Safety tips for your job search

Scammers are preying on desperate job seekers.  Are you conducting a safe job search?

One of my Denver clients recently called me with an unfortunate but common problem:

“I just got called by the police – they discovered an identity theft ring which had stolen my information from an online job application,” he said, totally despondent and heartbroken.  “I guess I’m lucky because the cops caught them, but I still have to deal with cleaning up the mess they made…”

In the past year, identity thefts and other scams that target job seekers has seen a sharp increase.  It is estimated that 50-70% of job ads on are fraudulent.  Compared to a rate of approximately 30% in 2008, it is easy to see that the thieves are banking on the desperation of the job seekers.

Fortunately, you can easily protect yourself from such scams.

Protect Your Information

One of the common tricks is to direct job seekers to an online application.  While many legitimate companies use online applications, or Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS), look out for ones that require too much personal information.

If the application asks for any of this information, do NOT fill it in:

  • ·         Social Security number
  • ·         Birth Date (they should only ask if you are over 18)
  • ·         Bank account information (often disguised as trying to set up your direct deposit)
  • ·         Mother’s maiden name (often needed to establish credit)
  • ·         Previous names used
  • ·         Insistence on full salary history when you apply

If you are still interested in the job after running into these requests, call the company first. Sometimes legitimate companies will ask for these details, especially the salary history.  For example, the private service industry will frequently ask for some of these details, especially since they are recruiting people to work in private homes.

However, if you are suspicious about any opportunity, look for ways to talk to an actual person at the company, even if it is only the receptionist to verify that the job listing is real.  If the company’s name is not listed on the website, definitely run the other way.

A New Twist: Cloned Job Postings

The other day my husband called me to verify a customer service job he saw posted on  This was for an advanced customer advocate with a stated salary range of over $60,000 – obviously, much higher than the typical rate.  The problem?  The job posting was a clone that led to a dummy application system.

What the scammers did was find a legitimate job in another state, copied it, and pasted into the Denver job listings.  The website with the application used the original company’s logo and descriptions, but it didn’t have the supporting pages built around the rest of the site.

How did I find this out?  I went to the real company’s main website, which I found through Google.  They only had this same job available in Ohio and Tennessee, but certainly not for a Denver call center.  Had my husband filled out the fake application, I’m sure we would be dealing with some identity theft today.

Private Resume Posting

Scammers are also contacting people who place their resumes online.  Generally speaking, do NOT post your resume online unless you can do so in a completely private manner.

For example, when you load up your resume on or, you do have the option to list it as “Private.”  This means that your resume will not show up in a general search of the data base – only jobs that you actually apply to will receive your information.

Recruiters pay money to search the data bases, which is also known as data mining.  However, these jobs tend to be high-turnover jobs, such as 100% commission sales jobs.  You won’t be missing many great opportunities by posting your resume privately.

A private setting not only protects you from thieves that pay to search resumes, it will also decrease the amount of spam job listings that are targeting you.  Want to get rid of the pesky “opportunity to own an insurance franchise?” Only post your resume privately.

In cases like Craigslist that offers no privacy settings on resume posting, do not post your resume at all.  If you choose to upload a Word or PDF version of your resume onto your LinkedIn profile, be sure to remove your contact information first.

Don’t Accept Packages

Another twist from scammers is the offer to help someone run their purchasing business.  Usually coming from someone across the country or who “travels a lot,” the job sounds like a great way to make part time money.  All you have to do is receive the packages and ship them forward.

The first few deals may work out.  However, as you “prove yourself” on the job, you may get asked to make purchases on the employer’s behalf, with a promise to pay you back plus interest. Here the scam can run two ways: either you never get reimbursed or the employer asks for your banking information to send you money.

Anytime someone asks for banking information is a bad sign…

Legitimate professional shoppers or art dealers do not operate this way. They already have a network that they use for these services.

