Formatting Your Resume For The Hiring Manager – Your Target Audience

There has been a shift recently in resume formatting that has made my primary job…reading resumes…a headache. "New" resume formats include graphics and charts, using colors and icons, and splitting documents into multiple columns.

But more importantly than making my job a headache, these formats don’t appeal to hiring managers. And that, my readers, is your target audience for your resume. If a hiring manager doesn’t like the format on your resume, s/he isn’t even going to look at it.

Here is an example. I am currently hiring for several Data Scientists. The *role* of a DS is to create user dashboards and graphic elements using data visualization software like Tableau to help business leaders see trends and analyses of hard business data. But guess what? I have looked at over 500 resumes in the last few weeks, and have sent the manager 3 of them that have used charts to try and show expertise. The result? He asked me not to send any more; he doesn’t want to try and wade through things that don’t give him hard data…which is where data scientists START their jobs.

The caveat to this observation, of course, is if you are in a creative field. Artist, UX designer, graphic designer, etc. Then by all means, go to town. A photo should also NEVER EVER be on your resume unless you are in the entertainment industry.

"New" resume formats are created by companies that don’t understand why the basic text resume has been around for so long. There are several reasons.
1) It is easy to read. English speakers read from the upper left hand corner, scanning left to right, top to bottom. Our comprehension is based on a smooth flow of reading. The old maxim that you have 6-10 minutes to grab a person’s attention is true. I tend to spend a bit more than average on resumes…closer to 15 seconds. But if I cannot actually *read* your resume because it is segmented in ways that do not make sense, or has graphics littered all over it, or you try and "quantify" your skills with a chart or graph…I’m not even going to bother.

2) Hiring Managers want to see what you did, when you did it, and how it positively affected your employer. Your experience needs to be CONTEXTUAL (meaning the functional format is of no use to a hiring manager.) You need to tie your experience to the work you are doing (or want to do.)
B />

3) Compliance reasons: this is the big one that most people advocating for "new" resume formats don’t understand: hiring organizations are bound by several different governmental requirements that relate to hiring. This means that they must evaluate candidates based on their detailed, quantifiable skills as stated in the job description. If recruiters and hiring managers cannot easily see what you have done, we aren’t even going to consider you. Don’t even think about a video resume; recruiters and hiring managers won’t look at them because of the potential for discrimination.

If you want to "jazz up" your resume, use bold, underline, italics, , spacing/indentations, and bullet points (heck, you can try experimenting with different shapes for a bullet point). Run it by friends, neighbors, and other people that are hiring managers (NOT your best friend, or your professor, or your parents…find an objective 3rd party that makes hiring decisions regularly). Get opinions from people that look at resumes and actually have ideas of what they do/don’t like and want to see.

Your “Unofficial” References

You’ve completed your background check (returned with nothing negative), given the recruiter your professional references (including your former manager, a client, and a peer) and they were all contacted. Then…nothing. Finally you hear back from the recruiter telling you that they have decided to go with another candidate, even though you were convinced you were going to get an offer. What happened?

From a recruiting perspective, professional references given by the candidate mean almost nothing to me. Of course they are going to provide the names of people that will give them glowing reviews. In the last decade or so, the term that has become more prevalent among hiring managers and recruiters is "backchannel references". What does this mean? Basically, someone is going to reach out to other people they know at the company that may know your work and ask for some feedback "off the record" (usually the hiring manager makes the outreach). LinkedIn is used for this quite often; look up your manager that you gave as a reference, then see if there is a peer or a stakeholder you most likely worked with that may have an opinion on your work. Is it legal? Yup. So you think it’s unfair? Well, if you were being asked out on a date by someone you barely knew, wouldn’t you ask your friends about him/her and take their opinion under advisement? You might even find their ex on Facebook or LinkedIn and ask for an opinion (trust me, I should have done that with my own last relationship…and I already knew the ex and would have saved myself a WORLD of heartache). Don’t you look on Glassdoor and reach out to other professional contacts that do/have worked at the company to find out more about the company and even the team? It’s no different; it just feels more intrusive because it is a business, and not personal.

I know for a fact that in the course of my own career I have lost at least one offer because of a backchannel reference. It was very early in my career, and I learned a very valuable lesson: guard your reputation like nothing else in your professional life. That particular manager is still in the recruiting arena in Seattle and we have crossed paths on more than one occasion. I have been in the position of recommending whether to pursue her or not on more than one occasion, and when I am asked, I will share my experience with my own manager.

