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Tuesday, December 30, 2014

How Technology Affects Your Job Search

It has been only about 20 years since the Internet began to change the world.  Transactions and communications that used to be conducted using paper and the US Mail prior to the mid-nineties have almost exclusively shifted to electronic communications.  As is the case in every other facet of a company's operations, recruiting and hiring rely heavily on the Internet for searches, background checks, and just about every other method of communication between companies and candidates.  Paper cover letters and resumes are no longer the preferred way of sending or receiving information from candidates or within organizations.  

Unfortunately for many job seekers, more often than not they are unaware of how electronic communications can affect their job search.  It is estimated that more than half of all resumes submitted electronically are rejected, no matter how well qualified a candidate may be for the job. If a candidate thinks that an electronic resume submitted to a company that has posted a position is reviewed by a decision maker, the candidate would be correct, except more often than not that decision maker is a software program instead of a person. The program looks for key words, phrases, and acronyms that will determine whether the resume will ever be in front of human eyes. Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) are the default tool for deciding which resumes proceed and which ones are eliminated well before a hiring manager ever talks to anyone.  Additionally, even when a resume does contain enough of those key words, phrases, and acronyms in the right place within the document, it is usually just the portions of the resume that have that specific content that are presented to human decision makers, not the entire document.

Candidates who try to sound too formal or who use too many less common phrases to describe something simple often eliminate themselves as a result of their clever choice of words. For example, a candidate may have an outstanding skill set and excellent experience for a particular job, but if that a candidate uses "Scholastic Achievements" rather than "Education" to list and describe their formal training, the ATS may very well ignore that entire section. Or, if "Work Experience" is discarded in favor of "Employment History," the ATS may ignore the information in that section.  Any ATS program can be set up to either look for or ignore whatever the user want to use as screening criteria, including the overuse of any term.

Does this type of system sometimes eliminate candidates who would be/could be outstanding hires?  Absolutely it does, but the hope and expectation of the users is that the system will select the top five or ten (or whatever number they choose) resumes and that a worthy applicant, or two, or three will surface from that process, and that from that number an excellent candidate will emerge.  The additional benefit to the reviewer is that the process is much faster than anything a person could accomplish.

If you are writing your own resume, be aware of how it may be evaluated.  Do your research and learn as much as you can about what the company is seeking and do not try to use a different name for something than what the company uses.  Often the job description and/or job requirements provided by the company will give you much of what you need to know.  One of the main reasons that an Applicant Tracking System is used in the first place is to save time. When a company lists specific skills, certifications, education, or experience as requirements, they will usually get at least seven or eight resumes that do not meet those requirements for every one that does.  Those resumes take as much time to read as do those that do meet the standards in place.  The applicants who send in the resumes that do not qualify do so with the attitude of having nothing to lose, so why not try?  A good ATS will weed out the time wasters.

If you are working through a recruiter, the ATS is usually irrelevant.  The recruiter is the one who does the vetting.  However, if you are submitting a resume to an electronic collection box, you can be assured that what you submit will be screened by an ATS.  If you are thinking of using a professional resume writer, be sure to inquire about that writer's familiarity with ATS systems for the particular job/industry you are pursuing.  Familiarity and competence in one or two industries does not automatically imply the same expertise in others.  The best writers know the key terms and where they should appear in the resume.

If you are attempting to re-enter the working world after a significant time away from it, or if you have been in a job for several years and have not needed or prepared a resume lately, know that it is a different world than what you experienced previously.  Ignorance of that fact could keep you from getting the job for which you may be ideally suited.

Ken Murdock is the owner of Murdock and Associates Recruiters and New Wave Resumes. He recruits top talent in sales, project management, accounting/finance, manufacturing operations, and engineering for the manufacturing sector, oil & gas, construction, and the packaging industry. New Wave Résumés offers professional résumés and interview coaching for executives, mid-level professionals, recent graduates, and anyone seeking to take their skills and talents into a new career.

Friday, December 19, 2014

An End to Age Discrimination?

No doubt you have heard about the law of unintended consequences. Originally, it was described as "outcomes that are not the ones intended by a purposeful action." This particular law is most often cited if something bad happens when the intent of the original action was to accomplish something positive. We see it exemplified often in nature when one species is introduced to control another species and the new species creates its own set of problems.
Sometimes however, the law of unintended consequences can have a positive outcome from a trend rather than a purposeful action, and that is exactly what is occurring in the job market with people in their mid-forties and older being hired by companies to fill positions formerly dominated by much younger workers.
It's no secret that average job tenure for today's younger workers is not nearly what it was for their parents and grandparents. "Move on to move up" has become almost a mantra for millennials and other younger workers who have a much different attitude toward job structure and tenure than their parents and grandparents had. Job tenure of 2 to 4 years is common. Even among younger baby boomers, males have an average of 11.4 jobs and women 10.7 jobs during their working lives.
With tenure statistics like these, employers are beginning to realize that the idea of hiring a young worker with the expectation that they will eventually retire with the company is unrealistic. These statistics have been a motivation for many employers to look at older workers, who have traditionally been seen as "over the hill" to fill many positions that used to be the domain of younger workers. The rationale is that it makes more sense to hire someone in the mid to late fifties who has an excellent chance of staying in the job for ten to twelve years than to hire a much younger person who will use it as a springboard to the next position.
Age discrimination is still very real and is common in some industries, but more and more employers are beginning to consider the skill set more than the birth year as the main criteria for consideration in jobs they need to fill. I certainly see it in my recruiting business. I would not say that it is the norm just yet, but it is certainly moving in that direction. It is particularly evident in the hard-to-fill positions involving STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) knowledge and experience.
Employers reap the benefits of the older worker's experience and get an employee who is unlikely to use the position as a temporary parking place while looking for the next career move. Age discrimination is not going away anytime soon and probably will never disappear entirely, but the combination of high demand for many professional and/or skilled workers and the short job tenure in the millennial cohort is putting a dent in it.
Ken Murdock is the owner of Murdock & Associates Recruiters and New Wave Résumés. He recruits top talent in sales, project management, accounting/finance, manufacturing operations, and engineering for the manufacturing sector, oil & gas, construction, and the packaging industry. New Wave Résumés offers professional résumés and interview coaching for executives, mid-level professionals, recent graduates, and anyone seeking to take their skills and talents into a new career.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

To Get the Job, You Must Close the Sale!

