Category Archives: CV writing

Managing your career in times of uncertainty

How to manage your career in times of uncertainty

My email box has been flooded over the weekend with enquiries from clients asking how “Brexshit” as I call it, will impact them. The answer is noone knows at this point, but eventually some type of calm and compromise will emerge as it always does. Official statements will be made about any impact this will have on the free movement of labour and employee rights. There are unlikely to be any significant changes in the short term. Already some players have made statements to project calm. But there is always collateral damage and it’s important in times of uncertainty to be prepared and in the best position to face whatever may hit us. There can also be opportunity.

Collateral damage 

It is clear that uncertainty and panic damages business confidence which impacts stability. Those two elements feed off each other. This situation may cause hiring and investment freezes, as companies wait for guidance from government departments head offices and even lawyers.

in 2012 I wrote a post called  “Are you ready for a professional emergency landing“. The main criteria are still valid today. It’s all about being prepared and setting up some best practises to cope with any potential emergencies.

Unwelcome change is a hall-mark of our workplaces, whatever the circumstances. We have all seen many excellent people blindsided and ill-equipped to make an emergency landing which causes us to flail around in search of life-vests and oxygen masks.  Under normal circumstances,  this can be because of redundancy, a merger, a take- over or any other unforeseen business circumstance. The fallout from Brexshit had been predicted by most main economic and business experts, but sadly not taken seriously.

So now will be a good time to make sure you are prepared for that emergency professional landing because these times of uncertainty are going to be around for a while. They can be corrosiveand damaging

Here are tips that you can apply immediately while the dust settles:  

  1. Update your online presence and CV: if you do not do this routinely, and keep a copy ready to send off immediately, now is a good time to do that. Start straight away.
  2. Audit your professional skills – it’s important to be current in this area. Many people take their feet off the pedal in terms of professional development , quite often in mid-career and find themselves lacking particularly in relation to newer (read cheaper) employees. It’s important not to become complacent and to view education as an ongoing exercise.  Book a  career audit  Check that you can deliver your elevator soundbites and you have your A game at your finger tips.
  3.  Work on your network – many job seekers tap into their networks only when they have a need, by which time it’s too late.  Strategic networking should be an ongoing effort. Make sure you are doing this now. If you are in a job and don’t think you need to network  – re-examine that thought. Read: Do you have a Go-To Top 10
  4. Pay it forward – the more you can do for other people when you are in a position to do so makes it easier to ask for reciprocation at a critical time.
  5. Monitor your budget –  the last thing Economists want to hear is people being advised not to spend, as this boosts the economy. It’s hard to define in precise terms how long it could take to find another job. You could be lucky – but generally executive searches take about 3-6 months. Today the suggestion is that it can be as much as 9 months. So although it is hard in today’s economic climate, sound advice would be for all of us to have a reserve  “disaster fund“ of a minimum of 6 months to cover critical expenses. One of the most terrifying aspects of job loss is the gnawing anxiety of how to meet fixed overheads.  It’s a good idea to make sure that key financial contact details are in your address book.  How well do you know your bank manager?
  6. Invest in professional support – many individuals seek career support when they are desperate: it might be when they have already lost their jobs or are facing any other sort of career blip. It is important to treat a career with the same strategic analysis as one might any other housekeeping exercise. In the words of John  F. Kennedy “ The time to repair the roof is when the sun is shining”. 
  7. Look after you –  It’s normal to worry about your family and your ability to support your nearest and dearest.  But just as a cabin attendant will exhort  passengers to put on their own life jackets and oxygen masks first and then look after their dependents, the same is true for you. Putting your own needs first, will ultimately be in the best interests of the people who rely on you.
  8. Leave your luggage behind  – this is always one I imagine I might struggle with if tested,  but the logic resonates nevertheless. Sometimes our baggage gets in the way and we have to let it go and take that step into the unknown to protect ourselves. This is another area where professional help can be a good idea. Make sure you understand fully what is holding you back.

If you need support to protect your career in times of uncertainty – contact me. 

 

 

 

 

Resumes: Dazzling or dull?

Career coaches and search consultants spend inordinate amounts of time encouraging job seekers to dazzle and to stand out in the candidate crowd. However there is one area when it’s OK to be the diamond in the rough, unexciting and utilitarian, and when dull is completely OK if not advantageous. That is in the context of resume formatting.

I mention this in every workshop I do, but I am pretty sure as all the  sophisticated CVs flood into my inbox, that most don’t take this seriously! Every job search tool box should include one CV in bog standard, Word format. In my whole, somewhat long career I have never heard anyone suggest that they are seeing a candidate exclusively because of a pretty looking or creatively designed resume.

Why?
Many large organisations retrieve candidates’ CVs from their data bases via A.T.S. (Applicant Tracking Systems) or H.R.I.S. (Human Resource Information Systems) which strip resumes of formatting when the information is imported into their own systems.

Some ATS systems are sophisticated enough to complete this process without difficulty. Others are not. Very often recruiters have to copy/paste information from a CV, into a client template to forward to the HR or hiring manager. I very often replicate contact details and if I have to retrieve those embedded in a header or  PDF format, that only takes time. Others dealing with hundreds of CVs per  day with a wide field of candidates,  have the luxury of not needing to be vigilant.

