What does awesome look like on a resume?

I met with a Marketing GM, Keith White, and his recruiter, Allison, this week to discuss putting together an invitational recruiting event for their team, which is responsible for outbound (audience) marketing. Usually, when I end up strategizing a recruiting program for a hiring group, the conversation ends up being about target hiring profiles: what the people are doing right now, what companies they might be at, what schools they may have gone to, etcetera. All the things that are "searchable" on their resumes (effectively, the MBA programs and the previous companies do some of the filtering for us). The things that allow me to target talent pools. You want people that have an MBA from Kellogg, I know just where to find them. You want people who have experience from certain companies, we'll make some phone calls.

Well, the conversation this week didn't go that way. He just wants awesome people. He explained to me that on his team, he has a mixture of people with "pedigree" education (my phrasing, not his) and people without, people that came from large software companies and people that didn't. What they all have in common is some awesomeness. I used to support Keith myself when he ran the embedded product marketing organization and I recall him hiring someone a year out of a non top 20 MBA program that was marketing dairy products. I thought "cool, he's hiring for potential". I love it.

The challenge with hiring on potential is that from a recruiting process standpoint, it's *very* labor intensive. Hiring managers are usually most comfortable hiring on potential when they know the person. It minimizes the risk. I often find with events specifically, the people that the hiring team are most jazzed about aren't necessarily the ones with the "ideal" resume/profile (top MBA, several years software product marketing at a major company, track record of achievement, etc). The event offers the opportunity to get to know the people more than you do just by reviewing the resume. You get the chance to see what is awesome about them.

But...you cannot invite everyone that is interested to the events. You have to make some bets on what is going to work for the team. At a company that gets an incredible number of resumes a week, you have to funnel somehow. So now I am thinking about how, aside from MBAs and competitive companies, awesomeness shows up on the resume. Here are some thoughts we kicked around:

-alumni of the next ten b-schools after the top 20

-leadership in college (fraternity, sorority, organizations)

-recipients of specific kinds of scholarships, other kinds of awards

-scholar athletes

-fast career progression

A lot of the things we discussed were things we felt were "searchable" but specifically they seemed to be the things that people did in college. So now I need to ask you. Aside from working for an awesome company or going to an awesome school, what are the things on a resume that can suggest awesomeness? Of course we will still look at strong MBAs, competitive software marketers, but we want to open it up to other awesome people.

I'm super excited about the flexibility to hire in this way. I'm also thinking that the candidate generation and filtering process is going to be tough if some of our criteria aren't less ambiguous. Help!

PS: I'm skeptical about using GPA. So I'd like to get "outside the classroom" on the criteria.  What do you think?

Comments (84)
  1. dwj says:

    You want to look for things that show initiative.  Have they written any books?  Magazine articles?  Published anything?  Do they have any patents?  Are they reviewing books for others? Did they start their own company?  But the best way to tell if they’re awesome is to find out if they still have that shirt (or painter’s cap) from the 80’s that says "Awesome" and if they wear it occasionally. 🙂

  2. HeatherLeigh says:

    dwj….oooh, those are good ones! Except for the painters cap ; ) Where’s my Wham! t-shirt (OK, I didn’t really have one…I was ‘alternative’)?

  3. dwj says:

    What do you have against painter’s caps?!  Those things were rad!  Okay… I need to stop.  I get pulled into the 80’s WAY to easily.

  4. HeatherLeigh says:

    trust me, I know the feeling. Never did care for the painters caps though

  5. EBP says:

    dwj is right on target, but not all "awesome" people have the opportunity to do those things. On a more basic level (and this is probably obvious), I’d try to look for resume keywords like "established" "created" "pioneered" "excelled" and the like. I think there are a lot of hard-working, ambitious people out there who have tried in school or early in their careers to distinguish themselves through creativity but haven’t been fortunate enough to get an opportunity with a company where they can turn that movitation into a real career. I’m sure there’s a common formula or syntax those people are using on resumes to demonstrate that.

