Friday, July 20, 2007

Closing Thoughts for the Week

As another week comes to a close, I took some time this morning to clean out my email inbox and sort through the variety of newletters and alerts that had accumulated over the last few weeks. While the typical junk was still present, I did stumble across an article that I thought I should share with you. Below you will find an article by Alesia Benedict regarding verbage that can ruin a resume. I would like to thank for another insightful article. For those of you in recruiting or human resources, I would highly recommend signing up for this great newsletter.

Enjoy your weekend -

Words that Sabotage Your Resume
By Alesia Benedict

Creating a winning executive resume isn't always easy. The strongest first step you can take is to build a strategy and choose the right words. This may seem simple, but in my experience working with thousands of resumes, one of the most common resume mistakes candidates make is not paying enough attention to strategy and word selection.

When most job candidates write their own resumes, they don't consider word choice. Their primary concern is getting down the basic information. What you might not realize is that verbiage is critical, and the wrong word choice can sabotage your resume.

When writing your resume, it's important to consider your audience. The average recruiter and/or hiring manager sees hundreds of resumes from qualified candidates for any given job opening. Resumes begin to look and sound the same. Using run-of-the-mill wording in your resume hurts your candidacy; you end up fading into the pile of hundreds of others instead of standing out.

Don't let this happen to you! Here are some words and phrases to avoid.

Soft-Skill Descriptions
A lot of job seekers feel they need to communicate their soft-skills to the employer to make them appear unique. There is nothing further from the truth. Soft-skills are claimed by nearly all job candidates and are so common that hiring managers pay no attention to them.

Soft-skill phrases to avoid or severely limit:
excellent communication skills
strong work ethic
personable presenter

Don't bore your reader with these overused and tired phrases. After all, no one writes that he/she takes long lunches, is lazy, and argues a lot with peers. Hence, it is much more effective to write descriptions that are action-based and demonstrate these abilities rather than just laying claim to them; show, don't tell.

For example, rather than just stating you are an "excellent presenter," you could say something like "Developed and presented 50+ multi-media presentations to C-level prospects resulting in 35 new accounts totaling $300,000 in new revenues."

Age, Health, Appearance
Many executives haven't had to write a resume in years. Either they've been promoted progressively from within or have been recruited aggressively by other companies. Now they're facing that scary time known as pre-retirement, and they fear age discrimination. They feel they can counter this perceived hurdle by giving a description of their age or health to "prove" they are not ready for the nursing home! But rather than helping your resume, this approach significantly hurts it. Not only are you toying with hiring laws, but you also make the very issue you are trying to hide stand out in neon letters.

Age, health, appearance phrases to avoid:
professional appearance

I recently saw the following on a resume: "Healthy, young-at-heart executive ready to make a difference rather than play golf all day. Trim, fit marathon runner seeks position as National Sales Director." This person might as well have written "57 year old male terrified of age discrimination and worried that he'll be passed over for a younger candidate". While being a marathon runner is an accomplishment at any age, it doesn't belong on your resume.

Passive Voice
Many people write in passive voice because it's how we've been taught to write "formally." This habit-driven writing style is prevalent in self-written resumes. The problem with passive voice is that it is just that - passive! A resume needs to have punch and sparkle and communicate an active, aggressive candidate. You can't achieve that while using the passive voice.

Phrases indicative of the passive voice:
responsible for
duties included
served as
actions encompassed

Rather than saying "Responsible for management of three direct reports," change it to "Managed 3 direct reports." It is a shorter, more direct mode of writing and adds impact to the way the resume reads.

On the other hand, while action verbs are great, be sure you don't overdo it.

Here are some over-the-top phrases I have actually seen on executive resumes:
smashed numbers through the roof
electrified sales team to produce
pushed close rate by 10%

Remember to keep your resume professional. Don't go overboard trying to use phrases with shock value!

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Salary Negotiations

Salary negotiations can often be uncomfortable and awkward when speaking with a potential employer. As a recruiter, my goal is to 1) Prepare the employer beforehand of what your salary expectations are in order to limit the need for negotiations; and 2) Walk through the process with you every step of the way and negotiate on your behalf if needed. While these are my goals, some clients and candidates choose to negotiate salary on their own. For those that fall into this category, may I present a timely article by Debra Feldman.

