Tag Archives: jobs

110 Job Hunting Resume, CV and Interview Tips

110 job hunting resume cv and interview tips from Jim Bright

Here are some tips for Job Hunting, Resumes, Interviews, and Testing for 2011.

As an author of job hunting books that have sold way in the 100,000s in the USA, UK, Australia, China, Vietnam, Sweden, Denmark, Italy, Japan (you get the idea), with titles like Amazing Resumes, Brilliant CV, Resumes that get shortlisted, Should I stay or Should I go, StressSmart®, and Job Hunting for Dummies Australia & New Zealand, I thought I’d pass on some tips to assist in landing that job.

More tips and advice can be found in other great titles in the USA published by JIST, and the Brilliant series in the UK published by Pearson.

I’ve divided the tips into sections below.

39  Resume, Cover letter, Job Search tips

  1. The resume is just as important as the interview. When we got recruiters to rate candidate resumes and then rate their interview performance, the resume predicted the job offer just as strongly as the interview.  Don’t under-estimate the resume.
  2. The resume is the first point of contact between you and the employer in many cases. The resume is the only time in the recruitment process where you have total control over what information is presented and how it is presented. First impressions count.
  3. Make your resume a marketing tool that sells you! When you show someone around your garden you point out the beautiful flowers, and water features – you don’t dwell on the dog’s droppings and the compost heap! In the same way on your resume you emphasize your achievements rather than just your duties. (We found that resumes that emphasize achievements were more likely to be short-listed that resumes that emphasized job duties).
  4. Make a list of every single achievement you have had in life since birth. Yes since birth.  Leave nothing off no matter how trivial it seems.   You might not use “I learned to talk” on your resume, the practice in training your memory to recall personal achievements means you will recall more achievements from your school or work life that are relevant.
  5. Do as much research as you possibly can on the job you are going for.
    • Google search,
    • ask current and past employees,
    • visit the office, factory or shop if practical.
    • Call the contact to ask intelligent questions
    • Get a friend to call to ask the “dumb” or self-serving questions (like how much money, can I delay my start, can I leave early on Wednesdays)
    • Buy or hire the product or use the service if practical
    • Ask your mentors and network
    • Check out job sites, Linkedin, Facebook, Google + and Twitter for information
  6. All resumes should be be written with the Fit model in mind – the fit between you and the job on offer. Do this by:
  7. Look at the job ad, position description and any other research you have on the job you want to apply for and divide the job into
  8. Knowledge – what you need to know to do the job
  9. Skills – what skills do you need to have to do the job
  10. Abilities – how will you need use your knowledge and skills
  11. Attitudes – what kind of personal qualities are they looking for
  12. Now think about yourself in the same way – Knowledge, Skills, Abilities, Attitudes
  13. To decide what to include in the resume (or say in the interview) apply these rules:
    • If it increases the fit between you and the job include the information on the resume or say it in the interview
    • If it decreases the fit between you and the job, omit it from the resume and do not say it in the interview
    • If it is neutral with respect to fit between you and the job only include it if there is room and only say it if there is time

Layout:

  1. If you are completing an online resume – type it out first into Pages or MS Word.  Get the word lengths, format and spelling correct and double-checked before copying pasting into the online form.  Also it means if the form crashes or the link is dropped you still have all your work saved in the word-processing file.
  2. If you are printing a hard copy:
  3. Use white paper of 80 gsm thickness or slightly greater
  4. Avoid gimmicks including:
  5. Clip art
  6. Pictures
  7. Photographs (unless expressly asked for)
  8. Samples of your work (unless expressly asked for)
  9. Colored paper
  10. Non-standard fonts (use Arial 11, Times New Roman 12, Verdana 12)
  11. In our research resumes containing identical content put presented in a wacky way were rated lower by recruiters and they said it included less information

Content:

  1. Leave out date of birth, gender, marital status, children, religion, smoker status, illnesses or disabilities, sexual orientation, memberships of political or activist organizations (unless they unarguably increase the fit), hobbies (unless directly relevant to the job), reasons for leaving, salary or salary expectations
  2. Include contact details, generally include an address (unless it is a long way from the place of work, has a notorious reputation, you have reason to be concerned about security or privacy)
  3. Length: School leavers 1- 2 pages, graduates and most employees 2-3 pages, senior people up to 5 pages.  Academics, and when specifically requested, the sky is the limit
  4. Spelling mistakes.  Eliminate these by
  5. Using spell checker (set to the correct language)
  6. Then printing out and reading
  7. Then give it to someone else to read and check (who has good grammatical skills)
  8. Read the document backwards – this is an old proof readers trick – it forces you to process each word and not read for meaning (which disguises typos and spelling mistakes)

Cover letter:

  1. Limit to one page.  Check all contact details are up to date.  Address the letter to a real person – do not use Dear Sir/Madam (it means you haven’t done enough research)
  2. 1st paragraph – Say what job you want to apply for, provide the reference number (if there is one) and where you saw it advertised (puts recruiter in good mood as they get feedback on their advertising)
  3. 2nd Paragraph – state why you are a perfect fit for the role
  4. 3rd Paragraph – state that you are looking forward to meeting them at the interview (for which you are available at their request)
  5. For general on-line resumes see the excellent book about using Linkedin for job  searching by my friend Aaltje Vincent Career Management via LinkedIn http://www.amazon.com/Career-Management-LinkedIn-Aaltje-Vincent/dp/9049104398/ref=sr_1_9?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1318218179&sr=1-9
  6. For general job networking and search also see my fellow JIST authors Susan Britton Whitcomb, Chandlee Bryan and Deb Dib’s The Twitter Job Search Guide: Find a Job and Advance Your Career in Just 15 Minutes a Day http://www.amazon.com/Twitter-Job-Search-Guide-Advance/dp/1593577915/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1318218290&sr=1-1
  7. For more resume and cover letter advice check out my own books Amazing Resumes (JIST) USA, Brilliant CV (Pearson) UK, Resumes that get shortlisted (Allen & Unwin) Australia

