Category Archives: mission statement

Job search: Are you missing in action?

Off the radar

Getting on the job search radar!
I have spent the past week with two different women, of two different ages. Their backgrounds could not be further apart. One is a young graduate, seeking entry-level employment, the other a woman in her 40s, with extensive supply chain and procurement experience, as well as an MBA. She has taken an eight year parenting break, relocated internationally with her husband and is now dealing with the inevitable challenge of explaining motherhood and her CV gap.

Both want to enter the workplace. Both are struggling. Both are drifting off the job search track and are M.I.A. Despite feeling they had nothing in common, even just idle chat reveals the numerous common elements. Not only were they simply failing to get the jobs they wanted ( when they could even find a job they were interested in) they were receiving no response to their CVs, sometimes not even a rejection letter.

Back on track
All job search candidates regardless of age, gender or time in life need to have some basics in place, so here are some easy tips to get back on track:

  •  Identify and articulate transferable skills. It doesn’t matter how you do this but this is a critical exercise, taking time and thought. I repeat my mantra – if you don’t know what you’re good at, how do you expect anyone else to know? Recruiters and hiring managers are not telepathic and don’t have the time to drag it out of you.
  •  This basic but critical exercise leads to the creation of an effective mission statement and elevator sounds bites. CVs should stop disappearing into cyber space and interview performance will be strengthened. If there is any hesitation in delivering your USPs – practise and practise again!
  •   Establish and develop a professional online presence. This is vital for anyone, male or female, young or old, entry-level or transitioning. Failure to do this is tantamount to professional suicide. The entry-level woman had received no advice from her university careers advisor to create this type of profile, which in my view is a scandal in itself! Careers advisors – read my open letter! The older candidate needs to resurrect and tap into her existing network from her days as a professional woman and connect with them virtually on platforms which simply did not exist when she was in the workplace ( LinkedIn, Twitter, Google +) This small step shows you care about your professional image and that you are current in your approach. Your LinkedIn profile url can also be used in an email signature or on other online profiles as a way of extending the reach of your CV.
  •  Create a modern CV with targeted keyword usage. Their current versions are probably not getting past ATS ( Applicant Tracking Systems) or coming to the attention of recruitment sourcers. 97% of CVs, it is maintained, are not read by a human eye! Once again this could account for a failure to obtain an even a first interview.
  •  Most jobs (estimated at 85%) are not advertised. Creating a strong online presence and strengthening a personal brand will drive traffic to your professional profile. It’s no longer about looking for a job – it’s also about raising visibility to ensure you are found. Many jobs are also only advertised on LinkedIn.
  •  There is no substitute for strategic networking at any age and stage. No matter how young you are, or how long it’s been since you were in the workplace, we are all connected to someone! Have some simple, but good quality business cards printed – you never know when you need them! Connect and re-connect. Join networking groups and professional bodies especially if any membership has lapsed during a career break.
  •  Be active. Inactivity is not just a barrier to getting top jobs, it’s a barrier to getting any job! It’s also a great way to beat negative thinking, and maintaining your confidence, vital in job search. It also gives you data to monitor, from which you can make any changes to your job seeking strategy.
  •   Tweak those strategies . Don’t panic and especially don’t be afraid to change. Nothing is set in stone and what works in one set of circumstances may sink like a lead balloon in another! Be flexible

But most importantly never give up. The estimated time to get a job is reported to be on average a minimum of 7 months currently. If you carry on struggling – seek professional help. It will be worth it in the long-term!

Good luck!

Staying on message: A job search challenge

How much to share and with whom?
Another confusing area for job seekers is how much information to share in the job search process. This is another topic where every man, woman, child and goldfish has an opinion. Using buzz speak this is about brand alignment, when we are all supposed to produce consistent personal brand content, all the time. The irony of course is that any resume you produce might be correctly professional and neutral, but your cyber foot might leave behind yeti size tracks in its wake and you will open your mouth, only to change feet. Understand well, that you will be researched prior to an interview and there is very little room to hide. So how do you stay true to the professional image you’re trying to create, when there are so many ways to check us all out , especially as most of us have multiple interests and are multifaceted?