Additionally, many companies have rigorous anti-virus software which are especially punitive of attachments. I had one client who failed to get any CVs I had sent  in connection with a search for an International Tax Specialist position. We found out that their firewall blocked all mails and documents which included the letters  “cialis”  (a male drug).

Resumes don’t get you jobs – interviews do and  what you need is the opportunity to shine in person.

PDF
In general, although very popular PDF format is not advisable because it’s quite often incompatible with some systems which require additional software to convert back to Word,  or to align with their own company templates. Candidates use PDF because they fear that their CV will be modified. Honestly – no one has time and if it is tweaked it’s usually for their benefit.  Other  bells and whistles which may also cause your CV to slither into the ether are:  graphics  (tables, charts) section divides, columns and even photos.

Think small
Importantly, most CVs are now read on a small screen, frequently a phone, tablet, or laptop,  not even a full size desk top. It’s important that your CV, particularly the top half of Page 1 is very clear and where the punch is packed.  Even then, the reader might be accessing it via a preview or cached version when complex formatting will not produce the best results.

If you do have a story to tell that requires a sexier look or illustrates a more creative side of your personality or career, fear not you still have a number of options.

  • Include your LinkedIn url and use the slide share function in your profile
  • Add a hyper link to your website
  • Take a hard copy of your fancy CV with you to the interview
  • Keep an updated copy of your CV on your phone. You never know when you will need it.

If you need help creating a powerful CV  check out the personal coaching programmes  

The most important goal is for your resume to be easily retrievable. This is when dull not dazzling works in your favour.  Resumes don’t get you jobs – interviews do and  what you need is the opportunity to shine in person.

Job search: Are you missing in action?

Off the radar

Getting on the job search radar!
I have spent the past week with two different women, of two different ages. Their backgrounds could not be further apart. One is a young graduate, seeking entry-level employment, the other a woman in her 40s, with extensive supply chain and procurement experience, as well as an MBA. She has taken an eight year parenting break, relocated internationally with her husband and is now dealing with the inevitable challenge of explaining motherhood and her CV gap.

Both want to enter the workplace. Both are struggling. Both are drifting off the job search track and are M.I.A. Despite feeling they had nothing in common, even just idle chat reveals the numerous common elements. Not only were they simply failing to get the jobs they wanted ( when they could even find a job they were interested in) they were receiving no response to their CVs, sometimes not even a rejection letter.

Back on track
All job search candidates regardless of age, gender or time in life need to have some basics in place, so here are some easy tips to get back on track:

  •  Identify and articulate transferable skills. It doesn’t matter how you do this but this is a critical exercise, taking time and thought. I repeat my mantra – if you don’t know what you’re good at, how do you expect anyone else to know? Recruiters and hiring managers are not telepathic and don’t have the time to drag it out of you.
  •  This basic but critical exercise leads to the creation of an effective mission statement and elevator sounds bites. CVs should stop disappearing into cyber space and interview performance will be strengthened. If there is any hesitation in delivering your USPs – practise and practise again!
  •   Establish and develop a professional online presence. This is vital for anyone, male or female, young or old, entry-level or transitioning. Failure to do this is tantamount to professional suicide. The entry-level woman had received no advice from her university careers advisor to create this type of profile, which in my view is a scandal in itself! Careers advisors – read my open letter! The older candidate needs to resurrect and tap into her existing network from her days as a professional woman and connect with them virtually on platforms which simply did not exist when she was in the workplace ( LinkedIn, Twitter, Google +) This small step shows you care about your professional image and that you are current in your approach. Your LinkedIn profile url can also be used in an email signature or on other online profiles as a way of extending the reach of your CV.
  •  Create a modern CV with targeted keyword usage. Their current versions are probably not getting past ATS ( Applicant Tracking Systems) or coming to the attention of recruitment sourcers. 97% of CVs, it is maintained, are not read by a human eye! Once again this could account for a failure to obtain an even a first interview.
  •  Most jobs (estimated at 85%) are not advertised. Creating a strong online presence and strengthening a personal brand will drive traffic to your professional profile. It’s no longer about looking for a job – it’s also about raising visibility to ensure you are found. Many jobs are also only advertised on LinkedIn.
  •  There is no substitute for strategic networking at any age and stage. No matter how young you are, or how long it’s been since you were in the workplace, we are all connected to someone! Have some simple, but good quality business cards printed – you never know when you need them! Connect and re-connect. Join networking groups and professional bodies especially if any membership has lapsed during a career break.
  •  Be active. Inactivity is not just a barrier to getting top jobs, it’s a barrier to getting any job! It’s also a great way to beat negative thinking, and maintaining your confidence, vital in job search. It also gives you data to monitor, from which you can make any changes to your job seeking strategy.
  •   Tweak those strategies . Don’t panic and especially don’t be afraid to change. Nothing is set in stone and what works in one set of circumstances may sink like a lead balloon in another! Be flexible

But most importantly never give up. The estimated time to get a job is reported to be on average a minimum of 7 months currently. If you carry on struggling – seek professional help. It will be worth it in the long-term!

Good luck!

