resume

Your Resumé is Causing Hiring Companies To Laugh At You (Revised)

I wrote this article, originally on August 2, 2007, long before the current economic slowdown and jobless numbers. The Department of Labor is reporting a national 8.5% unemployment rate, a number we have not seen since 1983. Nearly 1 in 10 Americans have no job, and those are just the people who filed for unemployment benefits. The number is 15% in some sections of the country.

The other day at a networking event, I introduced myself to a man who was milling around. I asked him what he did and he told me he was an IT Project Manager. Interested, I pressed for more. Which company, for instance, did he work for? That’s when he said he was out of work. My initial thought was how grateful I am that I have a diversity of skills to rely on to put food on the table.

Needless to say, there’s a flood of people looking for work. They are flooding Craigslist and the job boards. They are spitballing their resumés across the internet desperately trying to find someplace that will hire them. My advice: strike with precision accuracy. That does not mean only apply for jobs that are seemingly made for you, but do some homework. Look at the job reqs and tailor your resumé. Know about the company should they call you in for an interview. For posterity, here is the article, reprinted in full, from when I was a hiring manager.

Your Resumé is Causing Hiring Companies To Laugh At You


Graphic by Doug Belshaw

You know that companies are laughing at you right now, don’t you? It’s true. For a variety of reasons, you shoot for the moon and hope for the stars and hope that someone will be stupid enough to hire you. Why? Lots of reasons but it boils down to five main reasons.

You Didn’t Read the Job Requisition

It’s true. I get resumés all the time for positions at b5media and it’s apparent that the job posting and requirements were not read. It’s nice that you have 8 years of Java/J2EE experience, but if we are soliciting for a PHP developer, your experience doesn’t matter to me.

My Advice: Read through the job posting. If you feel like you have comparable experience, then apply. What do I mean? I mean that Java positions and .NET positions, while they are good experience for many companies, do not compare with people who do web scripting. This is a completely different ballgame and requires a different set of skills. If I ask for a PHP developer, I may be willing to talk to an ASP or Ruby developer. You’ll have to convince me, though, on Java or .NET. Likewise, if I advertise for a Linux engineer, we are looking for a semblance of Unix/Linux experience. Windows Server 2003 is helpful in some environments, but we know that you’re not qualified for a Linux position if the only server experience you have is in a Windows environment.

You Cite an MCSE as a Qualification

Many companies do still want MCSE’s. I’m not quite sure why because it’s a piece of paper that demonstrates no real world experience. Companies are more impressed by demonstrated experience in your environment than a piece of paper that only demonstrates that you had the wherewithal and money to buy a piece of paper.

MCSE means nothing in the real world. It’s great that you have an understanding of Active Directory. But can you make Active Directory dance? Have you transitioned from competent Active Directory admin to Active Directory ninja? Can you document verifiable accomplishments.

My Advice: Make sure that you can provide bullet point accomplishments. Your accomplishments are more worthwhile to a hiring manager than your piece of paper. Make me see that you are qualified for the position you applied for – don’t just tell me you are.

Your Resumé is Irrelevant

One thing I’ve learned from doing my share of job searches is to have a relevant resume for every sector you want to work in. As a hiring manager, I really don’t want to see how much help desk support you have if I’m recruiting for a development job. It’s obvious you are too lazy to actually tell me why I should hire you. In these cases, I delete your resume. I don’t hold on to it for further consideration later. I don’t pass it on to other hiring managers that might be able to use your skillset.

My Advice: Stay relevant. Tell the hiring manager why he should hire you with a resumé that is pertinent to the job you’re applying for. Include a cover letter that is sufficiently balanced between formal and informal so that the manager can read and have a good understanding of who you are outside of your resumé. I personally have three different slightly different resumés. I have one for development, one for systems and one for management. Take your time when applying and send the right one.

You Don’t Know Who You’re Talking To

In most cases, the company that is hiring has identified themselves. You have Google. You have blog searching. You have a variety of different ways of finding out about the company you are applying to. But you don’t use any of these tools. You don’t even find out what the company’s corporate website is. You haven’t taken the time to do your homework and find out if this is the kind of company you actually want to work for. Your laziness has been demonstrated once again.

For instance, at b5media, we make no secret that we are a blog network and that we’re proudly powered by WordPress. While having a blog and using WordPress are not things we require of our employees, it sure is nice if the candidate knows what blogs and WordPress are. It’s sort of important for our business.

My Advice: Use the tools at your disposal to formulate your resumé. Find out who you’re applying to. If you want to apply at b5media, you should probably know what a blog is. On a technical level, understanding of WordPress is fairly important. Make sure that if you’re applying as a junior developer at a non-profit organization, chances are you’re going to end up with junior developer pay with senior developer responsibilities and experience. Know who you’re dealing with before you go in.

Your Resumé is longer than two pages and Is Filled with Fluff

Yes, contrary to popular belief, we hiring managers expect that if you list every technology in the book, that you are able and willing to use them. However, we also know when people are stuffing their resumés with keywords. I know you were taught to do this by employment coaches and universities instructing you on how to search for a job. It’s really a bunch of hogwash though because we know. Let me repeat that: We Know!