  6. Wine-Oh says:

    I dont like GPA as a factor. I had an interview with a well known company (rhymes with oogle) and they stopped the interview on the spot because I did not have a 3.0 as an undergrad. I said I wouldnt have gotten into an MBA program if I wasnt accomplished and all that. They said it didnt matter if I had a 4.0 in my grad studies, and there was no way around it. They only cared about the undergrad GPA. To me thats like saying stuff from your child hood will come back to haunt you someday. I am not the same person I was at 18 that I am at (insert age here). I found it to be a bit discriminatory. So with that said it should be based on accomplishments. I am all for having an interesting background. The more off the beaten path the better. /end rant 🙂

  7. HeatherLeigh says:

    EBP-that’s interesting…appreciate the feedback.  Those keywords on a resume don’t mean awesome to me. I think truly awesome people find a way to get stuff done. It doesn’t have to be a certain kind of education of a type of company but they have to have some kind of success somewhere at something. Awesome people make stuff happen. Anyone can put those words on their resumes. Interesting way to think about it though.

    Wine-Oh- funny, a headhunter called me about a position at that unnamed company (I always take the calls by the way) and we ended up talking about GPA as a requirement and I said I wouldn’t work for a company that used GPA to screen out anyone except college hires (because many college students don’t have the work experienced to go off of). I’ve boiled down the whole GPa requirement to this: a company run by technologists who want to hire "mini-me"s. I’ve got to tell you, I was a bit of a mess in college…undisciplined, partied too much, etc. What can I say, I was a late bloomer. Very different than I am right now. Personally, I think companies that care that much about GPA are missing out. And they’ll end up hiring more of the same. I hope they didn’t make you come in, in person, for the interview before they stopped it. I hate hearing about stuff like that. When it comes to that kind of stuff, I’m cool with being the un-oogle ; ) I’d rather we hire people that are smart and how to get it done than a bunch of people who even give a toot about their GPA. Sorry, that’s just me…ooh, you got me ranting too.

  8. RO says:

    A very interesting issue. I’m in marketing with HP. Here’s my 2 cents: The people I work with who I really admire have these qualities:

    -great instincts

    -creative, clever, persistent

    -affection for their co-workers, a "bond" with our company’s mission, values

    -focused, not scattered; a feel for what is "accomplishable"

    -Want to suceed by creating a great customer experience

    They’re not:

    -all MBAs

    -always from American schools

    -as coached as MBAs in resume-writing

    -looking for a change

    So what does this contribute – not sure! I can say though, I would not know how to locate these people using an algorithm. I suppose it goes back to Heather’s assertion that it takes hard work and perhaps referrals.

  9. Paul says:

    If you want awesome, it often (usually?) doesn’t come from the cookie cutter mould that everyone thinks is great.  That’s why almost any filter will have difficulty.  You have to look for things that are unusual and take risks.

    Here are some examples of outstanding individuals that I found.  Some details are generalized to protect the innocent.

    – Catholic priest, teaching at divinity school, was run out of diocese because he was gay.  Also got masters at Harvard and PhD at Oxford, both on scholarship.  Was very quirky, didn’t fit any position we had available at the time, but we hired him anyway.  He became our most popular trainer (customers asked for him and would delay training until he was available).  He also ran our education department.

    – Two years out of school, working as clerk at insurance company.  Very low pay.  Had Poli Sci degree.  Listed interests that included music and reading Rolling Stone magazine.  Wrote a very interesting covering letter.  Brought him in and had him write standard IBM programmer aptitude test (scored offscale).  Was very articulate, very intense, knew a lot about music.  Had no relevant experience (looking for technical and marketing writers), but we liked his offbeat personality.  (He wore an extreme mullet, and played guitar too.)  Was an outstanding contributor, strong team player, very bright, fast learner.  Ended up leaving us to start his own web design and content authoring company in the web’s earliest days.

    – Gentleman with no outstanding work accomplishments, but was personally recommended by someone at company as "an interesting person".  Only distinguishing thing on resume was that he was a world champion bagpiper.  The interview was ordinary, but he was very likeable, so we took a chance.  Was a great marketing writer and project leader, and the glue that helped hold my team together for several years.

    Many of the best people we hired were dropouts.  If there were any repeating threads, it would have been music (concert pianist, bass player in a rock band, champion bagpiper, and lots of others not quite as distinguished), or standouts at games like bridge, chess, backgammon, etc.  

    These things were hard to find out about people because they were often told by others to remove the attributes from their resume, or downplay things like not finishing school.

    One of our most brilliant people dropped out of high school to work at Radio Shack.  There he taught himself to program the TRS-80 and wrote games for it.  He joined us at the tender age of 17, and led our professional services and r+d groups before he was 25.  He was also a great salesman.  Now owns 5 businesses.

