The Perfect Resume (IMHO) pt.2 – Experience

7 03 2010

I apologize awesome folks.  Busy as always is never an excuse to neglect helping others.  So I’m back.  I’m here.  I’m yours.

You guys are craaaaaaaving this.  Based on the number of hits from part 1, I have decided to bring you part 2 to this series!  Let’s deep dive into the meat and potatoes of a resume.  The experience section. It’s one that gets a ton of variation in formatting and information, so let me help you understand how to start thinking about it better and organizing your story.

Here’s the thing about resumes.  A trained recruiter will probably only spend 30-60 seconds OR LESS reviewing yours before they make a decision about whether you should be passed on to interviews.

If you have 30 seconds to convince someone to give you a chance, you’re going to want to highlight your most important accomplishments in each role and prioritize these things as the first few bullets in your experience section.  Make sure that every word on the page is necessary and adds value to your story.  Even something as simple as dates in a role can show 1) commitment and tenure, 2) promotion rates, and 3) years of experience.  Because of this, it’s important to show both Month/Year that you started and ended each role.  Those little details and small changes can tell an employer a lot!

Let’s talk more about bullet points

If something’s not adding value, remove it or consolidate and demote it to the last bullet point!  Here are some questions you should answer in every bullet point under your experience section:

  • What did you improve in the company/role?  (Increased sales by 326%….)
  • What was amazing about this?  (…within one month…)
  • How did you do it?  (…by restructuring the sales incentive program to refocus on A, B, and C.)

What’s not included there?

  • I was amazing.
  • Fantastic.
  • Efficient.
  • Awesome.
  • Great.

Let the employer decide for themselves what is amazing, fantastic, and efficient.  You just state the facts about your contributions and what you did to elevate your past employer or role to the next level.

I also really dislike seeing 13481758 bullet points under each section.  Be concise – give 3-5 bullets that have more meaning.  When I see a resume with 3257109 bullets, I get frustrated.  Make it easy.  Synthesize your work by only including what matters.  We’ll interview you to uncover the other details on HOW you did it.

I love numbers!

Using numbers and metrics can also really help to show the speed, scope, volume, and impact that you have left behind.  Employers want to know that you have the basic analytical skills to measure the results of your work.  If you never tracked your work before, you should start!  No matter how well you do, nothing illustrates your achievements louder than numbers on a resume.

If your resume isn’t already formatted to consider these things I said above, revise it.  Then let me know if this changes how many call-backs you’re getting!


My New Year’s Resolution

9 01 2010

Disclaimer:  This post is highly philosophical.  It’s about changing the way you think and how you approach your work and life.  Happy new year to all!


Happy Twenty-ten, Awesome and almost employed!

I apologize for taking such a long time between posts.  I’ve been working on a big project all quarter and it’s truly taken up a lot of my time (and sanity)!  Even this first week back hasn’t lighted up at all.  That being said, I’m here, I’m yours.  All my attention for the duration of this post is dedicated to you.  (Side thought: Apologies if you sent me an email and I didn’t get back to you.  I will!)

When I looked at what I could do differently this year, compared to previous years, I kept coming back to the same thing:  Operate with love.

Before you run screaming, “Stefanie has lost her marbles.  This ain’t a dating blog.”  Hear me out.  (Although, it could be a dating blog, too.  Would you like that?)

Everyone I have ever admired operates with this philosophy AT WORK.  If you do what you do for your own glory, you’re standing alone at the finish line.  Isn’t it better to have a whole hoard of close colleagues, friends, family, and fans cheering you on?  You may not be this loving, giving person now, but I am altruistic enough to believe that we can all operate with love.  It’s this passion that improves the world and gives others hope to be better than they are.  (Think Mahatma Ghandi, Betty Williams, and Matt Flannery, Founder of  In your own way, with your own work (whatever it is), this should be you, too.

Embarrassing note:  This Nickleback video moved me to the brink of tears in my office one day!  (Thanks, Judy.)

Example #1:  My dad.
When I graduated, my dad and I talked about what I would possibly be.  He told me that no matter what I did, I should give back to others.  He dedicated his entire life to microbiology and genetics.  I wish you guys could see the look on his face when he talks about finding genetic connections and cures for cancers.  My dad is one person, trying to change the world (and every day he does)!

Example #2: Gopi Kallayil
After yoga, my teacher, Gopi, sat a few of us down and talked about the philosophy behind yoga and meditation and how they are all pathways to love and God (Hindu in his case).  Gopi is extremely successful, well-liked and respected at work and he’s someone that I always want to emulate.  When we asked him what his secret was, I was surprised when he told us that it was this yoga philosophy of love.  His motivations for creating phenomenal work product are not for himself, but they are for the greater good of others.  Giving love freely is his secret to success!  Transferring love into his work and then giving it freely, without sense of ownership (mine, mine, mine), has gotten him far.

