What Can You Do for Us?

You’re probably familiar with the old principle of WIIFM–What’s In It For Me? On the other hand, how often do you think about WIIFU–What’s In It For Us? Maybe not often enough.

Employers’ Perspective is Critical

If you haven’t put the needs of potential employers at the top of your list when creating your professional resume or preparing for a full-out job search, you could be wasting your time–and theirs. Most employers, if not all, won’t care that you’re a good person who deserves a good job. If they do care at all, it probably comes a distant second to how much they care about hiring someone who can bring substantial value to their organization in a number of ways, such as the following:

  1. Solve a troublesome problem as quickly and cost-effectively as possible.
  2. Spot a situation with potential to become a nasty problem and identify a solution before things get out of hand.
  3. Attract and retain major customers that will significantly increase revenues over an extended period.
  4. Recruit, train and motivate teams that stand out from the rest as super-achievers enthusiastically focused on a common goal.
  5. Elevate (or at least help elevate) the company to an industry-leading market position.

Employers want someone who can hit the ground running and gather the necessary resources to pursue corporate goals with next-to-zero ramp-up time, rather than someone who needs a gentle introduction to the job and plenty of hand-holding to get started. You might think a “zero to 60 in 3 minutes” requirement is unreasonable, and in that case, maybe this isn’t the job for you (but that’s another story).

What’s important to remember is that employers often and not unreasonably tend to put their self-interest ahead of other considerations. Which gets back to “what can you do for us?”

How Can You Determine Your WIIFU Approach?

For starters, you need to know as much as you can about the company you’re pursuing before you submit your resume or make the first contact there. I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating. You’re responsible for scouting out relevant information through whatever means are realistically available to you. Failure to make a determined effort in that area will cost you time and possibly money as well, if the new-job train leaves the station without you.

Here are just a few of the questions you need to ask yourself in order to make your WIIFU approach effective:

  • What sources of potentially useful information can I identify and access reasonably soon? Work up a plan for doing the necessary research, making relevant contacts, etc.
  • What actions am I comfortable taking–or can I motivate myself to take, if they’re somewhere outside my comfort zone–to get things moving? For instance, it’s not bragging to build an online portfolio of your unique experiences and achievements that might interest prospective employers. Then you just need to figure out how to get that information in front of your targeted employers.
  • How much time can I devote to the WIIFU-building approach to my job search, especially if I’m already feeling overloaded? Of course, only you really know what your schedule and demands are. However, it’s surprising how often we find that we can carve out an hour or two here and there, if a larger block of time appears completely out of the question.

You’ll notice that these questions are centered on what you need to do to make the approach work, but they’re still not all about you. What you want is important to you, but you need to wrap it in a package that’s important to the employer. If you can’t or won’t do that, you might as well not bother. Your competitors probably will!


Is Your Resume “Old News”? Think Resume Update

It’s the start of a new year, and you probably have a list of things you need or want to do. Looking at your resume might not be one of them unless you’re on the verge of launching a serious job search. (Some people don’t do it even then, although they should!)

The fact is, any point at which you’re not in or planning a near-term job search is an excellent time to haul out your existing resume and dust off the cobwebs. For one thing, you can do it without the added pressure that a full-blown job search exerts. That means you can give careful thought to the present condition of your resume, consider what might have changed since you last updated it, and take steps to refresh it.

5 Key Points to Consider for a Resume Update

  1. How long ago did you last do a resume update? If it was less than a year, you probably don’t need a complete overhaul. However, anything new that has happened since then, particularly if it has expanded your list of accomplishments, belongs in the resume. Why wait until later to put it there?
  2. If the last update was more than a year ago, has anything significant changed that really should be taken care of? For example, if your job title or scope of responsibility is different, you could be missing a bet by not adjusting your resume accordingly. It might increase your chances of landing the next big job opportunity when the time comes.
  3. Deadwood often needs to be pruned to make a tree healthy and more attractive. The same holds true for your resume. It’s not just that you don’t want to end up with a 6-page resume (you don’t!), but also you don’t want to advertise to potential employers that you’re either stuck in the past or not interested in moving forward in your career.
  4. Even if you had a great resume 5 years ago, times have probably changed since then. The language (wording) you used back then might be considered obsolete, out of date, or otherwise “old hat.” And if you don’t know what that last phrase means, look it up 🙂 .
  5. If you’ve moved in a new direction since your last resume update, the resume needs to reflect that new direction, including any significant changes in the nature or level of your responsibilities, as well as what you might have accomplished in that new area.

