Posts tagged ‘resume’

Job-Seekers’ Top-10 Lists and New Year’s Resolutions

Every year around December, people in the media seem to feel compelled to wrap up each outgoing year with various Top-10 Lists – usually featuring news events, movies, songs, TV shows, books, etc. Each December since I started Recruiter Musings back in 2009 (our visitor count recently surpassed 1 Million hits and we’re still going strong!) I’ve been posting a couple of my own “Top-10 Lists” for Job-Seekers, as well as a list of suggested New Year’s Resolutions for Job-Seekers. In reviewing those prior lists, I found that they are mostly still very relevant and timely! Oh sure, a lot has changed in the world during the last few years. But in terms of my view of the most annoying and the most helpful things for job-seekers … well, my opinions and suggestions have aged well! I’m still very annoyed by people who don’t return phone calls, and I still think Twitter is a huge waste of time! And I’m still a firm believer in the power of Networking as the number one job-seeking methodology with the best chances for success. Likewise, my suggested New Year’s Resolutions from the last few years are still the same ones I’d advise today’s job-seekers to aspire to for the coming year.

Rather than trying to re-invent the wheel, I simply went back and re-edited the past year’s postings to make sure they were still accurate and up-to-date so that I could simply refer back to them. (By referring back to those newly edited original posts instead of re-posting them as new, the readers’ comments at the bottom of each of those articles have also been preserved.) SO … here are the links:

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 Top 10 Most Annoying Things for Job-Seekers

 Top 10 Most Helpful Things for Job-Seekers

 New Year’s Resolutions for Job-Seekers

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December 1, 2014 at 11:56 am Leave a comment

The Truth About Lying On Résumés

When I was just starting my career as a recruiter, a well-known trainer at my firm would often utter a phrase that used to bother me a lot. He’d say: “All candidates lie on their résumés.” (It reminded me of Hugh Laurie on the TV show House M.D. and his famous pronouncement: “Everybody lies … the only variable is about what.”) Maybe I’m just naive — or perhaps I’m just a trusting person by nature — but I’d like to believe that most people are honest and ethical, and would not intentionally lie or deceive me with false information on their résumés. Still, I know that sometimes people exaggerate, omit things, or stretch the truth here and there to inflate their profiles.

Over the years I’ve worked with a multitude of job-seekers on how to improve their résumés. While I would NEVER encourage anyone to lie or fabricate anything, I do often tell people that unlike a job application, a résumé is not a legal document and there is no requirement that it must contain a complete history of everything you’ve ever done. It should be truthful … but it’s up to each person to decide what to include or not include. For example, I sometimes tell people to not include the months in the dates listed next to each job – instead, showing them only as a range of years. That can often avoid the red flag of seeing brief periods of unemployment between jobs. (See example.) I’ve also advised people that it’s OK to leave off jobs in their work history (especially if they were short-lived) that were unrelated to their main industry or niche. But those omissions are very different than outright lying, or making claims about positions you’ve held or degrees you’ve earned that are simply not true.

The following is a fascinating InfoGraphic I found called “The Truth About Lying on Résumés.” The statistics quoted below were compiled from surveys conducted in 2012 by Accu-Screen (a background checking company,) ADP (a Payroll Services company) and The Society of Human Resource Managers. I have no way of knowing if this is a truly accurate picture of today’s truthfulness (or lack thereof) of the multitudes of résumés I review every week … but I can only hope that the ones I see are more honest than this suggests …

(You can click on the image below to open a full-sized version in a new window. Then click it again in the second window that opens to zoom in.)

Now one would think that in today’s Social Media-saturated world, and especially with the advent of LinkedIn, false claims on résumés would be a rare occurrence. After all, everyone’s past employers and co-workers can now easily view everyone else’s profiles. If someone was less than truthful about their work history, they would be immediately exposed … right? Well, perhaps not. Unless someone is called as a reference, or has a particular axe to grind, most people probably wouldn’t take the time to blow the whistle on someone else even if they see blatantly false information on their online profiles.

Of course, anyone in a highly public position is much more vulnerable than the average worker. Certainly, there have been many examples over the years of famous people who have been caught lying on their résumés in order to get jobs.

Famous Résumé Liars:

► Vice President Joe Biden first ran for president in 1988, but during that campaign it was discovered that he lied about attending law school on a full scholarship (he had only a partial scholarship) and about graduating in the top half of his class (he was 76th out of 85.) When the truth came out, Biden had to abandon his presidential bid. Apparently voters in 2008 and 2012 had either not heard of that earlier history of lying — or didn’t care!

► In 2012, Scott Thompson, CEO of Yahoo!, was fired after only 5 months on the job when it was discovered that he had lied on his résumé. He had stated that he earned degrees in both Accounting AND Computer Science, when in fact he never received the latter.

► In 2007, Marilee Jones, the Dean of Admissions at Massachusetts Institute of Technology resigned after 28 celebrated years at M.I.T. when it became know that she had fabricated her own educational credentials. She claimed to have earned degrees from 3 different colleges: Albany Medical College, Union College and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. In fact, she had no degrees at all! Rensselaer said she only attended as a part-time student during one school year. The other two colleges said they had no record of her.

► In 2006, Dave Edmondson, the CEO of RadioShack, was fired after 11 years with the company when it was revealed that he had lied on his résumé. He had claimed he held degrees in Psychology and Theology from Pacific Coast Baptist College in California. In fact, he never graduated. The school’s records showed Edmondson completed only two semesters, and that the school never even offered degrees in Psychology!

► In 2005, Michael Brown, Director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), resigned after his mishandling of the response to Hurricane Katrina. To get that job, Brown had claimed he oversaw emergency services for the City of Edmund, Oklahoma and that he’d worked at the University of Central Oklahoma as a political science professor. In fact, it was later revealed that Brown had only been an assistant to the city manager, which is more like an intern. And school officials at the University of Central Oklahoma said Brown was never a member of their faculty.

► In 2001, George O’Leary was fired from the Head Coaching job at Notre Dame College after only 5 days on the job. O’Leary had claimed to have a Master’s Degree in Education from New York University and had lettered in college football at the University of New Hampshire. O’Leary attended NYU but did not receive a degree. In fact, he had taken only two courses at SUNY – Stony Brook, and never graduated! And he never earned a letter playing football in New Hampshire and never even played in a game there.

Of course, the above examples are only some of the most well know liars who had the misfortune of getting caught in very public positions. It kind of makes you wonder how many other résumé liars fly under the radar, and never get caught!

November 7, 2014 at 11:53 am Leave a comment

Let the Jobs Find You: Making Yourself More “Searchable”

If you are an active job-seeking candidate, then I think it’s safe to say that you are in pursuit mode, right? You are probably spending the majority of your time searching for and pursuing target companies, networking contacts and decision-makers within those companies, HR people, recruiters and any job opportunities you hear about that match your background and experience. All in all, these can be very time consuming and often frustrating activities. Wouldn’t it be great if the reverse were true: if jobs would find you, instead of the other way around? Wouldn’t you like to be the one who was being pursued instead of you always trying to chase others down? Wouldn’t it be fantastic if hiring managers from companies, HR people and recruiters would search for and then contact you about jobs they thought you matched???

First of all, we need to start with the assumption that you possess all the necessary skills and experiences that truly match a particular job’s requirements. If that is true (and that’s a huge assumption) then connecting you as a candidate with a specific job opportunity is the name of this game! In my world as a recruiter, there are basically two types of candidates that are considered targets for us to pursue: Passive and Active. The difference between these two types of candidates is fairly easy to describe:

Passive Candidates are people who are currently working and not really looking for a new job at all. However (and this is a key point) they might be open to new opportunities, depending on how they are approached. Companies with jobs to fill rarely solicit passive candidates directly. Instead, they will engage Executive Search Firms and recruiters who specialize in placing people in permanent, full-time positions and who usually target passive candidates on behalf of those client companies. Passive candidates are highly sought after by so-called “Head-Hunters,” whose goal it is to get someone to leave one job and go to another. [Read “The Real Truth About Working with Recruiters” for more on how “Head Hunters” differ from other types of recruiters.] For a variety of reasons (not all of which are logical) candidates who are currently working are perceived in a better light than unemployed job-seekers by most potential new employers. This is especially true if someone is working for a client company’s competitor!