One thing you can do is ask for professional endorsements on LinkedIn *while you are working with them*. Ask them to write SPECIFICS (vs. generic "John is great! I really enjoy working with him!") about working with you, including how you made their life easier, and how being awesome at your job benefited the organization, your best skills. If you *know* there is someone that could give you a bad reference, tell the recruiter when s/he asks for your "official" list and explain the context or situation.

As the world becomes more connected, and individuals are less concerned with personal privacy, you will see much more blurring of the lines in the business world. It’s the price society pays for uber-community.

Some additional reading:




Phone Screens – Good And Bad Examples

My company and hiring teams are going full steam ahead during December. We have interviews, phone screens, and sourcing sessions set up for the next two weeks. Last Friday I had two hiring managers call two very different candidates. Both of them ended up not moving forward with their respective candidates, but their feedback to me on each was miles apart. I’m sharing these anecdotes as a cautionary tale.

The first phone screen was on specific technical concepts. There were both "put this in your own words and explain it to me" as well as "what is your opinion of XYZ as a way of accomplishing ABC goal?".

I was appalled at the response from the hiring manager.

"In any event, many of the factual questions I asked were followed by long pauses while she said she was thinking, and then all of sudden she had a very articulate answer. I believe she was googling as she went, and in some cases, it sounded like she was reading from something she found on the web verbatim.

She didn’t do very well on the questions that were more opinion / approach based. Pass."

The second candidate was a longshot for a Software Engineering position.

"Really nice guy, but he lacks in all technical areas. Even his education was more of a technical school where he learned several languages but not the CS fundamentals (he rated himself on a scale of 1 to 10 as 3 in terms of algorithms and data structures). I told him as much and even gave some career advice. I also told him if he takes some additional courses and hones his tech skills, I’ll be happy to talk to him again."

The first candidate looked great on "paper" (resume). The second candidate was a known longshot, but his resume showed self-improvement, tenacity, forethought, and he took on interesting challenges. (This phone screen also illustrates my point in this previous <a href=" ">blog on bootcamp programs </a>).

These two conversations illustrate *why* organizations have an extra layer of screening these days with functional phone calls (across the board, not just technology jobs). Part of the goal of <a href="">phone screens </a> is to determine if a candidate will even survive the interview process. I am APPALLED at the first candidate’s behavior. I am also assuming that her resume is heavily "padded". She needs to go back to the drawing board and rethink her career choices if she cannot even answer basic questions in her chosen field.

A phone screen is still considered a formal interview, and job seekers should treat it as such. If you are speaking with a recruiter/HR it is totally appropriate to <a href="">ask </a> what to expect in a functional phone screen and how to prepare, just as it is for an onsite interview.

Timing: When To Apply For A New Job

I’m evaluating a lot of resumes these days from Master’s candidates that are applying to our early-career positions. I’ve also got friends and resume clients that have been facing layoffs or contracts ending. The common theme for these two types of candidates? Timing.

For those students that are trying to line up full time jobs after graduation, it is absolutely vital to understand how corporate recruiting works. Large companies like Microsoft, Amazon, Boeing, Starbucks, IBM, Apple, Facebook, etc. have what are known as Campus Recruiting programs. They have entire teams dedicated to attending job fairs at schools, or at the very least working with school career centers to hire candidates for ongoing entry-level positions. But smaller companies often don’t have campus recruiting programs; they hire entry level candidates when they have the opportunity (either a backfill, meaning someone has left the company or because they have enough staff to help mentor a new graduate). Why is it important to understand the difference in large and small company hiring practices?

*Campus recruiters are hiring for a future need, with a long timeline. They know there will be open positions available when the student graduates and is ready. Smaller companies are hiring *tactically* meaning they are looking for someone to start more immediately (usually within 8 weeks or less.)

What this means is that students that are not graduating until, say, January or June should not be disappointed if they apply to a job in August or February (respectively) and get a rejection from smaller companies.

How can you figure out if a company is hiring tactically? There are a couple of steps you can take. Ask your career center if a company of interest has a relationship with your school. Look on LinkedIn to see if the company has anyone listed as a "Campus Recruiter" for their title. Call/email the company and ask for the HR/Recruiting department.

On the opposite end of the spectrum is the more seasoned career professional that knows their job will be ending on a specific date. It is a reality of business that often companies will have layoffs and slow hiring in their 4th quarter (whether it aligns with the calendar year or not). If you are facing a layoff during Q4, you need to know that most companies start slowing their hiring in November and December, so you want to get your job search jump started sooner rather than later.

In 2009 locally, Microsoft did a massive layoff (several thousand people.) Most employees got a really generous severance package. One of the biggest mistake a lot of those affected employees did was wait months to start their job search (the recession was in full swing). In 2014, they also did a clean up of their HR/Recruiting department. Smart employees started their searches within a few weeks. Especially in the case of the HR layoffs, many employees waited until their severance packages were running out before starting their search, but guess what? With such a glut on the market, many companies filled their positions immediately, and a lot of them opened headcount (positions) earlier than projected to take advantage of the high quality candidates on the market. The result: the early birds caught the worms, and those that waited often found themselves unemployed for a LOT longer than they anticipated.

The same rationale applies to contractors. If you know your contract is ending on a specific date, or even within a general time frame, and you *need* to keep employed, don’t wait until AFTER you finish your contract to start looking. The average recruiting lifecycle in a healthy economy is roughly 6-8 weeks (for most "generalist" positions) from the time a position is opened until someone is hired. One of the biggest mistakes contractors make is not starting their search early enough; at the latest, start your seach two weeks before you know your contract is due to complete, especially for full-time positions.

Like most thing in life, timing is everything. Finding a new job is no different.

Tips for Transitioning Veterans

These tips are coming from a civilian recruiter and will help outline the challenges and communication barriers that are affecting us both in the recruiting process. Most of this will be geared toward young service men and women that joined the military soon after high school or with little civilian work experience.

1) Your resume needs to be in corporate-speak, not military jargon. 90% of the resumes I see from veterans list a bunch of military acronyms and terms that have absolutely no meaning to me. You need to work on getting your resume ready for the civilian world. And that means you need to talk to people that have experience in both worlds and can help you translate your experiences appropriately. Most state unemployment support offices have a liaison or specialist of some kind that can help you with this for free. You can also use LinkedIn and other business communities to find civilian recruiters that have military experience in their backgrounds and can help you. Most of them are happy to donate their time to a fellow veteran.

2) Attitudinal Changes. I’m not trying to tell you that your attitude is bad or wrong, but it is different and to join the civilian world, you need to make an adjustment in your thinking in how you interact with other people. When you are interviewing, you have to remember that although you come from a very structured environment where life or death decisions depend upon following orders, a strict changing of command and established protocols, in the civilian world employers are generally looking for people that think for themselves and understand how to prioritize depending on a much different set of circumstances, and that very very few decisions you are going to make will result in a life or death situation outside of specific industries (like health care).

3) Leadership in the corporate world is very different than leadership in the military. People that are leaders in the civilian world don’t expect instant obedience to every decision, and in fact they look for employees that can challenge those decisions and help deliver a better product or service through questioning and respectful disagreement. That isn’t to say that you should question everything directly, but it does mean that if you disagree with a leader or a process, you should explore how you might make it better or what a different approach is and then speak up. There are many individuals in management positions that may not be the best leaders, and there are ways for you to work within the organization (such as HR or mentoring outside your direct reporting structure) to address this when it becomes frustrating. When you are interviewing, you need to think of examples of experiences you had that you may not have agreed with or disliked; why you didn’t agree with them, and how you might have made changes to the process if you had the chance.

4) Learn to negotiate effectively. You need to know how to compromise and when to give and take (negotiation). Performance expectations are merit-based on an individual level in the corporate world, and the bell-curve is alive and well. "Huh?" you may be thinking to yourself. In the corporate world (a bit less in industries such as health care or any collective bargaining industry), you are judged on your performance in competition with your peers. It isn’t a cut-throat competition, but you need remember that although you are part of a group for the outcome of your efforts, you are being judged individually against your coworkers. And when employers are considering you for a job, part of the evaluation process is making sure you are aware of your own worth and can articulate it well to them *against other candidates*.

