Friday, September 14, 2012

Negotiate Like A Car Salesman: 5 Tactics To Help You Win Every Time

Whether you want a raise, different responsibilities, or more resources, knowing how to negotiate is vital. Here are 5 (non-sleazy, promise!) tricks straight from the car lot that will help you get what you want at work.

The image of the sleazy, greasy car salesman is (kind of) unfair, at least based on my recent experience buying a car. The car dealers I worked with came across as neither; that said, it was clear they knew what they were doing and they weren't afraid to employ some tricks of the trade to reach a mutually acceptable price. These weren't even necessarily dirty tricks, just the tools of a skilled negotiator--the ones you would use, too, if only you knew them.

So let's be nice and just say car dealers are practiced and aggressive negotiators. If they didn't know how to maintain the upper hand, they'd be out of business. And a big part of keeping that upper hand isn't about the details of the deal itself, so much as controlling the emotional balance of a negotiation. If they can pull your heartstrings and define the emotional context of a negotiation, the deal will fall into their hands.

Take your average car buyer: Let's assume he or she is not a practiced negotiator. In fact, the prospect of a lively negotiation makes him cringe. The balance is already beginning to tip into the other party's favor. The less tolerance you have for the emotional stress of negotiating, the quicker you're likely to settle, says Michel Tuan Pham, professor of business at Columbia University. "It pushes you to seek closure to get rid of those bad feelings," says Pham.

This isn't to say we should seek to eliminate emotions altogether. "Emotions are critical to how we negotiate," says Lee Miller, author of UP: Influence, Power and the U Perspective--The Art of Getting What You Want. "Traditional negotiating theory said that the goal of being a good negotiator is to take emotion out of the negotiation and find the best objective solution. The only problem is it ignores human behavior. You can't take emotions out of negotiations. And there's no one objective solution--it depends on how each party sees things, which depends in part on what they're emotionally attached to what they're motivated by."

If properly understood, the emotional subtext of a negotiation can be used to your advantage. It's important because negotiating is crucial to professional advancement. Every day we seek to influence colleagues, clients, managers, and vendors, hoping we get what we want. If you're not prepared to negotiate for your interests, rest assured others will for theirs, and you'll get played like a fiddle. However, becoming more familiar with the tactics of negotiating and how your emotions and those of others come into play can help tip the scales back in your favor.

1. Understand the Process
"The first way to not fall prey to others manipulating your emotions is to understand the process and what the other person's going to do," says Miller. "If you can anticipate it, it has no impact." For example, a common tactic in negotiating is using the "good cop, bad cop" routine. One party will entice the other with a promising deal and then bring in someone else to play hardball. "You think you have a deal. You become emotionally attached to that deal. And then he takes himself out of the picture and brings in someone brand new that has no emotional attachment."

Sure, this happens at most car dealerships ("Just let me check with my manager!"), but it's also used in the workplace. Supervisors often use the guise of getting a higher-up's approval so they can remain in your good grace while still not budging. The key is, if you can anticipate this, you're less likely to make emotional, knee-jerk reaction, says Miller. "You won't be emotional about it because you'll know it's just part of the negotiating process." And when it happens, redirect the discussion to the negotiation instead of focusing on who's making the decision.

2. Always Be Negotiating
In a work setting, people often make the mistake of not realizing they are in a negotiation, when in fact they are. With your guard down, you stand to lose ground to others. "When you're in a meeting, there are people at that meeting who go in there with the mindset that this is all negotiating--an opportunity to get x, whether it's resources or support," says Miller. "Another party goes into that meeting with no agenda or goals. The party that's treating it as a negotiation is very likely to get what they want and the party going in there viewing this just as an exchange of information is likely to wonder, 'How did we reach an agreement on something I really didn't want?'"

That's because they weren't prepared for it. Miller suggests employing a practice called anchoring, which is simply determining the best-case outcome before entering a negotiation. It's just a starting point, but it will keep you from being pulled too far from your interests. And with the mindset that everything is negotiable, you'll a better self-advocate.

3. Watch Out for Inflated Emotions
While shopping for a car, I was amazed by the knack car salesmen have for setting the tone of the conversation. As I lobbied for a lower price, better financing, or even free floor mats, I was met not just by a counter-offer, but an emotional response as well. He would appear upset by my gall, seemingly perturbed by my "unfair" demands. Had I offended him? Did I cross an invisible line? Well, in this case, it's more likely that he was exaggerating, hoping I'd retreat. "People tend to like human interactions to be pleasant," says Pham, "so negotiators will inflate their emotions hoping the other party will seek closure."

