Monthly Archives: March 2013
 


Summary or Chronological?

Your resumé can be arranged in one of two basic formats: summary or chronological.

The summary (or functional) resumé distills your total work experience into major areas of expertise, and focuses the reader’s attention on your accumulated skills.

The chronological resumé presents your skills and accomplishments within the framework of your past employers. (Actually, it should be called a reverse chronological resume, since your last job should always appear first.)
Although the information you furnish the reader may essentially be the same, there’s a big difference in the way the two resumés are constructed, and the type of impact each will have.

My experience has shown that the chronological resumé brings the best results, since it’s the most explicit description of the quality and application of your skills within a specific time frame.

The summary resumé, on the other hand, works well if you’ve changed jobs or careers often, and wish to downplay your work history and highlight your level of expertise.

If a prospective hiring manager is specifically interested in a steady, progressively advancing employment history (as most are), then the summary resumé will very likely work against you, since the format will seem confusing, and might arouse suspicions as to your potential for longevity.

However, if the employer’s main concern is your technical or problem-solving ability, the summary resumé will serve your needs just fine.

Either way, you should always follow the guidelines mentioned earlier regarding content and appearance.

Resume Objectives

Most employers find that a carefully worded statement of purpose will help them quickly evaluate your suitability for a given position. An objective statement can be particularly useful as a quick-screen device when viewed by a manager responsible for staffing several types of positions. (“Let’s see; accountants in this pile, programmers in that pile, plant managers in that pile…”)

While a stated objective gives you the advantage of targeting your employment goals, it can also work against you. A hiring manager lacking in imagination or who’s hard pressed for time will often overlook a resumé with an objective that doesn’t conform to the exact specifications of a position opening. That means that if your objective reads “Vice President position with a progressive, growth-oriented company,” you may limit your options and not be considered for the job of regional manager for a struggling company in a mature market — a job you may enjoy and be well suited to.

If you’re pretty sure of the exact position you want in the field or industry you’re interested in, then state it in your objective. Otherwise, broaden your objective or leave it off the resumé.

Building a Stronger Case

To get the most mileage out of your resumé, you’ll want to emphasize certain aspects of your background. By doing so, you’ll present your qualifications in the most favorable light, and help give the employer a better understanding of your potential value to his or her organization.

You can build a stronger case for your candidacy, by highlighting the following areas of interest:

Professional achievements of particular interest to your reader. For example, if you’re in sales, the first thing a hiring manager will want to know is your sales volume, and how it ranks with your peers. If you’ve won awards, or reached goals, let the employer know. If you’re in management, let the reader know the number of people you supervise, and what their titles are.

Educational accomplishments. List your degree(s) and/or relevant course work, thesis or dissertation, or specialized training. Be sure to mention any special honors, scholarships, or awards you may have received, such as Dean’s List, Cum Laude, or Phi Beta Kappa.

Additional areas of competency. These might include computer software fluency, dollar amount of monthly raw materials purchased, or specialized training.

Professional designations that carry weight in your field. If you’re licensed or certified in your chosen profession (CPA, CPM, or PE, for example), or belong to a trade organization (such as ASTD or ASQC), by all means let the reader know.

Success indicators. You should definitely include anything in your past that might distinguish you as a leader or achiever. Milestones such as Eagle Scout, college class president, scholarship recipient, or valedictorian will help employers identify you as a potential winner. If you worked full time to put yourself through school, you should consider that experience a success indicator, and mention it on your resumé.

Related experience. Anything that would be relevant to your prospective employer’s needs. For example, if your occupation requires overseas travel or communication, list your knowledge of foreign languages. If you worked as a co-op student in college, especially in the industry you’re currently in, let the reader know.

Military history. If you served in the armed forces, describe your length of service, branch of service, rank, special training, medals, and discharge and/or reserve status. Employers generally react favorably to military service experience.

Security clearances. Some industries place a premium on clearances when it comes to getting hired or being promoted. If you’re targeting an industry such as aerospace or defense, give your current and/or highest clearable status, and whether you’ve been specially checked by an investigative agency.

Citizenship. This should be mentioned if your industry requires it. Dual citizenship should also be mentioned, especially if you think you may be working in a foreign country.
In a competitive market, employers are always on the lookout for traits that distinguish one candidate from another. Not long ago, I worked with an engineering manager who mentioned the fact that he was a three-time APBA national power boat champion on his resumé. It came as no surprise that several employers warmed up to his resume immediately, and wanted to interview him.