26 Interview Tips

  1. The night before take your mind off the interview and go and do something else which is interesting and engaging.
  2. The night before the interview try and have as calm a night as possible. Go back through your résumé, flick through the material, go to a film, watch television. Just have a relaxed evening, don’t get too tensed up and have an early night and not too much alcohol. I would suggest that you avoid eating food with lots of spice or garlic in it. You don’t want to go to the interview the following day smelling heavily of alcohol or garlic, because that can be off-putting. Get a good solid meal and a good night’s sleep
  3. It is worth bearing in mind, that the person sitting on the other side of the desk interviewing you is human as well believe it or not. Prick them with a pin and they will bleed. (Note do not literally do this!)
  4. Take down accurate records of the time, date, and venue of the interview – so you know exactly where you are going and when (I know durrrr, but I could tell you a tale of one the leading international coaches who forgot to do this and missed a giving a presentation, or the hapless keynote called at home to be asked politely whether he was thinking of attending the conference, as there were 1000 people waiting to hear his speech – and no neither of these were me!)
  5. If there are clashes and you are already being interviewed that day for another job, you will need to consider rearranging the interview. The thing to do here is to consider which of the two interviews is the most important to you. Which job you really most want or which job is the one that you really feel you are most likely to get and then rearrange the least preferred interview for another day. You can be very polite about that and I would suggest that you don’t say that you are being interviewed elsewhere, but make another excuse such as you are unable to leave work that day if you are working, or perhaps a white lie ‘for personal reasons you are unable to attend on that day, but you would be more than happy to attend on any other day that they may care to choose’.
  6. Pull out from your work file the copy of the job advertisement and the résumé and cover letter that you sent. Study those closely and try to remember as many of the points that you made about yourself as possible.
  7. Any information that you found out about the company that you stored in your job file you should go through now
  8. Now is the time to make sure that you have your suitable attire for an interview. Whether that happens to be a suit or just a smart pair of trousers, a shirt, and some shoes that are well polished and look smart and match with the accessories.
  9. Not sure what to wear?  Generally wear clothes one notch smarter than the everyday wear in the job.  For trades roles, smart pressed button shirt or blouse and smart pressed trousers or skirt.
  10. Mindmap stories about a time when you achieved something at work, think up several examples for each selection criterion.
  11. In making up your stories organise them with these questions:
    What were the:

    • Dates
    • Names
    • Outcomes (in numbers, dollars, etc)
    • Locations
    • What Happened?
    • What is the Point?
  12. Use the common STAR formula for your stories – Situation, Task, Action, Results
  13. If you are an internal candidate, take a smarter set of interview clothes to work with you and put them on just before you are called. The contrast and the fact you have made an effort will impress. It also saves you spending the day wearing these clothes and increasing the chances of them looking tired, or worse soiled with coffee spills and the rest.
  14. Avoid strong cologne
  15. Avoid garish make up
  16. Consider removing or covering piercings and body art – yes I know they are lovely, my father was a sailor with tats on both arms, but even he covered them up when working as a Judge….
  17. The minute you walk through the door of the building on the day of the interview your interview has started. In fact, the minute you have a telephone conversation with the recruiter or the recruiter’s secretary the interview has started.
  18. Never make the mistake of patronizing or underestimating the administrative staff in an office.
  19. Don’t express opinions in the interview or where you can overheard, unless you are expressly asked to do so.  Then be careful and cautious in your answers if you do not know the background politics in the place.
  20. The cardinal rule in the interview is keep your cool. It is not the time to start arguing.
  21. If you are sure of yourself and you know where you want to go and what you want out of the job, then you should ask questions. Not asking questions at interview when invited to do so, gives the impression you are not interested in the position, or that you have not prepared properly
  22. Take your time to respond to questions
  23. If you do not understand a question ask for clarification
  24. Do not always accept the interviewers premise i.e. “So you left Bloggs and Co. pretty quickly, where did you work next?”. Why accept the interviewers premise that you left quickly? This is a typical trap, instead reply “Well I was at Bloggs and Co for a year, so I was there a reasonable amount of time, and in that time, the company restructured which removed any chances of progression in my specialist field…”
  25. Emphasize positives during interviews – do not dwell on negative experiences such as sackings, work disputes, long periods out of the work force. If you have had such problems in the past and the interviewer tries to get you to explain such events, you can try cutting this short by saying, “ I am really most interested in how I can best develop my career now and in the future, and I am positive I can make an excellent contribution…”
  26. Panel interviews (where two or more people interview you at the same time) are fairer for you, so do not be intimidated, they are less likely to be biased by factors such as personal rapport, race, gender and other irrelevant issues.

45 Testing Tips

For traditional face to face testing

  1. Ask in advance how long the test session lasts.
  2. Try to have a restful sleep the night before.
  3. Take a spare pen and pencil with you. (for face to face testing) (Stationery should be supplied, but you should bring your own in case the tester doesn’t, or the pen runs out)
  4. Go to the bathroom just before you go into the test room. (Don’t forget to wash your hands!)
  5. Now you’re ready to face the test, you can take plenty of steps to prepare yourself to do well. Once you’re inside the test room, follow these simple tips in the next section.
  6. Don’t be late arriving at the venue.

