How to Take Your Resume From “Blah” to “Wow”

It’s a depressing experience, and one which also casts a shadow on the hiring company’s reputation. So why does it happen? Is it you, is it them, or is it just something every candidate must prepare for in the hiring process?   There’s no question job seekers face an uphill climb. High unemployment nationally means more competition for every position; according to a January 2012 article in the Wall Street Journal, Starbucks “… attracted 7.6 million job applicants over the past 12 months for about 65,000 corporate and retail job openings…”   An oft-cited recruiter’s complaint is that as many as 50 percent of people applying for a given job simply aren’t qualified. Adding to the challenge, most large companies – and many smaller ones – use talent-management software to screen resumes, weeding out up to 50 percent of applicants before a human even looks at a resume or cover letter. The deck is definitely stacked against the job seeker. So how do you break through?   Here are my top 5 reasons you’re not hearing back after applying for a job, with five suggestions for ways to avoid the Resume Black Hole.   Why You Never Hear Back: You really aren’t qualified. If a job description specifies a software developer with 3-5 years of experience and you’re a recent graduate with one internship, it’s unlikely you’ll get a call. Avoid disappointment – don’t apply for jobs for which you lack qualifications. Most job descriptions are written with very specific requirements. Yes, the company is trying to find the most qualified candidate; yes, they are trying to weed people out. It’s not personal, it’s business. You haven’t keyword-optimized your resume or application. Job descriptions are salted with keywords specific to the skills or attributes the company seeks in […]

5 Things to Note for Change Management

  Think about how often you work with outsourcers — whether for background testing, payroll, recruiting, or research. How often do you think about the process and how it will affect your team and your other daily processes? When it comes to outsourcing partnerships, particularly those that are a little more complex or require more give and take with your internal team, the processes you’re now using will naturally change.   Internal employees that were comfortable with the old way of doing things, might be resistant to these changes.   When an outsourcing partner is hired, avoid having their team “just run with it. Instead, go through a basic change management program that addresses some of the common hiccups of bringing on a new outsourced process.   Given its importance, there are a large and growing number of available approaches to change management. One of the more prevalent models today is called the ADKAR approach; it’s practical and straightforward. While this article briefly overviews the model, there’s much more information available on it online, and a few links are listed at the end of this post.   The ADKAR model — the name is an acronym for the steps in the change management process — was developed after research with hundreds of companies undergoing major change projects. It offers a step-by-step approach to ensuring change management, but also serves as a checklist of sorts by helping you pinpoint where the process might be breaking down. While many of the steps seem obvious and self-explanatory, it’s stunning how often organizations fail to manage major changes in business process.   There are five steps to the process: Awareness of the need for change. Desire to participate in and support the change. Knowledge on how to change. Ability to implement required […]

Should You Shake Up the Team When the Going Is Good?

Scenario: Oakland Athletics General Manager Billy Beane with Athletics Assistant General Manager David Forst met in the draft room prior to the team selecting the number 10 pick in the first round of the draft at the Oakland Coliseum on June 7, 2010 in Oakland, California.   When things are going well, it is difficult to see the changes that you may need to make.   Pat Caputo, a Detroit-based radio sports host and columnist, made this point about the Detroit Red Wings, which won a record 23 consecutive home games last season. The Wings seemed in control of their destiny and did not make a significant trade during the season. Yet, the season ended poorly when the Red Wings were bounced in the first round of the NHL playoffs.   Managers too cannot be blind to the effects of success. While they do not have the luxury of trading players the way sports franchises do, they can make moves with people and with resources that will correct deficiencies and give their team a better chance of success going forward. The challenge however is to diagnose the shortcomings and make appropriate moves. So if things are going well (or well enough) what should a manager do, if anything?   Here are three questions to consider:   What is the team doing well now? This question is fairly easy to answer. Itemize what the team is accomplishing is step one. Step two involves considering how well individuals on the team are working together and if they have the right resources to succeed.   What could it do better? Such a question may be difficult to answer when things seem to be going well. In sports we ask: are players “playing over their heads” or just plain lucky? […]

