ARTICLES

Education and Insights

We are continuously collecting or authoring informational editorials to share with our clients, candidates and business colleagues.  We have included several here, and intend to refresh this offering on a periodic basis.  Happy reading.

 

How to Pinpoint Accomplishments That Will Make Your Resume Shine
By Dana Mattioli
Wall Street Journal

Listing your job responsibilities on a resume may get you on an employer's job-candidate roster, but if you note some solid accomplishments as well, you may be able to make the jump onto a recruiter's short list. Terry Gallagher, president of Battalia Winston International, a New York-based executive search firm, says he places "three times as much value on results versus responsibilities on a resume."

But while touting your successes may be a winning strategy, figuring out what to include and how to convey it can be a challenge, say professional resume writers.

To make your resume easy to read, keep the chronological format and integrate your accomplishments into each job listing, experts advise.  Executive resumes longer than one page should also highlight selected accomplishments at the beginning, says Martin Weitzman, president of Gilbert Resumes in Englishtown, N.J.

Stumped when it comes to identifying your accomplishments? Here are five tips to help you get started.

1. Ditch the modesty.

"The resume is absolutely no time to be humble," says Heather Eagar, owner of ResumeLines.com, a reviewer of resume-writing services.

Judy Rosemarin, president of Sense-Able Strategies Inc., a New York executive-coaching firm, recalls that a client from the banking industry froze and began perspiring after being asked to write down her accomplishments. "Where is that talented executive I was just talking to?" Ms. Rosemarin says she asked.  In response, the client explained she was uncomfortable bragging.

Remember that you are a solution to the hiring manager's problem, advises Ms. Rosemarin. If you are uncomfortable, think of your list of accomplishments as sharing instead of bragging, she says.

2. Review a performance checklist.

Ask yourself the following questions about each of your previous jobs:

  • What was your impact on your division, company and group?
  • What would not have happened if you hadn't been there?
  • What are you proudest of during your time with the company?

"Sometimes we are so busy working we don't realize how good we are," says Margaret Flynn, a career and communications consultant in Staten Island, N.Y.  She also recommends enlisting the help of family, friends and former colleagues who may remember accomplishments that have slipped your mind.

One good source can be a spouse or friend who heard about your complaints and successes on a regular basis.  Ask him or her what you bragged about or were proud of at work, says Deb Dib, president of Advantage Resumes in Medford, N.Y. You can also ask colleagues and vendors for their input.  Ms. Dib suggests saying something like, "We had a great working relationship. What did you like best about working with me?"

3. Use job evaluations.

Dig through your old annual reviews and take note of what your supervisors praised you for, says Mr. Weitzman. Accomplishments may be listed on the evaluation. Reading some of the strengths that supervisors identified may help you think about how you used those strengths to meet goals.

When Joyce Irene de los Reyes, 26 years old, updated her resume, her first draft listed only her responsibilities. "When I went back and read my resume, I asked myself if there was anything that would make an interviewer look twice, and I wasn't satisfied," Ms. de los Reyes says. She used the written recommendations she received from each of her jobs to develop a list of accomplishments and recently landed a position as a technical support analyst for a software company in New Brunswick, N.J.

Haven't kept your old reviews? Call human resources at your previous employer and ask for them, suggests Mr. Weitzman. Depending on the company's policy, it may be possible to get them released.

Letters of recommendation and company newsletters in which employees were recognized by management may serve the same purpose, says Ms. Dib.

4. Measure your results.

Think about your performance, and apply numbers where possible, using percentages, dollar signs and time quantifiers, advises Ms. Rosemarin.

If you have increased profitability or decreased costs, list these accomplishments, says Mr. Weitzman. If you exceeded a goal, note the original goal. If you didn't hit your target, don't mention it, but use the number you did attain, he says. "Saving $100 million is still an accomplishment, even if the goal was $200 million," says Mr. Weitzman.

Time is a variable some job hunters may overlook.  A simple way to incorporate it is to apply a time frame to projects that you completed ahead of schedule, says Ms. Rosemarin. For example: "Completed project three months before projected plans."

