Is Your Resume a Silent Career Killer?

March 9, 2010

Spend a few moments taking the following vital signs on your resume:

No response: Does your resume go unanswered when you respond to ads?

Experience: Does it list the functions you performed in your jobs, such as “responsible for …”?

Personality traits: Does it include phrases such as “team player”, “detail oriented” and “effective communicator”?

Aspiration: Does it leave out the specific role you are seeking and how you are positioned to make a meaningful and relevant difference to a prospective employer?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, then your resume is in need of an overhaul. To get it on a healthy track and captivate the reader’s imagination, make sure your resume communicates

  • The measurable results you achieved by performing your day-to-day functions (or from special projects), and how they impacted various stakeholders and/or the bottom line.
  • How your personality traits helped fuel your results (the phrases alone are just generic and used by everyone).
  • Your interest in assuming a specific role and your ability to deliver value that goes beyond the scope of management’s expectations.
  • An expression of your work ethic, such as how your competitive intensity, disciplined and focused approach, or extraordinary commitment to getting things done was manifested.

Taking the time to invest in the health and vitality of your resume will surely yield better results.

Read more tips on Resume and Pitch Strategies and other topics  on the Get What You Set web site.

Don’t Stand in the Shadows of Modesty

February 23, 2010

I recently received a resume from a credit executive whose summary said the following:

Highly skilled, customer-focused Financial Professional with extensive experience in Risk Management and Corporate Banking. Primary skills include portfolio management and transaction origination and execution for large cap global and mid cap corporate clients. Excellent track record of partnering with clients and senior management to develop and implement complex solutions to customer or internal needs. Expertise in financial analysis, risk assessment and mitigation, structuring and documentation negotiation. Strong team player with diverse background that includes the management of diverse portfolios and the implementation of various corporate finance products in multiple geographies.

Let’s examine some of his phrases, which, by the way, I see ALL the time:

“Highly skilled” – duh, I assume this.

“Customer-focused” – would he be in this business if he was not focused on customers?

Where in this summary does he sell me on his professional value; i.e. what is he positioned to CONTRIBUTE to a future employer? Everything presented here are the generic functions that he’s performed over his extensive career. Yet, I have no idea if/when he has been the fuel that propelled a business. And, since he’s a credit executive, what has he done to mitigate risk and add measurable value to key stakeholders?

It would have been more compelling if he said something like this:

Globally astute credit executive whose career has spanned Big 4 auditing, to raising a global lender’s leadership profile, and harvesting opportunities beyond the risk associated with complex loan transactions for one of the world’s top finance companies. Recognized for finding novel business solutions that accelerate transactions while mitigating risk and enabling record levels of revenue growth to be actualized. Positioned to leverage 20 years experience structuring, marketing and protecting the assets that keep companies in business.

By formulating a message that shines a light on your accomplishments you can step out of the shadows that otherwise dim your value.

Read more tips on Resume and Pitch Strategies and other topics  on the Get What You Set web site.

Under-deliver by a Yard or Over-deliver by a Mile

February 16, 2010

“Increased sales by 10%”.  I often see statements like this on resumes and it drives me crazy.  How and why is this achievement relevant? Sure, any discerning employer wants to see sales growth, but 10% of what? If sales went from $100,000 to $110,000 and the goal was to double revenue for a specific product line, you can see why the lack of information begs the question — was this enough and against what objective?

Similarly, I often see statements like, “Increased revenue by $50,000”. Again, what was the goal or benchmark?  How do I know if this is a significant achievement? This is why it’s critical to qualify and quantify your accomplishments. Anything short of this will make your “results” seem as if you really under-delivered by a yard.

To over-deliver by a mile you need to unambiguously demonstrate the measurable impact you had upon the company or a specific initiative. Management is always looking for results that can be quantified and qualified. Since this seems to be missing from so many resumes, those that follow this rule will certainly gain credibility and attention.

Read more tips on Resume and Pitch Strategies and other topics  on the Get What You Set web site.

Beyond Keywords

February 4, 2010

All resumes have keywords.  Sure you can use them, but by and large this is not the way to be discovered on the internet job boards.  What’s missing is key accomplishments.

