Why Your Resume Might Have Mistakes You Don’t See

Resumes. Most people dread having to write them. But everybody realizes they need one to be in the job hunting game. I like to tell people that resumes are a “beauty in the eye of a beholder” document. What looks great to one person looks average to another. In the end, a resume is YOUR document. You are telling people about yourself, so you need to be comfortable with it.

I recently read a blog post (see link below) with four reasons why your resume does not get you an interview.

I absolutely agree with the writer’s first reason: “Your resume doesn’t indicate that you’ll excel at the job”. So many resumes are about what the person did, but not what the person accomplished. Let me give you an example. Which of these two people would you be more interested in hiring to fix your roof?

  • Person #1 – “Strip old roofing off, apply new roofing and ensure roof is sealed”
  • Person #2 – “Completed ten roofing projects last month with all of them done ahead of schedule and on average 10% below budgeted cost.”

They both performed the same tasks. But one of them provides a narrative on results (what they accomplished). Isn’t that more powerful? It is the same with your resume. Yes, you probably “worked across the organization to complete documentation”, “managed projects to deploy technology” or “performed financial analysis”. But to what end? If you truly believe you are a person worthy of hiring, tell the results of your work.

Think you did not “accomplish” anything at your job? You are wrong. You must have done something to justify your work existence. Take the time to really think about work results.

I’d add a couple thoughts to her list.

Your resume has typos. Not everyone is good at grammar. Not everyone is good at spotting a mistake in your writing.  Unless you spend a lot of time looking at the written word, you miss common errors (like “form” instead of “from” or “pots” instead of “post”). Another common error I run into is when someone uses all capital letters for a job title, company name or header in their resume. For instance “WORK EXPERIENCE” is typed as “WORK EXPEREINCE”. For some reason, all capital letters throws off our sense that a word is spelled wrong. And spell checker does not always flag words in all capital letters. (If you missed it, “experience” is spelled incorrectly in the second example.)

Confusing personal attributes with your brand for an intended job. There is a very big difference between personal attributes and what an employer is looking for in a job candidate. A hiring manager does not care if you think you’re “hard working”. They are not looking for someone whose colleagues think is “reliable”. The hiring manager needs a problem fixed or a need fulfilled. Your attributes help you decide where you want to work. But they don’t necessarily translate into a brand. You need to tell why these attributes or strengths matter to an employer. Better yet, write down how your attributes matter- the results you created. It’s not “I am quality-focused”. It’s “Reduced errors 15% by creating a new way to do sampling”.

Getting Help for your Resume

The article also talks about another common error people make on their resume: “You haven’t asked for feedback from the right people.” She notes:

First, in a crowded job market, “fine” isn’t enough; it (your resume) needs to be great. But secondly, if the wrong people are reviewing your resume, their feedback doesn’t matter.

She goes on to use this example. You wouldn’t ask a friend, or someone who volunteers to help, to diagnose a problem with your car. You would go to a mechanic. Why do that with a resume?

For all of the reasons above, you really should get help writing your resume. There are lots of places to go (and many will charge you a lot of money). Let me keep it simple. You will get good resume help if:

(1) The person is good at writing

(2) The person has a resume template that will be attractive, simple and concise. You have to get past computer programs (ATS) and catch the attention of hiring managers who are in a hurry

(3) The person is willing to have numerous in-depth conversations with you. You need someone who can help you tell your story. That only happens when you have conversations

Make sure your resume is great. If you would like some help, feel free to reach out.

Here is Natalie’s original post. https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/why-arent-you-getting-interviews-natalie-roo/


“I was totally qualified”

“. . . But didn’t get the job”

How many of us have said that same sentence, or heard a friend say that? The job posting sounds like it was written for you. You are able to “check off” all of the things the employer says they are looking for. It feels like the perfect fit.

But you do not get the job offer. How does that happen? For most of us, we immediately blame ourselves. We did something wrong. We messed up somewhere in the process. Maybe I am not as good as I think I am.

Maybe one of those is true.  But probably not.

So, what happened?

I have some theories.

“You are overqualified”. People hear this all the time. Often that is the perception of the person doing the interviewing. You might be “too experienced” for the job. That doesn’t sound logical, but it can be the other person’s perception. If you ever have this concern, find a way to address it. Interviewers make assumptions all of the time. You HAVE to understand that (guess what, you make assumptions all the time, too!). So you must face that fact and explain how you are not overqualified. Tell them how you are looking for a new challenge in a new industry. Explain that the company culture is what you are seeking because you believe it will allow you to flourish. Sell them on the fact that you will learn more quickly and can be a mentor to others who are new to the organization.

