Your resume – picture or no picture?

I still get a few resumes through my email that include pictures of candidates and they come from all types of people and so I thought I would give my two cents on whether or not you should include a photo in your resume presentation.

NO YOU SHOULD NOT.

I feel relatively emphatic on this point, as you can tell. Unless you are a model or an actor I do not believe there is a reason why your photo should have any impact on whether or not you are appropriate for a job to allow you to get to an interview, where all will be revealed anyway. In fact, in my mind, it damages a lot of the great strides we have made in turning away from discrimination within our workforce.

There are a few reasons why I feel particularly strongly about this so here they are:

It takes up valuable space on your resume that would be better served to describing skills and experience you have that is in fact directly relevant to your job application. It’s hard enough fitting your career history and skills onto two pages (which I still strongly recommend you aim for), adding a photo just makes it harder.

Secondly and perhaps even more importantly, it can cause bias from potential employers when determining whether you’re fit for the job. Unfortunately, for those who might be subconsciously or consciously discriminating – it allows them to. You have no idea if this could count for or against you as human beings are deep and complex individuals and if you resemble a particularly crazy ex girlfriend, you never know, that might be a reason to reject your application (hypothetical scenario but you get my drift – race, age, gender etc. are all potential ways to discriminate). 

If you are going to ignore this advice anyway and put a photo on your resume, please at least make it as professional as possible! Here are some rules I recommend you stick to (if you really really want to put your face on paper):

  1. Place it in the top corner of the page – small and to one side
  2. Make it professional – no social media photos (NEVER OK). Make it a professional headshot, similar to that which you’d expect on your LinkedIn photo. If you don’t have one, take the time to get a friend to take one of your with a plain background against a wall, wearing smart clothing, easy)
  3. Make sure it is a good quality photo i.e. not blurry or low resolution, or with bad lighting
  4. Don’t use a dated/altered photo – I have seen this on LinkedIn before, people posting photos on their profile and then I am introduced at a meeting and can’t recognise them as it was taken years ago (probably a wise piece of advice for those on dating apps too). Make it true to your current profile.
  5. Don’t make it any kind of a cartoon or attempt at humour. If you are thinking of doing that, don’t do one at all

And finally, if I wasn’t able to convince you fully to getting rid of a picture of your face being a reason to hire you above your skills, contemplate including a URL to your LinkedIn page where your professional headshot is placed.

P.S.

For a personalised service to help you prepare your resume and cover letter when applying for jobs, feel free to reach out for a consultation. I appreciate many people are currently back in the job market, unexpectedly and it might have been a long time between job applications. I can help you make the best first impression possible and coach you around interviewing.

No alt text provided for this image

Let’s lead with empathy

I just wanted to take a moment as we move into level 2 this week to reiterate something that I am sure has been spoken about already but is really important nonetheless. 

Managers are under an ever increasing amount of pressure to maintain team wellbeing and productivity during these turbulent times. Many business leaders are having to work their normal role with the added stress of keeping the health and safety of their employees front of mind (both mental and physical) whilst also dealing with a huge amount of workforce insecurity. Furthermore, business policy and strategy is in a state of flux, so the need to adapt fast is paramount. It is key, more than ever, that managers are also aware enough to see when team members need extra psychological support during this time.

But, we all know you can’t be an effective leader if you yourself are struggling too (whether we like to admit it or not). Being selfless is great and admirable in the short term but in the longer term you are not only damaging yourself but you might well damage the wellbeing of the team around you.

There is going to be a new working environment and reality for everyone as we move forward into level 2 and beyond and I think it is extremely important that our leaders lead with empathy rather than a ‘tough love’ stance they might have previously thought suitable. 