Work at Home

While there are many legitimate work-at-home opportunities, you do need to be careful.  Here are some of the common work-at-home scams:

  • ·         You have to pay for training
  • ·         You have to buy materials to assemble items for resale (either you can’t sell the items, or the “employer” won’t pay you for the work performed)
  • ·         Bogus direct deposit forms

If you are serious about a work-from-home opportunity, check out  While you do have to pay to see the full jobs listings, Flexjobs researches each and every job to make sure they are a legitimate offering from a real company.

Check Their Reputation

Before you apply for any job, you should research the company.  In particular, resources like Colorado’s Better Business Bureau, local Chambers of Commerce (including the internet Chambers of Commerce) and local news sources like the Denver Business Journal all carry information on local businesses.  In the case of the Better Business Bureau, they have free information on most of the businesses, whether they are members or not.  Seeing the number of complaints – or a lack of records – are all indications that a potential employer is not on the level.

One of my favorite tools for checking out companies is a simple Google search.  Try “company name scam,” or “company name reputation,” or “company name reviews.”  What I like about this tactic is that it will also reveal real companies that have a negative reputation or bad company culture.  After all, the job may be real, but you may not want it.

Use Common Sense

While the job search may be driving you crazy, don’t let desperation override your common sense.  If a deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Building and Protecting Your Reputation

As my friend and trusted business advisor Denny Basham of Subsilio Consulting says, “Reputation matters.”  Never has this been truer in business than it is today.  With Google at everyone’s fingertips and reviews available for everything under the sun, both the business owner and the job seeker need to be very conscious of what their reputation is.


Why does reputation matter?

In today’s marketplace, it’s very easy to find out a lot of information about individuals as well as businesses.  For job seekers, this equates the need to build positive, online reviews – just like a proactive reputation marketing campaign is important to a business.  One place we see this is on LinkedIn.

It is now standard practice for recruiters and managers to check out a candidate’s LinkedIn profile before offering them an interview.  Some of the main things they are looking for are the Recommendations, the size of the candidate’s network, the Endorsements, and his or her Groups.  All of this additional information gives insight into the candidate beyond just the resume.  Of these, the written Recommendations matter the most.  Endorsements for skills may be valuable key words, but when one of your connections actually writes a paragraph or two about your work, the recruiters will take notice.

Finally, one piece of the online reputation is consistency – if the work history is widely different than what was received in the resume, this reflects poorly on the candidate.  Of course, the work history and a LinkedIn profile shouldn’t be just a verbatim listing from the resume.  However, if dates, locations, company names, and other facts are inconsistent, it makes the job seeker look like they lack attention to detail.

Action builds reputations

Another factor that recruiters and managers check is how involved a candidate is online.  If he or she only has 20 connections and isn’t involved in the Groups, this doesn’t reflect well on how much they are willing to contribute to the industry as a whole.

Whenever you post a discussion or reply to a conversation, you are building your reputation within that Group.  Obviously, intelligent conversation is preferred, but sometimes just being involved is enough.  Of course, if you have something negative to say, don’t say it online!

Defending your reputation

Sometimes, things go sideways and your reputation may be attacked.  This happened to me recently.  One of my clients let me know that a former past connection of mine was tearing apart my work, stating that he would never get a job because he was following my advice.  This was especially hurtful because I have supported this business owner and his endeavors for years – both verbally and online.  Of course, my first reaction was to retaliate; thank goodness I’ve been self-trained to have greater restraint than that.

When faced with a reputation attack, first consider:

  1. The source – does this person have their own reputation problems or history of attacking people? If so, don’t take ownership of their character defects.
  2. Is it true? If yes, take the necessary actions to correct the behavior.  If not, think about what you can do to build on your positive reputation.

Now that the main questions have been addressed, come up with a plan to deal with the tarnishing event.  Your course of action may include:

  • Do nothing and let this person’s own karma catch up with them.
  • Reach out to your network and promote a positive achievement, idea, or action to counteract the reputation hit.
  • Journal writing about the incident. It’s normal to be mad or upset about the situation, but you don’t want to accidentally post a negative attack online or in an email that could come back to haunt you.

One of my mottos for my company is “Act with Honor.”  When faced with a reputation attack, I must keep this commitment first in my mind.  It’s very tempting to react to anger and bitterness with more of the same, but rarely does it lead to positive results – in business or in life.

