EditorialsBy Matt Bud, Chairman, The FENG

The failure to communicate

The story I hear more often than not is how perfect someone was for a particular posting and their amazement that they didn’t get a call.

Of course, there are a lot of possible reasons why someone doesn’t get a response. It could be they were in too late. It could be that there were requirements for the job that only became obvious once responses rolled in. Criteria that didn’t seem attainable are suddenly appearing on so many of the credentials of candidates received that those without it aren’t even considered.

My only concern tonight is to address the possibility that you don’t communicate your areas of expertise in an easily absorbed manner.

Let’s put ourselves on the other side of the desk tonight. Visualize if you will a high backed executive chair with a telephone on one side and a computer on the other. Square in the middle of that desk is the pile of responses to a recent posting in our newsletter. Since it was a CFO job in a good location, the pile includes 100-150 very fine individuals.

If you hark back to those halcyon days of yesteryear when you last had to find someone to work for YOU, how do you think one might go about digesting this enormous amount of information? If you guessed “very, very carefully,” you would be wrong. Sure, some amount of care will be taken, but exactly how much attention do you think each document will receive? If you guessed 5 minutes, you would be wrong. The actual time is more like 10-30 seconds, if you are lucky. Sure, if something jumps off the page, the time spent by the reviewer may be longer. It might even be a lot longer. But, what counts in this exercise is that FIRST scan. Will your resume/cover letter pass this test?

Speed reading is a survival skill. If you don’t learn how to do it as a resume reviewer, you won’t survive. (Or, ever get to go to lunch.)

When I go through the new member candidates, I am looking for titles and seniority. If “Chief Financial Officer” appears a few times or “Corporate Controller” then I am there. A quick check for when they started their career and basically they have been accepted. My next step is to check all their data against their directory listing and see if the special interest groups they have selected make sense against their background. Here the process slows down. Often it takes a “hard read” to find any link to their selections. My belief is that our SIG’s aren’t wish lists, but rather a statement of background. I only add the ones that fit.

If you are screening for a specific job, industry background is the key criteria, and job titles come next. Location is easy to determine. Folks usually live somewhere, although there is always one resume with no home address. (I guess they are living in their car.) Industry is important to the understanding one brings to a potential assignment. There is always so much to learn outside of industry, that not having to acquire such knowledge is a big help. The only problem is that most folks don’t make it easy to figure out.

Your resume is your primary tool in communicating, not only your value, but more importantly your background. Believe it or not, value comes second or third. The reason which may not be obvious is that on any given search the candidates selected will all have the right background, and only at that point will a further reduction be made based on your value proposition.

Yes, logically, it would appear to be putting the cart in front of the horse, but the problem is to get past the “forest for the trees” one. Unless and until you reduce that pile to 30 or so candidates it is not possible to focus.

A failure to communicate in this context is fatal. The moment you fall into that “I’ll take another look at it when I have a chance” pile, you are a goner. No one ever gets to it.

So the question is: Does your resume communicate who you are? Is it readable? (I love those 8 point fonts, don’t you?) Are there lots of long sentences? Does it go on and on? Is there missing information? (A detailed resume is available upon request. – Don’t hold your breath on that one.) Is part of your work history missing? (Earlier firms include — followed by some vague references.)

None of these help your ability to communicate. The test is severe and at times totally unfair. But then life isn’t fair.

To identify your communication deficiencies seek out others whose opinions you trust. You should also try a few “strangers” who won’t be afraid to hurt your feelings. (They may need a little hurting.)

Your survival depends on being able to communicate. Don’t let it be a failure.

Regards, Matt

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