For online testing

  1. If you doing the tests at home or in the office, ensure you have quiet surroundings and a rock solid internet connection and mains power to your computer
  2. Switch off phones and other applications running on your computer like facebook, mail, twitter, linkedin
  3. If the test is not timed, consider using an open word file to compose answers to any open response questions to get the response right and grammatically correct
  4. Work through methodically, taking advantage of any opportunity to save your work
  5. If you have to provide a user name and password at login, make a record of it.
  6. When completed, if you know how to take a screen grab, take one of the final page that says you have completed, or even take a photo to prove you have completed the test

For all testing

  1. Read the test instructions very carefully.
  2. Check all the options first before deciding multiple-choice answers.
  3. Answer personality questions as honestly as possible but do have in mind the picture of an ideal employee for the role, would their answer differ significantly from yours?
  4. Go back and check that you’ve answered all the questions before you finish.
  5. Don’t have a late night before testing day or take the tests late at night.
  6. Remember to bring your reading glasses
  7. Don’t drink alcohol or take strong sedating medication (other than regular prescriptions) or other drugs before sitting a psychological test.
  8. Don’t take medication that can make you drowsy. (If you have to take medication, inform the tester in writing before you sit the test.)
  9. Don’t plump for the first choice answer without checking the other options first.
  10. Don’t worry if you haven’t answered all the questions in the time available. This is not unusual.
  11. Even if you approach a test in a positive manner, you may find that a number of the questions in personality tests appear to be either quite strange or irrelevant. In the next sections, you have a chance to try your hand at typical aptitude tests and explore how you can best handle the process of being tested.
  12. Personality and aptitude tests can work to your advantage. The trick is to understand why you’re being tested, to test the tester with questions of your own and to know enough about the tests to feel in control of the process.
  13. Personality testing is so complex, the experts find it difficult to agree on what works and what doesn’t. However, the theory called the Big Five has managed to gain a relatively high degree of support among personality test specialists.
  14. The Big Five theory is based on the fact that five broad areas of personality exist and that each of these areas reflect many different facets of personality. These five areas are:
  15. Agreeableness – Trust, compliance and modesty are signs of agreeableness. As the label suggests, agreeableness is about how well you get along with your fellow humans!
  16. Conscientiousness: Competence, achievement and self-discipline are qualities of conscientious people. The words ‘I can resist anything but temptation’ do not make a conscientious response!
  17. Extroversion: Warmth, assertiveness and excitement-seeking are examples of extrovert behaviour. Broadly speaking, being an extrovert is about enjoying getting on with with other people.
  18. Neuroticism: Anxiety, depression and self-consciousness are examples of behaviours that may fall under this heading. Neuroticism is the degree to which you’re relaxed and self-accepting (low neuroticism) or nervous, fidgety and self-critical (high neuroticism).
  19. Openness to experience: Fantasy, ideas and values can fall into this category. Creatures of habit who like everything just so and have the this is how it has always been done’ attitude aren’t open to experience!
  20. Personality tests can make people feel angry, but you can avoid this emotion by asking the recruiter or tester the following questions:
  21. How do these tests indicate to an employer how well I’ll do the job?
  22. How do these questions relate to employment?
  23. Why should I share such personal information with an employer?
  24. Despite what you may hear to the contrary, the truth is that personality tests do give an excellent indication of a candidate’s performance levels. A large amount of research has gone into this subject and documented independent evidence of the highest quality shows clearly that well-constructed personality tests are a useful tool in the candidate-selection process.
  25. A well-constructed and well-conducted test has the following features:
  26. The test contains at least 20 questions and generally many more (personality tests can contain up to 500 questions). Generally the more questions a test contains, the more likely the test can yield a reliable result.
  27. The test includes clear instructions and you’re tested in quiet surroundings where nobody else can see your responses.
  28. After you finish answering the questions, the people conducting the test are happy to answer your queries and agree to provide you with appropriate feedback.
  29. The people administering the test are able to produce evidence that your performance on the test is to be measured against an appropriate comparison group and that the test is administered according to the test manual.
  30. The people administering the test can produce verifiable evidence that the test relates to performance in similar sorts of jobs.
  31. If you encounter references to left- and right-brain abilities or handwriting analysis, be afraid. Be very afraid. Psychological tests have a bad name because of shonky practitioners who use unscientific, fad-like tests. Don’t hesitate to decline any test that makes you feel uncomfortable.
  32. Generally if a recruiter includes a personality test, he or she also includes an aptitude test. Unlike personality tests, aptitude tests are normally timed, which has become a controversial issue in the recruiting industry. One of the key international publishers of aptitude tests argues that recruiters shouldn’t be looking for people who can make snap decisions, but rather people who are prepared to mull over a problem and reach a reasoned answer. Despite this reasoning, the majority of recruiters still time aptitude tests.
  33. Numerical reasoning tests assess your ability to manipulate numbers, spotting patterns and progressions.

 

Shift: Transform you career by SHIFTING

The world is changing, you are changing, change is inevitable (except from a vending machine). So the question is what are you doing about it?  Maybe you need to get into SHIFTWORK.  I have re-defined the term “Shiftwork”.

Shiftwork is the work we all have to do to manage, survive and thrive in the face of a world where Shift Happens.

It derives from our Chaos Theory of Careers (Bright & Pryor, 2005, 2007;Pryor & Bright, 2003, 2007, 2011) that explicitly incorporates the concept of change in its account of careers in terms of complex dynamical systems.