When length matters

When CV length matters

CV length “The golden rule is that there are no golden rules.” said Mr George Bernard Shaw and nowhere is this more applicable than the job search sector when it comes to CV creation. We loves rules. The sector is heavily populated with books, articles and blogs dealing in absolutes, usually including “always”, ” never” and ” how to” tips. Many people invent these rules, some globally famous, some only famous in their own coffee breaks. Large numbers of rules fizzle out just as soon as they are created, others endure from one decade to another. Yet CV length matters.

Technological change

Back in the day, a hard copy CV was the norm. Today, as the triage of candidate applications increasingly uses sophisticated technology and software, new guidelines are required for job seekers, as old assumptions become outdated. When there is human interaction most of the golden oldie rules are clearly still valid. Although times and technology may change, generally people don’t, so strong basics will always have relevance. Now job search needs to be strategic and flexible and each situation viewed on its merits. That’s why it’s called job search strategy! This doesn’t make the job seekers task any easier, because the answer to any situational question will frequently be “it depends on the circumstances”.

Ideal length

One of the most hotly debated questions is on the ideal length of a CV. That also depends! The two most common situations that job seekers will encounter with regard to their CV are: uploading it electronically on to a company data base, or sending it by email to a central HR department, where it will be subsequently uploaded. At some later time, your opus will eventually be screened by ATS , before a human being ever claps an eye on it. Here keyword-searchable content is mandatory to avoid slipping into, and remaining in, resumé oblivion. The second occasion will be where a CV is emailed or given (printed) to a known contact.

One page CVs

For many years having a one page CV in one’s portfolio was considered to be the major weapon in the arsenal. Where this rule came from I have no idea, but I see many people reducing text to size 8 font and eliminating all margins to cram their career content onto 1 page of A4. Today, when most resumés are read on a screen (even a phone) and are uploaded onto company databases and accessed by keyword searches, resume length takes on a new significance. Short in these cases may not actually be sweet.

Much confusion can be eliminated with a clear understanding that the purpose of a resume is generally considered to be the instrument necessary secure an interview or meeting. The purpose of a meeting is to get the job.

Entry level

This poor group is possibly the most beleaguered of all. College and MBA graduates are very often counselled to ensure their CVs are one page only. This definitely depends. Many individuals in this demographic have significant achievements, have worked in multiple internships or volunteer roles, have gained international scholarships, travelled globally and excelled in extra curricular activities. Those success stories are all worthy of succinct mention with metrics, so don’t worry about spilling over into two pages. However, beware, this is not to be confused with listing mundane activities by rote.

In his new resumé, a client detailed the metrics of a student bar/restaurant job, specifying the nightly headcount, staff managed and the number of covers served per sitting. They were extremely high and it takes special skills to deal with that kind of volume. Sufficiently impressed, a hospitality management company called him for interview and offered him a job. The hiring manager factored that experience into the decision-making process. I have also coached entry-level candidates who have represented their countries on national junior teams or started their own businesses, some with pretty good turnover. They are worthy achievements and speak volumes about their talents, discipline, commitment and energy.

A couple of weeks ago I emailed Lee Cooper , author of the Recruiters Little Black Book who has also penned his own thoughts on the subject. He told me he believed that a one page CV involves a risk:

” .. you end up being considered as lacking in experience / content / depth”

Two pages

For most of the job seeking population a two-page resume would be considered to be a good average in which to show case any skills and achievements. Everyone should be able to do this and the discipline will encourage focused thinking. There should be no need to pad a resumé out with extraneous and repetitive vocabulary. Font size should be 11/12 points, with adequate margins to create enough white space to make it readable. Recruiters take on average 15 seconds read a resumé and focus on the mission statement (quite different from the old-school personal objective) for an estimated 8 seconds.

What about longer?

Some C level executives at the highest levels, worry that two pages may not contain enough information to fully detail an extended career history. Once again this will depend on the circumstances. If the search to fill the position is being managed by an executive search consultant, a two page resumé would be best to score the initial interview. Following that , the executive search consultant will write an extensive brief for the client, based on one or even more detailed interviews and perhaps psychometric testing. However, if the candidate has been approached directly via a contact in his/her network, with a face to face meeting as the first step, then a lengthier CV may be completely acceptable. Clare Ireland, Senior Partner at Hansar International suggests

” .. at a senior level, with some highly complex especially technical careers, a more detailed CV can be helpful.”

In general , the best advice I can give is to assess each situation on an individual basis … not forgetting the real basics: no typos and no lies! And in the words of the wise:

A few strong instincts and a few plain rules suffice us” Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

A plea! Keep job profiles real!

Lost in translation
As both an executive search professional and a career coach, I am frequently bemused how hiring managers and job seekers fail to communicate with each other and misunderstand or even misrepresent themselves in the process. I’m very mindful there is a strong sales role involved, with both parties wanting to present themselves in a positive light, but sometimes things are taken too far. The end result is ill feeling, frustration and lost time for everyone involved in the process. Nowhere is this clearer than in the preparation of, and response to, the job profile.

Over qualification
For the hiring manager the seniority and level of a team can be an in-house status symbol. This is why on some occasions the academic requirements demanded for some positions, would ordinarily be sufficient to split the atom or find a cure for cancer or HIV. MBAs are not essential for all openings! If we are absolutely honest, a number of jobs don’t even require a degree, let alone any post grad qualifications. Provided that literacy, numeracy and social skills are in place as well as any relevant professional experience, the university of life would be just fine. Heaven forbid if the Receptionist should look for a financial instrument in a tool box.

