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spotToday I came across a resume that was, let’s say – fru fru:  a rather expressive use of fancy fonts making it rather artistic but very hard to read.

Keep it readable

The main purpose of the resume is the highlight your experience and main selling points.  It will only be given a few seconds of attention, and needs to speed-readable – the reader needs to see the most critical points in just a few glances. If you obscure the key points with fancy fonts or graphics, or draw the readers eyes away from what matters, your message will not get across.  Stick to tried and true fonts – Arial, Times New Roman etc., and avoid fancy gimmicks that make your resume difficult to read. That said, don’t be sloppy and careless – make your resume look sharp, but keep it laser-focused on readability.

Keep it short

The more resumes I see, the more I believe in this – your resume should only be one page. Especially older candidates are obsessed with chronicling and detailing every aspect of their careers on their resume, ending up with multi-page works of art. Long, multi-page resumes are not power-readable. Most readers won’t even look at the second page. If you can’t say it on one page, its probably not worth saying. Work to take out any redundancy, anything that doesn’t tell the message you are trying to convey and anything that distracts the reader.

Good luck!

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This is the fourth and final post in our short series on developing your hiring pitch. The first postexplained what the hiring pitch is and what you need it for: a short, succinct summary of the most critical points of your candidacy that address the must-have and nice-have issues faced by the hiring manager. The second post explains in detail how to develop you talking points – by brainstorming strengths and then developing proof points to back them up. The third post explains how to customize your pitch for a specific job opening.

How to deliver your pitch in interviews and elsewhere

If you have followed the advice in the first three parts of this series you will have developed a specific pitch to use for each company or job interview. But how do you use your pitch? At what moment does it make sense? How do I avoid sound like I am over-selling?

The following spells out how to use your pitch in specific situations.

Using the pitch in interviews or casual discussions

Using your pitch in 1:1 conversations, with recruiters, influencers or even just contacts in your network, is tough but also the most important use of this vital tool. It would would sound corny, inappropriate and plain weird if you would use your pitch at the wrong moment, yet at the same time no one will ever say: “let me hear your pitch”. So when do you use it? Well, you need to weave it in opportunistically when you are presented an opening. You will typically be presented multiple openings, and they key is to recognize and them use them.

For example, a typical question asked in interviews is: “What are your strengths and weaknesses?” This is a perfect launch point for your pitch. Assuming you have 5 talking points in your pitch, your answer would start something like this: “I think I have 5 key strengths ..” then quickly high-light each talking point including the corresponding proof-point as discussed in Part 2. Of course, you should then also have a good answer to satisfy the weakness portion of the question, but that is the topic of a future post.

In some cases you will be only be able to weave in part of your pitch to satisfy a specific question, but be patient, there will be other opening to give your entire pitch.

Questions that give you an opening to deliver your pitch:

  • What are your strengths?
  • Tell me about yourself?
  • Why should we hire you?
  • Why are you a good fit for this job?

Using your pitch in a cover letter

Your pitch should be the central theme in your cover letter. We will discuss this in detail in yet another future post, but a cover letter should typically have 3 parts:

  1. Introductions - who your are and how you became aware of this job opening
  2. Your pitch – why your are a good candidate
  3. Closing -ask for an interview

As you can see, you pitch is the “meaty” part of your cover letter and should be at least 80% of the words on the page. Here you can carefully craft a written version of your pitch. Again, this should be designed to meet the job “specs”. Often, the best way to list your talking points is in the form 4-5 bullet points, each of which claims a key strength and is then backed-up by a proof point (see Parts 2 & 3).

Using your pitch in your resume

Your resume also needs to mirror your pitch, although much more subtly than your cover letter. Essentially, you should make sure that all proof points for your pitch listed in your cover letter is backed up by your resume.

This usually does not require major open heart surgery redesign of your resume, but rather dedicated much space to your proof-points, and deemphasizing stuff that is not relevant to this specific position.

This concludes our short series on developing your pitch – we hope it helps!

Image by Nevada Tumbleweed

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This is the third post in our short series on developing your hiring pitch. The first post explained what the hiring pitch is and what you need it for: a short, succinct summary of the most critical points of your candidacy that address the must-have and nice-have issues faced by the hiring manager. The second post explains in detail how to develop you talking points – by brainstorming strengths and then developing proof points to back them up.

