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    Sunday
    Jul092017

    Setting a new homework record

    As part of my client intake process, I ask  virtually every new client to complete a questionnaire. It's comprehensive, requires thought and review, and takes quite a bit of time.

    No question about it: it is homework.

    This pertains not only to new graduate clients, but also to my executive level clients. I compare my work to writing a university paper: it takes tons of research material to condense the info into a few short pages, rich with nuance and saturated in relevant, informative content. A resume must also have a strong ability to influence, that is, influence the reader to call my client for an interview.

    One of the questions in my homework is this "Do you have a favourite quote, philosophy of business or work, an oft-repeated saying?" The answer to this can give me insight into my client's working style, problem solving, relationship building, methodology, people management - I get a glimpse into what makes this person tick, and it helps me represent the person on paper with authenticity. 

    A recent client has outdone all my previous clients - 12 years of full time work, more than a thousand clients - with the volume of quotes that exemplify her approach to life and work. She now holds the record in this category! Here are a few of the wonderful quotes this client shared:

    "A dream doesn't become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination and hard work." - Colin Powell

    "Seek first to understand, then to be understood." - Stephen Covey

    "Pleasure put in the job puts perfection in the work." - Aristotle

    "Obstacles don't have to stop you. If you run into a wall, don't turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it, or work around it." - Michael Jordan

    I counted 26 quotes. They came from philosophers, books on leadership from current or past "gurus," sports figures, politicians, and even a few of her very own.

    Not only are these useful for my own insight into my client, they will undoubtedly find their way into her resume. To facilitate her step up the career ladder - she is aiming for a role as an Executive Director - I will likely find parallels between a quote and her methodology and results, and include a select two or three in her resume and cover letter.

    I could even suggest to the client that she select several quotes and create an additional - and unique - portfolio document. (I have an idea brewing!)

    I stand behind my premise that it is not colour and whiz-bang design that will propel a job applicant to the forefront; rather, a job applicant will stand out by offering clear insights into how he or she performs, the results his or her performance has brought to a previous employer, and by inference, how his or her employment will positively impact the next lucky employer. (The exception may be for the client applying to a graphic designer job posting.)

    With this mindset, I have created interesting branding pages and addenda for many clients whether in technology, finance, sports, marketing, operations, etc., from entry level to executive. Whether or not I conceive such an addendum depends on each client's efforts in completing the homework fully, with enthusiasm. So much rests on the intake process.

    As one client put it, "There cannot be excellent output without excellent input." I am not a magician, conjuring up resume content out of thin air. I am a partner with each client, gathering information and transforming it from basic statement to influential - and completely truthful - marketing copy.

    There is much power in the written word. I love my work!

     

    Sunday
    Jun252017

    Mixing the old with the new - screendoors and resumes

    A few weeks ago my husband, Richard, and I visited my mom. She lives on her own, although at 80+, it's getting harder and harder for her to do so without help.

    On this visit, I got my husband to replace the handle on her screen door. (I almost wrote "we replaced," but quite honestly, I didn't even watch, never mind help!)

    A visit to the local Canadian Tire, new handle, random tools, and assorted paraphernalia in hand, Richard began his work.

    By the end it was clear that not all of the old stuff would work with the new stuff and hubby couldn't use all the new parts. His solution was a hodge podge, but at least the handle was no longer a  hard to grip and uninviting looking handle, and the door could lock.

    So often it's best to replace something in its entirety.

    It's this way with resumes, too. An old version, maybe a template in its origins, with new bits and pieces added over the years, and perhaps more than one author along the way, often looks rather hodge-podgey. Rather than looking crisply designed, it feels random; rather than reading smoothly, it seems quite haphazard. It's like the difference between a fine, coordinated suit and tie versus your well-worn, at-home "comfies"; between a $40 and $7 bottle of wine; between a fun sundress from your local bargain shop and a custom made outfit.

    Not much of a first impression, is it?

    It's also this way with resumes that I first wrote for clients years ago. Recently a client from 2009 returned for a resume update. He said that he had added a few things over the years, but he now felt that it really needed my touch. And it did, from formatting to content, need my touch.

    Since our initial work about eight years ago software has evolved, and the recruitment process has changed. His old version was no longer compatible with today's norms, not in the version of Word nor in the need to appease applicant tracking systems.

    I overhauled it top to bottom, finessing even previously composed bullets (as many were shortened or even removed to keep his resume to two pages), ensured it met each of today's requirements. My client is once again ready to further his career as a top-notch Tool and Die Maker.

    If your resume is anything other than pristine and crisp in its appearance and ultra-influential and targeted in its content, might I suggest that that may be the reason that you are not landing interviews? Sometimes it's not because recruiters don't know anything; sometimes it's because we are unwilling to spend the money on an entirely new "screen door"!

