Archive for the ‘Resumes’ Category

Job Discrimination is Alive and Well

July 23, 2012

As one might expect, times of economic uncertainty can bring out the worst in hiring companies.  Attention to work/life balance, employee retention and bonus programs take a back seat to the myopic urges to hunker down, delay decisions and starve hiring processes and practices of the time and competency they duly deserve.  By and large, hiring companies still believe it is their world to rule.  Invariably, such a mixture of misguided perspectives and operating manners leads to dysfunctional behavior.  Such is the case in the hiring market.

The dirty little secret that seems to be less and less secretive these days is that job discrimination is as pervasive as ever.  And in some cases, it couldn’t be more explicit.  In some areas, discriminatory practices are a given.  For example, I’m an accomplished bassist who is always interested in learning about new bands.  On a regular basis, I peruse various sites to see which bands are seeking musicians.  It’s quite typical to find: “We are in our late 20s and early 30s.  Don’t reply unless you fit this age range.”  Or “We seek a female drummer.”  If there’s any saving grace, at least these entities don’t beat around the bush.

In the corporate world, I’ve worked with countless hiring executives who use code language.  They’re looking for an “up-and-comer” or someone “on the upswing in their career track.”  This usually means people not a day over 32 and preferably a bit younger.  In other cases, the message is made in no uncertain terms.  Recently, I had a hiring director tell me outright he only hires women sales reps because they are more dedicated, organized, and can better engage with customers.  Another VP of Sales said she won’t touch anyone over 40.  Just last week, a hiring manager explained to a candidate: “Look. if I hire you, you’d be the oldest person on the team.”  I’m certainly no employment law expert, but if that’s not lawsuit material, I don’t know what is.

In many cases, candidates aren’t exactly helping their own cause either.  Starting a resume or LinkedIn profile with “20 years experience…” is hardly establishing a strong first impression that appeals to a wide audience.  And just as hiring companies have their code language, candidates seem to think that thinly veiled euphemisms will somehow make their candidacy more attractive.  Words like “seasoned,” “mature” and “experienced” are not helping matters.  In a similar vein, I’ve seen technical candidates mention DOS, Basic and Cobol.  I’m all for trips down memory lane once in a while, but as my gregarious 10-year-old would say, “Really???”

Other more nuanced discriminatory practices include disqualifying candidates based on their active personal lives.  Once again, it doesn’t help that candidates feel the need to volunteer this information.  Being the mother to 2-year-old twins is quite laudable.  But why volunteer this information and cast potential doubt on your ability to travel or work extended hours to meet critical deadlines?  Also, it’s one thing to volunteer at a local soup kitchen.  It’s another to have along with that:  “avid golfer, kids basketball coach, surfer, guitarist in rock band, restore and sell 60’s muscle cars, and side business running a convenience store.”  Granted, this sounds like a wonderfully full and rewarding personal life that should never count against someone.  But adding all that up seems like a full-time job in and of itself.

Job discrimination is pervasive to the point where it’s quietly accepted.  Meanwhile, through resumes, interviews and social networking venues, candidates are putting more and more of themselves out there for all to see.  Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not blaming victims for discriminatory acts against them.  It’s more a matter of tact and discretion that I’m alluding to.  Ultimately, many hiring companies continue to engage in discriminatory practices and those of us in recruitment are complicit in it as we endeavor to accommodate our client’s specific preferences.  Meanwhile, many candidates will never know the real reason why they didn’t get the job.


Action items:

1.  In this litigious environment, it would be prudent of hiring companies to train those who interview candidates on the basics of employment law and how to follow it.

2.  Candidates should review the verbiage they use in their resumes and consider the unintended consequences some of those terms and phrases may have.

3.  Candidates should think twice about volunteering personal information throughout the job search and interviewing process.  While establishing rapport is important, sometimes less is more.


Sales 101 for Candidates

April 24, 2012

There are so many accomplished sales professionals out there.  If you get to know them, you’ll see why they’re so effective.  Along with strong listening skills and insatiable inquisitiveness, they live by that age-old belief that if you aim to help others, others will help you.  And of course, these sales professionals know how to present, negotiate and close.

