Category Archives: Résumés

Word of Warning: Snake Oil Career Vitalizer Elixer (Part II)

MMAYO-Clark-Stanley-Snake-Oil

In Part I, I addressed the dangers of relinquishing control of your career strategy to others with or without credentials (especially those earned online), and little to no experience vetting candidates they will actually hire. There are comedians, storytellers, and TV reality stars performing career coaching and résumé services that advocate making résumés more interesting or unique for hiring managers who are bored to tears reviewing typical résumés. Some of those folks have a few happy, satisfied clients.  “It’s about taking your brand to the next level,” some claim, by using narrative and other rhetorical devices. But they miss the boat when it comes to why hiring managers are uninterested and what’s needed to stimulate their interest.

Here’s the missing ingredient from their “taking it to the next level” approach: it’s how your brand, communicated largely through accomplishments and achievements, promotes the future benefits of your expertise that will interest hiring managers. Not narrative (do not use narrative formats as they are difficult for a hiring manager to scan for key words); not “interesting” entries.

I know of no hiring manager from my past experience who wanted to be entertained (on purpose anyway) screening résumés; it was an exercise in frustration most of the time searching for a clue as to a candidate’s potential for making the short list. Here’s how you make a résumé an interesting read:

  • Populate it with accomplishments and achievements (quantified, where possible) and use bold typface to highlight them
  • If you have a few articles published in peer-reviewed journals, place that list under the “Publications” heading (nothing says “expert” better than being published)
  • Include a link to your blog that addresses important issues in your field or industry
  • Include awards and honors you have received from recognized professional associations and employers (service awards and “employee of the month” awards don’t count)

Now THAT makes for an interesting read from the hiring manager’s perspective!

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Want to receive a free copy of my Career Strategy Tip Sheets? You get 5 bundled tip sheets (PDF) for career strategy, cover letters, résumés, job interview, and salary negotiation. Just let me know your thoughts on this or any blog post–or let me know of a career topic you’d like me to discuss from the hiring manager’s perspective.

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 Donn LeVie Jr. is a former hiring manager for Fortune 500 companies (Phillips Petroleum, Motorola, Intel Corporation, and others) and has worked in the federal government (NOAA) and in academia as an adjunct faculty lecturer in the Department of Natural Sciences and Mathematics for the University of Houston (Downtown Campus). He is the author of Strategic Career Engagement(September 2015), Runner-Up of the 2016 International Book Award for Business: Careers, 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).  He leads career strategy seminars at conferences, business/trade schools, colleges and universities, and U.S. military veterans organizations. He also offers a Career Engagement Evaluation subscription program to associations as a member benefit.

Does your conference need a keynote speaker or a career strategies seminar for conference attendees? Donn’s 2017 engagement calendar is starting to fill up…contact Donn directly for more information or use the Contact page on this blog.

Don’t miss out on my blog posts…follow me now on Twitter

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Word of Warning: Snake Oil Career Revitalizer Tonic! (Part 1)

MMAYO-Clark-Stanley-Snake-Oil

It’s no secret that the professional career advice field overflows with tips, suggestions, strategies, and methods that run the gamut from the banal to the brilliant. Part of the problem lies with the nature of the employment process and the many variables that do lie beyond the control of applicants and employers alike. The global economy, the Fed’s influence on interest rates, government regulation, health care costs, competition from foreign markets, political instability overseas, the list is a long one.

And then there are some variables where candidates do have control over their career direction. One of those controllable variables is how you choose to get help with various aspects of your career, be it cover letter, résumé, job interview skills, building brand equity, or overall career strategy. For example, if you enjoy reading, there are career strategy books written by a dating expert from The Millionaire Matchmaker TV show, by two psychologists/personality experts, by an ex-Wall Street management expert-turned-career-coach, a former fund manager and stock broker, the president of a global consulting firm, an occupational therapist, and several from prominent names in academic leadership development. The applied value of books by such authors for getting hired or charting a career I leave to be determined by the reader.

