m-Pact Career Blog

from Marketing Talent Network

NOT Being Creative with Job Titles

One resume that we recently reviewed was from an extremely talented individual. who completely left off her job titles in her positions with her current employer.  We noticed it immediately.  So would others.  Which immediately raised the question, “Why?”

She had a good reason.  Her title was long and unusual and didn’t really accurately describe her position.  The problem is that, for many who would see this resume, the decision to do this would immediately raise some red flags.  And in many instances, she might not even have the opportunity to explain why.

The other type of “creativity” that we sometimes encounter with titles are people that are convinced their title simply isn’t accurate.  “Well, I don’t actually have the title of Brand Manager, but that really is what my job is.”  Or, “My title just doesn’t make sense to others in the industry.”  Or, some similar explanation.  The difficulty is that, to most companies, this is just plain lying.  In addition to your resume, you will probably be required to fill out an application with this information.  Plus any reference checking done by the company will almost always seek to confirm titles.  In most cases, this seemingly (to you) small reinterpretation of the facts (lie) will cause you to lose this job.

The solution is really quite simple.  Always always provide the correct title — on the resume and on the application.  If you believe that the correct title is misleading, you can then do one of two things.  First, you can simply put what you believe to be the more accurate title in parentheses behind it.  In addition, you might also provide a brief statement of explanation in the body of the resume, or in the cover letter that accompanies it.

But using a title different than the one you actually had with a company could make this the shortest job in your career.  Don’t take the chance.

John

June 6, 2008 Posted by | Tips - Resumes and Cover Letters, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Don’t make this Mstake

Yes, the word “Mistake” in our title is misspelled on purpose in order to grab your attention.  This is not the way that you want to generate attention in your resume.  This is your advertisement, your brochure, your press release, your point-of-purchase display.  Don’t devalue yourself by being careless.

Yesterday we reviewed a two page resume that contained three typographical errors.  While any such error is a negative in a resume, two of these were special problems.

One of the three errors was a word in the text that was caught by our spellchecker — the word “relaunch” was spelled as “relauch” in referring to the relaunch strategies of a particular product group.  However, neither of the other two errors were picked up by this particular spell-check program.  One of these was a proper name — of all things, the name of one of the companies in this candidate’s job history. 

The other word was also especially noticeable since it was in one of the headers for this resume.  In addition to the typical “Work Experience” component, this resume had separated the internship experience during their MBA program into a separate section.  The header of that section included the word “INTERSHIP” in large bold capitalized letters.  This too was not caught by our spell-check system (making me wonder whether we may need to invest in a different spellchecker).

Which brings us very smoothly to some basic rules of avoiding typographical errors in your resume.

Do Not Rely on Your Spellchecker to Find all Typos:  As related above, spellcheckers do not always pick up errors.  Taking a document and running it through a spellchecker is always a good idea, but it is not enough.  It requires attentive proofreading in addition.

Do Not Rely on Only Your Own Eyes to Find Typos:  Attentive proofreading, yes.  But as with spell-check, do not make the mistake of relying on your own eyes, even if you consider yourself to be an excellent speller.  You always want at least one other person to carefully review your resume.  Why?  Our brain often does something rather special when we read something that we have written.  You see, we already know what we wrote, and our brain knows what it expects to see.  The result is a “skimming factor” that causes us to sometimes miss typographical errors, even if we think that we are being especially careful.

Do Not Rely on a Resume Service or Someone Else’s Work:  Especially with a resume service, where you have paid for a professional to assist, you anticipate a thorough and accurate job.  Guess what?  “It ain’t necessarily so.”  Although more often than not, such a service will be very cautious about checking for typographical errors, don’t assume this is the case.  We have received resumes with multiple typos only to learn later that they were prepared by a resume service.  It’s your career.  You are the individual that this resume is presenting to the hiring public.  Do your own due diligence to assure complete accuracy. 

