Education Career Services

July 1, 2010

Worth your Weight in Gold

By Jenna Rew

Saying you achieved something wonderful and have an incredible ability to do something profound is entirely worthless unless you can back it up.  Lots of people lie on their resumes, which is why hiring managers are looking, now more than ever, to see that you can prove the claims you make.

If all you can do is give a percent or a situation, but you can’t say a percent of what or what happened later, then nothing and no one can help you. Your resume might boast those percents or situations and catch a hiring manager’s attention. Be assured, they WILL ask about them. Don’t be left speechless. You will appear to be making things up, even if you are telling the complete truth.

According to the Professional Resume Writers Association, the level of credibility and believability between “telling” versus “showing” is 7% to 93% respectively. Think about those figures for a second and KNOW the power of numbers and showing.

This is why I cannot stress enough, KEEP YOUR RECORDS. Document the accomplishments you make, include the initial problem or situation, what you did and what the result was. Look for numbers to quantify your claims. If you don’t know, ask. Worst case scenario: your employer will tell you he can’t give you that number and you attempt to look it up yourself or give your best estimate. Even one quantifiable thing can be better than an entire resume filled with fluffy daily duties.

Hiring managers know the general responsibilities of the positions they are looking to fill. The last thing they want to see is position after position listing the same things over and over again. Value comes from adding something to the company. You want to be worth your weight in gold, not part of the dime-a-dozen crowd.

I recently reviewed several resumes where individuals offered years of experience but didn’t list anything worth chatting about. It was all run-of-the-mill daily responsibilities nobody cares about. Upon digging deeper, I found some had significant achievements to brag about but were selling themselves short.

The time to be modest is NOT when you are trying to find a job. Your employer is not going to spend a significant amount of time trying to pry the information out of you. Either you give it up or you get passed over.

Don’t let yourself be one of those people who may look good on paper, but when it comes down to it, is no greater than the other half-dozen people sitting in the corporate waiting room. Record your accomplishments and wear them proudly on your sleeve.

Great submission Jenna,



May 13, 2010

Bigger, Faster, Stronger on the Job Market

By: Leslee Remsburg, CPRW

Many job seekers today believe they are struggling to get noticed by potential employers due to gaps in work history or lack of advanced education degrees.   Just last week, I had two interesting conversations with job seekers needing major résumé overhauls to mask these red flags. 

These days, there is no shortcoming of applicants with lapses in employment – which puts many job seekers in the same boat.  And demonstrating real world experience and success can certainly make up for not having a college or graduate-level degree. 

Having the best résumé means having the most strategic résumé, and to do that means showing potential employers how well you adapt and effect positive change in your work environments.  Darwin’s “survival of the fittest” theory is not just about the physical assets of being bigger, faster, and stronger.  It is, more importantly, about being able to succeed in your environment, whatever that may be, and it takes more than strong arms to do so.

One of the conversations I had last week was with a man we’ll call Bill.  Bill has a four-year degree and 10+ years experience overseeing IT operations for large multinational companies.  Bill’s biggest concern was that he had been out of work since 2008 when he left his job to take care of sick family members and sort out their affairs.  He explained to me that he had documented carefully in his cover letter (yes, he was sending this out to potential employers) the unfortunate circumstances that surrounded his recent abandonment from the working world.

Personal experiences such as this do not need to be explained in an introductory letter; rather, a brief statement on the resume no more than eight words would suffice.  Leaving these details on a cover letter would likely halt the reader from moving on to an accompanying résumé to save probable time wasted on unhelpful details.  What do I mean? Focusing on what valuable contributions you have made and are ready to make are always more important.  Employers want to see you can save them time and money- that’s it!

I also spoke with a woman last week we’ll call Sally.  Sally would like a management position since she has been in “senior” roles, tasked to identify problem areas within her department and given opportunities to implement improvements.  Her selling point, she told me, was that she was earning not one, but three advanced degrees online in her spare time.  Of course, Sally thought this would improve her chances of obtaining an interview based on her résumé qualifications but she didn’t quite think through this one.

