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No Client Has a "Greatest" Weakness

Posted By Administration, Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Good News!

No Client Has a Greatest Weakness:
Give Them Confidence in Every Interview

When you read the first part of this article’s title, did you think of the all- too-common question that makes some clients nervous? “What’s your greatest weakness?”

In this article, I’ll encourage you to share a “secret” that gives your clients more confidence in every interview. What follows works just as well in the virtual interviews of today as it does in the traditional face-to-face settings. Then I’ll use the “greatest weakness” question to suggest an approach to help your clients do much better during those critical meetings with each target company.

Here’s the first part of the secret: nearly every interviewer is untrained or unqualified for the task of interviewing. I learned that as one of very few career coaches to attend twice and speak once at the RecruitingTrends Conference.

The most nervous person in the room is the interviewer

The interviewer is also very nervous about how to proceed. In words your clients will love, the most nervous person in the room is not them; it’s the person on the other side of the desk. If the interviewer hires the wrong person, he could lose his job. His boss knows the cost of replacing a professional employee is about three

times the annual salary.

Want more indicators that interviewers aren’t prepared? The irrelevant questions they ask are all the proof we need. Let’s look the “reasoning” behind those questions, using the one in the title as an example.

Surely, the interviewer doesn’t want an actual list of greatest weaknesses. What does he expect the applicant to say? She was convicted for assault with a deadly weapon? She has a weakness for vodka? She hits people who ask foolish questions in interviews? Of course not.

Does the interviewer think himself a highly trained forensic interrogator who interprets, on the spot, every subtlety in an applicant’s answer to spot potential problems unerringly? Even if he did, we wonder about an approach focused mostly on hiring the applicant with the fewest deficiencies.

Since we know the interviewer doesn’t want many questions answered literally, what is the unprepared applicant to do? Unless she’s your client, she must guess. Usually, in desperation, she trots out some tired cliché the interviewer as heard so often: “I just take my job too seriously. I work too hard!” (hear the tiny violins?)

JULY 2020 | PAGE 5

Folklore took over. Does the interviewer think it’s his job to judge every applicant and hire the one with the fewest faults? The unprepared applicant can fall into that plan if she thinks the interviewer is trained. The result is an interrogation.

But all our clients (and every interviewer) wants a collaboration.

Remind your client he has been
interviewing daily every day in his work life.
When your client’s boss asks her a question
and together they explore alternatives...
that is an interview! That’s the secret of
an excellent job interview. Just as the last
time your client solved a problem on the job, there was no need to approach the situation with a script.

A collaborative interview, then, is a discussion in which our clients explore the company’s needs in a specific field to see if they can offer more value than it costs the company to hire and retain them.

That brings us to the second part of the secret. Since the interviewer is almost certainly unprepared, let’s answer the question he should have asked in the first place. Consider the question in this article’s title as an illustration.

Perhaps the question the interviewer should have asked sounds like this: “Can you think of any skills or knowledge you don’t have now that might equip you to do well in this position?” That question is a wonderful opportunity for our clients to tell the employer about their self-development plans.

All our clients must have such a plan. We should help them build it as part of our services. And charge for it. Now our clients have something concrete with which to work. Ask them which professional skills and knowledge they would like to improve upon. Even if they are at the top of their field, they must continue to learn if they are to continue to earn. Perhaps an example may help.

Suppose you aren’t entirely sure how blogs might work for your clients. You have the beginning of a plan. It will help you focus if you put your needs in

the form of a question. That question might look like this: “Can I use what I learn about blogs to serve my clients better and grow my practice?” The rest follows naturally.

You might post a request on a PARW/CC Forum or LinkedIn. You may seek webinars, excellent books, and respected blogs or podcasts. You should schedule yourself milestones to measure your progress. Accountability transforms desire into advantage.

Have your client use that same model and the fear of the dreaded question is replaced by opportunity. Let’s listen in to a conversation between an interviewer and an applicant seeking a position as an associate professor:

Interviewer: “Tell me, what is your greatest weakness?”

Our client: “In my own professional development plan, I noticed a new trend in our field, post-secondary curriculum development. You may have seen the same article in the latest edition of the Chronicle of Higher Education. June Smith (an acknowledged thought leader) has an excellent piece on the challenge of delivering high quality distance education while still meeting our students’ growing demand for flexible course scheduling.

Since your school is expanding your distance education program, I have already emailed Ms. Smith some questions I wrote with your student body in mind. I haven’t gotten her reply yet and I am looking at other resources. I can, however, certainly outline a concept for you in a few days.”

That’s one very powerful response.

And you can be sure a career coach not only guided that client’s approach, but helped her find and use the resources required. (And you can be sure the client didn’t balk at the level of investment that preparation required.)

How did interviews turn into Kabuki?

JULY 2020 | PAGE 6

There are lots more “standard” questions you can think of. Since the idea of an interrogation is behind them, don’t be put off by their accusatory tone. Here are some from with suggestions about the questions the client should be prepared to answer:

The questions from

Why should we hire you?

