Ever been to a motorcycle rally? We have them all over the place in Florida. The big daddy, of course, is Bike Week in Daytona. But there are rallies in most of the major cities and even some of the minor ones. The Leesburg Bike Fest has come to be known as Spring’s alternative to Bike Week. Don’t like the crowds and over commercialization of Bike Week? Then head to the far side of Lake County and enjoy Main Street the way it was meant to be!

I rode over and here’s what I learned this weekend…

Know what your audience wants to hear and PLAY IT LOUD!
Riding an air-cooled motorcycle for an hour or hanging around them for most of the day will make your ears ring. Not quite deaf, but just that muffly-muted sensation coupled with a background tone that makes it hard to hear nuances and talkative passengers. To entertain riders, bike rallies will set up multiple stages for cultural expositions such as musicianship, artistry (i.e., tattoo shows) and beauty contests (i.e., wet t-shirt contests). When it comes to music (notice how deftly I skip over tattoos and t-shirts!) most people who attend bike rallies like classic rock. ZZ Top, Thin Lizzy, Led Zeppelin, Bad Company… Fortunately for bikers, this music is best enjoyed, at Nigel Tufnel amplification levels. I say fortunately, because, to cut through the ringing noise in everyone’s ears, you have to make it heard!

For job seekers, make sure the most pertinent qualifications that you possess cut through the ringing noise in recruiters ears. Recruiters view stacks of resumes all with the same vomit-inducing Objective statement, managers interview dozens of interview-suited little punks like you, everyone has “strong communication skills” and a “track record of success.” Identify 3-5 SPECIFIC qualifications that you possess and keep going back to those themes. Lead your resume with these skills, work them into every response you give, and include references top them in the questions you ask. Amplify your argument to 11 by supporting your candidacy with a simple, straightforward case that’s based on behaviors, not clichés. What are you doing when you communicate strongly? What did you do to succeed? Describe those behaviors repeatedly to your audience to cut through the numbing buzz of applicant exhaust noise.

Where’s the beef?
Damn, bikers like meat! No, seriously. In one small block you can eat burgers, hot dogs, smoked turkey legs, BBQ, grilled sausages, Philly cheesesteak, Chicken on a stick, and almost any other mammal that possesses a mother and a face. Want a nice green salad or some poached asparagus? Better go look elsewhere! Come on, everyone sing together! Old MacDonald had a farm…and then the biker ate it…

When you are describing your top-shelf behaviors, make sure you have specific EXAMPLES. Think of a recruiter looking at your resume like those three little old ladies on the Wendy’s commercial. If all you offer is fluff someone is gonna bust you like Clara Peller. Be descriptive. Take your behavior descriptions to the next level by supporting your qualifications with metrics. Analyze what happened so you show you’re capable of complex thought. Competence is the beef recruiters seek!

Posers can’t help but look the part
You always know who really rides their bike, and who only rides it so they can park it somewhere and stand next to it. As silly as those reflector-suited guys look on their BMWs, you know they ride some serious miles. Likewise, no one goes through the pain to squeeze sausage-like into riding leathers to just stand and bake in the Florida heat and humidity (PU!!). Additionally, comfy jeans and a t-shirt doesn’t mean you don’t eat up the miles. But if your outfit is too coordinated, you just look silly. Really, high heeled riding boots? Chaps with your butt hanging out? Ironed jeans?

Similarly, if you go into an interview thinking you’ll just wing it or if you apply for a job that you aren’t qualified to do, you’ll be quickly identified and culled from the heard like a wounded yearling. Recruiters are trained to pare a large pool down to a small subset quickly. Good recruiters can do it without thinking. Why? For the reasons I state above. If you have qualifications for a job you can give examples and metrics. If you have a passion for an industry or job, you can talk about it. If you have properly researched an employer you can relate your skills to the mission and values the company espouses. Don’t be a generic poser. Know what you offer and get into your craft. Find a passion and pursue it.

