Category Archives: Naymz

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!

“I think therefore I exist?”. Wrong…think again!

Personal Branding and the 50-somethings!  
Every week I get messages from executives of a certain age , partly because of my post “ Job search strategies for the 50 something’s “   A typical one would be “ I  m working really hard,  have contacted 4 head hunters, sent off 25 CVs, been called for 8 interviews and short listed for 2 – but no luck.  Will I end up stacking shelves in Tescos/ Walmart / Carrefour  in January?   What do I have to do? P.S  Send food parcels”

The answers are in no particular order:  1) possibly  2) postal address  required  3) something different  . 

Visible message
The main point I took from this is despite being as  pro – active as they can,  these execs are still  not being contacted by head hunters as passive candidates.  So I check out their LinkedIn profiles , Twitter presence and Google them and can immediately tell if they have what  the new buzz word calls a Personal Brand. This seems to trip off my tongue lightly. Don’t be fooled!  Truthfully it is a phrase that I have only become familiar with over the past year because I had to confront it  both personally and professionally.  It is new speak for your clearly defined, highly  visible, core message.  

You too..
I  had always thought that personal branding was something associated with celebs (major and minor) being photographed getting out of cabs  (with or without underwear)  after  launching  over  priced costume jewellery ranges or  marketing dodgy smelling perfume.   So definitely NOT my thing!    The news  I received a year ago that I needed to work on an under performing  SEO,  conjured up notions of  an inactive muscle group,  requiring painful sessions with a trainer. Or worse still,  as financial markets lay in tatters  a  meeting with my bank manager .

So not only did I have to adapt my coaching programme to deal with changes in the job search market,  I also had to practise what I preached and get myself out of my comfort zone.  If anyone had told me that by the end of 2009 I would have been posting weekly blogs, writing comments and tweeting  like a trooper,  with my face splashed over the internet I would have been highly incredulous.   But here I am! So,  I can truthfully say that  I have walked the talk. I have also found it challenging, frustrating,  fulfilling, mind-opening. I have made amazing global connections and  come across some individuals who are simply different  in their expectations. Some I have let go, some I have embraced. So a formative learning curve.

Google ranking
A  year ago on Karen Purves’ advice  somewhat embarrassed, I  furtively Googled myself.  I always felt this was faintly narcissistic,  an activity reserved for aforementioned ego fragile  starlets. I gave up after about 10 pages. Even I was bored!  And I am me … or at least I thought I was. Not only was I not unique,  (there are numerous Dorothy Daltons)   I did not stand out from the crowd  at all.  Worse still  I was totally  invisible.  Whatever happened to ” I think therefore I exist”?

So after masses of research and consulting experts including Karen ,  it was obvious that there were 2 alternatives : a crisis or a plan .  I opted for the latter, knowing from experience that no matter how attractive drama  can appear  in the short-term, crises are a lot of work. Eventually there  has to be a plan.  It was partly laziness.  Age does have some advantages  – if there’s a short cut we look for it!

Get  a new habit
So to paraphrase Paul Getty, if business success is the force of habit , we 50 somethings  indeed have some deeply engrained ones. Some  are undoubtedly good,  some may need tweaking,  a few just totally nuking.  But we also need new ones. One of those is to  let go our cautiousness  regarding  on-line visibility and make that activity part of our daily routine.  If your name is not appearing  in any searches ( metrics- conveniently shown on your LinkedIn home page  – mid right ) or  getting those  discreet under the radar calls  from executive search companies,  this means that you too are probably regrettably invisible.  Gen Y are used to having every living moment  displayed on Facebook. Us Boomers are generally a more private generation.  But we need to get over that.    As Karen said  Google yourself! 

This personal journey I feel  has actually helped me have some credibility as a coach.  It is genuinely –  me too! If I can do it –  anyone can.

What do you need to do?

  •  Decide on  your “brand” focus.   This involves basic discovery work and goal setting. What are your USPs and success stories.  This is just another way of asking what is your core message? What do you offer?
  • Reserve your name  if you can as a url on a number platforms: LinkedIn,  Facebook and Twitter, Skype,  plus the .com domain.  If you name isn’t available make it something as close as possible. Use that consistently on all platforms.  
  • Use the same photo on all media
  • Make sure your email address and urls coincide. Lose hottotrot 1985@hotmail.com That stopped being cool circa 1987.
  • Set up a full LinkedIn profile ( Viadeo,  Xing, Naymz or any other … or all of them) Pro-actively increase your network and raise your visibility
  • Open a Twitter account with personalised home page and start to engage.
  • Set up a blog –   with a feed to your LinkedIn profile establish yourself as  a sector guru and expert. 
  • Participate in discussions, answer questions, post comments on other people blogs 
  • Create your own web site.

I am a work in progress –  as indeed we all are.     Karen  has very kindly offered to give me an end of year performance appraisal! 

Watch this space…