Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Don't Let the Background Check be a Stumbling Block to Your Next Job

Even some of the most successful executives may have one or more mistakes in their pasts that can create problems in today's especially rigorous and scrutinizing hiring process. A rebellious period in your youth can haunt you for many years to come. An astounding statistic is that nearly a third of Americans have been arrested at least once by the time they turn 23. Everyone knows that a felony can count against you big time, but even misdemeanors can trip you up pretty badly.

So what can you expect in terms of background checks/screening before you garner that wonderful executive job offer? A criminal record may disqualify you out of hand, but if addressed honestly and proactively, in many instances you may still be able to win the offer.

Equally important to preparation of a powerful executive resume and LinkedIn profile, proactive connections with recruiters, colleagues, and hiring managers, and thorough research on the companies that interest you is researching yourself. Run all of the background checks that the hiring company will be likely to do, have any inaccuracies corrected as quickly as possible, and be prepared to address any issues head-on when they come up--better yet, before they knock you down.

Here are the types of checks that may be run on you:

* Law Enforcement and Court Records Report: $65 will get you a copy of your "rap sheet" in any state. Although your potential employer will not actually look at this, they will be looking at convictions and any pending cases against you. Any charges that occurred when you were under age or that have been dismissed are candidates for you to request they be sealed or expunged.

* Your Credit History: Nearly  half of companies will check your credit report (except for in 9 states where it is banned), as your financial behavior is considered a strong indicator of your level of responsibility and honesty (particularly for positions with any kind of financial or fiduciary responsibility). You can get free credit reports annually from all three major credit reporting agencies. Go through them carefully and request correction of any inaccuracies.

* Your DMV Record: Pulled almost certainly if the position you are applying for entails driving, your DMV record may also be pulled because it is considered an indicator of personal responsibility and compliance with laws. You can ask for a copy so you will know what they are going to see, although there's not much you can do to change it. For  instance, DUI's can be sealed, but any license suspension will still appear as a red flag.

* Employment History Checks: It is easy for a potential employer to verify the accuracy of the work history information you provide on your executive resume, so think twice about changing your beginning/ending dates of employment, skipping significant jobs, or worse yet making up jobs.

* Academic Background: We've all read or seen on TV the horror stories of people summarily dismissed from jobs of long-standing due to fabricated education information provided in the hiring process. Just don't do it. And if you ran into trouble at college, be sure to request and review a copy of your academic records and ask them to correct anything inaccurate or perhaps even if the incident can be expunged. You can also ask them specifically what kinds of information they provide when an employer inquiry is made so you can be prepared.

If you do have any significant criminal history, your best strategy is to confront it up front in the interview with your potential employer, when you have their attention and can explain, versus being dismissed out of hand based on a report with no opportunity to defend yourself. Speak as positively about it as you can, first impressing them with your experience and expertise, and then bringing to their attention what happened, what you learned from it, and why you are a different person today.

You may wonder what prompted me to write this particular blog entry. I rarely run into this situation, but worked recently with a highly accomplished and talented executive who had actually served prison time. He has gone on to great success by proactively addressing the issue.


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Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Executive Salary Negotiation: When It's Time to "Show Me the Money"

You might think that the salary requirements question would be an easy one to answer, and that every executive looking for that next great opportunity would have a firm idea in mind of what the expected compensation package should look like. 

You might also think that determining an appropriate salary/compensation offer for an executive candidate would be a simple matter for the employer--based on the candidate's executive resume, references, and interview performance. But things are not quite that simple.

One of the priority elements in your job search plan should be researching the "going rate" for executives with your level of experience and capability. One method of doing this research is consulting websites such as:

The Riley Guide Salary Guides & Guidance
Bureau of Labor and Statistics 

Occupational Outlook Handbook 
U.S. Office of Personnel Management Salaries & Wages
JobSmart Salary Surveys


You might also Google salary data using a search phrase such as "average salary for (your desired or current job title)."

Once armed with real-world information on what employers are paying, it is important to play your cards well. Timing is everything in salary negotiation, and the first one to speak loses.

Let the potential employer bring the subject up, and try to avoid stating a number or range first. There is really no upside if you do. If your figure is too low, you may have just doomed yourself to a lowball offer--or worse yet, make them think you are a candidate of lower caliber than they had thought. If your figure is too high, you may have priced yourself out of the market for that employer, before you have them so convinced of your phenomenal value that they are willing to go to bat with top management to get you the salary you deserve.

If asked about your salary requirements, turn around and ask them what range they have in mind. You can then tell them if that's in the ballpark.

If they will not answer the question and you do find it necessary to be the one who states a range, be sure your answer includes "plus insurance and other benefits"--with the bottom of the range being the minimum you would accept, and the top based on what your market research indicated.