What are three positive things your boss would say about you?

Why do you want to work here?

When were you most satisfied in your job?

The questions your client should answer

Please help us explore how your background might help our company grow.

Please describe times when you helped your company or your customers solve particularly difficult problems.

I imagine, as you researched several companies, ours stood out in some way. What attracted you to us?

When did you make the greatest contributions to your company, customers, or profession?

As you think of other “standard” questions, take a moment to transform those probing demands into valid questions someone might ask a potential team member as they collaborated on a project. Then equip your client to give the answer we both know is much more valuable.

Our clients don’t have a greatest weakness.

They have coaches or résumé writers who equip them to take the pressure off the interviewer by replacing interrogations with mutually
satisfying collaborations.

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Have Your Brand Go from 0 to 60 in 3 Seconds

Posted By Administration, Friday, June 5, 2020

A powerful brand is like a Lamborghini Aventador. It should look as if it’s flying —even when it is standing still! You can see the 730 horsepower engine, but there’s no thrill until you feel the acceleration. The huge powerplant is just decorative...until it catapults the car from 0 to 60 in just under 3 seconds!

Potential clients can see your brand on your website and, we hope, in your LinkedIn (LI) profile. That’s where it’s parked.

I’ll suggest ways to accelerate your brand to the checkered flag. The key word is “accelerate.”

Don’t you encourage your clients to accelerate their brands so they become irresistible to hiring decision makers? Chances are you’ve been so busy in that pursuit you haven’t made time to gain that same benefit for your practice.

You’ve already read a lot about what makes for a powerful brand. (“Busywork or Network?,” The Spotlight, December 2019, pp. 5 – 6). Let’s examine the three elements that

drive your brand to greater profit: where you post, what you post, and how you leverage results.

LI can be a very powerful tool. How do I know? I’m the only senior careers professional I know who has never had a website. I never will have one. I’m not anti-technology. My clients, all executives, won’t tolerate being sent to what they call an “automated brochure.” They dislike being forced into a “Bronze Package” or a “Gold Package” or any package at all. They are individuals. They want to speak with a human—and as quickly as possible. LI makes that easy for them and made it profitable for me for many years. It may not be suited to you. But here’s the point: LI can generate sales if you leverage it well.

Post where your best clients hang out. That would include LinkedIn’s special groups. Enter your key words and the word “group” in the search box.

Because there will likely be many groups shown, consider these measures to help you choose the best: Older is better. Bigger is better. Moderation is required.

JUNE 2020 | PAGE 7

When you click on a specific group, you’ll see a brief description of it, when it was formed, who “owns” the group, who manages it, and what the rules are. The names of the group admins are links. If you have questions, use those links to get answers. Click on the button marked “Join.” When the admin confirms your membership, respond by telling him or her you want to be a useful contributor. Ask which areas interest members most. That’s very important. It determines what you post. It also increases your chances of being contacted...the first step in closing sales.

If the group you join isn’t productive for you, you can always leave.

Now that you know a few places where to post, what to post is critical lest you be seen as irrelevant, disconnected, or a spammer. LinkedIn is a career and business network. Videos of political messages, dogs on trampolines [yes, I saw that on LI!], or things strictly personal reveal the poster as uniformed at best; self-centered at worst.

Post regularly; not obsessively. Once a week will be fine. Write on subjects that interest group members. (Remember, you asked the manager what those subjects were.)

LinkedIn offers you a chance to write an article. Don’t. Articles never get the number of views to make your effort worth your time. Posts, on the other hand, should generate several hundred “hits” in a matter of days.

Make your headline enticing. Here’s the first part of one of my posts:

Notice how I lured potential clients. I started with an absurdity and quickly followed with something my readers would think makes eminent good sense. Then I tied the two ideas together in the next paragraph.

The next line introduced yet another useful surprise. My goal was for readers to get a new insight. I can almost hear them say: “I never thought those nice-sounding words described the minimum standard. Now I can avoid that trap! Thank you, Don.”

Always suggest what people might do to help themselves. Never tell them how to get those results for two reasons. First, you want them to contact you. They won’t if you give away valuable information. Second, posts are limited to about 1,300 characters.

Draft your post first as a Word document and keep all your posts in one folder. That provides several advantages. It’s easier to spell check in Word than in LI. You can verify the character count to see if your post will fit. (Look in the lower left corner to see the number of characters as you type.)

You can also “recycle” posts about every year. Update the post and remember most readers either will never have seen it before or won’t remember if they have.

Now copy/paste your post on LI. Too many characters? Cut every word that doesn’t carry its own weight until the warning goes away.

Always include hashtags. These help people searching for information find your ideas. Hashtags count against the 1,300-character limit.

Use graphics. Find them by searching with key words in Google and selecting “Images” to capture the results. Look at “Tools” in the main menu at the top of the page to see the usage rights. Strive to use images in the public domain. Want simpler illustrations? Add the word “clipart” to your search terms.

