We’ve all received bad career advice at some point. Mine came from an aunt who said: “You should be a chemical engineer. You’d be good at it.” Two years of advanced math and 627 headaches later, I decided she was wrong.
Here’s some bad career advice on resume writing that my clients have received from friends and co-workers. My suggested solutions follow. And feel free to share your own tidbits! You can email them to me at kevin at gresumes dot com.
Bad Resume Advice #1 — Don’t sell yourself too hard in your resume.
Nonsense. You should claim the highest levels of skill and achievement possible in your resume. This is not being pushy or aggressive. This is being competitive. You’re not the only one who wants that job, after all.
Corollary: Selling yourself strongly is not to be confused with making “factually inaccurate statements,” i.e., lies. Stick to the truth. It’s easier to remember.
Bad Resume Advice #2 — People don’t have time to read a two-page résumé.
“By saying less you are saying more,” is what one colleague told a client of mine. Rubbish.
People don’t have time to read a BORING resume or one that’s ILL-SUITED to the job opening. But 95 years of advertising research and five years of my own resume writing experience tell me that long, interesting copy always outsells short copy.
You can say a lot in two pages, which is the maximum length I recommend. Try to shoot for a mix of 30-40% duties and 60-70% achievements when describing your experience at each job.
Bad Resume Advice #3 — Include your salary and reasons for leaving each job.
Never include your salary, and include reasons for leaving in rare cases only.
For example, a recent client of mine was prevented from working in his industry by a non-compete agreement. Here’s how I explained his transition from the seafood business back into computers: “Sold firm at twice original revenue and re-entered high-tech sector upon expiration of three-year non-compete agreement.”
You can use similar language to explain why you left a job or left your industry.
Remember what Satan, as played by Al Pacino, once said: “The worst vice is advice.” While that’s not always true, be sure to consider the source the next time you get a hot tip on resume writing from someone who doesn’t do it full-time ….
Best of luck to you!
Resume before and after that’s what this post is about.
Kevin and I have been working on his job hunt not for about 3 weeks. He got serious about it after Christmas. The plan came first. That took a couple of days. Then we began work on his resumes. Yes, he has more than one but I’ll get to that in a minute.
Kevin’s heard me say a thousand times, The most qualified job hunter is rarely the one who gets the offer! Yup that’s right. It’s not a typo. I’m not crazy. The best positions go to the people who do the best job at positioning themselves as the best solution to an employer’s problem — once in they’re in the interview. And that’ s the rub.
Andrew Sobel’s new book Power Questions: Build Relationships, Win New Business, and Influence Others, is a must read for ANYONE looking for a job.
I asked Andrew to prepare a piece to educate job hunters on the correct use of questions in an interview after watching a perfectly good execute loose an incredible opportunity because she could not engage the selection board during an interview.
While she was being recruited by my team she asked ALL the appropriate questions but during the face-to-face interview with the client she adopted, what I can only describe as a subservient position, during the interview and failed to engaged the selection committee.
The policy at my executive search firm Perry-Martel International prohibits “preparing” candidates for an interview. I adopted this policy 23 years ago to insure that our clients interviewed the ‘real’ candidate and not one who had been propped up by a smart recruiter. The policy has worked well for my clients even though it makes it more difficult for us during the search.
It’s in your best interest – guerrilla – to read and act on the advice that follows from Andrew. It’s absolutely consistent with everything we teach in Guerrilla Marketing for Job Hunters. A sound question strategy will set you apart from other candidates. I have no doubt the interview would have concluded differently had she read this book.
Andrew Sobel is coauthor of the newly-released Power Questions: Build Relationships, Win New Business, and Influence Others.
If you talk to recruiters and executives who are actively hiring, they will tell you that there are three types of questions they get: None, bad ones, and—very rarely—memorable ones. And the candidates who ask the memorable ones are often the ones they make offers to. “You’d be surprised,” a recruiter for a fast-growing technology company told me, “how many job candidates have absolutely no questions for me at all, or, they ask dumb or boring questions like ‘so what do you do?’”
You want a recruiter or executive who interviews you to tell a colleague afterwards, “I had a great conversation with that candidate. He had really thought a lot about our business.” That’s what gets you the callback. And good questions are the way you create a thought-provoking, value-added conversation.
First, avoid these types of questions in a job interview:
- Informational questions. Don’t take up a manager’s time asking “How much vacation will I get?” Get the basic information you need before you go in for an interview.
- Closed-ended questions. If someone can give a “yes” or “no” answer, it diminishes your prospects for having a good conversation.
- “Me” questions. An executive is interested in how you will add value to her organization and whether or not you’re a good fit. Skip questions like “I skydive every Saturday—so will I ever be asked to work weekends?”
Here are the kinds of questions you should be asking in a job interview:
- Credibility-building questions: “As I think back to my experience in managing large sales forces, I’ve found there are typically three barriers to breakthrough sales performance: Coordination of the sales function with marketing and manufacturing; customer selection; and product quality. I’m curious, what would you say are the main factors that have been responsible for your own lack of sales growth?”
- “Why?” questions: “Why did you close down your parts businesses rather than try to find a buyer for it?” or “Why did you decide to move from a functional to a product-based organization structure?”
- Personal understanding questions: “I understand you joined the organization five years ago. With all the growth you’ve had, how do you find the experience of working here now compared to when you started?
- Passion questions: What do you love most about working here?
- Value-added advice questions: “Have you considered creating an online platform for your top account executives from around the world to share success stories and collaborate around key client opportunities? We implemented such a concept a year ago and it’s been very successful.”
- Future-oriented questions: “You’ve achieved large increases in productivity over the last three years. Where do you believe future operational improvements will come from?”
- Aspiration questions: “As you look ahead to the next couple of years, what are the potential growth areas that people are most excited about in the company?”
- Organizational culture questions: “What are the most common reasons why new hires don’t work out here?”
- Decision-making questions: If were to arrive at two final candidates with equal experience and skills, how would you choose one over the other?
- Company strengths-and-weaknesses questions: “Why do people come to work for you rather than a competitor? And then, “why do you think they stay?”
If you want to be noticed by recruiters, don’t talk more—ask better questions.
Andrew Sobel’s new book is called Power Questions: Build Relationships, Win New Business, and Influence Others. It contains over 300 power questions that will help you deepen your relationships and navigate your toughest conversations.
Andrew Sobel helps companies and individuals build clients for life. He is the most widely published author in the world on the topic of business relationships, and his bestselling books include Power Questions, All for One, Making Rain, and Clients for Life.All for One was recently voted one of the top 10 sales and marketing books of the decade. His clients include many of the world’s leading companies such as Citigroup, Hess, Ernst & Young, Booz Allen Hamilton, Cognizant, Deloitte, Experian, Lloyds Banking Group, Bain & Company, and many others. Andrew’s articles and work have appeared in publications such as the New York Times, US Today, strategy+business, and the Harvard Business Review. He spent 15 years at Gemini Consulting where he was a Senior Vice President and Country Chief Executive Officer, and for the last 15 years he has led his own consulting firm, Andrew Sobel Advisors.
He can be reached at http://www.andrewsobel.com
Þ Read about Power Questions and Watch the Video
Power Questions is a No. 1 Amazon Bestseller among New Business and Leadership books
Relate your answers to your career accomplishments. Be prepared to define success and where you believe you are in relation to your career plan.
Map your successes to their requirements for the job. Re-read the job posting before you go in the interview. Remember, they want to hire you because they think you've got the experience they need and they made that assessment form the information they pulled form your resume.
If the employer can't put 2&2 together you better make sure you can.