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who wants to hire me? October 13, 2009

Posted by That Guy in Economic Downturn, Getting Hired.
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A friend* on one of the many social blog communities I belong to recently posted that she needs a new job, and is having difficulty finding one, perhaps because of some of the qualifications she posted on her page:

I’m 5’10” so I can reach things on high shelves.

I speak Spanish and English, obviously.

[…]

Oh and I have a Bachelor’s in Microbiology, but that seems to be completely irrelevant when I apply to most jobs.

I’m single and have no kids, so I won’t be rushing off to go pick my kids up from school/daycare/after school activities.

I think I’m pretty smart too. My IQ is 135. However that also seems to be irrelevant when I apply for jobs, considering that fact that some people hire retards.

A professional young woman. (cc-licensed photo by cotaroba)

A professional young woman. (cc-licensed photo by cotaroba)

Let me hit these one at a time:

Height: Useful, but it’s more about strength — as in, an employer can say you need to be able to lift 30, 50, or 100 pounds, but they can’t say you need to be tall to accomplish this. It’s in the rules that they have to provide stepladders and such.

Another height issue, though, is that tall women tend to come off as more capable and more dominant in the workplace, and an insecure boss — male or female — will be negatively affected. And I’m not just talking about short bosses — one of my old bosses is about 5’3 and, while he did have a Napoleon complex, it never impacted his hiring practices and he hired employees of all shapes and sizes. Even a tall person can be insecure.

Languages: Given that she is bilingual, it surprises me quite a lot that it’s so hard to find a job. In this job market, being able to speak Spanish is a huge plus — it is, after all, one of the most-spoken languages in the U.S.** I wish I spoke it better (I can muddle through if the other person speaks slowly). Fortunately most of my jobs (at least, since I got out of retail) haven’t required bilinguality (bilingualism?) to be a part of the job description.

Microbiology: Yeah, unfortunately there are a lot of undergraduate degrees that don’t lead to good jobs. My wife has one in Psychology, and she’s basically a secretary and web content updating person. My friend Dave has one in Communications, and after getting laid off from his news broadcasting job, he was hired as an elementary school teacher, which has nothing to do with his degree. One of my former co-workers is a web developer who majored in History. And somehow one of my friends managed a degree in Japanese but has always worked in graphic design. I’m sure she (the woman looking for a job) is extremely smart, but what can you do with an undergraduate degree in Microbiology besides get a graduate degree in something else? If you’re looking for a job as an executive assistant, it’s unlikely you’ll make use of anything you learned in your Microbiology classes. Which sucks. Secretaries with lab coats and microscopes sounds really cool.

Family: It is against the law to discriminate against someone who is pregnant, who has a family, or who has children. Likewise it is against the law to discriminate against someone who doesn’t. I mean, if you’re trying to become the webmaster of a social network aimed at mothers, you probably ought to be one, so the best candidate will be a mother. I could get that job too, except that I’m a man so I don’t have insights into certain women’s issues, such as exactly what goes through a woman’s mind during a gynecological or obstetric exam***. There have been articles written about how to handle job hunting while pregnant, and discrimination happens, I’m sure. But bringing up this point during an interview (that you are family-less/childless) is probably not a good idea.

IQ: This is a big one. Smart people are a huge asset to companies — as a former boss, believe me, I know — but being too smart can also backfire. For example: three jobs ago, I went to my local Office Supply Chain Store to get a part-time position. I needed to earn some extra money for a trip I wanted to take, and since I was unmarried and childless, I had the time to work two to four nights a week. So I went in, applied, got hired, and proceeded to make a mess of things because I was too smart. I thought I knew how to do everything, and I rushed through certain projects, which made things worse for me (because I had to do extra work to make up for it) and for my managers (who had to train me again so I could unlearn my bad habits). I’m sure this doesn’t happen to everyone, but I guarantee it does happen quite a bit.

