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Thursday, October 26, 2006
Am I Worth What I Am Asking?
We get this question a great deal and it is almost impossible to answer with any accuracy. Salary levels have so many variables built into them that it’s hard to say a VP of Marketing should be making X amount of money a year or what a Director of Finance should be earning at a certain level. So many factors figure into the equation that it is impossible for us to give a pronouncement on salary even though we see salary levels and targets every day.

In a single day, we may work with three or four VPs of Operations. Their salary targets might range from $100,000 a year to over $200,000 a year. They may even have similar backgrounds and levels of experience. What makes one be able to command $100,000 more than another? There’s not one single answer but there are contributing factors. Following are a few of them:

Confidence – Some job seekers simply expect to earn more and it magically happens. They set their sights on a goal and reach it.

Location – It is common to see higher salaries in locations where cost of living is higher. A VP in LA will generally command a higher salary than a VP in Charlotte, NC.

Company – Larger companies tend to have larger executive salaries than smaller companies.

Scope of Job – A VP with global responsibilities will probably earn more than a VP with only regional control.

Past Performance – Job seekers who are top producers can usually leverage that into higher salaries and better benefits because they are bringing more to the table.

Industry – Some industries naturally have higher salaries than others. For example, finance tends to be higher than manufacturing.

Not sure what you are worth? is a good place to start plus start scanning salaries listed on job postings. They will give you a ballpark figure of what you can negotiate toward in the final stages of the offer.

Friday, October 20, 2006
A Neat Trick
Have you ever been surfing around on an online job board and seen a job advertisement that just seems made for you? It asks for all the same qualifications you have, is the right job title, right salary range – everything seems perfect. The only problem is that it is a blind ad. A blind ad is a job advertisement where the company is not named and the email provided goes to blind email address. Before applying, you would really like to know which company it is because it would be REALLY embarrassing if it was your current employer.

Here’s a neat little trick to try. It might not work all the time but at least you can get close. Left click and copy the verbiage of the job advertisement then past into a search engine like Google. Put the entire advertisement in quotation marks so the engine knows to look for that specific set of words. You might just come up with same job advertisement -- only listed on the company’s website. Now you know the company that posted the blind ad and you might have better luck getting your resume noticed by going through the company site rather than through the big job board, especially if you happen to have a network connection in the company.

Are you tired of all the MLM offers, commission-only insurance sales offers, and other “spam” type offers that flood your email box after you post your resume on the big job boards? Part of this is because these entities sweep up emails from the resume database and do massive mail campaigns. There are a few things you can do about this. First of all, choose an online job board that is specific to your industry or job type instead of a large, general one. Second, use an email address that you have set up specifically for job search, preferably one that is a free account that you can ditch later when you have acquired your next job. Third, set up filters on your email application to filter these into you spam folder; just be sure to check your spam folder before emptying. You wouldn’t want to throw out a legitimate offer.

Internet job search is supposed to make job search easier but it brings with it its own complications. Maximize the benefits and reduce the hassles as much as possible by using technology to its utmost.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006
Word versus Text Formats
Most everyone is up-to-date enough about job search methods these days to understand that you need both a Word document (or a PDF format) and a text format file that follows the correct layout guides for databases. In case you aren’t quite familiar with this protocol, let me review quickly.

Sometimes, databases (especially older ones) have trouble uploading Word documents with all the formatting such as underlines and bold. To overcome this problem, text/ASCII resumes were developed to be compatible with resume databases. Text resumes have to follow certain rules involving character width, character set, etc. so they don’t give databases indigestion. The problem with text format resumes is they are UGLY! They are designed for a machine to read rather than a human.

Humans like fully formatted, attractive Word format resumes to read. In fact, formatting can make a significant impact in the effectiveness of a resume so it has a function other than just looking nice. Good design and organization in the format can improve readability and first impression.

The problem some job seekers have is knowing when to send which version. First of all, if you are uploading your resume to an online database, read the instructions. If it says the system accepts Word documents, use the Word format resume to upload. If it doesn’t say or it says that it accepts text format only, use the text format. That’s easy enough. But what about when you are emailing the resume to a recruiter or someone at a company? That’s where people goof up.

When you are emailing your resume directly to a person, make sure it is in either a Word or PDF (protected document format) format. People prefer to read Word documents because remember, text files are UGLY and actually difficult for the human eye to read. Never make reading your resume difficult. Make the whole experience as easy for the reader as possible.