5. Cite recognition.

If your employer has recognized you with an award, cite it on your resume. Give an indication of the award's criteria so the recruiter can see why you were selected and what you accomplished.

If you were chosen to receive additional training or head special projects, these can also be considered accomplishments, says Ms. Rosemarin.

But make sure any award you cite is based on merit.  "An award for working 20 years with the company," Mr. Weitzman notes, "just means you sat there for 20 years and is not an accomplishment."

Top of Page


Network Effectively Without Sinking Your Ship
L.H. Daggett, Daggett & Associates

Networking is a like a voyage -- a rite of motion, back and forth, that requires clear direction, trusted ports of call, and dedication to completing the journey. A well-planned expedition can land you a job, while misdirection can prolong or even damage your search. 

How do you ensure smooth sailing without running aground?  Here are some guidelines for effective networking that won’t sink your ship.

1. Make a commitment

Networking is your second job. Some studies cite that over 75 percent of jobs are found through networking. So whether looking for a new position or planning a future move, networking is the #1 thing you can do to improve your chance for success.

Too often job seekers begin networking in crisis mode, reaching out to colleagues only when panic has set in.  This will not only undermine the effectiveness of your communications, it will lengthen your search.  Instead, make communications with your network part of your daily routine.  It will take some time to get a network established, but once in place it will be easy to maintain.  Find a strategy that works for you and make it stick. Refer to Establishing Your Network for ideas on how to get started.

2. Networking is a two-way street

As an executive search professional I receive daily missives from individuals seeking help with their job search.  When possible, I provide assistance, including donating time for career counseling, resume rewrites, networking strategies and referrals. On balance, I am more inclined to spend time with an individual who has built a foundation of good will, i.e., someone who has invested in a relationship with me or my firm. Unknown individuals who e-mail or call out of the blue, demanding assistance, do not rise to the top of my to-do list.

Networking is not only a voyage, its a two-way street. Don’t presume that people will help you because you deserve it.  If you show zero interest in others except when you need help, your reputation will precede you.  A network is built over a period of time and should be mutually beneficial.  Initial (and follow-on) contacts should include offers of reciprocal help.  And keep in touch regularly -- call your contacts when you don’t need assistance to maintain a collegial dialogue.

3. Leave emotion out of it.

When communicating to colleagues that you’ve been terminated or are planning to leave your current employer, abide by the old maxim, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” According to socials scientists, criticizing your boss for overbearing behavior may result in “spontaneous trait transference,” i.e., your colleagues may assign this trait to you.

Additionally, badmouthing a boss or employer to individuals in your network virtually guarantees this information will rebound to the slighted party or parties. Once apprised of your comments, they may be less inclined to provide referrals or positive references. 

Be sure to respect this advice during job interviews.  If you and your former boss were constantly butting heads, restrict your comments to, “We had different personalities and management styles,” rather than enumerating his or her perceived misdeeds.  Your prospective employer will view you as a constructive realist, rather than a potential trouble maker.

4. Don’t disclose negative or confidential information

A corollary to point #3 is to avoid portraying your employer in a bad light. If your impending termination is part of a larger, planned downsizing, your “I’m being dumped” e-mail message to hundreds of contacts may pre-announce negative news for your company, leading to countless repercussions. Make sure you conduct yourself in a professional manner and leave with your bridges intact.

5. Know your audience

One of the things that irks me the most is when I receive e-mails from job seekers addressed to “Dear Sir.”  Aside from the fact that their skills/experience are a mismatch with our firm’s largely high technology client base -- or they are seeking to be relocated from Oshkosh, Wisconsin to Silicon Valley -- they have failed to even peruse our web site to send a properly addressed missive.

Know your audience.  “Dear Sir” e-mails usually wind up in my Deleted Messages file.

Contrast this first approach with a job seeker who has taken the time to properly address his or her correspondence, and who takes the time to explain why our connection might make sense. It’s also helpful to mention the name of a shared contact or colleague; this creates an immediate connection and reference point. Caveat:  Scrub these names carefully -- if your contact recently alienated one of my colleagues or a client, I may not view them favorably. 

