Friday, June 19, 2009

It's What You Do, Not What You Say

I'm not sure why, but resumes noting an individual's "attention to detail" frequently have a typo or grammatical error within the next few lines. Now that's irony. Though I'm one to notice mistakes on a resume anyway, I have to confess an increased desire to look for them on resumes where candidates have noted their attention to detail as a reason I'd want to hire them. It becomes a challenge to see if the person actually delivers on what they say.

An opportunity to measure the validity of a candidate's claims is fantastic for an employer. Employers don't often get a chance to sort out fact from fiction when it comes to details that aren't verifiable through references and such. Too often employers are left to take a candidate's word or go with their gut on what a candidate actually brings to the table. When a candidate claims things that can be easily evaluated by employers, it's gold.

For those who would appreciate some other examples of what noted skills are easy for an employer to evaluate, I'm happy to oblige.

"Great Listener" - These candidates shouldn't need many questions repeated and are able to answer what was actually asked of them. By the way, asking for clarification is different than "what was the question again?"

"Exceptional Follow-up" - These candidates should be timely with returning phone calls, staying in touch, providing additional information an employer requests and sending the appropriate letters and thank you notes to interviewers.

"Excellent Problem Solving Skills" - Those who feel they are great at solving problems should be able to overcome any that surface in the resume/interview process. They shouldn't have their kids waiting in the lobby of the company during an interview because daycare fell through. Their resume shouldn't have revisions in pen because their printer isn't working. Potential employers should never have to hear the candidate doesn't have references because they don't have any phone numbers or addresses anymore. There shouldn't be any 'poor me' stories in the interview about how a past supervisor or subordinate made their job impossible.

"Timely" - I probably don't have to elaborate on this one, right?

These are just some examples. Hopefully you get the idea. It's not that it is bad to make the above claims on a resume. Be prepared to back them up with your actions. "Actions speak louder than words" may be cliche', but it's spot on. You are your best reference. When you yourself can't support your claims, your job search has problems.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Weakest Link

Who is your weakest link? Go ahead and ask. "Why Lisa, whatever do you mean?" I mean, who is the person in your life with access to your mail, computer or phone who you'd least like interacting with a potential employer? If bad luck finds you easily, that is the person who is going to answer the phone or accidentally delete an email when the employer you've been crossing every finger over finally gets back to you.

As a recruiter, I've had many interesting conversations with weak links. Since I feel like sharing, here are some snip-its.

"Daddy can't talk right now. He's in the bathroom with a magazine."
"Look lady, I don't know who you are calling MY man, but you'd best leave him alone."
"I knew John had some interviews. Now are you the colored girl or the white one?"
"Sorry, I don't hear so well. You say your name is Theresa?"
"Can mom call you back? She's taking a nap right now and I can only wake her up for important stuff."

There are many, many, many more examples I could share. I've had candidates call me guns a blazing over my lack of follow-up not knowing I'd left multiple messages. I've given messages and phone numbers to family members who, when I asked them to repeat my number back to me, told me they'd need to go get a pen so they could write it down. Seriously. I've had little kids sing me their ABC's and then hang up the phone.

When you are on the hunt for a job, you have to pay attention to more than just yourself. Take a look around and assess who in your life could possibly cross paths with a potential employer. Who could pick up the phone? Who gets the mail? Who might throw away mail on a counter? Who has access to your computer? Who uses your email? Anyone who fits under one or more of these categories needs a sit down training on how to handle phone calls, what to say, where to write things and what not to touch. If there are individuals who can't be trained, say for instance the chatty three year old who likes to share your bathroom habits, then you need to cut them out of the process. Move phones where only adults can reach them. Get a cell phone that only you answer and use that number for your job search.

Take my advice to heart. I'm telling you, the weakest link surfaces more than you know in people's job searches. As entertaining as it's been for me, I doubt the job seekers involved found it nearly as funny as I did.

Monday, June 8, 2009


Objectives. Sigh. It's rare I encounter an objective that actually adds value to an individual's resume. When you consider they are positioned right at the top and sure to have the prospective employer's undivided attention, it is a shame they often do little to capture interest or set one candidate apart from another. What a waste of prime advertising space.

Most objectives read something like this: "To obtain a challenging position where I may use my skills and experience to benefit an organization." Blah, blah, blah. Boring. Not only is it boring, it's so predictable and overused there is no way the prospective employer is reading the objective and thinking "I've just got to interview this person!"

