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Stumping for Success
I was watching a news show this morning while eating breakfast and the hosts were debating the candidacy of upcoming presidential hopefuls. They were talking about shifting positions and how the closer to election time, the more the positions of the candidates seem to change to fit the demands of the polls. I was thinking that it’s important to look at the past voting record of candidates rather than just listening to their campaign promises to best judge the candidates’ positions on various issues. Then it struck me – that’s exactly what employers do when reading a resume.
Instead of making a judgment on the job candidate on the basis of the summary (promises), they look at the track record of the candidate in terms of experience and results achieved for other employers. That’s not to say a summary is not important – it is. It summarizes the high points of the job seeker’s candidacy (obviously) and gives the reader a quick overview. If the summary is good (campaign promises), the reader will delve more deeply into the experience (the voting record).
How many times have you listened to an election candidate speak and thought “I wouldn’t vote for this guy for dog catcher.”? It’s because his message (summary) conflicts with what you are seeking. However, another candidate might have a message that attracts you and seems to fit exactly the type of things you want in an elected official. When that happens, the smart thing is to look further into the candidate’s background and voting record. For employers, they look more closely at the experience, background, and accomplishments of the job candidate if the message of the summary hits the mark.
Just as not all candidates’ messages hit the mark with voters, not all summaries will hit the mark with targeted employers. Every resume sent will not result in a call for an interview. What is important is to make sure the resume, and especially the summary, best represents you, the job seeker, by putting forth your best attributes and is clear on your message. A good resume will result in better interview rates just as a clear message for an election candidate will result in more votes.
Guaranteed Ways to Bomb the Interview
Forget your appearance. There was an anecdote back several years ago about a major computer company that would automatically not hire anyone who came to the interview in a suit and tie. People seemed to take that to heart to mean ALL companies thought that way and started just showing up to interviews in whatever was handy in the closet. This is a terrific way to give a horrible first impression. Compound it by not bathing or shaving, combing your hair, having bad breath, or wearing a lot of perfume/cologne and you are on the right track to not getting hired.
Don’t communicate well. Either give long-winded answers that end up with you asking “Now what was the question?” or reply to the interviewer using one-word answers. Interviewers ask questions for several reasons – to find out how you think, what you think, if you can put logical thoughts together, if you can perform under pressure, or how creative you might be. Answers that are too long or too short are certain to derail your candidacy.
Don’t think about your answers to questions before opening your mouth. Something stupid might emerge and the next thing you know, your foot is in there with your fillings. If you are interviewing for a receptionist position, make sure you mention you hate talking to people. If you are considering a banking position, don’t forget to tell the interviewer that you have never balanced your checkbook – you just round up. These answers will really help make sure you don’t get the job.
Do something stupid. Have an eleven o’clock interview? Bring your lunch along. The interviewer probably won’t mind. Or even better, arrange to have a pizza delivered during the interview. The interviewer will probably appreciate the thoughtfulness. Chewing gum during the interview is also a nice touch. If you feel like you can’t talk around it, you can always stick it behind your ear or toss it in the interviewer’s waste can.
My personal favorite technique is stretching out on the floor and explaining that you think better while prone. That’s always a winner.
Vent. Did you have a bad experience with your last supervisor? Was he a jerk? Be sure to regale the interviewer with all the gory details. I’m sure he will take copious notes. Don’t forget to badmouth the company, too, because they expected you to pick up ten percent of your health insurance costs. What losers! The interviewer will really appreciate your candor. It will also help to name drop and be a know-it-all. Those are guaranteed to kill any chance you might have had for the job.
You are now prepared to go out and fail dismally at getting a new job. The best resume in the world won’t help you once you put these actions into practice in face-to-face meetings with hiring managers. Go forth and bomb those interviews!
Employer Loyalty or Fear?
