Building Brand Print E-mail

I have a good friend who was recently heavily courted for a new job as a City Manager. Note I said courted and not recruited. My friend is an outstanding engineer who has worked with a leading civil engineering firm for ten years. In that time, he has worked extensively with the mayor of the town and the heads of the departments of the municipality and the governments of surrounding cities. When the job of City Manager came open, the mayor and the entire city council personally all called my friend (let's call him Bill) to beg him to take the job. They advertised the job as was required, but he was the only candidate considered. They offered him a spectacular package and he took the offer.

The day he went to visit the city council to accept the position, the mayor asked the interim City Manager to take Bill around to introduce him to all the department heads such as Manager of Waste Water Management, Manager of Water Utilities, Manager of Roads and Infrastructure, etc. The interim City Manager had been brought in from an outside firm to fill in after the retirement of the previous City Manager and had had hopes of being hired on permanently. You can imagine how excited he was to take the winner of the job around to meet everyone.

At the first stop, the water department, the interim started to introduce Bill and before he could get out Let me introduce you to our new City Manager, the water department manager jumped up and exclaimed, Bill! I am so glad you took the job! How's your wife and that new baby? The interim was surprised to find the water department manager knew Bill but figured they knew each other socially somehow.

The interim's surprise continued at each stop. At each department, the manager and staff all knew Bill well and no introduction was needed. The interim became more and more silent. Finally, they stopped at the fire department. The interim was pleased to discover the fire chief did not know Bill. He completed his introductions and the fire chief asked Bill if he knew anything about fire-fighting. Bill replied, Well, my father was a volunteer fireman for years in the next county. I used to tag along on calls. The fire chief remembered Bill's father and they immediately struck up a conversation. The interim threw up his hands and exclaimed, I give up! You know everyone!

The cause of the interim's frustration was not that Bill knew everyone. It was that everyone knew Bill. Because he was so good at his job, he had been rapidly given more and more responsibility in his job with the civil engineering firm. That firm held the contract for many towns and cities. It had been Bill's job to attend all city council meetings as a representative of the firm and as lead engineer on most of the projects. As a result, Bill had an extensive network. That network served to bring this new opportunity to him (not the first one he'd ever had offered to him). His outstanding work ethic and performance had built a reputation for him that was well-known and respected.

When you hear career professionals talk about building a career brand, think of Bill. He is the perfect example of what a good career brand is all about. Simply put, career brand is just an outstanding reputation built over time through excellent performance and honest work ethics. A resume can put a career brand into words if it already exists but it can't build a brand out of thin air. It's up to you, the job seeker, to build your brand through being the best at what you do and working fairly with everyone with whom you come in contact. Pay attention to the choices you make and work hard at building your network. Both will serve to bring opportunities your way that wouldn't otherwise.

What Your Resume Says About You Print E-mail
I see hundreds of resumes a week that have been submitted for review to our firm. I don't always get to meet these people although I do get to know many of them when they contract with us to have their resumes professionally written. In fact, I get to know some clients very well because they return to us year after year for updates, they refer their friends and colleagues, and even sometimes send Christmas presents!

I've notice over the years that resumes speak about their owners. It's not necessarily a matter of words but rather a matter of seeing the thought, or lack of thought, that is behind the words. For example, a resume that contains a picture of the job seeker tells me the job seeker is either not seeking a job in the United States or is ignorant of the hiring laws here that disallow pictures.

Here are a few things that resumes say about their owners:

Stuck in the 70's. I see so many resumes that look like they were written before computers. They follow the old style of large left margin, plain typeface, no design elements, etc. Sometimes, they will have Confidential Resume at the top. Most of the time, these resumes are written by people who have several years of experience with one company and haven't had to worry about a resume in a very long time.

NOT detail-oriented. Spelling and other mechanical mistakes occasionally occur in resumes, usually because people have come to rely on spell-check and don't pay attention to proper proofreading. When it becomes a problem is when the owner of the resume has proudly declared him- or herself detail-oriented in the summary section. If you have mistakes in your resume, you are definitely not paying attention to the details.

