Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Self-Centered Cover Letters and Resumes

Cranky Recruiter Comment #2

Of course cover letters and resumes are self centered. But I recently read a cover letter from a passionate wine retailer. Every sentence began with the word I. Having written lots of resumes and self-promoting literature, I too can get caught up in the ease of saying what "I" can do. But be careful. Think about selling yourself to the recruiter or hiring manager. They like to think they are important, since in many ways they are very important, and you may get a better reception from the reader if it's more of a two-way street.

I know this can be agonizing. Many times I have to re-read my marketing materials and emails to make sure I'm not using I too much. How can you recreate a sentence about yourself using your reader as the subject. Look at the sentence or subject and try to think of it in another way.

Taking the I out of your cover letters can be a chore, but keep in mind that the whole reason for the letter and cover letter is to promote yourself. Show your command of writing and vocabulary to impress the reader.

How to Make Your Recruiter Happy

I am currently wading through about 50 resumes a day, and being a diligent recruiter am inputting them all into my database for tracking. A word of advice to job hunters: Put your resume in a Word document format. Too often I get beautiful resumes in Adobe or in an unknown format that are difficult to navigate around or to input into my database. When I'm recruiting on a new position, I go to my database first. If your resume is in a different format, I might not see it right away. I know that Adobe is a nice program, but a simple, to-the-point resume in a .doc format is always preferred.

Yes, dealing with lots of resumes can make me cranky--but getting that perfect candidate is totally worth it. So keep those resumes coming--even if they are in Adobe Acrobat.

Monday, June 25, 2007

What's in a Name?

I once made a sales appointment at a large company in Napa. When my contact was repeating my name she said, "Amy Gardner, you can't get much more white bread than that!" That was the first time I had heard that expression--and it has always made me wonder. Would I do better in business if I had a more unique name? Recently I read an article about how parents are going to great lengths to pick the perfect, unique name for their children. Many of the parents said the reason they wanted a unique name was to help the child later on when she is looking for work. How come?

Nowadays, it is par for the course for potential employers to "google" an employment candidate before making any hiring decisions. Some people believe that being easily searchable on the internet gives you an edge in the job search. If you have a fairly common name, your information or profile may be hundreds of pages behind some of your moniker's more famous owners. If you have a distinctive name, you may pop up immediately in a google search, allowing a potential employer to quickly gain information on you.

So, doing my due diligence, I Googled my white bread name. Luckily, I have a famous TV character name twin--Amy Gardner from the West Wing. Mary Louise Parker's character's information fills hundreds of pages on Google. Back at my old corporate job several of the guys even said I had a lot of similiarities to her. Watching it years ago, I just wondered if that was a good thing or a bad thing. Along with other Amy Gardners there is a math wiz and there is also a famous producer who is linked to some movie hunks named Amy Gardner, sadly she too is not me.

Having a disctinctive name also leads to some trouble. Although you might be easily searchable, any indiscretions you may have had could quickly be found. As this article mentioned, the name Zoe Rose could perfect for a cute baby girl. It's also happens to be a porn star's handle. So looking up Zoe Rose one day could pull up some embarrassing although completely unrelated information on Zoe. Luckily, the name Amy Gardner is pretty common, and although I'm sure there are some notorious Amy's out there, I don't think they'll likely be linked to me.

So how do you deal with getting the right attention for your name in case a future employer is googling you? On your resume note some current research, marketing or press that has been attributed to you. If you've written anything, list your publication. If you were interviewed and know it's online, mention it in your accomplishments section. If you have some racy stuff on the web, my advice is to bury it. If you have a MySpace page with incriminating information--button up and get rid of it. Although you might not get as many online friends, you'll most likely get a job quicker. Then you can make friends at your new place of employment.

I think worrying that your name isn't unique enough is a waste of time. Even plain Jane names can be a bonus for you. You don't have to spell your name to new people a million times, and you can either hide in internet space or reveal professional items about yourself to highlight you and your name.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Benefits: Health Savings Accounts (HSAs)

Health insurance has always been a very illusive subject to me. I get a thrill looking for a candidate for a new position, but my eyes start glazing over when various health insurance options are discussed. I know I need it, I know it is very important when looking for a job, and that there is a lot I don't understand about insurance and benefits plans. When looking at a potential employer, understanding their portfolio of benefits is very important to understand the entire compensation package available to you.

Working in the wine industry I've been exposed to Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) much more often than in other industries. An HSA is a tax-advantaged way for individuals to save for qualified medical and retiree health expenses. Individuals can sign up for an HSA if they are covered by a high-deductible health plan. Often, small wineries and affiliated companies have HSA programs that they contribute to as well.

In case you are considering a position with a company that offers an HSA, here are some resources to take advantage of:
U.S. Office of Personnel Management's HSA website
U.S. Department of the Treasury's HSA website
HSA Insider

Recently the Wall Street Journal publishes an article that HSA's are losing favor with consumers. To read that article, visit The Wall Street Journal Online.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Why I Chose to Focus on the Wine Industry: Life of a Wine Recruiter

Last night my husband and I had a wonderful evening at Tra Vigne in St. Helena at the Wine Spectator's Bring Your Own Magnum party. The staff at Wine Spectator pulled out all the stops to host a wonderful party with great food, shared wines and dancing.

