Hosts: Rodney Apple and Hinesh Patel

In This Episode:

We speak with certified resume writer Scott Singer, who provides his career advice from his perspective of being a recruiter earlier in his career. He covers many aspects of resumes and job search strategies, whether someone is just getting started in supply chain, wanting to transition into supply chain, or plans to move up in supply chain. He gives advice on making transitions, plus how to use the right standardized formats along with customizing resumes to match the needs of positions with your own value-added capabilities. Scott also provides his advice about how to use LinkedIn as part of your branding and searching processes. He closes with his advice about showing your value and having the determination to pursue positions with the same type of effort you apply to your work.

Who is Scott Singer?

As founder and president of Insider Career Strategies LLC, Scott Singer guides individual and corporate clients through the job search and hiring process, consulting on resume writing and interview coaching, to developing LinkedIn profiles and helping professionals manage their image, providing outplacement services, and bringing unique insight into what employers want and need in the world of talent. Scott holds a BA from Boston University, an MBA from the University of Michigan-Dearborn, and globally recognized certifications in career coaching and resume writing. He is a member of the Forbes Coaches Council.
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Transcript:

Many years ago, I was going to University of Michigan. Wasn’t sure what I was going to do when I got out. One of the things that caught my attention was that the staffing industry was starting to take off. I really hadn’t thought about HR. When I graduated initially from my undergraduate, I was a journalist. Worked briefly at a small newspaper out in central Michigan. Did it for a while, ended up going back to school after being rudderless for a little bit, but I ended up doing research and staffing was an emerging field in a big way. It was really starting to come into play.

While I was in graduate school, I got an internship through a vendor at Ford Motor Company in the procurement department. And it so happened that I was procuring staffing services. Worked for a couple of firms in the Detroit area. Moved down to south Florida. I stumbled into a corporate recruiting job at Motorola. And I was there for about five and a half years before the bottom fell out in the dot bomb back in 2001. From there went to Ryder systems, did some logistics recruiting, Bacardi, the spirits company. That was fun. And then did some work with LVMH in their star board crew services group.

About six years ago, made a change. Strategic change. Got out of the recruiting area. I was actually in a situation where I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life and, after talking to some people, this is advice I give people all the time, do informational interviews. If you don’t know where you want to be, talk to people, understand what they do. And I did that and looked at a variety of vocations and landed on resume writing. And it just seemed like the resume writing and career coaching just seemed like a great pivot for me. Did some research, took the examinations, got into the field and I’ve been doing this now since 2015. So that’s where I am today.

That’s a great question. There’s no one answer for everybody. I think everybody’s life takes its own tour and goes in its own direction. For me, it was quite honestly a case of burnout and I took some time off. But, we were fortunate, my wife was in a stable situation. There’s many ways to do this. In general, the best thing you can do is start reading, start exploring, looking at what’s out there. Talk to people who do what might be of interest for a living. The beautiful thing about supply chain is it’s such a different field. Supply chain offers so many different entry points from so many different disciplines that other fields may not.

You’re going into finance because you studied finance. You’re going into accounting because you studied accounting. If you’re going into supply chain,

there’s just so many different areas. Finance people can transition easily into sales and operations planning. People who have been in operations management can move into logistics, planning. You’ve got so many different disciplines, just so many different areas.

If you’re thinking about in particular supply chain, I think the first thing you do is you take a look at your competencies. What are you strong at? Are you technical in nature? Are you financial in nature? Honestly start to explore those conversations.

The college level, colleges are really now starting to focus on supply chain. I actually have a client I started working with this past week who is getting a dual MBA and master of science in supply chain from Indiana, the Kelley School of Management. Couldn’t do that 15 years ago. You just couldn’t, it wasn’t an option.

