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    Stand out by following all the rules

    Disclaimer - I am not a recruiter, career coach, resume writer, and claim no expertise of any kind on the job search process.  

    But something that I see and read quite a bit about that is related to the job search process makes me wonder. It is the seemingly standard resume advice that more or less goes like this:

    1. Recruiters and HR staff will examine your resume for less than one minute before making a screening decision. I have even heard this is more like 30 seconds.

    2. You should have a cover letter, but there is a pretty high likelihood no one will read it.

    3. But in case someone reads it, it better offer a compelling reason for the Recruiter to read your resume. Except of course if the Recruiter follows the process that many of them seem to adopt, that is to head straight to the resume before reading the cover letter. So mostly the cover letter is intended to convince someone to do something they have already done.  

    It would be funny if the cover letter said something like: 'Thanks for reading my resume, you must have been impressed since you are now reading this cover letter.  Let me tell you a bit more about how fabulous I am.'

    4. But here is the one 'truism' that for some reason bothers me the most - the common advice to not do anything different, unusual, or out of the ordinary on the resume itself. No images, logos, strange or different colors or fonts.  No cutting-edge design at all that might distract or annoy the hiring pro. Keep the the typical formula, plain white paper, two pages max, 10pt Times New Roman font, nice clean bullet points of your major accomplishments, etc.

    In other words, make sure your resume looks exactly like every other one in the pile or in the recruiter's overstuffed e-mail inbox.

    The Evil HR Lady wrote about this issue, referring to a online service called Vizual Resume that offers a collection of interesting and different templates for the creation of more distinctive resumes. Other similar services like VisualCV also offer options to create more visually appealing, engaging, and perhaps more compelling documents and testaments to someone's skills, background, and capabilities. And there is at least one iPhone App for resume building and transmitting.

    Is the advice to genericize all the design elements of the resume the best to give and for job seekers to follow? In an incredibly difficult job market, where competition for positions in many fields and regions is historically high? Whatever you do candidate, don't do anything to make your resume stand out from anyone elses.

    Sure, playing it safe with format, design, or interactive elements won't rule a candidate out in a competitive search process, but it won't make anyone's qualifications stand out from the rest either.

    Am I way off the track on this? Maybe some real recruiting pros can set me straight as to why the standard advice seems to have the effect of making it all the more difficult to get noticed.

    Why has the technical revolution that has impacted and dramatically changed almost every aspect of the workplace had such a difficult time disrupting the classic resume?





    The Talent Wheel

    Yesterday Mike VanDervort sent me a link to this, a really powerful, yet simple graphical and interactive World Cup schedule calendar tool.

    The image at right is a screen shot from the interactive tool, but the image alone really does not do it justice, I recommend taking a minute or two to check out the site and try out the graphical calendar.

    In a simple, one page display the calendar allows the user to display data about the World Cup schedule in several dimensions - by participating country, by Group, by date, location of the stadiums, and by stage of the tournament.

    For example, clicking on a country name on the left hand side of the wheel displays that team's scheduled games with date and time information, highlights the locations of the games and their dates.  Alternatively, selecting a specific date on the wheel will display all the games for that date, with teams, time and location information highlighted.  

    For a World Cup fan, the calendar is a bit addictive.   

    After playing with the tool for a bit I wondered if the ideas from the powerful, simple, and kind of fun application of the World Cup calendar could be applied in the workforce technology context. Imagine the sections and spokes on the wheel begin populated with organizational dimensions like functional department or region, core competencies or specific skill sets, current or future major organizational initiatives or projects, and perhaps details like past performance appraisals or position in talent pools for succession plans.

    As a project manager or business leader looks to staff a project, or find a potential candidate to fill an important new role, he/she could navigate the 'Talent Wheel', highlighting the relevant skills, experiences, or other important information from the spokes of the Talent Wheel.  The tool would then present the relevant information in the center of the wheel for display or optional export. 

    Or perhaps the Talent Wheel could be configured to better reflect and display organizational reporting relationships in today's large and much more complex matrix structures.  Since organizations and workforces are much more complex than the schedule of a sports tournament, perhaps the wheel could be designed to accept a few input parameters before the display is actually generated, allowing the user to narrow or more precisely design the Talent Wheel.

    Either way, I think the main points to consider are these - the World Cup calendar presents moderately complex, multi-dimensional data in an interesting, powerful, interactive, and fun manner.

    Can you say the same thing about the systems that you are using to analyze workforce data?

    Or if you are a designer of such systems, are the tools you are creating as engaging to use as the World Cup calendar?

    Do your users actually have fun using your solution?

    Thanks Mike for pointing this out - it is surely an addictive site!





    Weekly Wrap Up - May 31-June 6, 2010

    Another week another collection of posts!  And as I look back on this past week of posts I thought, 'Man, what was I thinking?'. But alas, what is done is done. 

    I thought I would start posting each Sunday the summary of the week's posts in Tabbloid format. As you might recall from an earlier post, Tabbloid is a free service that lets you create a custom PDF format 'newspaper' from your selected blogs and other sites RSS feeds, and have that newspaper delivered via email on whatever schedule you choose.

    Here is this week's collection of posts, in handy PDF format - Steve's Blog : May 31-June 6, 2010.

    I hope making content accessible in this way is a help to someone out there, I will continue to post these collections on Sundays for the time being.  I hope that if you find them useful, or actually download the PDF and give/send it to someone that otherwise would have never seen these posts, you would take a second and let me know in the comments. 

