What Does and Doesn’t Go Into Your Resume | No BS Job Search Advice Radio

 

What Does and Doesn’t Go Into Your Resume | No BS Job Search Advice Radio

EP 1971 What goes into a great resume? Is it a lot of facts and figures or something else? Jeff speaks with Gabe Heillig of Action Resumes about what you need to put into your resume and not put into it so that you can attract attention for all the right reasons.

TRANSCRIPT

hi this is Jeff Altman the big game
hunter and welcome to job search radio
on web talk radio.net my job search
insider tip for this show is about
salary negotiation frankly I’ve run into
a lot of situations recently where
people have become emotionally involved
in this salary negotiations way too much
they’re thinking like five hundred
dollars or a thousand dollars is life
and death in the dealings and lose sight
of the fact that they may be gaining or
losing something with an offer that’s
far more important so for example some
people are going to have an opportunity
to work in areas with much lower taxes
or get home much more quickly and watch
their families grow up or spend time in
the summer barbecue I thought what
dollar value you may put on that but for
some folks that’s an important deal so
my encouragement to you is don’t get
caught up and enraging about a lowball
offer if there is one focus more on the
total package of what the benefits are
what benefit you’ll get out of it with
your family and of course take money
into consideration as well kind of like
in The Godfather movies and I’ve always
loved those movies and I’m not going to
go into wyd today but I just simply say
there’s a one line that I think is very
worthwhile here and that is it’s
business it’s not personal so that’s my
tip for this week I want to introduce my
guest who’s Gabe highlight Cade is a
writer and career coach who’s won a
nationwide RFP to open the only
commercial resume firm ever given the
least to do business in the Pentagon he
served the defense and intelligence
community since 1993 and specializes in
mid-career and executive level resumes
he helped over 5,300 professionals
advancing their careers Gabe welcome to
job search radio great to have you on
Jeff thank you very much good to be here
thank you so Gabe what’s the most common
mistake that you see people make with
their resumes ah people suffer and
almost all of us suffer from this from
what I call resume blindness where we
because the resumes we write are all
about ourselves and everything that goes
into it is information about ourselves
we tend to get lost in our own
information and we forget entirely that
the resume is not for us it’s not a
self-esteem instrument it’s not fair to
make us feel better about ourselves it’s
for someone else who doesn’t know us
more than likely and and the purpose of
the resume is to help that person make a
decision and if you can think about it
that way and sort of reverse engineer
your approach to your resume then I
think you’ve got a much better chance of
constructing a resume that doesn’t have
huge blind spots all over it we could
mean that people shouldn’t bask in their
own magnificence when they write this
resume uh you and your grandmother can
do that but the guy at your grandma’s
truck are you exactly you know the
person who is going to receive your
resume is not interested in how
wonderful you think you are believe me
people who do this as you said a moment
ago this is business this is not about
how wonderful you are this is about do
you have the experience and I would say
the troubleshooting skills because in
this economy there’s plenty of trouble
do you have the troubleshooting skills
that can help an employer solve the
problems he’s got that endemically needs
to be about and to demonstrate that in a
reasonable length period of time
without going into too much detail but
enough to whet their appetite yeah
that’s right we do game yeah yes that’s
exactly right and many of the resumes
that I see Jeff all tend to begin the
same way and it’s very unfortunate
people will that the top third of the
first page of the resume is the most
important part of anybody’s resume
because it’s the first place a stranger
will look to see what’s this guy all
about and what most people do and I’ve
seen thousands of homegrown attempts at
resumes what most people do is they have
what they call a summary of
qualifications and they start praising
themselves superior communication skills
excellent leadership skills I’ve even
seen people describe themselves as
having visionary leadership skills and
so I will this week to Gabe pardon me I
saw another visionary this week as well
Oh in in the military that’s become sort
of the go-to words somebody solves a
problem he becomes a visionary leader
well you know it’s like everybody’s
middle name is Isaiah so you know what
many people do is they they create this
they do two things they they start
praising themselves as though someone
else has never seen these words before
superior excellent you know and and the
problem of course is that everyone’s
resume tends to begin that way so it’s
all a wash it all adds up to nothing and
in the meantime all you are doing is
communicating your opinion of yourself
but you are not providing any evidence
there’s no information whatsoever it’s
just your opinion and an employer
understands hey of course this guy is
going to think he’s terrific but I’m the
guy who needs to decide how terrific he
is and he’s not giving me any evidence