A most triumphant job search

“Bill: Ted, while I agree that, in time, our band will be most triumphant, the truth is, Wyld Stallyns will never be a super band until we have Eddie Van Halen on guitar.

Ted: Yes, Bill. But, I do not believe we will get Eddie Van Halen until we have a triumphant video.

Bill: Ted, it’s pointless to have a triumphant video before we even have decent instruments.

Ted: Well, how can we have decent instruments when we don’t really even know how to play?

Bill: That is why we NEED Eddie Van Halen!

Ted: And THAT is why we need a triumphant video.

Bill, Ted: EXCELLENT!”

-Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1989), Orion Pictures

Do you ever feel that way in a job search? I know I have, especially when looking for a dream job. Sometimes, the task feels so daunting that it seems you will never make it into the position unless you have a veritable rock-god on your side to help you along.

The problem with that line of logic is that it is entirely unrealistic. While great for laughs as two underachievers with a dream stumble through time to finish a history report, it is not all that helpful to you and your job search. The fact is, you are likely already skilled at your chosen profession (unlike Bill and Ted, who at this point didn’t even know how to play their instruments).

However, you can still find yourself in a similar trap while working the job hunt. How do you present yourself in a job search most triumphantly? Who is this Eddie Van Halen, and why do you need him? How do you turn a bogus job search into a non-heinous and most excellent adventure?

1.    Which comes first, the video or the Halen?

Before starting your job search, you need to ensure that your career documents are in order. Updating your work history, education, and contact information is one of the first and easiest things you can do with your resume, cover letter, and LinkedIn profile. These are all the core components of your “Triumphant Video.”

But in order to make it truly triumphant, there are a few extra steps you can take that will go a long way towards helping you land your dream job. Ensure that your LinkedIn profile, resume, and cover letter are “Key-word optimized.” By using the same key-words employers are searching, your resume is more likely to pass through their screening software be read by an actual person.  Here at Personal Touch, we use our Key Element Detector™ to identify these industry-specific key-words and work them into our resumes.

Once you have triumphant career documents, you are ready to get your own Eddie Van Halen.

2.    Eddie Van Halen?

Eddie Van Halen, arguably one of the best guitarists on the planet, is unfortunately not likely to get you a job. Being a rock god demands a lot of time.

Your Eddie Van Halen will instead be someone who has a certain amount of influence in your target job. By searching websites like LinkedIn, you can connect with company owners, C level executives, hiring managers, or other employees who are affiliated with your industry and/or target companies.

Connecting with these people over social media sites can help you to learn more about the company to which you are looking to apply. The old saying “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know” applies here. We live in a day and age of amazing technology that allows us to connect with people around the world in seconds. Take the time and make those connections, and you won’t regret it.

Who knows? You might actually get Eddie Van Halen!

3.    Party on, Dudes

Armed with a most excellent resume and a collection of righteous dudes from around the world to vouch for you, your job search will be easier and smoother than you could have possibly hoped. In the words of the great President Abraham Lincoln:

“Fourscore and… seven minutes ago… we, your forefathers, were brought forth upon a most excellent adventure conceived by our new friends, Bill… and Ted. These two great gentlemen are dedicated to a proposition which was true in my time, just as it’s true today. Be excellent to each other. And… PARTY ON, DUDES!”

-Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1989,) Orion Pictures

There is profound wisdom in that. “Be excellent to each other,” as a philosophy, is a similar statement to “Do onto others…” or the Golden Rule. To strive for excellence and to treat others with excellence and respect is a noble pursuit. Applying that same philosophy to a job search allows you to cultivate positive attitudes with the people whom you associate with, in turn increasing the likelihood that they do the same for you. While looking for a job, having persons wishing excellence for you and actively trying to help you achieve it is a rare commodity these days.

Party on, dudes.

The Career Awakens


It’s that time of year again. Jobs will soon be flooding the market like a sudden invasion by the First Order. Now that the holidays are over, employers are looking to revitalize their staff with new people. Some even go as far as to hire recruiters for their skills as bounty hunters. During a job search, employers often feel like faceless entities or insurmountable empires.

