Friday, July 31, 2009

No Smoking Policy

Do you have a no smoking policy with friends, family members, colleagues and mentors? This has nothing to do with nicotine sticks. The no smoking policy I'm referring to is an agreement no smoke will be blown when giving you constructive feedback. When looking for a job, you need the people in your life's circle giving you their honest take on how you are presenting yourself to others. Whether or not you decide to act on their feedback is up to you, but you definitely want a free exchange of information so you have a basic sense of where you may be missing the mark on the impression you make.

Many job seekers assume people who know them well will give them an honest assessment. Not so. On the scale of straight forwardness (is that a word?), I'd say I rank a 9.5 out of a possible 10. Still, I struggle at times with delivering much needed constructive feedback. I doubt I'm the only one. Most of us are wired to want to make people feel good about themselves. This is especially the case if we know someone is a bit down or going through a tough time. To avoid hurting feelings or awkward situations, we tend to let those we want to provide positive support to walk around with funky breath, scraggly beards, unflattering clothes, negative attitudes, sloppy work and the like. That's hardly a favor when you consider how essential it is for job seekers to make a good impression. It's a huge piece of the how to get a job pie.

Friends and family knowing how beneficial constructive feedback could be for you isn't enough to get them to open up. As a job seeker, you need to offer a sip of liquid truth serum to those in your life in the form of a direct conversation. Make it clear any and all feedback is wanted and will be received without consequence to the relationship. Share your no smoking policy with sincerity and the acknowledgment you are putting them in the position of having to tell you difficult things. Demand these individuals challenge your disposition and remarks if they feel you've gone back on your agreement to receive their opinions in a positive and open minded way.

Before I close, I'd like to suggest taking a moment to think back on those in your life who may have already tried to tell you the things you need to hear. How did you handle what they had to say? Did you lash out? Are they regretting their honesty? If so, call them and apologize. Let them know you recognize the value of candid commentary and will do a better job of hearing what they have to say in the future. Do what you can to see how they were being more helpful than those who simply told you everything is great. That's not discounting the value of surrounding yourself with positive people. It's simply saying avoiding the opportunity to help someone grow and improve for the sake of being positive, has negative consequences.

Now to close, if you can institute a no smoking policy and live up to your end of the bargain by taking the feedback in the spirit it was intended, you'll stand a better chance of landing a new job. Send your ego on a mini-vacation and give it a try.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Those Darn Cover Letters

Ah, cover letters. I'm not sure who has the shorter end of the stick, candidates who have to write them or prospective employers who have to read them. They can be painful to both parties. I read too many cover letters that beat hiring managers over the head with personal circumstances, irrelevant qualifications and desperate pleas for opportunity. Writing and reading that stuff is toxic to the soul. Toxic, I tell you!

Cover letters don't have to be excruciating. Staying true to their purpose helps a great deal. What is a cover letter though? Just like a cover to a book, your cover letter is the outer layer of your resume. Book covers don't rehash everything in the book. They highlight key points and passages in an effort to make the reader want more. You'll notice the author of a book never uses the cover to go into the difficulties he is having in his life or why he needs you to buy the book. It's all about captivating the reader. Your cover letter needs to achieve the same result. Once a hiring manager reads it, he should want to dig deeper into your resume. After reading your resume, he should want to take the next step of an interview. Succinctly highlighting elements in your background that make you a candidate the hiring manager needs to interview and exuding confidence your abilities and experience are worthy of consideration are the way to go. Waffling language, such as "I hope to hear from you," and "if it's not too much trouble" is not a good idea. It plants the seed of desperation and suggests you are don't expect to hear from them, may be used to not having any response and may not be in demand. Not to mention, it's not the employer's role to care about your hopes. Your hopes really don't have anything to do with what they need in a business sense.

Incorporating stronger messages will demonstrate confidence. Consider the following suggestion. "You will learn from my resume and interviews I am a knowledgeable professional with much to offer your organization." After a statement like this, follow with some bullet points of bottom line contributions you feel you would make for said company. Then close with confidence, "I look forward to meeting with you and discussing how my background compliments your current needs." The suggestion you qualify for an interview is conveyed without coming of pushy or rude. It's all about balance.

