K.I.S. for CFO Branding

When most of us think about Albert Einstein, we think about a man who was so incredibly intelligent that the average person could not hold a conversation with him, right? Well, apparently that’s not the case. He actually embraced the “KIS” philosophy – Keep It Simple. "If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it.”

Nick Tubach blogged about this philosophy as it relates to recruiting, but I think it is particularly important for a Chief Financial Officer’s personal / professional marketing message. "If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it.”

It’s easy to get lost in the details, particularly the “experience” details. After all, we own, with some amount of pride, everything that we’ve done. But there are a few important things to remember when crafting your executive resume and communication message.

— 3 is the new 30. The Internet has taken a 30-second TV ad and slashed that message to 3 seconds. Can you deliver your marketable value proposition (MVP) in 20 words or less?

— The Blackberry, iPhone, and Twitter have forever changed how we deliver and receive messages. The most high-value piece of resume real estate is the top half of the first page. Can yours stand alone? Is it powerful enough to motivate your target audience or a recruiter to take action?

— Clarity and brevity are king. If you don’t know your MVP, you can’t communicate it. And if you can’t articulate it briefly and powerfully, you can’t sell it. And if you don’t know who needs what you bring to the table, no transaction will take place. 

K.I.S. … it’s a powerful weapon in the world of finance executive branding and marketing. 

CFO Resumes … More than just pretty

One of Matt Bud’s recent editorials in the FENG (Financial Executives Networking Group) newsletter was entitled, “Paint a Pretty Picture". He was primarily talking about resume aesthetics but he also said this, which is my point.

“… it breaks my heart at times when I review a resume and just know that the person behind the paper in front of me is so much better than how he/she appears.”

It is critical that who you are in person is the same person you appear to be on paper. If you meet someone at a networking event or you receive a warm lead, recommendation, and introduction to an opportunity and you follow up with an executive resume that falls short of who they believed you to be … in all likelihood, you just lost an opportunity.

Conversely, if you have a resume that is not written in your voice, with your words, and which accurately reflects who you are but instead creates a facade, meeting you in person will most certainly doom you to failure. 

Effective personal marketing documents (resume, leadership addendum, executive profile) for a Chief Financial Officer or Corporate Finance Executive are so much more than aesthetics. While I agree with Matt that “pretty” matters … no white space, grammatical and spelling errors, poor paper quality … the prettiest resume in the world won’t matter if it …

— positions you as a jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none;

— is a responsibility-oriented historical novel;

— does not meet the Blackberry principle;

— doesn’t answer the question a company is asking … what do you bring to the table that makes it worth my while to pay you to join the executive team?

Pretty matters. But it is much, much more than just pretty. It’s very much about value. Yours. The clearer you are about your value, the stronger your positioning … on paper and in person!

Resumes are about Strategy

Last week I was contacted by a CFO who sent me two resumes to review along with a request to talk by phone. I would normally just do an email review on one of his resumes, but since he was referred to me I deviated from my typical response.

Turns out I was about the 10th in a long line of resume reviewers that he contacted. I guess he didn’t like any of the other feedback and was more interested in finding someone who would agree with what he did, or he just wanted free advice.

What he did, he told me, is pull an “award-winning resume” from another resume writer’s site and insert his name and employer names. Whoaaaaaaaaa! Resumes are about strategy, not taking a template you like and plugging in words.

Every candidate has his own unique personal brand, value proposition, strengths, values, and goals. Someone else’s resume will not foster powerful positioning from “his” (or her) uniqueness but rather, will more likely result in positioning as a commodity.

It’s what is different, unique, and valuable about you – what you distinctly bring that a company is willing to pay to get – that creates powerful positioning … not those things that are  “like”  or “very similar to” every other candidate. 

Lies, Resumes, & Linked In

Fistful of Talent had a blog post last week entitled “LinkedIn Profiles – More Accurate than Resumes … Sad but True.” This quote came from Reid Hoffman, founder of Linked In, in a presentation made at the first Social Recruiting Summit in 2009 …

… people won't lie in public via LinkedIn.  With that in mind, the core elements at play in most LinkedIn profiles – the titles, the dates, etc. – are always going to be more accurate than the resume.

I’m hopeful that in this age of transparency, candidates have learned those hard lessons!

Telling is Jessica Lee’s statement that “if you're truly looking for ‘what's up’ with a candidate, you need to rely on the LinkedIn profile.” 

Web 2.0 as a recruiting strategy …

–is trending north. If you aren’t where recruiters are looking, you won’t be found. And no visibility can negatively impact credibility.

