Tag Archives: resumes

Articles for Job Seekers

10 CV Mistakes That Put Employers Off Your Candidates 


It never hurts to keep fundamentals in mind.


9 Killer Questions Candidates Ought to Ask the Interviewer


All good; I would like to stress #6. At one job I had, the person who led the interview process, who called to extend the offer, and to whom I thought I reported – was NOT my actual direct supervisor / manager. And even after I attempted to engage the thought-he-was-my-boss person to firm up a six month plan with priorities, it was NOT made clear to whom I actually reported for a good couple of weeks. 


What Parking Says About Your Character


I have mixed feelings about this. On one hand, this has the potential to be indicative of character and I do see the argument. On the other hand, this has the feeling of “reading tea leaves”; i.e., if they WANT to find something wrong (or good) about you, they can. IMHO, ultimately, this is much too subjective and open to interpretation. But do be aware that you are potentially being watched and evaluated even before you go in… and potentially as you drive in. You never know that the person you cut off (or worse, flip off!) might be the hiring manager coming back from lunch! 


How to get to love networking


It doesn’t HAVE to be scary. 


Employer Unfairly Blacklisted An Employee. Here’s What Happened… 


The problem is that it’s almost never this obvious (or contestable). One recruiter I know well, who has placed me in multiple interviews over the years, said that MOST of this happens at HR society meetings. He described several as nothing more than verbal sessions of “Don’t hire X, Y, or Z.” This is a problem! And I disagree with J.T.’s observation that most companies understand it’s partially both employer and employee… from both my readings AND from experience, the potential employer gives full weight to the other employer, and very little credence to the candidate’s side of things. 


I Would Never Have Taken This Job If I’d Known About The Hours


60 seems to be the new 40, hours-at-work-wise. And 70 is the new 100, salary-wise. IMHO this is not sustainable. And I find it interesting that the “conventional wisdom” is NOT to ask about typical work hours… for fear of branding yourself as a 9-to-5 type, but Liz recommends asking specifically. Let me be clear: no professional objects to crisis OT – it’s part of the territory. But if you need to work 60 hours a week to get your regular job done… something is very, very wrong.


How to make age less of a factor in your job search


Read the comments; some very penetrating insights, comments, and questions about / objections to the article. 


Avoid This Salary Negotiation Mistake


Not only some straight advice, but a bunch of video snippets too. Related to salary: 

Doing the Salary “Dance” in Job Interviews



The value of employee loyalty revealed


The irony is… loyalty needs to go – MUST GO! – both ways, and IMHO must be shown TO the rank-and-file before people reciprocate. 


5 Steps to Take When Using LinkedIn to Network for a Job


Some great advice on using this tool. 


Answering Tough Interview Questions: What Kind of Tree Would You Be?


If someone actually asked me this question, depending on how much I wanted the job, I’d counter with:

  1. “And how does this pertain to my ability to do the job here?”
  2. “One of those moving trees from the ‘Lord of the Rings’ – Huorns – because I’m walking out of here.”


Don’t Make These Body Language Mistakes!


While body language IS important, the more obsessed over it you become, the less you will be perceived as genuine.



I am a senior-level Mechanical Engineer with, primarily, a background in plastics where I started my career. I am seeking a FT engineering role, ideally in medical devices or defense, from Burlington MA to Concord NH, as a:

  • Plastics Design Engineer / Project Engineer
  • New Product Introduction / Design-Manufacturing handoff
  • Cost Reduction “Tiger Team” Engineer
  • Manufacturing / Process Engineer

For those interested, you can see some target companies on my blog:


And please do look at my portfolio of things I’ve done, and topical essays I’ve written (including two that were republished by the Society of Plastics Engineers!):


Given my accomplishments, i.e., proven examples of saving money, developing new products and processes… what could I do for you?


Articles for job seekers

Please do keep in mind, I’m on a job search too.

  • Product Design Engineer (strength in plastics design, but I can do other things too)
  • New Product Introduction Engineer
  • Cost Reduction Engineer
  • Manufacturing / Process Engineer

North of Boston, MA, ideally in the medical devices or defense industries.


7 (Really Hard) Interview Questions You Must Answer Properly


There’s a fine line between penetrating questions and interrogations. In the best of all possible worlds, an interview should be a conversation. Not necessarily an easy one at all times, but a conversation nonetheless! If you’re being treated like a suspect, or you feel you’re having to prove – at every step – the veracity of what you say, then that’s a red flag about their culture.