I’ll be straightforward with you. I’m not great with authority. I don’t love working for other people. Having spent 20 plus years in corporate settings taught me that there is such a thing as too many layers of management. There’s too little strategic agility, too much focus on the detail when you really need to think about the big picture. When I looked at different areas, I looked at going into nursing as a possibility. It’s a growing field with a lot of opportunity. I looked at watchmaking, I love watches. I think it’s a great field. And there were other fields that I looked at, but what appealed to me, in addition to the work itself, which I thoroughly enjoy, you really don’t see many companies that do resume writing.

It was also the opportunity to build something. I have my business education, I have my MBA. I wanted a way to apply that and to do marketing and to do all the different aspects of the business. And truth be told if I had an idea, I didn’t want to run it up five levels of the flagpole and wait for three weeks for someone to say, no. I wanted to be able to try it and see if it’s something that I could make work.

When I work with a client on a resume, it’s a very personal decision for a lot of people. They’re trusting me to translate what they’ve done personally, into something that’s going to be marketable. And what I do is I sit down with them. I talk through their work history, what they’ve done, how they did it. The how is just as important as the what. What were the achievements that they were able to do? What were the metrics they were able to attain? Talk through the soft side of things.

A lot of people want to make the move up to management. Tell me how you work. How do you influence, how do you get people on board with the projects that you’re talking about? What kind of projects did you lead? One of the things about supply chain, for example, it’s very much leading without authority in a lot

of cases. It’s being that subject matter expert and being kind of air traffic control in that sense. It’s really understanding how those different pieces fit together. And from there, I go back, do my research on the opportunities they’re looking at, look at the types of jobs that they’re working on. Where they’ve been, where they’re going, and from there, translate that into a resume, cover letter, LinkedIn, whatever they may have to help them in that search.

The weird thing about it is, nobody in school really goes and learns how to make a resume. It’s one of those things that they expect everybody to know how to do, but there’s so little education in terms of how to actually do that, not to mention the whole, getting a job thing. That’s a whole ‘nother ball of wax, and it’s gotten much more complicated. I’m sure you both know that. It’s really kind of being that person to hold their hand through that process and working through that and iterating and getting it in such a way that it’s going to translate for them.

There’s a few different things that I see people do. I think most people try really hard and they really do the best they can and they do. One of the things I think is often a cultural issue. It’s the concept of playing themselves up enough. There’s an element of bragging in the resume. You have to do it, especially in the U S market. A lot of people just don’t do that. They’ll kind of soft pedal some of the achievements they’ve had. You’ve got to be a little bit more forceful about it. Here’s what you were able to do. Here’s how you’re able to do it. You’ve got to take some credit for that and open the conversation.

I think a lot of that’s modesty, but I think another part of that is just cultural. We have a lot of people who come here from other countries, people who come from India, China, Latin America, Europe, and the way we do resumes is distinctly different than just about anywhere in the world in that sense. If you go culturally into some of these other countries, it’s much more of a deferential relationship. They may come across as nonassertive where what they’re doing is following the norms of how they present themselves in those countries.

The other big mistake people make is that they don’t know what they’re doing in Microsoft Word. They build a document that doesn’t look good. It doesn’t work well. There may be spelling errors, typos, formatting errors, stuff that an employer is going to look at right off the bat, before they even get into the resume and say, wow, this person can’t even put together a document. Why am I going to look at it? It’s unfortunate, but it does happen.

Let’s start with your recent graduate. If you’re just coming out of school or if you’re relatively early in your career, one-page reverse chronological resume is ideal. You don’t want to get too detailed. It’s presumptuous for someone who’s relatively early in their career to get into a long resume. So, one page, by the way, the format, I don’t know if you’ve ever heard the terminology, the one-page format that you see colleges put out, it’s called the Wharton format. And it’s named after Wharton business school. They make all the students follow that same format. The reason they do that is they don’t want to make it seem like they’re playing favorites with one student or another. Having that typical format makes it easy for the university. It also makes it easy for the employer to quickly go through, scan through the resume, see what they’re looking at, move on. It is reverse chronological though, which means your most recent experience, because it is your most relevant working your way towards older positions.