Thursday, October 12, 2006
Job Titles Aren’t Important – Or Are They?
I hear this a great deal from clients when I ask them what job position they are targeting. When they say this, they usually qualify it by adding “it’s the challenge or the type of work that is important”. I can understand that. Most people change jobs because they are unchallenged in their current ones. Challenge is a big factor in work satisfaction.

Now, I want to challenge the statement that job titles aren’t important. Job titles are VERY important and not just to the ego. I think that is what most people are referring to when they say the title isn’t important. What they mean is “I don’t care if I’m a VP or a Senior Director.” Job titles are important, though, because they are used as a measure by hiring managers and recruiters. They are a sort of yardstick.

A hiring manager looking for a Vice President is going to be looking for the job title Vice President on candidates’ resumes because they want to hire someone who is at that level and has that experience. A recruiter looking for a VP might miss a resume of a qualified candidate who only had the title of Department Manager, even if the candidate had all the right qualifications. That is why it is important to consider job title when looking at your next job. It will be a stepping stone in your career in years to come. Negotiate for it just like you would benefits and salary.

Hiring managers also gauge career progression by job titles. It’s logical to see a career progression move from entry-level job titles to more senior level. Job titles are indicators of that progression as long as they are accompanied by job description and achievements that back up the title. If the title isn’t backed up by the experience, that will become evident quickly in the interview process and your goose will be cooked. Don’t claim to be something you are not.

During the dot-com boom, there were a great many “Instant CEOs” – twenty-somethings who had the title but didn’t have the depth of experience to back up the title. And we all know what happened to most of the dot-coms.

Let me give you another example of a job title being important. Let’s say you owned your own business and grew it into something quite profitable then sold it to move on to “new challenges”. Listing yourself as Owner might actually provide a negative connotation if you are seeking an executive position in your new explorations. You can actually change your job title (one of the few times you can do this) if you were the sole proprietor. You can call yourself CEO, Founder, Chairman of the Board – whatever. Just make sure you don’t over do it and get yourself laughed out of consideration.

Job titles are important and should be considered as contributors to your career, not just your ego. Keep that in mind when you are considering a new job. If the employer can’t quite meet your salary desires, an upgrade in job title might be easily do-able.

Monday, October 09, 2006
How Long is Too Long for a Resume?
The answer to the question is “It depends.” (Don’t you just love those definitive answers?) For years and years, the “rule” was that a resume had to be no longer than one page. That made sense back in the days of the typewriter and hardcopy resumes that had to be kept in storage for at least six months. The less paper the better! The “one page rule” was also easier to keep when most people had a career track that included only one or two positions that were long-term.

In this day and age, people change jobs quite often. It’s not unusual for someone to change jobs once a year, even. The national average is somewhere around every 18 months. Part of that flux is due to a changing economy, but some is a result of the general quest for something better – better money, better benefits, better life balance, and better challenges. Therefore, within a ten year span, a person may well have held five or six jobs, each one carrying its own details and accomplishments. Getting all that into one page and have it be an effective resume is impossible.

But what if you have twenty-five years experience? Should you take up four or five pages giving the details of everything you’ve done back to the age of REO Speed wagon and big hair? No. Employers are primarily interested in the most recent ten years of your career because that is what is relevant.

Relevance is a concept with which many job seekers have a problem when trying to construct their own resume. They can’t see when information is relevant or not so they end up including everything they can think of in the resume. Resumes end up being pages and pages long because the job seeker has included everything from his Eagle Scout honor to the fact that he made coffee for the staff meetings on Friday mornings. Objectivity toward relevance of information is a benefit that a professional resume writer brings to the job search.

I still haven’t answered the original question “How long is too long?” It’s too long when you have so much information that the reader cannot grasp the main points of value of the job seeker in the 45 seconds he/she spends on the resume. A general rule of thumb is the average resume is two pages in length. That’s not a rule, but an average. Executives with extensive experience and earning a high salary may well have a three page resume. If you find your resume runs beyond three pages, you should go back and look at relevance of information. Does every bit of information that you have included in the resume have a direct purpose in winning an interview for your current job target. If not, take it out.

November 2005 / December 2005 / January 2006 / February 2006 / March 2006 / April 2006 / May 2006 / June 2006 / July 2006 / August 2006 / September 2006 / October 2006 / November 2006 /


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