What Does Your Resume Say About You?

If you are a finance executive and you are NOT a member of the Financials Executive Networking Group, you are missing out on a wealth of information … delivered right to your email box several times a week and containing job leads, articles, good news announcements, assistance requests, and meeting notices.  

Now I don’t always agree 100% with Matt Bud, Co-Chair of FENG, but I do agree with him the majority of the time and being a member of FENG is a great long-term career management strategy for every finance executive.

A recent newsletter talked about a recruiter’s response to some resumes sent his way.

One candidate submitted one of the “worst” ever seen with “a lot of words that toot his horn such as outstanding record and exceptional ability,” contained a worthless list of bullets, and was poorly paginated. Another candidate submitted a one page resume … “with type so small [I] needed a magnifying glass to read it.” Rather then pull out a magnifying glass, the resume was round-filed.

Your resume is often your first impression … so what does it say about you? Hopefully the message is that you are crystal clear about your value to a prospective company (what they are willing to pay you big bucks to get) and that you care enough, and are interested enough, to pay attention to details, quality, and readability.

The 150 Most Influential Headhunters

BusinessWeek.com just posted an interactive table containing the names of the 150 Most Influential Headhunters. 

If you don’t already have a relationship with these folks, contacting them with a plea for their help and a copy of your resume probably won't be very beneficial. However, understanding who needs to know about you, and getting on their radar screen, can position you well for the future.

A Resume is Only the Gift Wrapping

Almost every CFO or finance executive who calls me does so because they “want” a resume, a professional–looking document that will win them their next job. Were it only that easy. The truth is, a resume is only the gift wrapping. 

What a serious, compelling candidate really “needs” is a clear understanding of his value in the marketplace and the ability to articulate that value to the right target audience. And that takes great effort, motivation, and determination.

What is Your Soundtrack Playing?

It is hard for many people right now. All the gloom and doom coming from the news media 24/7 is taking a bad situation and making it exponentially worse!

Life is about choices. You can choose to obsess about things over which you have no control, like how awful the financial markets are right now; or you can choose to focus on those things which you can control, like managing your career.  Unless you are successfully self–employed, everyone is either in a job search or between searches. What you do and how you do it will be the difference between finding yourself regularly in an active search – or – enjoying the luxury of constantly being between searches.

If the soundtrack playing in your head has been negative: “I desperately need a job” or “I don’t have a job” or “I’ll never find a job” or even untrue: “I have a job so I’m safe,” maybe it’s time for a new soundtrack and a fresh perspective.

The old soundtrack would tell you to spend the majority of your time perusing posted positions on the job boards. The new soundtrack will tell you to focus on networking … meeting people who need to know about you and can introduce you to people who can help you.

The old soundtrack will tell you that your resume is not the problem even though you aren’t getting the kinds of results you want and deserve. The new soundtrack will tell you that understanding and articulating your marketable value proposition will make you a more compelling and competitive candidate.

The old soundtrack would tell you to shotgun your resume to everyone for every thing. The new soundtrack will tell you to focus your efforts on a smaller, more targeted market.

The old soundtrack would tell you to rest on your laurels after all, you’ve landed and this new job isn’t going anywhere soon. The new soundtrack will tell you to work diligently on building an online visible presence so you can choose when you leave and where you go.

If you wake up today planning to do the same things you did yesterday while expecting different results, perhaps it really is time to adopt a different perspective and play a new soundtrack in order to actually get better results. 

Digital Anonymity

I am constantly preaching the importance of having a visible online presence as a way of proactively managing your career and your reputation. Recruiters want to know that you are a credible candidate, and use Google to confirm that you are who you say you are. It’s becoming increasingly difficult to lie (or even exaggerate) about your background, thanks to Google. The alternative is to be digitally obscure … but if you can’t be found, most people don’t believe you exist.

This same reputation management concept is critical to people like me … small business owners. I am competing against moms with the same name as me who blog about their family, so staying digitally distinct among other people with the name “Cindy Kraft” is an ongoing process. I think, though, if you Googled my name it would be pretty clear who I am and who I am not.

I say all that because the other day I was reading some not-so-great advice (in my humble opinion) about writing cover letters by an author of a resume book. It was a name I didn’t recognize and in our careers world, it’s a pretty small, close-knit community. So of course, I Googled the name to find out more about him.

The first entry on the first page of Google was “… charged with indent exposure …” and the last entry on the first page was “pled guilty to wire fraud ….” While it is quite probable neither of those entries refer to this person, there was no clear way to know. In between the first and last entries was not one discernable mention of the author.  He is Digitally Obscure. How does that affect his credibility in your eyes?

What about you, Mr. Finance Executive? Will a recruiter Googling your name find credible information about you, or misinformation about someone who shares your name? How will that affect your credibility in their eyes?

One Size Fits All

It seems like everyone has a different opinion about what kind of resume they want to see. CFO.com’s “Third Rails for Resume Writing, six traps that recruiters warn will make them toss a finance executive’s resume” certainly drives that point home!

Short or long, objective or summary, chronological or functional. Since it is virtually impossible to be all things to all people, how can you know what the recruiter or hiring manger wants to see in the resume he or she is reading?

Here are two critical strategies to creating a resume that will appeal to a broader audience.

First, the top half of the first page is the most critical part of your resume. If a resume sells value quickly, then it really doesn’t matter whether a recruiter wants a short resume or prefers to have all the facts because you have met both of their personal preferences. The reader who wants short and sweet has already made up his mind, and the reader who wants all the data has two or three pages to convince himself he should talk with you.

Second, don’t confuse experience with performance. It’s not what you did but rather, how you did it and the measurable (key point) impact of doing it.

Happy New Year! And warmest wishes to each of my readers for a very prosperous, happy, and healthy 2008!

Recruiters on Resumes

At the Kennedy Conference last week, our recruiter panel offered up the following thoughts on what they wanted to see in a resume:

––Results–driven contributions, not a listing of job descriptions
––Enthusiasm & passion (this is where branding becomes so important)
––Polished presentation
––Vision (strategic initiatives – start to finish)
––The ability to clearly communicate
––Reverse chronological format
––Tailored cover letter

One panelist said he loves the concept of personal branding as it "provides evidence that the candidate can get the job and do the job.”

One other speaker at the conference said this, and it speaks to the first item in the list … “candidates confuse performance with experience … without performance experience doesn’t mean much.”

Compelling Executive Summary = More $$$$

Bill Reichert, Managing Director of Garage Technology Ventures, joined us in the CFO–Career–Forum this week with insight and wisdom into building an executive summary that will get the attention of potential investors. As a career coach, it was interesting to hear the parallels between building a compelling executive summary and establishing a competitive and distinctive search strategy.

Bill talked about creating a clear and unique value proposition; identifying a clear target market and leveraging warm introductions rather than a shotgun blast to nameless, faceless people; and networking, networking, networking  … also solid career management strategies.

Other parallels included a very high fail rate – in excess of 90%. How is the posted position game working for you in the job search? And he made clear that the purpose of an Executive Summary is to get a face–to–face investor meeting … much the way a resume is designed to get you in the door for an interview.

Here’s my point. Unless you understand and can clearly articulate your value and marketability, competing in today’s tough market is harder than it needs to be.

If you would like to hear the full hour of Bill’s wisdom and insight, along with other speakers over the past year, join the CFO–Career–Forum today.