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The Limits of the Possible

November 9, 2014

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“The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible” Arthur C. Clark (re-quoted from The Week and BBC.com).

Fall in Colorado is amazingly beautiful.  We hiked Shadow Canyon today from S. Mesa trailhead to the saddle between S. Boulder Peak and Bear Peak yesterday.  Funny, when we started our hike somewhat leisurely, we did not know what the day held.  My friend and I agreed that we needed to get out into the Flatirons, breathe some fresh air and burn some post-Halloween calories.  We hike a lot but had not hiked this trail.  There was some good vertical- so we had to give it a try!  The trail was beautiful, started out as a winding dirt road and takes a turn in to a sometimes well defined, sometimes “not” trail.  As you get higher, it consists of huge rock formations, boulder…

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Your resume can help you move from specialist to generalist!

September 3, 2014

Several people ask for help in transitioning their resumes to speak to career changes from specialists to generalists.  While specifically I am referencing educators and military professionals this topic is relevant to anyone applying for a new job.          

Tip 1- capitalize on the specializations while allowing for the fact that not all recipients understand what you did in the last phase of your career (and sometimes, they don’t care to connect the dots).  Don’t elaborate- make your jobs more accessible.  Take the role of 3rd grade teacher looking to get into the private sector.  If anyone can juggle multiple priorities, work across lines (think of all of the people you work “for”- principals, students, parents, school boards), meet deadlines on a daily, weekly and monthly basis.  What about conducting performance assessments through grading, standardized testing etc. and providing feedback.

The same can be said for military.  Call out team leadership, organization, follow through, working under tight timeframes, situational prioritization and discipline.

Tip 2- be realistic.  You might have to take a step back to get your foot in the door (especially if you are not able to clearly articulate what you bring to a posted job).  That is ok, getting in is the first step to promotion!

Your Work Experience – Your Resume

March 30, 2014

The next part of your resume is either accomplishments or your work experience (or both).  My preference is both and that is what I am going to focus on!  As a reminder, I would NOT use a header of “Work Experience”…the people who are viewing your resume get it and don’t need that precious space wasted.  I love to see a call out of title, company (with snapshot) and a short summary of your job followed by accomplishments.  As a fictitious example, see below:

Sr. Sales Manager, Recruiting Academy, a division of World’s Top Talent (NYSE:      ), No City, State      2002 to present

Publically held company invested in talent identification and development with locations in x markets.  Focused on selling long term and short term talent solutions to xyz

  • Increased sales by 20% year over year through extensive networking and outreach
  • Lead team in solution product development

When you have all of these elements represented for each job- you begin to build a meaningful chapter in the story that is your career.

I apparently like to include some controversial guidance.  I think there are a couple different purposes for a resume- get the foot in the door, and application/get the interview.  It is ok to have a pared down foot in the door version that does not have everything in it (but what it does have has to be totally accurate).  It would be appropriate to have a footer that discloses a more comprehensive resume is available.  So, if you had an interim job as a sales clerk for 6 months after being laid off, maybe leave that off of the initial foot in the door if it does not add value to your progression.

Resume Content- Prime Real Estate

March 19, 2014

Under your name and before your work experience lives PRIME real estate!  If you are going to use it, make it worthwhile.  The first 1/3 of the first page of a resume determines if a recruiter or hiring manager want to continue reading (or not).  Whether you use it for an objective statement, a profile or a summary spend time getting it right!

This small paragraph can fulfill many roles of telling the reader your story, selling the reader on your capabilities, summarizing your experience or flopping massively. 

Here are some examples in hopes that you are going to experience the value of this (versus me just pitching it to you).

Telling:   Experienced accounts payable professional with 10 years of high volume invoice fulfillment experience.  Looking for an AP Manager position that I can grow with.

Selling:   My background is perfect for your job.  I am a top performer with excellent reviews and I would be willing to speak with you about your job.

Summarizing:    Qualified by 10 years of experience in Accounts Payable using Peoplesoft Financials and MS Excel.  Looking for a job in a dynamic company.

Hybrid:  Experienced accounts payable professional with 10 years of high volume invoice fulfillment experience.  Seeking AP Management position with XYZ company where I can leverage my passion for mentoring and ability to use technology for optimal performance.  Under my guidance, results will exceed goals and past performance.

Flopping:  To secure a mid-management position in a stable company with great benefits where I can finish my career.

Okay, okay, hidden in the middle is the hybrid which would be my preference if you are going to include this in your resume.  I am GLAD to review your hybrid statements if you want to throw them my way!

