The Thing You Did Wrong in College

I heard the absolutely worst story you could possibly imagine. Well, to a recruiter like myself and someone that cares about people’s careers, it’s the worst kind of story.

A teacher friend of mine had a really exceptional student who was looking for an internship. They were ending their junior year in college, heading into the summer. This is prime summer internship season for those looking to land permanent jobs after they graduate. This teacher knew a business owner in her field that was offering summer internships, and contacted them in hopes of getting this student an interview. This business owner interviewed the candidate twice and ultimately offered them the job! A dream scenario for the student.

The student turned it down.

Turned. It. Down. I couldn’t believe this!

Hearing this story made me more angry than I’ve been in a while. How could you possibly turn down an opportunity like this that would help you get your foot in the door to your industry?

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Here were the reasons given:

• I just don’t feel ready
• The drive is too far (45-60mins)


Internships are exceedingly hard to come by. A paid internship, even more so. You have to seize opportunities like that no matter the cost. The drive or inconvenience can be worked out later. Focus on your inner Grant Cardone and commit, then figure out the details later. When you have no experience and someone is willing to give you experience, the first thing you say is absolutely yes, and fill in the blanks later.

Grant Cardone 10x - Why Artists are Starving - Episode 50 ...

When you are young and coming out of college, you don’t really understand how things work in the professional world. (You actually need to de-program yourself after college and start self-teaching right away.) Professionally, you aren’t aware of what it means when somebody puts their professional reputation at stake on your behalf. More than that, you aren’t aware of what time means to professionals. Remember, this was two interviews with a business owner, the person with the least amount of time. The fact that you have turned this opportunity down reflects poorly not just on you, but also on the teacher who referred you. It’s very unlikely this person will vouch for you again moving forward.

Stick your neck out | Adventist Record


I think the reasons this whole transaction derailed so terribly are:

  • No expectations were set from the beginning (blame teacher)
  • No context was given for what this internship would mean down the line (blame teacher)
  • Possible issues with travel were not brought up at the beginning (blame student)
  • Being uncomfortable as a reason to turn down a once in a lifetime opportunity (blame student)
Setting Clear Expectations: Leadership Essentials

Everyone involved will (hopefully) learn that if this situation happens again, the best solution is to get out in front of the problems before they arise by setting proper expectations at the forefront.

For other content related to the job search, resumes, and MBTI, please check out my other terrific articles.

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Accepting a Job Offer

Receiving that call saying you got the job offer is one of the most satisfying and relieving parts of the job seeking process.  As a recruiter, it’s one of the most satisfying parts of the day, if not THE most satisfying part of your day. The joy in getting the privilege to make that call, balances out the other negative duties of recruiting, such as giving someone a rejection call. But this is not where the story comes to an end. The job still has to be accepted; and this is where, in the 11th hour, the entire train can derail.

evaluate your job offer

Where most candidates and recruiters go wrong during this process is not continually getting a temperature check. Much can change throughout the long interview process, and interest can falter. Not keeping in close contact with each other lessens the certainty of an offer being accepted if/when it comes. Recruiters tend to have tunnel vision when working with a candidate and neglect to realize that really smart candidates are probably interviewing with multiple companies and, theoretically, will have multiple offers to consider. It falls upon the recruiter to constantly get honest feedback whether or not this particular role is the one that would win out in a competition between competing offers.

tunnel vision as a recruiter

Meeting Face to Face

Equally as important is the candidate being honest with the recruiter as to the likelihood of their offer being accepted. Trust has to have been built at the very beginning of this relationship in order for both sides to have any sort of chance of coming to an honest conclusion. This is why I have always known and pontificated about meeting every single person that you are going to represent in front of your client. It’s the most important aspect of getting the end result that you both desire. Any experienced recruiter will tell you that the likelihood of someone backing out or ghosting you dramatically lessens if they’ve met you face-to-face. This way, they know you are an actual human and not a faceless corporation.

faceless corporation

If the foundation has been laid from the very first interaction that we will be honest, transparent, and forthcoming, then there will be no surprises when/if the offer comes in. Despite the possibility of feelings getting hurt, I believe it is justifiable for a recruiter to tell a candidate, or vice versa, that they are not getting a good feeling that they are  being honest with them. Oftentimes a recruiter will feel dishonesty creeping in it when seems like a candidate is using one job to leverage a counter-offer at their current company. This is an unfortunate landmine that everyone will step on at one point in their career.