But God forbid they should have to sell themselves in an interview, let alone on their resume.  Somehow, their rich sales savvy and interpersonal communications ability suddenly go unaccounted for.  What can we do to get them back on track?  Sales 101 for candidates, I suppose.

Let’s start with the resume.  Think of it as a sales or marketing presentation that you’re going to deliver to a prospective customer.  How do you think grammatical errors, formatting inconsistencies, weak language, and missing key elements would go over in a sales presentation?  Probably not too well.  You could easily come off as not terribly sophisticated, rather disorganized and lacking attention to detail.  Your customers may think twice about wanting to do business with you.

For years, I have subscribed to the 4 Cs of resume writing:  Clean, Clear, Concise, and Compelling.  Anything else that detracts from these qualities will likely carry a deleterious effect and an undesired result.  There are may ways to craft and present a sales presentation at a customer meeting.  This is what marketing is for – to help craft the most compelling and professional sales presentation possible.  Similarly, there are many facets to a well-crafted resume, and most-all candidates are best served to invest in a top quality resume written by a 3rd party who understands the industry, position, and perspective of a hiring executive who would read the resume.

Next is the interview.  In theory, this should be easier for salespeople to excel at as the interview setting mimics that of a customer sales meeting.  The key difference, of course, is the product or service you are selling is yourself.  Why do people claim to have such difficulty in selling themselves?  I’ve heard every excuse, from humbleness (really — salespeople?!?!?!), to inexperience, to bringing up deep rooted insecurities.  I’m sorry, but what a crock!  Everyone has had to sell themselves.  Remember those college admissions applications?  Band auditions?  Courting your significant other?  Meeting the prospective in-laws?  It happens everywhere and more often than you think.

The issue is that people don’t practice selling themselves and as such, don’t put much thought into it.  So, in preparing for an interview, aside from researching the company, its products and services, its people, and its market, how about researching yourself?  Take the time to refresh your memory on your many accomplishments.  More importantly, put some thought into (and anticipate) why this interviewer is interested in meeting with you and what it is they’re likely looking for.  During the interview, if you can come up with specific examples from your experience that definitively map to what they’re looking for, you’re on the path to making a strong case for your candidacy.

Additionally, just as with a customer sales meeting, in which you’re asking many thoughtful, poignant questions to help understand your client’s needs and pain points, you must come to the interview table with equally strong questions that demonstrate forethought, intelligence, and genuine interest.  This a great way to sell yourself on such attributes as preparedness, curiosity, logical thought process, and forward-looking skills.

Finally, the last step in an interview is testing for concerns and then closing on a next step.  Like customers, not all hiring executives are forthcoming enough to divulge their reservations about you.  But you have to ask.  If there’s an objection to overcome, you want to know about it and address it before it festers and grows a life of its own.  And just with customer meetings, you want to close the interviewer on the next step, whether it be a follow-up meeting, reference checks, or discussions on the offer.  In managing a customer sales cycle, all of this is common sense. You wouldn’t dare miss any of these critical customer engagement elements.  The same holds true for interviews.

If you aren’t in sales, pretend that you are, put your sales hat on and manage the sales cycle.  If you are in sales, keep that sales hat on.  Don’t be shy about selling yourself.  When you’re interviewing, that’s your job!


Action items:

1.  No matter what you do in life, self-promotion is always a part of it.  Surely you do not want to come off some sort of narcissistic deity, but it’s important to learn how to present yourself and your career in a favorable and compelling light.  Seek out counsel from those you trust and know of your accomplishments and abilities.  Ask them how they would go about selling you.

2.  Your image, brand and reputation are formed with how well you position yourself.  If you’re unclear on how to do so effectively, seek out professionals, such as resume writers, career counselors and mentors.

3.  People buy from those who they trust.  You earn people’s trust by gaining their belief in your ability, convictions and credibility.   Anything in your resume, interviews and follow-up correspondence that detracts from these attributes compromises that trust and inhibits your ability to sell yourself.

Cost or Opportunity Cost?