We’re also not impressed by long resumés. We don’t have time to go through 4 pages of fluff to see if we can find the stuff we need to know in your resumé. It’s not a good way to win brownie points with me if you’re wasting my time.

My Advice: Recognize that very few people know everything and that you’re probably not the exception to the rule. It’s okay! Really! I’m not impressed by know-it-all’s anyways. However, your ability to distill a job requisition and figure out what we need to know without making us tell you is a good sign. You can get a lot of mileage out of a relatively short resumé that actually does hit the keywords we are looking for. (Hint: Refer to point #4 for helpful information gathering tips).

See? It’s important for your future and career to understand these points. I’m betting if more people understood these things, unemployment would be lower and you’d have a job that you really love. We want to hire those kinds of people. We want to hire you if you become that guy (or girl). It takes some effort but whoever thought that having a perfect situation without putting out the effort should be the norm, was smoking something.

At b5media, we want to hire the best of the best. Mark Jaquith and Brian Layman were both hired because they really fit everything I said above. Plus, it was easy to know about them because they blog, they use and develop on WordPress, they have the skillsets we needed for their positions.

Chad was hired because he has a reputation as a great ad sales guy and thats what he does.

I was hired, not because I have an MCSE (I don’t!) or a Computer Science degree from University of Maryland (again, I don’t even have a degree), but because I understood the company, the technology and the platform – all very critical for my job.

We have several tech jobs available right now. We’re hiring a Systems Engineer with Unix and architecture experience. This is not a gig, it’s full time, so if you’re not ready to quit your job, don’t apply. We’re hiring a support person, ideally in Toronto, but open to virtual support too. This is for blogger and channel editor support. It does require an understanding of WordPress.

I really want to find the right people, so if you are the right person and you can meet the above points, send me your resume at aaron [at] b5media [dot] com. :-)

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5 Things I Learned from Nuclear Winter

Nuclear Winter. It’s the time period after a holocaust that can last for hundreds of years, making the surrounding landscape around ground zero uninhabitable due to radiation.

It is the death of life and the birth of a new holocaustic life. We’ve never actually had an actual nuclear winter on a global scale, though the threat is there as more and more nuclear weapons proliferate the globe. Many science fiction stories have been built around the concept of a nuclear holocaust and life after.

Although it’s a dark time, sometimes proverbial nuclear winters are necessary. They are the times when you throw away everything you know and begin from scratch. A chance at a new life. A rebirth. It’s a time to correct all that is wrong and hopefully get on the right path over the long haul. Economists call it “corrections”. Historians call it the “end of an era” or the “decline of an Empire” – depending on the context.

As someone who is not experienced in an actual nuclear winter, let me describe a few things that I’ve learned from proverbial “nuclear winter”

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Photo by nogoodreason

1. All Assumptions are False

In a nuclear winter, life is not as you expect. Landmarks are gone. People you know are no longer in your world. You can no longer go to the grocery store and instead have to live off the land.

If you’re in a business that is facing massive layoffs, you cannot assume that the way things always have been will still exist in the world post-layoffs. You cannot assume that, even if you retain your job, your “new” job will remain as it was. You will likely end up giving up responsibilities due to business strategy objective shifts and maybe doing some new work due to the need to backfill for laid off colleagues.

You cannot assume that, because we’ve lived in a world of thriving internet startups, that you the lay of that land will remain the same in an economic holocaust. You can’t. It’s just not a safe assumption. Ask Seesmic.

2. Live Off the Land

In a nuclear winter, as described earlier, you simply can’t go to your Whole Foods and buy your hipster organic food. The reality is is that even if you could go buy organic food, it’s likely tainted from the fallout in the water, ground and air. No, you live off the land. You find the bugs and plants that carry an innate immunity to radioactivity or that have evolved enough to live and thrive in a nuclear landscape. Because you have to survive, and that’s more important than getting your Venti Soy Chai at Starbucks (that don’t exist).

More and more companies that continue to emerge these days are bootstrapping. Companies like AwayFind, who launched the other day, are bootstrapping and not taking angel investing or venture capital to stay alive. They are not taking a devaluation just for the infusion of cash. They are succeeding the old-fashioned way – a method that might take a lot more runway, but that ensures that 100% of the value of the company is retained by the principals. If you can live off the land, do it. It might be awhile before you find yourself a Starbucks in the nuclear wasteland.

3. There is Always a Remnant

During any nuclear winter in any story, you’ll always find a remnant. It might just be a small village of survivors that are doing their best to build a community and survive. They may have built a wall of scrap metal around their community to keep raiders away, but they are surviving.

At critical times where the status quo is challenged, the companies that are the hardiest and most cost-efficient are the ones that survive. While companies like AIG require an infusion of cash (or, as I call it, a crutch) to stay afloat they continue to splurge on non-necessities. Companies like this are doomed to failure.

