All posts by Andy Wilkinson

Buzzwords, Jargon and other LinkedIn Problems

One person’s Head of Procurement is another person’s Procurement Executive and another person’s Vice President of Procurement and Supply Chain. How do you ensure your LinkedIn profile isn’t confusing employers and holding back your career?

LinkedIn currently boasts over 460 million users and two new signups per second. If that makes you feel like a very tiny fish in a very large pond, don’t worry, you’re not alone! But that doesn’t mean you can’t find ways to stand out from the crowd.

Some members are scouting for jobs, others are scouting for new hires, and some would like to consider themselves passive users, not placing much importance in their online CV. But, whatever your motivations or opinions, a vast amount of people will have their LinkedIn profile vetted by a prospective employer; it could be the make or break to getting that job. So you really ought to get it right!

How are people finding me on LinkedIn? 

Recruiters, headhunters and employers will visit your profile for a number of reasons. You might have been recommended or referred to them by a colleague or friend. Perhaps they searched for someone with your skillset or career history and stumbled across you by chance or maybe you’ve already applied for a role and they’re performing a final suitability check.

Whether you’re looking for a new role today or in five years time you need a LinkedIn profile that’s ready to go. Don’t take the risk of missing out on a dream role you didn’t know you wanted because a recruiter landed on your empty shell of profile.

Here are my top tips for making your profile shine.

Profile Summary

The latest LinkedIn update gives a huge amount of weighting to the top 2 lines in the summary field of your profile. This is the first thing anyone will see when they view a preview of your profile, which makes them the most critical. Keep it as engaging and informative as possible.

Keywords

LinkedIn searches work by users highlighting keywords. If you want to be found by the relevant people, you need to use the right buzzwords. Do some research into the market you want to be employed in; what sort of job titles and job descriptions are used? Which key words are used over and over again? What words would your dream employer use to try and find someone like you?

Job Title/Headline

Job Titles are an independently searchable field. You have 100 characters, make sure you use them wisely.

What would someone searching for you look for? Somewhere, somehow that’s what your job title needs to have in it.

Instead of having one searchable string, you can have more than one title in your profile:

The second example would result in the profile coming up in significantly more searches.

Company

It might sound obvious but make sure you are listed as working for the right company. Your company might have 30 or 40 subsidiaries, countries, brands associated with it. GSK, for example, has 514 results (and that’s ignoring GlaxoSmithKline which has another 350)!

But again, this is a searchable field so make sure you are on the one with the largest population or the most obvious one.

If you are a recruiter searching for a specific brand you might not take the time to make sure you’ve got exactly the right company. Don’t take the risk – get yourself on the biggest and the best (or most relevant).

Role

If you’ve been promoted within a business make sure you represent that explicitly on your profile. Adding a new position gives you the opportunity to tick the majority of these boxes again:

  • Successful
  • New summary box: more keywords and success
  • New job title: more job title keywords

Jargon

If keywords are the No.1 thing you are searching for, jargon is exactly the opposite. If your company calls it one thing but everyone else calls it something different your current boss is going to be the only person that will find you!

Be aware, too, you might not be aware just how jargon-filled your job title is if you’ve worked in the same business for a while. So take some time to find that out. Search for someone similar to you and see what they call it. And then such for some more for verification!

Help! A Potential Employer Asked For My Facebook Password

You’re in the middle of a job interview when the recruiter shocks you by asking for your Facebook password, citing “company policy”. Do you: A) Meekly hand it over; B) Kick over your chair and storm out; or C) Politely but firmly refuse?

Have you ever been asked to hand over your social media details in a job interview? Don’t panic – it’s probably just a stress test.

Stress tests are designed to put you under pressure and see how you handle it. They range from grilling you about your weaknesses, to subjecting you to a barrage of quick-fire questions to try to fluster or catch you off-guard.

Heineken took this to the extreme in their viral recruitment video where interviewees are subjected to a range of stressful situations, including a creepy hand-holding interviewer who later feigns a heart attack. While it’s fun to watch, there’s a lesson here – in an age where candidates often give text-book answers to text-book interview questions, recruiters are looking for ways to separate the wheat from the chaff.

“We need your Facebook login details”

Your three potential reactions:

A) Meekly handing over your password: Wrong answer. This shows that firstly, you’re desperate for this job and secondly, you’re a pushover. Is this how you would behave when representing the company in a tough negotiation?

B) Anger: You’ve fallen into the trap. Even though it’s an outrageous demand, getting angry only demonstrates that you won’t be able to remain calm in the face of on-the-job pressure.

C) Politely but firmly refuse: Correct! You were on the lookout for a stress test, and you’ve identified this one as such. This takes the pressure off, allowing you to present a calm and logical response.

Unfortunately, that’s easy to say and hard to do!

How to say “no” politely 

  1. Call them out

If you’ve read the situation correctly, then you could simply respond by saying, “This is one of those stress-tests, right?”, and then launch into a detailed explanation of how you’re able to stay calm under pressure, with examples.

If they still insist, and genuinely appear to be demanding your Facebook login (and you still want this job), then you’ll need an excuse beyond the bare fact that you don’t want them seeing your drunken photos from the big party last weekend.

  1. Privacy

“I have an obligation to protect my friends’ privacy. They have their own privacy policies set on their accounts to safeguard themselves and their loved ones and that’s their right. If I start sharing their information with potential employers then I’ll have broken my trust with them.”

  1. Work/life

“For me, work and home are two separate things. I’m careful to keep work-related posts off my Facebook page, so it’s in no way relevant to any potential employers.”

  1. Direct to LinkedIn

“I think you mean LinkedIn? While I wouldn’t hand over my login details, I’d be happy to connect with you on LinkedIn so you can see how I present myself professionally on social media.”

  1. Show me yours and I’ll show you mine

This one’s a bit more provocative! “Absolutely fine – I think this is a great idea. I’d also like to see the type of team I’m joining, so if you can share your log-in details, along with your director’s and all the team members’ Facebook passwords, then I’d be happy to share mine.”

  1. Throw the question back at them

Whatever you decide to say, it’s vital you do so in a professional, calm and reasonable way. In a stress test, how you say it is more important than what you say. The interviewer will be judging your response, attitude and manner, but you can turn the tables by asking them to put themselves in your shoes.

For example:

  • “I’m sure you would agree …”
  • “I’m sure that if you were in my position…”
  • “From a privacy perspective, my friends wouldn’t be comfortable with me showing their information to people. I’m sure your friends and family would agree.”

Asking someone to put themselves in your position makes it almost impossible to be offended by a calm and rational argument.

In the end, keep in mind that there is no right answer to a stress-test question. It’s designed to judge how you react, so be confident in whichever answer you choose.

Want That Job? 7 Pitfalls To Avoid On Your CV

This seasoned recruiter skim-reads CVs for an average of two to three seconds before deciding whether to read them in their entirety. How can you make sure your CV doesn’t end up in the bin? 

Even with the digital revolution changing the world, CVs are still the Number 1 way to showcase your skills and achievements to a new employer or recruiter.

Before a prospective employer reads a CV they may well have supporting information in the form of a referral,  LinkedIn profile or a cover letter. But however good any supporting information might be, the CV is still the deciding factor when it comes to getting you a face-to-face meeting.

Recruiters have to place even more credibility on the CV than line managers. I have read over 250,000 CVs in my recruitment career and can skim read a CV in two to three seconds to decide if I want to read it in its entirety. If you are reading 100-400 CVs a day, can you really spare the time to read a cover letter as well? The CV is still king!

My goal whenever I am coaching CV writing is:

To make it as easy as possible for the reader to find the information they are looking for.

Worst case scenario: you have two to three seconds to get someone’s attention, so you need to give them the information they need as easily and accessibly as possible. When you think about your CV from this perspective you will need to make sure you identify your audience correctly to ensure it’s hitting their criteria.

Make sure you don’t fall into these traps:

1. Not Making The Most Of Your Success

Most people avoid talking about success like the plague. But if you’re writing a list of your responsibilities, the very least you need to demonstrate is that you have completed those tasks. Ask yourself:

  • Is it obvious I am successful?
  • Did I deliver this bullet point/responsibility?
  • Could a cynic read this and interpret it as failure?

You spent a whole lot of effort and time doing these things. At least take credit for what you delivered.

2. Inducing Claustrophobia

The majority of CVs look cluttered. Not “easy for the reader to find the information they are looking for”. Make it an appealing document to look at:

  • Decrease your margin widths (1” – 1.5” margins are fine)
  • Use white space

-90% of bullet points should be two lines maximum. If most of your bullet points are longer than that, look at splitting them into two points.

