By Lily Whiteman
June 10th, 2013 | Uncategorized
The Presidential Management Fellows program will continue to operate, despite budget cutbacks, because agencies must continue to grow new leaders and conduct succession planning, Angela Bailey, the Office of Personnel Management’s associate director of employee services, said in an interview.
So if you’re qualified to join the PMF program, apply. Don’t bypass the program on the wrongful assumption that it will be a casualty of cutbacks.
Although attorneys and policy wonks are, as always, welcome to apply, technical specialists — in health and in information technology fields such as cybersecurity and software engineering — are in particularly high demand.
The PMF application begins with an online questionnaire. High scorers become semifinalists. Each semifinalist is invited to an in-person assessment that may be completed at various locations nationwide.
This assessment includes several components, including a behavioral interview, a group exercise and a timed essay-writing exercise.
Survivors of the in-person assessment become finalists who are eligible for PMF positions — many of which are filled at an annual job fair in Washington. Usually, about 60 percent to 67 percent of finalists find PMF jobs.
How to maximize your chances of succeeding in the PMF application process:
Study the websites of the PMF program (www.pmf.gov) and the Presidential Management Alumni Group (www.pmag.org). Also, use personal and online networking channels to connect with program alumni and discuss their experiences with them. Reflect your resulting programmatic knowledge and your desire and ability to contribute to the program in the written and in-person components of your application.
Follow application instructions to the letter. Many applicants wipe out by failing to do so.
Seize opportunities to explain why you want to work in the public sector, and your relevant experience.
Emphasize your leadership credentials, such as experience in student government, and positions in teaching, training or tutoring. This is important because the PMF program is aimed at cultivating a cadre of government leaders.
Also, prove that you’re well-rounded, that you have had a breadth of paid or unpaid experiences, and that you would skillfully maneuver through working environments that are multigenerational and have differing office cultures.
Prove that you’re a good leader during your in-person assessment. Participate in all exercises; ask questions when appropriate; show that you work well in teams; and demonstrate adaptability, good communication skills, collegiality and calmness.
For example, if your in-person assessment includes a mock news conference with aggressive questioning, maintain grace under fire; don’t get flustered, riled or knocked off your game; and explain the issues at hand in a clear, straightforward manner.
Stay on your toes throughout your in-person assessment, even during lunch. “Character is defined when no one is looking,” Bailey said.
Respond to written and in-person situational and problem-solving questions by honestly explaining what you think the best way to handle the challenge at hand would be, instead of by trying to guess the “right” answer, because such questions often don’t have a “right” answer, Bailey said. Rather, such questions are designed to draw out your thinking processes, logic and judgment.
Answer all questions included in background checks completely and honestly. You are more likely to jeopardize your acceptance into the PMF program by lying on your application than by disclosing potentially thorny aspects of your background, which won’t necessarily be deal-breakers if you can thoughtfully explain them.
Agencies hire PMFs at the GS-9 through GS-12 levels or their equivalents. So salary offers for PMF jobs vary depending on the hiring agency, the opening, and the applicant’s qualifications and negotiating success. So shop around and negotiate.
May 20th, 2013 | Uncategorized
Do you think you are or could become executive material? If so, consider aiming for the Senior Executive Service.
Some SES jobs are open only to GS-15s or above and their equivalents, but others are also open to GS-14s and their equivalents.
Before moving into an SES job, you will need to obtain certification of your leadership skills from a Qualifications Review Board (QRB) — an independent board administered by the Office of Personnel Management and composed of SES members. QRBs base their certification decisions on five Executive Core Qualifications (ECQs): leading change, leading people, results-driven, business acumen and building coalitions. To access descriptions of each ECQ, type “ECQ” into the search window at www.opm.gov.
You will also need an offer for an SES job.
There are two ways to obtain QRB certification and an SES job offer. One way is to land an SES job through competition. After an agency selects you for an SES job, it will submit your job application to the QRB for a certification decision. Once the QRB certifies you, you may start the job.
Another way is to complete an SES Candidate Development Program (CDP) run by OPM or another federal agency. CDPs are intensive programs — lasting 18 to 24 months — that require classroom training, at least four months of developmental assignments outside the candidate’s current position, mentoring, coaching, field experiences and Web-based learning.