Augusta National Golf Club is very well known for its exclusivity. Unlike most prestigious clubs, you can pretty much guarantee that you will not be admitted to membership if you even hint that you are interested in joining it. Everything is discreet, and membership is by invitation only. They must invite you…you do not ask to join.
The job and career search process is not at all like how August National operates. In this very strong buyer’s market, if you do not express your interest in joining the organizations where you interview, you can almost assure yourself of not receiving a job offer.
As I mentioned in a previous post, the number one rule of marketing is that when your demand conditions change, you must also change your promotional strategy. In the old seller’s market that existed prior to the economic downturn that began in 2008, there were more great jobs than great candidates to fill them. Companies were competing with each other to attract the best candidates for critical positions, and the best candidates often had multiple job offers. That changed as companies began to downsize, merge with others, or go out of business altogether.
While companies today still want to attract top candidates, for most positions there are more of them to choose from than in the previous market conditions. When a hiring manager has a choice between a great candidate who expresses interest in the job and one who gives no indication either way, the candidate who says that he or she wants the job will stand out more favorably than those who do not express interest.
There are a lot of nuances that can affect whether an interview goes well or not. Body language, eye contact, how you answer questions, and the questions you ask all play a big part in how you are perceived by the interviewer. Remember this: Companies want to hire people who want to work there, but hiring managers are not mind readers. Even if you answer all the questions well, ask good questions of them, smile, and have great body language and eye contact, if you do not let the interviewer know that you want the job, your chances of receiving an moving forward in the process or receiving an offer are slim.
You may be thinking as the interview comes to a close that you have really nailed it and that your performance could not have been better, but if you do not express that you want the job, the interviewer may very well be thinking that you are not interested at all. This applies to every position, but especially so to sales jobs.
In my recruiting business, the first and last counsel I give to every candidate I send to one of my clients is to listen well, ask good questions, and if they want the job, to say so. My clients who often hire sales people will not make an offer to any candidate who does not ask for the job. Their reasoning is that if the candidate will not ask for the job, neither will they close the sale with customers when representing the organization's products and services.
Of all the important steps in the interview process, candidates are typically more reluctant to “close the sale’’ than in any other part of the process. For many, the reason is that they simply do not know how to do it and they feel awkward. So, here is a very easy and effective method of doing it. As the interview is drawing near to a close, the interviewer will typically ask you if you have any questions or would like to add anything to what you have already said. This is your golden opportunity to say something like:
“I appreciate the time we have spent discussing this opportunity with (name of organizations). Based on everything I have learned about the job and the company on my own before today and what I have picked up in our conversation, I think there is a great fit between what I can bring and what you need in this position. I would like to take the next step in the process. How can I make that happen?” Then, do not say another word. Continue to smile at the interviewer. You have asked the closing question, and it is time for you to stop talking and wait for a response.
If you have done as well in the interview as you think, this may be the question the interviewer has been waiting for you to ask, and you will get a favorable response. Even if the interviewer does not give you any definitive answer at that time, you have planted the seed for moving forward. Quite often, in the post-interview discussions and deliberations about you after you leave (and there will be some), the question of whether you asked for the job will likely come up. More often than not, the interview process may involve three or more meetings with various others in the organization. You should “close the sale” in each step.
Interviews for the positions that you really want are not easy to come by in this market. You cannot afford to do less than your best in any of them. I cannot guarantee that you will get the job if you ask for it, but I can promise you that most of the other candidates are not doing it, and when you do, it makes you stand out in a very positive light. All other factors being equal, your odds just went up considerably.
Ken Murdock is the owner of Murdock & Associates Recruiters and New Wave Résumés. He recruits for the manufacturing sector, oil & gas, construction, and the packaging industry. New Wave Résumés offers professional résumés and interview coaching for executives, mid-level professionals, recent graduates, and anyone seeking to take their skills and talents into a new career.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Why Your Resume Is Not Getting Results

This is a copy of an article I posted on LinkedIn a couple of weeks ago.  If you did not see it there, I think it's worth repeating here...

As a recruiter and resume writer, I see dozens of resumes every day. Many of them are from candidates who want to make a career change and are responding to an inquiry from me about a job I'm trying to fill for one of my clients. Others are from people who want to change their resumes because what they have now is not getting them any results. Most of the resumes I see are not very good and do not meet the standards I have for anything I would send to one of my clients. It's not that they do not have the margins set correctly or the layout is sloppy. It's not even the information they contain that is the problem. The problem is what they do not have in them.

One of the first rules of marketing is that when your demand conditions change, you must also change your promotional strategy. Prior to the economic downturn in 2008, a candidate who had only the basic resume components of name, contact information, experience, and education could get interviews and probably multiple job offers. We were in a strong seller's market at that time and there were more great jobs to be filled than top candidates to fill them. The best candidates often had multiple offers in their field.

However, what worked then does not work now. We are in a very strong buyer's market now, which means that hiring managers can be very selective on who they choose to interview and hire...and they are, simply because there are more great candidates now than great jobs.

Despite this very obvious change in the market, most job seekers and even most universities (who really ought to know better) continue to use the same resume style and format that was effective in the long-gone seller's market. They simply put facts about themselves on the, contact info, education, and where they have worked, and they expect the reader to figure out the benefit that will accrue to them if they talk to and/or hire the candidate. It really doesn't work that way in today's market. If you don't also add information that gives the reader some good information about your "soft" skills, such as problem solving, creativity, tenacity, organization, attention to detail, and several others that may be specific to the job you are seeking, you cannot expect the reader to assume that you have these things going for you.

