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More Advice for Job Seekers

I come across this all the time from job seekers, and it’s really annoying.  I send out a mailer via email to people who have specifically asked to be contacted about positions in their area.  Initial reach outs are very broad, that’s just the nature of the game.  Here’s examples of how people often respond that should be avoided at all costs if you ever want to work with that agency at any point in the future.

“No thanks, I don’t want to work at…,” at which point they put the company name they think is correct.

This response is the smart ass, the guy who thinks he knows what job you’re asking about, and since the client is almost always kept confidential, decides to one-up you by showing he knows more than you about the jobs that are open in the area.  The problem is, job descriptions get copied, quite often in fact.  Need a job description for a shit shoveler, and someone has likely written it up already, so you can just go on the web and find it.  Well over nine times out of ten, they’re wrong about which job I’m talking about.  However, the smart ass response annoys me, and most other recruiters, and we’ll just leave off after that.  It’s indicative of an attitude problem, not a good start.  Now, if you don’t care about ever having any kind of relationship with that recruiter, go for it.  However, there’s always the possibility that this person will be a gatekeeper for a job you may want in the future, so answer at your own risk.

“Do I look like I’m…?!?!” followed by indignation that you’d contact them for this particular job.

This is the pissed off candidate, one who doesn’t seem to realize that we, as recruiters, often have to contact hundreds of people and then whittle that down to a few.  The initial reach out will be broad, it will be keyword based, and it will unfortunately hit people who are too senior or junior for particular roles.  Yes, this sucks.  However, if it pissed you off that much I might suggest you have other issues to tend to, because it really shouldn’t.  If you want to answer, a polite no will do.  Again, this is indicative of an attitude problem and…

Then, there are the psychotic callers.  You send out one email and this person calls you thirty times over the course of the next hour.  Answer in kind, one call is enough.  This is indicative of a borderline psychotic and we simply will not want to deal with you.  Ever.  There is such a thing as too aggressive.

Then there is the snorting exacerbated job seeker.  This guy gets on the phone with you in response to the email, you ask one simple question and the answer is, “Well, let me tell you…,” followed by several snorting laughs, followed by their entire life story and indignation at how hard it is to land a job.  They never answer questions, ever.  They dominate the entire conversation with their tale of woe and indignation.  They’re being discriminated against!  Or, maybe they just come across as assholes, honestly bemused by why the world doesn’t recognize their brilliance.  Whenever I hear that distinctive, snorting laugh this guy invariably follows.  Don’t be this guy.  Please, for the love of god, I understand how hard it is to get a job these days, you don’t have to tell me.  Just answer the fucking questions I ask so I can tell if this job I have right now is the right one.  It may be, but if you don’t answer the questions and instead regale me with the finest but ultimately irrelevant details of the last six months of your life, I am just going to give up.  I only have so much time in my day, as I’m sure you do.  Please stay on point.

The best advice I can give any job seeker is ATFQ: Answer The Fucking Question!  And for the love of god stop getting pissed off because you got an email you didn’t want.  Ask to be removed from the list, you will be.  You never know who is on the other end of the email chain, or the phone, and what that person may be able to do for you in the future.  If you want to sour the relationship through rudeness or very often misplaced arrogance, well that’s your prerogative.  But you might want to consider just why the hell you’re so pissed off… over getting an email.

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Book I’ve Added to My Reading List

There is a book out called “Why Good People Can’t Get Jobs” that is going right on my reading list.  There’s an interview here with the author, Peter Cappelli, that gives you the gist of what the book pinpoints as hiring issues.  It definitely looks like it’s worth a read.  Here’s a quote from the interview:

Employers, when they say they’ve got a skills gap, that there are no applicants out there who meet their needs, they are self-diagnosing the situation. What’s really happening is they’re just not able to hire, but you don’t know why that is, right? And the skills gap story is their diagnosis. It’s basically saying there’s nobody out there, when in fact, it turns out it’s typically the case that employers’ requirements are crazy, they’re not paying enough or their applicant screening is so rigid that nobody gets through.