Important to consider is the relationship you have with the other party to determine whether their emotions are likely genuine or feigned, says Pham. "If you're negotiating within a couple--negotiating the division of labor within the household--I think you should pay attention to those emotions and if the person is really offended by certain requests. Where you have to pay attention is whenever you're dealing with people who can fake them. That's the difference between dealing with a car dealer who does that for a living versus the normal negotiations that we do in everyday life." Professional relationships are tricky because they fall somewhere in the middle. Even if you have a personal relationship with your boss, when it comes time to negotiate a salary increase, he may still feign the distress your demands are causing.

4. Don't Fall in Love
The first thing a car salesman asks when you walk onto the lot is, "Do you want to take a test drive?" That's because once you fall in love with the heated seats and surround-sound audio system, he can play to your emotional attachment to the car instead of the facts and figures of the deal. "The worst thing you can do is become emotionally attached to a deal because then it feels very hard to walk away," says Miller. "If you're not willing to walk away from a deal, you really can't negotiate effectively."

To avoid having your emotions toyed with, have a backup plan for whatever it is you're negotiating--a raise, a course of action, a new role in your company. "If you know you can get the same car at a dealer that's a mile away, then you're not going to be as emotionally attached to buying this car from this dealer," says Miller. And that alone might help you get a better deal.

5. Beware of the Empathy Trap
A trick some men use when negotiating with women is to make them feel guilty simply for negotiating, says Miller, by putting their relationship in the balance. "They use their friendship or their relationship to get women to agree to something they might not otherwise agree to. I call this the empathy trap." This isn't exclusively something that men do to women, of course, but because women often put more value on relationships, some negotiators will exploit this.

However, reaffirming that it's okay to negotiate will put you on stronger emotional footing. For example, you may feel uncomfortable asking for a higher salary than the one that's offered, but managers likely expect you to negotiate (and may even see it as a lack of confidence if you fail to do so). "When [people] learn that it's not only acceptable to negotiate, but expected at a certain level, they become very good negotiators. Initially, some of them are afraid to negotiate and therefore pull their punches." Miller says a negotiator's mentality should always be that "I'm happy to give you what you need, as long as you give me what I need."

Seeing what happens when you don't negotiate should also motivate you to lobby for your interests. "You see that people take advantage of you if you're not negotiating. Once that happens and you recognize it, emotionally, you say that's not going to happen again."

Thanks to Denis Wilson / FastCompany / Mansueto Ventures LLC.


Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Finding Your Allies

Building Strong And Supportive Relationships At Work

"A problem shared is a problem halved," as the old saying goes, and it's true in business as well. When it comes to working your way through the challenges that you face every day, it's a great help to be able to draw on a network of supportive individuals that you can work with to find a solution.

Allies are the people who give you backing, assistance, advice, information, protection, and even friendship. They are your support base. With strong, mutually beneficial relationships with your allies, you can survive and thrive in the corporate arena, and you can get things done quicker, and more smoothly. Working together with allies simply helps you and them achieve more. (Here, we're using the word "ally" in its positive sense – we're not implying that you're trying to circumvent proper channels, engage in politics or game-play, or create any kind of "us and them" culture. It is clearly wrong to behave in this way.)

Anyone and everyone who can help you achieve your objectives is a potential ally. Some are natural: They are people who share a common interest with you. The colleague who's been around for years and can offer an invaluable voice of experience, the team member who is always happy to be a sounding board for your ideas, or the vendor who is ready to accept seemingly-impossible deadlines; these people are your natural allies.

But you can find allies in unexpected places too. Alex in finance, who pulls together an extra report on your projects finances; Claire, the secretary, who tells you when the boss is in a good mood; or Simon, your ex-department head who is always available for advice. They too are important allies.

Allies can help you directly and indirectly. For instance, if you're running behind schedule on a project, your subordinate can help you directly by working longer hours, while your boss can help you indirectly by delegating another part of your workload to someone else.

Building Your Personal Support Base

This is one of the reasons that it's important to be open and supportive to others in the workplace, and why it's worth making at least a small amount of your time available to help others out when they need help. After all, if you're a positive and supportive person, many other people will be equally supportive towards you.

So who could your allies be? Just your team mates? Actually, your list of potential allies goes much further than this!

Table 1 below provides an example list of allies, with the support you might be able to receive from them, and the returns you might be expected to provide to them.

Table 1: Possible Allies – And What They May Want...

