Monthly Archives: August 2013

Understand the difference between “accomplishment” and “task completion” for your résumé

I offer cover letter and résumé evaluations as part of a career strategies benefit package I provide to associations, colleges and universities, business and trade schools, corporations, and branches of the military (veterans exiting the military). One of the most common misconceptions people have is failing to differentiate between an accomplishment and a task completion.

An accomplishment is some strategic contribution to the higher objectives of an organization that could take the form of revenues generated, costs avoided, revenues recovered, percent improvement in some process–something above and beyond your normal day-to-day duties and responsibilities. Now, those daily duties and responsibilities may be tactics that support the strategic contribution; however, hiring managers reviewing résumés want to see the bottom-line contribution. They want to know whether you are a problem solver, solutions provider, game changer (as evidenced by your accomplishments that are highlighted on your résumé)–or just another employee (as evidenced by bullet list after bullet list of “duties and responsibilities”).

An “achievement” is in the same category as accomplishment and is evaluated by hiring managers the same way. Hiring managers do not consider any task completion as an “achievement”–it must stand out as a strategic contribution to the higher objectives of the organization.

Here are a few examples of task completions I have seen being passed off as accomplishments:

  • Generated reports for management
  • Developed training program for new hires
  • Ensured activities were in compliance with applicable accounting laws

So what? says the hiring manager. It’s always better if you can assign some quantitative assessment ($$ or %) to an accomplishment, but if your job doesn’t allow such a measure, then after each task completion ask this question: “and this task completion (or duty, responsibility) led to what higher level result for the organization?” This will take some time and thought; however, in most cases you will be able to reshape a task completion into a strategic contribution by asking that question, which will help the hiring manager assess your potential to perform in the future in his or her organization.

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What does effective networking look like?

Karl Reuning responded to my request for career topics you’d like to see me address with this: “What does effective networking look like?”

Here’s my take (from a former hiring manager’s perspective) on that question. I think you start with taking a look at how people are hired; which avenues into a company are the most successful for candidates, and then take a strategic approach to how and with whom you develop your professional networks. You want in with Company ABC? Then

  • Find folks on LinkedIn who work for Company ABC and connect with them on a professional level.
  • Exchange ideas, generate topics of discussion that demonstrate your expertise in subjects that may be important to your industry or profession.
  • Connect with people in a business or trade association for your industry or profession; attend local chapter meetings, conferences, give a presentation, write an article or paper for a peer-reviewed journal: establish yourself as an expert.
  • Be the first person to help someone else in your growing network with a referral or job lead; be seen as a resource first.

There are three ways by which you enter the hiring process: as an external candidate, as a referral candidate, or as an internal candidate. In my experience, internal candidates generally enjoy the biggest advantage, followed closely by referral candidates, and then external candidates a distant third. Somewhere between 33 and 67 percent of jobs found and filled are through personal referrals. Through personal referrals, much of the uncertainty in the hiring process is reduced or eliminated altogether from the equation, which leads to a higher probability of getting a job offer (and more quickly). It is also a low-cost recruitment tool. You simply must be strategic in designing and building your professional networks to increase the probably of being referred for an open position.

The chart below is from a report at listing the top 10 external sources for interviews and hires.

Top 10 External Sources for Interviews and Hires (Source:

Top 10 External Sources for Interviews and Hires

A 2012 comprehensive study (222,000 job postings, 9.3 million applications, 147,440 interviews, and 94,155 hires) from SilkRoad ( provides some interesting conclusions about the effectiveness of recruiting:

  • External (specific job search engines, job boards, print advertising, job fairs) and internal (referrals, inside hires, walk-ins, company career sites) sources result in about the same number of interviews, although internal sources produce almost twice the number of hires.
  • Company career sites are the greatest online recruitment source based on interviews and hires.
  • Referrals remain the strongest base for internal recruitment marketing, followed by inside hires and company career sites.
  • Job search engines are singularly far more effective than job boards at returning both interviews and hires.

In a landmark study on social networks (with real people, not Facebook “friends”) and hiring conducted by Stanford University in 1996, researchers concluded the following:

  • Social networks favorably influence the composition of the pool of job candidates
  • Applicants referred by current employees are more likely to be interviewed and offered jobs than external non-referral candidates
  • Network referrals are advantaged at both the interview and job offer stages compared to external non-referral applicants

The researchers also determined why referral candidates had such an advantage over non-referral candidates:

  • During labor shortages, using referrals is a quick and inexpensive method for generating a pool of applicants (fewer applicants for every open position)
  • The “benefit of the doubt” effect that creates a tendency for recruiters to give referral candidates the benefit of the doubt during screening, which encourages employees to continue to recommend referrals, thereby creating a process closed to non-referral candidates
  • Social network hiring tends to produce better job description-worker matches than other types of recruitment

Another reason employee referrals are the preferred entry method to  jobs is because the average length of employment is greater with referrals than the other two methods for entering the hiring process, as the following chart reveals.


Good question, Karl…I hope that helps, and go Red Sox!

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Your Turn: What Career Topics Would You Like to See Me Address?

I’ve got lots to say about career strategies and getting hired sooner than later, but is there anything specific readers out there would like for me to address? Fire away…

18 Reasons Why You Are Still Unemployed (repost)

I am reposting this article from This article does a pretty good job of highlighting some of the prejudices and presuppositions hiring managers have, and many of these eventually become official and unofficial hiring policies. But the real eye-opening “aha!!!!” moment here is reading the 450 or so comments from readers since the article first appeared in 2011. Many have a pretty lousy attitude toward the advice/suggestions given by the author (a consultant) which just serves to prove his points! In fact, many of the folks who posted comments displayed very negative and even obnoxious attitudes toward the article that was meant to help them…do you think those attitudes come across in job interview situations? You bet they do! Be sure to read the comments.