Sometimes it may be true that you are overqualified. If so, the other person saved you from a position you would have hated. And they would have worried about you.

The position was not real. This happens more often than any of us know. Some companies are on “fishing trips” looking for talent. The job does not really exist, they want a stable of names they can turn to, someday. An organization is looking to “upgrade their talent” (whatever that means) so they post something to see if they find a gem. But in the end, they do not have a budget to hire someone.

The job description did not match the real need. It just may be that the position description was written incorrectly. Perhaps someone copied another position description and slightly modified it for their position. They did not take the time to clearly look at what their need was for the job and write that on the posting. This happens. People are in a hurry or too busy to bother. An alternative is as they talked to candidates, they realized what they needed was something different than they original thought they needed.

In the interview, you came across as . . 

too desperate

too anxious

too confident

too focused on yourself

Pick the phrase from above that might have been you. I hate to say it, but sometimes we inadvertently blow it in the interview. Desperation does not look good. Anxiety makes the other person nervous also. Supreme confidence can be interpreted as “arrogant”.

Check yourself at the door. It is proper to be pumped up for an interview. You do want to be excited. However, overdoing anything is not going to reflect well on you. Think about grounding yourself before you start. Look for that balance between the “day-to-day” you and the “on your best game” you. After all, you want the interviewer to get to know the real you.

The last phrase, “too focused on me”, could be that you are so psyched to show how you fit. You forget to focus on the interviewer. You might be thinking of your answers before truly understanding the question. Occasionally you will be so thorough that your answers are too long and comprehensive. Sometimes you have to step back and discern the interviewer’s need. After all, the interview is more about how you can help the interviewer, not solely about telling them who you are.

It is really disappointing to interview for a position that looks like a great fit but does not pan out. There can be a multitude of reasons, as I mentioned above, for the disappointment. The best you can do is ask for input from the interviewer. Then you need to self reflect on how you presented yourself. Learn from the experience. Think about how you might change your approach. Or not. Then it is time to move on. Because that job you are totally qualified for and a good fit does exist.


35 years and counting

I am stepping away a little bit from careers this week in my post, for a good reason. Today, August 6, 2018, is Rose and my 35th wedding anniversary (*32 more to go!). Anybody that has met or been around Rose for any length of time knows I won big time by finding her. Lucky man.

A recent article in Time Magazine (yes, it still exists) was titled:”The 5 Things Your Kids will Remember About You”. http://time.com/4097995/parenting-kids-remember/

As I generally like to do, I wanted to create my own list. So I did. Here is what I hope my children get from Rose and I:

Family Traditions I do agree with the fifth item on Times’ list.

Family is important. We did a lot of things with extended family throughout the years as the kids grew up. Going on vacation every year to Emerald Isle, NC with my side of the family. Annual July birthday get together. Silver Lake family reunion. Thanksgiving. Christmas. Visiting cousins is Louisiana. Doing stuff as a family. We are all close. But we are also close with a lot of the family.

Be Yourself. Rose and I wanted our kids to be whatever they wanted to be – not our vision for what they ought to be. They need to create their legacy, not some legacy we devise for them. For example, we let each of our children pick the high school they wanted to go to based on what was important to them. So, despite living in the same house the whole time, we had four children go to three different high schools. The kids each have their love of different types of music (but we can still get them all to agree to listen to some James Taylor or some Chicago).

Be present. Reading children’s books together was big for us. The kids know that they can come to us with questions when they need us (that’s why I get the sports, history and finance questions and Rose gets the health and food questions). We coached our kids in multiple sports and academic activities through middle school (and into high school in a couple cases). Why? Because we wanted to be part of their lives. But we also noticed very early that people coaching them had too much focus on winning. We wanted the events, the joy of teamwork, the struggle to learn how to do a sport to be part of their journey. We also got to know a lot of their friends this way.

Decision-making and critical thinking. I had originally titled this one “Everything is a competition or a comparison”. But I decide I needed a better title so it sounds more profound. Makes us sound like better parents! In our family, everything is a competition. It was a big deal to be the family champion in the football pool, the March Madness Pool, the Annual Easter Croquet Championship, today’s Ticket to Ride game or whatever else we dreamed up. The winner of a board or card game is sure to let everyone else know they won the last time we played this. We also like to ask someone to think and defend a comparison. Asking questions like “which vacation spot was better, Mesa Verde or Grand Canyon?” was common. Or, “what are the top five movies we have ever seen?” You had to have an answer (unless you are Rose, she HATES these things). And you had to back it up with facts (which were going to be disputed anyhow) or at least some statistics (real or made up). It’s all about making a decision and defending it (ha ha).