In my experience this is so on point it’s ridiculous.  I can’t recall the number of times after multiple interviews and seeing God knows how many resumes, managers would claim they hadn’t hired anyone because they, “Hadn’t seen people.”  Then when you presented evidence that they had seen numerous people, they’d claim they hadn’t seen any qualified people.  And then, you’d go over the individual resumes of everyone who was interviewed and they’d be hard pressed to come up with reasons why any of them couldn’t do the job.

Another great point Cappelli makes is there’s no ERP system to track vacancies and revenue generation by employees.  Now, hiring is risky and people don’t want to make the decision until they have to, and when you couple that hesitance with a lack of true data as to how much a vacancy costs, you get at least part of the way to the current situation of tons of people looking for work and employers claiming there’s no one worth hiring.  It’s bullshit and it’s high time more people called these employers on their bullshit.

The Real Recruiting Revolution Has Nothing To Do With Recruiting

I modified a comment I made on Ere.net slightly to make it a post here. I feel it’s right on the money, other opinions vary of course.

It’s not a revolution in recruiting that’s needed. There’s plenty of people out there, it’s getting easier and easier to connect with them via old and new school methods. What’s needed is a revolution in the interview/hiring process. It’s there and then that the process is most likely to go off the rails with multiple, sometime endless interviews, tests, and endless requests to, “see more people,” well above and beyond what should be necessary to fill one position. We need to start pushing back against poor managers, bad decisions, and out of control processes as much as possible. As long as our role is to facilitate the bad practices and decisions of others, we won’t be taken seriously as a profession. So, as a profession, we need to take a stand and start pushing for a quality process as much as possible. My suggestions would be these:

1) Any vetting method with no clear evidence supporting its effectiveness should be dropped, period. Credit checks and drug testing come to mind immediately, with the latter allowing exceptions for sobriety testing in safety critical situations. Nor should this step be limited to such ancillary processes; if interviewing itself is found to be ineffective, then drop it or change it so it becomes effective. I only recently looked, but I’ve yet to see evidence that interviewing itself does much if anything to ensure a good hire and subsequent good performance.

2) Push for standard, open salary requirements. Throwing money at people doesn’t solve problems, but lack of money does create them. Honesty and openness in the realm of salary from both companies and candidates is necessary and the topic should lose its taboo status. “Competitive compensation and benefits,” is a phrase that’s on par with, “cozy,” in real estate; the latter means small space to house/apartment hunters, the former means low pay in the world of the job hunters.

3) Develop evidence and research based standards for a more regular hiring process. We need hard research demonstrating what techniques work and where diminishing returns kick in. Otherwise the hiring process will continue to be an out of control monster with 1 step in some companies and 40 in others, one or two interviews here, ten to twelve there. And real research based on effectiveness is what’s needed, not LinkedIn surveys for God’s sake.

4) Treat recruiting and employment as steps in the same life cycle process for all employees. Accountability needs to be on the managers for engaging in the hiring process, accountability beyond the date of hire needs to fall on recruiters too for quality purposes. There should always be a presumed DSLA in place, and there should be hard research done into when and where in the process accountability for retention shifts from the recruiter finding a good person to the manager/company being able to keep them.

5) Push for better treatment of workers in the US. Recruiters and HR leaders need to stop being Yes men and women for the whims of whoever happens to be in charge and develop professional standards based on evidence for how much time off, hours worked, etc., should be offered. As the workforce increasingly globalizes people in the US are inevitably going to notice that their European counterparts get twice the time off and then some, and yet, through some miracle, the companies they work for don’t collapse into dust when they take a week off and don’t answer their cell phone and check email every ten minutes. In the US we are burning out our workforce with lower and lower pay, fewer and fewer benefits, and more and more hours worked. When people are dealing with capital equipment they know the machine’s limits and tolerances and maintenance schedule, and respect it if they want the equipment to last. But people are considered to have no limits, no need for real down time, no maintenance, and are just terminally pushed for more and more and more with no regard to burn out. We treat our machines better than our workers, that has to change.

Recruiting feeds people into a machine that is largely beyond our control. There is no talent shortage, there is no lack of willing and able people. There is a severe problem with hiring; it’s a meandering, standardless maze of conflicting and redundant and often useless processes that people get thrown into and it grinds them down. That’s where the revolution is needed.

