How to Effectively Manage Resume Dilemmas?

Frequent movement from one job to another was not in practice sometimes back on account of the recent global slowdown, however, time is changing fast and we might see some really good opportunities coming our way. If you are looking forward to a career change, there could be a possibility that you would like to revisit your resume and want to rectify mistakes committed in the past. It could in the form of frequent job movements, gaps in resume or inexperience in certain fields.

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 We cannot run from the facts however, they need to be presented in such a fashion that they do not harm our future job prospects.

Finding answers to questions on why would a particular employer hire you or what advantage the organization will have after your recruitment will surely help you to tackle on the above mentioned dilemmas.

Let us check few of the points that needs to be kept in mind while managing and handling such situations.

 How To Answer Questions On Frequent Job Changes?

You got your first break after college and down the line in six months time you realised it wasn’t your cup of tea. What would you do? You make a fresh resume and escalate it to every job portal online & consultant in town trying desperately to move out from the current role before getting type casted. You bounce on the first oppurtunity that you get without thinking on the pros and cons and  ultimately realise that nothing has changed for you. You are still struggling to keep pace and interest with your new job profile and suddenly you find your self trapped in a confusing situation. I am not saying that these frequent job hopings are on account of job dissatisfaction only however, people also choose to change for salary hikes and higher designations. The situation above, be it for any reason whatsoever reflects instability in your profile. There is a lot of time, effort, energy & resources invested on a candidate once he is hired in an organization. Your value in the employer’s eye is reduced as your frequent job changes tendencies & periods of unemployment  might force him to re think on your candidature. If you would have been hiring for your own company, will you prefer to recruit a person whose past records reflects instability. You would definitley not like to take a person whom you train, spend time and then loose to someone else.

The question that arises here is how to handle such situation. If you already have frequent breaks in your career, then try to show how effectively you spent that time. Mention any sort of training, workshops, freelance assignments undertaken by you during that time. Keep yourself updated on the changing market trends. The point I would like to make here is that the employer wants to know that irrespective of  your movement what value or knowledge you added or gained in yourself. If the movement was just a mere change then your stint goes un justified. If job jumps is your problem, then try mentioning it together with other experiences, so as to remove focus from it.

How To Handle Questions Related To Gap In Employment?

So the question pondering in your mind is how to justify a long holiday break, or break on account of some family problem or finding explanations behind your sabbatical. This would involve a serious re work on your resume format where you don’t mention organization name, dates etc so that majority of focus is on your key responsibilities and deliverables. Mention your achievements, positives in the role and how you were able to solve critical problems in the organization. Use your covering letter as a tool to explain the reason behind the break and what you did when you were not working.

Here the employer wants to know that inspite of the gap in the employment of an individual what all he has learnt and retained from his previous assignments which can be beneficial for his organization. Your gap in employment will help him to negotiate and bring you ona lesser salary package than budgeted. So for him your recruitment can result in overall cost reduction for his process.

I Got Laid Off.  It Wasn’t My Fault!

Are you still struggling to get a decent job that can match your skills? The recent economic turmoil caused a great deal of upheaval in people’s careers. It is best to be honest if you are among those who got retrenched. You need not mention it in the resume but talk about it during the interview, if asked. In the CV, talk about your projects, achievements, cost-saving initiatives, new processes defined, awards won, teams managed etc. The employers today understand that the majority of talent lost their jobs on account of the global slow down however, this has also lead to a series of initiatives taken by those organizations who were not hit by this turmoil. The people whom they can’t afford yesterday are employees of today. Don’t worry if you are worthy enough there is a seat vacant in an organization waiting to be occupied by you.

How do I Get A Break, I am A Fresher?

The only drawback a fresher experiences is in terms of his industry interface.  A fresher normally finds herself/himself without a solid foundation on which to build a winning resume. Here are some tips to use while writing your resume/CV.

  • Use a proper resume format and avoid copying from others. This happened in our college when a company came for campus, they were surprised to see that the career objective of all students was same. Even if you copy, keep certain things personlized and exclusive to your self;
  • Let the employer know how you could add value in his organization;
  • Do not make your objectives too flowery, keep them business like;
  • Write about your internships, projects, workshops attended;
  • Mention awards and marks (only if it is first class).

Do I Need Specialization or Degree?