Save a copy of the picture you chose in your picture file.

Just before you post, note the camera icon at the bottom of the space. Click on that icon to upload your picture. Proof one more time, and then post.

JUNE 2020 | PAGE 8

In addition to posting to LinkedIn groups, post to LI in general. You’ll find the link when you sign in. It’s marked “Start a post.” Do not post the same item in general LinkedIn as you posted to your group. You want your group’s members to see you as “one of us.”

Measure and refine how effective your posts have been. Look for results the day after you post. Click on the number of views below your picture on the left side of the screen. Pay attention to those who “react” or comment. Click on any icons that show “likes” or comments. You’ll see a link to the authors’ profiles. Click on the “Messaging” link on the main menu and search for those people. You want to be sure you haven’t messaged any of them before. If you’ve written to them you’ll see, and can build on, the earlier exchanges.

In every case, thank those people for taking time to offer you feedback. Say you want to know how they are moving their careers forward and offer time to answer questions. The resulting connections are the basis for closing sales.

If you haven’t written to an author before, review his or her profile first. Then thank them for the comment and offer to help move their careers forward based on the match between their backgrounds and what you can offer.

Next day return to the “Post” screen. How many more views did you get? If the number is large and growing, you are on the right track. If the number is small, look again at who you were targeting and whether the information you offered was useful. Good posts generate about 700 views in the first 24 hours.

That kind of number works well for you. Let us suppose only two percent of viewers comment on or “like” your post. Further suppose of those 14 people, only half respond to you. Finally, suppose you closed just a single sale.

No matter how small that sale, you are certainly being paid well. Even if you are vastly undercharging clients $300 for a résumé, you were just “paid” the equivalent of $600 an hour since it probably took no more

than 30 minutes to write and upload your post.

Now click on the number of views.

You’ll see in which industries and organizations your viewers work, their job titles, and their physical locations. You may want to click on the “show more” link at the bottom of the screen to get the full picture. Are you reaching the right kinds of people? Then your post resonated with them. If not, refine the value your posts are offering.

LI is a powerful tool. But it isn’t the only one. Visit websites for professional organizations that include your market. A professional organization is one composed of, and serving the members of, a given career field or an industry. PARW/ CC is ours.

There is a good resource to find these organizations, one your clients may never find. Go to O*NET ( In the upper right of the home page, enter key words about an occupation in the box labeled “Occupation Quick Search.” O*NET will show you a list of occupations

JUNE 2020 | PAGE 9

related to your key words. Use the list to narrow your search. Click on the most appropriate link. When the page opens, go right to the bottom and find “Sources of Additional Information.” That’s the list of professional organizations and each link will take you to their home page.

Click on the “About” link so common on the home page menu to learn something about the organization’s brand. Then click on “Leadership” and look for the person in charge of communications or marketing. You may even find an email address. If not, try to message them using LinkedIn.

Reach out and offer value—information useful to their members they might not find anywhere else. Don’t be concerned if there is a link to “careers.” Chances are it doesn’t offer the value your contributions can. Follow up your email with an inmail. Pledge what you write will not promote your company, but ask that your byline include your email address.

No matter where you post, what you write must illustrate excellence. That means you knew precisely what you want your readers to do as result of your words before you place your hands on your keyboard. You organize your material in a pattern. That makes it easier for your audience to grasp what you convey. You are concise.

Word will show you readability statistics after spell checking your document.
(In Word: File
> Options

> Proofing: check
“Show readability statistics.”)
Be sure what you write is at or below 7 on the Flesch- Kincaid Grade Level Score. Limit the use of passive voice. Make sure your words reinforce the value you extend to your target market. Be certain your message is precisely on brand.

Done? Now repeat regularly. And don’t forget to fasten your seat belt. You’re about to see your brand zip from 0 to 60. Enjoy the ride!


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Do Your Resumes Deliver it ALL?

Posted By Administration, Tuesday, May 5, 2020

You’re a master at transforming what your clients tell you into CCCAR (Challenge, Context, Comparison, Actions, Results) stories. That’s usually hard work. In this article, I’ll introduce simple ways to rapidly add enormous impact in every résumé you write.

More than 25 years’ experience proves this approach works for every client you will serve from now on. It doesn’t matter how much experience she has. It doesn’t matter which career field is his. It doesn’t matter whether they are targeting in the private, public, or not-for profit sectors.

This method is easy and relatively quick. But, before I show you the advantages, know it works best when you gather information through direct conversation. As your clients give you the information you need, you’ll be able to judge their communication styles and word choices.

Prepare your client for this phase. Tell him you’re going to develop impact just from the factual framework of his career. You won’t be discussing responsibilities or performance yet.