Potential Ally
What He/She
Could Do for You
What He/She Might Be Expecting in Return
Team Members Assist you with regular tasks.
Be loyal.
Be a sounding board.
Assistance with regular tasks.
Credit – given both publicly and privately.
Boss Protect you.
Champion you.
Help you in career advancement.
Assistance with his/her tasks.
Willingness to go the extra mile.
Image building.
Senior Management Members Protect you.
Champion you.
Help you in career advancement.
Willingness to go the extra mile.
Image building.
Support Staff Willing performance of day-to-day functions.
Gateway People (Secretaries, Executive Assistants) Provide you with access to crucial information and people. Appreciation.
Family Provide moral support, appreciation, understanding. Moral support.
More Experienced Colleagues Provide expertise, perspective, contacts, knowledge. Respect.
Networking Allies Keep you abreast of the general buzz.
Provide you advance information and background knowledge.
Provide you contacts.
Alert you to emerging trends and patterns.
Advance information.
Background knowledge.
Alerts about emerging trends and patterns.
Interest Groups Build influence.
Mobilize support.
Provide you data.
Assistance for their cause.
Community Members Build influence.
Mobilize support.
Provide you data.
Assistance for their cause.
Press Build influence.
Mobilize support.
Government Build influence.
Mobilize support.
Assistance for their cause.
Clients Provide inputs for new product development initiatives.
Provide referrals.
Provide preferential status.
Preferential status.
Willingness to go extra mile.
Business leads.
Vendors Provide extra assistance.
Provide preferential status.
Preferential status.
Business leads.
Don't be naive in the way that you approach people – be aware of people's interests and duties, and understand that these may conflict with yours. Also, recognize that they may not be able to help you for a variety of possible reasons.

And make absolutely sure that you keep confidential information confidential!

Nurture your allies, and you'll find that you can be so much more effective at getting things done. What's more, things will get so much easier and more pleasant at work!

How To Be A Good Team Player

Maximizing Your Contribution

Have you worked for teams where everyone pitches in, and you all work together in perfect harmony? Do you always play to your strengths in a team, or are there times when the group you're in just doesn't gel? Either way, team working is such a vital way of completing projects that it's worth developing and refining the skills that will help you make a valuable contribution to whichever type of team you're in.

Sports teams are perfect examples of how many players working together can achieve much more than one player who is acting alone. For example, you may not be the best goal scorer, but you're great at moving the ball forward. You know that if you pass that ball to the person who can score, the team has a better chance of winning. Everyone on the team plays a different role, according to their strengths – and by helping and encouraging one another along the way, you can make some inspiring things happen.

Off the sports pitch and back in the workplace, we hear the term "good team player" a lot. But what does this really mean in a business context? What do leaders want from their team members, and how can you make a more significant contribution to your team?

These are some of the questions we address in this article. We show you what makes a good team player, and we offer some tips on how to make a bigger contribution in the future.

The Importance of a Good Team Player

Teams are created for several reasons. They may need to deliver a one-time project, or work together on an ongoing basis. Either way, if you take advantage of a group's collective energy and creativity, the team can accomplish much more in less time.

What does this mean for you? Well, teams are probably an integral part of how things are done in your organization. If you show that you have the ability to work well with others, this could have a major impact on your career.

Being a valuable team member can open new career opportunities, because leaders may see firsthand what a great job you're doing. You may even be invited to bring your strengths into play in another team setting – and in higher profile, business-critical projects. This is why learning to be a good team player is so important. If you make a good impression, you never know what possibilities might open for you.

Use Your Strengths

Do you know what you do best?

Perhaps you're incredibly organized. Or, you might excel at motivating people, helping resolve disagreement, or researching hard-to-find information.

Whatever your strengths, you have something valuable to offer. Find a role within your team that allows you to do what you do well. This will help you make a meaningful contribution – and increase your chances of doing a great job. Plus, it's usually much easier, and more satisfying, to do tasks when you're naturally good at them.

Teams usually come together to handle an issue that's difficult, if not impossible, for people to do on their own. When a group works well together, creativity levels are generally higher, as people tap into one another's strengths. This often leads to increased productivity, and an inspiring sense of collaboration and cooperation that moves everyone – and the project – forward.

The most successful teams don't just combine different technical skills; they also allow members to take on more general roles that cross traditional functional lines. Here, we've outlined three different models, which show you what these roles are. If you'd like to know more – or to help you discover which roles are best for you – then click on the links below.

Belbin's Team Roles

The Belbin model says that people tend to assume "team roles" – and there are nine such roles that underlie the team's success. These roles are as follows:

  • Shapers – people who challenge the team to improve.
  • Implementers – the people who get things done.
  • Completer-Finishers – the people who see that projects are completed thoroughly.
  • Coordinators – people who take on the traditional team leader role.
  • Team Workers – people who are negotiators, and make sure the team is working together.
  • Resource Investigators – people who work with external stakeholders to help the team meet its objectives.
  • Plants – people who come up with new ideas and approaches.
  • Monitor-Evaluators – people who analyze and evaluate ideas that other people come up with.
  • Specialists – people with specialist knowledge that's needed to get the job done.

Team leaders use the Belbin model to make sure there is the right balance of strengths and weaknesses on their team.

Benne and Sheats' Group Roles

This is an interesting way of looking at group roles that identifies both positive and negative behavior within a group. Some people are helpful and supportive, some people just want to get the job done, and some cause disagreement within the team.

