I was reading Abby Kohut’s excellent book, Absolutely Abby’s 101 Job Search Secrets, and came across this statement:
“Prepare a good reason for any gaps on your resume in addition to an explanation of what activities you were involved in that may have enhanced your career, including personal activities. Gaps are typically not the reason why candidates are rejected. It’s the inability to explain them sufficiently, and or a lack of confidence about them that is likely to be a concern for recruiters.”
I concur 100%.
Candidates are always worried about their flaws. This is natural. However, it’s generally not the flaws themselves that hold them back, it’s how they deal with them.
If you present with confidence, and have a good response to questions about your flaw, that will go a long way to minimizing the impact of that flaw.
For example, consider this most difficult situation - where a candidate was actually fired (unfairly) from their last job - this post walks through how to deal with that simply and with confidence:
The key in these cases is to not dwell on the flaw, and to focus on the future - what you can do, what you hope to do, what you have learned from the problem that will ensure it will never happen again - whatever answer best fits your situation. Make it simple, and then shift attention to what you can confidently do.
One other point: Any time there is a gap or other flaw in your background, you are going to be much easier to screen out when you are trying to come through the front door, competing head to head with every other candidate who knows about an opening. The busy HR screener or recruiter who is thumbing quickly through 100’s of résumés to find the handful to present to a hiring manager is that much more likely to take a pass on yours.
This cries out for even more emphasis on networking. When you talk to someone outside of the “is he / she qualified for this job” evaluation mode, you have a chance to get that person engaged. You can talk about your package. You can explain (briefly) the flaw in context. And you can get then thinking about why you would be a great candidate, so that you can come into being evaluated for a position with a supporter.
For more on how to make this networking happen, see these articles:
“I’m a results-oriented professional…”
or this variation:
“Proven results in…”
These are used all the time in résumés and cover letters, or even in oral 30 second pitches…and they do absolutely nothing for you.
Remember the adult voices on all the Charlie Brown specials, how they were purposely designed not to be understood? That’s basically what empty phrases like these sound like; all the other party reads or hears is “blah, blah, blah.”
The problem is that these are just statements that you produce results, instead of demonstrations. It’s easy to simply say you produce results or are results-oriented, and saying it doesn’t make it true, or make me any more likely to believe it.
Instead, give concrete examples of the results you produce. Let the readers and listeners conclude from your examples that you are ‘results-oriented’, instead of trying to hit them over the head with it.
For example, if I was trying to show someone that I was “results-oriented,” instead of:
“I have proven results in helping my clients with their job searches.”
This would be much more powerful:
“Kevin had been out of work for 2 years, and within a few months of working together was back at the job and pay he deserved. And a simple technique I showed him earned him an additional $10,000 of base salary.”
“Tom had 15 months of interviews without a single offer. Within 1 week of attending my Winning Interviews course, he was weighing 2 competitive job offers.”
So strike empty statements that say you have results from your repertoire, and instead show the proof of the results.
And have a Happy New Year!
In my travels, I get to hear and see a lot of elevator pitches, marketing messages, sales pieces, cover letters, résumés, engagement bios, etc. Most of these include phrases that range from meaningless to unhelpful to seriously detrimental to any attempt to market yourself or your practice.
Over the next several weeks, I’m going to publish my thoughts on many of these. I invite your comments, and suggestions as to other phrases that frustrate you. Drop me an email at John@JHACareers.com, or simply insert your phrase in a comment here, and I’ll promote it to a new topic.
OK, here’s the first:
“I have transferrable skills.”
Ask yourself what the potential hiring manager or networking contact is hearing.
“I hope someone will consider me for something that my skills might apply to.”
“I don’t have confidence to present myself directly for a role I might want, so I’ll simply say my skills are transferable.”
“I’m not willing to commit to any one thing.”
Not exactly awe-inspiring messages, are they?
Instead of saying this, come up with a description of the type of problem you can solve with those ‘transferrable skills’, as relevantly as you can make it to your ideal target area, and then talk about that!
I was interviewed for an article in amNewYork…
Candidates so often focus on their responsibilities, duties and experience in their résumé, cover letter, elevator pitch, etc.
This is an interest killer. Talking about things you were responsible for doesn’t say anything about the quality of your work or the results you can produce. The only reason I would hire you is because I believe you will produce results that I am interested in, so go directly to those.
So what if you were “responsible for managing a unit of 10 engineers”? What about that says you were any good at managing them? And it’s a very passive statement to boot!
“Responsible for” is so easily eliminated - instead of the above, just say “Managed a unit of 10 engineers” - now it’s an active statement. And then add a result, like “Managed a unit of 10 engineers that generated 3 new revenue-genering products within only 1 year.”
So, please, avoid my pet peeve of focusing your message on what you were responsible for, what duties you performed, and your years of experience in a certain area!
Here are some other simple tips for creating a powerful résumé:
My son ran into his High School AP Biology teacher at the grocery store yesterday. George was thrilled to see him, and told him how much he appreciated the thank you card Michael sent him for writing a recommendation letter in support of Michael’s scholarship application. George went on to say, “Out of the hundreds of AP students I’ve written recommendations for, how many thank you notes do you think I’ve received?”
His answer: “Zero.”
Just think about what a difference it makes to someone to be appreciated! Michael literally made his mentor’s day with that card. How much influence and (positive) visibility will you create for yourself just by simple steps like this, where all you are doing is the right thing - something our parents and grandparents taught us?
And with the low percentage of people who take the time to take the extra step to thank people in writing (even if it’s by email), you have a great opportunity to stand out from the crowd!
By the way, George also commented on how professional the card was that Michael sent him. If you’re interested in a simple system that will make it extremely easy (and inexpensive) to send very professional, personalized cards, here’s what Michael used, and what I use in my own business, as well as for all my personal birthday, anniversary, holiday, etc. cards: