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Monday, October 08, 2007
Personal Data and Job Search

Privacy in the job search. With job search going global, online databases, and networking sites, how do you find a job and protect your privacy at the same time? Many job seekers are experiencing this conundrum and, unfortunately, there is not a really good solution. The big job boards all promise they will do their best to protect your privacy but when it boils down to it, it’s up to you to be diligent.

Be careful what you reveal – NEVER, ever give anyone your Social Security number, driver’s license number or date of birth to anyone during your job search. So many people, especially those with a non-US background or of the older generation, still include their birthdates on their resume. Not only does this go beyond the line of the fair hiring laws in the US but it also gives identity thieves a place to start.

Be careful what you upload - Believe it or not, we once had a prospective client send us his 2006 federal tax return by accident. This could have been a fatal error if the client had uploaded the file by accident to a resume database for the entire world with a password to see.

Be careful to what you respond – Spammers, phishers and other online conmen are trolling the resume databases hoping for a lucky bite. If you are ever asked to download a file, complete something and email it back, or otherwise provide information, do not do it. Real employers do not ask for your information up front.

Expect spam – Offers for jobs doing commission-only work or financial services abound and the spammers are using the databases for harvesting your email address. What can you do? Complain to the job board and use the delete key. Do not respond to spam offers.

Google Earth is scary – If you’ve never used it, give Google Earth a test drive using your own address. When you put your resume out on the worldwide wed with your address on it, anyone can find your house. They can determine if you live in a nice neighborhood, if you have close neighbors, if you have a security fence, if you have dogs outside, etc. Now, do you really want to post your street address out there on the web?

Google yourself – I guarantee employers will be Googling you so do so yourself and see what pops up. Try it on Google Images, too. It makes you wonder if Big Brother hasn’t arrived, just in a different form than what Orwell imagined.


Friday, September 21, 2007
Wasted Time – Lost Opportunities

“I think it’s time to get my resume professionally prepared” is a phrase we hear fairly often. It is usually uttered by someone who has been in the job search for about six weeks or more and has had few interviews. I cringe when I think of the time the job seeker has wasted while trying to “do the resume” himself. Job search itself is a lengthy process, especially at the executive level of our clients so doing ANYTHING to actually make it take longer puzzles me.

So what makes people delay? Several things:

Budget – Time – Astuteness

The job seeker has a $100K education and twenty years experience in business; he’s embarrassed to admit that he, who knows himself better than anyone, has trouble writing his own resume. Reality is that smart executives know when to outsource something. You outsource when it’s cheaper, smarter, or when you just don’t have time to do it.

Let’s start with cheaper. If you are making $100,000 a year, you are averaging around $50 an hour. I’ve had clients tell me they’ve worked every night for a week on their resume and it still doesn’t work. Let’s say the job seeker spent 21 hours working on the resume (3 hours a night for a week). That would be $1050 of his time spent on something that doesn’t gain interviews for him. You can do the math – we’re cheaper, especially if you consider that “evening work” the job seeker did as “overtime” or “family time”. Lawyers hire other lawyers to represent them. Doctors hire other doctors to treat them. Smart execs hire Get Interviews for a new resume.

Next comes smarter. How often do you job search? Every three years is the national average so sometimes it’s more often and sometimes it’s less often. If you do something (write a resume) once every three or more years, are you going to be very good at it? No! Imagine if a computer programmer only wrote code for software once every three years! That software would be out-of-date, buggy, and not very professional. We write resumes every day so we know the market, know the trends, and know what employers are seeking.

Finally, time comes in – that precious commodity that you can’t purchase and you can’t retrieve. I recently saw a study that noted Americans spend more hours working than even the Japanese. Our home-time and family-time is extremely precious. Why waste it struggling to capture your professional value in a document? Rather than spending 21 hours, how about spending about 2 hours instead on your resume? That’s about the maximum time it takes for you on your side when you are working with our firm to develop the resume.


Time Gaps

Do you know anyone who has worked for the same company for thirty years? I don’t either, personally, but I occasionally still see them come my way when they are retiring or the company “downsized” to save on costs. It is fairly unusual for someone to have a continuous chronology of job experience these days. The average job lasts something like three years before there is a layoff or the employee moves on to greener pastures.

Another part of the “new employment order” is time gaps in employment. Most of the time, when someone is downsized, a date gap occurs, especially if the downsizing was a surprise. How many people have resumes that show a time gap after 2001 when the recession hit in the wake of 9/11? A very large proportion! It’s not unusual to see high level execs who started their own businesses at that time due to a layoff and who are now selling that business or retiring. Date gaps are not necessarily harbingers of doom and gloom!