Similar situations can be found with the plethora of different coaching titles and certifications that can be had in 3 days for as little as $795 as this Google search shows.

certified coaching google

The Universal Coaching Institute offers certification in, well, just about any conceivable area you can think of. The IAP College offers a part-time online Career Coaching certificate for $97 where they promise the course can be done in as little as four weeks. How confident would you be with someone who earned an online career coaching certificate in one month helping YOU with YOUR career you’ve spent years developing? I’ve worked with some outstanding career strategists who have spent years honing their skills in corporate positions before venturing out on their own. Their experience and knowledge has been tested in the crucible of time, and as Indiana Jones once said, “It’s not the years, honey….it’s the miles.”

There are comedians, storytellers, and TV reality stars performing career coaching and résumé services that advocate making résumés more interesting or unique for hiring managers who are bored to tears reviewing typical résumés. Some of those folks have a few happy, satisfied clients.  “It’s about taking your brand to the next level,” some claim, by using narrative and other rhetorical devices. But they miss the boat when it comes to why hiring managers are uninterested and what’s needed to stimulate their interest.

In Part II of this post, I’ll explain why it’s the hiring manager and not the career coach who determines the criteria for “taking your brand to the next level.”

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Want to receive a free copy of my Career Strategy Tip Sheets? You get 5 bundled tip sheets (PDF) for career strategy, cover letters, résumés, job interview, and salary negotiation. Just let me know your thoughts on this or any blog post–or let me know of a career topic you’d like me to discuss from the hiring manager’s perspective.

ALL TIP SHEET COVERS TOGETHER






 Donn LeVie Jr. is a former hiring manager for Fortune 500 companies (Phillips Petroleum, Motorola, Intel Corporation, and others) and has worked in the federal government (NOAA) and in academia as an adjunct faculty lecturer in the Department of Natural Sciences and Mathematics for the University of Houston (Downtown Campus). He is the author of Strategic Career Engagement(September 2015), Runner-Up of the 2016 International Book Award for Business: Careers, 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).  He leads career strategy seminars and “Talent Spotting” programs for hiring managers at conferences, business/trade schools, colleges and universities, and U.S. military veterans organizations. 

Does your conference need a keynote speaker or a career strategies seminar for conference attendees? Donn’s 2017 engagement calendar is starting to fill up…contact him directly at donnlevie@austin.rr.com for more information.

Don’t miss out on his blog posts…follow him now on Twitter @donnlevie.

 

 

 

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5 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Include Testimonials on Your Résumé

Testimonials-and-reviews

There’s a trend I’ve been reading about in different discussion groups about using testimonials on résumés in addition to or even in place of references. Many of the most vocal proponents are résumé writers who promote the idea that if it’s good for LinkedIn, it should be good for your résumé. It’s a way for others reviewing your qualifications to hear what others say about your expertise. Sounds like a good idea – at least at first. But here are 5 reasons (in no particular order) for not including them on your résumé:

  1. Hiring managers haven’t asked for this information on résumés. The final arbiter of which information is preferred on a résumé should be the individual making the hiring decision. Not HR (usually), not the career coach, and not the résumé writer. Hiring managers do not read résumés, and they typically spend less than 10 seconds on the upper 2/3 of Page 1 where the most recent information is located. Testimonials at the end of your résumé may not get read (that’s why I advocate keeping your References as a separate document).
  2. Testimonials should already be available on the candidate’s LinkedIn profile so it’s unnecessarily redundant on a résumé. I am constantly counseling clients and seminar attendees to avoid redundancy with information in their cover letters and résumés and to get to the point quickly. Repeating a testimonial that is just as easily available on a LinkedIn profile violates that proverb.
  3. Hiring managers want to be able to ask references their own questions about a candidate’s background and expertise. Most hiring managers will not settle for “canned” testimonials on a résumé in place of references. They have their own approach to vetting candidates and their own particular questions they want answers to.
  4. You can’t take at face value that the testimonial was written by the reference. The testimonial could have been written by the candidate (or a résumé writer) with the reference simply agreeing to the verbiage. Book authors do this all the time with blurbs from experts or celebrities.
  5. There’s a question of which party actually receives the added value: the candidate or the résumé writer. Originally, I had 4 reasons why you shouldn’t include testimonials on your résumé, but another manager friend suggested I add this fifth one. According to her, the whole testimonial thing is like someone being sold an extended appliance warranty that statistically isn’t that great an investment. Most of the time, you’re paying for something that wasn’t used.

