Tom Sweeney

It's a coming of age tale….

Progession of positions…

Posted by sweens on January 8, 2009

Based on the conversation I had over lunch at Moxies this afternoon, todays’ blog is about the progression an individual may have during their career path and also how an irregular career path can make a recruiter feel nervous.  Today I was speaking to a friend of mine over lunch and they were speaking about changing their current job for another one.  However the job they were going to was totally un-related to any position they have held in the past.  What got me thinking about this was that the individual is still in school in a focused area of study.  Now I remember being a student (I say that like I’ve been out of school for years) and simply wanting any job in order to pay the bills, but my personal belief is that a job in your field of study helps you nail that career position once you graduate.  I’m not the model for that, having taking political science in school and have since worked for a software company and then an IT recruiting firm, however I’m simply pointing out my view from the hiring side. 

I look at another friend of mine who sent me an email yesterday asking me to take a gander at his CV as he is looking for summer employment (co-op) related to his field of study.  When I mentally compare the two and think about what person I’d want to hire, I think the choice is obvious.  Obviously any job has different metrics from the hiring managers stand point as to what is important to them to justify the hire, but if you look at an individual who has taken the time to find work in their field of study while doing the studying part, I think that demonstrates a lot about their character and their interest in getting into the field as quickly as possible.  I realize that this is more common amongst younger individuals (generation y) who are new to the work force or looking to enter the work force, however similar issues exist around individuals who are currently in the work force and have been for a lengthy period of time.

Before Christmas I was evaluating a CV for a specific position with one of Procoms’ clients.  While going over this CV I saw that the individual had worked for the same company for a long period of time (let’s say 15+ years) and during that time had lead numerous teams/projects.  Right away I’m thinking to myself “this is awesome, someone who is experienced in management”.  But once I started going into the projects I saw that the they weren’t related.  Not at all.  It would be similar to someone going from a Database Manager to a Procurement Manager to an HR Manager and then to a Customer Support Manager.  This person obviously has great management experience but not within the same field.  This gives me two ways to look at this person. 

1 – The person can adapt to any environment and be successful
2 – I can’t use this person for any of my positions

And you guessed it, I couldn’t use the person.  And really its too bad because the person is probably very good at what they do.  I think the realization needed here is that your resume is an opening into your professional experience and a person wants to feel like they know what they are getting after they see your CV.  If I’m hiring for a Software Development Manager, I like to see that a person has gone from a Software Developer to a Team Lead to a Manager.  And really that just makes me feel good about the person because they have done software development for the majority of their career.  Now I don’t mean to suggest that a person shouldn’t make a career change along the way because it happens all the time and sometimes you have no choice other then to switch or be let go.  But be prepared to explain the change.  I see resumes of people who have switched from C++ programming to .NET development because thats the way the industry is going.  I have seen people who have a financial background start out doing accounting and then switch into development of financial applications and then moving on with a development career.  Those are all good moves and are easily explained with a little digging.  

My belief of people making drastic changes within a company is that while management is a great skill to have, most hiring managers want to see management within the area the position is related to (IE a Software Development Manager who has managed a Software Development team for 10+ years – rather then a manger who has managed a development team for 2 years but has been managing different projects for 10 other years).  Make sense?  All in all I’m not trying to discourage or discredit anyone from making a move whether its an internal of external one, but I think that everyone should be concious of how these moves may affect how they are perceived by a future hiring manager.  Remember that for every job you apply for, there is surely someone else who is applying for it as well and you have to be able to demonstrate (through your CV) why your more qualified for that specific position then everyone else who is applying!

6 Responses to “Progession of positions…”

  1. Great post Tom!

    It is necessary to continually keep within your realm of expertise nowadays. You’re absolutely on spot with how recruiters can get really nervous about major switches or changes. Even if within an organization.

    Perhaps you can offer some advice on how to deal with issues of this nature when they come up for a new candidate? I know I’ve had the misfortune of running into the “overqualified, yet not experienced enough” thing in my past. (which basically sent me to entrepreneurialism…lol)

    How would one begin dealing with this hurdle to get the HR or recruiter to bypass that?