Boomerslang: The Clues in Your Resume That Can Out You as an Older Applicant


Even if you can hide your age in a resume, they’ll know when you walk in the door. That happened to a person I know – they’d be all enthusiastic at his resume, and excited after the phone interview… and he described how, time after time, he’d go into a place that was gung-ho about his visit, and their faces would fall when they saw his white hair and wrinkles. More:

55, unemployed and faking normal: One woman’s story of barely scraping by


The comment that age discrimination starts at 35 YEARS OLD was frightening. We’re approaching a world where, at 40, you’re thrown on the trash heap. What a waste of capability and experience! Related:

The Recruiter Said ‘At Your Age, You’d Better Take What You Can Get’


An open question: Do people who commit ageism truly believe that, when they get older, it won’t happen to them?

3 Reasons Baby Boomers Are Getting Fired


In the details, there’s some good advice here. In the grand scheme, however, I think J.T. O’Donnell is full of it in this essay (she’s done a lot of other, very good, ones). IMHO the single biggest objection companies have to older workers is NOT “tech savvy” or “higher salary” or anything else typically cited… but rather the strength of character of older workers to:

  1. Not sign on to the latest frenzied craze; life experience teaches that this is often a lemmings-off-the-cliff scenario. Experience breeds an ability to resist drinking the faddish Kool-Aid but, instead, say “Let’s take a serious and considered look at this, not scurry like ants that have had a wet lollipop dropped on the nest”. 
  2. Having a brain and a spine, and a willingness to NOT accede to insane demands on time. Crisis OT is one thing – no white collar professional objects to that. But when, to get your regular job done, it is necessary to spend 60 (or even more) hours a week at work, and to be expected to be accessible 24/7, older people push back.

 Side anecdote: A friend of mine from a former employer had his boss send him a meeting request for Monday morning at 8 AM… that prior Sunday afternoon. Had my friend not logged in to check, he’d have missed it.

Also, don’t forget the dreaded THREAT TO THE HIRING MANAGER’S CHAIR.

3 Common Negotiation Pitfalls And How To Avoid Them


I read this and think of the scene from “Devil’s Advocate”… “Are we negotiating?” “Always!”

Answer to Interview Question: “Have You Ever Been Fired?”


The trick, IMHO, is not to song-and-dance, or worse, lie, but to give them enough to answer the question without uncovering the rabbit hole for them to pursue. That never ends well.

Long-Term Unemployed? 5 Options to Fill that “Employment Gap”


The trick can be getting contract work too. And… a quote: “Remember, in this economy, it is not uncommon to hit a bump in the road during your career. How you handle it is what makes the difference going forward.” >> While I agree with all this, in my opinion there is still a huge “empathy gap” for people who are in the situation on the part of people who – purportedly – value EQ. Mentioned at the end of the article:

Overcoming the “Unemployed Bias” https://www.job-hunt.org/recruiters/overcoming-bias-unemployed.shtml

My one objection to this: Cranking up the confidence can lead to being perceived as arrogant. Where’s the window on that? One person’s confidence is another’s arrogance; one person’s low key is another’s passivity. And so on.

10 Powerful Headhunter Interview Tips That Will Help You Land the Job http://www.youtern.com/thesavvyintern/index.php/2017/03/15/headhunter-interview-tips-land-job/

Questions you may be asked!

The Cover Letter Formula That Skyrocketed My Interviews From 0% to 55% http://www.payscale.com/career-news/2017/02/cover-letter-formula

Worth reading, but I don’t think it’s something that can be reduced to a formula.

The last remaining human skill


Excellent point. And those that help people are better off than those that just absorb.

The best kept networking secret for jobseekers


Everyone out there is networking (if they’re paying attention). The trick is to network in places and in ways that sets you apart.


Resume question…

I’m still on a job search.  Sigh.  (My not-exhaustive list of target companies/industries.)

I’m revamping my resume and want to add hotlinks to the Word document so that people can click on them and get directed to items on my portfolio.

My question is this.  How to capture the hotlink.  I can:

  1. Have the bullet for my accomplishment bullet points be a special icon that looks like a link.
  2. Embed the hotlink in the text of the bullet point.
  3. Add an “link” icon, or the work Link, at the end of the bullet point.

What do you think?

Resume Ruminations

Since I’ve seen a couple of columns about resumes lately I thought I’d chime in with some general thoughts about resumes – having discussed resume bullet points specifically earlier. A lot of online articles focus on formatting, key words, trying to beat the ATS portal, etc., I’d like to proffer a few thoughts outside those lines. But in my first point let me reiterate what others have said.

