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Monday, May 21, 2007
What DOES NOT Go on an Executive Resume
I recently read an article by an “expert” in resume writing that touted inclusion of hobbies on an executive resume. The author suggested including hobbies that are related in some way, however vaguely, to the executive’s career. I’m sorry, but this is WRONG advice.

Hobbies do not appear on an executive resume. While inclusion of related hobbies might be relevant to a new graduate’s objective of landing an interview, they simply waste space on an executive resume. An executive candidate has much more important information--information that might actually contribute to winning the interview--to include in the resume without wasting space including information about coaching youth baseball or fly fishing.

Another issue that I’ve seen touted as a “must” on executive resumes is including the dates of education. Again, that may not be advisable for some executives. Age discrimination, while not rampant, is alive and well. If an executive graduated with a four-year degree in 1968, what benefit does listing that date on the resume bring to the goal of winning an interview? None. The only possibility is that it will contribute to the candidate being eliminated. Try to never include any information on a resume that has only negative potential.

Some writers, and I’ve seen this on many resume templates used by the big boards, have a Career Achievements section or similar at the top. The separation of this information from the individual jobs in which they were accomplished takes what would otherwise be terrific information totally out of context for the reader. Because of being pulled out of context, the wording loses impact. Let me give you an example. Here’s a typical achievement that someone might pull out to include in a Career Achievements section:

- Won largest account ever in company history, increasing market share by 15%

That sounds impressive and would be justified in being included in a Career Achievements section. Its meaning is in the connotation. If the person worked for IBM, that would be huge! If the person worked for Joe’s Tire Shack, it would have a different connotation. The numbers would be significantly different for these two situations. The connotation would have more power when linked with the appropriate position rather than pulled out separately.

References never appear on any resume, especially executive resumes. The old “References upon request” tag line is no longer used either. Ditto for objectives. These are old resume tactics that have passed from use and are not longer part of an up-to-date job search.

Pictures or images don’t belong on an executive resume. I am continually amazed when people include their pictures on their resumes. This is something that has not been done on a resume in thirty years – not since discrimination in hiring lawsuits has gained traction. Pictures can cause the resume to be eliminated immediately so don’t even go there.

You are an executive. You have spent years and countless amounts of investment in building your career. Why consider making a misstep on advice that does not apply to someone at your level?

Tuesday, May 15, 2007
High Negatives on the Resume
It is only mid-2007 and already the political campaigns and rhetoric are in full swing. I’m already tired of hearing about it and just wish we could get it over with! Watching the news, I’m becoming more and more acquainted with politico-speak words and phrases, about many of which I could really care less. One phrase that caught my attention, though, was “high negatives”. One candidate was described as “high in popularity but also has high negatives”. I started thinking of that and realized that the term “high negatives” might be applied easily to resumes. A job seeker may have good experience and education but have high negatives that cut into those good things.

First of all, I’ll define “high negatives” as pieces of information or aspects of a resume that raise negative images or reactions in the mind of the hiring manager or recruiter that are contrary to the benefit of the job seeker. An obvious high negative issue would be a reported stay in the local penitentiary. That is easy. But there are other, less-obvious high negatives that may well appear on YOUR resume and you don’t even realize they are working against you. I’ll go over a few:

Job-hopping – Short periods of employment that don’t show increase in career level. Sometimes, a job seeker may have several short periods of employment but each successive move is a step up. That’s not job-hopping; that’s meteoric rise in career path. Job-hopping comes with lots of lateral moves within a short period of time. Employers don’t like to see this pattern because it communicates instability.

Functional Format – The granddaddy of all high negatives, simply the USE of the functional format communicates the job seeker is trying to hide something. It’s an automatic red flag. People who use the functional format are shooting themselves in the foot.

First Person Narrative – Resumes are not novels, letters, biographies, life stories, or other forms of literature describing a career. They are marketing documents! Sales brochures for your career! They should never be written in the first person, voiced style where personal pronouns are used. “I”, “me”, “my”, “our”, or “we” should never appear on a resume.

Overuse of Tired Phrases – In trying to communicate their soft skills, most people fall back to trite phrases such as “results-oriented” or “good communicator”. Such phrases fall flat on a resume. Put yourself in the shoes of your audience – the recruiter or the hiring manager. You’ve just read 99 other resumes and every one of them claims to be “results-oriented” and “good communicator”. Finding a resume that is not loaded with these fluff phrases is actually refreshing!

Dubious Past Employment – Think about what you include on the resume. If you are targeting a senior executive position, it is not necessary to list every job you’ve ever held on your resume. For instance, if you are targeting a VP of Operations job and you include your stint as a store manager for Subway fifteen years ago, what are you saying about your ability to communicate in a relevant way? Sometimes, good people have done questionable jobs in the past just to meet the bills. Such jobs (and I’ll let you come up with a mental picture of what a “questionable” job might be) can and should be left off a resume if at all possible.