May 23, 2011

On both sides of the hiring fence — hiring companies and candidates, there is no escaping the need to set yourself up for success.  Yet, as it pertains to the hiring process, how do you define success?  For candidates, it would appear obvious that success is marked by landing a job.  Similarly for hiring managers, success comes with filling an open position.  But we need to dig a little deeper.

Let’s say that as an unemployed, underemployed, or underpaid candidate, you have nothing to wear to an interview.  On what basis will you decide which clothes to wear and how you will obtain them?  Hypothetically, here are some possible options:

1.  Although you’re not a clothing designer or a tailor, you decide that cost is the ultimate factor and you buy the raw fabric yourself, trying to stitch together a home made suit.

2.  You’re not going to make your own suit, but cost is still the prevailing factor, so you go to your local Goodwill or Salvation Army thrift store and buy an out-of-style ‘70s polyester suit (if you’re a guy) or an ‘80s suit with the shoulder pads (if you’re a woman).

3.  Your highest priority is to appear professional and sharp with clothes that are flattering, so you invest in a new suit and have it tailored.

Could you still land a job if you opted for the first or second option?  Probably…eventually.  But it may take many months longer and along the way, you will likely have lost out on more optimal positions than the one in which you were ultimately hired.  So you spent next to nothing on the clothes, but you spent tens, if not hundreds of times the cost of a new tailored suit by enduring many additional months of not moving your career ahead.

Amazingly, I come across many highly intelligent and capable candidates every day who stack the deck against themselves, all in the name of saving money in the short term.  No, I’m not referring to their clothing, but rather their resume.

Many candidates, including MBAs and executive level individuals, simply don’t have the competency to build and present their own brand.  This alone is not the crux of the problem.  Rather, it’s the people in this large group who don’t tap into their own self-awareness long enough to realize that resume writing and brand building is not their forte.  Worse yet, there’s another subset who don’t seem to value the importance of hiring a professional to develop a well-crafted resume that bolsters brand equity.  Going back to the clothing analogy, these are the folks who would choose options 1 or 2 above, all in the name of saving a buck in the short term.

Hiring companies are not impervious to this myopic mindset either.  Many would rather rely on their highly esteemed, yet limited network to find candidates.  It doesn’t take long for that well to run dry.  Besides, this is not a scalable hiring strategy.  Next, they resort to reactive recruitment by listing postings on job boards because it’s cheap and seemingly easy.  Several months and hundreds of unqualified inbound resumes later, they’re back to square one.  Once again, this has cost significant wasted time, effort, and burden.

Generally, companies outsource payroll, benefits, telecom, and PR.  You’d think that for recruiting human capital – a company’s number-one asset in terms of both cost and value, they would seek out professional services as well.  Talent acquisition is only getting tougher and more competitive.  For a company to meet its hiring objectives, which in turn will better enable it to achieve sustained growth, spending money on a quality tailored suit (i.e., a professional, proactive recruitment resource and strategy) is tantamount to success.

These depictions of candidates and hiring companies are not exaggerated.  They are happening every day all around us.  This is worse than “penny wise, pound foolish.”  It’s really “penny foolish, pound foolish.”  Advancing one’s career and building one’s team are major life and business issues that deserve a committal of prioritization, budget, and trusted professional resources.  Spending wisely does not mean avoiding costs.  Instead, spending wisely should equate to doing all you can to avoid opportunity cost.

Action items:

1.  Of course, we’re all watching every dollar like never before.  But whether you’re a candidate or hiring executive, please don’t short change yourself.  This is too big a deal not to stack the deck in your favor.

2.  Just as you serve your business community with your subject matter expertise, invest in trusted advisors for effective interviewing and hiring.

3.  Whether it’s a poorly crafted resume or an ineffective job posting, both will cheapen your brand and cost you plenty over the long haul.  Buy the nice tailored suit!

Seven LinkedIn Profile Myths

March 23, 2011

In about a month, LinkedIn will celebrate its 8th birthday.  At the time the website went live, it took 1 1/2 years to reach a million users.  Nowadays, it adds a million users every 12 days and boasts of over 90 million users spanning 200 countries and territories.  No doubt, it has become the de facto standard professional networking resource.

