on the last 365 days of our lives, whether good or bad and make a list of changes we’d like ourselves to make. For most, this may be personal goals, such as spend less, exercise more, learn how to salsa dance, etc. But how many of us are considering our careers? I have one simple idea I would like you to consider for this new year, which can have a significant impact on your career.

What I’ve observed as a resume writer is that most people don’t take time to reflect on their career until it’s time to update their resume. Even then, many of the resumes I’ve reviewed lack accomplishments and favor job descriptions. Giving a description of your work is important, but that’s not all a potential employer wants to read. They want to know that you make things happen. They want to see the results of your work. I believe a resume that focuses on results will attract more attention, which will lead to greater career opportunities.

For many, as time goes on, the details of career wins and successes become blurred or forgotten altogether. So, here is my recommendation for a career-oriented new year’s resolution that is easy to implement.

The Periodic Career Reflection Resolution

Create a recurring event on your calendar for 30 minutes at the end of each month or quarter. During this time, Isolate yourself from all distractions so you can dedicate this time to reflecting on the recent past.

Open a Word or Excel document. On it, you will capture your most significant challenges and biggest successes of your recent time. Save it and add to it each time you get your calendar reminder. It is helpful to use the CAR method, which stands for Challenge, Action, Result. When considering accomplishments, try to think of ways that you can quantify your actions. You can think in terms of dollar amount ($) or percentage (%). 

Consider the impact you’ve made on your team, department, or the organization as a whole when thinking about your success. Areas in which you can explore may be process improvements and resulting efficiencies, revenue generation, cost savings, turnover and attrition, customer satisfaction, etc. 

Don’t overthink it! Before you even begin close your eyes, take three deep breaths, and set an intention to relax and reflect. There is no right or wrong way to do this. You cannot fail by doing this. Start by writing down the first few things that come to mind. This process will evolve over time. At first, you may have a challenging time thinking of ideas, this is natural. But don’t get frustrated if you get stuck. The brain works in mysterious ways, and if for nothing else, you are planting seeds for future ideas.

At the end of this exercise, you will have created a list of ideas that you can draw upon when it comes time to update your resume. A good resume writer will work with the information to help refine it. Imagine your resume compared to someone who didn’t take the time to do this! It is evident, at least to me, that you are giving yourself a definite competitive advantage!

Beyond the Resume

Since I’m writing this as a resume writer, with the intent of empowering you to capture content that that can help make a standout resume, there are some other unintended benefits, I think.

Working through this exercise may prompt you to consider setting some new goals. You may find yourself re-evaluating your priorities at work to focus on broader challenges that have quantifiable results.

When it comes time for job interviews, you can go back and review everything you’ve documented to give you some stellar talking points.


By giving yourself time to reflect on your career at regular, periodic intervals, you are empowering yourself to document the results of your work, consider new goals, and develop content that can be used to create a great resume and help propel your career to new heights. Happy New Year!

By Scott Nichols, MBA, CERM, CPRW, CEIC, CEIP

What does it take to become a certified resume writer?

Certified Resume Writer

There’s more to writing resumes than most people realize. And, there’s far more to operating a successful resume writing business, even as a one-person show, beyond just writing resumes. It was apparent to me from the get-go that in order for me to develop a level of trust with potential clients, demonstrate my ability to write a compelling resume, and perhaps most importantly, differentiate myself in the market, that I would need some credentials. So, I set out to become a certified resume writer.

After some research, I learned that there exist multiple professional associations that offer resume writing professionals platforms in which to learn, communicate with peers, and earn credentials. I chose to earn my first certification from The Professional Association of Resume Writers and Career Coaches, better known as PARW/CC.

My first certification in resume writing, which I earned from PARW/CC is called the Certified Professional Resume Writer, CPRW for short. The CPRW designation has been the golden standard for many years, and is often a requisite for other certifications offered by Career Directors International, CDI.

In order to earn my CPRW through PARW/CC, I had to have some foundations for how to write a resume. I was tested on different types of resume structures (reverse chronological vs. functional). I was also tested on my ability to decipher a large amount of information and put together a complete resume. It was challenging yet rewarding. Earning my CPRW certification would pave the way for more.

After gaining exposure working with senior and executive-level clients as a contract writer, I was ready to step my resume writing game up. I wanted to really differentiate myself and give potential clients even more reason to work with me. CDI offers a lot of different certifications. So, I set forth to become a Certified Executive Resume Master, CERM, for short. This was a certification held by less than 4 dozen people WORLDWIDE!

