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Posts Tagged ‘Careers’

Most of the time, a supervisor does not look forward to receiving a resignation letter. I did say most of the time. Unfortunately, there are times when that letter is welcomed! However, today’s blog won’t focus on that but maybe a future blog will!  Today, I’m focused on the actual letter itself and what works when you are putting your intent to depart in written form.

A resignation letter should be short and straight-forward. Yes, I’m stating this as an absolute. This is not the place to recite purple prose or wax eloquently on and on. It is particularly not the place to recite all the grievances you’ve bottled up over your tenure with the company. There are times and places for that but it’s not the resignation letter. For your official resignation letter, I recommend a simple three-part approach in the letter itself.

  1. A statement indicating that you are resigning and providing  X (number) weeks notice.
  2. An expression of gratitude for the opportunity of working for the company and with your supervisor. If you mean it, provide a specific compliment to both.
  3. Indicate your plan and willingness to ensure a smooth transition on your way out and give your best wishes for the continued success of the company.

Each of these should be expressed in your own manner but should not stray from the points. For item 1, please do not neglect to provide notice. It’s professional and expected. As an employee, this is an area that may or may not provide you with extra brownie points but failing to do it can hurt you, long-term.  To resign without notice is a very valid reason for a company to indicate you are not eligible for rehire during future employment verification. Your company may actually choose to waive the notice period that you provide. They can do this and, if so, you should be prepared for the date of your resignation submission to also possibly be your last day of work. The point I started out with bears repeating, do not fail to provide notice. Failing to can only hurt you. If your company has routinely waived the notice period, allow them the opportunity to do it in your case.

The true purpose of your letter will have been served in the first couple of sentences.  The remainder is focused on simply establishing “goodwill” but is also important. Burned bridges can not be crossed again. We live in a vast world that has been made smaller through tremendously increased means of communications. Six degrees of separation is probably more like two now! Social media have linked us in a manner that maintaining goodwill is essential. Your current co-workers and bosses may be already connected with your new company and/or any future organization to which your career may lead you. Go out on a positive note. The music may follow you for years to come. Make sure your work is not left dangling but in good form for transition. And, finally, thank your supervisor and wish your company the best.

Of course, you may have other sentiments you may wish to express. Do this in person or in the conversations that will inevitably and necessarily take place once you’ve handed over your official resignation letter. However, in writing, keep to the 3-part approach.  It’s what works at work!

Best regards,

Vivian L. Mora, MSS, SPHR

Vivian L. Mora is certified as a senior professional in human resources (SPHR) by the Human Resources Certification Institution and holds a master’s degree in sociology and economics. She is the founder and managing partner of Mora & Associates, a retained executive search and human capital consulting firm based in Katy, TX.

Vivian offers Online HR Certification Prep Courses as well as other workplace-specific learning sessions (http://www.morahr.com/hr-education.html). For more information, please contact her directly at (877) 310-6553, ext. 702.

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fish in waves

BIG Fish, small pond?

We are not going fishing but we are going to play a short game of “Would you rather…” in which you get to pretend to be a fish! Whether you choose to be viewed as a BIG fish or a small fish is all relative to the size of the body of water you choose to swim in. You may choose a little pond or small company versus Lake Michigan or a large company. Knowing the size of the pond that best suits you in the work world is important. Understanding whether you are at your best leading and setting the pace or whether you prefer to work as part of a larger team with common goals can determine your overall happiness and satisfaction with work and with your organization.

In my most recent work experience, I accepted a leadership position with a small company which was almost immediately gobbled up by a larger company. Overnight, my pond expanded without any input from me. In past work lives, I’ve worked for each a small, a mid-sized, and large company. Although I performed well within the different environments and I believe that I am very adaptable, each experience taught me something different about myself. The experiences provided insights into the types of environments in which I believe I excel best. Understanding that the position I accepted was no longer the position I held, I had to revisit a few questions that would determine my level of happiness with my future work. If you are facing a similar quandary, start your evaluation by asking yourself these “Would you rather” questions.