Partnering?

There is no such thing as partnering.  It’s a word that’s often used in recruiting, I’ve yet to see it happen.  They often talk about partnering with the hiring manager.  In reality the hiring manager usually just says or does whatever they want, and then the recruiter does damage control by selling their latest stupidity to the candidates.  Whether it’s one more interview on top of the three that have already happened, or a skills test for skills the candidate already said they didn’t have, it gets done.

The reason it gets done is because there’s too much sales in recruiting and not enough collaboration.  Usually there’s a sales manager who handles the account, and a recruiter who handles the candidates.  Sometimes one person does everything, but rarely these days.  And the sales guy, he really has trouble saying, “No,” to anything the client asks, which idea the recruiter then has to sell the candidate on, no matter how foolish, time intensive and wasting.

As an example, I routinely get these positions which are supposedly, in the words of the sales people, easy fills.  Then it turns out the salary being offered is 30%-50% lower than the market rate.  That’s not an easy fill by any standard, in fact, the more the salary deviates below the area’s mean, the harder the fill will be, and this holds true at all levels.

Now, a real partnering with the hiring manager would mean pointing this out and setting realistic expectations for the hiring process and timeline, etc.  That happens maybe one out of every thousand times.  So, the reality of recruiting is really that any position is taken from almost any client, and the sales guys agree to fill it in a certain time frame at any price, and the recruiters are left trying to make that happen no matter how far the target is from being realistic.

There is no partnering, there is only Sales! in the worst, used car salesman sense.

Recruiting Revolution?

Nice essay here, but is there any evidence that, “[t]he recruitment industry has gotten lazy and a revolution is upon us?” Revolution usually means a shake up of some sorts – advancement, new technology or processes, etc., – whereas here, revolution seems to mean acting like we’re still in the seventies. There are a couple problems with that, I see.

‘Lazy’ recruiting is effective as far as many corporations are concerned. If you took two batches of resumes, one into which you poured your heart and soul, and the other which you sourced real quick with minimal work via a mass email campaign, they’re likely to get the same consideration from the client, or the hiring manager for those already on the corporate side. Put another way, the ability to jump on the phones and cold call is not the rate-limiting step in the recruiting process.

I don’t know of anyone who removed their resume from a database because they were worried about being seen as “active.” In fact, few outside the recruiting industry even know what the jargon of “active” and “passive” means. Resume databases lost their effectiveness because they lost their newness, the initial crowds of people who went there because they were active are now passive, but still in the database. The postings which were once new are now ubiquitous, and buried among thousands of others that look much the same.

There has been no revolution in recruiting, all I see is more of the same. Job boards are just hopped up versions of the white pages and corporate directories. LinkedIn is more of the same. Social media outlets are a slightly different version of the same thing. These are all just means of contacting people, and many of these people won’t pick up the phone when called, so these means of finding and contacting people compliment cold calling, they don’t replace it. If communication is key, then one form of communication doesn’t trump all others. The one that’s the most effective for a given situation is what should be used. Calling ten people from warm leads gotten via an email campaign and then cold calling some of the desirable candidates I wanted but who didn’t respond is way more effective than cold calling 70+ people a day from scratch, in my experience.

Here’s what a genuine revolution in recruiting would be: Honesty with candidates and clients.

To start, explain to everyone that salary matters and it can’t be ignored. This is not a statement on low salaries, but one about the inherent taboo in even discussing the topic. I can’t count the amount of times people have nearly had heart attacks when I’ve discussed salary ranges openly and honestly with candidates and clients at the start, or near to it, of a conversation. “Why would you do that?!” I recall one person asking me. Apparently you’re supposed to speak to people for an hour and get their life story, and then find out they’re making 10-20K more than your client is willing to pay. Also, you’re apparently also supposed to take any job at any price and not even mention to your client that since they’re targetting a salary that’s 30%+ below market rate, it might take a while and/or they might need to sacrifice quality. When this BS ends and both candidates and companies honestly face their own worth on the market, that will be a revolution in recruiting.