so when I when I write resumes for
people my approach is I will be very
very sparing in my use of adjectives to
describe someone in fact I’ve even have
clients who when they look at their
resume they get this kind of glum look
on their face and I asked this fellow
what’s the problem he said well you
didn’t use any of those words I said
well what words you talking about he
said you know like excellent and
superior and so I had to explain to him
what I’m trying to reel in here that you
and your grandma can bask in your glow
of how wonderful you believe you are and
you in fact may be wonderful the problem
is a stranger doesn’t know that until
you have convinced him and simply saying
it is not very convincing my apartment
minimalism is well game I like direct
statements pointed comments about role
responsibilities accomplishments
achievements things along those lines
rather than those would every resume
says these every linkedin profile says
these and once you start deleting those
terms the statements have far more power
than with them right right Plus what I
do is I’ll make a few statements in
boldface type and I’ll make statements
complete sentences not just little
phrases I’ll say perhaps you know
accomplished public speaker okay I’ll
make a claim but I’ll only make the
claim if I can immediately and I will
back it up with an example or a piece of
evidence so if I say about someone
frequent public speaker then I’ll back
it up by saying I invited to deliver six
keynote addresses to chambers of
commerce around the country in the last
eight months that’s a piece of evidence
that substantiates the claim if I don’t
have the evidence I don’t make the claim
because no one’s going to believe just a
claim
just like people the other thing people
do on the top third of their resume and
I saw this on someone’s resume just the
other day he had a list of skills people
will list their skills this guy had
about 24 skills you wasted well you know
unless you think you’re Superman uh you
know it all tends to run together like a
kid making a finger painting where
Misha’s all the colors together if you
want something to stand out like red or
brown or blue you need to differentiate
it from everything else if you have a
list of 18 skills people can’t put that
together in their heads and you have not
provided any evidence what what I do is
I try to show I don’t list the skills I
try to embed them in a little example so
that the reader can see how the skill
actually was used that’s what they want
to know is what can you do for me just
telling me you’re terrific at this that
and the other thing doesn’t do anything
for me it doesn’t show me what kinds of
problems you know how to solve and
therefore it doesn’t give me any
confidence that you can solve my
problems and what you’re talking about
game is so true you know and I’ll state
the one exception about that skill list
is the convention in IT is to have that
skills list right but in every other
those are those are named skills you
know I’m I know C++ on Oracle whatever
and that’s the one place where that
convention makes sense because the list
is fairly long and no one has the
expectation that that person knows
everything about everything listed there
but their expectation is if your listing
all the software that you have
experienced with the early ones are the
ones that you have your greatest
strength with it with and as you get
later in the list there is less
capability but every other place to have
a list of 18-20 thing
that you claim to be expert in again de
lutz the message that you’re trying to
convey yeah it also raises Jeff another
point which is that you do not in your
resume want to come across as Wonder
Woman or Superman beak and the reason is
no one wants to hire Wonder Woman for
Superman and the reason for that is if
you come if I’m looking at your resume
and I see Jeff Altman has done all this
terrific stuff and just this like
there’s almost nothing in this field he
hasn’t done and he’s applying to me for
a job my response i’m not going to tell
him this but inside my thinking is going
to be uh uh this guy is too strong he’s
going to run right over me and grab the
promotion I’ve been waiting to apply for
I’ll let somebody else our Superman so
what I try to do is to position my
clients using a profile or silhouette of
this person is really a skilled
troubleshooter Annie and here are the
kinds of problems they have solved the
projects they have managed the projects
they have rescued when they were headed
in the wrong direction that’s a skill
that almost everyone wants to have on
their corporate team it’s a little bit I
know you do a lot of work for people who
are either coming out of the military or
have a defense expertise we’re speaking
about that are you referring to those
people it’s primarily or is that true of
the population at large oh I think I
think that’s a very transferable skill
and I can give you an example if you
like I’d love that thank you okay I had
a colonel come to me about 15 years ago
in the Pentagon his name was John and he
was an army colonel and if you read your
listeners know about the military if you
get to be a colonel
someone has decided you’ve got really
strong leadership skills and they they
notice you early in your career and they
give you a whole a whole gamut of
assignments you might be up on Capitol
Hill for two years defending the Army’s
budget then you might be in as this
Colonel John was flying around
micronesia doing humanitarian relief