-Don’t have massive blocks of bullet points together. Four to five bullet points is enough. If you have any more than that, split them into sensible headings (Responsibilities and Achievements; Categories and Savings; Projects and Delivery etc).

-Have a small space between roles.

  • Font

-Make it an easy-to-read font (Times New Roman, Arial, Calibri, Garamond)

-Don’t worry about size too much. People read CV’s on a screen so can zoom in if they need to. (10 – 12 pt is fine)

3. Contact Details Taking Up Your Prime Real Estate

Geoff Molloy BSc (Hons)

132 Partridge Way, Bishops Stortford, Essex, CM23 3XY

Tel 01279 333 444

Mob 07788 111 222

E-mail Geoff.molloy1956@gmail.com

Most people have their contact details at the top of their CV. You have two seconds to get their attention and you want them to read your phone number? It doesn’t make sense when you think about it unless you think your phone number, address or e-mail address is the single factor that will get them to give you a call!

Move them down to the footer and reduce your address down to town and postcode.

4. Information Above Your Career History/Experience

The problem with adding information above your career history is that it’s hard to make it contextual. Context is the only difference in impact between meeting an

IT Director

or

IT Director for Google

The difference between these two people would probably be significant and, but for a tiny change, you wouldn’t know it.

Try and keep the information above your career history to a minimum. It’s useful to be able to summarise your skills/experience/achievements etc but be aware that it loses impact if it’s not contextualised by the role you were in when you delivered it.

5. Proof-Read, Spell Check

Make sure it’s perfect. Spelling, grammar or punctuation are all indications to the employer. Some people get really irritated by mistakes so make sure you don’t put them off immediately!

  • Your/you’re
  • Were/we’re/where
  • Its/it’s

Get a friend/colleague/pedant to read your CV after you have checked it, and checked it, and checked it.

6. Squeezing Your CV Onto 2 Pages

If your CV is well written, relevant, articulate, demonstrates success and is easy to get the information the reader is looking for, it doesn’t matter how long it is (within reason). “Two pages” is a myth. But, if you’re going over the page make sure you use the next page fully.

If you’re not convinced, look at it the other way. If it’s awful they won’t get to the end of the first page! Make sure your CV is giving them the information they want in an accessible way. They will read it if you are relevant.

7. References

“References available on request” or “Reference Details”. Once you have risen above “School Leaver”, everyone assumes you have references so it adds no value and takes up space. In fact, it probably impacts negatively as it raises some doubt in the reader’s mind. If they want references they will ask you.

About the Author

I set up The Chameleon Career Consultancy to coach CV Writing, Interview Technique and Linkedin Profile writing building on over a decade of corporate recruitment specialising in Procurement and Supply Chain Professionals. During that 11 year period I read in the region of 250,000 CVs (100 a day for 11 years as a conservative estimate!). I made the decision to take a sideways step out of recruitment to help the candidates get the roles they really deserve.

If you would like any advice on any of these areas or more help on your CV feel free to get in touch at andy.wilkinson@thechameleon.org or www.thechameleon.org or our Linkedin page.

Does Your CV Pack a Punch for a Real Live Human?

It’s all very well being able to get your CV past a computer algorithm. But how can you make sure it packs a punch when it lands in front of a human?

optimise cv for human

In my previous article, I discussed the power of using the right keywords to make sure your CV gets past the recruitment gates. With more recruiters than ever using digital searching and algorithms for creating candidate long-lists, you want to be sure that your CV stands up digitally.

Now let’s assume you’ve got your CV past the robots, and in front of a real, live human being. Impressing the robots isn’t nearly enough, we need to get a human on side too! You want to be sure that, having got the CV past the algorithm, a human is going to be suitably impressed, and invite you to meet face-to-face.

While the last piece was just as relevant for LinkedIn, this article is much more applicable to CVs. LinkedIn has very different requirements, so applying the premise of this article to it should be done carefully.

We’ll look at a couple of things in this article that should help your prospective recruiter or employer find the most relevant information to them, in as fast a time as possible.

Reverse-Engineering

At this stage it’s still key to have the right keywords in place. Whether formal or subconscious, our human will have made a list of things they are looking for. Whether they are reading or just scanning your CV, I guarantee there will be phrases they are looking for.

