Friday, 7 December 2012

Why Recruiting is as Awful as Dating

Here’s a neat little tidbit about recruiters. They’re real life people and everyday is full of disappointment. E-recruiting, much like E-dating, has many success stories. You’ve probably met a lot of happy couples who met online, but for every happy couple, there are 10 horror stories of people showing up 10 years older or 50 pounds heavier than their picture. The sad part about recruiting is that you don’t get to date the winners for very long. You give them to the hiring manager and then you have to start all over again.

A little insight into the process

First the recruiter crafts their profile:

I like long walks on the beach, Reggae music and I love to cook. I’m looking for someone with 5 years’ experience in marketing, experience with popular software with excellent attention to detail and willing to work in a remote location.

…then we sit back and laugh, knowing that person probably doesn’t exist, especially in the remote region the hiring manager needs them in. This is basically the equivalent of asking for someone with a six-figure income who is ok with the fact that you’re a single parent of five. If you ever see someone in a restaurant writing on a laptop, swirling a glass of brandy and laughing maniacally like a Disney villain, but crying at the same time...that’s a recruiter having a normal day.

Speed Dating Round

Recruiters schedule entire days of interviews just to meet the people, make sure the person matches the profile and isn’t a complete douchebag. You need to get through the first date to get to the second date with the hiring manager.

Step 1 – Make sure you can back up what’s written on your resume.

You were chosen to be interviewed because of several things you wrote on your resume. We’re going to ask you about them to make sure you did them. Be prepared to elaborate on specific projects.

Step 2 – Know yourself really well.

You are going to be asked to give an overview of your work history as well as what you’re passionate about. Print off your resume and make notes if you have to. Just be prepared to talk about this. It sounds like a given, but a lot of people fail here.

Step 3 – Be Charming

I interviewed a woman who had her own tagline. She told me she was “a small town girl with a big city attitude.” I never forgot her name as a result. Just like people don’t forget a good date, they certainly don’t forget a bad date.

Fact: Sometimes the HR guy won’t know all of the intricacies of the app development position you applied for.

Fact: They will be completely aware of the condescending attitude you have towards them.

Here is a list of things that will not get you to a second date

·      Name dropping: Tell me on your resume what companies you worked for, don’t spend a significant amount of time asking me if I know so and so. I’m not impressed by the fact that you worked for Donald Trump unless you can effectively tell me what you did for him.

·      Questioning my questions: If I ask you to elaborate on something, don’t ask me why I want to know that or how is that relevant to this position unless the question makes you uncomfortable for some reason. Often recruiters will want to know about all of your skills (even the ones that don’t pertain to the position you applied for). They can contact you for other positions, unless you were uncooperative.

·      A Shi**y Tone: Be intelligent, but don’t get smart. You would be surprised at how many professionals, after they realize they’re talking to a lowly recruiter, develop a smarmy attitude. Newsflash! In order to be hired, HR still needs to want to work with you.

I actually had an interview where the applicant told me to go to his website, because I could stand to learn a little about the field I was recruiting for…resume deleted.

Don’t be a douchebag. We share all of our notes with the manager.

Example: John Smith, 10 years of marketing experience, excellent portfolio, possibly overqualified for the position. Complete ass. If you hire him, I’m quitting.

Bottom Line: Most successful organizations are looking for someone who is a cultural fit. Being an attractive candidate does not give you carte blanche to be an ass. Getting through the first round is not a difficult task. Know your resume, be confident and courteous and welcome to date #2. 

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Resume Do’s and Don’ts

Remember when I used to blog about things? Well I’m doing it again! I committed a cardinal sin of social media and took a short hiatus while I started a new job. Since my last post in April, my Klout score has dropped 6 points. This can mean one of three things.

  1. My social media presence is strong enough without my blog to sustain a fairly consistent score.
  2. No one was really reading my blog anyway.
  3. Klout doesn’t really measure anything accurately.

Luckily, for you guys, my new position is in recruitment. I have spent the last month going through resumes of marketing and communications professionals from all over North America, and I have put together a list of tips that can help you get from the recruiter to the hiring manager.

A while ago, I wrote a blog about how no one really knows what is supposed to go on a resume. After screening hundreds of applicants, I have a general idea of what “I” like to see on a resume as well as what I hate to see.


Add links to former employer’s websites – If you were the marketing manager of a company I’ve never heard of, I will want to see that company’s website. If I can’t find it…how good were you?

Insert a brief description about what your former employers do – It’s possible that your business development experience at company ABC is a perfect match for one of my vacant positions. If you don’t tell me that company ABC produces widgets for a specific niche market, you’re assuming I will know or that I will go looking for that information. If you didn’t intrigue me somewhere else on the resume, I probably won’t do that.

Insert links to your social profiles – If I’m on the fence about someone or I like them and just want to learn more, I will try to creep them on LinkedIn. If you’ve applied for a position that requires social media experience, I’m going to creep you. If I can find you easily and see that you’re active, you get bonus points. (Warning: bonus points are non-transferable and have no cash value)

Be specific about what you did – If you worked in business development, throw some numbers in there. If you don’t have numbers, tell me about some specific impressive accounts you landed.
Example: Generated $1.2M in revenue from new accounts in fiscal year 2011-2012. OR Secured accounts with Unilever and Proctor & Gamble.