Essentially the chaos theory of careers characterizes the world as a continually changing, complex and highly interconnected place, and humans living within this world are also highly complex and continually changing open systems which mean they are also highly interconnected.  This leads to many different implications including that change is a consistent feature of our lives and that the nature of this change will often not be easily predicted or controlled and may be sudden and disproportionate.

I have identified the first XI shifts we all need to make.  You can find a fuller paper on these ideas here.  These are

1: From Prediction To Prediction And Pattern Making

2: From Plans To Plans And Planning

3: From Narrowing Down To Being Focused On Openness

4: From Control To Controlled Flexibility

5: From Risk As Failure To Risk As Endeavour

6: From Probabilities To Probable Possibilities

7: From Goals, Roles And Routines To Meaning, Mattering, And Black Swans

8: From Informing To Informing And Transforming

9: From Normative Thinking To Normative And Scalable Thinking

10: From Knowing In Advance To Living With Emergence

11: From Trust As Control To Trust As Faith

Want to read more? This is an extract of a paper called

SHIFTWORK: A CHAOS THEORY OF CAREERS AGENDA FOR CHANGE IN CAREER COUNSELLING by JIM E. H. BRIGHT and ROBERT. G. L. PRYOR. It appeared in the Australian Journal of Career Development Volume 1 7 , Numb e r 3 , S p r i n g 2 0 0 8

get it here

 

How do you see change in your life and career? How confident are you in your ability to change or adapt and thrive in a changing world?  If you help others work on their transitions, what techniques or approaches do you use to help others understand, survive and capitalize on change?

Oppositional thoughts Volume 3 Amusing and lateral views on Career and HR Advice

Here is Volume 3 of my Oppositional Thoughts…They are designed to gently puncture some of the slightly precious life advice out there, and to complexify overly simplistic homilies, that make life appear a lot simpler than it is in reality.

Earlier volumes of Oppositional Thoughts can be found here (volume 1) and here (Volume 2)

Oppositional Thoughts..You can do anything if you have enthusiasm..It was what I was doing so enthusiastically that caused all the problems!

Oppositional thoughts…a cynic knows the price of everything and the value of nothing..what are the costs of doing this and is it valuable?

Oppositional Thoughts…feelings are everywhere, be gentle…Or on a crowded subway, feelings are everywhere so keep your hands to yourself

Oppositional thoughts..Just because there is a screen between us doesn’t mean you, or I,are less human, just that one of us is incarcerated.

Oppositional thoughts…I had a go at making money, but when it came out of the oven it didn’t look anything like the pictures in the book

Oppositional thoughts…identify self-limiting beliefs that are holding you back…?? But they are the ones that keep me out of jail!

Oppositional Thoughts…Cakes, flowers, dresses and dancing means wedding!…or Oh no I’ve just made a fool of myself at the village fete

Oppositional Thoughts…I asked myself the question “Can you tell us about yourself” and I haven’t stopped talking to myself ever since!!

Oppositional Thoughts…You must do the thing which you think you cannot do…It’s quite right.  I did, and I was right, I couldn’t do it!!

Oppositional Thoughts…casting doubt on a person – Ad Hominem, casting sweets/rappers Ad Eminem, casting Muppets Ad Mananamum, do do..

Oppositional thoughts…Your ability to generate power is directly proportional to your ability to relax…certainly better than prunes

Oppositional thoughts…Question every assumption you have in your head, only then can you start thinking creatively. I question that…

Oppositional thoughts…”First seek to understand, then seek to be understood”. No. “then seek to pick fault and ridicule”

Oppositional thoughts…One person with a belief is worth 99 people who have only interests… Sounds like a terrorist’s rationale

Oppositional thoughts…If you can imagine it,You can achieve it.If you can dream it,You can become it..which is a worry given my dreams!!

Oppositional thoughts…Success is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.  Does this mean we should look for the inspiration in our socks?

Oppositional Thoughts…Say what you mean…but how do I know what I mean until I’ve said it?  Emergence rules!

Oppositional thoughts…If “There is no word like ‘Impossible’ in my dictionary”… I would advise the speaker to buy another dictionary

Oppositional Thoughts…Let’s get busy….but stop doing THAT!

Oppositional Thoughts…Make sure you always have a door and a window open, you never know which you would need to use. Or stop eating beans

Oppositional Thoughts…Fall down seven times, get up eight…or even later, sleep it off, and try to avoid the green chartreuse in future

Oppositional Thoughts… Do one thing that scares you every day….I did, and my case comes up next month in the District Court…

Oppositional thoughts…Pessimists complain about wind. Optimists expect it to change. Leaders adjust sails. Pragmatists spray air freshener

Oppositional Thoughts…An inch of time is an inch of gold but you can’t buy that inch of time with an inch of gold…except billable hours

Oppositional Thoughts…When I hear 5 keys to achieving success I assume it refers to a drunk’s  fifth attempt to open their front door…

Oppositional Thoughts…A goal WITH a plan is just a wish. A hope that all assumptions are correct and that the goal posts wont change.

