Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Landed that Phone Interview? Here's What to Do Before, During, and After

All that hard work you did in preparing your executive resume and identifying companies to approach has paid off. You've got a phone interview scheduled with a company you'd like to work for and potentially the job of your dreams. Here are some tips to make sure you don't blow it now.

BEFORE THE INTERVIEW, thoroughly prepare:

  • Analyze the job and its requirements thoroughly.

  • List the key requirements they specify in the job description and make sure you have the matching skills, experience, and aptitudes.

  • Craft what you will say to demonstrate to the interviewer you have the key requirements.

  • Research the company thoroughly, and mine your network for possible inside contacts who could potentially put in a word for you and give you a competitive edge.

  • Rehearse your answers to common interview questions. This may seem silly while you are doing it, but it can pay big dividends.

  • Assemble documents to have at hand during the phone interview. These would include the lists you compiled above, your current resume, references to provide the interviewer with, questions you want to be sure to ask.

  • Specify that the interviewer call on your land line number, so you won't have to fear dropped calls, disconnection, or a poor connection.

  • If you have call waiting, turn it off. Beeping from incoming calls is distracting to you and annoying to the interviewer.

  • Position a glass of water close by to keep your voice smooth and rescue you if you happen to start coughing or your voice gets scratchy or rough.

  • Place a notebook and working pen by the phone so you can jot down quick notes.


You might think that this advice that is commonly given for in-person interviews would not apply to a phone interview. However, the following three actions can have a major positive effect on your performance:

1) It might seem unnecessary to dress for the interview (after all, the interviewer can't see if you are in your sweats or PJ's, can he?). However, you'd be surprised at the confidence being well groomed and dressed in at least business casual clothing will provide.

2) A well-known and very effective technique used in phone conversations by salespersons, telemarketers, etc. is to SMILE. Smile as you answer the phone, and continue to smile in appropriate places as the conversation continues. The smile brings a welcoming and rich tone to your voice that helps to establish rapport.

3) For the same reason, pay attention to your body language and posture. Although the person on the other end of the line can't see it, they can sense it and it will carry through in your voice.


Send an email thank-you immediately, and follow that with a snail-mailed handwritten note. If your handwriting looks like hen scratching, you can type the note.


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Sunday, June 28, 2015

Hearing Nothing But Crickets on Job Interview Call Backs? You're Not Alone

You’re not imagining it: The time it takes to get a call back from a recruiter, or for the interview(s) you had to turn into a job offer or at least a polite decline is increasing. A report released last week by Glassdoor presented an analysis of over 340,000 “interview reviews” that visitors to the Glassdoor career site have submitted.

Whereas the typical length of the interview process was about 13 days in 2010, it has since nearly doubled to 23 days in 2014. One theory advanced was that there has been a shift away from more cut-and-dried jobs to complex ones that require more judgment, and thus the screening process is harder and more painstaking. Employers are using skills tests, doing more thorough background checks, drug tests, etc.

Another study using Labor Department data cited an all-time high of 27.3 working days to fill a job opening. Of course, the lead time does depend greatly on the type of position. A waiter or cook hire can take as little as 7 days, but an SVP can expect a lengthy interviewing process of about 55 days.

After you've submitted your executive resume and received that first call or phone interview with the recruiter, you have good reason to be excited. However, you will make it through the interviewing and hiring process with greater peace of mind if you maintain realistic expectations about timelines.

For more details, read the full article here:
Interviewing for a Job is Taking Longer Than Ever


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Friday, June 05, 2015

Could One Little Typo on My Executive Resume Torpedo My Chances?

The answer to that question is unfortunately, "Yes," Especially in an "employer's job market" where there are hundreds if not thousands of applicants for every available spot, recruiters and employers can be extremely picky. That little typo on your executive resume, cover letter, or application can mean you don't get that interview--impressive as your documentation may have been otherwise.