    This is one way to try to break out of the echo chamber, but it is certainly not the only way, and if you have other and better thoughts on how to do this, I would love to hear them.

    Some other highlights from all the great posts and articles I read this week that I recommend:

    Paying it Forward: Ideas Beyond the Traditional Merit Matrix - At Compensation Cafe, Ann Bares offers some new ideas and approaches to the staid, annual salary review process.

    Blogging - from XKCD, a short but sweet take on how often bloggers forget the real key to building an audience, good content.

    How Do You Define "Talent?" - Steve Roesler at All Things Workplace cautions us about trying to define talent using a laundry list of competencies.

    Why Creatives are Confused - Scott Berkun takes a look at the problems that creative types can encounter as the climb the corporate ladder

    Five Lessons From the BP Oil Spill - Andrew Winston at the HBR offers one of the best takes on lessons from the oil spill.  There has been so much written about this, but this piece does a great job of offering some solid advice without hyperventilating about it.

    What did you read this past week that you would like to share?





    Right now

    1. READING: The Why of Work - Prepping for the next HR Happy Hour show, this is the latest from Dave Ulrich and Wendy Ulrich.  Really interesting ideas on how leaders and organizations can strive to make more meaningful workplaces and create what the authors call 'abundant' organizations.

    2. BEING: I should be here a little more often.  Maybe I can guilt myself into hitting it up a little more frequently.

    3. WATCHING: Way too much basketball with a healthy dose of the unhealthy folks on Hoarders. Basketball, especially NBA at the highest level is a great petri dish of competition, team work, management, and leadership all wrapped up in a neat package. Hoarders is just plain scary, but oddly compelling.  Maybe we all carry around too much of the past, either in the form of 'stuff' or just in our minds.

    4. BROWSING: HR and workplace related - Women of HR, a new multi-contributor site launched this week.   Fun stuff - Junkculture, Significant Objects, and Patrick's Investigations, where Patrick is running a contest that involves making fun of me, be sure to check it out.

    5. SNACKING: BBQ season is in full effect.  Smoked brisket is on the docket for this weekend I believe.  If I get too lazy to cook, I will have to hit up the Dinosaur.

    6. LISTENING: I am not a huge music guy, but I did check out this live concert that was streamed on YouTube last month and thought it was pretty cool.

    7. SAYING: 'Don't bunch up' - said repeatedly lately to a group of 8 and 9 year olds that have yet to fully grasp that not actually standing on each other's toes may help the overall soccer team's effectiveness.

    8. DRINKING: Hawaiian Punch.  Don't judge.


    9. DREAMING: Vegas baby - and the Tremendous Upside Unconference in July.

    Editor's Notes: 

    So what do you do when you are a bit stuck for ideas for a blog post?

    You find an excellent post written by someone else and steal blatantly. Well, not really, make sure you quote accurately and ask for permission if need be.

    The title and idea for this post is completely lifted from Col at Col's Blog - her piece is way more interesting, so I highly recommend you head over there and check it out.  

    Thanks Col for the permission to hijack your idea!






    The Answers are Different

    I have to spend the better part of this weekend preparing materials for the next session of my HR Technology course at Rochester Institute of Technology as part of the Master's program in Human Resource Development. Flickr - michael.heiss

    The course, one of very few in the country with a 100% focus on HR Technology, has been in existence for about three years, and each time I prepare and deliver the course I try to change and enhance the content, structure, and assignments to keep the course fresh and interesting, and to attempt to provide to the students an accurate and relevant overview of the current set of technologies and the latest thinking of how Human Resources professionals can better leverage technology in their organizations.

    Or I could roll out the same set of content as the last time and rely on the old Einstein line alluded to in the title of the post.  Short version - Professor Einstein gave the same exact final exam two terms in a row, a student asked him if that made sense, since savvy students would always connect with kids in the prior class to learn about the exam content.  Einstein responded with 'Yes the questions are the same, but now the answers are different.'

    Anyway, we cover the basics, Core HRMS, payroll, time and attendance stuff.  We then spend quite a bit of time on Talent Management tools, like performance management and succession planning.  Finally, we wrap the course with a look at new collaboration technologies and ways that technologies and social networks can be used to further organizational objectives. We do quite a bit of hands-on work and get to try and test several really cool technologies.

    And do you know what my past students have consistently wanted me to focus on in much greater detail?

    Helping them with their personal LinkedIn profiles.

    The second we start discussing LinkedIn in an organizational context, its power as a corporate recruiting tool, and the importance of groups, answers etc. in employer branding efforts, at least two thirds of the class will ask for advice and guidance on completing, (and in some cases creating), their personal LinkedIn profiles.  Many of the students are in an active job search, or will soon be in search mode once they complete the program, so this kind of personal and practical knowledge is way more important to them than me waxing philosphic on the benefits of SaaS deployment of HR Technology.

    So when that happens, I will carve out some time to spend on LinkedIn profiles, as well as some other places where students can consider for building up an online identity and reputation that can benefit them in their job searches.  I am certainly not an expert on this, but I give it a shot.

    The whole 'LinkedIn' discussion though takes me to a more interesting question though:

    As the instructor should I be talking about and stressing what is 'important' or what the students really need to know?

    Postscript - Since I know I will have to have the 'How to make a better LinkedIn profile' discussion again soon, if you have some tips or links to good resources, tutorials, etc. please let me know in the comments.