So, how does the average job seeker face these kinds of odds (approx. 3720 to 1) and compete with other job seekers in a busy, fast paced market? How does one person outwit the cunning hiring manager and their advanced computer screening systems? How do you awaken your career and get the job you really want?

Answers, you shall find, young Padiwan.

1.    Preparation and Tools of the Jedi Job Seeker

Before tearing off into the frontier of job postings, work on your job searching tools, including your resume, social media profiles and employment website settings. Your resume is your lightsaber, one of the most crucial tools of the Jedi. Your social media profiles, including LinkedIn, are your Millennium Falcon, able to get you in contact with actual hiring managers of the companies you are applying to in less than 12 Parsecs. If any of these are in a poor state, you will be cut down by the insidious HR department long before you ever speak to a single person at the target company.

The January hiring surge is short – learn everything you can about the hiring process itself to become a competitive candidate.  Remember, you are literally fighting hundreds, if not thousands, of applicants for every job. Make the most of every opportunity.

2.    Know the Mission. Know the Enemy

The rebels never would have blown up both Death Stars if they had not known the weaknesses of the Empire and their engineering. The key for you and the job search is to actually research your target employers. The more you know about the company, the better off you will be when it comes time to interview with them. Not to mention that research is the best way to discover and contact the key managers involved in the hiring decision.  Plus, research give you clarity about the company’s culture and work environment.

Start off by selecting and researching at least 10 potential employers each week, even if they don’t have any posted jobs yet.  Research includes finding out about their business, the size, where they post jobs and key managers and employees. Of course, add companies that have posted positions that peak your interest as well.

Work on building your LinkedIn network to create some connections within these target employers.  Your social network is essentially your rebel alliance. This is your support, your connections, and sometimes direct lines to your target companies.

3.    The Jedi Job Seeker Code

“There is no emotion, there is peace…”

First of all, don’t let your emotions rule your job search.  This can be a challenge, as finding a great position can be invigorating.  Similarly, receiving the rejection email can be a devastating blow.  Try to keep an even keel during your job search so you don’t lose your perspective.

“There is no ignorance, there is knowledge…”

Just blinding applying to jobs without research is to barrel forward in ignorance.  Take the time to learn about your targets to make the most of every single job application and submitted resume.  Similarly, educate yourself about the hiring process to empower your own job search.  Knowing the tricks and traps is the best way to avoid HR’s sarlacc pit that consumes most resumes.

“There is no passion, there is serenity…”

Sorry, Jedi, but here I have to disagree.  Passion is paramount in the job search.  Smart managers hire people who are passionate about what they do.  Traditionally speaking, the passionate employee with produce better work, stay longer, be more committed, call in less, and is in general a better hire.  Don’t be afraid to express your passion in your cover letter, your resume, and the interview.

“There is no chaos, there is harmony…”

A job search conduct in chaos is not effective.  This means that frantically applying to jobs over your lunch hour is not going to work.  Set aside time every day to work on your search, including creating a space within your home dedicated to this purpose.  Still the mind and let go of your anxieties and stresses of the day before tackling something like writing your resume or starting a complex online application.  Just a few calming breaths to reset the mind can make a world of difference.

“There is no death, there is the Force.”

Death is but a transformation, including job changes, career transitions, and new opportunities.  To be effective, we have to let go of the former life to experience the new one.  In many ways, this is aligning ourselves with our higher selves – if we work towards it and allow it to happen.




hiring process infographic for private service and domestic staffing

Making sense of the hiring process: an infographic

For many private service professionals, the recruitment agency is a vital piece of their job search.  Employers frequently reach out the agency to list their positions, trusting them to make the best match based on experience, skills, and personality.  However, not all of the candidates understand exactly what goes into that hiring process.