By the way, this applies not only to professional resume services.  It is equally true if your resume has been prepared or typed by an outplacement service — and perhaps even more true if it was done by your spouse, secretary, girlfriend/boyfriend, friend or mom.  Don’t rely on someone else . . .

. . . and that includes your recruiter:  You should also not rely on a recruiter or executive search firm to catch any errors.  Hopefully any recruiters with whom you are working at least read your resume.  But scanning a resume for content and proofreading a resume for errors are two very different types of reading.  Many executive search firms are not going to go through the added step of individually proofreading your resume.

Look for Contextual Errors as Well:  One reason that a spellchecker is not always comprehensive is that some of the errors are not misspelled words.  Rather, they are the wrong words in the wrong context.  Did you use “their” instead of “there”, or did you mean “principle” or “principal”?  Even more basic, did you mean to type “thin” or “think” or “thing” or “this”?  Or something as simple as typing the word “on” when you meant “in”, or “of” when you meant “or”.  Both of these last two examples happen more often than you might think, since the “o” and “i” keys and the “f” and “r” keys are right next to each other on the keyboard.  While these may be picked up by more sophisticated proofreading tools that include grammar checks, many spell-check programs will miss most or all of these.  And because they are especially tricky to catch, they require very careful reading.

So, run your resume (and, by the way, any other documents such as your cover letters) through a spellchecker, and attentively read every word as a proofreader does, and have at least one other person that you trust do the same.  Any errors reflect poorly on you.  They can make a prospective employer feel as if you are careless — that you don’t pay attention to the details.  To borrow an advertising slogan from Hallmark Cards:  “Care enough to send the very best”, especially when a future career opportunity may hang in the balance. 

John

 

May 30, 2008 Posted by | Tips - Resumes and Cover Letters, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Writing a Summary for Your Resume

Increasingly, we have observed a wide variety of summary styles for resumes.  What we are going to talk about here is what makes the most effective resume summary (which we almost never see) and some summary styles to avoid in composing your resume.

The Traditional Resume Summary:  The most frequent resume that we see is a fairly short generic summary.  These are typically 3 to 5 lines in length, and are relatively generic.  They give a brief description of your background and experience.  This style of resume summary is moderately useful, but only moderately so.

Is the Summary too General?  In writing and reviewing your summary, one question to ask yourself is whether it is so general as to be meaningless — or worse, boring.  The last thing that you want on your resume is for the first thing the prospective employer reads to be something that puts them to sleep.  This is your introduction to the employer.  It must be something that creates interest and makes them want to read more.

The Summary as An Impact Statement:  One of my mantras, so to speak, is the importance of impact statements in your resume and your interviews.  An Impact Statement is something that tells the employer how you positively impacted your previous employers, and is the real answer to that all important question of “Why should I hire you?”  One way to make the summary a more effective and less boring part of your resume is to incorporate one or more impact statements.  Examples might include:

  • Consistently exceeded expectations as far as both revenue and profitability.
  • Added 27 large key accounts in my last three positions.
  • Successfully led turnaround efforts for five previously declining brands.
  • Have saved my last three employers approximately $5.3 million through cost controls.

Notice several common threads to each of these statements.  1)  They are all accomplishment oriented.  2) they are all true summary statements, encompassing more than one single position.  3)  They all involve some level of quantification of your accomplishments (not essential but a big plus).  And you tell me — if you were reviewing a resume, if you read any of those statements in the first two or three sentences of a summary, would you want to read more?  That is the purpose.

Targeting your Summary Statement:  Now we are going to take the concept of the impact summary described above one step further.  In this era of word processing, where it is so easy to make changes in your resume, consider editing the impact statement for a specific employment opportunity.  Let me give you a couple of examples.