For such a widely accepted networking tool, you’d think people would invest more time understanding how to unleash its power.  It starts with recognizing the importance of developing a well-crafted profile.

As a search professional, I practically live in LinkedIn.  Along with my growing group of connections, I’ve searched and reviewed countless thousands of profiles.  It never ceases to amaze me the variance of profile thoroughness – from connections to content.  Just as with resume writing and interviewing, developing and refining one’s LinkedIn presence appears to be one of those necessary evils that mysteriously evades the quest for best practices.  Yet, unlike resumes and interviews, we seldom if ever receive feedback on the effectiveness of our profiles.

So who’s viewing your LinkedIn profile?  Many people.  In no particular order, the list likely includes new business contacts, colleagues, bosses, prospective bosses, potential customers, business partners, investors, candidates, recruiters, scammers (they’re everywhere), old acquaintances, old flames (yikes!), friends, and family.  Granted, with some of these people, you probably couldn’t care less if they saw your profile.  And with certain others, you’d prefer they didn’t.  But what about everyone else?

Here are some LinkedIn Profile myths that deserve to be dispelled for the sake of putting your best online networking foot forward.

Myth #1:  My LinkedIn profile isn’t as important as my resume. As someone who has provided resume writing services for years, the resume is near and dear to my heart.  It’s the ticket to the dance.  Such first impressions deserve to be held in very high regard.  Yet, much of the time, your LinkedIn profile serves as an online first impression.  It’s just as important as your resume.  In fact, many prospective employers will check out your LinkedIn profile, even if they have your resume on hand.  They may search for any additional information not included in your resume or look for any inconsistencies.  Thus, attention to grammar, spelling, and organization of information is critically important.

Myth #2:  I only need to list the places I’ve worked; no need for details under each position. While technically true, you’re doing yourself a disservice by not including some information about your role, associated responsibilities, and achievements.  In order to appreciate your capabilities, people need this information.  Moreover, in order to find you, many people use keywords.  If you don’t describe your responsibilities and areas of specialization, then you may not even reach people’s radar screens.  Also, I’ve seen all too many profiles that simply copy and paste a paragraph off their company’s website for the position’s description.  This isn’t what people who open your profile are looking to read.  Besides, many companies have descriptions on LinkedIn.

Myth #3:  There’s no need to populate the Summary and Specialties sections. Just as with the Summary section at the top of the resume, this section is valuable real estate.  Here’s your golden opportunity to encapsulate what you’re all about and how you’re differentiated, not to mention adding pertinent keywords so that you’re more likely to come up in search results.

Myth #4:  The more LinkedIn recommendations I have, the better. Aside from the law of diminishing returns (which is reason enough), too many recommendations can carry an air of disingenuousness.  One sure way to spot a candidate who’s desperately seeking attention is to notice a sudden onslaught of recommendations being added at or about the same time.  If you’re going to accumulate recommendations, it appears more natural to have them added over time, thus eliminating a hint of an ulterior motive.  I’d rather see a handful of recommendations from key colleagues, former bosses, or customers, than a slew of recommendations.  It’s simply more believable.

Myth #5:  The number of LinkedIn connections doesn’t matter. Sure it does.  The more connections you have, the more likely it is that you’ll hit someone’s radar screen.  Yet, you don’t want to go overboard and invite just anyone to connect.  You ought to at least know who you’re connecting with.  At the other end of the spectrum, there’s the sales or marketing individual with only 3 connections.  There are tons of these people out there.  As a search professional, I think twice about contacting them.  After all, what does it say about their resourcefulness?  Sense of initiative?  Ability or desire to network?  Online savvy?   Especially for sales and marketing folks, they are expected to be strong in these areas.

Myth #6:  To be an effective LinkedIn user, I must post updates every day. No!  This is not Facebook.  If there’s something significant going on or important information to impart, then by all means, let your LinkedIn community know.  But if you Tweet multiple times per day, sometimes about relatively frivolous or irrelevant matters, then don’t check off the Twitter-LinkedIn connector.  Do you really want to be perceived as a spammer, or worse, someone who doesn’t prioritize their time wisely?