When we were in the strong seller's market, companies were mainly interested in skills, qualifications, and education. If the candidate happened to be a good fit into the culture of the organization, that was a plus, but the real focus was on whether the candidate could do the job. Today's market is much different. The challenge for recruiters is not in finding skilled, qualified, experienced candidates. There is a wealth of them out there and available. The challenge is finding someone who has all those qualities and who will be a great fit into the organizational culture.
Hiring managers are busy people. Running their businesses is how they make money...not by reading resumes and conducting interviews. Those activities are a necessary, but costly exercise that takes away from what managers normally spend their time doing. So, it only makes sense that for someone to take time to consider a candidate for an interview, that candidate should give them some good reasons for wanting to talk to them.
An effective resume today is one that makes it plain to the reader what benefits will accrue to them by talking to the person that the resume represents. If you cannot make those benefits obvious on the resume, do not expect the reader to realize them from the information you have presented. Adding those benefits is the first change I make to any resume I make for job seekers as well as those resumes I send to my recruiting clients. The results have been significantly better for those candidates whose resumes reflect benefits than for the candidates who focus only on the facts about themselves and expect the hiring manager to read between the lines and recognize the benefits for themselves.


Ken Murdock is an author, speaker, recruiter, and resume writer.  More information is available at and

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

So, Why Should You Use A Resume Writing Service?

I have seen several articles recently about whether anyone in a job search should use a resume writing service.  There are several good reasons to do so:

1.  Some people just are not very good at writing, especially about themselves.  Your resume is most often the only way someone may learn about  who you are and what you can do, and it is critical that what they see in that first impression is positive.  Not only should the information be positive, but it should be relevant to why they should consider you for a position.  The biggest mistake that most job seekers make in their resumes is putting in too much irrelevant information that obscures what a hiring manager wants to see.  A good resume writer can sort out the important information from the unimportant, and put what needs to be there in the right places.

2. Since the economy took a nosedive in 2008, the "rules" for writing resumes have changed considerably.  The first rule of marketing is that when your demand conditions change, you must also change your promotional strategy.  The type of resume that would have garnered you several interviews in the previously strong seller's market will not get it done in this strong buyer's market.  Unfortunately, most universities have not realized this and they continue to promote the old style that does not help their graduates get the interviews they need.  The best resume writers can make sure that your resume provides the information that will make the difference in whether you are separated from the crowd or part of it.

3.  Companies today are interested in not only your education, work experience, and contact information, but also anything they can learn about you that will tell them whether you will fit in well with their organization.  It is not enough in this type of market to simply list your qualifications such as experience and education.  In a strong buyer's market like this one, organizations want to know much more about someone than just that information.  They want to know about what kind of person you are.  "Soft" qualities such as perseverance, creativity, attention to detail, and curiosity matter in today's market.  A professional writer will help you identify the qualities you have that can separate you from other equally qualified candidates and make you stand out from the crowd rather than blend into it.

4.  A professional resume writer will customize your resume to the opportunity.  There is no such thing as a "one-size-fits-all" resume.  If you pursue five different positions, you should have a specific resume for each one.

At New Wave Resumes, we take the time to learn which outstanding qualities you have that are the same as those needed to excel at the position you seek.  When you have that information on your resume, you separate yourself from other candidates and are much more likely to secure the interview for the position you really want.

Check out our website at or contact us at

Thursday, October 2, 2014


One of the most basic concepts a student of economics learns is the law of supply and demand.  That law describes the effect that the availability and the supply of a commodity has on the price of that commodity.  So, if the demand is high and the supply is low, we would have what is known as a sellers market.  Those who have the commodity can extract a higher price for the commodity when the supply is limited and the demand for it is high.  Conversely, when the demand is low and the supply is high, those who are the buyers have the upper hand in any sales transaction.

Prior to October, 2008 we were in a strong seller's employment market.  The demand for skilled, experienced, talented people for many different jobs was high.  There were more great jobs than great people to fill them, so those who were interested and/or available could be very selective in the job hunting process.  It was not unusual for good candidates to have several interviews in their field and to get multiple job offers as a result of those interviews.  Candidates were very selective for one simple reason...they could be.

However, on October 8, 2008 the stock market tumbled as some of the giants of investment banking either went out of business or saw their market value drop when the housing market "bubble" collapsed. Trillions of dollars of investments, owned by both institutions and individuals, vanished over the next few months.  Layoffs, consolidations, "downsizing" and liquidations became the norm rather than the exception, and in very short order the seller's market that we had seen for the previous several years turned into a buyer's market as jobs disappeared and millions of workers found themselves unemployed. 

Many organizations that were not hurt as much as many others saw the market conditions as an opportunity to rid themselves of marginal workers and to cut expenses just in case economic conditions continued to decline.  Others took the opportunity to automate, upgrade technologies, and put more and more machines to work doing the jobs that people had done before the economic decline started.  Within just few months, millions of employees who thought they would be in their jobs or at least with their employers for the long term in some capacity found themselves suddenly and unexpectedly in the job market.

The result of the market turmoil and the accompanying job losses was that the numbers of people employed declined sharply, and since that time we have been in a strong buyer's market. 

While one of the most basic concepts in economics is the law of supply and demand, one of the most basic concepts in marketing is that when demand conditions change, there must also be a change in promotional strategy.  Simply put, the strategies and tools that a job seeker could use effectively in the seller's market are not at all effective in a buyer's market.

A job seeker today who uses the same style résumé that was common in the seller's market will not find it to be nearly as effective in a buyer's market.  The job search strategy has to change to accommodate the new market conditions.  It is no longer enough to have a résumé that simply provides name, contact information, work history, and education.  There is no shortage of skilled, qualified people. Organizations want to know much more about the person than just the basic information.  They can afford to be very selective because there is a large supply of skilled candidates, but not that many great jobs.

You have only one chance to make that critical first impression.  Don't waste it with a résumé that you have to dust off and simply update your contact information.  It will need a lot more changes than that to be effective in a buyer's market.  Take the time, and if necessary, be willing to invest the money, to do it right.

Ken Murdock
New Wave Resumes

Friday, September 5, 2014

More Than You Ever Thought You Knew...

Since October of 2008 when the US Economy took a nosedive, the advantage has shifted to the hiring side.  That means that we are in a strong buyer's market.  Companies are more selective than ever, and mainly for one reason: they can be.  There are a lot more great candidates out there than great jobs, so the companies that are hiring are doing all they can to make sure that they hire the best and the brightest from among all those who are candidates for a particular position.