Recruiting passive candidates is not an easy process … but can actually be a lot of fun and quite a challenge for many recruiters. It involves a lot of networking, cold-calling and old fashioned sleuthing. It boils down to pure consultative sales techniques. Once a passive candidate is identified and contacted, the recruiter has to establish trust and rapport with that person, find out what their career goals and desires are, and then convince them to consider interviewing for a job with their client — something they were not looking for, or really even thinking about before that initial call. There needs to be a compelling story to be told by that recruiter which explains why moving from company A to company B would be in that candidate’s best interest. That usually comes down to one of three things: higher compensation, opportunities for career growth/advancement, or a better company culture — or some combination of all three.

Active Candidates on the other hand, are people who are actively looking for jobs. These are candidates who are either “in transition” (i.e. not currently working full-time) or are actually employed somewhere but unhappy and seriously looking to make a change from their current job. Companies with temporary or permanent jobs to fill, as well as staffing firms and recruiters who specialize in contract-consulting jobs tend to target active candidates since they are generally available immediately. Unlike passive candidates, active candidates typically post their résumés on job boards and respond to job postings. For recruiters, active candidates are not as difficult to find as passive candidates — or at least they shouldn’t be! If you are an active job-seeker, it is obviously in your best interest to maximize your online visibility as well as your “searchability” in order to be “found” by recruiters and HR people at companies searching for candidates with specific matching skill sets.

LinkedIn Frustrations
It’s no secret that LinkedIn has now eclipsed all the standard job boards as the number one go-to place for recruiters to find candidates. LinkedIn has radically changed the way potential employers and recruiters find candidates, and companies search for and uncover details about potential employees. Many companies are now actually dropping their Monster and CareerBuilder accounts and relying on LinkedIn as their main source for talent acquisition. Creating an effective online profile on LinkedIn is one of the most important things a job-seeker can do right now. From a recruiter’s point of view, one of the most frustrating aspects of LinkedIn is that it is not always easy to figure out if a person is an active job-seeker or not. Many people portray themselves on LinkedIn as working full-time, when they may actually be active job-seekers who simply don’t want to reveal their true status. They might think (as per the reasoning explained above for passive candidates) that they will appear more desirable if they are not unemployed. The trouble with that reasoning is that if I, as a recruiter, am looking for active candidates — I might not contact someone who appears to be working full-time! Another LinkedIn frustration is that even active job-seekers who say they are looking for new opportunities usually fail to provide any direct way to contact them (i.e. an email address or a phone number.) If you are not a first-degree connection, the limitations of LinkedIn’s messaging system will be a big road-block to anyone trying to contact you with a job opportunity.

Making Yourself More “Searchable”
If you are an Active Job-Seeking Candidate with marketable skills and experiences, there are several things you can do to increase your chances of being seen and pursued by those jobs instead of you being the one doing all the chasing. Following are some tips on how to maximize your chances of being “found” by either a company or a recruiter:

  • Keywords
    Keyword searches are usually the first method used to find résumés and LinkedIn profiles with specific skills that match job descriptions. If the right words or phrases are not present in your résumé or profile, you simply won’t come up in a search done by a recruiter or an HR person. You should make sure that your résumé uses the language and commonly used buzzwords or phrases that appear in the typical job descriptions within your industry niche. Study those job descriptions and copy those buzzwords and phrases into your résumé and profile. Also look up other people who do what you do, and see what keywords appear in their profiles for more ideas. Try using a free keyword search tool like “WordStream”, or any number of other keyword generating tools that you can easily find online. When someone searches for keyword matches on LinkedIn, the results are ordered first by how closely connected you are to them, and then by how often those keywords appear in your profile. Test your own profile’s effectiveness by using LinkedIn’s Advanced Search function: pretend that you are a recruiter and search for people who do what you do in your own geographical area. Try copying and pasting some key phrases from a job description you think fits your background into the keyword search field, or a job title you are seeking into the title search field. Does your profile come up anywhere near the top of the search results? If not, look at who does and try to figure out why: what do their profiles have that yours doesn’t? What keywords do they have that you don’t — and how frequently do those keywords appear? Now add those things to your own profile (if they truly apply to you) and try the search again!
  • Frequently Refresh your Online Résumés
    In addition to LinkedIn, you should also have your keyword-optimized résumé posted on all the major job boards (Monster, CareerBuilder, etc.) Companies, Staffing Firms and recruiters pay lots of money to subscribe to and be able to search in those job-board résumé banks. Did you know that when someone searches the job board’s résumé banks, the results are often displayed in the order of who is the most recently updated? Anyone who has ever done a basic Google search already knows how that process works … you click through the results on the first two or three pages, and most people rarely go any further. Does anyone actually look to see what’s been found on the hundreds of pages that follow those first few? If your résumé doesn’t appear on those first few pages of a keyword search, your chances of being found drop off dramatically. How can you fix that? Easy: edit and then re-post/refresh your résumé posts at least once or twice a week. Change something/anything on your résumé or profile to refresh/re-post it online. It can be something as small as one word! Refreshing/Re-Posting it will bring it back closer to the top of the search results.
  • If You Are an Active Candidate, SAY SO!
    Make sure you clearly declare the fact that you are seeking new opportunities in such a way that it is crystal clear to anyone who views your résumé or LinkedIn profile online. Put it in your headline. Put it in the Summary section. List it in your professional goals. Use phrases like: “Seeking New Opportunities” or “Available for Projects.” (Recruiters actually use the words “Seeking” and “Available” in their keyword searches for active candidates!)
  • Add Contact Information to Your LinkedIn Profile!
    As explained above, failing to include basic contact information (email address or phone number) somewhere in your LinkedIn Profile will make it much more difficult for anyone who finds you to contact you … unless you are already a first degree connection. Relying on LinkedIn’s internal communication tool is much too limiting. Add your contact information in such a way that anyone who views your public profile can see it and email or call you.
  • Include a Photo on Your LinkedIn Profile
    Speaking strictly from personal experience as a recruiter, I am much more inclined to reach out to people on LinkedIn who have photos than those who do not. I always prefer LinkedIn profiles with photos, as long as they look professional and not goofy. I tend to spend more time reviewing the photo profiles … they seem more honest and inviting. Plus, it helps me remember people I’ve met, puts names and faces together, and makes me feel I am more connected to people. Profiles without photos seem more generic, incomplete and anonymous. I always suspect that they are hiding something!

The goal of all of these steps is quite simple: make it easier for recruiters and potential employers to find and then contact you. Instead of you doing all the chasing, you want to make yourself more “Searchable” which will increase the odds that the perfect job will find you!

January 10, 2014 at 11:50 am 2 comments

“Help … I Need a Job!” A 9-Step Guide For Newly Minted Job-Seekers

Several times each month, I receive random calls and emails with unsolicited résumés from job-seekers who say, in effect: “Can you help me find a job?” My response to those people is usually some variation of my often-repeated mantra: “Sorry, but recruiters don’t find jobs for people … they find people for jobs.” I then point them to this blog for further clarification: “The Real Truth About Working with Recruiters.” Still, I feel bad for those seemingly clueless job-seekers who apparently need some basic direction on how to conduct an effective job search campaign. Some are young, inexperienced job-seekers with minimal practical work experience. Others are in their prime working years, but have decided to try switching to a new career in which they have little or no experience. [For more on those types of situations, read “Advice for Recent Grads and Career-Changers.”] Still others are older, more senior level professionals who unexpectedly got caught up in the rampant layoffs during the economic downturn of the last few years and have suddenly found themselves totally unprepared for a job search so late in life. The toughest of those cases are the ones who have been working for one company for most of their lives, and haven’t needed to write a résumé or interview anywhere in decades. Having done their last job search during an era of fax machines, cold calls and door-to-door pavement pounding, those older job-seekers are often lost in the fast-paced modern world of mobile computing and social media.