While the auto-industry, built around an inefficient union mentality that, at one end, limits innovation because it de-incentivizes that innovation, and at the other hand overpays under-qualified individuals to do jobs that are worth half of their paychecks, struggles to figure themselves out, they will eventually have to declare bankruptcy. During that bankruptcy, they will be forced to cut, by some estimates, 50% of their workforce while updating their approach to union labor to ensure survival. There will be a remnant, and that remnant will figure out what needs to happen to survive the wasteland.

4. That Bridge Used to be the 14th Street Bridge

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I’ve been playing Fallout 3 recently, which is set 200 years after a nuclear war between the United States and China. The setting is a region called “The Capital Wasteland” and is, in essence, the Washington, D.C. metropolitan region.

Throughout the game, you can find indications of what used to be. I recognized, in my wandering around the Capital Wasteland, a landmark that could only be the 14th Street Bridge. I would not have recognized it from anything other than geographical position. There were no distinguishing features and it was largely destroyed and falling into the isotope-filled Potomac River, but I knew it was the bridge.

Practices will change throughout life, but principles and patterns remain the same. It is the essence of the Chaos Theory which states that though the universe appears to be full of chaos and disorganization, it is entirely made up of fractals and patterns at an atomic and sub-atomic level. More simply, there are patterns and principles that remain true, though practice, execution and manifestation of those principles change.

In the communications, newspaper, and television industries, as well as many large businesses, people are wrestling with how to do business in a world that is dominated by the internet and then, only recently. They see chaos, where they should see patterns. The principles of public relations is to communicate effectively with the public. The practices of public relations, however, are shifting and the ones that adjust are the ones that will survive that nuclear winter.

5. Know Your Immune System

In a nuclear winter, there’s no one looking out for survivors except the survivors themselves. If there are doctors, they are few and far between. If there is a support community, you have to look hard and not trust anyone. It’s the nature of the new dog eat dog world that such a holocaust causes.

Companies right now are scrambling to figure out “what’s up”. They are looking at their profit margins, cash in hand and extending their runways as far as they can extend them. Investors are reassuring their portfolio companies that there should be a way to survive if they are smart and proactive, but the reality is that in a nuclear winter, no one really knows.

Even if a portfolio company manages to get that C-round and the $15M investment they need, it will be on a down valuation. In layman speak, that means it becomes, in essence, a high-interest loan where the company gets the cash they need but give up a larger stake in the company to make it happen.

The big banks are getting bailout money, but giving up controlling stakes in their companies in some cases. Rollups are likely with smaller companies needing an infusion of cash. People are being reassured that they will retain their jobs, and being laid off the week after. You can trust no one in a winter except yourself. I reiterate my recommendation from a few weeks ago, though. If you have a stable job, stay in it. If you are an entrepreneur, don’t seek shelter in a stable job. Survive, survive, survive…. then rebuild.

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joboffer

Don’t Quit that Job Just Yet


Photo by Egan Show

The economy has everyone shaky, even those in the web space who have been largely unaffected, so far, by the ups and downs in the market. The Web market is largely filled by companies who have, at best, private equity via venture capital or angel funding, or they simply are bootstrapping and don’t have any outside investment.

Times are tight, but even in the VC-stage where a company might have anywhere between a million dollars in investment capital to $35M or more, the money really isn’t that big in the grand scheme of thing and the funding is privately held. Mostly.

Here in Baltimore, VC money flows toward Biotech companies where significantly higher investments are made in comparison to small investments in the web space. Obviously, biotech has a higher overhead when it comes to research facilities, labs, expensive chemicals and doctoral employees. Web startups deal with much smaller costs like commodity priced hardware, and much cheaper salaries. Again, by comparison. Biotech is drying up, but web investments continue to happen.

However, just in the last three days, at least three people I know in the web space have lost their jobs due to the slowing economy. We’ll probably see more of it as well. eBay, who is admittedly a public company and outside the realm of the “typical” web company, just announced a 10% reduction in their workforce. That’s not going to be the end.

The worst time to try to change jobs is right now. If you are able to get a great job, you’re going to be subject to a last in, first out layoff policy. It’s likely anyway. Nothing is ever guaranteed.

If you’re independent, you may very well encounter a slowdown in business (so I hope you’ve saved!), but you probably aren’t going to fire yourself. Now would not be the time to start that practice.

Conflicting recommendations exist. Some recommend that work is going to be hard to come by in an entrepreneurs world, so flee for stability and medical benefits. The other side says, as I do, that work is going to be hard to find and if you get it, you’re going to be far from stable.

Be very careful how you proceed. Make sure you have a backup plan. Try not to panic. Hunker down for the long-haul and do what you can. Don’t let the economy frighten you but instead, lean on your strengths and make money how you can. It’s going to be tough for everyone, myself included, but there will always be a demand for quality people in essential positions.

If you’re in a stable “day job”, I would not recommend quitting now to go the entrepreneurial route. It’s going to be tough going. However, if you’re already there, stay there and kick some butt. It will be slow. Times will get tough. But you can survive!

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