You need to ask yourself, “What is the searcher looking for? How can I show that in an easy to find and accessible way?”

If you deliver that in your CV, your CV will make the “long-list” more often, giving your CV more chances.

Your keywords are the backbone of the CV. You identify your keywords, your core skills and competencies, and then build your CV around that to demonstrate that you are the right person for the role. The only two things a CV can ever positively demonstrate are:

  • What you’ve done
  • How well you’ve done it

What we are trying to do is lay out your skills in an achievement-focused, concise manner. Remember, the reader’s attention might be as short as 3-5 seconds for recruiters, and 7-10 seconds for HR or line managers.

So how do you put across what you’ve done in a professional, concise and achievement focused manner? The good news is Procurement is one of the easiest sectors to be able to do this. Bear with me!

How to Structure a Bullet Point

If you follow this structure your CV will be easy for people to pick out what they are looking for.

Word 1: Pro-active language

The use of pro-active language as the first word in each bullet point allows you to be more concise. It also gives the reader the impression you are a “get up and go” personality without you having you say it.

Use words like:

  • Drove
  • Delivered
  • Implemented
  • Initiated
  • Took ownership for

There are obviously hundreds more, but you want it to make it obvious you took the bull by the horns, and YOU did whatever it was.

Word 2-5: Subject

Putting the subject second in the structure allows someone looking for something specific to skip the rest of the line if this isn’t what they are looking for. You only get 10 seconds to make your impact, make sure they are looking at what you want them looking at for that 10 seconds.

For example, “Drove marketing spend consolidation”.

Words 5-10: Achievement or Responsibility

If you are writing your CV with separate Responsibility and Achievement sections, then you will need to vary this.

In Responsibility section

  1. Pro-active language
  2. Subject – responsibility
  3. Achievement

In Achievement

  1. Pro-active language
  2. Achievement
  3. Responsibility

Make sure you put meat on the bones here and use quantitative numbers. You wouldn’t sell your boss a project to “save some money”. You would say something along the lines of “with an investment here we can save 10 per cent or £30,000”.

The 4 groups of people you are trying to communicate with are Procurement, Board level executives, recruiters or HR. All of these groups are highly numerate and commercial.

HR can be less so, but quantitative deliver more information and are hardly ever detrimental (as long as your CV doesn’t turn into a Suduko puzzle!). Use their language to your advantage.

The quantitatives don’t even need to be value based – they could be man-hours, supplier consolidations, or times. But people remember numbers (that’s why politicians use them) so put them in. It will also make your CV more concise.

For example, “Drove marketing spend consolidation with senior stakeholder and supplier engagement saving £500,000 annually.”

Past Tense

Always put your CV in the past tense. If you forget to add an achievement, or can’t find one, then just being in the past tense (with the right language) implies success.

If you do those 4 things consistently your CV will be a document that will be easy to read and interpret as well as look professional and put across a massive amount of your success and delivery.

Building on over a decade of corporate recruitment (and reading in the region of 250,000 CVs), Andy Wilkinson set up The Chameleon Career Consultancy to coach CV Writing, Interview Technique and LinkedIn Profile writing. 

If you would like any advice on any of these areas or more help on your CV feel free to get in touch by e-mail, or visit the Chameleon website or LinkedIn page.

How to Get Your CV in Front of a Real Person & Past an Algorithm

As recruiters change the way they filter and select candidates, you’ll need to revolutionise your CV to make sure it lands on their desk.

Digital CV

The Corporate World has changed more in the last 20 years than at any time in history, procurement probably more than most. The Procurement function wasn’t even represented on Boards and certainly wasn’t a strategic, value-add function.

However, the importance of the CV hasn’t changed, and in the wake of the ‘Procurement Revolution’ comes a necessary ‘CV Revolution’.

What’s Really Changed?

Recruitment fees have been halved in the last 10 years with RPO’s, Procurement, and internal recruitment teams, all driving down costs. This has meant that recruiters (either agency or internal) have had to become agile and change methodologies.

They need to be quicker, and better, at identifying good candidates. Unfortunately, this has driven more and more investment in IT, rather than the human factor. This means CVs need to be different now to 10 years ago.

Digital CV Searching Now the Norm

To stand out, a CV now needs to be readable by a human, but first by an algorithm, or search software, to get it on the longlist. It’s vital that your CV is set up to pass the algorithm test.

