Monthly Archives: November 2015

10 Ways to Embed Your Brand in the Minds of Hiring Managers


All hiring managers want to hire experts and while it’s relatively easy to become an expert, it does require time (the experience variable). So, now’s as good a time as any to start the process. Your career strategy should embrace the idea of becoming an expert.

Briefly, here are 10 things you can do to build that associative model with hiring managers (linking your expertise/brand with the hiring manager’s awareness of it – and your name):

  1. Write articles for peer-reviewed journals. Nothing says “expert” better than being published in a respected journal in your profession. I’ll say it again: if you’re a professional with at least 7 years experience and you haven’t been published in a peer-reviewed journal in your profession, you are doing your brand a disservice and hampering your journey to becoming an expert.
  2. Give presentations/workshops at meetings and conferences. If you’ve had an abstract accepted for a conference, you get double points because you’ll be presenting to an audience of your peers and your paper will likely be published in the Proceedings.
  3. Use professional networks and media (LinkedIn, Twitter) to expand your circle of influence in your industry. Post often and regularly. Stick to your domain of expertise. I made the mistake early on of only posting on occasion to LinkedIn and Twitter. Wish I had a do-over for that as I’m trying to make up for lost time.
  4. Write a book on an issue, problem, or areas of opportunity in your profession/field. With low-cost publishing through CreateSpace (the publishing arm of and Lightning Source, your books can be available in weeks. Smashwords lets you publish in all the popular ebook formats from one source file in a matter of hours once you have the basic formatting done.
  5. Teach a class at a community college or university. I taught “Fundamentals of Petroleum Exploration and Production” as a part-time adjunct faculty lecturer for several semesters at the University of Houston Downtown College. Having “Adjunct Faculty, Department of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, University of Houston Downtown College” on my résumé was a nice touch. I initially took the part-time teaching job just for the résumé polish, but quickly found I truly enjoyed teaching.
  6. Create an attention-getting blog name/catch phrase. My catch phrase or tag line is “The One Hire Authority for Strategic Career Engagement” and I’ve been told that “the one hire authority” is a funny play on words – which makes it memorable.
  7. Create a unique sign-off statement for blog entries. I’ve been market testing a blog sign-off statement with some in my target audience, and you’ll soon see it at the end of my blog posts.
  8. Write a bio that promotes your brand rather than typical obituary format. If you have a great Professional Summary on your résumé, that can serve as the seed for building a strong branded bio.
  9. Assign quantitative value to your accomplishments wherever possible. Always try to ferret out financial numbers for any project you worked on that turned out to be a notable achievement. Hiring managers like numbers, such as revenues generated, costs avoided, percent improvement, etc. Highlight those numbers in boldface type on your résumé to draw the hiring manager’s eye when he or she scans it.
  10. Join an association or organization in your field or profession and get active in the local chapter. Volunteer for the board, edit the newsletter, manage the job bank. I volunteered to be a parliamentarian for my local homeowners association when I saw that every HOA meeting ran well over the time allotted and didn’t get halfway through the agenda (when there was one). I had a lot of on-the-job experience running tight meetings (and a reputation for results and follow through). Homeowners appreciated meetings starting and ending on time, following an agenda, and keeping the discussions “open to the floor” from going into the weeds.

Former Fortune 500 hiring manager Donn LeVie Jr. is the author of Strategic Career Engagement (September 2015), and the book that reset the rules for successful job and career strategies:  Confessions of a Hiring Manager Rev. 2.0 (June 2012, Winner of the 2012 Global eBook Award and Winner of the 2012 International Book Award for Jobs/Careers).

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The One “Seal the Deal” Document Every Candidate Needs

Hired Rubber Stamp

(Long post) In my books, seminars, and personal career strategy consults, I encourage people to have a variety of documents in their portfolio (Personal Skills, Knowledge, and Experience Portfolio – or PSKE Portfolio) that attest to their expertise as problem solvers hiring managers are looking for. Having just a cover letter and résumé isn’t enough -because everyone vying for the same position has those same documents. A career strategy embraces the idea not only of your professional brand, but your complete platform, which consists of all the ways you communicate your value and expertise in your profession.