Then there’s this: really smart people get bored really quickly in drudgery-filled jobs; when I was in college, I worked at a Video Game Chain store and, while the job was fun and the people were cool, I found myself going crazy trying not to look like I was holding up the counter the entire time. It was mostly boredom, and smart people have trouble dealing with that. The whole “taking out a notebook and writing a novel” or “drawing passers-by in a sketchpad” doesn’t happen in real life. Ever. Bookstore cashiers don’t get to read when they’re bored; they have to clean up, or put returns back on the shelves, or (worst of all) find mis-filed books and put them away. Retail is boring; employers don’t want to hire people they think are going to be bored the whole time because bored people feel unfulfilled and that kind of mood brings everyone down.

And finally, smart people with degrees deserve a higher paycheck, which is something companies don’t want to provide right now. I get that; I really, really do. But on the other hand, companies need to learn that unemployed smart people are going to be very hard workers because they know:

  • This is all they can get.
  • This may end up being a career, so they’re going to work hard.
  • They’re used to working hard; they were laid off from good jobs, or they’ve taken difficult paths of study in college.
  • They have families to support, and they’re going to do everything they can to not get fired for slacking off.

So, what advice can I give my friend? The same advice I give everyone.

Yup. You guessed it. I’m saving that for tomorrow. Hey, writing a new post every day is hard!

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* In this usage, “someone who reads my posts, and I read her posts”. Kind of like on LiveJournal, except I’m not talking about LiveJournal here.

** At my old job (before the reorganization), I rarely spoke directly to consumers, but on occasion someone who spoke little or no English would call. The front desk people would frantically search for Wally or (before he quit) Daniel, both of whom were fluent Spanish speakers. If they weren’t there, the caller usually heard “no hablo espanol; por favor llame a (whatever time Wally or Daniel would be coming in). As for where I am now, that won’t be a problem; the person who sits next to me is a (legal) immigrant from a Hispanic country, and speaks both languages fluently.

*** I know what was going through my mind during the times my wife was at the doctor for her checkups while she was pregnant, but not really what she was thinking or feeling beyond what she told me.

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praying for a new job September 11, 2009

Posted by That Guy in Getting Hired.
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CC-licensed photo by TheAlieness GiselaGiardino²³

CC-licensed photo by TheAlieness GiselaGiardino²³

I’m generally not a religious person — if anything, I’d like to believe in reincarnation, that we get to keep going around until we get it exactly right… or, better, that each time through we complete various quests, like in an RPG, until we’ve won all the mini-games and collected all the key items. Then we can watch the ending FMV and move on.

But these days, people are turning more and more to prayer as they face job loss, unemployment, furloughs, and pay cuts.

On Tuesday, one of my Facebook friends had a job interview. On Monday, his wife (also a Facebook friend) exhorted everyone on her friends list to pray for him.

Look, I have nothing against the guy, but let’s be honest: an all-powerful being would have much bigger fish to fry than my friend’s job interview. Like, oh, world hunger, Darfur, climate change, abused children… I could go on. I really could. In the grand scheme of things, my friend’s interview is pretty low on the totem pole.

I happen to know that the two of them believe in an all-powerful, all-knowing deity. That means the deity (a) knows my friend needs a job (b) my friend has been out of work for almost four months (c) there are plenty of problems in the world that require a deity’s attention. Another friend who follows the same faith has told me he believes “God has given us all the power to solve our own problems and change our situations for the better. He doesn’t expect us to just sit around and wait for him to fix things.” Now that’s a deity I could get behind. If I believed in one.

I don’t pray anymore, and I haven’t for a long time*. But if I did, I don’t think I’d pray for anyone to get a new job — even myself or my wife. I have the tools to solve my own problems. So does my friend. He knows that, and so does his wife. I think she’s just going with the “every little bit helps” angle — which brings up an even more distressing thought: does that mean she doesn’t think he can do it on his own merit?

Ah, the power of prayer.