Would you rather be the architect or the builder? An architect designs and makes the decisions on the structure, whereas the builder follows the architect’s plans to bring the structure into existence. How much input do you need to have in the major decisions of your work? This question focuses on impact, the impact of your contributions. How critical is it to you to see an immediate or fairly swift impact in your work? In a smaller organization, you may be able to leave at the end of each day knowing and seeing the impact of your actions and your decisions. If that means a lot to you, it can be frustrating waiting for others to consider incorporating your input in a larger organization. But, perhaps you do enjoy knowing that you were part of a team that helped bring a project or plan to life? A builder’s team most certainly looks over a structure at the end of a construction project with a sense of pride.

Would you rather be MacGyver or James Bond?  This is in reference to resources. MacGyver didn’t do too poorly with string, duct tape, and a Swiss Army knife. However, Bond had the support of MI6, the Secret Intelligence Service, with fairly unlimited resources and state-of-art equipment.  This is not to say that well stocked small ponds do not exist. In general, larger ponds have a more ready supply of both physical resources as well as intellectual capital from which to draw. I’m certain there are many who love the ingenuity and creativity required to work with limited resources and still excel within small organizations. But it can be very appealing to have the road smoothed out so that you can move at a faster pace. Speaking of pace…

Would you rather be a tortoise or an antelope?  See how I avoided the hare? Okay, the pace of progress and the ability to be nimble varies greatly between the small pond and Lake Michigan. You can row across the small pond in minutes. In crossing Lake Michigan, we’ll see you…. I’m not really sure how long it would take but I can safely say it will take MUCH longer. Communications and decision-making can move quickly if all you need to do is travel down the hall a door or two. Within a larger entity there are levels of hierarchy that must be traversed, buy-in that must be gained from a larger span of people. If you are accustomed to moving swiftly to take advantage of an active market or address an unexpected complication or challenge within a smaller organization, you are going to have to become acclimated to the time-lag that is part of swimming in a much larger body of water.

The questions above were the essential starting point for me in evaluating, BIG verses small. There are others that will be specific to your situation but may revolve around new responsibilities, development and growth, as well as future opportunities for advancement within each environment. Your personal choice of small or BIG company should center on what fits you best, the magical pond in the woods or Lake Michigan where I hear the sailing can be very good!

Best regards,

Vivian L. Mora, MSS, SPHR

Vivian L. Mora is certified as a senior professional in human resources (SPHR) by the Human Resources Certification Institution and holds a master’s degree in sociology and economics. She is the founder and managing partner of Mora & Associates, a retained executive search and human capital consulting firm based in Katy, TX.

Vivian offers leadership development workshops as well as individual mentoring and coaching sessions (http://morahr.com/ExecutiveCoaching.aspx and http://morahr.com/CultivateSuccess.aspx). For more information, please contact her directly at (877) 310-6553, ext. 702.

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Mistakes happen. How you handle them is what matters most.

To not anticipate mistakes is futile. It happens. We are human and “to err” is in the nature of being. Shockingly, these statements are coming from a “perfectionist” but I am currently “on the wagon”.  I didn’t think of myself as a perfectionist for a long time. I had “exacting” standards. I demanded the very best from myself (and wanted it from others). Error-free was the baseline. These are just a few of the many statements perfectionists use to justify setting unrealistic targets and expecting unrealistic outcomes. The paradox within my own search for perfection was that although I wanted the very best from others I did not expect it. Why?  Because, of course, I knew that to expect others to live up to my standards was ridiculous and unrealistic. After all, my standards for myself were ridiculous and unrealistic!

For perfectionists, mistakes sound a death knell and then the kicking, head-banging, and wallowing begins. The error takes on monumental proportions and can ruin everything that comes after. We see some of the best examples of this in sports. The player who makes a mistake and compounds it play after play or round after round. We say that he was off his game that day. The player accepts that he was off his game that day. Nonsense! He wasn’t off his game that day. He just didn’t know how to get back on his game.  This same scene is also played out in offices, on work sites, and in homes day in and day out by people who expect perfection when they don’t get it. They beat themselves up in the aftermath of the error and it then affects the next thing and the next thing that he or she does. She’s having a bad day. Again, nonsense! She hasn’t figured out how to recover and move beyond the first mistake.