In order to earn the CERM designation, I had to compile and submit a portfolio of the work I had completed for my executive clients and submit to a blind panel of the industry’s best and brightest resume writers. Additionally, I had to pass an exam that tested my overall business acumen. Not only did my portfolio pass unanimously during the first submission, but I completed the exam as 1 of the top 10 to achieve above 99%!

The hard work has paid off in many ways. I have learned a tremendous amount about my craft (which I continue to do), and have provided my clients with the confidence they need that they are working with one of the best. As I’ll touch on in another article, I have also earned multiple certifications in job interview preparation coaching. This includes my CEIP (Certified Employment Interview Professional) from PARW/CC and my CEIC (Certified Employment Interview Consultant) from CDI.

Job Interviews: Don’t Stop Short!

Don't Stop Short

Since I began interview preparation coaching I’ve noticed a common trend in the responses that my clients often give, that is, they stop short in their responses. By this I mean that when my clients give a response to an interview question, they don’t often enough relate their experience, skills, and abilities back to the company they are interviewing with. For example:

Question: Tell me about yourself

Response: Since graduating college a decade ago I have had a very successful career in sales, being promoted and given progressively greater responsibilities. When I’m not working I love playing guitar, petting turtles, and reading books. I am very excited about this opportunity.

Analysis: While the above statement is of course made up, it is not far from the mark. What’s left out? Examples of key skills that can be attributed to a successful career in sales, a CAR (Challenge, Action, Result) example, and how this is important to the company you are interviewing for.

Note: It is important to remember that the organization at hand has a pain point. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t be hiring anyone. So take the time to think about that before you head into your interview so you can tailor your responses to address their pain point. For example:

Question: Tell me about yourself

Response: Over the course of my career I have excelled in sales both as an individual contributor and as a sales team leader which has been demonstrated by my ability to identify and execute on effective sales strategies, utilizing data and market research to identify new business opportunities, and by my ability to transform individuals and sales teams to become top performers. An example of this would be when I was recruited for the Widget Company, who was experiencing a slump in their sales. I redirected their strategy after extensive market analysis, developed the way the sales team approached the sales process, and as a result reversed the trend and produced enough revenue to generate profits for the first time in several years. I am confident I can bring my extensive knowledge and experience to make a fast, positive impact for your company. I would be happy to share more examples with you if you’d like.

Analysis: Clearly this type of response is superior. We have immediately set the tone for being a sales leader and have identified 3 ways in which this can be supported. We then give the interviewer a quick CAR example and then relate this all back to the company at hand. Finally, we make the offer to provide more examples, which you should (and better) have ready!

By shifting the focus of your responses back to the company you are indicating to them that you are not in it as much for yourself (i.e. just there for earning potential), as you are making a positive contribution to the organization in which you are interested.

What is a “good” resume?

Great Resume

What is a “good” Resume?

A long, long time ago in a job market far, far away job seekers used to be able to get away with writing down their job description, include whether they went to school, add a name and phone number, and it would be considered a resume. Welcome to the present, where software programs read our resumes and decisions are made in mere seconds. What makes a good resume? What does it take to pass the many tests in order to be considered for a callback? Let’s examine a few key items:

Do you have the right content?

It’s not just how you say it, but what you say. Sounds as natural as it feels to write about yourself. Indeed, it is hard. You need to make sure you have the right content in your resume to pass the basic qualification requirements in addition to satisfying the ATS systems. So what do I mean?

 – Keywords – Not just any keywords, but the right keywords.

 – Context – You need to be able to paint a picture for the reader, give some clues as to how you were effective in your past roles.

 – Accomplishments – Describing your accomplishments is almost as important as actually having produced those results.

Formatting is essential

It is surprising for me to see (or maybe it’s not really) that many of the resumes I review, a good percentage of which are made using templates, totally fail the formatting requirements needed to pass most ATS programs. Here are some deal breakers and grey areas to be aware of:

 –  Headers –  What information goes there?

 – Tables – how, when, and where to use them

 – Columns – vertical elements are nice in a resume, but columns?

 – Font – It may or may not make a difference, it depends on several factors. One thing is for sure though, NO COMIC SANS!

Formatting is SO essential, there’s more!

I’ve only begun to scratch the surface of how formatting can be the key to having a “good” resume. What I haven’t gone into is the following:

 – Spacing

 – Font size

 – Section titles

 – Borders

 – Boxes

 – Symbols/Characters/Icons/Visuals

 – Bullets

Honestly, the list goes on. There is so much more that goes into a good, nay, great resume, that most busy professionals don’t have the time to learn. So many of the resumes I review lack many of the basic elements of a good resume, not to mention the more sophisticated elements that really make a resume stand out.

