Today, I spoke to Martin Yate, who is the New York Times bestselling author of the Knock’em Dead series of career books and is now an evangelist for GoSavant, a video-based career training center. In this interview, Martin gives his top resume and cover letter tips, shares some insight into how he’s built his personal brand, and exposes the process a company must go through to get the best talent.
What are your top three resume tips to stand out?
- Resumes that are a simple recitation of your professional career don’t work in our database-dominated world. Why?
- Resumes nowadays go into databases that can contain over 30 million resumes. Recruiters search these databases using keywords from a specific job description. Your resume will work better if it focuses on one specific target job and tells a story throughout that demonstrates your grasp of this job and your logical growth into it over your year’s of professional experience. How to do this?
- Your resume will be far more productive when first you collect half a dozen job postings of that target job and deconstruct them: prioritizing the common responsibilities and using the keywords that appear in these postings, both in a Core Competency section at the beginning of the resume and also repeated throughout the body of your experience. This insures your resume is relevant, prioritized to employers’ needs, uses the words they use in describing and recruiting for the position, and maximizes their repetition which helps their ranking in the recruiters’ google-like database searches.
If your resume works you do, if it doesn’t then you don’t, case closed.
Should everyone write a cover letter when applying for a job? How do you go about writing one?
A cover letter is most effective when it is addressed to a hiring manager by name, and demonstrates a real grasp of the job. A very effective form of Cover Letter (that we address in the Job Search The Knock em Dead Way at gosavant.com) is called an Executive Briefing. The intro paragraph makes a connection with the company and says, ”Following you will see I have listed both your requirements and my matching qualifications.
The page then splits into two columns; left side features 4-6 bullets of the company’s needs, matched in the right column by your matching skills. A cover letter never gets anyone hired, but properly executed it will get your resume read with serious attention.
How have you built your personal brand, as an author, career coach and speaker?
Branding is such a hot topic today with a lot said about defining your brand and I hear this stuff and think, “yeah and you can put lipstick on a pig, but it is still a pig.”
Much of this advice ignores the facts that:
- Branding does not happen overnight; it takes years and is an ongoing process
- You can brand any old thing, but the only worthwhile thing to brand is a superior product that once sampled will be admired and respected. This calls for constant brand enhancement; for a professional, read the skill development that increases credibility and visibility
Branding is not an activity for those yearning for instant gratification. You have to:
- Work at focusing and developing the product that is you over the long haul, this demands a commitment to ongoing skill development (product development) as part of a pro-active career management initiative
- Commit to a steady long-term program of skill development, constant improvement of your credibility leads to steadily increasing visibility.
- Commit to professional connectedness, becoming involved with your profession and the people within it who are similarly committed: the members of the inner circle at the core of every department, company, professional association and industry sector.
The branding of Knock em Dead and Martin Yate is easier to see today after 25 years of branding activities than it was in the long years of, “doing the right things, for the right reasons and at the right time,” to quote Guy Kawasaki, talking about branding in “The Macintosh Way,” the seminal book on the subject.
For me this meant a serious commitment deep inside my head and my gut, that I would become the most knowledgeable person on my topic. This guided my pursuit of knowledge and the career choices I made along the way before becoming a full time career management author.
Once I felt the equal of anyone and everyone the branding efforts became serious and slowly began to gain traction. They included speaking engagements all over the world, thousands and thousands of radio and TV shows and press interviews and countless articles and books currently I think in 62 foreign language editions.
There were major set backs along the way. I was the first to write about “enlightened self-interest” in career management and the sensible pursuit of multiple parallel career paths (core, entrepreneurial and dream careers); these thoughts were so alien back then I was slammed on every TV show and radio broadcast I did and the $375,000 advance was never paid back, think we sold three books total;-)
You have to ride through the rough country and now 15 years later as other writers are writing this same book; they are coming to me for endorsements because I was the first they read on the topic. A career is a marathon, not a sprint and you have to keep faith with your commitments over the unpaved roads you sometimes have to travel.
It happens slowly, very slowly but if you care about what you do (in my case of giving advice to people at critical times in their lives) and
- ID the brand and submit all decisions to the good of that brand. In my case I determined the Knock em Dead and Martin Yate brand would stand for the most practical help available to people in need at times of change and horrible stress and uncertainty in their professional lives
- Make a vow to always expand your professional knowledge base
- Make career decisions based on long term goals (rather than a quick buck or a job title)
- Everyday, in some way make a difference for good with your presence
- Always help others whenever you can
- Strive for membership of the inner circle that exists in all departments, companies and professional communities by emulating their commitment and effort, because this is where the juicy assignments, raises and promotions all live
- Develop the communication skills and tools (web presence/writing skills/speaking skills) that allow you to reach out to your professional world
If you do these things, the branding that was once just a sexy phrase begins to take on meaning in the eyes of your target market.
What process does a company have to go through to hire the best talent?
If there were one piece of advice I would want to give to any hiring manager:
“There are lots of candidates who will have the skills required in your job description and from these you want just the best, because as a manager if you cannot first hire effectively you will never be able to manage productively, and after all, the first and last tenet of a manager’s job is to get work done through others.”
Recognize that every job at its core is about contributing in some way to the company bottom line; and at its core every job is essentially the same, all our work at its most elemental level is about identification and prevention and identification and solution of the problems that come across the desk everyday in our specific area of expertise.
With this insight take the job description and for every skill/requirement /responsibility think about how that skill is applied and the problems that typically occur in the execution of that particular responsibility. Then ask candidates questions about the problems that occur in each of your requirement areas and what they do to prevent them and to solve them when they do arise. If you can find people who “get” the problem solving headset, and your questions show they think and act in such circumstances you will make dramatically better hire, because these are the people who take personal responsibility for their work and really do strive to make a difference with their presence.
Martin Yate (CPC) is an executive career strategist and New York Times bestseller author with over thirty years in the career management field. His latest book, out of ten, is called Knock ‘em Dead, The Ultimate Job Seeker’s Guide 2007. He is published throughout the English-speaking world and in nineteen foreign languages. His experience spans international headhunting, Director of HR for Bell Industries Computer Memory Division, and Director of Training and Development for the Dunhill Personnel System. He has worked with corporations and associations on four continents on job search and career management, along with recruitment and selection issues, and counsels executives from all over the world in job search and career-management strategies. Martin is also a career evangelist for GoSavant.