Recovery is a conscious act. It can be approached in a similar step by step manner used in many counseling programs. It’s a bit more concise than 12 Steps but is just as effective. The first step requires acknowledgement that we are human, errors happen, period. Next, acknowledge the current state just as a fact, placing no judgment on it as good, bad, or ugly. Just the facts, ma’am, as it is. Next, consciously take in that it is in the past now and no amount of “should haves” will change it so don’t go down that path. Next, move forward. Ask what can I do about the current state? What corrections can I make? If corrections are possible, make them. If corrections are not possible, ask what lesson can I take away from this for the future? Internalize the lessons and then move on by letting go.  Don’t continue to beat up yourself. Don’t wallow in it. You’ve corrected it and gained something from it.  It’s over and done.  Let it go.

Take it from a recovering perfectionist, following the steps above will change the way you handle mistakes when they occur and will lessen the amount of angst you suffer over simple human errors. The objective is not to strive for perfection but for excellence. Excellence is progressive and is acheived through learning. It becomes a synergistic process through which one gets better and better. Perfectionism leaves no room for this type of growth. Getting to this point doesn’t happen overnight. I’m still working on it, but it is working.

Best regards,

Vivian L. Mora, MSS, SPHR

Vivian L. Mora is certified as a senior professional in human resources (SPHR) by the Human Resources Certification Institution and holds a master’s degree in sociology and economics.  She is the founder and managing partner of Mora & Associates, a retained executive search and human capital consulting firm based in Katy, TX. 

Vivian offers HR technical expertise including coaching and mentoring (http://morahr.com/HR_Alignment.aspx).  For more information, please call (877) 310-6553, ext. 702 or email her at vivian@morahr.com.

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Can these letters make a difference?

Why do we certify? Is it because the letters look good after our names? Maybe it’s to impress others? Well, the letters may look good after our names but I’m in the impress others camp.  Although we, generally, do not certify to impress others in a smug sort of way but to show that we possess a certain amount of knowledge without waving it in the air or shouting it out loud. 

A profession is defined as a vocation founded upon specialised educational training.  Historically, as a vocation moved towards becoming a profession, a specific set of skills and/or a body of knowledge developed. Certification exams became a means of assessing whether any one member engaged in the vocation possessed the requisite skills and body of knowledge.  Hence, certifications were developed for many professions. 

Certification can set you apart from the crowd. It can lend a certain level of credibility that you just might know what you are doing. Employers quite often include preferences for certifications in job postings. In the HR community, it is quite common to find a preference or a requirement for PHR or SPHR certified candidates. Considering the overwhelming number of applicants an employer may receive for a single position posting, filtering by this means can make the task much less daunting.

The Human Resource Certification Institute (HRCI), the recognized leader in HR certification, announces that it has over 108,000 certified HR professionals in more than 70 countries and territories. Considering that the Bureau of Labor Statistics has estimated that approximately 1 million human resource professionals currently work for US businesses, even if all the certified professionals were in the US, we are only talking about 10%!  With those numbers, I’m guessing that those letters after your name can set you apart. 

In addressing the second half of my question, can not certifying harm you? Maybe, maybe not, but why not help yourself wherever you can?

With regards,

Vivian L. Mora, MSS, SPHR

Vivian L. Mora is certified as a senior professional in human resources (SPHR) by the Human Resources Certification Institution and holds a master’s degree in sociology and economics. She is the founder and managing partner of Mora & Associates, a retained executive search and human capital consulting firm based in Katy, TX. 

Vivian offers an online HR certification prep course twice a year once in the Fall and again in the Spring (www.moraHR.com/hreducation.aspx). For more information, please contact me directly at (877) 310-6553, ext. 702.

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Here in the United States, we’ve now witnessed the greatest loss of jobs since the Depression. In the past two years, organizations found themselves seeking means of reducing expenses while they watched revenues dwindle. For many (I could probably say most) reducing jobs was one of the primary routes taken in this quest. Some took this route early and quickly while others took every other possible route before making the choice to eliminate jobs. Some companies handled this with skill, diplomacy, and a humanistic touch. Others did not. Tales of email notices and security escorts have run rampant. Organizations eventually reached what they term as efficient staffing levels given the current state of the market. Hmm, it’s the latter part of that statement that will pose the most trouble in the coming year or two as employees embark upon what I can only tritely refer to as The Great Job Hop of 2010.