One of the tools that companies use is a "personality assessment."  Certainly they want to know that you have skills and talents and can do the job well, but once they establish that, the bar is raised considerably in the selection process. You see, they want not only bright, talented, skilled employees...they also want those bright, talented, skilled employees to fit in well with the organizational culture and the other people who already work there.

So, enter the personality assessment.  These assessments measure things like compliance, independence, patience, creativity, leadership, attention to detail, how you process information, problem solving, your need for stability, and how you react to stress among other qualities as well.  Different positions require different qualities, so when a hiring manager is considering, for example, someone to work in the accounting department, attention to detail would be a very important quality.  An outgoing personality might be just right for the sales position they need to fill, while the Chief Technology Officer position might require someone who is a creative, independent thinker.  There is no single personality type that is right for every position.

With the cost of making a bad hire higher than ever, companies want to get it right.  The money they invest in training, benefits, compensation, and opportunity cost of hiring the wrong person can be a crippling sum.  So, I think you can see that when they are considering making an offer to a candidate, they want to know all they can possibly know about that candidate.

Do you think it would be valuable to you to know how other people perceive you and to know without question the "soft" skills you bring to the job?  In other words, would you like to know the same things about yourself that the companies who interview you will know?  What if you learned that how you think you are perceived by others is nothing at all like others really perceive you?  Would it be valuable information to know what, if anything, you need to work on and improve before you go to an interview?  If you are already great at something and do not realize it, would it be helpful to you to know about yourself what others have seen for years? 

I think that knowledge would be very valuable, indeed.  In fact, I think it would put you in a very advantageous position relative to all the other candidates to have that information.  In addition to all that I have already described, you will learn which historical figures had the same personality type that you have.

What if I told you that you can have this information immediately, and that it would cost you nothing?  FREE, in other words.  For a very limited time, that is exactly what I am telling you. 

On my website ( you will see an offer on the home page that can make the information I just described available to you for free.  These reports normally go for $100 to $150, but from now until the end of September I am offering the best personality on the market...the DISC Report from Peoplekeys ( free with every résumé order.  There are a lot of good reports out there, and I have used most of them over the years, but the one I find most useful, most accurate, and most reliable (meaning that if you take it more than once, you will get the same results) is the DISC report.

The assessment will take you, literally, about five to seven minutes to complete online with an access code I will provide.  Once you complete it, you will receive your report online immediately.

A great résumé and the knowledge you need about yourself to go into any interview prepared and confident...I think that is a combination that is hard to beat.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Don't Let Ignorance Cripple Your Career

There is a lot to be said for stability and security in a career.  After all, there is a certain degree of comfort and relaxation in knowing that you are in a job that you can keep for as long as you want it and that you will have a steady paycheck coming in until you retire.  Maybe it's not your dream job, but the familiarity with it and your expertise in doing it offers a low or no stress environment.  Maybe it doesn't give you the rewards that you thought you would receive when you started on this career path years ago, but it could be a lot worse.

Here's some very well could get a lot worse.  If you are in a position with any institution in the private sector in today's environment, you are not in nearly as stable an environment as you may think.  Capitalism is a brutally efficient system for rewarding the innovators and casting aside those who think things will always be as they are now. 

It has been a common cliché for a long time now, but we really are in a world economy, and because of the tremendous advances in communications technology and the ability to move things...almost somewhere else in the world quickly and inexpensively, no industry and no company is assured of staying in business or maintaining their position within their industry.

It used to be that graduates from the local schools competed with other graduates from the same or surrounding schools for jobs in the area.  There is still some degree of that, but it is rapidly disappearing.  Why? Because more and more jobs that used to require being on-site at an office or manufacturing facility can now be done remotely from just about anywhere in the world.  It is just as easy for an architect in Mumbai, India to design your house and send the plans to your local contractor as it is for another architect down the street from you to do the same thing.

It is not only a possibility, but a promise that someone, somewhere is working on a way that your job can be eliminated.  It's nothing personal, it's just the efficient market system at work, and the most efficient companies that can operate at the lowest cost will always win in the long run.  Do you want examples?  Here are two: Wal Mart and Southwest Airlines.  Both companies are their industry leaders in low-cost operations. 

So what is the take-away from this realization?  It is simply this...there is absolutely no assurance that your job will still be there tomorrow.  Just as it is always a good idea to have some money saved for a rainy day, it is also advisable to have a Plan B in place if your Plan A disappears. 

There are many experts out there who say that we live in a world today where those who are starting their careers will have eight to eleven jobs in their working life.  A few others predict even more than that.

A good place to start getting ready is to do an objective assessment of your skills that would be valuable and transferable to another organization if your job disappeared tomorrow.  We specialize in helping people identify just what those skills are and putting them in a document that can help you market yourself most effectively if the need or desire to do so occurs.

Ken Murdock
New Wave Resumes

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Avoid These Résumé Killers

Think about what a résumé really is and its purpose.  It is a marketing document with the sole purpose of helping you get an interview.  That is its only purpose.  Without question, the best way to get an interview is to know an influential person in the organization.  The second best way is to know someone who knows that influential person in the organization.  However, the method that most candidates are relegated to is the most common, which is to send the organization a résumé and a cover letter and hope for the best.  With competition so tight, it is imperative that if this is your way of introducing yourself to the organization, your résumé has to be very, very good.

As a recruiter, I have seen many thousands of bad résumés, but only a few hundred really good ones.  I have seen many more that would have been good, possibly very good, if they did not have one of these very common errors that make a recruiter or a hiring manager immediately discard it and go to the next one.  What are the big offenders?

1. The wrong form of a word, such as "to, too, two", or "there, their, they're", "capital, capitol".   Probably the most common error I see is with "its/it's."  "It's" is the abbreviation for "it is."  "Its" is possessive, but you would be surprised at how many people do not understand the difference.
2. The wrong word altogether. The most common offenders? "Loose" (adjective) when the verb "lose" is appropriate "quiet" rather than "quite", "lite" instead of "light", "write" instead of "right", "insure" rather than "ensure."
3. Any spelling error.  This is the quickest way to have your résumé discarded.
4. Run-on sentences, even if they are grammatically correct, tend to become confusing the longer they go. This is especially true to a reader who is looking at dozens or perhaps hundreds of resumes to select a few candidates for interviews. 
5. Redundant or unneeded modifiers (where the first word is unnecessary or has the same meaning as the second), such as "completely finish (it's either finished or it isn't, "past experience" (is there any other kind?), "one and only" (no such thing as "two and only"), "honest truth" (is there another form of truth?), "free gift" (if it's not free, it's not a gift).  The one I see more than any other is when someone is describing the "end result" of one of their accomplishments.