Have a sense of humor and thick skin. They have grown up seeing Rose and I laugh together, all of the time. Sometimes it is my teasing Rose. Okay, OFTEN it is me teasing Rose. But it is also crazy, fun things we might say to each other. Part of the fun of the games mentioned above required you to be a good trash talker or at least a color commentator. You might be commenting on what the other people were doing (for example, “Dad, as usual, is losing his mind” or “What is Nate thinking with that move?”). Or you might do color commentary on what you imagine someone else is thinking (“Mom is getting prepared to play these cards here. I believe she thinks she has a winner”). Be prepared to give and to take.

That is my list. Now the disputing from the kids starts! That’s half the fun. But seriously, if you have kids, or close friends, what would your list look like? It might be a great way to understand a little bit more about yourself and your legacy.

I was thinking of one thing we learned from kids. I believe the most meaningful to me was this: “We are huggers“. I believe Luke is the one who I first heard say this (and even if he wasn’t, by me putting in writing, it will create a family controversy. Ha ha). When we meet someone in a social setting, we hug, not just shake hands. Hugging creates a bond. It is warm. It tells someone about who the Waggenspacks are.

One last clarification. Perhaps you were wondering what the “(*32 more to go!)” at the start of this post meant. When we got married, I told Rose I was agreeing to be married to her for “67 years”. At the end  of that time, we could renew. So, we have 32 more years to go. See what I mean about a sense of humor and thick skin?

Put Away the Watch

I am a runner. It is my way of staying healthy. It is a way for me to relax and recharge. I am competitive enough with myself that I don’t like the reality that I am getting slower. I feel like there is some formula out there that will help me attain some stretch goals.

I have been following a self-created plan that focused on timing my runs for speed. The watch gives unassailable feedback, “you ran this fast”. I can set a goal time, run and then see how I did against that goal immediately. I like the feedback. It allows me to track progress. Since a race is also timed, using the watch on a practice run simulates race conditions. There is a lot of good behind the clear feedback. After some initial positive results, I have found that I have been stagnating lately.

So I decided to put away the watch for a while and do something different. Run for fun. Switch up my normal routes. I am not going to make this next run have a time per mile goal. I am not going to make sure I run for a specific amount of time. It was time to put away the watch.

How did that go? Did I run faster? Probably not. Was it a magical formula for attain my goal? Nope. Did I really enjoy my run? Yes. In fact, on two consecutive days, I wrote a full blog post in my mind while I was running. That is my weird definition of success – getting out and running and writing a blog!

Putting Away the Watch in Your Job Search

So what does this have to do with jobs, careers and job search?

Ever find yourself in a rut? Feel like you are not making progress? In fact, feel like you are going backwards? Getting tired of looking at e-mails and LinkedIn for job postings that fit you and then applying for all of the ones that fit?

For a job seeker, the rut might be that you have not had any interviews for a while. It might be not hearing anything from that company you applied for a job when you KNOW that job was a great fit. It might mean dreading having to go to ANOTHER networking meeting.

Perhaps you are the kind of person who has been doing the same thing for a few months. It has led to some partial successes. You feel like you have accomplished a few things. But now you are going nowhere.

Sometimes we need to step to the side and do something different. Stop measuring every thing you do. Set aside your routine for something different. That is what it means to put away the watch.

What might you do differently?

Look at some part of the job search you have neglected for a while. For example, have you been sharing comments on LinkedIn? Have you reached out to someone you haven’t talked to in a while? Maybe you need to volunteer for something you care about to get you into a different mind frame. All of these are job-search related activities but they seem to be neglected. They don’t seem as concrete as applying for one more job or attending one more after-hours event. But they are different. They may be the change you need temporarily.

Step away from the computer. Just like my watch with me, the computer can be a great tool. It is where many jobs are. Companies can be researched. But it can be all consuming. And lonely. Let’s face it,a lot of the jobs you get information on are not real openings. Spend some of that computer time elsewhere such as meeting with someone else or attending a presentation. Take a class to learn a new skill.

Work with a coach. Sometimes a different set of ears and a different voice can be enlightening. We get so accustomed to the same feedback (“the watch says”) that we miss other feedback. Perhaps your self-imposed measures need to be changed for a short while.

Get away from job search for a few days. I know, job search is supposed to be your full-time job. But just like when you are working, occasionally you need a small vacation to recharge and regroup. Take your mind of the search. Go to a new location for a couple days. Perhaps the change of venue will stimulate different thoughts. If nothing else, it may recharge you.

