Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Strategies in Everything

In the past few months, I have led some seminars for job seekers. I have also given some advice to a family member as she goes after a new job. In these situations, I found everything coming down to strategy (or focus).

There was never any grand vision when I began these tasks. Really, all I was doing was compiling whatever wisdom I had gleaned as a recruiter and candidate, as well as any information I had from other sources. It was through this process that I realized the key was having a focus and having a strategy to support that focus. It's about knowing your goals and figuring out how to attain them. It's about projecting a value proposition to potential employers - not just that you would be great at the job, but that, in fact, the job is meant for you.

This plays into pretty much every aspect of your job search: how you search, where you search, how you write a cover letter, the information included in your resume, the format of your resume, the way you conduct yourself in an interview, etc. However, there is one aspect, it seems, about which few people have thought, or, at least, about which they have not thought sufficiently. It is, my friends, the title of your resume.

I'm not really talking about the document title (though the advice is certainly applicable). If you send me a thoughtful cover letter, with resume, explaining how you would be a match for an opening I have, I won't care that the document has a title like, "CV20090609BusDev_v1.doc". Whatever, I don't think that's that important.

However, if you are using Monster or Workopolis or something similar*, you need to have an appropriate title for your resume/profile. Regardless of what the document title of your resume is, when I am doing a search, I should not see CV20090609BusDev_v1 as a title. Monster suggests using something eye-catching like Eager Technical Writer or Experienced Project Manager for the title.

Such titles are fine - in fact giving some information about who you are as a candidate is a good thing - but remember that being too specific can also be a problem. If you're a project manager who can also be a business analyst, information architect, communications specialist, or whatever, titling your profile, Experienced Project Manager, will mean that I, the recruiter, am likely to skip over it if I am looking for a communications specialist. If you're a junior web developer who would like to advance, but is still open to junior positions, don't put down intermediate or senior web developer. If I need a junior candidate, I'm not going to bother senior candidates. In such a situation, just write, web developer.

Now, this can be tricky. You want to project a concise message (your focus) and you need a good way to do it (your strategy), but you have to make sure you are on point. Think about what the title says to the recruiter - what sorts of inquiries it will draw and what sort of inquiries it will repel. If, upon reflection, you are satisfied with the answers to these questions, then you've probably nailed down a good title. If you're a little bewildered and have no idea about the sort of title to use, you can always just use your name. If, in a search, I just see the person's name in a title, I'll generally click on it as I'm inclined to think there's a good reason they came up in my search.

Full disclosure: if you were to find my profile on Monster, I believe the title you will read is jdsmcleod. Yeah, not particularly helpful. One day, I'll change that. One day, I'll update the resume, as well (the one that's up there is pretty horrific).

*Thinking more on it, this advice may only apply to Monster - it's the only one I use, but I assume other career sites work the same way.

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