Here are a few ideas of how leaders can navigate their teams through this time:

  1. If you start to see signs of productivity falling and/or social withdrawal from a team member, pay attention and don’t just dismiss it. It is also important to note when professional mental health support should be offered (in fact managers would do well to have some resources close to hand that they can offer to employees if it becomes apparent they might need help).
  2. Be an effective role model for your team – keep up today with Covid 19 health and safety policies so you can answer questions effectively. As touched upon before, have up to date resources on hand for different help that might be needed for employees so you can make recommendations when necessary
  3. Recognise that during this time, individuals might have close family members struggling in different ways, so checking in on how their whole family is doing and not just themselves as an individual might help give some insight into stresses they might be facing and again, different avenues of support you might be able to offer
  4. Take note of those without families nearby and those isolating alone. Offer checkins and/or motivate them to reach out to friends and family over virtual communication devices if they are particularly isolated
  5. Don’t be afraid to let the team know you are present and open to hearing about what they are experiencing. Most of the time you or someone close by will have experienced similar emotions or situations during this time and we all know how comforting it can be to know someone else understands how you feel
  6. Set yourself clear boundaries between work and home life and try your best to stick to them. This has been a tricky one for many of us during lockdown but seeing your manager staying true to realistic rules between home and work life can help keep everyone on track and consistency is key. 
  7. Promote the use of sick leave if and when required. Don’t be afraid to advocate for mental health days within your team if they are needed and take one yourself.
  8. A big one that I have always believed in promoting, but even more so right now, is maintaining work life balance. Advocate for prioritising tasks effectively whilst taking into account home responsibilities and be realistic about deadlines. It’s been highlighted recently but it’s something that existed before and often goes overlooked in favour of conventional office hours and expectations that ignore the realities of life. 

Let’s use this opportunity to move forward with the way in which we operate and at all times lead with empathy. It makes so much sense but sometimes we get clouded by expectations we think others have of us as leaders or team members and these tend to be quite dated mindsets. We are all human and we are all feeling this crisis, albeit in different ways. You cannot underestimate how employees will be looking to leaders for guidance and understanding right now so let’s start how we mean to go on.

Why my lifestyle choice might be something to consider…

Back in January, on returning from some time abroad and starting my own recruitment business I made a decision to alter my lifestyle completely. I love doing a million things at once, so adding moving into a van full time onto starting a business seemed like a great idea. I was lucky enough to buy a van that had already been renovated into a home so I made some small adjustments to suit my own lifestyle and voila I was on the road and good to go.

One of the reasons I chose to do this was because by working for myself I am, for the first time, unrestricted. I don’t have an office to go to each day and I can control and decide when I need to hold face to face meetings and when I can conduct interviews and meetings online. I also want my recruitment business to be unrestricted in geography. I want to work for exciting technology driven organisations and not limit myself to Auckland. There are some exciting tech hubs popping up all over the country and being able to hop in my van and go meet people easily is really appealing.

The financial savings weren’t one of my initial drivers but it did give me that extra peace of mind that I didn’t have rent to pay whilst being a start up so it was one less thing to think about.

But now we face a global recession and a bloody great big one with the fallout of this pandemic and simplifying our lives might be something more people are prepared to do. I think during the level 4 lockdown many of us realised that we don’t necessarily need all the things we thought we did to find fulfilment. I guess for me going from the van to a home actually complicated my life but for many it was the opposite. Hopefully this can be a time of reflection and contemplation so that we don’t just return to our lives as they were before but embrace some of those learnings.

Van life is amazing for many reasons and so here are a few of them so you can think about whether van life or at least a more minimalist life might be within reach:

  1. It forces you to think carefully before you purchase things as it’s all extra weight and space. So, you become more selective and make sure you have things you actually will use and clothes you will actually wear. You can’t just spend frivolously anymore.
No alt text provided for this image

2. It also highlights waste. You have a small bin and so become more mindful of what you are buying in terms of then what you will have to throw away. You minimise plastic more and unnecessary packaging.

No alt text provided for this image

3. You spend more time in nature and outdoors but when you’re inside you really relish those moments. I am most often out and about making the most of the outdoors and exploring new spots in NZ and old spots that I love. But, when it’s a rainy day, or I’m just not enthused for exercise I get so much satisfaction from making a cup of tea from my kettle, reading my book, practising guitar, working on my laptop, watching a movie – it has made those moments even more special

No alt text provided for this image

4. I appreciate the time I have with my friends so much more when I have it. Given I am out of Auckland a lot more and I have some friends dotted about the country, when I do finally touch base and see them, I make the most of it and it feels even more special. It’s kind of nice to miss people because then you plan a bit better when you are catching up and do things you really enjoy doing together.