operations for islands where typhoons
had devastated the communities so he he
came to me I wrote up his resume and I
write resumes about results people have
produced I don’t write about the job
descriptions I write about what they
turned those jobs into by dint of their
abilities and because of the nature of
the problems that came along when they
were in those assignments so the very
first job John applied for was to be the
assistant general manager of a water
district a public utility near San Diego
and he had no background in this
whatsoever he was not a nautical or
hydraulic engineer he had never worked
in a public utility but know what the
perfect said so for Gabe there you go
and but you know he spotted this add in
some journal of county and municipal
employees with those quarter page ads
for jobs and he sent out his resume and
he comes charging back into my office
about three and a half weeks later says
Gabe let me tell you what happened he
pulls out the folder with this this job
in Vista California near San Diego he
says they got twelve hundred and
seventeen resumes for this job he said
my resume made it to the final 15 and he
and I looked at each other Jeff like how
did that happen yeah absolutely no
technical qualifications to do this work
whatsoever but what he had
was what any colonel would have and what
I’m sure many of your listeners have
which is the ability to solve problems
and to produce effective results and
that’s what his resume was about and in
my speculation is that the people on the
screening panel at this water district
who were receiving resume after resume
from managers of water districts and
hydraulic engineers and so on probably
decided you know we’ve got all these
resumes from guys who were great
hydraulic engineers this guy he doesn’t
have any of that but she can sure
flat-out manage and they just found it
impossible to throw his resume away so
the the ability to sheer ability to
produce results in situations where
results matter is itself a skill and
it’s a skill that transcends almost any
field and I want to make a comment to
your listeners about the word results
because on many people’s resumes Jeff I
see people using the word
accomplishments an accomplishment is
qualitatively different and is
understood to be different than a result
and a con fascinated by this K please
please go into this I appreciate okay
good because when somebody writes about
these are my accomplishments they’re
talking about themselves I did these
wonderful things and the employer is
sitting there thinking yeah yeah yeah
that’s great what can you do for me I
don’t need somebody who does all kinds
of accomplishments that’s personal
that’s your personal accomplishment
that’s nice but what can you do for me a
result is different than an
accomplishment if I tell you I
accomplish this and I accomplish that
that’s all about me what I did if I tell
you about a result I produce that’s
about the organization I produce the
result for
and that speaks to an employer a
prospective employer because he can
extrapolate well if he produced those
results for these guys he can probably
produce some results from me so to
clarify my confusion because I am a
little confused about the difference and
perhaps others will be as well and I
hear you say accomplishments is self
focused results is is entity focused if
someone were saying increase sales by
twenty three percent is that an
accomplishment or result huh it’s it’s
both but the point my point you know it
you’re asking exactly the right question
Jeff because things that people list as
their accomplishments are in fact often
results they produced but they don’t the
context in which they’re holding it is
this is me this is what I produce the
context in which the reader the
prospective employer is looking at this
is where some results you can produce
from me I don’t care about your
accomplishments you know it’s sort of it
colors the whole thing differently it’s
the same fact I increase sales by twenty
three percent but if you pointed out as
a result the employer can relate to it
so if if for example someone starts off
by describing the situation they walked
into and then says increase sales by
twenty three percent that is perceived
more as a result yes and right but I
wouldn’t call it an accomplishment it
certainly is an accomplishment but again
the resume is not for you you’re it
doesn’t actually matter whether you like
your own resume or not because it’s not
for you it’s for someone who’s never met
you who has to make a very complex
series of decisions the boss has drafted
a few people to read a pile of 7 730 1
resumes that just came in last Thursday
and out of those 731 resumes maybe half
a dozen people have to be interviewed
and so the people who are drafted for
this assignment and believe me people
are drafted for this they don’t
volunteer when the boss says I need the
two two or three people to read these
800 resumes everybody looks away
everybody wants to have eye contact with
my boss at that moment you know because
this is a difficult thing to do when
people apply for jobs usually they are
qualified and so the person with the
decision to make has a very complex task
on the one hand they have to deselect
and they will want to deselect as many
resumes as rapidly as they can just to
cut down their their workload and the
number of people they can actively and
effectively think about I’m going to
pause you here one second so folks just
recognize that the first step in the