Entire books, workshops, webinars, podcasts, etc. are devoted to help people learn how to become better resume writers. There is just so much information you need to know to write a good, effective resume.

So what is a “good” resume?

A good resume is a resume that takes everything I’ve mentioned in this brief blog and combines it with the storytelling content that demonstrates to the reader that you are worth inviting in for an interview. It’s the keywords, content, layout, formatting, style, etc. that makes a good resume.

Advanced Career Services is your knowledge warehouse for everything related to resume writing and interview preparation. You have questions / We have answers. Check out some of our other blogs here. or contact us here to schedule an initial consultation.

This is big! Your Certified Executive Resume Master!

Certified Executive Resume Master

I am excited to announce that as of this week I have earned the designation of Certified Executive Resume Master. I thank Career Directors International to facilitate such a designation and am honored to be one of a select few (less than 30) worldwide to hold this designation!

A note from CDI:

Scott Nichols, Owner of Advanced Career Services/Next Level Resume, has been awarded an international designation as a Certified Executive Résumé Master. Evaluated and awarded by the Career Directors International Board of Certification, his work demonstrates an exceptional grasp of the discrete personal and business aspirations pertaining to astute, top-tier executives. This knowledge includes use of the appropriate key words and competencies, position responsibilities and challenges, and effective resume presentation styles for the ‘best and the brightest’ in business. CDI President, Laura DeCarlo, states that, “When selecting a resume writer a job seeker should always look for an individual who is certified and who has experience working with job seekers in their industry. Selecting a skilled professional with a Certified Executive Résumé Master designation is the natural choice to confidently put your career in the hands of a qualified expert who has made the effort to specialize in this highly competitive population.”

Tips On How To Prepare For A Job Interview

Interview Preparation

Think of it this way: the person who is most prepared for a job interview is likely going to be the top candidate for the position you are interviewing for.  Will that be you?

So, with that in mind, it is critical you take the time to prepare for your interview. Here are some keys to helping you prepare.

Understand the Need of the Organization

Many of the people I’ve worked with often look this critical element of preparation. Try to understand why the company is hiring.  What are they looking for? What about your role is critical to the success of the business as a whole? This is often touched on in the job description provided by the company. Read through it several times. Highlight what you think the need is. Then, take the time to write down how you can solve that need. What makes you better or more qualified than anyone else to fulfill that need?

Understand Yourself

Most of us find it challenging to talk about ourselves, or at least that is what I’ve observed from my years of resume writing and interview coaching. So let’s briefly guide you through a couple ideas to help know how to talk about yourself in your job interview.

  • Relate your experience to the position you are applying for. By keeping it relevant to the job at hand you are engaging your listener and giving them reason to believe you will do well in the new role.
  • Understand that it is OK to talk about yourself, your interviewer will be expecting it! This is your chance to sell yourself! Write down your accomplishments ahead of your job interview and review them before going into your interview so they are fresh in your mind.
  • Know your strengths and weaknesses. Keep your strength focused on the job you are interviewing for. Keep your weakness away from the job.  Provide an example of something you are working on and make sure your weakness is not critical to the job. This is really important. If you are interviewing for a mattress salesman job and you tell your interviewer your weakness is talking to people then you are doomed! You get the idea.

Remember It Is A Conversation

While it is critical to prepare and rehearse for your interview, you want to make sure you don’t sound like a robot. With enough preparation, you will feel more comfortable with your responses and will be able to focus more on having an engaging conversation with your interviewer. Likeability is an important consideration for a new hire. Engage the interviewer with questions throughout the interviewer so they get a chance to talk about themselves. Just remember to keep it formal, you are not trying to make a best friend, you are making a strategic partnership.

Prepare Thoughtful Questions 

Demonstrate your professionalism and preparedness by bringing a list of thoughtful questions. Make it about the interviewer, the company, and the position. Also, remember that you are interviewing the company to make sure the job is a fit for you too. Here are some examples to consider:

  • What do you like most about working here?
  • What changes would you like to see within the organization?
  • What is the growth plan for the organization?
  • What is the typical succession within the company for people in the role I am interviewing for today?
  • What has made other people successful in the role I am interviewing for?


There is more information on how to prepare for a job interview than I can fit in this blog. Keep checking back for new information or contact us to schedule a consultation to discuss your interview coaching or resume writing needs.