The Great Job Hop is in the embryonic stage at this point but the signs are clear. The “high performers” that many organizations have worked diligently to retain over the last couple of years are starting to “look around”. For organizations, the traditional break-up line of “it’s not you, it’s me” would be a lie. It is you. However, for some, there is very little you could have done to prevent the pending break-up. You were not the only company to make layoffs and eliminate jobs. The company to which your “high performer” is moving may have made even more cuts than you did. The difference is — he or she did not experience it first-hand with XYZ Company. 

Organizations have done a great job in the past few decades of building cultures that encourage closer associations at work. One of the questions in the ubiquitous Gallup Q12 is “Do you have a best friend at work?” Our associations at work don’t fall along neat little lines where my best friend just happens to be my fellow “high performer” in the next cubicle or nor do all occupants of the “most crucial positions” go to lunch together daily. No, with all these close associations forming at work, many of your high performers watched their BF at work lose his or her job. They then rode the emotional rollercoaster with their BF as he or she looked for work in a very tough market. The high performer’s feelings towards the company that he and his best friend at work loved a year or so ago have changed. There’s probably a high degree of survivor’s guilt mixed in with some resentment.  Now, I’m not a psychologist so that’s about as far as I go into the psyche but I am a sociologist so I can tell you what the resulting behavior will be with a high probability of being correct.  An exit is the course that most will take when faced with this quandary. There will be a great urge to remove oneself from the environment that has brought about these feelings. Fortunately, for them, high performers and individuals occupying crucial positions generally have options when the employment picture begins to change for the better, as is predicted for the coming year. 

Companies who have looked ahead and have seen the writing on the wall are beginning to take steps to “re-engage” with their present staff to help mitigate the potential damage. Organizations who took the humanistic route have an advantage. These companies’ actions will not have caused as much guilt or resentment and may even be viewed positively if separated employees were provided with adequate severance benefits and communications remained open throughout the changes. The re-engagement should be approached much the same way as initial recruitment campaigns were approached. What are the positive attributes that attracted employees to your organization? Do you have a unique value proposition (UVP) for your employees? In business, every organization has a unique value it offers to its customers. It’s the reason customers will want to choose do business with you rather than your competitor down the street. You will need to make certain employees know what UVP you have to offer them and that the attributes which brought them to you are still very much a part of the organization. Do you conduct “internal” marketing? If not, you would be wise to quickly develop your messages and a campaign for getting the message into the ears, minds, and, hopefully, hearts of your most valuable asset, your people. 

If you sincerely want to keep your high performers and crucial staffers in place during the Great Job Hop, the most important part of your messaging will be that it rings true.

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I’ve uttered those words many times in giving advice to others when they are either seeking a creative solution, stumped, frustrated, overwhelmed, upset, burned out, angry, or just plain bored.  There are so many times when this action is not only the right thing to do but the only thing to do.  There wasn’t anyone around to utter those words to me last month when my plate overflowed with the things of LIFE.  I missed my self-imposed schedule for blogging and every day that I failed to complete it, I piled it back on the plate for tomorrow along with ten other things.  It became the leftover Thanksgiving turkey that instead of eating it, you just move it around the plate to make it look like you ate some of it.  The very next day, there it was again!  Finally, two-thirds of the way into August, I realized that I needed to step away for a moment and stop serving up this leftover.

There are so many instances in life where merely stepping away for a moment allows us to go forward. What does it really do for you? It allows your mind to let go of the stress of dealing  with the issue for a moment. You relax and actually feel the tension that you felt over the issue seep away.  You move on to other things with undivided attention and those things come more easily to you because you’re able to focus without the distraction of that unfinished work at the back of your mind.  Before you know it, you mind is clear and you begin to get new insights and perspectives on the very issue that previously had you tied in knots.  The bigger picture comes into focus rather than the minutiae associated with being so task-oriented.  This is the very reason we take vacations!  It clears the mind and allows us to re-energize.  The “step-away” could be thought of as kind of an instant vacation that we can take whenever it is needed.  We all could use more vacation time, right? 

The most important outcome of stepping away for a moment is that you return revitalized and more productive than before.  Your refreshed mind finds that creative solution, is now more open, calm, and ready for whatever is next!  My mini-vacation from blogging spanned the entire month of August but I’m back and ready for whatever is next!!