There are 26 different group roles, which can be played by one or more people within the team. Those roles are divided into the following categories:

  • Task Roles – the roles needed to take a project step-by-step through to completion. Roles include Information Seeker, Opinion Giver, and Evaluator/Critic.
  • Personal and/or Social Roles – these roles help the group function well, and include Encourager, Compromiser, and Gatekeeper/Expediter.
  • Dysfunctional and/or Individualistic Roles – these roles cause discord in the group, and can disrupt progress. The roles include Aggressor, Dominator, and Recognition Seeker.

Margerison-McCann Team Management Profile

The Team Management Profile is a psychometric tool used for team development, which measures people's preferences for gathering information, relating to others, making decisions, and organizing themselves and others. The eight role preferences are:

  • Reporter/Adviser – people who gather information, and help others understand what's going on.
  • Creator/Innovator – people who look for different ways to view things.
  • Explorer/Promoter – persuasive people who are able to influence others easily.
  • Assessor/Developer – people who evaluate and analyze.
  • Thruster/Organizer – results-oriented people who make things happen.
  • Concluder/Producer – efficient individuals who complete activities according to plan, and on schedule.
  • Controller/Inspector – the 'facts and figures' people who control the details, and make sure standards are met.
  • Upholder/Maintainer – people who hold the team together, looking after the emotional and social needs of the group.

There is also a "linker" role, to coordinate everyone's work, which is generally carried out by the team leader.

Understand the Team's Objectives

On the occasions that teams don't function well, it's often because there's a lack of communication and understanding about what the group's objectives are.

If you want to be a good team player, make sure you understand the group's goals. Ask key questions like these:

  • Why are we here?
  • What is the 'perfect ending' to this project?
  • What is our deadline?
  • How often will we meet?
  • What is our budget?
  • Who is in charge of implementing our ideas?
  • What roles and responsibilities will each of us have?

Be clear about what you're there to do. This will help you complete your tasks to the best of your abilities.

Be Reliable

We've probably all worked with people who have made promises they didn't keep. It's frustrating when someone says one thing and does another, and it can really slow a group's progress.

You can be a valuable asset to your team simply by delivering what you said you would do – on time. For some people, it's all too easy (and, unfortunately, quite common) to make promises they can't keep. But you may really surprise and impress people by following through on what you say you'll do. If you commit to completing something for the group by the end of the day, make sure you do it. If you say you'll attend the 5:30 meeting, don't be late.

Being reliable also applies to the work you do for the group. If you have high standards, people will depend on you to produce quality work. If your output is excellent one day, but only average the next, the team may regard you as being unreliable.

Be a Good Communicator

Be involved and active within the group. If you sit silently while someone else discusses an idea that you know won't work, you could damage the team's chances of achieving its outcomes. If you're got an alternative suggestion that might be more effective, then share it with the group.

The opposite applies as well: If people discuss a plan that you think is great, then speak up. Tell them what an inspiring idea you think it is. They might really need and appreciate your support, even if they don't show it.

When you communicate with your team members – whether showing support, or challenging their thinking – it's important to stay positive and respectful. Even if you disagree with someone, don't become emotional. Being objective and fair will make a good impression; getting upset and angry won't.

Stay Flexible

If you've ever worked with a team, you probably know that things can change quickly. People may join or leave the group, budgets may be reduced, or goals may be redefined.

The best team players know how to be flexible. They don't fight change – instead, they see it as a new opportunity for growth.

You may find that that the group members, the approaches you use, and the goals you started with have all changed by the time you've finished. By staying flexible, you can take advantage of the new opportunities that arise during the project, and you'll be able to help others do the same.

Your willingness to remain comfortable and positive in a constantly changing environment is an important business skill – and your boss will likely notice.

Tips for Being a Good Team Member

  • Don't cherry-pick projects. It can be tempting to choose only those projects that seem easier, or ones that offer more benefits. But if you choose more difficult projects, and accept what's offered to you, you'll earn a reputation for being a hard worker. Your boss will notice your willingness to take on a challenge, and it will pay off in the long term.
  • Support other people on your team by offering positive feedback, and providing help if they need it. Your willingness to collaborate and help others will make a good impression on both the group and upper management.
  • Share information and resources with your team. Remember, you're all there for one purpose – and by keeping everyone informed, you contribute to that goal. If you have past experiences or knowledge that can help others, then offer it. They'll appreciate the help.
  • Keep a positive attitude. If you complain, delay, or give the tough assignments to others, people will notice – and they may start to avoid you. A positive attitude can be a refreshing change, and it will help others stay focused and productive as well.
Key Points

Being a good team player isn't always easy. Teams are usually created to solve difficult problems, and they often have tight deadlines and strict budgets. But this can be your chance to shine. Look at teamwork as not only a challenge, but a great opportunity.