Misnomers
We also have zany, inaccurate or simply incomprehensible job titles, which switch from time to time because they are closely linked to trending buzz words. Some of these are meant to be fun or to give lower level jobs some clout, but they can be misleading. Gallerista (art sales) Head of People or People Officer, ( sounds like something from the Red Army), Nail Technician ( carpenter or beautician?), Strategic Focus Specialist ( thought strategy was focused) , Head of Culture, Bakist (cake maker?) Certified Scrum Master ( rugby team coach?) Managing Co-Ordinator (seems to be a misnomer – do they co-ordinate or manage?) or any bizarre combinations of technician, engineer, specialist, consultant, executive or other words with the ” ist” suffix.

Experience
The same can be said for years and type of experience required. Sometimes I see profiles asking for experience levels which when totalled, would cumulatively take even entry-level candidates to retirement age. Or demanding experience in certain technologies which have only been around for less than the time period required (10 years in social media, some softwares) The reverse also applies, I see ads for experienced interns! Isn’t the whole point of an internship – to gain experience?

Old jokes
There are also all the old recruitment jokes about hiring speak:
fast paced environment = no time to train you.
ability to handle heavy workload = You whine, you’re fired.
some overtime required = some time tonight and in fact, some time every night
flexible compensation package = sometimes we pay you, sometimes we don’t
high level of travel = family life will become a distant memory

Candidates need to get it right too
But the converse can be said for candidates. I posted an ad earlier in the year which clearly stated “fluency in German essential” After being inundated with applications from all corners of the world where the candidates clearly didn’t know a brockwurst from a bratwurst I had to add ” fluency in German mandatory. I will be unable to respond to candidates not meeting this requirement” which did seem a bit rude. Or there was the “social media genius” with 10 LinkedIn connections and 5 tweets to his name, applying for a position as a Social Media Consultant. This is one reason that so many CVs drift into cyber space – they are not on target!

So why don’t we all make life easier for ourselves and just tell it how it really is!

What do you think? Add any crazy things you’ve seen! A prize for the most obscure or off beat!

Visumés: The new way forward

PLEASE NOOOOO!!

Many people have talked about the concept of the visumé and their almost certain roles in our futures. Well, I was sent my first one yesterday and I have to tell you, that thought fills me with total horror.

As a coach, I can see they might have potential. The exercise would give individuals the motivation to focus on the content of their mission statement and USPs, as well as to the opportunity to perfect the delivery of their elevator sound bites to camera. It would certainly make any job seeker stand out if done professionally. As a recruiter, the thought of sifting through hundreds of 3 minute You Tube type presentations, delivered by what look like robotic newscasters of the lowest calibre, or possibly worse still the swaggering arrogance of Apprentice wannabes (see below), would frankly be intolerable.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8K63f3C1zpM&feature=related]

So is this just my narrow-minded European view? Am I being a reticent Brit who sits there cringing through webinars and promotional clips from even quite highly regarded and rated amateurs? I decided to ask some contacts in the US, the home of “Show and Tell”, to let me know exactly what their thoughts are on the other side of the world.

Think hard
Jacqui Barrett-Poindexter, Career Strategist at Career Trend suggests ” before stepping into the abyss of creative resume production, consider the goal of a resume: to hook the audience for further conversation (aka, the interview). As such, the buyer of your product initially is less interested in clicking on a 2-3 minute video and more interested in quickly absorbing your message through a glimpse of your written resume story.”

Do you need help identifying the best talent for your organisation? Check the executive research and search solutions

Professional
So to get past people like me  if you are going to do it – it has to be done well.  Creating a video resume  will mean more than sitting on a sofa, in front of a web cam in your living room and reading your CV.  But as interactive on-line video resumés become more commonplace,   I anticipate (dread?) a time when candidates will,  as part of their job seeking  and brand management strategies,  start crafting an on-line video presence to add to their search portfolios.

There are also some basic operational issues as Jacqui mentions “ the viewer is required not only load up a video (and not all computer and smart phone systems will easily load up your video, causing frustration), but to listen and watch for 1-3+ minutes, versus an initial 15-30 second scan of a written resume. Most hiring and recruiting decision-makers I network with still prefer the written resume vs. a video for the initial touch point.

Performance
When you send or upload a CV or deliver your sales pitch,  the recipient reads your message before he or she hears it or sees it. With a visumé , you are essentially skipping the early parts of the process which are part of the job seeking building blocks and going straight for an audition. Julia Erickson, Career Expert at Careerealism.com, suggests that this is “actually not a resume at all, it’s a performance where you are attempting to show your personality as one the employer would like. So even if you have the qualifications, if the person watching the visume doesn’t like you or how you look or what you’re wearing, you won’t get an interview. “.

Image
There are advantages to both search strategies, if you are actually a skilled presenter. But as I know from my days of working in corporate HR for a major British TV company, working to camera goes one step beyond normal presentation skills and even the best presenters need on-camera training, with additional focus on image: clothes, hair, make up (even the men) and body language, more so than in an ordinary interview. Dan Harris’s sunglasses on his head are a definite NO!