Only include generic tasks you would read in a job description – A lot of people appear to copy and paste job descriptions to their resumes. (i.e. conducted research, lead generation, created marketing collateral.) This gets scanned over really quickly and doesn’t catch the eye of the recruiter (i.e. Me). If you do get to an interview I have to make sure I know:
  • ·         What kind of research it was and what the results were.
  • ·         What kind of leads you were looking for, how you looked for them, and which ones you were able to secure.
  • ·         What kind of marketing collateral you created, who the target audience was, and how effective it was.

Include an Objective Statement – No matter how good you are at writing, these are always terrible. I don’t know who invented these, but I wish someone would have stopped them from doing so. Include a point form list of your strengths. These should be correlated to the job description.

Forget to market your abilities in other ways – If you have a graphic design background, don’t give me a crappily formatted word document. Show me you know what you’re doing. Don’t tell me you have strong attention to detail and then leave typos in your resume.

Ignore the job description – I have read objective statements for applications to marketing positions that state “looking for exciting new opportunities in human resources” …FAIL! I mostly hire independent contractors, and though the ad specifically states “contract position,” candidates tell me they are not interested in contract work. I already have frown lines from calling these people. 

Apply for jobs you’ll never get – Sometimes, you can get to an interview without all the required specifications. For example, I might still consider someone for a position where I’ve asked for 5 years’ experience if they only have four years, but an impressive resume. I will not consider you for a marketing manager position if you’ve only ever been a cashier. Think before you apply.

Cram everything into two pages – Someone made a rule that resumes had to be two pages long. It’s a stupid rule. If you have 5 years of experience, your resume will be longer. If you have an impressive resume that is clear and concise, it can be as long as it needs to be. Don’t leave out important details or reduce your font to 8 points thinking that you’re helping yourself get an interview…you’re not.

This is just a short list of my own pet peeves disguised as tips and tricks for job applicants. I’m sure there will be many more to come. If you’re a marketing and/or communications professional, feel free to send your resume along asking for feedback or a job. Our contract positions are listed here: VentureWeb Jobs, but often we have many more that aren’t posted. 

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Your Career Center And You

I whine a lot about how my undergraduate degree really didn’t do much to prepare me for the job market. I also accept full responsibility for not taking advantage of all of the resources I had at the time.

These included;
  • ·         Networking Opportunities
  • ·         Internships
  • ·         Career Services

When I mention Career Services, I actually did make an appointment with a Career Services Counsellor in my third year. I wasn’t really sure what kinds of services they offered prior to my visit. She looked over my resume, made a couple formatting suggestions, and gave me some pamphlets. She was six different kinds of useless.  (At least the Health Clinic gave me a test to see which pamphlets I needed.) After this meeting, I still had no idea what Career Services could actually offer me.

I’ve heard some Career Centers complain that they try to do things for students, but no one shows up. They also complain that students don’t bother with the center until their last year, when they are looking for a job. I’ve heard them attribute it to laziness and apathy.

News Flash! If your entire University campus is full of lazy, apathetic students, your selection criteria SUCKS! You might as well stop offering Career Services, and just start handing out McDonald’s applications. Stop complaining about how no one comes to visit you, and start fixing the problem.

Educate the students on why they need Career Services

Someone starting a four year degree program may not be thinking 5 years into the future. Someone starting a four year Liberal Arts degree is definitely not thinking 5 years into the future. Most 18 year olds don’t think they need to start looking at employment opportunities for when they’re 22. That’s forever away! This thinking is obviously wrong. However, someone needs to change it.

Side Note: Law Students start applying for internships in their first year. This could be due to the fact that they already know what their goal is and how to achieve it. It could also be because they’re expected to do it. Did someone say cultural?

Spread Awareness

Until career awareness can be sexually transmitted, it’s not going to spread itself around campus for you. Students need to know what you offer, and why you’re offering it. You need to convince them you know something they don’t. Have you met an 18 year old? It’s not easy. You’re going to need a full out marketing campaign. Here are some insights from a former student.

1. Anything YOU say during frosh week will be ignored.
2. Posters will be ignored.
3. Anything you say during mid-terms or exams will be ignored.
4. Your mass emails will be deleted, right after they’re ignored.

There are two ways to get students to pay attention to you. The first is to work with the University itself to promote career development across all programs. This is pretty much just a pipe dream, as most Universities are not concerned with employment rates as much as they are with the research of their staff. If you wanted to work in an environment where this was possible, you should have chosen a Career Center at a Community College.

The second is to treat every interaction with a student as a marketing opportunity. When someone comes into your office DO NOT give them a pamphlet. Do you know who gives pamphlets to teenagers? Every adult they come into contact with on campus. You CAN help them with their resume, but that can’t be all you do. Then you’re just a glorified proof-reader. Students need to know things like what the hell they’re supposed to do with an English degree, where to find these jobs and strategies to set them apart from other applicants. At 18 and 19, they won’t think to ask you these questions. The few students that you DO get in your office for appointments need to get the Cadillac of Career Services. If a student walks out of your office with a little more direction and confidence, word will spread. If not, someone will bad-mouth you on a blog like this one where tens of people will see it, and you won’t be any further ahead.