Further, being able to have a greater effect on, and potentially fix dysfunctional hiring processes would be revolutionary. Having had to do this myself for two companies now, I know how difficult it is, and being back on the agency side I’ve felt the effects of ones I couldn’t change. As long as the majority of hiring processes are dysfunctional, that will be the rate limiting step in recruiting. An unwillingness to get on the phone is not necessarily the problem with recruiters today. I’ve seen the best firms put the best candidates into the meat grinder of a dysfunctional hiring process, and that is the rate limiting factor in recruiting.

The real revolution in recruiting will be taking as much of the ‘art’ – BS in other words – out of the process as possible by outlining standards and best practices for hiring that are based on evidence, and not merely plausible sounding rhetoric or the pontifications of people like Steve Jobs, and then having honest conversations with those who come up short, both companies whose processes are deficient and candidates who think they should be hired with no vetting whatsoever.

One of the first moves toward that end of evidence based hiring is for someone to actually present evidence that so called ‘passive’ candidates are better. Evidence would be direct evidence of better performance and longer tenure than so called ‘active’ candidates. Unless that’s presented then it’s a marketing distinction for targeting different audiences, not one that’s linked to actual candidate quality or subsequent performance.

A further revolutionary step would be stop looking at Employers of Choice uncritically, assuming all their methods should or even could be adopted by companies without the brand pull they have. Most companies operate with far less brand recognition and far tighter budgets and human resources. Truly revolutionary methods will work to improve hiring regardless of the company that uses them.

I’ve used the term rate limiting in this post a couple of times. In chemistry and biology a rate limiting step is basically the slowest step in a process that determines the speed of the rest of the process. If you’re talking mechanical systems, you could say be dealing with a pump that pushes 10 gallons of water per minute. If you want more per minute then it won’t matter how much water you add to reservoir, it will still only pump 10 gallons a minute to the destination. The pump is what needs to be changed. In recruiting the rate limiting step in most companies is the hiring process. And we as recruiters are constantly trying to put more water (candidates) in the client’s reservoir in the hope that more will end up hired, but it doesn’t work that way. The pump is too slow, and in many cases is broken. What’s more, a good number of companies engage in such poor hiring and management practices that they actively work against their own ability to hire quality people by destroying their reputation as employers.

To finish, we also live in a highly managed market, and it’s mostly special interests, those with money and thus political pull, who manage this market. Companies, from small to large, all have more pull politically at the local, state, and federal levels, than individual workers. That’s why politicians never raise the minimum wage until the currency has devalued to such a point that raising it is essentially a meaningless act. That’s why industries often write the legislation that gets passed. And, whether actively or simply as a byproduct of pursuing their own interests in the political process, businesses have essentially managed the labor market into a permanent surplus of labor. And as long as there is this perceived plenty of labor, and businesses think there’s always someone new ready to replace anyone they don’t like, they won’t put any serious resources into getting good people or keeping the ones they already have. They will continue to run people ragged and then replace them when they burn out. They will continue to demand loyalty from their workers while they show none. They will cut labor in seconds if the bottom line dictates it, but if an employee makes the same decision based on a better offer they are black listed.

This imbalance of power in the employer-employee relationship dictates the quality of the process in the end. This imbalance is the result of economic reality, because employees are disposable and easily replaced in many cases – but also critically the result of social mores. The ‘entrepreneur’ is deified even though no such thing exists, while the laborer is considered a loser of sorts. The entrepreneurial function is an economic concept that just differentiates the profit of risk taking from the capital return of funding a production process, minus the uncertainty and risk, for pedagogical purposes. In reality all people serve all economic functions to varying extents. Those who tend more toward the entrepreneurial function take on more risk, but they are also usually a mix of private entrepreneur, one who makes money by taking risks and satisfying customers, and political entrepreneur, which is one who makes money by using the government to turn the arm of his potential customers by limiting competition. There is no pure, Ayn Randian ‘producer’ or ‘entrepreneur’ in reality. But, thanks to rhetoric from both the right and left wing, and well meaning but somewhat theoretical economists of various stripes, we are taught to deify the entrepreneur a no one else. The owner/CEO of a business and his cohorts get a pass on poor, immoral, and unethical behavior, while everyone else gets held to a higher standard.

