Monday, December 15, 2014

Periodic Update of Your Resume

Regardless of whether you are looking for a job or not, everyone should periodically update their resume. Considering the volatile employment market, have no doubts about it, the good jobs everyone wants are available for only a short time. For the harder-to-fill jobs, they call someone like me. Regardless, when you identify a job for which you may have interest and think you can update your resume and send it, or contact the company a week later, you’ll likely be too late.
Now, during the holiday period, is as good a time as any as we look forward to a New Year – are you ready and able to act swiftly when / if a good opportunity presents itself? Whenever you choose to update the document that represents you, don’t simply update the same information. Drawing from more than two decades of experience, I’ve listed for your consideration 21 resume mistakes and tips to improve your own personal product brochure – because that is essentially what a resume is, a brochure about you, more horsepower ready to go whenever you might choose to use it.
(Disclaimer: exceptions to the following advice are if your career focus is within the creative, advertising or arts sectors) 

1 Naming your resume file/document
Many people name their resume document in a manner which harms the chances they will ever be considered after it is filed. Data entry staff likely has their own filing system by which they name and file your resume in their database. However, don’t risk falling through the digital cracks. The file should be your name followed by what it is, a cover letter, a resume or CV, which language version, etc. 
2 Stationary stunts
Some people want to stand apart from the crowd in order to be noticeable in the pile of resumes opting to use unnecessary borders, colored paper, color highlighting and fancy watermarks. Don’t do it, it’s only a tacky distraction away from what actually matters – information about you.
3 Unprofessional Photos
If you use a photograph of yourself on your resume, ensure it is professional. Selfies are childish and using photos from your vacation in which you cut someone out of the photo are also silly. Generally, I counsel against photos on resumes. Some pretty people like to attach photos to their resume, but consider for a moment that some folks are resentful; not everyone likes the pretty people, which can also work against you. Furthermore, resume photos are sometimes fuel for comic relief in office environments. I suggest you not use one at all but if you choose to do so, invest a little money and get something professional.
4 Formats & fonts
Use conventional resume formatting. Fonts are an important consideration because many do not scan well. Do not attempt to be creative in this manner, use primarily Arial, Calibri or Tahoma to be sure your resume can be scanned in the best possible manner.
5 Incorrect or outdated contact info
Don’t skip this vital update step for obvious reasons. It would be a bummer if a company you would like to work for wants to contact you and they can’t.
6 Inappropriate contact info
maddogmike@, quervogold@, hotness10@, princessbarbie@ or some other silly name might be cute amongst your pals but it is sure to diminish your chances on your resume. Most people have a personal and a professional email address. I’m trying to give advice to grown-ups, so if you don’t understand the importance of this item, go back to your video game, Farmville, Facebook or other distraction. Otherwise, establish and use an email address with which you are not embarrassing yourself.
7 Personal information
There are labor laws established to protect you from discrimination and to protect your privacy (what little still exists). Remove your date of birth, marital status and any other non-essential personal or family info, it’s not relevant.
8 Vague / generic Objective
Many people list an Objective on their resume. If you do, it should be short and to the point. Generic things like, Seeking a good opportunity in a growth-oriented company is BORING and not worthy of the space it takes up. My suggestion is to leave it off your resume and use a cover letter to elaborate and more effectively make your point.
9 Career history chronology
To be clear, start with the most recent job and work backwards down the sheet. Resumes, which list your chronologic history starting from the oldest to the newest, are just plain irritating.
10 Dates, time periods
Listing employment periods, naming only years but not listing the month’s gives the impression you have something to hide. Always list the month / year you started and the month / year you left each of your jobs.
11 Unexplained gaps in employment history
Be prepared to explain any time gaps. If you were affected by a downsizing or a layoff, state it on your resume on a small line in italics in between jobs; it will help to explain the circumstance for whomever reviews your resume. If you worked for a company that merged with another and changed names, indicate as much so it doesn’t mistakenly suggest you had two different jobs. 
12 Bland “responsibility” histories with no accomplishments referenced
If your resume looks like nothing more than a transcription of your job description, you’re wrong. If you lack much in the way of accomplishments you can list, so be it. Here’s a question that may help you: in your various jobs, what did you do for which you were particularly proud? What sets you apart from others – in a good way? The answer to this question might qualify as accomplishments.
13 TMI (Too Much Information, save something for the interview)To follow up from the #12- if you have many items you want them to know about, use just the best few for your resume and save the others for the interview. Because, if you put everything on it, telling them your life’s story on the resume isn’t much of a reason for them to meet you – and meeting them is the whole point of the exercise. Try to strike a balance. Another piece of advice: the more recent the job, the more important the accomplishments and the farther back you go, fewer are necessary. Beyond ten years ago, just list the company name, dates employed and job title/role. You can furnish them with more if they request it.
14 Never Complain, never explainRefrain, no matter how tempted, to vent on your resume (or during an interview) or they will (rightly) assume this is the way you’ll be talking about them in the future. Just state facts and no commentary, as no good can come of it. A resume, nor a cover letter, are not documents with which to vent injustices, real or imagined. This same rule applies when you interview face-to-face.
15 Obscure abbreviationsStandard and common abbreviations aside, refrain from using obscure or uncommon abbreviations used to save space. For example, 82nd ABN Div FBNC, 11B2P, Sqd Ldr, Sgt E-5, only makes sense to a small minority of people. If you are not sure someone will understand it - when in doubt, spell it out.
16 Spelling & grammatical errorsThis is one of the most common resume mistakes. Imagine, when 10 people must be selected from 100 or more applicants, you can bet that spelling errors and notable grammatical mistakes will be an easy excuse to whittle down those numbers for further consideration. So the best-qualified person with misspellings on his or her resume, might never receive due consideration.
17 Include no tables or graphsOften, these items cannot be properly scanned nor do they belong on a resume. However, they can be part of accompanying documents you can leave behind, after an interview. For more information, refer to the topic of a “Win”- Book, in my handbook and found on my blog  
18 No logosIt might be eye catching and look good but they can be likewise problematic when you resume is scanned. Likewise, they take up space unnecessarily so don’t use them.
19 Length (too short or too long)Don’t worry about too short or too long if you have good information to share. If you have notable experience and it results in your resume being more than two pages, so what. If you want to save some space you can remove unnecessary things like: Objective, “References furnished upon request” (of course they are)
20 No lies or half-truthsGeneral rule; if you can’t validate or back up any claim with documentation or proof, don’t put it on your resume. Besides, if you get caught in a lie, it’s over.
21 No clever slogans or quotesFor some reason people think a clever quote will demonstrate or symbolize their persona, attitude or to suggest they are clever. Demonstrate your persona and attitude at the interview, leaving the slogans off your resume.
Now, you are prepared and ready to go whenever you choose to act upon an opportunity.
Personally, I think a resume is but a piece of paper with little value in contrast to your own ability to represent yourself, in person. But as our world becomes more generic and the interview process increasingly formulaic in every way, there’s no getting around it, you must have a good resume to get noticed before you have a chance to impress when you meet them. Be aware, a resume is but one aspect of the interview process.