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We are all professionals in whatever endeavor we have chosen and we are also multidimensional human beings. There are so many things that define who we are.  This can make developing and defining yourself on the web somewhat tricky. There are so many web and social networking tools available for “putting yourself” out there. It’s difficult to not scatter yourself in every direction. I am on Facebook and LinkedIn. I have 3 websites. I blog at WordPress and I tweet on Twitter. I even have a MySpace page that I haven’t visited in months. This entry was inspired by a recent invitation from someone I think highly of to connect with them on Namyz although we are already connected on LinkedIn. When I received the invitation, I followed the link to Namyz. However, as I contemplated setting up another social networking profile, something held me back. I couldn’t do it. It had nothing to do with Namyz itself. I came to realize that I am spread too far already which explains why my MySpace page languishes without any interference from me. I’ve reached my limit of what I am capable of maintaining with any level of quality while still putting in several hours of “real” work each day. I urge you from a professional and a personal standpoint to also examine your current web presence. Have you excercised discipline as well as a healthy level of caution in defining yourself on the web?

Our lives are made up of a series of choices and the behaviors that result from them – the things that we do and things that we don’t do.  My professional expertise lies in the practice of human resources and I am a masters-level sociologist by academic discipline. Given this background, of course, I believe that behaviors define who you really are. When considering a job candidate, I focus very sharply on the things the canddiate does as well as the things the candidate does not do – the choices he or she has made along the way. With so many companies utilizing your social networking presence to find you and to then determine whether or not you may be a good fit within their organization, exercising discipline in establishing and maintaining your web presence can be critical to your career. For others, like me, who are either entrepreneurs and business owners or who work independently, your web presence can help an individual or organization decide whether or not to conduct business with you. Does that not make your web presence something you consider very carefully each time you sign on?

My WordPress blog, LinkedIn profile, Facebook page, website content, and Twitter tweets all define me to those who don’t know me personally. I want ensure that definition is one of quality not just quantity, so should you. Choose carefully!

“No choice ranks a man so quickly as his skill in selecting things that are really worthwhile. Every day brings the necessity of keen discrimination. Not always is it a choice between good and bad, but between good and best.”  A.P. Gouthey

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I attended a presentation at the local HR association monthly meeting focused on “HR at the Table”. The presenter was the senior executive VP of Global Sales for a very prominent organization. Do you find that a little interesting also? Yes, well, he had at some point during his career held responsibility for the HR function and gained a great appreciation and understanding of the function. Beyond that, why not? Why not hear from someone whose function is quite naturally at the table? The shortest possible version of his overall message was that if you want a seat at the table, you must think and act strategically! Ta-daaaa! 

You’ve heard that before? Okay, there is a bit more. It’s the bit more that inspired this entry and will probably inspire more. During the 40-minute presentation, it was also asserted that an individual can be taught to think strategically. What are your thoughts on that? When I first heard it, I immediately thought of all the HR professionals I’ve encountered who did not approach their work in this manner. I tried to imagine that group shifting to a more strategic approach. Is it truly possible? As I thought about it more, for some, yes! For others, I’m sorry to say, but no. For the latter group, myopia either set in somewhere along the way or has always been present. Their neural pathways are set.  This type of change requires a major shift in perspective and thought patterns. You will have to, not only, see things more broadly but find solutions from a broader range of creative thought. The shift and the path to the table call for openess, adaptability, discipline, and an immense amount of mental fortitude.  That is major change if you’re not so inclined already!

There are many HR professionals who do have the potential to make their way to the table. Those professionals can take that unoccupied seat by being more strategic in their overall approach to human resource managment. Ahhh, there it is again, be strategic. This persistent call to be more strategic can be a bit confounding because you’ve heard it tossed around too often and too loosely. Does each person who states this have the same definition and expectation in mind? Probably not, but simply put, being strategic means thinking long-term and broadly about the business you’re in and finding solutions that yield the most value on a long-term basis. It means getting beyond what’s right in front of you for the day, week, or month. This can be a tough task in itself for many but no one will tell you that the path is short nor smooth. Your will and your capabilities will be tested and challenged all along the way but coming from someone who has traveled that road, it is so worthwhile. Your organization and you will be better for it.