Help your team by using your strengths, clearly understanding your role, and staying flexible and reliable until the project is completed. Be positive, and help others as much as you can. By being cooperative and willing to work hard, you'll make a good impression on everyone – including your boss.


Tuesday, September 11, 2012

A Good Interview Impression Is In The Details

Four Presentation Hints for a Good Job Interview

As political candidates answer endless variations of the same questions in pursuit of elected office, we can't help but be reminded of our own often-torturous experiences on job interviews.

If, like the candidates, we could review our performances on tape, what might we see?

Watch and Listen to Yourself

"Verbal fillers are the No. 1 problem," says Randy Bitting, cofounder of InterviewStream, a Web-based service that gives job seekers the chance to tape and watch themselves in mock interviews.

"People are so used to texting and emailing in short phrases that they can get stuck putting together a few complete sentences," he observes. "It's better to opt for silence while you gather your thoughts, especially if you're nervous."

Of course, nervousness can also generate overtalking. "We have a bar running along the bottom of the screen as you're being recorded to mark the passage of time," Bitting says. "We strongly suggest that respondents limit their answers to two minutes, at most."

Watching yourself on tape is also a good way to monitor things like dress -- too much cleavage, too-short cuffs -- and gestures, Bitting adds. "People don't realize how many times they scratch their heads or flip their ties."

Maintain a Conversation

Mastering the art of presentation goes hand in hand with carefully packaging the content of what you want to get across. "The key idea is to remember that an interview is a two-way conversation designed to determine if there's a mutual fit," says Rob Sullivan, a Chicago-based career coach and author of Getting Your Foot in the Door When You Haven't a Leg to Stand On.

A good formula, Sullivan continues, has you doing most of the talking for the first two-thirds of that conversation, and then ceding the floor to the interviewer. "That's your chance to ask lots of questions, which people tend to forget to do," he says.

Assemble a list of talking points and make sure you get through them, adds Sullivan. "If you realize that this person's asked you one standard question after the next -- what's your greatest weakness? where do you see yourself in the next five years? -- look at your watch and say, 'I notice we're running out of time. There are a few things that I'd like to share with you. Is that OK?'  Make their job easier for them."

Have Your Story Ready

It's at this point that you dazzle with your "story," as Sullivan calls it. That's different from the "elevator pitch," the 30-second encapsulation of who you are. "Your story is not about your sales records or your business-generating prowess," Sullivan says.

Instead, ask yourself what's excited you in your career, what you've done on your own initiative and what's energized you. What stories can you relay that show your passion, initiative and resourcefulness?

"If you think about what's better because you were there, like in the movie It's A Wonderful Life, you'll come up with some compelling anecdotes and you'll stand out," Sullivan says.

Skip the Scents

Just make sure the impression you leave is a good one. "It can't be said enough, but skip the perfume," Sullivan adds. "This is not a date, and a lot of people are extremely sensitive to smell. If you give me a migraine headache, I'm not going to remember a word you said, and I'm not going to like you."

Thanks to JoAnn Greco / Career Advice Monster / Monster

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Nine Phrases You Should Never Put On Your Resume

Since most recruiters and hiring managers receive far more resumes than they have time to review carefully, they're forced to find shortcuts that will allow them to quickly sort resumes into "yes," "maybe" and "no" piles.

There are lots of ways to get into the "yes" pile -- customizing your resume, using strong verbs, giving concrete examples of past accomplishments and showing your value, for example.

But there are also many ways to get your resume immediately consigned to the "no" pile. One way is to use the wrong words or phrases -- often, empty clichés, annoying jargon or recycled buzzwords. In a recent article, "10 Words and Terms That Ruin a Resume," we highlighted some of the worst offenders. That article really got people talking, so we asked some recruiting experts to share more of these detestable resume terms:

1. "Job Duties"

Heather Huhman, career expert and founder of content marketing and digital PR consultancy Come Recommended, says the term "job duties" is not convincing on a resume.

"List job duties under each position at your own risk," she says. "Instead, focus on your accomplishments. Ideally, you should be able to use the S-A-R method: Situation, Action, Results. Include up to three bullets per position, and as [few] as one."

Keep in mind that your job duties are something that happened to you, not something you achieved -- and your resume should tell a story of achievement.

2. "Related Coursework"

"Unless you're applying for your very first internship, remove your related coursework," Huhman says. All your relevant education definitely belongs on your resume, but a separate section for "related coursework" isn't necessary. Your resume needs a laser-sharp focus. If you're struggling to show how a class is relevant to the job you're applying for, consider removing it.

3. "Proven Ability"

HR manager Jen Strobel views this phrase as just resume filler. "The ability was proven by whom? How is the ability proven? How does this ability compare to those which are not proven?" she asks.