Not necessary, however important. At some point in your career you will realize that even if you are an expert, for climbing the next step you will definitely require a professioinal degree. I have seen many people cribbing after 10-15 years of experience on the issue of stagnation and less future growth oppurtunities. It is possible to get a job without a degree, but as you progress, it is the most important requirement for a fast-paced career growth. If you are short on laurels, then stress on the practical training you have received over the years. If you are studying for a degree, then mention it under academic qualifications. Never hesitate to send your resume because of the lack of a degree. If you are competent and right for the job, you will be hired anyway. But still I would like you to join a part time course or any reputed institute which can provide you with a degree.

Bring Doubles of Everything to an Interview

Preparation for an interview is of utmost importance as it maximises your chances of success. This preparation includes how you talk, how you face the interviewer, how you dress and, last but not the least, what you need to carry for the interview. In addition to a list of questions you want to ask and a pen and notepad you should also bring duplicate copies of anything else that you may need to provide to the interviewer.

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When booking the interview, ask if there is anything specific you should bring with you (normally references is the only requirement). But if you are applying for a driving job, a driver’s abstract may be required or if you are applying as a writer you may be asked to bring in a sample of your work.

Make sure to write down the requested items to bring and make duplicates. If more than one person is going to interview you, bring one for each of them and then one more. This show forethought and preparedness. You also don’t want to make your interviewer look bad by not being prepared if they forgot or lost your resume. Let them know that you brought an extra copy for them and hand it over. Chances are this won’t happen, but won’t you be happy if it does and you are prepared? By brining more copies than are required, you can provide your extra copy to the other interviewers so they are not all huddled around the one copy of your writing portfolio or resume.

Your work portfolio: If you are in a creative profile, presenting your portfolio is as important as the way you present yourself. Do not carry the entire catalogue of what you have done; only choose your best work. Also, upload your work and share the link for future reference.

Client testimonials: In many sectors, especially where you deal with clients, testimonials or recommendation letters are essential as it certifies and thereby recommends you to the potential recruiters. Even if you are not asked to bring references to the interview, take the time to type out and print copies anyway. If the interview went well you are sure to be asked for them and this again, shows that you think ahead and make the necessary preparations. Do not show up without any special documents that were specifically requested of you, if you do not think you can obtain them in the timeframe given be sure to let the person know before you arrive for the interview.

If you are just out of college, you can carry college awards, teachers’ recommendations and reference letters, although never talk about all this before you are asked for it. But the golden rule is not to carry too much and make yourself look silly in the first interview. Rather, speak smartly and be frank about the fact that you are a fresher, underlining your eagerness to learn. In addition to all this, do not forget to wear your smile and carry your confidence -these are the essentials that would finally make you click in the interview.

Be Honest in Job Interviews

There is a difference between telling a story highlighting the positive to make you sound better and lying to the interviewer.  It is rare for a company to not conduct reference check these days so don’t say anything that can not be verified by your boss or other references that you provide.

There are many ways to get into trouble during an interview and lying is the most severe.  Common fibs that are told include educational degrees that you do not hold, saying that you are a manager when really you are a team lead and taking credit for a project that was completed by a coworker.  All of these things can make you sound good at the time of the interview, but what if the interviewer talks to your boss about the stellar project you ran for the company when it really wasn’t you.  Your boss is not going to lie for you and if you were in the running for the job, you won’t be anymore.

The best way to handle these scenarios is to tell the truth but put you in the best light.  Maybe you were a part of the project, instead tell the interviewer the part you played and share the success of the project as a whole.  An employee that can recognize and share in the success in others is preferable to one who doesn’t tell the truth or wants all of the credit for themselves.

This does not mean that you have to share all anything that doesn’t put you in a positive position though.  The key is to be honest and only bring up examples that are going to highlight your talents and work history in the best possible way.  Don’t claim or state anything that cannot be backed up by your references.

Responsible HR: Employee Management

In this tough economic environment it becomes vital for HR Managers to set clear goals and expectations for their employees; and provide them with appropriate feedback. Hence, there is a need for employee involvement and a creative appraisal system to be introduced by the HR department.   

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This year the global economic meltdown that affected almost every industry, forced HR managers to be creative and make some major amendments in their policies. Even the performance appraisal systems were restructured and rewritten.

In today’s stressful economy, HR managers have a major responsibility in handling the annual appraisal system. When everyone’s worried about what the future holds, it’s very difficult to discuss employee expectations for the upcoming year. It’s a challenge for many HR Managers to devise a methodology to be adopted during these tough times and to keep employees motivated and engaged for the forthcoming year. With several companies resorting to measures like retrenchment, pay cuts, etc., many employees feel that appraisals, this year, may not hold any significance.

