Friday, May 10, 2013

4 Simple Ways To Overcome The Age Factor In Your Resume

Growing older is something that creeps into the mind of many professionals, especially if they've reached their 50s or 60s and are on the hunt for a new job. Some worry they may not be considered viable candidates in the eyes of employers when compared to younger professionals.

But as a wise, skilled, top-level candidate, there is no reason for you to feel any less qualified. In fact, you are likely more qualified than younger competitors; you just need to prove it. So, take time to do so on your resume by utilizing the following four tips:

1. Focus On Recent Jobs

If you've had more than a couple of jobs during your career, then it's a good idea to focus on the more recent ones as you write your resume. A good rule of thumb is to not worry about going back more than 15 years, especially since some of what you learned prior to that may not be relevant to the job you're applying for anyway.

2. Pinpoint Your Strengths

It's even more important for you to highlight your greatest accomplishments in your career as a seasoned professional. Keep in mind the more recent the accomplishments, the better (i.e. 2009 accomplishments vs. 1979 accomplishments).

Employers are not as interested in what you did at the beginning of your career—when you were still learning your craft—as they are what you have accomplished as a skilled candidate.

3. Keep Up With The Times

One reservation employers could have when considering older workers is a fear that they may not be able to keep up with technological advancements. It's good for you to show you are not only keeping up, but are right in the fold.

Show you understand the Internet by submitting your resume online. Not only that, discuss your technological aptitudes in your resume, and list your professional online profiles too (LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.) to give yourself a great boost as a candidate.

4. Consider A Functional Resume

One more thing to consider is creating a functional resume that doesn't list the years of your accomplishments but instead focuses on the accomplishments alone. Some employers see functional resumes as red flags for gaps in employment or other issues, however, so take the time to be thorough if you choose to take this route.

As a seasoned professional with many years of experience under your belt, it's important you help employers to focus less on your age and more on your talents and capabilities. There's no doubt you can get the job done. Now, show the employer just how capable you are!

Thanks to Jessica Holbrook Hernandez / Careerealism


Satisfied Employees = Satisfied Customers = Profitable Companies

When it comes to understanding how to balance the need to keep a sharp eye on the bottom line and keep a workforce fully satisfied and productive, some managers and companies seem to get it while others don't have a clue.

There's a ton of research and surveys that prove the following:

Satisfied employees = satisfied customers = profitable companies
While I may not be a researcher, I have no shortage of stories from readers, friends, family, and acquaintances that bring this simple formula to life.

Here are two real recent examples. The names have been changed to protect the innocent.
Company #1: 20 Cents an hour

"Marty" is a department manager at a regional grocery chain. Marty consistently hits his numbers – in fact, he often the #1 performing department of the entire chain for stores.

How does he do it? Well, he works hard, keeps waste to a minimum, is good with the customers, and takes care of his employees.
He recently did a performance evaluation for one of his assistant managers, "Bob". Bob is a 17 year employee, hard worker, never calls in sick, and over the last year has consistently gone above and beyond to help Marty meet his goals and take care of the customers. After submitting the paperwork and getting the required approval from above, Marty gave him a great review and a 70 cents per hour raise.

You would have thought Bob had won the lottery! He was ecstatic, grateful, proud, and walking on air for the next two weeks. It was the biggest raise he had ever received. Bob was already a solid employee, but as a result of that extra recognition, he was working even harder with extra enthusiasm.
Four weeks later Marty got a call from one of the regional managers. It seems there was an oversight in the approval process, and Bob's raise was 20 cents more than allowed under company policy. No matter how hard Marty fought, at the end of the day, he had to tell Bob his raise would be 20 cents less.

Bob was devastated. What was once an engaged, productive, proud "associate" quickly turned into a dejected, bitter, and completely demotivated employee. Marty did the best he could to soften the blow, but he couldn't blame Bob for being ticked off.
I'm not sure how the story will end – maybe Bob will come around – or maybe he'll go work for a competitor or get fired for a bad attitude. If that happens, it's going to cost the company thousands of dollars in lost productivity, replacement hiring costs, and training costs. Some estimate the average cost of turnover to be $75,000. I'd say that's conservative.