Agencies may tailor their CDPs and the size of their CDP classes to their particular workforce needs and organizational missions. However, agency CDPs must be approved by OPM.
Acceptance into all CDP programs is competitive. Invitations to apply are usually governmentwide and announced on a rolling basis on www.USAJOBS.gov.
Upon graduation from a CDP, candidates usually obtain QRB certification. Any CDP graduate with QRB certification may be selected, without further competition, to any SES job for which he otherwise qualifies. But graduation from a CDP and QRB certification do not guarantee selection for an SES job.
Some agencies offer new SESers a set percentage increase in salary, usually 10 to 15 percent, over their previous salary; other agencies are free of such restrictions. But no matter what your hiring agency’s policy is, you should at least attempt to negotiate an SES salary.
In fact, these words, “Is this salary offer negotiable?” may be among the most valuable because they compel your hiring agency to increase its offer to you. In addition, salaries in the excepted service — for which agencies are not required to notify the public of vacancies — are usually higher than those for comparable jobs in the competitive service. So, if you are moving from a job in the competitive service into an SES job in the excepted service, your negotiating potential may be particularly promising.
Whenever you negotiate a salary, be diplomatic. The more convincingly you explain how your qualifications exceed the minimum qualifications for the target job, the better. No ultimatums!
The minimum annual salary for SESers is currently $119,554. But maximum salaries vary from agency to agency. Agencies that have been certified by OPM for adopting performance-based appraisal systems may pay higher SES salaries than uncertified agencies. The maximum salary for SESers covered by certified appraisal systems is currently $179,700, and the maximum salary for SESers not so covered is $165,300.
Since 2010, the salary table for all SESers has been frozen along with those of other feds. However, SESers have remained eligible for bonuses.
All SESers accrue eight hours of leave per pay period.
April 29th, 2013 | Uncategorized
Tips for current or aspiring Presidential Management Fellows and the managers and associates who advise them:
- Before applying to the Presidential Management Fellows (PMF) Program, consider its advantages and disadvantages versus other federal fellowship programs or entry-level positions.
The PMF program offers prestige, training, networking, mentoring and substantive experience. But so do many other federal internship and fellowship programs and entry-level jobs. Many such positions have simpler and faster application procedures than the PMF’s. And some entry-level jobs pay better.
- If you apply to be a PMF, keep pursuing other career options. Only about one in 10 applicants are accepted into the program.
- Even if you’re selected as a PMF finalist, you will still have to find a job in an agency and then rotations. When you’re hunting for jobs or required rotations, beware that some managers are more knowledgeable than others about the benefits of hiring PMFs and about the program’s requirements. And some agencies devote more resources than others to helping PMFs satisfy program requirements.
For example, a Bureau of Land Management PMF told me her managers assured her they “want me to fall in love with BLM during my fellowship’’ and “consider it part of their jobs to help me succeed.” Unfortunately, some agencies are not so invested in their Fellows. What’s more, the BLM Fellow warns that some managers may accept Fellows for rotations, in part, to gain “free labor.”
So when you research jobs and fellowships, ask current and former Fellows about your target organization’s attitudes toward Fellows. And in interviews with hiring managers, ask them about: their understanding of the program; previous experiences with Fellows; willingness to allow Fellows to devote time to required PMF activities; the agency’s infrastructure for cultivating Fellows; the impacts of budget cuts on this infrastructure; and the potential for landing promotions and post-fellowship positions.
Also, be prepared to sell the program and explain to hiring managers the benefits to them of hiring Fellows, as explained on the PMF website, www.PMF.gov.
- When you’re seeking a PMF job or rotation, the BLM Fellow advises: “Be genuine, confident and upfront about your interests. I found it OK to show hiring managers that I already had some direction, but to also acknowledge that I don’t know exactly where and how exactly I want to get there. Part of the appeal for managers is to show you a career path and get you excited about it.
“Explain to managers what you offer, while staying humble and expressing your eagerness to learn from other professionals. Be careful not to seem overly confident or cocky, or you’ll risk alienating hiring managers by reinforcing the unfortunate stereotype of PMFers as ‘people who act like know-it-alls.’ ”
- Land rotations that will complement — not merely duplicate — experiences offered by your main PMF job.