Oppositional Thoughts…so much for guaranteed disappointment.  My disappointment failed after 3 days,when I returned it was out of warranty

Oppositional Thoughts…I admire my boss, he fired me with enthusiasm.  I’ve never seen a person so enthusiastic about sacking me…

Oppositional thoughts…I had a go at personal branding, but the branding iron slipped, and I’m now unique but I don’t like to talk about it

Oppositional Thoughts…Empowerment creates confident employees. It’s true, I attached electrodes to a colleague. They yelled confidently

Oppositional Thoughts…If at first you don’t succeed. Try poking it down with a stick…

Oppositional Thoughts…In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity A. Einstein or In the middle of difficulty lies might be an opportunity

Oppositional thoughts…never trust a person whose work has been spread over many fields, as they share this quality with manure

Oppositional thoughts…it is all very well to say giving is better than taking, but there were complaints about what I was giving to people

Oppositional Thoughts..With goals you must go for it. Why do I have to go for it?  Can’t I have someone else fetch it, or have it delivered?

Oppositional Thoughts…”It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.” Not when you see what I was looking at!!

Oppositional Thoughts…What lies behind us & what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us. Not in these pants…

Oppositional Thoughts..Let him that would move the world first move himself…Not in these pants…

Oppositional Thoughts..When you have the enthusiasm and the passion…you are probably at work and should think of something else

Oppositional thoughts…reporting that 100% of people demand air to live is not news. But say 100% of Gen Y demand air and it’s research!

Oppositional thoughts… do conditions apply to the phrase “conditions apply”?

Oppositional Thoughts…I was told to make a strong first impression in the interview.  So I gave them my Elvis and then my Lady Gaga. #fail

Oppositional Thoughts…my Welsh Springer spaniel likes to keep up with technology. She chases every Hybrid Prius down the road…

Oppositional Thoughts…The mind is like a parachute. It doesn’t work unless it’s open…and when you board a plane you prefer not to use it

Oppositional thoughts…”never trust anyone completely, you are bound to get deceived”. I distrust this sentiment.

Oppositional thoughts.”Leadership is no longer about position but passion” but show the passion in an incriminating position and get fired

Oppositional Thoughts..Life is only as good as you make it..I hope not, I’m rubbish at making things, and its good to admire others’ efforts

Oppositional Thoughts…Why Can’t We All Just Get Along?  Except obviously with those we don’t like,disapprove of, list is endless…

Oppositional Thoughts…“The future belongs to those who give the next generation reason for hope.” – so next gen don’t get to own future?

Strangling Animals? Golf? What your hobbies say about you…

Paul Simon began “have a good time” with “yesterday it was my birthday…”. Well that was in the 1970s and you couldn’t get your LED watches to work properly, the batteries kept running out.

So we can forgive Mr Simon for being a day late with his birthday…probably waiting for Arty’s card to arrive. Anywhere where was I, yes, well, um, today it is my birthday, and I am still far younger than I look. I thought my age would one day catch up with my looks, but I have to take my hat off to my looks, they are doing a creditable impression of a 1970s kenyan long distance olympic runner – miles ahead of the pack before collapsing in an undignified heap shortly before being passed by the whole field – story of my life… How where was I? Yes,…well… everyone needs a hobby don’t they? They say that idle hands end up in front of the magistrate, or at least that was what my probation officer said, or was it my psychiatrist, I can’t remember… I am getting old you see. Anyway enough of channelling Frankie Howerd and on with the piece for today…no don’t, I thought of it too!! It’s on hobbies…enjoy. I will be in Melbourne when this gets published, I wonder if Jimmy Watson’s wine bar is open tonight…

If you want to get shortlisted for your next job, can I suggest that you take up Touch Football? However if you like camping or waterskiing, do not bother applying. These odd sounding recommendations come from some work that myself and a colleague in the recruitment industry, Kate Day undertook looking at the different hobbies that candidates had listed on their resumes and whether or not they were subsequently shortlisted for the job. We looked at a total of 999 candidate resumes that were submitted to a recruitment company for a variety of different jobs. Around 50% of the resumes listed hobbies, but it appears that there are differences across industry sectors in the tendency to include hobby information. For instance, Sales people obviously love their hobbies with 57% listing them on their resumes. In contrast only 32% of the Human Resource people those listed hobbies. Maybe the sales types have more spare time, or perhaps the Human resource people follow their own guidelines and stick only to the job relevant information.

A total of 159 different hobbies were listed across the resumes. The top ten most frequently listed were: 1st reading, 2nd travelling, 3rd Golf, 4th Tennis, 5th Swimming, 6th listening to, music,7th family ,8th rugby, 9th snowsking, = 10th fishing and going to the gym. Some of the least frequent included collecting cigarette cards, washing the car, tap dancing and keeping reptiles.

When it comes to getting shortlisted not all hobbies are equal. The ten best hobbies that were associated with resumes that got shortlisted were: Touch football, Squash, Cricket, Cooking, Wine, Rugby, Motor racing, Tennis, Socialising and Biking. When these hobbies were included, the chances of being shortlisted was increased by between 24% and 147%.

The worst ten hobbies to include turned out to be (from least worst to worst): Golf, Walking, listening to music, theatre, movies, art/craft, bushwalking, entertaining, camping and water skiing. Including those suckers on your resume was associated with a reduced chance of being shortlisted by between 28% and 73%.

So perhaps Monty Python were right and golf (along with strangling animals) is not that popular around here. Before the Camping Water Skiers Association of Australia confront me with a tent pole or “goofy feet”, I should point out that the survey although reasonably big may not be totally representative.

Interestingly, the desirable hobbies were on average slightly more likely to be included on resumes generally (average ranking 21) compared to the undesirable hobbies (average ranking 28). However, the most commonly listed hobbies such as reading and travelling were associated with only negligible impacts on shortlisting (+1% and -3% respectively). In other words, you are probably wasting your time listing these hobbies.