How to customize your pitch for a specific job or interview

As we discussed in the earlier posts of this series, it is critical that you fine tune your story for each company, job and interview. Recruiters have a specific “specification” in mind, and if you do not meet that spec your candidacy will not be met with success.

How to figure out the “design specs”

So how do you know what the hiring manager is looking for? Well, often they actually spell it out for you:

  • In the job posting or job description, they will often list specific requirements
  • Company websites often also talk about what they look for in new employees in general

If you the job description or website don’t tell you what you need, there are a couple other sources you can use:

  • Talk to current or former employees at the target company – they often have an inside view
  • Use a common sense approach and imagine you are the recruiter – what would you be looking for?
  • Talk to the recruiters prior to your application or interview, e.g. at a job fair, marketing event, or even just call them up – asking is free, and often recruiters appreciate the effort you show

How to customize your pitch to meet the specs

Now that you know what the specific company or job opening requires, it is time to develop your customized pitch. Take the long list of strengths that we developed in Part 2 and pick and chose the most relevant strengths. Make sure to address each job requirement – if you long list has gaps, use the methodology outlined in Part 2 to fill the gaps. Do not use any talking points from your long list that are not required by the specific job 0 you have a limited attention span of the recruiter to work with, so you should focus on the most critical elements.

The final post in this series will explain how to use the pitch in interviews and elsewhere.

Good luck!

Image by Nevada Tumbleweed

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This is the second post in our short series on developing your hiring pitch. The first post explained what the hiring pitch is and what you need it for: a short, succinct summary of the most critical points of your candidacy that address the must-have and nice-have issues faced by the hiring manager.

How to develop the talking points in your pitch

So what should you talk about in your pitch? We think there are two things you should do here. First, you should make a long list of talking points, together with hard-hitting proof-points. Then, as we will explain in part 3you should assemble a specific pitch from the long list of talking points. This post will discuss how to develop and flesh out the long list of talking points.

Figure out what topics are most typically asked

Your pitch needs to cater to the needs of the hiring managers you want to convince, so you should start by laying out what you think they are looking for in a candidate.

Hiring managers will likely have expectations around the following topics:

  • Education & training
  • Skills & talent
  • Experience & knowledge
  • Relationships & networks

Try to establish what the hiring managers you want to cater to will specifically be looking for. Be as specific as possible and as comprehensive as possible. Some expectations can easily be gleaned from looking at job descriptions and postings, but others require common sense (if you were the hiring manager, what would you look for), and others you may only learn by talking to people currently in the field or at a specific company. Worst-case you will have to ask someone at HR or the hiring manager prior to the interview – “So what are you looking for in candidates?” Next, you should spell out all these requirements in a list. Mark those that you think that are must-haves clearly

Here is an example of a hiring manager’s needs for a tech sales opening:

  • College degree from a Top 50 school, ideally in business
  • At least 4 years of sales experience, ideally in the technology space
  • Strong sales tool-kit: winning personality, ability to handle pressure, strong interpersonal skills, excellent communication skills etc
  • Strong team skills: ability to work seamlessly in a large team, proven ability to deal with conflict, good leadership skills
  • Technical knowledge: knowledge of computer system xyz

Brainstorm your strengths

Next, for each of the hiring manager’s needs, develop your list of strengths. This is a brainstorming process that may take a while. Involve your family and friends in figuring out how you match against the needs – rack your brains to come up with examples from work, personal life, college years etc. Start a list on a piece of paper and keep adding to it until you have enough to work with. Remember to stay honest with yourself – it is OK to emphasize and call out skills, experiences and other assets that you truly have, it is not OK to invent, or grossly embellish and exaggerate. Use this test – if you would feel comfortable sharing this point with your current boss, best friend, teacher etc without being embarrassed, it is good. If you would feel embarrassed, it is not.

Try to make the list specific, e.g. not just say you have strong interpersonal skills, but that you are very easy to get along with, work well with abrasive people, are able to smooth over weird and aggressive situations with your humor and charm etc.

In the end you should have a long list of strengths that address all of the key needs / requirements of the hiring manager. Now clean it up – merge points that are too similar or repetitive, delete points that are contradictory, sort by importance and write on a clean sheet of paper.

What if you have a gap?