Much of the information needed by anyone in order to organize and execute an effective modern job search has already been documented here in these Recruiter Musings archives. [For a list of all of those articles organized by topic, check out the Index found on the green navigation bar at the top of this page, and also on the side-bar to the right.] I thought it might be helpful to pull it all together into one big 9-Step Guide. Some of what follows is new information, and a lot of it is a re-hash where I’ll point towards prior blogs that need to be reviewed. If you are a newly minted job-seeker, this article can be a great starting point. For the more seasoned job-seekers, consider this a refresher! And, by all means, please feel free to email, re-post, re-blog or re-tweet this article to anyone you know who needs help getting started with a new job search. SO … here we go:

1) Soul Searching: Exactly What Are You Qualified For?
The job searching process starts with some soul-searching. What are you actually qualified for, based on your past work experiences? Exactly what type of job are you looking for? What is your industry niche? What is your particular area of expertise? What job function makes the most sense as a next step for you? Answering those basic questions is easy for some, and confusing and difficult for others. However, figuring those things out determines everything else that follows. Only you know what you are experienced at, and what you are truly qualified for. If you cannot answer those questions easily, then it may be time for some serious career counseling. Pursuing jobs that you are really not qualified for can be a huge waste of time for many people, including the people you might network with in that pursuit. You should also consider things like how far you’d be willing to commute every day, what size company you’d be comfortable in, etc. The more you can narrow down exactly what type of position you’d be most qualified for, and exactly what type of company you’d like to work at where such a job exists, the more effective your job search is likely to be. The key is to narrow your focus as specifically as possible.

2) Prepare an Effective Résumé.
If you ask 10 professional résumé-writers what a good résumé should look like, you’ll get 10 very different answers. There is no perfect one-size-fits-all formula for this. As a recruiter who reads and reviews résumés all day every day, my own STRONG personal preference is to see chronological résumés rather than so-called “functional” résumés. What I can tell you is that it is of the utmost importance that your résumé be a door-opener for you. An effective résumé should clearly explain who you are, what type of job you are seeking, and most importantly — why someone should hire you over someone else. That means not just simply describing your past responsibilities, but rather trumpeting your successes, quantifiable results and achievements in each of your prior positions. The main purpose for any résumé is to pique the interest of the reader … to have them want to learn more about you … to get you an interview! I highly suggest you read the following blog articles on this topic if you need help in this area:
 The Brutal Truth on How Résumés Get Eliminated
 The Résumé Test & Checklist: Does Yours Pass?
 Explaining Short Job Stints and Employment Gaps
 Beating the Résumé-Elimination Game: Where Do Recruiters’ Eyes Go?

3) Learn the Basics of the “T” Cover Letter.”
Job-seekers often ask whether or not it’s worthwhile including a cover letter with their résumé. It’s a question that many people struggle with. In my opinion there is only one format that is worth considering … it’s called the “T” Cover Letter. The blog article I wrote on that topic receives more hits on this site every week than almost all the other articles combined! It includes templates that you can download and modify to create your own “T” Cover Letters. Here’s the blog article you’ll need to read for help with this topic:
 The “T” Cover Letter – The Only Type Worth Sending

4) Develop a Target List of Companies.
Every job-seeker should have a target list of companies that are specific to their industry niche, and are likely to have jobs that fit their background and experience. Your goal should always be focused on getting in front of the people who are either decision-makers in those companies, or are directly connected to those decision-makers. If you don’t have such a list of target companies, stop everything else and make one!!!! This list is critical, and should be your road-map for moving forward on your job search. This takes some research. My advice is to use a professional business database like Dun & Bradstreet’s Million Dollar Database Premier or ReferenceUSA Business. Anyone with a public library card number can log into those databases from any home computer! (Ask your local librarian for help if you don’t know how to do this.) This gives you access to full information on millions of companies, including every business in the U.S. and the leading businesses in Canada. Use the advanced search mode to generate a list of companies that are the most likely to have jobs like the one you think you fit. To do that, put in search criteria that fit your profile. Company look-ups can contain multiple search criteria, including location by zip or area code, industry, size, products, number of employees, revenue, and specialty fields. Try using keywords specific to your niche. Keep narrowing the search criteria until you get the list to under 100 results. If this is your first search, I’d say to go even further and narrow it closer to 50. (You can always go back later and widen this list to get more targets if you exhaust your first list.) Print out the list and look it over carefully. You can probably eliminate quite a few companies based on things you already know – places that you’ve heard bad things about, places that you know are in financial trouble or any number of other personal red flags. Simply cross those places off the list. What’s left is your first target list!

5) Write and Practice Your “Elevator Pitch.”
Every job-seeker should know what an “Elevator Pitch” is. Put simply, it’s a short introductory speech designed to be given in the time span of an elevator ride – approximately 30 seconds to 2 minutes. It’s a standard tool in the world of sales, where people want to interest someone else in their product quickly, without sounding too pushy or intrusive. The fact is that a job-seeker IS a salesperson … and the product is YOU! [Read “Why Job Hunting is a Consultative Sales Position” for a more detailed explanation of this concept.] The basic idea is that you never know when or where you’ll run into someone who might be a prospect for you – a potential customer, a networking partner, a key contact or decision-maker at one of your target companies, or an actual potential employer. Being able to instantly deliver your Elevator Pitch to anyone, anywhere and at any time is something every job-seeker should be prepared to do. Read the following blog article if you need help creating an effective Elevator Pitch for yourself:
 Is Your Elevator Pitch Taking You UP or DOWN?

6) Become an Effective Networker.
Networking activities are considered by most job-seekers and staffing professionals to be the most likely to produce success in today’s ultra-challenging, highly competitive job market. Done properly, it is a complicated process which must be viewed as a long-term strategy. As such, it can also be very time consuming. Patience and consistency are the keys. While it may not produce quick results, it will position you well for long-term success. Spending time on networking activities means engaging in, and constantly re-visiting all five steps in the networking process: Those are: 1) Building Your Target Company List; 2) Identifying the Key People in Your Target Companies; 3) Reaching Out to Your Targeted People; 4) Talking / Meeting With Your Targets; and 5) Following-Up and Staying in Touch With Your Network. Read the following blog articles for details on how to network your way to a job using these five steps:
 Looking for Networking in All the Wrong Places
 How to Network: A Step-by-Step Guide for Job Searching
 Targeted Networking: How to Effectively Reach Out
 The Art of Giving: the Key to Effective Networking

7) Manage Your Time.
It is often said that looking for a job is itself a full-time job. As it is with any job, your days should be planned out, and your valuable time used efficiently to achieve your professional goals. Many job-seekers struggle with this concept. Exactly how should they spend their time? Which activities should be given priority, and which ones minimized? If you need help with how to organize your time to conduct an effective job-search, read the following blog article:
 Time Management: Recipe for a Well-Balanced Job Search