Here are some issues that have been posed to me

Claiming a passion There has to be back up. If you say you are passionate about renewable energy – make sure that there is evidence out there somewhere. We do check. So join LinkedIn or local groups and visibly participate. If you have multiple interests and goals then be prepared to explain them. On the other hand I know an accountant who has a fabulous blog on food and restaurants which he writes under a pseudonym, simply because he doesn’t want his employer perceive him as frivolous. In my view he is hiding a key part of who he is, which is a shame. Others have multiple blogs where they write about other areas of interest. Check out Gilly Weinstein a professional coach, who showcases her alternative interests in a blog separate to her professional web site.

Age and birthdate – this is no longer legally required on a resumé, but any recruiter with half a brain can figure it out. There is a double bind here. Withholding can send red alerts that something is amiss – either too old or too young for the position in question. But I suggest that you don’t include it, simply because you may be bypassed by some pre programmed Applicant Tracking Systems. But be proud of who you are and offer metrics that add value. You cannot hide all references to your history on the internet or air brush every photo. If you lie – you will almost certainly be found out.

Religion – unless you are applying to a religious organisation where your affiliation will be meaningful and key, then it would not be necessary to supply this information to a secular organisation.

Home address – I would leave out. There are some strange people in this world and you don’t want them pitching up at your home. Simply stating your city and country should be sufficient

Hobbies – now here I really go against many career pundits. People’s hobbies and past times tell me a lot about a person. They might show energy, committment, discipline, attention to detail, community spirit and many other qualities – so I always look. If your idea of surfing is sitting on a sofa changing channels, I agree that is best omitted. Those interests also have to be current. Unless you were an Olympic medallist , telling an employer of your university sporting achievements is only appropriate for entry-level candidates and possibly one level above. 15 years down the line regretfully they add little value, especially if you are a little soft around the middle.

Marital status – agree not necessary information, although many volunteer it. Do not include photos of yourself with your partner on professional profiles

Children – agree the CV is about you. Ditto about pictures of your children (or pets) on professional profiles

Links to online platforms – if they are relevant to your job application and have a professional content, they can certainly add value, especially a LinkedIn profile URL. It’s also a way of giving more information such as recommendations and a slide share presentation. They show you’re in touch with current technological trends and offer insight into your personality.If your FB status updates are along the lines of ” Yo dude… see you in the pub … ” Then no. Omit. Make sure there are no inappropriate photos online and you are not tagged in anyone else’s. Check your Facebook photo line ups are how you want to be perceived. I was horrified to find I had been tagged in a photo taken two days after I had surgery recently. I looked in pain – probably because I was.

Sexual orientation – this is no one’s business except your own. It is illegal to discriminate on those grounds. If there are any photos of you with partners in cyber space, regardless of orientation, they should be appropriate.

Life objectives – this is now considered to be old school and has been replaced by a career mission statement, so definitely should not be on a CV. At some point any long-term goals can be shared, but I would advise waiting until you know the person you will be sharing that information with. Any general, gentle social icebreakers such as wanting to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, are perhaps best included in the hobbies section, in my book are completely OK.

Online conflict this is a tough one. Healthy debate on even contentious issues I feel is part of life’s rich tapestry. However, anything abusive or defamatory should be avoided. We are now entering an era where individuals are being disciplined or even fired for negative remarks about bosses, employers or team mates on Facebook and Twitter. The difference between this and a real life situation, is that your words will be recorded somewhere… forever. No one knows what happens to deleted material on many of these online platforms.

In today’s social media age it is truthfully difficult to keep anything completely secret – even your weight! The trick is to try to manage your cyber foot print, while remaining true to yourself. In my view this is one of today’s greatest job search challenges. No matter what you leave out, or how professionally neutral any of us are, it is very hard to be constantly on message.

