Posts filed under ‘Job search and career strategies’

The Unfortunately All-Too- Frequent Resume Bluff

lieLast week I was a guest on a business radio program. The focus of this hour long broadcast was “Resume Fraud.” Resume fraud may sound a bit harsh so feel free to replace fraud with any of the following: embellishment, exaggeration, deception, distortion, fabrication, misrepresentation etc. You get the picture!

Any way you refer to it, this behavior is far more common than anyone would like to believe. In fact, some of the research indicates that 30-50% of people lie on their resumes. These numbers tend to increase during tough economic times when a combination of job scarcity and angst may make people more willing to engage in behaviors they might not otherwise.

Resume “fiction” can also take a variety of forms not all of which will engender the same response. Stretching the dates of employment or even changing them to cover gaps or the appearance of job-hopping is prevalent. As can be enhancing one’s responsibilities. For example, did “candidate A” have 100 people reporting into him/her or 500? Were the savings he/she created valued at $30 million or $100 million? These details may be challenging to confirm.

Altering a job title may be a bit more difficult to carry out but certainly occurs as does the modification of degrees and other professional designations. The recent big story in this arena surrounded Scott Thompson who was very briefly the CEO of Yahoo. Thompson came to Yahoo from PayPal and claimed that he had a degree in Computer Science AND Accounting from Stonehill College. While Thompson did in fact graduate from Stonehill, the college did not offer a computer science major until well after he claimed to have received his. Aside from the trouble this caused it serves to illustrate that distortion can take place at even the most senior levels.

When it comes to education, some indentify mere attendance at college as a degree. There are also the many professional designations and actual degrees that can be obtained from uncredentialed institutions. These so-called “diploma mills” are a thriving business facilitated by the Internet as well as the pressure to compete for jobs that are oftentimes scarce.

And the possibilities go on and on…unfortunately. So what can a potential employer do about all of this?

As Ronald Reagan once said: “Trust, but verify.”

Degree verifications are the baseline and so easy to conduct that their omission in the hiring process is simply negligence. In addition to this, comparing a potential candidate’s resume to their LinkedIn profile while not foolproof, is another step in mitigating risk. Hopefully because a LinkedIn profile is exposed and accessible to almost anyone, the temptation to misrepresent is reined in.

Whenever possible, it is helpful to measure a candidate’s skills objectively. This is not always possible but creativity can go along way here. Ask a marketing or sales candidate to prepare a presentation as to how they would promote your product or service. Have a programmer write some code or an Executive Assistant prepare a document or answer the phone. I always switch to speaking French when a candidate claims this language facility!

References while helpful, are not enough. Speak to those provided by the candidate and if possible a few that have not been proffered. LinkedIn can be very helpful in this regard as well. This step in the hiring process can be laborious but definitely worth the effort.

While no amount of skepticism and verification will completely eliminate these problems, as a potential employer it is wise to proceed with caution and avail yourself of the tools and techniques that work. Cutting corners leads to less than optimal hires and ultimately less than optimal results, or worse!

June 7, 2013 at 1:08 pm

Staying Complaint as Compliance Moves Out of the Office (and Into the Bar)

Thanks at least in part to the banking scandals over the past few years, Reuters has recently reported that bank compliance teams are increasingly scrutinizing outside the office activities like social outings to bars and the like. In fact, Reuters reported that some banks in Europe are even requiring their employees to take part in behavior coaching sessions that include simulations of pub outings where the talk turns to subjects like office gossip or clients and the “right answer” is to change the subject and change it quickly. So how do employees now, whether they work in banking, on Wall Street or in other industries also under scrutiny,
stay compliant when compliance is increasingly moving out of the workplace and into social gatherings or public places? Here are a couple of tips to consider:

Stay Informed Outside the Office.

While it’s all too easy to make clients, work or business the topic of conversation when you are socializing with your colleagues, you will have much more to talk about if you stay well informed about events or activities such as sports, current events, places to vacation or
even the latest movie or television show. Just one big caveat: Avoid politics. While that may be hard to do with elections around the corner, you could easily step on a colleague or manager’s toes with the mere mention of anything political if they hold an opposing viewpoint.

Avoid Alcohol or Drink in Moderation.

An alcoholic drink or two may be a great way to unwind at the end of the day or week but an excess of alcohol can easily have you let down your guard a little too much and you may find yourself discussing business at the bar. Perhaps even worse, a few drinks might noticeably increase the decibel of your voice (just like some people talk noticeably louder on their mobile phones) and put you and your conversation within earshot of those who are not part of your group – even competitors who may frequent the same watering holes after hours.

Assume Everyone is Listening!

It’s amazing how much private business gets discussed in taxi cabs on the way to a meeting or at restaurants while a meal is being served or just within earshot of plenty of other people who aren’t intended to be part of the conversation. My personal pet peeve is loud personal or confidential business conversations in elevators!