I was reading an article today about Michael Jackson and his financial woes. It seems that the animals in his menagerie at Never Land are being “repossessed” or at least relocated to new, adoptive owners who can afford to take care of them. The article also mentioned that the employees at Jackson’s ranch/kiddy trap have not been paid in nine weeks and that many are “looking for second jobs”. Well, hello? I think if I had not been paid in nine weeks, I wouldn’t be looking for a second job but rather for a NEW job. In fact, knowing the state of his financial affairs, I would have been out of there when the first paycheck didn’t arrive on time.
These employees are taking employer loyalty a bit far, don’t you think? Unfortunately, many people stay with employers long after they should have hit the road. People stay in bad employment situations for various reasons. Sometimes it is the typical “employer loyalty” situation where the employee feels obligated to the employer or feels the employer deserves his fealty. Often in this case, the employee has a long history with an employer and remembers the “good times” when things were pleasant. The employee stays with the employer because he/she hopes the good times will return or feels leaving the employer would be detrimental to the overall business.
Another common reason people delay leaving a job is out of fear of change. No one likes change. Sometimes a bad situation seems less scary than a potentially better situation that requires a change to attain. Job search itself can be scary and no one likes to do it unless they absolutely have to. That fear of change or upheaval, even if the result of the change would be good, can prevent people from leaving a bad situation.
Financial obligations can stand in the way of employees leaving a bad employment situation. “I’d leave, but I need the job” is a common sentiment. Such a situation is one that must be judged by the individual but there is usually a different job somewhere in the market. In my entire career, I’ve only run into a situation a couple of times where there was only one job in a local market and in both situations the local market was a very small town and the job was a very specialized one. Many people who think they are limited in their options simply haven’t looked at other potential options.
Regardless of the reason for sticking with a bad employer, it’s important to consider all aspects of a job and have courage to make a change when necessary. Stress generated by a bad employment situation can lead to serious health issues, marital and family problems, and poor work performance. The question should be asked “Is it worth it?” Often the answer is “No!” The next question is “What can I do about it?” Engaging a good career coach to help you through the transition that will be required is a good first step.
Your Personal Job Search Sales Force
Have you ever been in the doctor’s waiting room toward lunchtime or at the end of the day when the pharmaceutical representatives start coming in with their PDAs and pull-cases? I’m sure you have. If you have paid attention, you’ll notice all these representatives (salesmen) are physically attractive, expensively dressed, well-educated, experienced, well-spoken, and generally drive decent cars. Pharmaceutical companies aren’t stupid. They field sales reps who meet certain criteria that have been determined to support positive results.
In the job search, you have a set of things that serve as your representative. The first and most effective representative are your network contacts. Job search results are much better if you can network your way into a job. With a network contact, you have someone on the inside or in a place of authority representing you as the perfect candidate for the job. He/she is an advocate or sales rep for you with the employer.
The resume also serves as your representative. For most job search efforts, the resume is the first contact the employer has with you. Every single word, error, bit of information, number, and character that appear on the resume represents YOU. Just like the pharma reps, it needs to be attractive, dressed well, well-educated, well-spoken and experienced. It must make a good impression on the employer without you being present.
A secondary representative in your job search is the executive recruiter. A recruiter is only a secondary (or even tertiary) representative because a recruiter does not work for you, the job seeker. Instead, he/she works for the employer. Where the recruiter has vested interest in your job search success is in the salary issue and in the finalization of your placement. For contingency recruiters, the salary which you command in the new job dictates the recruiter fee. It can be up to 1/3 of your annual salary. It is in the best interest of the recruiter to negotiate the highest salary possible for you.
Further, the recruiter does not get paid unless he places a candidate in the position. It is beneficial to the recruiter to work on your behalf to sell your candidacy to the employer. Remember, though, the recruiter works for the employer. It is possible the recruiter has been asked by the employer to provide more than one good candidate for the employer’s review. If that is the case, the recruiter is fielding other candidates beside you for the same position. In that case, the recruiter has significantly divided interests.
The final representatives you have in your job search are your references. References are very important in closing the deal for job seekers. Most employers will make initial offers contingent on a clean background check, drug test, and good references. Any of those three factors can sink what you thought was a done-deal. Make sure your references are well-vetted and secondary references will also make the grade.