So what are objectives even for? For those who want to use one, it's a nice place to succinctly state what it is you are seeking. Usually the resume should give hiring managers a pretty good idea, however. In cases where the resume clearly points an arrow towards what the candidate wishes to do, I think objectives eat up valuable marketing space stating the obvious. There are occasions where the resume doesn't make it as clear and an objective can add clarity. If your past experience is heavy in a certain area and you are looking to move in a different direction an objective could very well serve as a way to clue the reader in on what it is you actually wish to do.

Let's say you have 10 years of upper management experience and are applying to jobs that are more support level. Perhaps you don't want the responsibility or stress anymore. Those reading your resume may assume you would logically be looking to remain at your current level or progress to the next. An objective along the lines of "to obtain a supportive role within an organization that could benefit from my knowledge as a former executive" could go a long way to make it clear management is not on your personal agenda. That's not exactly the most eloquent way to put it, but you get the gist. It drives the point home that you did indeed mean to apply for the support level position posted and the interest in the role is genuine. Using an objective to get rid of the "what the heck is this person applying to my job for?" question is beneficial.

Objectives are also a great way to set the record straight in other areas. If you have a unique need/requirement for considering a job, the objective can be used to cut to the chase. Let's say you can only consider a part-time position in the evenings. It doesn't hurt to spell that out in the objective. An example for that scenario would be: "To obtain a part-time customer service position with evening hours." It's not an exciting way to use this precious space on your resume, but it does get the point across in a brief and visible way what it is you are able to consider. If an employer is indeed looking for employees to fill part-time evening positions, you've made it perfectly clear your needs are compatible.

One more scenario that comes to mind is the person living in one city/state who is seeking employment in another. Resumes that look as though the candidate may require relocation to take a position often end up at the bottom of the pile. Companies prefer not to deal with the expense or hassle of relocation if a local candidate is an option. If you fully intend to be local to that company in the near future, spelling that out is wise. That way the employer in Phoenix who sees your Detroit address has a reason to keep reading. An objective for this scenario could be along the lines of "to obtain a Financial Analyst position in Phoenix upon my relocation in July." Again, not the most eloquent example. I'm going for making a point versus wowing you with my writing ability. The example shows a few things. You are aware you are applying for a job that isn't local. You aren't just randomly applying to jobs all over the country. You fully intend to move to the area. You have a plan in place and a date to expect to be there whether that employer hires you or not. All of the above are reassuring to hiring managers.

I fully believe objectives are not necessary for most people. As I said in the very beginning, they are usually a waste of advertising space. If an objective helps clarify your interest or differentiate you from other candidates, use one. If not, don't feel you are breaking a rule if you choose to sideline your objective. If you can use that space for something with more "WOW" factor, it won't be missed. The sooner you direct attention to your relevant skills, the better. Most have heard the studies indicating most resumes aren't read past the first half of the first page. That makes the use of an objective an important decision.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Balls In The Air

Many sales professionals know the phrase "balls in the air." In basic terms, you want lots of things going so you have the best chance of something good happening. Juggling one or two balls at a time leaves you with little to hope for should one or both fall to the ground. The more balls you toss into the situation, the more there are to make up for whatever falls through.

Since job seekers essentially become salespeople during the time they are out promoting their skills to potential employers, it would be wise for them to embrace the idea of getting as much going as possible to increase their odds of success. What tends to happen is a job seeker will do a couple of things, wait and see what happens with that and then move on to other options. Putting off new ideas, strategies or options for the sake of waiting to see what happens with what you've already done is not a good plan. A job hunt is a numbers game. The more you get out there, the more leads you are chasing, the more companies you are wooing, the better your odds of success. Adding strategy to the mix is great and it can help you accomplish more in less time. Excellent strategy with little to no activity won't get you very far though.

I've sat across the desk from plenty of job seekers who I had ideas for only to be told "well, I'd like to see what happens with ABC first because they are my first choice." I understand wanting to wait to accept another 'offer' when you don't know the status of your first choice. Waiting to turn up the volume on your job search is entirely different. It's one of the reasons job seekers find themselves frustrated or feeling defeated. When there aren't a lot of balls in the air there just isn't a whole lot to be hopeful about. Not to mention prospecting 25 companies one at a time to gauge their potential versus all at once really drags out a job search.