While we're on the subject of rude, it's a good time to point out if you are writing a letter to someone, it is best to do all you can to find out their true name. In my 37 years, I have yet to meet anyone named Recruiter, Sir, Madam or To Whom it May Concern. Although, at the rate celebrities are going, I suppose it's an eventual possibility. In this cyber age, it is much easier to research the names of people in companies. Google, LinkedIn and the company's actual website are easy sources. If you don't find what you need there, the telephone is always an option. Simply call the receptionist, briefly state you are sending a letter to XYZ Manager and ask what name to address the letter to. Don't go into a long story. People answering the phones usually don't have a lot of time to chit-chat. There is no need to identify yourself as a job seeker. You are making a business call to get a name so you can direct business correspondence to the appropriate person in a polite way. If the person asks who you are, of course give your name. If the person asks what the nature of the correspondence is, be prepared with a brief response. Just as I said with cover letter content, when making these calls you must choose your language carefully. Waffling is problematic. When you start throwing in "if it would be okay," "if you don't mind," "are you able to tell me" or anything that suggests what you are asking for is out of line or a bother, you are more likely to fail at your objective. Your concern you may be imposing creates the perception you are. Approach it as one business person would another, job seekers approaching companies is indeed business, and you'll achieve better results. Are there times when no matter what you do you won't be able to come up with a name to address your cover letter to, yes. Just don't write a situation off as hopeless without really making an effort to get a name.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Why The Hesitation?

Last week I had an interesting conversation with a man we'll call Tim. Tim is on the young side, but mature well beyond his years. He understands more about bringing value to the table and not wasting people's time, or any time for that matter, than many people twice his age.

Tim's struggle is that he is a bit on the shy side. He finds himself avoiding making key connections in his job search. There is a hesitation when it comes to approaching individuals he views to be important in the networking process. He knows he's sharp and is good at his craft. Still, the reservations are there when it comes to putting himself in a better position to be noticed by those in pivotal roles.

The hesitation Tim feels doesn't stem from him being insecure of his abilities. To the contrary, he's confident he is able to live up to the expectations an employer would have of him. Tim's problem is more basic and, fortunately for him, easier to solve. What keeps Tim from tapping on that person's shoulder is an innate awareness he has no idea of how to offer value to that person in exchange for what he would like to ask of them. Hallelujah! Boy, how I wish more people could hear that inner voice warning them against jumping head first into Lake Me Me Me. Tim wants to establish relationships with people who would benefit him, but is hesitant to make the attempt without an idea of how to be sure the exchange of value isn't one sided.

So how do you solve something like this? Logically there are some people in life we want to reach out to who have much more to give us than we could ever give in return. Does that make them off limits? Nope, not at all. Tim's mistake is feeling he needs to be able to bring value to the person instantly in order to make that connection. That's not always possible. Being aware of wanting the relationship to be beneficial for the other party goes a long way though. That awareness will help Tim continue to look for ways to reciprocate. Reciprocity doesn't mean Tim has to be able to give back exactly what was given to him either. Tim needs connections for a job. What does the other person need? The best way to find out is to ask questions. What are they trying to accomplish at the moment? Where are they hoping to get the word out about their services? What groups would they appreciate introductions to?

If job seekers are making a conscious effort to ask others how they may be able to help them in return, it's going to add value to that relationship even if the other individual doesn't particularly need anything at the moment. Having the thought to ask, taking the care to show you realize you are taking and would like to give back, is something often overlooked in the networking process. Bare minimum what you can give that other person is a thank you. Time and good questions will tell what more you can do. In the meantime, don't postpone building relationships in order to avoid coming off needy. Simply do what you can to make good use of the help you are given and work hard to look for ways to pay it back or pay it forward.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Soliticing Feedback from Interviewers

Wouldn't it be handy if job seekers knew exactly why they were passed over for positions? So much is left to guessing and assumptions. It's not always possible to get solid feedback as to why, but if you make a habit of posing well-timed and value added questions to those you interview with, you may have a better idea of where you missed the mark.