5) Understanding the value of networking outside the military. There is no doubt whatsoever that the military is one of the strongest professional networks on the planet, but when you are leaving the service, you need to think outside that network and find those people that will have a broader range of contacts. That isn’t to say that you should ignore your valuable contacts, but the people you need to be contacting are those with ties to industry and civilian employers. Think of those people that your network knows outside of their military career. For example, maybe the cashier at the PX is married to the manager at the local Costco. Or your Commander’s brother coaches a junior league soccer team in Duluth, where your wife wants to move to. That soccer coach is going to know local service providers like realtors and insurance agents, and they in turn are going to have clients that may be able to help you find connections for opportunities in the civilian world. Conversely, you have something in common with a lot of civilian manager right now in a shared military experience, and this is a way for you to form an instant rapport with them. It’s the equivalent of belonging to a sorority or fraternity or an alumna of a high school or college. It’s an instant bond that generally will make the other person feel good about being able to help another vet.

6) Work hard, play hard, know when to stay and when to go. The military is both a 24×7 job and also very structured in terms of shifts. You are on guard duty from 6 AM to 3 PM, then your time is your own; you are monitoring subs on the second shift, and your attention is 100% focused, then you are off (unless of course you are in a war zone, when you are duty every minute). You *are* the military in terms of conduct at all times. Being in the service isn’t a job, it’s a lifestyle commitment for as long as your serve. When you go into corporate America, you start a job or a career, and then when you leave your job, you change your role like you change your hat. Your life becomes your own. But here’s a fact to understand: very few jobs are not somehow entwined with your everyday life. You may work from 8-5, but you may need to be prepared to stay an hour extra to answer an email and finish a presentation, or give up your evening to attend an industry event. But, by the same token, you can take an extended lunch to go sign closing papers on your new house, or schedule a doctor’s appointment into your day. Your life becomes an ebb and flow of intertwined roles. But the one thing that is true regardless: what you do off the clock needs to be done with integrity and a degree of professionalism, and what you do on the clock needs to carry the same passion and conviction that you take with you to your son’s baseball game or the barbecue with your folks on Saturday.

It’s a competitive job market, and there are tons of stories out there about how difficult it is for veterans to find jobs. There are a few factors such as lack of equivalent positions, a disconnect between industry and military career professionals, but I also believe a large part of it is culture shock when leaving the military. Believe it or not, most employers sincerely *want* to hire vets. Some because it’s the right thing to do; some because it is mandated by law that employers consider vets and even get tax breaks of some sort for it; others because they have found that military training makes for a great employee. But to hire you, they have to get you in the door and through the vetting process.

Recent Coding Bootcamp Grads – You Probably Aren’t “Full Stack” Engineers

I have often recruited for front-end engineers over my career. Web technologies are inarguably a great step into the world of software engineering. Learning flexible and scalable web languages is how a lot of developers start their careers.

But with the rise of coding bootcamps, I have seen a corresponding increase in bootcamp graduates that bill themselves as ‘full stack engineers’. Here’s the problem: a 12, or 16, or 20 week program is NOT going to prepare you for a ‘full stack engineering role’. I’m not saying this to be overly selective, or to try and screen out candidates, but for the simple fact that in the last 4-5 years when I have passed bootcamp grads to hiring teams for technical phone calls or even interviews, *none of them have passed muster because they don’t have strong computer science fundamentals.* Let me be clear: I generally work for technology companies that are involved in either e-commerce or actual software products/services. I am not referring to creative agencies, or small web development consulting companies which are often a great landing spot for bootcamp graduates. Yes, it *is* possible to learn full stack development ‘on the job’ but the truth is that if my hiring manager is looking for someone with at least a theoretic/academic understanding of binary trees and data structures gleaned from a Computer Science program, spending 25% of the last two weeks of a bootcamp having ‘exposure’ to computer science fundamentals isn’t going to make you qualified as a full stack software developer.