Early in my recruiting business I submitted a resume to a client company for a candidate that I had personally interviewed and had every confidence that this candidate would be an outstanding hire.  The hiring manager sent the résumé back to me with a spelling error highlighted and a comment that made it very clear to me that if this person could not take the time to proofread and spell-check the résumé before sending it out, there was every chance that he would be just as careless in communications with customers, which was unacceptable. What was not said, but was certainly implied, was that I should have caught that error before I sent it to my client, and my client was right.  Since that time I have triple checked every résumé that I send to clients.

The job market is very much a buyer's market now and it appears that conditions will not change anytime soon.  You have only one chance to make a good first impression, so take the time to ensure that none of these errors are in your document.

Ken Murdock is the owner of Murdock & Associates Recruiters and New Wave Résumés. He recruits for the manufacturing sector, oil & gas, construction, and the packaging industry. New Wave Résumés offers professional résumés and interview coaching for executives, mid-level professionals, recent graduates, and anyone seeking to take their skills and talents into a new career.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

It's All About The Packaging

Imagine that you are at the grocery store and that you need several different items in the packaged goods areas, that is, anything in a carton, can or box.  If everything you looked at had a blank front on the package and the only information available was the nutrition labeling, how much time and trouble would it take you to make a decision on what to buy, and how knowledgeable would you be about what the product could do for you?  Probably not much.

Of course, food is not packaged that way.  The boxes of brownie mix have images of fresh baked brownies that look attractive and delicious.  Canned goods often have the words "delicious" and "low fat" or maybe "excellent source of protein."  In other words, these packaged goods convey to the consumer the benefits they can expect to receive by purchasing and using the product.

The problem with most resumes today is that they resemble the nutritional label on packaged goods in the grocery store.  They are what I call "feature heavy / benefit light."  They convey all kinds of information about the candidate, but very few, if any at all, benefits that will accrue to the reader by setting up an interview and/or possibly hiring that person.  Most job seekers and most universities use and teach this old, tired model that was effective when we were in a strong seller's market prior to the economic decline that began in 2008.  Since that time we have been in a strong buyer's market, and one of the primary tenets of successful marketing is that when your demand conditions change, you must change your promotional strategy that is aimed at those you consider to be your target market.

Organizations today are very selective about the candidates that they choose to interview.  They can be this way because in a strong buyer's market there is no shortage of skilled, experienced, educated, and qualified candidates for every position (the nutritional labeling).  However, when a hiring manager or a recruiter looks at a resume and sees nothing but the ingredients (name, contact information, education,  and employment history), they are seeing a document that looks like everyone else who has the same data on their resume, and the candidate has given the reader no compelling reason to choose him or her over anyone else as someone worth bringing in for an interview.  That document is either discarded or goes into a tall pile of paper or an electronic file with very little chance of being chosen as a viable candidate worth a conversation.

If you do not provide some idea of the potential benefits that will accrue to the reader or the organization that the reader represents, you have very little chance of ever being invited in for an interview.  In today's market, you get one chance to make a good first impression, so you cannot afford to waste it with a poor resume that does not get you into the competition for the job.

You can avoid this by tossing the resume templates you usually find on the Internet and ignoring the guidance of career counselors who have not adapted their thinking to the buyer's market mentality.  The best resume writers today know how to present you in such a way that you not only have the right ingredients, as in the food label example above, but also as a candidate who can bring value and benefits to the organization.  That is what will separate you from the crowd and greatly increase your chances of getting the interview that you really want.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Good Riddance to the One Page Resume

Most high school graduates hear it.  Most college students are told the same story.  What is it that they are taught and what is so bad about it?  The high school and college experiences have several noble purposes...learning basic skills, maturing meeting new people and learning about other cultures, and one more very important train graduates with the skills they need to get a job that is the best fit for their skills, talents, and interests.

The way that students are the most ill-advised during their school years in preparation for their career is that their resume should be a one-page summary of their experience, skills, and education.

As a recruiter, I see the same practice in job seekers who have been out of school for several years.  For reasons that have no basis in fact, students and anyone else who is in the job market have heard that their resumes should be limited to one page.  By following this advice, what these job seekers are really limiting are their chances of getting the interviews they want for the jobs they seek.

There have been many reasons, none of them valid, that seek to justify the one-page resume model.  One of the most common reasons is that recruiters and hiring managers are busy people and they want everything summed up on one page.  Reality paints a much different picture.  Recruiters and hiring managers are focused on finding the best candidates for the position they are trying to fill.  It is true that they are busy people, but that fact is really why they want to know more than what a candidate can put on one page.   Businesses often have several objectives, but one that is common to all of them is that they do not want to waste time interviewing job candidates who are not at least reasonably suited for the job, and a one-page resume does not give them enough information to make a good decision about bringing someone in for an interview.

The hiring decision is really a buying decision.  Assume that this weekend you are planning on purchasing a new car.  You go to several dealerships to look at various models, and as you leave each one you ask for some information that you can take home with you to help you make the decision.  Car dealers produce booklets of several pages show the vehicle in various settings.  They have pages about the various colors, the power train, the interior, and even the safety features.  But what if when you asked for this material, the sales person said "I can give you this one page handout that has a lot of information on it...I hope it's enough to help you."  If you are about to spend tens of thousands of dollars on this car, doesn't it make sense that you would want a publication that gives you all the information you could possibly want to help you make your decision?

Organizations today operate in a fashion similar to the example above.  If they are going to spend tens of thousands of dollars to hire, train, and employ an individual, they want to know as much as possible about that person...and a one-page resume will not give them what they want to see.