Julia adds ” It’s been fascinating to watch some of the video resumes on-line and it confirms my opinion about them. It is even tougher to produce than a regular resume. If you are not using a professional videographer, you can make a mess. Vault.com is promoting them to a certain extent; they have a YouTube “primer” on how to make one that contains very basic tips. If you spend some money, you probably could get a video resume that was OK – if you want one

Across the Atlantic divide we agreed wholeheartedly, that as video is not an interactive medium, any personal chemistry is removed and there is no opportunity to respond to any body language or obviously questions. The candidate’s performance is generic and static, but each viewer will have a different perception of the delivery and you will not be there to engage.

Visual Resumés
Visumés are not to be confused with visual resumés. LinkedIn is a visual resumé site and I also have many clients who have added visual resumés to their own web site with great success. Julie cautions ” The important thing is to make your paper resume consistent with your virtual/visual resumes. All the information needs to be the same“.

Both sides of the pond also agreed that a Visual CV would never be used to replace a paper one especially when organisations have their own software application methods. Anything that creates extra work for hard pressed hiring or recruiting managers puts the candidates at risk. If you do go that route Julie recommends 2 sites : “Slideshare allows you to create a visual CV, and VizualResume that put your basic information into a jazzed up format”.

Visumés and VisualCVs allows candidates to give employers a look at your work product or portfolio, so as part of a wider approach they can certainly add value. They can also be added to a LinkedIn profile or website to enhance any job search strategy.

The general intercontinental consensus is that to rely exclusively on a Visumé as the only tool in your job search box would be high risk – unless of course, you are looking for an opportunity on television.

Special thanks for great insights to :
Jacqui Barrett-Poindexter, MRW, CPRW, CEIP, Chief Career Writer and Owner – CareerTrend
Julia Erickson: Career Expert at Careerealism.com http://julieannerickson.blogspot.com/ http://twitter.com/juliaerickson

Living in the shadow of your own resume

Are you what it says on the tin?

I received a CV from a candidate ( let’s call him John). My eyes lit up. A complex search had just become much easier. His CV was powerful, positive, succinct. But unhappily John was not. His responses ranged from arrogant and overbearing to hesitant, unclear and evasive. If his resume had not been on my screen I would have had no idea what John did. Who was this person?

Many candidates suffer from  what I call Resume Shadow Syndrome. This is when a CV is stronger than the candidate’s personal presentation of themselves, whether in person or on the phone. They therefore live in the shadow of their own resume. This means that they will be called for interviews or contacted by telephone, but will either come unravelled at the first screening stage, or the face to face interview. Basically for different reasons, they don’t own their message.

No quick fixes
They believe that having a strong CV is the magic carpet solution to career change, where they can float over the whole process, preferably at speed. In fact constructing a strong resume is probably only the 3rd or even 4th step in a building block process to success and by leap frogging all the basics they crash and burn. It’s like thinking you can tackle black ski runs because you have bought top class equipment and look good. Not happening. Or finding out from the small print that the “top quality fresh ” product is full of dubious additives and unpronounceable, 10 syllable chemicals.

Why is this so important?
Having a powerful CV is only part of the job search process and although it will open doors, it won’t get you the job! It’s only part of communicating your message (brand) so that people hear you! If you are not connected to your own message and you are not what it says on the tin, then you’re in trouble.

What can go wrong?

No self insight: The CV has been prepared with professional help but with insufficient time on core “discovery” work and follow-up. You have to do basic discovery work and spend some time reflecting on your achievements and skills. If candidates don’t really know themselves, how can they expect other people, who don’t know them at all, to glean any understanding of them.

Poor delivery : The message might look good on paper but it has not been converted into an elevator pitch or soundbites. Not enough practise! Laziness, ignorance or arrogance – or a combination of all three

Poor first impression. Body language, general appearance and demeanour are incorrect or inappropriate.

Insufficient preparation. No research is carried out on the companies and individuals involved in the process. Most companies make it easy for you to learn about them on their website and LinkedIn. Use Google! Even if it’s not an interview, but just a networking session or an informal chat, make sure that you know who will be involved in the process and practise your elevator speech.

Inferior content : Be concise, precise and relevant in your delivery with crisp presentation to avoid detailed questioning, because your point is fuzzy. See point on preparation, research and practise. Understanding your core mission statement and practising the delivery of your message , over and over again if necessary, is key here. Don’t expect it to be alright on the day. Even confident people get nervous and forget things. Be direct and professional in terms of language and topics covered. Interviewers don’t want to know about your kids sports games – unless you are asked.

Fuzzy : Be honest and don’t exaggerate or evade. Skilled interviewers can detect spin or lies instantly and will pick at it until the truth is out. You want to avoid the ” Let’s go back to…” unless it’s a major achievement and even then you should have sold that thoroughly. Fuzziness creates doubts. If there are real doubts – you will be cut.

Negativity : Be positive – don’t run your ex company or colleagues down. It’s a small world and you never know who knows whom. If you do that about one company you could well do it for the hiring manager and organisation.

Anyone who thinks because they have one strong document they can short-circuit running the hard yards can be in for a serious wake up call. You have to be who you say you are on the tin!

Just make sure you are a brand and not a white label!

CV length

Red Alert Resumés

Why red alert resumés send out a warning signal.

I’m going to come clean. I hate functional CVs. With a passion.