Ten Keys to a Dynamite Resume

To help you construct a better, more powerful resumé, here are ten overall considerations in regard to your resume’s content and presentation:

Position title and job description. Provide your title, plus a detailed explanation of your daily activities and measurable results. Since job titles are often misleading or their function may vary from one company to another, your resume should tell the reader exactly what you’ve done. (Titles such as account manager, business analyst, and internal consultant are especially vague.)

Clarity of dates and place. Document your work history accurately. Don’t leave the reader guessing where you were employed, or for how long. If you’ve had overlapping jobs, find a way to pull them apart on paper, or eliminate mentioning one, to avoid confusion.

Detail. Specify some of the more technical, or involved aspects of your past work or education. Have you performed tasks of any complexity, or significance? If so, don’t be shy; give a one or two sentence description.

Proportion. Give appropriate attention to jobs or educational credentials according to their length, or importance to the reader. For example, if you wish to be considered for a position at a bank, don’t write one paragraph describing your current job as a loan officer, followed by three paragraphs about your high school summer job as a lifeguard.

Relevancy. Confine your curriculum vitae to that which is job-related or clearly demonstrates a pattern of success. For example, nobody really cares that your hobby is spear fishing, or that you weigh 137 pounds, or that you belong to an activist youth group. Concentrate on the subject matter that addresses the needs of the employer.

Explicitness. Leave nothing to the imagination. Don’t assume the resumé reader knows, for example, that the University of Indiana you attended is in western Pennsylvania, or that an “M.M.” is a Master of Music degree, or that your current employer, U.S. Computer Systems, Inc., supplies the fast-food industry with order-taker headsets.

Length. Fill up only a page or two. If you write more than two pages, it sends a signal to the reader that you can’t organize your thoughts, or you’re trying too hard to make a good impression. If your content is strong, you won’t need more than two pages.

Spelling, grammar, and punctuation. Create an error-free document that is representative of an educated person. If you’re unsure about the correctness of your writing (or if English is your second language), consult a professional writer or copy editor. At the very least, use a spell-check program if you have access to a word processor, and always proofread what you’ve written.

Readability. Organize your thoughts in a clear, concise manner. Avoid writing in a style that’s either fragmented or long-winded. No resumé ever won a Nobel Prize for literature; however, an unreadable resume will virtually assure you of starting at the back of the line.

Overall appearance and presentation. Select the proper visual format, type style, and stationery. Resume readers have become used to a customary and predictable format. If you deviate too much, or your resume takes too much effort to read, it’ll probably end up in the trash, even if you have a terrific background.
Resumé writing can be tricky, especially if you haven’t done it before. I suggest you write several drafts, and allow yourself the time to proofread for errors and ruminate over what you’ve written. Practice, after all, makes perfect. If you have a professional associate whose opinion you trust, by all means, listen to what he or she has to say. A simple critique can save you a great deal of time and money.

I worked with a candidate recently who had the most beautifully written resumé I’ve ever seen. When I asked him about it, he said that he sharpened his skills by writing and rewriting his wife’s resumé. After he got the hang of it, he worked on his own — and kept revising it on a monthly basis.

Truth in Advertising

In addition to providing a factual representation of your background, your resumé serves as an advertisement of your availability.

Although there’s no federal regulatory agency like the FDA or FCC to act as a watchdog, I consider it to be ethical common sense to honestly and clearly document your credentials. In other words, don’t make exaggerated claims about your past.

The best way to prepare a dynamite resumé is not to change the facts
— just make them more presentable. This can be accomplished in two ways: [1] by strengthening the content of your resumeé; and [2] by enhancing its appearance.

Remember, your resumé is written for the employer, not for you. Its main purpose, once in the hands of the reader, is to answer the following questions: How do you present yourself to others? What have you done in the past? And what are you likely to accomplish in the future?

Writing a Great Resumé

In a perfect world, no one would need a resumé.

The candidates most suited to a particular job would simply be summoned forth to interview, based on their reputation and word of mouth referral.

Employers would carefully make their hiring decisions based on the candidates’ verbal account of their past performance, without regard to any kind of written documentation.

And companies would grow and prosper, having selected only the best and brightest from a large pool of qualified talent.

Right. And now the reality:

Employers are so inundated with resumés, it often takes weeks, or even months to sort through them all to identify the candidates they deem qualified.

Despite the administrative headaches and delays caused by processing resumés, companies rely heavily on the resumes they receive to screen for potential candidates.

Given the choice of two candidates of equal ability, hiring managers will always prefer to interview the one with the most artfully constructed and attractive resume.

