High5Test - Make Sure You are Not a Fish Climbing a Tree

— Albert Einstein

Last month I was contacted by a new service, HIGH5TEST. It’s similar to StrengthsFinder, which like DISC or Myers Briggs are professional assessment tools. HIGH5TEST’s commitment is as follows: changing the world by helping people understand and appreciate themselves and each other.

YES! I am all for that and it’s partly what I do when I compose a client’s resume. And to do a magnificent job of representing a person I don’t know, on paper, I need each person to define him or herself. I need to know why she is good at what she does, what drives him to deliver, what kind of methodology inspires her work, and which skills or talents propel his results.

This is why I have long asked clients who find if difficult to define themselves to consider taking Gallup’s StrengthsFinder test. And now I have a new one to add as a choice, the HIGH5TEST.

I took this test and LOVED my results - they are me to a “T.” My top five (they provide 20 strengths in sequence) explain why I am pretty good at what I do! Here they are:

Philomath - in love with learning. You have to be, to read through clients’ homework questionnaires, job postings, performance evaluations, life stories and professional details. Some clients have remarkably rich "brag” files and have sent me well over 30 pages of information. I read constantly and learn an awful lot!

Coach - enjoy discovering the potential in other people. Precisely. Many cannot see their own value, their own greatness, but I sure can. And I know the questions to ask to source professional value. Even those who were let go due to restructuring or other reasons feel confident about finding a new opportunity after we wrap up our project.

Deliverer - follow through on their commitments. I could not be self employed if this were not so.

Empathizer - great at noticing how others feel and using this understanding to do something good. I know that my resumes and letters do good: they land great interviews for amazing jobs!

Optimist - enjoy giving praise on what’s right about people. That’s my work, to dig out the nuggets of golden value that each client brings to the recruitment table. They are there, just often buried under regrets, over-focus on short-comings, and a very real and unfortunate neglect of strengths!

If you struggle with noting what makes you so good at what you do (here’s a hint: if you say “I’m just doing my job,” that’s a good sign this is for you), take the HIGH5TEST. So often a small investment can make a considerable difference, a positive impact. This is one of those cases! Find out what makes you GREAT!

Tips on How to Poofread Your Resume

Before I accept a new client I ask to see the person's existing resume. I want to evaluate a) how effective the info in it is and b) how much work it will take. This step allows me to adjust the fee and evaluate the project's requirements.

Sometimes I am impressed and know that the resume needs only a bit of reformatting and finessing of content. But most of the time? Oy.

Most "before" resumes are no more than long and sometimes repetitive lists of tasks and responsibilities. In my opinion, they are job postings or job descriptions, copied and pasted.

How do I know this? Simple. Within one resume I'll see bullets written in the 3rd person (as in "he" or "she" does this and that) as well as in the 1st person (as in "I" do this and that). Job postings generally use the 3rd person voice, whereas today's resumes stick to the 1st person.

Here are a few tips on "poofreading" your resume :-)

1. Go through it once with spell check. This will catch errors such as poofread/proofread.

2. Go through it again, this time with your eyes (or borrow another set!), from back to front, to catch errors like "manger" where you meant "manager." A recent management client would have caught a glaring typo in the word "public" and I'll let you figure that one out!

3. Go through again, this time looking for inconsistent use of voice. I suggest that each statement should be written from the "I" perspective. Here are bullets that illustrate the difference:

- Resolve customer complaints. (First person, "I")

- Prepares related documents. (Third person, "s/he")

4. On your next read-through, look for inconsistent verb tenses. Your goal is to have parallelism - a smooth, consistent rhythm that makes it much easier to quickly scan/read the resume, which is appreciated by recruiters who must review so many. Here are examples:

- Resolve customer issues as they pertain to delivery of goods.

- Preparing and submitting related documents.

- Schedule driver routes and assigned work-related tasks.