As someone who reads possibly hundreds of CVs a week, there is nothing more frustrating than reading a list of qualities and so called achievements and still having very little idea of what the candidate did, does now and where he/she did or didn’t do, what they claim they could do in the future.

See how confusing it is?

Smoke screens
The notion of a functional CV seems to be put forward by career columnists and consultants who no longer work, or have never worked, in search and recruitment.  It is one of the major red alert resumés

Ironically what totally functional CVs do is send out an immediate warning to any savvy recruiter that something isn’t aligned with the required job profile. Functional CVs are in effect a smoke screen. They are a band -aid thought up to help candidates feel better, without necessarily producing better results.

Functional CVs take time to figure out and most recruiters do not have the time to work anything out at all. Those abstract ideas included in a functional CV are supposed to supplement content not distract from it, or worse still , replace it. We want ” eureka,”  not head scratching moments. No content at all will almost certainly mean hitting the reject pile.

Functional CVs are based on self assessment. To give them any meaning metrics are needed. “Strongly entrepreneurial ” could mean anything from running a garage sale, to your own business. Turnover figures and market demographics are needed. So why not say you ran your own business with dates and figures and save everyone a lot of time.

“Financial acumen ” is another one I frequently see. If this acumen is gained in a Fortune 500 company, or as a School Treasurer with a budget of millions of Euros, then that sends out a different message to managing a lunch group with a budget of several hundred, kept in a tatty envelope in a desk drawer.

Context matters

Functional CVs send out the following possible messages:
• There could be a lack of required experience or gaps in a CV (including time off for parenting)
• There has been some short term roles still seen by some as job hopping.
• There has possibly been a termination (firing or redundancy)
• There could be unrelated work experiences
• There are possibly skills acquired outside the workplace rather than in it: volunteer work or social or sporting activities
• Most recent work experience is not relevant to the job, but past experience is
• There perhaps has been a period of self-employment, freelancing or consulting
• There are concerns about age at both ends of the spectrum

Identifying transferrable skills plays a key part in the creation of a powerful resume. For me, their rightful place is in a strong mission statement, which is a quick snap shot of your skills and achievements. But they do need to be put into context, with a clear career chronology and details of your educational and personal development background. One line manager I dealt with recently almost binned the functional CV of a potential candidate because he thought it was a long (and very boring) cover letter, not a resume!

Camouflaging
The antennae of any experienced recruiter are finely attuned to identify immediately the lengths anyone might go to hide their concerns. Elaborate camouflage techniques can jeopardize chances of being selected for interview, just as surely as a straightforward explanation of your circumstances and the actions you have taken to deal with them. Understanding those challenges and gaining insight into yourself and the skills that were required to overcome them will prove to be vital, not just in the creation of a resume but in the interview process.

Being up front can help

  • If you lost your job last year – say so. Lots of people did. If you retrained, attended courses and volunteered that sends an important message about how you responded to the challenge.
  • If you are in a certain age demographic, then I agree, don’t put your date of birth, simply because you maybe cut by ATS. But do make every effort to be up to date and current – and say so.
  • If you have relevant experience early in your career you might need a refresher course or to completely re-train. Do it and then say so!
  • Avoid the use of the word ”problems”. Of any kind. Recruiters home in on that word and then avoid it like the plague.
  • If you have been fired – don’t say so, but be prepared to offer a constructive explanation. If you have been fired repeatedly, then some self-examination or professional support would seem imperative.
  • If you took time out to raise a family – say so . What you did during that period to stay professionally connected will show.
  • If you are young and trying to demonstrate potential and have very specific achievements which you can highlight with metrics. Say so.
  • If you freelanced, set up your own business or consulted – say so. That requires very different skills to being a full time employee. What are those skills? Share them.

So on balance, is it really best to deal with any issues up front and early?

I think so.

Resume Advice: The good, the contentious and the simply misleading


Review of Resume advice  

Did you know that if you Google the phrase  “CV or Resume advice”  almost 57  MILLION results are produced?   Key in the words separately and you get almost 70 MILLION posibilities.  It seems for every  job seeker and CV writer, there is someone happy to dish out advice. This  is confusing to say the least, because although some  advisors are qualified, experienced  and up to date, others truthfully, are complete charlatans.  A percentage of  all this advice can be good.  Some is quite contentious, which is wonderful,  debate  is stimulating. Some can quite often be regionally specific (generally  the US,  but that’s OK … there are a lot of you). There are also some pieces which are simply misleading. And  then finally, there is a small percentage which is actually total nonsense. This last category I’m not even going to mention, most of it is so ridiculous.

Unlike many career transition coaches I am still an active in the area of executive research and search. I review hundreds of CVs and profiles a week with a specific end in mind:  to find the best candidates  globally to meet my client’s needs, so I am often asked to assess CVs or even review articles .

Question? How does the average job seeker sift through the morass of information when preparing their CV and what resume advice do they ditch?

Answer: with difficulty

Here is a small sample of the few things I’ve chosen to react to this year.

It’s the top of the first page that counts

Good : recruiters will generally be looking at your CV because it’s been generated by a key word activated Applicant Tracking System ( ATS)  or HRIS (Human Resource Information System) data base search. They will skim through your professional summary/mission statement which needs to be strong to avoid the reject pile. Make sure all contact information is clear and in the top lines.  We don’t have time to search. I actually get CVs with no phone numbers. Why make our lives difficult?  It doesn’t help you. You have between 15-20 seconds to get a reader’s attention.  Use it  and your limited amount of white space wisely.