Your PSKE Portfolio consists of several elements in that platform beyond the cover letter and résumé, such as: a case history you’ve written that documents an on-the-job problem you solved; an article you’ve had published in a peer-reviewed journal for your industry (*note: If you have at least 7 years experience and you haven’t been published in your industry, you are damaging your brand and platform); a book on some aspect of your profession or industry; conference papers and talks you’ve presented; and one document that seals the deal for the job offer.

One”seal the deal” document that I and many others have used to score a job offer is part of a strategy I call the Continuous Promotion Approach and uses a tactic I refer to as the “Trojan Horse Technique.” The document is something called “25 Ways I Add Value to Your Organization.” I created this document when I was managing technical publications teams in the high-tech industry and would use it for bigger and better opportunities.

This document is the last in a series I mail (snail-mail, not email) to the hiring manager after job interviews have concluded. I would send a case history with a Post-It Note followed a few days later by an article reprint from a peer-reviewed journal. The Post-It Notes might read something like, “Dear Hiring Manager: Thanks for sharing the great opportunity with your team. The attached case history [or article reprint] might be of interest to you. Sincerely, <your name>.”

I don’t really care if the hiring manager reads the case history or the article reprint, but I do care that he or she sees who its from on the Post-It Note. The Post-It Note is the Trojan Horse that enhances that associative model and Continuum of Belief I helped create in the hiring manager’s mind, starting with a great cover letter, achievement-focused résumé, and stellar interview (see my recent posts for more info on associative models and the Continuum of Belief). The Post-It Note on this last document gets to the point by stating: “Dear Hiring Manager: I’m ready to get started…Let’s talk now. Sincerely, <your name>.”

So while other candidates have finished interviewing for the position and are waiting to hear whether they get a job offer, you continue to promote your brand to build that familiarity and name-expertise recognition factor with the hiring manager.

Does this technique work every time with hiring managers? No, it doesn’t; but just how much are you in charge of your career? Do you want to compete with other candidates for the position, or do you want to be the hiring manager’s candidate of choice? To do that, you have to create an “unfair” advantage by continuously promoting your expertise and value as a problem solver through as many channels as possible throughout the entire hiring process.

25 Ways

“25 Ways I Add Value to Your Organization”

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10 Reasons to Purge Your Professional Networks


About once a year, I go through a purge of my professional networks. I do it more often with social media networks as “friends” drop off the radar, or some posts from friends/acquaintances are nothing but hyper-political rants (I plead guilty to the occasional rant myself), age-old video retreads, or just offensive content.

But professional networks represent (or should) a different collection of individuals who are trusted contacts where you can exchange ideas, job leads, and other opportunities. Not everyone you know or have known should get in to your networks (a policy I embrace). The quality of your network is tied directly to the quality of the professionals in it.

Here are 10 reasons to purge your professional network on a regular basis.

  1. The decision for who you select for your network (other trusted professionals) should be grounded in your overall network (LinkedIn, Twitter, others) and career strategy.
  2. Your definition of “trusted professional” may change over time as many in your network seek to help others first,  while some seem to always seek help from others first. I receive a number of requests on a daily basis from people I do not know to join my LinkedIn network. If they are members of a client organization which subscribes to my career strategy services, seminars, or consulting, I generally accept the request after reviewing their profile.
  3. Your first-degree connections usually are with people already in your offline network that you’ve known since “pre-network” days. They are the first layer of your multidimensional network.
  4. You can have too many first-degree connections, but you can’t have too many trusted first-degree connections. You aren’t trying to be the Ashton Kutcher of LinkedIn, because that’s not the purpose of professional networks. Trusted first-degree connections are those folks who can facilitate introductions and connections to others in their networks. Remove contacts who may not be able to assist here.
  5. Review your participation in network discussion groups; you want your participation in those groups to reflect your current career and professional interests. When those change, think about dropping those discussion groups that are no longer pertinent and joining others that now are.
  6. Review your endorsements and recommendations to determine if they reflect your current career position; if not, remove them. Purge (or reprioritize) any stale skills in the endorsements as well.
  7. Review any documents, photos, presentations you may have in your chosen professional network to ensure they still reflect your current career position; if not, delete or update them as necessary.
  8. Rethink keywords used in your profile that others may search on and ensure those keywords remain current and germane to your current or future career strategy.
  9. Be sure to purge dead links to blogs, YouTube videos, websites and ensure the active links provide helpful information for others. Be seen as a resource for others first, and others will gladly return the favor.
  10. When receiving requests to join your network, you have several options available: You can accept, reply to a request (to ask for more information from the requestor), ignore a request, or report the request as spam. Ask yourself: “Which response will enhance the quality of my existing network?”