As you start to get into your career, I would say that probably 90% of my clients, maybe even higher, I recommend that they stick with the reverse chronological format. There’s a few reasons for that. It makes it very easy to follow your career progression. An employer can very easily see here’s where you are. Here’s the foundation that it was built upon.

Functional resumes are the other alternative. That’s where you’re basically going to have a very short listing of here’s your company, title and dates. Then there’s going to be a giant section that basically details all the different achievements you’ve had without necessarily pointing it to a particular employer. In most cases, I try to avoid the functional resume. And the reason for that is, I started on the recruiter side and having worked in reviewing thousands and thousands and thousands of resumes against jobs, hiring managers didn’t like them because it was a lot harder to tell where you were, when you were, what you were doing, what was the situation? There are exceptions though, when I’ve used functional in a couple of different areas, number one is more of a trades person. So, if the person’s a trades person and it’s more of a task-oriented type of job, they’re going to be doing the same work no matter where they are. Having that functional resume, that details that. It just makes sense sometimes because you’re not going to have as much individualistic achievements. The other situation that I’ve used functional for is if a person has changed jobs in lot. The thing about a functional resume is a lot of people use it to hide job movement. And I’m sure you know that sometimes employers get a little nervous when they see someone changing jobs every six months. They’re wondering if I’m going to put all this effort in, are they going to be here six months from now? In a couple of cases, I really didn’t see a way around it. So, I used a functional resume to try to minimize the job movement and put more emphasis on the work itself.

As we touched on earlier, supply chain touches so many different parts of the business. And I think one of the cooler things is getting involved in a project. So when I was at Bacardi, many years ago, we had a project. They were trying to

get everybody from every part of the business to roll out SAP. Now that was a big, expensive, complicated proposition, but they got people from operations, they got people from supply chain. They got people from finance and the business itself, sales to come in as different subject matter experts. Everybody came in, they gave their feedback. Well, what we saw afterwards was we actually had people moving from disciplines. We had some people who had moved from more of the functional line disciplines, like a finance and accounting into more of a supply chain sales and operations planning systems type of role. The beautiful thing about project work is it’s not necessarily a hardcore commitment. It’s time limited and it gives you the chance to talk to a variety of different people.

The other part of this is that if you’re in a major company, larger companies tend to be better for movement. They tend to have internal job posting opportunities, situations where you can apply to different positions. I think that’s where a stretch assignment can really help, stretching yourself beyond what you’ve done normally. Maybe you’re that finance person and you see a logistics job that pops up in the company and you say, look, I’ve got 90% of the skills here. Let me talk to the hiring manager. We can kind of see if there’s a match there, if everything lines up. And that works too.

The last thing is, going out there taking some classes, college education and master’s degrees are great, but, we’re moving towards the age of micro-credentials, the idea that you go to a much shorter course and get a certification, or at least an education in a certain topic. And use that to move into a new area. A lot of people minimize that. It’s funny. Cause I talked to people say, well, do you have any certifications in supply chain? You want to make sure that that’s there because that’s going to build your credibility for a possible move into that area.

Mentorship’s a huge one. A lot of people think that to have a mentor, it’s gotta be a formal relationship and it doesn’t. It doesn’t have to be like your company has said, okay, this is going to be your mentor. That’s kind of the old way of doing things. These days find your own mentor, find people that are in certain disciplines. We all have friends. We all have acquaintances. We all work cross-functionally depending on what we do. You’re going to have contact with a variety of different people. Finding someone who can give you guidance, honest guidance about what you do.

Some of the more interesting conversations I had when I was making my job change was doing informational interviews and saying, tell me what you like about your job? Tell me what you don’t like. What do you really dislike about this? Tell me about where you see my skills fitting into this. Where do you see some gaps that I would need to fill to be able to succeed in this? Those are the kinds of things that I think are important.