- Network. “Go down the hall and introduce yourself to PMF alumni,” the BLM Fellow advised. Through such networking, she received helpful advice on finding and selecting rotation and training opportunities, and on documenting her successes, as required for graduating from the program.
April 1st, 2013 | Uncategorized
Open your LinkedIn profile with a bang by instantly conveying your professional stature and by concisely packing as much information as possible into your header and your summary.
Your header is the title following your name. It shouldn’t necessarily match your job title, particularly if your title has only a ho-hum ring or does not capture your stature or areas of accomplishment.
Consider spicing up your header by calling yourself an “expert in X.” Do you recoil at the thought of calling yourself “an expert” even though you’re a seasoned professional? If so, you’re not alone, if my experience is any indication: When I lead seminars on career advancement skills, I invariably meet many true experts in their fields who — out of misplaced modesty — had never considered themselves as such until I convinced them otherwise.
Here’s my “expert” rule: If you’re the go-to person for a skill or topic and have years of experience in it, you’re an expert in it. All the more so if you have taught or published in your field.
Still not convinced you’re an expert? Then consider including in your header an alternative impressive phrase, such as “with extensive expertise in X.”
You might also spice up your header by citing skills you possess that are not covered by your job title. For example, I know a professional whose job title is “illustrator.” But because she also produces videos on her job and would like to move into a video production job, she added “video producer” to her LinkedIn header in addition to “illustrator.”
Another option: Define your position, your unique approach and what makes you stand out from the pack. For example, “chief financial officer who closed my agency’s books in record time.”
Also, feel free to cite your current employer in your title.
Your summary is the section following your header. Consider beginning it with a verve-filled conversational statement that defines your specialty or rare combination of skills, or describes how your approach distinguishes you from the pack.
• Journalism suits me to a “T” because I am inveterately curious. I love asking questions, and sleuthing out answers.
• Golda Meir said, “You cannot shake hands with a clenched fist.” Her philosophy has guided each alternative dispute resolution negotiating session I have led between employees and managers during the last 10 years.
• I am a multitasking maniac. I manage a 10-person press office that is a veritable news release factory; airs weekly webcasts routinely picked up by The Washington Post and The New York Times; produces daily updates to a website that receives 500,000 hits monthly; and serves as my agency’s crisis management center.
• I created a cure for meeting overload! As a conference planner and facilitator at X since 2006, I have been running productive, engaging conferences that render disorganized, pointless and endless events obsolete.
Also include in your summary a “greatest hits” career overview in a concise paragraph or bulleted list of three to five of your most relevant achievements. Determine how to phrase those achievements by asking yourself, “If I were to meet a pivotal contact, which of my achievements would impress him most, and how could I prove to him that these achievements were important?”
March 4th, 2013 | Uncategorized
My informal survey suggests that LinkedIn may be the most popular social media website among seasoned professionals.
Harder evidence of LinkedIn’s indispensability: According to a Jan. 27 New York Times article, “In Hiring, a Friend in Need Is a Prospect, Indeed,” some large companies are finding qualified candidates by recruiting new hires from the LinkedIn networks of their current employees. In the process, they are bypassing reams of nameless applications from recruiters and job boards.
So if you’re seeking a nonfederal job, it is practically de rigueur to create an impressive LinkedIn profile. And if you’re seeking a federal promotion, the same is becoming increasingly true. In light of the popularity of LinkedIn, you can expect federal hiring managers to review your LinkedIn profile before they meet with you.
But LinkedIn is important for more than job hunting. These days, whenever you’re exposed to new professional contacts, some of them will probably review your LinkedIn profile. These contacts may include new managers; colleagues and subordinates at your job; your interviewees; fellow attendees at meetings and conferences; people who hear you speak at events; editors considering publishing your work; and journalists.
Some tips for improving your LinkedIn profile:
- Maximize your name’s reach. Include nicknames and maiden names in your profile name, if you want to be found by people who know you by such names. Follow your name with the letters that represent any advanced degrees or certifications you have.
- Keep your LinkedIn profile shorter, less comprehensive and more conversational than your résumé.
- Be selective. Exclude jobs too dated or too unrelated to your current persona to matter anymore.
