After Reviewing Your Resume, I Don’t Know You Well Enough to Interview You

Crossing Road

As a hiring manager, I’ve often joked that I should call all the candidates whose resumes were not selected for further interviews and tell them that  for $30, I would tell them why I had not interviewed them.  I know, I know.  I am a horrible person for even joking that way.  In all seriousness though, early in my career I honestly thought that hiring managers painstakingly poured over resumes in an effort to determine which candidates had the most promise from their past achievements and experiences.  Not true.  I want to know who can walk in the door and make the biggest impact the soonest – and fit in best with the team – all in less than 2 minutes of skimming a resume.  Below are my top recommendations on how to keep your resume out of the discard pile.  Spoiler Alert: They all point to the hiring manager being able to picture you in the role they need to fill.
1. I never got to know you.  Please do not make the grave mistake of only submitting your resume to an online job posting, along with hundreds of other people.  While this may have possibly worked for someone out there, I don’t know anyone who has ever gotten a job using this tactic.  If you really want to work at a great company, you need to show them you are resourceful.  Recruiters attend hiring fairs because they want to meet great people – show up ready to impress and then continue to foster that relationship.  When you see an opening posted, reach back out to that recruiter with whom you’ve built a relationship and ask them to show your resume to the hiring manager.  If a face-to-face introduction isn’t an option, introduce yourself on LinkedIn.  Remember though, if you want a recruiter to actually read through your entire email, you have to have something engaging to say right off the bat such as, “Last year, I was proud to be among the top 10% of employees in my company to be recognized for stellar performance.”
2. I didn’t have time to hear you out.  Wordy much?  Not a good tactic for your resume and cover letter.  Perhaps you have some really great skills on page 3, but I only had 5 minutes between meetings to read your resume, take a bio break and get coffee.  I have no idea what came past the first half of page 2 when I tucked your perfectly formatted 4 page ledger of your life’s work in 10 point font into the discard file, confused about why you thought you’d be a good fit for this role.  Seriously, get to the point quickly.  Is there a compelling reason you think you are the best person for this job?  Tell me quickly and plainly; do not make me search for your relevant skills and experience – getting my attention quickly is key.  And here’s the real shocker – you don’t even need to have all the experience I listed as “necessary”.  You just need to be able to demonstrate to me how your past experience lines up with the job at hand.
3. You didn’t seem to know me.  Please, please, please –  only apply to one job at a time.  No, I do not mean that you should submit your resume to only one job and wait for the outcome of that application before applying for other roles.  I mean, you should make your application for this role specific to what you can bring to the table for this role – please do not spam me with your generic resume.  Are there many roles I would be qualified to do well, yes.  Should I submit the same resume for all these roles?  Only if I want my resume to end up in the discard pile.  I really don’t care about what you can do for my competitor – I care about what you can do for me.  Read what I’ve posted carefully and then craft your resume and cover letter in response to the specific position you are applying to.  Yes, I do know that this takes a lot of time and effort, but, aren’t you asking the recruiter and hiring manager to take time out of their day to read and respond to your resume?  If I don’t know what made you think you’d be a good fit for this role . . . next!
4. Your atrocious formatting made you look unprofessional.  I need you to produce work that is presentation ready.  If the formatting of your resume is sloppy or outdated, I’m not going to trust that I won’t need to reformat all your work.  My previous managers who had come out of public accounting taught me that if the presentation of a document is great, the reader will focus less on trying to find errors.  Subconsciously, we actually trust better formatted documents, so take care to make a good impression here.

5.  I have no idea what you just said.  Perhaps in the midst of all this industry jargon, you have really great skills, but I didn’t bring my secret decoder ring with me to work today so I’m going to pass on interviewing you.  When you have your resume proofread by several friends (before you ever apply for a position), make sure that at least one of them has absolutely no knowledge of your industry or role.  I know many recruiters who are professional recruiters – they have never held a position like the one you are applying for and thus won’t be able to translate your resume to tell the hiring manager about your experience if you make it impossible to decipher.

6. You left me wondering “so what”.  The three resumes I’m going to follow up on all told me their experience and how their actions impacted their organizations.  You told me you are experienced in forecasting, they told me they automated the forecasting process across 12 subsidiaries, thus improving the efficiency of the process and allowing management to make decisions with better, more timely data.  You told me you have experience working with customers – they told me they implemented a customer experience improvement process that allowed their organization to address critical areas that had been bringing down customer satisfaction, thus improving overall satisfaction by 10% over four months and increasing revenue 5% over 8 months.  If you can’t substantiate your experience in terms of the impact you’ve had on your organization, it will be hard for great companies to want you to join their ranks.  Look for opportunities to go above and beyond in each of your roles, then document the effect your extra efforts.  If you don’t have the opportunity to get this kind of experience in your current role, business resource groups within your organization or non-profits outside your organization may be able to benefit from an investment of your time and enemies, translating into a strong ROI for your resume.

