Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Resume Errors to Correct

In today’s economy, employers are receiving hundreds or even thousands of resumes every single day. One hiring manager for a Fortune 500 company told me that he recently received over 12,000 resumes for one position!

Hiring managers will not take the time to determine why you should be hired. It’s your job to present your resume in a concise, logical manner that makes it abundantly clear how you can help a specific employer solve their unique problems.

Upon reading your resume, your target employer must think, “Wow, this person is EXACTLY what we need. We MUST bring this person in for an interview immediately before someone else scoops them up.” If your resume doesn’t cause that reaction, you are probably in for a long, stressful job search.

Most of the resumes that come across my desk (even those from highly successful senior executives) unfortunately have one or more of the following 5 major errors:

1. Your resume is not clear. Your resume will be ignored or thrown in the trash if the hiring manager can’t identify your unique value in a matter of seconds. More importantly, you must illustrate how you are equipped to solve the specific problems facing your target employers. If you try to appeal to everyone (or if you have no focus for your resume), you will be viewed as nothing more than a low-value commodity.

2. Your resume is not compelling. Most resumes are dull and unimpressive. To be clear, the people behind the resume are often incredibly talented. However, the document representing them is not. What you were responsible for is not nearly as important as what happened because of what you were responsible for. The goal of your resume and your other marketing materials is to emphasize how you have overcome obstacles to deliver positive results throughout your career. Always think and speak in terms of “PAR” (problem, action, result) by identifying the problems you faced, the actions you took, and the positive results for your employer. Show evidence for your credibility by discussing your results, honors, awards, achievements, endorsements, etc. Demonstrate how your employers are better off now than when they hired you. More specifically, you must address the following 3 areas:
  • Profit: How have you made money or saved money for your employers? How have you increased productivity for your employers?
  • People: How have you raised awareness for your employer’s brand/mission? How have you improved customer service or customer retention? How have you developed or strengthened external partnerships for your employer? How have you improved internal communications or relationships? How have you improved the performance of your colleagues?
  • Projects: How have you initiated, implemented, or improved projects for your employers? How have you met challenging deadlines?
3. Your resume is not customized. Most job-seekers approach the resume-writing process backwards by updating their resume before studying their target employers or ideal positions. You need to reverse-engineer the process instead. Start by studying your ideal employers and identifying their unique problems. Then, build a resume in which you are presented as the solution for the specific challenges facing your target employers. It’s a huge turn-off to hiring managers when someone submits a cookie-cutter resume or cover letter that is clearly being sent to a variety of employers. In other words, you have to “dress” for the people you want to impress. The more customized, the better.

4. Your resume is not concise. Your resume should not be your autobiography. I occasionally see 2-3 page resumes from young professionals with less than 5 years of full-time experience. I also recently reviewed a convoluted 4-page resume for a senior executive who had 31 bullet points listed for one job! Seriously… 31 bullet points. While it’s valuable to brainstorm every possible responsibility, qualification, skill, achievement, etc. that could have any relevance to your ideal employers, you have to go one step further by trimming the fat before you submit your resume. Approach your resume like a sculptor. To sculpt a masterpiece, you start with a big slab of “marble.” Then, you chip away from there. Perfection is achieved by subtraction, not by addition. Every single word on your resume either increases your perceived value or dilutes your message.

5. Your resume is not clean. Many talented, qualified job-seekers unfortunately never even get a chance for an interview simply because they look unprofessional or unimpressive because of the formatting on their resume. Your resume must be highly organized, very easy to read, and 100% free of any grammatical errors or typos, or it could be thrown in the trash simply because of its appearance. This might sound harsh, but think about it from the employer’s perspective. If you cannot produce a document that is user-friendly and error-free, how could you possibly be trusted with a more complex project?

Monday, October 1, 2012

Telephone Interviews

 Employers will often use telephone interviews to prescreen potential candidates. This almost always happens when their recruiters are headquartered out of your area. It’s also a huge time saver for the employer – even if you’re just across town. Telephone interviews allow the employer to preselect candidates before investing in face-to-face interviews. In my past, as an executive recruiter, I often telephoned potential candidates prior to meeting them. This screened out a number of candidates and allowed me to spend more time with those who fit the criteria of the job during face-to-face interviews.
The telephone interview may also be used when the responsibilities of the job will require you to communicate with clients, colleagues or executives by phone. It may also be done because your future manager or team is based in another city, and should you get the position, you will be reporting in to them long distance.

When scheduling your interview, make sure to ask these 3 important questions:
#1. Ask how much time you should set aside.

#2. Ask the name, title or position of each person who will be interviewing you. This is important because the position of the interviewer tells you something about the focus of questions you will be asked. Someone from Human Resources, for example, would be questioning for overall fit and will ask questions about your resume and / or behavioral questions related to the job description. A direct manager will ask more in-depth questions about your skills and experience as they relate to the position, and a more senior manager will question you more on overall fit and what you know about the company. Being prepared for every level of manager who may appear on the call (even unexpectedly) is vital.  A few sessions with an interview coach can make a world of difference in preparedness for this.
*It’s definitely worth the extra effort to research online each of those you will meet by phone (i.e., Linkedin and Google). Obviously this is true for in-person interviews as well.
#3. Finally, ask if you should call the employer or if they will be calling you. If they will be calling you, give a phone number where you will not have any interruptions.

A word of caution: Use a landline if your cell phone does not have reliable service. If you are using a cell phone, make sure your phone is charged. You can plug in the charger while you talk so you don’t have to worry about talking too long and depleting your battery.  If you have call waiting on your cell or landline, disable it by hitting *70 before dialing.  Remember that a quality headset is an important tool for this purpose – it allows you to take notes, walk around freely, and basically not be involved with the equipment. Having your papers neat and accessible to you means BOTH hands should be free.  Always test your headset thoroughly before the interview.