Before we dig into strategies for soliciting feedback, I feel the need rattle off the most common reasons I heard as a recruiter for my candidates not getting positions with my corporate clients. Keep in mind, because I knew the expectations and requirements for the positions I was sending my candidates to interview for, it was rare the client found the actual skill set to be lacking. Most often the reasoning fell in two different categories. They either didn't feel they meshed with the candidate's personality and attitude or they were uncertain how much the opportunity they had was really going to suit the candidate long term. When you consider how sticky it can be to talk about attitudes, personality and an individual's long term goals, it's clear why some employers might button up a bit when it comes to giving feedback. It's easy to say, "your Excel skills weren't where we needed them to be." Telling someone, "well, you talk too much for our needs and seem all over the place with what it is you want to do," is not so easy.

To give hiring managers a bit of a break, it's also important to consider sometimes they really don't have a specific reason for not offering you the position. It's not so much about what you don't have is it is about was someone else does. They may not even be able to put their finger on it. Perhaps it's as simple as saying chemistry? There are times I've offered positions to people because they just had that "something" that made me want to pull the trigger on the deal. Asking an employer why they didn't hire you can be as difficult a question to answer as explaining to a significant other why you just aren't feeling it with them anymore. Sometimes the best answer out there is just because. It's part of the human condition. It may also be something as simple as someone else did a better job of staying in front of that decision maker so the chemistry was cultivated. Hard to say.

For the times when there is something an employer can specifically point to as the reason you didn't get a job, you want to be asking well-timed questions designed to let the employer's guard down so you can tap into that feedback. The employer must be able to sense your request for constructive feedback is sincere and won't come at the price of a meltdown in their office or months of hate emails after the fact. Which begs the point, be sure you really can handle the feedback if you are sticking yourself out there and asking the why's.

So, what kinds of questions can you ask to assess what you are and are not doing right in your search? I like to insert questions along the way versus saving them all for after you've received the rejection letter. By that time you don't have much chance of salvaging your shot at the opportunity. Questions like "based on what we've discussed today, what in my background might need more enrichment for me to be exactly what you need for this position?" That shows interest in wanting to be the right fit for the job and essentially sets them up to give you an answer of some sort. When they give you an answer, don't attack it or argue their take. Accept the feedback and propose an idea for how you may be able to quickly gain the skill they need. If you feel you already have the skill, but you simply didn't convey it well enough, then this would be a good time to expand on what you may have failed to communicate. You may also want to revisit it in your thank you letter for the interview and reiterate some more how you are prepared to overcome the noted concern.

A handy question to add to your interviews is "what are some of the reasons other individuals haven't been successful in this role or with your company in the past?" This is a gem of a question because often times employers are thinking about what they don't want to hire versus what they do. If a problem occurred in the past, they are in avoidance mode and tend to look for anything similar to those who didn't work out versus what might be different in you. Once you hear the reasons why people didn't work out in the past you are able to do some quick soul searching to consider if you might be giving any clues the employer could have similar problems with you. If that is the case, you have time to get it in gear as well as offer references or supportive evidence of why they wouldn't have to worry about those problems if they offered you the job.

To stand any chance of getting valuable feedback from an employer, you can't go in with a yes or no question. Doing so is likely to give you little information. For example, "is there anything you can think of I might need to work on?" Do you see the difference between asking "is there anything I might need to work on" versus "what in my background might need enrichment?" Salespeople will readily tell you the value of open ended questions. Giving the person a chance to simply answer "yes" or "no" is the kiss of death in sales. Once they someone says "no" it's even harder to make progress.

Another kiss of death in getting valuable information out of someone is when you answer the questions you pose for them. I can't stress enough how often this happens. "What in my background do you think might need enrichment? Do I need to get more Excel? Is my hesitation to speak in front of groups an issue? Do you think I cost too much money?" I'm not sure what makes humans do this. Sometimes it feels like we are so afraid of the negative things other people might say that we want to be the ones to get them out first. There have been times when I didn't think I was having any reservations until the person rattled off reasons why maybe I should. If you are going to pose the question and truly want the other person's answer, then do everything in your power to zip it once you reach the initial question mark. Those who can't learn how to do this are at risk of coming off as insecure and lacking the confidence needed to get the job done.

