Monday 25 October 2004

Are you selling or shelved?

Recently, I was touted as someone who knows a bit about making CVs do what they are supposed to do. Create interest and get an interview.
So, in the end, I did receive a number of CVs and ended up writing this commentary which I believe would help towards ensuring that you are represented to the standard you do want to be recognised when your material lands on a recruiter’s desk.
Some of the commentary is directed and personalised, but no less relevant to any CV you read or write.
I read your CVs with interest and decided it might be better to share a few thoughts about what I believe makes CVs do the talking before they really, really want to meet the persona behind the data.
I have a number of analogies which I think would help reframe a lot of the detail of what in your CVs to bring out the qualities that really sell.
At first, I view a CV as marketing literature, it is your brochure that says, when I sent you my resume, I saw myself as the best person you could recruit for that role. How do you get your CV to do that.
First Analogy:
This is quite morbid but contains some interesting facts of life. When I visit a cemetery, I first look round the first few tombstones to give me an idea of the time frame in which people were buried in this cemetery after which I go looking for the mausoleums or grand edifices that tell you about the persons, persons and families buried therein.
Then I hear a famous person is also buried there and go looking for their headstone usually expecting to see something grand. If the stone is grand, fine, however, if it is ordinary, I am a bit underwhelmed.
What is the point here? Many CVs are tombstones, ordinary, plain and simple, nothing of note apart from gleaning an idea of what is about. The CVs that stand out have professional formatting, straight to the point and clearly engage the interest of the reader - these are the mausoleums.
Always give your CV a different look.
Second Analogy:
Culled, edited, personalised and updated from an article about the Perfect CV.
This chap comes round and says, "I've got a gun", in some cases he would instil fear, if well known, he is probably trying to show off and his friends say "so what?" Any one can get a gun.
That is the Feature - many CVs are full of features and lists. The reader has to figure out how each feature might apply to his recruitment situation or rather discard the CV and pick another up.
Maybe, the chap was caught mid-sentence and he says, "I've got a gun and I shot someone". That is an Achievement, of sorts, but it could also be murder and everyone is appalled and horrified, he is about to be shopped to the police.
And so, many CVs are full of achievements, but who are the achievements for and why?
Then he really gets to complete his sentence, "I've got a gun and I shot someone with it and because I did that, we won the war". Everyone exclaims, "You won the war?" He is feted, honoured, respected and the feature or achievement pale in significance because he used those two to gain a Benefit.
Anyone who reads that benefit through from the feature has his imagination excited about who this person is and that is what your CV should do.
Anything you have done that cannot be quantified as a benefit to the firm you work in is of no great significance.
There is not though that the order you bring into the chaos of change management saves money, time, resources and increases productivity and so on.
People who can clearly illustrate that they have brought benefits to any environment in which they have worked are seen as people who have something to bring to the party even if they are initially not considered qualified for the job.
Work to be done!
Your profiles should be a brief about you which should cover 3 essential things - who you are, what you bring and your pledge to fit in. Eliminate jargon and profession letters from that profile.
Each aspect of your work experience should concentrate on how your contribution helped and benefited, then you can list or analyse how you used the tools to get there.
Use statistical stuff like you halved waiting times, increased success results by a percentage, got people involved in some scheme.
One of my jobs was tough to explain and this is how I put it down "Three teams were combined into one; my role was to make them work as one." - Then I talked about how we got about it.
How do you get promoted at interview? Your CV raised expectations, your presence exceeded expectations.
Only put in the jargon where it helps shed more light on what you have done.
The area where you did temping jobs, you were useful to whoever employed you and achieved and benefited those organisations, spruce that up.
If you travelled, give a general idea of what you did - white-water rafting, crocodile baiting or lion-riding.
Recruiters like unusual, weird, crazy but collected people; they have a great outlook on life. - Statement from Tom Peters the uber-guru.
Close your CV with an idea of where you think you are going career wise and what general skills you have that do not fit in the body of the CV per se.
Do not waste space on old jobs except if they do contribute positively to the whole picture.
Have fun!