I recently received a resume from a financial analyst that was so dry and insipid that it was like eating 2 week old white bread.  It had all the requisite keywords such as budgeting, forecasting and planning, and it is clear that for the past 3 years he performed these three critical functions in his previous job.

But why is this so tasteless?  Because that’s all it said; and that’s all most resumes say. When I asked this person what made him so good at what he did, he “drew a blank”.  After rephrasing my questions, he finally responded when I asked him to describe his “winning homerun story”.  It turns out that he uncovered a huge financial discrepancy that would have put his company at risk.  With more probing, he said that the team was understaffed and he proactively assumed the extra work load for three months.  In that period he found ways to streamline their systems by deploying a certain technology.

In the end he saved the company the equivalent of a $90,000 salary.  Moreover, his innovations positively impacted other support teams who were able to receive information faster.  This took 45 minutes and we only discussed the homeruns at his most recent job.  More importantly, his whole energy level changed when he was able to confidently express the transformative value that he has delivered.

Having the right keywords will probably get your resume through the first line of computerized screening.  But getting the attention of the humans who screen at the next level requires a more thorough demonstration of how you – and more specifically, your accomplishments – are relevant for a prospective employer.

Read more tips on Resume and Pitch Strategies on the Get What You Set web site.

Magnetize Your Summary & Pitch

December 15, 2009

As a recruiter I often get very frustrated reading resumes.  This is the summary statement on one that I received from a sales person who I have known for nearly a decade.

To leverage my 15 years of award winning successes as a hunter /developer in the finance industry to a firm who desires a professional with strong ethical business acumen to add maximum value to an increased bottom line.

Why would anyone go out of their way to say that they have “strong ethical business acumen”?  If she didn’t say this, am I to assume that she would have weak, unethical stupidity?  This statement is absurd and meaningless.

If she’s an award winning professional, why doesn’t she tell me about the assets she has used to earn those rewards, such as:

  • Her “golden rolodex” and her ability to dial-up key decision makers and influencers who are open to a new company’s solutions
  • How she has actualized her talent for adding value while driving record profitability
  • Her knowledge of unmet market opportunities

She further states that she can “add maximum value to an increased bottom line”.  How can I believe that this is a credible statement if she doesn’t explain how she maximizes value and increases the bottom line?  Hiring managers want to hear specific accomplishments and deliverables that position you to enrich their enterprise. They want to know that you can solve the problems that keep them up at night.

Otherwise, they’re reading generic words on generic paper and will never find you in their stack of resumes.

Read more tips on Resume and Pitch Strategies on the Get What You Set web site.

If a Resume Could Speak

December 2, 2009

I received a resume from the Senior Vice President of Commercial Banking for one of the largest global banks.  Here’s how it began:


Highly motivated and experienced credit and lending professional possessing strong analytical and communication skills.  Extensive knowledge of analyzing and structuring syndicated loans and other forms of financings for large-cap and mid-cap clients.  Based on professional and academic accomplishments am well suited to analyze, evaluate and approve transactions to be included in loan or investment portfolios.

Let’s dissect what she wrote and see how effective it is in capturing my attention:

Highly motivated (WELL I SHOULD HOPE SO) and experienced credit and lending professional possessing strong analytical and communication skills (HOW ELSE WOULD YOU HAVE BECOME THE SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT?).  Extensive knowledge of analyzing and structuring syndicated loans and other forms of financings for large-cap and mid-cap clients (SO WHAT, IT’S A JOB FUNCTION. HOW WELL DID YOU DO IT, AND WITH WHAT IMPACT?).  Based on professional and academic accomplishments am well suited to analyze, evaluate and approve transactions to be included in loan or investment portfolios. (THAT’S WHAT YOU’RE SUPPOSED TO DO, SO WHAT MAKES YOU SO SPECIAL?)

Everyday my firm receives scores of underwhelming resumes.  If this resume could speak, it might as well say: “I’m ok at what I do and I’m not really special.  In fact, if I have made a difference to the firms that I have worked for, I’m either not especially proud of it, or there’s not much to share.  “You know, I just do what I’m supposed to do and that’s why they pay me, and I can do the same for you. “

What if she talked about:

  • Her aspirations to direct the northeast region for a major commercial bank having been groomed for such a role over the past 10 years
  • How she “partnered with various stakeholders to drive record levels of high quality loans, while instilling a risk culture that kept the firm in safer harbors to weather the current economic disruptions”
  • Her impressive career trajectory and how she “works to the pace of a fast beating drum by being the youngest executive in the region to reach the executive ranks”
  • How she has consistently earned the confidence of senior management through her leadership that awakened dormant creativity and enthusiasm amongst her staff

By celebrating her unique accomplishments, she gives her resume a compelling voice that would grab a hiring manager’s attention.