Let’s say you are a marketing manager (or brand manager or product manager) that has some new products experience scattered through your career.  You identify an opportunity with Big Company A.  Because of conversations with your recruiter or from an Internet ad or from someone you know in that company, you are aware that one of the key components of this position is working with new products.  For this particular opportunity, invest a short amount of time to incorporate a strong statement of your new product experience into your summary statement.  For example, “Extensive experience in new products including the successful development and launch of 23 new products and line extensions.”  This not only places impact statements in your resume summary — you have created an impact statement directly related to the position for which you are applying.

Let’s now take another example for those of you in the sales profession, giving a couple of situations.  In this case we are talking about a National Account Manager that has experience in Office Products Superstores (including specifically Staples) and in the Mass Market (including specifically Target).  You have identified two different opportunities — one of them calling on Staples, and one of them calling on a number of Mass Market accounts (but not Target).  For the first job, you want to incorporate one or more impact statements into your summary focused on your effective expertise with Staples.  For the second job, you want to incorporate one or more impact statements on your broad based national account experience in the Mass Market.  Although you might mention Target in that last summary, simply because Target is such an important account — resist the urge to focus on your Target experience.  Doing that may create an impression that you are only truly interested in positions calling on that account.

The Run-on Summary Statement:  The biggest mistake that we see with summary statements is for them to go on and on and on and on . . .  We have seen so-called “summary statements” that actually take up almost all of the first page of a resume.  This is typically done by someone who keeps adding and adding “information” to it, afraid that they might leave out something important.

Understand that the summary statement is not supposed to take the place of your resume.  It should not be so long that you are, in effect, turning your resume into the dreaded functional style.

The summary statement should be a teaser.  The primary purpose that it should fulfill is to make the person reading the resume want to read more.  The better resume summary does this by using impact statements.  The best resume summary goes one step further by incorporating one or more impact statements directly related to the position for which you are applying.

John

 

May 29, 2008 Posted by | Tips - Resumes and Cover Letters, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Consultant Seeking Job?

An interesting trend over the past five years is the increase in resumes that feature a period of time in which a professional has had their own consulting practice.  This is different than someone working for a consulting group or for a marketing agency or advertising firm.  What we are considering here are situations in which a candidate is using their own self-employment as an independent consultant for part of their employment history.

It is not at all unusual in such situations for a third-party recruiter or an interviewer with a prospective employer to explore this particular period in some detail, especially if it is presented as the most recent employment on your resume or at least fairly recent employment.  And why not?  If it is part of a legitimate job history, you should expect that experience to be explored at least as fully as any other experience.

The secret, as with all areas of the interview, is to be prepared.  However, preparation is especially important in this instance because claims of consulting experience will be suspect to some of the individuals interviewing you.  We know you don’t want to hear this, but it is a fact.

  • Were you obtaining consulting assignments yourself, or were these contract assignments through an agency or marketing temp firm?  You may be asked this just to establish the type of consulting environment in which you were operating.  If these were through a marketing temp firm for example, be prepared to reveal who that firm was.  Also, don’t be surprised if you are asked why none of those assignments converted from temporary to permanent.
  • Who were your clients and what was the nature of the consulting work?  This question will almost certainly come up.  Be prepared to talk about this, but also be aware that there is a right way and a wrong way to present this information.  The most important thing to remember is to try and keep this discussion relevant to the job for which you are interviewing.  For example, if you are interviewing for a brand management job involving a lot of work with new products, try to use examples that illustrate consulting work with new product launch or designing new packaging, or examples that emphasize your creativity and conceptualization.  If you are interviewing for a marketing research job that requires experience with syndicated research or with focus groups, use examples from your consulting work that highlight your skills in those areas.  If you are interviewing for a job involving Search Engine Optimization, focus on SEO related success stories in your consulting.  Keep it relevant to the job.
  • A Resume Addendum?  It is generally a poor idea to busy up a resume with extraordinary levels of detail about every consulting client and assignment.  However, if you have a particularly strong story to tell about your consulting experience, you might consider including an addendum to your resume as a part of the portfolio that you take to job interviews.  As a brief overview, it is recommended that this be organized in bullet format with the client as the header for each bullet.  In addition to the client name, include a very brief description of the nature of the assignment and, much more importantly, any success stories related to each assignment.  In other words, tell what you accomplished for each client, quantifying these accomplishments to the extent possible.  When this period of your work history comes up in the interview, you can then use this to help establish that experience as strength rather than a potential weakness.
  • What were your Earnings as a consultant?  Especially if this is shown as your most recent job experience, you will almost certainly be asked this.  There is a tremendous temptation for some individuals faced with this question to exaggerate, and that is a disaster waiting to happen.  At some point, you will probably be asked to provide this information in writing on an application form.  Plus, don’t be surprised if you are asked to provide a tax reporting record as evidence of the accuracy of these claims.  You may think that exaggeration of this income is safe because it is a little more difficult to confirm through standard reference checking, but being caught may very likely mean losing this job opportunity entirely.
  • Be Prepared with References:  This is an era of more cautious reference checking.  If independent consulting is a part of your work history, you should be prepared with at least one or two solid references from your clients.