No alt text provided for this image

5. I meet amazing people. The van is definitely a talking point and people love to take a look and chat about life in it. Given I can be isolated for several days before I see people, I quite like those moments too. I get to connect with like minded individuals that also appreciate a more minimalist lifestyle, or I get to inspire people that have thought about doing it and not really felt it was possible. I have often been that person on the outside looking into someone else’s life thinking, ‘wow they are so brave’, or ‘I could never do it’ but I did do it and so I know how important it is to hear that it is possible and it is worth it – IT IS!

No alt text provided for this image

6. I put my time to more valuable endeavours (to me) than I did in my previous life. I absolutely love nature, the coast, waterfalls, travelling, hiking, climbing, feeling free and working when I am at my most productive rather than office allocated hours that someone else stipulates. I am not saying this is the best and only way to live. But, for me, to live true to myself and what I value, it is right now. I took a leap of faith and it has paid off. I can save on rent and put that money to savings that will hopefully allow me to buy some land in the not to distant future to build a home on. I have ambitions of living off grid, somewhere peaceful, by the sea, and I am a lot closer to that dream by living this one.

So, if this time has allowed you to see that you can be happy with less, or even if you have been made redundant and are looking for a living solution that minimises your outgoings whilst you piece a new life back together, maybe think about van life or something similar. I am always happy to have a chat and give you my honest perspective. I am not saying it is without it’s downsides either but they are far fewer than the upsides.

No alt text provided for this image

Not bad ay 😉

Yup. Lockdown has been a bit crap.

I felt it was time for a bit of real reflection as we move into level 2 soon so here it is.

I have been in a love hate relationship with the peppy personal trainers on Instagram telling me I can still stay sane and fit from home. I loved and loathed it when their honed and toned frames show me how I can replicate a pull up using my own coffee table (who’d have thought it had more uses than just holding those coffee table books I never read). I also learnt I can create dumbbells through filling up my reusable shopping bags with books as weights (desperate times). I’ve even been momentarily inspired to do yoga over Zoom with friends (I hate yoga) and I was personally most impressed with myself when I created a pub quiz I have been leading every Tuesday evening over Zoom with friends all over the world (turns out I have a second calling as a quiz master). This time has really brought out some creativity in people that whilst magnificent sometimes gives me an overwhelming desire to punch them in the face and leave me to eat my family sized block of chocolate in peace, in the dark, watching Netflix, by myself, without the shame . 

So let’s also take a moment to recognise how crap it’s been. I think we all too often get intoxicated with inspirational posts on LinkedIn and social media, or constantly reminded of all the good, charitable things others are doing to help, that you can be left feeling rather inadequate and like you’re not using this ‘gift’ of time wisely enough. I wanted to take a moment to reflect on the good and the bad and remind everyone it’s ok to feel a whole spectrum of emotions and there have been times when I have experienced all of them in one day alone! If we are not careful I think we often feel alone in our feelings and can isolate ourselves further as a result because we ‘should’ be feeling grateful all the time for what we have got, rather than what we have lost. But I say wallow in your self pity, feel sad for your loss, just don’t let it overwhelm you completely. Take a moment for that when you need to but then pick yourself back up.

I had just started my own technology recruitment business back in January and things were ramping up. I was getting busy and having my first taste of success, giving me the reassurance I had made the right decision in going out alone. Fast forward 2 months and most of my clients have frozen or halted recruitment, a lot of my smaller clients can’t afford recruitment fees or recruitment just isn’t a viable option for the foreseeable future. All of these outcomes are understandable and expected but that doesn’t mean it feels great. I am someone that thrives off action, adventure, challenge, and doing my job. I love what I do and I thrive off helping others. Suddenly I had clients approaching me as candidates and candidates that needed my help with few to no jobs to present them too. That always feels crappy! So I want to own the fact that I have had a lot of down days during lockdown and I have been primarily alone which can magnify it.

But one of the reasons I have been able to stick at recruitment is my ability to turn adversity into hope and frustration into action. When I can’t succeed at one thing, I put all my energy into something else. This works a lot of the time but is tricky trying to keep it up for 6-8 weeks straight! So I wanted to look back at my achievements during this 6 weeks, and asked some of my clients, candidates and friends to reflect on this too and come up with their biggest achievement/most fulfilling moment during lockdown.

