Category Archives: CV wrtiting

The hard truth about soft skills

The hard truth about soft skills -they can make or break your career

Great quote from Peggy Klaus – The hard truth about soft skills they can make or break your career

Hard skills are the foundation of a successful career.  But soft skills are the cement.

Five years ago it was normal to have a line at the top of a CV just stating a professional objective. What we are seeing now is a marked shift. Most companies are less interested, in the early stages of a hiring process at least, in what a candidate wants personally.

Hiring managers are more focused on the needs of the organisation. What does this candidate do well and can he/she do that for us? Usually followed by  “how quickly?”   To successfully convey that message  a succinct synthesis of your career path is required, joining the dots between hard and soft skills distilling it into a coherent story with a snap shot of any achievements.

I read hundreds of CVs and professional profiles a week. It is my job to identify potential talent behind quite often poorly written presentation.  Even though I have many years’ experience  I am sure I miss excellent candidates. Others who are less experienced and don’t know what to look for can do this consistently.  It’s not that there are typos ( those resumes are immediately cut) but these profile simply don’t tell a compelling story, giving their background and career coherence.

Usually, they have no professional summary linking hard and soft skills.

Hard skills

Their resumes will come to my attention (or other executive search specialists) probably because of the high incidence of hard skills in the text which will carry a heavy weighting in terms of keywords. This could include: education, job title, professional training and so on.  That CV would make the 3% of CV which are read by a human eye.  But unless that resume or professional profile tells an engaging account, the chances of the phone being picked up are slim.

If you do get lucky and speak personally to someone in the hiring process, but are not able to articulate those success stories verbally, you will not continue through the  remainder of the process.

It is therefore imperative to bring clarity and show coherence around your career story as early as possible. You should be able to do this effectively both in writing and orally.

But like a wasp at a picnic the question keeps re-occurring  – why don’t people do this?

Barriers 

  • Lack of self insight  – they simply don’t do the hard yards and take the time to look into their own careers. It’s a lot of work and probably the most significant career management  exercise anyone will do. Ever. It’s a life skill and once mastered can be used regularly as part of an annual career review and goal setting exercise.
  • Arrogance  – this is not what they have always done.  The “old way” might have worked well once, but times and expectations are changing.  Panic sets in when  a problem  is encountered (e.g. job loss, professional disappointment)
  •  Fear of bragging  – many simply don’t want to appear to brag. This is very common but particularly  noticeable with women. I coached a woman recently and based on her CV I thought she was   “communications counsellor”. The reality was that when she retold her story personally and somewhat circuitously,  this is not her function at all. She is actually a senior political media and government relations strategist,  and in one role  launched and led communication campaigns for one of the world’s most renown leaders. This tapped into a whole host of soft skills she is still in the process of naming.
Soft skills cement a career

Soft skills cement a career

Risks of not doing this

Candidates who fail to pull their career history into a coherent story suitable for delivery in writing can appear to have what one senior HR Manager in Belgium  recently described as ” a collection of short-term moves, which can be a symptom of professional instability and/or lack of ability/willingness to make and hold long-term commitment to a team/company and/or to a mandate with a set of heavy challenges requiring significant time investment into a definite position“.

This takes on greater significance if in a five generation workplace where Boomers, very often in hiring roles,  struggle to understand that for younger candidates,  the length of time spent in any position is shorter today than it was thirty years ago. Economic circumstances have also resulted in general churn between 2009 -2012 and will need explanation.  One CV was recently cut from a process for having seven positions in fourteen years. Some see that as job hopping for others this is strategic career advancement. 

There is no short cut to being able to perfect this process. It requires insight to pull the threads of a career together and present them in the best possible light. Hard skills also date over time. So although they tend to be the foundation of a successful career, it’s the soft skills required to achieve results that provide the cement.

A professional summary that can be delivered in writing and person is a vital tool, not just in today’s job search market but as part of a long-term career strategy.

 

Debunking 4 online professional profiles myths

Much is written about professional profiles by many “experts” that frightens the life out of the average job seeker, or even passive candidate who simply want to have a strong online presence. The list of dos and don’ts is never-ending, with the net result that many are totally confused.

I’m actually confused.

Debunking profile myths!

Debunking profile myths!

There are many so-called pearls of wisdom written about what people in the executive search or recruitment business are looking for, which completely mystify me.

But hold on…..I AM in the executive search  business. Am I making decisions on these so-called “deal breaker” criteria? Truthfully? Not really.

The reality is that many pundits are no longer (or have never been) involved in executive search and recruitment and are out of touch with the process or a are not even currently working in a corporate environment.They are merely expressing a personal opinion, not issuing irreversible imperatives.