“Why am I still unemployed?”

This plaintive question is one I’m asked a great deal. I’d like to give a few  brief answers to this question.

1. You aren’t networking enough.

Almost all jobs these days are found through networking. If you’re applying  through job boards, searching the internet, counting on recruiters or responding  to want ads…you’re not doing enough. And, as I’ve said elsewhere, your resume is  almost useless.

2. You interview poorly.

We have interviewed a few people for a job we have open (office assistant).  While this is, admittedly, a lower-level position, I’m surprised and shocked at  how poorly people interview. Chewing gum, not dressing for the interview,  arguing, and saying what you will and won’t do are all interview killers.

3. You’re pierced.

Take out those facial piercings! Younger generation workers — this really  turns off old farts like me. I won’t hire someone with a facial piercing or  visible tattoo. It is unprofessional.

4. You didn’t shave.

Don’t go in with one of those “stubble beards.” Either actually have a beard  or be clean-shaven. The people who are probably making the hiring decision  really, really hate the three day stubble beards that are the norm among younger  men.

5. You’re asking too much money.

Look, there is a “great reset” going on. Salaries are lower these days. We  interviewed one person for a $30K job who had been making $70K. Frankly, we’re  not going to hire someone with that huge of a salary gap. It isn’t the problem  of employers you have lived beyond your means. Everyone is tight these days.  Don’t go asking for a large salary and tons of perks. You might well have to  bite the bullet and take much less to get off of the unemployment rolls.

6. You’re very overqualified.

Realistically, I’m not going to hire someone with 10+ years of experience  with a great deal of responsibility in their last job for an entry-level job.  Entry-level jobs will be filled by entry-level people. All you do when you apply  for these things is annoy the employer. I know you might be desperate. But it is  better to consult or start your own business, than to apply for entry-level  jobs. When I see someone with extensive experience applying for an intern job,  I’m not even going to interview them. I know that they’ll be gone in a heartbeat  if something in their field comes along, and that they won’t stay and grow with  my company. I also know they’re going to second guess me, not be coachable and  generally be a pain in the neck. Don’t bother to apply for these jobs.

7. You’re “shotgun” applying.

I made the mistake of running an ad on one of the major job boards one time.  BIG mistake. Everyone and their sibling applied, even with 0% of the  qualifications. The rule of thumb is — if you don’t have at least 60% of the  qualifications called for, don’t apply. You’re wasting your time.

8. You smoke.

Many of us won’t hire smokers. The smell on their clothes drives off  customers. They get sick more often. They take excessive breaks. And, frankly,  it’s a filthy and disgusting habit. Quit and quit now. Your career future, not  to mention your life and your health, may depend on it.

9. Your job title has disappeared (or is endangered).

You’re probably not going to find much in real-estate or housing now. And  while Defense is currently a good industry, it is going to be cut by the current  Congress, though I suspect there will always be a market for things that kill  and maim. But many job titles and industries have disappeared. Some jobs are  being done by robots. Others are being done by people already in the company. It  might be time to go back to school or change industries.

10. Your attitude stinks.

You might be coming across as having an arrogant or generally bad attitude.  If someone is not upbeat and positive, I will rapidly end the interview.

11. You’re depressed.

Many people who have been laid off and can’t find work in a hurry need  anti-depressants. Get on them if you need them. Just be careful which ones you  use.

Some depression is normal during a time when you’ve lost your job. But if  you’re always in a dark mood, crying, unmotivated and not sleeping, see your  family doctor at once.

12. You’re angry.

Your anger is not hurting the “jerks” who fired you or laid you off. It is,  however, killing you physically and killing your career. Get over it.  Realistically, if you were fired, you most likely deserved it. If you were laid  off, it was nothing personal…just a business decision. Deal with your anger  before interviewing.

13. You didn’t follow the directions in the posting.

In our last job posting, we asked for a brief statement with a resume telling  us why, after looking at our website, the candidate would like to work for us.  Only two people even came close to following the directions! Do what you’re  asked to do in the job posting or by the hiring authority. If you’re not going  to do what your potential boss asks you to, you’re not going to do what he or  she asks you to when you’re employed, now, are you?

14. You missed an important piece of the interviewing  process.

We asked a candidate we liked to come to one of our events and meet our  clients. She wrote us an e-mail and said she couldn’t make it, but wanted to  continue to the next phase of interviewing. Well, that was the next phase of  interviewing! This woman had posted she had been unemployed for two years. No wonder.

15. Ya yack too much!

More extroverts talk themselves out of jobs than into them. Shut the blank  up, for crying out loud! More about that here.

16. You’re evasive.

If you’re asked a question, answer it. Don’t beat around the bush, and don’t  give stupid canned answers. A clear example of this is the number of people who  say, when asked about a weakness, “I guess I’m just too much of a  self-motivated, self-starter who is too hard on himself.” Stupid  answer.

17. You can’t communicate.

Don’t make the interviewer crowbar information out of you. If you can’t  communicate well, you won’t get employed. If you do happen, by some miracle, to  get employed, you won’t last long.

18. You’re unprepared.

I’ll be very clear. If you go up against one of my highly prepared  candidates, you’re going to lose and lose big. Don’t be cheap! Hire someone to  help you with interviewing, networking and finding the hidden jobs. If you’re an  executive in Denver Metro, talk to us about hiring us. If you’re elsewhere, find  a good, honest career coach. But be careful. Read my article in  ColoradoBiz about how to avoid job scams here.

While some people are long-term unemployed for no reason, we can usually see  a reason when someone can’t seem to find a job. Those who have a great attitude  and have been able to overcome depression, anger and unrealistic expectations,  will usually land in a hurry. Good luck!


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