Ready for the Big Leagues? Ask a Career Coach

Q. You know of several high-level professionals who have used a career coach. What are some reasons that you or others might do the same?   A. Joseph R. Weintraub, psychologist and director of the Coaching for Leadership and Teamwork Program at Babson College in Wellesley, Mass, explains that Professionals enlist coaches to accelerate their careers, getting help with things like making decisions, cultivating a presence and achieving self-awareness. Coaches can provide honest, unfiltered feedback, which is hard to find at the highest levels of an organization.   Through conversations with direct reports, peers, customers and managers, coaches seek to gain a realistic picture of the client. “People who give this feedback to the coach are often not willing or able to give it directly to the executive,” states Mr. Weintraub, co-author with James M. Hunt of “The Coaching Manager: Developing Top Talent in Business.”   When referring to midlevel professionals, Todd Dewett, a leadership development coach and management professor at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio, suggests that a coach can help identify what needs to be done to reach the executive level. Coaches also focus on interpersonal skills, helping people communicate and network more effectively. Furthermore, people benefit most from coaches if they are open to change, and  the best candidates are often those who have already been working on their own to improve.   Q. Many people claim to be coaches, and there are a variety of certifications. What should you look for when hiring?   A. Unlike a psychologist or psychotherapist, a coach does not need to take a test or obtain a license, so beware. Patti Johnson, chief executive of PeopleResults, a coaching and human resources consulting firm in Irving, Tex., says that checking with an organization like the […]

Ten Ways to Inhibit Innovation

Consider two companies within the same industry.  Company A spends $758 million on research and development (R&D), 2.6% of its overall sales revenue of $46.3 billion.  Company B, on the other hand, spends $2.3 billion—six times the amount Company A does  Thus the perennial question: what contributes to successful innovation?   Navigating this R&D puzzle requires a more counter-intuitive approach: a solid understanding of what inhibits innovation, especially at firms with a bright, talented, and visionary workforce.  Only once these barriers to innovation are recognized and eliminated, will companies be better able to leverage the vast amount of human capital they may already have.   With that in mind, here are ten common roadblocks to productive innovation.  Think about the following statements and the extent to which each applies to your firm (Always? Often? Rarely? Never?): We are so focused on short-term results that we tend to ignore ideas that may take longer to develop. We limit our investment in new areas because we are afraid of any potentially negative effects on current business. We devote most of our resources to daily operations that little is left for innovation. We believe that innovation is purely an R&D responsibility—not an integral part of the entire company’s mentality. We are so focused […]

The Promotion: From Stellar Performer to Terrible Leader

Have you ever seen this situation? A sales manager constantly exceeds her goals, inspires her peers, and has developed deep customer loyalty. She is seen as leadership material. She is promoted to vice president and now oversees her peers and another geographic, and is responsible to meet large departmental sales goals while giving her book of business to her once peers and now-subordinates. She clearly understands the intricate subtleties of sales, has good relationships with her peers, and is ambitious to climb the corporate ladder. What could go wrong?   Plenty. After two months, the department in an uproar. Goals are not being met, morale is down, and the new VP is devastated and confused about the sudden changes. She can’t understand why no one is doing their job. If they’d just stop complaining and get to work like she used to, everything would be fine.   What do you do? Step back and ask these important questions: Does an excellent sales manager have the skills necessary to be an excellent vice president? Does understanding the sales cycle and all that is required to develop customer loyalty guarantee successful leadership as an executive? No and no.   In When a New Manager Takes Charge (www.hbr.org), John Gabarro quotes a new division president on his taking-charge process:” You’re on the edge of your seat all the time. It feels like you have no knowledge base whatsoever. …. You’re trying like hell to learn about the organization and the people awfully fast and that’s the trickiest thing. At first you’re afraid to do anything for fear of upsetting the apple cart. The problem is you have to keep the business running while you are learning about it.”  In the first months of […]

“A Players” or “A Positions”?: The Strategic Logic of Workforce Management

HARVARD BUSINESS REVIEW- A great workforce is made up of great people. What could be more intuitively obvious? Is it any wonder, then, that so many companies have devoted so much energy in recent years to identifying, developing, and retaining what have come to be known as “A players”? Firms like GE, IBM, and Microsoft all have well-developed systems for managing and motivating their high-performance and high-potential employees—and for getting rid of their mediocre ones. Management thinkers have widely endorsed this approach: Larry Bossidy, in the best-selling book Execution, for example, calls this sort of differentiation among employees “the mother’s milk of building a performance culture.”   But focusing exclusively on A players puts, well, the horse before the cart. High performers aren’t going to add much value to an organization if they’re smoothly and rapidly pulling carts that aren’t going to market. They’re going to be effective only when they’re harnessed to the right cart—that is, engaged in work that’s essential to company strategy. This, too, may seem obvious. But it’s surprising how few companies systematically identify their strategically important A positions—and then focus on the A players who should fill them. Even fewer companies manage their A positions in such a way that the A players are able to deliver the A performance needed in these crucial roles.   While conventional wisdom might argue that the firms with the most talent win, we believe that, given the financial and managerial resources needed to attract, select, develop, and retain high performers, companies simply can’t afford to have A players in all positions. Rather, we believe that the firms with the right talent win. Businesses need to adopt a portfolio approach to workforce management, placing the very best […]