8) Brush Up On Your Interviewing Skills.
Scoring an actual interview with a company is often looked upon as the Holy Grail for job-seekers — second only to receiving and accepting an actual job offer! Interviews can be on the phone, in-person, on in many cases where the opportunity is in a remote location — on Skype. Being prepared for each of those types of interviews involves critical skills that need to be mastered. Don’t ever assume that you don’t need help in this area. In my many years of experience coaching candidates for interviews of all types, I’ve found that the people who don’t think they need help are the ones who do the poorest! I always get very nervous when I represent someone who says something like: “I’ve interviewed dozens of times — I don’t need coaching — I know how to handle myself!” After someone I represent finishes an interview with a company, and I do a de-brief with that candidate, I’ve noticed a very predictable pattern: When the candidate tells me something like: “That went great! The manager loved me! We really bonded! I expect an offer to be coming soon!” … more often than not, the feedback from the company is not so great, and that person rarely actually gets the job. On the other hand, when I hear things like: “I’m not sure how well I did. I couldn’t read the interviewer. I forgot to bring up a few things that I wanted to say. I don’t know if they liked me.” … those interviews usually went much better than the person thought, and the feedback from the interviewer is generally positive. Is it overconfidence that kills an interview? It’s hard to say. I can only stress that even the most experienced and savvy job-seekers can benefit from help and brushing up on interview skills. Read the following blog articles for help with interviews:
 Phone Interviews: Secrets, Tricks and Tips
 Face-to-Face Interviews: Secrets, Tricks and Tips
 Skype Interview Tips … Welcome to the Future!
 Nuggets: A Secret Interviewing Technique
 Answering the Dreaded Salary Question
 20 Surefire Ways to Blow an Interview
 “So, Do You Have Any Questions?” Nailing the Interview Closer
 Cool InfoGraphic: “What You Wish You’d Known Before Your Job Interview

9) Follow Up and Stay Organized.
Staying in touch with the key people you talk with and/or meet with is a critical component of any job search campaign. As you keep reaching out to and meeting with more and more targets and decision-makers (or people who can refer you to those targets and decision-makers) your network will grow larger and larger. And it will be made up of key people in your industry who all tend to know each other and are “well-connected.” The longer you’re at this and the longer your list of network contacts becomes, the more important it will be to stay organized and avoid getting confused about who you met when, and who you need to follow up with. You should keep careful records on everyone you talk or meet with from your target list, and devise a system you are comfortable with that allows you to remain in touch on a regular basis. You’ll need to set yourself reminders (perhaps on your calendar) to not forget to follow-up regularly with each and every networking contact you connect with on your target list. There’s nothing more disappointing than having a great networking meeting that lacks any follow-up. It’s kind of like having a first date where you think you really clicked with the other person, but then you never hear from them again! The onus is all on you here – don’t drop the ball. If you want your targets to remember and help you, you must make the effort to stay in touch! Read the following blog article for more on why follow-up is so important:
 Following Up: An Essential Key to Success.

Final Thoughts: Attitude is Everything!
I’ve coached thousands of job-seekers during my many years as a recruiter. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about the entire process that holds true for almost every industry and every position, it’s this: the number one most important factor that determines who gets hired and who doesn’t is NOT who is best qualified, who has the most experience or skills, or who has the best résumé. It’s attitude! People hire other people that they like, and want to be around. Real enthusiasm for a position or a company, true passion for your work, a sense of humor, and a genuine projection of positivism and optimism are the qualities that make a person attractive to others. It’s nearly impossible to fake those qualities. There’s no question about it: job-seeking can be a real drag, and certainly has the potential to grind a person down. Don’t give in to negativism. Stay upbeat and positive, and keep the faith. Everything described in this 9-Step Guide actually does work, and good things can happen to people who project positive energy!

July 29, 2012 at 2:23 pm 8 comments

Beating the Résumé-Elimination Game: Where Do Recruiters’ Eyes Go?

A while back, I wrote about how job-seekers get screened out or eliminated based on someone looking at their résumés. [Read: “The Brutal Truth About How Résumés Get Eliminated.”] In my many years as a recruiter, I’ve certainly read my share of résumés. There were times when I went through over a hundred a day. I certainly know how the elimination game works! This process is even more brutal now in the current candidate-flooded market caused by the economic downturn of the last few years. It’s been said that the average résumé-reader will give your résumé less than 15 seconds of eyeball time on the first pass. If they don’t quickly see exactly what they think they want or need right up front … bye bye – delete key for you!

I recently read a fascinating report about a study sponsored by The Ladders purporting to be a scientific analysis of how recruiters actually read résumés. I say “purporting” because one must always consider the source of such studies. Since The Ladders is a for-profit Job-Seeker Service which commissioned and paid for this study, it’s not surprising that their conclusions supported using their own services. It suggested that job-seekers should use The Ladders’ own professional résumé-writing service, and that The Ladders’ online profiles were more effective than LinkedIn’s free online profiles. Their study made use of a technique called “eye-tracking” which produced visual “Heat Maps” showing where and for how long the recruiters’ eyes lingered on the résumés and online profiles they were reading. (See the bottom of this article for an example of such “Heat Maps.”)

Here’s a link to the report that describes the actual study: “Eye Tracking Study.”

Thirty recruiters were studied over a ten-week period. The researchers tried to determine how long the recruiters spent looking at each résumé, what items caught their attention, how quickly their eyes moved from item to item, which items were overlooked, and how quickly they made a basic yes/no decision on a candidate. I imagined a room full of recruiters all chained to desks, forced to stare at computer monitors with their eyes propped open! The whole thing reminded me of a certain iconic scene from the movie Clockwork Orange:

Despite its obvious bias, there were several things in this study that jumped out to me as information I felt could be very useful to all job-seekers. Here are my observations:

How long did recruiters actually look at résumés?
When surveyed, the recruiters told the researchers they spent 4 to 5 minutes on each résumé … but when actually observed, the average time spent on each résumé was a mere 6 seconds for the initial “fit / no fit” decision!!! So much for that masterpiece you slaved over for so many hours writing, re-writing and perfecting. Pretty depressing, eh?!

What parts caught their attention, and where did their eyes linger?
The recruiters in the study spent almost 80% of their résumé review time focusing on the following six things:
1) Name
2) Current Title/Company
3) Current Position Start and End Dates
4) Previous Title/Company
5) Previous Position Start and End Dates
6) Education
Sadly, beyond those six things the recruiters did little more than scan for keywords that matched the jobs they were trying to fill. They characterized the rest of the descriptive details in the résumés (the parts you probably spent the most time perfecting!) as “filler that had little or no impact on their initial decision-making.” Again, kind of depressing, eh?

Why did “professionally-written” résumés seem to be more effective?
In a word — it’s the formatting. Look at the Heat Maps below. What distinguishes the one on the right from the one on the left? When you consider the low importance placed on the actual descriptive details (as noted in the answer above) the only thing left is the physical look and feel of the page. On the right-hand example, notice the use of bold type and grey boxes for the headings, the lines separating the different sections, the way various keywords are bolded throughout, etc. Those are the elements that guide the eyes and focus the attention of the reader. The entire format looks organized and logical. By comparison, the one on the left looks like a big jumble of words, with no clear path to follow. It takes too much work for the reader to figure it out. (Hint: if you click on the graphic below you’ll see the full-sized image, where it’s much easier to examine the different elements on each résumé.)

How can you create your own “professionally-formatted” résumé without paying someone else to do it for you?
There are many resume-writing services out there who will be happy to charge you lots of money to re-format and re-write your résumé for you. I’ve never been a big fan of such services. I’ve seen way too many crappy résumés created by such so-called “professionals.” This is one of those rare cases where the old phrase “you get what you pay for” really does not apply at all. The truth is that anyone can create a professional-looking résumé themselves — totally for free. The easiest way to do it is to “borrow” someone’s professional résumé that you like and then copy the format! Just get a good résumé from someone you know — or simply search for professional résumés on Google — and then save them to your computer. Then just replace the text with your own words, retaining the nice-looking formatting of the original! Another fairly obvious source for pre-formatted résumé templates is Microsoft Word, or other desktop writing and publishing programs. Just open the program and search for templates when you choose to create a new document. Microsoft has even more free résumé templates available online. Here’s a link to a generous number of free, great looking professional résumé templates designed for users of Microsoft Word: “Microsoft Résumés and CVs.” Numerous other free examples and templates are out there online, ready for the taking.

Final thoughts … some résumés actually do get read more carefully!
Keep in mind that the focus of this entire study was the initial “yes/no” assessment process … that first quick scan where the elimination often happens. But not every résumé gets eliminated. When a résumé does pass that first test, then the descriptive details that were completely overlooked the first time will actually get read and considered. So in the end, the experiences and achievements you write about on your masterpiece do really matter a great deal. The trick, of course, is to beat the résumé-elimination game and get to that next step!