Name Dropping – Name dropping is mentioning names of prominent people in your industry with whom you have an association in an attempt to elevate your status in the eyes of the reader. Rarely does it work. If you have to drop names, you’ve just proven your inadequacy. A similar occurrence sometimes happens with schools that people have attended. For instance, one resume I saw started out with “Top ten grad from XXXX, nation’s number one graduate school of business and family’s fourth generation undergrad from Ivy League XXXX.” Okay, if this was the resume of a brand new graduate this might be a horn to toot but it was a job seeker who had earned his MBA fifteen years ago and attended the Ivy League school in the seventies. Do you think he was proud of the two pieces of parchment? Do you think he stopped to think that maybe the person who would be making the decision to hire him worked his way through both undergrad and grad school at a medium-ranked institution and might not hold a very high opinion of his snooty presentation? In the real world where the rubber hits the road, it’s not always where you went to school but what you’ve done with the learning since then.

TMI – Have you ever been seated on a plane next to someone who just won’t shut up? Some people have the same loquaciousness problem in writing and their resumes turn into huge masses of irrelevant information. Ranging from high school activities to volunteer belly dancer at the nursing home, there is just some information that has no business being on the resume. And it’s not so much the fact that the job seeker did this activity in the first place, but as an executive or professional, he/she should have enough skill in communication (that’s PC-speak for common sense) to know not to include it on a resume!

Thursday, May 03, 2007
The Job Search Secret Weapon
With life becoming more frenetic by the day and with technology seeming to take over our lives (remember when you could go fly in a plane without having to turn off all your electrical devices first?), little courtesies and niceties seem to be going by the wayside. We are in too much of a hurry these days to concern ourselves with birthday cards or gifts. We send e-cards and gift cards by email instead (if we send anything at all). I note the number of Christmas cards I receive seems to drop by two or three every year. If it can’t be sent by email or Blackberry or instant message, we just don’t do it.

Because of our indifference toward courtesies that were once considered the norm, those same courtesies now stand out and mark us as “different” when we do them. In the context of job search, I’m thinking primarily of thank-you-for-the-interview notes or follow up letters. According to the Hiring Manager panel at the annual conference of the Professional Association of Resume Writers in Dallas, Texas, fewer than 10% of the candidates the panelists interviewed wrote a follow up or a thank you note. Remarkably, of those 10%, 90% of them were called back for subsequent interviews.

In a survey conducted by DayTimer® over 70% of respondents to their poll on communication said sending a handwritten note was friendlier, “demonstrating special effort to communicate”. These results have direct impact on job search. As the hiring managers mentioned above confirmed, follow-up or thank you notes had a definite impact on the success of the job search process for those candidates who went the extra step. With all this data that supports use of follow-up or thank you notes following an interview, why aren’t more job seekers making use of this easy yet powerful step in their job searches?

Potentially, the issue of writing of something by hand may be a hurdle. First of all, it takes time to sit down and write a handwritten thank you note. Few of us are practiced at this lost art and generally have no idea how to phrase what we want to say without sounding trite or corny. Secondly, those of us who do most of our communicating via a keyboard these days, our handwriting really stinks. The muscles in our hands that control the formation of letters are out of practice and the result of pen stroke on paper is fairly pitiful. How many of you think occasionally “Gosh, I used to have decent handwriting when I was in college…” We are out of practice both mentally and physically when it comes to writing with a pen.

The same study by DayTimer® also noted that women appreciated handwritten communications more than men. 54% of women had positive feelings about receiving a handwritten letter. A good percentage of men also appreciated it – 42%. That’s an interesting viewpoint about something most of us ignore these days – courtesy communications.

So what can you do to take advantage of this little-used secret weapon of the job search if you have trouble composing thank you notes and your handwriting is worse than a first-grader’s? Easy – add a thank you letter to your repertoire of professionally developed career documents. Tweak it for each interview or interviewer. Print it on nice stock paper and mail it (gasp!) through the snail mail. Yes, spend money on a stamp even! And here’s a little secret about the secret weapon….handwrite a postscript below your signature. Make a note of something that was discussed during the interview that pertains to the position. You may have to practice a bit with a pen first to get it legible but if it’s short, it won’t be that bad.

Using this combination, you hit several key job search actions: follow up, courtesy, that 10% minority who went to the trouble, the women interviewers and 40%+ of the men interviewers, and something handwritten – all in one action!

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 / December 2006 / January 2007 / February 2007 / March 2007 / April 2007 / May 2007 /


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