In the late 90's and for the first seven years of this century, a brief document that provided only your name, education, work experience, and contact information was enough to get you multiple interviews.  That was when were in a strong seller's market. That market does not exist anymore.  Today employers are incredibly selective for one simple reason...they can be!  We are now in a strong buyer's market where the number of great jobs is much less than the number of skilled, qualified people to fill those jobs. If your job hunt is to be successful, you must separate yourself from the crowd rather than blend into it.

Hiring managers today want much more than just the basic information found on a one-page resume.  They want to know as much as possible about the person behind the resume and the specific skills that the candidate can bring to the job.  One of the most important priorities that employers focus on in today's job market is whether a candidate will be a good fit into the culture of the organization. 

The point to remember is this: If the best you have to offer can be summarized on one page, you have not done enough.  If you make the first page good enough, the recruiters and hiring managers will read the other pages as well.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Closing the Sale

One of the most common interview mistakes I see in candidates that have otherwise done well in job interviews is a failure to "close the sale."  The hiring process is really nothing more than a sales transaction, and you are the product.

If you are in the market for a new job, it will be very helpful to you to understand that we are in a strong seller's market.  That means that there are a lot of good to excellent candidates available for employers to choose from, and an attitude that is common to all employers is that they want to  hire people who want to be there.

Where job seekers make a mistake is in assuming that simply because they have an excellent resume, strong work experience, a good education, and think they did everything right in the interview process, they think that the employer will have no reason not to make them an offer.  But here is the secret that can put you in a different league than the other candidates.  If you actually ask for the job, your chances of getting it go up by at least 60 percent over those who do not ask for it.

Unfortunately, most candidates take the approach of simply smiling at the end of the interview and expecting the hiring manager to either make the offer right then and there, at least asking them what type of compensation expectations they have.  The reality is that the employer is waiting for you to express your interest in the position and to indicate that you want the job.

Failure to ask for the order is what separates average to mediocre sales professionals from the great ones, and remember, a job interview is a sales transaction.  Even if you know that you should ask for the job, but you get sweaty palms just thinking about it, here is an easy way to express you desire to have the job.

You can mold these comments into your own words, but the basic script goes like this:

The interviewer will ask you if you have any other questions, and you say, "Jim/Jane...I really appreciate this opportunity to visit with you about this position and how I might be a good fit for it.  Based on all I have learned about the organization and this position on my own and from our conversation today, I believe that this opportunity is a great match for my skills, experience, and interests.  I would very much like to have this job and join this great team.  What can I do to make that happen?"

Then, you simply smile and look the interviewer in the eye.  Don't say anything else.  The interviewer may or may not make you an offer right then, but you have established that you can do the job well and that you want to be a part of the organization...and companies want to hire people who want to work there.

When you leave, you should already have a note, envelope, and a stamp to write the interviewer a hand-written note that once again expresses your appreciation to discuss the opportunity and your interest and desire to have the job.  Write it and mail it that day.

If you follow both of these guideline...asking for the job and writing the will separate yourself from 90% of all the other candidates for this position and significantly improve your chances of receiving a job offer.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The Acronym You Don't Know Can Hurt You

I have mentioned in other posts (see "The Rules Have Changed) that we are now in a very strong buyer's market and that employers are being more selective than ever before simply because there is no reason not to be with so many outstanding, qualified candidates available for most jobs.  Because employers are being so much more selective, it is more challenging than ever to have your resume viewed by a pair of human eyes.  The reason is that most large employers and many smaller ones as well are using ATS, which is the acronym for "Applicant Tracking Software."  ATS is used for many reasons, but one of the main ones is that it is a time saver for hiring managers. 

When you submit your resume electronically for a job post, it is scanned by the ATS for key words.  If your resume does not have those key words, it is eliminated and will never get to any decision maker in the organization. 

Anyone who has ever tried to advertise or sell a product on the Internet is aware of how Google changes its algorithm that determines where a particular ad shows up when someone is doing a search.  Search Engine Optimization companies and individuals are always trying to adjust their tools to fit the changes in the Google algorithm so that their ads can get "high placement" on the first page of results when someone launches a Google search. 

Just as SEO operators have to continually update their tools, resume writers have to stay on top of the sophisticated criteria that ATS uses in evaluating resumes.  Finding qualified, technically proficient employees is not the challenge today.  There are countless numbers of experienced, skilled, and highly qualified candidates for every job. The real challenge that companies face today is finding the type of person who is not only qualified, but who will fit well within the organizational culture. 

In order to find only those candidates who fit this parameter, the ATS is set up to screen out any resume that does not have words that describe the type of person the company is seeking to fill the position.  If your resume does not have the words that describe the type of person who will do well in the job and fit well within the company culture, it goes into the electronic graveyard, never to be seen again.

Most job seekers and most universities that advise students and graduates on resume preparation, styles, and formats have not made this adjustment.  The result is a lot of frustration and disappointment for those who send their resumes out for job after job and never get a response.

And that is the main reason that if your resume does not fit these new parameters, you should contact an experienced and savvy resume writing professional to help you get your resume past the ATS and in front of a hiring manager who can invite you in for an interview. 

Monday, July 28, 2014

How Technology Affects Your Job Search

It used to be that job seekers were competing with other candidates in the same geographic area for positions in most organizations.  Technology has changed the landscape considerably.  It may come as a surprise to many, but when you pull into the drive-thru lane of a fast-food restaurant and place your order through the speaker, there's an excellent chance that you will be speaking with someone in another country who will take your order and send it to the front of the restaurant where you will pick up your food.

If you want to build a new house, it's just as easy to contract with an architect in Mumbai, India to design the structure as it is to deal with someone locally.  The architect in Mumbai can send the construction design to your builder just as quickly as an architect on the other side of town can do it.

Need a new pair of shoes, but don't want to make a trip to the shoe store in the mall?  Zappos (now owned by Amazon) will offer you an astounding number of choices and then deliver your order to your home or office the next day.

More and more businesses and jobs within those businesses are being affected by communications technology where information can be transmitted anywhere in the world with the push of a button.  What this means to most of us is that proximity to where you are employed or to the company you want to buy from is almost irrelevant. 

So, what's the point of this information?  The point is that today, you are not competing for jobs with just those are in the same geographic area as are competing with candidates from all over the world!  That means that you really have to stand out from the crowd rather than blend into it if you want to put yourself into an advantageous competitive position for the job you want.