For your professional network to function like a well-oiled “reciprocal opportunity machine,” it will require two important components: your finely tuned expertise (skills, knowledge, experience and accomplishments), and the quality of those unique trusted relationships in that network.

Recommended: The Power Formula for LinkedIn Success and Twitter Power 3.0




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An Overlooked Fast Track to Your Next Job

Job board

Professional Association Job Boards: A Great Bet for Steamlining Your Career Strategy

Besides the and job boards of the world, there’s another type of online job board that I and many of my colleagues have used with great success over the years to find highly qualified job candidates. Many professional associations at the local, state, regional, and national level offer online job boards (or job banks) where employers can post job vacancies and members can post résumés. A smart career strategy includes posting your résumé to these job boards – especially at the local chapter level.

When I worked in the oil exploration industry, I could quickly find highly qualified candidate résumés from the American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG) job bank list serv (way before the Internet was around). Later in my career, it was easy to locate qualified technical and product marketing writers through the local chapter of the Society for Technical Communication (STC) online job bank.

A significant advantage such job boards offer is that some level of candidate prescreening is already addressed, especially at the local level and especially if you are active in the local chapter of that professional association. The probability of a hiring manager being personally familiar with a job candidate is much higher at the local level, especially in tight-knit professional communities. Attending local association meetings is a great way to network with others in your particular field, meet new colleagues, stay in touch with former co-workers, and add to your own technical or professional skills.

Many times I would find more than one qualified individual to bring in for an interview from these local association chapter job banks, and I very likely had worked with many candidates in the past, which made the vetting process quicker and easier since I already had some familiarity with their knowledge, skills, expertise, and likeability.

Here’s what I suggest:

  1. Join a professional association in your field and get involved with the local chapter by attending meetings, volunteer on a committee, write articles for the chapter newsletter, give chapter presentations.
  2. Get involved with the professional association on a larger scale, by writing articles for any peer-reviewed journals it publishes and by presenting at regional or national conferences.
  3. Ensure that the association’s job bank (especially the local branch) has your most recent achievement-focused résumé.

Don’t overlook the job banks in local professional associations; there’s less competition than with the larger generic boards mentioned previously and your name recognition factor will be much higher with hiring managers looking qualified candidates.



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Reprint: Confessions of a Résumé Reader


(I discovered this article, written in 2003 by Douglas B. Richardson, that still rings true in 2015 about what hiring managers are looking for on a résumé and in a candidate. It’s a long read, so apologies upfront, but worth it.)

You’ll write a better document if you know how it’s read!

Can we talk…before you write your résumé, that great magnum opus that lauds your life, bowls me over with your accomplishments and tells me that you’re unique?

Assume I’m a prototypical résumé reader: a headhunter, recruitment coordinator, add screen, human resources assistant and hiring manager rolled into one. You’ll save a lot of grief by understanding the basic principles of how I process your résumé.

How I Think

I’m not a bad person, and I try to do my job responsibly. However, I won’t abandon my human nature and treat you with saintly objectivity. If you annoy me and I retaliate by discarding your résumé, there’s no appeal. No one double-checks my judgment or rummages through the trash and pleads, “Please! Save this résumé?” You’re gone, pal.

Discarded résumés usually fall into two categories: those that try my patience and those that tax my credulity. Résumés in the first category usually don’t receive enough attention to merit entry into the second group. So let’s be clear from the outset: If you fail to respect my time, make me impatient, try to con me, exaggerate or misrepresent your résumé history, so are your chances of employment with my company.