I've given some examples on how to word questions, now I'd like to talk a bit more about the spirit in which the questions should be asked. Just like all aspects of your job search, conversations with hiring managers should always feel like a business discussion versus personal chit chat. It's easier to critique someone in a business sense then it is to make comments about them that seem personal or are likely to be taken personally. It's all in how you set the table. Leading up to the question with a plea for how you need to know feedback because you need a job and are about to have your electric cut off so you'd truly value honest constructive criticism is NOT the way to go. Cutting interviewers off in the middle of their answer to disagree with them is NOT the way to go. Inserting any commentary during the interview that you feel your age, race, religion, gender, sexuality, health or family status might be causing you to be turned down for jobs is NOT the way to go. It makes people afraid to engage in a conversation with you at all. You want employers to feel like they can give you honest feedback without you falling to pieces, biting their heads off or going to you lawyer with any word they utter no matter how damning it is or isn't.

Hopefully I've given you some things to think about in terms of soliciting feedback from hiring managers and the mindset you need to approach the process with. If you go into it with good questions while conveying an open mind, you'll have a better chance of getting the information you are looking for.

In closing, I have one more thing to keep in mind. If the reason you aren't getting a job is tied to anything awkward, your chances of hearing the why are slim to none. This is where the job seeker has to take an honest assessment of himself to make progress. Are you polite through the process? How is your hygiene? Is there something unflattering from your past experiences that may be surfacing? Do you respond to feedback positively? Are you talking too much? Are you talking too little? Is your cell phone ringing while your in interviews? Are you sharing too much personal business? It's not impossible what's standing in the way between you and a job is something people don't feel they can really talk with you about.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Pay Attention to Bad Press

I shared this nugget in another forum and thought it would be wise to post it here as well. Please indulge me if you've read it before.

There is no doubt the media loves to focus on negative news. A company who finds itself in the spotlight for not so positive reasons tends to become the company with a big X over its name. Job seekers and sales professionals fawn over those getting good press for doing well and sometimes make the mistake of steering clear of those who are on the receiving end of bad press.

When I was in sales as a recruiter/headhunter, I loved to call on companies who were up to their ears in a mess of some sort. From media reports I had a reasonable idea of what was broken internally and could offer solutions to help them deal with the problems. I knew exactly how I could have a positive influence on the company's bottom line. That's every salesperson's ideal, yes? Remember, job seekers are salespeople too. Their product is them. I built wonderful relationships with corporate clients by simply being there, when others were keeping them at arms length, and treating them with respect. You build a special bond with a client when you can help lift them out of a low. This is a time when many companies are having those lows. What an amazing opportunity to stretch our minds, explore our capabilities to instigate change and help be part of the process of generating solutions for those companies.

I challenge everyone here to embrace the bad press around us and ask "what can I do for these individuals and companies that will make a positive difference?" There is opportunity in it for you. I promise. Make yourself part of the solution, deliver on that solution and enjoy doing so with fewer people to compete against.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

No Today, Yes Tomorrow

Rejection is part of the human experience. Even those exuding confidence wrestle with concerns of not being wanted. They're human too, right? Their ability to risk hearing a no, and move past the no's they've received along the way, is what sets them apart from the crowd.

As a recruiter I encountered rejection on a regular basis. My experience was two-fold. There was the rejection dealt to my team and to me as salesmen and there was the rejection my candidates had to face when corporate clients chose other options. Had I been the type to allow my fear of no's to overwhelm my desire to find the yes's in life, I would have had a very short career.

For myself, overcoming the urge to hide from the potential of rejection had a lot to do with keeping it in perspective. No's didn't mean I was being written off forever. They weren't evidence I had no value. They simply meant what I was offering at that immediate moment was not a fit for the other person's current needs. Forcing my mind to steer clear of self-doubt, I concentrated on finding ways to make myself what that person needed in the future. Many of my long term business relationships began with no's and eventually grew into a yes once we were able to better understand what each of us needed and had to offer. For the times when the understanding was there, yet the yes wasn't, the passage of time brought about the changes necessary to make what I was offering relevant. The opportunities I would have missed out on had I taken that initial no as a permanent verdict are too numerous to list.

