Friday, April 10, 2009

What Is Your “Job Heaven”?

To build a resume that gets you the perfect job, you first need to understand what a perfect job for you would look like. Just to be clear, I am not talking about the perfect job for a particular personality type, gender group, or economic group. Rather, I am addressing you, the “every snowflake is unique” individual. By “perfect job” I am specifically talking about the job that is specifically a perfect fit for you. Of course, I think the actual perfect job might be something without a clock and involves baiting a hook, but I like a roof over my head too. So let’s assume that your perfect job involves at bare minimum a clock and a paycheck.

The best starting point is to develop an understanding of yourself. We don’t often take the time to do this but this is one of those times. There are two things relating to your perfect job that you need to understand. The first thing you want to know about this job is; what do you want to do. These are the functions of the job you want to do in the performance of the job. If you love working with spreadsheets put that down on your list. Try to make a list of the top six functions that would make up your perfect job. As an experienced Accountant your list could look something like this:
  1. Building complex spreadsheets
  2. Consulting
  3. Financial analysis
  4. Data gathering
  5. Preparing presentations
  6. Budget planning

Be sure the list is made up of the functions you like to perform. If you hate balancing the company checkbook, don’t list it!

The second bit of information you need to understand about your perfect job is; what are the “must haves”, “nice to haves” and wants that will help make the perfect job. Be honest about your feelings because overlooking these will only give you a picture blurry picture of the desired job. I know for me, here are the things that I want:

  1. 10 to 20% travel
  2. Supportive staff and management
  3. An office with daylight
  4. Perceived as an expert
  5. Meaningful problems to solve
  6. Continuing education or training opportunities

There is really no reason to limit your list as long as the items are reasonable to your education, experience, and drive. Resist putting salary on this list. Money is not the point here.

The point of the two lists above is to help you home in on the job you will love to do. When you find a job with the majority of the items listed you will have less trouble hearing the alarm clock every morning. You will have pride in your work and your boss will notice. Do what you love and the money follow.

Now you want to know how these lists will help you write your resume. For one thing, since you hate balancing the company’s checkbook, you can avoid writing a statement touting your high power skills as a reconciler, even if you are world famous for your 10-key speed. Rather, the statements you make about yourself need to highlight those things that you want to do and how they will meet the bosses needs.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Make Your Resume Stand Out

One of the strongest reasons resumes get passed by is managers read so many resumes, and they all start looking the same. It’s very much like having the same meal every night for a week. The same meal every night seems to work for the family dog but, hey, it makes its own gravy! I’m not saying that you have to make some strange resume just to get noticed, or play a bad trumpet, (see "Keeping Your Resume Out of the Trash"), but the old standard of a one-page list of tricks performed for your past employers can get blasé.

Standards are only good if they actually work. If we stayed with the old covered wagon wheels for all vehicles my Prius would drive a lot different. Not better, just “different”. As a hiring manager, I want the resume to tell me the capabilities of the prospect. Sure I can grill them under the interrogation lights during an interview, but basically, your resume is your “one minute” pitch so if I’m not interested by the time the resume is read; you will never hear from me.

Time and time again, as the hiring manager I would receive a resume from HR and I had no idea if there was a cover letter or not. Sometimes there was a letter stapled to the resume, but other times I found out during an interview that it was not passed on to me. Make sure that your resume includes at least some of the information from the cover letter. Some of the real eye candy stuff like; “100% of invoices paid within terms”; “Former employer stated I was most inspirational”. These little snippets of information tell the hiring manager that you could be worth talking to. And more importantly, tell me specifically how your successes will meet my company’s needs and my objectives. Do some research to understand what the challenges are for the industry you are perusing and how your profession or trade can affect the challenges of their business. Then list a specific instance where you were successful in overcoming that challenge. Statements like this will have the hiring manager looking like Chevy Chase bobbling the telephone in a frantic attempt to dial your number!

Let me tell you, I have seen them all. People have been very clever trying to make their resume stand out. I’ve even received several resumes with full glamour shots! For an accounting position I thought it was a bit much. However, I had the headshot framed and hung it in the office labeled “Wife”. And, unless you are applying for a magazine layout artist, don’t make your resume look like the cover of a Vanity Fair. Even then, I don’t recommend it.

When a hiring manager sees a good resume, they know that you won’t be available for long. They know they have to act fast because other employers are on the hunt as well. Make sure the phrases you use make your “horn” sound beautiful. Tell them how good you are and how you can affect your new lucky boss’s objectives. Give them meaningful information that tells them the value of your expertise and passions. Remember, your whole career is on a piece of paper so make it like an exciting movie trailer.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Keeping Your Resume Out Of The Trash

It’s common to believe the hiring manager reads every word of our resume. However, have you ever wondered what happens to your resume after you submit it for a juicy job? You know you are the perfect fit for the job, so obviously you expect the phone will be ringing any day. In fact, you decided to take a breather from your job search because it’s a matter of time before the job is yours. Many of us have been in this same fantasy world.

In my years as a hiring manager I have read too many resumes to count. The harsh reality is your resume may have just a few lines read; if read at all. Most resumes are written so boring or are so nondescript the reader is unimpressed in a few seconds. The trick is to make your resume interesting enough that it is actually read. The recipe for a resume that gets read involves properly praising your own skills and expertise, stepping away from boring standards, and telling them why they need you today!

Writing a resume has never been on the top of anyone’s list of “favorite things to do”. If you write the resume yourself, you soon begin to think a trip to the dentist is more enticing…at least there’s laughing gas at the dentist. The thought of pouring yourself into hours of labor over a keyboard gets distressing. That’s why so many people are hiring “professionals” to do work for them (if only we could hire someone to go to the dentist for us)! Be that as it may, the bottom line is you only have one shot at capturing the attention of your future boss! And, now that you have this “career in a nutshell”, you want it read.

One of the most interesting things about us is we have a hard time touting ourselves on a resume. As a silly example, one day I was walking through downtown Seattle hustling to get to a bus stop. As I passed Nordstrom’s, I heard the “blat” of a trumpet. It was the sound of an inexperienced blowhard which obviously knew nothing about a horn. As I got closer to the source I saw a man with a hat on the ground standing with a partially tarnished trumpet. Soon he took another big breath and with big puffed up cheeks, blasted another heart stopping “note”. Now here’s the amazing part: people were dropping money into the hat! The strange thing is that as bad as his playing was, he made money! So what is my point? He blew his own horn! Chances are, if he just stood there without the horn, hat in hand, no one would notice him.

But, I want to be clear. I am not saying blow your horn badly! It is important to blow your horn, but with a beautiful melody. Though it may be true that some “squeaky doors get the oil”, as it worked for this man; some squeaky doors just get ripped off the hinges! As far as your resume is concerned, write a phrase that is attractive and draws the reader to the next line. You may have performed brilliantly for your previous employers but unless you use a “beautiful melody”, it’s just boring!

When I worked in the Human Resources department of a Fortune 500 company, I saw oceans of resumes with information so flat I couldn’t set them aside fast enough. Take for example this line on a typical resume:

“In charge of getting the organization to make improvements.”

Wow! Sounds like you drew the short straw to get stuck with that job. What if we take the same task and set the tone a little differently. Like this:

“Known as a results oriented change agent with the vision to apply a balance of analysis and action.”

Now I want to hear more… Let’s see another example:

“Provided customer service as necessary.”

Let's face it; Customer Service is always necessary! Let’s see if this phrase can be made stronger…

“Strong customer service skills honed through years of training and experience in retail as well as interfacing with parents in pre-school environments.”

The sound of the trumpet is a little more interesting now.