Keep It Updated

Whenever something noteworthy happens and would make a good resume achievement, add it. Don’t go crazy, but anything that you’d want a potential new employer to know about your background should be added. Did you score a record-breaking sale? Save megabucks in a new purchasing agreement as compared to the old one? Launch a material that saved hundreds of thousands of dollars annually? Take a seminar or two about something relevant to your career, or get a certification, or have an expertise-related article published, etc.? In they go. And so on.

(Side note: Not having an updated resume is a huge part of why a friend of mine missed out on a fantastic opportunity to escape the likely-dead-in-five-years factory where we met, and move to a place with better stability and much closer to his, and his wife’s, families. He never pursued it in large part because he was so daunted by having to add the better part of two decades worth of career history and accomplishments.)

Start Afresh

Do not update the same file over and over. As your career progresses you do not want to lose track of old achievements simply because they fall off newer versions. Instead, whenever you update – and this assumes you’re doing so once every few months – use “Save As” to create a new file for the newer version. Thus, if you need to refer back to an older resume for some “choice nugget” accomplishment from earlier in your career, you have it available. (And to avoid folder clutter, create an archival sub-folder that older resume versions get dumped into.)

I have been told that the history of your Word file is stored in the last character of the file, thus a skilled IT person can unlock it to see your revision history. I recommend opening a fresh Word file every few updates, and cut-and-paste everything but the last word into it to create the next version. You might have reformatting work though. Supporting this claim is the fact that the last time I did this, my resume file size decreased by almost 20K.

I’ve actually gotten into the habit of sending PDF-format resumes rather than Word files.

Keep a Separate Journal

A resume bullet-point is a distillation of a lot of information into something succinct and easy to digest – as such items are meant to catch attention and serve as a conversation starter in an interview. Keep a journal with as much information as you can (subject to confidentiality restrictions, of course), so that you can refresh your memory about each and every accomplishment. With the need to customize each resume for a specific position, you will likely be mixing-and-matching accomplishments, and you never know that one not-often-used bullet point might be perfect to attract an employer. And if it’s on your resume, you’d better be able to discuss it if they ask in an interview! (So keep copies of your performance reviews!)

Keep It Dated

At the bottom of your resume (in the footer) you should have: on the left, your name as it appears at the top, a page number in the center (I recommend “Page X of Y” in case they print it out and misplace a page), and “Last Revised: month-year” on the right. This is particularly important when sending a resume to agencies / outside recruiters who will keep your resume on file. This helps them decide if they can go with your current resume, or if they need to contact you to get a fresh version.

Name It Well

Opinions differ, but my recommendation is name it first_lastname_yourtitle_month-year. So, for example, my design-oriented resume’s file name is davidhunt_mech-eng_nov-2014. It gives them a clue as to your overall capability (i.e., you’re an engineer, not an accountant), and how up-to-date your resume is just by looking at the file name. And make sure the date in the filename matches the date in your footer!  (Been burned on that before…)

CV vs. Resume

A CV is an all-encompassing document covering soup-to-nuts of your career, with every job, accomplishment, publication, etc., all in one place. A resume is, in contrast, a marketing document aimed at a specific industry, company, or job; typically 1-2 pages, it is meant to be a succinct summary of only relevant points to catch attention and get you the interview. One thought is to start from a CV, and hack-and-slash trim to get to a custom resume each time. This isn’t a trivial amount of work, but it does have take advantage of the human factors rule that it’s easier to take something out when you see it than bring it to mind and add it if it’s not there.

Highlight Achievements

Consider a section at the top, right below your Summary, entitled “Key Achievements” as a way to catch a reader’s attention in those crucial first few seconds. Place 3-5 bullet points there that show incredible results from your career. The goal is to get someone to say “Wow!”, and then slow down to read, not skim, your resume.

Other Thoughts

1. Stay current on formatting. For example, phone numbers are now using periods; e.g., AAA.AAA.AAAA. Using (AAA) AAA-AAAA or AAA-AAA-AAAA can paint you as out of touch with how things are today. A good way to do this is to contact local college career centers (or your alma mater) and ask questions about “modern” formatting. If you go to networking meeting with new graduates, see if you can get a copy of their resume – you might be able to help them, but you can get ideas about the latest formats too. I’ve also read, albeit in one place only, that Times Roman font is considered passé.

2. On the topic of formatting: do you use two spaces after periods? I do. It dates from when I learned to type on a real typewriter, and has been used by scanning programs to filter you as an “old fart”. I personally think that’s a pretty sleazy practice, but don’t give them an excuse to screen you out a priori. And it’s hard to not do when you’ve done it for so long… but I’m not going back to edit all my essays, so I’m stuck with it on my blog at least! (Watch your cover letters too.)