Seven Tips for Acing the Million-Dollar Interview QuestionBy Debra Feldman

It can spring up near the beginning of an official job interview, or sneak up before the meeting is about to close. Regardless of the circumstances, poised executives are always ready to answer the most important question that surfaces in a serious dialogue between decision-makers and prospective employees.

Exact phrasing varies but the meaning is clear: "What will it take for you to join our team?" or "What is it going to cost to get you here?"

Does the very thought of being in such a situation make your hands clammy, your heart race, and your stomach churn? Would you prefer any punishment rather than confront this question? Unfortunately, accepting a job offer frequently entails negotiating the terms of employment.

Get prepared and save yourself some last minute angst. Here are a few tips to help you face the inevitable, armed with confidence and good advice.

1. Do your homework.
Be prepared with facts and figures to demonstrate your value to the prospective employer. Know your worth in the market. Research what comparable positions with similar responsibilities command in your industry and location.

2. Make it clear that your goal is fairness.
You want to be compensated fairly with what your colleagues are paid for comparable responsibilities, and you want to be rewarded for superior performance.

3. Show that hiring you is not an expense but a smart investment.
Prove that you will be able to add to the bottom line through increased sales, cost reductions, revenue gains, enhanced productivity, etc. Have tables or charts to illustrate the impact your expertise will have, and use actual data where available.

4. Never reveal an exact number for your desired salary or what you're currently making.
Give a range that will allow you more room to negotiate for bonuses, benefits, time off, etc. because no two jobs are the same and no two candidates are alike. (See tip # 6 below!).

5. Have a bottom line in mind.
Think about what this opportunity is worth to you. What will you give up? Is there a necessity, must have, or uncompromising need? Then be willing to be flexible on the rest. Think about time off vs. salary, educational opportunities vs. conference attendance, etc.

6. Remember that this should be a win-win for you and your future employer.
Make sure that they understand that you want this job and you are confident that if you agree that you're the right choice, together you can make this happen. Take the focus off the dollars and put it on the chance to have an impact, find solutions, and move forward.

7. Work this out with your future boss rather than their HR staff person.
Only your future boss knows what they need and will go to bat to get this deal together for you. It's their budget -- show them your skills right from the beginning with your abilities to negotiate for yourself!

Monday, July 9, 2007

Good Morning and Welcome. Last week's 4th of July festivities marked the half way point in our calendar year and I am personally excited to kick-off the second half of the year. On Friday before I left for a relaxing weekend at home, I read an article by Lou Adler of The Adler Group, An Open Letter to Our Candidates. I thought the letter was so dead-on target and insightful that I wanted to share it with all of you. I hope you enjoy this morning's post and I look forward to hearing from all of you.

Imagine that this letter appeared on the first page of your company's career website, or perhaps on your company's home page in place of the "Careers" button.

Dear Candidate,

Like you, I was also once a candidate looking for a new job. The first time was many years ago, but I've been in similar circumstances many times since then. I also know many people who were my peers in those days who have had, and are having, remarkable careers.

Likewise, I know many strong people with enormous upside potential who didn't achieve their career goals. In many cases, it was by making wrong career decisions early on.

I don't think putting together a career plan and achieving it today is that much more difficult than it was when I started out in business. In fact, with the demand for talent starting to exceed supply, you're actually in a pretty unusual situation. There are a lot of exciting opportunities out there, and it's easy to get swayed one way or the other by the best marketing.

Nonetheless, I'd like to offer you some career advice as you explore opportunities with companies like ours. Perhaps we'll even be able to offer you an exciting career opportunity. Regardless, you have a rare opportunity at this moment if you choose wisely.

While a wrong choice will not be devastating, it will set your career back a year or two. Too many wrong choices could adversely impact your career and life. That's why I felt this message was important to write to you.

First, don't get lulled into a compensation-driven career strategy because you think it's the cool thing to do. If, ultimately, our company makes you an offer of employment, I would hope you would accept it because it was the best job with the most significant upside potential, not because it was the highest salary. In fact, we've implemented a compensation strategy at our company that is competitive, but it's purposely not at the top of our industry.