My challenge to job seekers is to do your best to not let fear of rejection cloud your judgment and dim your motivation to get out there. Look at the no's you receive as a learning opportunity. What do you need to convey better in the future? What don't you have that you may want to gain to be more marketable? What changes in the economy, community and environment might result in the no becoming a yes down the line.

Sometimes the yes can follow a no even sooner than expected if you are willing to hold your chin up and continue to cultivate relationships with those who have rejected you. For example, it's not uncommon for a company's new hire to be struggling 3 to 6 months into a job. Typically, that's the time frame most employers use to gauge if they've made a good hire. That's the reason recruiters make a point to call companies a few months after they've hired someone. We want first dibs on helping them fill their position if a replacement is needed. You might be thinking, why would they work with a recruiter instead of simply calling the number 2 option they had for the job. If the number 2 option hasn't kept in touch with the company, made it clear hearing from them in the future would be welcome and reiterated they were going to continue to enrich themselves in the areas the hiring manager felt they were lacking, the likelihood of a company going that route is slim. Think about it. What hiring manager wouldn't feel like a heel calling a candidate and saying "even though you weren't our first choice, the person we hired didn't work out so we'd like to offer the job to you now?" It's been my experience they would rather start the process all over again, relying on the confidentiality of a recruiter, than expose themselves to a potentially awkward situation. Don't let it come to that with a company you would eventually like to hear a yes from.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

The Bridges You've Burned

So many people find themselves playing dodge ball with mistakes of the past. They've burned bridges with people and end up in a never ending game of having to find alternative routes to their destination. So often this isn't necessary. Just as we fix the broken bridges in our lives we use for driving and walking, the bridges we have with other individuals can usually be repaired with a sincere apology and evidence of change.

In a recent conversation with a job seeker, we'll call him Joe, Joe mentioned an employer he was leaving off of his resume that would be helpful to him to have featured. Joe was fired from this company, you see, and he doesn't want others to know about it since the owner of that company is well connected. There was a time when Joe was considered a great employee and had even been promoted. In an immature moment, he became frustrated with another employee and threw an object at the wall. The company terminated him immediately. All of his past accomplishments and contributions couldn't save him from the chopping block. It was a stupid thing for him to do. Joe was a young guy and made a mistake. In the years since that moment, Joe hasn't thrown more than a baseball. The fact he was fired for lashing out likely set him on a better path professionally. It was definitely a learning experience. The Joe of today has grown a great deal from that young man with an overactive right arm. The time has come to right the wrongs of his past so he can move on without fear of that mistake resurfacing. He needs to repair the bridge he damaged and show his former supervisor he has grown as a person and regrets his past actions.

Joe is ready to face the music and do what it takes to repair a damaged bridge. The recruiter in me wishes more job seekers would take the same leap. No one is perfect. Mistakes are a part of the human condition. Success in life doesn't come from how well we hide from those mistakes, but how well we address them. So many people hide. Those who are able to look another in the eye and admit they came up short are rare. When someone has expressed genuine regret to me, I've always appreciated the acknowledgment. When I've expressed genuine regret to others, I've always felt more connected to them than before. Oddly enough, the personal and professional relationships I have that have weathered some sort of storm are the ones with the deepest loyalty at the end of the day.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Google is a blabber mouth!

If Google knows any of your personal business, he's going to blab it to anyone who asks the right questions. Every detail you provide to a company during your job search could be used on search engines to reveal more information about you than you ever intended to share. It is important for every job seeker to safeguard themselves from unintentionally giving a potential employer access to personal things that aren't really any of their business.

There are a few things a candidate should assume are going to be plugged into a search engine. Your name is an obvious guess. Isn't it logical someone wanting to know more about you might run a search on your name to see what's there? They may simply use your name or they may add in other key words such as cities you've lived in or the names of past employers. Run simple searches on your name and see what's there. Unless the information that comes up is pulling from a site you have some degree of control over, you probably aren't going to be able to make any of the information that is there go away. Still, being aware of what an employer might stumble across with a basic search gives you a chance to prepare for any backlash.

