Job Search Checklist #15: Describing past employers

Dec 11 2012 in Featured, reCareered Blog, Resumes by Phil Rosenberg

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Most job seekers spend way too much time and attention describing present and past employers.

In traditional job search, we were taught to brand ourselves as commodities. For years, giving a commodity first impression was good enough because there was a shortage of qualified candidates.

But this hasn’t been a job market of candidate shortages for years.

In today’s job market of job shortages, branding yourself as a commodity is death. Why do so many candidates still brand themselves as commodities?

… Because they don’t know another way.

Fortunately, you’re about to learn a better way.

Describing past (and present) employers hurts your job search in a number of ways, because it diverts your audiences’ attention from what you’re selling … yourself.

4 reasons why describing past employers works against you:

  1. Focusing on your past company removes the focus from you: You want the hiring manager to notice all the great things you can do for the employer. Just because you worked for Google for 10 years doesn’t mean you’ll do great things for the employer. You could have done a lousy job – how will the hiring manager know that you’ll do great things if you don’t focus their attention on all the ways you’ll provide value, solve priority problems, surpass departmental goals. When you can leap tall buildings in a single bound, don’t you want to make sure your audience notices?
  2. Describing your past company brands you as a commodity: When you focus on your past company, you make the company look awesome … and make yourself look average. Sure you’re proud of your past (and current) companies, you helped make them great. But describing your past employers doesn’t make you look great, it makes the companies look great. It’s easy to fall into the trap that making your past companies look great makes you also look great because you were a part of those companies. When your audience spends an average of 15 seconds to decide if you’ll get an interview, they can’t read everything in that timeframe. So in reality the more of your audiences’ attention spent reading about the company means less time spent reading about your awesomeness.
  3. Hiring managers aren’t hiring your past company: They are, however, considering hiring you. When you focus the audience on you, that’s a first step to branding yourself as a superior candidate. You won’t look like a superior candidate if your readers spend all their time on the brilliant things your past employers have done, rather than all the brilliant things you’ve done for your employers. To a hiring manager, just because you had a great sounding job with a great company doesn’t mean you were great at that job – you might have been average … you might have even sucked. If you don’t focus the hiring manager on the great job you did and the incredible value you’ll provide for that hiring manager, you’ve lost their attention quickly.
  4. It’s a waste of resume real estate: When you describe the company, most candidates include a paragraph right under the company name and title. This is the area where your audience places their first focus and greatest attention. You’re wasting your audiences’ focus when you use it to describe the company, rather than yourself.

Why focus your readers on anything other than you? After all, you’re selling you, not your past employers.

Sure it’s traditional and yes many career experts recommend the practice. Then again, many career coaches, career authors and other career experts haven’t adopted their strategies to a market of job shortages. They developed their strategies during times of candidate shortages and held to tradition because they hung onto past successes … ignoring that job markets, interview/hiring decisions and hiring processes have all changed.

That doesn’t mean you have to fall into the same trap.

You don’t have to continue using traditional job search tactics, or continue focusing your reader on past employers when there are much more effective methods available today.


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Author: Phil Rosenberg

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