5. Now go through and, if you've used semi-colons (;) or colons (:), remove these. Replace them with periods or commas, as you see fit. I've rarely seen these used correctly and it's not impressive to use punctuation incorrectly. Many writers also use far too many commas, but that's a lesson of its own.

6. Finally, print out your document and find a straight edge. The naked eye obviously doesn't work for this step as I see tons of resumes where bullets meander rather than march down the page in an orderly line. Check out the spaces you left between major sections and bullets and standardize these. Wobbly margins and wonky spacing detracts from a crisp, professional, "attention to detail" look.

You've likely read that recruiters say if they find one error - spelling or grammar - they'll throw the resume out. I challenge that assumption or, if it's true, the logic of this. Much of grammar is open to interpretation - that's why there are many style guides in use, rather than one definitive style guide in use everywhere by everyone all the time.

(Besides, what makes recruiters experts in the use of the English language and its convoluted grammatical norms? I doubt they are experts in grammar any more than most of us are.)

I am pretty sure your resume would survive scrutiny with one error, but throw in all of the above and any claim to demonstrating attention to detail, thoroughness, good communication, or other related skills, would not pass scrutiny.

If all this seems daunting (or tedious), consider hiring a professional. New Leaf Resumes proofreads.

P.S. The bullet examples above are by no means effective bullets; the simplified sentence forms were used to illustrate proofreading steps rather than effective content.


Rescuing the "ho-hum" resume

Sometimes I am at a loss how to convey to a person, someone who is used to seeing the same dull, non-strategic, ho-hum resume content in all resumes, that a resume can be an interesting read, a dynamic piece of writing, an influential document.

This quote inspired today's blog. I can't begin to count the number of times a potential client has claimed "I'd write my own resume but I just don't have the time." Not the writing skill, not the knowledge, not the ability to compose meaningful and strategic content, but time alone.

The quote speaks volumes. Writing is difficult. I find it challenging to source just the right verb with which to begin a bullet; to identify which of a client's many skills should be showcased in an accomplishment that may have required multiple skills to execute; to portray the client, weaving words and phrases to express his personality, motivations, and abilities with the utmost integrity to his authentic being. I obsess over the details.

And all the above points must, MUST, address the needs of the positions to which the client will be applying. (Consider that sometimes zealous clients provide me with 70 pages of documentation. Job postings, performance reviews, career portfolio ... some people know how to truly manage a career!)

Yes, it's a daunting task, but, it's one that I, as a writer, relish! I have no skills in organizing complex and detailed events and I'll not be training to be a project manager or event planner. But I do have skills in organizing content and developing strategic messaging.

Examples are perhaps the best way to illustrate, so here's a before and after that captures the difference.

BEFORE (taken from an actual client's resume):

- Provided purchasing services Corporate Stakeholders from all Business groups. Tactical procurement for global expansions, with a focus for R&D laboratories, & Corporate Sites.

- Contract negotiations and renewals. Peer Mentor on boarding new Buyers into the department.

AFTER (from client's new resume):

- Provided procurement support to global business groups, collaborating with stakeholders on their CAPEX and OPEX budgets, annual contract renewals, and contract negotiations.

- Supported rapid corporate expansion by onboarding and cross-training four buyers, and by maintaining consistently productive internal client service levels through positive, business-building relationships.

- Selected to corporate assignments, for example, a 2-year project supporting transition to new business software; the corporate team that onboarded acquisitions; to lead teams opening global satellite locations; and to represent employer at global business conference.

The "before" builds no story, has no momentum, and confuses rather than illuminates (not to mention errors in capitalization and grammar). The "after" speaks to the reader as it holds phrases or key words from the job posting. It also offers insight into how this person executes the purchasing position's duties - throught collaborations and relationship building. The "after" also speaks to the prospective employer's "buying motivators," that is, what the employer needs from a new hire: productivity, effectiveness, emotional maturity.

Yes, writing takes a great deal of training. Strategy takes skill to develop. And together, the resume and other self-marketing documents take time and skill to develop an effecive premise, an interesting narrative, and an influential message.