Résumé testimonials are more of an idea than actual practice now, but no doubt more instances of their use will be seen in the future. Perhaps hiring managers will come around to embracing their use on résumés. However, as hiring managers are under more pressure to do a better job vetting candidates, the cost of hiring the wrong employee is too great to not perform thorough due diligence.

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Want to receive a free copy of my Career Strategy Tip Sheets? You get 5 bundled tip sheets (PDF) for career strategy, cover letters, résumés, job interview, and salary negotiation. Just let me know your thoughts on this or any blog post–or let me know of a career topic you’d like me to discuss from the hiring manager’s perspective.

ALL TIP SHEET COVERS TOGETHER







My name is  Donn LeVie Jr. and I’m a former hiring manager for Fortune 500 companies (Phillips Petroleum, Motorola, Intel Corporation, and others) and have worked in the federal government (NOAA) and in academia as an adjunct faculty lecturer in the Department of Natural Sciences and Mathematics for the University of Houston (Downtown Campus). I am 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).  I lead career strategy seminars at conferences, business/trade schools, colleges and universities, and U.S. military veterans organizations. I also offer a Career Engagement Evaluation subscription program to associations as a member benefit.

Does your conference need a keynote speaker or a career strategies seminar for conference attendees? My 2016-2017 engagement calendar is starting to fill up…contact me directly at donnlevie@austin.rr.com for more information.

Don’t miss out on my blog posts…follow me now on Twitter @donnlevie and join in the jobs/career conversations at the Strategic Career Engagement LinkedIn discussion group. 

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HR Trends in Hiring You Need to Know

hr-changes

As social networking sites become more attuned to the needs of employers, research suggests that HR departments will change how they use video résumés, social and networking sites, and cover letters.

A study from 2009 found that:

  • 46% of employers (HR departments) prefered to receive résumés via email (41% attached; 5% embedded), 38% uploaded to the company web site (34% résumé copied in entirety; 4% in sections), and 7% preferred a paper résumé. None of the employers preferred to review a candidate’s résumé on a candidate’s own web page.
  • Companies with fewer than 100 employees preferred to receive résumés via email than larger compaines.
  • 71% of employers preferred the traditional chronological résumé format (21% prefer text format)
  • 56% of employers preferred a cover letter to accompany a résumé.

A 2015 study by the MacroThink Institute found that employer preferences were not projected to change for next two years. However, the use of video résumés was found to be a statistically significant change indicating a steady increase in the number of employers who will want to use video résumés two years from now.

The 2015 study suggested use of cover letters to decline over the next two years, but despite the expected growth of video résumés and decline of paper cover letters, the expected preference of cover letters is still nearly double that of video résumés.

Most practices and tools used by HR will remain relatively unchanged for the next couple of years, but social and professional networking, video résumés, and application tracking systems will become more prevalent.

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Want to receive a free copy of my Career Strategy Tip Sheets? You get 5 bundled tip sheets (PDF) for career strategy, cover letters, résumés, job interview, and salary negotiation. Just let me know your thoughts on this or any blog post–or let me know of a career topic you’d like me to discuss from the hiring manager’s perspective.

ALL TIP SHEET COVERS TOGETHER







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). He leads career strategy seminars at conferences, business/trade schools, colleges and universities, and U.S. military veterans organizations.