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* Oh, I still recite the prayers when I’m at family gatherings, but I don’t think I believe anymore.

the five stages of the new job September 3, 2009

Posted by That Guy in Getting Hired.
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Beware the giddy employee, because the giddy employee (these days, anyway) is either high on caffeine from that supercharged coffee in the break room or he just got a new job.

The five stages of the new job:

Everyone feels like this when they get the call for the new job. (CC-licensed photo by orphanjones)

Everyone feels like this when they get the call for the new job. (CC-licensed photo by orphanjones)

1. Giddiness: There’s very little like the adrenaline rush of taking a phone call on your personal cell from a recruiter — whose name and number are in your contacts, naturally — and hearing those four words: you got the job. Your heart leaps; your palms tingle; your vision might even blur for a second. And then, as you leave your desk to discuss the particulars, the only thing on your mind is I can’t wait to start telling people!

2. Leakage: This refers to the slight let-down after you leave your desk, go somewhere private, and discuss the particulars of the new position. What’s the pay rate? When do they want you to start? Contract or perm? Paperwork? Insurance? Retirement? Negotiation for better pay or benefits? As you discuss these things with your recruiter (or the company who’s hiring you, but these days almost everyone’s using recruiters), you start to feel a slightl let-down. You’re still ecstatic, but you’re starting to be realistic about how much work is ahead of you in your final days at your current job.

3. Spousal Abuse: No, not the kind that is deplorable. I’m talking about what happens when you call your husband or wife, right after you get off the phone with the recruiter. You’ll be congratulated, but then your spouse will begin peppering you with questions that you can’t answer, can’t answer right now because the answers are too long, or can’t answer satisfactorily. Your spouse will try to end on a high note, but you’ll still feel dismayed or betrayed.

4. Restlessness: You’re finally back at your desk. You have projects to finish, documents to write, e-mails to send, but all you can do is sit with your fingers on your keyboard, thinking about how great it’s going to be when you tell your boss you’re leaving, or when you finally go. You can’t think about work because you’re thinking about what your goodbye party’s going to be like, what your cake will taste like, how great it will be to politely gloat that you’ve gotten out of this hellhole once and for all, and above all else, the excoriating remarks you’re going to make on your exit interview paperwork. Enjoy the jitters!

5. Serenity: After about an hour — maybe two, maybe the rest of the day — you will come to a place of comfort and calm. People will ask you for things and you’ll help them. You’ll go out of your way to be nice, opening doors or bringing people things from the printer. Because you know what they don’t: in two weeks, you’re out of here and onto something better.

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massively irrelevant August 12, 2009

Posted by That Guy in Getting Hired, Pictures, Seen Elsewhere.
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This has happened to you. I’m sure it has.

wondermark537

Networking is the way to go when it comes to getting a new job — applying is all well and good, but if you’re not going to at least one networking event a month, you’re missing out. Apparently James (above) is trying to get a new job by networking and has been caught out on it. And when the project is massively irrelevant but required nonetheless, you have no choice but to complete it.

Oh, and just try to give stats so you can say there’s no ROI. Watch what happens to you.

That Guy’s Tips for Not Looking Stupid on the Internet, #2 August 5, 2009

Posted by That Guy in Did I Hear That Right?, Economic Downturn, Getting Fired, Getting Hired, Technology Trouble, Tips for Not Looking Stupid, Unsociable Networking.
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Don’t ignore the power of social networking while you’re still employed; the moment you get fired, you’ll need it.

For the last six years or so, CorporateSpeak employed a long-term contracted freelancer named Ivy. Recently, though, it was decided that Ivy’s contract was not going to be renewed and her duties would be assumed by an existing full-time employee. Ivy was unhappy about this, but I think we all understood the economic reality of the current U.S. market.

One of the first things Ivy did when she got home was update her Facebook thusly:

Ok, I am gonna be better about updating my status. Ok, I am actually going to start updating my status. The pressure to be relevant.. sigh.