Monday, December 8, 2014

Job Hunting at Holiday Time

Does hiring slow down or stop during the holiday season and if so, is it a waste of time to do anything during that period? Different nations and cultures have their own holiday periods when business decisions seem to take a back seat. But for the sake of this blog entry I am referring to Western holiday period, relatively speaking between Christmas and the New Year. And just to be clear I am not talking about part-time holiday hiring in the retail sector.  
I know from many years of experience that as it relates to concentrating at work, most people’s brains begin to shut down to business matters from about the 10th of December and don’t switch back on again fully until or in the days following the first Monday following New Year’s Day.
As such, most folks assume there is no reason to bother searching, applying for or even trying to interview during this period of time. Indeed, it slows down but part of it has to do with this perception and Groupthink. However, if you are looking for a job this does not mean you should sit on your hands just because so many others do. I’ve been directly involved in scheduling interviews, negotiating and signing final job offers as late as mid-day on Christmas Eve, as well as on New Year’s Eve – and so too in the days in-between Christmas and New Year’s. So yes, it happens.
While many if not most of us look for and find reasons not to work at Christmas time, there is a group and among them key decision makers who have plenty to keep them busy right up to and including New Year’s Eve. While most us are distracted with visions of sugar-plums dancing our heads, business decisions are still being made right up until the last business day of the year.  When do you think they interview for projected first of the year hires? Sure, business slows down but I have lots of anecdotal proof of people interviewing, receiving, accepting and signing job offers right up to the final hours of the year.
So if you are a job seeker what does this mean for you? Well it’s obvious isn’t it that while others are not paying attention you still have a chance to accomplish something. More often than you think, doing the opposite of what the rest of the sheep are doing can have its rewards.
True some first round interviews will be delayed until after the holidays. But my message is simple; with the exception of the holidays themselves – those dates, if you would otherwise be following up on potential opportunities and want to in order to gain any small advantage in comparison with others – go for it. The worse that can happen is that your resume or messages might wait until after the holidays but, yours will be there waiting ahead of others who are still half-asleep when they resume work or searching for work into the first week of the year.
I’m not suggesting you don’t take a holiday break; however, if you don’t want to sit around waiting between mid-December and mid-January while others have been on a mental vacation for a few weeks, your efforts are not a waste of time.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Before You Accept a New Job…