The main difference between Java, C#, C++ – compiled languages – and Python, Ruby, Javascript, Perl, PHP and other interpretive languages involves how your computer receives directions on what to do with the code. Compiled code can be executed directly by the CPU, while interpretive languages still need a translator or other vehicle for implementing the commands of the code; compiled code executes at a much faster rate than interpreted code. Interpretive code has its own advantages as well such as being platform-independent. Stack Overflow has a great overview of the differences and similarities between the two. (

Computer Science as a discipline generally deals with learning not only compiling languages but also the mechanics, mathematics, and logic behind creating the entire ecosystem and bridge between hardware and software. ‘Software Engineering’ as a career and discipline rely on a complete knowledge of those principles, which takes several years to learn. If you want to become a full stack developer, you need to understand and be able to implement coding concepts and solutions such as:


-Binary trees

-Data structures

Typical coding questions will include specifics such as: reverse a linked list; reverse a string using a recursive algorithm; write a program to convert binary to decimal values; write a program to find the sum of the first 100 prime numbers. These questions are directed to EVERY full stack engineer, whether they are primarily being hired for a front end position or not.

Thanks to platforms like Coursera, Udacity, and other online tools it is possible to learn the fundamentals, but it still takes a huge time investment beyond what you have in a bootcamp. If you decide to go down this path, develop your software portfolio by working on public collaboration sites like Github or Stack Overflow. Be prolific, and include your project ID on your resume. Write a small game, or some sort of a tool independently. And remember, when you *are* interviewing, companies want to know about your singular and specific contributions to the projects you work on; they aren’t interested in what your team did as a whole. They are interviewing YOU and your talents, not your collaborators.

So please, if you aren’t ready to answer questions in-depth about binary trees, data structures, algorithms, and concurrency ‘ please don’t try and tell me you are a ‘full stack engineer.’

Resume Basics Redux

One of my primary job functions as a recruiter is reading resumes. A ton of them. These days I am reading ~100-200/day (I have almost 200 distinct positions open in 3 states for a rapidly growing company and I’m the only recruiter.) Many of our positions are in the trades, general labor, retail, or call center. Entry level positions with a very small list of requirements, or basic communication skills/customer service so I am seeing a lot of folks apply that probably aren’t highly familiar with writing a resume. (I have several resume templates and posts on what a resume should look like.)

Some examples of resume glaring errors in the last couple of weeks:

-Someone that applied for a job with specific requirements. I sent him a decline based on his lack of relevant experience.

US: Thank you for your interest in our open position, but at this time we are only considering applicants that meet our minimum qualifications. (listed out)

Candidate: I do meet that. It’s just not on my resume.

-This morning I received a resume from a veteran. I really try to hire vets whenever I can, and his skill set is something that *could* be a match. He listed out his title, and some impressive accomplishments but nowhere on his resume did he talk about the actual *SKILLS* that are required on the job description. (I sent him an email and told him that I would love to consider him if he could update his resume to show what relevant skills he has.)

-You have heard it time and again, and it is true: never allude to things on your resume that indicate marital status, orientation, religion, ethnicity, gender, political affiliations etc. (gender is difficult based on your name.) I counsel folks that have actual work experience or relevant volunteer experience to put it in terms such as "12 month sabbatical for membership drive for global non-profit; increased local membership directly by 35%" for a religious mission. As this recent election cycle in the US (and even Great Britain with Brexit) has shown us, politics are polarizing, so while it is fine to indicate you worked on a political campaign, keep the party affiliation and candidate to yourself.

This particular resume entry is a huge red flag for me that a candidate used to describe his entrepreneurship:…""which I built out of my own pocket with the help of the Lord God."

What I, as a recruiter, need to see when I look at your resume.

1) Your professional (which can include RELEVANT volunteer experience, ie it uses your professional skill set) history and the SPECIFIC skills you have that map to the job description requirements.

Regarding volunteering "relevancy": A few years ago I helped a friend with his resume. He had received a sizable inheritance after he finished college and for a long time lived off of that. When he finally needed a job he didn’t know what to do. But as a hobbyist, he created and sold specialized hand-crafted sports equipment, which I informed him made him a small business owner with basic business skills. (Yes, he got a job a few weeks later.) I volunteer in several capacities for either industry training for recruiters, or in a function that basically drives new membership recruitment and retention for a non-profit, and are directly relevant to my career.

On the topic of requirements: thanks to the federal government in the last decade, a large portion of companies are now subject to federal guidelines that require employers to hire strictly to whatever their established basic "must have this/these skills to perform this job at this level" levels are. They key here is MUST and REQUIRED. If you don’t have these qualifications, you are NOT GOING TO BE CONSIDERED. It is a legal issue, not employers being overly picky. (Although I will not deny that this happens.)