Friday, 13 April 2012

Stalking Your Way To Work

Have you ever been reprimanded for following someone too closely? Have you ever been served with a restraining order? Well then I have good news! Because of the internet’s ability to lull people into a false sense of security, causing them to report all of their personal details on a public forum, you can use these skills to find employment.

A lot of job-hunting enthusiasts will give you all kinds of information about how to set yourself apart using your cover letter and resume. They also give you a general overview of how to network, but don’t really get into the nitty-gritty of how to do it. The current job market is …terrible, and any advertised job you apply for is going to be riddled with competition. Unless you have been in the industry for years, have won some kind of award or have like a third arm or something, it’s going to be difficult to stand out… unless you have an “in” (a contact who is aware of your talents and your job situation). The more “in’s” you have, the better. A lot of jobs won’t be advertised, because they’ll be given to people with “in’s.”

First: Find A Company You Want To Work For

Start following these companies on every social media account they have. Engage with them. Their websites will also name their executives and employees, who will most likely also have social media accounts. You need to follow these people too. Passively begin to engage with them. Retweet, Like, Share, etc. relevant industry material, current events or general information. (You should already be doing this…we’ve discussed this already).

This part is important. Don’t be creepy! Do not comment on pictures of their vacation (where they’re wearing bathing suits) or on things their mom may have posted on their wall. If you have difficulty with this…maybe just skip Facebook altogether.

Through these accounts you’re using your online presence to let them get to know you. You’re also getting to know them. They’re going to tell you things like:

  • ·        What committees they are on
  • ·        What charity/networking events they go to.
  • ·        What events they are hosting, sponsoring or just attending.

You need to go to those and meet them in person.

If they’re sponsoring an event, you can go, network and take pictures of yourself there. Use your social networks to tell them what an awesome time you had and post pics of you there on your networks. Blog about it! Companies will eat this attention up.

Once you’ve spent some time doing this, find a tasteful way to tell them you’re looking for work. This at least puts you on their radar. They can let you know if something comes up. Also, when you apply for an advertised job, you can let the people you’ve been in contact with know you’ve applied.

If you were successful, and they like you, they can give you tips and keep you abreast of the status of the competition. They can also favor you over other candidates, because they are familiar with you. This is your “in” and you did it using social networking…which is something your body needs anyway. 

Friday, 23 March 2012

Protect Your Career From Your Personal Life

Remember a couple of months ago when we were discussing whether it was a good idea to use Social Networking to find job applicants? Some of us were a little gun-shy. These online profiles have pictures, and information about age, political affiliations, religious beliefs, sexual orientation, and all of the other things recruiters/employers aren't supposed to know. Then, as HR got its feet wet, it got braver.


Companies started asking job applicants to open their Facebook accounts and show them the content. This made some people uneasy, but it could be justified. Your Social Networking profiles are publicly available information. It could be assumed that the average social networker (is that the correct term for us?) publishes their employment details online. It is important for a company to know how you are going to portray yourself as one of their employees. Look at some Twitter profiles if you want to see some examples. People put their employer’s name and position title…and then write “tweets are my own and do not represent my employer.” Your tweets do represent your employer though. Especially if you’re one of the people the client will need to interact with when receiving the company’s service. “Hey remember that douchebag who posted his unpopular opinion about the situation in the middle-east? I don’t want to buy a car from him.” Candidates even had the ability to make their profile employer friendly, and use it to their advantage in the interview. They could show pictures of travelling and engaging in activities that make them appear more well-rounded.

Now we’ve crossed a line into ridiculousness. Asking for someone’s Facebook password so you can peruse its content at your leisure is like asking for their personal cellphone so you can read their text messages. The ONLY reason companies have the ability to do this is due to a lack of legislation regarding online profiles of any kind. If you’re an employer and you’re debating whether this is a good idea or not…I’d play it safe and wait for some relevant case law. If you’re an employee, go back through your Facebook profile messages. Did you just realize that if you’ve never deleted them, they’re all still there? I did! What is an employer going to think of those messages…especially without the context of the relationship you have with that person?

For Example:
  • If someone did not understand my sense of humour, they would think I was really mean to my Mom.
  • Did you ever subscribe to a dating app for Facebook? Did you meet a lot of people? Is your status still set to single? They’re gonna think you’re either a big player or just a sad, sad man.
  • Remember that time the obviously fake Facebook profile sent you a message asking for your banking information, and you responded in the most inappropriate manner you could think of to see if you could gross them out enough to stop messaging you? Facebook does! The employer isn’t gonna know that’s what you were doing. They’re gonna think you’re filthy…and double-jointed.