Do you remember the old television detective series “Columbo”? He would always stop before leaving, turn and say, “Just one more thing…” and then throw in one last question or request that always ended up making a notable difference in the outcome. Well, I am suggesting you do something similar as a last point of consideration near the end of a successful interview process.
The next time you are approaching a positive outcome of an interview ritual in which you are being considered, if you have not yet met any of the people you’ll work with, request it. I’m not speaking about those you’ll work for and report to, you’re already meeting them at your interviews, I am rather speaking about your potential co-workers. I am suggesting that you mention to the hiring manager or HR representative, “I’d like to meet a person(s) with whom I would potentially work (before my final decision).” You can learn a lot, in addition to that which is shown in a sterile and choreographed interview structure, within which they show you only what they allow you to see. Of course they’ll show you all the good stuff, but in order to get a better overall picture you need to probe to identify and evaluate any unseen warts, scars and potential problems just beneath the surface in order to make an informed decision. How many who are reading this, have had a moment in their careers when they reflect after the fact and have said, “If I’d only known…” And looking back, is it fair to say that maybe, if you had simply asked, you would have known?
There shouldn’t be a problem with this, if the organization you are considering to join is transparent and also seeks to make the best hiring decision. That said, you may get some reticence (resistance) from a hiring manager, but likely it’s because they aren’t used to getting such requests. Plus, HR might resist, because anything that pushes them out of their standard routine confuses them. It surprises many interviewers when they meet someone who is more engaged. Most interviewees nod and smile without asking any insightful questions – and they just want to get through it in one piece and hope they get an offer, only to complain later. What I am suggesting is an eminently good thing for both sides.
Consider this: you have a great series of interviews, management likes you and you like them and there is a happy ending with a group hug. Aw, ain’t that sweet? So then, on Day One you walk in and in short order you find yourself in the midst of a virtual war zone of office politics and ask yourself how something that seemed so good can turn out to be so wrong. 
Good and experienced hiring managers know this and will strive to ensure you’ll fit into their company culture and office environment before they make a job offer. But, as I have stated many times, a number of people responsible for hiring don’t really know what they are doing. They connect the dots between a person’s resume and the job specs and voila, they think they have conducted a good hire. Increasingly, the human factor is being overlooked in hiring processes, and what I am suggesting is a good thing and benefits both potential employer and employee. Even the use of psychometric testing can be helpful, but it is a tool to aid in evaluation, not a tool upon which to base a decision, as too many lazy bureaucrats increasingly do.
So, you have to take it upon yourself to think ahead even if they fail to do so and, why not? During the interview process it is supposed to be a dialogue, a reciprocal interaction between parties. If all you are doing is what you are told, like a dog waiting to be thrown a bone, don’t be surprised later when no one pays much attention when you voice a concern you could have, but failed to even try to ID, during the interview process. Granted, any new job, company, your boss,  co-workers -- it’s always going to be somewhat a gamble of sorts until you get in there and learn first-hand it is a risk for both sides. Actively participate in the very process that affects you in a most personal manner, to the best of your ability, thereby reducing as best you can the risk of unpleasant surprises.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Resume Photo Pros & Cons