Once that stops, maybe then a revolution is recruiting is possible. Until then, it isn’t, because the peasants have no power.

Communication Etiquette

It’s important when looking for a job to use the proper communication etiquette.  Here’s some advice for applicants to make communications work better.

If a recruiter contacted you, use the same method to contact you to get back to them.  If you got a phone call, call back.  If you got an email, email back.  Do not email back, and then call 5o times in an hour, and flip out if you do not get an answer.  Here’s the deal: you are one of hundreds, potentially thousands of people they are reaching out to.  If you take this as an insult, you’re just a fucking idiot.  The return on initial outreach like that of people who are actually interested and qualified is usually ridiculously low.  Generally speaking lots of people will be contacted, few will respond, fewer still will be qualified, fewer still will be interested.  It’s not meant as an insult, it’s just the reality of what’s necessary.  So, calm the fuck down.

Know the method they contacted you by, and if it was email and you for some reason decide to call, do not say, “Yeah, you emailed me,” as if they just shot the email out and then sat there, eagerly awaiting your call, and no one else’s.  They emailed you and God knows how many other people with the same keywords in their resumes.  Then, they moved on to one of the other 100 resumes and/or positions that needed their attention.  Once more, it’s not personal, it’s just what is necessary to get a response going quickly.  What’s worse, never call in response to an email and say, “Yeah, you called me…”  I get this all the time, and I know what phone calls I’ve made, and if you’re not one of them I’ll automatically assume you’re lying or an idiot.

There will be some recruiters who will claim they have a list of only five people, and only call them, and they get those candidates by God, and they know everything about each one of them, and will stand by them all the way through the hiring process until they’re all hired!  Even if there’s only one job available.  This is horseshit.  Maybe one out of every thousand recruiters does this, these people are usually industry specific with lots of contacts and a great network to pull from for similar jobs that they spend their entire lives working on.  This is not how the majority of recruiting is done in this world.  And yes, it’s impersonal but as mentioned, it’s necessary.

So, respond in kind, keep it simple, and remember this person isn’t looking to marry and fuck you for life, they just have a job that needs filling and at a glance it looked like you, and several hundred other people, could do it.  So relax on the initial contact, don’t call 50 times in a day, do not look like a psycho if you can avoid it.

Donald Sterling Article

This Donald Sterling stuff I find interesting.  Not that he’s a racist, I mean you’ve got a super old dude with a mistress and a billion dollars, it doesn’t surprise me he’s off the rails mentally.  You looked under a rock and found an idiot, congratulations.  No, what interests me is the implications for recruiting and HR.  Specifically, see this article and my comment.

That Sterling is an asshole is a statement for which there is abundant evidence.  From a recruiting HR perspective though, we have to consider what it must have been like to hire for this guy, and for people to work for him.  He is a prime example of a less than stellar personality getting to the top of an organization and dribbling his poison on the whole thing.  He is a case study of the fact that sometimes the boss/owner/CEO, or whatever, is the fucking problem.

We live in a society, and I’m talking about the US here, that is essentially fascist at heart.  It’s soft fascism, we’re not dealing with Mussolini here.  But our economy is highly managed and for the most part in favor of businesses, generally medium to larger ones, with some small scale businesses also benefiting.  Labor has been manged into a perpetual surplus, and various other aspects of the economy, such as anti take-over legislation like Williams and Sherman and various state statutes, that make it easier for mediocre to incompetent C level execs to stay in charge.  I recall a talk show once where I believe T. Boone Pickens was on a panel with some such execs, and I believe the host asked one of them what they would do if they knew Pickens was checking out their company.  Their answer was of course that they’d look at their company and make sure it was operating as efficiently and as well as possible.  To which the obvious retort is: why the fuck weren’t you already doing that?

By choking off opportunity at home the re employment of the unemployed is delayed, and a permanent labor surplus results, driving down the cost of labor from where it would be in a less managed market.  This lets people like Sterling stay at the top in regular corporations because the employees are not in as strong a bargaining position as they would otherwise be.  They can’t demand the pay, benefits, time off, etc., that they would otherwise command.