Other searches candidates should run on themselves include the phone numbers, street addresses and email addresses they are sharing on resumes or applications. Those are the types of details people occasionally share on message boards, forums, letters to the editor, church bulletins, etc., that can be picked up by search engines. The things that pop up may be flattering, boring and a non-issue, or they may reveal a bit more about yourself and your personal habits than you'd care for an employer to know about. A candidate I worked with a few years ago posted his email address on a message board for divorced fathers who were having custody issues. He input the address so fellow members could respond with advice for a problem he had. He said less than kind things about his ex-wife and shared intensely personal information about his situation. I discovered this information while doing my own searches on his background and was able to point it out to him so he could either edit the post or provide a different email address to employers in the future.

It's hard to know if an employer knowing something like that would have a negative effect on a candidate's chances for a job. It's best not to risk it and do what you can to reduce the chance of it becoming known. Many job seekers are wisely opting to create new email addresses or sign up for cell phone numbers they use exclusively for the purpose of their search. They are careful not to post those addresses or numbers in any public forum. That doesn't mean candidates need not bother to search on those addresses and numbers, however. If you weren't the first one to have that cell number, there is no way to know how it was used in the past. Checking those numbers is an especially good idea for those who attract bad luck.

Now, go Google.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

"Employers Are Intimidated By Me."

"Employers are intimidated by me." I often hear this from older or executive level candidates. When I hear it, I find myself chewing on my lip. It's not that I don't think it is possible for decision makers to pass over candidates who may threaten their professional advancements or who may feel the individual's qualifications are such it would be awkward to offer something with less responsibility. More often than not, however, the hesitations an employer has comes more from the messages sent by the candidate than from insecurity or intimidation.

Because the next things I'm about to write may sound harsh, I'd like to take a moment to remind readers about my intentions with this blog. My words are not meant to poke fun at or criticize others, but to share candid observations I feel will help save people from unintentionally shooting themselves in the foot while looking for a job. If what I write stings or bruises, I apologize. Try to hang with me though and see if there is a useful nugget in it all.

Back to the harsh part. Of all the job seekers who have told me employers are intimidated by them, I've yet to meet one who didn't present with other problems that were obvious to me. To be blunt, these individuals usually had one of three issues. They either talked too much about themselves, were unintentionally disrespectful at times or presented with a skill set issue. I think it's important to talk about all three scenarios.

Talking Too Much - I'm listing this one first on purpose. By far, this is the problem I encounter the most. Many candidates who feel their backgrounds are intimidating have the bad habit of pointing out, in great detail, all that is intimidating about them. Beating a potential employer over the head with all of the things you've done that go above and beyond what is necessary for the job you are interviewing for keeps any issue of being overqualified front and center. How is an interviewer supposed to let it go if the applicant won't let them? In addition, contributing an abundance of information that isn't relevant to the job or discussion gives the impression the candidate lacks focus and the ability to stay on point. When candidates have gone overboard with details and irrelevant information with me, I've often had the sense they were struggling with their own value, were not yet over what had happened in their previous positions or were too use to being in settings where that type of information was needed and were failing to adjust their message to their audience. I always made an attempt to redirect the conversation or give cues it was time to move on to another topic. Cues and redirection rarely worked. With those I felt I knew well, or who gave the impression they were open to constructive feedback, I shared my take on why they weren't getting job offers. There wasn't much I could do for the others, but offer a silent prayer of good luck.