As a recruiter, I have seen thousands of resumes over the years, and at least 95% of them do a very poor job of making the candidates they represent look appealing to recruiters and hiring managers.  There are a lot of important "rules" in marketing, but one of the most important rules is that when your demand conditions change, you must also change your promotional strategy.

If your resume looks the same today as it looked before we entered the current very strong buyer's market seven years ago, it's time to re-evaluate it and ask yourself if it makes you stand out or just look like everyone else.  We can help you do that at no cost to you.  Just send it to us as an attachment to

Wednesday, July 16, 2014


In the first eight years of the new century, from 2000 until late 2008, the job market was very good for skilled, educated workers.  I started my recruiting business in January 2000, and every year for the next 8 years my business grew substantially from the previous year.  Companies were seeking new talent in all the areas I worked in, including sales, engineers, operations professionals, HR, and accounting/finance.  It was a good time to be a recruiter.

Things changed in a big way by the first quarter of 2009.  Most of us remember that the stock market took more than a 700 point nosedive in one day of October 2008 when the housing bubble burst. Within a very short time, the shock waves of the stock market downturn and the collapse of the housing market began to have a serious, negative affect on job creation in the US economy.  Not only did many companies stop hiring, layoffs and "downsizing" were common headlines.  In just a matter of months, the job market transformed from a strong seller's market where most candidates had multiple offers to a strong buyer's market where the hiring company had the upper-hand and there were dozens, sometimes hundreds, of people competing for the same job.

The most immediate impact of these market changes became very evident to me when my client companies stopped hiring.  Most of my business was in the manufacturing sector, and that sector was hit very hard by reductions in force, layoffs, downsizing, and many companies going out of business altogether.

Many workers who had been at the same company for decades found themselves suddenly and unexpectedly unemployed, and most of them had no clue about how to present themselves to other companies effectively in their searches for new jobs.  Many of these workers were skilled, experienced, and very capable in their fields, but they were woefully unprepared for marketing themselves in the "new" economy where employers had the upper hand.  In many ways it was like what someone goes through when they have been married or in a long-term relationship for many years, and then become widowed or divorced.  When they decide to get back into the dating game, they find that everything has changed, nothing is like is used to be, and the 'rules' of the game have changed dramatically.  If they were married before the turn of the century, chances are that they know nothing about online dating, which is how more than one third of married couples in America today found each other.  Online job search and marketing yourself through social media was a totally foreign concept to those who became unemployed in the economic downturn.

So here it is...the first rule of marketing yourself:  When demand conditions change, you must also change your promotional strategy.

I jokingly tell my friends that as a recruiter, I'm really just "Cupid" for industry, introducing two parties to each other and arranging dates (interviews).  If they kiss and get married (one hires the other), I get paid.   However, I am well aware that my corporate clients judge me by the quality of the candidates I present to them, and the only way they get an impression of what they think of a candidate is through that candidate's resume.  Unfortunately, most job seekers still use the same, tired, out-of-date resume style and content model that was common in the years prior to the economic downturn.  To make matters worse, most universities today are preaching to their students and graduates the same ineffective model for resumes that they have used for years.

What's the point here?  The point is simple...if you are looking for a job, and not just any job, but the job that you really want, you have exactly  one opportunity to make a good first impression.  That opportunity lasts about 6 seconds, the amount of time it takes for a recruiter or hiring manager to determine if your resume is one worth serious review or if it is thrown in the trash, literally or electronically.

That is why we are in the business or helping people with their resumes.  You can't get hired unless you get an interview, and you will not get an interview in today's market unless you have a great resume that gives the recruiter and/or the hiring manager what they want to see.

Albert Einstein once said "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results".

If that describes your marketing plan for your job search, maybe it's time for a change.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014


Here's a very common scene...

I'm at a social gathering or some place where I have just met someone new.  We exchange the typical pleasantries, which generally leads to the inevitable question, "What do you do?"  I tell them that I'm a recruiter, and then they say, "Well, I need to tell my son/daughter/neighbor/cousin/friend about you and have them send you their resume.  He/she is interested in making a job change."  I typically smile, then say, "Well, that's not really what I do.  I find people for jobs, but I don't find jobs for people."  Then the person I'm talking to looks disappointed or maybe even a little embarrassed.  A few people have even appeared to be insulted from my response because they think that they were doing me a favor and I rejected it outright.  Believe me, I am not trying to be rude or insensitive, but there is no point in wasting someone's time or giving them an expectation that will not come to fruition.

I also get a lot of calls and emails from people who say, "You recruited my brother-in-law for a position at  XYZ Company, and he loves it.  Can you do the same for me?"  Then I try to explain the same thing to these job seekers.

One of the biggest misconceptions about what recruiters do is that they find jobs for people.  Candidates often think that all they need to do is send their resumes via email attachment to a recruiter and that recruiter will immediately get started on finding the ideal job for them.

It doesn't work that way.

Recruiters work solely for the organization that has given them the task of finding a person with specific skills and experience for a particular job in their organization.  The companies / organizations pay the fees, so that is where the recruiter will spend his/her time.  No recruiter is going to spend time and effort, uncompensated, searching for the ideal position for a job seeker.

In a typical week, I get 12 - 15 unsolicited resumes from people who ask me to keep their resume on file in case I have a client who can use their unique skill set and experience.  I file them electronically, but in my 15 years in the recruiting industry, I have found exactly one resume that resulted in an interview out of the thousands that I have received.  The reason is that most recruiters, including me, tend to specialize in industries that they know well and they do not try to be everything for everyone.  The great percentage of unsolicited resumes I receive are from people who are in industries that I do not represent or they have specific skills and experience that are not part of what my clients need.  So, statistically speaking, the chances that an unsolicited resume will come from someone who is in the field that I am searching for the ideal candidate for my client are remote at best.

If you are going to send your resume to a recruiter, take the time to be sure that the recruiter recruits in the field that you are pursuing.  Most recruiters' websites will tell you what areas they work in, and in many cases they may list the jobs that they are trying to fill for their clients.  I do not list those jobs on my website because it just encourages unqualified candidates to flood my inbox with resumes that are not even close to being a fit for the job...and it takes just as much time to evaluate a bad resume as it does to look at a good one.