What are hobbies for? Are they an escape from the stresses of our day jobs, a coping mechanism to provide the rewards that our work cannot give us? Alternatively are they a dry run for a future radical career change, a try before you buy, or are they a means to an end? The answer is probably all of the above, and there is no straight answer to whether you should turn your hobby into work. For some it is likely to be a dream come true, and for others, it is a sure fire recipe to turn your escape into drudgery. As for whether you should include them on the resume or not, we found that overall including hobbies made no difference to your chances of getting shortlisted, but if you do include hobbies, some seem to be more popular for whatever reason than others.

A recruiter once told me, you should do a lot with your life to ensure that you have something to put on your resume. Maybe we should just aim to do a lot with our lives and not worry about putting it on the resume!

The Seven Myths of Stress

Here are a range of different everyday experiences. How might you feel in each of these circumstances?

  • You are having your family to stay for Christmas
  • Your partner of the last twenty years announces they are leaving you for your best friend (you might feel relief!)
  • You go to hospital for a major and risky procedure (trying to find a parking spot?)
  • You are about to give a public presentation with your Boss in the audience

It is easy to imagine a range of reactions to these life events or experiences and a review of the popular literature suggests they can be all summed up by the word ‘stress’.

The implications of stress needing a ‘cure’

This view that stress requires a cure is a very common one and has lead to a situation where many different approaches have been proposed or are currently marketed.

Scientific approaches

There are the Scientific approaches such as the use of drug therapies to control anxiety or depression.  Prozac is a particularly popular example in this category.  A drug that is seen by some in society as providing the crutch that helps them deal with the daily grind of life.  A second major scientific approach can be seen in the psychological therapies such as cognitive behaviour therapy which addresses the reasoning and appraisal processes that may be related to dysfunctional behaviour.

Alternative approaches

There are countless alternative approaches to the problem that enjoy varying levels of scientific and popular support such as aromatherapy and laughter therapy.  The ABC, of course, recommends doing a Sigrid Thornton, and packing up your frazzled city life and moving to an alternative diet-stress bucolic country life.

Consumer therapies

If of course, your taste or budget does not run to giving it all up, salvation may be at hand in your own bathroom, bedroom or kitchen via the purchase of any manner of contrivances such as bubble baths, massage oils or low stress foods all guaranteed to address your stress!

What is a myth?

The Oxford Shorter Dictionary defines myth as “a widely held (esp. untrue or discredited popular) story or belief; a misconception, a misrepresentation of the truth”

When I use the term ‘myth’ I am not using it in its strongest form to mean an untruth, rather something that is commonly believed that may be a misrepresentation of the truth.  Many of the myths identified deserve more rigorous investigation.  Some of the myths are controversial in the sense that large bodies of evidence have been presented in their support. However, even in such cases, there are reasonable grounds to be cautious due to a variety of conceptual and methodological shortcomings.

Myth 1: Stress causes illness

It is a commonly held belief that stress leads to illness.  A survey of 114 adults in the UK in the late eighties and found that stress was commonly believed to be associated with heart attacks and nervous breakdowns.  There is little reason to think that these commonly held beliefs have changed much since then.  Here is just a tiny fraction of the evidence.

Stress and coronary heart disease (CHD)

Evidence of the link between stress and coronary heart disease is also confused and beset with methodological difficulties.  It is commonly believed that high work demands lead to stress and CHD, but this doesn’t appear to be the case.  In a recent review of 25 studies, 17 of the 25 studies showed an association between job control and CHD, but only 8 of the studies showed an association between job demands and CHD.

Stress and breast cancer

Another apparently commonly held belief is that stressful events are associated with the onset of breast cancer.  Baghurst et al (1992) found that 40% of South Australian women surveyed believed this.  Futhermore Steptoe & Wardle (1994) reported that almost half a sample of medical experts were either undecided or confident that stress caused breast cancer.

There are published studies supporting this link, however equally there are many studies that have failed to confirm this link.  Even the recent study finding a link concluded that ‘the results speak against the conventional wisdom that .. Stress factors influence the development of breast cancer”

While some links seem to be weak, contrary or non-existent such as the link between stress and work demands, or stress and breast cancer, there does seem to be some evidence linking stress to job control and CHD.

Myth number 2:  Executive stress causes Coronary Heart Disease

Myth number 2 seems to be a little easier to nail as a just plain wrong! Despite the widespread view, even seen  in Medical reference texts as recently as the 1980s, that executives are more prone to stress it is almost certainly wrong, and indeed probably precisely opposite to the truth.

A major UK study measured new cases of angina, severe pain across the chest, and diagnosed ischaemic heart disease in 10, 308  senior and junior ranking British Civil Servants and found precisely the opposite relationship – that those occupying the lower ranks in the organisation were far more likely to be experiencing stress than their more senior colleagues.

Indeed in a related earlier study by the same team, they found males in the junior ranks of the civil service to have 3 times the 10 year risk of coronary mortality compared to their senior counterparts.

Perhaps the ultimate Executives –are the various prime ministers and presidents around the world.  A quick comparison of the UK, USA and Australia shows that if they can avoid assignations in the US, foot in mouth disease in the UK or swimming outside the flags in Australia, they tend to live a lot longer than their male counterparts see figure 1.

Figure 1 Longevity of Prime Ministers and Presidents born and dying around C20th compared to average male life expectency during the century: UK, USA and Australia

This comparison, also holds for Prime Ministers and Presidents born in the 19th century.  Clearly this elite group differ on a range of factors including wealth, education, social support, access to health care and so on, but these types of differences are also found when comparing CEOs and their employees.