What if at the end of the day you come up short on one of the important hiring needs? For example, the job requires a college degree, but you left college without a degree. Then what? Well if you think this makes the whole thing a non-starter, move on. Don’t waste your time; look for a career or job that fits better with what you have to offer. However, if you think that you candidacy is so strong on many other points that you could overcome that gap, go for it. Articulate why this gap should not diminish your application and why your strengths on other points more than make up for it. Make sure to include this issue in your pitch. It is better to address such a point early on in your job application or interview rather than for the hiring manager to overlook something and then ding you when the issue is noticed – without you being able to speak to it.

Develop proof points

Next, for each of your strengths that you have brainstormed, develop one or two hard hitting proof points: little stories and anecdotes that prove out your strengths. Ideally these should be from within the last few years and if possible from a professional context, but it is fine to weave in experience from college, personal life or the more distant path, as long as the other proof points you use are more recent and applicable. Think of a very simple way of conveying the story or anecdote that quickly emphasizes your strength while offering enough detail to make it seem real and substantial enough to act as proof. Typically, I find that you should be able to tell such anecdotes in less than a minute. If the interviewer asks you for more details you should be able to talk up to 5 minutes on the story, but for your 1st pass 1 minute should be sufficient. Often building in a little humor or using more active body language is very effective.

Hone & polish

Finally, you should spell out your talking points including proof points. Write them out just the way you would speak about them, and then practice them out loud – alone or in front of your family. See what works, what needs to be refined and in particular work to make each point as short and sweet as possible – cut out as much words as you can without changing the message. In the end you should be able to talk about each strength in about 30 seconds, and have a 60 second anecdote or two to support each strength. Remember, you will not use all of these points in every interview or conversation – you will need to customize your pitch for every discussion.

This is the second post in a short series of posts on the topic of developing your hiring pitch. The next posts will cover the following topics:

  • How to customize your pitch for a specific job
  • How to deliver your pitch in interviews and elsewhere

Image by Nevada Tumbleweed

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One of the most critical weapons in your arsenal during your job search is a well-crafted and well-executed hiring pitch: a clear, passionate and logically convincing argument why you should be the candidate to hire.

It is like when you gaze at stars. All the stars in the sky seem random until somebody points out a clear constellation – like the big dipper – that clicks in your mind and you immediately get it. The random stars were transformed into a vivid picture by just a few words, a short explanation.

Your pitch is exactly that type of explanation that allows a recruiter or influencer to put together random points from your education, experience, personality and talents. You point out how the points fit together until they are able to paint the picture in their own mind.

However, given the very little time you have to capture the attention of a recruiter, the pitch also needs to be very concise and to the point. It needs to paint to picture with only few words and in very little time.

Inherently, many hiring managers have a check-list that they want to fulfill. That list will have must-have points and nice-to-have points. Your job in developing your pitch will be to hit all the must-have points and as many of the nice-to-have points as possible while not wasting any precious time on issues irrelevant to the hiring manager. E.g., don’t waste time bragging about your French or German language skills when the job only requires you to deal with English speakers.

Further, you will need to tailor a slightly different picture for each different job you are shooting for. Your pitches will have a lot in common, but you may need to emphasize, add or adapt specific elements. For example, lets say you are interested in a career in sales. However one job opening requires a lot of travel and another sales job requires a lot of strategic deal making. While the overall profile you will try to convey in your pitch will be quite similar you should emphasize willingness to travel for the one job and experience in negotiating complex deals in the other.

Finally, your pitch should always contain “proof points”. It is easy to claim something, but much harder to convince a listener that your claim is valid. The best way to substantiate your claim is to offer proof points. For example, “I am very strong at managing complex projects” (the claim), “for example, in my last job a managed a budget of $1M and a team of 8 people  on a project that spanned three departments, and I was able to complete the project with my team in-time and under budget” (the proof).

This is the first in a short series of posts on the topic of developing your hiring pitch. The next posts will cover the following topics:

  • How to develop the points in your pitch
  • How to customize your pitch for a specific job
  • How to deliver your pitch in interviews and elsewhere

Image by Nevada Tumbleweed

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spot10 most common resume blunders

Resumes are one of the most critical tools you will need in your job search. Most people have a good understanding of what belongs into a resume. However, I am often amazed by the mistakes applicants make in their resumes. To help you avoid them, I made a list of the most common blunders.