- Be descriptive. Job titles don’t speak for themselves. Each job listed in your LinkedIn profile should be accompanied by a job summary.
- Be concise. Limit each job summary to several bullets or a short paragraph that captures your salient achievements. Emphasize achievements that most parallel your current goals — no matter how little time you may have spent on them. And exclude achievements that don’t parallel your goals — no matter how much time you may have spent on them.
- Purge vague, overused clichés such as “team player” and “results-oriented.” Instead, prove that you warrant such descriptors. Did you, for example, lead a team, reconcile differences within a team, contribute to a team’s success or win a team award? And identify your results — if possible, with metrics. Did you, for example, manage a large network, save staff time by streamlining procedures, produce more with less or manage a budget? How big? How did you do it differently and better than others?
- If you’re job hunting, exclude any information that may alienate hiring managers, such as your political affiliations — unless you’re seeking a political job.
- Order information strategically. Order your jobs in reverse chronological order — unless a previous job is more relevant to your current career goals; in such cases, order your jobs according to their relevance to your current goals. Similarly, if your volunteer experience or education is more relevant to your goals than your job history, give such information top billing.
- Cite relevant websites in the “Summary” or “Projects” sections of your profile or in the appropriate job summary. These websites may include online portfolios or sites that showcase your projects or positive press coverage of them.
- Use quality controls. Run all profile text through a spellchecker before posting it on LinkedIn, which does not check spelling. Mistakes such as “detail-oriented edtor” [sic] are instant credibility-busters. Also, review the final version of your profile on LinkedIn to catch formatting mistakes.
- Make your profile public, if you feel comfortable doing so. A hidden profile won’t generate traffic.
- Increase your wow power. Regularly update your profile. And review other profiles to collect ideas on how to improve your own.
February 4th, 2013 | Uncategorized
The 17th-century French scientist and mathematician Blaise Pascal said, “If I had more time, I would have written a shorter letter.” The principle that writing concise documents takes more time than writing long-winded ones applies to just about every type of document, including reports, fact sheets, websites, letters, presentations and applications.
Instead of leaving the preparation of documents to the last minute, take time to:
- Tailor each document to its target audience. When deciding what to leave in or out and how to order your document’s contents, consider what your audience most wants and needs, and prioritize accordingly.
And when it comes to applications, remember: Managers are about as likely to read and remember generic, untailored applications as you are to read and remember your junk mail — and for many of the same reasons.
So your time is much better spent tailoring a few applications to their target audiences than carpet-bombing the world with many untailored, generic applications that will all probably miss their mark. Put another way: If you are unwilling to devote an otherwise enjoyable weekend to tailoring your application to your target job, some of your competitors almost certainly will be willing to do so — and so they will probably beat you in the competition.
To tailor your application to a target job, identify the types of academic and professional experiences as well as personality traits demanded by your target job; carefully troll through your background to identify your matching credentials; describe them; ruthlessly edit your resulting descriptions to eliminate superfluous information; and then order and format your descriptions so your most relevant credentials appear first and most prominently on the page.
- Write to be understood. Consider what background information your audience needs to understand your message and provide it. Define acronyms and technical terms, as needed.
In your applications, assume no previous knowledge about your field or sector so that human resources personnel and managers who have no previous knowledge of your field or sector will understand your application and be impressed by it.
- Work on your document in multiple sessions. It is virtually impossible to crank out a winning document in a single session — even in a long, caffeine-spiked all-nighter.
Rather, crafting eye-catching, informative and easy-to-read documents requires multiple sessions punctuated by long breaks. Only by temporarily detaching yourself and then returning to your document with fresh eyes can you even approximate the perspective of strangers — and recognize problems, such as passages that should be reordered; logical leaps that should be clarified; wordiness that should be economized; long passages that should be broken up with shorter paragraphs and headings; ho-hum passages that demand zest; errors that need corrections; and important information that should be added.
If you don’t have time to let your document go cold for extended periods, let it at least go lukewarm for brief periods, if only by briefly distracting yourself by watering your plants, making a phone call or jamming on your air guitar.
- Proofread your documents scrupulously. Repeatedly print your document and proofread for typos, misspellings, punctuation problems and extra or missing words that will not necessarily be found by spellcheckers and are easier to spot on hardcopy documents than on the computer screen.