There is also the “Sandwich Generation” – those of us who are in our forties who are “sandwiched” between raising children and caring for aging parents. Many people in this situation have no other choice than to take a leave of absence or some time away simply to be able to care for mom and dad. A date gap on the resume for family leave is quite common.

Many professionals take a year or eighteen months off to return to school for an advanced degree and that creates a gap in employment. Is it detrimental? Of course not!

So how do you handle date gaps? First of all, while you are doing whatever it is you are doing during the gap, make sure you keep up to speed on your industry. This is most important for technology professionals who get left behind by their peers if they simply take too long in the bathroom. It applies to other professions, too. If you want to change fields, you can take advantage of family leave to start working in a new direction – studying, volunteering, etc. The key is to not just “sit still”.

Second, don’t be afraid of them. Everyone has date gaps but that doesn’t mean you weren’t doing anything. You might be doing something VERY important during that period such as an internship or maybe traveling to a foreign country for immersion language training. You might just be staying home with dad to make sure he’s well-cared for, too. Whatever it is, you are doing something important so don’t be ashamed.

About the only date gap that I think is difficult to overcome in a job search is a prison term. That, too, seems to be failing further down on the list of “detriments to the career” if you watch the famous people making the news these days. I wonder how Martha handles her “date gap” on her resume?


Saturday, August 18, 2007
The Retirement Job

Most of you reading this are in the prime of your earning potential. You are making good money, you are climbing the career ladder at a steady pace, and retirement seems like a distant mountain on the horizon, miles and miles away. Some of you are nearer that mountain than others and it looms tall in your field of vision.

With the stock market taking a beating lately, many people are watching their retirement funds and chewing their fingernails. If you watch any of the cable news channels or business channels, it seems like every other commercial is from a financial management organization touting retirement funds management. Let’s face it – we have a huge population getting ready to hit retirement age and wondering what the heck they are going to do.

Recently, I’ve heard a new term being bandied around – the retirement job. If you retired ten years or longer ago, your idea of a retirement job was driving a golf cart to the next hole or traveling to the Grand Canyon in an RV. I’m not seeing that happening as much now. People are starting second careers when they retire (or even third or fourth careers).

I recently had a client who was 65 who was in a full-force job search. He had a second family with young children and he was adamant that he was good for the workforce for another 30 years. I don’t know if he was an optimist or in denial. We still rarely see 95 year olds in the workplace but we do see 70+ year olds out there working.

Usually, these “post retirement” workers are doing what the rest of us would call “fun jobs”. I recently took a trip to Hilton Head Island and met an interesting couple who operated a deep sea fishing boat. They had retired from their “real” jobs at retirement age and were now doing what they really wanted to do in a location that was very beautiful. They were having a ball not to mention making some pretty good income.

With Social Security being insecure for those of us borne by the Depression Era Kids and the Baby Boomer generation, maybe we should all start thinking about a “retirement job”. What do you want to do when you retire? As hard as our generation works, I suspect that after about a month of sitting on our sofas doing nothing but watching TV, we’ll all be itching to find something that exercises our brains and our bodies. By that time, kids will be out of college, houses will be paid for (hopefully) and we won’t be in the race to make tremendous amounts of money. We can do something fun.

What would your retirement job be? Here are a few ideas I’ve actually seen being executed by retirees: bookstore/coffee shop, bed & breakfast, organic vegetable gardening selling to specialty stores, boat concierge, luxury boat pilot, general aviation pilot, real estate agent, interior decorator, tour guide, furniture maker, gunsmith, and tutor.


Thursday, July 26, 2007
Include Me – Please!

Eagle Scout – 1973

Mensa Member

Science Club President – Smithville High School

Marathon Runner

Elder – Christ Episcopal Church

What do all these items have in common? They are all irrelevant to the ability of the job seeker to do the job. What else do they have in common? They are all items that might result in the exclusion of the candidate from consideration for an interview! Time and again, I see these type facts included on executive resumes and I always have a “DOH!” moment.

Job seekers writing their own resumes routinely include information in their resumes that has no bearing on their ability to do the job and could actually result in their being excluded from consideration. The gatekeeper in a hiring situation is facing a “stack” (albeit electronically) of resumes often topping 600 for a single online job posting. The first task at hand is to eliminate as many as possible. Most job seekers write their resumes with an eye toward inclusion when that is actually not the gatekeepers primary task.