Check out the infographic to learn more about the multiple phases required to secure a top position in the luxury lifestyle management industry…

hiring process infographic for private service and domestic staffing

Using diversity to evaluate company culture

In the modern world of job searching, finding a position that is a good match has more to do with company culture than any other factor.  However, many job seekers don’t know what to look for when trying to determine the workplace culture.  Some things are obvious, such as the physical aspects of the work environment – for example, many introverts are not comfortable working in an “open office” design, where there is very little separation from one person’s workspace to another. However, how can you gauge the real flavor of the office during the interview phase?

One of the biggest indicators of a company culture falls back into the importance of diversity.

Defining workplace diversity

According to, diversity is defined as “similarities and differences among employees in terms of age, cultural background, physical abilities and disabilities, race, religion, sex, and sexual orientation.” (Read more:

When interviewing with a company, take note on if they have a diverse workforce.  Smart companies understand that it can take an extra effort to hire a diverse workforce, but it also helps them gain a competitive advantage as the company’s culture becomes more flexible thanks to the diverse points of view.

Diversity of thought

There is another aspect of diversity that is not as readily apparent as the outward physical characteristics.  This is the “diversity of thought,” which reflects how the employees actually think and approach their work.  For a real forward-thinking company, it is necessary to employ people who actually offer different perspectives in how to solve problems or to apply their area of expertise.

For example, in one of my past roles, I provided the recruitment for a small business in the Denver area.  The original founders of the company were brilliant engineers, who also happened to be some of the most introverted people I had ever met.  When it came time to hire new employees, they heavily favored candidates just like them, regardless of the role.  They valued an engineering background above all other qualities, having convinced themselves that their products were so technically complex that only engineers could properly represent what they were manufacturing.

However, problems quickly arose once the company tried to expand.  They hired several Sales Engineers – again, emphasizing the engineering aspect.  Unfortunately, they failed to understand that they really needed smart SALES people who could be trained in the technical benefits of their products.  The core problem here is that people who are drawn to sales usually have an entirely different set of soft skills and personality traits than engineers.  By only hiring engineers, their sales continued to slump to the point that the company struggled to survive.

Diversity of roles

Another common problem that a company may face is hiring too many managers.  While many people know about the challenges of large companies generating a wide base of middle-level managers, this issue can impact small companies as well.

For example, another small company that I worked with had 70% of their workforce with the phrase Manager, Director, or Vice President in their title.  Out of all 10 employees, only 3 of them were actual “boots on the ground” employees, performing the day-to-day work of the company.  Even when the company decided to expand their operations, they hired another Vice President rather than a team of employees to provide the heavy lifting to get the new venture off the ground and profitable.

When interviewing with a new potential employer, be sure to ask about their company structure and how many managers would be in place over you.  If the company is extremely top-heavy, it could be an indicator of problems to come.

Practicing diversity

Finally, take note of how well a company actually implements their diversity programs.  Some companies may make a real effort to hire diverse teams, yet struggle to retain those same staff members.  Rarely is this because of blatant racism or other discriminatory actions, but more of a case of just not thinking about things from the other person’s point-of-view.

For example, with one of my past positions, I had a wonderful assistant who just happened to be Jewish.  On December 1st, the owner of the company told her she had to put up all of the Christmas decorations for the office.  Of course, she wasn’t very pleased with this directive; however, she did as she was asked.

The real problem started when the owner came by to review her work and proceeded to complain loudly that the decorations weren’t done correctly.  My assistant defended her ground, pointing out that she had never put up a Christmas tree before and really didn’t understand what this was all about.

I almost lost my outstanding assistant that day, as she was ready to walk off of the job based on the insensitivity of the owner.  In the end, I finished the decorations because keeping her on my team was critical to our long-term success.

Knowing where you fit

Diversity can be a great indicator of the workplace culture for any job.  Along those lines, it’s important to define what you are looking for in an employer.  Do you want a loud, fast-paced collaborative environment where you can bounce a lot of ideas between team members?  Or do you favor a quiet workplace where you can concentrate on your tasks with little interruption?  Are you driven to meet new people or do you prefer to work alone?

By defining the elements of company culture that appeal to you the most, you are more likely to identify the opportunity when it comes along.  And remember, diversity in all of its forms can be one of the best subtle and covert ways to gauge company culture during the interview process.