Remember, chances are the taxi cab driver driving you to that meeting, the golf caddy carrying your golf clubs and the waiter or waitress serving you that business lunch or dinner are not deaf and neither are the people sitting at the tables around you. Hence, be aware of your surroundings, how private they are and who is in them before discussing really personal business that might be better discussed in a meeting room with the doors closed. Remember the scene from the movie Barbarians at the Gate (based on true story about the attempted buyout of R.J.R. Nabisco) where the barber (among others) promptly acted on stock tips they heard while serving some of the characters in the story?

Whether you work in banking or on Wall Street or in another profession, just remember that what you do or say at social gatherings or in public places is under increased and ever-escalating scrutiny.

October 15, 2012 at 1:09 pm 1 comment

LinkedIn 101

As of March 2012 there were 161 million members on LinkedIn. The site counts executives from all Fortune 500 companies as members and it is the 36th most visited web site in the world. So, in case you have been avoiding it, perhaps it is time to join the fray!

As an Executive Recruiter, LinkedIn has perhaps been the single greatest disrupter in our industry since it began. Gone are the days of being invisible. Job seekers and even those who are not – are registering at a rate of two per second on LinkedIn, exposing themselves and their backgrounds publicly in a way that was inconceivable even a few years ago.

Amazingly, LinkedIn was officially launched on May 5, 2003, only 9 years ago. Thus we are still in the early stages of this phenomenon and the way in which it is used will undoubtedly evolve. Nevertheless there are some guidelines that should be considered, particularly if you are using this tool to attract the attention of a Recruiter.

Consider your LinkedIn profile your parking spot on the great World Wide Web. You may not be visible anywhere else but LinkedIn provides all those who so desire a place to display themselves, their talents and accomplishments.

Being observable on LinkedIn means presenting yourself in public and accordingly your profile needs to be clean, logical and well written. As with your resume, Recruiters and other interested parties will scan your profile for a few seconds. If nothing catches their eye they will move on. As a Recruiter, I want to see that people have had genuine jobs and made real progress in their career. The best LinkedIn profiles clearly communicate this.

It is not necessary to advertise being unemployed. Rather, and as with a paper resume, inserting start and end dates for jobs is sufficient. Remember that recruiters and other hiring professionals conduct key word searches to look for appropriate candidates so use every field in your profile to maximize impact!

Subscribe to the adage “a picture is worth a thousand words” and insert a professional one in your profile. No party photos or cartoon images please.

LinkedIn allows each member to join up to fifty LinkedIn Groups which are groups formed on any of a wide variety of interests. Be mindful of the message joining a particular group may send. While most are innocuous, there are singles and dating groups as well as those for tattoo enthusiasts. These affiliations are probably best left to Facebook or elsewhere and do not belong on a LinkedIn profile.

The recommendations feature on LinkedIn profiles can be helpful in providing some third-party insight into a person. However I have seen many a profile with too many recommendations and this has the effect of diminishing their credibility. I would say 8-10 authentic, well written recommendations are more than enough. Recruiters and hiring managers know how to extract this type of information and probably give more credence to the recommendations we obtain on our own.

Finally, check your facts. Make sure what you say is accurate. Make sure your LinkedIn profile matches your resume.

When you Google someone, their LinkedIn profile (if they have one) is usually the first result so the time spent on this activity is certainly well worth it.

June 27, 2012 at 12:07 pm

Onboarding for Novices!

ImageThe fast-paced corporate environment and global marketplace of the 21st century has shortened the honeymoon period for newly hired C-level executives. After conducting an exhaustive executive search, multiple interviews and extensive 360 degree referencing, the recruiting process is usually considered over. But even in the best of circumstances, this is in fact only the beginning of ensuring that the organization receives the maximum benefit from a new hire.

To facilitate success for both the outside hire, as well as the company, some organizations implement ongoing orientation and mentoring programs referred to as onboarding. These programs or activities could last for several months to several years. According to the American Psychological Association, onboarding, also known as organizational socialization or assimilation “refers to the process that helps new employees learn the knowledge, skills, and behaviors they need to succeed in their new organizations.”

The first ninety-days or so of an executive’s tenure is viewed as a make or break period. Strategic onboarding programs can help align a new hire with the organization. As a team member rather than outsider this new executive has a much greater chance of success. The retention rates of these well-integrated individuals are also higher than those left to their own devices. Furthermore, according to the International Data Corporation (IDC) U.S. and U.K. employees cost businesses an estimated $37 billion every year because they do not fully understand their jobs.