However, people adjust.  They will, if they feel they are under compensated, adjust their output downward as much as possible while still maintaining their job.  In the end the market rules, and you get what you pay for.  And there is a limit to the amount of shit the US worker will take before he collectively tells the entire economy to go fuck itself.  C level types beware, information gets out and people know what your company is like now, they don’t have to rely on your marketing hype.  Simply saying your company is A Great Place To Work! doesn’t cut it when your Glassdoor and Indeed scores are below 2 stars.  The era of bullshit is over, the era of information has begun.  Get your act together and treat your employees well, or you run the risk of being the next, somewhat less sensational Donald Sterling.  You may not make the evening news, but people will know you’re an asshole, they will know you run a shitty company, and they will not want to work with you.

Another Example of Recruiting Fuckery

Here we are again, folks.  I will bash this horse over and over again until it is dead, and then I will fuck its corpse.

Once more a client wants a consultant.  However, anyone who has consulted for less than a year is unacceptable.  The project they are working on will require 4-6 months of consulting, but they are rejecting anyone who has ever done just that.

So we’ve sent people who were permanent but are now freelancing.  they are now rejecting them because they have the longevity they asked for, and now the client is suspicious because they don’t know why someone who was permanent before would want to freelance.  Also, anyone who has been interviewed and who has asked about potential for permanent work has been rejected for that reason alone.

So, if they’ve freelanced “too much,” they’re not good enough to freelance for this client.  And, if they’ve worked permanent and are willing to freelance right now, they’re not good enough to freelance for this client.  And, if they actually want to work full time for this client, but are willing to work contract and understand there’s no guarantee of permanent work, they’re not good enough to work for this client.

This is not unusual behavior on the part of companies, it’s typical, and indicative of a severely dysfunctional hiring process and flat out incompetence.  But, my agency wants to get “in” with this client and so we will continue to bash our heads against the wall looking for a barking cat for a client who will likely never hire and so never pay us, putting no money in my pocket or my company’s pocket.

This is generally what happens when ‘sales’ stops being needs fulfillment and consulting, and becomes Get The Business At Any And All costs.  What it comes down to is the customer is not always right.  If they want you to work for free, are they right?  That’s an extreme examples to show that a business relationship of any kind has to be a two way street.  Companies that can’t see that having completely contradictory hiring standards is a problem are not worth working with.  You just keep finding good people and throwing them into a meat grinder, and this hurts your reputation and credibility with the candidates.  They are customers too.

All too often agencies forget that.

General Tips for Companies – Example of Poor Management

Poor management is one of the main reasons people report for leaving their position.  If you want to keep your employees you will manage them well.  Most don’t, which is why they lose them.  Most ‘managers’ have no training or even aptitude for management.  They were simply the best at what they did in the company, at least in someone’s estimation, and so one day someone came around and said, “Good job, kid, you’re running the department now.”  Often they will now be in charge of implementing policies they neither have the experience, brains, or courage to question, and they will often not be able to judge their own policies as per their effectiveness.  Here’s an example of such a policy that persists at a company I’m personally aware of.

At this recruiting agency the recruiters are expected to provide sales leads.  When they scour resumes they’re supposed to notice consulting opportunities, when speaking to candidates they’re supposed to ask who they’ve consulted with in the past.  Then, at the end of the day, they are supposed to deliver their results, along with the results of their recruiting efforts.  Are there standards for how many leads they’re supposed to deliver?  No, but they are criticized if their leads seem ‘low.’  Are they supposed to track these leads to make sure they don’t submit the same ones twice, which is a distinct possibility?  No, that would take too much time, but if they do submit the same one, they’re told not to do that and to pay better attention to what they send over.

So in others words these people are in a no-win scenario.  There’s no standard to measure them against, so they don’t ever know if they’re spending too much or too little time on the process, they just get critiqued when someone decides to on a whim.  Their primary function is recruiting which means they shouldn’t be devoting time to tracking leads, but if they don’t track the leads they will inevitably send the same leads over more than once, and this will be held against them.