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The Mentor Who Changed Me

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It was a somewhat chilly January day. My husband, away on business, was enjoying the sun of Sydney, Australia, while I was battling to get my two young daughters into appropriate church attire. We’d been invited to church before we’d even moved across the country, two months earlier, but we hadn’t yet managed to get out the door on a Sunday amidst the boxes, holidays and overwhelming laziness. Today, however, I felt triumphant as I slid behind the wheel of my car fifteen minutes before the 10am service started and typed the address into my GPS. Wait. This church is 20 minutes away? Crap. Two things are certain: a) we are not going to make it to church on time and b) this will be the last time we attend this way too far away church. After struggling to find a place to park, having to register my kids at some fancy check-in desk, peeling the girls off of me and leaving them unhappy in unfamiliar surroundings, I enter the sanctuary alone to find a giant, pitch-black room. I actually consider just leaving at this point – my heart pounding as I make my way through the crowd and practically fall into a seat. Soon, the pastor walks onto the stage and began speaking words directly into my heart. Using the analogy of the Dead Sea, he described how so many Christians become spiritually dead by taking and taking without ever pouring into the lives of others – help ME, feed ME, teach ME – but who are they feeding? Huh.  (Watch sermon here)
I, of all people, should intentionally pour myself into the lives of others. After all, I had the extreme privilege of having a mentor who changed the entire course of my life. I was 23 years old and we’d recently moved to Indiana. I was working in the office of an apartment community when the assistant manager and manager positions above my role came open. And she took a chance on me. No one in their right mind would have taken a chance on someone so green – to put me in charge of a 20+ acre community with about 1,000 people calling it their home?! She was experienced enough to know how much work I would be and she signed up for it anyhow. Let’s just say that I didn’t leave her with a lack of coaching opportunities in those first months, but in time, I learned – A LOT.
At the time, I was a pre-Dental Hygiene major; my dad was a dentist and had recently been President of the Washington State Dental Association. Dental Hygiene would have been a safe path for me: my dad could introduce me to dozens of dentists once we moved to Washington State after graduation, the environment was familiar after practically growing up in a dental office and Hygienists were in high demand in Washington. The problem was that I was just not made to be a Hygienist, and she saw that right away. She would plant seeds of doubt by asking questions like,
“Do you think you’ll enjoy not making decisions that affect the bottom-line of a company when you’re a Dental Hygienist?”
When the time came for me to turn in my application for Hygiene school, I couldn’t make myself actually take that step. I can’t picture what my life would be like had I pursued the safe route all those years ago, but I’m certain it wouldn’t have filled me with purpose the way consistently using my God-given gifts has.

What I can picture clearly is the mentor who forever changed my life:
1. She truly cared about me as a person. When we worked together, I’m not sure there was anyone on this planet who knew me as well as she did – the good, the bad, the really ugly when things didn’t go my way. Yet, she still cared about me. Her concern for my best interest had me hanging on every word of coaching she provided. If your mentee doesn’t know you care about them both professionally and personally, that you have their best interest at heart, you cannot be effective in helping them reach their best. Jesus says in John 10:27, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” Who knows you well enough to trust you to lead them?

2. She taught me her way, then let me learn my way. How hard it must have been to watch someone with so little experience try new things, especially when not all of them were successful. Incredibly valuable to me and my growth was how she would present the whys of how things were being done, then she would allow me to try to innovate on the process. My advice to those who are new in role, especially those who are early in their careers, is to first spend your energy absorbing how things are being done and how all those processes intersect – free of judgement. Then, once you have a good understanding of how all the pieces fit together, don’t be afraid to voice your ideas. While the fresh perspective you bring to your position can be valuable to your organization, you need to earn the respect of your management and your peers before they will trust your opinion. Trust that God, in His infinite wisdom, has placed that mentor in your life to teach you things you cannot learn on your own.
For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God. (Romans 13:1)

3. When she didn’t have anything nice to say, she still spoke the truth to me. Sometimes we allow our desire to not hurt someone’s feelings rob them of the ability to learn and grow. I think that the most effective mentor is one who won’t back away from the tough conversations, but will then let their mentee absorb the feedback and also have the space to implement the necessary changes. Try to bring your mentee not only areas for development, but also potential ways to implement the changes they need to make in order to take their career to the next level. It is painful to struggle to improve without knowing how, your suggestions for improvement could make the difference between your mentee thriving and giving up.
To learn, you must love discipline; it is stupid to hate correction. (Proverbs 12:1)

4. She cheered me on when I had a win. So many times we easily spot the flaws in those around us, but when was the last time we intentionally complemented someone? Help build your mentee’s confidence, and your skill set, by allowing your mentee to show you that they can shine. Winning is always a team sport – cheer each other on for the biggest wins of all. Don’t feel threatened by the success of your mentee, rather see their success as raising the bar your team or your organization.  Keep your skills fresh by allowing your mentee to learn new skills and bring new ideas to the table.
As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend. (Proverbs 27:17)

I am certain I would not have been able to find the career satisfaction I’ve enjoyed over the years had it not been for this amazing mentor.  Wherever you are in your career, find someone who is one or two steps ahead of you and find a way to contribute to their success so that they in turn will have the capacity to contribute to yours.  Mentorship should always be a two way street, with both parties giving and in turn, you should find someone who you can pour your life into.
Thank you, Jayne.  Without your coaching and encouragement, I would not be where I am today.