Knows the value of first impressions. I will occasionally see a resume that has good design elements and is appealing to the eye. I recently saw one that was very nicely done with a color border at the top, good use of margin for pull-out sections, and had excellent organization. Unfortunately, that's not common. Most resumes are plain and blah.

Knows how to use Adobe Acrobat. I just love pdf formats for resumes. The reason is because I know they will open without anything screwy happening to the format when it defaults to my system specifications. Recruiters like them too. I don't know how many times I've opened a Word resume and the resume's owner had left the track changes button on so all the edits showed on the final document. The Template Wizard is another frequent pop-up on documents. Put it in a pdf and you don't have to worry about it.

Bob's Resume.doc. Bob? Bob who? How many resumes of Bobs have I seen? Just the name of the file tells me if the owner has thought of the end-viewer or not. When someone thinks about the presentation, I know that person would be someone who would think about the presentation made to the interviewer or on behalf of the new employer to customers. Resume file names that don't have both first and last names are like cans of soup with the labels removed. You never know what you are going to get until you open it.

Probably the most important thing a resume says is whether or not the owner cares enough about his/her career success to invest in a great marketing document. That investment can come in the form of hiring a professional to prepare it or simply come in the form of hours and hours devoted to strategizing and developing a great resume. That investment can also come in the form of knowing when to let a professional handle the job rather than attempting to do a specialized job armed only with the tools of the amateur. What does your resume say?
The Tornado and the Job Fair Print E-mail
Several years ago about this time of year, I was attending a job fair in a major metro area where I was providing resume reviews and classes on resume development. It was spring and the weather was typically spring-ish - scattered thunderstorms. The job fair was being held in a sporting arena, a large concrete structure surrounded by glass windows that extended from the floor upward about thirty feet or so. The windows provided a lovely view of the city skyline, the street outside full of tourists, and the thunderous weather that was in the area that day.

About halfway through the afternoon, as I was taking a break in a classroom on the interior of the arena, a tremendous blast occurred followed quickly by an announcement on the PA system for all building occupants to proceed to the nearest stairwell and descend to the basement. A tornado was ripping through downtown and the blast I had heard but not seen was the windows being blown inward by the wind.

All the recruiters and job seekers rapidly moved into the basement area where the locker rooms and parking structures were located. The only light was from emergency lighting and there was no cell phone reception at that depth. We were perfectly safe in the basement so people began to relax and chat while we waited for the all-clear.

It was in this unexpected venue that I saw some astute job seekers take advantage of the opportunity to get extra face time with recruiters. Since the environment was atypical, the traditional interview situation went out the window (along with a lot of the furnishings and signs) and job seekers and recruiters were able to talk beyond the normal interview questions.

We were stuck there in the basement for approximately 45 minutes and then no one was allowed to leave the arena later for at least two more hours because the streets were blocked with debris and emergency responders. All that extra time to talk with recruiters was an unexpected benefit for the job seekers who were there that afternoon. I've often wondered how many people were hired as a result of that tornado.
What You Should NOT Include on Your Resume Print E-mail
Having been in the resume writing business for over twelve years, I am still surprised by some of the things I see on resumes that are submitted to us. You would think that I had seen it all by now. Some old ideas are hard to die, though, so I might as well outline some types of information that you shouldn't put on your resume.

Your birth date. This tells the employer your age and it will automatically get your resume disqualified. Under Title IV of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, employers cannot discriminate based on age, race, ethnicity, etc. etc. When you tell the employer your age by using your birth date, the employer cannot make an unbiased decision about your candidacy so they usually discard your resume to be on the safe side.

Your church affiliation. Many job seekers list their volunteer work at their church on their resume with the idea that the experience will help their candidacy. The problem is this information falls under Title IV as described above and will again give the employer pause in consideration of your candidacy. Unless you are a professional minister or pastor and you are seeking a similar position, do not mention your religious affiliations on your resume.