3. Related to ageism: I’m dubious about hiding dates that show you are over 40. The moment you walk in the door, they’ll know (this happened numerous times to someone I know; people would be excited at his background, but the moment he walked in they’d see his grey hair and he knew he’d been ruled out before he’d open his mouth). Balance that with the need to get in the door in the first place. Just don’t think you’re really fooling anyone as dropped dates are an “age alert” to a savvy reader.

4. If you have a social media presence related to your career, e.g., LinkedIn and Twitter, embed links to these sites in your resume IF APPROPRIATE. And you need to have a social media presence related to your career. Of course, you need to be careful what you post there; some propose the “New Puritanism” while I think that’s an excessive amount of caution (and, seriously, do you want to work for a company that’s afraid of a picture of you holding a beer at a party on your personal Twitter feed?). Don’t share your Facebook link though; make them work for it unless you have a Facebook account specifically for your job search.

And a note about pictures: apparently google+ now had an algorithm where someone can take one picture, e.g., your LinkedIn profile picture, and search for pictures that are a close match on face features… so your perfectly-fine LinkedIn picture could potentially lead someone to your picture in, shall we say, less than savory situations on other websites. In other words, segregation of pictures on different sites is no longer a safe barrier. Another “sneaky” technique is to find pictures of you, then search for other people in those pictures, especially if they’re pictures you posted of you in social events. It’s yet another way to vet you through the people with whom you associate – and IMHO quite stalkerish.

5. Since many others have said it, but don’t have a cutesy or otherwise out-there email address for work-related purposes. Use firstname-middleinitial-lastname or something like that. Consider your domain name too. AOL paints you as a dinosaur, and is often trapped in spam filters. I am not endorsing Comcast’s email specifically, but I have been told it has some of the strongest protections against being trapped in spam filters. I hear gmail is pretty good though, but it’s not foolproof: once, when I was emailing my resume to a friend on the inside, my attempt through gmail got stopped but my Comcast email got through.

And a third email thought: it might be tempting to include your functional title in your email; e.g., david.o.hunt-mech.eng. First, this is a pain given its length, and second, what if you undergo a career change and – to pick an example at random – start building a business of handcrafted artisanal soaps? A changeover will be time-consuming and potentially confusing to all the contacts you’ve developed, especially if this is a late-stage career reboot.

A last email tidbit: consider a remailer service through your alumni association. If you change email addresses, your contact information on your resume doesn’t get dated.

6. Opinions differ, but I’ve seen resumes for people that don’t have a physical address. In this day and age, giving your town should be enough since most communication will be electronic. Once you get to the application or offer stages, with your information being under better control (theoretically), then you can give detailed information on your precise address.

7. Check your metadata. Early in my career I did not have a computer at home, and so used Word at work to create my resume. I was mortified to be told, in response to my submission to a recruiter, that it did not look good that my resume’s metadata had information pertaining to my employer and their ownership of the software.

Any other thoughts? Put them in the comments for a possible follow-up column, or email me. I will give you credit if I write again about this.


© 2015, David Hunt, PE

To Picture or Not to Picture – That is the Question

In the article 10 Things You Should NEVER Put on Your CV [INFOGRAPHIC], the job rejection rate is said to be 88% if you include a picture with your resume/CV.  Another article, CV advice: top tips from our experts, also counsels against attaching a picture with a job application.  Both point out – rightly, I believe – that a picture with a job application can lead to discrimination, whether conscious or not, against you based on your appearance, race, sex, etc.

Yet consider: the “conventional wisdom” is that LinkedIn profiles should have pictures attached. A typical assumption is that something is “wrong” if a person doesn’t have a picture with their profile.  In the article 8 Mistakes You Should Never Make On LinkedIn, LinkedIn career expert Nicole Williams is quoted as saying “One of the biggest mistakes I see is no photo… You’re seven times more likely to have your profile viewed if you have one. Like a house that’s on sale, the assumption is that if there’s no photo, something’s wrong.”

Another article, 8 Profile Picture Rules Every Professional Should Follow, seconds this, quoting career coach Barbara Pachter, who said that it is important to always have a picture.  The article also cites a study by The Ladders, a career-search company, that recruiters spend 19% of their time on your profile looking at your picture.

All well and good, you say; have a picture on your LinkedIn profile and don’t include one with an application.