My favorite guru on the salary topic, Jack Chapman, gives a great tip: When the employer gives you a range they have in mind, respond with "hmmm" instead of "okay."  "Okay" indicates acceptance; "hmmm" is noncommittal and leaves you room to negotiate.

That dynamite executive resume and LinkedIn profile you prepared positioned you at an advantage--as someone an employer is eager to talk to about what you can bring to their organization. Your well-honed interviewing skills have vividly demonstrated the value you bring to the table. So take care that the third leg of the job-winning process--salary negotiation--takes you the rest of the way toward the job offer of your dreams.

For an in-depth look at executive salary negotiation strategy, I highly recommend Jack Chapman's book, Negotiating Your Salary: How to Make $1,000 a Minute, now in its seventh edition. Jack is one of a handful of folks I recommend to provide extra support to my clients, and I’m an enthusiastic affiliate of his services.


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Monday, January 26, 2015

Fatal Mistakes NOT to Make on Your Executive Resume

Recently the top HR executive at Google stated something that should be a wake-up call for job seekers at all levels, from entry level to senior executive.

In a post this past autumn on LinkedIn, Laszlo Block, SVP, People Operations at Google states that he has seen a LOT of resumes, and that "some are brilliant, most are just OK, many are disasters." He should know. In addition to sending out hundreds of resumes over his own career, he's personally reviewed over 20,000 resumes. At Google, his department sometimes receives more than 50,000 resumes in a WEEK.

So it seems that his observations may be worth some attention as you prepare your executive resume. He observes that all it takes is just one small mistake for an otherwise qualified and interesting candidate to be rejected. What are the worst mistakes, in his view?

#1 on the list, front and center, is: TYPOS. Since a CareerBuilder survey found that 58% of resumes have typos, might yours be one of them?

Another biggie, which will be especially applicable to senior executive resumes, is revealing confidential information. Since your prospective employer would not want trade secrets revealed to competitors, why would they consider someone who has already done so to his previous employer?

And of course, another high profile mistake is lying. Actually, I would not consider this a "mistake" per se, since it wouldn't be lying if it were not done on purpose. But the point is: Don't lie or even fib ("little white lie") about anything--your degrees, where you went to school, your length of employment, sales figures, etc. Morality issues aside, the parade of high profile executives, government officials, and academics who have been summarily fired for lies on their executive resumes should be a cautionary tale for anyone.

For all five deadly mistakes, see his entire article:
Biggest Mistakes on Executive Resumes


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Friday, January 09, 2015

Start 2015 Out Right with the Power of LinkedIn Endorsements ... And Something New This Year

Everyone knows how effective product and service endorsements can be in building a business. The same holds true for building your executive career. You may have worked hard on creating compelling and engaging content for your executive resume and LinkedIn profile, but have you considered how important verifying your skill sets by accumulating LinkedIn endorsements is to being found by recruiters?

There is a good bit of warranted skepticism regarding how meaningful these LinkedIn endorsements are, given that more than one billion have been given since the feature was introduced. But whether they mean anything or not (people who barely know a person are routinely asked by LinkedIn to endorse them for particular skills), they do increase your prominence in search results and do make an impression on a visitor to your profile.

It is important to make sure that the skills you list are actually ones you do possess, and that they are important skills for the types of executive positions for which you wish to show you are qualified. Before adding a skill to your list, go to LinkedIn's Advanced Search and input your current or targeted job title, then select "Current" from the drop-down menu. This will bring up individuals who are currently exercising the required skills for the job, and examining the skills they list for prevalent terms will guide you in determining which skills to list on your profile.

Something else to consider regarding the Skills section on your profile is whether all of the skills listed are relevant to your current executive position or targeted position. Since your connections will be asked by LinkedIn if they want to add and endorse a skill, you may wind up with one or more skills that are not consistent with how you wish to be perceived. Don't hesitate to simply remove these skills, as they will dilute the impact of relevant skills listed, and perhaps lead others to endorse you for those skills instead of the ones you wish to highlight. The principle on your LinkedIn profile is the same as for your executive resume: Showcase relevant skills and do not include anything that is irrelevant or perhaps positions you as a lower-level executive candidate.

Segueing to something new on LinkedIn: The site has just made it easier to feature your technical or professional certifications on your profile. The new feature lets you add certifications with just one click, and is available globally to all certification providers. LinkedIn has compiled a list of Top 100 Certification Providers to make it easier for members to search and add them to their profiles. Since recruiters will often use particular certifications (such as PMP, CPA, etc.) in constructing their database searches, including them can increase your prominence in search results.


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Thursday, December 18, 2014

Dreaming of a New Job in 2014? Great Place to Work's Top 25

Have you begun polishing up your executive resume with your sights set on a new and challenging position for 2014?