So use your resume to prove your ability by giving specific examples of your career achievements.

4. "Married with Children"

Delmar Johnson, an HR professional with 20 years of experience and founder of HR services firm HR Brain for Hire, says personal information doesn't belong on a resume. "That's great you have a family and you're proud [of it]," she says. "[But] your goal is to reflect a level of professionalism that demonstrates your knowledge, your skills and abilities that are applicable to the job to which you are applying."

5. "Transferable Skills"

When executive recruiter and career counselor Bruce Hurwitz sees these words, he takes them to mean "I'm not qualified, but do me a favor." He says the terms "skills" or "skill set" are fine to use, but the word "transferable" has negative connotations.

And this is a great example of why it's important to show, not tell. Don't tell a recruiter that you have transferable skills. Show how the skills you have are relevant to the job.

6. "Results-oriented"

Cousin to the term "hard worker," this is something anyone can say about himself. And as Stacey Hawley, career specialist and founder of career consultancy Credo, points out, that you'll work toward results "is assumed." There's no need to use your resume to tell people things they already know.

7. "Utilized My Skills"

"Who else's skills would we be using?" Hawley asks.

Stuffy, overly formal language on resumes is out. It's wiser nowadays to use direct language. Beware of boilerplate phrases that have lost their meaning and that can be replaced with expressive words that say something specific about you.

8. "Had _____"

Career and etiquette expert Sandra Lamb is a proponent of using strong language on resumes. "'Had' is an anemic and colorless verb that gives the reader the impression you're submitting a job description," says Lamb, author of How to Write It. "Don't use this to start a bulleted item on your resume; you'll be better-served by a strong, active verb."

For example, you might say "Managed three people" instead of "Had three direct reports."

9. Wacky Email Addresses (and Twitter Handles!)

Recruiting and career expert Abby Kohut of says that inappropriate email addresses like "" or "" can send a resume to the bottom of the pile, if not the trash. "It's not so much the email address as it is [the job seeker's] judgment that I'm concerned about," she says.

And the same goes for Twitter: More and more recruiters are researching candidates on social sites, so make sure you have a professional-sounding Twitter handle as well.

Monday, September 10, 2012

3 Ways To Emphasize Your ROI On Your Resume

Creating your resume, but stumped for ideas beyond your job titles, places of employment, tasks, and education?

Getting employers to pick up the phone requires a much stronger brand message!

If you haven't focused on your ROI – the benefit companies get when hiring you – your search can go on indefinitely.

You might believe that recruiters or HR managers will "get" this message from reading about your past jobs or span of authority – but guess what?

With plenty of resumes to review, most hiring authorities won't take the time to connect the dots in your background.

Therefore, if you've made a significant difference at past employers, but your resume doesn't provide this evidence, you'll lose your shot at winning an interview (while employers hire your competition instead).

Consider adding these quantifiable measures of your performance to your resume:

1. Comparisons to Others

Do you wear many hats at your current job? Employees who can perform more than one job simultaneously are often credited with generating increases in the bottom line.

On your resume, you'll be able to show the savings gained by helping your employer avoid the need to hire or train an additional staff member, as in these examples:

Cut 34% from training budget by assuming new project leadership role for Global Standards initiative.

Eliminated need to hire new team members by performing dual roles in operations and sales, with estimated $80K annual savings.

ROI can also be demonstrated by comparing your work to others on your team, or to a predecessor who held the same role prior to your tenure.

You may be more efficient or better able to understand customer needs – saving your employer additional effort (such as multiple sales calls or additional work on technical problems) – than your counterparts.

If so, put this savings into a dollar figure by calculating the cost of rework for use on your resume.

2. Revenue and Profit Improvement

Will anything get an employer's attention faster than telling them you'll bring sizeable profits? Not likely.

However, unless you're in a sales role (or another revenue-specific job), you might find this exercise difficult. After all, how does a project manager or operations director make money for the company?

The secret to pulling out a revenue or profit figure (when your job isn't tied directly to money) is to look higher in the company for the impact of your work.

This means taking into account the value of the project to your employer (a new service line that will create revenue opportunities), or the impact of the new equipment you implemented (improving production and fulfilling more orders).

As in this example of a resume statement, your work as part of a larger effort can be conveyed in the impact of the entire project:

Played key role in $23M project slated to improve operational efficiency, with 45% reduction in call center hold times and expected $7M annual savings.

If your job involves technology, consider the monetary value of the improvements gained with a new solution you implemented.

Once you put the emphasis on your work at a company or department level, the revenue or profit equation can make sense. Of course, you'll need to share the credit for creating more $$$ with your team or colleagues, but it's an important measure of your benefit to a new employer.

3. Cost Containment

Cost savings are a high-priority area for many companies, especially those in industries directly affected by the economic downturn.