    I would say that about 90% of the time when we decided to take a chance it worked out, but we also had some flame outs, and you have to be prepared for that when you’re trying to find the very best.

    I would often ask for samples of writing if I wasn’t sure.  I believe you can tell a lot about the way a person thinks, analyses and synthesizes information, and how competent they are generally by the quality of their writing (on any subject).  It is an especially good indicator for marketing.

    The areas where I think you will be least productive in finding awesome are the places where everyone else is looking.  It isn’t that Harvard MBAs aren’t good, but there is pretty intense competition for those people, and not too many to go around.  You will find those through your normal recruiting avenues fairly easily, and the most important thing with those people is to ensure that your ‘hiring brand’ is attractive to them.  The kind of awesome that I’m describing above are hiding under rocks in strange places and have attributes not normally considered qualifications. They often won’t apply to you because they think they won’t be considered.  So, you have to find them, but you’ll probably have a higher hit rate on recruiting them when you find them, and they are often the most creative and capable people. Their "traditional" resume will often have obvious flaws that you have to overlook.

    Hope that helps.  Sounds like Keith is an enlightened sort of chap.

  10. Wolf Logan says:

    I’m coming from the technical side, so I’m not sure how much of my opinion translates well to the Marketing world. That said, however, one thing I used to try to hire on was "a pattern of improvement".

    It wasn’t always easy to tease out of a résumé, because people have a tendency to list only their successes there. But at least during the early parts of the interview process, I’d ask about their failures. Specifically, I’d ask about situations where they tried something new, failed, and then followed up by trying it again, and doing better. That, I think, is the sort of behaviour I was looking for in general in my engineers: the willingness to take risks on something unfamiliar, and the capacity to learn something useful from the early failures.

    This maps onto the idea (suggested above) of looking for signs of innovation, but it also includes something I think is the pinnacle of awesomeness: not just out-of-the-box thinking, but the ability to channel out-of-the-box thinking into actual results. It’s relatively easy to "innovate" in your formative years by trying something outlandish, but then what happens when it doesn’t go the way you planned? Do you just abandon the idea and go on to "innovate" the next outlandish thing, or do you refine the idea and move it closer to success?

    More so than any specific accomplishment or imprimatur from any specific high-hallowed hall of education or business, *that* is what I want my people to be able to do.

  11. Chris Thames says:

    I’ve been watching your blog for some time now and I have to say you have been doing a spectacular job! As far as GPA, I think you hit it right on. When I was an undergrad I found the first two years easier to keep a higher GPA. Then as time went on I found myself more involved with school projects such as volunteering to develop a WebCT/BlackBoard like program and school activities such as being elected as President of the Student Association. Doing these and other activities definitely showed up on my undergrad GPA, compared to high school. A search dealing with leadership in college and involvement with campus projects (like being involved in deploying Wi-Fi across campus or is involved in an open-source project) is probably your best bet on finding someone that knows how to take initiative and will excel in their career. Your other searches also hit on target. One thing that I would take into consideration is the position that you are hiring for. I’m not saying you are not; it just looks like you are looking for candidates in the top 20 MBA programs. There are other certifications that could also be looked at that are also exceptional. For example, National Security Agency’s Centers of Academic Excellence (http://www.nsa.gov/ia/academia/caemap.cfm?MenuID= If I was looking for an employee that needed to deal with IT security (programming/systems) then I would use the NSA’s list and then if I needed to narrow prospects down more, then I would cross reference the NSA list with the top 20 MBA programs. Narrowing the search all depends on what you are looking for more in a prospect. In the previous example IT security is a bigger need than MBA knowledge. One other search is involvement in activities or organizations after they have graduated, for instance being on the board of directors of the Alumni association. This ensures that they will continue to take initiative and depending upon the activity loyalty as well.

  12. Wine-Oh says:

    Amen Sister! My point exactly. Who wants to work at a clone factory anyway?

    I got into my MBA program based on achievement, not because of GPA. I also didnt have to take the GMATs because of this. Achivement out ranks GPA in my book.

    No thankfully it was a phone screen and she actually said to me dont even bother sending a letter or calling corporate HR about this to try and get around it. Its a company wide rule if you are 21 or 61. They want to see your college transcript. I had a minor illness freshman year in college and it was hard to bounce back from missing 6 weeks of school. (fill in years here) have gone by and I am being judged based on that? Yeah ok!  It hit a raw nerve. I too am a very different person these days. More mature and more responsible.

