Super Charge Your Resume in Three Steps Reply

Recruiters won’t read rambling resumes. The bulk of resumes I see daily say basically the same thing.  As a recruiter, I will skip the repeated points and look for unique substance and experiences.  If I don’t see that, I move on to the next candidate.

But there is a way to stand out.  You must super charge your resume.  To do that you need to include the following as part of your resume format:

  • Use a three or four sentence Professional Summary at the very beginning of your resume.  Don’t sell, just tell.  It is critical to say what you have done, not what you want to do.  The summary should be crisp and filled with action. Example:  “Senior Accounting Manager and CPA with ten years of experience developing and monitoring multi-million dollar budgets for software companies.  Award winning people manager.  Trusted board advisor.”  Be sure your job title/career focus is mentioned in the first sentence of the summary.
  • Give a one sentence description of the places you’ve worked after you’ve identified them.  You may know that ABC   Company makes computer parts but you can assume nobody else knows that.  A simple summary stating, “ABC Company is the world’s largest computer chip manufacturer” should be enough.
  • Include three to five extremely relevant experience points for each position held.  Anything more than that becomes overkill. Use this format:  action – outcome.   Example:  “Designed and deployed payroll reporting system using existing proprietary software resulting in increased client satisfaction and significant cost savings for employer.”  Recruiters need to know what you did and how you impacted your organization.

By following these simple points you will dramatically improve your resume while at the same time increase your chances of being considered for the positions for which you are applying.  Good luck!

That’s Your Opinion (or is it a reference?) Reply

“What do you mean that jerk gave my name to you as a reference!? I’d deck him if I saw him.”

I actually heard that comment years ago while following up on a candidate’s background.  It was surprising then and remains funny now.  It certainly set the tone for the conversation that followed.

Throughout the time that I’ve been recruiting I’ve often been asked by a hiring manager or some other interested party involved in employment, “See what you can find out about this person.”  That is not so much a request for a reference as it is a request for some outside perspective that supposedly will shed some mystical clarification on the candidate’s abilities, personality and so forth.  It is a vague request that could have a major impact on not only a candidate but a company as well.  Should we really be seeking an opinion outside of our normal reference checks?  One has to wonder is there really a big difference between opinions and references.  There is and it is significant.

In companies following best practices in recruiting, the reference check is hallowed and respected.  When I was a recruiting lead at in its early days we had full-time employees who would do nothing but tape and transcribe up to seven individual references on a given candidate.  These transcripts were then distributed back to the individuals who interviewed the candidate.   The interview team would reconvene after reading the references to discuss the nuances, questions and concerns they had.  Much effort was made to qualify the candidate’s references as well (no college roommates posing as past employers, that kind of thing.)   The process was laborious, candidates became impatient, hiring managers became frustrated but we stuck to our process.  The success of Amazon today shows that our efforts in the early days truly paid off.

A reference check should involve much more than queries about punctual arrivals to work and how well a person functions on a team. Those are helpful things to know, but they don’t give the full portrait of the candidate.  Detailed behavioral examples such as discussing a time when a candidate creatively solved a problem or faced a personnel challenge will yield much more value than a simple fact check.  Reference checks should include examples of situations that a candidate faced, the actions they took and the outcomes – good or bad.  The more a recruiter can drill down into situations and actions the clearer the picture of the candidate becomes and the better future performance can be predicted.

So what of opinion?

With the massive expansion and embrace of social networks it is easy to find an opinion on anything or anybody.   A quick glance at a Linkedin or Facebook profile and we can see how we are connected to a candidate.  Friends of friends tell in writing about the candidate’s virtues (have you ever seen a bad reference on a Linkedin profile?)  It is easy to see who former co-workers are and even easier to reach out for an opinion.   These sidebar chats can undermine the best of recruiting efforts.

“He dated my ex-girlfriend.  We all used to work together.  Made things tough, but, yeah, we worked side-by-side.  He is the smartest coder around.  Let me tell you about a time when…”

I completed that reference check with a smile on my face.  In my summary I removed as much subjective rhetoric as I could and focused on the work behaviors and examples of success and challenges.  My candidate was all the things we had hoped for, even remarkably human as I could tell from the situation with his former friend and co-worker.

When we take an opinion without checking for substance, we are doing a huge disservice to the candidate and our client or company.   One man’s jerk may be another man’s genius.

Meh… Recruiters… Who Needs ‘Em? 2

You do.

Not so long ago recruiting from a corporate perspective involved little more than posting job descriptions in classified advertisements and milking friends and employees for leads.  The problem with this scenario tends to be obvious – friends and employees have limited connections and classified ads were a hope and prayer that the most qualified person in the world for your job happened to be randomly reading the Sunday help wanted section of your newspaper.  Unfortunately, many companies still function that way.