Formatting your resume

March 17, 2014

In the last post, I talked about the paper resume (and why it is not the most preferred means of applying). Today, I would like to dig into the resume format itself. I envision this topic will take several posts so bear with me. It is a huge part of the application process and it needs appropriate preparation/ attention to get it right.
While a resume can be very personal- it is also the way you represent yourself professionally. Down to the font, everything on the resume needs to be carefully considered.
FONT: What does it say about you? Comic Sans- not serious! Times New Roman/Garamond- traditional, maybe old school. I personally prefer Calibri or Arial.
TINY FONT/ TINY MARGINS: No one expects your resume to "live" on one page especially electronically. Seriously, make it easy to read (not a strain).
NAME AND ADDRESS: Keep them the same size as the rest of the resume. And keep them in the body of the resume (not in the header) as some applicant tracking systems hide them. Include contact information, email, website if applicable, and LinkedIn profile link.
HEADERS: Blow them up! There is no reason for the headers "objective, summary, work experience, or hobbies" to be on your resume.
EDUCATION: Unless it speaks directly a requirement or is integral to the job, you can let it fall to the end of your resume.
PAST EMPLOYER INFO: Personally, I like a call out about the company (i.e. name, ticker symbol, location, size, revenue etc).
JOB TITLES: Include them.
JOB SUMMARY: Keep it brief as in a couple sentences followed by bulleted accomplishments. Really, as yourself "is this a task or is it an accomplishment" and use that as your rule if it should be on your resume.
DATES OF EMPLOYMENT: Assuming this is a chronological resume (usually preferred), keep your date structure the same such as year to year or month/year to month/year. Do not include exact dates.
HOBBIES: Tell the reader a little about what you do outside of work (and may raise curiousity and talking points). Include them, but do so appropriately perhaps as awards, accolades or accomplishments.
HOW MUCH IS ENOUGH? I prefer relevance to be emphasized on resumes and, in fact, if 20 years ago you did something not super relevant to the job you are applying and the career journey you are on, drop it off your resume.
REFERENCES: Assumed here...don't, don't, don't say "references available upon request" and, don't list your references on your resume. Their willingness to speak on your behalf is a gift, don't cheapen that.
BACKGROUND, BORDERS ETC: Skip them!
ONCE YOU HAVE IT PERFECT- CHANGE IT! Resumes change...and should change...just as the jobs you approach are different, so too should be your resume. Don't be afraid to customize, try different things and ask for opinions.
Next, we are going to discuss content or the story that justifies your consideration for the job- objective/intro, relevance, etc. Let me know if there is anything you want me to expand on or dig into.

The paper resume- what is it really saying?

March 15, 2014

Let’s talk about the paper resume sent via mail in a high tech age.  What is it really telling the recipient about you?

Most corporations have career sites (applicant tracking systems) to collect applications to ensure consistency in consideration.  This is the preferred means of applying and reviewing applications.

  • Is this applicant respectful of process?  No.

Companies strive to reduce paper (and in fact have sustainability commitments).

  • Is this person environmentally aware/friendly?  Again, no (unless they are not thinking about how the recipient will receive this).

Content- This is a future topic for the blog but, at a high level, what does the content of your paper resume say?

  • That you are confident your resume will stand out?  I would argue not.
  • That you are more qualified than anyone else?  Not likely.
  • That you are on top of trends?  Definitely not.

What are paper resume exceptions?  If you work in or want to work in the public sector, for a small mom/pop company, retail (perhaps)…it is still perfectly acceptable. 

Next steps- think about your resume and how you use it.  Look at the content first (and ensure it speaks to the job) and send it as the recipient wishes to receive it.  This is a good starting point.

 

 

Cover letters…

December 18, 2011

Twice this week I have been asked about cover letters and the value of them.  So here is Susan Recruits’ opinion.  If your resume does not spell out why you are most qualified for a position, a cover letter isn’t going to either.  I RARELY read cover letters that impress me.  So if I do spend my time reading them, it is more to figure out “what are they thinking?”  As a recruiter, a cover letter has never swayed my opinion.  If you are expressing interest through an “apply now” link, don’t waste your time on the letter. 

The exception is if you are sending your resume to a warm lead (directly to a hiring manager) for a job you are interested in and qualified for.  In that instance a cover letter might be to your advantage.  If you do this, use the letter to compare “you need” against “I offer.” 

In summary, my caution is if you chose to use the cover letter, use it as a supporting document to a good resume.  Even then I prefer job seekers spend their time building a quality resume that is customized to their understanding of the job description, requirements and company.