Never Use a Functional Resume

I have been a recruiter since 2003 and a career counselor since 2009.  During this time I must have received hundreds of functional resumes.  Not in some; not in most; in ALL cases the sender was trying to hide something.  Allow me to explain:

Most job seekers either don’t know, or have forgotten, what the purpose of a resume is.  Traditionally, we say, “The purpose of the cover letter is to get the recipient to look at the resume; the purpose of the resume is to get the interview.”  True enough.  But the real purpose of the resume is to tell the recipient what they want to know.

So what does a resume recipient want to know?

First, where you live and how to contact you.  If they are conducting a search for local candidates only, and you are across the country, they don’t want to waste their time with you.  Not including your city and state of residence (no one needs to know your actual address), will not get you an interview.  At best, you will get a very short conversation:  “Where do you live?”  “Thank you, but we are only considering local candidates.  It’s on the job description!”

Second, can you keep a job?  How long did you work for your various employers?

Third, do you meet the minimum qualifications for consideration meaning, do you have the necessary education (degree), certifications, licenses, etc., not to mention years of experience?

Fourth, if you pass the first three tests, what were your most recent accomplishments.

That’s it.  Four things.  If your resume does not make those four clear, you will not be considered.

So what’s the problem with function resumes?

They usually begin with a description of the applicant’s accomplishments/ responsibilities by category.  For example, let’s say it is a business development professional.  There may be  headings for “Sales,” and “Marketing,” and “Client Acquisition and Retention,” and “Customer Service.”  Under each the owner will list their accomplishments and specific responsibilities.

That is all fine and good, but let’s say that the employer is interested in “Client Acquisition and Retention,” and the person has not been involved with that for 10 years.  That is something that they need to know but will not appear on a functional resume.  So when the employer calls and ask, “How long ago was your client acquisition and retention experience?” , that conversation will also be very short.

Under “Work Experience,” some persons list all current and past employers, but have one general heading for the years.  Except for the basics: name, title, location, there’s no content.  That sends the message that the applicant probably only had one job, if that, for a significant amount of time.  They are a jumper.  Employers don’t hire jumpers.

In other words, a functional resume sends the message:  I don’t want you to know how long I worked for my various employers and when was the last time I actually did what you are interested in hiring someone to do.

Stick to the traditional chronological resume.  Start with your name, city and state of residence, and contact information.  Don’t waste your time with an introductory paragraph telling the recipient how great you think you are; they do not care.  What they care about is what you have actually accomplished.  So start with “Selected Accomplishments” and half a dozen bullet points.  Then comes “Work Experience,” showing dates, employer name, your title, and what you actually did for the employers.  Then “Education,” “Certifications,” “Skills and Languages,” and “Volunteer Activities.”  And if you have them, “Awards and Honors,” “Publications,” “Media Citations,” and “Speaking Engagements” – all the things that tell employers that other people think you are as great as you think you are!

If you want an employer to call you, make certain your resume clearly answers their questions:  Where do you live and how can I reach you?  Can you keep a job?  Are you qualified?  What have you actually accomplished in your career that will make me confident you are the right person to solve my problems and how long ago was that?

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Bruce Hurwitz is an executive recruiter, career counselor and business advisor.  In addition to serving on the Board of Directors of the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce, he chairs their Entrepreneurs Network, hosts their weekly podcast – The Voice of Manhattan Business – and serves as an Ambassador.  Visit the homepage of his website, www.hsstaffing.com, to read about the latest questionable offerings of so-called job search assistance companies.

You Only Need One Resume

When someone signs up for career counseling, I ask them to send me their resume and, if they have one, a sample cover letter.  No surprise there; I’m sure we all do it.

A new client said he had a few and would send them to me so I could choose the best one.  When his e-mail arrived with the attachments I called him to confirm that he had actually sent what he has sent.  There were 23 resumes!  He explained that he would “tweak” the resume to better match each job for which he was applying.  I looked at the first 10 and gave up.

I called him back and asked him to send me the one resume that had gotten him the most interviews.  There were none.  So, as the basis of our 2-hour consultation, which got the ball rolling, so to speak, I used his most recent.

He had made all of the classic mistakes:

First, no city and state of residence.

Second, there was, front and center, an “Objective.”

Third, he had a “Professional Statement.”

The rest of the resume was fine.  If you bothered to read it, you would get an accurate summary of his professional career.  He is good at what he does.

