Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The 5 worst pieces of advice given by resume ‘experts’.

Our blog has moved. You will find this blog post and fresh content on our new Global Engineering Jobs blog.

Every week I’m reading more and more dubious advice from various sources about what you should and shouldn’t put in a resume. Most of it is well meaning, and there’s a point to be taken at the heart of it, but it’s still fundamentally bad advice. I’ve pulled out the five most common examples and explained exactly why I beg to differ.

1. Don’t exceed one page

Keep your resume concise and to the point. Never mind the length. If you need three well laid out pages to properly account for your achievements, take three pages. All each page has to do is make a prospective employer want to read the next page. Hiring companies, recruiters and HR people are usually very busy and often have a lot of resumes to read, but this doesn’t mean they will throw out a four page resume. They are perfectly capable of scanning it and putting it in the ‘interesting’ pile if they see what they’re looking for. The phrase ‘Two pages? I can’t read two pages’ has never been uttered by anybody responsible for recruiting. The phrase ‘Is that it?’ is used frequently.

2. Don’t include hobbies

This is terrible advice. Once again the baby goes out with the bathwater. Hobbies say something about you personally, they are excellent conversation starters and they give your interviewer an opportunity to immediately put you at ease and to make a basic connection. During that ten seconds of elevator silence (the death knoll for a good interview), how easy is it for the person you’re meeting to say ‘So I see you’re a horse rider?’ Give them that opportunity. Hobbies are also a way to say something without boasting. Imagine reading the phrase ‘Ran two marathons last year for the local children’s’ hospital.’ This is saying a lot about the person who wrote it (well they’re not going to be lazy and uncaring are they?) No, hobbies do not belong at the top of your front page. No, you should not go into detail. No, you should not put anything on there that isn’t making a clear, positive statement. Focus on the productive and impressive things you do in your spare time. If you don’t have anything like this to put on your resume – maybe you have bigger problems than finding a job.

3. Don’t include References

Really? Once again they are encouraging you to miss an opportunity here. Including the name and number of the person you worked for in your last three jobs makes a very clear statement: I am confident in the fact that the people I’ve worked for will give me a positive reference. You’re asking the reader to be the next person on this list, don’t you think it would be encouraging for them to see that their predecessors were happy with you? If you have to skip a bad boss, or name their more helpful colleague – that’s fine. You’re offering something up before it’s asked for. It’s a bold statement about transparency. At the end of the day, restrictive HR policies at work inside most companies mean that nobody is going to call the contacts you supply for references, and nobody is going to provide one if they do. Dates of work will be passed from one HR department to another. The days of ‘So, what was she like?’ are long gone.

4. Everybody lies on a resume; it’s fine.

No it isn’t.

If you get caught in a small lie, the assumption will be that nothing on your resume can be trusted, and it will become scrap paper. The only thing a dishonest resume will get you is a job you’re not qualified for. You weren’t the top sales person. You don’t speak French. Your golf handicap is 27, not 7. It doesn’t matter? Tell that to the CEO when he needs you to play golf with him and a prospective French client. Getting a job is not the end, it’s the beginning. Your sins can find you out at any time. You should always put a positive spin on things, go ahead and polish up your Kia Sorento so it looks good – but don’t call it a Ferrari. At the end of the day, a resume is designed to get you job interviews, but it doesn’t disappear once the job is yours.  

5. Don’t do anything too original. Keep it simple.

People hate originality right? Boring is good. When you’re reading 100 resumes a day, heavens forbid anyone should put something in the inbox that stands out.

It’s 2012. There are fantastic tools out there; there is no shame in showing that you understand how to use a couple of them. No, you don’t want your resume looking like the menu from a suburban TexMex restaurant, but as with so many of these pieces of advice, there is a great deal of distance between the advice you’re being given and the mistake it’s trying to steer you away from. In this case, there’s a lot of room between an over designed, unprofessional mess and a dull black and white resume. Strike a balance; show some kind of creativity. Research has shown that recruiters spend more time on resumes that are more than flat text.

So if you’re looking for work, pull out your resume and run it through a few quick checks. This is your chance to stand out, so don’t blow it based on antiquated advice that’s been rumbling around since the dark ages. You are a fully rounded, three dimensional human being. If one page of flat text 12pt Times New Roman, with no personal elements and no creativity can communicate the real you, it might be more than career advice you need, and you’ll have to go somewhere else for that, I’m just a recruiter.

Richard Spragg writes on various subjects including global engineering staffing and global engineering jobs.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Career Advice from Star Wars? An Easter treat from a galaxy far, far away.

Our blog has moved. You will find this blog post and fresh content on our new Global Engineering Jobs blog.

As we prepare to break for Easter, I present a festive treat. As a life long Star Wars fan and a regular contributor to staffing and workforce management forums, I have always wanted to share my take on the wisdom  thrown out by the original trilogy’s true central protagonists. In the holiday spirit, I give you: Five pieces of career guidance from the Force.

1. ‘Yoda and I will always be with you.’ 
Obi-Wan Kenobi

Find yourself a good mentor. Luke Skywalker basically saves the universe by listening carefully to Obi-wan and Yoda. When he’s paying attention and acting on the advice of his more experienced partner, he progresses. When he’s petulantly believing himself to be the real deal already, he endangers everything he’s working toward . There’s no harm in believing in your own abilities and pushing yourself to develop faster. But make sure you know when you’re crossing the line into overreaching. One of the key elements of effective career progression is moving at the right pace. If you’ve got someone who can provide genuine support and advice from a senior role, you’ll find it easier to make these judgments. And you may not get your hand cut off quite so easily.

