Resume Formatting

Resume formatting can make the difference between you getting an interview, or not. In today’s digital world resume formatting is vitally important to your job search efforts. Different computer systems, software versions, email programs, etc., can all cause your resume to look very awkward on the receivers end. Many companies now use resume parsing software programs that analyze resumes in bulk and score applicant matches based on computer algorithms. If a resume has too much formatting, it will be difficult or impossible to read sometimes by the intended recipient.

It is therefore vitally important that you keep your resume formatting to a bare minimum. You want your resume to look good, but you need it to be readable. Here are some basics on resume formatting:

  1. Use a common and recent version of a word processing program when writing your resume (MS Word for example).
  2. Don’t use tables and nested tables to separate different sections of your resume. When being scanned or reformatted in other programs, these tables can wreak havoc on the ability to parse information out of your resume.
  3. Use a standard and common font like Times New Roman, Arial, Courier, etc. Don’t make the font size smaller than 10pt, or larger than 12pt for the content of your resume.
  4. Be consistent with the use of bold and italic type. For example, if you choose to write your current job title in bold type, make sure ALL prior job titles are formatted the same way.
  5. Avoid pictures, graphics, or avatars. I don’t see this often, but it’s worth mentioning that graphics don’t belong on your resume.

Check out my earlier post for some other tips on how to put together a great resume here


By |January 18th, 2016|resume, Uncategorized|0 Comments

Answering Interview Questions

A common piece of critical feedback I get from clients is that candidates are too vague when answering interview questions. People don’t give enough information, or just don’t directly answer the question asked.  I was recently asked by someone how they can avoid this common interview pitfall. My advice:

  1. Be Prepared – this should be obvious, but you need to go into an interview thoroughly prepared. This includes being able to talk in detail about your experience, about anything on your resume, to answer common interview questions, and answer/ask questions about the potential employer. Read through your own resume carefully before an interview. You’d be surprised how often I’ve heard about candidate’s who can’t answer questions about things on their own resume! Do your homework before the interview!
  2. LISTEN To The Questions – not listening to questions is a pretty common mistake during interviews. Often times, people are excited and/or nervous and they fail to really listen to the question because their mind is racing. Listen carefully to the interviewer and ask for clarification if a question is unclear. Very specific questions require very specific answers. Conversely, broad “tell me about your background” questions require more broad answers with less detail.
  3. Give Examples – whenever possible, it is best to answer questions with specific examples. For example, if asked, “how strong are you with technology?”, you would want to give an answer that demonstrates specific technical expertise. You might respond, “I’m very comfortable with technology. In fact, at my current job, I played a lead role in selecting and implementing a new ERP system which involved talking to several vendors, mapping out the system requirements with consultants, testing the new platform and training staff .” By giving someone a clear and specific example of work that required a strong degree of proficiency in the subject matter, you are sending the message that you know what you’re talking about.
  4. Watch Body Language – If you think that you are off track when answering a question because the interviewer is yawning, rolling their eyes, looking at their watch, etc., stop yourself! It’s perfectly fine to say, “is that the information you were looking for?”, or, “am I off track? Can I be more specific?”. It’s far better to allow the interviewer to steer you back in the right direction than just plow through an answer.
By |January 18th, 2016|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Sell Yourself

Sell YourselfI find that a lot of candidates underestimate the importance of selling yourself in a job interview. It is especially important to sell yourself during the first interview. The interview process is analogous to the process of making a major purchase. The job seeker is the “product” and the hiring company is the “buyer”. As the “product”, it is vitally important to sell yourself and give the “buyer” cause to want to hire you. The “what’s in it for me” part of the interview process is important, but it is irrelevant if the employer is not strongly interested in hiring you. This post will cover a few methods and approaches to effectively sell yourself in the interview process.

  1. Sell Yourself by Preparing— adequate preparation in the first key in how to sell yourself to a potential employer. A strong resume that targets the employer (click here to read my post on resume writing) is a good start. You’ll also want to do adequate research on the company when you land an interview. This could include thoroughly going through their website, LinkedIn company page, online profiles of the people with whom you’ll meet, etc.
  2. Sell Yourself by Looking the Part — this includes all things that go into making a good first impression. Studies show that first impressions DO matter, so don’t start off on the wrong foot. First, I always recommend formal business attire. Conservative style suits for men, simple neck ties, and shined shoes. Get a hair cut if you need one, and shave/trim facial hair. For women, similar business attire is suggested. Avoid too much perfume, jewelry, etc. It’s pretty difficult to be overdressed, but being under dressed can be a disaster. That being said, times are changing, so depending on your specific field of expertise, or hiring company, it may be appropriate to dress more casually. Second, make sure you arrive to the interview on time. Map directions out in advance and budget extra time for traffic, delays, etc. If you arrive very early, review your notes and resume one last time before going in for the interview. I recommend that candidates arrive no earlier than 10 minutes before the interview. Too early can interrupt the schedule of the interviewer, so be considerate of their schedule too.
  3. Sell Yourself by SELLING YOURSELF — to separate yourself from the competition, you need to highlight your skills, experience, and what value you will bring to the employer. This can be done in several ways. First, when you answer questions, make sure to reference specific examples of what you’ve done, specific results you’ve achieved, and accomplishments that highlight your value. For example, saving the company money, surpassing sales goals, finding more efficient ways of doing things, etc. Second, ask intelligent questions about the job and company. Demonstrate that you’ve done your due diligence and ask about specific facets of the job and company. Finally, don’t be afraid to “flip the question”. By this I mean to find ways to turn some questions into positive reasons to hire you. For example, if asked the classic “what’s your biggest weakness?” question, prepare an answer you can spin in a positive light. You might say, “my biggest weakness had been people management because I have not had experience doing this until recently… however, for the last 6 months I’ve been supervising a new hire and this person is excelling at what they do and I’ve been recognized by my department head as a strong mentor and manager for this person.” Finally, as the interview comes to an end, I suggest to job seekers that they tell the interviewer that they are very interested in the job and eager to keep the process going. Enthusiasm goes a long way in interviews and companies like to hire people who demonstrate genuine interest in the job and company.