You’ll ask lots of questions. Some won’t apply. Tell the client not to be concerned. If you don’t ask all the questions you might miss something important. There may be times

when the client doesn’t know the precise answer to some of your initial questions. Reassure him there is no rush to find the details. You can add the correct information later. Begin with the client’s name. Many go by something other than what appears on their birth certificates. When you include how they like to be addressed, you’ll save two parties potential embarrassment. Here’s an example.

The client’s “official” name is John Ed Matheson. Nobody calls him John...ever. They address him as “Ed.” Consider what might happen if you were to top his résumé with his legal name.

The interviewer’s administrative assistant says: “Mr. Matheson is here for his nine o’clock appointment.” She shows him into the office.

The hiring manager, trying to be friendly, steps from behind her desk, extends her hand, and says with a smile: “Nice to meet you, John!”

Just for a moment, Ed freezes. The interviewer can see she’s made a mistake. That’s an awkward way to start an important conversation.

But it never would have happened, if the résumé writer showed his client’s name like this: “John ‘Ed’ Matheson.


Job Titles

Interviewers seek reassurance when they review résumés the first time.
They look a t job titles. Has this person held increasingly responsible positions?

Here are the questions you should ask for each applicable job to capitalize on this great opportunity:

The questions: “Where you hired away for this job? If you were, what was the job title of the person who found you? Do you know how many others that person could have considered for that job?”

How they add value: Your client’s brand was so well established an influential person “stole” him from his previous employer. If your client was sought out for more than one job, the interviewer learns this at once: “This guy has always been good. Look how often people grabbed him for important jobs!”

What it looks like in a résumé:

“Sought out by the CEO specifically to serve as Chief Operating Officer...”

The question: “Did the company create this job specifically for you?”
How it adds value: What a perfect way to prove your client has always mastered new jobs. Even more

important, customers will see him as the “go-to-person” in his field.

What it looks like in a résumé:

“Hired away by the Chair of the Board of Directors to serve as Chief Innovation Officer, a position created for just for me.”

The questions:

How they add value: Just having the phrase “promoted to” shows value. Here, “’promotion” means getting more responsibilities, even if your client didn’t get a raise. Add how competitive the promotions were and you get even more impact.

What it looks like in a résumé:

“Sales Associate, promoted over eight tough competitors to be Senior Account Manager, advanced faster than three other, more senior team members to serve as Sales Manager...”


Just listing responsibilities may not be useful. They don’t necessarily reflect performance. Many of my senior executive clients learned that the hard way. They thought they were hiring someone with “five years’ experience.” Turned out the newcomer had one year’s experience...five times!

Too often, job titles don’t capture the contributions our clients made. We want the official job title in the résumé so when the target organization calls to verify employment, the words will line up. However, we must show responsibilities in full context to deliver impact that connects at once with every reader.

Here’s how such considerations might look in a résumé:

The only executive responsible for every sale in North America for a product completely new to the market. Accountable not just for sales volume, but for marketing and CRM as well.”

Employers want leaders. You can reflect that in two important ways. First, show the number and kind of people who reported to your client. Here’s how that might appear: “Served as direct reporting official for three executives: our COO, CFO, and CIO.”

Almost every employee is a cost center and a profit center. Give the reader the benefit of how well she discharged those responsibilities: “Built, defended, and administered a $50M budget.”

The term “defended” is not lightly chosen here. It means your client proposed his entire budget and then, since resources are usually scarce, had to defend his choice usually all the way up to the C-suite. Even without an example, can you see how the reader will infer performance?

Education, Recent Professional Development, and Certifications

Too often, résumés show only the credential granted and the college attended. In many cases, the impact is lost. Here are the questions that will keep that from holding back your client:

For education

The questions: “If applicable, did you graduate with honors? If so, which ones? How competitive were those designations? Did you attend under a full or a partial scholarship? If you did, how competitive was it to win? Were you working while you earned your degree? Nights and weekends? If so, how many hours a week? Were you carrying a full academic load? Did you pay your own way?” [Student loans don’t count.]

• How they add value: This kind of information reinforces how well your client sets priorities and
solves problems. Remember, every exam, essay, simulation, and case study is a problem solved. Every worthwhile job involves solving problems. Employers don’t care if your client was paid to solve problems or not. Remember, the instructors, most with years of experience and advanced degrees, are paid to certify your client can do the tasks his diploma implies.

• What it looks like in a résumé:

“BS, Electrical Engineering, Atlantic University
- In the top
five percent of graduates designated Summa cum Laude.
- Earned this degree while working 40 hours a week, including nights and weekends,

carrying a full academic load.
- Won competitive partial scholarship and paid the rest of the way myself.”

For professional development

Think of professional development as any formal instruction related to your client’s career field received in any way, in residence or virtually. Don’t leave the impression the résumé is “padded” by including courses taken more than five years ago. A lot can change in five years and it is unlikely your client will remember specifics from a course that long ago.

The questions: “What professional development did you acquire over the last five years? If what you learned isn’t obvious from the name of the course, what were you able to do at the end that you couldn’t do before you attended? Was it competitive to enroll? Who paid for this course?”