For more tips on creating an effective resume, read: “The Résumé Test & Checklist: Does Yours Pass?”

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Above: These “Heat Maps” show where recruiters eyes go (yellow areas), and where they linger (red areas) when reading résumés. The one on the left is a “self-written” résumé, and the one on the right is a “professionally-written” résumé. Note the formatting differences. (Click on the image to see a full-sized version.)

April 22, 2012 at 10:47 pm 6 comments

Are You “Overqualified?” Handling The Age Issue …

If you are a job-seeker who is over a certain age – sooner or later it’s not uncommon to hear that you’ve been passed over for an opportunity that you applied and/or interviewed for because you were judged to be “overqualified.” That’s such an interesting word: “overqualified.” Think about it … it means, literally, that you possess experience and qualifications that exceed the stated job requirements. So, you might ask, why should that be a bad thing? Wouldn’t any company want someone who exceeds their requirements instead of someone who does not? Well, we all know what’s really going on when someone says you are “overqualified.” It’s a euphemism for “too old” or “too expensive” or both, right?

Not long ago, I represented a very savvy 50-something year-old candidate who was invited in for a final face-to-face interview for a key position with a Fortune 500 client company I was working with. His job history and specific qualifications were an exact match for what they were looking for. He fit the requirements listed for the job to a tee. In addition, he knew the salary range they had defined for this position, and was fine with it. He had already filled out an extensive job application, taken a 2-hour online personality and skills assessment test, had a lengthy phone interview, and met in-person with two different HR people. Based on all of that, his chances seemed excellent. When he walked into the interview room, he met the actual decision-maker – the person who would be his immediate supervisor for this position. She was a very attractive, 20-something year-old woman – very sharp, with an MBA from a prominent business school, 5 years of increasing responsibilities at this company and a rising star in their corporate culture. (Now I’m imagining this next part … so please forgive me for this narrative license!) They looked at each other, and he thought: “She’s young enough to be my daughter!” And she thought: “He’s old enough to be my father!” It was reminiscent of a scene from the movie “In Good Company.” The interview continued in a very professional manner – but needless to say, he didn’t get the job and was never given any direct explanation why. When I later questioned my HR contact at the company, I heard the “O” word mentioned in passing … but not much else.

Age discrimination is a fact of life in the business world. While the definition of someone’s “prime” working ages varies from industry to industry, from company to company, and from position to position … if I had to guess based on my own experience as a recruiter, I’d say that candidates who range in age from their early 30’s to mid 40’s are probably the group who have the least trouble with age discrimination. Much younger than that, and most job-seekers would be looking mostly at low paying, “entry-level” positions (the woman in the previous example notwithstanding.) And, of course, job-seekers in their 50’s and beyond encounter the “overqualified” objection much more often.

So, what is an “older” job-seeker supposed to do? What advice or strategies can I offer to help those candidates in that more senior category? Well, first of all I suggest you read “Age Discrimination: Exposing Inconvenient Truths.” At the bottom of that article, I’ve already detailed several concrete ideas designed to help older job-seekers overcome the age discrimination issue. Those ideas included:
●   Targeting “age friendly” companies.
●   Only pursuing positions that really match your level of experience.
●   Keeping up to date on technology.
●   Maintaining your health and appearance.
●   Embracing a positive attitude.

Beyond those general ideas, I want to offer some other more specific suggestions, ideas and tips that might help older job-seekers in their pursuit of their goals. These are mostly interview strategies to consider when the “overqualified” objection seems to be coming up, either overtly or by implication:

  • During interviews, emphasize your capabilities, not your experience.
  • When interviewing with a hiring manager, try to find out what their problems, needs, and concerns are. Then, explain how you can help. Offer ideas for solutions to problems. This is known as the “consultative sales” approach. A younger person with little to no experience will be much less likely to know how to do this. [Read “Why Job Hunting is a Consultative Sales Position” for more on this concept.]
  • If you are getting asked questions during an interview that indicate the interviewer wants to know your age, respond by saying: “I think what you’re asking me is ‘How long will I be in this position?’” Then, pause and say firmly: “I’m committed to staying at your company at least five years. How many young candidates will promise you that?”
  • Don’t use phrases like: “At my age…,” “Years ago…,” “Back then…,” When I was younger…,” “It used to be that …,” We used to…,” “…up in years,” “Nowadays…,” etc. Avoid statements in résumés and cover letters like: “I have 25 years experience in …” And don’t make references to your grandchildren!
  • If someone comes right out and asks how old you are, say: “I’m only xx”. The word only is very important. Without coming out and saying it, the word implies to the other person that you think you’ve got many productive years ahead of you.
  • If a prospective employer comes right out and says: “you’re overqualified,” consider responding with a statement like: “Well, you wouldn’t feel that way about your surgeon, would you? Don’t you want a person that you’re confident can do this job without requiring a lot of training and a lot of your time?”
  • Or consider saying: “Wouldn’t you rather hire someone who exceeds your requirements instead of someone who doesn’t?”
  • You probably won’t be able to overcome the “overqualified” objection unless you understand what the employer believes is the underlying problem. You might say: “What problems do you foresee if I were overqualified?”
  • Consider saying: “When you say that I’m overqualified, does that mean you are concerned about what you might have to pay me? I would be happy to discuss compensation with you. What did you think is reasonable?” [Read “Answering the Dreaded Salary Question” for more strategies on handling this issue.]
  • Finally, as an interview closer, consider saying something like: “I understand your concerns as far as you thinking I’m ‘overqualified.’ However, I am confident that you will find me a valuable asset in this position. In addition, should you want to promote internal talent in the future, I’ll have proven myself and have the years of experience to assume more responsibilities successfully. My sole objective is to prove myself over time.”

September 20, 2010 at 12:01 am 11 comments

“Unemployed Need Not Apply” – Working Around This Scary Message

Lately, there’s been a very disturbing trend in the job market. More and more companies are automatically screening out job applicants who are not currently working. They are eliminating unemployed job-seekers from their candidate pools, and are choosing to only interview people who already have jobs. Recruiting firms from all over the country are reporting hearing this from their client companies with increasing and alarming frequency. Some companies are doing this behind the scenes, quietly instructing outside 3rd-party recruiters, internal corporate recruiters and HR people to focus only on currently working candidates while excluding those that are not working (without telling them, of course.) Others are brazenly advertising this preference in their job postings!  I know … it sounds outrageous – and you’d think such a thing would be illegal, right? Well, guess what – it’s not. Unlike race, religion, age, gender, etc., being unemployed is not a “protected” status subject to anti-discrimination laws. Here’s a link to a recent article from CNNMoney that made the rounds a few weeks ago, and brought this issue to light for a lot of people: “Looking for work? Unemployed need not apply.”

Below is a screenshot of an ad from Sony Ericsson for a Head of Marketing Communications and Public Relations position, taken from a video newscast from a TV station in Orlando. The ad was placed by an Orlando-based recruiting agency called “The People Place” for a job in the Atlanta area, which is where Sony was moving their headquarters. They were supposedly creating 180 new jobs at that new facility … and Sony was refusing to hire any unemployed people to fill those jobs! (The irony of this is astounding – advertising for a head of “Public Relations” with an ad that created a firestorm of BAD public relations!!!)

This practice has, for obvious reasons, angered a lot of people. In some cases it has caused a backlash against those companies. For example, in the Sony Ericsson case shown above, the local community of Buckhead, Georgia – the Atlanta suburb where Sony was building their new facility – threatened to rescind a deal they made with the company which included $4 Million in tax credits when they learned of this hiring policy. (Sony subsequently removed the ad, saying it was “a mistake.”) In other cases, when reporters called companies who posted jobs with restrictions against unemployed applicants, those companies removed the ads – obviously to avoid negative publicity … but we can only assume that their discriminatory hiring practices continued behind closed doors.