#10 Not making your resume electronically compatible

Today most resumes are submitted electronically. If you are lucky, you get to send in a file, like a word document or a PDF. In that case, you should aim to have your resume in PDF format – only then can your guarantee that it will print looking the way you intended it to. Word documents often turn out differently on different printers, and that wonderful 1 page resume you crafted may get printed on two pages. However, there is a high chance that you need to submit your resume in plan text format – e.g. by copying and pasting into an entry box . In that case you need to make sure that the plain text version is still readable – e.g., if all your line breaks are messed up, the printed version will look very different from what you think it should.

#9 Not making it power-readable

When I scan an applicant’s resume, I only spend very little time on it – often less than a minute. A resume that is power-readable – major points stand-out, clear formatting that leads the reader, nice large fonts, etc – will allow me to absorb the key points in that short time. A resume that is poorly formatted with large, winding text blocks, key points hidden away and a confusing layout will not allow me to get the message

#8Making it way too long

A short resume with few words is always more powerful than a long, over-detailed one. For most business-type jobs, you should keep it to one page. Even if you had more than one job. Even if you have so many college awards you want to list out. Older applicants with eons of work experience can get away with two pages, but I personally wonder why someone cannot provide their most critical marketing message to me in one pithy, simple page. Some technical jobs may be exceptions – you may need to list the litany of tools, programs, languages etc you have mastered.

#7 Being too wordy, insistent on squeezing too much in

Even on a one page resume – and maybe especially there – people try to squeeze in way too much. Stick to the most salient points. Think carefully about what you want to say and then emphasize that. Don’t be redundant – don’t repeat stuff multiple times. The fewer words you use, the easier it is to read.

#6 Doing a shoddy job

Recruiters will assume that you have invested serious time crafting your resume. If you resume looks like a bad hair day – bad formatting, incomplete sentences, etc. They will assume you are not able to invest the necessary effort in the jo either and won’t hire you. Your resume should look slick, crisp and professional.  Doing a nice job formatting your resume is important – recruiters expect computer literacy at all levels today. If you lack the skills acquire them as soon as possible.

#5 Typos, spelling mistakes

Avoid typos at all costs. They reflect poorly on you. Especially if they are wrong words instead of typos. For example, instead of writing “there” where “their” would have been appropriate. Your word processor will not point out those kinds of mistakes, and they are worse than mere typos. Typos just indicate that you are too careless or lazy, whereas wrong word choices indicate you lack the education and training necessary to write a simple letter. Have friends and families proof-read your resume.

#4 Disclosing legally sensitive facts about yourself

In the US anti-discrimination laws force employers to treat all potential employees equally. However, by adding certain facts about yourself on your resume you could make discrimination possible. For that reasons most companies reject ANY resumes that include information that can be used for discrimination, especially race, religion, health / disability, age, marital status. To avoid this, your resume should only  include:

  1. Your name and address
  2. Your education history
  3. Your work history
  4. Relevant skills (computer skills, languages etc)
  5. Your interests, hobbies

#3 Not tailored to your audience

As we will discuss in greater detail elsewhere, every employer will look for something different. Different experience, skills and interests. You need to make sure that the specific resume you send in emphasizes the points that specific employer is interested in. Don’t send in a computer programmer resume to a landscaping company. Using the same resume for all job openings for every job application is easy. But it also is utterly ineffective – so don’t do it!

#2 Not highlighting your most critical selling points

One of the recurring themes on this website is that you need to figure out what your marketing message, your elevator pitch is and then relentlessly push that message. Your resume must deliver that punch line very clearly and effectively. The message must jump off the page, not be hidden away. You want to hit the reader with a 2×4 across the head with the message. This is the only purpose of the resume. Don’t miss it.

#1 Lying

Never, ever lie on your resume. Would giving your resume to your current boss, your best friend or mom make you turn red? Feel sheepish? Then you are pushing it too far. If you do lie, exaggerate or fib, you will get caught eventually. And that will kill your application or worse get you fired. When I was a young manager my boss hired a new programmer who was supposed to work for me. He advertised some very specific programming skills in his resume and in his interviews, but when he actually started working for me it turned out that he had lied. He had zero programming skills. He was the 1st guy to let go by our group in over five years. But he had it coming and no one felt sorry for him.

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