Technically, employers shouldn’t be allowed to ask for this information, and I’m confident they won’t be allowed to in the future. However, in the interim it might be a good idea to clean it up. You already know that anything you post online stays there forever. Well so do your emails and private messages. If an employer interviews one of your friends, they can access all of the messages you sent your friend as well. Just because you deleted the message, doesn’t mean they can’t find it. If you are talking to someone online, and you feel the urge to be inappropriate try not to use a site an employer would think to request access to. Telling someone off is much safer and more effective when done in person, or with a good old fashioned telephone call. 

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Dude Where’s My Job? Panel 1 – Straight Talk on Resumes: Part 2


Hey everyone!  Remember last week when I got other people to write the content for my blog….I mean when I consulted professionals in the field to give you some well-rounded advice on resume-writing? Well go ahead and get excited, because this is part 2 of that panel.

We’ll start by re-introducing the panel:

Kathy Wishart, Recruiter and Job Search Consultant with Priority Personnel Inc. 

Priority Personnel Inc. is an independent and locally owned New Brunswick recruiting services company. Operating since 1993, our office is conveniently located in the downtown core of New Brunswick's capital city of Fredericton. Wendy Southworth, President, leads this dynamic, forward-thinking organization. Priority Personnel Inc. is driven by a commitment to meet and exceed the needs of our diverse customer base. 75% of our business comes from repeat clients and word-of-mouth referrals.

A wide range of job classifications and services are provided to all levels of Government; not-for profit organizations; and private business such as consulting, legal, insurance, financial, accounting, development projects and corporations, communication, and information technology.

Dana Leavy is the founder of Aspyre Solutions, and a self-proclaimed "Entrepreneurial Wingwoman", helping aspiring entrepreneurs & creative freelancers start, build & grow sustainable small businesses, through career transition and business consulting. As a career advisor and small business entrepreneur, Dana has helped hundreds of professionals in advertising, marketing, design, multimedia and other industries in creating and executing effective career plans to find and DO the work they are passionate about.

Mark Babbitt is CEO and Founder of YouTern, where emerging talent connects with entrepreneur-driven businesses and non-profits through high-impact, mentor-based internships. Mark has been quoted on internship, experiential education and career matters in Forbes, Mashable, and ReadWriteWeb. Mark also contributes to Business Insider, and Intern Advocate. A serial mentor, Mark was recently honored to be named to GenJuice’s “Top 100 Most Desired Mentors” list.

Participants were asked to answer the following questions:

6. If you are over-qualified for the position, should you leave out some of your qualifications?

Kathy Wishart - If you are over-qualified, please reconsider your application.  It’s not likely to go well if you do get the job.  If you need the job, however, be honest.  Omitting items on your resume is treading dangerous ground since most are likely to regard intentional omissions as on par with lies and misrepresentations.  You might try using the cover letter to leverage your reasons for wanting the job.

Dana Leavy - There's no one right answer here.  Generally speaking the last 10-12 years are going to be the most relevant information, and you want to be aware of dating yourself if you're a senior level candidate, or you're breaking into an industry and vying for a more entry-level role.  Do your best to only include the information that's going to be most relevant to the role and the organization.  If you're breaking into the creative industry and going for an entry level designer role, they're not going to care that you have 12 years of professional work experience, especially if it's in a completely different field.  You're not misrepresenting yourself.

Mark Babbitt - No. You want to get the interview – and to do that you have to confidently display your abilities. Once your foot is on the right side of the door, you’re in a much better position to counter the “over-qualified” objection.

7. Chronological, Competency Based or Other? How do we organize our resumes to screen in and catch your attention?

Kathy Wishart - A combined format is probably the most informative type of resume since it links skills and experiences to actual jobs in a chronological order.  In terms of catching my attention, I’m old school.  Make it visually appealing and don’t give me too much to read or wade through.

Dana Leavy - I prefer and often recommend using a hybrid-style resume that includes the summary, a skills or core competencies section, and work experience & education.  I like this formatting because again, it's really effective for presenting the resume as a branding tool, really communicating who you are and what you're bringing to the table.  But it also flows really well in terms of each section - the summary is a general overview of your top skills, followed by additional skills and core competencies you have, and then the experience section goes into more context about where you've used those skills and expertise to be successful and contribute to the organization.

Mark Babbitt - Again, depends on the career and industry. For old-school medical, legal, and engineering firms, for management positions and academia a chronological resume is standard – and expected. For other industries – including digital media, advertising, public relations and more – a hybrid resume (summary statement and then chronological) tends to work best.

8. Is there a better font, font-size, length etc.? When the employer doesn’t specify these things, what do we do?

Kathy Wishart - I’m personally flexible on font type.  It needs to look professional.  Most fonts are fine at a size 11 or 12.  Some people recommend a page of resume for every ten years of work experience.  I certainly wouldn’t go more than 3 pages EVER for a resume; a two page resume with a cover letter is ideal.

Dana Leavy - It's an antiquated myth that the resume HAS to be on one page, but do keep it under two if possible.  Really it's about what is the most effective format for presenting the information, keeping readability, aesthetic and communication in mind.  As far as fonts and sizing, stay with the standard fonts that work on both Mac and PC (Ariel, Helvetica, Georgia, Palatino, etc.).  If you use a Microsoft-based font that doesn't translate to Mac platform, and it's in a Word document, you risk throwing off the formatting of your entire document, and it can look sloppy.  With that in mind, I always suggest presenting your resume in a PDF format, so as avoid any issues with margins when your reader opens it up.