Is it time for you to “put away the watch” in some part of your life?

It’s Not Bragging

Would you buy a car, sight unseen, with this description:

Reliable, four door vehicle. Starts all of the time. Can be driven in all types of weather. Power windows and doors. Updated technology.

Probably not. You would need more information before you would even consider it. Look at that list again. Aren’t those the things that you expect a vehicle to do?

I think it is the same with a person. Would you necessarily jump to interview this person?

Reliable, hard-working analyst. Good communication skills. Works well in a team environment as well as individually. Excellent problem-solving skills.

Probably not. Again, those are the expectations any employer would have for an employee.

Yet I run into people all of the time who use generic wording like that to describe themselves. They do that not because they are “average”. They don’t describe themselves in generic terms because they are not creative. They often describe themselves generically because they don’t like to brag.

Brag – “to say in a boastful (exaggerated or with excessive pride) manner”

Not many of us want to have excessive pride about ourselves or call attention to ourselves. I get that. The problem becomes when we redefine brag as “describing my accomplishments” or “talking about what I have done for my work”. We have misrepresented what we are doing. We put the negative word (brag) on an action that is helpful.

Whether you are looking for a job, or just trying to describe your work self, you need to change your mindset. You are not bragging about yourself. Instead, you are trying to inform the other person to help them make a decision. That decision is whether they want to talk with you more or not.

It’s not bragging, it is informing or enlightening someone who does not know you

Let me go back to my vehicle example. If I said the vehicle was a truck, that would help people make a decision if they were looking for a sedan. If I told them that the vehicle had been maintained to dealer specifications for three years and had never been in a wreck, this might help them decide to proceed.

It is the same with you. If you did something good, it is not “bragging”, it is informing. If you won “employee of the month for extraordinary service for a customer”, that is a fact, not an embellishment. If you “worked on a project to roll out new technology to the entire organization that was completed ahead of schedule”, it is informative. You are stating an accomplishment.

accomplishment = “something that has been achieved successfully”

People will tell you that job search is “selling”. It is. You are selling yourself. But some of us negatively frame selling as “someone trying to get me to buy something I don’t need”. You picture the salesperson exaggerating the benefits. That unnecessary selling happens sometimes in the selling world. But much of the time, and especially with major purchases, selling is informing us to make a good decision. Selling means you are trying to “persuade someone of the merits” of what you have done.

For a manager, hiring someone is a major decision. It costs money. There is a need to meet or a problem to be fixed. It is costly to make a bad hiring decision. So the “buyer” (the hiring organization) needs to make an informed decision. You HAVE to help them do that. The only way to do that is tell them exactly what they are going to get when they consider you. It is a recitation of results and accomplishments grounded in facts.

You can call that bragging.

You can call that selling.

You can call that helping another person.

Pick the phrase that works best for you. But keep in mind how you would like to make a major decision. Wouldn’t you like the facts? Wouldn’t you like some information that would make you comfortable with moving forward? Isn’t some detail better than a series of platitudes?

If you need some help getting past the “bragging” barrier, let me know. I think I can help. And that’s not bragging.

Myth creating that hurts careers

Ozan Varol wrote these words about myths:

We’re eager to believe myths in part because they appeal to our emotions. Given a story and a mountain of data, the story prevails. Stories resonate. Stories sell. These mentally vivid images strike a deep, lasting chord, known as the narrative fallacy. We remember what so-and-so told us about how his male-pattern baldness was caused by too much time in the sun. We fall for the story, throwing logic and skepticism to the wind. . .

Myths persist also because they fill the gaps in our understanding. They create order out of chaos, clarity out of complexity, and a cause-and-effect relationship out of blind luck. Your child exhibits signs of autism? Blame it on that vaccine he got two weeks ago. You spotted a human face on Mars? Obviously the elaborate work of an ancient civilization that, coincidentally, also helped the Egyptians build the pyramids of Giza.

What I am most interested in are the myths we tend to create about ourselves. Because those myths often:

  • Hold us back
  • Act as excuses for inaction
  • Delude us into an alley or a series of closed doors

Among the words defining a myth are these: “A story . . .with or without a determinable basis of fact or a natural explanation” and “an invented story, idea or concept”. We enjoy stories. They bring order sometimes. They feel like they “explain” things to us. They appeal to our emotions. But creating your own myths that limit your career are a horror story. They may not be based on facts. That may be invented to justify a situation

Myths in Careers

“I am a specific job title” (insert a job title like banker, project manager, programmer). Those are simply job titles you hold or held. Many people “end up” in a job that they never really consciously decided they wanted to be in, but the pay and benefits were good (at the time). Just because you spent a lot of time doing a particular job does not mean that is who you are.