2) Contact information. I need (preferably a phone number and email address), ways to contact you. I will not necessarily disqualify you if you live out of the area, because people are mobile these days (and area codes are no long and indicator of residence). If you are a strong candidate for a job, chances are I will at least send you to the hiring manager. UNLESS you are out of the country. My current employer does not offer any sort of immigration support, so unless you already have an active green card (and put it on your resume) or are an expat (which is helpful to know on your resume) I’m not going to consider you. At all. No matter how well you fit the job requirements.

3) Your education: this is formal, matriculated school such as high school, community college, or university. If you have been out of your formal educational institution for a YEAR OR LESS, it goes at the top of your resume (Doctoral programs are the exception to that rule such as academia, medicine, or law.)
B >
If a job specifies that a Bachelors, Master’s, or PhD is required and does not have "or equivalent experience" then that means you MUST POSSESS THE DEGREE for consideration. And yes employers verify it. The education section does NOT include every software, leadership, online course, self-help book, etc. that you have taken/used for professional development. If you received training on a piece of industry technology that you use daily, this should be part of your job entries, not a footnote on training. If you AREN’T using training you received in your current job, don’t even bother to include it.

Bottom line: experience outstrips theory every time.
B />4) Listing hobbies are fine in moderation, but I don’t need things like "I make a mean frittata" or "volunteer for XYZ dog rescue, and I have five special needs corgies that I adopted"; the first is irrelevant unless you are looking at restaurant jobs, the second is a red flag about your priorities. Sports/martial arts, musical/artistic pursuits, community activism (NOT religious), travel are all fine. Speaking one or more languages with conversational or better fluency is always a bonus; high school Spanish that you never use and don’t remember does NOT make you bilingual.
B >
But make sure you don’t list so many "extra curricular" passions that you look like it is a part time job competing with your paying career. Good luck in your job search! Leave questions in the comments section of you have them!

B >

Today’s Job Hunt Tools

One of our friends has been working for the same company for over twenty years and just found out she is being laid off. She was asked for a resume to distribute internally so we got that taken care of. Now, a week later, she is ending her tenure and has to find a new job.

If you have not looked for a job in the last decade, the rules of engagement have changed. A lot. You may or may not be able to network your way into a new job; it does happen, but you will probably still need to go through an electronic application process. If not, here are some tips that may be helpful.

1) LinkedIn: have a profile, update it with relevant information, request RECOMMENDATIONS from peers, managers, and clients. There are endorsements and recommendations. The difference is that a recommendation is a written reference. An endorsement is a "click here if you think this person exhibits these skills". Endorsements are more important. Many companies have policies against written references after a layoff, so do it while you are technically still employed. This is how recruiters and hiring managers make evaluations when considering candidates. LinkedIn also has great job postings.

2) is useful for two reasons. First, you can upload your resume and recruiters can find you for free. You can keep your contact info private so that you don’t get spammed, but you should definitely upload your resume. Make sure you are very explicit about what you are looking for. This is one of the only times I advocate an objective in addition to a summary.

"Seasoned accounting manager seeking full time position in the greater Springfield area; not open to relocation. Please, no sales jobs."

From a job seeking perspective, Indeed scrapes websites for job postings then aggregates them. You can do a search on key words and location. When you find something of interest, *always go to the corporate website to make sure it is still open*. Indeed doesn’t update results. If a job posting is more than 30 days old, chances are it isn’t active anymore, but a quick check on the employer’s website can tell you if it is.

3) has two valuable functions. It has a job board, and it also has sections where employees and candidates leave reviews about the company, interview questions, and basically you can research an employer’s brand.

4) Once you have applied to a position, use LinkedIn to network and get some notice. The single best way into any company is an employee referral. The second is a recruiter referral. Use LinkedIn to reach these folks.

When you finally identify the sorts of positions and target companies, you will need to fill out the online application. Yes, it is a pain. But there are federal compliance guidelines that have impacted the way companies recruit new external talent. Some important things to remember:

-If a job posting has a "requirements" section, most likely if you don’t match the REQUIRED QUALIFICATIONS then you aren’t a fit for the job. You can stretch something in terms of experience if is is a few months. For example, if it states "Five+ years of experience in a support role" and you have 4 years and 8 months, go ahead and at least try. If a job posting says "recent" that means within the last year, not eight years ago.