Remember, to sell yourself early on in the interview process does not mean that the process is all about the employer. The job seeker also has to be convinced that the opportunity is a good one and that the company is solid. However, the employer has to want to employee you before any of this matters.

By |January 18th, 2016|interview, Uncategorized|0 Comments

Counter Offer

Counter OfferI spoke with a contact yesterday who accepted a counter offer. Luckily for me, it was not a deal I was involved in. Unlucky for the candidate, he had no idea about the potential consequences and hazards of accepting a counter offer. Put bluntly, accepting a counter offer is a bad idea.

A counter offer is the equivalent of a band-aid on a gaping wound. At best, it is a short-term fix for the employer which buys them some time before the inevitable happens… that the person accepting the counter offer will leave. That’s right, the VAST majority of employees who accept a counter offer leave within six months. Employers know this, but a counter offer is often cheaper and easier than quickly replacing a good employee.

A counter offer generally consists of two things. First, a counter offer will include promises. The employee might be offered a promotion in six months, a bigger office, or told about “exciting changes” that are coming. Second, they might be offered money. Sometimes, it may seem like a lot more money. The candidate I referenced above was given a 20% base salary increase to stay! Big promises and more money sound good… right? If you get a counter offer, it’s important to remember that talk is cheap. The promises made are almost always empty ones. It’s easy to tell an employee things that they want to hear and never deliver. Especially since employers know that the employee is likely to leave anyway. As for money, while a 20% raise may sound great, it’s only done because it is far cheaper for the employer to offer short-term cash to avoid long-term headaches associated with replacing the employee. Moreover, since the employer knows that person will likely leave within six months, the employer never has to pay out in full. They may give you a 20% salary raise today, but only pay a small amount of that to you before you end up leaving, or get fired! The cost of replacing a good employee is high. A recruiter like myself charges anywhere from 25-33% of a new hire’s first year pay. The cost in time and effort training a new hire is also expensive. When you add up all these costs, what seems like a generous counter offer is actually chump change!

A counter offer can almost never remedy the reasons the employee was looking for a job in the first place. Most job seekers who leave an employer do so because of limited opportunity, a desire for more growth, to work in a new field or industry. A counter offer can do little or nothing to address any of these causes. Thus, most people who take them come to realize this within weeks or months of accepting a counter offer and end up leaving.

The potential fallout from a counter offer is similar to that of a personal relationship. When you accept a counter offer, your loyalty is obviously questioned. You’ll never be considered part of the “inner circle” again. Companies have long memories for this sort of thing, and when it is time for a raise, a promotion, etc., you will be looked at differently. If the company needs to reduce the workforce, it’s very likely your name will be on that list after accepting counter offer. The minute after you take a counter offer, it’s safe to assume the employer is already planning on how to replace you. They know from experience that you won’t stay, but if you accept the counter offer it affords them time to find a replacement in a more cost effective way.

You should rule out a counter offer before you ever look externally. If you get to the point at your current employer where you want to leave, try to address the reasons internally first. If you ask for a promotion, more responsibility, a change in duties, salary, etc., in a constructive way and are told “no”, then you can be pretty confident in your decision to leave. That way, when you give notice you’ll see the counter offer for what it is… a band-aid on a gaping wound.