When I think about my own career at work, this has also applied.  The times when I’ve been fully committed to helping someone else are the times that I’ve received the most recognition and satisfaction in my work.  Hmm… maybe we’re on to something here.

Example #3: Chade Meng Tan

Meng, like Gopi, is one of my favorite Googlers.  Meng is on a mission for world peace one person at a time.  He teaches a course about emotional intelligence and self-awareness called, “Searching Inside Yourself”.  I’m an alumnus of the class and learning from Meng has really changed how I operate.  Not only have I become more introspective, but I have learned to love myself and forgive me for my mistakes and for others’ mistakes and ill will.  Granted, there are still some really SHITTY people out there, but you know what?  It doesn’t change the fact that we all want to feel loved and respected.

Example #4: Alex Duong, actually–he’s just like us!  But here’s how he’s different.

Alex has been working as a consultant for a few years after graduating from UC Berkeley.  At some point, he decided he needed a change of pace.  He applied to and now he’s a Kiva Fellow in Vietnam reviewing loan grants and supporting small business owners in the country.  The impact he, and the other fellows, are leaving behind are going to transform these communities.  He’s helping these small business owners and entrepreneurs one loan at a time.  Read about their experiences here.

Even your manager, an executive, and your recruiter needs love.  Imagine if you approached them with love, forgiveness, and without judgement–what might change in your relationship with this person?

Most importantly, how does this help you in an interview?  In your job search?

Seek problems and aim to solve them for a company.  Before you walk in or before you apply, ask yourself, “What is my motivation?”  Are you doing this for your own glory or are you doing this with a genuine desire to add your expertise to a solution?  It can still be a little of both, but make sure that when you deliver your work (or answers in an interview), you’re delivering it for others.  You’re part of a larger purpose.

This kind of thought leadership is contagious and can dramatically improve your relationships with the people you meet in the interview process.  If they know that you are a point of positive energy (I’m not talking about hyper energy, but positive energy), they will want you.  Be present.  Be engaged.  Be supportive, giving, and smart.  Give it your all, give it freely, and have a fantastic 2010.

With love and respect,


The Perfect Resume (IMHO) – pt. 1

16 10 2009

I’m starting a series called “The perfect resume”.  It will take me a bazillion years to figure this out for myself, as well, but I’ll put some tricks that worked for me (and for others).  Let’s start with the basics:

What is a resume?
It’s a simple, easy to read snapshot of facts that illustrate your past experiences, affiliations and credentials for a role.  Let’s call out the most important part for me here:  EASY TO READ.  An experienced recruiter spends a whole of about 30 seconds scanning your resume for facts about you.  So a resume cannot be a brick of text.  It cannot be a 913751875 page memoir.  It’s a simple statement of facts that you’ve collected on your experiences.  Leave it at that!

Resumes should be objective.
It doesn’t matter how many times you wrote “awesome” and “effective” and “brilliant” and “successfully” all over your resume.  It doesn’t count unless you have the facts to back it up.  If all the facts suggest awesomeness, then you are a winner!

Numbers are good.
Numbers are facts that can show you are a winner.  If you made something better, where are the numbers to show it?  For example, numbers, like a GPA, can show you are bright or that you apply yourself and work hard.  Numbers like a % increase in adoption rates or sales for the month help.  But don’t make them up.  Make the best estimate you can and if you’re really just lost, don’t put them at all.  Recruiters and smart interviewers can sniff out fake numbers.  Fake numbers smell kind of like sewage.  yucky.

Who should review your resume?
The more the merrier.  Find a few people you trust and have them look it over for you and give you pointers and feedback.  Have them only spend 30 seconds on your resume and see if they extrapolate everything you wanted to get across about your skills, experiences, and expertise.

No?  Revise it!

Resumes are hard to write, but check out this one from or (I don’t know what the original source is).

I think it’s an okay example, but what might you change about it?

I think it’s an okay example, but what might you change about it?

45% of Employers Screen Social Media Profiles (Mashable)

26 08 2009

I thought this article from Mashable was especially interesting.  As a follow up to my guest post on Recession Mama, I thought I’d share this sobering information with you awesome people. surveyed over 2,000 employers and found that 45% of them are using social media profiles (i.e. your Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, and other pages) as part of the screening/recruiting process.

Does this scare anyone?

Let me scare you some more.