–forces transparency. Unless you are, perhaps, a well-entrenched politician, you cannot lie and get away with it. It is too easy today to dispel any misstatements, exaggerations, or untruths.

–allows even stronger positioning as a coveted high-value target. You can be “in the game” long before you “need” to be playing the game.

–fosters the candidate’s ability to position himself from his strengths, values, passions, and interests rather than forcing him to be all things to all people .

When CFOs choose to work with me, they have no choice but to create profiles on Linked In … it’s part of their success factor. And what is showing up on Linked In is exactly the same branded message a company, CEO, or Board member will find in his other marketing collateral. 

Transparency + Integrity is Critical!

A Gasoline Rag Tune Up

Some of you may recognize the name Matt Bud. If you don’t, he is the Chairman of The Financial Executives Networking Group (FENG). Several times a week, he emails a newsletter containing an editorial he writes. This is his most recent article and I have re-posted it with his permission. Enjoy!


Many years ago I had to buy my son a car to get to school. So, we went down to the local used car lot and I spotted a Ford Escort. It was kind of cute. If memory serves, it was black and it was a stick shift.

Having grown up poor, I wasn’t new to buying a used car. I opened up the hood and the engine was spotless. I was kind of surprised given the number of miles on the car and when I asked about it, the dealer told me he had steam cleaned the engine. Among the many things he told me he fixed was that he had replaced the windshield. Hard to sell a car with a cracked windshield.

We took it out for a spin, and since I knew how to drive stick shift, I drove. It seemed to be in good condition. The interior had also been cleaned spotless. I turned on the radio, and it seemed to work just fine.

After we took possession of the car, it didn’t take long for things to start falling apart. The first “discovery” was that the radio only had one station. Well, the dealer offered to send the radio out for repair. Not wanting to be a pest, I didn’t call every day, but after a few weeks when I did, he said he had the radio back, but he had lost my phone number. Yeah, right.

It wasn’t too long after that that the clutch went, and I suppose I should mention that the head gasket also sprang a leak and we had to have that fixed as well. I honestly didn’t spend a lot of money buying the car, and I supposed I didn’t spend a lot of money fixing the car. After all, it was a small car and there wasn’t a lot to it. Still, it was more than a little annoying.

Someone had cleaned up the car as you would expect them to do to make it more presentable, but in doing so they had disguised the essential nature of the vehicle. It had a lot more wear and tear on it than was apparent. To quote a commercial I saw a while back, they had put a little lipstick on a pig. Or, as we used to say when I was growing up, they gave the car a gasoline rag tune up.

Earlier this week, I wrote an editorial on “Little white lies.” Some of my editorials spark more than a few comments, especially when they contradict “conventional logic.” I suppose I have never viewed myself as conventional, and that should explain most of it.

The core of the argument I hear about hiding dates and leaving off many years of employment to appear younger assumes three critical issues are true which clearly are not for most of our members.

The first is that they are able to create a resume that appears to be totally consistent with their being younger. I’m sure no one will notice that your first job out of college was as a Chief Financial Officer and if they do, I’m sure they will believe it. NOT. Talk about getting busted.

The second critical issue is that if they are fooled by your skillful manipulation of your resume, that when they find out as in when they actually meet you, that they won’t be mad at you for fooling them. If you would like to test this hypothesis, please call the used car dealer who sold me that Ford Escort. I can assure you I wasn’t pleased. Yes, he never actually made any representations that the car would last forever, and perhaps my son wasn’t as gentle with it as he should have been, but that is actually neither here nor there. I felt foolish, and that is something I believe you never recover from.

A lot of people believe that good advertising makes them buy things they don’t need. Actually, good advertising creates trial, in much the same way that a good resume causes people to call you in for an interview. What causes the “you know what to hit the fan” is when the advertising promises don’t even come close to the perceived value of the product based on the ad. Angry customers tell 10 people. Happy customers only tell one. Hopefully that puts the disappointment factor in perspective.

The third critical issue is the belief that anyone who reads resumes for a living is ever fooled. After you have digested your first batch of 5,000, not much escapes your notice. Inconsistency is as easy to spot as the invalidity of a cash chit on an expense report. (And, I’m sure you have never been fooled by one of those.)

So, take your best shot at disguising your background. Trim off a few years. Get a face lift. Lose a few pounds. Buy all new clothes. Never tell anyone your year of graduation from college.

None of this will disguise the fact that you are older. The sad part of this charade is that you are diminishing the value of that great product that is you. That “been there, done that” expert who has seen it all and learned from it many times over is reduced to being a sneak.