Sally is on her way to obtaining graduate degrees in business administration, geography, and law.  What an interesting mix… it’s like taking all the leftovers in the fridge to make an unappetizing casserole.  It’s not valuable to have multiple, disparate online degrees.  Pulling out the good stuff from Sally (real contributions she has made that have positively impacted her employers) was like pulling teeth- but it will mean more on paper and in an interview.

If you want to get noticed by your current or a potential employer, show them how well and how quickly you can adapt and become a productive part of their team.

September 28, 2009

Are You Hiring?

Just recently, a friend of mine asked if I knew the best way to ask someone for an interview when they might not have been looking to hire someone?

The following is my response which I believe will be helpful to many of our readers…

Hate to tell you but there are no fail-safe ways to ask someone for an interview when they might not be looking to hire someone.  As a matter of professionalism, I do not recommend anyone asking for an interview, per se. 

Place yourself in the shoes of the recipient: would you want such unsolicited requests directed to you?  You probably would not.  But there is a way to get around the situation without sounding pushy or overly aggressive.  In this capacity, let’s change the focus around and NOT ask for an interview but request for an informational discussion.  True, pretty much the same thing but the purpose of an informational discussion is to develop networking ties AND ignite insight into a company’s philosophy and needs.  With this approach, your goal is to discover issues within the industry or company which you can resolve. 

No longer is your question considered a liability and an attack, it is considered a means to correct…whereas the value you offer can then be taken advantage of.  Your goal is to highlight the value and instant contribution you offer and, oftentimes, will lead to the creation of a position or contact to fellow peers who would benefit from your expertise. 

I’ve written a good number of books dealing with career management and discuss informational interviews (heck, if you know any colleges needing a great career management portfolio textbook and/or instructor resource guide, let me know and if you know the career director, even better!).  Anyway, I am going to highlight one of the pages and use the copy to help guide your question regarding informational interviews:

…. You might be asking, “What exactly are informational interviews?” And you might also be thinking, just from the sound of it, that informational interviews are going to take way, way too much time to research and conduct. 

It’s certainly true that informational interviews will take time and work.  Be assured, informational interviews reap benefits relative to the cost, stress, and, yes, even time, which are all important concerns and issues in any job search campaign.  Truth be known, informational interviews offer benefits at a low cost and could be the most efficient way to locate and secure a career.

For example, informational interviews will:

         Help you learn about careers within the industry
         Can be used to gauge company culture and if you fit in
         Help develop life-long networks
         Give insight into the non-advertised job market
         Give insight for scheduled interviews
         Develop rapport and referrals

Overall, informational interviews give you a leg up against other candidates AND can be used as an indicator when evaluating career matches.  For the record, informational requests are not to be used as a mechanism to ask for a job or a formal interview. This is not the time or the place to be an aggressive job seeker. If you think about it, that takes pressure off you and the person you interview, so now you can do some serious learning.  You know about the benefits, let’s look at your next step.

We’ll go over the final part of this question tomorrow as we delve into possible informational interview questions.

Danny Huffman, MA, CEIP, CPCC, CPRW
Owner, Author, Publisher
Career Services International
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September 15, 2009

Job Interview…an interviewee’s reply

The following was submitted by Barbara and I would now like to share with you.

September 15As someone who has interviewed prospective employees, I’d like to add a couple of thoughts to “Job Interview – An Employer’s Experience”.

I agree with your recommendations that an interviewee be on time, be as prepared as possible, dress appropriately, and follow up with a note.  These are basic courtesies.

However, though I know prospective hires tend to blur after you’ve interviewed quite a few, I’m not entirely sure that encouraging a candidate to reiterate his or her strengths in a follow-up note is the best advice.  I’d even go so far as to say it’s not his or her responsibility.  In my experience, self-promotion in a follow-up note can come across as pushy and perhaps even transparent.

I submit that it is the interviewer’s task not only to probe a prospective employee’s strengths during an interview but also to jot down notes afterwards, to help you remember what distinguishes one candidate from another, to help trigger your recollection of something unique about the person.  That might be something as simple as a passing remark or an observation while you were chatting informally, or as focused as a “war story” told to illustrate a point.  It could be something as unconscious (but important) as body language.

That said, on to some things for the candidate to keep in mind.