But really how much does that matter?

What do you think?

Making the cut. How to ace a behavioural interview

Behavioural interviews have always been popular with major international organisations for carrying out in-depth selection processes. Recently however, interest in them seems to have peaked after being popularised by the TV show, The Apprentice just screened in the U.K. The reason I don’t write about this programme is because when I do watch it, for the most part I sit cringing, but also worrying that any potential candidates will take it seriously. Be under no illusion, this is a globally franchised game show where the real heroes are probably the film editors who reduce 100s of hours of material to a dozen hours of slick TV for our entertainment.

In it we have seen candidates lying or being facetious on their application forms, lacking basic knowledge of the company they are interviewing for, having very little idea what their transferable skills are and what they can indeed offer. It’s a miracle that anyone get’s hired at all, which is perhaps why there are rumours of 2 endings being filmed.

Philosophy
Behavioural-based interviewing is promoted as providing a more objective set of facts on which to base hiring decisions, rather than other interviewing methods. Underlying the philosophy is the idea that the most accurate predictor of future added value is either past performance in similar situations , or observable performance in something new. Competence in these circumstances is supposed to be 55 percent predictive of future on-the-job behavior, while traditional interviewing is said to be only 10 percent predictive. So whereas candidates are unlikely to be chasing around global capitals looking for random items to purchase, or running London visitor tours, organisations are becoming increasingly creative in introducing more challenging situations for potential candidates, than the standard interview process.

Assessment Battery
Behavioural interviews can be part of a battery of candidate assessment tools which will also include: personality and aptitude testing, individual assignment ( e.g. making a presentation, analysing a problem, formulating a solution) group assignments and/or group interviews.

One-on-one interview
Some career columnists maintain that behavioural interviews are difficult to prepare for. In part this can be true – especially in any group task where all candidates are being assessed and you won’t know the other team members. However, if you’ve done your discovery work thoroughly, you will know the challenges in your life/career, what you have done to achieve them, the results and the skills required to achieve those results. These will be articulated in your mission statement of your CV and in your elevator soundbites. So not a problem. You will have an arsenal of experiences you can call upon to illustrate as required.

What any organisation is looking for is how you deal with situations, even those with some sort of negative outcome can have value. If you have never dealt with the problem thrown at you, don’t be afraid to say so. Perhaps you have seen someone else in action in the same or similar position (a boss, colleague, family member). Describe what you observed or even describe an experience of your own which required parallel skills. Even take an educated guess.

The behavioral interviewer will delve into specific aspects of your response and probe for greater detail “What were you thinking at that point?” or ” Tell me more ..” or “Lead me through ..” Let’s go back to” if you haven’t done your CARS work properly, or you are a shadow of your own resumé, this is where you risk coming unstuck.

Aptitude/Personality testing.
Increasingly these are sent out by employers and taken on-line and there are always possibilities to have practise runs. There are any number of propriety brands on the market which are used by the major organisations. Many even have their own in-house assessment and testing facilities.

Individual Assignment
Sometimes candidates are asked to come to an interview prepared to deliver a presentation or a project. In other circumstances they will be handed one on arrival and given time to prepare. It could be a sales or marketing pitch, a negotiation or conflict situation, a managerial issue or a business strategy. This will also involve digging deep into your C.A.R.S work and previous experience.

Group Exercise
These are team based exercises and evaluation is made on the basis of the different input of individual team members in exactly the same way as employees collaborate in the workplace. They are constructed/designed to make individual assessment in areas such as decision-making, confidence, strategic analysis or time management . They also illustrate how all group members act within a team environment : who emerges as a leader, who is the strategic thinker, who is the compiler, communication styles and how is conflict handled. Organisations look for skill set and personality diversity, so there is no right or wrong way of doing this. This can be anything from an office based theoretical project ( ” your plane has crashed in the Amazon rain forest, what items would you look for in the wreckage and why?”, to something practical such as building a fence or constructing a Lego project.