Reasons for leaving. Never put your reasons for leaving a job on your resume. Your reason for leaving does not support your candidacy for future employment. If an employer wants to know why you left, he/she can ask in the interview or request that you fill out a job application that requires that information. Many feel compelled to include their reasons for leaving if the reasons were a layoff or the company went out of business or some other reason that was not their fault. It doesn't matter what the reason was - it doesn't go on the resume.

Salary history. Your salary history does not appear on the resume. What you made in past jobs is not necessarily relevant to what you can make in your next job. Most people's salaries tend to increase incrementally but not always. And if the salary hasn't increased, it might be for very good reasons. If you list salaries on your resume, you are automatically shooting yourself in the foot in your salary negotiations. Prospective employers know exactly how much you cost. Sometimes it might be too much so you are eliminated from consideration. Sometimes it might be too little and you are eliminated because the employer thinks you are too lightweight.

Hobbies and interests. Hobbies and interests have nothing to do with your ability to do the job. Some hobbies might even serve to brand you as a nutcase. Some may cause concern to the employer. If you list a hobby that is time-consuming, requires extensive travel, or is physically dangerous, the employer might be concerned that your hobby would interfere with your work.

Your work email. Use your private email. A work email gives the impression that you conduct private business on company time.

None of these types of information should be included on your resume. The rule of thumb is to look at what you have chosen to include in your resume and ask Will this result in an interview? If not, leave it out. Resume space is too precious to include information that has no relevance on your job performance.
Designing for a Difference Print E-mail
One of the most common shortcomings we see in resumes submitted to us for review is the lack of good design and organization. Everything in resume writing is about strategy, including the design and appearance of the document. Strategy is organizing the information so that it flows from most important to least important. Strategy is formatting the information so it is easy to follow visually. Strategy is creating a great first impression before the first word is read. Strategy is creating something unique that will stick in the mind of the reader when the reader can't remember your name. All this is incorporated into design and format.

Most people are aware there are three basic formats of a resume - chronological, functional, and combination. By far the most successful is the traditional chronological format. It is successful because it is what the hiring manager expects and wants, because it shows career progression, and because it is logically ordered.

The functional resume format is at the other end of the scale. Employers and recruiters detest the functional format because they have to read every single word of the resume before they can get a good feel for the candidate's background. Bottom line - they don't have time to do that so they just go on to the next resume in the pile. Functional resumes also send up big red flags of warning because the functional format is generally used when trying to hide something detrimental in the candidate's past. Recruiters know that so they automatically put functionally formatted resumes at the bottom of the pile.

Combination format resumes are somewhere in between but are still not as effective as a traditional chronological format resume. Combination resumes are usually used when trying to affect a huge career change from one industry to a completely different one. They can be useful in that scenario but since that rarely happens, the combination format is rarely used.

Once the format is selected, it is important to have an attractively designed resume. A resume that has design elements such as lines separating sections, text boxes (used conservatively), good font and font sizes, attention-grabbing headers, and good-sized margins will be attractive. Good use of header and footer sections is also a benefit. A resume can be attractive visually and still maintain a conservative appearance.

I wish I had a dollar for every resume I've seen that has been created using the Word resume template - I could buy Microsoft. Templates are for lazy people or people who don't know how to use the basic formatting functions in Word. Why do you want your resume to look like about 35 billion other resumes? You don't! You want to stand out in the crowd! Don't ever use a template or resume software to create your resume. If you look at your resume and there is nothing in it style-wise beyond bold, italics, underline, or larger font sizes, you need to redesign it. You don't want your resume to look like it was created on a typewriter or Word 2.0.

You would not go to an interview in a cheap suit or a pair of sweatpants. Nor do you want your resume to land in a hiring manager's inbox wearing poor design. Your resume speaks for you. Make it shout out class, style, value, and professionalism when you aren't there to do it yourself.
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