You might say, “Well, Eagle Scout is a big accomplishment!” Yes it is – for a seventeen year old but it has no bearing on how a 40+ executive will perform as CEO. “But being a Mensa member is pretty exclusive!” you say? Also true, but Mensa has a popular reputation as being a group of individualists rather than team players (I’m not saying that reputation is accurate). “Science Club President shows ability to lead!” Really? Or was it a high school popularity contest? “Marathon runner shows you are in good health!” It also shows you will not be available a good many weekends of the year if travel or overtime is needed. “Elder shows gravitas and high ethics.” Goodness, how I wish that was still true in our society but sometimes elders of churches have proven to be the most twisted and criminal individuals in our midst; elder does not hold that pedestal place any longer.

Do you see where I am going with this? Job seekers use all sorts of arguments to justify the information they include on the resume but often the information included will just result in the EXCLUSION of the resume from consideration! We always try to look at information from the readers’ points of view and eliminate any exclusionary or “red flag” information from the resume. Sometimes that means we have to do some education of our clients about what is important and what is not. Clients sometimes have a hard time letting go of things because they are so emotionally attached.

You stay seated firmly in your job seeker’s chair and let us sit in the chair of the reader or hiring manager. We know what is important, what needs to be brought forth, and what needs to be left out to make sure you are NOT excluded from consideration from the very beginning!


Friday, July 13, 2007
The Reader

If you’ve read through our articles are previous blog entries, or have even had your resume critiqued by a member of our crack team of Resume Analysts, you have probably heard us refer to The Reader as our primary audience. While we work for our clients’ benefits and we strive to produce documents that will win interviews for our clients, our clients are not the audience for whom we write. We write for The Reader.

Who is The Reader? The Reader is the person who will be making one of several different decisions. The Reader will either be the person who conducts the “weeding out process”. Remember, resumes are not INCLUDED but rather EXCLUDED based on the content as judged by The Reader. The Reader may be the hiring manager, a recruiter, or even an admin assistant at the exclusionary stage of the game (the first hurdle).

The Reader may also be the interviewer(s) who structure the interview questions based on what they see on the resume. While most candidates are asked basically the same questions, the interviewers base specific questions upon the resume and use that to expand the interview session. For example, the interviewer might say “I see here on your resume that you have had experience working with Microsoft. What do you think you learned there that you can add to our company as a benefit?”

The Reader may also be a network contact who would be passing your resume on to a contact within the company. If The Reader in this situation sees a bad resume, he or she won’t endanger his/her reputation by making a recommendation for you. You might be told by the network contact that your resume was passed on when in reality it was round-filed. (It’s easier to fib and pass the buck than to tell a friend or colleague that his/her resume stinks.)

Ultimately, The Reader is the person making the hiring decision. Not only does the resume have to pass the earlier crowds of Readers but must support the hiring decision for the most important Reader – the one who makes the decision to hire or not.

It is for The Reader, or the crowd of Readers, for whom we write. Sometimes, clients don’t understand this and question the strategy we’ve used to include or exclude certain information. We realize the client has no objectivity and no concept of what The Reader wants or needs to see on a resume. We know what the Reader is seeking, though. It’s our job to know what The Reader wants to see and what will sink the client with the Reader if it’s included on the resume. While that Eagle Scout honor is huge in the mind of the client, more than likely The Reader could care less about it. We know that so sometimes we have to remind clients that we don’t write for them. We write for The Reader.


Thursday, June 21, 2007
The Decision-Maker

Everyone talks about getting the resume to the decision-maker. Prior to the hiring decision, though, other decisions have to be made. The first concern should be the decision made by the gatekeeper. The gatekeeper is the person doing the resume screening, either an administrative assistant or perhaps a recruiter. If your resume doesn’t pass their scrutiny, it will never make it to the decision-maker. A resume has to pass two tests, not just one.

Let’s examine the first person, and ultimately the most important person – the gatekeeper. This person is someone who has been given the task of searching Human Resource Information Systems (HRIS) or online resume databases for a certain set of keywords that match qualification requirements for candidates. Depending on if it’s a traditional employer or a recruiting firm, it may be an administrative assistant or it may be the recruiter.