  2. Alan said

    Speaking as another Over-qualified candidate I am just as frustrated. My experience actually does have a few important threads, but it is very hard to get recruiters to understand what my talents really are:
    * Team leadership
    * Problem Solving
    * Technically Nimble

    I have talked with recruiters directly about this and they all say the same things about good breadth of technology, and excellent experience, but, “… I need a Technical architect with 4 years of Cobol Experience using CRA databases…” (or whatever).

    I am assuming once I finally do get a contract I will be fine, but getting that first one is turning out to be a real challenge.

  3. By way of introduction, my name is Michael Kaplan and I currently own and operate a resume writing company called Michaeltrains ( Prior to that, I was a hiring manager for several organizations, ranging from start-ups to Fortune 500. I am very happy to have become aware of this blog, and I hope my two cents will not take away from the rest of the posts. 

    As someone who hired candidates in multiple fields (sales, marketing, management, training, IT, etc…) and who now writes resumes, I receive many questions from people asking for advice. I do my best to provide an answer, but always preface it with the caveat that many of these things have no right or wrong answer. I have an opinion, certainly, and I believe my opinion is the correct one (who doesn’t feel that way) but when all is said and done, we are defined by our experiences. What my experience suggests is the right course of action for a resume might be the complete opposite of what another “expert” believes. For the candidate, I feel it most important for them to accept a philosophy and then tailor the documentation to support that philosophy (for example, a generic resume might require a specific cover letter; while an industry specific resume might benefit from a more general letter).

    Let me give you an example: Earlier I read that the resume should be tailored to the exact position one is seeking, and while I cannot say I disagree with it, I also feel that can be very challenging to do, especially in these days of job boards and other general posting sites. When I write a resume for a client, by definition I make it a little on the general side and use the cover letter to address the specifics. I have found that most clients have better luck with an accomplishment driven resume that speaks to their career highlights than one which is too specific. Devils advocate says that an organization seeking a specific talent (like .NET) will only look for those candidates who specifically mention knowledge of and achievements in .NET. I understand that as well. However, when a client is going to post the resume on multiple job boards and also has a very broad background, I encourage them to use the resume to try and express those things.

    At the end of the day, the job seeker very often has no idea what is going to “work” and what will just be ignored. In the course of my current resume writing business AND my time as a hiring manager, I have had the opportunity to meet and interact with dozens and dozens of independent and corporate recruiters, each of whom has a philosophy on what is “right” and “wrong” on a resume. Today, for example, I met with the hiring manager and HR from a mid-size company in the healthcare field. Among the topics of conversation was the resume. They were both very adamant that once a candidate was granted a face to face interview, the resume was never discussed again. In their eyes, the resume was the screening tool to eliminate those people who did not have the basic requirements. Another organization in the same industry, with whom I met in December, will take a candidate through each and every line on the resume during the interview. Again, there is no right or wrong – – there is only the reality of how a given company acts.

  4. Tom,
    Thank you for inviting me to visit your new blog.
    I believe you’re on the right track having read your About section and all your posts. Very good writing style and professional approach!
    Wish you Good Luck with your endeavour!

  5. Dana said

    I agree completely with you Tom

    I think that the hardest thing to do in this economy is not to fall into the trap of desperation
    I can speak all day to the candidates who are deperate and might find a way to talk me into an interview which has a small chance of success or I can find exactly what the company is looking for the 1st time

    Of course I would love the opportunity to place everyone who calls me but in this economy I just cannot afford to waste time

  6. Keith said

    Hey Tom,

    I think you nailed your assessment of this problem. However, I’m interested in getting your thoughts on position titles fit into the overall equation. I understand where you’re coming from with unrelated positions such as Manager of HR and Manager of Purchasing but what if I’ve completed related positions but at different levels?

    For instance in a small company I might be considered a Director of Software Development or even a Vice President if the company is really small whereas in larger company’s I might only be positioned as a Senior Manager of Software Development. How does the use of job titles impact my ability to get the career I’m ultimately looking for?

    Your feedback is appreciated.

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