Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Resumes Are a lot Like Halloween Costumes

Every year on Halloween I always take note of the kids who have the most unique costumes. Usually they are home made and obviously required a lot of thought, time, and effort. They are memorable because they are creative, they make as laugh, they make us scream, or they even make us think.

Resumes are a lot like Halloween costumes. The best resumes, like the best costumes, are not what we expect. They challenge the senses and the mind. They make us think "Wow, this is someone I need to know" or "Maybe this person can help solve my company's problems." They invite conversation, inquiry, and perhaps even debate.

So who are you on your resume? Is your persona "off the shelf" and do you look like so many of your competitors, or are you different, exciting, and "custom made"?


Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Resume Renovations

As you've probably surmised by now, I look at a lot of resumes. While many resumes adequately explain a job seeker's job responsibilities, few elaborate on the accomplishments within those responsibilities. And let's face it. Many people perform similar jobs with similar competencies. What makes each person unique is the success he or she brought to those positions, not the day to day tasks that hundreds of others may be trained to do. Consider these typical resume statements from job seekers who probably have a great deal to offer employers, but are not getting that message across in their documents.

Answered questions that pertained to each customer's needs.

Undoubtedly customer service is critical for many positions. But this statement tells the reader little other than that a function of the job was answering questions. Hiring managers want to know what was the volume of the inquiries, how long did it take to resolve customer issues and how did that timeframe compare to the company's standards. Are there any powerful examples of how an irate client was satisfied, and were any processes put in place to address redundant questions so time could be freed up to work on more complex issues?

Develop and execute promotional opportunities.

Great! Tell me more! What types of campaigns and what were the results? Did the promotions drive revenues, capture a new niche, or take market share away from a competitor? What was going on in the company before these promotions were developed and what is happening now as a result of them?

Prepared weekly reporting on equipment performance.

Why were the reports prepared and who received them? Was the report used by senior management for forecasting or decisions on vendor contracts? Was any money or time saved as a result of these reports and if so, how much?

Develop business plans and strategies to build rapport and solicit new business accounts.

Sounds important. What were the results? Was new business secured, and if so, what was the percent increase in accounts from last year until now and what were the revenues associated with that new business? Were creative strategies or guerrilla marketing techniques leveraged to obtain the business?

Break away from the day to day of your work experience and strive to showcase the unique, memorable, creative, and "above and beyond" moments. You will quickly rise to the top of the resume pile and secure more interviews faster.

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Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Career Solvers Awarded Career Directors International President's Choice Award

Each year Career Directors International, a leading international career professionals association, selects the individual who has made the most significant contribution to the association and the careers community. This year I was recognized with this prestigious award for leading a team of distinguished career professionals to create the association's first formal study guide for resume writers seeking certification in the industry.

Sure, the award is a great honor, but the real thrill for me was the opportunity to work with some of the world's finest resume writers to share industry best practices and strategies for teaching our craft to others. These people are more than just esteemed colleagues; I consider them valuable mentors and conduits for my own professional success.

Do you have a mentor or a group of colleagues whose opinions you value who you meet with frequently to share ideas, war stories, hopes, and dreams? If not, find them! They are at work, professional association meetings, or maybe even blogging on-line. Make them part of your network and watch how quickly your connections and opportunities grow!

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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Video Resumes in the News

Some people think that video resumes are the next big thing in job search. While some short streaming video in a web portfolio that is used to communicate a candidate's personal brand or unique selling proposition might be of value to a hiring manager at some point during the interview process, I'm not convinced that the video resume is the way to go and here's why:
  • Most video resumes are long and boring. It's hard enough for hiring managers to sift through paper resumes to find the right competencies and accomplishments that are relevant to their market. Can you imagine viewing and fast forwarding through hundreds of video resumes?
  • The video resume may lead to more job discrimination suits. Does the video resume put the 50-something, physically challenged, or ethnically diverse candidate at a disadvantage? Maybe or maybe not, but the potential for discrimination suits is bound to rise if video resumes become a mainstream tool for sourcing candidates.
  • A poorly produced video resume could knock out an otherwise viable candidate. If the video resume has an amateur feel to it or has poor sound quality or lighting, could the candidate loose ground with the hiring manager? A poorly written or designed resume could have a similar impact, but might be more forgivable, less memorable, or less likely to become fodder for the hiring manager's office mates (remember the Yale student who used a video resume to apply for a position at UBS?)
Want to hear more about my musings on video resumes? Check out this recent article on MSNBC.


