Category Archives: Resume

Get a Real Title

People who know me know that it is only on the very rare occasion that I may get just the teensiest bit sarcastic when people, places, things, etc, strike me as being silly. I enjoy humor. I seem to find it everywhere, even when I am not especially looking for it. I guess a more correct phrasing would be that the humor and silliness of the business world just seems to find me. Occasionally my approach and public comments regarding what I find funny aggravate my wife, and now she reminds all of our friends not to encourage me when the silliness finds me and my sarcastic twin emerges and starts commenting. Fortunately she is not around right now, and yet another source of silliness in the business world has found me, so please bear this in mind.

I guess I am lost as to what has occurred within the business world that has enabled people to bestow upon themselves, or upon others the latest collection of self aggrandizing job titles that appear to be proliferating on both resumes and the online networking sites that everyone in business now seems to be members of. If I didn’t know better I would say that it looks as though there is a tacit competition amongst the various business players to see who can come up with the most grandiose job title for themselves. If that is indeed the case we seem to have quite a lot of “winners” out there.

I have to believe that the current “Title Wave” started with the many comedians of the past and their stand-up comedy routine monologue searches for laughter. I think the great George Carlin was one of the first to refer to garbage men as “sanitation engineers” as a way of uplifting their roles in society, and Rosanne Barr refused to refer to herself as a house wife and opted for the more resume friendly “domestic goddess”. Who would have thought that from these humble and humorous beginnings business people would now generate an entire new lexicon of job titles, with the only difference being that today’s purveyors of new age job titles are not trying to elicit even the smallest chuckle from the audiences reading their resumes.

In looking at some of the various job and occupational titles that are now being crafted with such care, they appear at least to me, to fall into three general categories:
• Chiefs
• Eastern Philosophers
• People born in or lost in the 1980’s
I am sure that there must be others, and possibly even potential sub categories of the ones I have named, but for me they seem to all fit into these three. It is interesting how that works out. With everyone striving to differentiate themselves from everyone else, they have succeeded in all looking relatively if not inanely the same. I suppose it is the same phenomenon that causes all teenagers to grow their hair long so that they can look and be different. If they all have long hair, how can you tell which one is different? But I digress.

In this case “Chiefs” are not the professional football team from Kansas City. There used to be a politically incorrect saying that when a business was deemed to be too management heavy it was said to have “too many chiefs and not enough Indians”. This however no longer seems to be the case based on the ongoing proliferation of “chief” titles. In the past there were essentially two “Chief” titles: the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and the Chief Operations Officer (COO) as the primary chief titles in an organization. Now we must include a few of the more recent ones that I have witnessed:
• Chief Visionary Officer – okay, you got me here. Some people are visionary and some are not. How do you get to be the Chief visionary? Business keratotomy?
• Chief Creative Officer – Same as above. Some are creative and some aren’t. I guess the person that came up with this one first gets to claim the prize.
• Chief Thought Provoker – While I am always in favor of more thinking in business, I don’t think I would hire this person to make sure we do it.
• Chief Inspiration Officer – Now I’m really starting to get lost, or inspired. I’m not really sure which.
• Chief Elation Officer – I think we have officially made it into the silly realm.
• Chief Instigation Officer – I would like to see this job description. How would you do succession planning for this one?
• Chief People Herder – Despite the title, I can see a need for this function. I think most of us refer to this role as a “Project Manager”.

I could not make these up. While I like to think of myself as being somewhat visionary and creative, I know I am not that visionary or creative.

The next general set of new age titles that are appearing seem to be associated in one way or another with Eastern philosophies. I am not sure why. Perhaps the owners of the following titles watched the movie “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” one time too many (which in itself would be an oxymoron as watching it one time could be construed as one time too many) in their more formative years. A few of these new titles are:
• Marketing (or insert any other business discipline here) Ninja – I can stretch to see the skill level association, but the rest of the silent killer / warrior connotation is lost on me.
• Marketing (or insert any other business discipline here) Guru – Same as above I guess, but probably not as warrior like. Marketing seems to attract these types of titles. The last group that I am aware of that had a “Guru” was the Beatles in the 1960’s.
• Marketing (or insert any other business discipline here) Sensei – Staying with our bad movie theme, this how the bad guys in the original Karate Kid movie referred to their teacher. True martial artists refer to their instructor as “Mister – insert last name” (as in Mr. Miyagi in the afore mentioned Karate Kid) as a sign of respect.

Eastern philosophy has always had a role in business. I have extolled the virtues of Sun Tzu, and the twenty fifth century B.C. Chinese general’s “Art of War” several times in the past from a strategy point of view. Despite my appreciation of the book, I don’t think I would try to title myself as a “Business General”. On the other hand, maybe I should.

The final group of new position titles seems to me to be best associated with the 1980’s. Just like “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” and “The Karate Kid” may have engendered the Eastern philosophy bent of new business titles, it seems that other 1980s movies and cultural phenomenon may be responsible for other titles. Here are a few of the more entertaining examples:
• (Insert a business discipline here) Evangelist – Weren’t Jim and Tammy Faye Baker television Evangelists? Just asking.
• (Insert a business discipline here) Magician / Wizard – I get the feeling some people played Dungeons and Dragons (a lot) in their formative years.
• (Insert a business discipline here) Jedi – Yet another movie (Star Wars) reference. Just because you call yourself one, does not mean the Force will be with you.
• (Insert a business discipline here) Warrior / Overlord / Badass / Demigod – These were lame descriptors back in the 1980s. They don’t work now in business either.

I understand the desire for people to set themselves apart from others when it comes to who they are or what they do, but have we allowed ourselves to propeller off into a relatively strange place for business when we use and proliferate such titles. These are actual titles – if you don’t believe me, go out on Linkedin, the business networking site, and do a search on any one of them. I suspect you will get several hits on each one.