Myth #7:  Join and list as many groups as allowable (currently 50). Groups are a good way to show what’s important to you.  Thus, choose them wisely and think about which groups you want listed in your profile.  If I see a software product marketing manager candidate with more non-business related affiliations (e.g., I Love Golf, Foodies, Cub Scouts, NFL, Rug Weaving) than industry related groups (e.g., Brand Management, Web 2.0 Product Management, Agile Marketing, Software as a Service), then I’m going to think twice about them.  Granted, my perception may be way off base.  They may very well be dedicated hard-working individuals who have mastered the fine art of work-life balance.  But this is an issue of perception we’re talking about.

Your LinkedIn profile is an important representation of your personal brand.  And remember, a brand is a promise.  So what promises does your LinkedIn profile accentuate?  How does your profile affect some of the common personal brand promises, such as:  intelligence; performance; innovation; responsibility; and accountability?  What about:  attention to detail; organization of thought; communications skills; resourcefulness; and go-getter mindset?  Let the answer to this question be the litmus test on the effectiveness of your LinkedIn profile.  Don’t be misdirected by common myths.


Action Items:

1.  Look at your LinkedIn profile as if you were looking at a stranger’s.  Overall, what does it say about you?

2.  Ask those who exude business and online networking savvy to critique your LinkedIn profile.

3.  Remember – you are a brand.  What is your LinkedIn profile doing to either strengthen or detract from your brand?

Why Good Candidates Bomb

November 24, 2010

If I ruled the world, I would have full authority to place fully qualified and scrutinized candidates into their new roles, bypassing the pomp and circumstance of the interview dance.  Why?  Because all too many hiring executives seem to be hiring people who can get the job instead of those who can do the job.  Similarly, multitudes of strong, ideally suited candidates seem to fall flat on their faces when given the chance to present themselves in an interview setting.

It’s not that I don’t believe in the value of the interview process and I’m certainly not above those who know their own company better than anyone else.  They are simply seeking to build out their teams with the most appropriate individuals to help attain their business objectives.  However, there are so many situations where it’s abundantly clear that a given candidate would make an ideal fit in terms of roles and responsibilities as well as culture.  They would very likely thrive in the setting, gel with their prospective colleagues, and positively impact the company’s need to take its business to the next level.  Yet, invariably, something goes haywire when the candidate rubber meets the interview road.

First, there’s the issue of the resume.  A poorly crafted resume is like showing up for the interview with torn jeans, a food stained T-shirt, bed hair, and paint-peeling body odor from not having showered the last 5 days.  This is one’s career we’re talking about, not a trip to the local dump.  Yes, a resume is technically a formality, but in that same light, so is a Purchase and Sales Agreement for buying a house.  You better have it right.

As a viable candidate, you won’t even have a chance to bomb the interview if you can’t even make it through the first step.  The resume is a documented manifestation of all you’ve accomplished, all you bring to the table, and how you are differentiated from the rest of the candidate noise out there.  If you don’t see the value in investing in a top tier resume, then you either suffer from delusions of grandeur, in which hiring companies are lucky just to have the chance to beg you to join their firm, or your priorities are way out of whack…or both!

Assuming you have a well-crafted resume and have been invited to the dance, you better get prepared.  Just because you’ve been hired in the past and have since progressed nicely in your career, doesn’t mean you can bank on your stellar reputation and ability to speak extemporaneously to simply wing it.  You need to do your homework.  That means ask the recruiter or networking contact who got you in the door any and all questions about the company – its people, culture, financials, product, history, vision, competitive landscape, customers, accomplishments, and challenges.  You must research the company, not only scouring every square inch of their website, but reading articles and leveraging your network for any inside information.

Upon researching the company, take time to reflect on how your background, skill set, and accomplishments map to the specific stated needs the company has, both for the position as well as their overarching business objectives.  Be prepared to give specific examples from your past on how your experience is ideally suited for their needs.  Yes, as great a candidate as you are, and as lucky as the hiring company would be to have you on board, you still must sell yourself.