Your dream bike isn’t always your first bike…but it taught you how to ride!
Posers aside, the best part (if there is one) of going to a bike rally is just looking around. People, bikes, and their collected personalities come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and functions. If you like machines then just walk up and down the street. Yes, there are lots of Harleys. But they are parked next to sportbikes, power cruisers, Goldwings, custom bikes, and cobbled together Dr. Frankenstein two-wheeled visions. People range in age from a few months to what looks like a few hundred years. This year I saw a guy with a customized Honda Trail 70. SWEET!! In 4th Grade my Dad brought home a beat to hell blue one and that was my introduction to motorized two-wheeled transit. Didn’t go more than 20 miles per hour, smoked like a Jersey barfly, and looked like it had been dragged behind a truck. Been in love ever since.

If you talk to other riders they started out on a relatively narrow band of “starter rides.” Small displacement cruisers, sportbikes and trail bikes are most common. Then you get good. You develop skills. Maybe even take a few falls. But, just like you, the folks on the bikes that make you salivate; the sleek Ducatis, radical ‘Busas, long-forked choppers, mile-munching touring rigs, and even home-built bobbers all started on something simple and easy to ride. New grads need to remember that to get to their dream job, they need to start out in a relatively “un-glamorous” entry-level job. Build your skills. Learn to fail. Learn to learn from your failure so you don’t do that again. Then, when you have the requisite competence you can get that sexy red job that corners like Nicky Hayden!

Be aware of your surroundings
Some jackass behind me at a red light honked the other day when I was turning right. I guess I wasn’t aggressive enough in my decision making on when to turn right on red. I generally don’t like turning right on red when I’m on my bike. At least not unless I can see lots of clear road to my left. This was in traffic with a steady line of oncoming cars making a right turn. I generally prefer to wait. I also look around a lot when I’m riding. I look at brake lights in front of me, drivers who feel it’s necessary to ride next to me, trucks entering from the right and left, and even the asphalt when I put my feet down at a stoplight. I’m hoping all of this will extend (and increase my enjoyment of) my time in the saddle.

Applicants should adopt this “swivel-headed” approach to employment. If you are going to apply for a job, be aware of the qualifications the company wants. And have them! Watch your interviewer’s body language. If they smile, they like what you’re saying. Smile back. If they furrow their brow as if in thought, better explain how what you’re saying relates to their question. If they frown, don’t do what you’re doing. If they look serious, be serious. Research your target companies. More than just on Wikipedia! Look at their financials. Look at their Directors. Look up the person who will interview you on LinkedIn. Google the manager and see if they’ve been in the news lately. And then, when you get the interview, keep looking around and processing what you see and feel to decide if this is a place where you can be successful.

Ride hard, have fun, be cool, be safe!

Why Your Resume is Killing Your Job Search

Conventional wisdom says to get a job, you need a resume. Conventional wisdom says employers will hire you based on the skills and experience you possess. Conventional wisdom says your resume is a snapshot of your skills and experience. So…the sum of this wisdom would lead you to believe that if you write out all your experience on a piece of paper, name it “resume” and send it out, you’ll get a job. Right? WRONG!

Most applicants don’t get past the first screening. Why? Their resume suffers from one of Lonny’s “Deadly Resume Sins.”

Blandness
Bored, bored, bored, bored, bored…… That’s how I feel when I read most resumes. Send me your “generic” resume and I start looking out the window at the kids playing hacky sack. Yay, the universal diversion! EVERY time you reply to a job posting you need to alter your resume to fully meet the requirements of that position. Met someone at a networking event? Find out what they do or what they want to do with your resume and tailor it again. I heard someone advising a student the other day saying that’s what the cover letter is for. POPPYCOCK!!! No one reads cover letters. Ok, maybe some people do. But like a collection of rural Louisiana liberals, collectively they could fill a phone booth. The 70s are over, no one buys an album to get one or two hits. Every song you put out needs to stand on its own merit, every resume needs to target a specific opportunity.

Objective Statement
I need you to sit down and take a deep breath. Ready? I don’t give a rat’s a$$ what you want to do when you grow up. I want to find someone to fill this job who is going to be a rock star and eventually let me retire to a small tropical island with Herve Villechaize and a dozen employees of the month from Hooters. I’m going to read maybe the top half-ish of your resume. You better hit me hard in that first few lines with what you bring to the table and how that relates to my business. When you read a good book, the author hits you from the first paragraph in a way that keeps you reading. Makes you want to continue. An Objective Statement does nothing to hook me because in the end, your only objective is to get a job. If you wanted to do something else, you’d be starting the company yourself.