Friday, October 19, 2007

Does Your Resume Pass the Hiring Manager's 30 Second Test Part 3

THE MATH TEST: Strategies for building your portfolio of accomplishments

Problem-Action-Result Statements

Hiring managers believe that proof of past successes helps them determine how successful you will be in their organization. The best way for you to prove your success is to discuss accomplishments thoroughly rather than focusing heavily on job tasks. To create accomplishment statements, examine a problem you have faced in the past, the actions you took to fix the problem, and the associated results of your actions. Think of the before and after picture and try to assign a number, dollar value, or percent change to your results. Accomplishment statements must be present throughout the resume and the profile section of your resume should include overall accomplishments that help set the tone for and frame your candidacy.


§ Year over year success building businesses that yield as much a $250M in new revenue; couple innovative marketing concepts with solid merchandise planning and program development skills.

§ Accelerated purchases as much as 300% by successfully leveraging concept development to create connections between intrinsic brand elements and consumers.

Accomplishment Hooks

Hiring managers are looking for examples of how you have helped the companies you supported make money, save money, save time, improve a process, reverse an existing problem, be first to market, build relationships/brand identity, grow the business, attract new business, or maintain existing business. Accomplishment hooks should be woven throughout the document and the strongest hooks can be incorporated into the profile or career highlights section. Statements should be front-loaded which means that the key metric driving the accomplishment should be at the beginning of the statement.


Make Money

  • Accelerated profit margins by 30% with projected sales of $400M by launching seven innovative insurance and POS products in just three years.

Save Money

  • Cut expenses incurred by temporary staffing agencies by $5M; consolidated vendor list by 60%.

Save Time

  • Eliminated over 30 administrative hours weekly by authoring and designing 50-page web-application interface that standardized and automated responses to general support desk inquiries regarding the group’s flagship product.

Improve a Process

  • Streamlined 10,000-user email list to improve distribution and accuracy of mailings significantly.

Reverse an Existing Problem

  • Reduced product imperfections by 500% by implementing more stringent controls to improve fabric and product quality; achieved ISO 9002 status.

Be First to Market

  • Pioneered CarpetSafe® exclusive insurance product for ABC Carpets offering replacement carpet if original is damaged through general wear and tear or staining.

Build Relationships/Brand Identity

  • Garnered $13,000 in grant and donation money and free publicity for Furnish a Future by forging partnership with Corcoran Realtors.
  • Successfully launched $50 million gourmet sales market despite president’s skepticism of products’ earning potential.

Grow the Business

  • Boosted revenues for Virtual Auction from underperforming $12M to over $30M, with average markup of 18% vs. previous 3%, well above comparative auction margins.

Attract New Business

  • Grew female customer base from 15% to 60% by repositioning merchandising strategy and offering high margin apparel, home, health, and beauty products.

Maintain Existing Business

  • Reversed strained relationship with $22B supranational client; renewed three-year contract despite internal and external expectations that account was unsalvageable and secured an additional $4B in business.

Add charts and graphs

By adding a visual component to your profile section, you can quickly communicate dramatic results to your audience without taking up too much space on the document. Charts can chronicle success over time, across products, or across businesses.


NY Branch










Market Share





Client Retention





Referral Business





Great resumes tell an authentic and compelling story. Content, format, and design all play a role in your story and each component should be considered when crafting your unique message. Hiring managers need to read the “book jackets” of a lot of stories and quickly decide which ones to read in greater detail. Try some of these strategies to improve your chances of getting on the “must read” list and “must interview” list of employers.


Thursday, October 18, 2007

Does Your Resume Pass the Hiring Manager's 30 Second Test (Part 2)

THE CREATIVE WRITING TEST Strategies for Showcasing Your Personal Brand

Create a professional identity

A professional identity is not the same as a job title. The professional identify conveys your personal brand and the scope of your responsibilities through a few targeted words. When placed in bold near the top of your resume, your identity calls attention to your candidacy much the same way that a catchy headline on the front page of a newspaper grabs the attention of the reader.

Offer a mission statement or personal quote

What are your goals and dreams and how successful have you been at attaining these objectives in different business environments? Share your value proposition with your reader to build rapport and establish a connection between your successes and the goals of the company.

Discuss business environments

Have you worked in particular business environments that have helped shape your brand? Were your achievements focused in a turnaround, high-growth, or international environment? Have you worked across several businesses or across multiple industries? This may very well be part of your value add and it is certainly information that will gain your reader’s attention and encourage them to read on.

Name drop

As a hiring manager scans your resume, he will be quickly looking at the companies you have worked for. If you have worked for several Fortune 1,000 or fast-growing start-ups and your association with these firms is part of your brand, add the company names to your headline to build credibility and interest in your candidacy. If you have worked for lesser known companies, but held account responsibilities for well-known firms, showcase the names of your clients if this is not considered proprietary information.