Mark Babbitt - Same criteria as above. Old-school industries and positions stick to Times New Roman 12 or maybe a non-serif Arial 11. For other industries use a Cailbri 11 or similar visually appealing font. Just please don’t use more than two fonts on the resume; if the resume comes across as loud or obnoxious – it gets discarded.

9. Are graphics and other media helpful in getting through the screening process? If yes, do you have any tips on this for applicants?

Dana Leavy - I don't suggest getting overly creative or putting graphics on the resume, outside of maybe a sidebar as a formatting tool for listing additional information.  Besides taking up space, graphics on resumes don't really serve a purpose, impress anyone, and in my opinion they're cheesy.  If you're a designer, your portfolio should speak for itself.  Video resumes are kind of cool, but they're still up and coming, and most companies prefer the standard resume that they can scan really quick instead of watching a several minute multimedia presentation - they don't have time for that.  The only time I would say it's okay to get creative with your branding package is if it's something that's really going to appeal to the type of company to whom you're applying.  If that's what they do, they might enjoy knowing that you're knowledgeable in that area.  But I would still have a standard resume, and then maybe redirect them to your blog, or website, if you want to give them more of an in-depth creative branding presentation on who you are.

Mark Babbitt - Links to social media sites, as well as an online portfolio or blog, is more than welcome. Graphics can be a distraction for most industries (design and digital media are exceptions). Infographic resumes – when well done – can be a great way to get noticed in new media companies and positions.

10. Is there any advice you would give to job applicants regarding their resume that you have not already addressed?

Kathy Wishart - You wouldn’t walk onto a construction site without a hard hat and steel-toed boots.  Why, then, would you approach your job search without the adequate tools to get the job done?  I’m talking about your resume. Unless you’ve been formally trained on resume writing and are an accomplished resume writer, don’t go it alone.  Consult a resume writing service.  It’s an investment in your career.

Dana Leavy - Once again, just remember that the resume is a branding tool that's meant to tell the story of your career, and the biggest aspects of that to keep in mind are professionalism, formatting/readability, and messaging.  Is your brand consistent throughout?  What do you want the employer to know about you as a candidate, and are you communicating that?  Are you using words and phrases that describe what is unique about YOU, and not just presenting you as someone with the basic qualifications?  If you look at it as a branding tool and build it in that way,  instead of a standard required document, it's going to work much better for you.

Mark Babbitt - Your resume must be positioned to compete. That does not mean the resume has to be perfect; it just needs to be a little bit better than your competition. To do that, the resume must be:

1.            Free of grammar and spelling errors
2.            Tailored to each position/application
3.            Peppered with keywords directly from the job description
4.            MUST contain a statement summarizing your soft skills
5.            MUST contain quantified substantiation of your performance (i.e., “exceeded quota by 132%)

Proper execution of these five issues alone places you ahead of at least 90% of your competition, and should be considered mandatory elements of a good resume.

Thanks again to all of the participants. If you have any questions or comments feel free to add them below, or follow the panel members on twitter and ask them yourselves. I hope this unraveled some of the mystery behind what the "rules" on resume writing are. 

Happy job-hunting

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Dude Where’s My Job? Panel 1 – Straight Talk on Resumes: Part 1

Remember when I gave you all that super-helpful information on how to write a proper resume? That’s because I didn't really. What I did tell you was that the personal taste of the hiring manager and the culture of the organization are huge factors to consider when it comes to resume content. There may be some best practices, but for the most part it’s a very subjective topic. I also encouraged you to get advice and feedback from others. Just in case you were waiting for me to do it for you….I did!

The following individuals have graciously offered to contribute their resume-writing expertise.

Kathy Wishart, Recruiter and Job Search Consultant with Priority Personnel Inc. 

Priority Personnel Inc. is an independent and locally owned New Brunswick recruiting services company. Operating since 1993, our office is conveniently located in the downtown core of New Brunswick's capital city of Fredericton. Wendy Southworth, President, leads this dynamic, forward-thinking organization. Priority Personnel Inc. is driven by a commitment to meet and exceed the needs of our diverse customer base. 75% of our business comes from repeat clients and word-of-mouth referrals.

A wide range of job classifications and services are provided to all levels of Government; not-for profit organizations; and private business such as consulting, legal, insurance, financial, accounting, development projects and corporations, communication, and information technology.

Dana Leavy is the founder of Aspyre Solutions, and a self-proclaimed "Entrepreneurial Wingwoman", helping aspiring entrepreneurs & creative freelancers start, build & grow sustainable small businesses, through career transition and business consulting. As a career advisor and small business entrepreneur, Dana has helped hundreds of professionals in advertising, marketing, design, multimedia and other industries in creating and executing effective career plans to find and DO the work they are passionate about.