Does Not Compute

These days if you’re applying for a job and are at the they’re-looking-at-you stage, you will be searched for on google, bing, etc.; you will be looked up on Facebook, twitter, and LinkedIn.  And odds are you will be searched for before you are invited for an interview (in fact, an article written for hiring agents recommends this – see point 2).  Which means that the advice to not include a picture with your application is moot – at least from a discrimination standpoint.  Hiring managers and HR will find your picture, and any biases they have will have already been activated before you’re in the door.  Assuming, of course, they don’t bar you from the door.  And assuming they’ve got the right person!

Another Benefit to Pictures Online

Unless you have a name that’s unique to you, there are others.  Likely, many others (e.g., I noted a person who wrote a potentially off-putting article here – I’d have bet money they had a unique-to-America name, but as I mentioned, LinkedIn proved me wrong!).  These people probably have pictures out there as well.  Likewise if someone searches for images associated with your name on google, bing, etc., not only will whatever you have come up, but whatever other people have will come up.  And it’s a near dead-certain bet that if they turn off safe search to see what illicit material might be there, illicit material will come up.  Count on it.  And if they don’t know what you look like, they may make assumptions about you based on pictures of other people.

LinkedIn, facebook, and twitter will be where they look first.  So by having pictures there – especially on LinkedIn, they’ll have an idea of what you look like – and can gloss over the picture of a person sharing your name chugging a beer funnel (or worse).

One Reason to Not Include a Picture on a Resume

One word: space.  Pictures take up space that could be taken up showing accomplishments, ideally quantifiable accomplishments.  And while a picture can communicate your physical presence and professional image, it holds three potential drawbacks:

  1. As stated above, there is the potential for discrimination (of any type).

  2. Some people just aren’t photogenic.  Never mind that 2D pictures tend to add 10-20 pounds to your appearance, some people just do not photograph well (I, alas, think I’m among that grouping!).  Were pictures on resumes to become standard, such people would face the choice of having readers go “Yeeesh!” to their picture, or not including it thus making readers wonder what they’re hiding.

  3. A picture is not dynamic.  It sits there, potentially drawing attention away from your accomplishments.  Which segues to a marriage of social media and your resume…

Video Marketing and Resumes

Some of the “new trends” in recruiting – and in differentiating yourself from the gazillion other candidates also vying for the position you want – are to create video resumes and/or attention-getting videos.

(As a side plug: I did an hour-long interview with a local TV station on the topic of networking in a job search; I also did a radio interview about my job search looking for Mechanical Engineering positions.  With the video in particular, I balanced the risk of having my visual appearance so prominently displayed against the chance to – hopefully! – show off that I am articulate, composed, and have a professional presentation and demeanor.  But anyone who watches that video is going to observe the fact that I’m male, Caucasian, and Jewish.  Obviously I believed the risk worth it… and anyone so biased against whites, males, or Jews is not someone I want to work with or for anyway.)

Follow the Sizzle to the Steak

I often say in my “Cover Letter” section of my blog’s article aggregates that cover letters are nothing more than a marketing document to get people to look at your resume; just as a resume is nothing more than a marketing document to get you an interview.  A snippet-based video, like the one mentioned above, is certainly a glitzy way of also attracting people to look at you in further depth.  But the depth must be there.

So a way to create depth would be to have a video resume online.  My online resume, which has pointers to portfolio pages and articles I’ve written on my blog – just has static pages.  Instead of links to static pages, have the links be to short videos of a presentation on the topic clicked.  Use PowerPoint and other presentation tools to highlight the background and fill in details of the accomplishment.  For example, one of my accomplishments – picked not-quite-randomly – would be:

Led Design for Assembly effort to reduce labor costs in new generation of electro-mechanical capital equipment, saving over $5 million in L&OH within three years of launch and reducing assembly floor area needed over 50%.

This could link to – instead of the static page shown – a 5-10 minute video on the topic, as though you were in an interview and had been asked to talk at length about the subject.  Or, even better, help you show your expertise as an invited speaker somewhere.  And maybe best… a video page with your presentation, and a link to your presentation slides or a one-pager like this one.  That way they have something to see, as well as things they can read and possibly print.

Countering the “O” Word

Apparent age and weight are often taken as a proxy snap-judgment assessment of energy level.  This could be an excellent way to dispel concerns, especially if you are a “seasoned” worker.  A video showing you energetically presenting could excite potential hiring agents, even if you do have some grey hairs.  After all, in most interviews you and your interviewer are both seated and relatively inert.  By using such videos people could see beforehand, their unconscious impression will be replaying the dynamic person they have already watched as you sit there in the room talking with them.