The First Great Principle

Look, I’m busy – always. So please, all you résumé writers, give me a break. [A recent ad] pulled 258 responses, all of which have to be screened by Monday. I received résumés that are eight pages long with tiny margins, hand-lettered with Olde English calligraphy, printed on bright purple paper or bound in simulated leather. On some résumés, the white-out liquid weighs more than the paper. I received 26 replies from “bottom-line oriented, shirtsleeves go-getters.” And 14 from candidates who want “a challenging position in a progressive company that will allow me to utilize my skills and experience, grow in my career and (oh yes!) contribute to the goals of the company,” I have read them all. Some fun.

The harsh reality is that no matter how much time and effort you put into writing your résumé, it won’t get a thorough reading the first time through. Initially, I’ll scan it for 25 seconds. On the basis of that cursory review, I’ll determine whether yours should hit the round file or merit more thoughtful reading–perhaps three minutes’ worth.

Scanning is tougher for me if your résumé is hard to read, poorly organized or weighs more than a pound. I like wide margins, clean type (at least 10 or 12 point), clear headings, a logical format, bold and italic typeface that helps guide my eye, and selective use of bullets calling my attention to important points.

(Remember, a bullet is an aggressive visual stunt which says, “Look here! Now!” Twenty bullets in a row dilute the effect.)

Many experts believe a résumé shouldn’t exceed two pages. Some candidates use this rule as an excuse to load up the two pages like a rush hour subway train. They resort to minuscule margins, and apply a Moby Dick narrative style to weep into a detailed personal history. (“I was born at an early age, and from that day forth I had a dream…”), replete with adjectives, adverbs, and polysyllabic words. This makes for hard reading.

Where’s the Beef?

If, when reading a résumé, my eyes can fly down the page, stopping naturally on highlighted information, a little voice in my head says, “Thank you for understanding my job and how bored I get scanning all these résumés.” By understanding my needs, you’ve kindled a little warmth in me. It can’t hurt.

The most readable format isn’t a substitute for content that doesn’t deliver. It’s not my job to be charitable. It’s to be suspicious, cynical, and conservative. This is to prevent us from hiring a pig in a poke. We’re professional risk reducers! We look at everything in terms of risk: Who trusted you before? Was their judgment trustworthy? What did they trust you with? How long did they trust you? What responsibilities did they give you? Did you do anything with those duties? (I can make you responsible for flying to the moon, but did you get there?)

We résumé writers live in fear that a glossy presentation may mask real problems with performance, personality or potential. We’ve been lied to in every conceivable way. One candidate claimed to be “a marketing representative for a major multinational transportation goods and services company.” In reality, he sold snow tires at the Harrisburg, PA Goodyear tire outlet. We know you’re trying to put your best foot forward, and we respect honest attempts to polish your apple. But we fear that underneath it all lies a rotten apple–or worse, no apple at all.

So don’t take our ritual joust personally.  You can brag as effectively as possible, but I’ll try to poke holes in your claims. I’ll look for excuses to screen you out, not in. If you survive the first pass, I’m pleased. I’m not out to get you. I’m out to reduce that stack of 258 résumés to five.

Make it to the second round, and I’ll get out the fine-toothed comb and the BS meter. Does your sequence of employment, advancement, and accomplishments make sense? Do I detect a note of defensiveness in an abstract phrase like, “Left after 14 years to seek new career challenges”? Did you make too many changes? On the plus side, did you consistently seek responsibility and next challenges? Did you stay for the right amount of time in each position? If you survive this round, you win our joust and go to the castle to meet the princess.

A Clear Direction

What I’m looking for most is a clear-cut sense of career direction and momentum–or at least, valid reasons why you made your job choices and changes. Don’t assume, therefore, that if you dump a bunch of unorganized data on my desk, I’ll fill in the gaps to make sense out of your past. That’s your job.

Start by asking if you’re spending too much time describing what you want, not what the company wants. Consider the time-honored practice of writing an objective. Who cares about your objective? For instance, Objective: Growth-oriented position in an innovative, friendly environment leading to management responsibility.