Mark Babbitt is CEO and Founder of YouTern, where emerging talent connects with entrepreneur-driven businesses and non-profits through high-impact, mentor-based internships. Mark has been quoted on internship, experiential education and career matters in Forbes, Mashable, and ReadWriteWeb. Mark also contributes to Business Insider, and Intern Advocate. A serial mentor, Mark was recently honored to be named to GenJuice’s “Top 100 Most Desired Mentors” list.

The panel was asked to respond to ten questions regarding resume content and formatting. Below are the first five questions. The answers to the next five questions will be posted next week. This is in the interest of keeping the blog post fairly brief, and not (as some have pointed out) an opportunity for me to have two weeks’ worth of blog posts that I don’t have to write myself.

1. What can I include in a resume that really makes it stand out for you from the hundreds of others you see?

Kathy Wishart - This is a tough one because I’ve seen all manner of format and feature in resumes over the years.  A resume that stands out to me now is one that has energy to it and gives me a glimpse into the person I’m considering.

Dana Leavy - A solid resume summary statement is one of the best "tools" you can utilize to add oomph to your resume, and really give it a solid branding message that communicates your top skills and experience.  I say "summary" instead of an "objective" statement because a summary focuses in on the great qualities that you're essentially bringing to the table for the organization (what are they gaining?), versus an objective, which speaks from the perspective of what you want as a job seeker.  While that's important, it's not going to grab any company's attention - they already know you want to work for them, and leverage your skills!  A great branding summary tells them who you are in terms of your qualifications, what you're there to do, and what unique experience or perspective you can really bring to the role.  If you were to answer the question, "What do I want prospective employers to know about me?" this would be the place to really answer that strategically.

Mark Babbitt - Good resumes tell me what you CAN DO for me, not what you DID for someone else. This includes soft skills, quantified statements of achievement – and confidence.

2. What is the most common mistake that people make on a resume and/or what is the one thing you see on a resume that really irritates you (not including typos)?

Kathy Wishart - A good many people submit resumes that look like a list. They’re bare bones information and lack the flesh and muscle that tell me about a person’s accomplishments and suitability.  A straight up pet peeve, for me, in a resume is the word “etc.” It tells me nothing. I’m also not fond of the personal pronoun “I” in a resume.

Dana Leavy - The biggest mistake I see is utilizing a resume as little more than a sheet of paper that denotes your experience, education and skills.  There is no branding message that tells me why you're uniquely qualified for the role, versus having the minimum qualifications.  A resume should follow a slightly formalized format, yes, but it should tell the "story" of your career by really sticking to a clear branding message that's evident throughout the document.  And the other mistake?  Assuming it all has to fit on one page, cramming information together, and ultimately sacrificing the readability of the document.

Mark Babbitt - The inclusion of an objective statement and other “I” related comments. At least until the first interview, as a recruiter the least of my worries is what “You” want or expect. I’m looking for a good culture fit, coachability – and someone who can do the job right now.

3. I keep hearing that “keywords” are the best way to get your resume noticed, but I also hear not to use “over-used” “buzz” words….but the job ad ALWAYS has these words in it. What are your thoughts on this?

Kathy Wishart - Buzz words don’t bother me, personally.  I think the problem with buzz words is that people tend to overuse them and not back them up with concrete examples that demonstrate that they possess that quality.  I’d much rather infer that someone is creative by reading about a cool accomplishment than the job seeker simply telling me s/he is creative.

Dana Leavy - The summary and skill sections are great places to include an keywords or buzzwords that you know your audience is going to be looking for.  Don't overdo it, and keep it genuine - anything you say in your resume you should be able to back up with context and examples in the interview, so don't just throw in keywords for SEO sake.

Mark Babbitt - If you are applying to a larger organization or agency that uses an Automatic Tracking System (ATS) you have no choice but to pepper your resume with keywords from the job description.

4. Everyone says objective statements are overrated. How should the resume open, and what should be included with it?

Kathy Wishart - In the most technical sense, the resume opens with a solid cover letter.  The cover letter should replace the objective statement.  Resumes open with the name and contact information of the job seeker.  After that, I like to see a well-crafted profile statement and relevant summary of qualifications.

Dana Leavy - See #1 above: Open not with an objective, but with a summary that clearly communicates your brand in terms of your skills, experience and any particularly unique angles that would catch your audience's attention.  This is the first section they will read, and you want to set a strong context for the rest of the document that compels them to keep reading.

Mark Babbitt - The summary statement mentioned above is far more effective at showing the recruiter how you will solve their problem; how you will contribute. The summary statement can be either a short paragraph (maybe 400 characters) or five to eight bullet points that highlight your abilities, experience and soft skills.

5. How important is it to include elements of your personality in your resume? Can it be detrimental?

Kathy Wishart - In my opinion, certain aspects of one’s personality, as they relate to the job at hand, should come through in the resume. The employer is hiring the whole person, not just a skill set or repertoire of experience.   This lends itself to cultural fit which is a huge factor in why people stay in or leave their jobs.  But, be careful, some details are just “TMI” – too much information.  Employers don’t care to know (and don’t need to know) about things like sexual orientation, religious beliefs, and hobbies.