The Three Questions

All interviews boil down to three questions:

  1. Are you able to do the job, and its corollary, are you the best-value candidate?

  2. Will you do the job?

  3. Will you “fit” into the existing team and culture?

No resume, no video, no nothing can substitute for the impressions that you create when you are physically there for an interview.  The first few seconds matter when you meet someone.  But the use of advanced techniques like this can increase the likelihood you will be invited in.

Engaging the Rational Mind

First impressions are critically important, and form within seconds of a meeting.                So if you have anything that might create a bad impression – grey hairs, weight issues, and so on, have that initial “shock item” over and done by letting them see you ahead of time.  And, more importantly, they will see you in a dynamic venue where you show you have energy, drive, and are knowledgeable and articulate.  Then, by the time they meet you face to face, their rational mind has overcome any latent negative emotional response that would have formed when they met you for the first time.

What do you think?


© 2014, David Hunt, PE

Resume AVeNReTYA

Ultimately, the point of your resume is to convince someone to interview you.  It is a marketing document, after all – nothing more.

I’ve read scores of articles on job searching. Hundreds… possibly even topping a thousand. I do so both to help in my own job search, as well as collecting them in my blog’s article aggregates. (I am selective – just because I click on and read/skim an article doesn’t necessarily mean it goes into an aggregate.) One topic specifically called out in these aggregates is RESUMES. Readers who have gone through these aggregates looking for help in their own job search have seen numerous articles on this topic – and multiple instances where I’ve opined that a resume is nothing more than a marketing document to get you the interview.

Three Parts to Catch Attention

In many of these articles there is a consistent theme; specifically, that a very common mistake made is to say “responsible for” or “duties include” – or other such terms. So what? The point made by multiple job-search authorities is simple: everyone has responsibilities and duties on a job… what did you do? What accomplishments did you do in your time at each position that differentiates you from everyone else who had those same responsibilities?

A second, very common theme of these articles is to recommend the use of action verbs. For example, “led”, “designed”, “improved”, among many others. The goal is to show you did something. And a third thing is to have numbers. How much money (or time) did you save? How much did you increase sales? And so on. Numbers – whether dollar values, percentages, and so on – catch attention.


Which brings me to an admittedly cumbersome acronym. Let’s break it down.

AVe – Action Verb. Use action verbs – and there are a gazillion links here to find them – to catch a reader’s attention.

NRe – Numerical Result. What did you save? Increase? Decrease? Improve? And so on. Have a number, even if it’s an estimate. You don’t need to be exact, and you won’t be asked to justify the number in any more than an arm-waving way – but be able to justify it. And if you’re pressed for details, cite confidentiality; always a good thing to show you protect the proprietary information of a previous employer!

TYA – Through Your Action. What did you do that created this result?

Some Examples

OK, so I’m shamelessly stealing a few accomplishments from my resume (I am looking for a job, after all!) – and noticing that I need to do some editing to follow my own advice (shame on me!); I’ll show two of these as my third and fourth examples. But first, two examples where I already followed the AVeNReTYA formula.

Saved over $250K annually by replacing molded virgin rubber with superior material based on recycled tires.

Let’s break it down.

AVe – Action Verb: “Saved”. A nice, strong action verb that catches attention.

NRe – Numerical Result: “over $250K annually”. Money talks. A quarter of a million dollars every year on an ongoing basis talks loudly.

TYA – Through Your Action: “replacing molded virgin rubber with superior material…” What I did to achieve this result.

Here’s another one:

Eliminated product’s 50% rework rate in brazing operation by redimensioning joint for proper process window.

Again, the breakdown:

AVe – Action Verb: “Eliminated”. Not reduced, eliminated. A very strong action verb.

NRe – Numerical Result: “50% rework rate”. First-time-through is a key metric in production – having to rework/repair items in a manufacturing environment is a bad thing. It’s not value-added. Going from having to rework half of this product’s volume to not having to do it at all is huge.

TYA – Through Your Action: “by redimensioning joint for proper process window.” What I did to achieve this result.

And a third, requiring a rewrite. I’m starting out with this line item:

Redesigned rotationally-molded coolant tank; reduced cost by 15% and eliminated four separate pieces.

Not bad, but in looking at this I can do better. “Redesigned” is not a bad verb. But it describes what I did, not what the result was. Try this rewrite breakdown on for size:

AVe – “Reduced”. “Decreased” would also work; use synonyms as you don’t want a string of the same word repeated. Some might argue that repeating the same word – if you can – is good marketing. Perhaps. But my opinion is that if you have a bunch of the same action verb in a row, e.g., decreased, decreased, decreased, decreased, it becomes easier for a reader to shift to a coasting mode; changing words forces more mental activity, thus avoiding someone falling into a mindless perusal.