Going back to micro-credentials training, short-term training. If you’ve got a LinkedIn premium subscription, there’s LinkedIn learning, you can take all sorts

of classes online, and just follow the rabbit hole. Oh, here’s a topic that looks interesting. I’m going to go and dig further into that. One of the things that I will say is that, as we’re young, we don’t really know how big the world is. We don’t know what’s out there. We don’t know all of these different disciplines. There’s a lot of work disciplines that I didn’t even learn about until I started doing the resume writing. You never know when that opportunity is going to pop up to learn something new.

First of all, keywords are a tricky and a moving target. You’re never going to be able to guess all the keywords. There’s dozens of applicant tracking systems out there, which are the computer systems that employers use to gather the resumes. An employer can get as many as 10,000 people that apply to a single job. So, they’ll put in some keywords that maybe they won’t advertise in the job, but it’ll do additional filtering for the resumes they go through.

The very first thing that anybody who’s presenting themselves for a job needs to do is to have an honest assessment of what it is they’re doing and what it is they’re looking for. To give you an example, if I’m looking as a job, as a logistics manager or a buyer, there’s probably about 80% coverage between the two of those, they’re still in the same ecosystem. They’re going to be covering a lot of the same skills. When I work with a client and they’re thinking about multiple areas, I always tell them, let’s start with the base one. Let’s start with one that’s most interesting and we can tweak from there and see how much work is involved in the second version.

From the standpoint of customizing your resume, if you’ve got a resume version, that’s like 90% there, what I suggest that people do is a three-step process. Anytime that they’re applying to a job, number one, take a look at the resume, save a copy of it to your desktop and spend five minutes, literally, five minutes, tweaking the resume a little bit on the top third of the first page, your header, the title, maybe a little bit about yourself and the jobs and the keywords and skills spend five minutes going through and tweaking that. Let’s say you use the word logistics in your resume, but the job description says supply chain. I know they’re not completely interchangeable, but some people use them that way. Maybe you need to tweak a little bit of the wording to include supply chain. You spend five minutes, try to guess to the best of your ability, what the keywords are. Go ahead, submit your resume and then apply.

Step two is where LinkedIn comes in. Anybody that is serious about their job search is using LinkedIn as the key tool. When you’re a job seeker, you’re selling a product. You’re selling yourself and you need to think about it from that same perspective. See if you can make an educated guess about who the hiring manager is. Then step three is send them an InMail, which is a premium service. Send them an InMail and tell them, look, I just wanted to introduce myself. I have applied online to this job. I have X years of experience. I’d love to talk to you. I’ve

attached a copy of my resume for your reference. Thank you for your time and consideration. And what you’re doing there is you’re basically doing two things. Number one. Is you’re validating that you’ve managed to follow their gatekeeping process. You’ve told them that you’ve already applied online. That way they can’t just shunt you off and say, okay, go and apply online. The other part is that you’ve also demonstrated extra initiative. The people that work harder at it, the people that put in that additional effort to try to find people where they can make an impact, they do get that additional look. It doesn’t work a hundred percent of the time, but it works enough that it does make a difference in a career search. People appreciate the initiative. If they don’t appreciate it, all you’ve lost is a few minutes of your time. I’ve seen it enough times when I was an in-house recruiter where there were the hiring managers off at lunch, they get a message on LinkedIn from one of the candidates. They walked over to my desk and said, Hey, can you screen this person, I’d like to learn more about them. Think about how recruiters use this. They may get 10,000 resumes, but they’re going to use the keyword search to narrow it down. They’re going to start with the ones that are the hundred percent match and work their way down. So, they’ve got a stack of five or 10 resumes that they like, and they’re going to share with the hiring manager.

The more that you can do to try to hit it from both ends, try to make your resume more appealing to the recruiter, and then try to reach out to the hiring manager. The one big mistake that a lot of people make though, is they go ahead and they try to reach out to the recruiter at the company and the recruiters thinking, well, geez, I’ve got 10,000 resumes. I’m working on 50 open jobs. I’ve got half a million resumes to look through. Why are they contacting me? If you hit the manager, it’s their problem that you’re solving. If a hiring manager doesn’t have someone in their job, that means that either the work isn’t getting done or they’re doing it themselves, or they’ve got their team members doing it and they’re all frustrated. So, here’s the manager they’re off at lunch and then on the phone comes up with the solution to their problem.