[Donn’s note: “Objective” statements are no longer considered a positive attribute of résumés by many hiring managers because of the obvious self-serving nature of such statements. Instead, write a professional summary that captures your high-level accomplishments and value-add strengths. See the “Profile” below.]

Within the first few seconds, I want to know five things:

  1. Your current level. Level is generally measured in terms of years of experience, title, or other responsibility, which may tell me how flat or steep your learning curve is and how much I’ll have to pay you.
  2. The roles and functions you can perform.
  3. Settings you’ve performed them in. If they’re similar to ours, I’m likely to believe you can repeat your previous triumphs with my company. Your past settings also say a lot about the kind of places in which you want to work.
  4. Past experience. That is, what have you done?
  5. Current expertise. What do you know?

PROFILE: “15 years of diverse general management, operations and marketing experience with regional and national real estate firms and a multinational electronics manufacturer. Wharton MBA with particular expertise in real estate asset, property and turnaround management; leasing, marketing and operations. Financial planning, capital investment, budgeting and pricing. Strategic planning, business development and market analysis. Recruiting, training and management of interdisciplinary work teams.”

Résumé readers live in fear that a glossy presentation may mask real problems with performance, personality, or potential.

This profile serves as an executive summary of the claims you promise to support with specific information in your résumé. It tells me what to look for and teaches me, in effect, how to read your résumé. It’s not pushy or overblown; it has a nice objective ring to it [Donn’s note: the “objective” in the Profile statement is not overt and is expressed in the language of expertise and accomplishment.] I like that because my defenses relax (slightly).

The Elements of Style

The impression you make in the body of the résumé depends on the words and music. That is, I look both at what you claim and how you claim it. Like a diving or gymnastics judge, I deduct points for anything that jars my sensibilities, either in content or presentation. You can blow it through a single, humongous gaffe (misspelling your name at the top of page two, claiming “Ten years of management experience” when you have only worked seven years), or through the cumulative effect of several small negatives.

This piece of truly lousy writing would be sufficient:

“Progressive experience in contribution to success of aggressively initiated cutting edge marketing initiatives through numerous constituent interactions and innovative research oriented planning interfaces.”

Whew! Score: 1.2 from the Russian judge. More syllables do not greater credibility make. This is pompous, verbose, turgid, self-important, and grandiose. (For the record, it’s “progressively responsible,” not “progressive”, which was a political party based in Wisconsin in the early 1900s.)

If you want to earn my respect, skip the varnish and adornments and let your accomplishments speak for themselves. Pretend you get $1,000 for every adjective and adverb you leave out. Many are merely “invisible words” that don’t provide real information. They don’t register with us. We don’t even see them, much less believe them. Typical examples include: “results oriented,” “highly motivated,” “significantly,” and “dynamic.”

If you must use an adjective, make sure it’s quantitative, or at least objective (all, first, new, biggest, profitable, complete). Don’t use qualitative or subjective terms such as: “impressive,” “creative,” “excellent,” “major,” “significant,” “motivated.” Anyone can claim these qualities. Since I have no way of knowing if they’re true, I discount them by at least 90%. The same holds true with such adverbs as “proactively,” “aggressively,” “innovatively,” “uniquely,” “amazingly,” “incredibly,” “universally,” “cosmically,” and “astonishingly.”

I also knock off points for wimpy verbs: “aided,” “participated in,” “involved with,” “joined,” “helped with,” “helped with.” These don’t tell me what you did, merely that you were there. Start thinking and writing in past-tense transitive verbs: “wrote report,” “negotiated lease,” “managed sales force,” “conducted primary research,” “extinguished fire,” “won gold medal.” I like past-tense verbs because they refer to events that happened and are therefore verifiable. Knowing this keeps you honest.

I also love numbers, mainly because they’re objectively measurable. We can argue all day about what constitutes a “significant improvement” in sales. But if you write that you “increased new territory customer sales by 23% in seven months,” I can draw a conclusion about whether that’s significant. Second, numbers are inherently credible because they can be checked. And very large numbers make a lasting impression even if I forget what they refer to. For instance, I might not remember what that $55 million transaction was all about or what you did, but I’ll remain impressed by $55 million of anything.