So what we did was to add on his city and state of residence, and lose the nonsense, which we replaced with a section titled, “Selected Accomplishments.”   There were now half a dozen bullet points, front and center, that gave an employer six concrete verifiable reasons to meet with him.  The only changes he would now make in the resume, if he was so inclined to do so, would be in the order of the bullets.

The reasons you don’t want to have multiple resumes is that (a) it can get very confusing; (b) if you are just adding keywords because they appear in a job description, even though you really have no experience with what they represent, you will get caught in the lie; and (c) if, and it may very well happen, you send two different resumes to the same employer, they will suspect something is wrong.

So all you need is one resume and, if you are so inclined, rearrange your highlighted accomplishments.

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Bruce Hurwitz is an executive recruiter, career counselor and business advisor.  His posts on LinkedIn have been read close to a quarter of a million times and have garnered international media attention.   In addition to serving on the Board of Directors of the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce, he chairs their Entrepreneurs Network, hosts their weekly podcast – The Voice of Manhattan Business – and serves as an Ambassador.  An advocate for the protection of job seekers, visit the homepage of his website, www.hsstaffing.com, to read about questionable offerings of so-called job search assistance companies.

How to fill a resume gap

There are resume gaps and then there are resume gaps.

The first gap is because of stupidity.  You robbed the Bank of England.  You got caught.  You did your time.  So what do you put on your resume?  I was stupid.  I robbed the Bank of England.  I got caught.  I did my time.  And this is what I learned.

Given that this is such an emotional topic for some people, I thought I would begin with a bit of levity.  Hopefully it worked.  (Actually, it’s not such a bad idea!)

Now let’s get serious.

The first type of gap is that caused by a personal situation.  Usually this is being a caregiver for an elderly relative.  Under “Work Experience,” list it as follows:

Caregiver (Parent had Alzheimer’s)     2013-2016

Responsibilities included:

  • Scheduling of appointments
  • Dealing with insurance issues
  • Interacting with medical staff
  • Vetting recreational, health and social facilities
  • Securing a residence (“adult-proofing”)
  • Negotiating
  • Learning patience

I worked for a number of years in a nursing home and think this list is accurate; I know it is incomplete.  What employer would not want someone who has been through this, there’s no better word for it, hell?  If I had a client, an employer, who was looking to fill a Customer Service position, this is the person I would want to submit.

The next type of gap is that which is due to the fact that you lost your job, for whatever reason, and have not been able to find employment for some time.  In this case I would suggest the following.

Under “Work Experience,” for your most recent “job” write, “Employment Related Activities.”  What you want to do is to show the employer that you are not the type of person who remains idle.  You want the employer to see that you don’t waste your time.  During your unemployment you have bettered yourself.  This is what I mean:

Work Experience

Employment Related Activities       2012 – Present

  • Completed the following on-line courses:
  • Took the following non-profession related assignments:
  • Established a professional networking group on LinkedIn resulting in:
  • Volunteering:

XYZ Corporation, New York, NY      2009 – 2012

Marketing Director

  • Identify prospects
  • Prepare marketing materials
  • Oversee social media
  • Etc.

(XYZ is included just for the visual.)

Let’s look at each of the “Activities” individually:

Completed the following on-line courses:

The message you are sending to the employer is that you are current in your field.  Of course, the courses do not have to only be “on-line.”  In-person classes are even more valuable because they will expand your network as you interact with faculty and students.  And if they result in a certification or license, so much the better.  Anything that can increase your value to an employer will aid in getting you hired.

Took the following non-profession related assignments:

Now you can show that you can leave your ego at the door and do what you have to do to pay your bills.  So what if you drive for Uber?  Or stock the shelves at the local supermarket?  That is nothing of which to be ashamed!

Established a professional networking group on LinkedIn resulting in:

There’s what I call a con, a lie, phoniness.  People put on their LinkedIn profiles that they are the “Founder” of a something that sounds impressive but is either non-existent or a LinkedIn group.  It’s nonsense and really won’t full anyone.  But if it is real, include it on your resume.

What constitutes “real?”  Having the answers to these questions:  How many members do you have? How did you get them? What is their average involvement? How many discussions are there? How many comments? What, in general is the level of involvement and interaction? How many real relationships do you know about that have come from involvement in the group?

The beauty of a real group is that it will raise your professional reputation.  But it will take a lot of work and a lot of time, time which may be better spent networking in the real world.  There are only so many hours in the day so you have to decide where your time is best spent.

