Wednesday, April 15, 2009

How Albert Pujols Would Conduct a Job Search

Albert Pujols will likely never hold a real job. He’ll never write a resume or go on an interview. He’s an two time National League MVP, All-Star in 8 of his 9 seasons, and has the highest career batting average, slugging percentage, and OPS (for baseball geeks) of any active major league baseball player. Given his current career trajectory, Phat Albert will likely be a first-ballot Hall of Famer. Mr. Pujols has been rewarded for his excellence with a $111MM contract with Major League Baseball’s St. Louis Cardinals. So working outside of baseball is unlikely for him. But if Albert had to go out and find a job, I could envision him using the same approach to his job search as he does at the plate.

The three things that separate Albert from other major league hitters are Mechanics, Discipline, and Consistent Contact. At the plate, Pujols has a near perfect mechanical swing – hands held high, weight balanced, and a short, compact, efficient swing with a great follow through. In the job search I could see Albert spending time to craft an elegant and effective resume that made a simple, clear value statement to employers. I’d see Albert doing extensive interview preparation, wearing a suit and shined shoes to interviews, and following up with appropriately timed Thank You and follow up notes. The basic mechanics behind effective job hunting.

Great mechanics are the foundation of a good hitter, but Discipline at the plate is what allows for those mechanics to be fully leveraged. Although Pujols has staggering power in his swing, it’s rare to see him strike out, and even rarer still to see him swing at a bad pitch. He’s selective. He looks for pitches in his zone, ones he can hit and hit hard. I think Albert would be equally as selective in the job search. I don’t think Albert would be spamming his resume across the Web for jobs he wasn’t remotely qualified for, or trying to spin his resume and experience to pretend he was something he wasn’t. I think Albert would have the discipline to know that his time would best spent networking and searching for openings that were truly in his wheelhouse. Jobs he could hit, and hit hard.

Great mechanics and disciplined pitch selection put Pujols in position to make solid, Consistent Contact with the baseball. Sometimes his laser-like line drives find the gap or are hit high enough to clear the fence for a home run. Other times he hits balls just as hard, but directly into the shortstop’s glove for an out. Pujols knows that sometimes you do everything right, but things don’t work out. However, the goal for his next at bat remains the same – make solid contact. Over time, those who have good mechanics, pitch selection, and make consistent, solid contact end up coming out on top. I don’t think Albert would get frustrated with the job search. Each failure would drive him to work harder on his mechanics and pitch selection to make solid contact again the next time at bat.

The job market is tough these days, and it’s hard not to focus on the end result. But my advice to job seekers is to run your search like Albert Pujols would. Focus on the mechanics – solid resume, interview prep, dress, follow-up. Be selective – Look for companies and positions that you know you are qualified for and then network like crazy to get to the table for an interview. And remember that in this market, you might do everything right, make solid contact and still hit a screamer into the shortstop’s glove for an out. But that’s OK. Go back to the dugout, focus on the fundamentals, and keep hitting line drives until one clears the fence.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Resume advice : Don't try so hard

I’ve had a lot of requests from friends and colleagues lately seeking resume advice. I’m happy to help, but it’s tough. Each individual has their own writing style, and each recruiter/hiring manager might review resumes differently. But I thought I’d share one piece of universal advice about resume writing.

Put your old resume aside and build a new one from scratch.

Start with a blank page, look at the clock, and in less than 20 minutes draw up a fresh resume. No cheating, you can’t look at an old résumé for ideas. Worried you’ll forget something? That’s OK. If you can’t recall it quickly, it’s probably not that relevant. Don’t worry about fonts/formatting, colors spacing, flow or anything like that. You can go back later and make it look nice.

The compressed time frame forces you to focus on the content. Your core responsibilities, key accomplishments, critical skills. The important things. The things that employers are looking for.

I know there are volumes of books, articles, seminars etc. on how to write resumes, sell yourself, position your experience for the job search. Many probably have value. And you should spend time making your resume look professional. Using a recommended font, starting bullets with action words - all good things. But the bottom line is that content is king. But all the formatting, spin and positioning in the world can’t make you into something you are not.

I’ve seen way to many resumes where form and flowery language dominate the document, and I find myself having to work hard to figure out what exactly this person does for a living, how they can add value to an organization. Don’t be that candidate.

Imagine you only have 15 seconds to capture the attention of a recruiter or hiring manager. Because in reality – that’s about what you get. Especially now with more job seekers and more resumes flooding recruiter’s Inboxes. You have fifteen seconds to convince them that you can add value to their organization. What is the one statement you’d want the reader to come away with after reading your resume? For instance, I want people reading my resume to remember “Ian is a kick ass recruiter who is very aware of the business impact of his job”. If someone gets that from their 15 seconds with my resume, I’m happy.

Once you’ve built a new resume from scratch and taken some time to clean it up, see if you can find someone who has no clue in the world about what you do for a living. Ask them to take a minute to read your resume and give you a one sentence summary of what you do well. If the answer is close to what you want it to be, great. If not, get another blank page.