A quick scan of a resume sets expectations instantly.
Here’s what you need to know to make that fact work for you in your executive job search.
Let’s set the stage. The person reading your resume is a hiring authority or refers candidates to hiring authorities. They want to spend time with only the best candidates and a triage based on a resume is their perceived best first step. Here’s how it works.
Past employers and titles are instant clues to hiring authorities – It is assumed since certain companies only hire the best, you are a cut above. Further, the sphere of influence in larger companies includes more staff and larger responsibilities across departments. Previous employers become your best references just by virtue of being named on your resume. If you worked for that employer more than four years, your resume goes to the top of the stack.
- If the list of employers does not include recognized companies, or companies too small to register, the resume is considered second tier.
- Sure, titles and accomplishments may prove otherwise, but the expectation has been set and the candidate has much to prove. If you have spent less than three years at the majority of your employers, your resume goes to the bottom of the stack.
- Resume one is from a Vice President of Product Development from a no-name or less than 200 person company. That individual is considered for Director or Senior Manager positions.
- Resume two is from a Director at Amazon or Google or PayPal. Depending on the size of the hiring company, that candidate will be considered for Vice President or Business Unit Manager.
- Resume three is from a Director at Microsoft who worked there less than 18 months. That resume may go to the bottom of the stack depending on the reader’s opinion about Microsoft (or any name brand company).
Rapid fire resume reading is the non-name brand candidate’s worst enemy. If choices or life conspired to keep you out of Microsoft or Adobe, how can you land that top tier job? The answer is simple, but it is not easy, nor is it quick. It is about career planning, not job hunting.
The Best Resume – Let’s start with what you can control. Load your resume with exactly the outcomes the new employer has specified on their job description. This means a new resume for each job. Only include outcomes, metrics and results. No generalizations about the quality of your work are appropriate. Often the sheer weight of your success will overcome the name brand issue.
Personal Branding - Get known for your specialty. If you are, for instance, a SaaS guru who has released 10 products into the Cloud, make your presence known on blogs and articles and LI groups as someone who has accomplished that feat and who mentors others to do the same. This isn’t a one shot approach, it is a career-long activity. Eventually, some people become thought leaders in their specialty from the humble beginnings of LinkedIn groups.
Keep your blog on target - If you want to be known as the supreme Project Manager, don’t include diet tips and travel logs on your blog.
Referrals - The single best way to land a job is through a referral. Cultivate your network to reflect people who do what you do or who hire people like you and keep in touch with them. When opportunities are presented to them in which they are not interested, they can refer you. You have but to ask. There are so many ways to get referrals, whole books have been written on the topic. It is the single best way to improve your career choices. Learn how to network and how to articulate your needs and what you can do in return.
Network to the top - Successful Executive job search and career development require a strong network. Acquiring and maintaining your network is a career long activity. Facts are facts. The best jobs are filled by executives who are already known to the hiring authority. Sure, when you have a job you are too busy to network, attend conferences or trade shows, much less local networking events. And yet, when it is time for you to land a new job, you regret not spending that time.
Justify attending events - Not only are you locating prospective candidates for future openings in your own department, you are representing your company for greater visibility. No matter what your job title, both of these are important to your employer. And they are essential to your brand.
Career planning - For those younger in their career with the choice of large or small company I advise the following:
1. Join a small company to establish your skills. Don’t make your first job with a name brand company. Make your mistakes and learn in a smaller venue.
2. Name brand companies tend to interview ten to twenty people for each position. Put your best foot forward and learn what they need and how your credentials map to those needs before you contact them. You are building your pedigree. Protect it.
3. If you move to a large, name brand company, do so only if you can stay for a minimum of three, preferably four, years and do your best work. You are creating your reference pool which you will leverage for the next decade. Anything less and it is a black mark that you didn’t last regardless of the perfectly good reasons you left. Remember, perception is reality. “I was recruited away” is never a good answer to any job related question.
Once you are talking to the hiring folks, prepare to answer the question, “Why did you leave [insert name brand company name here]?” My advice is to answer with what you are going towards, not away from.
Advice to all candidates. Always answer questions with examples and outcomes. Hiring authorities ignore your own opinions about your work such as hard worker, team builder or successful track record. They look for numbers and other metrics to prove your accomplishments.
Other resume hazards.
Leave off dates of education and the reader assumes you are over 50 and hope to hide your age. Therefore, they will pay special attention to your age. Put dates on the resume and no undue attention is drawn.
Leave off first industry jobs and the suspicion grows. Use an inclusive and the issue goes away. i.e. Earlier experiences as a xxx. 1978-1998.
Some companies consider leaving off first employment as a lie and may fire immediately. If performance is an issue, companies frequently revisit the resume in detail for lies and a basis for firing rather than go the more complicated performance route.