NRe – “plastic tank cost by 15% and eliminated four components”. Not the shortest NRe but there are two solid results here. And if you are a plastics person trying to catch the attention of people who want your expertise – as I am, for example here, here, and here – using the specific word “plastic” can catch attention too.

TYA – “by redesigning with rotational-molding DFMA recommendations.” Again, what I did. And this gives me a chance to throw in two keyword, i.e., rotational-molding and DFMA. Both potential current attention-catching keywords.

Putting them together:

Reduced plastic tank cost by 15% and eliminated four components by redesigning with rotational-molding DFMA recommendations.

Yes, better.

You May Not Have Numbers

In some instances you may not be able to quantify things. You may not have numbers, or you may be forbidden from using any numbers by confidentiality agreements, among the possibilities. You can still discuss AVeReTYA. (No “N”). And, as I write this essay, I realize I can edit this bullet point from my resume to follow the formula. I start out with:

Launched new spray nozzle with improved hardening treatment; achieved significant decrease in process variation and reduced changes from orifice abrasion during production runs.

“Launched” is what I did.  “Decreased” was the result (“reduced” would also work); if you’re not sure about which word to use, try 3-4 different verbs, create examples of each, and then get outside opinions.

AVe – “Decreased”.  A good, catchy action verb.

Re – “chemical process variation and nozzle replacement frequency”.  My result.  I added “chemical” to be a little more specific about the application.

TYA – “by launching new spray nozzles with improved hardening treatment”.  What I did to achieve this result.

Putting them together:

Decreased chemical process variation and nozzle replacement frequency by launching new spray nozzles with improved hardening treatment.

Again, definitely better.

There Will Be Exceptions

Of course not everything will be able to be squeezed into these acronyms’ formulae.  You may decide, for example, that in a particular instance what you did to achieve the result is more important than the result itself.  Leading to another funky acronym: YAVAVNuR.

YAV – Your Action Verb.  What was the action that you took?

AVNuR – Action Verb to a Numerical Result.  (And, as above, you may be in a situation where there is no numerical result you can give.)

As an example of this, consider my resume item:

Led Design for Assembly effort to reduce labor costs in new generation of electro-mechanical capital equipment, saving over $5 million in L&OH within three years of launch and reducing assembly floor area needed over 50%.

Although the numerical results are impressive, in this case I think the fact that my action (I led) is more important.  Breaking it down:

YAV – “Led Design for Assembly effort to reduce labor costs…” This is what I did, and I want the fact that I led the team to be seen before the numerical results.  In this instance I put some description about the environment in which this happened.

AVNuR – “…saving over $5 million in L&OH within three years of launch and reducing assembly floor area needed over 50%”.  Saving is a good action verb, and the numerical results will catch attention too.

What’s the Point of the Exercise?

By investing valuable editing time on your resume’s bullet points to make each accomplishment easy to read, you will increase how much content your resume conveys in the 5-7 seconds most resumes get when being screened.  Presenting numerical results in an easy-to-digest format, your resume may well find itself not skimmed but read as people say “Whoa, wait, wow!”

Ultimately, the point of your resume is to convince someone to interview you.  It is a marketing document, after all – nothing more.  AVeNReTYA and YAVAVNuR can help in making your resume easier to read.  The easier you make it for a skimming eye to see and grasp what you have done elsewhere, the more likely that person will slow down and start to extrapolate what you might be able to do for them.

And when they start seeing what you could do for them… you get interviewed.  But some interview tactics and methods are in other essays.

Good luck.

© 2014, David Hunt, PE

If They Say “Dead” You’re Buried

A friend of mine just lost his job. After five-odd years at his now-former employer, he transferred to a new department within the company. A few months later a new boss took over. Talking with my friend regularly, he described how – within a month of the new boss starting – he started to get dinged. Pretty soon it became clear that the new boss was starting to document my friend’s “poor” performance. He was put on an improvement plan, with objectives without quantifiable metrics, vague or impossible goals, and so on. Classic, particularly as my friend – a knowledgeable Six Sigma Black Belt – was describing the situation and it became obvious his boss had no understanding of statistics, what a SSBB meant (I have a green belt and would love to be in a situation where I could get a black belt), or how what he was asking my friend to do was, in fact, impossible.

He was desperate to try and save his job. He’s a family man, with several children. He was clearly at a loss as to what to do. He pushed back, working hard to set quantifiable objectives with deliverables and timing that were realistic and have his boss’ agreement to these new, proposed milestones for improvement. Without success, of course.

An Old Yiddish Proverb

In talking about the situation with him, an old Yiddish proverb came to mind: When they say ‘dead’, you’re buried.