Any one who suggests that CVs of more than 2 pages in length are acceptable, are not active recruiters.

The only time a longer CV could be acceptable is for a senior scientific post where references to academic papers add value.

Chronological / Functional CVs are out dated

CV black hole

Contentious : Personally I like to know where a person has worked, for how long, what they did, as well as the major USPs in a tightly worded mission statement. So I prefer to see a mix of functional and chronological information.  I don’t want to have to figure anything out. Most of the CVs I see in an extended functional format tend to be from our US cousins – so a cultural difference perhaps.  They are more likely to advocate hiding your age – but most recruiters will ask for the year you graduated. It’s always best to own your experience. CVs that are not consise, precise and relevant risk being most in the rectuitment black hole.

A professionally written resume and on-line profile will increase your chances of landing a job

Simply Misleading:  A strong , professional CV is vital,  but there are some caveats associated with having one that is professionally written by a third party.  As a coach I believe a CV should be written by the candidate themselves,  with  qualified,  professional  coaching support  as required. This gives complete ownership of the process to the individual. As a recruiter, I have seen too many candidates with strong professionally written CVs fall at the first hurdle of a telephone screening,  literally because they are a shadow of their own resumes. This strengthens my belief that you need to own your own message to guarantee success.

Personal objectives are old school

Good: we actually don’t care what you want! All we want to know is what have you done and can you do it for our client? If the client is interested in you, a good recruiter or search consultant will try to persuade you to do something different anyway. Rigid objectives limit creative thinking. Use numbers and strong language to illustrate your success stories succinctly. Or as Jim Rohn said

“Don’t bring your need to the marketplace, bring your skill.”

Cover letters are obsolete

Contentious: This is a view propounded by many.  Phil Rosenberg  President at re-Careered  makes a  compelling case in his post on the subject. To some extent I generally go along with the hypothesis.  In large, international companies with automated processes this is definitely true. However, there are  still some instances when a cover letter does help: in a small company,  with a personal connection or if the cover letter is in a different language to your CV. The latter happens frequently in Europe where the  corporate lingua franca is English, but the readers  themselves are not Anglophones. It’s all about targeting each application specifically, whether via customizing a resume or  making a decision to use a cover letter,  which  I know is hard work. So no  I don’t think cover letters are obsolete  – there is just a  new need to use them judiciously. Many career advisors are American and may not need to understand the systems of other geographies.

Coloured fonts, charts, graphs and boxed layout are advantageous

Simply Misleading : Some ATS systems will not recognise sophisticated layouts, including all of those points. So unless applying for a creative or design job , when uploading a CV especially via a web site, there is no substitute for a straightforward Word Document with clear headings, bullet points, white space, plus  a decent size font, 10-12 points.  Most CVs are read initially on a computer screen and increasingly a mobile device. Resume design should take that into account. Complex layout turns a CV almost into a personal presentation and perhaps best taken as a hard copy to an interview or even included on your LinkedIn profile using the Slide Share Application.

Include your professional network url ( LinkedIn,  Xing, Viadeo, Plaxo  etc)

Good : I always check a CV against an on-line  profile or a professional network if there is one. These profiles quite often contain quick links to company information which is very helpful. However, as I work globally, I obviously have to take into account  that candidates can come from cultures and countries where social media and even broadband penetration is lower.

Traditional Resumes are out dated /dead

Red alert resume

Red alert resume

Contentious : There is no doubt that on-line presence is becoming a major factor in the early stages of identifying  candidates. But  to date I have never been involved in any search where the candidate has not eventually been asked to produce a CV somewhere in the process. Ever. This would be in addition to a professional internet profile which savvy recruiters have already viewed. So I think they will be around for quite a while longer, but perhaps used more frequently in conjunction with other recruiting techniques.

 

 

 

Personal information is no longer required

Simply Misleading : Some personal information can be judiciously included in a CV and can say a lot about a candidate.  I always scan it. Do include non professional achievements, publications, keynote speaking , awards and activities – within reason.   Your U14 MVP mention is clearly of no interest.   I would definitely not give a home address – simply indicate location for security reasons. You are no longer required to indicate nationality, date of birth,  the year of graduation or marital status. Good recruiters will always figure out age anyway – but as ATS are frequently programmed with date parameters that is a good omission. I have seen some articles advocating hiding age  – but if anyone does that, for me it sends a message that they are in an older demographic and uncomfortable with it.  Don’t forget that we all leave our trail in cyber space and recruiters do access Facebook , LinkedIn , Twitter and Google to run checks! Some get to learn more about us than we want them too,  or even realise!

That’s about it – until the next batch of  advice comes out!

Facts Talk!

Last week I posted a blog about dealing with negative thinking. Surprisingly, two words prompted more response and questions than any other part of that piece. Facts talk. What did I mean? My response was met with disbelief!
 
Facts get us out of our comfort zones.
 
FEAR
 
 A commonly used acronym for FEAR is: False Expectations Appearing Real. I first saw that phrase in the early 90s, but ironically, I have actually seen it twice in the last week alone in blogs written by Lolly Daskal  and Conrad Palmer. It’s worth repeating.