Add a testimonial

One great way to build authenticity into your profile is to showcase a quote from a senior executive or customer. Content for these testimonials can be found through a variety of sources including performance reviews, 360 assessments, and customer satisfaction surveys.

Part 3 will be posted tomorrow!

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Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Does Your Resume Pass the Hiring Manager's 30 Second Test? Part I

The average hiring manager spends less than 30 seconds reviewing a resume. With so little time and so much at stake, applicants must strive to create a self-marketing tool that passes the hiring manager’s initial screening test. Hiring managers scan resumes to quickly see what “pops” or sparks their interest in a candidate. Their first glance at the document often focuses on the text within the top third of the page. This makes it imperative for candidates to create a career summary at the top of the document to quickly communicate competency, scope, fit, and value add. Here is the first of the three “tests’ hiring managers use to screen candidates .

THE COMPETENCY TEST Strategies for Showcasing Your Skills

First, the hiring manager looks for your competencies to determine if you have the experience and scope necessary to perform the job. When writing a resume, make sure that your areas of knowledge and expertise are communicated clearly within the top third of the first page of your resume. Don’t hide the competencies within your profile summary; instead create a separate section in the resume called core competencies, areas of expertise, or areas of knowledge to call direct attention to your qualifications. Make sure your competencies section discusses specific rather than general job expertise. Try to match your competencies to the words and phrases that are most commonly used in your industry. Review job postings and job descriptions for positions in your field that are similar to the ones you will be targeting in your search to create a clear match between your competencies and those necessary for the position.

Check back tomorrow to learn about the second hiring manager test.

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Saturday, October 13, 2007

Your Personal Pitch: Keep it Short and Sweet

One of my clients recently came to my office to work on his pitch. He told me that he had widdled his pitch down to 15 minutes. This led to a discussion about the importance of having a succinct and targeted message. Two minutes is appropriate. 15 minutes is a quarter of an interview and much too long.

Think of your pitch as if it were a PowerPoint presentation. Don't clutter the slides with too much info...just offer the key points. Here's how your PowerPoint slide might look:
  • professional identity
  • 3 core competencies and measurable proof of these competencies
  • quick overview of your professional and educational background
  • the reason why you are interested in a particular job opportunity or company
Yes, you can get all the relevant information into the pitch without talking for 15 minutes and in this case, less is more. Here's some more advice on pitches from the Cube Rules blog.


Thursday, October 11, 2007

Free E-Book on Networking

My colleagues and I over on the Career Hub blog just published our 4th e-book. The topic of the book is networking and the pages are filled with great tips on how to network the right way, how to avoid common networking pitfalls, networking for introverts, and networking in the digital age. Download your free copy here.

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Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Stepping Outside Your Comfort Zone

A few weeks ago I signed up for a networking cruise along the East River in Manhattan aboard the New York Health & Racquet Club yacht. The event was produced by HRNY, the New York chapter of SHRM, and I was really excited about networking with HR professionals. But I wasn't excited about going on a boat...I've never fared well on the high seas and I wasn't expecting this experience to be any different...I was definitely outside my comfort zone.

But I decided that the value of the event was greater than my fear and I made the decision (sans Dramamine) to attend. And I'm so glad I did because I was privy to some amazing conversations and industry debates including the pros and cons of being an HR specialist versus an HR generalist, the future of the video resume, new benefits programs that target boomers, and strategies for creating more meaningful candidate interviews.

The point is this. Each time we prepare for a networking event, there is always some little voice inside of us that says "Is it worth it to go to this event," "I'd rather stay home and watch TV," "I'm only going to stay for an hour," etc. etc. There's always a feeling that you may be stepping outside your comfort zone. That's ok. Push past the discomfort and attend. You will meet people who can help you in your search or general career development and you will capture some golden nuggets of information that will help you either personally or professionally. Just get on the boat, relax, and enjoy the ride.

As for me, not only did I walk away from the cruise with some great new contacts and information, but I really did overcome my previous fear of boats. And while I'm not booking a cruise to Bermuda anytime soon, I certainly feel that I have grown personally as well as professionally from the event.

How do you overcome your fears around attending networking events?


Tuesday, October 09, 2007

The Lure of the Job Boards

Ready for a busy day of job searching? Just boot up that computer and get started on the online job boards. After all, there are several hundred jobs to search in your industry and you can crank out those applications until about noon when you decide to take a well-deserved break for lunch. I'm sure there's someone at the other end just waiting for your resume to grace their inbox!