Volunteering:

When you volunteer you are actually doing work, albeit without monetary compensation.  The key is to make certain you are using your professional skills and not stuffing envelopes.  You want to accomplish three goals: (1) help the cause; (2) keep sharp professionally; and (3) be seen by people who will value the quality of your efforts and either offer you a job or help you obtain a job.  Volunteering is a great way to feel useful, stay sharp, gain new meaningful experiences, and expand your network.

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Bruce Hurwitz is an executive recruiter, career counselor and business advisor.  In addition to serving on the Board of Directors of the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce, he chairs their Entrepreneurs Network, hosts their weekly podcast – The Voice of Manhattan Business – and serves as an Ambassador.  Visit the homepage of his website, www.hsstaffing.com, to read about the latest questionable offerings of so-called job search assistance companies.

Why You Should Not Hire a “Professional Resume Writer”

A week or so ago I received a message from a first-degree connection on LinkedIn.  She was absolutely giddy with anticipation.  She informed me that the following day she would send me her new resume which was prepared by a “professional resume writer.”  I laughed.   I also told her that she should e-mail it to me (for some reason I cannot always open attachments to LinkedIn messages) and that I hoped she had not wasted her money.  She had…

I can’t say that it is the worst “professionally” written resume I have received, but if not, it’s pretty high on the list.  Here’s the problem:

“Professional resume writers” probably have never hired anyone in their lives.  Accordingly, as they have never been employers they can’t think like employers.  So for them a resume is a marketing tool akin to any marketing collateral for any commodity purchased at the supermarket.  So their resumes are all hype focused on attributes and benefits, the old-school way to market breakfast cereal or anything else people are looking to buy.  Problem is, employers don’t care about attributes and benefits, they care about solving their immediate problem.  Moreover, today marketing is all about storytelling, not preaching (attributes and benefits).

So what did, let’s call her “Mary,” send me?

Her resume begins with her name, place of residence, contact info and LinkedIn profile URL.  Then things go south.  The resume begins with the following professional summary for a “Director of Operations/Production:”

Consummate leader with entrepreneurial spirit and 25+ years of progressive corporate strategy, operations, logistics, and business development experience in competitive manufacturing environments; record of exceptional performance in transforming unprofitable corporations, assembling top-performing teams, and influencing positive, growth-oriented outcomes. Persuasive communicator, analytical thinker, and innovative problem-solver with established ability to align individual departments with business goals, streamline processes, and deliver results.   

I have interviewed hundreds of job candidates.  When I ask them to tell me about themselves no one has ever begun, “I’m a consummate…” anything.  Why?  Because it sounds obnoxious.  That’s not how you introduce yourself in person or on paper.

So what do I know about Mary from her professional summary?  She thinks very highly of herself, is old, and can’t site a single justification for her self-praise.  I don’t have a clue what she has actually done!  Moreover, this summary could have been written about anyone who started their career over a quarter century ago.  Do you know what industry she is in?  I don’t either.  Shouldn’t we?

The next section is titled, “Signature Strengths.”  What are they?

  • Driving bottom-line gains by analyzing existing operations, identifying areas of weakness, and implementing transformative solutions that enhance profit margins, cash flow, and efficient application of resources.
  • Strengthening corporate management with exceptional timeline development and organizational capabilities; manage concurrent large-scale initiatives with competing priorities on time and within budget.
  • Key thought leader and big-picture strategist; thrives in challenging and constantly evolving markets with comfort communicating, advising, and influencing at all levels of an organization.
  • Energizing cross-functional teams with leadership experience across all aspects of manufacturing operations, from production and logistics to market expansion and business development.
  • Turnaround expert with deep experience in inventory management, turnover optimization, process streamlining, quality control, documentation and reporting, cost reduction, and employee engagement.

Same problems: This could pertain to just about anyone in her profession and in any industry.  And not a single actual accomplishment is listed.

Then things get interesting.  Even though she has been working for more than 25 years, the resume only goes back to 2002.  Only four employers are listed (she had two jobs with one employer) and only in the last two are accomplishments listed (one for each).  So for the first two employers she has listed on her resume there is not a single accomplishment worthy of being highlighted (literally)!  (To be fair, three other employers are listed under “Early Career,” but with no details, including dates of employment, are given.  Apparently she had no accomplishment in her “Early Career” either!)

Here’s the problem:  The “professional resume writer” was giving her client what she wanted, something that makes her appear to be really good at what she does.  The thing is, resume recipients are only interested in one thing:  What can you do for me?  Ok, two things:  And prove it!