Opinions are mixed about whether or not having a photo on your resume or CV is helpful to your job search efforts. It depends on who is asked. Those who come from a human resource perspective will tell you yes. I do not think it is a good idea and, to be clear, I suggest it can actually be counterproductive to your efforts.
Human Resources, those usually the first to receive and process your resume, will always prefer you attach a photo as part of your resume. But know too their job is not to look for reasons to count you in, but rather to look for reasons to disqualify you. Yeah, okay blah, blah, blah, of course they’ll say they evaluate you according to your qualifications but that’s garbage. Hiring managers are qualified to judge your qualifications, not HR; they are just checking your resume against a very short list of items with which to compare and check off. Unless you are there in person, they are evaluating a document, which represents you, and what they have is what you’ve provided them. Make no mistake about it, in the current digital age we interact increasingly less and less, one-on-one. I say it often, human resources is less human than ever and they don’t want to meet you, nor do they want to speak with you until such time as they decide – if you, or more appropriately your resume, get that far.
Your professional resume is meant to list your professional qualifications, accomplishments and provide a chronology of your work history. Adding a photo is a distraction and, more often than you think, it will be used to judge you rightly or wrongly. But one thing’s for sure, it is not a reflection of your skills or ability so why use it? I suppose those who consider themselves to be among the pretty people, the Barbie and Ken dolls among us, are quick to add their image though even for them a photo can have the opposite effect than they intend.  
Additionally, the kind of photo you choose to use can also influence your fate. Ask any HR person and they’ll tell you they like a photo because it communicates something about that person – that very statement exemplifies you are being judged by your appearance rather than your qualifications. I find resume photos to be entertaining and, I promise you, they become fodder for fun and ridicule among human resources and hiring managers. “What were they thinking” is one of my common responses. What does your photo say about you?
There is their chin resting on their hand; suggesting thoughtfulness and a contemplative personality, perhaps even saying, “I’m relaxed, friendly and approachable”. Or the angular look-over-the-shoulder poses reminiscent of a high school yearbook photo. Or the personal photo from vacation or a company party and maybe even having cropped out whomever was also in the photograph. Are you looking for a job or a date, because sometimes I think a lot of people use the same photos. Some of the funniest I’ve seen are those of real estate agents in the U.S., who use Glamour Shots, the kind that were popular in the late 1990s and in the last decade. Overly-posed photos complete with big hair, too much make-up and maybe even a feather boa. I look at those and think of an over-the-hill cheerleader or prom queen striving to maintain relevance, or perhaps a past their prime stripper making a career change. Have I made my point?
Too often perception is reality and varies widely from one person to another. It is quite possible ten different people will perceive your photo ten different ways and your photo on a CV can help but almost never does. So keep it simple and stick with the facts, your resume is and should be about you and not what you look like, which, by the way, has very little to do with the job you seek. Unless you are applying for a job to read the evening news or provide the weather forecast on television, where’s the added value?
However, if you still choose to have your photograph on your resume or CV, then allow me to make a couple suggestions. Selfies are just plain silly, juvenile and suggest you’re not serious about your career efforts. Photos from your trip to Paris aren’t going to impress anyone nor will the photo you like so much in that great outfit you wore to last year’s party. Ensure any photo you choose is relatively up-to-date as it’s meant to represent you recently, not you 5 or more years ago. Better yet, make it easy and just spend a little bit to get a professional photo taken. It doesn’t cost much and if you get a few extras for Mother or Father’s Day gifts,  voila, now it’s a cost-effective exercise. 
Your attire should be professional, period. Translate the word professional to fit within your career niche. Or, put in the most simple of terms, if you wouldn’t wear it to an interview, then don’t wear it in the photo on your resume, duh! Or better yet, don’t include a photo at all.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Blaming Others

