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Category Archives: General

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executive cover letter


How professionals shoot themselves in the

foot by using numbers the wrong way in their resume to

try to impress employers

Originally Published in The Business Marketing Association’s B2B Marketer Magazine

Of all of the bad mistakes you can make when writing your resume the most egregious is misusing numbers.  It is so common for job seekers to use untrue, wrong or invalid statistics that most recruiters don’t believe them when they read them and just dismiss them as fallacious as soon as they see them.  This puts job-seekers in a predicament, they know they need to prove their value, yet don’t want to be dismissed as phonies by numbers that cause disbelief.  Its not unusual for people to just stick with job functions – no quantifiable results.  That’s a problem.  If you don’t quantify your contributions, the reader has nothing to hang his hat on and if they feel their bet on you isn’t safe, then all bets are off.


Making statistical resume claims you can’t support sinks your chance of winning an interview, and the real problem is that you don’t even know why you were overlooked.


I’ve seen thousands of bright, successful professionals use statistics in their resume that confused the reader or were so outrageously amazing that the reviewer simply rolled their eyes and dismissed their credentials altogether.


What really is the problem?  First off, everyone knows it takes really awesome feats of accomplishment to build a positive impression in today’s difficult job market.  In other words, it is critical to put up, as major league baseball players say, really big numbers.  It’s all in the stats they’re told, i.e. the bottom line, the ROI, the profit point, etc.  The truth is that percentages and quantities do make hiring managers take notice, but the simple fact is that embellishment is just a nicer word for lying and hiring managers are so sensitive to embellishments that a whiff of fiction where facts should be stated cause hiring managers to pause and their first instinct is to trash the candidate rather than risk their reputation by recommending someone they have doubts about.


The resume mistakes I typically see range from the benign accident where the candidate meant something else when they said they grew revenues by 1,000% in 60 days to the blatant lie, where the candidate says to himself; well the company is shuttered, so it doesn’t matter what I say, they can’t confirm or deny my facts.  Either way, if you can’t validate your numbers clearly, don’t use them, or better yet, change them to numbers that you can confirm, that you feel are conservative or that are believable so that you can look in the interviewer’s eye with complete confidence because you know your numbers are valid.


Example #1     Suzy Q.  Here was one of the most impressive sales professionals I had met.  She started her career as a property leasing consultant for Chicago’s prestigious Habitat company in 1987 and over the next 15 years transitioned through 7 additional jobs.  Suzy had what you might politely call an ‘eclectic’ career path, one stop that lasted 5 months and was duly noted on her resume was as the Assistant Maitre D of Riva Restaurant at Navy Pier in Chicago.  What was interesting about her career from the perspective of numbers was how she used them in her most recent role as Business Development Manager (BDM) of Regus Business Centre (most know that the BDM is the re-minted title that used to be given to Account Sales Executive).


Suzy’s proudest accomplishment was stated as: 

• Increased price efficiency of current clients from 69% to 90% within a 5 month period.


Although increasing anything by 21% in less than half a year is impressive, yet when I showed her feats to a dozen different clients, not one of them could understand what she meant by price efficiency.  As I mentioned earlier, when you confuse someone, its bye-bye Suzy.


When I interviewed Suzy to rewrite here resume, obviously I sought the hot points to make her stand out from her competition which led me to her efficiency statement.  What I learned was her special ability to negotiate better than anybody else in the company.  When it came to new client signings for office space, which is what Regus rented, somebody had to determine the price per square foot, office amenities, length of contract and possible discount incentives to win the customer’s signature on the dotted line.  This is where Suzy excelled.  Where other BDM peers at Regus quickly capitulated to win business, she was determined never to go below 90% of the list price.


The resulting re-write defined what she meant by improving price efficiency:

  • To maximize profits, I close all deals within 10% of list price, by comparison, the corporate standard is currently 69%, the difference of closing deals at 90% increases gross profit to Regus by over $5 million annually.


The point is that her statistics were valid, but unclear.  She thought that she could go to the interview and just explain what price efficiency was, whereas I thought that it was more important to communicate her value in a way that nobody needed extra explanation.  I don’t think you can be much clearer than stating $5 million in added profit.


Example #2     Joe Brown.  Joe is your typical young genius.  By the age of 28 he was Product Manager for Ameritech DSL.  So obviously, being on the front-end of launching DSL for one of the largest companies in the world makes your professional pedigree beyond reproach, right?  Wrong.  Remember the dot.com/telecom melt down from 1999-2002, well Joe was part of the melt.  By the time we met, he had job-hopped three other jobs between 1998 and 2002.  His most recent position, which lasted barely over a year, was Director of Marketing for a small, privately held communication company called Cimco Communications.


  • What Joe was most proud of was: Increased brand awareness 375% in under 12 months.


Great, right?  Nearly quadrupled the awareness of the Cimco brand in a year.  Only one problem, what does it truly mean to improve brand awareness.  It sounds a little suspicious.  Defining brand awareness is nebulas even for major corporations with large marketing departments and  extensive brand reach in the consumer market.  For a privately held company that no-one ever heard of, to say that you grew brand awareness 375% sounds a little like claiming my apple is 20% more crunchy than your apple, interesting, but hard to prove.  Even though brand management, brand extensions, brand awareness and all things brand-centric are important to corporate America, you can’t just use hot ideas as “open sesame” key words to magically open the door of opportunity.  If you go to an interview with the Sr. VP of Marketing, and he asks what you did to expand brand awareness and you tell him that you got 28 published articles in trade journals and newspapers and call that brand awareness, he will laugh you out of his office so fast that you’ll need a parachute to slow down.  Joe didn’t mean to cross his wires between brand awareness and press mentions, he just needed to call it the right thing, so he made a classic mistake misnaming his accomplishment.  This is a deadly sin.