Myth No 3: People respond differently to stress as a result of differences in personality

There is some good evidence to suggest that people vary in their experience of stressors, both in terms of whether a stimuli is perceived as stressful and the perceived intensity of the stressor.  (So two people subject to the same nasty boss might perceive it as a nuisance or really stressful). However there is little good evidence that their reactions differ greatly (ie both may people might experience similar increases in blood pressure when the boss is around).

Myth No 4: That stress can be measured by a simple questionnaire scale

It is a seductive proposition for many people whether they are purchasing the services of a consultant to conduct a stress audit in their organisation or whether they are completing a check list in a magazine or training course to believe that these scales will somehow provide an accurate measure of your levels of stress.

There are many measures of stress.  These range from inventories of psychological or physical symptoms, life event check-lists  and scales assessing the number or intensity of stressors in the work environment.  These are assessing diverse and often different factors which come under the umbrella term of stress, but cannot be said to be measuring ‘stress’ itself. A measure which actually asks people directly to rate their level of stress is open to a wide range of different interpretations and is therefore not meaningful.  Thus, even the measure known called ‘The Perceived Stress Scale’ mentions the word stress only once!  In fact, it is doubtful that it is possible to develop a valid or reliable questionnaire of anything like reasonable length that will really encompass everything that different people mean when they to  ‘stress’. However there are varyingly accurate and reliable measures of more defined concepts such as anxiety or depression.

Myth No 5: Stress can be cured or managed through relaxation, meditation and exercise

There is some reason to believe that some interventions may have some beneficial effect – both exercise and stress management courses can lead to improvements in mood and physiological indicators.   We do not know the mechanisms for these effects, that may work because you are taking time out of your schedule to relax or are thinking of other things. If so, it may be that expensive courses are not required: a regular walk with the family dog of an evening, or a hot bath away from the children may have the same effect.  Alternatively it could be that just having a person taking an interest in your problems helps. Nor do we know how long such mood effects last.  Furthermore, while some interventions can be shown to have benefits, it is not entirely clear that this has anything to do with improved ability to manage in the face of stressors.

Myth No 6: Stress can be cured by changing the way we work

The idea of preventing stress by removing the stressors (e.g. by reducing job demands and increasing job control) is certainly logical and has moral and ethical advantages over the alternative of training people to tolerate stressful environments.  However, the evidence we have  suggests that these interventions seldom work.

In a recent study, 2 matched pairs of departments were compared.  In the work redesign group the employers participated in problem solving committees that identified workload and communication as key stressors.  They developed plans to address these issues. The other (control) group did nothing. One year later the departments that had attempted change showed no improvement over the control group and in some cases negative results.

There were several mitigating factors such as a change in personal and other organisation wide changes that impacted upon the workers in the study which only serves to underline the difficulties in implementing these types of solutions.

Myth No 7: Stress is increasing

It is fitting to conclude the list of myths with this one, as this is perhaps the most popular starting point for many stress management programs and newspaper articles on stress. We have all read about the ‘increasing pace of life’, the ‘increased job insecurity’, the ‘lack of the old certainties’ etc etc.  However, those few commentators that actually try to justify such remarks generally turn to figures for compensation claims and the like.  However, whether such figures genuinely represent a rising tide of stress problems or merely increasing awareness of both the concept of stress and the availability of compensation is difficult to determine

Typically this myth is established by listing a variety of stressors from modern life, but how can we compare the impact of the telephone ringing all day with the risk of infectious disease or infant mortality (both of which are lower today). It is a bit like trying to determine whether Bath Ruth is better than Sammy Sosa, whether Bradman’s 1948 Invincibles Cricket Team was better or worse than Steve Waugh’s team, or whether Dixon of Dock Green was better than The Bill! It is not to suggest that we experience less stress today than earlier generations, rather, it seems that comparisons between then and now are highly likely to be unreliable, and may lead to over simplistic theorising about the causes of stress based upon spurious comparisons with the past.

Adapted from my book Stress: myth, theory and research (also available in UK )co-authored with Dr Fiona Jones.

Note: This article is designed to encourage a critical consideration of what we think we believe. I acknowledge that research in this area has advanced since the book was written for instance in linking stress and CHD. However much remains remarkably similar.

Career development better than sex or an alternative?

Career development has a yearly low point about June, but the good news is we are on an upward curve, until about September.  After that, if you are a Career Development professional or careers author looking at launching a book, forget about it and take a long vacation till January.  I am basing my advice on the number of people who are searching on Google using the terms Career Development.  I have been playing with Google trends, one of their analytic services that provides information on the volumes of searches on certain keywords over time.  The trend pattern for the search term “Career Development” is in the first graphic below.

The pattern is interesting because it repeats more or less in the same fashion every year since 2004 (the earliest that Google Trends presents).  Within each calendar year, searches peak in the Jan- March quarter and tail off to a low around mid-year.  They then build again in the third quarter before collapsing catastrophically in December.

Looking at the graph, it is interesting that major events such as the global financial crisis do not show up in terms increased search activity.  It suggests that “career development” is a search that people make irrespective of global financial conditions, but not irrespective of personal concerns – for instance swopping career planning for Christmas shopping in December.

The figures are largely dominated as you’d expect by US searches.  The data for other countries is generally so small and incomplete that it shows no sensible pattern.  So the other possible “story” in this data could be that career development searches peak after major holiday times.  I.e. straight after Christmas, after Easter, and at the end of the long summer vacation and do I detect a small peak around Thanksgiving (towards the end of November) as well?  Well it is hardly news that newspapers are full of “New Years” resolutions and life planning type articles, but the other periods of peaks are less obvious.  Do we need this time away from work to reflect on where we are going?  Is it breathing space that creates the demand for career development ideas?