Granted, the hiring company needs to sell you on the opportunity as well.  And that’s where thoughtful, provocative questions prepared in advance come in handy for a candidate.  It demonstrates preparedness, interest, enthusiasm, and inquisitiveness – all positive attributes.  And at the end of an interview, there is no need to shy away from trying to close them on a next step.  Ultimately, if you’re a Sales candidate, do you prepare for and conduct yourself in interviews at the same level that you prepare for and conduct a major client meeting?  For all others not in Sales, please pretend that you’re a Sales candidate.

From the other side of the table, all too many times a hiring executive will disqualify a candidate because they didn’t happen to do one or two specific things that were expected of them, such as parrot back the company’s mission statement from their website verbatim, answer the question on why they’re looking to leave their current employer without saying anything even remotely inflammatory, or state the value prop and key differentiators while jumping off the desk and doing a 2 ½ twist in a pike position.  Once again, there is not a direct correlation between perceived interviewing prowess (based on the hiring manager’s specific criteria) and the ability to do the job well.

At the end of the day, candidates bomb mainly because they are their own worst enemy.  Sure, hiring managers are not without fault as previously stated.  Yet, candidates by and large, are doing themselves a disservice by selling themselves short.  They profess attention to detail, only to have egregious typos and formatting inconsistencies in their resume.  They believe an opportunity is perfect for them, but don’t put in the time and effort needed to fully prepare and effectively articulate how they understand the entirety of the opportunity not to mention how they can fit in and succeed.

If only candidates had high priced sports agents, like Scott Boras, doing all the heavy lifting – researching, preparing, presenting.  He could take care of extolling the candidate’s virtues, mapping the candidate’s abilities to the hiring company’s expressed needs, and brokering the deal.  Granted, recruiters do play a significant role along these lines.  However, the reality is once the door closes to the interview room, it’s time for candidates to be their own Scott Boras.

Action Items:

1.  Your mastery of prior positions, impressive mountain of credentials, and sparkling personality are not enough to get in the door.  You better have a masterful, impressive, and sparkling resume to back it up.

2.  For candidates, prepare, prepare, prepare.  Be ready like it’s a final exam.  Because, guess what?  You will be tested.

3.  For hiring executives, focus on envisioning the candidate fitting in and doing well in the role.  Once again, hire people who can do the job, not just those who can get the job.

4.  All points made in this article may appear to be common sense.  But take a minute, get introspective and be honest with yourself.  You’d be surprised at how elusive common sense can be…for us all.

When Time is Not on Your Side

March 10, 2010

I loved my grandmother very much.  Yet, I can state unequivocally that she was one of the worst drivers ever to get behind the wheel.  Her driving mentality was summed up by her proclamation, “The other guy’s got the brakes!”  She would have fit right in here in Boston.  However, this is Los Angeles we’re talking about – the land of abiding by every driving rule while yielding to others in the name of courteousness.

Even more telling is a memory etched into my brain until I die.  My sister and I were hunkered down in the back seat of my grandmother’s yellow and black ’67 Chrysler Newport.  Why were we in the “brace for impact” position as shown on airline videos?  Because my grandmother was driving on the wrong side of Sunset Boulevard!  We tried in vain to tell her she was driving on the wrong side, but to no avail.  My grandma asserted, “I have been driving for 60 years!  Nobody’s going to tell me how to drive!”

The point of this life or death driving drama is to demonstrate that years of experience does not automatically correlate with proficiency.  All too many times, I see as the beginning of a LinkedIn profile or resume proudly state:  “Marketing professional with 25 years’ experience…” or “Over 20 years of high tech/software sales experience…”  Granted, it is true that these people have accumulated 20+ years of relevant experience.  Yet, as the masters of their own personal brands, why lead with a quantitative data point that doesn’t speak to aptitude and accomplishments?  After all, the first line is the first impression of the first impression.

Surely, many of these 20-year veterans bring valuable life lessons and perspective.  We all stand to learn from those with accumulated wisdom gained from their many years on the job.  But the reality is that hiring executives may not necessarily desire someone with 20 years’ experience.  Perhaps they had it in their mind that 10 years was about right.  Would they be open to a 20-year star performer?  Possibly.  But why throw it in their face?

