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Employers Hire Experience Print E-mail
I don't know why I'm not getting interviews, said Don, I know I can do the job. I just need a chance to prove it. Don was operating under the mistaken idea that employers hire new employees for their potential. He had been a senior project manager for five years and was ready to take the next step to Director of IT. He had done a great deal of work that a director would do but he had not held the title so he only included his project management experience on his resume. He was presenting himself for the next career level through his resume, but his resume was only garnering interest in him for project management positions. He was frustrated that he couldn't seem to get out of the project management role.

It's not surprising that he was only getting calls for project management jobs. His resume was all project management. Since employers hire experience, they were looking at his extensive project management track record and finding he was a great fit for their project management positions. Unfortunately, that wasn't his goal; he was ready to move on.

To be considered for director-level positions, it was vital that his resume read like a director's resume. We had to show he had experience managing IT budgets, directing multiple teams, strategic planning, and working on big-picture initiatives. The language of his resume had to be changed from project management to executive leadership. The organization had to get away from project details to larger-scale decision making experience. He had all this experience but it wasn't showing in his resume.

Don had constructed his resume himself and did like most people do - put down his job descriptions and what he had done in his previous jobs. He had not thought about the strategy of the resume and what it needed to accomplish. He assumed that employers could look at his background and make the leap of faith that he was ready for the next career step. Unfortunately, employers won't do that. They want to hire people who have a track record of solving problems similar to what they are facing. They want someone who knows the ropes and is ready to hit the ground running. Only rarely is someone hired for potential and then it is usually an internal hire where the candidate's already demonstrated first-hand his/her potential.

Considering strategy, audience, and goal is crucial when designing a resume that will gain interviews. So many people who write their own resumes (and even some inexperienced professional writers) only think getting the job history down is important. A resume is a document that has a purpose - to communicate the correct message to the reader to fill a need. If the employer feels from reading the resume that the candidate has the right skill set and background, an interview will result. If the resume doesn't communicate that, a thank you- we'll keep your resume for future reference note will be sent to the candidate and the employer will go on to the next candidate. It's possible the next candidate has no better qualifications than the first, but rather has done a better job communicating to the reader in the resume.
 
Strategy is the Key Print E-mail
Have you ever seen a resume that you knew was really good but you couldn't exactly put your finger on why it was good? More than likely it is good because of the strategy behind the writing rather than because of the writing itself. I've seen well-written resumes that had absolutely no strategy to them. Well-written doesn't necessarily equate to effective. Strategy is the key to effectiveness.

Strategy starts with the goal of the job seeker because everything in the document revolves around that goal. Often, we'll have job seekers who come to us without a particular goal other than a better salary or a shorter commute. We send these people home to figure out what they want to be before we can begin on their project because it impossible to write an effective resume that doesn't have a goal.

For example, let's say a job seeker has a goal of Director of IT for a mid-sized company. His background is in IT and he's had management experience but its been mainly project-oriented. He's got a sound career progression and no holes. He has a degree that is twelve years old. His experience lies mainly in the telecom industry but he's not necessarily married to that and would like to move more into the healthcare field because of growth potential. What is the strategy to take with his resume?

First of all, everything that is included in the content of the resume should have some direct relation on what the employer wants to know. There is no need to include interests, hobbies, or other information that has no bearing. The content should speak directly to the target job. Including information that is tangential will not add to the effectiveness of the resume.

Second, pick and choose information that is results-oriented that demonstrates the skill-set necessary for a Director of IT. Leave out low-end skill sets or tasks such as gave presentations because this type of information is a given at his level. If he was a support technician looking to move into presales engineering, the fact that he has experience giving presentations would be important. It's not important to enunciate that particular skill at this level, though.

Arrange the resume in the correct order. His degree is twelve years old; therefore it should not be on the first page of the resume or anywhere near the beginning. It should be at the end. If he had been a new grad, it should be right after the summary because it would be his best selling point (since he wouldn't have any experience if he was a new grad).

He has a good career progression so using a chronological format would be the best strategy. He is aiming at the next step up the ladder but employers don't hire potential, they hire experience. It will be necessary to show he's performed the actions and skills that would be asked of a Director of IT even if he's not actually held the title. Write the resume to the future, not the past.

I can tell by looking at a resume if it was written with strategy in mind (written to the future) or if it was written to make the past sound good (well-written). The difference is always the results. Strategic resumes win interviews, while well-written resumes just win compliments.
 
It's a Resume, Not a History Book Print E-mail
A common mistake made on resumes is the inclusion of information that has no impact on the current career goal. Many people get really wordy and verbose in their job descriptions in attempt to either write in high-level language or to cover every possible question an employer might have. The result is a document that is long, unwieldy and doesn't tell the employer the information he needs to know.

The old KISS rule does apply in resume writing-keep it simple, stupid. It is important to use industry buzzwords, quantitative information, concrete accomplishments, and tight writing. Writing in a style more like a post-graduate thesis can kill a resume. Have you ever read an article in a professional journal or during research on a topic and realized you didn't understand the article? You don't want your resume to fall in that category. It needs to be clear, exact, hard-hitting, and to-the-point. Get wordy trying to make your resume sound good and you'll lose your reader.

Good resume writing is just that - good writing. A good writer always follows some basic rules: consider the audience, write to the reader's needs, be brief but clear, and eliminate unnecessary information. Write with a strategy in mind rather than a mission to cover everything. Consider what to include and what not to include by asking yourself if the information in question would probably (not just possibly) contribute to a call for an interview.

