How to NOT Get a Job

A friend of mine was trying to help an acquaintance of hers get a new job. She sent me her résumé for my suggestions, or better yet, to see if I might want to hire her. I read the short résumé of the 50-year-old lady and cringed. She claimed at the top of the document that she increased corporate sales by 11.7% and cash flow by 3.4%.

As a boss I read those numbers and the word “bogus” flashed before my eyes. A person in an estimating job like this woman had, should not boast that she raised sales or cash flow by a precise amount. She may have been part of a team that helped improve business, but to attribute a statistically precise number to your work achievement is ridiculous and impossible because a business is a team effort.

As an owner and company president of a small business with a dozen employees I cannot accurately quantify my own achievement or failure. I also know that financial documents are accounting concoctions even when they are conscientiously put together.

So when I see a résumé, and I have seen a ton of them, that has canned language like “detail oriented” or “self-driven” on top of precise statistics that do not jibe with my view of the messy reality of business I recoil.

This lady who is searching to better herself has fallen into the trick bag of corporate gibberish. She will never pull herself out of the job quicksand by doing what she thinks everybody else does. In my world, sending out a résumé of dubious statistics and clichés is a sure losing strategy.

When my friend asked me what I would recommend this lady do, I paused to consider it because I did not want to come off as an arrogant jerk.

This is my honest advice. Be like George Costanza in one of my favorite Seinfeld episodes. As usual life was going badly for poor George so one day he decided to do everything the opposite of his normal instinct. He then landed his dream job with the New York Yankees after ridiculing George Steinbrenner.

For the woman who asked me for advice about her resume, I would recommend she make a YouTube video and look straight into the camera and say something like this:

“I’m 50 years old with a lifetime of practical business experience. I am a smart and good person, a caring mother and I get along with the people I work with. I show up every day and give my job my all. I am not a superstar, but I am the kind of productive team player that I’ve found most businesses need.”

I think many employers would react favorably to this approach. It definitely would be better than phony percentages and “innovative, detail oriented” blah, blah, blah.

Question: Would you rather hire an A player who is a prima donna or a B player who is a joy to work with?

Seinfeld’s George Costanza getting a job with the Yankees by criticizing George Steinbrenner.

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12 thoughts on “How to NOT Get a Job

  1. kEN mYERS

    Another great article/commnet on the realities of the business world, Lloyd.
    I miss your magazine HOWEVEWR, this medium has continued to bring
    your readers [& faithful followers] the same truthful insights into the world
    we live in.
    THANKS, & keep the pen/keyboard going.
    Ken Myers

  2. Bruce Renwick

    Great advice on seeking employment Lloyd. It’s amazing when you’re interviewing someone what can come out of there mouths and minds.
    The best case scenario is an A player who isn’t a prima donna, there are some around. However, give me the B player any day over the prima donna, in the end you’ll get a lot more done with far less stress and hassles.

  3. matt

    I’ll take the B player all day long!!! Actually had this talk with my secretary yesterday….about people who “know” and people who “care”. I’ll take a caring person all day long. She is a fine example…she wanted to be a secretary, she begged me for the job ( her brother-in -law works here). She had absolutely no experience. She was working at Peter Paul putting almonds on coconut patties to make Almond Joys. I took a shot and hired her. That was almost 15 years ago. She is the best!!!!!!!

  4. Wendell

    Be careful here. We all read between the lines when we assess resumes, and at first blush what you say is typically true. However, this may be a case of a very conscientous, driven person with the actual statistics to back up what she says. Might even be in a down market which would be impressive.
    Bottom line is that A employees are what seperate us from the competition, and there are too few available to overlook a potentially good one without gathering more information than descibed here.

  5. BR-549

    Interview with more than one person and more than one time. Anyone can be someone else for 30 minutes. An A person just might be what the B team needs provided they do not create such an atmosphere that the B team stops working with or for the new A player.

    Reading resumes is entertaining. If we each wrote one on ourselves, we would put in there what we like to see as we read them. But would it be the right “stuff” if read by others?

  6. Miles Free

    Surprised that your advice is to lead with her “Age,” certainly one of the most verboten topics in employment law. Are you thinking that bringing up the kryptonite topic of right away, somehow gives a contrarian advantage?

    As to the facts she claims, a more nuanced reading might be that issues she has identified during quoting has resulted in shorter cycle times and thus expanded capacity- which, when dollarized- do materialize as claimed.

    Sometimes the assumptions that need to be challenged are our own if we are to be Effective as Critical Thinkers.

    Great topic, and my experience with Cleveland Football provides years of testimony that an “A” player (quarterback) is worthless without a line of solid “B+” players to protect the pocket so they can do their thing.

  7. Derek

    I sometimes recruit for my company, and I’ve only had 1-2 people ever say ‘they are problem solvers’ – and for some reason, that response has always stuck with me. It all depends on the job task as to what we are looking for in a person.

  8. Mike Richards

    I once discussed a salesman’s perfomance with my dad. After I finished my criticism, my dad asked the question: “If he was perfect, then why would he be working for you?” Indeed we hire people for their strengths and accept their weaknesses. Resumes only cover strengths. And only time will uncover the weaknesses.

  9. Jim

    Interesting article. I can relate to both sides of this subject. I work in manufacturing purchasing and when I was “downsized” from my last position (who happens to be the primary compeditor of my current employer) I knew that I made substancial contributions and had the data to back it up. Namely actual cost savings in the 100’s of thousands of dollars per year but I decided not to put that on my resume as well as some education that was not relevant to the position. Like you mentioned it is too easy to be construed as inaccurate boasting. I left the “sell” to my previous employers who tried anything and everything to disuade my current employer from hiring me. I was hired immediately, “if they try that hard not to let us hire him there has to be a reason”. A couple years later one owner told me what was mentioned during the vetting process and followed up with “hiring you was the best decision we ever made even though sometimes you are a pain.” Hiring an A or B player isn’t as important as the synergy of the team as a result.

    Actions speak louder than words and word of mouth is very powerful.

  10. David

    I was out of work two years ago for about four months. I went on 15 different interviews to i found a company that want me and i want to work for them . I got ask some of the dumbness question. What is my favorite movie, If won a hundred million dollars what would i do with it (i dont think they like the answer wouldn’t work every again), What was my greatest failure at work (like i am going to a interviewer that), and my favorite when you where a kid what did you want to be when you grew up

  11. Merle Fiske

    BEfore I became a boss, I used to scoff at business magazines that said that management’s biggest worry was about their people. Then I became a boss and I saw what I had been missing. Finding, developing, retaining the right people is how Management adds value.

  12. Dusty

    Sorry but i disagree. I would hire a person with verifiable statistics like hers than some lady begging for a job on youtube. Plus, how much does she stand to make once hiring managers know she is desperate. My guess is that she will make $10 an hour. Sadly hiring managers miss great candidates because they write them off because of one miner perceived infraction. Articles like this exist to make society into good little drones. I would rather hire someone that can think outside a cubical (BOX).


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