-A resume is a marketing tool, an application is a *legal* workflow document. There are times you may leave something off your resume (maybe a six month period of unemployment, a short temp job, or sabbatical), but you SHOULD include it in the application history in the proper place if you were employed.

-If an application requires a salary history, try "$1,000". Often they will not accept just a one or zero and require a number.

-In the fields requesting your supervisor and contact information, put "NA" if you don’t have any.

-In the "references" section, this is where you would list people that have offered to be a professional reference that is *not* your current immediate supervisor. They should be people that know you, your work, and can speak to you professionally; it isn’t for personal references.

-Make a note if there is any "Job number" associated with the position for networking purposes. You will want to include the URL of the job and any job number associated with the position when you are referencing it in your networking efforts.

Don’t forget to lock down your social media profiles if you are an avid user of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. Remember, a quick Google search will find you easily enough. Make sure you don’t have anything that could hurt your chances of landing a new job. Pictures, racy content, overly political/religious/controversial topics are all reasons not to consider you for a position.

The All Purpose College Major

I was talking to a friend yesterday who has an 18-year old son starting college this fall. He did the HS running start program, which means he took college-level, full credit classes his senior year of HS. He is starting at a local Community College with the hope of transferring to a 4-year school in the next couple of years. The problem is, he doesn’t have any clue what he wants to do, what major to declare, or even what sorts of classes he should take beyond his requirements. This isn’t an uncommon scenario. And even if you declare a major, you will very likely change it once you figure out what you want to do in two, or three years. This suggestion is specifically for people that don’t know what sort of CAREER they want; not for the vocal performance scholarship budding soprano, or the history major that is going on to get a MS Ed. and wants to teach high school.

So from my professional position as a recruiter, and my personal experience as a liberal arts major, here is my suggestion: go for a general business major (BBA, Bachelor of Business Administration). You can pick a concentration, minor, or double major along the pathway if you decide.

There are so many unemployed college graduates out there, and I cannot tell you how many MBA candidates I talk to that went back to get their MBA when they could not find a job doing anything meaningful with their drama, music, English, history, anthropology, or other take-your-pick-liberal-arts-degree. A business major at least gives you a basic skill set that can help you find an entry-level job. From a recruiting perspective, I can make a case to a hiring manager to hire an entry level business major that at least *understands* marketing or accounting concepts much more than I can for a philosophy major that has no idea that EBIDTA is a business acronym let alone what it stands for/relates to. From a personal perspective, I can tell you that I loved my major (Classical Humanities with a Medieval History minor), I learned valuable research skills that stand me in good stead, but it took me almost a DECADE to actually get started on anything remotely resembling a career path. I worked temp office (no benefits), retail, and call-center customer service jobs before I was able to network into a job that led me where I am today. (Oh, and that included a 2000-mile cross-country move on my own for personal reasons.) My LinkedIn profile and resume look amazingly different the last ten years from the first decade. Thank heavens.

The job market has changed significantly in the last decade due to a number of factors. If you read this blog with any regularity, you know that I try and give no-nonsense job seeking suggestions from the side of someone involved intimately with the hiring process. I certainly will not tell someone not to pursue a passion, only give you realistic advice about actually finding a *job* at the end of it.

The AAA’s In Hiring Today (Age, Attitude, Adaptability)

A friend of mine from high school posted a recent NY Times article about the realities of ageism in today’s employment landscape. More than the article itself, there were nigh on 1700 comments (when I started reading the article, it may have jumped up since then.) There were a lot of replies to my HS buddy’s original post as well. Concurrently with this discussion, an acquaintance of mine lamented the fact that his lack of a degree is shutting him out of potential jobs; the sorts of freelance career options he has been pursuing are usually going to MA and even (most recently a) PhD candidates. I also see a lot of data and reporting on the very unemployed youth (18-25) in today’s market.

I am the same age as the person that originally brought the NYT article to my attention. I am a few years younger than the freelancer without the degree. I am also a middle-aged recruiter in the very youth-centric tech industry. I have had a robust career for over fifteen years in my chosen profession and preferred industry. I am quite literally at the top of my career, with a professional brand and name recognition among my peers. Of the candidates I have hired in the last six months, at least 20% of them are over 40. One thing that an older employee/candidate has is: an established professional network and (hopefully) the skills to use it. As a recruiter, networking is still the primary way to find a new opportunity.