How they add value: We in the careers field understand this better than most. Those who invest in their professional development strive to master the latest information.

If you hold any certification in our field, chances are you paid for it yourself. However, some companies are reluctant to invest in training. But they know a trained applicant offers more potential and saves them more money than an untrained job seeker.

Please remember every transitioning military client has had annual training in preventing suicide, violence, sexual harassment, and drug abuse in the workplace. To employers, that can mean fewer potential liabilities.

What it looks like in a résumé:

"Managing Advanced Databases, Truax Seminars, three hours,
- Paid my own way.
- In the top
fifteen percent to pass all the examinations the first time."

For certifications

The questions: “Which certifications do you hold? Who grants each one? Do any have expiration dates? Who paid for the certifications? Did you pass any required examination on the first attempt? What percentage in your career field are certified?” [The granting authority can usually answer that last question.]

• How they add value: Because certifications are independent measures of top quality awarded by an authority in the field, they usually indicate a top performer.

• What it looks like in a résumé:

Enrolled Agent, National Association of Enrolled Agents
- One of only 11,000 enrolled agents in the United States.
- Passed all three portions of the extensive exam the
first time—a rare feat.

My employer funded this certification.

IT Literacy

Consider showing the comfort level with each program. Working knowledge implies general familiarity, comfortable is just what it means, and expert shows your client very capable with the program.

Some clients use proprietary software: something built for a specific organization. In that case, explain what the software does, not what it is called, as few outside the company will recognize the name.

Include social media. Many organizations use them to communicate with employees and companies. Knowing these apps is useful when working with millennials.

The questions: “Which software do you use at home or at work? Please tell me your comfort level with each of them.”

How they add value: Competence in software may be a requirement for some jobs. But even executives need to show they understand these tools so they can lead effectively. It doesn’t matter if your clients use particular apps at home or at work. Proficiency is proficiency.

What it looks like in a résumé:

“Expert in Word, PowerPoint, and Excel, Facebook and Instagram; comfortable with Access and LinkedIn; working knowledge of MS Money.”

Language Skills

Too often, we forget the four dimensions in language skills: reading, writing, speaking, and thinking. Capture your clients’ abilities in each of these dimensions for each foreign language they can use.

The question: “Do you have any proficiency in a foreign language?

How it adds value: Ours is a global economy. Having skill with another language means your client has an edge dealing with foreign counterparts or customers. Note the particular value of the ability to think in another language. That goes far beyond memorizing words or verb forms. Someone may “know” German. But he will offend a client if he slips into the informal case when trying to win over a potential customer who was born and raised in Lübeck.

What it looks like in a résumé:

“Read, write, speak, and think with near native fluency in German “Conversational ability to read and speak French”

Validating Your Clients’ Brands

Companies often rely upon references to obtain proofs of our clients’ performance. Too often, references are heard late in the hiring process. Let’s bring the advantage of their endorsements right up front.

The questions: “Do you have any documented, complimentary, recent, specific feedback from any source? From your boss? Your coworkers? Your internal or external ‘customers?’”

How they add value: Just as customers always define a company’s brand, so references can perform the same function very powerfully. Sadly, not many clients have such compliments. And some feedback is so vague it could apply to anybody. The best are recent, come from a reliable source, and are specific. Here’s a recent example from HRH The Prince of Wales:

What it looks like in a résumé:
ohn W. Williams
Washington, DC 200901 – – 202.555.5555

“I am immensely proud to be your Patron.” – HRH, Charles, Prince of Wales

The suggestions I’ve made here do more than add significant power to every résumé you write from now on. Because this phase comes early in your relationship with a new client, it builds their confidence. They can see parts of the indisputable value they bring to the job. They will have confidence in your ability to give them a distinct advantage in winning a great career.

You’ll do more than make your clients more comfortable in the job search. You’ll build their trust in you as they see how quickly you’ve captured all their value.

Finding a job in today’s economy will be tougher than it has been in more than a decade. I was going to say your clients need all the help they can get. Use this approach and they will get all the help
they deserve.

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For whom did you write your most recent résumé?

Posted By Administration, Friday, April 3, 2020

Even now, you are calling him to mind. He was that sales executive. He lives in Salt Lake City. He has 10 years of great experience and an MBA. He was easy to work with. He paid his bill promptly. He complimented you on your work. After he sent it off to that office supply company, he got an interview and the job.

If this were an essay test for résumé writers, that answer would probably get a grade of “B.”

So let’s try again.

For whom did you write your most recent résumé?

Even at the very first meeting with the person who paid you to write her documents, you should be also thinking about her “client:” the hiring decision maker. Ultimately, we write for that person. In this article, we’ll look at that second “client:” what needs does he have? How can we serve her interests as well as the person whose name appears at the top of the cover letter?

