Job Search Q and A

Job Search Q and A

We have grouped job search questions from those in mid-career into the following subjects so you can quickly focus on the issues that are more important to you (Click on the title to go to that section):

Skills and Experience

Question:
I have experience in several industries. How do I overcome the perception by employers and recruiters that my experience is too broad?

Answer:
During recessionary times, employers (and their recruiters) tend to see people with experience in several industries as a “jack-of-all-trades-master-of-none” and, unfortunately, most employers want executives who have achieved a degree of “mastery” in their industry. And as you may have already discovered, every company thinks their company/industry is unique. Employers may also perceive you as someone who has not yet figured out what you want or you have taken jobs without much thought about how it affects your career. Employers prefer executives who appear to be in charge of their career and who have followed a logical career path. During expansionary times, employers are usually more flexible if there are not enough executives within “their industry” that are available.

Sometimes, a company needs to make a strategic change. In these situations, they may decide at the outset to be open to considering executives with experience in other industries. Regardless of the circumstances, if you are in mid-career and if your background is diverse, you will find that writing to employers and recruiters directly and sending them your resume will not be effective. However, if you are referred to an employer by someone they already know and trust, you are more likely to be considered for a position even if your background is not in “their industry.”

Question:
Employers (and their recruiters) do not seem to understand how my skills and experience relate to their industry. How do I overcome this?

Answer:
Employers (and their recruiters) prefer candidates who have done at another company what they want done at their company. Their thinking is, “If you have done it before for someone else, you can probably do it again for us.” Consequently, they look for specific identifiable skills and experience that can be clearly supported. During periods of high unemployment, employers (and recruiters) will usually not take the time to understand how your skills and experience are similar to those in their industry.

You must make the connection for them. Describe your skills and experience in ways that relate to the industry where you want to work. Use stories of achievements that demonstrate your skills in ways that the new employer can see how it relates to them. Do not expect them to make the connection for you.

Remember, the recruiter does not work for you. The employer pays the recruiter’s fee to find the ideal candidate. Consequently, the recruiter works on the instructions of their client. If you are not able to convince the recruiter of the transferability of your skills and experience, it may be because the employer gave clear instructions to the recruiter that they would only consider candidates with skills in “their industry.”

Resumes

Question:
How do I differentiate myself on my resume when many others have skills and industry experience that are similar to mine?

Answer:
Employers (and their recruiters) have difficulty remembering lists of skills and experience in candidates and trying to keep each person separate from others in their mind. While you may share the same or similar skills and industry experience as many others, only you used them in ways that were unique to you. That uniqueness can be described in achievements that demonstrate your skills and experience. If you write two or three achievement stories that demonstrate your skills and experience, employers and recruiters will remember the stories and will be more inclined to believe that you have the skills you say.

An effective achievement story is one that demonstrates your skills and experience in connection with some specific event. For example:

  • Created the marketing strategy for a new line of children’s leisure-ware and recruited and managed a sales team that generated 35% annual sales increases over two years and increased margins by 12%.
  • Fifteen years’ experience leading software design development teams, including twenty plus releases and four major new technology platform releases.
  • Lead management involvement in three IPOs. Managed complicated ownership structures for companies with over forty international subsidiaries.
  • Ten years operating multiple business teams and training cross-functional personnel to develop new markets and new businesses.

You should limit your achievement stories to two or, at most, three. If you list more, the reader will either not read them, begin to get confused about which are the major ones, or will begin to wonder why you are looking for a new job if you have so many achievements! Click here for instructions on how to prepare your resume.

Question:
Does it really matter how long I make my resume and, if so, how long should it be?

Answer:
Resumes are typically used to screen you out. Hence, if you include too much information, readers will find something that can cause them to eliminate you from further consideration. You want to pique the reader’s interest so they will actually read your resume and will need to contact you for more information. I often hear clients tell me that a recruiter reviewed their resume and called to gather more information that they said should have been included in their resume. I smile and remind them that is the purpose of a resume: To get someone to contact you for more information.

Keep in mind that when it comes to your resume, less is more. If a recruiter or employer thinks you might have the experience they need based on reading your resume, they will contact you for more information. If you do not capture and retain the interest of a recruiter or an employer in the first half of the first page of your resume, the rest of your resume will not get read and it will very likely be discarded or, if it is being read by a recruiter, it may be entered into their database for possible consideration on other assignments in the future.

Your resume should be a representation of you and what you are best at doing. You must only have one version and, even if you are a seasoned executive, your resume should be no longer than two pages.

Question:
What personal or non-work interests should I include on my resume?

Answer:
Your resume is your sales and marketing brochure that is designed to document your work experience and describe what you have done and what you want in another job. It is not a biography about your personal life.

Readers of resumes look at your resume first to find reasons to screen you out. It could be screened out for any number of non-job-related reasons, such as poor grammar, misspellings, etc., and it could be screened out because someone reads something into your hobby that was unintended. For example, if you noted that you play tennis hoping that others will see you as energetic and competitive, the reader may see that and think that you are too competitive and, hence, not a team player.

Limit your resume to employment-related matters. Include outside interests only if you know they would be of interest to the reader. For example, if you know that the reader is a tennis player, then you might want to include that information. However, without that knowledge, it is better to leave personal information out of your resume.

Networking

Question:
I have been networking for a job for several months and haven’t found a job yet. What am I doing wrong?

Answer:
Over 80% of executives find their next job through someone they already know. For those making a career change, such as from one industry to another, the percentage is even higher. This suggests that you should be spending over 80% of your time developing and working your network rather than sending out resumes, unsolicited, to recruiters or employers.

Networking for employment is much different than networking for business. In networking for employment, you must first initiate a relationship with someone else to get them to want to help you, then you need to obtain their help and support by making them familiar with your skills, experience, and exactly the position you’re seeking. Only after you’ve involved them in your search will they feel comfortable referring you to someone else. Click here for suggestions on how to successfully network for employment.

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