Does Your Resume Shout Value to Employers?

Well, no, your resume doesn’t exactly have to shout anything. However, it does need to make your unique value so clear that busy employers can’t possibly miss it in a quick scan–which is about all you can count on with that first look. It has to cause what I call the “eyebrow raising” moment. You know, where the employer goes, “Hey! Maybe we should talk to this person! He/she could be just what we’re looking for.”

If your existing resume doesn’t do that–whether it was last updated 5 years ago or 5 months ago, you have a different challenge: what do you need to do to make that raised-eyebrow reaction happen? For the purposes of this post, though, I suggest that you think in terms of doing a resume update that also (not coincidentally) sharpens your value-added message to employers. That way, your resume won’t be mistaken for “old news” that an employer can afford to skip over. And isn’t that what you want?

Ho-Hum Resumes: Is Yours One of Them?

Sometimes it feels as if I’m playing a broken record on this, but experience shows that too many job seekers still don’t get the difference between a resume that showcases their unique value to employers and one that looks basically like a job description. The latter is what I’ve decided to call a ho-hum resume.

In other words, the response to it is likely to be something along the lines of “who cares?” or “So…?” or even “OK (round-file that one). Next.”

What Makes a Resume Stand Out?

Remember that employers get hundreds, sometimes thousands, of resumes in a relatively short time when they publicize a job opening. If your resume doesn’t stand out in a quick glance through the stack, it might not ever get even a cursory look.

And that’s quite apart from the requirements set up for passing the ATS (applicant tracking system) screening process. If you’ve done that, you still need to impress the people who will actually be looking at your resume and (you hope) considering you as a potential employee.

In some ways, the question should really be: What makes a resume blend into the background? Or to put it another way, why would your resume disappear and never be heard from again?

Job Description Terminology–Good or Bad?

If used with careful thought, some job description terminology in your resume wouldn’t necessarily be bad. However, if it doesn’t somehow bring out your value proposition so that employers can see it quickly and become interested in pursuing you further, that job description wording will relegate you to the ranks of would-be employees who don’t get a serious look.

For instance, there’s a world of difference between these two statements:

  1. Established a sales department; hired 5 employees and initiated contact with potential customers.
  2. Built a sales department that successfully established strategic relationships with 3 major customers in primary target market, creating a pipeline projected to generate $1.5 million in revenue over the next 6 months.

Both of these are presumably factual (or they shouldn’t be used at all), but #2 leaves #1 in the dust, metaphorically speaking. It’s still relatively concise, which is good, but it delivers a “punch” that the first one totally fails to do.

You need to make a memorable impression on employers in the best possible way, and you need to do it fairly quickly. A ho-hum resume packed with generic job description verbiage won’t get you there, so don’t settle for taking that “easy way out.” Create a standout resume that makes you shine in the eyes of employers!

Job Search Expectations–Are You for Real?

As someone who’s basically an optimist, I believe that expecting good things to happen is a healthy attitude to take. However, having seriously unrealistic expectations for your job search is another matter altogether.

5 Common but Unreal Job Search Expectations

  1. If I put my resume out there in enough places, it will get me a job.
  2. Free help can get me where I want to go–people should want to help me if I’m having a tough time but have years of good experience to offer.
  3. All I need to do to my 3-year-old resume is add my latest job.
  4. After I upload my resume to my LinkedIn profile, I’ll start getting job-lead contacts within days because I have a large network.
  5. I don’t match all the major requirements for a particular job posting, but if I use the right keywords, I should still get calls.

What’s Wrong with Those Job Search Expectations?

  1. Quantity versus quality as a job search technique could seriously extend the length of your job search. Also, a resume doesn’t get you “a job”; it’s a tool to help you open the door and land interviews.
  2. Free help isn’t necessarily bad, but it needs to come from good-quality resources. Also, the likelihood that someone will want to help you just because you need/deserve it doesn’t translate into reality. Finally, actively pursuing free support presents you as more of a taker than a giver, which doesn’t inspire people to help you.
  3. Times change. So does the impact of trends and technology on your resume and your job search in general. The way we did resumes a few years ago has changed substantially since then–largely due to factors such as Applicant Tracking System (ATS) screening and LinkedIn. If your resume isn’t up to date in more ways than just its chronology, you’re missing something critical.
  4. LinkedIn is a powerful tool for business/professional networking, and you should definitely have a strong presence there. However, just uploading your resume isn’t a substitute for building a robust profile and is highly unlikely to flood your inbox with great job leads. Sorry, but you have to work at it.
  5. You can certainly apply for jobs where you don’t meet all the major requirements, but just packing your resume with relevant keywords isn’t going to plug that gap. Keywords are important, but they’re not a “fix every problem” solution to your job search. If you’re a savvy job seeker (and you should be), you already know that.