In the world of 3rd Party Recruiting, this practice isn’t really new at all. Traditional “Head Hunters” have done this for years, only going after top talent – usually people who worked for their client’s competitors – and actually recruiting them away from one company to come work for another. Head Hunters would never call someone who was unemployed. [Read “The Real Truth About Working with Recruiters” for more on how “Head Hunters” differ from other types of recruiters.]

So why are today’s companies now doing this? At a time when there are more unemployed job-seekers out there than any other time in recent history, why would any company eliminate from consideration such a huge pool of talent … potential candidates, many of whom are probably just as qualified (if not more so) as anyone who is currently working? Without trying to justify it, or in any way condone this practice – as a recruiter who has heard these preferences expressed from client companies I’ve worked with myself, I can probably shed some light on their thinking.

One reason might be expediency. Every job posting now brings in an unprecedented flood of applicants. Company recruiters and HR people are completely overwhelmed with literally hundred and hundreds of resumes for each and every job opening they advertise. By eliminating unemployed applicants, they are whittling that number down to a more reasonable group of people that they can screen and interview in a more efficient and timely manner.

Another reason is perception. It’s basic human nature to view a candidate who is still working in a better light than an unemployed job-seeker. No matter what the true facts are, there is always that irrational but nagging suspicion that someone is out of work for “performance reasons.” It’s not logical, and it’s not likely to produce a higher caliber employee … but it is the way many people think.

Companies might also rationalize that a currently working person is “the best in their field” since they managed to avoid the layoffs that so many others experienced in their industry. They may believe that those currently working “passive candidates” are more likely to be up to speed in their industry niche, and would therefore require less training than someone who has been out of work for a while … that they could more easily “hit the ground running.”

Trying to understand the reasons that companies do what they do in their hiring practices can be useful information for any job-seeker in determining how to position yourself for the best chances of success. If the name of the game is perception, then it’s up to you to create a perception that will be most likely to avoid being eliminated before you even get to the starting gate.

The Workaround:

So what is an unemployed job-seeker supposed to do with this information? How can you work around the scary message: “Unemployed Need Not Apply?”  The most obvious answer to that question is to not appear to be unemployed!!!  I’m certainly not suggesting that you should to be dishonest or lie in any way. However, there are several ways to present yourself – especially on your résumé – that will avoid the stigma that comes with being an unemployed job-seeker. My advice is to position yourself as NOT being currently unemployed – but rather to use either Volunteer Work, Consulting (Contract) Work, or Self-Employment as your current position. I’ve detailed those strategies, and described how to use them on your résumé, at the bottom of a prior blog posting: “Explaining Short Job Stints and Employment Gaps.”

Don’t give companies any reason to overlook you before they even talk with you! Use this information, and my suggested strategies, to get past the irrational screening process. Your goal should be to advance yourself to the interview stages of the hiring process where you have the opportunity to impress people with your actual talents and skills, your positive attitude and your passion for your work.

August 23, 2010 at 12:01 am 31 comments

Explaining Short Job Stints and Employment Gaps

There are many criteria that recruiters and HR professionals use to eliminate job applicants after screening their résumés. Recently I posted an article here on that topic [“The Brutal Truth on How Résumés Get Eliminated.”] That blog article became one of the most widely read postings on Recruiter Musings. Obviously, I touched a nerve there!

One of the potential problem areas I wrote about is job turnover. If your résumé’s job history shows too many short stints over a limited time period, the person screening it can read it as a negative: you might be a job-hopping flight risk … you seemingly can’t hold down a job … perhaps you don’t get along with others well … there may have been performance issues that got you fired – the imagination creates all kinds of possible scenarios! Likewise, significant unexplained gaps between jobs can be red flags that will get you eliminated. And finally, if you are not currently working and you’ve been out of work for a long time … well, I don’t have to tell you how awkward it is when someone asks you: “So, what have you been doing since you left your last job?” I thought it might be helpful to suggest some strategies that can be used to overcome those issues.

Too Much Job Turnover

There may be perfectly valid reasons for having a lot of jobs within a short period. I would advise briefly listing the reasons for those short job stints right next to the dates on your résumé to avoid this obvious red flag. The idea here is to be pro-active, and answer their questions about why you left each job before those questions are even asked. It’s a simple thing, and yet very few people do it. You don’t need to go into long-winded or detailed explanations. All you need is a brief phrase, in parenthesis, following the dates of each short-lived position. For example: “Laid Off Due To Economic Circumstances” … or “Position Was Eliminated” … or “Company Went Out of Business,” etc. What this does is provide the screener with a perfectly valid explanation for the short stint, and eliminates the possibility that they will imagine something much worse – i.e., that you were fired for cause, poor performance, etc. (Of course, if you actually were fired for cause … well, that’s another story!)

Unexplained Gaps Between Jobs

Unlike a job application, a résumé is not a legal document and there is no requirement that it must contain a complete history of everything you’ve ever done. It should be truthful … but it’s up to you to decide what to include or not include. Here’s a suggestion: the dates listed next to each job do not have to include the months – instead, you can show them as a range of years. That can often avoid the red flag of seeing brief periods of unemployment between jobs. For example:

Likewise, if there are jobs in your work history (especially if they were short-lived) that were unrelated to your main industry or niche … there’s no reason you can’t leave those off the résumé. You only need to feature your most relevant positions – and usually only go back about 10 years. Many people take positions outside of their industry while between jobs as a temporary way of maintaining an income until they find something in their field. Others have jobs earlier in their chronology that are also outside of their current target industry. Listing those “side-trips” can sometimes be distracting to a screener who is only focused on looking for experience in one particular field.

The one caution I’ll add here, is that sooner or later almost every company will have you fill out an official job application form. Unlike your résumé, that application is actually a legal document that you must sign … so don’t leave anything off of that one. Be sure every job, employment date, salary, and educational degree that you list is accurate. It’s better to leave something blank, than to guess or make something up. Background checks will inevitably uncover incorrect information … and inconsistent or false information on an application will look like you’ve intentionally lied. That almost always results in the applicant being eliminated. I’ve seen job offers withdrawn for things like candidates listing the wrong dates of employment or school graduations, exaggerating salary histories, fabricating educational degrees, etc. Just tell the truth!

Currently Not Working

Believe it or not, there actually are companies out there who have made it known that they won’t consider hiring unemployed candidates!  I know – it sounds outrageous … and that’s a topic for another blog. [See “’Unemployed Need Not Apply’ – Working Around This Scary Message.”] Nevertheless, it’s obviously in any job-seeker’s best interest to not appear to be unemployed. So, if it’s been a long while since you left your last full-time job, how do you handle that? Different people handle this issue different ways on their résumés. Here are three common solutions:

Volunteer Work:  Many job-seekers turn to volunteer work as a way of staying busy and feeling useful while unemployed. Besides the obvious personal benefits that come from the act of giving of yourself, sharing your time, helping others and upping your “karma” score, volunteering can often get your “foot in the door” with a company that might potentially hire you in the future. Showing people what you can do, how well you can do it, and demonstrating your exceptional work ethic – even if it’s not in a paid position – can bring you to the attention of professionals who notice such things, and reward them when opportunities open up. If you are volunteering somewhere, then list that volunteer position on your resume as your current position. However, do NOT use the term “volunteer!” Simply list the organization and your title or role, describe your function, relevant skills used, and any accomplishments there just as you would with any of your other jobs. Let the fact that you are not being paid wait for an interview, where you should then disclose it.