If you are one of that increasing number of professionals that include a period of independent consulting in your career track, don’t be ashamed of it.  More and more companies appreciate some element of entrepreneurial experience in prospective employee backgrounds.  However, be prepared to present that background with strength and credibility in order to increase your chances of landing your desired job. 

At the same time, beware of exaggerating.  Again, like it or not, fair or not — many recruiters and companies are already at least a little suspicious when they see this background presented on a resume.  You want it to work for you — not against you.

John

May 13, 2008 Posted by | Tips - Interviewing, Tips - Resumes and Cover Letters, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Bigger They Are . . . (or a new way to lose your job)

One of the areas that we regularly stress is the importance of truthfulness in your resume.  We no longer live in a world where credentials are checked haphazardly, if at all.

This should be obvious. Except we have had candidates who sent us resumes with a changed career track that is very different than the resume they sent us three years ago.  In other words, the same person had different jobs with different employers at different periods of their career than what they had reported before.  And yes, we do keep them.

And we have had candidates who have told us that another recruiter told them it was okay to just drop the short term job that they held in 2006 for about eight months in between two other jobs.  Or to go ahead and fudge on that title a little.  Although, thank goodness, lying on a resume is usually the candidate’s own idea and not that of another recruiter. 

What’s wrong with this, other than the fact that it is lying?  The point was driven home in an article at the top of the “Who’s News” section on page B5 of the May 2nd Wall Street Journal. Quoting the first paragraph briefly:

“. . .the President and Chief Operating Officer of Herbalife, Ltd., lost his job after acknowledging he claimed a fake Master’s degree in corporate filings.”

Yep — the bigger they are . . . well, you know the rest.

Don’t let this be you.  If a company discovers that you have lied about credentials on your resume, you face two problems.  First, if they find out during the hiring process, you almost certainly won’t get hired.  But what many don’t realize is that if they find out after you have been hired — even several months later — you may very well be summarily discharged.

And if you encounter that rare recruiter who tells you to lie on a resume (remember, there is a bottom 10% in every profession) — “Well, you’re only a couple classes short of a degree, so go ahead and put it on there” or “I tell all my candidates to leave off a job when they were there less than a year” or “No one will understand that title, so just put down Director of Marketing, since that’s really what you were anyway” — run from that recruiter as fast as you can. 

Not only are they putting you in jeopardy as far as your career.  But, if they are willing to let you lie to the employer about your credentials (an employer that is paying them by the way), how many lies are they going to tell you about the company and the job?  (Sure you’ll be promoted in the next six months . . . you bet).

Of course, all of this applies to interviews as well as resumes, but more on that another time.

John

May 9, 2008 Posted by | Tips - Interviewing, Tips - Resumes and Cover Letters, Uncategorized | Leave a comment