All for 20 cents per hour. $400 dollars per year.
Company #2: The $2000 sales management training lesson

Tony, a newly hired sales manager, went to his manager, Joanne, and confessed: "I screwed up! I made a promise to a sales rep that I shouldn't have made. The operations manager just let me know that I didn't fully understand our compensation policy and we need to take it back, or it's going to put us $2,000 over budget. What should I do?"
The response from Joanne? "Take it back?! Hell no! Admit that you made a mistake, and the let the sales rep keep the payment. He'll respect you for it, and word will quickly spread amongst the rest of the sales reps that you have their backs. That's a small price to pay for that kind of loyalty and commitment. We'll make up the $2000 in no time. I'll talk to the operations manager."

Joanne clearly understood the impact of the perception of screwing over one of the company's top sales reps because of a management mistake. The sales rep was even more appreciative when he found out it was a mistake yet it wouldn't be taken away. While the operations manager wasn't too happy initially, he got over when he saw the sales numbers at the end of the month.
And now….. the rest of the story:
Company #1 continues to struggle and just got purchased by a competitor. Company # 2 is making money hand over fist in a tough economy. You might argue that company #2 could afford to make the policy exception. Actually, one of the reasons that company is so successful is that they keep a sharp eye on costs and wastes.  Apparently, making good on a promise isn't considered an unnecessary expense; it's considered an investment in keeping your workforce engaged and productive.

Both true stories – better than anything I could make up. Two similar management mistakes and company policies, yet two very different responses and results.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Four Leader Behaviors That Build Or Break Trust

There are two ways that leaders break trust with their people. The first is dramatic—a leader betrays a confidence, engages in self-serving behavior, or has a serious moral or ethical lapse. This type of breach usually ends up being very public—and once it occurs, the only remedy is damage control.

The second way that leaders break trust with people is more common, happens slowly, and usually is obvious to others but unknown to the leader. A pattern of behavior—often well-intentioned—will result in the leader undermining their credibility with their people. This type of trust-busting behavior is fixable, but only if a leader can identify the situation early and take steps to correct it.

In his new book, Trust Works!: Four Keys to Building Lasting Relationships, best-selling business author Ken Blanchard tackles this type of trust-busting behavior head on. Together with his coauthors Cynthia Olmstead and Martha Lawrence, Blanchard recommends that leaders evaluate their behavior in four key areas.

  • Able—do you demonstrate competence and skills?
  • Believable—do you act with integrity?
  • Connected—do you care about others?
  • Dependable—do you maintain reliability?

In Blanchard's experience, leaders who are perceived as untrustworthy usually have an undermining behavior in one of these four areas. In Trust Works!, Blanchard guides readers through a self assessment designed to identify the subtle ways that leaders might be unintentionally self-sabotaging their relationships.

Self assessment is just the starting point

Once the self assessment is complete, Blanchard recommends that leaders ask the people they work with—both colleagues and direct reports—to assess their behavior in the same four areas. This is an important second step for two reasons, according to Blanchard.

One, it gives leaders an outside assessment of their behaviors from the people who are most impacted. This can be a real eye-opener for them, according to Blanchard.

"Many leaders inadvertently break trust by being unaware of how their behavior might be perceived by others. Even though you, as a leader, might consider your actions trustworthy, you may be surprised at how those same behaviors are being interpreted by others."

Blanchard had exactly this type of experience when he asked his team to evaluate him in the four areas. While he was pleased to discover that his staff scored him well in the first three areas—Able, Believable, and Connected— they felt he could do better in the Dependable category.

This brings up an important second point that Blanchard likes to make. Trust is a sensitive issue for most work teams, especially when a leader is involved. On most teams, trust issues are rarely discussed, even when they are evident to everyone.