The point is, don’t fudge, embellish or lie.  Call it what it is, not what you want it to be.  Spend a little more time in the resume explaining your key accomplishments.  If you have someone read the resume, ask them if it is perfectly clear and don’t make the excuse that you are speaking to a knowledgeable audience that understands what you meant.  Heck, your resume might be reviewed by a kid fresh out of college who refers the “keepers” to her boss.  If you are unclear you could easily confuse the screener.  The key is to be clear, use honest numbers and validate your claims with enough substantiating information that the reviewer believes your statements.

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Student Resume Format

– Turn Your Club Into A Job –


How to earn an employer’s respect and get a job

through your hobbies, clubs and extracurriculars

& use them in your student resume format.

Originally Published in Next Step Magazine

Have you paid your dues, attended off-season team practices, supported fund-raisers or given up precious Saturdays to be part of a club or group? If so, then it’s time to turn your sacrifice into the ticket for job success.

Many of you have heard that you should include “personal interests” on your résumé or job application. But activities are only valuable if they reveal character traits that employers seek. The key is to turn your activities and involvement into language that attracts an employer’s attention.

At the risk of overt self-promotion, I have been a professional career coach since 1991, written four career books and personally mentored over 5,000 professionals. One thing I know is what employers are interested in learning about potential hires!


Student resume format – show how clubs have shaped you

As much as I want to tell you that your four-year football varsity letter, lead roles in school plays or even something as altruistic as raising funds to support a homeless shelter entitle you to a job offer, the truth is, these activities are only part of the equation.

Your involvement in high school helps employers see your true character, personality, and the moral traits that make you a good prospect.  After all, an employer is looking for intangible qualities that are generally termed “cultural fit.” In this case, that means the qualities a company feels best defines the character of the existing staff.

Resume format for student athletes
In sports-crazed America, athletics is considered a very important area of character building.  What “jocks” want to communicate in their résumé, job application or interview is the following:

  • Number of years you participated in the sport
  • Position played
  • Individual or team accolades won
  • Any leadership roles (such as team captain)
  • Designations such as “most improved player,” “most inspirational member,” etc.
  • Communicate during an interview how athletics improved your discipline, tenacity, integrity, teamwork and competitiveness.

Be ready to answer the following type of questions: “How did being the second-string quarterback shape your integrity?” Or, “Being on the varsity baseball team taught you discipline in what way?”

Student club members
Other student involvements include the drama club, band, debate team, chess club and more.

Use your involvement in those activities to communicate the value of collaborative teamwork, cultural enrichment and lessons learned through field trips, special projects and research.

Compare these two ways to communicate your participation in a play

  • I held leading roles in three school plays.
  • I landed leading roles in “Moby Dick,” “The Importance of Being Earnest” and “Cat On a Hot Tin Roof”; spent more than 100 hours coaching classmates; supported three fund-raisers to buy costumes; and re-enacted the role at a local nursing home.
  • It is perfectly acceptable to mention during an interview or on your résumé how many hours you participated in a sport or club each week. This demonstrates the characteristics of loyalty, dedication and perseverance in your craft.

You must show an employer that your high school experience shaped you in more positive ways than just your GPA.

Coloring the story to reveal more than just the bare facts of your involvement will heighten the potential employer’s appreciation for the value of your involvement. So go break a leg and prove you are the obvious choice for the job!


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overcoming career job employment problems

Overcoming Career, Job & Employment Problems

Age, choppy career paths, self-employed, disabilities, history of incarceration, women who are returning to the workplace after raising children, job gaps, weak education are all career issues that need to be addressed.

Overcoming Career, Job And Employment Problems

Let’s face it, in the real world, when it comes to getting the right job, we are either too young or too old.  We don’t have the perfect job history, or we don’t have the right experience, or we lack current training or knowledge of specific technology applications to justify the hire.

Sometimes it is a lack of staff/team management responsibilities, other times it’s that we haven’t made significant budget decisions.

We might have pot-holes or work gaps, legitimate or not.  The point is that there are nearly always problems that need to be solved in order to have a powerfully compelling resume.

The key to trouble-shooting your career problems is to define your contributions so clearly that people will take the risk of calling you for an interview.  Think of it this way, if you were a professional baseball player that lacked speed, you would make up for it with hitting skills.

In a like manner, if you lack industry expertise, you need to define the challenges you’ve met in your career field and the actions that you took to meet these challenges as well as the results you delivered well enough to impress or wow the potential interviewer.

EXAMPLE – Overcoming Career, Job & Employment Problems

A client of mine wanted to work in the rather exclusive world of pharmaceutical sales.  What she was up against were candidates with degrees in biology, chemistry or molecular science (her B.A. was in Political Science).  In addition, she was competing with medical sales professionals and other experienced pharmaceutical sales representatives.  Not only was the competitive arena tremendous, my client didn’t have the right work history.  She had sold before, but the service she sold was called foil stamping.  That is a very small subset of printing (foil can be added to a logo on a business card, for example, to make it standout).


The problem she needed to smooth over was the lack of specific industry experience and proper education.  When she submitted her resume to Baxter Healthcare and received a call for an interview, she was told the following.  “You don’t have the right education, the right experience and lack valid industry knowledge, yet we were so intrigued by the challenges, actions and results in your work history that we felt we had to at least give you an interview.”  What happened?  She was as good as her resume and won the job out of 1,200 candidates.  She is now a territory sales manager for Baxter’s plasma product lines.


Your Career Starts Now

Your Career Starts Now

FasTrack Jobs helps job seekers and students win jobs quickly.

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