It takes no more than ten seconds of thought to realize why this is a stupid situation, but it persists.  Why?  Well the company owner and one of the VPs thought it up and it sounds barely plausible so long as you don’t think about it too deeply, and no one has the guts to question it, so employees continue to be put into no-win situations where they are specifically told not to do what would be necessary to perform better.  It is impossible to succeed, it is guaranteed you will fail, and there is no standard to measure yourself against to see if any criticism is justified or not.

General Tips for Applicants

Your resume is often the first and only thing a recruiter will see.  Whether it’s someone in a company’s HR department, or at an agency, it’s almost always the first impression made, and often the last one too.  Here’s a few tips for resumes and the application process in general.

First cover letters.  Do they matter?  It depends.  I personally hate them, other recruiters insist they are necessary.  It’s totally random, there’s no rhyme or reason for the Yes or No votes.  Put simply, if the advertisement asks for one directly or implies it’s good form to send, send one.  Otherwise, no need to bother, it could hurt as much as help.

Now to resumes…

First, never put your name and contact information in the header of a Word document.  It won’t parse into most companies’ ATS, or applicant tracking systems.  So, always put that information in the body of the document.

Second, put dates to the month on where you’ve worked.  Nothing is more ridiculous and annoying to a recruiter than not being able to figure out when and where the hell you worked.  Sometimes we see people, their experience looks great, and then we see a lack of dates and it sets off alarms.  Also, putting 2010 to 2012 is not good enough.

Here’s the reality…

While it’s politically correct to say that potential employees should not be discriminated against because of lay offs, the reality is that if you’ve been laid off from every single job in your career, and/or you’ve had ten jobs in the last couple of years and they weren’t contract positions, it’s time to face the fact that maybe you’re the problem, and employers should be wary of you.  Employers don’t generally lay off their top ten percent of people, they aim for the low performers, and unless the company moved to Fiji, being repeatedly sacked will have an effect on your career.

Likewise for age.  If you leave off your work history dates and graduation date in the hope of not giving away your age, you think you’re helping yourself, when in reality you’re just as likely to hinder yourself.  It’s a hindrance because it comes across as lying.  So while it might help you get an interview with someone who otherwise might have been discriminatory, it will just as likely piss off someone who was more than willing to hire someone of any age, but wants to know up front who they’re talking to.  This is especially damaging for recruiters because clients often want people who are going to stay at a company for a while if possible, and potentially get promoted and have a career there.  If you have one job on your resume that covers five years and it turns out you’ve worked for thirty years before that, it’s a little ridiculous.

Now, to content…

The content of your resume is really up to you, you can focus on accomplishments or daily duties.  I prefer accomplishments and hard metrics, but that’s a preference.  What is really important is to ask yourself: would someone who knows nothing about me or where I’ve worked be able to figure out what I have done by reading this resume, and reading it very quickly?  I’ve read thousands of resumes at this point, and it’s not uncommon at all to read an entire resume and have no clue what a person has done, or who they’ve worked for, or what those companies do.  If you’re resume doesn’t communicate what you have done and for who, it needs to be rewritten.

Now, as to how to organize the content, once more it’s up in the air.  However, I can say personally I hate, and have never met a recruiter who likes, “skills based” resumes.  That is, resumes which list a whole lot of accomplishments and other BS, and then, if you’re lucky, at the bottom you get the person’s work history.  The reason almost every recruiter hates this format is because it’s almost always used to hide a poor work history with lots of job jumping.  It’s so often used as camouflage for a poor work history you get a bad taste in your mouth when you see it initially, so I would always recommend avoiding such a format.

So, to sum up, you should know that companies input resumes into databases, and that putting your information in headers or footers can make it inaccessible to these systems.  You should also know that while PDFs generally parse okay into these systems, Word is usually the best format to use.

Your resume should be honest above all else, and have the details people are looking for.

Put your work dates to the month, not the year.  Working somewhere from 2011 to 2012 could mean you were there for a month or two years, it’s a ridiculous thing to put on your resume, list it to the month.

And finally, you resume should be clear about who you worked for and what you did for them.  If you ramble on for paragraphs and actually tell the reader little to nothing, you need to rewrite the damn thing.

Know the systems, be honest, and communicate clearly in your resume.