The average interviewer is more nervous than your clients will ever be. Think about the process he has just gone through (and tell your clients this story to build their confidence). Our harried executive knows he’s shorthanded; he needs a national account sales representative. His first stop is down the hall at his boss’ office. There he must get her permission to spend the company’s money and take the risk of bringing a new person on board.

He’s already anticipating his boss’ first reaction: “We can’t afford that!” If the hiring manager wants to leave this meeting with his credibility (and perhaps his job) intact,

he can only respond to her in one way. It might sound like this: “Boss, I know you’re concerned about the cost. And we have a good team, several are good in sales. But they have other responsibilities. Things are falling through the cracks. I feel so strongly about this, I’m going to give you my word the next person I hire as a national account rep will make our company a lot more money than it takes to bring him on board.”

Instant approval on the spot!

Then the dread sets on. He,
she, you, and I have all seen employees who weren’t very
good on the job. Hiring
decision makers know every
such deadbeat was chosen as
the best from a field of eligibles. Nobody hires incompetence by design. And, thinks our hapless hirer,
if others can make that mistake, so can I.

Want a recent example? There is no reason why you should recognize the name Dennis Muilenburg.... until I remind you he was the CEO of Boeing before he was fired.

When a manager hires the wrong person, he has broken his ROI promise to his boss, and his company. Both parties know it can cost up to three times the annual salary to turn over an executive position. Nevertheless, the work must be done.

So he turns to his best employee. He explains the new guy needs help and asks his top performer if she will assist. She probably will, for a little while. After all, she’s already overworked (that why we hired the new guy).

Average interviewers are morenervousthanyour clients will ever be.


But her boss now wants her to do part of the new guy’s work without getting paid part of the new guy’s salary. If that keeps up, the company gets three body blows.
The top performer, now disgruntled, becomes attractive to the competition. After all, she has access to all the proprietary information and the customer database. (Body blow one.) Once hired, she may even recruit her friends, also likely valued employees, to follow her. Even worse, she may take her customers with her. (Body blow two.) Meanwhile, Mr. Incompetent has worn out his welcome and is fired. He may sue the company. He may also become attractive to the competition because he, too, has access to all the proprietary information. . . . (Body blow three.)

To put more hyperactive butterflies in the interviewer’s stomach, she knows she isn’t trained for the task. The whole process is surrounded by folklore that would be comical if it weren’t so corrosive. Just precisely how did the following question turn up on list of the top 20 interview questions: “Tell me about your weaknesses?”

What does the interviewer expect? Their responses fall into two categories: the cliché and the impossible.

Ready for the platitude? “I work too hard! Please, stop me before I work too hard again!”

The impossible is just that. Does he expect the candidate to tell him about his arson conviction? That he tends to throw furniture at people who ask silly interview questions? Of course not!

[Email me at with the word “Question” in the subject line if you want to know how to handle this common inquiry. I’ll respond by 16 April.]

What does all this mean for you, the résumé professional? You must reassure the reader, the interviewer, your “second client.” Let’s look how that might be done in a cover letter and a résumé.

Let’s start with the cover letter. It should go to the hiring decision maker; he has the biggest stake in the outcome. That person is only rarely an HR professional.

Companies regularly load up HR experts with tasks clearly outside their areas. No systems analyst would feel comfortable reviewing résumés a company receives to fill an HR director’s position. And yet, many organizations feel completely at ease asking their HR staff to chop on a sales professionals’ packages.

Perhaps the best way to build an interviewer’s confidence is to address her problem right in the first paragraph. That approach shows your client leaning forward, ready to help solve the problems the interviewer has. Want to see an example? Consider this cover letter addressed to the executive vice president (the hiring official) at a company I call Topline who seeks a senior executive assistant:

“Dear Ms. Morgan,
If you could design the perfect Senior Executive Assistant for the Topline team, would the following ‘specs’ meet your toughest needs?

A ‘productivity multiplier’ who frees you and your leadership team to do things only you and they can do,

A problem solver who helps translate your vision for Topline into dollars —and does so with only the broadest guidance.

An experienced ‘diplomat’ who guides people to think of her solutions as their own good ideas, and
A behind-the-scenes success partner who gets the right information to the right person in the right format—fast enough for Topline to act faster than your competition.

You have just read the ‘Executive Summary’ of my résumé. You’ll find examples of the capabilities you just read in the full version.”

The same ideas apply to the résumé. To often it starts with that vaunted “Summary of Qualifications.” Which do you think employers will choose? Will they fall for a “laundry list” of glittering traits and skills? Or will their confidence rise when they see observable pledge of things your clients will do to make them money —at the very top of the résumé?


Do you include that section because you want to load up the résumé with key words for automated systems? Study after study shows automated systems don’t generate jobs at anywhere near

the rate that personal outreach to the hiring decision makers do.