Dana Leavy - LinkedIN is a better place to do that, as well as a blog, or even your cover letter, because you can make the connection between the qualifications in the resume, and why you want to work for that particular company.  If you're vying for the attention of a creative company, a startup, or anywhere else where you know there's a very particular company culture that you have to appeal to, you can make that connection in the cover letter, or the other documents.  While it might seem antiquated, the resume still has to follow the old standards and function as a more formalized representation of your qualifications.  But I do think you can get a little creative with your brand - throw your volunteer or internship experience in there, maybe list your memberships & affiliations with certain groups they might find appealing. 

Mark Babbitt - Depends 100% on the industry and company. In a conservative Fortune 500 company showing a unique personality can be a huge detriment. In a start-up, non-profit or entrepreneur driven business, however, “being a character” may be exactly what you need to do to get the interview. In all cases, tailor the resume to the audience.

I want to thank all of the participants for taking the time to share their knowledge in this area. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave one on this post, or follow the participants on twitter and talk to them for yourself. Tune in next week where we address the following questions;

6. If you are over-qualified for the position, should you leave out some of your qualifications?

7. Chronological, Competency Based or Other? How do we organize our resumes to screen in and catch your attention?

8. Is there a better font, font-size, length etc.? When the employer doesn’t specify these things, what do we do?

9. How helpful are graphics and other media in getting through the screening process? Do you have any tips on this for applicants?

10. Is there any advice you would give to job applicants regarding their resume that you have not already addressed?

Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Dude Where’s My Job? Episode 6 – The Follow-Up

A lot of people think that once you've finished the interview it’s all up to the employer. Wrong! You need to make sure the employer remembers your name and stays engaged with you until they make their decision. This isn't even limited to after the interview. You can keep them engaged from the time you submit your application to let them know you are still interested. You just have to make sure you don’t cross the line and become the annoying person who they can’t wait to be rid of.

Step 1

This is a repeat of Episode 2, where I told you to follow the company’s Twitter account or Like their Facebook page. If this is new information to you, go back and read these from the beginning. Why would you start reading from the Episode 6? This isn’t Star Wars, where Episodes 4 – 6 were awesome and then you watched Episode 1 and it immediately made you want to rant about it online….all my Episodes were equally awesome. Keep them engaged through the recruitment process by retweeting, liking, and commenting on their posts. This is done either before or immediately after submitting your application, and continues until you’ve been hired…..or rejected.

Step 2

Keep track of all the positions you apply for. You need to decide, based on each individual position, what would be an appropriate length of time to wait before contacting to check on the status of the competition. Larger companies will have a longer lag time between soliciting applications to the interview stage. A rough heuristic would be one to two weeks from the deadline to submit applications if they haven’t already given you a timeline. Once you have received a timeline, you should avoid asking questions until a couple days after they said they would get back to you. They will get annoyed and start to hate you.

Step 3

Following an interview, some people will instruct you to one or all of the following;
  • ·         Send a thank you email immediately following the interview
  • ·         Send a handwritten thank you note immediately following the interview
  • ·         Call the interviewer after the interview to thank them for the interview

Warning: Doing all of these things lets the employer know that you are not only enthusiastic and excited about the position, but also just a little bit crazy. If you’re applying for anything other than a stalker position, this is not recommended.

Choose which course of action best suits your personal style. You should probably only do one of those things. In the interview, you should ask what the anticipated timeline is for finding out if you were the successful candidate. After the interview, thank the interviewer for their time using one of the three methods above and then after the date they give you, ask if a decision has been made.

Step 4

If you didn’t get the job, ask for feedback. What was it that eliminated me? Most companies won’t tell you what it is, but every now and then you get lucky and they say exactly what it was. Some companies will be as specific as telling you exactly which question you answered incorrectly or insufficiently. You don’t want to keep making the same mistake if it’s something you can help. Don’t wait to get an interview to ask this question. If you don’t get an interview, ask them why you were eliminated. A wise man once told me that “knowing is half the battle.”

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Fitness For Fatties

“Every great diet begins with a single step… and there’s like a bunch more steps and eventually the journey ends up sucking and at some points you’re pretty sure you would be thinner if you hadn’t even tried... Doritos?” – Scott Keenan

Welcome to the mindset of the out of shape. If you’re like most people, you’ve probably attempted some diet or exercise regime that ultimately resulted in complete failure. For some people it’s ok. They just didn’t get the abs they wanted, or their arms are still a little flabby. For the rest of us, it usually results a quick loss of about five pounds followed by a gain of ten pounds, some mild depression and a lot of cream cheese.

I could manage to lose 10 to 15 pounds every year by giving up junk food for lent only to gain it back immediately upon reintroducing crap into my  diet. I also made several attempts at exercise regimes, which never worked out…mostly because I hate exercising. At some point reality has to sink in. You will not do your body any good by just taking the stairs instead of the elevator or going for a walk at lunch. Adjusting only your diet or your exercise regime only does so much. Eventually you have to suck it up and take the plunge with a plan for long term success.