The good news, though, is that if you know the rules, you can use it to your advantage. With some small changes to your CV, you can end up on more longlists, giving you more chance, not less, that decision-making humans will be reading your CV (or LinkedIn profile).

Whether you are looking to optimise your CV or LinkedIn profile, the first thing you need to do is put yourself in the mind of the searchers. Whether it’s HR managers, internal recruiters, external recruiters or line managers, they should be searching for similar things. But you need to understand what they are looking for, and how they are looking for it.

Manually added codes or keywords are the only 2 ways of searching LinkedIn and CV databases. Manual codes are added by the person viewing your CV, so are purely subjective. But if your CV is focussed enough, it should be coded right by anyone that knows their business.

Getting your keywords right is the silver bullet to either scenario.

Keywords – What are Mine?

Keywords for CV searches are exactly what you think. They can be anything, depending on what the searcher could be looking for. They might be specific or vague (BSc Hons vs Degree; MCIPS vs CIPS). Or they might include category, industry, level, achievement, or team size, or similar.

To work out what your keywords are, you need to think about what the searcher will be looking for when recruiting the role:

  • Categories
  • Industry sectors
  • Management level
  • Competencies
  • Technical skills
  • Software
  • Languages
  • Education level
  • Qualifications

Some of these are simple, but if you’re struggling to come up with keywords for tougher questions, come at it from a different angle:

  • Which are the things you are most proud of?
  • What is your boss and business happiest with?
  • What projects have you been on?
  • Do you have old appraisals or what did you discuss in them?
  • If you’ve been applying for jobs what are the similarities (and therefore keywords) between them?

Once you have your keywords, you need to add them fluidly into your CV. Some keyword searching software counts the amount of keywords and rates the CV appropriately, so don’t be afraid to add them 3 or 4 times (where appropriate).

And so it doesn’t stand out as overkill, spread the critical ones through your summary, a job title and a job overview.

Word Configuration Oddities – Beware

Depending on the software’s (and searchers’) complexity and skill, it may search in a number of ways. Don’t assume these are Google-level algorithms – they absolutely aren’t. Some engines and searchers will search for a specific word string which will not be flexible.

For example, if they search for “Marketing Category Manager” then “Category Manager Marketing” wouldn’t come up.

There are ways to search for these strings (or any other configuration), but you should set your CV up on the basis that it’s being read by the cheapest, simplest system possible, run by the least IT literate searcher. Plan for the worst and hope for the best.

To get around this, make sure you vary the word order through your CV, so you will catch whichever configuration they are searching.

Multiple Category Job Titles

For the same reason, make sure you shake up your technical skills.

  • IT/Telco Procurement Manager
  • IT/Telco Category Manager
  • Hardware/Software Category Manager
  • Procurement and Supply Chain Manager

In these examples, if someone does a basic search for IT Category Manager, IT Procurement Manager, Hardware Category Manager or Procurement Manager, then you won’t appear in the search. Make sure you vary it, switching it around in job titles, your personal summary and job overviews.

This gets harder as you get to an executive level but play around with the idea.

Natural Text

Never forget that you are trying to make your CV as easy to read as possible. Don’t shoehorn keywords in – the holy grail is to get your keywords in your CV without anyone noticing what you’ve done.

Natural text is critical. There’s no point getting past the algorithm hurdle to get rejected because it doesn’t make any sense to a human. Thankfully we are still a way away from the robots rising up and making these decisions for us!

Alarm Bells

If you’re getting lots of calls for completely irrelevant roles, you may well have the wrong keywords on your CV, or the wrong codes on their system.

Feel free to ask how they searched for your details. If they use codes, ask what codes they have, and feel free to help them correct them if you feel they’re wrong.

Make sure your keywords are clear. There are a number of categories that could be mistaken for other roles (Marketing and IT are a couple). Make sure it’s obvious in these areas that it’s procurement you are responsible for, and not marketing as a department.

I hope this helps you tweak your CV and make it appear in more, better, searches.

Building on over a decade of corporate recruitment (and reading in the region of 250,000 CVs), Andy Wilkinson set up The Chameleon Career Consultancy to coach CV Writing, Interview Technique and LinkedIn Profile writing. 

If you would like any advice on any of these areas or more help on your CV feel free to get in touch by e-mail, or visit the Chameleon website or LinkedIn page.