Remember that the person interviewing you is trying to gather information that will help him or her make a decision, to determine things that may not be apparent on your resume:  Are you articulate?  What is your professional style?  Are you supportive and tactful or driven and confrontational?  Are you naturally energetic and enthusiastic or ho-hum?  These traits can be just as important as your past work history.

It’s also important to remember that an interview is a two-way street, a reciprocal process.  That is, besides enabling the interviewer to learn more about you, there are also some things you should know when you leave the building.

You might ask for information about the company and its direction, beyond what your job would entail (if you’re hired).  What does the company consider its core strength or business and who are the primary target audiences or clients or customers?  You can hardly know whether or not you’d like to be a part of an organization – particularly a small one, not quite yet in the Fortune 100 – unless you know more about it than what appears in an ad or even what you read on a website.

There’s nothing wrong with asking a question or two about what led your interviewer to join (or form) the company.  This isn’t to pry into a life history; it’s to gain an appreciation for what makes the company special for him or her. These things could be tangibles or intangibles.  Are they the same things you want for yourself in your new business environment?

Don’t be embarrassed to say “I don’t know” if you’re asked something you can’t answer.  Don’t try to bluff.  Similarly, if you’re asked about a certain skill and you’ve never had experience with it but believe that, with some coaching, you could master it, say so.  Don’t despair over what may at first blush look like the kiss of death. 

In short, be authentic and real.

These thoughts may be self-evident.  But in case they’re not, and particularly if you have most if not all of the necessary qualifications for the job but are new to the interview process, take a deep breath and relax.  The person sitting across from you probably wants you to be just what he or she has been looking for, so the search won’t go on for weeks or months.  Instead of worrying about how you’re doing, trust in yourself and what you have to offer.  This, you’ll find, will take you a long way towards completing a mutually rewarding interview.

Again, thank you Barbara for your insight and no doubt many of our followers will benefit from your comments.

Danny Huffman, MA, CPRW, CPCC, CEIP
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April 6, 2009

Dinner and the outsourced

Had an interesting weekend until the topic of outsourcing and illegal aliens came up; let me backtrack for a moment.  My wife and I were invited to have dinner at a friend’s home and naturally we accepted.  In typical fashion, upon the completion of dinner we discussed current and concerning issues.  Not sure how it began or who initiated the conversation but the concept of outsourcing was thrown out there… seems like there are three topics one should avoid while entertaining: religion, politics, and now outsourcing.

april-06-2009Our hosts own their own company and are strong believers in outsourcing.  My wife is diametrically opposed to outsourcing while I am a middle-in-the-road person with this topic (as a Libra, it’s just the way of the stars).  One more factor which should be considered, neither of our hosts was from the US – both come from a socialistic country. 

Our hosts questioned the inborn sense of “entitlement” many of the people in the US carry and “our” overall laziness.  Additionally, in their country, and in most they have visited and lived in, poverty is much greater in the US as is crime (they threw that in as icing).  The words slung back and forth – no one was going to convince the other their view was right.  Thirty minutes of argument (no longer a discussion) later, I decided to go to the family room and watch the NCAA semi-finals… at least there would be a winner in that competitive setting.

Here it is Monday morning and I can’t shake the feeling and discussion from two nights ago.  Do US workers own a sense of entitlement?  I take this to be translated into:

“the company (or country) owes me just because I happen to be born in a specific geographic boundary.”

Could this be true?  How many people out there have experienced this type of expectation either from peers or fellow employees?  As for me, I have a good group of employees who, in my opinion, work hard and (generally) do not have a sense of entitlement.  As a matter of fact, my group is a solid band of employees.  I quite possibly may have the very best group available… this being the product not of outsourcing but of training, developing, and respecting the great staff I have. 

My concern has not waned over the past two days—as a matter of fact, the idea that we own a sense of entitlement is rather upsetting…regarding my wife, she remains fit to be tied over the concept as she owns passionate views – especially when it comes to home…and the United States is our home.

What do you think?  Are American workers spoiled?  If you owned a company and needed to hire a group of 20 employees, would you intentionally look for individuals outside the United States?  If so, which country would you focus attention to?  And finally, am I reading too much in the after-dinner conversation?  How would have you reacted?