Read more tips on Resume and Pitch Strategies and other topics  on the Get What You Set web site.

Great Resumes 101

November 17, 2009

ABC_Blocks_“No one responds to my resume”.  It’s the most common complaint we hear.  The reasons are tough to swallow, but if you want to know the truth it’s because:

1. Your resume sucks (pardon the expression)

2. You apply to too many of the wrong jobs.

If you want to know how bad your resume is then try this exercise.  Have someone read each line to you and after each one, ask yourself these three questions:

a.     Why is this relevant to my prospective employer?

If the statements on your resume aren’t relevant to the mission, struggles and challenges of a hiring manager, how could you ever expect to engage their interest? This is why it’s critical that your resume includes an objective statement which links your expertise and aspirations to what you can deliver to a future employer, and statements that reflect your accomplishments on the job (rather than just your functions and responsibilities).

b.     How did you enhance the corporate eco-system in a direct or indirect way?

If a company is going to pay you a salary, they will most likely want to generate 5 times that amount in profits or savings.  Thus, they want to see how you have made an impact in your current or prior positions.  Did you contribute to generating revenues or profits, saving costs, or mitigating risks? Can you demonstrate that you have a relevant track record, the appropriate personal attributes, and a basic understanding of the job’s challenges to easily slide into the role?  They want to have some sense of your potential and that you have a relentless spirit to get the job done.

c.     Duh?

Worst of all, if you can say “Duh”, then you have really lost them.  For example, if you say that you’re “good with people” and you’re applying to be a relationship manager or a team leader, then that would generate a “duh” response. Instead, tell them why you’re so good with people and how you have impacted an enterprise with your fabulous people skills (an example might be that you “transformed cynicism into enthusiasm” for a particular initiative).

How do you know you’re applying to the wrong job?  Look at your resume. Does it clearly state what you’re seeking? Do you definitively demonstrate in your resume how your education, work experience and/or community service support your aspirations and how you are uniquely positioned to be hired for a very specific role or a short list of alternative roles?  If your personal mission is not totally aligned to the company’s mission, then why would they respond? Would you, especially if you have been inundated by 100’s or 1,000’s of resumes?

Read more tips on Resume and Pitch Strategies on the Get What You Set web site.

The Case Against Action Verbs

November 6, 2009

Does your resume contain lists of your responsibilities peppered with action verbs?  If you answered yes, then your resume probably looks like everyone else’s -generic and uninviting.  While you’re in good company, it’s nevertheless doing nothing for your career aspirations and candidacy.

As a recruiter, I rarely see a resume that communicates a candidate’s prior accomplishments in a way that foreshadows their future success.

To combat this practically ubiquitous problem, we’ve developed a thesaurus of expressions that enable you to articulate and clarify the professional value that you‘ve delivered and can deploy for a prospective employer.  This novel assortment of expressions stimulates a more profound view of your professional essence in a way that creates an emotional shift in the mind of the reader.

How do you articulate your professional essence alongside your experience and accomplishments?  By describing your personal attributes.  Why? Because attributes more accurately reflect how you do your work and what drives you to achieve results.

For example, an attribute that is important for many roles in today’s economy is courage.  What is courage?  It is an eagerness to participate and an ability to step out of one’s comfort zone.  If you want your resume to communicate that you possess the attribute of courage, answer questions like these when you’re describing your experiences:

  1. What are some situations in which you had to explore the unknown?
  2. When did you demonstrate a fearless commitment to achieve an objective?
  3. Did you risk failure in the quest for novel solutions?

By penetrating into your inner professional psyche, you can paint a better picture in a hiring manager’s mind about your ability to not only deliver value to an enterprise, but also to fit into a particular organizational culture.

