Sunday, January 31, 2016

Job Hopper or Dedicated Worker?


In the current jobs market I meet many people who face a dilemma and they are conflicted. Should they wait for the right job or should they take a job, until the right one comes along? The next consideration that may be influencing their decision is how the job change may be perceived on the resume. Traditionally, hiring managers at first glance look upon frequent job changes negatively, especially when a pattern emerges. On the other hand, gaps in employment are also detrimental and attract scrutiny, although times have changed during the last 10+ years. 
 
If I had to pick and choose, in my own personal as well as professional opinion, I’d prefer to see job changes that can be explained, rather than to see wide gaps of more than a few months in an employment history (incidentally, employment lasting less than a month I would not even put on your resume, unless you are applying for a job with a high security vetting requirement). 
 
Increasingly, reasonable hiring managers recognize that many people are improvising in the current, more competitive and less plentiful jobs market. Many people prefer (or need) to work than not, adapting to market shifts as best they can. This is a commendable trait and should not be viewed as a negative. 
 
On the other hand there are those who, after losing their job, are waiting for something to present itself as good as or better than their last job. Situations differ so I am not judging their rationale as being realistic or not. But there is one thing you can be sure of: the longer a person goes without working and at the very least interviewing, the harder it is to get back into the jobs market. Self-confidence wanes and once someone falls into it, it’s a difficult rut to get out of. For example: they might have said they’d take a little time off but weeks turn into months and months can turn into years, until they just give up. 
 
So -- two things to take away from this blog post. First, don’t automatically freak out because you might have a series of jobs that have been of shorter duration, just be prepared to confidently and realistically explain your decisions. And above all don’t let it become an excuse not to find another job; if you’ve been knocked down in life, you get back up, eh? Remember, many others are also having to adapt to unpredictable shifts in the markets, you’re not the only one. You might also make it easier for anyone who reviews your resume by putting a short statement (in italics perhaps) explaining the circumstance, i.e., “company downsized, division eliminated, company merged, result of lay-offs …”
 
Second, if you are someone who’s been knocked down or haven’t worked in more than six months, let this be a wake-up call; if you don’t have a real and legitimate reason not to do so, you must get back into the game - even if only for your own self-respect and dignity.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Interview Follow-up


When you interview, I highly suggest you always follow up with a Thank You note / email. There are some people who think this is unnecessary. They think it is akin to being a “brown nose” or sucking up to gain favor. They would ridicule this practice but, ignore them, they are either lazy or they’re idiots, you can tell them I said so (sorry if it sounds harsh, but I don’t suffer fools gladly).
 
Interview follow-up, in the form of a short Thank You note is time-tested and was, in the past, a normal protocol and professional gesture. It isn’t about being nice as much as it is a demonstration of your commitment and proactivity during the interview process. And yeah, it can make the difference between who gets hired and who doesn’t, especially in a close contest. I can prove it.
 
Last year I conducted a search for a client company and after reviewing and considering a lot of potential candidates, I submitted four. The way I conduct my work on any recruitment and search project is I interact closely with both hiring managers and candidates during the entire process. It’s part of the service component of what I do and an aspect most other so-called recruiters don’t do and, frankly, no longer know how to do. 
 
As a standard practice I always advised candidates whom I represent that they should consider sending a Thank You note, following each interview step. On that occasion, of the four candidates I presented, two of them were women and two were men. After the interviews, the hiring manager commented to me that he’d received Thank You notes from two of the four and although it wasn’t the deciding factor he admitted that it did influence his decisions. One of those two went on to receive the job offer and works for the company today. As an interesting aside, it was the two women who chose to send notes; the men did not. 
 
If you want to know more about what should go into a Thank You note, visit my blog archives and search for 14 January, 2013 entitled: When a Thank You Letter is Not Just for Saying “Thank You”. It can be a powerful tool for one simple reason -- most others don’t do it.   

 

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Improve Your Resume, Pt.2


As a follow-up from last week’s post, in order to present yourself in the best possible manner without distractions that add little or no value, here is the second-half of the list of Items to either adjust, or to leave off your resume:
 
Listing employment dates, years without listing months
The first reaction of most recruiters, HR professionals and hiring managers is that listing years without months in your chronological employment history is an attempt to hide gaps in your employment. Always list the month and the year of both when you started and when you finished your employment at each job. 
 
Unexplained gaps in employment history
If you have them, explain them briefly. Hiding them or pretending they don’t exist is not helpful and you’re going to have to address them anyway. Many people have employment gaps. Granted, you might not want to put in your resume that you were fired, but layoffs and other circumstances beyond your control are understandable and will not automatically impact you negatively.
 
TMI (too much information)
A resume is not a document for conveying your life’s history in long form. Always seek to say the most with the least words. Your resume is an overview and not a professional autobiography. Save something for the interview.
 