Of all these representatives, the one over which you have the most control is your resume. It is also the most widely used job search tool. Unfortunately, many people don’t understand the importance of making sure that tool is top-quality. It’s easier or more expedient to take a slap-dash approach to the resume and hope for the best. Poor attempts generally bring poor results. Make sure your resume is representing you well.
No Trite Words Please
The brakes on my car need to be replaced. They are starting to screech and set my teeth on edge. It’s not surprising I need new brakes since I have almost 100,000 miles on my little car. They’ve lasted a long time and done their job but they are at the end of their lifespan and it’s time for a fresh set. What’s more, they don’t work that well anymore. Hopefully, they won’t fail me when I need them most.
Word choice in resume writing can be like my brakes—they get worn out and need new words put in place because they no longer do their job. Words used over and over get worn out and lose their effectiveness. What may sound really good, punchy, and hard-hitting to you may be trite and overused to the reader.
Hiring managers and recruiters see hundreds of resumes a week – hundreds! Because of this, they see the same phrases over and over. These phrases no longer have any meaning to the hiring managers so they totally ignore them or don’t even see them. Phrases that the job seeker feels perfectly describe his soft skills or abstract qualities can be totally ineffective.
Take a look at your resume and see if you spot any of these overused, worn-out phrases:
Proven track record (by far THE most overused of all phrases)
Strong analytical skills
Outstanding interpersonal skills
Most of these phrases are used as modifiers. For example, “Detail-oriented Chief Financial Officer” Detail-oriented modifies CFO. Poor resume writing is heavy on modifiers. Sometimes, modifiers will be strung together like pearls on a necklace: “Detail-oriented, pro-active, team-oriented manager.” Ugg! And job seekers who write their own resumes aren’t the only ones guilty of such weak writing! Professional resume writers get into ruts writing this way, too.
A remedy for writing that is full of trite phrases is to go back through the resume and mark out the overused phrases. Does it still make sense? Were modifiers really needed in all locations? Are there other words or phrases that can be used that are not trite and might actually provide a better, more accurate description?
Writing with trite phrases in your resume is like me driving on poor brakes. It sets your teeth on edge and it may fail you when you need it most.
Fact or Faith
There was an interesting article recently in Fortune Small Business about Christian business owners that run their organizations according to Christian principles. While the article was quite interesting, the side bar section on the legalities of mixing business and religion was quite educational on the do’s and don’ts of religion and employment.
Basically, the side bar article stated that religion and work do mix, only religion cannot be a condition of work. The article states “Civil rights legislation bars employers from making any employment decision based on religion, but it covers only firms with 15 or more employees. Smaller companies are free to use religion as a reason to hire, fire or promote an employee – as long as they’re not located in a state whose laws cover smaller businesses.”
As most people know, religion or faith are “off limits” topics in a job interview just as questions concerning marital status, sexual preferences, age, and children are banned by federal law. Many job seekers don’t realize, though, that including information in the resume that alludes to religion could cause the resume to be rejected by employers. Most employers are extremely cautious these days about litigation and put all kinds of safeguards in place to protect themselves from lawsuits. One of those protective actions is to reject resumes that contain any information in them that alludes to these “off limits” topics.
We work with thousands of job seekers every year and I see a lot of self-written resumes that are their own worst enemies. I always try to advise my clients that including certain information might put their candidacy in jeopardy, but I always leave that final decision up to them. For example, I reviewed a resume recently of a man who listed his involvement as an elder in his church. We discussed his choice to include this piece of information and he was adamant that he wanted it left in the document. He felt it added to his leadership qualifications. He also felt strongly that if an employer rejected his candidacy because of it, then that was an employer he would not want to work for anyway. He used it as a filter. We left that piece of information in the document at his request.
The argument this fellow used – that an employer was at fault for rejecting the resume due to the inclusion of information alluding to religion – is set on a false premise. The premise this gentleman had was that rejection was a result of bias against his particular faith. Unfortunately, that is not the case. Rejection of the resume would be based on federal law and a highly litigious society. Sure, some employers might not want a evangelical Christian or Muslim or Buddhist on staff, but for most it doesn’t matter. What matters is whether the employee can do the job.