You may as well have taken a gasoline soaked rag to that resume of yours for all the good that it will do. (By the way, if you do, it’s not a good idea to be smoking at the time.)

Matthew R. Bud
The Financial Executives Networking Group
32 Gray’s Farm Road
Weston, CT 06883

(203) 227-8965 Office Phone
(203) 820-4667 Cell
(203) 227-8984 Fax

The Resume Writing Myth

I was having breakfast with one of my colleagues the other morning, and our conversation circled around to debunking the myths of our industry. For example, you are going to get your next job and stay there until you retire (if retirement is more than 18 months away); or, that networking means asking everyone you know for a job; or, the best way to look for a job is posted positions on the Internet; or, one of my favorites …

I am the only one who can write my own resume. 

There are people, some of my recruiter friends included, and organizations who tell candidates / members that they are the only ones who can write their own resumes. 

Let me ask you a few questions.

Do you cut your own hair? You are the only one who styles it every day, right? You know how it lays the best, which side you prefer to part it on, where every cowlick is, and what styling products you prefer. Why do you not just cut your own hair then?

Did you build your own house? I mean, you envisioned what rooms you wanted and where you wanted them and where it would make the most sense to place every electrical outlet and window, right? Then why did you hand off your vision to someone else to do what you already had in your head?

Do you buy your clothes or do you make them? After all, who knows their body better than you? What styles look/fit the best? Colors that complement your skin tones, hair, and eyes? Why, then, do you go to the store and buy clothes from somebody who is totally unfamiliar with what looks best on you?  

Do you self-diagnose? Get on the Internet when you have aches and pains and decide what’s wrong and then self-medicate. Most of us do. Unless that ache or pain doesn’t go away … then, typically, we seek out a doctor. A professional. Why? Because he is trained to isolate, identify, and fix the problem. 

Many people CAN write their own resumes. Many more can NOT. My experience tells me that identifying their marketable value proposition and writing about their strengths does not come easily to my analytically, numbers-oriented CFOs. To buy into the myth that says  you are the only one who can write your own resume … if you truly can’t … is to do yourself, and your career, a great disservice.

Do CFOs Need a Digital Footprint?

The CFO Strategist makes a compelling case for CFOs to have a visible online presence in his article, "Are Resumes Still Relevant." It’s what I tell my clients, too, and why I’m so passionate about my clients proactively positioning themselves for that next opportunity … while they are still employed.

One of the very best ways to position yourself as a subject matter expert (that 3-dimensional problem solver he mentions) is by blogging. First, not many CFOs have their own blogs, so that already differentiates you from your peers. Second, by understanding what is unique and marketable about you and then putting that message out to the world, not as a salesman but as an industry leader, you are authentically expanding your credibility and visibility. 

At minimum, a compelling and complete profile on Linked In is today’s executive portfolio. The social media trend isn’t going anywhere but up. You can either embrace this web technology, or be left in the dust. Does it matter how great you are, if no one outside of your company knows about you? It probably won’t when it comes to attracting that next great opportunity before you find yourself in active job search mode.

While I disagree with his comment that resumes are going the way of the 8-track tape, I do believe they are morphing into marketing/positioning documents that look less and less like traditional resumes. Today, it’s all about what you bring to the table that a company is willing to pay (big bucks) to get.

Are you on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter? If so, I’d love to connect with you.

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.

Lies and Job Search – Lethal Combination

CFO.com recently published “A CFO Wannabe’s Litany of Lies.” I addressed the issue of lying in a recent article, “4 Tips for Avoiding Brand Suicide.”  Here’s the relevant excerpt:

Never, ever, ever lie!

That statement seems like a no–brainer, right? Apparently not, because people are constantly making the news about careers that are ruined because someone grossly exaggerated (or flat out lied) and it caught up with them.

You may remember the high–profile MIT admissions dean who incorporated just enough untruths in her resume to undo her career. And, of course, a Notre Dame football coach gained notoriety when his lies were uncovered. And the latest tombstone to make national news was front page on Fox. Just imagine the gruesome details that would be associated with a senior–level finance executive. Remember the TV show, the “Untouchables”? It would not be pretty. (The “Litany of Lies” certainly reinforces my statement.)

The Internet serves as a lie detector, and eventually the lie will be uncovered. In the world of the global Internet, little white lies, exaggerations, and misstatements can be just as devastating as big lies.

If you would like the full article, send me an email with “Avoid Brand Suicide” in the subject line and I'll be happy to send it your way.

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!