When we feel any sort of pressure or stress, we all have a tendency to lose sight of things as they really are. This is no “holier than thou ” stuff, so don’t think I’ve got it all sorted . You are reading someone who has begged for air-rescue from a bunny ski slope! Essentially we become fearful (full of fear).

Back in the cave

When we all lived in caves that sensation very conveniently kicked in to make us more alert for any potential “attacks”. To protect ourselves against lions, tigers and bears our bodies are hard- wired to educate us to anticipate risk ( things that may or may not happen). So adrenalin kicks in and we shift into fight or flight mode, activated by the best kind of stress – motivation, energy, whatever you want to call it, the upward part of the curve. Now this good feeling switches to anxiety, when at a basic level we “fear” that we don’t have the resources ( physical or psychological) to cope with perceived threats to our security and well being. We believe rightly or wrongly, that ultimately we might fail. Good stress therefore becomes bad stress (de-motivation). When lions, tigers and bears are involved, one could reasonably be forgiven for preparing for a gory death, a horrific maiming, or perhaps a long hard run for it.

Clearly now in our more evolved state, that is less likely to happen. However, our primal response facilities are still in place. Nobody told our DNA that. These fears are activated by more subtle circumstances: the unknown, rejection, or people discovering who we are, with all our weaknesses and flaws and that we will be deemed unworthy. For most of us, being full of fear is not the greatest sensation ( racing pulse, churning stomach, sweating, high pitched voice) The best way to avoid feeling out of breath, nauseous, sweaty and sounding squeaky, is simply to avoid fear inducing situations. Makes sense right? This means that we withdraw into a nice safe place when we feel fearful. Or we don’t act at all. This means we stay in our nice safe place to prevent feeling fearful. In my case the hotel lounge!

What makes you anxious?

We all have different things that make us anxious ( our weaknesses, actual or perceived ), so it is impossible to make sweeping statements in any generic fashion. But happily that too enables us to escape discovery. Someone might skydive with impunity, but worry about writing a mission statement. An engineer might deal with complex technical problems, but feel nervous about interviews. A graphic designer might make brilliant lay outs, but have no idea how to write a CV. Who would have thought? Exactly! No one. We’re free and clear plus totally undiscovered. But wait…

Guilt

At the same basic level we know that we should be out doing the things that make us breathless, sick and sticky, ( aka guilt). We have bills to pay, expectations to meet and our partners or friends are asking probing questions, so we have strategies in place to convince ourselves and “others” to create smoke screens. A computer is great for “busy-ness” and not doing anything. We tell ourselves that it is simply events or circumstances that are conspiring against us. Today, more than ever we are able to pass on our individual responsibility ( blame) to something amorphous and unaccountable. The recession.

But sometimes “others” don’t buy into what we’re saying , because they have “other” fears and somewhat inconsiderately, they feel perfectly comfortable with the job search process. Then we start making excuses. I could fill a whole page with the reasons I have invented not to ski so I wouldn’t look “less than” or disappoint people who were important to me. Some of them were very creative. So in the words of Peter Williams Unworthiness is the foundation of the comfort zone” .

Facts provide messages

Finally we’re here. This is where facts talk. Facts are a big step. They get fear and guilt out into the open. You can then see that although everything is not perfect (nothing is ever perfect) , but they can be perfectly manageable. Facts provide messages. Messages lead to thought. Written thoughts leads to actions. Actions lead to solutions.

 When looking for a job everyone should keep a job search log/progress sheet whatever you want to call it. Doesn’t matter. You can make one yourself or use an online tool such as Jibberjobber (http://www.jibberjobber.com/) Keep an accurate record of all the positions applied for and each stage of the process with dates: position, company, contact, date CV sent, method ( direct, on-line), response( telephone interview, direct interview etc) feedback. Most people, when asked, have no idea how many jobs they’ve applied for. Most people claim that they spend 6-10 hours a day looking for jobs. I can usually tell by the results, how engaged they are. It’s quite often less than 6 -10 hours. If they need to network and only have 10 LinkedIn connections – I know they’re not putting in the hard yards and so do they. More guilt. Having all that information laid out in factual form enables you to easily track all the detail relating to your job search and time management. Even not having feedback sends you a useable message.

Facts and job search- be brutal

So, if you are sending off CVs (more than 10- 15 depending on level, function, geographic location) with no response at all, what is that telling you? You need to play around with the CV, change something and monitor that result. Change it again if that doesn’t work. If you get no further than a telephone screening – could it be that your telephone interview techniques needs some work? Same if you fall at the interview stage. If you can’t find any jobs to apply for ( and there are still some jobs, they are just not advertised as openly) then perhaps you need to expand your network or online presence. But unless you can see it written down you will convince yourself that you are active on the job market, when really, although you’re in front of your computer, perhaps spending more time reading something of personal interest (sports results, celeb gossip, international affairs) than researching openings. So track your time too – keep a time management log. Be brutally honest. Are you really engaged as much as you say, or just fooling around on Facebook or Twitter? Facts talk.

If you are struggling with any parts of the process over an extended period, please look at seeking support from friends, family, your network or a professional. You are your best asset – it’s an investment in your future. If you don’t act, you won’t fail, but you won’t succeed either.

Remember .. as Audrey Hepburn suggested, the letters in impossible also write I’m possible!