So how do you do that?  Simple.  Just begin with a section titled, “Selected Accomplishments.”  Half a dozen bullet points highlighting what you have done for past employers.  That will give an employer confidence that you are at least worthy of an initial phone interview.  No employer cares what you think about yourself.  Employers only care about solving their own problems.  You can’t prove to an employer that you are the solution they need if you are focused on what you want to say and not on what they want to hear.

And just to finish off the resume, the next and final section is “Education.”  One would think that such a “consummate” professional would have at least one speaking engagement, media citation, award or honor to list, and would have volunteered somewhere.  Alas, not Mary…

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Bruce Hurwitz is an executive recruiter and career counselor.  He is the author of Success! As Employee or Entrepreneur and A Hooker’s Guide to Getting a Job: Parables from the Real World of Career Counseling and Executive Recruiting.

 

Creativity Should Sometimes be Avoided in a Cover Letter (and Resume)

I admCadburyit it.  As far as I am concerned, with all do respect to Mr. Hershey, Cadbury chocolate is my favorite.  But what I especially like about them today is that, at least according to the post I found on my LinkedIn feed, and assuming this is authentic, they actually respond to some job applicants whom they reject.

Here’s what the letter states:

Dear Mr. Jones:

We regret to inform you that your application for the position of Global Quality Manager has been unsuccessful.  We don’t normally respond to unsuccessful applicants but in your case we’ve made an exception in order to return the £5 note you attached to the references section of your application under the line “Elizabeth *wink wink.*”

Some notes regarding your application:

  • Listing “Super secret spy work I can’t legally talk about” as your previous work experience won’t fool anyone.
  • In future you might want to refrain from using sentences like “C’mon, let me be a part of this great gig you’ve got going on.”
  • eBay feedback isn’t a relevant reference.
  • Your attached sketch of an “everlasting chocolate bar” was unwarranted, absurd and quite frankly it scared us a little.

We wish you all the best in your future endeavours,

Sincerely,

Alan Carle

I do not know if this letter is for real.  (Given the spelling of “endevours,” it might be!) But for the sake of argument, let’s say it is.

What we have here is someone who thinks that being smart, being a wise guy, will differentiate him from his competition, get him noticed and get a response.

Well he was right.  Except that he was noticed for being a fool and he only got a response because of the five quid bribe.

Yes, in your cover letter  and resume you want to differentiate yourself.  Sadly, today it is easy to do by just writing a well-written letter.  As I have written previously, all you have to do, all you should do, is to keep it short, sweet and to the point.  No self-praise and, most certainly, no nonsense.  The same is true for resumes.  After all, no one hires a fool!

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Bruce Hurwitz is an executive recruiter and career counselor.  He is the author of Success! As Employee or Entrepreneur and A Hooker’s Guide to Getting a Job: Parables from the Real World of Career Counseling and Executive Recruiting.  To take advantage of his December Career Counseling Special click here.

Five Steps to Career Change

If there has been one question I have received more than any other during the past few weeks it’s, How do I change careers? My answer: You don’t. Someone else has to do it for you! Why? Because changing careers requires networking. You need help.

Here are my five steps to career change.

First, don’t quit your day job. As difficult as it is to get a new job while unemployed, it is exponentially more difficult to change careers if not presently employed. It’s possible, just more difficult.

Second, research. Find out everything you can about your chosen new career. That way, when you start networking, the people in your chosen career will be impressed with your knowledge.

Third, look at the LinkedIn profiles of the people who have careers similar to the one you want. Pay special attention to their education. If they have a degree or certification that you will require, get it. When choosing the school or program you plan to attend, base the decision not so much on the quality of their classes but on the quality of their job placement services. Then, once you graduate, use them to find internships and, ultimately, jobs.

Fourth, join groups where you will be able to meet persons in your chosen career. Look for mentors. By “mentor” I mean someone who will help guide you in your new career for free. If they charge, they are consultants and you’ll pay a fortune for limited, if any, results. You want someone who will take you under their wings, so to speak, offer constructive criticism and introduce you to the right people.

And fifth, volunteer. It does not matter what the cause is, as long as you truly believe in it. What is most important is that you serve on a committee, or in a role, where your new skills will be utilized and, most importantly, seen by people in your new career or industry. That way they will be able to help you navigate their networks or, ideally, maybe even offer you a job, once they have personally seen the quality of your work.

In conclusion, career changing is not for the shy or the lazy. It takes help and it takes work.

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Bruce Hurwitz is an executive recruiter and career counselor.  He is the author of Success! As Employee or Entrepreneur and A Hooker’s Guide to Getting a Job: Parables from the Real World of Career Counseling and Executive Recruiting

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