How Can I Have Realistic Job Search Expectations?

To start with, create a plan that might be ambitious but isn’t ridiculously over the top. Then work that plan consistently. In addition:

  • Put your time and energy into the actions most likely to yield potentially beneficial results for your job search.
  • Use technology to your advantage as much as possible but recognize the need to work with what is, not what you’d like it to be.
  • Create a professional resume that represents you as effectively and accurately as it can, but don’t expect it to do all the heavy lifting for you.
  • If you’re looking for help from other people, try to put yourself in their shoes. Would you appreciate an in-your-face, what-can-you-do-for-me approach if it were directed at you? No? Then don’t use it on them.
  • Give yourself a reality check every now and then. If what you’re doing isn’t working, is there something else that might be more productive?

Your Career and the Search for Talent

You might have heard the term “talent wars” or something similar, which generally refers to companies competing for top talent even when a lot of job seekers are unemployed (and some have been for an extended period).

If you’ve been looking for a new job or trying to move out/up from your current job for a while, this whole concept of a talent shortage might seem almost laughable–except that no job seeker I know is laughing about it.

Talent Shortage is a Matter of Perspective

To some extent, the feeling seems to be that companies aren’t doing enough–or enough of the right things–to find the employee talent they desperately need.

According to a recent article by Mike Prokopeak in Talent Magazine, “Luring the Best Talent,” companies’ management teams are lagging behind in understanding the need to change their talent management practices because they just don’t get the extent of the challenge.

Prokopeak’s article quotes an executive VP at ManpowerGroup as saying, “They’re in denial because they think their company brand is strong enough that people will want to work there….A lot of people with high demand skills don’t want to work in the environments we’ve created.”

But Job Seekers Might Contribute to the Problem

On the other hand, you as a job seeker might be a part of the problem. Say what? Of course you’re working hard at your job search! (You are, aren’t you?) You’d love to put your talents to work at the right company and are doing everything you can to make that happen.

Not according to some experts. At least a few of them (including Nick Corcodillos of Ask The Headhunter) maintain that if you’re just following the tried-and-true methods, such as submitting your hopefully-great resume to as many potential jobs as you can, you’re really missing the point.

Why is that? For starters, because it’s the easy way to conduct a job search but at the same time maybe one of the least likely methods to actually produce solid job opportunities that can lead to job offers. You almost certainly will face significantly more competition that way, and it’s harder to impress employers with your value (stand out from the crowd).

Here’s Corcodillos’ take on the situation:
“You write your resume only after you’ve talked to the hiring manager. The resume comes last. It’s not your ‘marketing piece’ and it doesn’t ‘introduce you.’ You introduce you….everyone should create their own because the point is, each is and must be unique and tailored to a single employer….it’s an enormous amount of work.”

Caveat: As a professional resume writer, I could be said to have an axe to grind if I disagree with Corcodillos, but I don’t–at least, not exactly. What he wants, I think, is for every job seeker to make this kind of effort every time he/she looks for a new position. Realistically, I don’t think that’s ever going to happen. Not in my lifetime, anyway.

However, I do agree that you need to put a fair amount of real thought and effort into your job search campaign–and it is (or should be) a campaign, not just a one-off sending out of resumes here, there and everywhere. That includes networking your way into companies you’d like to work for, now or at some point in the future.

As the saying goes, “If it’s worth having, it’s worth working for.” If that means sticking your neck out now and then, going outside your comfort zone, so be it.

Lying or Fudging on Resumes–Rotten Idea

The subject of lying or exaggerating on resumes just keeps coming up! It amazes me how many people–at least some of whom seem otherwise intelligent–make the lousy decision to falsify information in their resumes (falsify is a euphemism for lying, but sounding weaker doesn’t make it better).

With all the publicity there is from time to time about perpetrators getting caught, I would think people would hesitate to take the risk, even if ethical considerations didn’t weigh with them. The consequences of lying on your resume (or in some cases just fudging the truth a bit) can range from getting fired and escorted out to the door to something as serious as prison sentences.