For instance, instead of saying, “press secretary of a large state agency” (yawn), say “Director of Communications for the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare, a geographically diverse $4.6 billion agency with more than 39,000 employees.” Even though a press secretary might only talk with 150 or so employees, those numbers sure stick, don’t they?

[Donn’s note: be careful about exaggerating official job titles…they can be checked out…expanding on the responsibility to include quantitative information is always a plus.]

And this shows that I also respect titles since they suggest that someone else thought enough of you to make you responsible for something. If you’ve got it, flaunt it. Résumés are no place for false modesty.

If you can’t mention an employer’s name for some reason, describe it fully, as in “world’s largest producer of high technology fasteners” or “Fortune 50 pharmaceutical manufacturer.” Knowing who previously employed you can affect how I perceive you and the quality of your achievements.

As a typical résumé reader, I prefer tight, matter-of-fact documents. It’s also gratifying when the information is well organized so that each item hits my brain just when my mental organizing apparatus signals a name for it. This is a pleasant sensation, akin to the one I get when I pass the résumé of the individual through the initial hiring screen and set up a job interview.

(First appeared at Copyright © 2002 ADAMS Technologies.)

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Part 3: Do You Need Professional Career Help? Coaches, Recruiters, and Résumé Writers

Do I need Professional Help

YOU are the Best Option for Writing Your Cover Letter and Résumé

It’s been said that if you give a man a fish, you have fed him for today. Teach a man to fish, and you have fed him for a lifetime. Having someone else develop your résumé for you is the equivalent of them giving you a fish for the day, and if that’s good enough for you today, fine. But what about tomorrow, and the day after that?  What you really want is to be fed for a lifetime by being able to write your own cover letters and résumés, and develop first-rate interview skills for whatever job or career change you find yourself in today and in the future. You might need some help, but you should be responsible for writing—and rewriting—that résumé and cover letter.

I don’t “typically” rewrite cover letters or résumés for career strategy clients because I don’t know their expertise anywhere close to their own knowledge of it. (I say, “typically,” because if a client really has no clue and they specifically request that I provide a rewrite, I will.) I do, however, suggest changes to résumés and cover letters that get clients out of the “I, me, my, mine” context approach, and encourage them to rethink their skills, knowledge, experience, and expertise in a manner that takes more of a consultant’s approach to solving other people’s problems. That means promoting how your expertise provides future benefits to the hiring manager.

No one but you knows the extent of the skill, the breadth of experience, the depth of knowledge, the decision making, the problem solving that goes behind every bulleted item on your résumé, and no one can express it better than you because you lived it. You can learn how to best express it in meaningful terms that address the needs of a hiring manager. That skill feeds you for a lifetime, and that’s what I teach in my books, seminars, personal consults (for subscribing organizations), and in 2016, online videos and workbooks.

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PART 2: Do You Need Professional Career Help? Coaches, Résumé Writers, Recruiters

Do I need Professional Help

Professional Résumé Writers

Let me start off right away with this: I am not a proponent of having someone else—a résumé writer, for example—document your professional skills, knowledge, and experience for your career strategy. Your mileage may differ if you’ve had a positive experience. No doubt there are truly skilled and knowledgeable résumé writers who understand how to best present your experience in a favorable light based on the information you provide them. But rephrasing your verbiage using a thesaurus and reformatting your content in a pleasing template will not necessarily garner the interest of a hiring manager.

Many résumé writers are freelance writers who perhaps specialize in business writing or business communications. Some may have certifications such as Certified Leadership & Talent Management Coach, Certified Professional Résumé Writer (CPRW), Nationally Certified Résumé Writer (NCRW), while others may have little or no experience in career counseling or in human resources – or even have years of experience vetting candidate résumés. Entrusting someone who does not have near the knowledge of your own experience as you do to write your résumé can be a risky investment.

What about using a Certified Resume Writer?