While we want to attract the best people available, we want to do this by offering the best jobs and the best career opportunities, not the best compensation. We know you can make more money in the short term at some other company, but we don't think you'll be able to find another company that will offer you the best chance to maximize your career growth. We want to be an employer of choice, and in our minds, this is how we want to achieve it.

With this in mind, recognize that time is your most valuable asset. Invest wisely, as what you do in the next few years will have a huge impact on the rest of your life. Those who focus on compensation often select jobs that aren't as personally satisfying, overlook the chance to make a big impact, or miss the opportunity to handle bigger jobs sooner.

While not always true, after a few years, those who have focused primarily on maximizing compensation tend to be overpaid in comparison to their abilities and under-satisfied. These are the people who are always looking for something better, wondering why things didn't work out as hoped.

On the other hand, those who have focused on doing work they enjoy, being given as much responsibility as they can handle, and being put into challenging situations tend to grow more rapidly and find their work more satisfying.

Not surprisingly, these are the same people who get promoted with far bigger compensation packages. The choice is yours: focus on compensation or career growth. Consider this carefully as you look over the opportunities listed in our career site and talk with our managers and recruiting experts.

Talk with people who a few years ago were in situations just like yours. As you'll see on our main career site, we have two big buttons. One says "Chat Now with a Recruiter," and the other says "Chat Now with a Friend." Once you click, you'll discover some wonderful things about our company.

I've asked our line managers, including our directors, VPs, and executive team to join me in this effort to switch our focus to opportunity instead of compensation. As you look over our online job descriptions, you'll notice something else unique. To start with, they're not boring. They describe the real work you'll be doing, why the work is important to the company, and why it could be important to you. They emphasize the big projects, the key tasks, what you'll be learning, some of the challenges you'll be facing, and what you could become if you're successful.

As you look over these job descriptions, notice the lack of the laundry lists of qualifications and experience requirements. Typical qualification-intensive job descriptions like these turn me off. I can't understand why any talented person would be the least bit interested in doing boring work. As a result, we've banned these from our site. Of course, you need skills, experience, and qualifications to successfully handle just about every job we have open, but we'll address that after you've applied. We handle this differently than every other company around.

For example, most of our open jobs aren't even listed. Instead, we've put up something our recruiting team calls talent hubs. These are micro career sites, each one covering a group of jobs like sales, marketing, IT, operations, and product development.

When looking for career opportunities at our company, check out these talent hubs first. They describe the type of work we're doing in this area, the types of people we'd like to consider, and the growth opportunities available for those who excel.

While the basic skills and qualifications are listed, they're pretty broad-based, spanning entry-level to seasoned pro. As we review your background, we'll focus on what you've accomplished, rather than your skill level. This way we can offer you a bigger job, if appropriate.

Even if you don't think there's an obvious specific match, submit your resume anyway. Applying this way will take no more than two minutes! If something is available that directly matches your interests and our needs, we'll show you this instantly. Sometimes we'll even redesign a job or add extra training if we find a strong person without all of the prerequisites. This is where the idea about selecting jobs based on career growth and job stretch comes into play.

While we can't guarantee we can make you an offer, we can guarantee that if we do make you an offer it will be one that clearly provides significant career stretch and growth in combination with a competitive compensation package.

To me, this is a very fair trade off. Ultimately, whether you take a job with our company, this should be how you make each of your career decisions. Accepting a job should not be about the money. While this might seem like a good idea in the short term, if the job is not satisfying, you'll be very disappointed. When accepting an offer is based primarily on the career challenge, the chance to make an impact, the opportunity for growth, and the chance to work with some outstanding people, everything changes.

Whether you receive a job offer or even choose to accept, I'd like to hear about your experiences during this process. We believe that hiring the best people is critical to our company's long-term growth. Everything we do, including how we design our career site and how our managers and HR people treat you through this process, is an important component. Don't hesitate to email me with your thoughts and comments about our unique approach to matching great people with our great opportunities.

Regardless of what happens, I personally wish you the best of luck as you pursue your career goals.