So says a recent article on About.com's About Careers by Alison Doyle, and I have to agree with Ms. Doyle.

As she says, this makes it paramount that you thoroughly proofread every piece of information that you provide to a potential employer, and importantly: DO NOT TRUST YOUR SPELLCHECKER.

These automated proofing tools are great as far as they go, but they will not miss many common mispellings where there are two versions of a word with differing meanings, or where a misspelled word is actually still a word (just not the right one). An example of this that I see frequently on resumes that prospective clients send to me for evaluation is the word 'manger' where the word should actually be 'manager'. This is an easy typo to make, and is not caught by spellcheckers.

So you want to proofread your materials at least two or three times, slowly and thoughtfully. Ms. Doyle also points out some strategies that may help, such as taking a break and revisiting the document a couple of hours later, printing it out instead of just reviewing it on your screen, and editing for grammar and spelling separately. It can also be valuable to have a spouse, friend, or associate proofread for you.

Typos are very easy to make, and can sometimes even draw a chuckle from a recruiter or hiring manager (probably not the response you were looking for). Some real-life bloopers documented by www.resumania.com include:
— “Hope to hear from you, shorty.”
— “Have a keen eye for derail.”
— “Dear Sir or Madman.”
— “I’m attacking my resume for you to review.”
— “I am a rabid typist.”
— “My work ethics are impeachable.”

Laughter aside, what is the single most important section of your executive resume to proof with great attention? Your personal information! It doesn't happen terribly often, but I do receive resumes from prospective clients that have their email address or phone number listed incorrectly. I can recall a few instances of trying to call a prospect to no avail. Needless to say, this will torpedo your chances for sure! One prospect was bemoaning the fact that he was getting little response and I had to point out that both his email address and phone number were out of date or typed incorrectly. Sure, there was plenty of room to improve his resume, but he was being knocked out of the running at the starting gate.

For more of Ms. Doyle's tips, see the full article at:
Proofreading Tips.

You'll also find there links to more detailed articles on proofreading and editing your documents.


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Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Did you know the lack of an online presence makes an interview less likely?

I've been stressing the ever-growing importance of a solid, favorable online presence in executive career management and job search for some years now. A May 14 article on CareerBuilder.com confirms just how important it is.

What do you think is the likely next step after a recruiter or hiring executive has taken a look at your well branded, high-impact executive resume? More often than not, he or she is going to Google your name and try to find you on social media.

There can be absolutely no doubt that social media recruitment and candidate research are on the rise, and there are no signs of a slowdown in the trajectory. According to CareerBuilder's research, the majority of employers (52%) now use social networks to screen candidates. The national survey conducted by Harris Poll included more than 2,000 full-time U.S. hiring and HR managers in diverse industries and company sizes.

Fifty-six percent of recruiters want to see if a candidate has an online persona, while 37% look for what others are saying about a candidate. A disturbing 21% admit that they specifically look for reasons NOT to interview or hire.

The following industries were the heaviest users of online research to screen candidates: IT, Financial Services, Sales, Professional & Business Services, Manufacturing, Health Care, and Retail.

A full 48% of hiring managers and recruiters screening on social media confirm that they have discovered information that caused them to reject a candidate, with these being major killers:

  •  inappropriate photographs
  •  indications of drinking and drug use
  •  speaking ill of a previous employer
  •  demonstrated lack of communication skills
  •  discriminatory comments

However, and I found this to be a key finding: About a third of respondents said they had found information that caused a favorable hiring decision, based on:

  1. background information supporting qualifications
  2. favorable indications of personality/culture fit
  3. a candidate's site conveying a professional image
  4. demonstration of great communication skills
  5. evidence of creativity

Note number three: "A candidate's site conveying a professional image."