With the advent of resume mills like Monster and Hotjobs, it became easier to find prospects with possible skills matching job needs, but the problem was now too much data and broader candidate visibility.  Many companies for the first time had access to the same pool of prospective employees.  Along with this access came increased competitiveness in hiring.  Companies ended up turning to agencies for help and that assistance came with hearty costs.   Agencies at least (hopefully) had screening processes in place and in most cases had some direct contact with candidates and could help sell them on specific opportunities.  Because of the lucrative nature of this model, the recruiting field became awash with aggressive sales tacticians bent on filling client’s needs quickly and at great expense.  Recruiting was seen as a fast way to easy money and for a time it was.   Real recruiting gave way to word-matching and mad resume dashes to a client’s e-mail inbox.   The result, again, was an inefficient way of recruiting.  Sadly, some companies still use this as their model.

So how can a small company – or any company for that matter – find the best employees for their critical needs without breaking the bank?  One simple option is the use of an in-house recruiter, either as a contractor or full-time hire.   A good corporate recruiter with a cache of experience, wisdom and proven processes can be the key to hiring success.  The argument goes that a full-time recruiter’s  headcount is a drain on resources because once all hiring is completed the need for the recruiter disappears.  This is somewhat true.  The first people laid off at during the dot-com bubble burst were recruiters.  Google cut many recruiters from their global staff in the most recent economic downturn.  But, transversely, the first people hired back are recruiters (both Amazon and Google are aggressively hiring recruiters at the moment).  It is a natural cycle.  Ideally, a company will continue to grow and the need for recruiting remains constant.  But don’t let future uncertainties dissuade you from hiring a recruiter today.  Trust me, any professional recruiter with years of experience understands and prepares for the rise and fall of corporate hiring.

Simple math shows that a solid on-site recruiter should replace or at least greatly offset the need – and expense – for agency involvement (this is not a dismissal of recruiting firms, just a fact of life).    The staff recruiter should be able to actively source and manage resume and candidate flow into the company, build a hiring plan and  job descriptions in consultation with hiring teams, manage an interview calendar and schedules,  provide interview training, professionally pitch the organization to candidates,  determine market values for given skills and candidates, build on-going pipelines for open requisitions, be a consultant to the hiring team, facilitate a great candidate experience, manage agency relationships if necessary and most importantly be able to close a chosen candidate turning the prospect into an employee.  All of these activities relieve existing staff of much responsibility thus allowing them to focus on other relevant needs of the company.

It’s been said that for every hour a recruiter works on-site, two hours are returned to the company in the form of time savings for other employees.  That alone is a solid ROI.   Consider or re-consider the option of a contract or FTE recruiter when facing your employment challenges.  Sometimes an on-site staffing expert is the quickest and most cost effective way of gaining an edge in the hiring market place.

The Man Who Knew Too Much Reply

“I think she is overqualified for the job.”

I have heard that phrase far too many times during interview debriefings.  It tends to frighten me.  What does it really mean and how did the reviewer come to that generalization in the first place?

Overqualified is one of those catch-all words that employers need to shy away from.   Think about it – if a person is overqualified then how is it that a more qualified person is hired into the position?  It seems more often than not that the overqualified candidate is the older candidate and many assumptions are being made about them.  The Federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) makes it illegal to discriminate against anyone age 40 or older in hiring, firing, promotions or pay.  Unemployment for those 50 years of age and older is the highest it has been in over sixty years.  Much scrutiny is now being given to age bias in the workplace.  Telling somebody they are overqualified could be the hook for an age discrimination lawsuit. Employers beware.

So what’s a candidate to do?  Well, first and foremost a resume should focus on the marketable skills and their relevance to the current market.  Filing a six page resume going back to your first job out of college thirty years ago is probably not the first best impression (sort of like telling your life story in minute detail on a first date; it’s best to hold back and save some mystery for later).

Every single word of a resume should be scrutinized by the candidate before being submitted anywhere.  Lead the person reviewing your resume to conclusions about your skills not about your age.  I know of a career counselor who insists that her clients only go back fifteen years on their resumes and omit the completion dates from their education.  Be aware, also, that many of the social sites on the web allow for posting of pictures.  Be sure to post as fresh and appealing an appearance as you can, especially on the career-oriented sites like Linkedin and Monster.

And finally, stop applying for multiple jobs with the same company even though you may qualify for all of them.  Stay very focused on the job you truly  want.  Applicant tracking systems store data on candidates going back years and years.  I’ve worked on-site at major corporations where I could easily review a candidate’s application history going back a decade or more.

Age and experience should be reasons to hire somebody, not reject them.  Sadly, the reality is that we have a marketplace ripe with bias and assumptions of every kind especially when it comes to age.  Paying attention to subtle details at the beginning of a job search will go a long way towards mitigating some of this prejudice and help position an older candidate for employment success.