Ivy used her Facebook a little bit before this, but not as much as her co-workers did — even her partner, who was let go at the same time. She would occasionally post about what she was doing, or put up some photos, but she wasn’t active on Facebook (or, to my knowledge, any social network). Now that she’s unemployed, though, she’s got to find a new job, and she’s figured out rather quickly that networking is the way to do it.

Just don’t tell everyone. It makes you look like you’re better than everyone else, like you’re saying, “well, I had a job for a long time, and now I don’t, so I’m going to do what all the cool kids are doing and use Facebook to find a job.” Coming across as elitist on a social network is a sure-fire way to lose regard with a potential employer, especially one that you want to hire you for a high-profile or high-paying position.

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The Plight of the Fat Guy 1: Getting Hired July 6, 2009

Posted by That Guy in Getting Hired, The Plight of the Fat Guy.
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Here’s another week on CorporateSpeak: the Plight of the Fat Guy.

The one unprotected class in the workplace seems to be overweight men. White, black, Asian; whatever you are, if you’re a fat man, you can be the butt of jokes. Even to your face. And, better, it’s almost impossible to prove that you’re being harrassed or even that you feel harrassed — after all, aren’t fat guys supposed to be jolly?

An article posted last year says that overweight men tend to get paid 2.6 percent less than non-overweight men. But then there’s actually getting hired.

See, here’s the thing: if you’re overweight, you’re more likely to have health issues. You’ll cost the company more money. Managers see the bottom line and little else. If you even get far enough to have an offer tendered to you, that is. Overweight people often find it more difficult to present themselves favorably for a variety of reasons:

  1. Upbringing: If you’ve been overweight all your life, you’ve likely fallen in with a geeky/nerdy crowd*, and over time that is likely to retard your social maturity. It will be more difficult for you to hold a conversation because you’ll probably be smarter than the average person and fighting to show it, to make up for your overweight-ness.
  2. Clothing: Clothes for fat guys cost more. Overweight women have more options, especially in malls, but for fat guys there’s only a few stores, and the clothes always cost a lot of money. Fat guys have as much money as any other average person, but the average person doesn’t have to spend as much on clothing if he doesn’t want to. Fat guys — really fat guys — can’t shop at Target or WalMart.
  3. Climate: Woe betide the fat guy who tries to stay cool and well-groomed while waiting for an interview. Fat guys are generally harder to keep cool, and offices aren’t always cold enough. Not to mention the walk from the parking lot, especially in the warmer months. Good luck trying not to sweat.
  4. Messiness: Some — not all — fat guys are fat because they are depressed — maybe even about being fat. When you get depressed, you are likely to care less about your appearance. This sort of thing adds up and then, by the time you get to interview time, you probably will have trouble getting and staying clean. Depressed people sometimes sabotage themselves, and it’s easy for a fat guy to spill clothes on his shirt.

Then there’s the actual look. Some fat guys are nice-looking but big; unfortunately for the majority of them, they’re overweight and bland. Some are actually unpleasant to lay eyes upon. Just like skinny people, right? Except that when the choice is between a fat guy and a skinny girl, a male manager is probably going to hire the skinny girl so at least he can look at her boobs. Having never been a female manager, I don’t know what they think, but I know the female managers where I work now have not hired a single substantially-overweight male employee since I’ve been here**.

Getting hired as a fat guy is really tough. But once you’re employed, there’s a whole new list of problems. Come back the rest of the week to hear about them.

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* Football players notwithstanding.

** I don’t know how many have been interviewed, though. If none have, then none will have been hired, right?

an afternoon of interviews, part two July 3, 2009

Posted by That Guy in Getting Hired, Management.
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(Read part one here.)

So, who did I pick?

This is actually what it looked like at my old office when just two of us (ie: me and Alan) were working. (photo by austinevan)

This is actually what it looked like at my old office when just two of us (ie: me and Alan) were working. (photo by austinevan)

Yes. It was Alan. And he turned out to be dependable and capable and a fun guy to work with. He eventually quit when he got a better offer in California, but while he was there he was willing to learn anything I had to teach him and he could easily hold a conversation with me while simultaneously doing his work. Given how boring the work could be at times, that certainly helped.

