I looked at a senior executive’s resume today – something I never do, but he is such a nice guy and his Role-Based Assessment was so good, I figured I’d do it, just for research.  He’s a consultant now, but he’s been in senior management the latter part of his career.  With the economy improving, he’s on the prowl and some lucky company is going to get him.  After he fixes his resume…

So I’m going to offer my advice here, in hopes that if you are looking for a new C level job (or any job for that matter) that it will help you too.

First, put your address on it so it doesn’t look like you are living in your car. I know you have a lot of experience and you want to cram in into two pages because somewhere there is a ‘two page rule’, but really, this is not the place to skimp.

Then think about a better title or tag line.  No one will read everything you wrote because resumes are inherently boring, especially compared to some of the funnier jokes your friends sent you today or you read on your intern’s monitor.

Put your industry right up there in the title.  I know you want to appear flexible but executive recruiters care about industry.  A lot.  That’s how they make money, specializing in an industry.  So get it on there.

Also use the title you expect or want.  Like Lord High Executioner or Ruler of the Queen’s Navee.

So your title will be something like Chief Financial Officer, Aerospace Industry, or Senior Organizational Development Leader, 18 years in Banking.  Don’t use a number if you think it isn’t a good one.  (I don’t know what a good number is.  This is something you need to be comfortable with.)

Rework your opening summary paragraph so it doesn’t sound like Dogbert wrote it.  (I like Dogbert but you have to make this very concrete because it isn’t being read by people like us.) Short sentences.  Really.  People don’t read…  Okay, make that most people.  And they are screening your resume.  Make.  Them.  Happy.

Then make the bullet points pop.  Make each one count and make them very different.  No Dogbert.  No hackneyed words.  If you don’t know what words not to use, read Dilbert.

Be more specific on Core Competencies, if you have a section with them.  Make it reflect you and no one else.  If we were talking sales we would be talking differentiation.

Now you’re ready to prune your list of past employment.  Be brutal.  Only keep what will keep the reader reading.  That’s a summary statement, what you did, how it made the company happy.  That’s it.  And leave off your first jobs if they don’t contribute anything.  Same with non-degree training and such.

Now you have room to GIVE ME MARGINS!!!  People who actually might want to talk to you want a place to make notes.  Or doodle.  Whatever, it will look better.

And remember, especially if you are a senior executive, that the hiring manager reading your resume is likely to have ‘significant experience’.  That’s HR-speak for ‘old enough to need reading glasses’.  So pump up that font.  Please.

And good luck!

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Ask any entrepreneur what it costs to make a hiring mistake and you’ll likely be met with a groan and a ‘double eye roll’.  Everyone knows the costs:

  • The recruiting fees
  • The job postings
  • The time you spend interviewing
  • Your turnover rate causing increased UC contribution costs
  • The lawyer’s fees for the employment contract, figuring out how to break the contract, and sometimes additional fees–plus the tax on your time and patience–required to defend yourself against wrongful termination!

Think of these these costs as ‘direct damage’:  a real strain on any entrepreneur’s budget, but not an unexpected cost of doing business.  Bad hires happen.  But wait…..have you considered the ‘collateral damage’?

No hiring decision happens in a vacuum.  You need your team to be whole. You have a missing part.  You seek to fill it in a way that capitalizes on the assets of your existing team members – and makes up for their deficits.  That’s why prudent employers engage search specialists, scour resumes, do 360-degree interviews, personality tests, reference checks, and even credit checks (where allowed by law).  But somehow, bad hires still happen, and when they happen to you, you’re naturally disappointed.  Or worse.  Because if you’ve pegged your hopes and plans on the wrong person, it’s the collateral damage that costs so much more than the hiring failure.

We all pride ourselves on being good judges of people, and we are — but only if we have the whole story, not just a collection of data components.  If you have had the misfortune of more than one or two hires that turned out badly, you may even begin to doubt whether you (or your people) are even capable of hiring successfully. When all the signs–including ‘gut feel’ point to “YES”, and still a new hire turns out to be a dud, the first piece of collateral damage may be your self-confidence as an executive decision-maker.

And then there is the impact of the bad hire on the rest of the team.  Here’s the worst part.  The better your team is, the worse the collateral damage will be.  If you have brought the bad hire in over people who are great performers, you’ll see the decline happening right before your eyes.  And worse, it won’t take long before your they are plotting their next career move.  And they aren’t likely to tell you because really – who is going to challenge the boss on a hiring decision?

