Managing Your Career
A successful future depends on a considered strategy. At Gibson Consultants, we offer proven advice and resources to help you build your skills and make smarter career decisions. See tips on:
Create a Strong Resume and Truth in Advertising
Reality Check: Given the choice of two candidates of equal ability, hiring managers will always prefer to interview the one with the most artfully constructed and attractive resume. For that reason, candidates with superb qualifications are often overlooked. And companies end up hiring from a more shallow pool of talent; a pool made up of those candidates whose experience is represented by powerfully written, visually appealing resumes.
Of course, many of the best candidates also have the best resumes; and sometimes, highly qualified candidates manage to surface through word-of-mouth referral. In fact, the referral method is the one I use to present talented people to my client companies.
But unless you can afford to rely on your “reputation,” or on the recommendation of a barracuda recruiter, you’ll need more than the right qualifications to get the job you want – you’ll need a dynamite resume.
In today’s competitive employment market, your resume has to stand out in order to get the attention of the decision maker and create a strong impression. And later on, when you meet the prospective employer face to face, a strong resume will act as a valuable tool during the interviewing process.
The best way to prepare a dynamite resume is not to change the facts, just make them more presentable. This can be accomplished in two ways:  by strengthening the content of your resume; and  by enhancing its appearance.
Although there’s no federal regulatory agency like the FDA or FCC to act as a watchdog, I consider it to be ethical common sense to honestly and clearly document your credentials. In other words, don’t make exaggerated claims about your past.
Remember, your resume is written for the employer, not for you. Its main purpose, once in the hands of the reader, is to answer the following questions: How do you present yourself to others? What have you done in the past? And what are you likely to accomplish in the future?
In addition to providing a factual representation of your background, your resume serves as an advertisement. The more effective your 30-second commercial, the more the customer – the employer – will want to buy the expertise you’re selling.
Experienced job seekers know there are four basic types of interview questions – and they prepare accordingly.
First, there are the resume questions. These relate to your past experience, skills, job responsibilities, education, upbringing, personal interests, and so forth.
Resume questions require accurate, objective answers, since your resume consists of facts which tend to be quantifiable (and verifiable). Try to avoid answers which exaggerate your achievements, or appear to be opinionated, vague, or egocentric.
Second, interviewers will usually want you to comment on your abilities, or assess your past performance. They’ll ask self-appraisal questions like, “What do you think is your greatest asset?” or, “Can you tell me something you’ve done that was very creative?”
Third, interviewers like to know how you respond to different stimuli. Situation questions ask you to explain certain actions you took in the past, or require that you explore hypothetical scenarios that may occur in the future. “How would you stay profitable during a recession?” or, “How would you go about laying off 1300 employees?” or, “How would you handle customer complaints if the company drastically raised its prices?” are typical situation questions.
And last, some employers like to test your mettle with stress questions such as, “After you die, what would you like your epitaph to read?” or, “If you were to compare yourself to any U.S. president, who would it be?” or, “It’s obvious your background makes you totally unqualified for this position. Why should we even waste our time talking?”
Stress questions are designed to evaluate your emotional reflexes, creativity, or attitudes while you’re under pressure. Since off-the-wall or confrontational questions tend to jolt your equilibrium, or put you in a defensive posture, the best way to handle them is to stay calm and give carefully considered answers.
Remember, your sense of humor will come in handy during the entire interviewing process, just so long as you don’t go over the edge. I heard of a candidate who, when asked to describe his ideal job, replied, “To have beautiful women rub my back with hot oil.” Needless to say, he wasn’t hired.
Even if it were possible to anticipate every interview question, memorizing dozens of stock answers would be impractical, to say the least. The best policy is to review your background, your priorities, and your reasons for considering a new position; and to handle the interview as honestly as you can. If you don’t know the answer to a question, just say so, or ask for a moment to think about your response.
The best approach to putting the deal together is to decide whether you want the job before an offer is extended. This allows you to clarify whether the job suits your needs. Unless you’re motivated solely by money, it’s doubtful a few extra dollars will turn a bad job into a good one.