Too often such plans are nothing more than pretexts to make employees think there’s a chance when the reality is the decision has already been made, and the time is only being used to document and legally justify and defend the planned firing – dotting the I’s and crossing the T’s. After all, the article What Your HR Person Won’t Tell You About Being Fired states this quite clearly. In particular note #3:

“If you’re put on a performance-improvement plan, you’re cooked. I might look you in the eye and say we’re going to do everything possible to make this work, but that’s just total BS.” –HR director at financial services firm

I counseled my friend to make the assumption he was doomed, and to start looking for another job elsewhere immediately. He sent his resume to me for review and started looking.

Once is Incidence, Twice is Coincidence

The situation reminded me of another person to whom this happened; this senior manager was instrumental in my hiring at one company (during the interview I mentioned using QFD; he exclaimed, with a smile, “You just said the magic word!”). With no warnings or informal communication about any performance issues, he was put on an improvement plan after receiving a bad performance review.

He doubled down; working 10+ hours a day. In his words – and I remember the desperation in his voice as we talked afterwards – “I’ve never worked so hard in my life.” Yet before the six months he’d been given had passed, he was brought into a meeting with HR and shoved out the door. We haven’t talked for years, but he was in his late 50’s then… draw your own conclusions about his having found another job in any reasonable amount of time.

Based on experience with these two and other people who have been put on “improvement plans” – with the same result 100% of the time… it confirms the HR person’s quote.  When they say “dead” – you’re buried.

Expendable Assets

In the movie Predator, “Dillon” (Carl Weathers), thunders at “Dutch” (Arnold Schwarzenegger): “You’re an asset.  An expendable asset.  And I used you to get the job done.  Got it?”

Let’s be realistic: companies do not hire people to be charitable. People are hired (not “talents”, people) because they bring value to a company – more precisely, they are hired because they are perceived to be able to bring value and kept because they do bring value.

But the mentality of expendable assets seems to be metastasizing. Between the move towards smaller permanent staffs supplemented by contractors, and the chorus of “Fire fast!” advice on handling people who aren’t meeting expectations, the churn rate of people in-and-out is accelerating. Whether intentional or not, the attitude of managers towards people is seems to be moving towards that of “tools of the moment.” And tools, when no longer useful, are put away – driven, no doubt, by the economy and perception of an infinite pool of tools, er, people to pick from as needed. (And then employers wonder why employees have no loyalty.)

Prepare Yourself

Your world as an employee can come crashing down any second. Whether there is warning – e.g., you are put on an “improvement plan” – or you are suddenly let go for whatever at-will reason, you need to be prepared to jump from zero to job search mode in the time it takes you to drive home. I will opine that this is a sad and horrible state of affairs; every direct-hire job I’ve ever taken has been with the assumption – and hope – that this will be where I’ll be for the remainder of my career.

Why You Need to Keep Your Profile, Brand and Resume Up to Date is an excellent article, and a good starting place. I’d like to add a few things to their recommendations of keeping your resume, LinkedIn profile, and connections updated, etc.:

  1. Get supporting documentation for your resume.  This is not a license to steal confidential information, but work through your accomplishments and be able to justify any quantification you can.  Even if only taking notes abstracted from more detailed documentation, have that background available… you won’t need to produce it in an interview, but have it so you can review it and then build an informed discussion around every accomplishment you claim.

  2. Stay in regular touch with references from prior positions.  Even if only to say hello and ask how they are, few things can put off a reference than having the only time they hear from you being when you need their help.  If you have interesting updates, share them.  If you know of something that can help them in their own endeavors, share it.

  3. If you suspect that a relationship with your possibly-former boss might not be conducive to asking them to be a reference, who else could you ask?  For example, internal customers, co-workers/team members, or even vendor representatives?

  4. Proactively cultivate relationships with your internal purchasing people, and with external vendors.  Both sets of people know a lot of potential networking contacts.

  5. Leverage your current employer for paid memberships to relevant organizations, and start to attend meetings.  These contacts and the information will help you currently, but it’s the people you meet that are your real goal – again, cultivate relationships with people outside your employer.

  6. Develop a list of potential target companies (and industries) ahead of time.  Have some idea where you’re going to try and go, and then proactively cultivate relationships with people there before you need them.

You may not need to use any of these preparations. If you are lucky you are valued by your employer and will remain so for as long as you value staying there.

But the balloon may go up on your job at any moment. Better to be prepared and not need it, than find yourself in need and scrambling – already weeks behind as you are escorted out the door.


© 2014, David Hunt, PE