Consulting (Contract) Work:  Depending on your field, many job-seekers choose to take temporary assignments, contract work, or other “1099” (non-employee) jobs. People who engage is this type of work often refer to themselves as “consultants.” Very often, those contract jobs have the possibility of turning into full-time positions. Again, list those temporary “consulting” positions on your resume … and highlight the relevant skills you used, and any accomplishments achieved at those temporary assignments. If your period of “consulting” was not long-term or consistent, list it as one long job period (from the last full-time job till the present) and under that “Consulting” heading list some individual assignments without specifying dates. Again, leave the exact details of when and for how long you actually worked at each assignment for either an interview or an official job application. The goal here is to look like you’ve been keeping busy and working in your field. [Read: “Contract / Consulting Jobs Explained … Available in Three Different Flavors” for more information on this topic.]

Self-Employment:  These days, more and more job-seekers are turning to starting their own businesses. There’s even a media-coined term for this phenomenon: “Entrepreneur by Necessity.” If you are in that category – by all means list it on your resume as your current occupation. Whether or not you’ve actually earned any income from your company or had any actual success in your venture, listing a self-owned company on your resume is much better than having a large gap of current unemployment without any explanation. And, of course, it’s the perfect answer to that question: “So, what have you been doing since you left your last job?”

August 9, 2010 at 12:01 am 145 comments

The Lost Art of Customer Service: Unreturned Phone Calls & Emails

I hear a lot of complaints from job-seekers. Obviously, when someone is out of work they encounter a lot of frustrating situations. It’s often said that looking for a job is itself a full-time job. The process of searching and interviewing for a job is actually a sales position. You are “selling” an intangible … yourself! You are selling your experience, your skills, your personality, your talent, and your abilities to solve a potential employer’s problems. [Read “Why Job Hunting is a Consultative Sales Position” for more on that topic.]

Being rejected or ignored is a regular part of the job-seeking routine. It’s the nature of the beast. Professional sales people may be used to facing rejection on a daily basis … but most others are not. Emotionally, that can take a huge toll on a person’s attitude, which is a big problem when maintaining a positive attitude is so critical to a job-seeker’s chances of success. [Read “The Power of a Positive Attitude.”] Professional sales people do not fear rejection, nor do they take it personally. They simply plow forward, knowing that the more times they hear “no,” the closer they are to a “yes.” However, I realize that job-seekers are not all professional sales people, and rejection is much harder for some to handle than others. [Read “The Double-Whammy of Rejection and Isolation” for more on this.]

Of all the complaints I hear from job-seekers, by far the most common one is people not returning phone calls. Not too far behind that is a lack of response from emails sent. The sad fact is, most online submissions go totally unanswered. That’s why savvy job searchers do not rely on simply applying to online job postings, but rather spend most of their time networking, finding ways to go around HR, and talking with actual decision-makers at their target companies. [For details on how to network your way to a job, read “How to Network: A Step-by-Step Guide for Job Searching.”] Most résumés and online applications go into the proverbial “Black Hole of HR.” [Read “Avoiding the Black Hole of HR” for some strategies on getting around this fate.]

I understand why most online applications go unanswered. The majority of those applications go directly to an HR Department that is flooded with resumes and candidates. Sadly, many of those applicants are not truly qualified for the positions they are applying for. Most recruiters and HR people are looking for exact matches to their job requirements, and are under a tremendous amount of time pressure to screen an overwhelming flood of applicants. [Read “The Brutal Truth on How Résumés Get Eliminated” for more on how that screening process works.] They simply don’t have enough time to respond to each and every application they receive. I get that.

However, having said that, what I don’t get or accept is the seemingly total lack of a good old fashioned “customer service” attitude at so many places. There are certain companies that are famous for their top-notch, world-class customer service. Neiman Marcus and Disney are two that immediately come to mind. Those companies are known to bend over backwards to treat everyone who comes in contact with them – both their existing customers and their potential customers – like royalty. People flock to do business with them in large part due to that customer-centric attitude and the positive experience it produces. Executives from Fortune 1000 companies in all sorts of diverse industries fly to Disney’s Corporate Headquarters in Orlando every year and pay tens of thousands of dollars to take Customer Service Workshops from them in order to learn how they do what they do, and to emulate their fantastic model.

Now, when someone sends an application or an email with a résumé to a company, and then gets absolutely no response … what kind of message is that company sending? Do they not realize that every negative impression they create by such non-responsiveness trickles down to their consumer base? Do they not understand that all the dollars they spend on their website and media advertising designed to increase their company’s positive image are undone by such non-responsiveness? Don’t they get the simple fact that totally ignoring an applicant is just plain unprofessional and quite frankly, rude?!

One easy solution that any company could institute is SO simple. They could have an automated program that sends an acknowledgment to each applicant explaining that their résumé has been received, and will be reviewed. It could also include a simple disclaimer that only qualified applicants will receive a further response. Personally, I think those automated responses should also include the name and contact information for an actual live person who is overseeing the search for that position – but I also realize the unfortunate truth that most companies are afraid to identify a specific individual and invite direct inquiries to that person. It’s much easier for them to dodge applicants and avoid the responsibility of returning emails or phone calls if they keep the identity of their HR screeners or corporate recruiters a secret!

I’ve instituted an automated response system like the one described above for any applicants contacting my company, Midas Recruiting, so I know that it’s not that difficult to do. Now I realize that when any company sends an automated “canned email” response saying they’ve received a person’s résumé, it generally means nothing … but at least the applicant knows they received it! Unfortunately, most companies don’t even do that simple thing.

Phone calls are another story. I can understand why most companies don’t return most emails … their recruiters and HR screeners are often overwhelmed with hundreds of emails each day, and simply cannot answer every one. But voice-mail messages? I’m sorry, but I have NO patience for people who don’t return calls. As a recruiter, I always made it my rule to return every phone message I got within 24 hours – usually the same day. In my experience, I’d only get one phone message for every 100-200 emails – an unfortunate sign of the times. It’s so easy to hit “send” and so hard to pick up the phone and actually try talking to someone! I feel that anyone who makes the effort to call me deserves a response. To do otherwise is just rude. I expect the same professional courtesy from the people that I call and leave messages for, as well. Maybe I’m just naïve … but to me, that’s just basic customer service!

July 6, 2010 at 12:01 am 26 comments

The Résumé Test & Checklist: Does Yours Pass?

If you ask ten “experts” what an effective résumé should look like, you’ll get ten very different answers. There is no one-size-fits-all template for a perfect résumé – it’s very subjective, and opinions vary widely. Certainly, if you show your résumé to any professional “Career Consultant” – i.e. someone who gets paid to offer career advice and re-write résumés – they will likely tell you that yours is flawed, and that they can “fix” it (for a fee, of course!)

Naturally, I have my own opinions on what constitutes an “effective” résumé. Recently, I posted a blog describing the process that most recruiters and HR people go through when screening résumés against a job opportunity. [“The Brutal Truth on How Résumés Get Eliminated.”] The sad fact is that the average résumé-reader will give your résumé less than 15 seconds of eyeball time on the first pass. They’ll scan the first page of your résumé, rarely progressing on to the second or third pages. If they don’t quickly see exactly what they think they want or need right up front … bye bye – delete key for you! Most job-seekers never find out the true reasons why their résumés are eliminated, and my “peek behind the curtain” proved to be quite revealing for many readers.

The Purpose of a Résumé

The purpose of a résumé is NOT to sell yourself. Rather – the purpose of a résumé is quite simple and straightforward: it’s to get you an interview! An effective résumé (similar to an effective Elevator Pitch) should pique the interest of the person who is reading it, show that you are a close match to the criteria they are looking for, and make them want them to find out more about you. Unlike a job application, it is not a legal document and there is no requirement that it must contain a complete history of everything you’ve ever done. It should be truthful … but it’s up to you to decide what to include or not include.

The 15-Second Eyeball Test:

Keeping in mind the typical 15-second viewing window most résumés get, here’s a test that you should perform to gauge the effectiveness of your own résumé. Choose an impartial friend or networking acquaintance, and ask them to look at your résumé. Ideally, it should be someone who doesn’t already know all about your professional work history or your career background. Hand them your résumé and ask them to take 15 seconds to review it. Now look at your watch … and time exactly 15 seconds. (If you want to be generous, you can extend this to 20 or 30 seconds … but certainly no more than that.) Then, immediately take it away! Now ask them the following questions:

1)  “What do I do for a living?”
3)  “What industry do I work in?”
3)  “What are my most significant skills?”
4)  “What is my current career objective?”