Tuesday 5 October 2004

Half of a quarter full of an eighth empty

The psychology of charlatans
The false psychology that informs interviewers in interviews has unfortunately misrepresented interviewees, if not done them an unfair disservice bearing on the result of probably not getting recruited.
Two such questions in interviews belie that fact that the intention never really gets the intended answer or the interviewee gets wrong-footed on a subjective assessment that has no objective bearing on suitability for the job.
a) What do you see yourself doing in five years time?
b) Is the glass half-full or half empty
Five Years Time
In answering one has been a victim of the crass unprofessionalism and subjectivity that accompanies giving the right answer to this question.
One would suppose this question seeks to appreciate career goals within the company with adequate training, promotion, prospects and advancements. Probably in five years time you would have attained the post of your interviewer and your interviewer should have moved higher in the organisation.
Unfortunately, the person who asks the question does not at first consider the relative basis of having advanced five years within the company before considering the new recruitment, so laying out a plan could in effect create the impression that the interviewee is out to unseat the interviewer.
It could also flag the fact that the company has bad career development policies and the mentoring factors in the company are very poor.
At which point the interviewee could already be judged as ambitious, over-rated and unsuitable for the team, no fault of the interviewee, rather a sitting failure of Human Resource processes within the company.
Having put this question to my colleagues, one suggestion was to reply by asking if there was the scope for the advancement that would allow you to have career prospects, developments and promotions and how this was managed in the company.
On ascertaining if the company does have its employee’s interests and developments at heart, you can then frame your answer within that context. You have in effect debunked the psychology and infused a sense of objectivity into a rather unpalatable situation.
It however, does not take away from the fact that the question is unnecessary and it does turn the focus on what the company is prepared to do for career progression and how it can accommodate the well-intentioned aspirations of the new entrant.
A glass of half truths
What is really missing from this question is the context. Why at any time would a glass be half-full or half-empty? One would paint a number of scenarios to debunk the false psychology of optimism and pessimism that this question is purported to reveal in an individual.
Any glass on a table
If you approached a table which had a glass of some liquid content in it observable before you touch the glass but without you knowing who put it there.
If you were a cleaner you would probably take the glass away and pour the contents down the drain, if you were anyone else, it would not matter what was in it, curiosity however, might make you take a whiff to find out if it is alcoholic or some other concoction.
That the glass if half-full or half-empty would be of no significance.
If you knew who placed the glass on the table and you were at a party, you would probably pick up the drink and take it to the owner of drink, who would have the view of emptying the glass rather than filling it.
So the optimistic import of this would be that to enjoy a drink you have to empty the glass and then fill it again to empty the contents by drinking and ingestion.
A glass of wine or some alcoholic beverage
In the setting of a bar, you will be served with a filled glass of beer or lager which you would systematically empty by drinking in a social setting.
Once you have drunk a bit, the glass of half-full, I am not aware of people filling their glasses whilst it still contains beer except in a case where the beer is being served from a bottle. The intent would be to empty the glass and obtain a new glass of beer at the bar.
In the case of wine, the glass is full for white wine and champagne and half filled for red wine, during the course of drinking the glasses can be refilled to their appropriate levels.
For a glass to be refilled the observer who would be one of the party or a sommelier would notice that the glass is half-empty as the impetus to refill, because if the glass is half-full, there would be no case for refilling.
Context of glass and contents
It appears that this issue is taken completely out of context if not represented in the continuum of why a glass is full and why a glass is empty.
The reason for filling a glass is to empty it by drinking and as you empty the glass it gets half-empty as would be the case of the person drinking and the glass becomes half-full when it is being filled either as a service or by the drinker or observer.
To capture a moment in time and without the characteristics and events surrounding the moment delivers a wrong interpretation of the event.
It goes without saying that a glass becomes half-empty from the pleasure of drinking and it becomes half-full in order to experience or continue the experience of the pleasure of drinking.
Whilst we would all want our glasses full before we start drinking, the reasons a glass would be left half-full or half-empty would revolve around the person having had enough to drink, the person not enjoying the drink or some other circumstance that has allowed the person to abandon the drink.
A glass half-full or half-empty without a person to manage its contents is useless.
Hence, there is no psychological value in asking a person to answer this question and no psychologist worth his salt would use this question as a basis for judging character.
In fact, the simple think is we should stop pretending to be good judges of people's character at an interview with such silly questions.
The real purpose of the interview is to ascertain qualification, suitability, flexibility and ability to contribute to the team in which they would be working; we should stick to those things and avoid veering off to areas where we are no experts or proficient enough to assess character with trick questions.