Therefore, one significant question that needs to be addressed by HR Managers is how to conduct and execute robust appraisal system during these turbulent times and more importantly, how can employees derive learnings out of it and add value to the process, irrespective of what the future of the turbulent economy holds?

Some of the ways in which we as HR managers can tackle such situations are mentioned below:

 a) Devising an Effective communication strategy among employees:

Performance appraisal is important at all times, but becomes even more important during tough times. With the growing level of uncertainty and anxiety, the need for effective communication with employees becomes vital as does ongoing feedback. Communication minimizes rumors, which if not managed properly, can lead to grave consequences. The HR need to share with employees of his/her strengths and also jot down employee contribution. Non-performers need to be told exactly where they are lacking and should be given timelines to improve on their performance.

b) Career Planning for the Employee:

 Many employees feel that the economic situation should not be a deterrent to the performance management system of any organization. A performance appraisal is a critical aspect of any employee’s career growth. As an HR Manager you should take it very seriously and it’s an effective tool for career planning. An appraisal process should provide a clear understanding of the employee’s and the company’s expectations from the Human Resource department, tasks that the HR is doing well and areas where it needs some improvement and a clear path for growth in the current assignments and beyond.

c) Sharing of true financials of the company with the employees:

Though the situation is not good, employees still expect the same methodology of appraisals to be adopted even if the rewards and upgrades may be few and far between. The employees expect the organization to be as honest as possible and let them know of its true financial health and how much it has been affected by the global meltdown.

d) Making Performance Management System valuable for both:

What is it that can make an appraisal valuable for the employee and the employer? Contrary to popular belief, an employee’s contribution can go a long way in making an appraisal valuable at all times. The HR Manager must ensure that his/her employees and their managers are in alignment to the goals and expectations. The measurement criteria and key milestones should be clear, well understood and agreed to, by both the parties. Moreover, the HR Manager must share feedback regarding the employee to make him understand his/her skill sets better and to further develop his/her capabilities. The employee should also be open to learning additional skills to add more value to the organization. An employee should be open to feedback and ask for help, in case needed, to improve the gaps in performance. This will help & add value to the process.

e) Developing an environment of faith and trust: 

It is very essential for employees to have faith in their respective managers. Since employees lead the shop floor, their inputs on improvements in processes, suggestions on better cost management, increasing productivity and understanding their frustrations and personal challenges can all help the HR Manager to keep their morale high and increase profitability.

The employee by being honest about their aspirations and asking questions about what more they need to do at this critical juncture, can contribute to the appraisal process and make it more valuable. There is a lot pressure on the Human Resource department & organizations to conduct effective appraisals that keep employees motivated when times are tough. But, with a little effort from the employee’s side, the whole process can be made more valuable and great results could be expected. Proper communication must be ensured by the HR Managers so that employees are aware of the situation and they have faith in the management.

Responsible HR: Creating the Best Job in the World

Employees want to have the ‘Best Job in the World’? As a responsible HR Manager there’ no reason why we can’t make the jobs of our workforce the ‘Best in the World’. Here’s how the Human Resource department can add value and definitely can do about making people love what they do.

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Making the Job Right:

The first step that must be taken by an HR Manager is to find a job that matches the employees skills, interests and values. The second is taking control of the job description, to whatever extent possible and appropriate. As organizations change, jobs can evolve. As time in the job wears on, employees who are in tune with the organization’s needs, can volunteer for tasks that align with their interests and skills, and move out of roles that are less enjoyable. In order to have the best job, employees need to excel at their job. Proactively taking initiatives and challenges, continuously learning, thinking out-of-the-box and performing with focus and commitment makes the job truly incredible.

Creating the Dream Job:

HR Managers have a huge role to play in helping individuals attain their ‘dream jobs’. An HR Manager plays a very important role in creating the best job for an employee, mainly by providing an atmosphere for learning, creating a work place that the employee likes to work in and a work environment that rewards and recognizes employee performance. It starts with a strong ‘onboarding’ process, where the HR Manager effectively shares the organisation’s vision and mission and explains its goals clearly. This ensures that a new employee feels welcome, is charged up and hits the ground running with clear direction.