A “certified résumé writer” obtains certification by paying a fee to first joint a national association, pay another fee to have résumé samples reviewed, pay another fee for a certification review/exam, and if any part of the exam is failed, pay another fee for re-examination six or more months later. Continuing Education Units (CEUs) are awarded for books published on writing résumés and cover letters, and for other education participation.

That’s all well and good and serves to provide some degree of competency for those who wish to become certified résumé writers (there are checklists and study guides available to help along the way).

A word about “guarantees” from anyone offering career help for money. No one can offer a guarantee that you will find a job with their personal assistance as there just are too many other variables beyond any one person’s control that influence one hiring manager’s decision to hire. Changes in hiring practices, job market fluctuations at different times and in different regions of the country, the overall up and down gyrations of the economy, even your likeability factor dictate to varying degrees decisions to hire. Beware of anyone making any kind of guarantees of finding you a job or career and requiring an upfront payment. The only guarantee that can be offered realistically with a résumé writing service is that you are satisfied that the résumé someone else wrote adequately reflects your skills, knowledge, and experience. If you aren’t satisfied, you’ll probably receive a free rewrite (something you can do for yourself).

But the question remains: who is the expert on your previous experience, skills, and knowledge? Who is the expert on what it took to help the organization achieve some higher strategic objective or revenue goal? Whose fingerprints should be all over the documents that attest to your expertise? Who knows best the long hours, the endless meetings, the challenges you met and overcame for every bulleted item on your résumé? I think you know the answer to those questions.

Next Post: Why YOU are the Best Option for Writing Your Résumé and Cover Letter

P.S. Many thanks to the folks who have recently elected to follow me on Twitter!

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Do You Need Professional Help? Coaches, Recruiters, and Résumé Writers

 Do I need Professional Help

 (This is the first of a 3-part blog post. The comments represent my own experience reinforced by nearly 30 years in various hiring manager positions where I have reviewed over one thousand cover letters and résumés, conducted hundreds of job interviews, and hired and managed countless technical/scientific, marketing, and communications professionals. Comments also reflect my experiences with hundreds of career strategy clients showing them how to shape a career strategy from the hiring manager’s perspective.)

In my May 2013 post on “Coaching” I related a story about participating in a panel discussion at a national conference with an HR representative, an executive coach, two professional recruiters, and a certified life coach.  We were asked to answer a variety of questions about the job market, résumés, cover letters, interviews, job and career strategies, and so on. But that experience revealed that not all career professionals are created equal. Refer to that post for the details.

Recruiters and Headhunters

Some companies use recruiters to screen résumés from applicants while others may use HR personnel (or internal recruiting subcontractors) for the task. Throughout most of my experience, hiring managers provide HR or a recruiter with the necessary requirements and prerequisites for the available position based on the overall team need.  When working with HR, they establish a competitive compensation package to start with. HR or the recruiter forwards to the hiring manager’s attention only those résumés that meet the job criteria. This approach streamlines the process for everyone involved and is an efficient way to determine which candidates deserve additional evaluation.

I have worked with internal and external recruiters in the past—some great; some not so great. The very good ones listen to what I need in a candidate and forward ONLY those résumés that meet that criteria. They also help candidates put a polish on certain elements of a résumé to better address job prerequisites. The not-so-good recruiters often forward résumés to me that reflect their own assessment of the candidate’s expertise, regardless of my stated requirements. But here’s the thing: a recruiter can forward to me a résumé that meets every single item on my “needs” list, but I, as the hiring manager, still have the final word on who gets called in for an interview. I need to get an in-person “feel” for a candidate not only through structured interview techniques, but also to gauge that candidate’s “likeability factor.”

Given that, reports that the average recruiter (not the hiring manager) spends six seconds scanning a résumé, looking at the candidate’s name, current and past titles, start and end dates of positions, employers and education. Hiring managers when first scrutinizing résumés spend about 10 seconds on the upper 2/3 of Page One. When recruiters are involved in the hiring process, résumés of people who meet the specific criteria as set by the hiring manager are forwarded on to the hiring manager for further evaluation.