The most common unnecessary information we see in self-written resumes is the detailing of too much work history. In general, employers are interested in the details of the last ten years of employment. Employers are concerned about the challenges they face today and tomorrow. They are not interested in your job description in a job that is fifteen to twenty years old. The challenges you faced, the technology you used, and the techniques you used in 1989 are not what employers face today. The challenges you've overcome in the past ten years will more resemble what the employer is facing now. You waste space by including information on old jobs.

But what ifŽI know - what if your old experience shows progression or might have some possible relation to your current goal. You can show progression by simply listing the employer, job title, and dates without wasting time on description or details. If you have something in the distant past that is relevant today, you must figure out a way to make that outshine the recent experience of your competitors. That can be difficult but can usually be achieved through some very strategic writing and positioning of information in the document.

Employers are busy. They want to be able to look at your resume and tell within a few seconds if you are someone they want to talk with further. If you load your resume with tons of information, they can't accomplish that task and will simply go on to the next resume. More is not necessarily good. Trying to cover everything is not good. Determine what your focus will be and then select achievements and details that will support that focus. Don't just dump information in there for a shotgun effect hoping that something will catch the employer's eye. All you do is weaken the resume and make it ineffective.
 
What's in a Name? Print E-mail

This is the busiest time of year for us. Many people are changing jobs or looking for new opportunities as part of making 2006 a great year. That means lots of resume reviews and critiques for us and a great many resumes sent to us as part of our resume development process. Managing these resume files can be a challenge for us.

Managing resume files from job seekers can be a challenge for hiring managers and recruiters, too. As a job seeker, you should want to remove as many hurdles from your candidacy as possible. Part of that is making your resume very easy to handle for recruiters and hiring managers. The following are a few tips for making sure your resume file isn't a hurdle for you in your job search.

Name that file. I wish I had a dollar for every resume file we receive that is named Resume.doc I could go to Bimini a lot more often. Most job seekers name their resume file for their own benefit. Unfortunately, what you recognize on your system may not be helpful to the recipient. It's always best to name your resume file with your name in some fashion.

Dates are okay. Many job seekers name their resume files with a date in the file name. Dates are okay but be careful to change the name when you update your file. Joe Smith resume 2004 doesn't give the impression that you are up-to-date.

Drop the initials. Many recruiters or hiring managers need to be able to recognize your resume file from a group very quickly. If you use only your initials in your file name, it just makes it more difficult to locate your file. Use your full first and last name in the file name.

Function, function, what's your function¦ Okay, I just told my age by revealing I remember School House Rock tunes. Many people name their resume files (if they have more than one) by the function. For example, Joe Smith Sales Management or Joe Smith senior exec. This naming by function so you recognize it has pro's and cons. It does give you one more keyword for your job search target (that's the pro) but it can also give the impression that you aren't focused laser-like on one direction (that's the con). I tend to dislike them named by function but rather with some sort of code that you can recognize. Example: Joe Smith A or Joe Smith B for different versions.

Watch out on your file Properties. In Word, you can open the properties of the file and see who wrote it, when it was originally written, when it was last updated, etc. I've seen some pretty goofy things in the Properties section that don't lend themselves to projecting a professional image.

 
Employers Aren't Stupid Print E-mail

I’ve just completed a long week of resume reviews. January is our busy month and everyone wants to make sure they have a great resume to start looking for a new job. As I’m reviewing resumes (about 10-15 per day), I start to see trends that a jobseeker just looking at one resume (his own) doesn’t see. One of the trends is the subconscious assumption that hiring managers are stupid.

 

Job seekers writing their own resumes make these assumptions and they aren’t even aware of it but it starts to show once you've read fifty resumes. For example, I reviewed a CEO resume that was four pages long with work history going back for four or five companies. No where in the resume was there a mention of a date – not a date for employment periods, education, nada. I could tell from just looking at the huge amount of information detailed for each position that the job seeker had been a productive executive for many years, but the job seeker must have thought the hiring manager wouldn’t make the connection. Worried about the age hurdle, the job seeker omitted his dates of employment and thus sent a red flag to the hiring manager.

 

Think about it – if a company is looking for a CEO they realize the good candidates are not going to be “twenty-somethings”. Good CEO candidates will have lots of experience, wisdom, and knowledge and the only way to get those attributes is to have spent time in the trenches. Job seekers worry about age when it should not be a hurdle but rather an attribute. Trying to hide age on a resume by deleting dates just shows the hiring manager the job seeker thinks he’s too old. Nothing is hidden but a lot is revealed about the candidate with this tactic.

 

Job seekers also think hiring managers can’t read between the lines. Some job seekers are intent on listing every single bit of information about their experience rather than allowing the hiring managers to think about it. For example, if someone has worked as the North American Marketing Director for a Fortune 500 company, it’s going to be a “given” the person has written numerous memos, agenda, and given lots of presentations. Hiring managers can read that from the context of the job and the scope of the accomplishments. It’s not necessary to spell it out.

 

A third way job seekers assume hiring managers are stupid is by outlining all their soft skills right up front as if this information is super-valuable to the decision-maker. Hiring managers read hundreds of resumes a month. Every resume claims the soft skills: “strategic thinker”, “proven track record”, “innovative leader”. Hiring managers are so immune to these claims they don’t even read this stuff anymore! They are looking for hard results. How has the job seeker proven he has been a strategic thinker? What do the numbers say about his proven track record? How has he been an innovative leader? And most importantly, what has resulted from all these nice attributes?

 

So give the hiring managers some credit. Make sure your resume demonstrates your strengths and not just claims the soft skills. Don’t be afraid of your time spent learning your trade and climbing the career ladder. And realize that hiring managers realize your job entails a great deal more than you can ever list on a resume.

 
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