For me, 2 things came to mind the most. Firstly, I finally gave a consistent amount of time to my guitar practice and can now play the DMA’s version of Believe (Cher’s originally) relatively well, something I didn’t think was possible but that I really wanted to master. I am awful at the guitar and only started learning a few months ago so it’s been pretty tricky. I wanted to give some time in each day to a creative outlet and guitar and writing have been my main two.

Secondly – on my birthday, I had around 15 friends from all over the world join a zoom call where most of them didn’t know anyone else. Let’s be honest, it was a little awkward. But in that moment I realised I am not alone and in fact I have so many people that have enriched my life and still do, from all corners of the planet and that is an incredible thing to be blessed with. They all turned up for me, and that was very special. Just because you might feel lonely, it doesn’t mean you are alone and this is important for those by themselves in lockdown to remember.

My friend and fellow HR professional Lisa Harden, living in the US, had a similar feeling when she reflected on her most fulfilling moment. For her it “has been reconnecting with people who are my friends and family but usually I don’t see often. It’s been a reminder that I’m connected with family and friends from around the world and also across the US, who even though I don’t see often, I have this huge network of people who I have their back and they have mine. It’s amazing”

For Claire Bond it’s been something quite profound, “Relaxing without my usual feelings of guilt. I haven’t nailed it yet, but definitely made progress.” I know I can relate to that and it took a while for me to accept I didn’t have the work to fill up my days so I needed to fill my time with different activities and to not feel bad about it. Both Claire and I also reflected upon how these personal moments of growth inevitably will have a knock on effect to other areas of our lives, impacting us in both a professional and personal capacity.

My friend and ex colleague Kirk said for him it’s been the realisation ‘of the time we have available. I’ve really started to look at my efficiency with work. I can hear the kids playing and if I’m sitting there not giving 100% to what I’m doing then I kind of feel like I’m wasting time I could spend with the little ones. So I have become hyper efficient.” I think this is huge and for a lot of people something that will resonate. Having the physical reminder of what you are choosing to do, over something else, is really quite impactful. Time with family is so valuable and something before this we often didn’t prioritise. Now it’s up to us to make it work so you can maximise both and it really is within your reach. I am a huge advocate for working from home, although I know it brings its own challenges. But just think how much extra time you get for your family when you even just take away the commute! It’s crazy. 

Lee Young noted similarly that his biggest achievement was “finally biting the bullet and going down to 4 days per week at work so I can make a start on my own business plans that I’ve been putting off for months if not years!” Working out what should be a priority is really key and something a lot of us will have learnt during this time. Spending time with people you love and prioritising things you are passionate about will bring you a lot more joy!

And though I think for a lot of us out there the benefits have been felt mostly in our personal lives, there has still be successes in the professional context that are really noteworthy. Chris Tuohy, who runs Spark’s Agile Coaching Practice noted, “My most fulfilling moment to date has been witnessing our coaches helping our Tribes with their quarterly big room planning events using an entirely remote working model (MS Teams, Azure DevOps etc). We were geared up for our normal face-to-face scaled planning events and had to pivot completely to remote tooling in under 2 weeks to pull it off. The degree of commitment, accountability and creativity on display was impressive and we were able to achieve everything we set out to in difficult circumstances . A credit to everyone involved.” I think the transition to working from home and remaining efficient, as well as conducting meaningful meetings over video conferencing rather than face to face, has been tricky but over time its been proven to work. 

Chris touches upon the need for creativity and I think that’s been such a relevant word during these past 6 weeks. We’ve all had to become a little more creative and it’s so satisfying to see individuals and teams problem solve during these unique and turbulent times. I would never have described myself as creative before but I think we all have it in us it’s just that we live in a world where so much is decided and done on our behalf because we love efficiency, we don’t have as many avenues to flex that part of us. Suddenly we have been thrust into a world where we have to do it ourselves. I think that’s a really great way to grow and unleash our fullest potential.

I know something else I have found difficult has been the feeling of a lack of control. For all those with similar personalities, I don’t do well when I feel I can’t control my own destiny and where I can’t get myself out of a less than ideal situation. At the start I think I fought that and it brought me anxiety and a lot of comfort eating!! But then I started to look at what I could control – my exercise regime, my food intake, my communication with friends, checking in on clients just to make sure they were doing ok, and this was far more fulfilling than fighting against the changing tide.