2. ‘Join me and we can rule the galaxy.’ 
Darth Vadar

Don’t take any job, just because it’s offered. You might be looking at more power, more influence and a new title, but is it really what you want? It’s always flattering when someone wants us and it’s tempting to embrace the wrong opportunity, just because of the feelings the attention gives us. Ask yourself how you would feel if your current boss came to you and told you how great he or she thinks you are, and how important a part of the plan it is to keep you on board. This may never happen, but the thought exercise will help you to compare the real benefits of the job your considering, beyond just being wanted.

3. ‘That’s no moon, it’s a space station.’ 
Obi-Wan Kenobi

Pay attention to what’s happening around you. Developments in your market place could have a substantial impact on you. If you’re oblivious to major opportunities and threats, you’re at the mercy of things you cannot see coming.    It’s always a good idea to stay up to date with developments in your industry and in your discipline. Read relevant publications, get online and surf productively. Nobody who sustained an entirely internal focus ever built a truly successful career.  

4. ‘You will go to the Dagobah system’ 
Obi-Wan Kenobi

Don’t ignore training. Opportunities for development are everywhere. It may be inconvenient in the face of more pressing priorities, but sometimes you have to go sideways to go forward. Training can be refreshing and motivating, not to mention improving your hard skill set and giving you the opportunity to show your employer how serious you are about growing as a professional.

5. 'I find your lack of faith disturbing.’ 
Darth Vadar

Be positive. Even if things are bad, nobody likes a cynic. If you’ve noticed deficiencies in the way your organization is working, you get no credit for pointing them out and complaining about them. If you’re prepared to help solve problems and address the need for improvements in a positive and helpful way, you’ll win friends and influence people. If you’re the one who’s constantly pointing out flaws in everything around you and thinking this makes you seem clever or wise, it doesn’t. Your lack of faith in the people you work with, and the business you’re choosing to show up to every day, will only lead to resentment and mistrust. These are not the things that careers are made of.

So there you have it. A bit of fun for the Easter break. I wonder what other movie characters offer constructive career advice? If you have any, let me know. 

Happy Easter Everybody.

Richard Spragg writes on various subjects including global engineering staffing and global engineering jobs.

Monday, April 2, 2012

At Ground Zero, not size but significance

Our blog has moved. You will find this blog post and fresh content on our new Global Engineering Jobs blog.

One World Trade Center has reached 100 floors. 

It is the world’s most famous construction project. (It was before construction began.) And while disputes continue over costs and contracts, One World Trade Center is ignoring the bureaucrats and climbing implacably upward.

I last visited this subject in January to explain the ongoing dispute between the New York and New Jersey Port Authority and the National September 11 Memorial & Museum Foundation over millions of dollars in claims over infrastructure costs and delays. (9/11Museum construction takes a $440m backward step.)

Today at the site of the Ground Zero rebuilding, the pendulum swings back to good news, if only temporarily. 

A major milestone has been achieved in the tower’s construction: It has reached 100 floors. The overall significance of this project, and the importance of the tower to the local and national community need no introduction from me, sufficed to say that it’s nearly here.

Because so much conversation around the project hangs on politics and national symbolism, very few people seem to really understand the simple architectural identity of the building.

So what is One World Trade Centre when it’s not being a symbol? The answer, to critics, is a fairly mediocre skyscraper by all normal measures. There are a great many people who find it impossible to ignore the limited ambition that the tower’s design represents.

At 104 floors and 1,776 feet tall, it will be the first major New York Skyscraper not to be the tallest building in the world (Both Chrysler and Empire State held the records when they were built, as did the original twin towers.) One World Trade Center will be 3rd and within three years of its opening it will drop to 8th. (Interestingly, it will be the tallest building in the western hemisphere, with all seven of its taller cousins making their homes in the UAE, Saudi Arabia, China and India.)  

There are those who claim that if One World Trade Center is a symbol of a nation’s resilience, it is also a symbol of diminishing ambition. Who could have imagined a time in the 1970s when America’s flagship skyscraper development had no plan on being the world’s tallest? They point to its decreased commercial square footage (2,600,000 square feet, the twin towers delivered 7,600,000 square feet), they will point to the reduced floor count (104, down from 110.) There are those who believe that the tower is simply not ambitious enough to be worthy of its predecessors, built the same year that the Space Shuttle program launched and just a few short years after the first American walked on the moon. In 2012 the shuttle program is closed; there may never be another moon landing and the new smaller tower is just further evidence of America’s slide back into the herd in terms of engineering ambition.

To believe this is to entirely miss the point of the Freedom Tower. It was never supposed to be a feat of engineering. It was supposed to be, and is, a reasoned and respectful balancing act that will provide a national memorial and a thriving business hub.

In achieving this it has surely surpassed the significance of any of the world’s taller buildings and it has paid a higher price than any other for its very existence. When people look at this building, they will see so much more than its height, they will see a piece of America’s history.

We don’t judge the Lincoln Memorial by its size. I have no idea how tall the Washington monument is. One World Trade Center is not a skyscraper, it is a national monument. There will always be a taller building somewhere, but it is hard to imagine one that will be more significant to a nation, or more clearly understood.  

Richard Spragg writes on various subjects including global engineering staffing and global engineering jobs.