Where the power of personal conviction of one’s professional value is so very rare, the candidate who can express it well will generate attention from those who hold the keys to your desired position.  It’s no longer good enough just to use buzzwords, rather, it’s essential to demonstrate what you have actually accomplished and to convince a company that you can do even more for them.

Read more tips on Resume and Pitch Strategies on the Get What You Set web site.

Are You a Sub-Prime Candidate?

October 27, 2009

Just as investors view sub-prime loans as toxic financial waste, hiring managers may feel the same about your resume and the way that you interview. How could this be?housing_slump

We received a resume from a candidate with 30 years experience in the equipment leasing sector. She worked as a program manager and sales person for the industry’s leaders. She was downsized in an industry that is shrinking by the minute, leaving precious few job openings. Knowing that she will have to look to another industry for job opportunities, this is what her resume stated:

Business Objective: To obtain a sales position which will allow me to utilize my experience and skills to contribute to the success of my business group and company.


She then dryly listed her functions and said nothing about her tangible and believable accomplishments. C’mon, you’ve been gainfully employed for 30 years and have nothing to brag about?

What’s even worse is that she lost a golden opportunity to tell the reader how her skills and experience transfer to another field. When we asked her to verbalize her “transferable skills”, she was at a loss for words. Do you think she’d be any better in an interview?

She could communicate the relevance of her skills by saying that she:

* Has the expertise to remove the issue of affordability out of the sales cycle by introducing a digestible payment option called leasing.

* Is a master at finding solutions that link buyers to sellers.

* Has enabled various companies across vast industries to replace no’s with yes’s, as she’s been the virtual “glue” that has facilitated hundreds of millions of dollars of commerce to flourish

By spelling out what she’s accomplished and how it is relevant for another industry, she’ll be better positioned to find a role that “transfers” her skills. The trick is articulating your professional value. Otherwise she’ll continue to be merely sub-prime and not “hiring” worthy.

Read more tips & strategies on this and other topics  from the Get What You Set web site.

Jobless Despite Extreme Makeover

October 20, 2009

A senior banking executive found himself on the other side of his company’s parking lot after working there for 25 years. Following a year of no responses to his resume and a networking trail that went cold, he contacted us for assistance.parking lot

He said that he tried everything to find a new job, including outplacement, recruiter outreach, peer networking, etc. He concluded that his traditional job hunting methods weren’t working due to age and “size” discrimination. So he got creative and lost 98 pounds, shaved off a 30 year-old beard and updated his wardrobe. Still, no bites.

The resume he presented to us was essentially a cut and paste job from one of those ubiquitous resume books. Better health notwithstanding, he failed to realize that the change required was between his ears and not south of them. In other words, he didn’t update his professional message, i.e., that which has made him successful and how it would be relevant to another employer.

What was the disconnect? First, he did not indicate what he was seeking, nor did he include an email address (!!). Then the resume basically states his functions. Here’s a sampling (We’ve purposely left the bank’s name anonymous):

Served several [BANK] businesses in matters of workout, restructure, bankruptcy and litigation. Businesses include Franchise Finance, Dealer Finance, Asset Based Funding, Vendor Finance, Capital Markets, Banker’s Leasing and Direct Finance. Duties as Group Head included supervision of vice-presidents attached to group, training, design and preparation of reports to Senior Management and occasional direct handling of special larger, more complicated situations. Subsequent duties included special projects, special situations and consultation to international divisions on all classified transactions and credit issues.

Among other things, he didn’t mention that when he left this bank he was a Senior VP directing 8 professionals with a loan portfolio of nearly $1 billion!

To articulate his professional value, he should be saying that he:

* Is a seasoned credit professional who’s been entrusted with lending and securing billions of dollars over a 30 year banking career

* Is recognized by senior management for his uncanny expertise to see problems around distant corners

* Has a knack for understanding how a bank can either mitigate a risk or find a way to safely unwind bad investments

* Was essentially the safety valve that released just enough steam without letting their financial enterprise explode (what a skill, especially in this market)

The key is to communicate how you contribute to the bottom line of an enterprise; whether it’s driving revenue, lowering costs or mitigating risks. Almost all professionals contribute directly or indirectly to the bottom line. And it’s those professionals who can spell it out to a prospective employer or client that will get their calls returned.

Read more tips & strategies on this and other topics  from the Get What You Set web site.