The Job Offer

If an offer is accepted; it needs to be accepted– for real. I know that sounds a bit redundant, but you should not be accepting offers in hopes that it will buy time for another offer to come in. This creates a negative feedback loop that is detrimental to your reputation, and to society in general. The reality is that the world is a small place, people talk, and your reputation will precede you into your next role whether you believe it or not. Please do let me know what your thoughts are on this highly debated topic.

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How to Properly Do Your References

References are an essential part of locking down a job offer. The higher up the corporate ladder the reference is, the better the chance you will be taken seriously as a candidate. There are some pitfalls I’ve observed as a staffing recruiter that will help as you move through the hiring process. Anybody that is working with me will get this same advice.

In today’s litigious society, most companies will not give a thorough reference. Instead, they will simply confirm the dates of employment. The reason for this is that companies fear a lawsuit for defamation if there is an assumption that a “bad reference” led to someone not getting a job. It’s all to avoid a lawsuit. References are harder than ever to come by, and can be increasingly disingenuous.

Reference Pitfalls

The first pitfall is your reference not being a previous/current manager. I see a lot of candidates using their co-workers as a reference; this is not going to play well. Best practice is to get at least 2 superiors that you directly reported to. Listing a colleague can come off as lazy, but even worse, can come off as suspicious. Questions start to percolate that the reason you are looking for a new job/left your last job has to do with why you are not listing your manager. Managerial references will speak to your work ethic and your character, along with your culture fit. A colleague or “equal” will likely say whatever you coach them to say, thus giving your potential employer no solid information.

The second major pitfall is not giving your references a heads-up that they will be contacted. I can’t tell you how many goose chases I’ve been on attempting to track down a reference who was not aware they were a reference. Furthermore, best practice is always to inform your reference that somebody will be calling them soon. Management tend to screen their calls and are thus difficult to connect with. On the same train of thought here, is verifying that this person is an appropriate reference. It might sound shocking, but I have had references remove themselves as a reference due to hardly knowing the candidate (or worse, having a bad relationship with them).


The final thought on references is that some people prefer to write at the bottom of their resume. “References available upon request”. It’s certainly not a deal breaker, but it’s unnecessary filler. Everyone should have references no matter what, and the fact that its not explicit that you have them won’t stop a company from demanding them. From my experience, you are better off either listing them at the end, or not at all.

For the time being, references are still checked, albeit with more legal restrictions. Always let people know you are listing them as a reference, inform them when they will be called, and always list those who were truly your manager.

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Resume Aesthetics

The 80/20 rule is also known as the Pareto principle, which states that for many events, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. In certain fields, its easy to see how this plays out. In a sales organization, 20% of your team will account for 80% of your sales. In a class science project, 20% of your team will do 80% of the work. You can easily list many examples within your day to day that fit this principle. Similarly, though not quite as applicable, is the relationship between content and aesthetics contained in a resume.

80% of your resume should be content, while the other 20% should be aesthetics. While there is no consensus on the correct format or aesthetic, I want to share some tried and true methods that can help avoid potential pitfalls.

Structured format, clean layout, tight spacing, no fancy design

This resume is the format I use professionally. I have formatted and submitted 100’s of resumes to clients using this format and it has not done me wrong. The spacing is set to Single and the Before and After are also at 0. This helps save space as an added bonus to the tight formatting. The header replaces the typical objective statement and instead summarizes your job roles and skillset without needing a whole paragraph. This method is much appreciated by the hiring manager and the ATS. Font is size 12 with Bookman Old Style looking classically noble.

Multi-colored, confused format, non-linear

This resume looks creative–that can’t be denied. The issue is its distracting and overly intricate. The color scheme is pleasing, but the format is non-linear which should be the top goal of a resume. Readability and flow should always be top of mind when formatting your resume.

It’s clear what the goal of the profile picture is trying to do (convey motherly wholesomeness), but its violating a huge no-no in resume writing which is putting a picture on your resume. There are managers who will simply throw resumes away or delete from their email if they see one with a picture. Lawsuits and claims of discrimination result from considering candidates with pictures are a main driver for this. Don’t do it. Furthermore, the picture isn’t you, so there is no added value to the content.

The header with the arching background graphic is more style without substance. The only time this is going to be to your advantage is when you are applying to a graphic design type role where resume creativity is a deciding factor. Other than that, it comes across as attempting to distract from the content. What is notable is that this resume does have great content in the job duties, so that already speaks for itself without the fancy design.

I guess that is the essential crux of all resume writing– content is king and should be 80% of your resume. The spacing, readability, and concise-ness should be the other 20%.