Sink-or-Swim is Not the Preferred Approach

In the old “Mad Men” days, executives typically spent their first day on the job filling out paperwork, before being escorted through the office by a human resources manager for a series of brief introductions. After that, senior executives were largely left on their own to navigate the often-hazardous terrain of unwritten rules, shadow alliances, office politics and an undefined corporate culture. The old sink-or-swim strategy is no longer recommended. Today, a targeted onboarding support network is preferred by many organizations to provide speedy assimilation into the organization’s culture, to help an executive develop successful networks and personal relations, and to develop a personal development plan that paves the way for success and credibility.

Michael Watkins author of the seminal manual on onboarding, “The First 90 Days: Critical Success Strategies for New Leaders at All Levels,” cautions organizations against what he calls, “Darwinian Leadership Development,” in which outside recruits are “thrown into the deep end” and left to their own devices. After expending considerable time and resources to recruit the right candidate, organizations should not leave the ultimate success or failure of a new executive to chance. Increasing shareholder value is ultimately dependant on the productivity and development of valuable “soft skills,” by individual executives and an effective onboarding program is essential to fostering productivity and profitability.

Study, Listen, Learn

Whatever the scope and complexity of an organization’s onboarding plan, newly hired executives would be well advised to get a running start during the pre-boarding window after accepting an offer and before reporting to work. New executives should learn everything they can about their organization’s culture, vision and goals. During the early days and months, new hires should spend the bulk of their time listening to their team and supervisor, as well as diligently studying and learning the ins-and-outs of the corporate culture. Numerous studies show that organizations with a comprehensive onboarding plan in place enjoy a lower turnover rate within their executive ranks. Taking charge of your own success and developing personal goals within the framework of the onboarding plan can go a long way in ensuring a successful outcome.

Early Onboarding Wins

In his onboarding tome, Watkins recommends that organizations help newly hired executives achieve an early win to instill confidence and develop professional credibility during the critical early months. Organizations can assist executives by providing an accelerated learning program and offering support during the crucial team building process. Establishing an individual performance plan with specific milestones, with plenty of coaching and mentoring throughout the process, can spur the all-important early achievements and wins that are crucial to job satisfaction.

Organizations that continue the extensive recruiting process throughout an executive’s early tenure with a strategic onboarding program will greatly benefit from an executive leader’s early success, confidence and buy-in of an organization’s culture. Onboarding should be viewed as the final step in the lengthy recruitment process and the beginning of a comprehensive retention program.

April 17, 2012 at 6:06 pm

The Over-50 Job Search

Looking for a new job is never easy. This is particularly true given the business climate of the past few years. Add to this a more mature worker and the process can be fraught with many challenges.

But as retirement age gradually increases so does the number of people looking for a new job later in their career. This pattern is also influenced by the decline of “lifetime employment” that characterized many a career in the past.

So what does the more mature job seeker need to be mindful of that the newer worker does not?

The Resume

In the realm of resumes the issues usually surround omissions rather than errors. One common omission is leaving out the date of one’s graduation from college. This only delays the inevitable. It does not actually avoid anything because before hiring someone most companies and certainly most reputable recruiters do a degree certification. In order to do this we need the year of graduation.

Another prevalent resume omission is early work history. The reason for this may be both to avoid the “age issue” as well as to comply with the erroneous belief that resumes must be only one page. In fact, early experience can be very relevant and provides important insight into a person’s career path. Extensive details do not necessarily need to be provided (they can be filled in during an interview) but dates, titles and companies should at least be provided in order to present a complete picture on one’s career. And, as for the 1-page fallacy, it is just that, a fallacy. Better to provide two (or sometimes three) pages of meaningful, well written information than a jam-packed, small font single page. 

The Interview

In terms of the interview, accurate and complete resumes make for interviews that are more targeted and appropriate to the job. No one wants to waste their time preparing and interviewing for a job they are not qualified for.So one more reason to be detailed and accurate on the resume.

The interview is an opportunity to communicate both your interest in and qualifications for the job at hand. Older candidates should prepare in the same way as anyone, but they have the added advantage of bringing more knowledge and experience to the table. This should be viewed and presented as an advantage and not an apology.

The older job candidate should also be mindful of and emphasize other competitive advantages: less or no child-rearing obligations, increased geographical mobility that comes with children in college or even working in their own career and advanced stability that hopefully has been cultivated over time.

Being in the job market as an older person should also be used as an opportunity to improve and update your skills. This should include familiarizing yourself with various forms of social media which incidentally can have the dual advantage of leading the way to new job opportunities and connections. Being current on the practices and tools of whatever your industry and position is a minimum. The interview should be an opportunity to showcase this facility and knowledge.

Finally, there is a commonly held perception that seniority costs more. Be prepared to discuss this and either provide justification as to why or an admission as to your flexibility.

Bottom Line

Job searching at any age is tough. At a later age it can be even more burdensome but with proper preparation and explanation what some might perceive as a disadvantage can be presented as merit and virtue. As always, it is how the message is presented that can make the ultimate difference.

March 30, 2012 at 1:11 am 3 comments


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