Who would you have picked? Who would have stood out to you the most? Who would you have wanted on your team? I chose the person I wanted on the team, as I so often did — in the past, I’d gone with my gut and generally had good luck, so why not pick Alan? I went with my gut when I picked Mickie, who turned out to be married to a professional wrestler — and I had been into wrestling since I was four, so not only was she really cool, but we always had something to talk about. I did it when I picked Dawn, who was promoted to work in our New York office, and then transferred to our Philadelphia office, where she still works. I picked Gil, who has turned out to be the most dependable person I ever hired and is still at that office.

Sometimes, though, my gut backfired. It backfired with Wanda, who didn’t get along with my replacement and nearly got herself fired as a result, even though she and I worked fine together. It backfired with Mel and Louis, both of whom regularly showed up late — and Mel fell off the face of the earth about a month after I hired him, never to be seen again.

Was Alan a backfire? I don’t think so; I just think he found a better opportunity. And it worked out for some of my other interviewees. See, after I make a choice, I call everyone I personally interviewed and give them the news that it wasn’t them, and I tell them, “I’ll keep your information on file, though, and if a position opens up, I’ll definitely give you a call.” After all, I’ve already interviewed these people, right? Why should I do another round of resumes and interviews when I already know I’ve got prospects I feel are solid?

I don’t think anyone expected me to call. Jan certainly didn’t; I left her two messages, but heard nothing back. It’s too bad, too; a lot of things happened over the course of one month, including the ability for me to promote someone to 30-hours-a-week (not quite full time, but enough for limited benefits) and hire two new part-time employees. Jan was at the top of my list when it came to people I hadn’t hired.

So I moved on. I called Katrina and Tanya, both of whom were so surprised to hear my voice that they nearly forgot to accept when I offered them both part-time jobs. They were even more surprised when I told them that I was leaving at the end of the month — I’d gotten the job at CorporateSpeak, and had to train both my replacement and the new employees as well as get another round of interviews done. A busy two weeks, to be sure.

Katrina and Tanya both showed up on time and were very eager to learn. Inside a week, they were both knowledgeable enough to work shifts with me so I could train them on the finer points of our CMS and the rest of the job. I also trained Gil to replace me, at least until my official successor was named. Wanda was already trained on the 30-hour-a-week job, and was likely to get it in writing upon my departure (she did, and has since become a full-time employee, 40 hours a week). And my interviews went well enough that, before shaking hands with my regional manager for the last time, I recommended he hire young woman named Sarah who, honestly, I liked very much and was just starting out in the industry. I wanted to give her a break, because I knew how hard it could be. I don’t know if Sarah ever got hired because my first few months at CorporateSpeak were so busy that I hardly had time to check in with my old employees.

Still, score two more for my gut instinct — even though Katrina left due to boredom and Tanya got that promotion at her other job, while they were working for my successor they got the job done and were good at it.

Oh, and if you think managers just forget about you after they leave, don’t: when my now-ex-boss at CorporateSpeak was looking to hire another member of our team, both Katrina and Tanya applied and he actually interviewed Katrina. She didn’t get the job, but she got her shot because I remembered that she was good at her job when she worked for me and had the skillset we needed at CorporateSpeak.

So… what can you, as a job-seeker, take away from my afternoon of interviews? Simple:

  1. Follow directions when you apply. If you can’t do that when you’re just sending a resume, why should managers think you can follow directions at work?
  2. Establish rapport. Managers want to hire people they’ll be comfortable with. One of the things I did in my interview at CorporateSpeak was take control — I got my (then-future) boss talking about the things that made me look good, and I was able to suss out what he was like based on what I saw in his office. I firmly believe that, plus my cover letter — which he told me later was the most interesting he’d ever read — got me the job I have now.
  3. Call back. Even if you don’t get the job, it doesn’t hurt to check in every now and then. No more often than once every month — six weeks would be better. If your interview went well but you didn’t get hired, it’s likely the manager liked you enough to possibly hire you in the future.
  4. If you change your contact information, notify the manager. It shows you’re still interested, and if he or she is still interested in you, it certainly helps if you can be easily contacted.
  5. It’s the intangibles that get you hired. You’re in there in the first place because you’re qualified enough to warrant a closer look. On that afternoon, everyone (except Jorge) was qualified, but:
    • I hired Alan because we got along, not because his career path was necessarily in line with the job I wanted to fill.
    • I hired Katrina because she made a good impression and was eager to learn.
    • I hired Tanya because she was looking for exactly what I had available — a few hours a week of part-time work, nothing more and nothing less.

If you’re looking for work, good luck to you. I hope this helped, at least a little, in giving you insight into how managers think.

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an afternoon of interviews, part one July 2, 2009

Posted by That Guy in Getting Hired.
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The Daily WTF is a great blog if you’re a programmer or coder. If you think your job is crazy, the Daily WTF will make you realize that it could be worse. Recently they posted stories of crazy interviews. As a former manager, that made me think about the one time I did a whole afternoon of interviews.

This is as dressy as I expect anyone to be when I interview him or her. No ties, please. (photo by apes_abroad)

This is as dressy as I expect anyone to be when I interview him or her. No ties, please. (photo by apes_abroad)

At the time, I was looking for one part-time employee to work 12 hours per week. I spent two weeks collecting resumes, then reviewed them and decided on the four best. My personal method is to give each resume a number, one through four; fours definitely get called, threes probably do, twos might, and ones don’t. In that crop of resumes, I had no fours, a few threes, a few twos, and an awful lot of ones — see, one of my barriers to entry is that you have to follow directions, and I explicitly said applicants should paste their resumes into the body of an e-mail, instead of attaching them separately.

You’d be surprised how many people who desperately need jobs but refuse to follow the directions.

The first interview was with Jorge. Jorge had a good background in security systems, and seemed dependable. However, when he got to the office, I realized that he wasn’t going to be right for the job. First of all, he showed up in a suit and carrying a briefcase; anyone dressed like that wasn’t going to be happy with a 12-hour-a-week job. I interviewed him anyway and found out that (a) he wasn’t all that good at communicating in English and (b) he wanted a full-time job. Well, where I used to work we talked to a lot of PR agencies and while it was fine to have an accent people had to at least be able to comprehend you, and anyway I didn’t have any full-time work available.

The second interview was with Katrina. Katrina was very pretty, and I’m not too ashamed to say I checked her out several times while we were talking. She was just out of college, living at home, and looking for part-time employment. Her degree was in the field, and she was quite professional. She made quite an impression (and not just because she was attractive), and I felt confident that, if I hired her, she would do a fine job.

The third interview was with Jan. Jan worked for another company in the same field, though not a direct competitor — we’d hired from that company before, and I knew it would be all right with my regional manager if she worked part-time for us. We talked a lot about her full-time job, half to make sure it wouldn’t interfere with this one and the other half because it was interesting to me. She had some experience doing what I wanted, and I certainly liked her, but I knew I wouldn’t be hiring her that time around.

The fourth interview was with Alan. Alan was a perfect example of a manager keying on someone he likes for all the wrong reasons. Alan was an extremely smart guy with a lot of technical know-how, and I was convinced he could do the job, but more than that I immediately liked him. We shared the same sense of humor, we laughed at each other’s jokes, and we generally had what most people would call a good interview.

The fifth and final interview was with Tanya. If I thought Katrina had assets, I hadn’t seen anything yet. Tanya was professional, and like Jan she worked for another company in the same arena — part-time there, though, so she had plenty of time to work for me — but I couldn’t stop staring because… well, I’m sorry, and I know it makes me sound like a pervert, but she was extremely well-endowed*. She was professional and knowledgeable, and she was literally looking for just a few hours a week, not for any sort of advancement. She was actually hoping to get promoted at her other job, but it wasn’t looking likely so she needed the extra income. I totally understood and respected that.