    I have had interviews in person where the meeting came to a screeching halt talking about salary though. Just this week someone asked me what I was looking for salary wise. No joke she jumped up and went "OMG thats way too much!" Im like well I am 1 semester shy of an MBA, and  have this, this and that. She goes I can get someone out of college for this job and pay them $30,000. I said so do it, but they wont have the valuable skills that I have.

    Oh I so want to write a book on this. I have lots to say. I did blog it for a bit, but took it down fearing that companies would find it during back ground checks and use it against me. Someday though I will get a resume from someone at oogle and it will be my turn to say no. (insert evil laugh here)

  13. asteffen says:


    I some what agree with EBP, and I somewhat agree with you.  Anybody can insert those words into there resume to spice it up.  But what about people who have the drive to accomplish all there tasks and then some, but are still young and haven’t had the opportunity to show those skills in there current company for one reason or another?  Should they be weeded out because they haven’t published or patent anything?  Say for example a person has excellent interpersonal skills short but successful track records that aren’t from a top school?  How do they differentiate themselves from the rest of the pack?  I love this topic by the way


  14. <p align="left">Heather Hamilton at Microsoft is trying to find some awesome peo

  15. Arpit says:

    Hey Heather,

    Nice to see my views on the GPA issue being vetted here. I went out of my way to take *hard* courses that were really not needed, but I was curious and wanted to know.

    so that could be one thing to look for – look for stuff that the candidate did that they really didnt have to, but it broadened their horizons. eg: for techies-

    programming contests, research as an undergrad, publishing papers, taking courses that taught them about a new area of the field but were not needed, tutoring others.

    Another importanat thing is, most geeks tend to be slightly shal-we-say socially inept. For team-skills, people who have lots of experience working in teams, who have lived in diverse places or lived internationally have an edge here.

    <full disclosure – ok, I’m biased – I have all this stuff on my resume ;)>

    For the mrketing person, you can look for similar stuff – there are a whole horde of competitions (many modeled on the apprentice, but at a local level). research, work outside the university , working in cross-discipline and corss cultural teams. Look for activities that involve them working within student organizations, planning events, strategizing etc. this is important as most of these positions are voluntary and if they actually delivered measureable results while at this position, it shows some skill and passion.

    <I’m just a recent comp-sci grad, so marketing is really not my forte>

    regarding that certain oogle – they didnt even *want to look* at my resume before looking at my GPA. It made me think about the kind of people valued at that company – to boil a person down to *one number*.. And I was even more shocked to read that they still hanker after your undergrad GPA long after ur done with college.. hmm.

    <ok this is getting *really* long, i know!>

    One thing I was wondering about – How easy/hard is it to advance to a senior level (say GM) at Microsoft, if you join as a new college hire (say as a PM) with just a BS in CS and no MBA? what advantage would an MBA straight out of school have? how many levels higher whould he/she join? would there be a difference in the rate of career progression?

    Thanks and good luck in your search!

  16. HeatherLeigh says:

    RO-yep, I’m definitely going to be ALL OVER referrals for this event/group. Good point.

    Paul-you are going to laugh or scratch your head, but we are really thikning about the world chamionship bagpipe type. That’s exactly the kind of thing I mean. Passion/excellence. When I was hiring programmers, i found that musicians did great.  I wonder if it’s more the thought process connection between music and programming or something about musicians that just make them great. I’m going to ponder that one some more. You are right about the incredible competition for the MBAs.

    Wolf-right on! Pattern of improvement. I can use that.

    Chris-good points. The team does marketing for information workers but you are making me think about looking at associations focused on workplace prodcuctivity and enterprise software. You are also kind of making me want your resume…ever consider marketing? : )

    Wine-Oh…you are so anonymous. Do I have hyour resume?

    asteffen-then they should have some examples of leadership or excellence from school. They have to give  me something to work with, but it’s OK if it isn’t at a company.

    Arpit-you will hear people here say that Microsoft is it’s own MBA. I don’t know of anyone that joined and then felt they needed an MBA to get ahead. Good for those folks that got it before they got here but once you are here, what you *do* is more important than anything else. I thikn Steve Sinofsky at Microsoft is a good example of what someone great can do that comes in as a campus hire. I think he was a campus hire. Those GM spots are competitive but lack of an MBA doesn’t keep folks out of them. Lots of successful folks here that were campus hires, for sure! Not sure about their GPAs (hee!)