According to the study, “thirty-five percent of employers reported they have found content on social networking sites that caused them not to hire the candidate.” The big lessons you can learn are quite obvious, but bear repeating. Provocative photos and info are a bad idea (53% of employers won’t hire you), shared content with booze and drugs is also highly dangerous (44% dismissed candidates for this reason), and bad-mouthing former employers is very risky behavior (35% reported this a the main reason they didn’t hire a candidate).

-Jennifer Van Grove, Mashable blogger, 8/19/09 (

As much as you want to remember the great times with the keg stand, it’s so important to make sure those photos are private.  It’s like running for president.  To quote Bill Clinton, “I tried marijuana once, but I did not inhale.”  Or how about this photo of Michael Phelps?

He almost ruined his entire reputation as a serious athlete with this photo.  What makes you so different?  Why would you be the exception to the rule?

I knew of a guy who blogged about “what a joke” his interviews were and how easy it was to get an offer from this company.  What happened?  His offer was rescinded immediately.

Employers want to know that they are hiring someone who is respectable and represents their business well.  In client interfacing roles, this is especially important.  What if a client happens to come across your profile… and you have a photo of yourself passed out on the sidewalk from your 21st birthday?

Not so hot, right?  They will wonder–is this guy serious?  Is he really trying to build a relationship with me when he can’t even compose himself?  The photo, of course, is completely out of context, but unfortunately, no one is going to ask about the circumstances around one inappropriate photo.

Don’t be that person.  Leverage social media to your advantage.  Or just make everything private!

Your Elevator Pitch

17 08 2009

Alisa B. from Boise, Idaho posted me a message on LinkedIn and I thought that it was totally relevant for everyone else, too!  So here goes…

Stephanie-I loved your posting but here is my dilemna: I have been doing a lot of research online about personal branding and I have seen so many blog postings and web articles on the subject but I have yet to have an author give me examples of what are good branding statements or 30-second elevator pitch statements. Isn’t that how much time you have to engage your audience? What would you consider to be a good couple examples of strong branding statements? Thanks so much for your insight!

To be honest, I don’t believe the idea that you have 30-seconds to sell yourself in an interview.   I really don’t think it’s true.  Let’s break it down… what could people possibly learn about you in 30-seconds?

  1. Your level confidence and your presence (or lack thereof).
  2. Your communication skills and the ability to articulate your ideas.
  3. Your level of engagement (eye contact, active listening, ability to understand what they say).
  4. Perhaps some astounding accomplishments… but really, the majority of us are quite average–I know I am!
  5. Perhaps an interest/passion or 2.
  6. Perhaps you said something that piqued their curiosity.  But that probably will vary by person.

If you can’t yet deliver on 1-4, please practice.  For those of you who are confident, good communicators, engaged, and have some great accomplishments to boast about, let’s move on.

Nowadays, people have the opportunity to provide an abundance of information about their strengths beyond 30-seconds of face time at a career fair.  I would encourage people to get creative, and get scalable.   Build a website about yourself, your interests, your specialties, your accomplishments.   Tweet.  Leverage social media to show them your influence and scope of interests.  People are searching.  Let them find you.  You’re awesome, just unemployed!

So how long do you really have to sell them on you?  Well, you have 30 minutes, 45 minutes, 60 minutes, however long they’ve scheduled you for your interview!  But you should always try your best to start and end strong.  Albeit, most interviewers know in the first 10 minutes (first few questions) if you’re a fit for the role or the company.   That being said–you won’t be able to gauge how well or poorly you’re doing in the interview, so don’t focus on that–focus on delivering YOU and solving their problems.

Therefore, positive impressions are important, so how can you make sure this impression is a good one?

You understand their business and gave personal attention to understanding how they differ from their competitors.
You have done as much research as possible to understand the role and to understand the company and what it does.  You’ve looked for similar people on  You’ve read the latest news articles on the role/business/industry.  You are interested.  You really are.   You also either have direct experience, or you have translatable experience and you can articulate how this might be helpful.

Understand their company mission statement and philosophies.
Not every company has this, but many of them will.  In your sales pitch, or interview–whatever,
provide solid examples that tie you in with their core philosophies & mission.  Let’s use McKinsey & Company, a top consulting firm, as an example.  Their “What We Believe” page (as of 8/17/09) says that they aim to…
1)  Put the client’s interest ahead of our own. (How do you do this in your daily life?  at work?  at school? Articulate it.)
2)  Behave as professionals. (Good grief, see my guest post on Recession Mama as an example of an extreme no-no.)
3)  Keep our client information confidential. (You can bet they’re going to ask you about a time when you were asked to keep or breach a secret.)
4)  Tell the truth as we see it. (Have you ever stood up and said, “That’s not right, because…” or “I know a better way…” and you saved the company from harm?)
5)  Deliver the best of our firm to every client as cost effectively as we can. (How have you solved a problem and come up with the trim, streamlined solution?)