While the use of recruiters can expedite that aspect of the hiring process, the organization must respond with expedited offers to qualified candidates to realize efficiencies and effectiveness. I’ve had many great candidates who were first vetted by recruiters become lost to competitors because the organization was slow to respond with a job offer, and any perceived cost savings associated with recruiters in the hiring process went out the window.

Using recruiters works for some and some folks steer clear of recruiters for many reasons. Just be sure you understand how the process works, and remember that the person who knows your career expertise best is you.

Next post: Résumé Writers

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Résumé Disconnects: Watch Out For These!


I continue to see client résumés that have several important disconnects on them that will stop a hiring manager from considering the candidate further. Here are three that get little press but can have a significant influence on the Continuum of Belief I recently wrote about here.

Disconnect Between Functional Expertise and Employment History

Whether you list your functional skills/expertise in a table or bulleted list, be sure that the expertise you claim comes from actual work experience, degrees, licenses, or certifications that you already possess and not seminars, webinars, blogs, college coursework, or books. You can’t claim to have expertise in “Ammonia Refrigeration” or “Forensics and Valuation” in your areas of expertise, but then state “currently preparing for Mechanical Contractor License” or “CPA certification (or “Accounting degree”)  in progress” elsewhere–especially if none of your work experience explicitly mentions “ammonia refrigeration” or “forensics and valuation.”  You must connect the dots because the hiring manager will try to as well.

Do not confuse limited knowledge or experience with expertise. This is seen by many hiring managers as a tactic to disguise or minimize insufficient minimal education or experience. Such disconnects are a red flag to anyone responsible for hiring people.

Disconnect Between Functional Expertise and Accomplishment

If you claim some specific expertise in that “functional skills/expertise” table but there’s no mention of an accomplishment or achievement that incorporated that expertise, there could very well be a disconnect in the mind of the hiring manager scanning your résumé. Be sure some of those keywords used in your “Areas of Expertise” table correlate to some work-related accomplishment. Make the connection!

Disconnect Between Accomplishment/Achievement and Duties/Responsibilities

All too often I see client résumés that list ordinary duties and responsibilities as “accomplishments.” Either candidates are trying to pass themselves off as achievers or they don’t understand the differences that separate duties/responsibilities and task completions from valued accomplishments. If generating management reports is part of your duties and responsibilities, don’t list “management report generation” as an accomplishment! It is a task you completed as part of your duties. Hiring managers are wise to this disconnect and it will disqualify you from further consideration.

Getting hired has been, is, and will always be about what the hiring manager needs. Address those needs rather than your own and you’ll continue moving forward in the hiring process.

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3 Critical Factors for Getting a Job Offer: No. 3 – Your Value Proposition

value proposition

Your Value Proposition

The third critical factor for getting a job offer is your value proposition. Your value proposition clearly states (in writing and verbally) the essence of:

  • How your expertise solves problems or better positions your audience (hiring manager, contract manager, client, etc.)
  • How your audience benefits from your expertise (quantified value, such as revenues generated, costs avoided, percent improvement)
  • Your unique differentiation (why you are the best available solution or what’s different from/better than what other candidates may offer)
  • The benefits of your expertise in the language of your target audience (which may be different from how you speak to your skills, knowledge, and experience)

A solid value proposition is the core of any career strategy and is a message that describes how you as an individual uniquely create value for clients, companies, and stakeholders. It is the primary reason why your services should be selected by a prospective employer or client over all other competitors. It is an elevator pitch of sorts that answers the question: “Why should I hire you?” The elements that comprise your professional brand support the essential message of your professional value proposition. Bundled together, they remove all others from consideration for the job or contract. Getting hired is never about you or your awesome experience. It’s about how you can and will address the needs of the hiring manager going forward.

A carefully planned strategy designed to shorten the time necessary to get hired, promoted, or for a career transition focuses and reinforces your unique competitive advantages. In today’s aggressive job market, a personal strategy for developing your career is a must. Without it, you’re likely to become just part of someone else’s plan to develop their own.

That’s why it’s important that you ask yourself every day: “What did I do today to create that unique advantage for my career strategy?”

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