process is the process of elimination
who seems to have done the poorest job
in demonstrating their fit for role so
we can easily eliminate them for many of
you you call that the black hole for me
most of the time what that is is you
haven’t done the store as strong a job
as someone else in demonstrating that
you can do this job ok please catania
right yeah and and in fact I mean you’ve
hit on a really important point because
the what people who are reading piles of
resumes instinctively start doing is
they start pigeonholing and stereotyping
the people whose resumes they’re looking
at and start stereotyping and
pigeonholing them as quickly as they can
so that they can eliminate that person
because at the beginning of the task
they’re trying to just whittle down the
pile to a manageable size that they can
actually think about the people don’t
read resumes they skip and they scan
nobody reads a resume from the first
word to the last word in order the way
you would read a John Grisham thriller
you know this is this is like looking at
a bunch of billboards on the highway
some catch your attention some do not
and and you know all the studies that
have been done by outplacement firms
like challenger and so on indicate that
the average length of time a resume is
initially look that is somewhere about
10 to 12 seconds that’s not a lot of
time to have your career and aspirations
you know being thought about by somebody
you know so something has to come off
the page pretty quickly to capture
someone’s attention and just yammering
at them saying I’m great I’m great I’m
great look at my list of skills that is
not an effective way to do it in part
because that’s what everybody else does
so if you do that your resume looks like
everybody else’s in which case it all
turns 22 like marshmallow jam inside the
readers mind it’s all a big push it is
so true and you speak about 10 to 12
seconds I was away for two days at the
end of last week I had a conference and
came back to over 500 emails in my inbox
I’ve yet to get through all of them
because more keep coming in that’s the
predicament for a hiring manager as well
how much time can you really spend and I
know for myself 6 10 seconds I’m just
looking for something that vaguely fits
what I’m looking for and most resumes
don’t even do that even if I use that
function Microsoft Word where you can
use the drop down and says edit find and
I’m looking for kione’s in there so
often I’m not even finding the keywords
for a job it’s ridiculous so yes you’re
right we’re all doing quick scans of
resumes to look for something that
vaguely fits and if we don’t delete and
then again we’re scanning six maybe ten
seconds 15 tops
so my way of volunteer devel- yeah my
way of going at hf is too i know that i
know that people who read piles of
resumes are a in a very rapid
decision-making mode and be they are
very skeptical and suspicious that
everybody’s trying to con them inflate
the verbiage just use a lot of verbiage
not evidence so what I do is I try to
capture the reader’s attention by making
a declarative statement about my clients
skills in some area and then immediately
back it up with a piece of evidence so
that the reader begins to realize hey
this guy’s not conning me he’s not be
asking me he’s actually showing me what
he did and he has a fair right to make a
claim that he’s an accomplished public
speaker because look the all these
chambers of commerce have invited him to
give speeches you know and then I’ll do
that two or three times and my intent is
to take away from the resume screener
their skepticism so the first thing I’m
trying to do is to weaken their they’re
skeptical a posture and get them to at
least a little bit trust what they’re
reading that you know hey this is I
actually did these things once they
trust the resume even a little they
begin to have more respect for you
because they know they’re not feeling
very trusting and for you to get them to
feel a little more trust that’s already
an accomplishment you’ve produced a
result in their process and and so now
they’re going to get more engaged and
maybe they won’t read it now they might
put it aside to read later but at least
you’ve gotten past first base great tip
and just to be clear in case male
members of my audience are not
grammarians when you say a declarative
statement I think the easiest way to
define mount would be define that would
be a statement of what
someone believes is a fact so if it’s a
direct statement about what you’ve done
and then you’re backing that up with
something that defines that in some way
yes that’s right i mean i’m trying to
exemplify the statement by saying look
here’s how i have done that and give it
mean the more concrete the details are
in your resume the more believable your
resume becomes if you say i’m a great
public speaker nobody knows what that
means if you say up gave eight speeches
in the last six months luncheon speeches
to chambers of commerce that’s very
specific very true i want to see if you
can offer a tip to the ex military
people who might be listening or the
veterans who might be listening
something that might be specifically
geared for them if there is something
unique to that population well one one
trait that that is widely misunderstood
and underappreciated among veterans not
by then but by civilians who would be
considering to hire them is that up and
down the chain of command even someone
who’s been in the service for three