     

    Monday
    Jun122017

    Satisfying Fullness

    Yesterday I visited my mother. As usual she cooked up some lunch and I brought the dessert. And although usually I bake, this weekend was exceptionally hot and without air conditioning, I did not want to heat up my home. So I purchased a European style cheesecake at the Kitchener Farmers' Market. (I will note the vendor's name this coming Saturday and post it for those in the Waterloo Region.)

    Oh my goodness. Oh my. Oh! It was beyond delicious - creamy, rich, flavourful, absolutely heavenly. My mother and I enjoyed it, small bite by small bite, with nary a word exchanged after the initial oohs and ahhs!

    The secret is not in sugar or fake flavours, but rather in the full-fat ingredients. It is fat that makes a meal satisfying, not salt, sugar, or other add-ins. (Do some research and see if I'm not right!)

    It got me thinking of resumes, this satisfying nature of a product. (What can I say? My mind finds correlations in the most obscure things!)

    I can easily take a three page resume and distill it to a full, savory, filling two pages - without losing necessary information, key words, or context. I know which ingredients satisfy, like fat, and which are nothing but filler fluff.

    With this ability, my clients launch successful job searches. See for yourself.

    On a side note, the cheesecake transported my mom and me in time, back to the days we lived atop my dad's Queen Street TV store near Niagara Street in Toronto. Now a trendy area, back in the late 1950s it was a transitional ethnic area, full of Ukrainian shop owners, who like my mom and dad, were establishing themselves as Canadians. It was a gift of memory that reminded us of the delicious staples we purchased weekly from Pawych's Meat and Delicatessen. Memories! Yum!

     

    Friday
    Apr282017

    Bad Advice from Career Professionals

    Twice in the last two weeks, I have had inquiries from people who have worked with career coaches. Each one, as advised by the career coach, ended up with a resume that would not perform well where the recruitment process included the use of an applicant tracking system or ATS (enter "applicant tracking system" in my website's search window, "free career advice" in the right hand column, for lots more info).

    Now, if these clients lived in rural or town environments, where the employers were likely small employers with no need for ATS-assisted recruitment, this would be fine.

    Shockingly both clients had had help from Canadian university career centres and each one lives in a different, large metropolitan area.

    Here's what not to do.

    1. Do NOT create a functional resume. These don't perform at all where ATS are used to evaluate submissions. They don't even perform well when human beings review this type of resume! ATS are programmed to "read" and score reverse-chronological resumes only. And as for recruiters, they like to know specifics of what level of responsibility you held, what you did, and your impact at each position you held, not that overall you have great relationship building, leadership, and communication skills.

    2. Do NOT use a fancy templated resume format. The advanced programming in some of these - tables, columns, page border, text boxes, shading, etc. - is not reliably, 100% ATS-friendly. Stick to "best practices" as described in the blog posts you'll find when you search "applicant tracking system" on my website.

    It amazes me that the ATS continue to "hide in plain sight."

    Sunday
    Mar262017

    Does it matter where you get your job search advice?

    Sometimes I am booked a few months in advance and must refer clients who prefer more immediate assistance to colleagues. I have sourced only two resume writers whose writing quality - grammar, strategy, composition - I admire. These two also have "high touch" client service similar to my own. And their resumes "look nice" too, with pristine spacing and formatting. :-)

    Last week, one of these referred clients, whose resume was written by one of these colleagues, reached out to me. "I'm not landing any interviews" was his message, and he asked if I would review the document.

    Now, in the past, I've had a few of my own clients contact me with a similar lament. In each case I was able to identify what the actual issue was and was confident of doing so for this referred client.

    Here's the story.

    The original resume was strategized to land the client entry into an MBA program, which it did.

    Post graduation, the client sought out input from the MBA program's career coach, and then launched his job search.

    On opening his resume, I immediately saw an issue. Knowing my colleague's style, I had a hard time understanding why he would have elected to do this one particular thing, which was problematic in today's recruitment process. You see, page one had no name and no contact info.

    Probing the client, I discovered that it was the career coach who advised him to make room on page one to add a few lines of content by removing his name and contact info because, after all, "your name, phone, and email are on page two and three."

    What this career coach wasn't aware of is the implications of the use of applicant tracking systems (ATS), so prevalent in today's recruitment process. He wasn't aware that ATS have certain formatting as well as content requirements.

    I suggested to this client that once he amends this issue, he will likely see an immediate relief from his non-performing resume.

    Also, because the original resume was strategized to the MBA program requirements, not this new job search, I made a few suggestions for "tweaks" that will quickly fix that issue too.

    The lesson here? It does matter where you get your job search input. Although I do not give "advice," I do advise with reasoned and seasoned insights into questions of resume strategy, interview coaching, and job search tactics. Not all resume writers are equal in their own pursuit of professional development and thus not all information is accurate.

    When looking for expertise, be sure to consider more than price point; you must look deep into credentials to determine whether you can trust a professional's credibility.