By |January 18th, 2016|Uncategorized|0 Comments

How To Negotiate a Job Offer

handshake_1Ah… that magic moment when it’s time talk turkey and negotiate a job offer. Many job seekers are nervous, clueless, or both about how to negotiate a job offer. In order to negotiate the best possible deal, here are some tips:

  1. Don’t Discuss Salary Expectations Up Front – in initial interviews, if asked about what you are expecting to make say nothing specific! Don’t give a range, a big number, a little number, etc. Simply say, “I’m currently earning X, and for me this move is more about the opportunity. I’d assume that if you make me an offer it would be competitive.” At the end of the interview process, the onus is on the employer to make an offer. The general rule of how to negotiate is that he who speaks first loses. By telling them what you want, you are essentially negotiating against yourself.
  2. Assume The Initial Offer Is Negotiable – it’s very likely that there is room to negotiate the initial offer. Before doing this, you should carefully compare all aspects of the offer to your current compensation. You should also do research on the job market at your level and within your field. To negotiate properly, you need to consider factors like commuting costs, employee benefits, etc. Try to determine how the offer compares to your current compensation, and the overall market for your skills and experience before attempting to negotiate.
  3. Negotiate For More? – if you are very excited about going to work for the new employer, and the offer is strong as-is, just accept it! However, if the offer is weak compared to your current compensation, or weak compared to a well researched market analysis, don’t be afraid to negotiate and ask for more. At this point, you probably have some idea as to what it will take for you to accept the job. If the offer is significantly below your expectations, you may want to be more aggressive in how you negotiate. Conversely, if the offer is pretty solid, you may still ask for more, but be careful of how hard you push for more.
  4. EVERYTHING is negotiable! Keep in mind that you can negotiate more than just your salary . Bonus, vacation time, stock options, etc. are all potentially negotiable. Let’s say you ask for a higher salary and the employer says “no”. You might go back and negotiate an extra week of vacation. Alternatively, you may ask them to grant you an early performance review whereby you’ll have a chance to prove yourself at the job for 3-6 months and then get a compensation increase if they are satisfied with your performance.
By |January 18th, 2016|Uncategorized|0 Comments

How To Evaluate a Job Offer

realities-of-an-offer-300x169The realities of an offer are important to consider when negotiating compensation. In an blog post from February this year, I discussed what a “good” job offer is in this competitive market. In short, a 5-10% bump in total compensation would be considered a strong offer. A link to that article is here.

In this post, I wanted to look at some realities of an offer and why a 5-10% increase is the market norm. The offer stage can be a highly emotional part of the search process. It’s important to remember that on both sides of the negotiation, this is a business decision. Money is important, and negotiating is part of the process, but remember these realities of an offer when approaching the negotiating table:

Friends sort of lie – do not listen to friends or colleagues about their salary. Friends provide some of some of the most unreliable data available. First, people have egos and they tend to fudge the numbers. Second, even if your friend is completely honest about a huge job offer they got, one example does not represent the market as a whole.
You aren’t underpaid – most job seekers I talk to feel they are underpaid. In reality, very few people are underpaid. If you are a top performer with good skills, you are much more likely to be on the upper end of the pay scale for your experience and skills. The economic law of supply and demand sets a pretty standard pay scale for a given skill, years of experience, credentials, etc.
Titles don’t matter – don’t get hung up on titles. I was quoted in a Fortune magazine article the other day about this (link to Fortune article here). In short, titles aren’t universally defined. One firm’s Director is another’s Manager. The responsibilities of the job, how you will develop professionally, and what you are being paid is all that really matters.
Evaluate money last – I always talk about job search motivations at length with a candidate – well before we look at an actual opportunity. Money is important, but it should almost never be a primary motivating factor when changing jobs. A reasonable offer that accomplishes many of the career goals and objectives you were seeking is a great job offer. Even if you receive a lateral offer, why would you not take a job that offered more responsibility, more growth, learning opportunities, etc.?

By |November 18th, 2015|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Job Search Mistakes

  1. Having Only One Resume – There are no one-size-fits-all resumes. If you use a single resume for your job search, you are making a big mistake! Resumes are usually glanced over very quickly to pick those candidates selected for interviews. It is critically important for you to target your resume to the specific company/job. A bit of minor tweaking can often make the difference between getting the interview, or not. Refer to my earlier post on how to target your resume here.
  2. Applying Online – this is a classic job search mistake to avoid. The main reason is because it is what everybody else is doing! It is very easy to get lost in flood of applicants who apply indiscriminately online. Second, many recruiters hold the belief that top-notch candidates don’t apply online. Top candidates are either sought out, or come in through other methods. Finally, applying online may hurt your chances of getting an interview or proper consideration at a company. You are far better off being evaluated as an employee referral, represented by a recruiter, or recommended by someone known to the company.
  3. Not Being Selective – whether you are actively or passively job searching, BE SELECTIVE. I generally advise people to take initial interviews liberally. Meeting the people and company face to face is the best way to see if there might be a fit. After an initial interview, I suggest people get much more selective. Don’t get deep into the interview process, or take things to the offer stage, if you can’t see yourself working at the company. You’ll not only be wasting your time, but you could leave a negative impression with the people who feel like you wasted theirs.
  4. Not Networking – this is the ultimate job search mistake. Study after study shows that the best jobs, and the best chances of landing your next job lies in networking. Friends, classmates, recruiters, alumni organizations, professional organizations, and former coworkers are just some of the categories of contacts you should tap into when considering a job change. Many people don’t do this because it involves more effort, but it is absolutely worth it!

David Staiti is the founder and Managing Partner of Virtus Recruiting, LLC. He has almost two decades of executive search and recruiting experience. He’s published numerous articles on job search and career management topics for The Wall Street Journal, CareerBuilder, and