Don’t proffer a reference or cite a relationship without a legitimate connection.  The CEO you claimed to play golf with every month (when truthfully you merely swapped golf stories on a redeye flight) might end up being the next-door neighbor of the HR Director or hiring manager.  Make sure your references have cleared the use of their name before dropping it. 

6. Don’t be a nuisance

I once had a job seeker who e-mailed me every week for several months seeking my assistance in finding him a job.  Though I took the time initially to explain that our work was driven largely by client requirements, he remained convinced that I should be working on his behalf.

The last thing you want to do is alienate your network.  Be respectful of people’s time, and make sure that each communication is fresh and original (i.e., don’t repeatedly send a form e-mail with the same introduction and content). If your network can help you, they will help you. Push too hard and you may wind up on a “blocked sender’s list.”

7. Keep informational interviews informal

Face-to-face informational meetings or interviews can be solid network builders. If budget and time permits, be proactive in scheduling brief meetings over coffee or lunch to solidify existing relationships and build new ones.  Follow four rules:  1) keep it short, 2) be professional whether in a formal (e.g. office) or informal setting, 3) pick up the check, and 4) don’t try to close the deal.  Rushing your contact or prospective boss into a commitment they are not ready to make can only prove disastrous.

Conversely, a feel-good meeting and emerging friendship will help you navigate rough seas ahead. Maintain a steady course and you’ll have a safe landing.

 

 

Establishing Your Network:

  • Make a list of 100 professional contacts you already know (work, school, recreation, community groups, associations).
  • Make a list of people you would like to get to know. Over time, someone in your existing contact base will put you in touch.
    • Today, Alumni Group networks and social networking sites like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter make it possible for you to reach out to many new contacts. Make sure to follow a disciplined approach when using any of these vehicles, researching prospective contacts, initiating contact only where it makes sense, and respecting others’ time constraints and privacy. It is easy to burn a bridge before you’ve even gotten half way across.
  • Contact one or more of these individuals daily, by e-mail or phone based on what is most appropriate.  In some cases it may be possible to meet as part of a scheduled group function, e.g. at an association function or seminar program.
    • Frequency: When looking for a job your goal should be to reach out to 10 individuals daily.  When in maintenance mode, try to contact a couple of folks every week.
  • Don’t oversell yourself at an initial call or meeting.  You should be your own best advocate, but take time to build a relationship before performing a full song and dance.
  • Take time to get to know your contact.  In some cases you may have an established relationship, in others you may be starting nearly from scratch. Find some common ground. Here are some questions that may get the dialog started:
    • How did you enter your current occupation?
    • What do you enjoy most about your current employer and job?  When did you join the company, and what were the circumstances?
    • How healthy is the current business environment at your firm?  Are they hiring, and in what areas?
    • What qualities do you value in a team member or direct report?
    • I have experience in the same (or similar) industry. What advice would you give for someone looking for a new position at this time? (Elaborate briefly on the type of position you’d be interested in.)
  • Be prepared. Make sure you have an updated copy of your resume available and are prepared to articulate your current status and future goals. If you don’t have a resume at hand, exchange contact information and follow up as soon as possible.  (Note:  don’t assume the individual wants to keep your resume on hand -- inquire politely, and take it from there.) If meeting in person, make sure you are dressed in a professional manner.
  • Be brief. Be prepared to respond to questions in a concise fashion.  Don’t give run-on responses or wander into topics unrelated to the purpose of your call. Thank them for their time.
  • Follow up. After initially meeting or speaking with someone, send them a brief e-mail letting them know that you enjoyed meeting/getting to know them and sharing ideas.
    • If one of your contacts provides a referral, make sure you thank them with a formal note.
  • Keep the network working for you. Networking establishes relationships for mutual benefit. Take the time and energy to offer help, referrals and references to others and your network will flourish.