Simplify your life with a Personal Assistant

Personal assistant finding her center

The right PA can bring order to any chaos

What would you do with your life if you had more time to enjoy it?  Between the demands at the office and the home, everyone gets stretched thin.  Add in the important factors of professional associations, non-profit boards, children’s schedules, and the ever-present unexpected twists of a busy life, it can be downright maddening.  Fortunately, there is a dedicated, efficient, and organized solution: the professional Personal Assistant.

Bridging the gap between the home and the office, a Personal Assistant can tackle everything from representing you at non-profit board meetings to organizing your closets.  This specialized administrative professional utilizes all of the latest technological advances to maintain comprehensive calendars that merge your business, personal, and family members’ schedules – and can do it on the fly.  Too busy to handle crucial errands like shopping, dry cleaning, and vehicle maintenance?  The Personal Assistant can not only perform the work, he or she will also memorize your favorites and preferences, making sure that everything is done to your standard of perfection.

While all Personal Assistants are focused on making your life easier, there are different levels available to fit your particular needs and lifestyle:

The Executive Personal Assistant

Often working within the business office, the Executive PA is the pinnacle of personal assistance.  Not only can this trusted right hand manage all of the duties of the typical, high-level Executive Assistant, he or she extends these services to the needs of your personal life or properties.  Frequently, this includes helping with non-profits, from Board meetings to the planning and execution of large scale fundraising events.  The EPA works very closely with the employer, which may include traveling with the principal for extended periods, both domestically and internationally.

Most EPAs possess extensive experience in business, often serving as an Executive Assistant for C-Level executives for many years before adding coordination of personal affairs to their repertoire.

The Personal Assistant

Instead of being attached to the office, the Personal Assistant is more closely related to the concerns of a single person or persons and their home.  Ideal for anyone with a busy lifestyle, the PA is a trusted partner in meeting all of those obligations. Some of the typical responsibilities include personal shopping, event planning, calendar coordination, travel planning, and even domestic staff management.  As each job is customized to meet the particular needs of the employer, the PA is the epitome of flexibility and adaptability.

Since these jobs are so unique, PAs may come from many backgrounds, such as event planners, concierge, hospitality, administrative assistants, and professional organizers.  Regardless of their history, all true PAs are masters of technology, using everything from Microsoft Office programs to mobile devices to stay on top of all the demands of their employers.

The Family Assistant

For households who may not need a full Personal Assistant, a Family Assistant is a great solution.  Many times, a FA may help care for older children after school, coordinating their activities and appointments. During the day, they handle the essential “business” of the home: budgets, shopping, home organization, social obligations, and home maintenance coordination.  While they usually don’t perform the housekeeping or cooking beyond light housework, they do manage the staff or contractors who do.

Hiring Your New Right Hand

When considering hiring a new EPA, PA, or FA, start with making a job description.  While it may evolve over time, you need to define what areas you need covered to accurately evaluate candidates.  Next, think about the level of technical skills required.  For example, do you need an expert with Microsoft Office and cloud computing, or can everything be accomplished with your iPad? Should they be an experienced event planner, or does errands and personal shopping fit your needs better? Depending on these requirements, your salary range should be competitive in the market to attract the right candidates.

Next, think about security concerns.  When hiring anyone who will be involved with your personal affairs and family members, be sure to run complete background checks, including criminal and credit checks.  Consider using testing measures as well, not only for their technical skills but also personality traits.  After all, this is someone that you will be working with closely, and you want to make sure that their personality is compatible with yours.

Many times, private employers turn to specialized employment agencies to help with their search.  In that case, do expect to pay a fee on top of the annual salary. However, keep in mind that these agents are experts in the private service industry.  As such, they can help with every phase of the job search, from developing a workable job description to conducting comprehensive background and reference checks.  Most agents are contingency-based, meaning that the placement fee is only paid when the new PA is hired.  Some, like the Personal Touch Recruitment, offers retained searches as well as contingency hiring.  In that case, the agent acts as your own personal HR department.