A friend and avid surfer told me when I asked him for his achievement that “this time allowed me relax because there was so much to worry about yet nothing that could be done – it was like mind training, not allowing myself to solve problems that are unsolvable. The most satisfying part of the lockdown was actually the day after it finished when I could finally get back in the water, I scored a wave that is so rare and literally couldn’t handle the excitement. Every wave I was so ecstatic! Patience is a virtue I guess.”

It’s certainly not a virtue I was born with but even I am having to slow my mind down a little and learn some patience. I also have realised as my friend Cole did, that I can’t “solve problems that are unsolvable”. So I challenge you to reflect kindly on this lockdown period and look at what you have achieved, be it professionally and/or personally. Take the time to be kind to yourself and celebrate these achievements, no matter how big or small. Yes, there have been tough times and yes, there will be more to come, and don’t be afraid to admit and embrace that, but amid all the darkness find the light – I genuinely believe it’s always there (hopefully that didn’t sound too much like those inspirational social media influencers)

And finally, if you really still feel sorry for yourself after all that and think you have it the worst, just remember there are animals kept in cages their whole life and we haven’t empathised much with them before. So maybe now we can and realise it’s not that great and we shouldn’t support it (sorry, not sorry).

5 tips on smashing a video interview

Coming out of the first 5 weeks of lockdown I have noticed already some key changes in recruitment processes and companies trying to adjust to our new reality. This is a new way of working that no one was expecting and so from both a client and candidate perspective it’s going to take some iterations to perfect. I wanted to give candidates in particular some useful tips on how to get through a video interview process, without having the face to face opportunity to make your mark on the interviewer.

1. Prepare with the necessary visual documentation you would have in face to face interview. If you would normally bring documentation and evidence of your experience, this is no different to any other interview. It might require some organisation to share documents prior to the interview or even get accustomed to the sharing screen option with Zoom so you can show things on different tabs but there are many ways to still show evidence of your experience so don’t be afraid to try it

2. Make sure you don’t have distractions – I know this has been one of the tougher parts to working from home but it is imperative you don’t have any distractions in your immediate vicinity throughout your first and follow up interviews. Close/lock doors to ensure no wandering children or spouses pop up at the wrong time. It also allows you to stay focused and in an interview frame of mind. First impressions are still as important if not more than before so create a professional environment that helps you get your head in the game.

3. Look the part – It’s easy to get into a more relaxed dress code when working from home and whilst that’s ok when there are no video meetings, I definitely advise you to wear what you normally would for a face to face interview from head to toe. Not only does this give them a great first impression but you’ll be amazed at how it transforms your own mindset and approach when you are in your ‘work’ outfit. Look the part, feel the part.

4. Body language is key – Stay positive in both body language and communication. It is just as important over video to create a sense of confidence, positivity and professionalism. Of course we are in a unique situation and it is inevitable that the conversation will turn to the current crisis and how it has been for you. I think it’s important not to get caught in the trap of oversharing too much and bringing your personal life too much into the conversation. Always keep in the back of your mind this is a perspective employer, not a personal friend you’re catching up with. Eye contact is also important. I advise keeping a balance of looking directly at the interviewer on the screen as well as directing your gaze to the camera itself. 

5. PRACTICE USING THE SYSTEM – If you haven’t used a video system before or if they are using something different to what you are used to, try and practice beforehand. Make sure you are set up and ready to go with no audio and visual issues. Especially if the client is looking to consider you as a remote employee they want to have confidence that this won’t impact your ability to do the job and hinder you.

Don’t just hope for the best, make sure you are ready and able to conduct the interview at the right time. Be ready 10/15 minutes before as you might a face to face interview. Never rely on being there a minute before you’re due to start. It’s amazing how setting things up can take longer than you anticipated and it’s never a great start when you’re flustered from getting your audio to work etc and starting on the wrong foot. 

Hopefully these tips are a help and remember there are plenty of benefits to a video interview, including not having to worry about traffic and parking. Keep that in mind, allow yourself a few minutes to breath and settle your nerves before you begin, and you’ll be flying.