There is also no good reason for
automatically listing responsibilities as
part of the job history. The interviewer
certainly knows the responsibilities for which
he is willing to pay. And he’ll recognize similar ones from other positions, especially since most job titles have similar responsibilities. Any list of responsibilities with which he is unfamiliar will probably suggest, rightly or wrongly, that our client isn’t right for him. Finally, responsibilities

You know the CAR model: challenge, action, results. It’s a sound approach, but often misapplied. Too many writers don’t make the most important part, the action, vividly clear. Consider this example:

“Exceeded my sales quotas by double digits three quarters in a row.”

The results are obvious. There is even a valuable context shown (“...three quarters in a row”). But a decision maker isn’t hiring our client for the job he held when he racked up those numbers. Our clients are all hired as problem solvers. The hiring decision maker wants to know how those quotas were exceeded. Was it easy to do because the quotas were low? Was this person so much of a pest people bought from him just to get rid of him? Here’s the same example with the action spelled out:

“Payoffs: My competitive intelligence system, now the corporate standard, produced double-digit increases above my quota nine months in a row. I leveraged our competitors’ weakness and offered more favorable billing.”

Notice how much more impact we’ve delivered, all of it transferable from one industry to another, one company to another. Note the payoff is right at the top. That approach concentrates on the future. We have a name for the more common format: an obituary.

When we write résumés, we might think of four roles we want them to play well.

First,wewantthatdocumenttohelpthehiring official deliver on his promise to his boss. We must provide him clear, compelling proof our clients offer great return on the

company’s investment.

Second, a great résumé is a template for fine interviews. It entices interviewers to ask questions we want them to ask.

Interrogations become collaborations.

Third, a top résumé is a lever to negotiate salary, bonuses, benefits, perks, and severance.

Last, it should be a tool to expand your clients’ lifelong professional development. It’s a rare and desirable applicant who showcases not just what he has done, but how he plans to offer even more value. As we match our clients’ track records to employers’ requirements for a given career field, we get clients for life.

As you’ve read this article, I hope a central point stands out. We must serve the needs of our secondary clients (those who interview and hire our clients) as carefully as we serve those who give us their credit card numbers.

My ideas are suggestions. But my goal was to instill in you and your practice a focus on what we are about: matching our clients’ excellence with corporate needs. When we do, everybody—including résumé writers and career coaches—wins. 

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January 2020 Spotlight

Posted By Administration, Tuesday, March 24, 2020

“…do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces…”

Matthew 7:6

You worked long and hard on that last resume.

Others wish they had a LinkedIn profile like the one you did for your client. When one of them called to thank you for helping her ace the interviews, you should be proud.

All the value you deliver comes from more than hours of hard work. Think of the days you devote to mastering the latest and best practices. How long did it take you to earn your CPCC? Consider the investment you made to attend the PARW/CC Conference in May

You should be paid for all knowledge and wisdom you can impart. That’s why you never give away your stock in trade…or do you?

Read this article.
It’s worth at least $900!

Because we’re in a helping profession, it’s easy to offer insights for which you should be compensated. However, if you give advice without being paid for it, everybody loses. You lose. You may even set the stage for that to happen. Do you offer resume critiques? How easy it is to pass along vital information without realizing it. [See “Are We Abdicating Our Marketing to the Uninformed?” The Spotlight, December 2016, pp 4 – 6]

Here’s an example: “I can help you optimize your résumé to score well in the applicant tracking software so many companies use. A high score increases your chances of an interview.”

Tell potential clients the
“what,” never the “how.”

Now the client sees the value you provide and know they must rely on you to leverage that worth fully.

In this article, I’ll outline suggestions to help you, your clients, and our industry remain winners.

Replace your price lists with offers to write proposals. Price lists are great for commodity sellers. A commodity

For example, it was so natural to describe ATS and how it works during the first conversation with a prospective client. If you do, you may have lost that sale and set the caller up to fail as well. That’s because it’s natural for uninformed clients (that’s all of them) to think you’ve told them everything they to know to move their careers forward.

Because the potential client thinks she got all the information she needed from you, she’s disappointed and frustrated when things don’t work out.

And so, you lose again. It’s more than lost revenue; you may have damaged your brand. You can see that potential client post this on Twitter: “I spent 30 minutes with that ‘resume’ expert and did everything she said to do. I sent out 500 resumes and nothing happened! Boy am I glad I didn’t cough up all the money she wanted!”

Our industry loses as well. That tweet may drive more misleading posts that often show up under a subject line like this: “Why you should never hire a resume writer!"

How do you avoid wasting time and missing opportunities? In the initial call, explain what you can do.

We can never offer “one-size-fits-nobody.” That’s why I recommend you offer proposals: plans to move your clients’ careers forward.

What’s in your proposal? Begin with a brief paragraph about what you think the client’s requirements are. You must understand completely his or her needs, constraints, and goals. If you missed something, the client will tell you…before you discuss the details.

Then, describe the goods and services you plan to provide to meet the client’s needs.

You’ll need a small section that addresses any limitations. For example, you can’t guarantee jobs or interviews or how hiring officials may react to the documents you write or the guidance you suggest.

is a standard product. When you decided on just the right make and model of that refrigerator you want to buy, you know it will be the same appliance no matter where you buy it.