I am not going to deny that ageism exists both for older and younger workers, because that would be a lie. I will admit that from an employer perspective, there is definitely a monetary element to the practice’older candidates are perceived to be more expensive from a compensation perspective than their younger peers.
But there is a flip side to this conversation, and it is the other ‘A’ traits I see:

‘Attitude’ and ‘Adaptability’

If you read any of the comments pertaining to age-related content, you will see very distinct responses from the sample population (let’s go with ‘over 45’ at this juncture). The first type is ‘woe is me’ and ‘the good old days’ and ‘when I was young” Conversely, there is a smaller subset that identifies as getting along with a younger workforce as SME’s and mentors; has reinvented their careers, up to and including starting their own businesses; sees the changing landscape as part and parcel of life, exciting and challenging.

This leads me to my second ‘A’ ‘ adaptability

One of the very biggest beliefs and complaints about older workers is their inability or refusal to adapt to change: new technology, updated tools, different methodology, workplace trends, etc. I have countless personal anecdotes of my chronologic peers who adamantly refuse to change their perceptions and work styles. It is this lack of adaptability that is more of a detriment to *any* candidate than their actual age.

As a recruiter I get a constant stream of requests for help with resumes, job/candidate leads, subject matter expertise, job hunting strategies, and marketing/branding ideas. There has been a significant uptick in the number of older workers looking to either stay employed, eke out a few more years of corporate work, or even find something new as an employee. Here is the thing: I am happy to help or make suggestions, send resources your way, answer recruiting/job search questions, even leverage my network on your behalf if I know you. But if you keep saying the same things over and over (‘attitude’) then you’ll lose my interest and willingness to support your efforts. As a veteran recruiter, believe me when I say I have seen and heard just about everything. Those of us in a position to help are generally happy to’but we help those that help themselves. Referrals from people that we help are the bread and butter for us when we try to fill difficult roles. So it is in our own professional best interests to pay it forward.

I’m going to flip this conversation to the reverse form of ageism’not hiring entry-level, or very young, candidates. The general profile of a candidate in my current recruiting queue has 2-6 years of *industry* experience and a degree (BS/MS). Today’s younger candidates generally have little problem with ‘adaptability’ in terms of learning new skills (especially in technology). However, our culture has raised a large generation of young adults that lack critical thinking skills. It is a result of over-parenting (aka ‘helicopter’) and an educational system that teaches students all the skills necessary to work in a group of people, but not how to problem solve individually and rewards ‘showing up’ as much as excelling, and learning to take tests rather than solve problems and communicate well. (Don’t believe me? There is a school system nearby that has weighted 40% of a student’s grade is *attendance*. If you just show up and do minimal work you can slide by). Human beings learn and grow from our *failures*. I don’t believe that the majority of young adults are given the tools needed for coping with the modern corporate culture. I understand a lot of their frustration with it, and why there are so many young entrepreneurs. And this is changing, but it is a slow metamorphosis.

I see the same attitudes from younger workers that I see from their older counterparts: an expectation that the workplace should adapt to *their* perceived wants and needs, and a refusal or inability to actually try and understand why the status quo (whatever it may be) exists. Instead of looking at an opportunity to learn and possibly affect change from within, I see and hear complaints about stagnation, lack of opportunity/speed of recognition, failure to provide for them, and an often infantile need for constant attention and hand-holding. When you go to work, you are being paid to do a job. You should be given reasonable tools and training to achieve that, but it is *your* responsibility to actually learn, ask questions, synthesize information and get started on actually working. In the professional world, no news is good news. Meaning if your manager/lead doesn’t tell you something needs improvement, you are doing well. It is more than reasonable to expect regular 1:1 meetings to go over your career trajectory, your performance, and to answer questions. You should be given the resources (people and tools) to actually do your job. It is NOT okay to demand constant reassurance from someone that has many other competing priorities. It is definitely not permissible to expect other people to spoon feed you information that you should be able to find once you have access to it.

So whether you are a baby-boomer still kicking around in the workforce, a GenX’er trying to figure out being ‘Jan’ in your office, or a Digital Native/Millennial just starting out on your professional path, there are alpha traits that can make your career and life much more rewarding and fulfilling.