Group Interview / Assessment
I am hearing more and more about this particularly at entry-level, where significant numbers of candidates are interviewed simultaneously, as many as 12 -15 at a time where they are asked to deliver their elevator pitch in front of the group , as well as company assessors. In one case it was to camera (it wasn’t a media opening) and in another there was also peer evaluation, almost in the Apprentice way. This was possibly to save organisational time and to test the candidates under pressure. The candidate feedback I received was that it was a challenging experience, with most feeling they didn’t acquit themselves well mainly because of nerves.The organisation which asked not to be named said ” It was a cost and time effective way of identifying the best candidates. We screened 80 candidates in 2 days resulting in a shortlist of 6, who went on to in-depth, one to one interviews. We are delighted with the process“.

It’s perhaps not surprising that the ultimate winner of the 2010 UK Apprentice Stella English at 31, had previous interview experience. Practise makes perfect.

So will you be hired or end up on the cutting room floor?

Visumés: The new way forward

PLEASE NOOOOO!!

Many people have talked about the concept of the visumé and their almost certain roles in our futures. Well, I was sent my first one yesterday and I have to tell you, that thought fills me with total horror.

As a coach, I can see they might have potential. The exercise would give individuals the motivation to focus on the content of their mission statement and USPs, as well as to the opportunity to perfect the delivery of their elevator sound bites to camera. It would certainly make any job seeker stand out if done professionally. As a recruiter, the thought of sifting through hundreds of 3 minute You Tube type presentations, delivered by what look like robotic newscasters of the lowest calibre, or possibly worse still the swaggering arrogance of Apprentice wannabes (see below), would frankly be intolerable.

So is this just my narrow-minded European view? Am I being a reticent Brit who sits there cringing through webinars and promotional clips from even quite highly regarded and rated amateurs? I decided to ask some contacts in the US, the home of “Show and Tell”, to let me know exactly what their thoughts are on the other side of the world.

Think hard
Jacqui Barrett-Poindexter, Career Strategist at Career Trend suggests ” before stepping into the abyss of creative resume production, consider the goal of a resume: to hook the audience for further conversation (aka, the interview). As such, the buyer of your product initially is less interested in clicking on a 2-3 minute video and more interested in quickly absorbing your message through a glimpse of your written resume story.”

Professional
So to get past people like me  if you are going to do it – it has to be done well.  Creating a video resume  will mean more than sitting on a sofa, in front of a web cam in your living room and reading your CV.  But as interactive on-line video resumés become more commonplace,   I anticipate (dread?) a time when candidates will,  as part of their job seeking  and brand management strategies,  start crafting an on-line video presence to add to their search portfolios. 

There are also some basic operational issues as Jacqui mentions “ the viewer is required not only load up a video (and not all computer and smart phone systems will easily load up your video, causing frustration), but to listen and watch for 1-3+ minutes, versus an initial 15-30 second scan of a written resume. Most hiring and recruiting decision-makers I network with still prefer the written resume vs. a video for the initial touch point.

Performance
When you send or upload a CV or deliver your sales pitch,  the recipient reads your message before he or she hears it or sees it. With a visumé , you are essentially skipping the early parts of the process which are part of the job seeking building blocks and going straight for an audition. Julia Erickson, Career Expert at Careerealism.com, suggests that this is “actually not a resume at all, it’s a performance where you are attempting to show your personality as one the employer would like. So even if you have the qualifications, if the person watching the visume doesn’t like you or how you look or what you’re wearing, you won’t get an interview. “.

Image
There are advantages to both search strategies, if you are actually a skilled presenter. But as I know from my days of working in corporate HR for a major British TV company, working to camera goes one step beyond normal presentation skills and even the best presenters need on-camera training, with additional focus on image: clothes, hair, make up (even the men) and body language, more so than in an ordinary interview. Dan Harris’s sunglasses on his head are a definite NO!