If they can’t answer those basic questions after looking at your résumé for 15 seconds, you need to work on it! It occurred to me that a résumé checklist might be an extremely useful tool. My intent here is to provide job-seekers with a guide to evaluate their own résumés based on elements that I think are pretty basic, and essential for any effective résumé. This checklist should help as you go through the process of revising and rewriting. Once you’ve done a re-write, try the 15-second eyeball test again – either on that same person, or someone else. See if your score on those basic questions improves.

——————————————————————————————————

The Résumé Checklist:

  Two pages or less.

  Formatting is standard and easily readable.  Uses only standard fonts (Times New Roman, Ariel, etc.)  No colored text, graphics or other non-professional flourishes.  Is saved in the standard Microsoft Word format – .doc (not .docx or .pdf.)

  Contact information is up front and easy to spot.  Email address sounds professional.

  Clearly says in top third of first page what industry you are in, and what profession and job function you’ve had, and what you want to do next.

  Chronological format (as opposed to “Functional.”)  Lists the most recent and relevant companies you’ve worked for, what positions you held and the dates you worked at each place.  Has brief one-line descriptions of the companies.  Has bullets that show what skills were used and what you accomplished at each place.

  Showcases critical background, experience, education, and skills directly tied to your work objectives.

  Highlights your most marketable skills.

  Contains all the various keywords and buzzwords common in your industry, and typically found on job descriptions for positions you match.  (Create separate modified versions for specific jobs you are applying to, using the language found in the job descriptions.)

  Contains quantifiable results, accomplishments and achievements using numbers, dollars, percentages, names of any awards you’ve won, etc.  Provides concrete, measurable data whenever possible.

  Makes liberal use of “action” words (e.g. “created,” “completed,” “built,” “developed,” etc.) to trumpet your accomplishments.

  Avoids using the “I” word.

  Answers the question:  “Why should someone hire you?”

  Does NOT include a list of your professional references.  (Save them for when they are requested.)

  Avoids personal details that have no connection to your professional profile (e.g. hobbies, family information, non-work related activities, etc.)

  Contains no typos, spelling or grammatical errors.

——————————————————————————————————

Now, I should mention that some of these checklist items are open to interpretation and modification, depending on your own circumstances and personal preferences. For example, if you are a graphic artist or web designer … it’s probably OK to have the résumé look less business-like, and more “artsy” – using colors, non-standard fonts, graphics, etc. And if you feel strongly that your non-business activities are likely to help you impress a potential hiring authority (for example, charity involvement, volunteer work in your community, etc.) then by all means include them. The bottom line is that you should do what you think is best, and seems to work for you.

It should also be pointed out that satisfying all of these checklist items will not “fix” certain issues that often raise red flags and get people eliminated by screeners. Re-writing your résumé will not overcome a lack of the required skills, experience, education or other qualifications listed for a particular position. Likewise, unexplained gaps in your employment chronology or having too many unexplained short job stints over a limited time period are two potentially troublesome issues that are difficult overcome no matter how you write your résumé. [Read “Explaining Short Job Stints and Employment Gaps” for strategies on how to deal with those issues.] All you can do is present your history in as positive a light as possible, using the most effective format you can.

Again, as I said at the top, there are multiple and sometimes contradictory opinions out there on what an effective résumé should look like. Based on my own experiences as a recruiter who has reviewed literally thousands of résumés … these checklist items represent general guidelines that I feel will apply to most résumés and most job-seekers.

June 21, 2010 at 12:01 am 19 comments

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Michael Spiro

About the Author:

Michael Spiro has been a 3rd-Party Recruiter and Account Executive for nearly 20 years. He is currently the Director of Recruiting / NE Ohio Region for Experis Finance, a dedicated business unit of ManpowerGroup. Other recent positions include President of Midas Recruiting, a boutique head-hunting firm, Director of Talent at Patina Solutions, and Executive Recruiting positions with two of the largest search firms in North America. Before his career in the staffing industry, Michael was a manager in a large non-profit social-services organization. And in a former life, Michael was active in the entertainment industry, with extensive road-warrior experience as a touring performer (singer-songwriter / guitarist / comedian) and as a recording artist, producer and booking agent.  [More...]

Index (by Topic):

Résumés & Cover Letters:
 The "T" Cover Letter - The
         Only Type Worth Sending

 The Brutal Truth on How
         Résumés Get Eliminated

 Explaining Short Job Stints
         and Employment Gaps

 The Résumé Test &
         Checklist: Does Yours
         Pass?

 Beating the Résumé-
         Elimination Game: Where
         Do Recruiters' Eyes Go?

 The Truth About Lying on
         Résumés

 "Why Did You Leave Your
         Last Job?"

Networking:
 How to Network: A
         Step-by-Step Guide for
         Job Searching

 Looking for Networking in
         All the Wrong Places

 Targeted Networking: How
         to Effectively Reach Out

 The Art of Giving: the Key to
         Effective Networking

Interviewing:
 Face-to-Face Interviews:
         Secrets, Tricks and Tips

 Phone Interviews: Secrets,
         Tricks and Tips

 Skype Interview Tips ...
         Welcome to the Future!

 Nuggets: A Secret
         Interviewing Technique

 Answering the Dreaded
         Salary Question

 20 Surefire Ways to Blow
         an Interview

 "So, Do You Have Any
         Questions?" Nailing the
         Interview Closer

 Cool InfoGraphic: "What
         You Wish You'd Known
         Before Your Job
         Interview"

Age Discrimination:
 Age Discrimination: Secret
         Conversations Revealed

 Age Discrimination:
         Exposing Inconvenient
         Truths

 Are You "Overqualified?"
         Handling the Age Issue

 Baby Boomers to the
         Rescue! An Idea Whose
         Time Has Come ...

 Overcoming Job-Search
         Obstacles and
         Redefining Your Career
         After 50

 Advice for Recent Grads
         and Career-Changers

Switching Jobs:
 The Proper Way to
         Quit a Job

 Counteroffers: Just Say No!

General Job-Seeking Info:
 The Real Truth About
         Working with Recruiters

 Contract/Consulting Jobs
         Explained ... Available in
         3 Different Flavors

►  What Recruiters Say
         vs. What Job-Seekers
         Hear

►  The Dirty Truth About
         Misleading Unemployment
         Statistics

►  Let the Jobs Find You:
         Making Yourself More
         "Searchable"

 "Help ... I Need a Job!" A
         9-Step Guide for Newly
         Minted Job-Seekers

 Avoiding the "Black Hole
         of HR"

 Is Your Elevator Pitch
         Taking You UP
         or DOWN?

 Time Management: Recipe          for a Well-Balanced Job          Search
 Getting Un-Stuck from your
         Rut!

 The Double-Whammy of
         Rejection and Isolation

 "Unemployed Need Not
         Apply" - Working Around
         This Scary Message

 Using Social Media to
         Enhance Job-Searching

 Warning: That Rant You
         Posted Just Went Viral!

 The Golden Rule for
         Business: Never Burn
         Bridges

 The Power of a Positive
         Attitude

 Why Job Hunting is a
         Consultative Sales
         Position

 Top 10 Most Helpful Things
         for Job Seekers

 Top 10 Most Annoying
         Things for Job Seekers

 New Year's Resolutions for
         Unemployed Job-
         Seekers

Job-Seeking Humor:
 Comic Relief: Volume 1
 Comic Relief: Volume 2
 Comic Relief: Volume 3
 Comic Relief: Volume 4
 Comic Relief: Volume 5
 Comic Relief: Volume 6
 "In Transition" and Other
         Awkward Euphemisms

 Candidates Gone Wild:
         Recruiter Horror Stories

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