Of course, showing your impact on expenses is easy if you're the one negotiating new vendor contracts or preparing a budget.

Even if your responsibilities don't seem related to costs, think about your ability to produce work faster or with less resources – then add the costs associated with this acceleration into your resume.

For example, an office manager who arranges shifts to cover the phone (without hiring an additional employee) is directly saving significant payroll and training costs. An IT Director might be able to point out the projects completed in less time due to a newly acquired software tool, with related opportunity costs allowing the team to take on other projects.

These examples show different ways to state cost savings on your resume:

Saved division nearly $700K with switch to Agile Development methodology and training for 3 team members.

Reduced marketing spend $35K by learning social media techniques instrumental in promoting company services.

Perhaps you've monitored expenses within your team, and figured out ways to generate the same amount of revenue with less overhead.

These figures can be estimated, or specified in percentages of savings, to show your impact on costs.

The bottom line? Your employment automatically comes at a cost to your employer.

If you can demonstrate a substantial ROI over the expense of hiring you, companies will be eager to bring you on board – even with a raise in salary – despite a competitive job market.

Thanks to Laura Smith-Proulx / Careerealism


How To Close The Resume Gap

My academic background is in International Relations. So, when a career counseling client comes to me with concerns about the "gap" on her resume, the "career gap," I always smile (to myself) thinking about the good ole days of the "missile gap" when the U.S. thought it was behind the Soviet Union regarding the number of missiles each side had. Common wisdom had it that the U.S. was far behind and had the catch up. The truth was actually closer to the opposite.

It's a good analogy because most people believe that the gap on their resume is a gap which needs to be explained, not filled. The problem is, if you have to explain something it is, by definition, a problem.

So, the best way to deal with a resume gap – meaning that you have been unemployed for some time – is to fill it. The question is, with what?

My approach to a job search is to always stay focused on the employer. What does the employer want? What does the employer care about? Let's answer those questions and fill the gap:

Employers want employees who leave their egos at the door. Take on some part-time jobs to help make ends meet. There is nothing wrong with saying to an employer, "As you can see on my resume, I leave my ego at the door. I have bills to pay and honest work is honest work, so I've been stocking shelves at my local supermarket. If nothing else, it's a great workout and I have gained an appreciation for what 'behind-the-scenes employees' go through, which, I think, will make me a better supervisor."

Employers want employees who try to better themselves. There are plenty of free (or close to free), well-respected, online courses (schools, actually) that you can take. Check out Coursera, EDX, Minerva Project, and Udacity. And, if I may be immodest, visit my website as I will be offering webinar series on starting and running a business; and a series on conducting a successful job search and career success. So, list the courses you have taken. In the case of Coursera, you'll be able to note that the instructors come from Ivy League colleges.

Employers want employees who keep sharp. So, take on some consulting or part-time roles in your profession and volunteer at some non-profits. But make certain your volunteer work is related to your profession. The added advantage is that you will be expanding your network and, as happens all too often, one of your new connections may lead you to your next job.

Finally, employers like employees who can multitask. So, when they read on your resume, under a sub-heading "Interim Work Related/Professional Activities," which is the section that fills the gap, you can add in the interview that you have also been applying for jobs, networking, and interviewing. Most importantly, you can say, "As you can see, I don't like to be idle." And as we all know, no employer likes an idle worker.

Thanks to Bruce Hurwitz / Careerealism


Sunday, September 9, 2012

How Employers Drive Away their Employees

Why Employees Say They Leave
We compiled a list of 67 reasons why people leave organizations, based on exit surveys completed by thousands of exiting employees. When you take away the seemingly unpreventable reasons—lack of advancement opportunity, better-paying job, career change, commuting time or distance, geographic location of job, job elimination, retirement, return to school, self-employment, and spouse relocation—that still leaves 57 preventable reasons for voluntary turnover out of the 67 total reasons on the list.

I have read and categorized the comments made by more than 4,000 employees who voluntarily left their employers since 1998, as surveyed by the Saratoga Institute and through my own open-to-the-public "Decision to Leave" post-exit Web survey. As I read them, I could not help being touched by the emotions expressed—disappointment, frustration, anger, disillusionment, dismay, resentment, betrayal, to name the most common. There were many positive comments and emotions, as well, but the negative ones were somehow more poignant, powerful, and instructive. It occurred to me that very few of the "reasons" for turnover were based on reasoned thinking; they were mostly rooted in strong feelings such as those just mentioned.

As I analyzed the reasons for leaving and grouped them into categories or themes, peeling layers off the onion in search of root causes, I found some common denominators. It became clear to me that employees begin to disengage and think about leaving their employers when at least one of four fundamental human needs is not being met.

The four fundamental needs are:
1. The need for trust:
Expecting the company and management to deliver on their promises, to be honest and open in all communications, to invest in you, to treat you fairly, and to pay you fairly and on time.

