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Getting out of the Stack

So what is the stack? Let me define:

The stack is simply the place where every resume goes that is not exceptional, that does not catch interest, and does not deserve special attention. It doesn’t have to be a physical stack — in fact, they reside mostly in the archives of ancient applicant tracking systems). It is where EVERY resume goes unless you take time (or have the connections needed) to make it stand out from other applicants.

Simply put, the stack is exactly your least adventageous place to be as a person applying for a job. It makes you ordinary and boring. You’re competing with a lot of candidates there. How do you get out of the stack? First of all, how not to get into the stack:

  • Fancy paper (nobody cares and now everything is online)
  • Telling me how much of a mistake it would be not to hire you in your cover letter
  • Horrendous, completely avoidable spelling and grammar disasters
  • Filling your resume and cover letter with fluff and convoluted terms
  • Long cover letters that’s basically your resume in narrative form
  • Long resumes that go into detail from the first time you babysat a kid in 3rd grade (Thanks)
  • Super large or small fonts sizes, strange, hard to read fonts

Those don’t work. This works though:

  • A one to two paragraph cover letter written specifically for the position telling the hiring manager precisely what from your background makes you the best candidate for the position
  • A one to two page resume (or the equivalent) written with the intent of conveying the most relevant positions you’ve had in the past
  • A cleanly organized, neatly formatted resume that allows me to scan your experience in less than 20 seconds so that I can make a determination that I should read the rest
  • The rest is neatly written in a fashion that allows me to get your major job duties after a minute or two of reading through it
  • Font size between 10 and 12 point, name no larger than 16 point and a standard font

Of course, the easiest way to get out of the stack is to know someone. Then you could write it in crayon and scan a picture of your face and probably get an interview.

It isn’t easy but making yourself stand out in a good way gives you way more opportunties than being stuck in the stack with the other newbies and daft resumes. Take the extra effort and do it right.

Originally published at on June 2, 2006.

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How to get Hired

There seems to be this philosophy in certain groups of candidates: “Let’s make sure I annoy the living shit out of the guy doing the hiring.”

I have heard job coaches give advice that generally annoys anyone involved in the hiring process like it’s some sort of golden, untapped method that nobody has thought of. The only thing it accomplishes is pissing off and annoying the person doing the hiring.

And guess what? That’s the last thing you want to do. Crazy as it seems, it’s true.

There are decent, straight-forward ways of getting yourself noticed. Here are a few methods to help yourself get noticed for the right reasons:

  • Ask for the interview: You should first consider that the recruiting process is really a sales process. If you must know one principle about sales, you have to make the ask. For example, a good way to ask for an interview over the phone or e-mail would be to ask the hiring manager, “I am available all of this week and early next week to tell you more about my experience. Is one week better than the other?” If that is too forward for your personality, ask for a time when you could go into more detail about your experience. Be prepared for it to be right then.
  • Don’t call more than once a week: Period. End of story. Unless you’re called, don’t do it.
  • Don’t e-mail more than once a week: Same rule as above. E-mail is a black hole so you might be tempted to try your luck. Don’t.
  • Don’t show up to ask about it: Significantly worse than interupting my day with a phone call or e-mail is getting out of my chair, going to the front office, and chatting with you. What I’m going to tell you is, “I will be getting in touch with qualified candidates by telephone or e-mail.” Don’t come by my office unless you are dropping off a resume or coming in for a requested interview.
  • Be on your best behavior: Be professional. Don’t throw a fit or give me a facial expression suggests you’re less than pleased with the answer. Everyone is busy.

If you do the above, you will have a decent shot at getting interviewed. If you break rules, you probably won’t get hired. Unless they are desperate.

Originally published at on May 31, 2006.

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How to get fired gracefully

Chances are, at one point of your working life or another, you’re going to get canned. I feel bad to be breaking the news to you but in the world of higher turnover and rapidly changing demand, the American employee is more expendable than ever (as long as “ever” means before 1940). Expendability aside, we should all be preparing for the worst. A downturn in business, a relocation, outsourcing, a bad personal decision…the list goes on. You should be ready to seek a job tomorrow. But that is a post for another day…

One way to not get fired gracefully is to make a big scene. It is really easy to lose it at that moment. You are thinking about everything that is going to change and hopefully you have an HR guy who prepares you and emphatically explains how to go about picking up your final check, belongings, filing for COBRA and maybe even giving you resources for with the unemployment office. I’ve had people getting fired (either being laid off or being fired for performance or misconduct issues) punch a supervisor in the face, flip off the entire office, throw a chair, scream, cry and not say anything at all.

To say it lightly, we’ve seen it all. And frankly, HR guys are unimpressed with this sort of bullshit. You might be pissed but your HR guy is likely going to be pissed for you. It is true. Even getting fired for all but the worst misconduct can be smoothed over by an understanding and apologetic employee. In those situations, I am much more likely to pass your future employer asking for a professional reference to a co-worker who liked you as opposed to the supervisor who now hates you because of his black eye. An employee who throws a fit is likely to get no sympathy and as soon as I get the reference release from your future employer, don’t think that I am not going to let them know every factual detail.

In short, don’t be stupid when fired. Take it calmly, be apologetic, ask all the questions you need and pack your stuff. Your future employability depends on it.

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Interview Tip: Show up, Bring Booze

Nothing delights me more than people showing up to an interview with alcohol on their breath.

It makes my job as an HR guy more interesting and gives me good stories to tell. Considering this has happened multiple times, I’ll tell you what pretty much goes through my mind:

This is awesome.

I am going to interview them until I can identify what kind of booze they were drinking.

That’s definitely not wine.

Ask a long question and lean in closer.

“Tell me more about your career history?”

It’s not beer either.

Oh, it is definitely whiskey . Oh man, how cool is that?!

This is a morning interview, right? Yep, 9:30AM. Well, let me wrap this up.

If you need something to ease your nerves, there are very effective prescriptions to help I’m told. Booze will not help though. Most people who do interviews know what booze breath smells like.

The audacity of also doing absolutely nothing to cover it up means you must have drank a lot. Or you are just an idiot. Or both. Probably both.

Originally published at on May 25, 2006.