Less-Confident People Are More Successful

There is no bigger cliché in business psychology than the idea that high self-confidence is key to career success. It is time to debunk this myth. In fact, low self-confidence is more likely to make you successful.   After many years of researching and consulting on talent, I’ve come to the conclusion that self-confidence is only helpful when it’s low. Sure, extremely low confidence is not helpful: it inhibits performance by inducing fear, worry, and stress, which may drive people to give up sooner or later. But just-low-enough confidence can help you recalibrate your goals so they are (a) more realistic and (b) attainable. Is that really a problem? Not everyone can be CEO of Coca Cola or the next Steve Jobs.   If your confidence is low, rather than extremely low, you stand a better chance of succeeding than if you have high self-confidence. There are three main reasons for this:   1. Lower self-confidence makes you pay attention to negative feedback and be self-critical: Most people get trapped in their optimistic biases, so they tend to listen to positive feedback and ignore negative feedback. Although this may help them come across as confident to others, in any area of competence (e.g., education, business, sports or performing arts) achievement is 10% performance and 90% preparation. Thus, the more aware you are of your soft spots and weaknesses, the better prepared you will be.   Low self-confidence may turn you into a pessimist, but when pessimism teams-up with ambition it often produces outstanding performance. To be the very best at anything, you will need to be your harshest critic, and that is almost impossible when […]

Angry Birds Taught Me to See My Employees as a Flock

All managers should be making use of individuals’ talents, but great managers play a bigger game; they understand the potential of entire teams.   Performance reviews typically look at individuals, but managers are responsible for the output of a team, not the team’s components. A great manager needs the skills to manage ‘combinations’ more than ‘people’, and the skills to plan for the short term and long term development of these combinations. “I picture my team as a flock of birds. We’re trying to get eggs (the projects we’re working on). There’s a bunch of evil green pigs in the way: time consuming screw ups, budget blow outs, shipping problems and other annoying stuff. I have to motivate my team-birds to solve the screw-up pig-problems.   My team has different skill sets. I pair my newbies up with more experienced people, and mix skill sets to solve problems more effectively. To do this I need a really clear idea of what my people are good at – that Steve can do a bunch of things at once, and Helen can clear what’s left of a project in record time.   When we kill the pigs, solve the problems (using metaphorical explosive crates and rocks) and meet our targets, we go out for a beer. Another level successfully completed.”   Managers need to utilize skills collectively, over time, and understand how strengths and weaknesses work to produce the most effective team. It’s about knowing how to mix your red birds with your blue birds.   Businesses are run by teams, large and small. The success or failure […]

Russ Gray: H & A Executive Coach

  Several years ago, anyone eavesdropping on a conversation about a coach would have listened further to see what sport the person was talking about. Inevitably, they would be quite surprised if the conversation shifted to how coaching was a great resource to be used in other industries as well. Interest would be peaked even further if the conversation turned to how coaching in an organization could improve performance of leaders that were already successful as well as those that showed future promise.   A recent article on coaching profiled a highly admired and respected surgeon who was known for his success with especially difficult surgeries. Already one of the top practitioners in his field, he wanted to make sure that he was utilizing his expertise fully. He contacted a former mentor who was acknowledged by reputation and peers, as the best surgeon in the field.   As part of the process, the mentor was asked to “shadow” the surgeon during a normal day of surgeries, some difficult, others fairly standard. From the very first surgery until the end of the day, the mentor observed and offered suggestions as to style and process. In one situation, the suggestion was having his surgical nurse change sides so that the flow of instruments would be quicker while allowing him more space to function. Other suggestions were more complex but all of them were techniques and methods that would improve the safety and success of the surgical process. Because the process was more efficient, patients were not under anesthesia as long, which helped foster a quicker and less complicated recovery.   Over the months that followed, the changes became part of the […]
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