For that reason, candidates with superb qualifications are often overlooked. And companies end up hiring from a more shallow pool of talent; a pool made up of those candidates whose experience is represented by powerfully written, visually appealing resumés.

Of course, many of the best candidates also have the best resumés; and sometimes, highly qualified candidates manage to surface through word-of-mouth referral. In fact, the referral method is the one I use to present talented people to my client companies.

But unless you can afford to rely on your “reputation,” or on the recommendation of a barracuda recruiter, you’ll need more than the right qualifications to get the job you want — you’ll need a dynamite resume.

In today’s competitive employment market, your resume has to stand out in order to get the attention of the decision maker and create a strong impression. And later on, when you meet the prospective employer face to face, a strong resumé will act as a valuable tool during the interviewing process.

Some Common Sense Ground Rules

Let’s talk turkey for a minute about what to expect from headhunters, and how to establish some common sense ground rules. Here are seven issues you’ll want to discuss before you set any relationship in stone:

Compatibility — Make sure you feel comfortable with the style, personality, intensity level, and integrity of the headhunter. As in any other business relationship, you want the other person to understand your needs and act accordingly.

Confidentiality — Make sure your resume isn’t going to get plastered all over town without your knowledge. An inept (or anxious) recruiter can overexpose your candidacy; or worse, reveal your intention to change jobs to your own company.

Good Judgment — Make sure you’re being sent to interviews that match your background and interests with the needs of the recruiter’s client company. The most common complaint from both candidates and employers is that recruiters “throw candidates against the wall to see what sticks.”

Honesty — Make sure there’s either a bona fide job opening or an upgrade possibility where you’re being sent to interview. Otherwise, you’ll be spending your valuable time on one wild goose chase after another.

Tempo — Make sure to let the recruiter know at what pace you want to proceed in your search for a new position. If you’re not ready to make a change until a later date, or simply want to explore the market, don’t let the recruiter waste your time by sending you on an interview.

Arm-twisting — Don’t be pressured into accepting a position or a compensation package simply to please the recruiter.

Exclusivity — It’s fine to work with a recruiter on an exclusive basis, as long as you feel comfortable with the arrangement, and the recruiter has earned the right of sole representation. On the other hand, you might not want to limit your options. Despite what you may be told, no recruiter has the exclusive “ownership” of your candidacy.
By the same token, you must be fair with headhunters. For example, if you’re pursuing a job search on your own or through another party, keep the headhunter aware of your activity, so you don’t cross paths. A recruiter’s time and reputation are his most valuable commodities; he or she deserves better than to be manipulated or left in the lurch.

Recruiters can’t work miracles by waving a magic wand over your resume; all they can do is match your background with a suitable opening, and help guide you through the job changing process efficiently and competitively. While it’s true that headhunters have their limitations and can’t be all things to all people…

It makes good sense to build a solid relationship with a competent headhunter.

Sigmund, Sherlock and Donald

Headhunters come from a wide variety of backgrounds, and exhibit the same range of personal merits and character strengths as the rest of the human race. The majority are honest, hardworking entrepreneurs, who work diligently to help candidates find meaningful, rewarding jobs.

 

I’ve found that headhunters can be divided into three different personality types:

 

  1. The Sigmund Freud headhunter is a kindly, wise, and empathic counselor. He or she listens carefully when you describe your values, your job preferences, your personal goals, and your family commitments. The Sigmund Freud headhunter wants to place you with a company you’ll feel comfortable working for, and will spend lots of time getting to know you.
  2. The Sherlock Holmes headhunter is a clever, relentless, goal-oriented detective, who’ll track down and contact every company which might provide a match for your skills. This type can be quite creative in discovering aspects of your background which can be successfully marketed to companies off the beaten track, or only peripherally related to your present industry.

    A perfect example of the Sherlock Holmes headhunter is Norman Roberts, who works out of an office in Los Angeles. It was his ingenuity that led to an unlikely (but highly successful) match in 1984. He took an unknown travel industry executive — Peter Ueberroth — and placed him as the head of the U.S. Olympic committee.

  3. The Donald Trump headhunter is the consummate deal maker. This type is less concerned with whether you’re a round or square peg, as long as you can be crunched into whatever hole may be available, or convenient. Headhunters like this tend to give the search industry a bad name because of their insensitivity to the true needs of their clients and candidates; and although they can often produce positive results, many times their high-pressure tactics lead to short-term employment.