Finally there is the adverse impact on present – and future – stakeholders.  News travels fast, especially since the investor/entrepreneur ecosystem has the modern day equivalent of jungle drums and really knows how to play.  You know what I mean: Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and all those f-t-f networking events.  Word gets around when someone (or some team) clearly doesn’t have the right stuff.

So in view of all this, wouldn’t it be great to know how someone will perform on your team – before you hire them?  You can, but only if you are measuring for the right things: not just for individual characteristics – but for behavioral ‘Teaming Characteristics’, which are derived from a person’s Coherence and Role. (To our knowledge, TGI’s Role-Based Assessment is the only way to measure these.)

To minimize some of the collateral damage you have experienced in the past, consider this: there nothing wrong with your decision making.  As an entrepreneur, you have a good sense of how to behave on a team because you know you can’t do it yourself.  You respect people who apply their skills, their experience, and their deep commitment to your vision.  Good decision making assumes good behavior.  Since you are a team player, you’ll tend to expect others to be good team players–and unfortunately, some are not. In fact, some are truly toxic to team play.  So keep on trusting yourself, and keep in mind that there is now a ‘new way to know’.

This piece originally appeared in Innovation DAILY March 29, 2010.

This post originally appeared on the Human Capital Institute blog and has been cited elsewhere.  Here it is, updated with the most critical thought for CEOs.

1- Shut up and listen:  Every moment you speak is a moment your interviewee is silent.  Unless you are interviewing someone who will be working for you as a mime, you aren’t learning anything while you’re talking.

2- Ask SPIN questions: Help your interviewee learn more about the position and company–while you’re learning more about them–by asking them value-centric questions.  Try using what sales guru Neil Rackham, author of SPIN Selling and many other books on business communication, calls ‘Implication’ and ‘Need-payoff’ questions.  “What if you got this position and could do anything within reason to make it a success?”  “Here’s a recurring problem (describe it); how many kinds of adverse impact on our business can you identify? This gives the candidate an opportunity to ‘dig in’ and actually sell themselves on the job opportunity, while giving you a view into their thinking and problem solving processes.

3 – Stick to a plan: Remember that an interview is a form of assessment.  If every interview follows a different path, they will not result in accurate or reasonable comparisons between candidates. Not only do you need to ask the same questions of each interviewee, you need to interpret their answers in the same way.  Furthermore,  if you don’t isolate the key message points and stay focused on them, it is all the more likely that the candidate’s physical characteristics, gender, race, nationality, style of dress, etc. will creep into the assessment–and before you know it you will be adrift in unconscious biases that can lead to future trouble.

4 – Pick a team player: Consider using an assessment that is designed to measure teaming characteristics.  Hiring has always been focused primarily on the characteristics of the individual candidates. Ironically, how well they will perform on the team doesn’t come to the fore until after the hire–and isn’t recognized as a failing until after the ‘bad hire’ has done plenty of damage.  You can’t really ask people how they ‘team’ and expect a reliable answer, so you need a way to predict how they will behave.

5 – Take the high road: Even when you’re having a tough day, remember that you are making decisions of critical importance to your organization.  You have direct influence on building and maintaining a human infrastructure that will determine the success or failure of the entire organization.  Take a deep breath, ask for a second opinion if you’re unsure, and always keep learning.

And for CEOs:

Remember, you are picking someone who will be teaming with you.  Do you know what your teaming characteristics are?  Don’t fight them: they’ve gotten you this far so don’t mess with success.  Just make sure the person you’re bringing in will be three things: Coherent, a Role complementary to yours, and someone with the kind of teaming characteristics that spell success on your team.  You’re building your human infrastructure so you may as well build from your own specs!

A pair of White Papers on valuation of the human infrastructure of organizations are scheduled for publication by SHRM in the coming weeks and as word gets around my C level colleagues are asking me for the quick description of CHI Indicators.  Herewith is the executive summary:

Certain derivatives of an organization or team’s Role-Based Assessments are processed and the result is a set of indicators that measure the coherency  of the human infrastructure and some key ratios that provide for the fuller picture. This is analogous to the CFO’s balance sheet or the PE’s evaluation of a building’s (or city’s) infrastructure. It allows for the immediate identification of the causes of problems – bottlenecks, unwarranted high-risk behaviors, serious operational failures – and it provides the roadmap to fixing them.

Nothing like this has ever existed before.  It will change the way we lead, we manage, we plan, and we work.

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