I have placed 5-year up-and-comers for positions that called for 10+ years.  Similarly, I have placed 20-year experienced professionals in roles that called for 5-8 years’ experience.  Ultimately, the fit should be determined by what a candidate has accomplished in those years, be they few or plentiful.  Moreover, intangible qualities, such as passion, energy, self-awareness, and innovation, transcend time.  We’ve all seen or worked with young pups who were mature beyond their years and in the process, got and gave the very most out of their few years as a professional.  And yes, we’ve also seen that “seasoned” professional who’s not so seasoned and not very professional.

In this light, I encourage hiring executives to put aside their preferences on years of experience and focus more on what candidates have done with the years they have.  There are so many other significant attributes to look at, both tangible and intangible, that will serve as a more telling barometer of success in the role.

As for my grandmother’s driving, I lived to tell about it.  In hindsight, I would have preferred to be driven by either a 60-year driving veteran who knew the roads and cleanly managed through the myriad of driving circumstances, or a 5-year driver who had driven quite a bit in that short time, learned a lot, and remained cognizant of driving rules and best practices.

Action Items

1.  As a hiring manager, keep an open mind on number of years in a candidate’s background.  Instead, focus on the extent to which that candidate has made the most of their time.

2.  As a candidate, there are many other ways to define yourself than by the number of years.

3.  Always wear your seatbelt, even if you’re in the back seat.  You just never know what kind of person is at the wheel.

Both Sides Need to Revisit the Question: How Important is the Resume?

July 16, 2009

As a recruiter, long time hiring manager, and resume writing service provider, I have reviewed thousands of resumes across nearly all disciplines and levels.  It never ceases to amaze me how little people invest in their resumes.  Families seek out resources and spend substantial amounts of time and money to support other major life issues, such as financial advisors, attorneys, wedding planners, therapists, and real estate agents.  By contrast, the career front seems all too lacking in forethought, preparation, and execution.  If one’s resume is any indication, then it appears that tackling career issues appears more of a necessary evil to get done with than a critical life element deserving of significant attention.  I can’t help but conclude that some people put more time and thought into deciding the clothes they wear than the proper dressing of their resume.

I fully recognize that the resume is merely a means to an end.  Yet, it represents the first impression.  It’s the written manifestation of all the sweat equity you’ve built.  It’s certainly deserving of being treated more than an afterthought.  Surprisingly, many people are doing themselves an injustice by not putting their best (written) foot forward.  I’ve seen MBAs with egregious typos, sales executives with passive language, and marketing professionals with eye fatiguing formatting.  And yet, when I interview some of these people, they indeed make for strong and compelling candidates.  Unfortunately, everyone’s an expert on writing their own resume.  After all, who knows you better than yourself?

As for hiring managers, how important is the resume?  Naturally, it couldn’t possibly contain all the information you need to make an informed decision.  To be sure, it can provide helpful clues, such as quota numbers for sales, product development and enhancement milestones for product managers, and depth of accounting standards and practices for controllers.  It also provides a glimpse into organization skills, attention to detail, and concise thought process ability.

Yet, there’s much to a candidate that eludes the resume.  You’ll be hard pressed to find intangible qualities on the written document, such as motivation, passion, inquisitiveness, risk tolerance, and self-awareness.  In addition, there’s the story behind the story – why the candidate left the position, how specifically they accomplished their goals, and what their key learnings were in each role.  If a candidate is being presented by a competent and thorough recruiter, then these vital data points will be ferreted out and delivered to the hiring manager along with the resume.  Otherwise, both the candidate and hiring manager have little to depend on to flesh out the picture.

At the end of the day, the resume is the ticket to dance.  The hiring manager has to determine if you are properly dressed for the dance and have the right dancing ability.  If the resume is constructed well and accompanied by supporting data, then there stands a greater likelihood of being granted admission.  And with that, let the dance begin.

Action Items:

*  Your resume is a reflection of all your hard work.  It deserves substantially more attention.

*  As a candidate, don’t depend on your own resume writing ability.  After all, everyone needs a second pair of eyes.  It’s worth the investment.

*  Both candidates and hiring managers alike must remember that a resume alone can’t possibly provide a detailed enough picture of the candidate’s credentials and potential fit.