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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Bad news, folks. Your resume will not get you a job.

Before you accuse me of being:

a) pessimistic
b) overly critical
c) psychic
d) all of the above

step back and think about this for just a moment. Your resume has two purposes - to represent "brand you" and to score you an interview. Period. End of story.

I began my career as a recruiter. Initially, I recruited accountants. Then I set my sights on computer programmers. But I didn't hit the mother lode until I worked for one of the largest professional services firms in the world. I hope I'm not dating myself too much (because it doesn't seem like it was that long ago...) but this was old-school recruiting - before the internet. Hundreds upon hundreds of resumes later, I had inescapably become a resource for job-seeking family and friends (and friends of friends) simultaneously confronted with and confounded by a blank sheet of paper (or a blank screen) and a six letter word. I had learned what seemed to work, and conversely, what didn't work at all. I'm relatively ruthless when it comes to paring down to the bare bones essentials - because one of the caveats of resume writing is, as Joe Friday said, "Just the facts, ma'am." Actually, what he really said was, "All we want are the facts." But that's not as interesting and I digress.

Before I give you my short list of resume writing tips, let me give you a little perspective to chew on: the person tasked with reviewing resumes WANTS (let me repeat that) WANTS to find the right candidate fast. Said person also wants the resume to be a clear and accurate representation of your expertise. So rather than thinking that the process of reviewing resumes is a process of ruling out, understand that it's more a process of ruling in.

So here they are - some of my cardinal rules of resume writing (in no particular order).

  1. Do your research. Find some examples of effective resumes and incorporate what you learn into yours. Really, it's all been done before.
  2. Your resume should be easy to read. Use bullet points to tell the reader where to focus.
  3. Describe your experience in terms of the value you brought to your position and the organization. Focus on accomplishments that you can quantify.
  4. Replace the career "objective" paragraph with a couple of brief sentences that summarize your experience and competencies.
  5. Don't use acronyms that are specific only to your employer. If no one else knows what they mean, they won't do you any good. Spell them out, or better yet, briefly describe them to provide some context.
  6. Consider which resume format may work best for you. Sometimes a functional resume may work better than a chronological one.
  7. Some of us don't want our age to be apparent. It's okay not to indicate the year you graduated from college.
  8. Less is more. Don't mention your reason for leaving an employer. And don't include your salary requirements. Leave out any personal information relative to marital status, children, or frankly anything else that isn't related to your professional experience.
  9. Write your resume, set it aside for a day or so and then go back and edit it. Pare it down. Send it to a couple of folks who are willing to give you honest, constructive feedback, and take it!
  10. Spell check. Spell check again. Proof read. (I don't completely trust spell check.)
  11. Two pages are plenty. If you have anything really important on page three, the reader may never make it that far.
  12. Never assume that the same resume' will be equally effective for every job opportunity you're pursuing. Be willing to modify your resume' based on the specifics of the opportunity or the organization.

I'm the first to admit that none of these is a revelation. But absent the kind of connections that can get you in the door without one, your trusty resume is pretty darned important when it comes to finding that job that doesn't feel like a job.

Author Wayne Dyer said that there's no scarcity of opportunity to do what you love, just a scarcity of resolve to make it happen.

Make it happen.

Authored by Sandy Turba

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Thursday, June 11, 2009

Everyone loves a Top Ten List

Everyone loves a Top Ten List. So imagine my delight when I came across "10 (or More) Things I Hate About Compensation Departments." Having been in the compensation field for the better part of the last ten years, I swallowed hard, took a larger than normal swill of my Starbuck's and prepared for the onslaught.

I won't rehash the list here, but I will repeat reason number 1: the allegation that compensation managers are unwilling to be accountable for anything, even though the combined employee compensation budget is generally the largest single variable corporate expense.
Okay, fair enough. Because when you read the remaining nine or so things that the good Dr. Sullivan hates (Dr. Sullivan is the author of the list), what I believe that he is really saying is what we all know to be true enough: that the compensation function alone can't, in a typical corporate structure, answer to all of challenges inherent in attraction, retention, development, and performance. I'm by no means condoning or condemning compensation departments across our fair country. But what I am saying is the same thing that I've been saying for the last ten years: that compensation isn't just a "science" and that it certainly can't be relegated to a silo.

When we work with our clients to help them understand if their employee pay is competitive, we look to build some business intelligence that reaches well beyond the raw numbers of a salary structure. In truth, the pay rates are the starting point. They represent the proverbial "stake in the ground." We can look at similar organizations in similar industries across the country and pretty quickly tell you if your pay is running with the pack. But really, does anybody want to finish the marathon in the middle of the pack?

Don't get me wrong. I'm not at all suggesting that outpacing your competitor's base pay is the way to win the gold medal. What I am saying is that we need to start looking at compensation as a total approach. How do you develop your people? How do you reward them? What's your compensation strategy? Is it what I like to call "the butts in seats" strategy? In other words, do you provide them with an increase simply for being employed? Are they rewarded more for innovation and risk than for mediocrity? Can your employees even articulate how pay decisions are made? Do they understand the value of their pay? Their benefits? Their career development opportunities? Do they believe they can really influence their opportunity to earn variable pay?

You may not have initially thought that all of these questions were related to compensation. But they are. And if you start asking them, and listening to the answers, I'm betting that you'll see what I believe is painfully apparent to many compensation professionals: that compensation isn't simply one core area of human resources. It is core to the culture of your organization.

Authored by Sandy Turba

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