I have hosted two employment-based talk radio shows in my career and have appeared as a guest on countless shows across the country. Quite frankly radio hosts (including myself) are not usually all that excited to have another “job search expert” on the air. The waters have been muddied time and again when a “job search expert” (quotes intended) comes on that air to warn job seekers of the same old mistakes.
The radio show
I was once ‘set up’ by a syndicated radio host who, just 5 minutes prior to our going on air, had his producer email me his resume and then proceeded to ambush me live by having me critique it.
The opening exchange went something like this:
Host: “I had that resume professionally written two years ago and I haven’t had a single call to interview.” (He was not a happy camper and was prepared to take it out on me.)
Me: “I’m not surprised. I see all kinds of things wrong with it. I know who wrote it.”
Host: “I paid $550 for that.”
Me: “No. You paid $750 for this.”
Host: (Getting really flustered with me) “I had that done by one of the national job sites.”
Me: “I know—and I’m not going to mention them on air…”
Host: He mentioned them on air.
Me: “I know!”
So what did I know the ‘experts’ didn’t?
You write your resume not for yourself but for your audience. While my radio host was rightly proud of several of his major personal accomplishments, to the reader of his resume—the employer—he had missed the mark badly and the nationally-recognized website reshaping his resume had missed the point altogether.
The truth? Many times those “experts” writing your resume are actually people seeking fulltime employment themselves who are working part-time for said job board or outplacement organization. They have gone through the company process and, after writing 2 or 3 resumes for their own use, are deemed worthy of representing themselves as “official resume writers” by and for the organization. (This is not to say there may not be some genuinely talented people providing the service.)
I hired a locally “famous” home builder
Early in my (previous) commercial real estate career I was in need of a facilities manager and placed an ad. In response I received a number of resumes but only one from a person who was truly qualified. For the sake of this discussion I will call this person Mike—since that was his real name. However Mike also happened to be a well-known local home builder. I had seen his name on billboards around town for years.
Not having any other qualified candidates to pursue I somewhat reluctantly set up an interview feeling the time spent would be wasted.
Mike arrived and after we got past the pleasantries I asked him point blank why would I want to hire him? He had a great reputation for building homes over the past several years; he was well known in the community—why should I hire him?
At this point you might be wondering why I wouldn’t want to hire Mike. And if so, you are, like so many job seekers, NOT thinking from the point of view of your potential employer. At the top of my mind was the idea that Mike wanted to go into the office-development and leasing business. I was not particularly interested in training my future competition. Remember now—that was MY mindset.
The lesson? Keep your audience in mind.
Still thinking Mike and I would be potentially competing in the next 2 or 3 years he gave me what was probably the only answer I could accept at that moment in time. He told me that he was tired of making payroll every week and then taking nothing home for his own family. In short Mike wanted a steady paycheck.
4 words that will kill your resume
So what are those 4 words that were on the radio host’s resume and by default on Mike’s resume as well– and on countless resumes? Founder, CEO, Entrepreneur and (Business) Owner. My radio host/interviewer had started a trucking company and been hugely successful generating some $800,000 in sales his first year! HE, was rightfully proud of this accomplishment but he couldn’t get a call back from a potential hiring manager/business owner because who, in their right mind, is going to hire a CEO? Think about that. The reasoning goes that you can’t manage someone who has been the boss. That and CEO is a very broad term in the spectrum of small business to big business. CEO of Johnson & Johnson or CEO of Joe’s Auto Supply? Get my drift?
Radio host and I reworked his resume to indicate he was the General Manager of his trucking company (along with several other similar changes I made throughout his resume) and I returned to his show a couple of months later to learn how his ‘new and improved’ resume had been received. He had gotten 11 calls to interview within the first week of sending it out. His skills were in demand—just not as the boss.
You have to have a reason why I should hire you
I have a hard and fast rule that you do not lie or misrepresent on your resume. During the course of the interview my clients declare (come clean?) re: their actual position with the(their) company. The difference now is they must be prepared to express to their interviewer the reason they told this little ‘white lie’ during the application process. PS It would also be important to make certain that any other media (LinkedIn, company website, etc.) be changed to reflect your ‘general manager’ title. And if they Google, you? Well, you better be prepared to explain to them along the lines of what Mike did for me above.
BTW, I hired Mike. He was a great hire who eventually followed me into the GM position when I moved on.