years almost every soldier airman marine
sailor has a strong work ethic and and
is a you know it’s a culture of
accountability and so these guys are and
women are used to operating in
fast-paced environments and you can
provide examples of that they’re used to
dealing with multiple situations at the
same time many of these guys would make
terrific chief of staff or a work
coordinator because they’re often doing
that in the military
so the idea becomes to demonstrate those
experiences that they have had in order
to get some of doesn’t know a civilian
personality right right i mean right the
skills are transferable of course almost
always I mean if you’re a tank gunner
well that’s not a skill that’s too
transferable fortunately we don’t have
too many tanks rumbling around the
streets of Philadelphia and New York but
um you know many other skills are
transferable the ability to assign tasks
to people and to make sure they get them
done if you’re a sergeant that’s what
you’re doing all day long beautiful so I
want to summarize some of the points
that you’ve made here on today’s show so
that the audience gets it clearly
summarized and one thing you spoke about
right off the bat was forgetting about
the adjectives no one except your
grandma cares statements in bold face
and then backing them up to talk about
producing results so you may make a
statement about how you’ve given
speeches and then you back it up with a
supporting statement the resumes are
kind of like billboards on the highway
to attract your attention but they’re
not really the thing that gets you
higher and of course i was about to
repeat the declarative statement and
backing it up with a supporting
statement but then the ones that you
made very clearly for the military
people are emphasizing the work ethic
the culture of accountability the
fast-paced environments that you’ve
worked in if you’ve been in roles where
you’ve assigned tasks to people it
coordinated their work those are good
points to emphasize in your civilian
resume yes are there any other major
items that I might have missed that
you’d want to add in
well um boy there’s so much just pick
one more how’s that let me just say this
that you know Ernest Hemingway once made
the comment i think he made it many
times he said you know i know all the
big words I just choose not to use them
and Hemingway was known for writing in
clear declarative simple English in a
very subtle and sophisticated way what I
try to do I’m not Hemingway but what I
try to do in these resumes is not to use
these long jargony words you know
visionary leadership and all this stuff
I try to use simple English to describe
actual events with concrete facts that
lead or lead to actual specific results
if you can do that you can you can
create an effective presentation of your
skills it’s not about some secret
mantras or power words it’s about you
and in fact if you use simple clear
English readers find that refreshing
because this whole process is about
getting inside the thinking process of
the person who’s got to make a decision
do we interview these five people or
those 800 who are we going to interview
they have a decision to make the tough
decision and inside their minds they’re
not thinking in polysyllabic words
they’re thinking in little short words
and shorthand like ah this ain’t going
to work this guy’s these full themselves
you know that’s how we all think that’s
how readers think so if you can present
your information in a clear way and not
rely on fancy words but on actual facts
you will have taken a long step forward
toward getting the vote of one of these
screeners
beautiful what a great way to
encapsulate this interview Gabe how
could someone reach you if they’d like
you to to work on their resume or for
other types of coaching advice sure I
actually do not at this point have a
website and I’ve done that quite
deliberately because I would rather
people call me or email me this is a
personal surface it’s like asking
someone to paint a portrait of your
daughter you know you it’s it’s a
personal service it’s not something you
can just do with pixel flying around I
like to meet people or at least talk to
them on the phone i’ll give you my phone
number my phone number is 240 247 00 55
that’s 240 247 00 55 my email address is
my name gabe g a b e at ide a des IGN
idea design as though it was one word so
it’s gabe at idea design and then a
hyphen and then DC com Gabe g a b e at
idea design hyphen DC com I answer my
own phone and I answer my emails
beautiful thank you gave great show and
folks will be back next time with more
job search and hiring advice for all of
you this is jeff alban the big game
hunter if you’d like advice for me if
you like coaching for me if you have a
question about some element of job
search reach out to me through
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ABOUT JEFF ALTMAN, THE BIG GAME HUNTER

Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter
Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter

Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter is a coach who worked as a recruiter for what seems like one hundred years. His work involves career coaching, all as well as executive job search coaching, job coaching, and interview coaching. He is the host of “No BS Job Search Advice Radio,” the #1 podcast in iTunes for job search with more than 1900 episodes, and is a member of The Forbes Coaches Council.

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