Let’s go through some of the main ones that cause consternation!

  • The LinkedIn summary –  everyone is in agreement that this piece is where the punch should be packed. It is a searchable field so should have a good smattering of keywords but not stuffed (over done in layman’s terms) Most recruiters don’t really care if it’s written in first or third person because they don’t have time. It’s not up for the Pulitzer Prize in literature.  Personally, I would avoid referencing myself by name and generally favour dropping pronouns altogether. But that is a personal opinion.
  • Text rather than bullet points is de rigueur  – recruiters and search specialists take about 8 seconds to read the top half of a profile – so it doesn’t really matter to most of us as long as it is easy to digest. The object of a summary is to entice the reader to scroll down and make contact.  If you are a bullet point type of person it makes no sense to present yourself as a writer of prose.  If you are a indeed a wordsmith, an editor or targeting a sector where writing skills will be important – this is a good place to showcase them. But by no means mandatory. Will the prose writer carry more weight than the bullet pointer with the same skill set? No. Not in anything I have been involved in. Ever.
  • Your CV and LinkedIn summary should not be the same – who says? I have never  sat in a candidate review meeting and heard anyone say  ” You know, I think we should cut X. His/her  CV profile and LinkedIn summary are identical ”  It just doesn’t happen. If you meet the skill set required by the job profile you will likely be contacted unless there are other mitigating factors (typos, your biz pic looks as if it belongs on a police report  and so on.)
  • Put different content in both  – once again not sure why this gem is doing the rounds. A LinkedIn profile gives possibilities to highlight different areas of expertise and skills in greater detail because there is no space limit. It also offers opportunities to highlight recommendations, endorsements,  make a slide share and so on.  So it will, de facto, be different. But a CV should still include all the key points contained in an online profile, but in a more concise format perhaps using more complex  vocabulary and syntax to showcase writing skills. I recently raised a poll  in some recruitment groups on LinkedIn and most participants said they are now reading a LinkedIn profile before they read a CV.

What anyone involved in the search and recruitment business needs  in terms of content is what my back in the day high school Economics teacher Mr. Malcolm Thomas used to call C.P.R.: concise, precise and relevant. If you can write that with a Welsh accent you will be fine!

And this is where the real skill lies.

Changing sectors or function? You need to walk the talk!

Career Changer?

50% of my coaching clients aspire to move out of their existing sectors, some perhaps that have been hard hit by the recession (automotive, logistics, manufacturing, financial services) and into hot  predicted growth areas for 2010 such as  Clean Tech, IT, renewable energy, healthcare, personal development education and re-cycling. Many job seekers complain bitterly of the struggle they go through, as recruiters and companies alike take little or no account of what they believe to be their highly valuable transferrable skills. This can be true. Employers frequently want new hires to be immediately effective and  “copy and paste”  executive search and recruiting techniques are often applied to meet this demand.  “Just give me what I had before and do it fast”  is the line management and HR  mantra.

Many others would love to change function, simply just for a change or to meet some longer term professional goals: purchasing into sales,  finance into SCM or HR into marketing. Others decide to invest in an MBA,  a common route for a career changer. However, whichever sector or function you decide you want to move into, it’s not enough to fire off a standard CV and hope that the person reading it will have a deeply mystical experience and miraculously be able to see your future potential. You have to walk the talk  and convince them that not only do you have what it takes to make the move, but provide substantial evidence that you are also highly committed. I am a dedicated recycler, but does this mean I could pursue a career in that sector? I seriously doubt it.

 How do you do that?