Religious affiliation information on a resume generally does not support the goal of the resume, thus, providing another reason to eliminate it from the resume. All information included in the resume should in some way support the candidacy of the job seeker. If it doesn’t, it needs to be removed. That is why we generally remove job experience that is older than ten years – it doesn’t support the current candidacy of the job seeker in today’s market. Religious affiliation information generally does nothing to support the job seeker’s position as the best candidate for the job. True, in the example given, the elder position was a leadership position but this bit of experience was totally eclipsed by the job seeker’s employment-related leadership experience. The elder position added no weight to the resume.
Always consider each and every bit of information that goes on the resume for value in achieving your goals. Evaluate value of the information in proportion to the risk of including it. Then make your own call. After all, it’s your job and your life.
Do You Love Your Job?
Tomorrow is that big-stressor holiday – Valentines Day – where hopes flourish and worries abound. Did you get the right present for your honey? Does the present send the right message? Should you go with the funny card or the mushy one? Decisions, decisions, decisions. One decision you should be comfortable with is your job decision. Are you in love with your job? Are you cheating on the side just to get some job satisfaction? Do you sit and stare at centerfolds of college catalogues dreaming of that perfect, airbrushed career? Do you speak the love-language of your true career?
I have been fortunate in my career history to always have had the ability to work in something that I love. I’ve also turned hobbies into work so I could have fun and earn a paycheck at the same time. Unfortunately, I meet so many clients who come to our firm because they are unhappy with their work. They are stuck in a career field in which they’ve lost interest or into which they were railroaded by external forces. They are in work environments that are unpleasant or unhealthy. How can these people find the work they love?
Here are some tips to find your true career love:
Ask “What did I want to be when I was a kid?” Okay, that’s pretty simplistic but it works. As kids, we weren’t concerned about issues such as income potential, promotion opportunities, or relocation requirements. We were just looking at the fun side of jobs. Many of us wanted to be superheroes or firemen, doctors or teachers. What was it about your childhood career aspirations that appealed to you? Was it helping people? Was it being in charge? Was it excitement and glory? These are the underlying motivations to our careers. Look at these things when searching for your career love.
What are your hobbies? Can you turn what you like to do for fun into a career? I have a friend whose son is twelve. He has started volunteering at a raptor rehabilitation center on the weekends where he feeds and cares for hawks, owls, and kestrels. When he turns fourteen, he plans to apprentice with a master falconer to become an apprentice falconer and learn to train hawks, kestrels, and falcons. Six months ago he wanted to be a fighter pilot, but now he is considering working in wildlife management, even though the glory is not there or the salary.
Apprenticeship is something that has largely gone by the wayside in employment these days. In the earlier part of our history, and up until the middle decades of the last century, most people in our country learned their trade through apprenticeship. By learning a career at the side of a mentor or master journeyman, workers often get a better education in a craft, trade, or art than if they went through formal educational channels. If you have something that interests you, make the effort to learn about it from experts. You might be surprised at the options that are open to you for building a true career out of what you thought was only a neat hobby.
Follow your natural talents. A mathematician will likely never make a happy writer. A talented writer will rarely like dealing with numbers. Some people are good in situations where public contact is demanded while others work best alone. Teaming works for some, and for others it’s a huge anchor weight on creativity and leadership. Be honest enough with yourself to acknowledge your strengths and weaknesses and work toward your strengths. Square pegs are never happy squeezed into round holes.
Appreciate what you do. I had an acquaintance who recently took on a part-time job at Chuck E. Cheese’s to make a little extra money to pay off medical bills. She intimated to me that she was embarrassed because she felt many people she knew looked down on her for working in such a “low end position”. When I asked her if she liked the job and if she felt she was doing a good job, she enthusiastically replied “Yes! I love working with the kids and seeing their faces when the birthday cake comes out!”