A Vision for You

Thanks to the help of a talented Personal Assistant, you gain the most precious commodity: time.  Time to spend with your family, your work, and your true passions – like more golf!


About the Author

Donna Shannon is the President of Personal Touch Recruitment Services, a boutique agency that helps private employers find and onboard elite professionals such as Personal Assistants and Household Managers. For over 10 years, she has worked closely with the luxury lifestyle management industry, both as a recruiter and as a career coach for private service professionals.  To find out more about Personal Touch Recruiting and all of their services, please visit:

Perfect resume recipe

Hungry for a new job this holiday season? Follow this simple recipe for a tasty new resume and enjoy a main course of great interviews that lead to your next sweet job.


1 Microsoft Word document

3 – 4 relevant job postings

800 – 2000 words

3 cups experience

1 cup relevant skills

1 cup previous achievements

1 bottle Key Word marinade

3 tbls contact information

2 tbls education

Season to taste


  1. Preheat brain to 350 degrees. Lay out ingredients on Word Document in the following order: 3 tbls contact information, 50-70 words introductory paragraph, 1 cup relevant skills, 3 cups experience, 1 cup previous achievements, 1 tbls education. Combine ingredients in document.
  2. Place resume in warm brain for 20 minutes.
  3. Lay out relevant job postings on cutting board. Find key elements by cutting away fat, keeping only desired skills and experience. Combine to create the key word marinade.
  4. Remove resume from brain and add key word marinade. Return resume to brain and bake for 20 minutes.
  5. Season to taste with personal flavor to capture your unique personality.
  6. Garnish with cover letter and serve to potential employer.

All metaphor aside, a good resume starts with a basic understanding of what goes into making one. When writing a resume, most people ignore some essential elements.  Just like a failed soufflé, missing the essential ingredients will make the resume fall flat.  Without the right key words, it can’t pass the screening process.  Not enough spice and it will bore the hiring managers.

Don’t forget to do a taste test before sending your resume out to potential employers.  Show it to colleagues, friends, and family to get their opinion.  Remember to put more credence on the opinions of people within your industry, but multiple reviews can also spot the simple grammar or spelling error that can ruin a resume.  If you are working with a recruiter you trust, they can provide some guidance as well.

Remember, your resume should be a representation of you on paper.  You want the employers to savor it, not just screen it.  While key words can get you through the door, you still have to impress the hiring manager with your relevant knowledge, skills, and experience to land the interview.

The horrors of interviewing

© Omino di Carta -

© Omino di Carta –

You are sitting in a waiting room, surrounded by others wearing the exact same clothes as you, their faces blurred and featureless. The receptionist sits behind her desk, typing away at her computer, her lips curved in an unsettling smile.

Every few minutes, the door behind her opens and you hear a muffled call. One of the featureless-faced individuals stands and goes back into the doorway. None of them ever come out.

Finally, you hear a muffled call, but know it’s your name. You stand and walk through the doorway. Before you is a well-furnished office and a man with a cruel grimace, his hands folded neatly on the desk. He welcomes you and offers you a seat.

“Tell me about yourself.” He commands, “Impress me, and you just might have a future.”

Okay, so maybe going to an interview like the one above is something more out of a horror movie or a scary story. However, the same kinds of feelings of anxiety and stress going into an interview exist in real life and often has qualified applicants wracked with terror. I have personally had dreams like the story above just before going into an interview the next day.

That said, here are some tips for your next interview:

1.      What they really want to know

When we get right down to it, the big scary HR manager wants to know a few things when it comes to the interview:

  • Can you do the job?
  • Will you fit in with the company?
  • Do you have any issues?
  • Can I get you at the right price?

All of these are important factors with the job you are going for. Granted, some of those questions can be answered in the cover letter and the resume, but this is where they go into the gritty details. They will ask detailed questions about your work history on your resume, so be prepared with some examples. Meeting you in person is a great way for them to assess whether or not they feel you are going to be a good fit for the company. They also want to know why you left your last jobs. Do you blame the boss? Do you get easily frustrated? There are other things they look for in terms of issues, but those are probably the biggest ones.