As a newbie to the event, I didn't know what to expect. Driving up to the event we saw the big tents and scores of people walking in--most with a magnum slung under their arms. Searching for parking up and down the area, we finally made our way to the event. Seeing lots of familar faces, we waded through the sea of people to stop in at the appettizer tables, to grab a taste of various wines at the pouring tables, to eat a great dinner and to dance the night away.

Sitting down with some industry greats, my husband and I enjoyed a wonderful evening meeting winery owners, converts to the way of the vine, and the talent that makes exceptional wine. Talking with some veterans brought home to me why I decided to focus on the wine world.

In my past life I worked with all types of technical companies; pharmaceutical, biotechnology, engineering, semiconductor, software design, website development, aerospace, hospitals and of course wineries. I enjoyed interacting with all of the industries, but always felt that winery personnel were much more personable. Sales calls were never high pressured meetings, but conversations where we got to know each other. Topics ranged from the personnel they needed to travel, food, art and countless other topics. My personal life was not an issue with winery insiders, but just another facet of me. Meetings were chances to catch up on business and each other's lives.

Another big reason I chose the wine world was that the clients I enjoyed working with the most also had a true passion for what they were doing. This included the young lab technician who wanted to find out as much as she could about how wine was made, all the way to the self made millionaire who spoke eloquently about his choice to start up a winery and the enjoyment he took in the hard work that is required to make great wine.

And although it gets blurred in the romance of wine--wine is an agricultural product, tightly tied to how the season shapes up and how the fruit is handled through the production process. For this reason most winery personnel have a close relation to the growing cycle, making them very "down to earth". They don't get caught up on small things, but are looking at the bigger picture. If this year doesn't shape up the way they want, there's always hope for next year. And vice versa, if this year was exceptional, most times they realize their luck and prepare for potential problems next year.

Working with these professionals makes my business a pleasure, and one I will stay in forever.

Yes, I too can get a job.

On Tuesday, June 5th I was reviewing the recruiting blog Secrets of the Job Hunt where Chris Russel was talking about his resume that never dies. Then today I received this message from the same woman who contacted Chris:

"Hi Amy

I recently received your resume for a position our firm had been looking to fill. This position was filled, however your resume appears to be a good match for some of the employers who frequently use our recruiting services in Sacramento. If you are still actively looking for a job in your field, click this link. If you are looking for a site specific to Sacramento, try here. Remember that it is important to keep your online resume up to date.

Best of luck,

Jennifer M,HR Manager"

Now, I haven't sent my resume out to a regular posting board in close to 10 years, so either this is a solicitation for my resume--which you should beware of--or a blanket response to a marketing email I sent to a client that was doing a confidential search. It makes me think that that confidential job search was only a company fishing for resumes.

Recruiters often post blind ads to pull in a lot of resumes for future opportunities. These resumes can be used to find out who is looking, what companies are going through changes, or to find contact names that are included on resumes. Unless you know the company that is searching, keep your references off the resume, and if and when you are contacted by the recruiting company, make sure they are up front with you about why they are contacting you.

Hmmm, now how do I keep that resume up to date!

Friday, June 1, 2007


A friend of mine was recently in the second interview stage for a large winery sales position. She was working with another recruiter who works on various executive search positions. Before she was scheduled to attend the interview, the recruiter contacted her to fill out an additional form that included her birthdate. The recruiter was insistent that she complete it and return it to him before the interview. He also had asked previously how old she was. Although before I was 30 I was thrilled to tell people how old I was, most of us are a bit reluctant to disclose our age, especially when a chance for employment hangs in the balance.

My friend asked for advice. Being a placement professional, I am up to speed on employment law. A potential employer is never allowed to ask a person's age, except to make sure they are old enough to be employed. Assuming we're all above age 16, age should not be discussed. But interviewers are not always up on employment law.

Discrimination based on age is a real concern. As Kate Lorenz recently reported on Career Builder, "Ageism on the Job" In California, nearly half of the working population will be considered older workers by the year 2010. AARP has reported an upswing in age discrimination claims.

I believe it's prudent to make age a non-issue as much as possible. First, look at your resume. Your resume is your calling card, a way to get in front of a hiring manager or HR professional. Represent your education, work history and qualifications accurately. At this point, dates of graduation are not necessary, unless they are very recent and can explain a recent jump in job position or qualification. Also, if you have a good employment record, you can afford to remove some of your early jobs. The harvest internship or customer service position can be removed without misrepresenting your abilities. When a company is interested in you they can then ask for specifics on education or related areas. With more credentials being checked, this is a very likely reason a potential employer will need specifics.

Recruiters should also know that they cannot discriminate against potential candidates based on age. If you are working with a recruiter who hounds you about your age, be careful. AARP has reported blatant discrimination from an executive search firm that screened out all candidates that were older than 45.

On the flip side, the baby boomers who are experiencing ageism for the first time may be turning age to their advantage. While some jobs lend themselves to an older workforce, such as senior management positions, lawyers and doctors, the baby-boomers have pioneered workplace reform in the past. Bringing work experience and energy to the job makes 50+ year olds very attractive to many employers.

So, keep your age private, but think about how you can use your experience and achievements to challenge any employer's notions about an older employee. If a interviewer raises the age question, try to tactfully avoid the question. Or, use your age to show them a thing or two and then wow them with what you can do.

For more resources on ageism and discrimination, visit