In the recruitment industry or market we recognize two distinct cycles, employee-driven and company- driven market trends. Put simply, when the economy is doing well it is more employee driven. In other words, as it was before 2008, when there were, in many respects, more jobs than there were qualified employees to fill them. This meant that companies had to offer more and employees could negotiate for better conditions. However, as it is now, it is the opposite and there are more applicants than there are good jobs. This means companies have the upper hand; they can dictate terms to people resulting in lower salaries and less favorable terms. It’s nothing complex, but simply an issue of supply and demand as it relates to the employment market. With this in mind, what you may have been able to negotiate for yourself a few years ago, the last time you interviewed for a job, might not necessarily be possible this or the next time around. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try, but don’t let your ego be bruised if you don’t get your way – after all, there is a new normal that a lot of folks are already experiencing, even if you have not yet done so.
Regardless, whatever deal you may or may not be able to negotiate for yourself, many people after the fact complain of how they were cheated or treated poorly and got a less than optimal deal. Part of the problem is many people don’t have strong negotiating skills. In order to negotiate one must have a measure of soft skills, abilities that are suffering a steep decline in the last 20 years, as a result of increased online social networking. I am an expert in the hiring process and the negotiations required therein; if anyone wants to avail themselves of a crash course you should get my book, which is easily found on Amazon, but that’s up to you. Other “experts”, whose primary advice focuses on and preaches the virtues of more social networking, miss the point completely. In reality, they have nothing substantive to offer; resume advice and more online activity is mere window dressing.
However, today I want to suggest the most rudimentary and the simplest way to get the best possible deal for yourself when you interview and receive a job offer, even if you possess no ability to negotiate and regardless of whether it is for a good job or that which will suffice until you find a better one. In fact, it is so simple that I feel as though I am insulting the intelligence of many people, though too many fail to do what should be automatic, reflexive and instinctive.
Conduct pre-interview due diligence
Many fail to do the most basic research about a company or job they seek. Easy access to the internet means you have no excuse not to be acquainted with most any organization you may consider working for. Look at their website or search for press releases and new items that can provide you with both positive and negative info with which you can make an informed decision. Career biographies of key company personalities are also readily available with just a bit of effort. Furthermore, you should anticipate one of the most basic questions most interviewees encounter, “What do you know about our company?”, and/or, “why are you interested in working for us?” Even if you manage to get through the process without this knowledge do you have any clue about what and with whom you are trying to join? 
Be an active interview participant
During the interview process many people are passengers and do little more than hide behind their resume, smile and nod on cue to appear engaged when, in reality, they are just hoping to get through the interview with their fingers crossed. I recognize interviewing sucks, nobody likes to interview. But the interview process directly affects you in a very personal manner and the old adage that suggests, “the only dumb question is the one you don’t ask”, applies in this case.
Read the job offer (all of it)
Most people do not read their job offer. Yeah, they read the parts about their job title description of their responsibilities, how much they will get paid, their company benefits – you know, the important stuff. But they fail to read the equally important fine print. For example: many companies who know they call the shots in this so-called economic recovery are flexing their muscles taking full advantage. I don’t fault them for it even if some things they do may be questionable – but I do fault people who fail to review any deal to which they apply their signature without thorough review.  If you need a glaring example, here’s one: there is a very large international company, which has in the fine print of their employment contracts a passage that states that by signing the agreement you waive any right to litigate against them. Imagine, all the labor laws meant to protect you mean nothing if you willingly sign away your rights, but how would you know if you don’t read your contract – all of it. I have read articles in this regard but you won’t find many and I am sure the reason has nothing to do with media outlets owned by large corporations. 
So perhaps you can imagine my lack of sympathy for many who fail to do what is the most basic of responsibilities in their own self-interest, when pursuing and interviewing for any job. If you fail to do what I have described above – which does not require a lot of effort, then you have no right to blame anyone else for what you willingly, albeit unwittingly, agreed to. Shared risk and mutual respect is what should be the basis of any contract between parties, and anything less is simple negligence on the part of whoever fails to pay attention when it matters most. 
For those who think there is an increasingly un-level playing field of late there are two schools of thought; one is that companies, at a time which is more advantageous to them are just seeking the best deal they can for their bottom line (profitability). Others suggest we are drifting towards a techno-feudalism or new age of serfdom, lorded over by large corporate structures, which regard employees as an expendable and easily replaced commodity. Frankly, I can find some evidence of both, but this is a subject for another day. No matter the situation or the cause, all you can do is try to influence your individual situation as best you can – you are powerless only if you choose to be. 
During any process of negotiation, almost no one gets everything they want and there are always trade-offs, resulting in compromises of varying degrees. Anyone who expects to get everything they want on their own terms, when they want it, is either childish or delusional. During the current economic cycle, it is true that companies have the upper hand, although you are a victim if you willingly relinquish your role in the process.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Interview the Interviewer