The second point about these trends that is clear is that the term “career development” is being searched less and less each year.  The downward trend is unmissable, but what is causing it?

Maybe the term “Career Development” is less resonant than it was half a decade ago.  If that is the case, it is ironic given that some professional groups such as the Career Development Association of Australia recently changed their name to include this term.   Equally another group I belong to, the National Career Development Association in the US, may want to take note.  When we compare the search pattern on the simpler term “Careers” we see a very different and more positive story.

Firstly the term is being searched more often than it was.  Are we ready to rebadge as Careers Professionals or CIs – “Careers International” members, which captures the increasingly popular term and takes it global.  Furthermore this search term does seem to be sensitive to world events showing the strong upward trend coinciding with the worldwide economic deterioration.

The term is also more consistently searched throughout the year and does not appear to be as subject to the seasonal variations of the “Career development term”, other than it shows the characteristic terminal drop coinciding with Christmas.  Honestly it’s almost enough to make you an atheist!!

One possibility is that the term “careers” is more closely associated with “jobs” and “employment” whereas “career development” might be seen as a more disconnected, reflective activity. Some support for this hypothesis can be seen in the trend graph for “jobs” which resembles the “careers” search trend graph more than the “career development” search graph.

The term “coaching” also displays seasonal variation and something of a slight decline over the last five years. If anything, the interesting aspect of the coaching search pattern is the apparent peak just before Christmas evident in most years, as well as the mid year slump and end of year shut down.  Not sure what to make of that.  Perhaps people seek coaching to improve their performance in a role they are struggling to stay motivated in.  Then if and when that fails to address their malaise, they look not to stay in the role, but to change careers, and hence they then seek career development.  Just a wild stab in the dark.

And talking of wild stabs in the dark, the last graph throws up a somewhat unexpected relationship between Career Development and Sex.

“Sex” searches have definitely drooped since the Global Financial Crisis making them more labile than “career development” but they do show a cyclic pattern.  If you look at the trends for searches on “sex” it seems to show almost the opposite of what is happening with searches for “career development”.  Thus “sex” searches peak when “career development” searches wilt.  In other words, when a person is not thinking about career development, their thoughts turn in a very different direction!  I am really not sure what the implications of this are for those of us who proclaim a passion and enduring interest in career development. You might think it, but I could not possibly say….

Leaving a job: Telling people where to stick it and helping them remember where

Leaving a job: Telling people where to stick it and helping them remember where

I was in Woolworths the other day and decided to try out an alternative career as a check out chap using their self service system. I came away mystified and marveling – mystified as to how to open those flimsy plastic bags provided for your shopping and marveling that the professional check out jockeys manage this feat with elan.  More importantly I came away with colonoscopies firmly forced right up into the forefront of my mind.

Parting may be sweet sorrow for Juliet, but whomever programmed the self-service’s parting comments at Woolies has evidently heard of neither William Shakespeare nor it would seem Nobel Laureate Dr Daniel Kahneman.  There is nothing sweet about the parting shot from the Woolies self-service.  Shoppers leave with “Please take your items…” ringing in their ears. Sounds fair enough until you detect in the intonation that something is missing at the end of this phrase. I find myself adding “and stick it up your…”. Thus I leave my local grocer miffed and colonoscopy-focussed. Which brings me to Danny Kahneman…

Kahneman famously studied colonoscopy procedures to see how the patients registered pain during the invasion and how they subsequently remembered their pain. Memory is important here because when we make decisions about most things in life, we rely on, to quote more Shakespeare, remembrance of things past.  So if our memories of an event are aversive, we are less likely to voluntarily repeat the experience.  Kahneman showed counter to intuition that longer colonoscopy procedures were not necessarily recalled as more painful than shorter procedures.  The memory of the pain was associated most strongly with experiences of pain in the last few minutes of the indignity.  So regardless of length, if you had a shocker in the last few minutes this tended to outweigh any fun had to that point.

In other words, whether it is your local grocer or a professional wielding a camera that goes where reality t.v. normally lives, if you want to engage the customer or patient for a voluntary repeat experience you need to leave them laughing or at least not howling like an inmate surprised in a shower.  The final interaction colors our memories disproportionally.

The same principle applies right across career development.  For instance Andrew Clark and Yannis Georgellis from Brunel University found that current job satisfaction is an inadequate measure for predicting whether folks will leave a job. It turns out when you ask someone whether they are satisfied in their job, they interrogate their memories, and memory being a tricky blighter throws up a response that is disproportionately biased toward current feelings.

They found that if you want to predict who will leave, measure job satisfaction regularly, and average across the peak level of satisfaction found over time and the most recent level of satisfaction.  In fact peak satisfaction was twice as important as recent satisfaction in their predictions.  The amount of change in satisfaction also predicted quit decisions as well.  So to engage staff, aim to get the satisfaction levels as high as possible and monitor changes to try to keep them high. Don’t get complacent, if the latest levels have dropped a lot, it could spell trouble.

More generally, the leave them laughing principle applies to developing relationships and networking.  Those who are good at these essential career skills are conscious of leaving interactions – meetings, calls, emails, texts or twitters – on a high note. So Woolies, consider adding “and thanks for your business”.  With this principle in mind, thanks for reading this and till we met again, I wish you peak career satisfaction for the week ahead.