“Well then, there’s nothing to be ashamed of! You are doing something you enjoy, something at which you obviously have a talent, and something that brings joy to others. It’s a great job!” I replied.
If you can form your career to fit your wants, needs, and desires in regard to fulfillment, financial requirement, and lifestyle, you will never work a day in your life. Life is too short to hate your job. Go out and find your true career love interest!
Time is Money
Before we start to review and critique a resume, we always ask the job seeker how many resumes they have sent out and how many interviews they have received. I am always amazed when I see answers to the effect “I’ve sent out over two hundred over the past three months and I’ve only received three calls. Those calls were from recruiters who were just fishing to see if I was interested in positions that call for a step down the career ladder rather than up.” I am not amazed at the ratio of number of resumes sent to number of calls received; rather, I’m amazed that the job seeker has wasted three months using a resume that doesn’t work!
These days, average hire cycle is about 7 weeks. From the time the position comes open until the final employee selection is made is about 50 days. That’s the average, but it varies from three weeks to three months. The variation is usually dependent on salary level and scope of the position. A local manager is a shorter hire than a national sales executive.
That is a nice bit of trivial employment information, but the hire cycle isn’t what the job seeker should be gauging. He should be looking at the time between submission of the resume and the first call. A week is the maximum time that span should be. If a call or email hasn’t been received within a week, there is something wrong. It might be the resume. It might be the advertisement was a dummy advertisement (the position is already filled but they had to advertise it anyway). It might be the hiring manager had a family emergency arise (hey, it happens). If you haven’t heard from the employer within a week of sending the resume, follow up with an email. It’s possible that your email with your resume was sidetracked to a spam folder or it was corrupted and couldn’t be opened. Follow up is perfectly acceptable as long as it’s done well and politely.
The best scenario is for a job seeker to enter into the search armed with a great resume and within three weeks be involved at some stage in the interview process with multiple employers. By the end of the average seven weeks, he may have turned down an offer, be considering two others, and have two or three still in the development stage. Imagine that – having three or four OFFERS to choose from rather than still be waiting for the first phone call at the end of seven weeks.
If you aren’t receiving phone calls, there is something wrong with your job search methods. The first culprit to evaluate is the resume since it’s sole purpose is to win the interview. If the resume isn’t working within three weeks, waiting longer and sending out more is not going to solve the problem. Do something! Send us your resume for a free critique. Look critically at your job search methods. Are you doing enough to market yourself or are you being passive in your approach? Waiting and waiting and waiting achieves nothing but wasted time. And time is money. For every week you waste, you lose money that could have been gained in higher salary or better benefits in the new job that is waiting for you.
The Devil is in the Details
How many resumes include the phrase “Detail-oriented”? These days, I’d say most of them include this phrase somewhere in the summary or body of text. Detail-oriented means the person pays attention to the little things, checks for accuracy, etc. It is a trait that is valuable in a job candidate who works with numbers, formulae, or tasks where correctness of information is vital. Generally, when I read a resume with this phrase, I inevitably find evidence in the resume that belies it or proves it wrong automatically. What is the evidence? Mechanical mistakes in the document.
“Mechanics” in a resume includes spelling, punctuation, spacing, grammar, formatting, syntax, and capitalization. Most job seekers who write their own resumes rely on the spell-checker or grammar-checker in Word to proofread their resumes. The automated feature is not foolproof and relying on it gives users a false sense of security. If someone is truly “detail-oriented” he knows better than to rely on software written by techies (and not English masters) to find mistakes in writing.
Take spelling errors for example. Manger and pubic are the two most common misspellings seen on resumes. Manger is the misspelling for “manager” and pubic is the misspelling of “public”. Both can make the reader cringe but when the job seeker has claimed to be “detail-oriented”, mistakes such as these take on greater significance. It proves the job seeker is not only NOT detail-oriented but a liar to boot.