2. The need to have hope: Believing that you will be able to grow professionally, use and develop your skills on the job and through training, and, for many employees, have the opportunity for advancement or career progress, leading to higher earnings.

3. The need to feel worthy and respected: Feeling confident that if you work hard, do your best, demonstrate commitment, and make meaningful contributions, you will be recognized and rewarded accordingly, shown respect, and regarded as a valued asset, not a cost, to the organization.

4. The need to feel competent as you gain mastery: Expecting that you will be matched to a job that makes good use of your talents and is challenging and that you will receive opportunities to learn to perform the job capably, prepare for future roles, be allowed to see the end results of your work, and obtain regular feedback on your performance.

Lack of trust was the most common of the four themes, representing 31% of the total. This supports the research finding of the Great Place to Work Institute that trust is the single most important driver of employee engagement and commitment.

There were also unavoidable reasons—those generally considered unpreventable by the organization. These amounted to only 5% of the reasons given and include excessive commuting distance, retirement, birth of a child, childcare issues, relocation, other family issues, career change, too much travel, return to school, and death or illness in the family.

What Employers Do Poorly
Here, in order, are the 10 most frequently mentioned issues that surfaced in departed employees' written and spoken responses to Saratoga's question: "What did your employer do poorly?"

  • Poor Management. Comments focused mostly on uncaring, incompetent, and unprofessional managers; there were also complaints about being overworked, not getting respect, not having their ideas listened to, and being put in the wrong job, as well as the company's making no effort to retain staff, emphasizing speed over quality, and being abusive. There were also many comments about poor or nonexistent methods of selecting managers. (Unmet needs: trust, worth, hope, and competence).
  • Lack of Career Growth and Advancement Opportunity. Comments were mainly about having no perceivable career path, but also mentioned companies' failure to post jobs or to fill jobs from within and unfair promotions or favoritism. (Unmet needs: hope, trust, and competence).
  • Poor Communications. Comments were mostly about poor top-down communication from managers and senior leaders and lack of openness with information, but also mentioned poor communications between departments, from the human resources department, from corporate offices to field offices, and following mergers. (Unmet needs: trust and worth).
  • Pay. Comments were mostly about not being paid fair market rates and not being paid in proportion to their contributions and hard work. Respondents also complained of pay inequities, slow pay raises, favoritism in giving raises and bonuses, and ineffective performance appraisal processes. (Unmet needs: trust and worth).
  • Lack of Recognition. This issue is connected to issues of pay and workload, but there were also many comments about the organization's culture not being one that encourages recognition of employee contributions. (Unmet need: worth).
  • Poor Senior Leadership. Comments asserted that companies don't care about, listen to, or invest in employees but also mentioned leaders being isolated, remote, and unresponsive, failing to provide an inspiring vision or direction, sending mixed messages, and making too many changes in direction and poor organizational structure. (Unmet need: trust and worth).
  • Lack of Training. Comments were mainly about employees not receiving enough training to do their current jobs properly, but also cited the poor quality of training, being rushed through superficial training, not being allowed to attend training, lack of new-hire training, poor management training, and lack of training for future advancement. (Unmet need: worth, hope, and competence).
  • Excessive Workload. Commenters mainly spoke about being asked to do more with fewer staff, but also mentioned that quality and customer service are sacrificed to "make the numbers." (Unmet needs: worth and competence).
  • Lack of Tools and Resources. Comments cited a range of issues, including lack of office supplies, malfunctioning computers, outdated technology, and insufficient staffing. (Unmet needs: worth, hope, and competence).
  • Lack of Teamwork. Commenters spoke about lack of cooperation and commitment to get the job done among coworkers but also mentioned a lack of coordination between departments or different locations (Unmet needs: trust and competence).

In Conclusion
Most of the reasons employees disengage and leave are consistent, predictable, and avoidable, if the employers have the desire to retain and are willing to invest the time to take preventive or corrective actions. This is good news, since most such actions don't require significant monetary investment. They generally do cost time, and, yes, time is money; but the cost of disengagement and turnover is greater than the cost of trying to retain valued employees.

© 2012 Leigh Branham. Excerpted and adapted, with permission of the publisher, from The 7 Hidden Reasons Employees Leave, by Leigh Branham. Published by AMACOM, a division of American Management Association.

About the Author(s):- Leigh Branham is founder/principal of the consulting firm Keeping the People, Inc. He is the author of Keeping the People Who Keep You in Business, coauthor, with Mark Hirschfeld, of Re-Engage: How America's Best Places to Work Inspire Extra Effort in Extraordinary, and The 7 Hidden Reasons Employees Leave, from which this article is excerpted.

Thanks to Leigh Branham / AMANET / AMA—American Management Association