Not only does this mean that having a powerfully branded LinkedIn profile is a key component of your online strategy. It also confirms that a candidate's online resume site is viewed favorably by recruiters who, when polled recently, indicated that a personal website was "the most impressive tool an applicant could have." Yes, your executive resume is still an important and necessary career document. But it is becoming but one leg of a three-legged stool: Executive Resume - LinkedIn profile - Personal, Branded Resume Website/Portfolio.

Since 90% of first impressions are now made online (whether it be Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, articles about you, or your personal website), representing yourself effectively on LinkedIn and ideally through an online resume/portfolio sets you apart from the competition
while giving you added control of your online image.

If you would like to learn more about optimizing your appeal in today's executive job market, you can browse my posts here or contact me through my website at www.creativekeystrokes.com. Mention this post, and I will email you a complimentary copy of one of my executive career management e-reports on interviewing: Executive Guide to Getting the Job Offer.


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Thursday, May 14, 2015

Afraid you are "overqualified" for a job? Thinking of "dumbing down" your resume?

There are wildly varying opinions on this topic, but in my opinion in some circumstances it may be warranted to "dumb down" your resume just a bit. If you need to keep food on the table by accepting a position somewhat (not drastically) below the level for which you are qualified, it is legitimate to tailor your resume for that position.

However, take care that you are not actually dishonest. You can leave out advanced credentials if you wish. You can use position descriptors/titles that aren't quite so high-level as long as they are still reasonably descriptive of your role. However, be aware that even this tactic can be perceived as dishonest by potential employers if you are not careful, and can unfortunately be a dealbreaker.

One strategy is to include a targeted job title at the beginning of your resume, and then craft your profile and work history to demonstrate your qualifications for that title, while downplaying or omitting responsibilities/accomplishments which are not relevant.

It is also important to think ahead about the objections a potential employer might have and prepare answers to them, such as why you will NOT be likely to jump ship as soon an opportunity for a higher level job for which you are qualified comes along. It is critical to convince them that you are not a flight risk, and that you will not become bored. No company wants to invest in onboarding and training if they afraid you will not stick around.

If age is a perceived issue, be sure to effectively emphasize how your wealth of experience will present great value to the company.

Since your resume is a marketing document and not under any legal requirement to give full details about anything, you are relatively safe from issues regarding not coming fully clean about your background. However, for this very reason, some companies ALSO require a completed employment application before they will interview you, and you ARE legally required to be complete in all your answers on that application.

Some basic techniques for dumbing down or disguising age on a resume include:

1) Omit dates of graduation/degrees

2) Don't list advanced degrees or credentials that are not required for the position you seek. However, the benefit of doing this in looking "less qualified" may be offset by the lost opportunity to show your investment in your personal development and ongoing drive to acquire knowledge.

3) Limit your career history to the last 15 years (this is good practice in many cases anyway).

4) Rather than actual job titles, list your department and/or function. For example, rather than EVP of Finance, you could say: Finance Department Management. Make sure you can communicate a good rationale for the title you chose, and DO NOT apologize for dumbing down your resume.

One strategy is to create two versions of your resume, the "dumbed down" version and a full-fledged higher level resume. This, of course, creates the dilemma of which resume to post online.

There are a number of inherent "gotchas" in the strategy of dumbing down a resume.

1) One of the bigger ones these days is that the web and social media will likely contradict the picture you are painting--your LinkedIn profile, articles which you have authored or been mentioned in, etc.

2) A big stumbling block is that your application will not match the resume, and you do NOT want to be less than truthful on that application.

3) You'll have to carefully plan your interview responses to make them mesh with the career history you have put forth. Facts or stories that reveal you really oversaw an organization of more than 100 will not be congruent with a job entry that is headed "Office Support Professional."

Better than dumbing down the resume, how about ratcheting it up? Position yourself for the next level on the career ladder, rather than stepping down a rung or two. Network harder. Make connections with hiring decision makers.

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Friday, May 01, 2015

Pitfalls of Copying Content from Online Executive Resume Samples

The Internet is replete with sample executive resumes and format examples. All you have to do is perform a Google search for "executive resumes" or "executive resume sample" and you'll see what I mean. 