Julia adds ” It’s been fascinating to watch some of the video resumes on-line and it confirms my opinion about them. It is even tougher to produce than a regular resume. If you are not using a professional videographer, you can make a mess. Vault.com is promoting them to a certain extent; they have a YouTube “primer” on how to make one that contains very basic tips. If you spend some money, you probably could get a video resume that was OK – if you want one

Across the Atlantic divide we agreed wholeheartedly, that as video is not an interactive medium, any personal chemistry is removed and there is no opportunity to respond to any body language or obviously questions. The candidate’s performance is generic and static, but each viewer will have a different perception of the delivery and you will not be there to engage.

Visual Resumés
Visumés are not to be confused with visual resumés. LinkedIn is a visual resumé site and I also have many clients who have added visual resumés to their own web site with great success. Julie cautions ” The important thing is to make your paper resume consistent with your virtual/visual resumes. All the information needs to be the same“.

Both sides of the pond also agreed that a Visual CV would never be used to replace a paper one especially when organisations have their own software application methods. Anything that creates extra work for hard pressed hiring or recruiting managers puts the candidates at risk. If you do go that route Julie recommends 2 sites : “Slideshare allows you to create a visual CV, and VizualResume that put your basic information into a jazzed up format”.

Visumés and VisualCVs allows candidates to give employers a look at your work product or portfolio, so as part of a wider approach they can certainly add value. They can also be added to a LinkedIn profile or website to enhance any job search strategy.

The general intercontinental consensus is that to rely exclusively on a Visumé as the only tool in your job search box would be high risk – unless of course, you are looking for an opportunity on television.

Special thanks for great insights to :
Jacqui Barrett-Poindexter, MRW, CPRW, CEIP, Chief Career Writer and Owner – CareerTrend
Julia Erickson: Career Expert at Careerealism.com http://julieannerickson.blogspot.com/ http://twitter.com/juliaerickson

Red Alert Resumés


I’m going to come clean. I hate functional CVs. With a passion.

As someone who reads possibly hundreds of CVs a week, there is nothing more frustrating than reading a list of qualities and so called achievements and still having very little idea of what the candidate did, does now and where he/she did or didn’t do, what they claim they could do in the future. See how confusing it is?

Smoke screens
The notion of a functional CV seems to be put forward by career columnists and consultants who no longer work , or have never worked, in search and recruitment. Ironically what totally functional resumes do is send out an immediate red flag alert to any savvy recruiter that something isn’t aligned with the required job profile. Functional CVs are in effect a smoke screen. They are a band -aid thought up to help candidates feel better, without necessarily producing better results.

Functional CVs take time to figure out and most recruiters do not have the time to work anything out at all. Those abstract ideas included in a functional CV are supposed to supplement content not distract from it, or worse still , replace it. We want ” eureka” , not head scratching moments. No content at all will almost certainly mean hitting the reject pile.

Functional CVs are based on self assessment. To give them any meaning metrics are needed. “Strongly entrepreneurial ” could mean anything from running a garage sale , to your own business. Turnover figures and market demographics are needed. So why not say you ran your own business with dates and figures and save everyone a lot of time. “Financial acumen ” is another one I frequently see. If this acumen is gained in a Fortune 500 company, or as a School Treasurer with a budget of millions of Euros, then that sends out a different message to managing a lunch group with a budget of several hundred, kept in a tatty envelope in a desk drawer.

Context matters

Functional CVs send out the following possible messages:
• There could be a lack of required experience or gaps in a CV ( including time off for parenting)
• There has maybe been some job hopping
• There has possibly been a termination ( firing or redundancy)
• There could be unrelated work experiences
• There are possibly skills acquired outside the workplace rather than in it: volunteer work or social or sporting activities
• Most recent work experience is not relevant to the job, but past experience is
• There perhaps has been a period of self-employment , freelancing or consulting
• There are concerns about age at both ends of the spectrum

Identifying transferrable skills plays a key part in the creation of a powerful resume. For me, their rightful place is in a strong mission statement, which is a quick snap shot of your skills and achievements. But they do need to be put into context, with a clear career chronology and details of your educational and personal development background. One line manager I dealt with recently almost binned the functional CV of a potential candidate because he thought it was a long ( and very boring) cover letter, not a resume!