OK, by now you've sensed my sarcasm. I've written about this topic before, but I continue to meet people who are lured by the leads on the job boards and convinced that if they just continue to scroll down the list, their dream job will appear. If only it were that easy!

I'm convinced that people are enticed by the boards for one of these reasons:
  1. Using the boards makes them feel like they are productively searching.
  2. The boards give them some level of control over their search and don't force them to step outside their comfort zone.
  3. People are eternal optimists and are confident that with all those jobs, there must be something that is right for them.
The truth is that less than 5% of people in search find their jobs from the job boards and you can check out Nick Corcodilos' article on the reality of the boards and the abysmal sourcing statistics for some of the big boards.

Job search is sometimes uncomfortable and even messy, but it can also represent an enormous period of personal and professional growth. But to be successful, you have to be willing to dip your toe in the water, take some risks, and most importantly, take some responsibility for your own career management.

So step away from the computer and get out and meet people through affinity groups such as professional organizations, alumni groups, community events, and places of worship. The chances of building relationships with people you know or new people you meet through others and then leveraging those relationships to find job leads is far greater than the odds of finding your next job through the boards.

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Sunday, October 07, 2007

It's Important to Attend Professional Conferences

I recently attended the NRWA conference in Savannah, GA and returned with a wealth of information about leading-edge techniques for resume writing and career coaching. Every time I go to a professional development conference I take away golden nuggets of information that I can incorporate into my practice. But even if I had left the conference without learning one new strategy for resume writing or career coaching I still would have seen enormous value in attending the conference and here's why.

  1. I had the privilege of sitting with a prolific industry author and learning her tips and tricks to writing successful career relevant books.
  2. I got to know some of the industry vendors on a more personal level and discover their passion for the products they sell.
  3. I reconnected with friends, colleagues, and industry leaders that I trust and respect.
  4. I offered industry insights to newer members of the trade and shared ideas with industry old-timers.
In order to effectively manage your career, you need to proactively tap into your existing network and build new relationships within your industry. Professional conferences allow you to do this in an educational and social environment. Sure, these conferences take time and money, but the return on your investment will be obvious in the weeks and years to come. In a nutshell, I deepened relationships with people who already knew me and I forged relationships with others who didn't know me before the conference. What opportunities for professional growth exist within your industry and what are you doing to take advantage of these opportunities?

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The K.I.S.S. Approach to Interviewing

Kris Dunn, author of the HR Capitalist blog, keeps his interviews simple and cuts through the interview question clutter by focusing on two questions...
  1. Tell me when you have been most satisfied in your career.
  2. Tell me when you have been least satisfied in your career.
Dunn believes that these two behavioral interview questions measure motivation and fit and by probing a candidate's responses to these questions with follow up questions such as "why" and "tell me more" he can uncover a great deal of information about that person.

When you are in an interview situation, the person interviewing you is trying to determine how much risk is associated with hiring you. Can you do the job, how long will it take you to contribute, and will you stay at the company past the one year mark are some of the questions going through the hiring authority's mind.

Candidates should focus on conveying authentic success stories that showcase their professional passions and are in line with the needs of the hiring manager and the organization as a whole. By doing so they will communicate interest, drive, and fit and improve rapport with the interviewer as well.


Saturday, October 06, 2007

Brain Teaser Interview Questions

Brain teaser or puzzle interview questions are sometimes used when interviewing candidates for high-tech, engineering, and other analytical types of positions. Here's an example of a brain teaser question.

"A line of 100 airline passengers is waiting to board a plane. they each hold a ticket to one of the 100 seats on that flight. (for convenience, let's say that the nth passenger in line has a ticket for the seat number n.)

Unfortunately, the first person in line is crazy, and will ignore the seat number on their ticket, picking a random seat to occupy. all of the other passengers are quite normal, and will go to their proper seat unless it is already occupied. if it is occupied, they will then find a free seat to sit in, at random.

What is the probability that the last (100th) person to board the plane will sit in their proper seat (#100)?"

So what does this have to do with the position the candidate is interviewing for? According to a recent article in Business 2.0, high-tech companies like Google and Microsoft and other well known companies such as Amazon are using puzzle or brain teaser questions to source top talent and determine their problem solving skills. By asking these types of questions the interviewer may be able to better gage the candidates ability to make educated guesses, which is a critical skill for professionals in these lines of work.

According to the 2007 Career Industry Mega Trends report conducted by Career Directors International, eight percent of human resource professionals surveyed said they used puzzle interview questions. If you are interested in learning more about brain teaser questions, take a look at the TechInterview website. And when you figure out the probability of the 100th person sitting in their proper seat, let us know the answer!

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