The gatekeeper is looking first for keywords so it’s important that the resume have the correct industry buzzwords so the search technology will pick it up. Next the resume has to be viewed. A search on Monster’s database on a single keyword may bring up literally thousands of resumes; therefore, the gatekeeper narrows the search by using Boolean search techniques and stringing together several keywords. Candidates must have all the keywords to be “caught” by the system. The gatekeeper has now narrowed the pool to several hundred.

The next step is to sort the pool. Usually, the sort is done by hit counts or by how recent the resume was uploaded. Once caught, the resume has to pass the 45-second human-eye visual skim by the gatekeeper. The gatekeeper is influenced by initial appearance first of all (after all, he/she IS a human and we all like things that look neat and professional). Next, the gatekeeper glances at location of the candidate (especially if searching for local candidates). The summary is read first and then the rest of the resume gets a fast glance with job titles, years, special skills and education all getting attention.

It is now decision time. If the resume has what it takes – all the right factors and is persuasive in that 45 seconds – the gatekeeper will place it in the “consider pile”. The field narrows. At this point the road may fork and the entire consider pile goes up the ladder a step or the gatekeeper goes back and refines and narrows the field further with more careful study of the resumes in the “consider pile”.

A contingency recruiter usually is asked to present three to five candidates to the employer for consideration so the recruiter starts making screening phone calls. Many candidates dismiss these “screening calls” as non-interviews but look how far you’ve gotten to make it to the screening call! That call from the recruiter is pivotal and should be afforded ample preparation and treated as the first interview.

Once you get past the gatekeeper, you move on to the other key person in the process – the hiring manager. This person or persons (the decision may well be a group consensus) will interview selected candidates. Generally, the interview process involves several meetings or subsequent interviews to narrow the field. Then the final decision is made on which candidate gets the offer.

This is a long process and many candidates do not understand the time involved. The hiring process can actually take several weeks. Throughout the entire process, the resume has to be doing its job – selling you, the job seeker. That is a big order! A professionally prepared resume can make the difference between making it from that sea of millions in the online database to the offer letter that arrives via FedEx.


Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Here’s a story for you. A senior executive decided he had had enough of the rat race and decided he was going to ditch everything and go for a menial job that had no stress. He looked around and thought the hospitality industry seemed low stress so he applied for a job that paid $8 an hour as a desk clerk. During the interview, he was honest with the interviewer and said that he was looking for a menial job where he could relax and just do the required work. He admitted he had chosen the hospitality industry because the employees of the high-end hotels where he had always stayed on business did not seem stressed so he figured it was as good a place as any to start. He was offered the job but at a rate of $6.50 an hour. He proceeded to get upset and pointed out that the job was advertised at $8 an hour. The hiring manager pointed out some important things to him:

  • The advertised rate was a range and $8 an hour was for someone with at least three years experience. Since he had no experience, he had to start at the bottom of the range.
  • It appeared the executive had no concept of work ethic or customer service, both very important aspects of the hospitality industry, since he was leaving a high-level job for one where he could “coast”. That attitude essentially put him in the “warm body” category and warm bodies only rated the beginning rate.
  • The hiring manager pointed out that all jobs have stress related to them. A desk clerk would definitely say he had a stressful job on a high season day when there were 250 check-ins and 180 check-outs plus two conferences in progress. The hiring manager felt the executive would bail after his first experience with such a “non-stress environment” and therefore did not want to invest much in the hire.
  • The hiring manager was offended by the superior attitude the executive took about the hospitality industry and his belief that it consisted of menial jobs. The hiring manager had spent twenty years in hospitality working his way up through most hotel positions until he knew the industry inside and out. The last thing he needed was a supercilious and lazy desk clerk with a bad attitude.

Finally, the hiring manager gave this senior executive some good advice. He said “All jobs will have stress, but if you find what you love to do, the stress turns into challenge and is stimulating rather than handicapping. Stop looking for an “easy job” and start looking for a job you love.”

Are you doing something you love? Why not? Many people go through life measuring their success against a scale set by other people. Success is generally measured by income levels, net worth, types of “toys” possessed, and how much “stuff” can be accumulated. It is often measured by titles, power positions, and ability to manipulate others. What would be your measure of success?

At my local public library, there is a nice seating area in the front lobby near the circulation desk where there are comfy chairs and a coffee bar. Every time I go there, there is an older gentleman sitting there reading. He has a portable oxygen tank with him and wears a navy hat with USS Indianapolis on it. He’s obviously a WWII vet. I look at him and think – now that’s where I want to be when I’ve “made it” or retire. Just park me at the library with my oxygen, a book, and a cup of coffee and life will be sweet.


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