Length too short, too long
The length of your resume is up to your own discretion. True, a resume should be impactful but brief. On the other hand, if you have a history and accomplishments of which you are proud, don’t worry if your resume is two and-a-quarter, or two and-a-half pages. Be discriminating and list the best of the information about you and, as I said above, save something for the interview. 
 
Tables and graphs
Tables and graphs do not belong in a resume. They can be included as a separate and accompanying attachment. You can also add them to your Brag Book, which I discuss in my handbook. 
 
Logos
Avoid use of company / organizational logos on your resume. It is clutter and does not belong in a resume. 
 
Hobbies and interests
This is another waste of space. Your personal hobbies and interests may be an item for conversation, but leave that for later, after they have determined you are qualified. These items might demonstrate the kind of person you are but have little relevance to your qualifications or abilities and, therefore, why add them? They are however useful when it comes time to determine company culture and co-worker compatibility fit, but that is established later during the interview process.
 
Slogans or quotes
Some people think it is clever to add a slogan or a quote that reflects their attitude or persona. It isn’t, and they don’t belong in your resume.
 
Spelling and grammatical errors
These are the most common resume mistakes people make. A small typo here and there may not seem like much. However, consider that when a company gets many resumes from which to choose, they look for reasons to reduce the numbers considered. Do you want spelling errors and typos to be the reason you aren’t seriously considered?
 
Never lie
Untruths you document, in writing, is a dumb thing to do and never a good idea.

 

 

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Improve Your Resume, Pt.1


Even if you have good information to share in your resume, information that is not useful, is counter-productive, or just plain unnecessary can be a distraction and shouldn’t be listed in the document meant to represent you in the best and most effective possible manner. Let’s go through some examples:
 
Incorrectly naming your digital resume file
The name of your document should be your last name followed by first name and, if you have a different version, i.e., long or short, or different language versions, abbreviate it after your name. For example: Mayher_Michael_resume_ENG
 
I have received resumes from people whose document was named Resume with no name, and the only way I know it’s theirs is because it was attached to their email. File it like that and it will be lost and no one will be able to consider you, much less be able to find you in a database. True, some companies will assign a resume with a file number but don’t leave it to chance. 
 
Stationery stunts
In order to stand out and be noticed some people use borders, a different background color, color highlighting or watermarks as a way to set themselves apart. But it can have an opposite effect. A good resume gets attention because it clearly and thoughtfully contains relevant content and not because of color or graphic stunts, which instead suggest overcompensation for professional shortcomings. 
 
Format & fonts
Similarly, people may use different fonts and formats to gain attention and to stand apart. Keep it simple; always use Arial, Calibri or Tahoma. Another reason is some fonts or characters are not only distracting, but might not scan or copy as well as standard block lettering. 

Unprofessional photo
I don’t think photos are necessary because they are often used to make judgments about you that usually have nothing to do with your ability to do a job. But if you choose to, or are requested to submit a photo, ensure it is a photo appropriate for your business / market sector. Selfies are childish, unprofessional and lazy -- don’t use them. So, too, is using a photo from a party or a vacation. 

Incorrect or outdated contact info
If they can’t contact you, it doesn’t matter how good your resume may be.

Work email address
Never list your work email address in your contact information, always use a personal address. If your employer wants to be picky and/or nasty, utilizing a work-related email address to find another job can be used against you.  

Unprofessional personal email address
Establish a grown-up, normal email address for your personal professional job search efforts. Silly email addresses diminish you and cause you to not be taken seriously.

Personal information (date of birth, marital status, family information)
It is not necessary and opens you up to unwarranted scrutiny and, frankly, it’s nobody’s business. It has nothing to do with your ability to perform a job role. A job application is a different matter. 

A vague or generic OBJECTIVE
I find this to be a space waster and unnecessary. Most people list an objective for no other reason than because they think they are supposed to. So they put something painfully generic like: “A good opportunity with a growing company and career growth possibilities”. Instead, save the space for something useful and craft a separate cover letter with substance, where you can elaborate with something real and more impactful, as a separate attachment sent with your resume.   

Employment history chronology
Always list your employment history from your current or most recent position, going backward. Listing oldest first to newest is irritating and a time waster to those who are reviewing your resume, for the simple reason that most recent history is more important and has more relevance.
 
I’ll post Pt.2, the rest of the list next week.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Social Media and the Other You


Many people display a different persona, depending on the environment we are in or with whom we are associating at that moment in time, whether privately or publicly /professionally. That separation is normal and more important in the modern era in which we live; as a result of social media and potential over-exposure of our private lives.
 
In our youth we don’t pay much attention to these things and young people are currently oblivious about what they do now, which can adversely impact their lives and careers later. I was no different many years ago and even if I wasn’t intentionally seeking attention, I just plain didn’t care if anyone saw, approved or disapproved. After all, back then I, like most of us, thought we were bullet-proof and invisible and nothing could touch us and, if it did, nothing would stick; such is the mindset of youth. But that was before the rise of social media, before there was Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and countless other means of getting in peoples’ faces to document most of our stunts and youthful indiscretions. 
 