So many people are nervous about the prospect of interviewing. Most of us hate putting ourselves through it and I don’t know anyone who likes to interview. One’s ability to interview effectively comes down to one primary factor – your own level of self-confidence. Fear and indecision is palpable, our basic animal instincts sense fear. Recognizing it, overcoming it, controlling it requires courage, which Hemingway referred to as “grace under pressure”. Though, for most people this takes time and concerted effort to develop. Regardless, there are a few things I suggest you should recognize on your road to building, re-building and galvanizing your own confidence level.  
There is another aspect to consider that few people want to address honestly – and that is, the manay of those who conduct interviews have no idea what they are doing, they’re following a script or making it up as they go along. I have met hiring managers who were dumber than those they were interviewing but, after all, they have a managerial title on their business card and they might have a degree from a prestigious university. That doesn’t mean they know how to interview, much less attract top talent. And for the managers reading this, don’t kill the messenger, it’s already an open secret. For example: senior company managers are voicing concerns about employees (which include managers), who increasingly lack essential soft skills. But, as I recently commented in another blog entry, the problem is increasingly that their own middle managers themselves lack soft skills and, as a result, are incapable of identifying much less evaluating the soft skills of applicants. I am not ridiculing anyone or being nasty, it is simply the truth and, yet, these are the people who are evaluating you when you interview. Note that when you are asked an inconvenient question you are nonetheless expected to answer, however, ask an interviewer a question that isn’t on their little formulaic list and watch what happens. They’ll get discombobulated if you ask a question that isn’t on their departmental or company-issued FAQ list or talking points, from which they recite nicely wrapped and pre-packaged answers. So I suggest, instead of being passive participants, we should help them along a little bit.
Interviews are by their very nature formulaic because it is, after all, a process, a ritual, with some predictable steps that vary from one company to another. Sure, there are different styles and methods but there are similarities inherent to every interview process. For example: the initial interview is meant to validate you are what and who you claim, as stated on your resume. It is also meant to learn the basics about the job you are considering and being considered for. The second interview is for both sides to gain more details as a continuation of the first. It is also from the second interview stage onward as the appropriate time to discuss money - for more about discussions related to money, see my post from 19 October. All remaining steps concern the finer points of the job as well as meeting others, in order to determine if you fit their company culture (and if they match your expectations).
I want to focus on that all-important first interview where impressions are made. Fortunately, it’s this first real step that is the most predictable. Most assuredly they are going to ask you, “What do you know about our company?” And, “Tell me about yourself?” Identifying the end of the interview is also obvious because near to that time they will say, “So, do you have any questions?” If you know it’s coming, if you want to make an impact and exert a small measure of control over your own fate I suggest you get out ahead of the curve, take the initiative whenever possible; don’t be only reactive, but be proactive anytime you see an opportunity; flip it around somewhat and interview the interviewer.
Instead of just sitting there waiting to be told when to roll-over, speak, beg or play dead – actively engage the interviewer. Let’s put it this way, if you are only speaking when spoken to, you’re wrong. Of course, wait your turn and then impress not only with your qualifications but also your interaction. Take initiative and ask insightful questions, which clearly benefit you as well as demonstrate to the interviewer you are in fact more switched-on than most others they meet. What I am suggesting isn’t as radical or aggressive as it sounds. Here are some easy examples of questions to demonstrate what I mean:
  •  “Beyond the basic job description, as the manager, what are your key factors when considering someone for this position?”
  • “Can you describe for me, what a typical day (in this position) would be?”
  • “What happened to the last person in this role?” Followed up by, “And how long were they in the position?”
  • “How long have you been with the company / organization?”
  • “What made you choose to work for this company?”
  • “For someone who performs well in this position, where is the career advancement?”
  • (your final question of the interview should be) “So, what’s next – do you have any concerns - is there any reason you would not advance me to the next step?” (then stop talking, shut up and listen)
These are but a few examples; there are countless more depending on your particular situation and market segment. Although be prepared, some interviewers resent being questioned. I suggest that if they are difficult to deal with during the interview stage, you might not find them particularly pleasant to work with – but that’s for you to decide. Generally speaking, I find that good managers, the kind you want to work for, react positively to this kind of interaction, and for them it is like a breath of fresh air compared with most droids who nod and smile on cue but offer little else during interviews.
So rather than relying solely on the interviewer to know and show you the way, take responsibility for yourself, take the initiative to exert more influence on your own fate. But, if you’re going to take the initiative you should be fully prepared to be able to back up any claims you make, and be able to prove successes if challenged with provable anecdotal or documented evidence. At the end of the interview, if you feel confident you can take it a step further by offering references before you are asked (provided your references have already been warned ahead of time you may refer to them). Do it with confidence, this kind of toe-to-toe active interview participation differs hugely from most everyone else out there and you will stand in contrast to others. As I stated above from the start, it’s about confidence in your own abilities and rejecting the timid approach to which too many people have been reduced by current trends, which are sometimes designed to diminish you.
If you are looking for yet another reason to do what I am suggesting, if you choose to behave like, sound like, the rest of the sheep, when it comes time for a hiring manager to determine who among the applicants will advance to the next stage, why should they choose you?


