Word Swap: Leader vs. Manager on a Resume

QuestionsI have a pet peeve phrase that I am on a one person crusade to eliminate, especially during the interviewing process: people person.  Ick.  That is my professional, grown-up synopsis of that phrase: ick.  When someone would tell me they were a “people person” I always wanted to respond, “I’m a dog person.”  It is just such a meaningless, ambiguous phrase.


The word manage or manager has the same effect on me.  It is generic.    It is another ick word for me.


I have seen a trend in replacing “manager” with “leader” in a general way on resumes.


That would be great if it were earnest.


However, replacing the word does not negate the meaning.


In my opinion as a professional resume writer and coach, manager and leader have a much different meaning.  In a nutshell a manager oversees while a leader creates and drives.


When you use the term manager or manage in your resume you are leaving your audience short-handed.  Because it is such a generic term they need the parameters of what you do in order to determine what type of manager you were – and if you were any good at it.


Think about it, in your own experience I am sure you have had different types of managers.  There are those that tell you what to do, retreat to their office, never communicate and bring more of a dictatorship style environment.


Then there are managers that coach, mentor, communicate, roll up their sleeves and dive in to make sure you and the team is on pace, progressing and surpassing expectations.  They listen, they help you become a better individual contributor while bringing cohesion and engagement to the team.


If you were a manager, which one were you?  In not giving the parameters you are allowing your audience to decide based on their personal experiences.  Not a wise move.


Replacing manager with leader is not enough to demonstrate which type of manager you were or are now.


I’ll say it again: you have to give parameters.  How did you lead, what were your actions, how did you contribute, what did you do to help individual performers, the team overall and the company as a whole and what were the results?


Unless you prove it, simply giving yourself a better sounding title is not enough.


In business communication you have to prove it.  Consumers are wise, we don’t believe everything we read, we are skeptical, we want proof and then we want you to prove it again.  Consumers in this situation are your clients or prospective employers.


Now don’t get me wrong, there are certain environments where you need managers who are setting the targets and hands off – type one above.  It is fully dependent on the environment and industry.  If this is what is needed by your prospective employer and this is you then by all means sell it.  Be the manager they need.


Know your audience, their needs and your value.  When the two match then it is your job to prove it.  Not just by using one word over another, but by demonstrating your value by describing all the parameters and results.


Don’t get lazy and do a word swap – take the time to identify what you bring to the table and articulate that to your audience in order to assure they have a full understanding of who you are, what you do and most importantly what you can do for them.



Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW



Can You Go There Again?

Here’s an interesting question: should I return to a past employer? Well, that depends. There are some concerns that you need to address and let’s put a different spin on this: think of it as going back to an old boyfriend. Honestly, your job is like a marriage or serious relationship. The resume and interviewing is dating but getting the job is getting hitched.

So let’s take a stroll back memory lane – why did you leave? Let’s face it, if it was so great why leave in the first place? Were you feeling neglected, under-appreciated or without the opportunity to grow? Where they smothering you? Think back to the reasons that you wanted out and remember them because I doubt things have changed. Oh, they may say they have, but really, I highly doubt it. So if you couldn’t live with it before why do you think you can now?

Or did you get tempted by the “grass looks greener” virus? I could say shame on you, but surprisingly I am not going to because it may have been really good for you. Cutting someone else’s lawn makes you appreciate the lawn you left. Maybe you needed the little reality check to realize it really was home. Now, for the ex-boyfriend, if he did more than cut the neighbor’s grass than I say no, you can’t go back you dumb bunny. But if it was a matter of stupidity and something you can forgive – oh, and more importantly live through telling your girlfriends that you guys are dating again, then go ahead. But, luckily for you, jobs can’t cheat on you so no hurt feelings or need for tests. But that is going a bit too far off the path here.

Did you just need a break? What I find sad is so many people are unwilling to take time off work. For some unknown reason they think the world will stop revolving if they take a day off for crying out loud. It won’t so get out and live a little will ya? When I was a manager, I had an amazing staff who each shared a bit of knowledge about what I did so when I took a vacation my duties were covered without taxing one person and enough that my rule was simple: do not call me. Not even if the building is on fire – I’m not a fireman and I’m on vacation – I earned it.

I digress, so here you were never taking time off to recharge and you got burned out. Instead of taking that needed time you looked for another job. Well, that’s stupid, but that’s beside the point. The point is we all need to recharge. So if you did the stupid move, go back and this time plan a vacation or two not only for your sake, but for your co-workers as well.

Oh, and one last thought to think about in going back to an old employer: trust. If you left, how are you going to earn their trust that you won’t wander again? Face it, you burned them and you have some making up to do. They have every right to tell you that you broke up with them so you have some making up to do. You can’t just waltz back in there like nothing happened and start where you left off. You need to rebuild that relationship and the burden is on you. If it is worth it then swallow that pride and the stupid notion that they should believe you just because you said so. Work for it, you owe it to them. If they let you go, well then, my friend, you’re the one getting made up to.

