Beware of the Word "Experience"

Here’s a classic that never gets old. As we shorten what we write, each word carries more weight. Don’t let this word get in your way.

The word "experience" can hurt you during job search. This is true for candidates of all ages.

How so?

  1. The word "experience" can get in the way of other, clearer words that are more specific to your successes. It can mask the very value you would bring a new employer.
  2. People just don't "see" it any more. It's lost its punch, its meaning.

Saying "I have all this experience" means nothing to the listener, especially if that listener is a networking contact or an interviewer. You'll get polite nods, but little more. They'll be thinking, "So... what does she mean?" or “But what can he DO?” But they probably won't ask. You must be more specific from the start -- including on your resume.

So use other words that are more precise, and "sparkier”. For example:

Before - "I have 14 years of experience in surface mount technology."

After - "Over several years, I've enjoyed managing surface mount technology project teams that are very successful."

Before - "I have experience using social media."

After - "At my company, I established the wide use of Twitter which has led to a 140% increase in our webinar enrollment."

Before - "I have several years' experience in cost accounting."

After - "I've become known as someone who streamlines cost accounting processes and mentoring others in doing the same."

 

Replacing the word "experience", even if it takes a few more words, is especially good for the older worker, who is apt to complain to others, "With all my experience, it's taking me a long time to land a new job".

But what do you really mean by "experience"? Is it vital stuff or did you do the same thing over and over for many or all those years? It's painful to see people put the word "experience" out there like it's gold when it's not -- until you say HOW that impacted your organization. Changing "that word" to the REAL things you've done will help you break through that barrier. Give it a try. 

The word "experience" by itself is just not enough today. Be more specific, and tie the successes you've had to the potential employer's job. That way, you'll be able to apply your actual experience to their problems -- in a new job there.

Dumb Reasons Candidates Are Turned Down

Years ago, there was a great article in BusinessWeek (US) about "stupid reasons hiring managers don't hire certain people". Someone had done an anonymous survey, asking for "the truth" from hiring managers on the real reasons candidates were rejected. Some were:

  • Candidate looked just like my ex
  • Candidate reminded me of my daughter-in-law
  • Candidate went to an Ivy League college and I went to State U, too smart for me
  • Candidate went to State U and I went to an Ivy League school, she's not smart enough
  • Candidate has full head of hair and I'm bald
  • Candidate had too many good ideas and would make me look bad
  • Candidate was too slim and I'm fat
  • Candidate was too fat and I'm slim

-- and so on.

 

Dumb. And very unfortunate, for all concerned.

 

Conclusions may be reached even before talking with the candidate, based on their name and/or address. Sadly, there have been studies showing that people of ethnic groups with unusual names, like Tanika instead of Lisa, do better when they “Anglify” their names.[1]

 

Here’s one way I helped a client handle this issue. She was of Finnish ancestry, whose family had been in the US for generations. She was not getting much response to her resume. Looking at her name, both her first and last names were what most of us would at least initially call "unpronounceable" -- multiple vowels in a row, and an unusual placement of consonants. You could have interpreted her name as African or Japanese. The lack of response got us thinking that employers might have been making that same mistake -- an assumption that she was not a US citizen and thus could not work legally in the US.

 

We made several changes to strengthen her resume, but we also added to the end of her Summary, at the top of page 1, “US Citizen”. This was ridiculous but being a realist, I thought, “Let's give it a try”. Employers don't have a lot of time to pore over resumes so saying “I'm legal” right up front, might help her.

 

She saw an immediate uptick in responses and interviews and landed a contract position, which led to a staff job. Perhaps we were right; we will never know.

 

Bias occurs, sad to say. We humans persist in believing things before we have the facts, and in stereotyping. But you the candidate CAN control your search more than you’d think. How? By making sure you show in your search that you are savvy about your field, that you will solve their problems, you make or save revenue, and you are very willing to work hard for results, AND would be great to work with.

 

And, frankly, to know that unfortunately, there will be bad decisions made about you so be sure to network and have a high volume of job search activity -- to overcome the occasional bad, biased decision.

 

[1] New Study Confirms Depressing Truth About Names And Racial Bias, Jacqueline Howard, Huffington Post, 10.8.15, http://bit.ly/BiasAgainstEthnicNames

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Ready to start your search? Contact Joanne to help you map out your strategy.

Your Summer Job Search: Don't Let Up Now!

If you’re in a job search, especially if it’s a long one, you’ll be tempted to think that summer is sort of a waste, as far as job search goes. Isn’t everyone out on vacation?

 

Sure, some people are not at their desks because of vacations, and that can extend the already lengthy decision-making process at various companies. But there’s less business travel happening, and gatekeepers are away -- all the more reason for you to keep up your search activities such as networking.

 

Some key reasons to keep at it right now:

 

  • There are many more functions and parties and reunions at this time of year, not to mention cookouts and other events – great chances to not only have fun but to network. All networking is, is talking and listening and forging a connection by helping one another.
  • Summer makes people a bit more laid back and approachable, which makes it easier for you to call new network contacts or to network
  • Job seekers report that recruiters’ schedules are a bit less booked despite the fact that they usually place many people in the summer – in other words, they will more readily see you
  • Other, uninformed job seekers are slacking off, so there’s less competition
  • If you do little or nothing, it will not feel as good – you’ll feel as if you’re on the sidelines
  • If you do nothing, you won’t have anything in the “pipeline” for September if you haven’t landed by then. Why not “hit the ground running” in September?

 

Remember: 1) Always have business cards on hand when you go to any event, and 2) keep your LinkedIn profile cued up on your smartphone. And 3) dress in such a way that if you’re asked on the spot to answer some interview questions, you’re comfortable doing so.

 

At social functions, don’t overdo the alcohol or you may be remembered for some rather negative reasons….

 

Avoid getting sidetracked by “honey-do” lists (which can affect everyone!). While these are things that could be important, are they more important than your career? Doesn’t your career fund your life? So isn’t it to your benefit –- and your family’s benefit -- to land sooner? This will be easier to achieve by keeping up your activity. Your lawn will do just fine if it’s not perfect.

 

If you’re at the cabin for long weekends, be sure to schedule adequate job search time between weekends or your search will go into stall.

 

Finally…

In short, keep up your activity, even when it’s 90 degrees and you don’t feel like it. Your competition may be at the beach but YOU will be doing something to land that great job!

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