Role of HR in creating the ‘Best Job’:

  1. HR Manager create an environment which gives the employees an opportunity to give their 100 percent.
  2. Think of ways which makes the job more exciting.
  3. The HR Manager must recognize the employee’s true passions – concepts like knowledge or technology, job functions or skills.
  4. HR must make a record of tasks where an employee did something best at the workplace.
  5. HR Manager must make a note of the projects where the employee really enjoyed.
  6. List down all the accomplishments of the employee and create a mentoring program where employees can talk to people whose advise they value, people who have worked with them, and who have watched them in action.
  7. Finally, if an employee is already doing something he/she loves, HR Manager makes it rewarding by aligning them to the goals of the organization, contributing more than what is expected, and giving them every opportunity to learn.

Are people growing in your organization?

As soon as an employee joins an organization the cycle of growth and career development begins for him. Laying down a solid foundation in this respect right from the start of an employee’s career is resulting in creating ‘Individual Development Plans (IDP)’ for them. It’s the job of the HR Manager to help his people visualize a successful career in the future and that their decision of choosing them as their preferred employer was right.

Talking of the traditional approach adopted by organizations where people were merely given importance and career development, growth etc were topics least interesting for any company, times have changed and now organizations with the help of Human Resource department are taking the extra effort to draw up a development plan for the employee.

Growth for HR Manager

What is an Individual Development Plan (IDP)?

The Individual Development Plan (IDP) is an organized approach to professional development activities and programs that are designed to improve the employee’s professional skills and the department’s productivity. This is a joint process, both in design and execution, in that managers are more familiar with the department’s future directions and the employee is more aware of specific, individual needs and aspirations.

The purpose of the IDP is to target competencies and skills to be developed for three purposes: for use in the employee’s current position, for growth within the employee’s current position, and for future career goals.

How IDPs are helpful for an employee?

  • They provide direction to career development as they are not generic, but based on assessment of areas for improvement given the employee’s current role and perhaps the immediate future role.
  • They are prepared jointly by the employees and their managers. Hence, there is a commitment on both sides to realize the plans.
  • IDPs normally state what competencies are attempted to be built or what gaps are aimed to be closed and therefore, they help employees to build competence, confidence and comfort with their roles.
  • IDPs focus on the strengths and developmental areas of an employee. It encourages the employee to look at ways to leverage on his/her strengths, document the same and write out action steps.
  • It also looks at the developmental areas of the employee and encourages him/her to look at ways to move the needle on these through special assignments, focused training, executive development programs and coaching.

An individual development plan ensures a readily available framework for the individual to think about his/her inherent strengths and how best the same can be utilized given the myriad roles available.

For the motivation

While an IDP helps in career growth and mapping, it also acts like a motivational tool for the employees. It provides an inspiration to be better workers. It is a reassurance to an employee that the organization is interested in and committed to his/her development. An IDP is the first and a very important step in helping a person grow.

Developing the Individual Development Plan

The process involves the following steps:

1. Preparing an Individual Development Plan at the time of the employee’s evaluation.

2. Involving the employee in the design of the IDP.

3. Consider each area of the employee’s performance from the following perspectives and determine which should be developed in the upcoming evaluation period:

  • Strengths that, if enhanced, will contribute to the overall mission of the organization and increase productivity.
  • New skills that will be needed in the upcoming evaluation period.
  • Areas of performance/skills that need to be improved.

4. Determine the appropriate learning methods and resources that will be needed for development.

5. Once the learning methods and resources have been selected, define the measures or criteria that will be used to determine if the targeted learning has been accomplished.

6. The supervisor and the employee sign the IDP to document mutual agreement with it and commitment to completing it. Clarify responsibilities with the employee.

7. Set up a reporting system so that the employee’s progress can be gauged at any time and adjustments can be made to the plan as needed.

In this process, employees identify their career growth themselves and Human Resource Department supports them to achieve it. With a self chosen and well defined career path in front of them, employees have just one effort to make it happen. This is by actually working on it and re-skilling themselves for the new role and challenges. The mere feeling that the entire organization is backing them to achieve their dream career definitely motivates the employees. Moreover, as the career path is chosen by employees themselves without any force, this very factor also motivates the employees to achieve something which is defined by none other than themselves.

In the end, I would say that IDP helps an employee to know his/her growth plan. So if you see your employee de-motivated, map out his/her success graph. You just might see a sky-rocketing change in their attitude and behaviour at workplace.

What’s your experience been with IDPs? Do you have any other tips to share?