  • Establish your vision, passion and goals and develop a clear career plan:  identify the sector,  location, function,  the  type of company, the role you envisage and the market it serves.
  • Examine the fit: This is when a SWOT analysis is useful: Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats. What skills do you need to acquire?
  • Consider your salary package. Sometimes when switching sectors or function,  it might be necessary to revise your salary expectations.
  • How low will you go? Some companies might expect you to completely re-train and work your way up from the bottom. I had the pleasure of meeting Krish Krishnan  CEO of Green Ventures  at the end of last year,  who  told me that his company has an in-house academy in Mumbai where all new recruits follow an intensive two year training programme.  There,   traditional thinking learned outside the sector is stripped away and replaced by a new “green” approach.   Being prepared to go through this  process requires self insight and an understanding of what you are prepared to do to get into your newly chosen profession or function. I switched to sales from a  Corporate HR role in my early thirties.  This involved moving from a management position to a junior   “feet on the street” sales function.  This did little for my feet, but proved invaluable to everything I’ve done subsequently.
  • Research the chosen area thoroughly and study developing trends. Become familiar with the major players and their activities.
  • Subscribe to relevant web sites, journals, news feeds , blogs
  • Learn the language of your potential new career. Become familiar with the buzz words, jargon and acronyms.
  • Network  in person –  attend conferences, workshops, whatever is available, Join professional bodies and perhaps look for social groups active in the sector – this is very easy for example  in the  Green Sector , where there are a myriad  of opportunities to contribute or volunteer.
  • Network online. Join relevant LinkedIn  or other online network groups, start building up your contact base. Ask and answer questions. Post discussions. Comment on blog posts. Demonstrate an active interest. Start a blog , join Twitter, look for other organisations on Facebook. Show you mean business.
  •  Draft a new CV  incorporating sector keywords where possible. Leverage your functional expertise. Identify your transferrable skills. Some recruiters advise the use of a wholly  functional CV –  I would strongly caution you against doing that , limiting that to the mission statement only. There is no faster way to hit the reject pile than  recruiters scratching their heads and having no clue where and when you worked and what you did when you were there!
  • Tweak your elevator sound bites incorporate your new goals  and vision into easily an digestible pitch
  • Can  you volunteer for a  relevant, related  and useful project in your current job that could give credence to your commitment ?
  • Can you re-train by attending online or night classes? For some sectors or activities it might involve going back to full-time education.
  • Find a mentor – who can help and sponsor you?
  • Identify the HR or hiring  contacts  – your current company might offer opportunities to transfer into a new function otherwise consider moving. You might be able to find contact names via LinkedIn,  on the company their website,  or simply call and ask!

What else can you do ?

I posted a question on LinkedIn to see what other  people  already working in the Alternative Energy sector or who were also aspiring  to join  it could share. Their responses were all of the above!  The message across the board  is to educate yourself  ( to acquire  as much knowledge as you can from outside your target  sector or function)  implement what you have learned and above all…..  network,  network, network!

So – Good luck!

For additional information regarding specific job trends and projections in forthcoming years, see Bureau of Labor Statistics.

When does " tailoring" your resumé become falsification?

Resumes under the microscope

I have recently become involved in several quite heated discussions about both “beefing up” resumés, or “dumbing” them down. Where do you draw the line when you are desperate to find a job that might be crucial to your economic survival? As a coach , I am obviously empathetic to the challenges of being unemployed and encounter clients’ job search frustrations daily. From a purely ethical point of view, my personal position is to always suggest that honesty is the best policy. But ethics and integrity aside, which can only be a matter of individual conscience, as a recruiter I can tell you some of the practical dangers of crossing the line.

Sales spin
By this I don’t mean writing a powerful resume, enhanced by strong vocabulary and key words to give a “ sales spin”. Or “tailoring” your CV towards a specific opening, emphasizing certain qualities and down playing skill or experience deficits. Unless you are applying to companies with a high churn, where clearly employees are not a high priority, or encounter an incompetent recruiter , then I suggest you factor in some of the following before you make a decision, because misrepresentation it is not without risk:

A skilled recruiter will research you prior to interview. The internet is a global data base and recruiters use it constantly – so any changes or modification to your CV would need to be made consistently on every platform. You would need to check where you are listed, or if any reference has been made to you on any other documents, or in any circumstances, anywhere, even photo tags, which can be traced in cyber space.

You will need to be prepared to account for any missing years , or perhaps convey that your seniority and experience in your previous employment was different to the reality. This might involve economy with the truth or outright lying. If discovered later there might be negative consequences which could damage your later career.

You will need to prime your referees. They might have to misrepresent or even lie – same possible consequences as above.

You might be asked to take psychometric tests or be given a behavioral interview where skills levels, either claimed, exaggerated or missing, should normally be identified.

If discovered, you may alienate a company who could be a potential future employer.

•  While you do all this you might miss a job, for which you are perfectly qualified, because word recognition software will by-pass you, because you are now presented differently in all media.

Square peg
This is before even going into what might happen if you are hired and become that square peg in a round hole, combined with the stress of possibly being found out and the fear of constantly slipping up.

If you can openly and genuinely persuade a company to hire you at any level, with authentically presented qualifications and skills, that is very different to withholding or distorting information to get a job. As Mark Twain said “If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything”

This article was first posted in CareerRocketeer on June 12th 2009, http://www.careerrocketeer.com/2009/06/when-does-tailoring-resume-become.html?
at the kind invitation of Chris Perry: Brand and Marketing Generator careerRocketeer@gmail.com Twitter Follow @CareerRocketeer