The first step is admitting that you suck. At some points during your diet you are incredibly dedicated, forcing yourself to run an extra 10 minutes after your tired and eating an entire notebook of unlined paper (this is healthier than loose-leaf) in order to extinguish the craving for chips. You have to identify at what point during the day you are an Olympian and force “the you that doesn’t suck” to make the decisions about the rest of the day.

If your gut hangs out over your belt, you have already proven that you cannot be trusted with food. My recent attempts at eliminating junk food proved fruitless as a result of discovering easy pastry recipes. Do you know of a food that you can’t stuff in a pastry and fry, because I don’t. Replacing junk food with chilli pockets did not result in any weight loss. My diet needed a more thorough plan than just “no junk food” in order to overcome the diet hurdles.

Hurdle 1 – Portion Control

It came to my attention that the type of food I was eating was not the problem. I like eating healthy food, I just eat too much of it. When you come home from a long day of work you are in no position to make decisions about what or how much you’re going to eat. The fact is, making something healthy is usually harder than Kraft Dinner or picking up a burger on the way home. Decisions about food intake should be made by the you that doesn’t suck. I found that cooking a big meal at the beginning of the week, portioning it out into Lunch and Dinner sized portions and freezing them made a huge difference. If I spend a couple hours not sucking on Sunday, I don’t have to think about food for the rest of the week. This allows me to focus on work, the gym and my social life without sacrificing my diet.

Hurdle 2 – What do I eat?

The next issue is making sure what you are eating isn’t that bad. I’m not a lot of help here. I’d go see a dietician. I know you’re supposed to snack often so I started carrying around a bag of fruits and vegetables, divided into portion sizes and snacked at least twice in the morning, and twice in the afternoon. I also hated eating breakfast, so I started taking toast and peanut butter with me to work, so I would at least have something in my stomach in the morning. Carry water with you. If it’s on your desk, you will drink it.

Hurdle 3 – Ignoring the Gym Bunnies

 Everyone at the gym is more attractive than I am. Do they really want to see me there?

The answer is no. You make them sad. I found a gym in my area that has significantly fewer attractive people, so I’ve been going there. My first trip to the gym bunnies’ location was extremely depressing. I immediately start sweating when I bend over to tie my shoes, so after the first 10 minutes on the treadmill, I look like I’ve become severely dehydrated. The people at this gym don’t appear to sweat. They’re all sporting Lulu Lemon’s “no pit stain” collection, with perfectly coiffed hair, reeking of perfume and cologne. They still have perfectly chiseled bodies and tiny little waists. I assume they do the bulk of the workout at home, and just come in for a little warm up, followed by a lot of looking at themselves in the mirror in public. This made me uncomfortable. If these people intimidate you, try finding a gym with a homelier clientele. Though, I think all of us regular people should infiltrate these locations and see if we can get them to just stay home.

Hurdle 4 – Motivation

I don’t want to go to the gym.

Duh! Nobody who isn’t completely full of themselves enjoys going to the gym. There are a couple different techniques for getting yourself there.

The Buddy System – Schedule regular times for you and your friend to go. This way, you know if you don’t go, your friend will be irritated. Also, your friend could be more athletic than you. This could motivate you to try harder and they could give you some tips on how to use the equipment. If you’re like me, this didn’t work because your friends can’t stick to a schedule and when they tried to encourage you to run faster or longer, you gave them the finger and stopped talking to them for a while.

Escalation of Commitment – This is a common error made in business. Basically, you continue to invest time and money into a failing business unit only because of all of the time and money you’ve already invested in it, regardless of its potential for success. In this scenario, the failing business unit is your physical appearance. Buy yourself some expensive running shoes, and some fancy gym clothes that are supposed to be good in all types of weather, and are odour resistant. You’ll have invested enough at this point to keep you going for a couple months. P.S. you still have to wash the odour resistant stuff….it does end up stinking….no matter how much you paid for it.

The most important thing is to not think about the fact that you’re going to the gym before you go. Just put your clothes in your bag and get there. Then it’s too late to go back.

Hurdle 5 – Not Looking Like A Tool

Won’t I look like an idiot trying to use everything for the first time?

Yes….you will, and those people ARE laughing at you behind your back. My gym happens to have orientation sessions for new people (or old people who just haven’t taken them before). When I decided to get serious about going to the gym, I took these courses. The trainer and I decided that I’m probably not coordinated enough to use the free-weights on my own, so I should stick to the machines that don’t actually work your core muscles. I think this was a good compromise.

If your gym does not have orientation sessions, you might think a personal trainer is a good alternative. Nope! A personal trainer is a sadistic sub-human who enjoys watching you suffer AND you pay them for it. If you’re really that hard-up to have your self-esteem undermined, move back home with your parents.

Hurdle 6 - The Relapse

F#@* it

You will most likely lose all motivation and revert back to old habits...possibly even worse than your old habits. I recently put two pieces of pizza between two pieces of toast. I added some mustard and mayonnaise and a little bit of party mix. It was pretty much awesome. When you hit bottom like this, you have to give yourself two weeks of disciplined, back-on-trackedness before you'll feel motivated to start your healthy-living up again. 

Remember, we can't jump every hurdle, but together we can strategically maneuver around them.