It is a deeply personal decision whether to go back or not and there are many factors to consider. How wrong is too wrong for you? For me, if a guy cheats – I’m done, he’s dead (metaphorically speaking). I only like four legged dogs thank you very much. If it is a timing thing or he had to deal with some life issues, okay, we can talk about that. I mean I know the world does not revolve around me. So think about the relationship that you had before, what you want out of a relationship now and if you both can work together to make that happen.

If nothing has changed why on earth do you think it will be better this time? The definition of insanity what, doing the same thing over and over and expecting the same results? Think about it…

Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW
Career Polish, Inc.

Effective Cover Letters/Poetic Love Letters – There is Something To This…

Beyond the obvious aspects of always being on your best behavior and trying to impress the person across the table there are interesting similarities to dating and job searching. Luckily for my boys I will not be using them as an example; instead I’ll use myself and my fiancé, Manuel.

In August of 2011 Manuel and I are getting married. This may not seem like a big deal to you, but trust me, it is. It took over twenty years, but we are back together and making those around us a little nauseous with our absolute devotion, admiration, love and respect for each other. We have even been told our pictures look like those fake ones companies put in picture frames, we just do not seem real because we are “too happy”. We courted all those years ago and continue to do so today.

When Manuel and I were dating at the ripe age of 18 we did not have cell phones or internet and we both had jobs. So when we first began to get to know each other we wrote a lot of letters. We took our time and crafted each one purposefully to share glimpses of ourselves, get to know each other; in other words we courted each other. Your cover letter should be approached in a similar way. Your cover letter is like a love letter without the ooey gooey of course.

Most people I speak to in my workshops hate writing cover letters and nine times out of ten the reason is: “I don’t know what to say.” Try thinking of the cover letter as a courtship letter or love letter to someone you do not know but that you are introducing yourself to with the hopes of getting to know them better.

If you send a cover letter that states something to the effect that you are attaching your resume because you saw their ad on Career Builder, well then you have basically said one of three things

1. “My buddy said you’re cute, want to get a pizza?”
2. “I like you, do you like me: circle Yes or No”
3. “I’m sorry to bother you, I’m sure you don’t want to go out with me anyway.”

Not too impressive.

Your cover letter must show there are similarities between the position and you. Show them that you have commonalities; you belong together – without going overboard of course. If you have nothing in common why on earth would they want to meet you? Do you have the exact qualities that they are looking for in a candidate? Then tell them, show them, explain it to them, court them.

Do they want someone with solid experience? Give them something to whet their appetite before reading your resume. Narrate an example of how you absolutely succeeded when dealing with similar situations, budgets, environments – lead them down the path to your door.

Do your homework, research the company, their core philosophies, their clients, the industry. Have they recently been mentioned in the news, expanded, reorganized, merged, had a recent success, does the company values resonates with yours? These can all be written into your cover letter. Manuel did his homework and knew yellow roses were my favorite: big bonus points when he showed up at my door with a beautiful bouquet. Research shows interest.

Do you really want to meet? Do not assume that they know you want the job and why. One of the complaints I hear from hiring managers and HR reps is that they have too many candidates that apply that do not qualify for the position. When they receive resumes, which are numerous, they are a little skeptical. They run across people that apply but only do so because they have to or just to say they did something. Make sure the recipient knows you want the date, the interview, and convince them that you are worthy.

Impress me. I am a huge baseball fan – specifically a huge Cubs fan. I’ve been a fan since Jody Davis was behind the plate, the Penguin was in the infield and Leon Durham dominated the outfield. Manuel impressed me by writing stories about when he played ball or teased me about my staunch belief that American league is not real baseball. (Pitchers should bat and National League is more defensive. But that’s another story.)

When writing your resume you should be thinking about accomplishments you can utilize to emphasize your abilities. When doing this remember to save something for the cover letter. If you give me a great example in your cover letter I am going to be excited to read more in your resume. If I am reading your resume and see the same example I will be a bit disappointed and possibly think, “This is all you have?” You are not one dimensional, neither should your accomplishments be.

Mind your manners. Use appropriate business language, remember this isn’t a note to pass in class; this is an important business introductory letter. Remember to express gratitude for the person taking the time to read your cover letter and resume. Show interest in following up with them to discuss your abilities, skills, added values in more detail at their convenience.

A well written cover letter will interest the reader into wanting to find out more about you and lead to them reading your resume. This in turn will, if written well, further intrigue or impress them to meet with you to find out more. Take your time, do your homework and remember to tailor it to each individual position for which you are applying. No one wants to receive the same love letter that their friends received! This takes time and practice. Over twenty years of writing love letters and Manuel can still take my breath away.