Large percentages of federal job applications are rejected solely because of these types of careless applications. If an applicant’s work doesn’t pass muster when he is supposedly putting his best foot forward, it is unlikely to pass muster under less pressured circumstances.
The tragedy of rejections based on careless errors is that the hapless rejectees are almost never informed of why they wiped out. So be forewarned.
- Solicit friendly fire on your documents from trusted advisers before submitting them. The only way to know how you’re coming across is to ask other people, “How am I coming across?” It’s better to find out how to improve your documents when you still have opportunities to improve them than to blissfully submit flawed documents and let your mistakes silently sink you.
January 7th, 2013 | Uncategorized
Statistics, measurements, counts and other metrics sound scientific, inarguable and objective. If you bolster your resume, answers to interview questions and updates to your supervisor, LinkedIn profile and other professional documents with such metrics, they will sound scientific, inarguable and objective.
By quantifying your achievements, you will also underscore their heft and help prove that you’re an action-oriented go-getter rather than a self-promoting talker.
“Time” metrics are one way to help quantify your achievements:
- Your years of experience or hours of training or courses.
- Tight, non-negotiable deadlines you met, or the number of work products (such as press releases, articles, videos, reports, grants, regulations) you produced or processed within a specified time.
- Time savings you produced by streamlining or automating procedures.
- You can also use metrics to quantify the number of people affected by your achievements:
- The number of interns, employees or contractors you recruited or supervise; the number of customers or clients you serve, managers you support or stakeholder groups you interact with.
- The size of the audience reached by your publication or website, or the increase in size of audience you generated.
- The number of attendees at presentations, conferences or training sessions you managed, or the number of events you led. Also, the number or percentage of attendees who rated your event favorably.
- The increase in an organization’s membership or the improvements in survey results you generated.
- Reductions in the frequencies of deaths, injuries or other adverse events you helped bring about; the number of people or organizations that must comply with regulations you implemented; the number of people using a network or other system you manage or the size of database you manage; or the number of cases you won or managed.
- Stats that reflect the selectivity of a fellowship or other honor you received.
- The size and diversity of membership of a group you lead, or stats proving that you increased the diversity of an office or program.
Money and efficiency metrics:
- Your record of completing projects on time or in record time or under budget.
- The size of budget you manage and budget increases you helped generate; the annual revenue of the organization you manage and revenue increases you helped generate; the dollar value of contracts or accounts you manage; or the dollar value of legal cases, property or equipment you manage or purchased.
- Cost savings you generated by improving processes, negotiating skillfully or leading reorganizations; stats showing that you improved quality controls or increased efficiency.
- The number or dollar value of promotions and bonuses you received within a specified time.
- The number of square feet or size of acreage that you manage or consolidated.
- The number or size of facilities, labs, offices, states, districts or countries in your jurisdiction.
If you can’t cite exact numbers in your attempt, quantify your achievements:
- Estimate with phrases, such as: dozens of, significant increases in or 100-plus.
- Use creative but honest accounting. For example, consider the strategy used by a federal attorney asked about her supervisory experience in her application for a managerial position. Instead of stating that, at the time, she had only been supervising three attorneys, she stated that during her 15 years as a supervisor, she had supervised dozens of attorneys. Plus, she quoted praise she had received from her staffers in thank-you cards. The result: She got the job.
- You don’t have to be the first to climb a Himalayan peak for your achievements to warrant superlatives, such as: first, fastest, precedent-setting, pioneering or record-breaking. Your achievements warrant such descriptions if you were the first one in your office to close the books on time, write a regulation in plain English or innovate an online filing system.
December 10th, 2012 | Uncategorized
A winning way to craft your résumé is to begin by brandishing your name — followed by abbreviations for any certifications or graduate degrees you earned — in large, bold font on the first line. And cite in large, bold font your professional title on the second line of your résumé.
By doing so, you’ll instantly broadcast to harried hiring managers who only skim your résumé what you are and what you could do for them.
Your professional title should be honest, but need not necessarily match the job title of your current job, particularly if the latter fails to capture your key credentials.
For example, consider the strategy used by a Ph.D. scientist who had a graduate certificate in health policy and was working a two-year policy fellowship in a federal agency. In her application for a permanent federal job in science policy, she used the professional title: “Ph.D. Neuroscientist with Advanced Expertise in Science Policy.”