Sense of self.
Really–what are your core motivations for choosing their company?  Are you a walking model of their core philosophies and business practices?  I once went into an interview with a potential employer and (being honest) I told them that I would love to work for them for a few years and that I would love to move on to a larger company.  They later told me that as much as they loved me for the role, they knew my heart wasn’t in it long term, so they gave it to the next person.  But it was important that I didn’t get it.  I wouldn’t have been happy.  You should be really honest about what motivates you and what gets you excited to wake up in the morning.  They are looking for people who want to wake up in the morning and do what they do every day.  If that’s not you, then don’t worry–there is a company that is just right for you.

Square Peg, Round Hole (From, December 8, 2007, by danstorey14)

Square Peg, Round Hole (From, December 8, 2007, by danstorey14)

For the average person, there is no one size fits all pitch, unless you’ve started your own company, competed in the Olympics, or played at Carnegie Hall at the age of 12 (or something else that very few people in the world can say that they’ve done).  So, voila.  If you’re averagely unique, like me, your sales pitch will change by company and it will show them how YOU are aligned with THEM in every way.

But don’t take my word for it–what are your stories?  Does this really work or not?

Revised 4 hours later: haha — I’m re-reading Alisa’s questions and the short answer is that there’s no secret sauce for the elevator pitch which is why no one gives an example of a good one.  Hopefully, you can align your strengths and experiences with each company’s core principles and show them how you’re a shoe-in for the role.  Thirty seconds or 30 minutes, at all points in the conversation, this perfect alignment of you and the company should be apparent to your interviewer (or recruiter, or whoever).  Funny how it takes writing a novel to finally come to a 3 sentence conclusion! 🙂  Thank you for reading!! 🙂

Who knew you were a salesman? (or woman!)

13 08 2009

One of the fundamental tricks to being an effective salesperson is listening to people’s pain points and providing them with solutions that will alleviate their troubles.  The solution being your product.

What people forget is that you are your own product every day.  I am my best asset.  My brain, my experience, my ability to find common ground and connect with someone.  These assets are the foundation for my product.  ME!  (did you see the first sentence in the paragraph?)

Storybook from Gao Guangyans Loneoceans Freehand Art Gallery

Storybook from Gao Guangyan's Loneoceans Freehand Art Gallery

Tell your story

When you finally get your interviewers in the room, they are going to ask you a series of questions that help them understand your story.  Who are you?  What are your strengths?  What are your potential weaknesses and are these weaknesses deal breakers for the role?

Be prepared to tell them your story.  Who are you?  Where did you come from?  How did you get here?

I’m Stefanie.  I am from San Francisco and I’m a middle child.  I also happen to have innate leadership skills that showed in early days of high school student government and manifested itself in numerous adventurous endeavors including entertainment PR, studying abroad, career centers and computer labs.  How did I get there?  Consistent hard work, the ability to stay calm during a crisis and my ability to connect with people.  What is your story?

(Your story is not a chance for you to brag about yourself, even if you are that amazing.  It is the beginning of your honest salesman pitch.   By being honest about who you are, what struggles you may have faced, and why you’re an asset, you are showing off your product.  You!)

Listening Image courtesy of Network Solutions

Listening from Network Solutions

Next.  Ask questions the right questions and listen.  Actively.

Employers hire because they have a need to be filled.  It’s not just a job to them.  They have a business critical service that you are going to need to deliver on.  They might be short handed, they might need you to file papers for the first 2 months.  Whatever it is, you, the astute interviewee, should figure out what it is that they need, and then figure out how you can help to fulfill that need.
And make their lives easier.

They need someone who is great with excel, because they have these crazy spreadsheets of data that need to be combed and analyzed.  Is that you?  They need someone who has a great visual eye to design a new website for their company.  Is that you?  If you are not good at solving their problem, should you try to fit yourself in as their solution?  Probably not.

For the employer, it’s a bigger pain in the butt for them to train you on common tasks than to hire someone else who knows how to do it already.  Think round hole, square peg.

That being said, brush up and stay current with your skills, regardless of whether you are employed.  Being nimble and well versed in various languages (not just linguistics, but programming, and business/law/industry jargon), tools, and subject matters are going to be your biggest asset.

Woah.  I just told you what your biggest assets are.  Your skills and expertise.  But then, I’ve been telling you this from the start!  Refine them, expand your knowledge base, and then sell them YOU in your next interview.  You can do it!

Why?  You’re awesome.  You’re just unemployed. 🙂