Does your conference need a keynote speaker or a career strategies seminar for conference attendees? Donn’s 2016-2017 engagement calendar is starting to fill up…contact him directly at donnlevie@austin.rr.com.

Don’t miss out on Donn’s blog posts…follow him now on Twitter @donnlevie and join in the jobs/career conversations at the Strategic Career Engagement LinkedIn discussion group.

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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 Monster.com and TheLadders.com 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.

donnspeakingcropped

 

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Reprint: Confessions of a Résumé Reader

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(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 http://www.synergyis.com. Copyright © 2002 ADAMS Technologies.)

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Don’t “Sell” Yourself; Promote Your Expertise Instead with a High Likeability Factor

Getting hired is NEVER about YOU!

Getting hired is NEVER about YOU!

I constantly encounter professionals (newbies and folks with lots of experience) who express anxiety when it comes to job interviews and being able to present themselves in a most favorable light. Part of the problem seems to be one of misplaced focus: on themselves. Of the 5 qualities I’ve observed in successful technical and marketing hires over 30 years, the ability to assume an attitude of working for yourself (i.e., a consultant’s attitude) is an important one to help frame the potential employee-hiring manager interaction. No one gets a paycheck out of the goodness of someone else’s heart–it’s about being able to solve problems and do the necessary work the position demands.

An achievement-focused résumé helps set the stage for potential successful interaction with those conducting interviews. While “duties and responsibilities” have their appropriate degree of importance on résumés, hiring managers want to more about what you accomplished than what did you do. It also helps when candidates ask probing questions about hiring manager expectations, concerns, project needs, etc.–much like a consultant would do for a potential client.

One question that I suggest candidates consider is: “What is your most pressing issue or project that I would be working on and how specifically can I contribute?” That forward-leaning question shows the hiring manager that you are tuned in to his or her objectives, and that your confidence in being the candidate of choice is clearly evident. The job interview is not the place or time to be meek or timid, but to express your confidence in your expertise and ability to contribute to the organization’s mission/vision–and to do so balanced with a high likeability factor (i.e., without arrogance).

Speaking from the former hiring manager’s perspective, what “sells” me on a candidate is his or her record of accomplishment and achievement as expressed on a résumé. I’m a believer in cover letters, and I strongly advocate in my seminars and individual coaching that candidates always include the cover letter as another document that attests to their expertise. Hiring managers will be sold on a candidate who can communicate (clearly and articulately) the future benefits of his or her expertise rather than the past features of their experience. The thing that sells a candidate is the value proposition; it’s the question a hiring manager asks in the form of: “Does this candidate have the demonstrated expertise and accomplishments that show he or she can regularly contribute to the higher strategic objectives of the organization?”

Getting hired is never about the candidate or the quality of the candidate’s “salesmanship”; it’s always about the hiring manager’s needs and concerns for the team, department, project, or company.

 

 

Tips for Creating an Achievement-Focused Résumé

One of the topics that generates the most interest at my seminar and workshops is how to create a résumé that emphasizes key accomplishments and achievements instead of one that reads like a career obituary. When a résumé overflows with duties and responsibilities, it’s a snoozer for hiring managers because EVERY candidate has duties and responsibilities. Make a hiring manager go on a fishing expedition for information he or she needs, and your chances for further consideration are greatly reduced.

I suggest creating a small table with 5 rows and 2 columns like the example below.

Situation What were the circumstances leading up to the accomplishment?
Task What task were you assigned for this situation?
Action What action(s) did you take to fulfill the task assigned?
Results Where were the results of the actions you took to fulfill the assigned task?
Restated for résumé How would you state this accomplishment in one short sentence for your résumé?

Here’s an example that I worked up an accomplishment from my last résumé:

Situation Technical publications function considering going from print to digital.
Task Create task force to evaluate costs, organizational impact, timetable, cost-savings
Action Obtain buy-in from all functional groups affected by shift to digital.
Results Reduced company printing costs by $2.3 million in two years.
Restated for résumé Reduced documentation printing/distribution costs by $2.3M in two years with minimal impact to participating organizations.