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You hear it more often than you want to and maybe you’ve said it at least a couple of times in the past year when faced with a situation that called for an immediate and urgent response. The situation was your “fire” and your response was to jump right in and put out the fire as soon as humanly possible. Going into it, you had little or no time for planning. As you look back over it, in hindsight, you wish you had handled things differently. Hindsight is 20-20.

When we hear or state “Hindsight is 20-20”, it is most often said with a sense of resignation, as if to say that there’s nothing we can do about it now. We’ve just become fatalists destined to repeat this again. We then race off to the next fire that needs fighting. That’s where we all go wrong. Hindsight is 20-20! It should be stated with a sense of optimism! Guess what?! We’ve just been handed a gift! An opportunity to, not only, learn from the situation but to now plan for it!

Hindsight is one of the most useful planning tools you will encounter. Making good use of hindsight means taking stock of the past year (or more) and reviewing the major issues and concerns you encountered. Take a look at how you handled them then consider how you wish had handled them and how you will handle them in the future. Did you notice a common thread or pattern? Ask yourself, what can you do now from a strategic standpoint that will help you prevent or minimize these issues in the future? After you have completed these steps for your various areas of responsibility, you will have a good start on planning for a “fire-free” future. Use 20-20 hindsight to your advantage!

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No, not personal names. That’s a completely different subject and is way touchier than what I want to cover today. I’m not feeling all that controversial today. The sun’s shining out the window and I’ve just finished reviewing 80 resumes for a position my firm is working to fill for a client company. That’s why the subject of names has come up. Shakespeare quoted, “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”  In his writing, it is asserted that a name is an artificial and meaningless convention. In a job search, I would not be so fast to assert this!

So, what is in a name? I received 200+ resumes for this one position referenced above. Not all of the candidates met the qualifications for this particular position. However, what stands out to me is that almost 20% was eliminated due to a name; a cute name, a sexy name, no name, or a clever but inappropriate name. Some might say this is a superficial justification. Is this elimination from the candidate pool based on “an artificial and meaningless convention”? It’s not, in this case (or I’m justifying it as not). This is a top position for a function within an organization. It requires strategic thought and good judgment.  Of the 80 job seekers’ resumes currently under review, all used an email address that most people would classify as professional and a straightforward or functional name for their resume file. Cute and not so cute names in an email address (snuggles777, coocoo4cocoa, jessiesgirl, nightrider99, 2kofun, etc) should be reserved for communicating with friends and other loved ones, not the person who may hold the key to your next career move.

Set up an email address just for the purpose of job hunting if your customary email address is less than super-professional (you can put super in front of almost anything to up the level, right?). Based on the number of email addresses that are available to a single account these days, you can’t run out unless you’re a spammer. In that case, maybe you shouldn’t get the job anyway (please spare my inbox). Given the tight competition for scarce jobs today, don’t guess as to whether your customary email address is or isn’t professional enough. Use your name or your name in combination with your location if you don’t want to use your name alone (“jonathandoe” or “jdoe-houtex”). Whatever you use, try to avoid being cute, sexy, or overly clever. I know you want to show your personality but just being you works best here. That’s who the recruiter wants to see, not Snuggles or Jessie’s Girl.

My next comment concerns the name you allocate to your resume file. More than a dozen email resumes for this one position arrived with the name “Resume[1].doc” or something similar. Why? It’s the first resume in the resume folder on your computer so you named it “resume[1]”. It makes sense in that setting. Let’s shift to you now sending this file to a recruiter in a company or an independent firm, someone like me.  Remember, it’s now the 149th for the open position and the 10,000th for the recruiter’s overall database. Assign it a name that will have significance to the recruiter. Would “jondoe_civil engr_PE” work better than “resume[1]”? The first example gives the submission meaning and actually makes it easy to consider, not only for this position, but for other positions calling for a civil engineer with PE certification. 

Final note on this, most recruiters including those who use applicant tracking systems (see my last post if you are not familiar with these) save resume files to a folder for later review or as backup after the system extracts information. When this occurs, only one file named “resume[1]” can be saved. Will it be yours? There is definitely something in a name. Don’t risk elimination because of it. Set your resume apart from the crowd with a name that tells the reviewer who you are immediately. Stay in the gene, uh, candidate pool.

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