Irrelevance
If I post a job or I tell you I’m looking for someone with ____ skills, don’t send me a resume that shows you don’t meet those qualifications. If I say I need someone with sales experience then you need to have sales experience. If I say I need someone who can grow new business then you need to show what you can do in business development. If I say I need someone with a Bachelor’s degree, then you need to have a Bachelor’s degree. People don’t go to the grocery store saying, I’m making spaghetti so I need pasta, tomato sauce and meat then feel like they have what they need by picking up the ingredients for apple pie. A recent survey conducted in Central Florida listed “unqualified applicants” as one of the major impediments to hiring in this area. Recruiters and employers feel they are spending more time looking through more resumes that are less qualified. Annoying an employer is no way to build a relationship. Just because you WANT to do that job, doesn’t mean you CAN.

Focusing on the Past
Someone tell me what other marketing media focuses on the past? Beer commercials tell you about all the fun dudes and hot chicks you’ll meet. Insurance commercials tell you how much money you’ll save. Chew this gum and you’ll have white teeth; take this pill and your sweetie will think you’re Captain Morgan straddling a cannon shouting, “Yo ho ho!!” Want to be a lady’s man? Just color your hair like Emmitt Smith….oh, and be an all pro Running Back with big muscles and Super Bowl rings and a padded checking account. That helps too. Your resume is your primary piece of marketing collateral. It needs to create an image of the kind of future the employer can expect from you, not just what you did in the past. You raised $1000 for charity. Good. Your mother is proud. What will that do for me? Don’t assume I know. I’m already consumed with other stuff. Create a vision of the future for me.

Coming Before You
I’ll give you that when you apply via a job posting, the first thing the employer sees about you is your resume. But, if that’s your ONLY approach, then you’re in trouble. Find a reason to put on pants. Get out and mingle. Talk to people. NETWORK!!! I was talking to a student the other day who is getting his MBA at night because he’s an engineer with 12 years of experience and has discovered he doesn’t want to be an engineer anymore. He wants to be an accountant. So he asks me how he finds accounting jobs. How did you decide to change careers, I ask. A test at work that the HR department did. Really? Did you talk to any of the accountants at work, maybe speak to a manager, maybe talk to the HR person about your test results and see if there are lateral opportunities. You, personally, are a better piece of media than a piece of paper. You can answer questions. You can ask questions. You can smile and be charming. You can show interest. You can be humble and thankful. Get out there and talk to people and let your resume FOLLOW you for a change.

Errors (Real or Perceived)
A real error would be employment dates that don’t make sense. A perceived one would be leaving your email as BigBootyDADDY@yahoo.com. It’s still your email, but it sucks. Change it. Other errors include mis-spelled words, formatting errors like unaligned borders or mis-matched bullets, fonts that don’t match, or simply making statements that the employer may know to be false. This one is simple, don’t stretch the facts and check your work. Finally, anything you do that makes it hard for a recruiter to read your resume is an error. Make sure sections like Experience and Education are clearly identified and easy to read as are dates of employment, contact info, and key qualifications. This is your first assignment, the first sample of the quality of your work. Mess it up and how can I trust you to do anything else right?

Dumb Stuff
This is a very broad one. Dumb stuff is basically anything else that I haven’t already listed that the recruiter / employer doesn’t care about and isn’t pertinent to the position being filled. How much space did you dedicate to a job that has nothing to do with the position I’m trying to fill? Are you listing school projects that, though interesting, aren’t tied back to what makes you qualified for the position to be filled? For example, this is more of a personal pet peeve, but I’d rather you pick ONE phone number where I can reach you and stick to it. Don’t give me your cell number, home number, and mom’s number. Unless your name is Stifler… It can even include using distracting fonts or colored paper. One time I was on a search committee for an Outdoor Recreation Coordinator and an applicant put their resume on paper with dolphins and undersea life all over it. BLECH!!! Then there was the hot pink resume I got with a big flower at the top. DOUBLE BLECH!!!

Despite some rumblings here and there, resumes aren’t going away anytime soon. A few larger companies are taking the resume upload option off their career sites and making all applicants fill out an application and some executive search firms are using candidate profiles rather than sending out resumes of their clients, but for the most part, there is still a need for job seekers to have a synopsis of themselves ready for distribution. Be smart about what you say and don’t let your resume kill off your opportunities!