That’s a fantastic question. The funny thing is, as you move up the chain, you’re using different skills. You may start out as a supply chain analyst, but if you become a manager or director of supply chain, you’re doing less and less of the daytime job of doing the supply chain work and more time managing and influencing and scheduling and budgeting and all these other skills. When I’m dealing with people that are upwardly mobile and by the way, not everybody is, let’s be clear about that. Not everybody wants to or should move up. I think having been a manager, I can tell you, managing people can be incredibly frustrating. People have their own agendas and not everybody’s good at it. There’s some terrible managers out there, but if you are interested in doing it, it’s important to start slanting a lot of your achievements towards the competencies that will get you where you want to be. Leadership. Have you participated as a project manager? Have you been on cross-functional teams, have you coached

and mentored people.

Strategy. Have you built strategy that was adopted across a wider group or even within your own group? Financial acumen. Showing that you’ve been able to work with budgets and being able to deal with those. All these different pieces that come together that make a good manager. You need to start thinking about mining those areas on the resume. And by the way, if you don’t have those areas, then it’s time for you to start having a conversation with your manager about stretching what you’re doing. Hey, I really don’t have much experience in terms of coaching and mentoring. I’d like to move forward. Is there any way that maybe I can participate in your monthly strategy meetings? Maybe I can coach some of the junior people in the department. Those are the types of things that the individual is going to want to highlight. If you show that you’re an emerging leader, but you’ve mentored and you’ve coached and you budgeted and you’ve done strategy, that makes you a good risk and people can dig beneath the surface, they can look below the waterline once they get you into the interview.

I think the resume is a living document. It’s the kind of thing that you want to make sure that you’re nurturing over time. I think there’s a sub question there too, if you’re applying to jobs and you’re not seeing results. From that standpoint, you need to take a holistic perspective. It may be the resume, it may not be. There’s a lot of people that have a great resume, but they don’t know what to do with it. I’ve had people, I’ve sent them the resume and they think it’s fantastic. They circle back a few months later and they say, I haven’t got any interviews and I start talking to them. What have you done? Have you started applying? How many jobs are you applying to? I’ve applied to a job a week. Well, that’s not really a number that’s going to start getting traction. Have you put any additional effort in? Have you customized the resume? If you’re doing all of the above and you’re still not getting results, maybe that’s when you need to start looking at the resume. The resume is only a tool. It’s not the answer, and even having the best resume in the world doesn’t necessarily guarantee you’re going to get through the gatekeeper.

There’s some fantastic resume books out there too. Working with a resume writer isn’t necessarily for everybody. Not everybody has the budget and not everybody necessarily feels comfortable doing that, but there’s some phenomenal books. A couple of the resume writers that I value are Louise Kursmark and Wendy Enelow. You’re going to see some phenomenal samples. You’re going to see some great ideas. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with using a great resume guide to give yourself some ideas on how to write a write good resume.

In terms of the best advice I’ve received rather in terms of job hunting. It’s all about showing value. The more value you can demonstrate, whether it’s through

a resume and interview, the more that it’s going to help you in terms of your interviews and getting jobs. But the other piece is also relationships. Treat people the same way on the way up as you’d be treated on the way down. You want to treat everybody with dignity, respect, and we’re not always going to do that. We’ve all made mistakes in terms of how we’ve managed our relationships over the years. It’s never too late to repair those. Every relationship matters. A lot of the jobs I’ve gotten over my career were because of relationships. Treating people well so they’ll treat you well is certainly a valuable thing.

The last thing is, it’s a Michael Jordan saying, you miss a hundred percent of the shots you don’t take. If you don’t apply for the job, you don’t go for the job, you’re not going to get the job.

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