 

While personality and style are important aspects to consider when selecting a headhunter, you should also evaluate the headhunter’s past results. Assuming you feel a modicum of comfort with the person you’re dealing with, it’s a good idea to check into their track record and experience level. If you discover a consistent pattern of success, you’re probably off to a good start.

Otherwise, you might find yourself stuck with the fourth type of headhunter: the Inspector Clouseau. This type embodies none of the above personality traits, only the endearing, bumbling incompetence of the movie character portrayed by the late Peter Sellers. In his Pink Panther movies, Inspector Clouseau was able to crack the trickiest cases; but only through sheer serendipity or plain dumb luck.

Don’t Get Lost in the Shuffle

Even though headhunters can’t guarantee you a new job, you have much to gain from working with them. And vice-versa, since you represent an addition to their continuously perishable inventory. While it’s true that headhunters owe their allegiance to their client companies (who pay the fees), without candidates to fuel the fire, headhunters simply wouldn’t exist.

 

For each search assignment, headhunters may prescreen hundreds of prospects. Therefore, the majority of their time is spent with the finalists for each open position, relegating to their file drawers the “reject” or the “maybe next time” candidates they encounter. These candidates are often highly skilled professionals who simply don’t fit the specific qualifications required by the headhunter’s client company — they’re simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.

 

For that reason, you should always press for a realistic appraisal of your chances of being placed. If one isn’t forthcoming, you can assume the recruiter is giving your candidacy a low priority. In that case, you can opt to let your resume languish in a headhunter’s file, or seek the help of a recruiter who’ll take an active role in finding you a new position.

 

I try my best to be up front with every candidate I talk to. If your skills fall outside my area of expertise, I’ll steer you to another headhunter who can be of assistance, or provide you with some general coaching which I hope will be of value.

 

Always look for a headhunter who takes an interest in your background, or who specializes in your industry. The last thing you need is to pin your hopes on someone who’s not in a position to help you. Be prepared for mixed reviews when you talk to recruiters. You might very well receive a brush-off like, “I’ll call you in a week to 10 days”; or bad advice, such as “You’ll never find the job you want with the background you have”; or discouragement like, “Nobody’s hiring now.” Just keep plugging away at your job search — and never take “No” from a headhunter.

 

Of course, even the most qualified candidacy is subject to the whims of a supply and demand job market. In many cases, a headhunter simply won’t know what your chances of getting another job might be until he or she puts out feelers or sends you out on an interview. To work most efficiently, invest your time with a recruiter who really wants to help you.

 

Headhunters: The Missing Link

Headhunting is a multi-billion dollar international industry that acts as the missing link between a half million job seekers and employers each year. At last count, there were over 125,000 executive search practitioners in the United States, according to The Fordyce Letter, the industry’s leading trade journal.

 

There’s hardly an industry or profession that hasn’t spawned its own coterie of recruiters. They cover every conceivable pocket of the job market, from food sales to machine design to motion picture financing to mortgage banking to freight hauling to data communications to haute cuisine to college administration to city management.

 

Generally speaking, headhunters work within well-defined niches. To make sense of a complicated employment market, headhunters classify their candidates according to:

 

  • Title or function, which refers to their descriptive title or rank within the company, such as president, plant manager, staff accountant, director of nursing, and so on;
  • Skill or application, which refers to their specialized abilities, such as tax accounting, IBM AS/400 systems programming, secured lending, and the like; and
  • Product or service, which refers to the industry in which the candidates do their work, such as plastics, minicomputers, industrial tools, public administration, hospitality, and so forth.

 

To give you an example, a recruiter might place project engineers (title) with computer-aided design experience (skill) into positions with companies that built submarine hydraulic systems (product).

 

Other headhunters might place CEOs (title) with plant management experience (skill) who work for companies that process frozen broccoli (product); or district sales managers (title) with marketing degrees (skill) who work for companies that make high-top leather sneakers (product).

 

Think of your own experience. How would you classify yourself? Your answer will not only help you put your career into perspective; it’ll help the headhunter determine whether you “fit” into his or her market niche.

 

Of course, recruiters can use other means to define their markets. Some take an industry-specific approach. Let’s say you work in the retail industry, or in construction. You’ll probably find a recruiter who doesn’t care what your title or function is, as long as you have experience in that target market. I knew a recruiter named Jim, who specialized in the printing industry. No matter what you did in the past, if it had anything to do with printing, Jim would gladly take you under his wing.

 

The opposite approach is taken by the skill-specific recruiters. To them, the product or service of the host company is secondary to the skills of their candidates. This is the preferred method of recruiters who specialize in placement of data processing, accounting, or clerical personnel.