Breaking down your involvement with various company initiatives and projects using this table format helps you extract an accomplishment that contributes to the strategic objectives of the organization.

 

 

 

 
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Don’t Use an “Objective” Statement on Your Résumé! Please!

woman holding nose

If there’s one suggestion that bears repeating at frequent intervals to job seekers, it is this: Avoid including an Objective statement on your résumé. Please. Few things will get a hiring manager to quickly move on to the next résumé in the pile than some poorly worded, self-serving Objective statement.

Some résumé writers and career professionals continue to suggest using Objective statements, but they are quickly recognized by hiring managers as euphemisms for “I need a job.” Forget what other authors write about creating an awe-inspiring Objectives section on your résumé—it is self-serving, states the obvious, takes up precious space on the page, and is not read by hiring managers. Your objective, as implied in your crafted cover letter, is to sell the hiring manager on how you can help that hiring manager solve problems; don’t use your résumé to talk about you and your needs.

Here are some examples of useless, ineffective Objective statements:

Objective (for an electrical engineering position): To obtain a challenging Test Engineering position with a dynamic high technology company.

Objective (for a technical writer position): A senior-level technical communications position in a company that demands quality documentation focused on customer needs.

Objective (for a criminal investigation management position): Seeking a challenging position as a Deputy Chief Investigator where I can pursue my goals and be an important asset in the organization.

These Objective statements are all self-serving (“here’s what I want”) from individuals who have employee mentalities and thus fail in those critical initial few seconds to hook the hiring manager’s interest in his or her pursuit of finding a problem solver among the masses.

Next post, we’ll take a look at what you should use to replace the Objective statement: The Professional Summary.

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Keep a Log of Project Successes

This sounds like obvious advice, but far too many people think of their project accomplishments only when it’s time to update their résumé, often years later. By then, important details may have escaped their memory. Keeping a weekly log of project accomplishments and challenges helps keep you on course throughout the journey through minor adjustments, rather than having to make a major “dead reckoning” midcourse correction or as the project comes to a conclusion.

Here are just a few reasons why you should maintain a detailed project log regardless of the size of the project.

  • A log of past project accomplishments not only helps with crafting an attention-getting résumé, but serves as a project history and reference guide for when you encounter the same or similar projects later.
  • A detailed project log helps capture your thought processes and how you assimilate, formulate, and execute your ideas throughout the project history.
  • When you need talking points for an annual review, promotion opportunity, or job interview, you have the details handy.
  • A detailed project log shows you the dead ends you may have been down once, and can avoid them in the future for similar projects.
  • It helps you frame your participation as a contribution to the higher strategic objectives of the organization rather than as a “task completion” if you update your résumé further down the road.
  • A detailed project log helps you calculate reliable quantitative data (dollars earned, costs avoided, percent improvements, etc.) that further demonstrates your value as a solutions provider to the organization.

Participating in internal process improvement initiatives can pepper your résumé with notable accomplishments.

My friend Stan Smith was part of a division publishing initiative at a former employer where seven people were charged with designing a new plan for creating, managing, and disseminating technical information to address emerging changes in the publications world. While the cost to implement the 18-month plan was between $1.5 and $2 million dollars (in 1998), the initiative was projected to save $2.3 million dollars in publishing costs and overhead each year after implementation.

Even though Stan wasn’t responsible for the entire initiative, his contribution is mentioned on his résumé. In fact, his detailed weekly log entries were a significant component of the final published study that was presented to upper management.

My wife  kept a project log of how she prepared for taking the exam for the “Certified Fraud Examiner” designation. During the lengthy practice test and study sections, she noted which sections were harder than others, and mnemonics she created to help her memorize key information, terminology, and formulas. Her notes were later published through the certified fraud examiner association website as a study tool for others to use as they prepared for the hugely comprehensive exam.

If you are in the habit of keeping a project log, keep doing it; if not, today’s a good day to start.

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