Saturday, June 21, 2008

Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire!

Do we really have to go over this again? It amazes me that in today's world, where nothing is a secret and where background checks are as routine as a morning stop at Starbucks, that people still insist on lying on their résumés.

A recent article by Klaus Kneale on quotes Nancy Davis, a psych professor at the Chicago School of Professional Psychology. She says that college students are, in some cases, encouraged to embellish their résumés. She gives the example of an intern who runs copies of a manual putting it on his résumé as a manual that he "created." Now that's a stretch, and he'd probably end up back-pedaling in an interview. But then again, it happens all the time - and he just might end up getting the job he wants if the interviewer doesn't probe deeper into that claim. But how long would he be able to fake his accomplishments?

Alicia Shepard of The Huffington Post, and author of the new book, Woodward and Bernstein: Life in the Shadow of Watergate, recently wrote about two very successful, accomplished women, both of whom just lost their jobs because they out-and-out lied on their résumés.

The first, newspaper woman Marti Buscaglia, misrepresented her education on her résumé, saying she had graduated from Lima University in Peru. She had that lie on her résumé for 30 years before she finally came forward.

Then there was Marilee Jones, Dean of Admissions at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She was forced to resign in April after it was discovered that she had lied on her résumé about her academic credentials. On her résumé, Jones claimed to have degrees from Albany Medical College, Union College and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. She had perpetuated that lie through her entire 28-year career at MIT.

Recent statistics from Hire Right, a company that conducts background checks, indicate that more than 80% (yes, 80%!) of all résumés are misleading. Better than 20% show fraudulent degrees, 30% have altered dates of employment, 40% of people show higher salaries than they actually earned, 30% exaggerate job responsibilities and more than 25% have falsified references.

Lying on résumés has spawned hundreds of companies that investigate claims made on résumés. And companies, large and small, are paying big bucks to make sure résumés are accurate and the people they hire have been truthful.

You can even send your own résumé to a résumé verification firm and they'll do the background investigation before you submit your résumé to a potential employer.

So what's the lesson in all of this? You might get away with lying on your résumé, and you might get away with it for years. But it will come back to haunt you eventually. So it's simple, really. Don't lie. Don't do it, no matter how tempting. Your personal and professional integrity is at stake - and integrity, in work and in life, matters more than anything.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

3 Things Your Resume MUST Contain - Besides the Obvious

The purpose of a résumé is to help you get a job, right? It's normally the first impression an HR Professional or Hiring Manager has of you - its your introduction - your handshake - and hopefully your résumé will lead to an invitation for a face-to-face interview.

Usually less is more on a résumé. The more concise it is the better, and the easier it is to read, the more chance you have that a hiring manager will take the time to read the entire document.

We all know that a résumé is essentially a laundry list of your employment history, responsibilities, education, memberships and awards, along with other credentials and achievements. The basic elements remain the same, regardless of the format and style.

But in my 10+ years of writing résumés, I've found that the most successful résumés contain components that a lot of people don't consider when putting together their professional story.

Here are three things I think your résumé has to get across to a potential employer:

First, tell the reader WHO YOU ARE. Talk a little about the personality traits and characteristics you feel have served you well during your career, as well as your softer skills and abilities. I'm not talking a novel here, just a sentence or two that gives the reader a sense of how you might fit into their corporate culture. Maybe a couple of words about your management style or how you overcome obstacles.

Second, highlight WHAT YOU CAN DO for a company. If you have particular strengths and competencies to offer, outline them in your résumé. Have you positively impacted sales, profit, productivity? Say so. Even if you have not yet done some of the things you can do, selling your potential and goals can show that you're a desirable candidate who wants to be upwardly mobile.

Finally, PROVE IT. Quantify your contributions and achievements. If you improved a process that saved money, great. But you have to say it in a way that gives your accomplishment power and interest.

"Improved cash flow $150,000 per year by streamlining and tightening inventory control process."

sounds a whole lot more impressive than

"Implemented inventory process improvement, delivering significant cost savings."

Your résumé has to make the case that you are not only capable of handling the responsibilities of a particular position, but that you understand the impact of your job on the company as a whole. Show that you have an interest in benefiting the company, not just collecting a paycheck.

These three things give your résumé life, energy and interest. Give a potential employer more than a laundry list - give them food for thought and a reason to want to interview you!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The WOW Factor

Imagine you are a hiring manager.

You're sitting behind your desk, its about 3:45 P.M., and you're getting ready to review the 237th résumé of the day.

Your eyes feel like sandpaper, you're starving, you're grouchy and if you see "References Available Upon Request" one more time, you're going to make somebody eat those words - seriously.

So you pick up the next résumé, heave another huge sigh of boredom and wish - for the 237th time today - that this résumé is different. That this résumé is the one you can't put down. That this résumé is from a candidate that gets it. That this résumé is from someone who's résumé is geared to what the hiring manager wants - not what the candidate wants.

Now - let's assume you have all the experience, skills, education and credentials necessary for the job.

What does a hiring manager think when she or he takes a look at your résumé? What in your résumé makes them want to get you in for an interview as soon as possible? What do you offer that the other 236 candidates don't? What differentiates you in the résumé market?

Your résumé has to tell your story in a way that makes you the high-end, upscale, exciting product - the unique brand the hiring manager has to buy, no matter how much it costs.

How do you get your story across in a way that showcases you in that way?

Here's how:

Know what the hot-button issues and challenges are in your field and show that you know how to address them.

Know what people in your business are talking about right now and talk about those topics.

Know what everybody who's anybody in your professional arena sees as the newest and greatest technologies, the up-and-coming products, the untapped markets and the high-profit potential opportunities - and talk about them in your résumé.

Show you know what's hot and what's not. If you can prove you have any experience or expertise in any of the latest hot topic areas, show it.

Make your résumé the one that gets the hiring manager out from behind the desk and running down the hall to the HR Director - to get you in for the interview. Good Luck!

Monday, June 16, 2008

What Does Your Resume Have to do to GET the Interview?

Writing a résumé that provides information about your credentials, experience and accomplishments is the easy part.

Writing a résumé that forces a hiring manager to pick up the phone - NOW - and invite you in for an interview - PRONTO - is a whole other question.

What do Hiring Managers want, anyway?

Simple - they want:

1) Clarity – they want your story - clear, concise and in a format they can easily read.
2) Criteria - they want a candidate that meets their hiring requirements. They want to see the qualifications, education and experience needed for the job they're trying to fill.
3) Correctness – no "gilding the lily". They want a truthful, accurate picture of who you are, what you can do, and where you did it. They don't want typos, spelling errors or grammar mistakes.

So, if all things in the résumés of two job applicants were essentially equal, why would a hiring manager contact one candidate for the interview over another?

It's all about how you sell your personal brand. It's the things that make you the "must-have" candidate that everyone wants to interview.

You have to create a sense of excitement – a buzz – around your brand. Remember, a résumé is a marketing tool. It has to highlight your strengths and your contributions in a way that make YOU the standout applicant.

You have to tell the story of your professional life in a compelling and powerful way. When I work with clients on rewriting their résumés, I ask them to run the "so what" test on every single sentence. Here's how the "so what" test works: read each line in your résumé, then ask yourself, "so what? Would someone hire me because of this?" If the line is a reason to hire you, great – leave it in. If it's not, you should probably take it out.

Hiring managers and recruiters see and scan thousands of résumés every month.

Make your résumé the one they actually READ – and GET the interview!