Seeming Disrespectful - Let me clear, I am not talking about candidates intending to be disrespectful. Most applicants with a solid career history behind them have the good sense not to be intentionally rude. That doesn't mean body language, behavior and comments don't occasionally give the interviewer pause. Those who are accustomed to being the one in control, making decisions and critiquing aren't always able to give the interviewer his rightful place as the one running the show. That's not to say candidates should be passive doormats. Showing assertiveness and the ability to lead is often necessary for landing a job in line with past experience. It's a balancing act to be able to demonstrate confidence and control in a way where the prospective employer doesn't end up feeling like a subordinate. A few examples that come to mind of things that tend to go wrong are talking over the interviewer, inserting judging commentary as corporate objectives/philosophy are shared, offering up "mmmmm, interesting" responses that don't ring sincere, redirecting the interview or sidestepping questions with comments beginning with language like "more importantly", addressing the individual in any way that implies the person is younger or less experienced, posturing so the interviewer is being looked down upon, asking for coffee while requesting a specific ratio of cream & sugar, critiquing the company's hiring process and checking the time while the interviewer speaks. Those are probably plenty of examples to make my point.

Skill Set Issues - Individuals who have been with the same employer for years and years, no matter how high up the ladder they climbed, are likely to have some sort of skill gap. It's not that they've done anything wrong. In basic terms, they've only had the ability to acquire knowledge of what was used in their environment. The likelihood they are proficient on software, techniques and protocol not used by their long term employer is slim. Yes, they were in key roles in their organization. Yes, they have valuable skills and knowledge to take with them to their next opportunity. That's not to say the things they don't know can't be learned. Most times it indeed can. The issue is when these individuals are either unaware of what they don't know or poo-poo what they don't know as no big deal. Employers don't want to be treated as though their concern of a candidate's lack of familiarity with something is dumb. Too many employers have had to endure errors, low productivity and frustration as a result of employees not knowing what they need to do the job. What they want to see and hear is evidence of a pro-active person who recognizes the gap, is willing to fill it (if they aren't already doing so) and supporting information of the individual's ability to learn other things in the past. It really is a big deal to many employers. A candidate need not think or act as though not having something leaves them less than qualified. It is important to sell around what is missing and reassure the employer as much as possible any gaps are short term. That reassurance is hard to achieve when the candidate's best approach is to shrug off concerns while proclaiming them no big deal.

So that is my take in a nutshell. Though it is possible some employers may indeed be intimidated, anything is possible after all, that wouldn't be my first guess and it shouldn't be yours. Take a good look at the messages you are sending and ask yourself if there is a chance you might be committing any of the missteps outlined above.

Monday, July 6, 2009

So Many Experts

I don't envy job seekers. There are experts at every corner telling them what they thought was a good approach stinks. Just today I read an article by an HR professional going on about phrases on your resume sure to send it to the trash can. She cited phrases like "team player," "results oriented," and "proven track record" as resume killers. I couldn't help but shake my head. I agree phrases like this have almost become cliche', but "KILLERS???"

First of all, if phrases like this on a resume are the true reason a candidate is not landing an interview I'll eat my right hand. Avoiding the cliche does help a person stand out, but most job seekers' troubles aren't rooted in having these phrases on their resume. It's more their inability to source job leads through networking, effectively sell their abilities and focus on what skills/abilities they have that are relevant to a potential employer. I guarantee if you are doing those things well, no one is going to put your resume on the bottom of the pile for the reasons this woman suggested.

Part of me is angry over what I read in her article. Yes, it's new information. Yes, she shares creative ideas on how to say things differently. The trouble is she is simply setting the stage for the new cliche. Big whoop! In my mind I can picture individuals agonizing over and pouring time into reworking their resumes so those words aren't there. Guess what they'll find when they are all done? They still don't have anyone interviewing them. Why? Because they aren't making valuable connections and laying the proper groundwork. If they were, nitpicking the words on a resume wouldn't be as necessary. The resume wouldn't be the primary instigator in landing an interview.

Don't get me wrong. I am all for having a great resume selling your abilities. If there is language on your resume doing you a disservice, by all means, fix it! Keep things in perspective though. There is no need to be overly dramatic about how an employer is going to weigh each word. If you were trying to hire a person and they had the experience you wanted to see on their resume, would you move them to the bottom of the list for using "team player?" I hope not. Most employers aren't going to do that either. Invest more of your energy in cultivating the relationships you are building, relationships that can guide you to your next opportunity, and refrain from living a life of seclusion while you bang out yet another version of your resume.