    ***To all of you…don’t think I am weird, but I love you guys (sniff, sniff). This is helping me so much! My readers rock!

  17. Wine-Oh says:

    Yes Heather you do. We’ve E-mailed a couple of times in recent months about some positions I saw posted. But I think I have a better idea why nothing ever came of it.

    I just started with a  career coach, after experiencing nothing but shear frustration with my job search. In looking at trends and correlations of interviewing and job hunting, I found some similar patterns. So this entry kind of hits home and a raw nerve (the oogle story to be exact)  I think up until now my resume misrepresented me and what I am looking for in my career. Currently it foucses and pigeon holes me into looking for jobs that utilize skills and elements from jobs that I *can* do, versus what I *like*  doing and am *good* at doing, which will ultimately make me a happy camper. Rather do this now and not be unhappy with my career down the road.

    (sorry if that sounded all stuart smalley’esque)

    I am one of those people with unusal talents and backgrounds and got to where I am via non conventional ways. Oh and I can wiggle my ears, one at a time. Does that count for anything?

  18. Sarah says:

    Speaking as one of your hires, I must say that I truly value your methods. (Hello, waitress from Texas with screenwriting degree!)

  19. HeatherLeigh says:

    Wine-Oh..sounds like you are making some smart moves! Now the ear wiggling thing does make a difference if you are interviewing and you don’t know the answer to a question. Then just say "look at my ears!" to distract them. ; )

    Hey everybody, Sarah is the contract Staffing Associate on our team. If you’ve sent me your resume, Sarah knows you. She’s also being too modest…she has a Masters in screenwriting from a great program. She makes my point well 😉 And this is her first comment on my blog!

  20. Wine-Oh says:

    Sorry to be so anonymous Heather….

    Actually I wish I could wiggle my nose a la Bewitched and move the interview along and get the offer. Tired of spinning my wheels and not sealing the deal. Alas I know what the issues are now and am going to fix them.

    Im finishing my MBA this summer with a concentration in marketing. Yet I can start working now as the final project is done on my own time. I do feel though that the MBA has filled some gaps in my working experience and made me a bit more well rounded. Coupled with being put on the right track, I am sure I will be fine in the long run.

    I am happy to send you the revised resume, (when it is done and if you want to see it), to be considered for marketing positions.  Especially ones in Keith White’s dept. Sounds like a great place to be.  I do have the leadership skills you mention (fraternity, cross functional teams at work, starting new departments, helping with recruiting efforts for my mba program. Which by the way has programs in the top 25 rankings). That and my hidden talent will go far. 🙂

    One thing I like about Microsoft is that even if you have interviewed there before, they are happy to keep meeting with you until there is a match.  I have interviewed 2x already, but now am convinced they werent the right positions for me. So I am happy (if that makes sense) that I didnt get them because I would be looking for a new job by now.

  21. sketcher says:

    hello Heather,

    I met lots of "awesome" people through unpaid leadership activities – organizing and promoting student run events like hooking up college students to mentor local children would be one example- I remember these people having more drive and initiative than people paid to work.  Having said that, I don’t know of many people who’d actually list these activities on professional resumes(even if they are spending hours doing them); perhpas a good place to start would be finding someone who did something special(i.e., teach for america), and ask for referrals/search from there.

    gluck & keep posting!  

  22. HeatherLeigh says:

    sketcher….great idea! Thanks!

  23. bleh says:

    Another idea for you. Ask them to throw something at you, something that they create within the next few weeks/month. Give them some random theme, so that they do indeed have to create something using that theme.

    Then look at what they create…its a reflection of their character. Might be anything… a written piece, a song, a painting, a program…anything at all. But it gives you a window into their world.

    The ability to create is something that (the much abused word) awesome people have. What they create might be tied to the kind of personality they have…but their passion should show through in the quality of their creation. And truly creative people will surprise you with their creation.

  24. bleh says:

    A PS. Regarding GPA..there are too many variables that go into it.

    So I prefer the positive screen instead of the negative screen. I.e. If your GPA is > 90% (in whatever system you studied in), we’ll call you in for an interview/whatever. If it isn’t, we’ll look at other stuff on your resume.

  25. Jim Edelen says:

    How about people who start/run their own business while in school.  That usually shows "awesomeness"

  26. HeatherLeigh says:

    bleh-maybe a writing sample would work for that. I like it. i agree with you about GPA being used to rule people into the pool but not out.