So. Five potential employees. One position. One choice. Who did it end up being?

I’ll tell you tomorrow.

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* A female employee later noted that she had, and I quote, “ginormous ta-tas”. Never let it be said that my employees didn’t feel comfortable around me.

dick move, corporate person June 12, 2009

Posted by That Guy in Economic Downturn, Getting Hired, Unsociable Networking.
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As I mentioned Wednesday, my boss was laid off. So were about 40 others across the company, many of whom are my friends on Facebook. Yesterday, one of them, Charlene, posted this Facebook status update:

How about a Facebook page for ex-CorporateSpeak webmasters?

And Alfred, a sales-and-web consultant at the corporate office had the balls to post this comment less than half an hour later:

Great idea! are you all on Twitter and LinkedIn as well?

And I — and my cubicle-mate — just about exploded with indignation. Seriously, Alfred? Seriously, when your job is 100% safe because your results are un-quantifiable (all subjective), you have the testicular fortitude to post on the Facebook page of a woman who lost her job with literally no warning — a woman who was one of the five most-qualified webmasters at CorporateSpeak — that it’s a good idea? And to suggest to someone who’s in the web community that she should have a Twitter and LinkedIn page?

You. Idiot.

Here is the appropriate response from any corporate person not fired at the same time:

That’s right. The sound of silence. If you want to offer helpful hints, do it on the phone or via e-mail. Or in person. I offered my boss information on recruiters I have used in the past, and he welcomed it. I’m sure that Charlene would’ve been pleased to talk to Alfred about strategies for getting hired elsewhere, but for Alfred to post such a flip, cavalier message on Charlene’s Facebook page is a pretty big dick move. I feel bad for Charlene because she got fired, but I feel worse for Alfred because he’s so inept that he seemed to not even know what he was doing when he posted that.

Beyond that, Charlene will never, ever call Alfred out for what he said. And that’s too bad.

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the six words you can’t say on a resume April 6, 2009

Posted by That Guy in Economic Downturn, Getting Hired.
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If George Carlin had been a recruiter instead of a comedian, he might have written something decrying the six words that make your resume suck. Instead, Squawkfox did it. By all means go and read the rest of them, but I’d like to focus on “responsible for”. Here’s what she said:

My lips pucker and make sour sucking noises when I read “Responsible For” on a resume. Of course you’re responsible for something. But how many? How long? Who? What? When? Rather than waste the hiring manager’s time reading a vague list of responsibilities, be specific and use quantitative figures to back up your cited skills and accomplishments.

When we’re in college, we’re trained* to use analytical language and make our arguments clearly and without bias toward any gender**. Our resume-writing talents — and if you’ve ever read a stack of resumes all in a row, as I have, you know how loosely I’m using the word “talents” — are also developed in college. As a result, we find ourselves writing our resumes in an overly-flowery, overly-passive style where we are “responsible for” things. The only time you’re ever responsible for anything, resume-wise, is when you manage a team, and in that case you would say something like “led a team of 10 programmers in building CServer 2.0, a major application in the field of corporate communication”.

CC-licensed photo by Ryan Junell.

CC-licensed photo by Ryan Junell.

  • used (not a good one, I admit)
  • planned
  • scheduled
  • developed
  • designed
  • built
  • created
  • liaised
  • organized
  • wrote
  • edited
  • completed
  • fulfilled
  • covered
  • translated
  • produced
  • oversaw
  • input
  • monitored
  • assisted
  • hired
  • trained
  • surveyed (or surveilled, if you prefer)
  • launched
  • provided
  • worked
  • revised
  • collected

I’m sure that, if you use that list as a jumping-off point, you can find ways to make your resume writing more active and less responsible.

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* Ostensibly.

** Gender-neutral language and pro-feminist rhetoric was huge in my college, and not just in the English department. But since I worked for the English department, a little of it rubbed off on me. Now I’m just bitter about how much of my time was wasted learning feminist language theory instead of technical writing.