We all suffer from the “I could never do” and the “I am not good at” myths. Confession: I always say “I am not a good salesperson”. Well, guess what. I have my own business. If I cannot “sell” myself, I have no business! So I might not be a good conventional salesperson, but I need to sell. Perpetuating the self-created myth that “I cannot” does me know good. It inhibits my progress. It’s the same as the person who says, “I could never change jobs”. Why not?

Another common one is the myth about our circumstances. We can point to our current situation make it like a stake in the ground that a leash it tied to. We can only go as far as the leash (or our myth) allows us. That may be true, but who decided where the stake is and how long the leash is?

One more myth is “the expert knows best, I should not question them”. It may be true that someone knows something more about a subject than you do. In general. But they might not know all of the circumstances specific to you. Ever looked at the statistics about how accurate people are in predicting events? Not very good. If the “expert”, the hiring manager or the HR person, did not select you for a job, you create a myth that you must not be qualified or worthy. Acquiescence or “giving in” to an expert only holds you back. Perhaps the expert created their own myth about you!

I like what Varzol had to say about recognizing and overcoming these myths:

The search for certainty over uncertainty, the preference for stories over data, these are human tendencies that help us make sense of the world. But they also lead us astray. The antidote is also human: tapping into our ability to question and doubt everything from emotional appeals to confident political claims. It’s only through the relentless exercise of our critical-thinking muscles that myths and misinformation can be exposed for what they are.

I cannot say it any better. Consider the source of your myths – you! Be analytical and critical. If you need some help, enlist a friend or a coach to be your myth buster.

To read Varzol’s entire post, go here https://ozanvarol.com/how-myths-spread/

Underestimating Others

The speaker had a voice that sounded like a professor lecturing in college. The material he was talking about seemed to be “out of my interest zone” so I dismissed it. I was attending the meeting on behalf of someone else, so I was not personally invested in the speaker. I was thinking about other things I needed to do. I “missed” his presentation. I underestimated the potential impact what he said could have on me.

I regretted that attitude when I heard the testimonials from other meeting attendees. “I worked with ‘Dave’ and it made a great difference.” “I don’t exactly know what you do, but I can attest to its effectiveness. “Your process made a huge difference in my life and in my working ability”. At least half the people in the room (about 20 people) had worked with this speaker and had glowing, no, make that life-changing, impacts.

And I missed it because I underestimated him.

As was the case with this speaker, I often underestimate other people. They come across as narrow. Their story seems to be simple. Perhaps their appeal is directed at others, not me. Maybe they say something I find dumb or insulting or narrow-minded. Ashamedly, it may be the way they talk, the way they are dressed or some other shallow reason. It could be that they talk longer than I wanted them to. I write them off. It is very easy to place the blame on the other person.

But usually, it is all about me. I am underestimating them based on a quick observation or conclusion I draw. I am not listening. To listen, you have to be present. To listen, you have to hear the other person speak. To listen, you need to engage with the other person. To listen, you have to get past the little voice in your head that tries to pull you anywhere but where you are right now. Sometimes, that is too much to ask.

But that does not mean you don’t try to do better.

I recently watched the movie about the TV personality Mr. Rogers called “Won’t you be my neighbor?”. I am amazed at how little I knew about him and how clueless I was about his mission. I never watched the TV show, nor am I aware of my kids ever watching it. His soft-spoken, child-like voice could be annoying at times (you can see many YouTube videos mocking his style). I was probably too busy with education and building a life for myself to pay attention. And to be honest, I probably thought his message was a little “sappy” – let’s be neighbors, you are special and who you are is okay.

But maybe if I paused for a moment back then, I would have learned something.

Little did I know about his ground-breaking work in addressing many tough issues with children – divorce, assassination, death, and disability. He tried to make those issues less frightening. While he was a preacher by training, he wasn’t trying to preach. His goal was to help children understand themselves and the complex, crazy world they lived in.  He wanted children to know they could be loved. Sounds like a pretty noble cause to me.

And I ignored it.

I heartfully recommend the movie. I think you will learn a few things. Maybe it will get you to reflect a little more about yourself and today’s divided world in a slightly different way.

More importantly, take some time to consider someone you might be underestimating. It could be a family member, neighbor, co-worker, acquaintance or a national figure. Have you really given them a chance? Do you really listen to them? What is driving you to underestimate them?