    Jim-yeah, that is a good one too. Though I wonder how to separate out the ones that were mowing lawns intheir neighborhood (not that there’s anything wrong with that) and the ones that employed people. I’m sure we can come up with some screening questions on that. Thanks for another great recommendation!

  27. daryllmc says:

    a couple of points that I’ll make:

    a) having an MBA from a top ten program, I will emphatically confirm that Microsoft is its own MBA.  though it’s intense, this is a good thing–truly invaluable experience.

    b) in terms of what to look for, I’ve found military service to be a good predictor.  folks who have served in the military (and managed some rank progression) tend to do very well in an environment like Microsoft;

    -working with precision under deadlines

    -gathering intelligence to make good decisions

    -making appropriate decisions with less than perfect information

    -intangible leadership qualities

    c) another thing is participation in community service, civic organizations or individual sports.  most folks that I’ve met who are passionate about these kinds of out-of-work pursuits tend to very driven to get their work done to be able to devote time to these things.  they get an AMAZING amount of work done and their energy seems boundless.

    my $0.02

  28. Kat says:

    I have spent a couple of years hiring interns for our group and I lucked out the first time I had a "hire" where I used GPA as a filter.  The second time I got burned and never used it again.  GPA does not measure anything more than good study skills.  This does not necessarily translate to good work skills and it certainly does not equal awesome.  I dropped out of High School and never went to college.  That hasn’t reduced my level of awesomeness and I didn’t think it was fair to judge others any differently.  I found that a better filter was asking about specific classes and why they were passionate about learning that particular topic.  Passion is the true guage of awesomeness.  Are your potentials passionate?  Do they take risks?  Do they communicate well?  Do they ask questions?  Are they engaged?  Did they do their research about my company?  Are they taking notes?  Do they play sports?  Do they volunteer anywhere?  Those are the types of filters that measure awesomeness…

  29. Paul J says:

    Lots of people seem to be posting based on their personal qualifications or lack thereof.

    For the most part people that maintain amazing GPA WITH various campus/work leadership are solid candidates. It’s very difficult to 4.0 at most schools and those that do are exceptional, it’s hard to get around that. Not to say that those that don’t 4.0 aren’t exceptional but it’s hard to find too many incompetant 4.0s.

    Personally, I would put a greater empahsis on campus leadership and work experience than GPAs. There is just too much random variables in a GPA including difficulty of courses and general luck to make it a sole deciding factor. On the balance, "awesome" people are those that demonstrate ambition, team work and passion.

    Scholarship actually are a pretty good indicator, schools/organizations don’t tends to pay thousands of dollars without first making sure the recipients are worth recruiting and otherwise would bring something of value of the school or foundation. Now again plenty of great candidates may be overlooked, but someone that wins multiple large scholarships tends to be of "awesomeness."

    People are so complex eh?

  30. k9pals4life says:

    I am finding this track very interesting especially since being on the career search for some time.  With several years of professional experience and a BS degree in Marketing, I have found the job application process to be vastly different compared to my first job out of college.  It has almost become a game of selecting the right ‘keywords’ to get your resume through the data-miners in the hopes that a ‘real’ person would read your resume.  Based on these experiences I have been researching MBA programs with an emphasis on Human Resources….  At any rate, I have been very intrigued by the various responses to the traits/qualities/abilites/etc. that reflect an ‘awesome’ employee.  Many of these suggestions I would have never thought of including on my resume, deferring to including only professional track skills as touted by the many resume books and websites available.  Time to rectify that thought process on the next version of my resume.  I like to think I am an awesome employee, but maybe the resume doesn’t reflect that.  Thanks for the great info.  I have enjoyed reading through this blog since discovering it.  Heather, I think I will forward a copy of it to you with your blessing!

  31. Paul K says:

    How about this..

    – I will make a decision, either right or wrong and not spend excessive amount of time on it.

  32. Lisa says:

    I’ve enjoyed reading the comments from this particular post.  I also had a (ugh) GPA in undergrad for simliar reasons to Heather’s (worked full time, had more fun than was strictly neccessary), and I don’t include it on my resume now that I’ve been out for ten years.  I do however include my MBA GPA which I worked hard for, and memberhip in an MBA honor society (thanks, Heather).