I know it sounds boring, but I think most businesses are interested in what talents people have, what they can do and what value they can bring to the organization. If the targeted organization is responsible for creating new job titles, then we probably have some over achievers identified here. If the organization is interested in getti
ng on, and ahead with the business disciplines and functions that drive a business, then they will probably be looking for those that can find a better way to demonstrate their business prowess and skills.

On the other hand, maybe I should just start auditioning for the newly created position of Chief Sarcasm and Silliness Ninja Evangelist.


A necessary evil in today’s business world is the resume. It is the document where you must distill down all that you have accomplished since high school into no more than two self aggrandizing pages, and yet still be enthralling to the reader. It is one of the few documents on the planet where both form and substance are required, and where lacking either can immediately land it in the trash can. It is a living document which must be continually updated with the latest catch-phrases and Boolean search words to enable its easier location on the web by automated search programs. While being no acknowledged expert in the field, I have been on both the sending and receiving end of a boatload of resumes. I’ll share some of my findings and views.

The color of your resume does not matter, unless you choose a color other than white for your paper or electronic background, and black for your ink. I am not the only one that feels this way. I have checked this one out with some of my recruiter and head-hunter friends. Beige or pastel colored paper will in fact stand out in a stack or resumes. Beige or pastel colored resumes will remain in the resume stack. It’s a professional document for goodness sakes. The only reason that the Declaration of Independence is on yellowed paper is because the paper has aged to that color. Once your resume hits two hundred plus years of age it too can be on yellowed paper, but until then, print it on white paper.

The length of your resume does matter. A one page resume tells people that either you have not tried hard enough to write a viable resume, or that you do not have enough experience or qualifications for the job you are applying for. That would go for any job you were applying for. A three page or longer resume would indicate that you are truly enthralled with your own capabilities and accomplishments to the point where you couldn’t possibly bear to remove even a single event in your life from the document in order to better respect the readers time. Trust me on this. Nobody’s life is so awe inspiring so as to require more than two pages on a resume.

Provide information on your areas of expertise and the things that you actually can do. A historical list of the things you have done is nice, but it won’t get this job done, nor will it get you this job. It is a slight difference in approach and voice in your resume, but providing information on what you know how to do is much more compelling then reciting a list of the places you have been and the things that you did while you were there.

Front load your resume. Provide more detail and information on your most recent assignments and positions. I understand that you have done some really neat stuff twenty plus years ago. I did too. But there is a thing called currency as it relates to your experience. If your best stuff is twenty years old then it is possible that your business skills may be considered out of date.

Tell people what it is that you do. If you are looking for a sales role, then just about everything in your resume should scream sales. There should be few if any sentences in your resume that do not have the word “sales” in them. The more specific you can be about what you do, and what you can do, the more appreciative the reader of your resume will be. The easier that it is for the reader to understand if you are a fit for the position or not, the better it is for everyone, especially you.

Quantify what value you have brought to previous positions and what value you can bring to this position. Value is relatively easy to identify. It is usually represented by an ordinal number, which is preceded by a dollar sign. If you can’t put a number and a dollar sign next to it, it probably isn’t of value. It may seem harsh, but it is the current business environment.

Don’t tell anyone that you led a cross functional team, even if you actually did at one time. Cross functional teams are management speak for some sort of committee that met on a regular basis. Mark Twain described a committee as a life form with at least six legs and no brain. Organizations seem to be increasingly fond of creating them, and people seem to be intent on telling each other that they were either on them or leading them, but I nor anyone else I have ever known has ever seen any value delivered in a quantifiable way to a business from a cross functional team. You are wasting valuable space on your two pages with this one.

Don’t tell anyone that you enabled anything. Leaders don’t enable things. They do things. I understand that enablement is a nice sounding concept. There are very few instances where it has quantifiable business value. You either did it or you didn’t. Please don’t try and convince people that you enabled someone else to do it. At best it sounds lame and at worst it sounds like you are trying to appropriate someone else’s success.

Many resumes like to make mention of the fact that the individual is a “team player”. When reviewing resumes, most hiring managers are not looking for team players. They are looking for stars. In sales they are looking for someone that will bring in orders, preferably boat loads of them. In operations they are looking for someone that will deliver revenue and control costs. Most of the time a team player is not the type of individual that can perform these functions. If you can do extraordinary things, tell people in your resume. Don’t tell them you are a team player.

Have someone else read your resume before you submit it. Most of us are somewhat blind to our own mistakes. We wrote it. We reviewed it. Therefore it should be fine, right? Unfortunately, no. Have someone else read your resume and provide you their opinion. When they do, don’t argue with them. I too have felt that people have missed both the obvious and the nuanced aspects of my resume. I have also come to realize that if they have missed it, probably so will the recruiter and hiring manager miss it. Take the feedback. A resume is a personal item, but it is for public consumption and may need to be adjusted from a specific individual taste.

The two pages that comprise a resume are precious real estate. All of your education, training and experience to date need to be distilled down into those two pages. You need to convey what you are capable of and the value that you can bring to a prospective hiring manager. With that in mind you surely do not want to waste space by relating banalities such as being a team player, enabling others to succeed or were on some sort of aggrandized committee.

As I said, resumes are a necessary evil. They are the convention that businesses use when reviewing potential candidates for positions. Unfortunately they are also the basis for the first in a number of decision criteria and hurdles that are designed to winnow out the perceived unfit or the perceived less competent for the position. Unless you are a Nobel laureate or some other similarly gifted applicant, chances are that your resume will not get you the job. However if your resume is not in the appropriate format and does not contain relevant content it can preclude you from further consideration for the job.