Camouflaging
The antennae of any experienced recruiter are finely attuned to identify immediately the lengths anyone might go to hide their concerns. Elaborate camouflage techniques can jeopardize chances of being selected for interview, just as surely as a straightforward explanation of your circumstances and the actions you have taken to deal with them. Understanding those challenges and gaining insight into yourself and the skills that were required to overcome them will prove to be vital, not just in the creation of a resume but in the interview process.

Being up front can help

If you lost your job last year – say so. Lots of people did. If you retrained, attended courses and volunteered that sends an important message about how you responded to the challenge.

If you took time out to raise a family – say so . What you did during that period to stay professionally connected will show.

If you have been fired – don’t say so, but be prepared to offer a constructive explanation. If you have been fired repeatedly, then some self-examination or professional support would seem imperative.

Avoid the use of the word ”problems”. Of any kind. Recruiters home in on that word and then avoid it like the plague.

If you have relevant experience early in your career you might need a refresher course or to completely re-train. Do it and then say so!

If you are in a certain age demographic, then I agree , don’t put your date of birth, simply because you maybe cut by ATS. But do make every effort to be up to date and current – and say so.

If you are young and trying to demonstrate potential and have very specific achievements which you can highlight with metrics. Say so.

If you freelanced, set up your own business or consulted – say so. That requires very different skills to being a full time employee. What are those skills? Share them.

So on balance, is it really best to deal with any issues up front and early?

I think so.

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.

Resume Advice: The good, the contentious and the simply misleading


Going into 2010:   A review of  the CV advice from 2009.  
Did you know that if you Google the phrase  “CV or Resume advice”  almost 57  MILLION results are produced?   Key in the words separately and you get almost 70 MILLION posibilities.  It seems for every  job seeker and CV writer, there is someone happy to dish out advice. This  is confusing to say the least,   because  although some  advisors are qualified, experienced  and up to date, others truthfully, are complete charlatans.  A percentage of  all this advice can be good.    Some is quite contentious, which is wonderful,  debate  is stimulating .  Some can quite often be regionally specific (generally  the US,  but that’s OK … there are a lot of you). There are also some pieces which are simply misleading. And  then finally , there is a small percentage which is actually total  nonsense. This last category I’m not even going to mention, most of it is so ridiculous.

Unlike many career transition coaches I am still an active in the area of executive research and search.  I review hundreds of CVs and profiles a week with a specific end in mind:  to find the best candidates  globally to meet my client’s needs, so I am often asked to assess CVs or even review articles .

Question ? How does the average job seeker sift through the morass of information when preparing their CV?

Answer: with difficulty  

Here is a small sample of the few things I’ve chosen to react to from 2009 going into 2010.

It’s the top of the first page that counts
Good : recruiters will generally be looking at your CV because it’s been generated by a key word activated Applicant Tracking System ( ATS)  or HRIS (Human Resource Information System) data base search. They will skim through your professional summary /mission statement which needs to be strong to avoid the reject pile. Make sure all contact information is clear and in the top lines. I actually get CVs with no phone numbers. Why make our lives difficult?  It doesn’t help you. You have between 15-20 seconds to get a reader’s attention.  Use it  and your limited amount of white space wisely. Any one who suggests that CVs  of more than 2 pages  in length are acceptable, are not active recruiters.  

 Chronological / Functional  CVs are out dated :
Contentious : Personally I like to know where a person has worked,  for how long, what they did,  as well as the major USPs in a tightly worded mission statement.  So I prefer to see a mix of functional and chronological information.  I don’t want to have to figure anything out.  Most of the CVs I see in an extended functional format tend to be from our US cousins – so a cultural difference perhaps. 