I feel sorry for young people today, who, reflexively and as a matter of course put everything about their lives out there for the world to see, or, a friend will do it for them with or without their knowledge. Consequently, once it’s out, there’s no taking it back. This matters little in the minds of most but some things can have a detrimental impact later in one’s career.   
 
As a headhunter, I have watched this trend of people intentionally sharing their private lives, as they fail to consider who might be looking for and at them. I’ve witnessed people have an opportunity they really wanted, only to be snatched away from them after someone conducted a cursory background check. Not because of a drug test, not because of a criminal records check and not even the result of bad professional reference, no. But as a result of a simple check of Google; checking online profiles on Facebook and Twitter is enough to sink a person’s chances and makes assumptions about someone they don’t even know. However, much could be avoided by simply applying available online filters to somewhat close the voyeuristic window into one’s private life. What is shared with friends and family is not always to be viewed in the same context by those who don’t know you. I’ve seen people lose the job of their dreams for something that most would consider minor and trivial, even forgotten. Yes, everyone has the right to do what they choose; we all have the option to make mistakes. But nowadays, those small indiscretions are logged and archived somewhere.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Identifying Leadership


There is clearly a crisis of leadership in most company and organizational structures; a lack of that which represents true leadership in business. Current hiring practices, as they are trending in the last decade, screen out all but the generic, cardboard cut-out conformists. Likewise, the utilization of psychometric testing has the same objective: to identify a cross-sampling of the “right kind of people” which, whether it was intended or not conveys to innovators, outside-the-box thinkers and stand-apart leadership types that they need not apply. 
 
Universities don’t develop leaders, it isn’t their function and campus activism isn’t analogous with leadership, in case you needed clarification. Institutions of learning might provide courses in leadership that may identify what leadership is, but this doesn’t produce or develop leaders. Same for most MBA programs in which the operative words, when it comes to Master of Business Administration, is management and administration. By the way, the terms management and leadership are not synonymous; telling people what to do is not emblematic of leadership qualities. There are a lot of managers who think they possess leadership qualities, many of them have Jack Welch’s books displayed for all to see; props that most of them have never read. With regard to company managers, most are preoccupied with self-preservation and maintaining the status quo than they are developing talent around them, preferring instead to surround themselves with yes men and women who won’t challenge them.
 
Yeah sure, there are people who rise to a challenge and can become fine managers, but they are increasingly fewer. However, there is still a place, an institution where real leadership skills and abilities can be found with predictably higher frequency; an environment of true equal opportunity, of shared risk and mutual respect, a place where developing such people is both a priority and necessity. I am, of course, referring to the under-appreciated, under-valued and under-utilized resource of military veterans. Granted, not every veteran is a leader, but a good many are. In fact, military veterans from most nations possess the very traits that many corporate and organizational structures lack and need - increased self-discipline and organizational skills, to name just two.
 
Meanwhile, spending company money on goofy and contrived “team-building” weekends, running obstacle courses or walking on hot burning coals, with lots of high-fives, is a bad joke and in this veteran’s opinion, a waste of money and a poor substitute resulting in very little to show for it.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Another Stupid Interview Question


I feel compelled again this week to address yet another ridiculous question interviewees are subjected to and feel obligated to answer. Clearly, the most basic premise of a job interview is for the hiring manager to challenge those with whom they will meet by asking “can you do the job and why should we hire you?” How is it such a basic task can be turned into such a circus; nevertheless, leave it to people without any business sense or bureaucrats to turn even the most straight-forward and clear processes into something unrecognizable and, quite nearly, pointless. 
 
Have you ever been asked this one, “…what animal would you choose to be?” or any variation referring to a kind of car, a food, even a candy bar you would choose to be? Along with the inevitable follow-up question, “…and why…?” My own wife experienced this very question at an assessment center style interview at a well-known and recognizable company that produces and sells chocolate and coffee, among other products.
 
She related to me afterwards, one of the attendees answered that she would choose to be a panda, to which the interviewer replied and challenged, “Well, that’s a lazy animal isn’t it?” This sounds more to me like something you’d encounter in a kindergarten or a therapy session. Pardon me but what in the hell does that line of questioning have to do with one’s abilities or qualifications for a job? And yet, somewhere there is some degreed and lofty intellectual who thinks this should be a part of the interview ritual for a Fortune 500 company. Near as I can tell the only thing it really measures is the threshold to which potential employees will allow themselves to be diminished, condescended to and their willingness to be humiliated by whoever is running the interview. I was rather pleased that my wife gave a flippant answer and soon after extricated herself.  But following their example, can I suggest something similarly stupid and pointless?
 
Here, try this, jump up and down on one foot, rub your tummy in a circle with one hand; meanwhile, at the same time, repeatedly pat the top of your head with the other hand. Yes, please do that because I want to evaluate your multi-tasking skills.