While her current job title of “fellow” was comparatively vague and uninformative, her self-proclaimed professional title captured her science background as well as her policy expertise — both of which helped her land her target job.
Consider incorporating phrases into your professional job title, such as “expert in,” “specialist in,” “senior-level,” “in-depth knowledge of” and “award-winning.”
- Prominently display in your résumé header your current or past security clearances and veteran’s preference.
- Consider including a résumé objective that either specifically names your target job or defines what you offer or would contribute. For example, a worthy résumé objective would be: “A position managing a help desk where my knowledge of large networks and trouble-shooting expertise will improve network efficiency.”
Warning: Your objective shouldn’t be a “wish list” of what you want from your next job. This is important because you won’t land interviews by describing your needs; you’ll only land interviews by impressing hiring managers with what you could do for them.
- Order your job summaries in reverse chronological order because your current and most recent jobs are more important than your ancient jobs.
Emphasize in your job summaries the names of your employers and job titles by using formatting features, such as varied fonts, bold, underlining and italics. Hint: if your ZIP code appears as prominently on your résumé as your current job title, reformat your résumé.
Format descriptions of your activities in each job summary as a set of achievement-oriented bullets.
Break up long lists of bullets under headings, such as Leadership Achievements, Communication Achievements and Strategic Planning Achievements. Your headings should echo the demands of your target job.
- If the online application of your target job requires you to submit a formatless online résumé, accompany it with an uploaded PDF of your well-formatted, hard-copy résumé, if possible.
Why? Because a reader-friendly, well-formatted hard-copy résumé is more likely to get read and be remembered by hiring managers than a hard-to-read, formatless online résumé. Also, bring a well-formatted, hard-copy version of your résumé to interviews.
If possible, also upload to online applications PDF copies of documents that testify to your abilities, such as reports, news releases, articles, brochures for conferences, illustrations, photos or maps that showcase your contributions.
Alternatively, upload an annotated list of websites that showcase your work products, such as videos, artwork or other tangible evidence of your success. Also, consider including links to relevant work products on your LinkedIn profile, an online portfolio or a password-protected website — and provide all relevant URLs and passwords in your cover letter or résumé.
Remember: You will impress hiring managers more by showing them what you can do than by just telling them so.
In a formatless online résumé, use capital letters to emphasize important text, asterisks to create bullets and white space to enhance readability.
November 26th, 2012 | Uncategorized
Want to understand how to impress hiring managers? It takes one to know one, as the saying goes. So the best way to understand hiring managers is to become one. You may be able to do so by volunteering to serve on a hiring committee.
If you serve on a hiring committee, you will be shocked, outraged, entertained, horrified, humored, impressed and enlightened by how job seekers present themselves. But more importantly, you will be rewarded for your service with insider insights about how hiring managers think and how job seekers fail and succeed in their job quests — information that may help you land your next job.
One of the important lessons I learned by serving on hiring committees is how fast hiring managers operate. Indeed, hiring managers don’t read applications as they read suspense novels — savoring every word while cuddled up with their cat, sipping wine, beside a cozy fire.
Instead, they race through applications solely to whittle down the pile (which they invariably should have finished reviewing yesterday) so they can get back to their “real work.”
My observations about the speed of hiring decisions have been corroborated by more than 100 interviews I have conducted with hiring managers about their hiring decisions. Typical was a response from a hiring manager after I asked him how long he spends reading the typical résumé. “Ten seconds at most,” he said. I chuckled in response. So he emphasized, “No really; I’m impatient and busy — always. So that’s all the time I can give. Plus, I can tell almost instantly whether an applicant has what I’m looking for.”
The lightning speed of hiring decisions means that to be successful, your résumé — your personal marketing document — must serve as a verbal one-two punch that instantly knocks out hiring managers. To design your résumé to score an instant knockout:
- Tailor your résumé to each of your target jobs. Interpret the job description of each target job as a question that asks, “Could you do this job well?” Answer with a big “YES!” by showing that you have already done so — by describing in your résumé your credentials and achievements that parallel the demands of your target job and by describing the positive feedback and objective validation your accomplishments drew.