Top of Page


 

Interview Strategies

L.H. Daggett, Daggett & Associates

Candidates today must be increasingly sophisticated about their approach to job interviews.  This is particularly true when interviewing with top brass for a senior-level job.  Savvy managers know that their own continued success depends on hiring the very best people, and they will be rigorous in assessing candidate skills and strengths.

It is no longer adequate to draw on innate communications skills when navigating a series of high-level meetings.  To be successful – and to win the coveted job – candidates must carefully research the company, its markets, and it its leadership.  They must develop a clear understanding of company goals, the challenges facing the organization, and the resources it has to address them.  Once these issues are evaluated and understood, a candidate must clearly demonstrate how his/her skills and knowledge can help the organization overcome obstacles and be increasingly successful.

To be successful in job interviews, candidates must embrace a process that addresses the orderly assimilation and use of information for competitive advantage. Here are some strategies to help you get started.

First Impressions Matter

Malcolm Gladwell’s book, “Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking” addresses rapid cognition, or the kind of thinking that happens in the blink of an eye. I recently had a candidate cite “Blink” when pulling himself from contention for a high-level opportunity; his interview first impressions were not consistent with his professional goals.

We might like to think that first impressions can be overcome by second impressions, but this is often not so. A failed first impression may preclude a second chance. Given this, it is absolutely essential that candidates approach every single interview session as a one shot, make or break, best foot forward situation. Don’t rely on fate to intervene:

  • Be on your A-Game – Get a good night’s sleep, allow plenty of time to get to the interview, and plan your routine the night before.
  • Be on time – no excuses.
  • Dress appropriately – Check with the company’s Human Resource representative to determine what attire would be appropriate for the interview. It should be clean, pressed and up to date.
  • Confident smile, eye contact, and a firm handshake – If necessary, practice with a trusted colleague.
  • Two-way conversation – Don’t monopolize the interview or shrink from productive interchanges. Take cues from your interviewer to determine the pace and topics of conversation.
  • Be positive – Do not (ever) say negative things about a former employer, boss or co-worker.
  • Follow-up – Send thank-you notes by e-mail to each of your interviewers with appropriate references to topics discussed. If you were treated to lunch, dinner, or an extensive facility tour, a hand written note may be appropriate.


Know your Audience

It is essential that you prepare for an interview with extensive research on the company, its markets/products, its competitors, and the management team. You need to know what keeps management up at night, and be prepared to share how you might help overcome the company’s most pressing challenges. 

  • Become fully versed in the company’s story including management, financial results, strategic positioning, products and key competitors.
    • Press your recruiter or HR contact for background on the interview team, including areas of expertise, work style, interview style, and any personal biases (e.g. prefers to hire individuals from large companies).  Executive management biographies are typically included on the company’s website; make sure to review and research this information through your professional network.
      • Make notes on each interviewer to commit key points to memory.
  • Relay your technical knowledge/problem solving skills in the context of addressing specific company or departmental/functional challenges. 
  • Demonstrate that you understand the big picture and articulate how skills are a fit with the company’s goals and requirements.
  • Seek out common ground to engage in a more in-depth discussion of issues that are front and center for the individual conducting the interview.


Focus on Achievements Versus Job Duties

Too often I find when reviewing resumes that candidates talk indefinitely about their job duties rather than articulating what they’ve accomplished.  This is not only redundant, it’s a waste of time and you certainly don’t want to bog down on trivialities during an interview. Be prepared to show your worth.

  • Hit the highlights – If your sponsor (executive recruiter, staffing firm, reference, etc.) has done their job, your interviewer will have been prepped regarding your essential job qualifications.  Take this from black-and-white to Technicolor by focusing on hard-hitting achievements with clear value to the hiring organization. 
  • Walk the talk – This is particularly effective for a job that requires specific technical expertise/skills (Finance, IT, Engineering, etc.).  Be prepared to go toe-to-toe with the hiring company’s technical expert by brushing up on relevant concepts.
  • Demonstrate creative thinking – Senior managers want candidates who are able to devise solutions to the company’s thorniest problems.  If you are asked about a specific problem/program/body of knowledge you haven’t tackled before, state this, then describe the process you would use to investigate and resolve the issue.  Make sure your interviewer knows you have the brain power and the creativity to think outside the box.
    • Once the initial issue is addressed/answered, circle back on a related topic where you have extensive expertise and describe how this benefited a prior employer.