Another common mechanical error is use of hyphens. Hyphens are notorious mechanical demons and even professional writers often have to refer to their grammar reference to make sure of correctness. Most of the time, a hyphen error occurs when a word is a compound adjective. Compound adjectives abound in a resume and knowing when to hyphenate or not is a necessary tool. Here are the rules (source: The Little, Brown Handbook):
-When two or more words serve together as a single modifier before a noun, the hyphen or hyphens form the modifying words into a unit. Ex: well-known actor, out-of-date statistics, English-speaking people, detail-oriented manager.
-When the same compound adjectives follow the noun, hyphens are unnecessary and are left out. Ex: “The actor is well known.”
-Hyphens are not used in compound adjectives containing an –ly adverb, even if it comes before a noun. Ex: “clearly defined terms” A hyphen is not needed between “clearly” and “defined” because of the suffix –ly.
Spacing errors are typical in a resume. Many people choose to right-and-left justify the text of their resume. This tends to cause spacing inconsistencies as the computer moves words to accomplish this formatting. It is generally best to left justify blocks of text to avoid these inconsistencies.
Another common spacing error is the double space following end punctuation of a sentence. This error occurs most often when the typist of the resume learned to type on a typewriter rather than a keyboard. On a typewriter, it is required to double space after the period, but on a computer it is not. The computer automatically increases the space size.
It’s necessary to be careful of mechanics in your resume, especially if you claim to be attentive to detail. Most people in our society are not language experts or English teachers and are not versed in the minutia of grammar (like hyphens). The automated “checkers” in software is not fool-proof either. It’s best to at least have your resume proofread by someone who is anal about mechanics to avoid embarrassment.
Avoid the "Huh?" Response
Language is used for many types of communications. Poetry is painting with words. Prose is the passing of a story. Narrative is the telling of a story from a particular point of view. Journalism is informing of current events. Instructional writing is telling how to do something.
Resume writing falls into the category of marketing. A resume is intended to sell a job seeker’s attributes to an employer. It must excite the reader about the qualifications of the job seeker. It should sell their achievements as the solutions to future problems. It should list a basic work history and educational record in order to inform. What it should not do is be strictly description. Description does not “sell” a job seeker to an employer.
Many job seekers writing their own resumes labor to use language that contains large words and flowery descriptions in an effort to portray a high-brow or highly educated mien in the document. Unfortunately, high readability levels of a resume are not conducive to making the sale. Resumes written as such tend to be difficult to understand quickly, do not communicate value very well, and bog down the reader.
I found a great example of obscure writing over the weekend in some reading I was doing on critical thinking. Clarity of thought and word is vital in a resume. Unfortunately, many end up reading like the following passage excerpted from Being and Time, by Martin Heidegger’s.
“Temporality makes possible the unity of existence, facticity, and falling, and in this way constitutes primordially the totality of the structure of care. The items of care have not been pieced together ‘in the course of time’ [“mit der Zeit”] out of the future, the having been, and the Present. Temporality “is” not an entity at all. It is not, but it temporalizes itself…Temporality temporalizes, and indeed it temporalizes possible ways of itself. These make possible the multiplicity of Dasein’s modes of Being, and especially the basic possibility of authentic or inauthentic existence.”
The average person’s response to this passage is “Huh?” Many resumes elicit the same reaction. Those resumes do not generate interviews.
Clarity of communication is absolutely vital. Always question “Is there a simpler way of saying this so it can be understood more easily?” Simpler is better. Here’s an example of a bullet point that appeared on a resume we reviewed recently:
“Implemented communication consolidations to provide a 40% reduction in communication costs.”
A simpler, more clear way to say this and make it a marketing statement would be:
-Saved 40% in communications cost by switching to single telecom carrier.
Does the second statement say the same as the first? Yes. Does it communicate differently? Most definitely. Which statement is easier to understand? The second one. Remember, you never want to get the reaction of “Huh?” to the content in your resume. Be clear, be simple, be accurate. And be on time for the interview!