The term “bottom line” refers to the amount of compensation you feel is absolutely necessary to accept the job offer. If, for example, you really want $175,000 but would think about $170,000 or settle for $165,000, then you haven’t established your bottom line. The bottom line is one dollar more than the figure you would positively walk away from. Setting a bottom line clarifies your sense of worth, and helps avoid an unpredictable bargaining session.
I recommend against “negotiating” an offer in the classic sense, where the company makes a proposal, you counter it, they counter your counter, and so on. While this type of back-and-forth format may be customary for negotiating a residential real estate deal, job offers should be handled in a more straightforward manner.
Here’s how: Determine your bottom line in advance, and wait for the offer. If the company offers you more than your bottom line, great. If they offer you less, then you have the option of turning the offer down or revealing to them your bottom line as a condition of acceptance. At that point, they can raise the ante or walk away. And once the bottom line is known, you can avoid the haggling that so often causes aggravation, disappointment, or hurt feelings.
By determining your own acceptance conditions in advance, you’ll never be accused of negotiating in bad faith or of being indecisive. Whether you’re representing yourself or working with a recruiter, learning to differentiate between financial fact and fantasy will facilitate the job changing process.
If you feel the need to justify your salary request, you can itemize any loss of income that may result from a differential in benefits, geographic location, car expenses, and so forth.
Often, there are considerations aside from money that need to be satisfied before an offer can be accepted. Factors such as the new position title, review periods, work schedule, vacation allotment, and promotion opportunities are important, and should be looked at carefully.
You can use this approach to quantify each consideration or “point” you need to satisfy as a condition for acceptance. Once you and the company settle on each point, you won’t need to go back later to negotiate “one more thing.” Knowing your bottom line puts you in a better position to get what you want, since you’ve established a set of quantifiable conditions needed for acceptance.
The Proper Way to Resign
Once a new job has been accepted, you need to consider is the timing of your resignation. Since two weeks’ notice is considered the norm, make sure your resignation properly coincides with your start date at the new company.
Try to avoid an extended start date. Even if your new job begins in 10 weeks, don’t give 10 weeks’ notice; wait eight weeks and then give two weeks’ notice. This way, you’ll protect yourself from disaster, in the unlikely event your new company announces a hiring freeze a month before you come on board. By staying at your old job for only two weeks after you’ve announced your resignation, you won’t be subjected to the envy, scorn, or feelings of professional impotence that may result from your new role as a lame-duck employee.
Some companies will make your exit plans for you. I know a candidate whose employer had the security guard escort him out of the building the moment he announced his intention to go to work for a direct competitor. Fortunately, he was still given two weeks’ pay.
Your resignation should be handled in person, preferably on a Friday afternoon. Ask your direct supervisor if you can speak with him privately in his office. When you announce your intention to resign, you should also hand your supervisor a letter which states your last date of employment with the company. Let him know that you’ve enjoyed working with him, but that an opportunity came along that you couldn’t pass up, and that your decision to leave was made carefully, and doesn’t reflect any negative feelings you have toward the company or the staff.
You should also add that your decision is final, and that you would prefer not to be made a counteroffer, since you wouldn’t want your refusal to accept more money to appear as a personal affront. Let your supervisor know that you appreciate all the company’s done for you; and that you’ll do everything in your power to make your departure as smooth and painless as possible.
Finally, ask if there’s anything you can do during the transition period over the next two weeks, such as help train your successor, tie up loose ends, or delegate tasks.
Keep your resignation letter short, simple, and to the point. There’s no need to go into detail about your new job, or what led to your decision to leave. If these issues are important to your old employer, he’ll schedule an exit interview for you, at which time you can hash out your differences ad infinitum. Be sure to provide a carbon copy or photocopy of your resignation letter for your company’s personnel file. This way, the circumstances surrounding your resignation will be well documented for future reference.
Wherever you are on your career journey, we will support you throughout the process. Contact us to find out more about how we can help you.