    Other things I look for when hiring: that passionate streak; ability to communicate (even in email – I know some brilliant people who don’t do well socially / in person, but in the right role they can be a great individual contributor); and most importantly, a desire to learn and grow.

    Thanks for the discussion, folks.

  33. HeatherLeigh says:

    Yeah, this conversation keeps getting better.

    Daryll- I appreciate you jumping in since I’m pretty sure you are the one person here actually doing marketing at Microsoft so it is interesting to hear your take. With regard to the military, I might pick your brain further on how to assess the info people include on their resumes re: their military service. Coming from a family higly involved in the Navy (butnot yours truly of course), I can definitely see some excellence that can result from service.

    Kat-every recruiter has a story of being burned like that. Looking at the candidate’s background more broadly helps, I think.  You obviously figured that out early on.

    Paul J (gotta love all the Paul’s here)- I am considering that fact that participating in blog conversations can be equated to awesomeness : ) Seriously, people will speak from their own perspective. This conversation has made me think about my background and at what point any kind of awesomeness appeared on my resume. Unfortunately, it wasn’t resume awesomeness that got me into Microsoft, it was industry experience.I think it’s pretty natural for each of us to view this relative to our own experience.  Regarding the GPA conversation, we aren’t ruling anyone out with it… our goal is to try to rule the great people in. And we want to use any number of potential criteria to do that. And yes, we are very complex! That’s what makes my job interesting (and sometimes frustrating) ; )

    k9-absolutely feel free to send it to me of course!

    Paul K- that doesn’t sound like excellence to me. “Go ahead and make wriong decisions but make them quickly”…hmm, I don’t think we are going to include that in our criteria ; )

    Lisa-MBA honor societies…good one. Yo uare reminding me that now that we are looking at people with different kinds of backgrounds, we need to use different techniques to assess core competencies. Have to tweak our questions regfarding passion, communications, learning to make them not about softtware marketing.

  34. Paul says:

    A popular thread indeed.  I get the feeling that a lot of the people reading and posting are looking for clues as to what you (Heather) think is exceptional.

    Through all the comments, it seems the most important things are the subtext.  If someone has a GPA > 3.8 (regardless of school), has been nominated to honor societies, went to school on scholarship, has a clear track record of business achievement, has been responsible for financial results (no disguising that), or has taken leadership in community service activities, any of those should get you past the first cut as a potential outstanding candidate.

    But the part that distinguishes awesome from good-enough-to-get-an-interview is hard to find in the standard resume form, and I’ve seen people who have (apparently) great numbers that I wouldn’t hire for any role, and I’ve seen people with lousy numbers who any sane manager would hire in a heartbeat, some who turned out to be awesome.

    That’s why I personally sweat the little stuff.  Awesome people are not ordinary.  Often they are downright weird, although they go to great lengths to hide it.  If not weird, there is something in their personality that drives them to be different, to excel, to make a difference and to see things differently.  If you want to find exceptional, you need to look for exceptions.

    I think that’s why things like dropping out of school can be a very positive indicator.  When you are young, this is a borderline deviant thing to do, yet Bill Gates, Larry Ellison and Steve Jobs all fit that category, as do many brilliant and very successful people that I know in the technology business.  Yet, most hiring specs deliberately exclude people like this.  The key, though, is to ask why.

    The clues may be much smaller, but they will always be there.  Unfortunately, because you are looking for the exceptions, it is virtually impossible to use automated filters to scan for them, except for big obvious ones, like missing educational credentials.

    It’s a fascinating subject.

    re: being decisive.  Although I’m not convinced it is an indicator of awesomeness, I wouldn’t discount it either.  Personally, I would much rather that someone set a personal time limit for every decision.  The best decision makers are wrong 40% or more of the time, and there is little evidence that deciding quickly versus deliberately results in a much higher error rate.  If you make the wrong decision quickly, however, you have time to fix it, and if you make the right decision too slowly, you may have lost the opportunity to capitalize on it.  Therefore, in general, decisive people do succeed more in life, all things being equal.  When scanning resumes, the question is how would you use this as a filter — I don’t believe there is enough there to answer this question, although it certainly is something to probe for during an interview.

  35. HeatherLeigh says:

    Wine-Oh-sorry I missed your earlier comment. Of course I’d love to see your resume when you update it. DOn’t worry about being anonymous. I totally understand. I’m definitely willing to put your resume in front of Keith’s team.