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The (Myth) of 1 Page Resume

I cannot know for certain where the myth of the 1 page resume comes from, but if I had to guess, I’d say our high school teachers or career counselors. The premise is that a one-page resume is going to be concise enough that people aren’t going to assume you’re exaggerating your experience, and more importantly, short enough that someone will actually read it. It makes sense in that very precise context, but it’s certainly the vast minority when it comes to job seekers. When you don’t have any job experience, one page might even be a stretch. Most of what you can list is volunteer or internship positions, but generally its not physically possible to go longer than one page with extra curricular activities, hobbies, or other fillers.

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Peddler of the 1 page myth

Let’s take the extreme opposite of this and assume that you’re a 25 year senior executive that’s held many titles throughout your various companies. You better have a resume longer than one-page! (In later articles, I’m going to be digging a lot deeper into how to write a resume catering to your personality type).

The key to writing a resume is based on understanding 3 things: 1) what a hiring manager is looking for 2) what an applicant tracking system (ATS) is looking for and 3) what a recruiter who’s looking to place you at a client is looking for. You can and should elaborate where needed and for jobs like a Project Manager, expand where needed with bullet points and specific projects. Like I’ve mentioned before, the 3 C’s are Clarity, Concise-ness, and Cnot lying.

How to Create an ATS Resume - Jobscan Blog
Standard ATS Keyword Search

Consider also those who are contractors. They have worked 2 to 3 times as many roles as full-timers and will need space to add all their contracting roles. We can’t be asking them to chop that down to 1 page. Typically those are the resumes that go 4-6 pages without breaking a sweat.

My advice for someone just entering the job market from college or high school is to not try to make yourself look like someone you aren’t. If you need a little over a page, do it. If not, keep it right at 1 page.

What’s going to happen if you try to condense your resume down too far is that the interview will likely be a trainwreck.

“So it looks like you haven’t used Quickbooks before.”

“Oh no I have… I just didn’t know how to fit it in there…I have it on another resume…but I’ve definitely used it before, yes.”

Now you are backtracking and the manager can’t quite tell if you are dishonest or were lazy when you wrote your resume. Neither are going to lead to a job offer. However long you need to write out the specifics of each job and the duties contained within them, please take advantage and leave nothing out. The absolute tragedy of the 1 page resume is candidates missing out on a dream job because they had to choose between words, phrases, key terms, etc to keep the resume within this arbitrary limit.

Book of the Day

Why We Get Fat by Gary Taubes.

I want to showcase what I’m about other than recruiting, resumes, and Myers-Briggs, so I am going to include a short plug for the latest book I’m reading/have read and include a link at the end of my articles. I will elaborate within my videos, but not here on the articles.

If you think somebody has some issues with their resume or needs some general counseling as the approach the job market, send them my way for a consultation.

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How to Fix My Resume

In 90% of cases, a resume does not need to be re-written. It simply needs a couple tweaks and additions that make it look reinvigorated. The only time a full overhaul is needed is when the formatting and design are unreadable and convoluted. For someone needing resume help, not requiring a complete revamp brings them tremendous emotional relief.

The first thing I always ask is, “What do you think is wrong with your resume?” The answers I get start with, “I just feel like…

A) I’m not getting as many hits as I used to…”

B) I could add something more…”

C) I keep getting passed over because of it…”

What it comes down to is making the proper adjustments in regards to keywords, job titles, format, spacing, reduction of fluff, addition of specific tools, and clarity throughout.

I worked with a sales rep recently who needed resume advice. After talking through the resume, we concluded he needed three changes: Adding his sales achievements, adding specific CRM and software skills, and adding an additional page. (I will be discussing the myth of the 1 page resume in an upcoming video/article.)

Beyond the wall of text: how information design can make contracts us…

Some minor formatting tweaks and page rearrangement for the finishing touch, and that was it. After this, any manager or recruiter viewing his resumes could see he was a top 10% sales rep and well-versed with enterprise CRM tools.

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Most often, a resume needs to be shorter, not longer. It needs to be more concise when listing bullet points, and focused on reducing ambiguous character statements. I would delete the “Objective” statement as well. At least on the staffing side of the business, this is something you can remove without suffering any damage.

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Unless you are a graphic designer, artist, or game developer, you do not need to spruce up your resume with graphics or flashy designs. Both the ATS and the hiring manager are searching for content and competence, not creativity. If you cannot resist an intricate resume with graphics and multi-colored font, my recommendation is you better have substance and content behind all the glitz or the manager/recruiter will reject your resume because its all smoke and mirrors.

There’s more debate to be had about such topics like: cover letters, references, whether or not to add short contracts, how to address job gaps, etc etc. I encourage your deliberation and input surrounding everything I’ve written here.

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