That’s why commodity sellers so often must compete on price. And that’s why you see online ads for resumes for $50.00.

There are two reasons why we cannot offer commodities. [“Career Professionals Must Never Be Commodity Sellers,” The Spotlight, April 2017, pp 4 – 6] No two clients are alike. All have different backgrounds, experiences, needs, and goals.

Never forget: what we offer affects the lives of our clients and their families for years.

Consider this example. You quote an investment of $1,500 for the goods and services you outlined in the proposal. The client is targeting positions that start around $100K. Every week your client isn’t employed at that level costs him or her the nearly $2K they didn’t earn. Therefore, if you can cut their job search by just four days, they will have made up their investment with you before their first day on the job. That’s an easy promise to make since the average job search can take weeks.

To keep the momentum, ask clients to review your proposal, making any notes they need to. Then suggest some days and times for you to answer them.

Finally, offer what I called deferred value. These are the elements you think clients don’t need now, but you want them to know are available later. For example, a client who purchases a resume might need help with interviews later. Because writing proposals takes time, you should be paid for your effort. The time you took to write it, email it, and review it with the client is time taken away from serving other clients.

That idea allows you to offer a proposal as a way to qualify potential clients quickly and well. Describe the proposal briefly and its value to the potential client. Say you’ll be happy to set aside the uninterrupted time to do the work. That’s why there is a modest investment required. Make it clear the investment is for the proposal alone—not the goods and services it describes.

Please don’t be discouraged if potential clients won’t pay for a proposal. If they can’t afford the modest investment it represents, they certainly won’t be able to afford your services. Or, perhaps you were unsuccessful in educating them about the risks of trying to move forward by themselves. It doesn’t matter. You can’t afford to spend any more time (billable hours) in the attempt. You didn’t lose a sale; you gained valuable, billable, hours!

How much should you charge for a proposal? Start small to sense the level of resistance in your market. Consider charging $25 for each proposal at first. If you get little resistance, increase the investment marginally, say to $35.

Continue until you get too much resistance, then stop. No matter how much you charge for the proposal, the process

Set all the expectations. Clients must know what to expect from themselves. Too many think we will do all the work. But you know clients must be part of the process. Clients should know what to expect from you, as well. Here’s where you brand comes alive. For example, part of that section might read like this:

“You will be able to ask me any question and expect a prompt, complete, accurate answer.” Add your guarantee if you have any.

Now show the level of investment. I don’t use that word, “investment,” lightly. Clients will only buy from you if they know you will make them a lot more money than it costs to engage you.

Read the previous sentence again; it’s that important.

itself will probably be a money loser. But qualifying clients faster and well will make up for any loss.

Here are very conservative numbers to help you judge the impact. You write just three resumes a month. You want to charge $25 for each proposal. $25 X 3 per month X 12 months per year = $900.00. That’s $900 worth of value you were giving away before.

Your practice will be different from mine. I started charging $35 a proposal; I now charge $150. That generates at least $6K a year.

Every client you will ever have wants to be paid what he or she is worth. Every client brings skills, knowledge, and abilities that help organizations reach they goals. They expect to be paid reasonably. You are no different.

You love what you do. But you’ll have more to do when you are paid what you are worth.

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When you can’t over deliver…make the sacrifice and innovate!

Posted By Administration, Thursday, March 19, 2020
Innovation is a word that seems slowly sliding toward being a cliché. Let me try to breathe life back into the term and suggest how you might use it in your practice, right now, during this emergency. Here’s the best definition I’ve heard. Innovation delivers unexpected value to customers who wish they had thought of themselves. Consider the important words. “Unexpected” means the innovator prepares for the all too common resistance to change. “Value” is return on investment. It may be monetary; it may be social. Value isn’t value until it rewards the efforts of others. The rest is obvious… Or is it? Go beyond all you to do help your clients win the careers they’ve always deserved. Provide a person-to-person connection. Now more than ever, listen as you qualify and serve your clients. Now more than ever, recognize how lonely and, perhaps, afraid they may be. Now more than ever, genuinely compliment them for all they’ve done in their careers. Now more than ever, stay with them until the job is done. The old saw about having to make sacrifices is true. However, a truly valuable sacrifice is a convenience you give up so you can serve others better. Give up worksheets. Replace them with human contact. Give up automated voicemails. Replace them with words that encourage and deliver. Give up relying solely on websites. Augment them with useful posts to the markets you serve. In 2009 and 2010, swine flu caused 60.8 million illnesses, 273,304 hospitalizations and 12,469 deaths in the U.S. You’re forgiven if you didn’t recall those terrible tolls, even though it happened just ten years ago. There is a good chance your grandchildren will not even know all the things you did during the Corona Virus pandemic. Even if it’s just a single, caring conversation, you are doing good. You are helping. Aren’t we supposed to be in a helping profession?

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