That's what made the Blanchard team's experience so unusual. Having data around the four areas of trust gave Ken and his team a place to start a conversation. It created a safe space to talk about the components of trust and made it less emotional. This allowed them to discuss the issue openly and pinpoint the behaviors that were causing the problem.

In Ken's case, the problem stemmed from his reluctance to say "no" to people. He loved new ideas, was always willing to give things a try, and wanted to say "yes" to people whenever possible. His intentions were good.

Utilizing the four-component ABCD model allowed the team to look at some of the behaviors that flowed from that mindset. They discovered that by saying "yes" so often, Ken ended up over committing, which sometimes led to disappointment and hurt feelings when commitments couldn't be honored.

Working together, the team was able to devise a new approach. In addition to helping Ken not to over commit, the team also devised a strategy where Ken now hands out his executive assistant's business cards instead of his own. This allows his executive assistant to check his schedule and set expectations appropriately.

The discussion and subsequent workaround did the trick. In the course of a few months, Blanchard saw his scores on being Dependable soar!

Rebuilding broken trust

For leaders who have created a serious breach of trust with their people, Blanchard has additional advice. In his experience, too many leaders prefer to act as if it didn't happen, try to justify the mistake, or use hierarchy and status to make the problem go away. This is exactly the wrong approach.

A healthier and more productive approach that Blanchard recommends involves five key actions.

  1. Acknowledge and Assure —begin the rebuilding process by addressing and acknowledging that a problem exists. As you acknowledge the problem, assure the other party that your intention is to restore trust between the two of you and that you're willing to take the time and effort to get the relationship back on track.
  2. Admit — the next step is to admit your part in causing the breach of trust. Own up to your actions and take responsibility for whatever harm was caused, even if you don't feel you're entirely at fault. Admit to your part in a situation.
  3. Apologize — the third step in repairing damaged trust is to apologize for your role in the situation. This takes humility. Avoid making excuses, shifting blame, or using qualifying statements. These will only undermine your apology.
  4. Assess — invite feedback from the other party about how they see the situation. Use the ABCD Trust Model to identify the behaviors that have damaged the relationship. Next, discuss the issues and identify clearly what needs to change.
  5. Agree — the final step in rebuilding damaged trust is to work together to create an action plan. Now that you have identified each other's perceptions and have identified the specific ways that trust has been broken, you can mutually identify the behaviors that will build trust going forward.

This approach worked well for Blanchard in his discussions with his team and it will work for your teams as well. For leaders, this means being open, candid, and vulnerable.

As Blanchard explains, "Building trust is important in all relationships, but it's particularly important when you hold a position of authority. If you're a leader, you can afford many kinds of mistakes, but the one thing you can't afford to lose is trust. By practicing behaviors aligned with the four core elements of trust, you'll not only set a healthy example, you'll also inspire enthusiasm and success in those who follow you."

Thanks to Kenblanchard / The Ken Blanchard Companies


Sunday, May 5, 2013

3 Questions All Hiring Managers Ask Themselves About You

A well known career coach once said, "A resume is a necessary evil." Some HR folks will cringe at that statement, despite it's truth. So, I'd like to take a moment and analyze exactly why that statement is some of the best job seeking advice you could get.

After all, too many job seekers spend all their time polishing off a resume to submit in an application process. Now, there are essentially three questions all hiring managers need to have answered before they can make a decision about hiring you or not. They are:

  1. Do I like you?
  2. What motivates you?
  3. Can you do the job?

The first two questions are personality questions. The last one is a commodity question. Think about it, almost everyone else going for that job can push the button too.

FACT: Personality Beats Commodity EVERY Time

Considering how competitive the job market is, you have to assume there is someone more qualified, more educated and more experienced than you.

People make emotional decisions – and HR folks aren't any different. Think about the last buying decision you made. Perhaps you were looking for a new breakfast cereal at the market. You look at the colors on the packaging. You notice if it lowers your cholesterol or if it has enough sweetness. You find something you like about it and it makes you feel good. So, you buy it.

The same mental process goes through the mind of your hiring manager.

Personality Question #1: Do I Like You?