Resume Lying: Why Not?

Setting aside the ethical issues (I’m a firm believer in not claiming things that aren’t true), why is lying on your resume a really rotten idea? After all, some people seem to get away with it.

To start with, you have to remember what lies you told to whom, about what, when, ad nauseum. It’s too easy to get tripped up somewhere down the road, and that puts a constant strain on you. There’s always the risk that someone will catch on to the fact that some of your info doesn’t add up, seems too good to be true or otherwise raises a red flag.

You are never safe from exposure. Never. Sometimes people get away with lying on their resume for years, well into their career, before it comes back to bite them. Among other things, that means they have more to lose than they might have earlier in their career. Also they face the daunting prospect of starting over from scratch at a later stage in their lives–seldom an easy task.

Perhaps most important: Once you are exposed as a liar, your word becomes basically meaningless. You have destroyed the trust that others have placed in you, and betrayal of trust is extremely difficult (sometimes impossible) to regain.

So Why Lie or Fudge on Your Resume?

Sometimes people do it because they become desperate. They’ve been searching for a new job for a long time without success, and they feel as if they need to do something to improve their odds. As we know today, protracted job searches are no longer a rarity, and well-qualified job seekers are being ignored or rejected by the employers they submit their resumes to.

Sometimes you might think that a little fudging isn’t a big deal. Maybe you write a great paragraph in your resume about a project you worked on and make it sound as if it was a long, demanding activity–when it actually lasted only a week or two. Sure, you did the work, and maybe you made a useful contribution in that short time, but is that really what the employer is looking for if the posting specifies someone with five years of experience in that kind of activity?

“Lots of people are doing it” (some people say, “Everyone is doing it”): My stock response to that statement is, “If lots of people rob banks, does that make it right?” Quantity alone doesn’t justify engaging in an action.

Think about this: If you had to take a lie detector test on the contents of your resume, how comfortable would that be?

Here are a couple of recent articles about lying on resumes. They make for some interesting reading:

Job Success: Make Others Look Great

Regardless of what you do on the job and when you’re pursuing a new job or career role, quality obviously matters. You certainly wouldn’t knowingly give less than your best to the situation. In fact, if you’re seriously invested in your job success or career advancement, you’re probably making a strong effort to excel in terms of quality performance. Is there something else you should be doing? Quite possibly.

Your Success Could Depend on Others’ Success

If what you contribute makes your colleagues look like winners, not just you, that’s worth something. Even better might be if you can add value that makes your boss look like a champ. Now I’m not suggesting that you become a shrinking violet and meekly let everyone else take the full credit for what you worked hard to contribute. However, you can boost others without sacrificing yourself if you do it right.

In fact, that’s pretty much the point of a recent article titled “Stop Emphasizing the Quality of Your Work and Do This Instead,” by Ben Drake. As Drake puts it, “no one cares about the quality of your work; people care about the quality of their own work….What matters to others (users, clients, citizens, friends, families, employees) is their quality. If what you do doesn’t make them better at what they do, you’re useless to them. This is extremely important to understand in the professional world. If you can’t provide value, they’ll forget your name 30 minutes after they meet you.”

I’m not sure I go 100% with his statement that no one cares about the quality of your work, but I think the point is that they care most about your work being high quality when/if it affects them one way or another (good or bad). That might sound a bit self-serving, but it’s basically just human nature.

How to Make Others Look Great

To start with, you need to focus consistently on providing value to others–your boss, co-workers, and so on. But, as Drake says, “don’t ask others how you can improve. Instead, ask others what they need from you to help them improve,” achieve their main goals, etc.

I can think of a number of illustrations of this point. For example, if your boss has a big meeting coming up and you know he/she wants it to go off as smoothly as possible to impress the senior execs from corporate headquarters in the UK, what can you do to help make sure that happens? Come up with some ideas and “float” them in a one-on-one meeting with your boss to see how one or more of them might produce desirable results.

This approach plays equally well in a job interview. According to Drake, it’s best if you “don’t talk about your quality. Talk about what you can do for them, not what you’ve done in the past. Provide the vision of how they can be better with you on the team.”

I talk about this a lot with clients when I’m doing interview coaching as well as when I’m creating a professional resume for them. It’s important that you have stories to tell to underscore what you can bring to the party that will benefit the company. “I am the greatest” worked for Muhammad Ali; it’s not necessarily the best way for you to come across!