Monday 4 October 2004

The first law of holes

A memoir in the making
This would be a gloat if it were not so serious as to warrant a scrutiny, yea a commentary in fact.
The proximity of experience coupled with a memory of recent events allows for one to state contemporary issues as facts without need for serious analysis or revision. Documenting these facts makes for history, that it is so recent is a memoir in the making.
Having left my old company, I have acquired another completed chapter which consists of a successful job, a rotten ex-boss and various opportunities for perspective management.
Were it not for this age of civility, my parting with my ex-boss would have been completed at high noon after 10 paces. There is no doubt that my slug would have hit the target even if I was limp-wristed, like Big Ben the master of the tower that now bears the name, he is as tall as he is round.
News reaches one that the incompetence and mismanagement that followed the handling of my departure has not abated, rather complications have mounted to the point of farce, one is wont to feel sympathy, but one is better occupied in other events.
Fortunately, once again, he has fudged, budged, nudged and dodged his way out of the developing crisis, you have to give it to him. But then, even Teflon eventually gives.
My role at the time I left was in charge of making software available to users in a managed, recorded, assured and reliable fashion.
At my leaving there was no one to handle those tasks with any appreciable level of competence, time and again, one was commended for the successes of our deployments of critical business applications, basically, the system worked and was working on the day I left.
The people who were asked to step into my shoes were typical of being asked to go mountaineering in flip-flops – go figure.
It transpires that so recently, there was a major upgrade to their business process software and no one could use that infrastructure to manage deployment, so they resorted to techniques that were obviated probably 5 years ago.
What is missing from such a method is assured and managed deployments, statistical proof of success and managed use of the network. A case of substituting a kayak for a flight in a trans-Atlantic journey – it is crass and beggars belief.
It goes without saying that one offered to return to help out at no cost, but the offer of deftly refused.
Back to the law of holes, the ex-boss has an incredible schizophrenic persona of being best employee to his bosses and worst boss to his employees, he is successfully working through becoming ex-boss to many of his able and competent staff, one presumes 6 since August.
Those would summit the Everest need to climb to down to tell the tale, this man, I fear would summit but wherefore the tales?
Having dissembled and plied many issues with falsehoods, revisions and at times blatant lies without impunity, this is the man, the man without integrity, whose word is nothing, it would be no wonder if all these precipitates of inexactitudes begin to unravel as a Tom Clancy plot.
The law of holes
The first law of holes is to stop digging, stop the rut, stop the abuse, stop the wrongs, and stop the lies.
The second law of holes is cover up, fill it in, and keep it from becoming a hazard.
The third law of holes is scrub it; I’ll explain, any holes dug up cannot be properly concealed, and where they have been concealed, the detectives would first go digging there and not fresh ground.
Just imagine what gets dug up. You have to eliminate detections because you don’t go digging holes if you have nothing to keep from view.
My ex-boss has mastered the second law of holes without any recognition of the first, since he is digging faster than he can fill it all in, he cannot use the third law of holes.
Where the 3 laws are out of sync you end up with the paradox of holes, fossils, bones and bodies, it would be forensics long before the dinosaur chasers have a field day.
Meanwhile, news does have a way of getting here all the time. Keep you posted.