Finally, if you send your resume to a recruiter or even directly to an organization that is trying to fill a position without using a recruiter, ask yourself if your resume actually contains the kind of information that will make someone want to talk to you.  We are in a strong buyer's market now, and if your resume is just the typical "name, contact information, education, work history' format, it probably will not get past the 4 - 6 second review that most resumes get.  We can help you with that if you don't know what those elements are that should be included.

Monday, June 30, 2014

What Are You Really Worth?

Compensation is a big factor in deciding to stay where you are or make a move to another organization.  Most people, most of the time, do whatever they have to do to avoid change.  That reluctance may be costing them dearly.

The conventional wisdom of the generations that came of age in the mid 1900's through the end of the last century was that the key to success was to get a good job, stay with the organization until you retired, then ride off into the sunset with a nice watch that they gave you at your retirement party.

Things have changed considerably since the turn of the century.  The main driving force behind these changes has been the rapid and unrelenting impact of technology.  No longer is it an unwritten rule that you have to "pay your dues" and work your way up slowly to a comfortable level of income...and "comfortable" can be defined in many ways.

Today, there are young people in their 20's and 30's who are starting and running companies without having paid any dues, anywhere.  If you have a "value proposition"...a particular skill that is in demand in the have the power and the freedom to market that skill in your own business, or to go wherever someone will pay you for it in excess of what someone is paying you now.

If you prefer stability and choose to stay where you are, you can expect, on average, salary bumps of 3% to 5% annually.  If you are open to change, you may find that someone else will pay you for your skills at a rate that can be 15% to 25% higher than where you are now.

Businesses are not interested in paying someone the same as the value they bring to the organization. They want the value to exceed the compensation.  So consider that if you are getting paid a salary of $60,000...the business will expect, on average, a 40% return on investment they are making in you.  They will expect that you will provide at least $100,000 in value for the $60,000 they pay you for your services ($60,000/.6...divide the compensation by the reciprocal of the desired return on the investment).

So next time you're thinking, "I'm worth more than what I'm getting paid here," you're probably right.  You are much more likely to realize and get paid your extra value by moving to another organization than you are by staying where you are.

Friday, June 27, 2014

The Cost of Staying Where You Are

Check out the article that this link will provide.  It makes several good points about how it costs you dearly to stay in a job too long.

As a recruiter, one of the "red flags" that I deal with quite often is my clients' concerns about "job-hoppers," which is loosely defined as anyone who has had more than three jobs in ten years.  Companies spend a lot of money in the search process and even more in training, so they certainly want to get as many years as possible out of the people they hire. However, since the recession that started in 2008, I have seen a relaxation toward that norm from many of my clients because many excellent employees, through no fault of their own, have been downsized or let go in mergers, acquisitions, and/or companies that have gone out of business.  So, on the one hand, employers are more willing to look at those who have had several jobs, but once they hire someone, they want to keep them as long as possible.

What the employee has to understand, however, is that he/she is the CEO of their career.  If money is a prime factor in where you work, it's less and less likely that you can make as much of it by staying where you are as you can by moving to another organization where your value is more recognized.  In today's job market, it's not uncommon to get increases of 15% to 25% over your previous salary.  When you go to a new organization, you do not battle the anchor of the starting salary at the old organization.

Companies obviously want to get the most "bang for the buck" and prefer to hire new employees at salaries on the low end of the range of compensation for the position.  Often these companies will offer a signing bonus or a year-end performance bonus, but these bonuses are usually a percentage of the salary.  If your salary is $50K and your bonus is 10%, it costs the organization less to pay 10% of $50K than 10% of a higher number.  Additionally, raises are generally awarded as a percentage of salary, and lately the norm for salary increases is about 3%.  If you start out at a low number, you will forever pay the price of accepting that low salary because your percentage increases each year will be tied to that original number...and it will follow you throughout your career at that organization.

It's easy to see that a salary of $60K is much preferred to a salary of $50K with a $10K signing bonus.  The greater the value for your skills and experience, the more important it is to start at the high end of the compensation range for that position.

It's a simple law of supply and demand that your value in the market is based on how easy it is to replace you with someone else.  If you want to maximize that value, don't get stale in one place.  It pays to move around.

by Ken Murdock

Monday, June 23, 2014

Do You Want to Do Something Completely Different?

There are lots of good reasons to update and improve your  résumé       If you have acquired new skills that were not part of your package in the past, certainly you should put those new skills into your résumé.  If you have earned a new certification that is recognized as a key validation of competency in your profession, that's another reason.

However, there is one particular circumstance that will always justify creating a new, outstanding resume.  If you are switching careers from one type of profession to another one in an entirely different field, you must create a new document that can bring this "new you" to the attention of people in the new field who have never heard of you.

There are two keys to a successful  transition to an entirely different profession.  The first is to identify and document the  transferable skills that not only served you well in the old job, but can be valuable in the new job as well.  The second is to learn all you can about the personality and culture of the new organization that you want to join, and then to identify and list the qualities about you that will ensure that you are a great culture fit for this organization.  

In all my years in recruiting, having placed hundreds of candidates with dozens of organizations, the single most crucial quality that I have seen that makes the difference between success and failure is whether an individual is a good culture fit with the group that he/she is joining.  Given that a person has the basic skills necessary to perform the job functions and meets the requirements of the job (licenses, citizenship, background check, etc...), organizations can teach someone what they need to know to do the job well.  What they cannot teach is personality and attitude.

In today's economy and job market, more and more people are seeing the need to learn new skills and to go down a completely different career path than what they had envisioned earlier in life.  To do that successfully, to put yourself in a position where you can pursue the job you really want instead of just any job, you must have a résumé that can tell the reader why, even though you do not have experience in this particular profession, you still have what it takes to be successful in it.

A large part of our business is involved with helping people who are going through that type of change.  We work with former military personnel who are transitioning to civilian life, people who are retired from one type of position and still have a lot of good working years left and want to do something different, and stay-at-home moms and dads who want to re-enter the work force.

We can help you as well.  Contact us and we can show you how we can do it.

by Ken Murdock