A professionally written resume and on-line profile will increase your chances of landing a job
Simply Misleading:  A strong , professional CV is vital,  but there are some caveats associated with having one that is professionally written by a third party.  As a coach I believe a CV should be written by the candidate themselves,  with  qualified,  professional  coaching support  as required. This gives complete ownership of the process to the individual. As a recruiter, I have seen too many candidates with strong professionally written CVs fall at the first hurdle of a telephone screening,  literally because they are a shadow of their own resumes. This strengthens my belief that you need to own your own message to guarantee success.

Personal objectives are old school
Good: we actually don’t care what you want! All we want to know is what have you done and can you do it for our client? If the client is interested in you, a good recruiter or search consultant will try to persuade you to do something different anyway. Rigid objectives limit creative thinking. Use numbers and strong language to illustrate your success stories succinctly. Or as Jim Rohn said   ” Don’t bring your need to the marketplace, bring your skill.” 

Cover letters are obsolete
Contentious: This is a view propounded by many.   Phil Rosenberg  President at re-Careered  makes a  compelling case in his post on the subject.   To some extent I generally go along with the hypothesis.  In large, international companies with automated processes this is definitely true. However, there are  still some instances when a cover letter does help: in a small company,  with a personal connection or if the cover letter is in a different language to your CV.   The latter happens frequently in Europe where the  corporate lingua franca is English,  but the readers  themselves are not Anglophones. It’s all about targeting each application specifically,  whether  via customizing a resume or  making a decision to use a cover letter,  which  I know is hard work. So no , I don’t think cover letters are obsolete  – there is just a  new need to use them judiciously.

Coloured fonts, charts, graphs and boxed layout are advantageous
Simply Misleading : Some ATS systems will not recognise sophisticated layouts, including all of those points. So unless applying for a creative or design job , when uploading a CV especially via a web site, there is no substitute for a straightforward Word Document with clear headings, bullet points, white space,  plus  a decent size font , 10-12 points.  Most CVs are read initially on a computer screen and sometimes a lap top or even Blackberry/ iPhone. Resume design should take that into account. Complex layout turns a CV almost into a personal presentation and perhaps best taken as a hard copy to an interview or even included on your LinkedIn profile using the Slide Share Application.

Include your professional network url ( LinkedIn,  Xing, Viadeo, Plaxo  etc)
Good : I always check a CV against an on-line  profile or a professional network if there is one. These profiles quite often contain quick links to company information which is very helpful. However,  as I work globally, I obviously have to take into account  that candidates can come from cultures and countries where social media  and even broadband penetration is lower.

Traditional Resumes are out dated /dead
Contentious : There is no doubt that on-line presence is becoming a major factor in the early stages of identifying  candidates . But  to date I have never been involved in any search where the candidate has not eventually been  asked to produce a CV somewhere in the process. Ever. This would be in addition to a professional internet profile which savvy recruiters have already viewed. So I think they will be around for quite a while longer, but perhaps used more frequently in conjunction with other recruiting techniques.

Personal information is no longer required
Simply Misleading : Some personal information can be judiciously included in a CV and can say a lot about a candidate.  I always scan it. Do include non professional achievements, publications, keynote speaking , awards and activities – within reason.   Your U14 MVP mention is clearly of no interest.   I would definitely not give a home address – simply indicate location for security reasons. You are no longer required to indicate nationality, date of birth,  the year of graduation or marital status. Good recruiters will always figure out age anyway – but as ATS are frequently programmed with date parameters that is a good omission. I have seen some articles advocating hiding age  – but if anyone does that, for me it sends a message that they are in an older demographic and uncomfortable with it.  Don’t forget that we all leave our trail in cyber space and recruiters do access Facebook , LinkedIn , Twitter and Google to run checks! Some get to learn more about us than we want them too,  or even realise!

That’s about it – until the next batch of  advice comes out!