Monday, October 27, 2014

Most Outplacement Programs Are a Sham

I’m only saying what many who’ve participated in such programs already know. Most outplacement programs are mostly hype, delivering little substance. Or, as I like to say, they are 90% smoke and only 10% horsepower (or less) and a rip-off for the companies that pay for them. The reason is simple, the purveyors of typical outplacement services over-promise and vastly under-deliver how much they will do for those they are supposed to help.
Outplacement services are often utilized when a company downsizes headcount for whatever reason. Another example may be universities or trade schools, which offer outplacement services as a part of their programs. Yet another might be outplacement services offered to military service members who are completing their enlistments or careers. Without going into detail because, after all, this is a blog and not an in-depth article, let’s look at what many outplacement programs consist of.
A primary component of any outplacement program or service is helping people with their resumes. They claim to help to construct a professional resume and all that goes along with it such as being able to scan and having a generally standardized structure and format. Another component they might boast is to connect you with companies where you can utilize your skills and experience. Now this all sounds nice, but most often all they are doing is helping you to post your resume to a job board or portal; maybe they have relationships with a few companies looking for people with your skills, but that’s about as far as it goes.
So then, what do we have in reality – resume help and assistance posting your stuff online? Is that the best there is? Seems to me companies are paying a lot of money for outplacement help that doesn’t provide much help, neither for the client company paying for the services nor the people they are supposed to be helping. Come on, resume templates and advice can be found all over the place, online. And posting your resume onto job portals is within the grasp of most people. Sounds real helpful doesn’t it (sarcasm)?
At the risk of sounding cynical, these programs are so obviously worthless that one might conclude senior company management provides these services for employees they are cutting loose, as a CYA measure to create the fa├žade that they care about employees they are letting go. In reality, most senior managers do want to provide a substantive resource to help their employees to transition. But even companies are increasingly displeased with so-called outplacement services for which they pay handsomely. I’ll go still further, by saying the majority of outplacement service providers are either ill-equipped to provide any real services – or they are charlatans.
The problem is the focus of these programs. Outplacement is about helping people, not resumes or helping someone to access an online service – any 13-year-old can do the same thing and therein lies the key issue. If you are not teaching people to help themselves, you’re not really helping them. Rather, it should be about empowering or re-empowering people; providing them with substantive information they can capitalize on and from it build a foundation to help them move their lives forward.
I write about and say it until I am blue in the face; it takes more than a resume and online activity to get the results you want or need – much more. At a time when college grads are fighting over bartending and wait staff jobs, if you think a piece of paper and online activity, just going through the motions, is all that’s necessary, then you just don’t get it - or you’re in denial. If, on the other hand, you recognize something’s not working, then perhaps it is about time to rethink your strategy.
So, what are you going to do beyond monitoring job portals and limiting yourself to what everyone else is doing – which isn’t much? What other methods for finding job opportunities are you going to capitalize on? What are you going to say when you find yourself seated in front of a hiring manager and they say, “So tell me about yourself?” - I certainly hope you’re not going to recite / read from your resume. Do you know when and how best to discuss money and compensation? Do you possess any basic negotiating or closing skills? What about follow up? Are you going to be proactive or will you sit around waiting for an email, or for your phone to ring? What about cover letters, references, how to handle job offers – both verbal and written? How many outplacement programs cover these subjects? Do you know of any? No, I didn’t think so. Well, I teach this stuff but there are increasingly very few who are even capable of learning.
If you are a company executive who will, perhaps, have need to facilitate and provide outplacement services, I hope for the sake of the employees you claim you want to help that you’ll demand more from service providers. And if you’re an employee who’ll have need of outplacement assistance, take full advantage of it but press for more than simply being led through the motions. You, as an individual, need to invest the time necessary to upgrade your own abilities so you can maximize your job search and interviewing efforts.