2.      Be yourself

This is perhaps the most important factor when it comes to the interview. Honesty is the best policy here. If you are pretending to be outgoing when you really aren’t, it will come across as fake and dishonest in the interview.

They want to know the real you when you get into the interview. Pretending to be someone you are not will almost always end badly.

3.      Different interview styles

Different interviewers have different ways of interviewing candidates. Some are super nice, others might even seem skeptical about everything you are saying. Each one has their reasons for doing this, whether consciously or subconsciously.  Your survival tactic? Remember to be on your guard. Don’t be suckered in by a pleasant smile or feel defeated because the interviewer is seeming to not pay attention. Check out this post for ways to keep yourself on the right track when it comes to the most common styles of interviewing:

4.      Prepare

This is perhaps the best thing you can do for yourself. Prepare some questions for the interviewer about the company, the challenges of the job or even how long the position has been open. Having these kinds of questions at the ready when they ask “Do you have any questions for me?” sets you apart from other candidates because it shows you know about the company itself.

Also preparing answers to the more common interview questions out there is extremely helpful. For more advice on that, check out this article:


Is your resume getting moldy?

Has your resume seen brighter days?

Has your resume seen brighter days?

In the modern job search, an up-to-date resume is an absolute given. However, plenty of job seekers still cling to some of the techniques that became obsolete 10 to 15 years ago.  Is your resume making any of these old fashioned errors?

The one page resume myth

Unless you are an entry level candidate, the one page resume is not going to support your job search.  This really changed back in the 2000, when online job searching sites like Monster and CareerBuilder became the standard.  Due to the online application process, even the tightest formatting would be converted to text, forcing the resume into a multi-page format.  While online applications and Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) are more sophisticated now, recruiters and HR have come to accept the two page resume as standard.

Modern key words

HR relies heavily on key words to help them screen applicants for just about any job.  Even smaller companies can now afford the next generation of ATS, making the screening process more common than ever.  For these reasons, job seekers must make sure that they are using key words – and be certain that they are the modern version of those key words.

I know of one Controller who was having difficulty landing a new job, in spite of the fact that she had several years of relevant experience.  When we evaluated the key words in her resumes, she repeatedly used the term “periodic close.”  However, when we compared recent job postings, the term had changed to “financial close.”  While these terms technically mean the same thing – closing the books at the end of the month – one of them was the old fashioned phrase.  When she changed the key words to match the modern “financial close,” she suddenly began landing interviews.

Looking for modern key words is easy: always conduct an analysis of multiple job descriptions to make sure you use the current language trends for your industry.

Using Word templates

One of the biggest problems with the pre-built templates from Microsoft Word is that they are constructed with tables.  While this looks good on your computer or when you print it out, they are a curse to online applications.

Why?  It’s simple.  Computers don’t read like humans.

Whenever the computers view the tables, they read all of the first column DOWN, and then over.  As humans, we read the rows ACROSS and then down.  So the final result is that your data gets mangled in the computer.  If you’ve ever uploaded and resume and the preview shows all of your dates separated from your actual work experience, the ATS just choked on your table-based resume format.

PDF vs Word: what’s the best format?

Technically, this is a trick question: both are required for an effective job search.

A new trend in recruitment is to allow applicants to apply to jobs from their phone or other mobile device.  In this case, using the PDF version makes sure that the format will hold true no matter how the receiver views it.  Plus, many ATS now are intelligent enough to accept a PDF and be able to analyze the key words, experience, and education.

However, the Word resume is not dead yet.  While many current ATS can handle the PDF, companies still use the older versions that require the Word document to parse the information correctly into their database.

So which should you use?  Read the job posting carefully and make sure that you submit your resume in whatever format they tell you.

Keeping it fresh

Every couple of months, make sure to read through your resume with a critical eye. Are the key words still effective? Are the descriptions of your experience engaging and written in active voice? Are you addressing any of the current trends in your industry?

The modern job search is evolving. Let your resume evolve to stay relevant, fight off mold, and keep your inner fire lit.

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