- Don’t expect hiring managers to look for a needle in the haystack — just give them the needle without the haystack. Ask yourself whether each of the credentials and achievements in your résumé mirrors the demands of your target job and whether it would realistically help you land the job. If necessary, purge irrelevant information from your résumé — no matter how personally significant it is to you.
- Craft each job summary on your résumé to review your achievements — not inventory your assigned duties and responsibilities. After all, reading a series of job descriptions is just about as interesting and memorable as reading someone else’s “to-do” list. (Snooze!) What’s more, your job descriptions only reflect what you were supposed to do (Who cares?), rather than what you achieved (Wow!).
- Structure each job summary as a set of snappy, fast-read bullets that will send your hiring manager’s eyes flying down the page — not as dense paragraphs. Begin each bullet with an action, achievement-oriented verb, such as led, developed, initiated, managed, presented, created from scratch, designed, completed, trained, streamlined, saved $XX,000 or wrote. Eliminate mealy, vague verbs, such as helped, participated in and contributed, by explicitly stating what you actually did to help, participate or contribute. Find lists of action and achievement verbs by Googling action verbs for résumés.
- Sequence bullets for each job summary according to their relevance to your target job — not according to how much time you spent on the achievements they describe. By so sequencing your bullets, you will hit hiring managers with your best shots up top and thereby maximize their “wow” power.
November 5th, 2012 | Uncategorized
Which of these statements is more persuasive and impressive?
- “I am an excellent swimmer. I know you will be impressed by how well I swim when you watch me.”
- “I won an Olympic gold medal in swimming.”
The first statement — unsupported by any objective validation — could easily be dismissed as self-serving propaganda and an empty, presumptuous promise. By contrast, the second assertion is impressive because it incorporates objective, inarguable, universally respected validation: an Olympic medal. The second assertion meets the gold standard, literally.
You can similarly use the power of validation to prove that you have met the gold standard of your profession and thereby impress your boss, hiring managers or others who will judge your background when you apply for annual bonuses, jobs, admittance to the Senior Executive Service, promotions, awards, grants, academic programs, speaking engagements or other honors. Do so by incorporating into written and spoken descriptions of your achievements your own personal versions of Olympic gold medals: solid, objective, inarguable, universally respected evidence of your stature and success.Some potential examples of your personal gold medals:
- High academic grades, high grade-point average, merit-based scholarships or fellowships.
- Positive annual evaluations.
- Praise you’ve received from professors, supervisors, senior officials, clients, contractors, customers, staffers or mentees.
- Bonuses or other awards, including team awards.
- Security clearances.
- Publications in professional journals or popular press.
- Positive media coverage of projects that incorporate your contributions.
- Improvements in survey results that you helped generate.
- Promotions and rapid advancement. For example, “I advanced from a clerk to a program manager in six years.”
- Your years of experience.
- The size of audience of a document or event you produced or the prominence of your audience. For example, were your work products distributed to senior managers or Congress?
- The size of your budget.
- Repeat requests for your services from senior managers or stakeholders.
- Position on a management team, acting positions or prestigious details.
- Record of meeting non-negotiable deadlines and completing projects on budget.
You may generate other personal gold medals by asking yourself: What proof do I have that I have been successful? How did I improve the operations of my organization? What evidence shows that I wield a lot of responsibility? How have I saved time or money for my organization or improved its reputation? Why is my work important?
See the power of validation in action in the two real-life openers from cover letters:
- “I am writing this letter to express my sincere interesting in obtaining a writer/editor position with the United States Mint. I am completely confident in my professional abilities and I am certain that my employment would benefit your company as well as myself.”
- “I would be eager to contribute my 15 years of experience as a writer/editor to the United States Mint as a Public Affairs Officer. My credentials include two awards of Excellence from the Association of Government Communicators, two recent merit-based promotions in four years and a security clearance.”
The second opener belonged to the winning cover letter, largely because it incorporated impressive validation.
One way to brandish your gold medals in your résumé is to copy a technique evident in ads for movies that splice together praising quotes from good reviews they have received. Similarly, consider splicing together quotes from oral or written praise you have received from bosses, managers or other stakeholders in your résumé — either in a summary of qualifications or under the appropriate job description in your résumé.