There are a number of organizations whose business it is to provide plug-and-play templates for resumes, many of which provide boilerplate text designed for different industries and occupations. Many executive resume services also provide example resumes on their websites, in an effort to provide reassurance to their prospective clients of the quality of their work. (My executive resume service, Creative Keystrokes, does this as well.)

So, the next question might be: Why not just copy and paste content from executive resume samples found on the Web to create your own resume? 

The answer is that anyone who does this deceives him or herself if they think they have successfully "cheated the system" by using someone else's work. Rather the executive has inevitably shortchanged him or herself.

Why is this so? The important fact to bear in mind is that no two executives' backgrounds are the same, and no two executives possess the identical set of experiences, business/interpersonal skills, industry-specific knowledge, or functional area subject matter expertise. Each person's UVP (Unique Value Proposition) and brand are different from all others, and thus treatment for each person's career needs to be unique as well. The format and content of sample executive resumes and other career documents--no matter how impressive--will without exception NOT represent a blueprint for your resume, even if your job title and general background are similar.

So, whether you decide to research how to write an executive resume and attempt to develop it yourself, or opt to engage the assistance of a qualified executive resume writer, the last thing you want to do is copy and paste from another individual's resume. You will be doing yourself a great disservice, as that resume content was written for a specific individual and cannot possibly do you justice.

Lastly, would you really want to be faced at an interview with embarrassing questions about why the content of your resume duplicates that found in another candidate's resume? I think not.


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Thursday, April 16, 2015

Is Your Ultimate Goal CEO? Pathways to Get There

MBA Central (www.mbacentral.org) has recently developed a fascinating infographic about how to become a CEO.

Many of my clients who are not yet in that category do aspire to get there. Thus, they are building the requisite skill set and exposure to the many functional areas involved in a successful business: Operations, marketing, strategy, finance, creating company culture, human resources, recruitment/talent development, regulatory compliance, sales, PR, and so on. According to the infographic, each of these comes under the umbrella of responsibility for a CEO.

How important is education level? Well many of the CEO's of top companies do have Ivy League degrees, including Meg Whitman (HP), Jeffery Immelt (GE), Jamie Dimon (JPMorganChase), Roberto Goizueta (Coca-Cola)--65% of them hail from Harvard. And indeed, 97% of CEOs have attained their Bachelor Degree, 29% their MBA. Only 2.4% have no degree at all.

It can be done without that degree, though. For example, these dropouts seem to have done all right: Mark Zuckerburg (Facebook), Larry Ellison (Oracle), and Richard Branson (Virgin).

What about age? The average starting age for a CEO in Fortune 500 companies is 52.

Executives and entry level employees alike can take heart in that most CEO's started from humble beginnings like you, for example: Anne Mulcahy of Xerox (sales rep), Eric Schmidt of Google (Bell Labs Researcher), and Jack Welch of GE (engineer).

And what can one expect once they've grabbed the brass ring? That varies wildly, but in a big company the compensation is big also--well into 8 figures. Oracle's CEO compensation (cash, stock, options included) tops out at $78.4 Million.

What are characteristics of successful CEO's? These include Honor, Patience, Financial Savvy, Perseverance, Leadership, Realism, Perspective, Courage, Expertise, and Ability to Pitch and Close. Selection of future CEO's will increasingly focus on qualities like Flexibility, Transparency, Collaboration, and Empowerment.

If you are looking to position yourself for a CEO role, you'll need to make sure that your executive resume and LinkedIn profile emphasize the broad range of functional skills listed in this infographic. In addition, your executive resume and LinkedIn profile need to convey that you possess the soft skills mentioned above--not just by listing them, but by demonstrating them through your performance in roles to date.

To view these and additional insights on How to Become a CEO, you can access the infographic at:

How to Become a CEO


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