Danny Huffman, MA, CPRW, CPCC, CEIP

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February 18, 2009

They Come Bearing Gifts

windows-vista-icon1I had one candidate bring me flowers at the interview; another brought donuts and coffee (had they been Krispy Kreme, he might well be CEO by now); one fellow tried to give me Orlando Magic tickets, bless their hearts.


Payola?  Desperation?


Maybe, but I choose to believe they understood interviewing is seldom enjoyable for the hiring manager.  Tangible gifts, of course, aren’t the right way to go; being prepared and upbeat is.


Except in rare circumstances, a hiring manager has a full-time job apart from interviewing.  It is a necessary evil fraught with things to make that manager feel truly crummy.  The fact is, you can only hire one person per position and you have to go through a lot of people to find that individual.  That means the manager will be dealing out a lot of rejections.  Few managers are so sadistic that such a thing is enjoyable.  Nonetheless, the interviewer is on your side; we want you to be the one so we can stop looking.  Let’s run down the candidate possibilities from my personal experience.


The Bad Interview:  The candidate sits like a lump and answers questions in one or two word replies.  Or shrugs.  Conversely, there’s the candidate that runs off at the mouth and never answers the questions.  I ache for these people.  They probably have value but can’t express it, so there’s nothing I can do for them.  If I have to pull teeth to learn anything meaningful, you’re blacklisted.


The Bad Candidate Who Isn’t Qualified:  She thought she was perfect for the job and I disagreed. Normally not a problem but she wouldn’t let go.  Even when I told her I need these certain skills she didn’t have (and wasn’t teachable), she argued with me.  Never a winner.  In another similar instance, he begged.  Personally, I’d rather argue; at least there’s some vindication in say no.


The Bad Candidate Who Is Qualified:  He nailed the requirements, but his demeanor was so uptight and arrogant that there was no way I’d hire him.  Other such candidates include the gossip who could do the work but would be so busy chatting the work wouldn’t get done.  Another is the profanity captain who couldn’t keep a civil tongue in just a half-hour interview.


The Great Candidate Who Isn’t Qualified:  He came in wearing dreadlocks and a three-piece suit… and made it work.  Within moments I knew this articulate, talented fellow had every skill that I didn’t need and none that I did; he was such a great interview I wanted to hire him but I couldn’t.  I was completely impressed and told him so; I just didn’t have anything for him.  I remember this young man’s name (a feat for me) and have his resume handy all the time.  Even if I don’t have a position for him, I keep my ears open for other opportunities I can recommend him for.


The Great Candidate Who Is Qualified: You know you have magic right away.  Professional, up beat disposition; meets all the requirements and seems a good fit for the team.  This is what the interviewer prays for.  Little bumps are easily overlooked (one said, “I know I talk too fast, can’t do anything about it, sorry” with a great big smile.  She also brought in a well organized portfolio that was outstanding.  At that point I was afraid I couldn’t afford her.  Fortunately we came to an understanding and she’s the best employee I’ve ever hired.)


Do you see how important it is to be a great candidate?  Well-prepared, great presentation?  In both cases, when I hired and when I didn’t, I want nothing but the best for the candidate.  That means looking out for ways to benefit the great candidate I couldn’t hire.  I’ve received two jobs by referral from interviewers who didn’t hire me.  And to be fair…


Sometimes Hiring Managers are Wrong: I recall a conversation with one of my best employees, telling him how glad I was I hired him.  He pointed out I’d rejected him the first time he applied.  I was surprised.  “Yeah, I wore short sleeves so my tattoos showed, I had a nose rings, six earrings, and a lip ring, and I let my hair free, fanned out to my waist.”  I did recall that interview.  I’d made it short and didn’t try to break through the dark façade.  He hadn’t made it easy and I didn’t do the work.  Fortunately for me, he reapplied a few months later without the hardware, in a long-sleeve shirt, and his hair tied back in a ponytail.


Make it simple for the hiring manager; if you’re the one for the job, deliver enough information to make it clear; if you’re not, ask for a referral and move on.  The great candidate will find a good job, so be that great candidate.


Rob Swanson, CPRW, DTALM

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