Can this manager work next to you, as cube-neighbors, for 8-hours a day, five days a week? If there isn't a spark, a chemistry, either before or during the interview, you can count yourself out.

There really isn't much else for people to go on. Every other applicant says, "I'm the perfect fit," and they have a resume to back it up. But in the end of the day, the only thing they really have to go on is if they like you or not.

And the best way to get someone to like you is to express YOU. Genuinely. Quickly. Strategically.

Social medium allows this to happen. When you get Googled, (yes, "when"), will what they find answer the question of your personality and brand? Or are you allowing Google to determine your online reputation? When they read your LinkedIn profile summary, do they get a sense of who you are. Your story?

"Do I like you?" is by far THE most important question you can answer for a hiring manager, and the sooner you do, the better off you'll be.

Take some time to really figure out what your brand is and how that relates to the needs of your potential companies. I recommend reading Chris Brogan's FREE e-book on personal branding and following his advice before re-writing your LinkedIn profile.

Personality Question #2: What Motivates You?

The proverbial risk mitigation question. A hiring managers biggest risk is hiring the wrong person. And "wrong" means someone who is not what they appear to be on paper. They lose their drive. They are lazy. They cost the company thousands of dollars.

But, if you are motivated, you are the right person. You are consistent over time. You read about your industry on the weekends. You stay up to date with joy and passion. In short, you are reliable, and you have a low hiring risk.

Answer the question of your motivation, and double your chances of getting hired. Seriously. Just ask a hiring manager!

And one of the best ways of communicating you are motivated and what motivates you is to have a blog.

Yep. Even the most simplest blog, filled with articles about your perspective, your ideas, your reviews. The sooner you can get your blog up and running the better. There are several good courses on how to get a blog out there.

Thanks to Joshua Waldman / Careerealism


Interview Questions You Should Ask

Job hunters ask me all the time about how to respond to difficult questions. But when preparing for an interview, people often forget to prepare questions to ask when the interview is winding down and the person on the other side of the desk asks, "So… are there some questions of yours that you have for me?"

Just because you are asking the questions at this point does not mean the questions should be about you, your wants, or your needs.

The biggest mistake of all is to use this as an opportunity to ask what everyone already knows is on your mind:

  • How did I do?
  • Will I get called back for another round of discussions?
  • When do you want me to start work?
  • How much will you pay me?

The subtle thing going on here is giving the job hunter the opportunity to ask a question… is itself a question.

The questions you ask say a great deal about why you are applying for the job, your interest in the work of the organization or department you seek to join, your desire to make a real contribution to the success of your organization and hiring manager, your understanding of the nature of the company or organization, your likelihood to be a lone-wolf or valued team contributor, and more.

This is also the opportunity for you to circle back to some earlier point in the interview when you didn't quite make a point that you as successfully as you intended.

Consequently, just as every question you are asked in a job interview has an unstated question behind it, so should your questions.

Interview Questions You Should Ask

Here are two examples of interview questions you should ask and their underlying purpose:

Interview Question #1

"We spoke about X a little earlier. I am curious about whether you do it this way or that way? Would the fact that I've got experience doing this (relate a very short example of when/how) be something I could build on if I were to work with you?"

This line of questioning does a lot at once:

  • Shows you were paying attention and continuing to think about the earlier part of the conversation.
  • Demonstrates you know what you are talking about by illustrating your knowledge of various ways to accomplish the work at hand.
  • Demonstrates your desire to use your past experience to help the team.
  • Shows you want to not only use previously attained skills/experience, but aspire to continue to develop your own ability to contribute.

Interview Question #2

"We spoke about many of the aspects of this job. Of all of them, which is the greatest priority for you?"

This question tries to cut through the whole "wish list" that the employer may have, and let you respond to his/her answer by demonstrating your particular experience, skills, and interest in meeting this particular priority need.

In the short video below, I provide three more key interview questions you can utilize to position yourself effectively by the questions you ask.

Do check it out, and let me know your favorite questions to ask as well!

Thanks to Arnie Fertig / Careerealism