If so, you may want to review consulting firm Great Place to Work's just-released list of the top-ranked workplaces derived through employee surveys and third-party assessment in what they tout as the largest study of its kind.

The rankings were weighted 2/3 on employee perceptions of work culture and 1/3 on the external assessment of company policies and practices.

Number one on the World's Best Multinational Workplaces for the third consecutive year is Google. Other high-ranking employers include Microsoft, Marriott, eBay, and Coca-Cola.

While a powerful executive resume and winning interview skills may land you what seems like a dream job at a substantial pay increase, all that may be for naught if you find yourself ensnared in an unpleasant work environment. Whether the company you decide to go with is on this list or not, researching the work culture and employee satisfaction is just as important as evaluating competitive salary and benefits.

For the full list of 25, see:


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Friday, December 05, 2014

The Stealth Job Hunt and LinkedIn

Are you an executive on the job hunt, in stealth mode? 

After you have a dynamite executive resume prepared, the next step is of course to get visible out there so you can be easily found by the recruiters and companies that can connect you with the next opportunity. This presents a dilemma: How to be visible to those you want to see you, while keeping your search invisible to others, such as your present employer and co-workers.

The trick is to be findable, without LOOKING like you are looking. Discretion is key, because high stakes are typically involved for the currently employed candidate.

How can you promote yourself discreetly? By getting your target audience to see you through the proper lens, through a profile that emphasizes your brand, while giving the company you work for the limelight and credit. It is especially important that your profile be SEO (Search Engine Optimized)--rich in keywords and phrases on which a recruiter or hiring executive would likely conduct a Boolean search.

A key point to remember is that your LinkedIn profile is NOT an executive resume, and you really do not want to copy and paste your resume content into the summary and background sections.

Why is this so?

Firstly, competitive or sensitive information that may appear in the executive resume needs to be scrubbed from such a highly public document as your LinkedIn profile. Not only could this compromise confidential information and lead to trouble with your present employer, but it might reasonably lead a prospective employer to wonder just how discreet you would be with THEIR company information were you to be hired.

Secondly, your profile needs to be tailored specifically for the professional social media setting, which requires a more personal approach than the resume.

What happens if your current employer sees your new or updated profile and questions it? (The automatic assumption when a profile is updated seems to be that the individual is on the job market.) 

The answer is that "LinkedIn is a place to do business, and I maintain a profile and network there to advance company interests--to help land deals and/or make new connections."

Some things to remember:

* Much as I would love to be connected, it is probably best to postpone that until your job search is completed. Your employer or colleague might reasonably question why you have just connected with an executive resume writer.

* Set "who can see your connections" to "Only You."

* Turn off activity broadcasts.

* DO NOT display the job search suitcase (LinkedIn's setting for identifying "active" job seekers.

* If you participate in group discussions, speak to your primary audience (colleagues, industry leaders, clients, etc.). Your secondary audience (recruiters, potential employers) will be smart enough to translate and connect the dots to the potential value you present as that desirable "passive" candidate.


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Friday, November 21, 2014

Executive Job Search and the Holidays

Think the holidays are the time to kick back in your job search? Think again.

The widespread perception among those in career transition is that nothing happens over the holidays and they may as well just relax. While I am all for fully enjoying this time of year with your family and friends, you may be missing out on some important opportunities if you decide to relegate your job search to the back burner until January.

It is true that companies and their hiring managers as well as recruiters are human and things do tend to slow down a bit over the holiday season. However, there ARE still opportunities coming up and hires being made.

Also, your competition likely have the widespread perception mentioned above, and have effectively removed themselves from the arena--leaving you with a much smaller group of candidates to compete with.

A surprising number of positions are filled this time of year--as evidenced by no lack of LinkedIn profiles with jobs that have start dates in January. Many companies and departments have just been allocated new budget funds to spend on hiring, and they are eager to use them.

The holidays also abound with opportunities to build your network, in a time when folks tend to be mellow, receptive, and extra considerate.

Susan Joyce's 2013 book, New Year, New Job: 101 Tips from the Job-Hunt Experts for Your Holiday Search points out:

* Only 3% more jobs were filled in January and February of 2013 (vs. November and December of 2012). (And it is very likely that many of those job offers made in January were based on interviews that happened in November and December).

* Only 1% more jobs were open in January and February of 2013 (vs. November and December of 2012).

(You can get the e-book for 99 cents on Amazon, or if you are a Kindle Unlimited Member, borrow it for free:  New Year, New Job.) 

Bottom line: If you totally quit researching companies, making recruiter contacts, and sending out your executive resume from Thanksgiving through the New Year, you could be doing yourself a disservice.


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