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

How to Write an Effective Resume

Philosophy: Employers will spend 5 seconds scanning a resume to see if a candidate is qualified for a position. They’ll check location, tenure, and specific qualifications (skills, licenses, degrees, etc.). If you pass the five second test, so to speak, then they will start reading. In order to “stop” them from scanning, and to get them to read, you need to begin the resume with “Selected Accomplishments,” 5-6 bullet points highlighting verifiable achievements that tell the employer that you can do the job because you’ve done the job! NEVER include an “Objective” (your objective is to get the job you’re apply for, so why have an “Objective?”), or a “Professional Summary.” No employer cares how great you think you are! By listing media citations, speaking engagements, and awards/honors, you’ll tell the employer that others think you are great. That is what has value.

Name

City, State of Residence

Phone Number – E-mail Address

Selected Accomplishments

  • 5-6 bullet points that emphasize what you have achieved for others

Work Experience

Name of Employer, Location of Employer, Dates of Employment (Most Recent First), Title, Two-three line summary describing the employer, what they do, the size of the company, etc.

  • Bullet points highlighting the key responsibilities

Education

Degrees from accredited schools.

Continuing Professional Education

List any courses taken from non-accredited schools/programs or accredited schools where degrees were not awarded.

Licenses and Certifications

Skills and Languages

Media Citations

Speaking Engagements

Awards and Honors

Professional Memberships

Volunteerism/Community Service

The length of the resume should be at least one page for every 10 years of employment but content is more important than length. A lousy one-page resume will not be read, while a brilliant 10-page resume will.

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Don’t forget to take advantage of my year-end career counseling special. Come January, it will be gone!

How to Write an Effective Cover Letter

Philosophy: Employers will not spend more than ten seconds reading a cover letter. You have to show them that you can get to the point, that you are focused, can prioritize, understand business, know what they are looking for and that you are the person for the job. Here’s how you do it:
• If at all possible personalize the letter. If you cannot get the name of the recipient, “Dear Hiring Manager” will suffice. NEVER use “To Whom It May Concern.” That makes it appear to be a form letter.
• In the first paragraph let them know the job you are applying for, when you heard about it and where you saw it advertised. That way they know you can get to the point, that you do not procrastinate, and that you understand that it is important for them to know where they are getting the best bang for their advertising dollars.
• In the second paragraph give them an example of the one thing that you have done in your career that speaks to the job for which you are applying and will convince them to look at your resume. That’s the purpose of the cover letter, to get them to look at the resume. (See my post, “How to Write an Effective Resume.”)
• In the third paragraph, if they ask in the ad, tell them what your salary requirements are. Include “not including benefits” so they know you are flexible.
• In the fourth paragraph, make reference to your resume.
• End politely and be certain your full name, address and contact information appear at the top.
Dear Ms. Smith,
I wish to apply for the position of warehouse manager that I saw advertised in today’s Post.
With my three years experience in the Army overseeing a warehouse stocking thousands of unique items, valued in the hundreds of millions of dollars, I am certain that I will not only be able to fulfill the requirements of the position but to surpass them.
My salary requirements are $50,000, not including benefits.
Attached please find a copy of my resume for your review.
Thank you in advance for your consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.
Sincerely,
Your Name
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Don’t forget to take advantage of my year-end career counseling special. Come January, it will be gone!

When all candidates are equal, who gets picked?

Every so often I get lucky and I submit to an executive recruiting client candidates who are so good that the client cannot choose between them. Usually it’s between two, but, on occasion, there have been three.

Then I get the phone call. “Bruce, we can’t decide who to choose. What do you advise?”

This one is simple: The best employers know that they have to hire candidates with two qualities. First, the candidate has to be smarter than they are. Why? Because, assuming it’s not an entry level position, if the candidate is not as smart as the employer then the employer is going to have to micromanage which is a waste of time. If the candidate is as smart as the employer, the company will stagnate. But hiring candidates who are smarter than the employer means the employer’s company will grow and prosper.

Second, the candidate has to be liked. They have to be a cultural fit. So if the employer and his staff all feel comfortable hiring either candidate then it all comes down to likeability. So here is the question that always works:

Gather your team together. Don’t have any discussion. Give each person around the table a piece of paper. Ask them the following question: Which candidate would you prefer to be stuck in an elevator alone with for three hours? Have them write the name of the candidate they would prefer and count the votes. All things being equal, that’s the person you hire!

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Don’t forget to take advantage of my year-end career counseling special. Come January, it will be gone!

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