Emanate Performance Success

Certain behavioral attributes have been shown in numerous studies to be predictors of performance or leadership success. While each study focuses on a slightly different set of criteria, common attributes include initiative, influence, leadership, self-confidence, achievement/ambition, innovation, optimism, self-awareness, flexibility and strong communications skills.

  • Showcase your strengths – Using the criteria above and others you believe to be important, prepare examples of situations where you drew on one or more of these skills to successfully design and implement a program or initiative.
  • Team leadership – Be clear about your ability to build and lead teams including hiring, training, rewarding and retaining employees.
    • If you have not previously managed employees but have strong project management strengths, e.g. your ability to set goals, define processes, and lead cross-functional teams.
  • Be prepared to address any known, negative attributes – It is likely that a reference will honestly allude to a character flaw.  Be prepared to address this in a straightforward fashion and cite steps you are taking to improve the behavior.
  • No whining – No one wants to work with a whiner.  Managers are looking for team players who bring optimism and positive energy to their jobs.


Never Tell an Untruth

This is the cardinal sin of interviewing.  Even a white lie or minor exaggeration will eventually come back to bite you. Never ever misrepresent your experience, stature, compensation or any other aspect of your professional career. Companies today regularly perform background checks, salary verifications, and reference checks that will quickly uncover any misrepresentation, a cause for firing.

That’s it. Follow these steps and you will increase your competitive advantage when seeking your next dream job.  Good luck! 

Top of Page


He’s Going Places
Unknown Author

Job Application:
This is an actual job application that a 17-year-old boy submitted to McDonald’s in Florida... and they hired him because he was so honest and funny!

NAME:  Greg Bulmash.

SEX:   Not yet.  Still waiting for the right person.

DESIRED POSITION:  Company President or Vice President.  But seriously, whatever’s available.  If I were in the position to be picky, I wouldn’t be applying here in the first place.

DESIRED SALARY:  $185,000 a year plus stock options and a Michael Ovitz-style severance package. If that’s not possible, make and offer and we can haggle.

EDUCATION: Yes.

LAST POSITION HELD:  Target for middle management hostility.

SALARY:  Less than I’m worth.

MOST NOTABLE ACHIEVEMENT:  My incredible collection of stolen pens and post-it notes.

REASON FOR LEAVING:  It s- - - - - - .

HOURS AVAILABLE TO WORK:   Any.

PREFERRED HOURS: 1:30 to 3:30 PM, Monday, Tuesday and Thursday.

DO YOU HAVE ANY SPECIAL SKILLS?  Yes, but they’re better suited to a more intimate environment.

MAY WE CONTACT YOUR CURRENT EMPLOYER?  If I had one, would I be here?

DO YOU HAVE ANY PHYSICAL CONDITIONS THAT WOULD PROHIBIT YOU FROM LIFTING UP TO 50 POUNDS?  Of what?

DO YOU HAVE A CAR? I think the more appropriate question here would be “Do you have a car that runs?”

HAVE YOU RECEIVED ANY SPECIAL AWARDS OR RECOGNITION? I may already be a winner of the Publisher’s Clearing House Sweepstakes.

DO YOU SMOKE?  On the job, no, on my breaks yes.

WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO BE DOING IN FIVE YEARS? Living in the Bahamas with a fabulously wealthy sexy blond super model who thinks I’m the greatest thing since sliced bread.  Actually, I’d like to be doing that now.

DO YOU CERTIFY THAT THE ABOVE IS TRUE AND COMPLETE TO THE BEST OF YOUR KNOWLEDGE? 
Yes. Absolutely.

SIGN HERE: Aries.

Top of Page