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.

Lost in the Elevator

November 24, 2009

I was recently introduced to an unemployed 50 year old finance executive.  We just happened to be entering the elevator together at the same time as a key investor in a major hedge fund. While we descended to the lobby, I introduced them.  The investor asked the unemployed exec what he did for a living and his response was: I’m unemployed and I’m looking for a finance position.  Then there was dead silence for another 12 floors.  A moment later we were in the lobby and I took the exec aside and I said, “Do you realize that you blew your elevator pitch”?

I invited the exec to my office and asked him what he would have said if he were better prepared.  He simply couldn’t come up with a memorable sound bite.  He sounded tongue tied and anxious.

It’s very difficult to keep your spirits and head up high when you’ve been unemployed for 7 months and you’re in financial stress. I’m sympathetic to his position and see this every day.  The older we get the harder it becomes to succinctly summarize what we do, how well we do it and what it means to an employer.  It’s almost as if we have a very thick crust that’s been building over time and keeps our professional value from coming through.

I suggested that he could have said the following:

  • I’m in transition and I’m looking to leverage a reputation as an investment banker who has a knack for connecting people to opportunities and money in the high tech sector.
  • Would you have any interest in hearing more about what I’ve done to enhance the fortunes of companies?  Perhaps you can recommend some people I could network with?

The exec looked at me and said, “I got it.”

Here’s the lesson.  Have your message prepared.  It should be a powerful statement of who you are and what you bring to the table.  It should also include an “action item” for what you want to achieve with that person.  Then, you must practice and commit it to memory so it can be called upon as soon as any “door” opens.  Otherwise it can get lost in the elevator.

Read more tips & strategies on this and other topics  from 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.

Where Have You Been All Your Life?

November 10, 2009

I got a call from someone who read about our career consulting services and sent me his resume.  He had no objective, so I asked him where he’s been all his life.  He told me that he left a lucrative law career after 18 years to launch a company that markets services via the internet.  The company now runs on its own and he’s looking for a “real” job.  He doesn’t want to return to law and desires a sales or business development role marketing mobile applications for consumers.

I asked him why his experience in law is relevant to the role he’s seeking and he said that he “saw the operational faults that come up in the course of business”.  Completely underwhelming.  After 18 years as a lawyer, then a successful entrepreneur, that’s all he had to say. Like so many other job seekers I talk to, he had trouble creating a “where I’ve been all my life” statement that summarizes (a) what he’s done, (b) how well he did it, and (c) what it means to me as a hiring professional.

When I suggested the following, he paused and said “wow, that’s me”.  I felt the energy over the phone change as a major weight of anxiety was lifted from his shoulders.  Here’s what I said:

Recognized as a gifted lawyer who had the courage to leave a thriving practice to scratch an entrepreneurial itch and launch two successful consumer internet marketing initiatives. Hard wired to enhance the fortunes of a marketing firm that is looking to transform ideas into revenue by leveraging mobile technology.  Possess the wisdom that comes from counseling hundreds of legal clients on their operational challenges and the thirst for success that flows from an unstoppable entrepreneurial drive.

When you’re asked to metaphorically look in your rear view mirror, you need to capture a quick glance of where you’ve been without losing sight of where you’re going.  By doing this well, a hiring manager can easily map out your career and see how all roads lead to hiring you for their job opportunity.

Read more tips and strategies on ‘Over 40’ 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.

Network with Who?

October 13, 2009

NetworkIt is often said that the key to an effective job search is networking. We’re all in. But what happens when you want to work at Sony BMG and you can’t identify someone you know who remotely knows anyone there? So you bravely call the main number at Sony to uncover who the head of record sales is for the southeast region. The operator has no clue. She only has first and last names. Then you ask for human resources and she refers you to the career section of their web site.

You then decide to look on the internet. You find a ton of names and titles and even some e-mail addresses and phone numbers. Sadly, none of them are the correct titles of people that you’re seeking. Even if they were, how would you get the person’s phone number? How would you get around their secretary? And, even if you got to them, what would you say that would engage their attention and interest? Now what?

The best way to get by an administrative assistant is to have him/her collaborate with you. We call this the “best friend” approach. For example, as a recruiter, when I (Ira) reach an assistant of an executive I’m trying to contact, I say; ”Let me tell you who I am and why I’m calling. I’m an executive recruiter who is in the business of helping Fortune 500 finance clients optimize their investment in human capital. My claim to fame is filling 100% of my assignments in our industry where 70-80% fill rate is considered exceptional. I’d like to talk to (your boss) about how I can add value to his/her growth strategies.”

Most people don’t bother giving any time or courtesy to an assistant. Yet, if you convey a message that positions the assistant to be a “hero” for referring your call, then you have enlisted an enthusiastic advocate. Furthermore, you’ve involved them in the process of enhancing their own employer. How refreshing!

Using this approach almost always gets you safely to your target. When you gain the trust and confidence of the gatekeeper, you’ll gain a friend who will lend a helping hand and do some of the “work” in networking.

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

College Student Resume Devaluation

September 29, 2009

The dollar isn’t the only thing that’s devalued. So too is our professional self image. How so?Resume 101

Let’s look at the following objective statement we received from a college student:

Obtaining an internship in the marketing section of your company.

We’re not kidding. The rest of his resume was just as unimaginative.

Where in this objective do you see any reason to hire him for a job? Where’s his value? Turns out that he actually had ALOT of it. Through intensive coaching we helped this student discover and articulate his value, which enabled him to find a meaningful position with a multi-national company. This is how he positioned himself for success:

Seeking a direct marketing position in a multinational company to leverage a fluency in 3 languages and 2 African dialects along with the ability to blend into various cultures in 3 continents. Recognized for flexibility in assuming challenging assignments in an internship with Unilever. Capable of enhancing a corporation’s marketing initiatives by applying a cultural sensitivity along with a fundamental understanding of international marketing business principles.

Then he went on to prove it in his resume.

Bottom line: It’s easier to inadvertently diminish yourself than to appropriately promote your abilities and credentials. Here’s a suggestion. Make a list of what you have to offer and imagine how it can enrich an enterprise. When done right, your message will reverberate off the page.

I’m “Pretty Good” Doesn’t Cut It

September 22, 2009

Pretty GoodStop saying that you’re “pretty good” at something. Pretty good is approximate, tentative, and ambiguous. If a hiring manager is looking to employ you, spend serious cash on your salary, put their reputation on the line, entrust you with a budget, people, assets, systems and/or clients, then they need to have absolute clarity on your skills. Just as one can’t be pretty pregnant (because it’s impossible), one can’t be pretty good. Good needs to be more accurately defined.

So how do you blow your horn without being perceived as an arrogant braggart? It’s really simple. Start your sentence with something like: “I have been recognized for my analytical skills, having effectively exposed valuable information buried in mounds of data…”

You’re using others’ words, which is a culturally acceptable way to display your well deserved accomplishments. By singing your song in a tune that will resonate, the melody of your message will remain long after your interview ends.

Read more tips and strategies on Interviewing on the Get What You Set web site.