About one in every five resumes that are submitted to us for review includes information that should automatically kill it’s viability with employers. That information is Personal Data such as marital status, children, religious affiliation, age or date of birth, health details, ethnicity, or even sexual orientation. Many job seekers still include this section or information not realizing they are cutting their own hamstrings in the process as far as job search is concerned.
U.S. hiring laws prohibit employers from discriminating based on these issues. Employers are prohibited by law from asking about the following during an interview (FindLaw):
Whether the applicant has children or intends to have children.
Marital status of applicant.
Applicant's sexual preference.
Applicant's age (other than inquiring whether over age of 18).
Whether applicant suffers from a disability.
Applicant's citizenship status.
Questions concerning drug or alcohol use by the applicant.
Since none of these can be legally discussed during an interview, they waste space on the resume. The resume should serve as some sort of agenda for the initial interview so everything on it must contribute to that interview in some way. Many employers, fearful of future accusations of discrimination in hiring, will automatically reject any resume that contains this information simply in an effort to protect themselves from the appearance of discrimination. Including personal information on the resume is a foolproof way of making sure the resume is not considered at all and will be rejected completely by employers.
The question arises, then, why do people continue to include this information? Part of it is because it is an old tradition. Thirty years ago, prior to changes in the law, most resumes included personal information. The fact that some job seekers still include it demonstrates lack of astuteness concerning the job search and hiring process. While that is not so disturbing or uncommon considering that most job seekers don’t make job search an every day activity and thus, aren’t expected to be experts in hiring laws, it IS disturbing when a job seeker is applying for a position in which he/she would be responsible for hiring others. Ignorance of basic hiring laws, demonstrated through inclusion of a personal section, can position a candidate as potentially leading a future employer into litigation as a result of this ignorance.
Bottom line: keep the personal info out of the resume. Include only information that directly contributes to your candidacy for the job. Employers don’t want to know about your marital status nor do your hobbies and interests concern them. They only want to know if you will do a great job for their investment.
Employers Don't Hire Potential
“I don’t know why I’m not getting interviews,” said Don, “I know I can do the job. I just need a chance to prove it.” Don was operating under the mistaken idea that employers hire new employees for their potential. He had been a senior project manager for five years and was ready to take the next step to Director of IT. He had done a great deal of work that a director would do but he had not held the title so he only included his project management experience on his resume. He was presenting himself for the next career level through his resume, but his resume was only garnering interest in him for project management positions. He was frustrated that he couldn’t seem to get out of the project management role.
It’s not surprising that he was only getting calls for project management jobs. His resume was all project management. Since employers hire experience, they were looking at his extensive project management track record and finding he was a great fit for their project management positions. Unfortunately, that wasn’t his goal; he was ready to move on.
To be considered for director-level positions, it was vital that his resume read like a director’s resume. We had to show he had experience managing IT budgets, directing multiple teams, strategic planning, and working on big-picture initiatives. The language of his resume had to be changed from project management to executive leadership. The organization had to get away from project details to larger-scale decision making experience. He had all this experience but it wasn’t showing in his resume.
Don had constructed his resume himself and did like most people do – put down his job descriptions and what he had done in his previous jobs. He had not thought about the strategy of the resume and what it needed to accomplish. He assumed that employers could look at his background and make the leap of faith that he was ready for the next career step. Unfortunately, employers won’t do that. They want to hire people who have a track record of solving problems similar to what they are facing. They want someone who knows the ropes and is ready to hit the ground running. Only rarely is someone hired for potential and then it is usually an internal hire where the candidate’s already demonstrated first-hand his/her potential.
Considering strategy, audience, and goal is crucial when designing a resume that will gain interviews. So many people who write their own resumes (and even some inexperienced professional writers) only think getting the job history down is important. A resume is a document that has a purpose – to communicate the correct message to the reader to fill a need. If the employer feels from reading the resume that the candidate has the right skill set and background, an interview will result. If the resume doesn’t communicate that, a “thank you- we’ll keep your resume for future reference” note will be sent to the candidate and the employer will go on to the next candidate. It’s possible the next candidate has no better qualifications than the first, but rather has done a better job communicating to the reader in the resume.
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