  36. TC Loy says:

    The other thing is that some people say one page and some say two pages. I have fenced competitively and gotten pretty fair in competition.

    As far as leadership is concerned, I have seen people hold title in college organizations and have not done anything at all.

    undergraduate GPA — I had a LOT of fun my first two years but the bell tolls and I realized that my life of carefree abandon came to an end. I did much better with my MBA being older and well….somewhat wiser. 🙂

    What does the recruiter prefers?

    One pager versus two pagers?

    functional versus chronological?

    I was recently given a free look over by a resume writer who said that he hated my functional resume and prefer the one pager.

  37. Paul K says:


    I want you to know I wear duck slippers ( used to have penguin slippers! )  into our office, and have a habit of going barefooted and in shorts.

    I often tell people here, he ( or she in your case ) laughs the most wins.  This is how I choose to live my work life.  🙂

    about the decision,  its simplicity.    I often find companies that are stalemating by the fact they are in meetings more than all day instead of doing action.

    action makes a company go places, not decisions to do actions ! 😉

  38. Wine-Oh says:

    *Sniffle Sniffle* Its ok Heather… I am just going to change my user name to ig-nored from now on. 🙂

    Once I am finished with my resume, I will send it off. Its undergoing a  facelift as we speak. Right now it looks like a bunch of bullet points pulled from job descriptions. Not good. The new version will be more creative.  

    Paul K- I cant help but ask what kind of company (not asking the name of it) you work for that allows you to walk around barefoot. Id be afraid to step on something. Tell me you can bring your dog to work too?

  39. Chris Thames says:


    To tell you the truth I’ve never thought about pursuing marketing. I’ve mainly been focused in ASP.Net and more recently IT security involving threat mitigation, cryptography, policies, and auditing. However, I do find your blog fascinating and does spark some ideavations (a cross between ideas and innovation).

    P.S. You might find “The Undercover Economist” an interesting read where some concepts could be applied to marketing. I’m only on chapter 4 so hopefully the book continues to be interesting. The first two chapters on coffee (Starbucks) and supermarkets are what initially grabbed my attention.

  40. Mel says:

    I love that most have left awesome comments for me to massage my brain over late tonight. Reading the comments reaffirmed my perspective on the matter.

    It all boils down to four words: passion, motivation, initiative and results.

    In my experience, I’ve found that the more excellence I find in the four categories, the better my chances for finding an “awesome” individual.

    Summary of what I read & pondered while reading this discussion (mostly for myself):

    • Top xx biz-schools

    • Leadership in college (fraternity, sorority & organization)

    • Scholarships, other kinds of awards.

    • Scholar athletes.

    • Fast career progression

    • Written books, articles, active blog… anything. – Request sample(s)

    • Samples of writing – insight into their reasoning style.

    • Owns patents – real world versus purely intellectual?

    • Review’s books

    • Started own company… Starting resources? Success? Failure? Why? How long? Resulting contacts?

    • Interesting? – “awesome” shirt, ear wiggling,

    • Successful risk taking (aka innovation/initiative) – Taking the road less traveled.

    • Great instincts – how does one demonstrate this? Maybe successful risk-taking. I recently heard my sister Michelle (16) telling her friends that the faster they can help her clean the house and her room, the faster they could all go out. Leader instincts? Definitely. Demonstrating or searching for this on a resume? Not sure it’s feasible…

    • Persistent – Till it works or till it’s foolish? It’s a fine line we walk.

    • Ambitious yet realistic goal-setting (focused, not scattered; a feel for what is "accomplishable")

    • Musicians

    • Standouts at games

    • Uses the word ‘chap’ 

    • Pattern of improvement

    • Channel out-of-the-box thinking into actual results.

    • Involved with projects and activities.

    • Certifications.

    • Course selection – required vs. exploratory.

    • Special event/organization member (i.e. teach for america)

    • Positive screening versus negative screening. – I.e. If your GPA is > 90% (in whatever system you studied in), we’ll call you in for an interview/whatever. If it isn’t, we’ll look at other stuff on your resume.

    • Military service

    • Participation in community service, civic organizations or individual sports. Volunteers.

    • Decisive decision-making – 4 steps forward and one step back in half the time is better than 4 steps forward. I subscribe to this belief.

    • Desire to learn and grow. – Detectable many ways.

    • MBA honor societies – Great if you have it.

    • Actions takers – Incredibly important.

    Variations or additions:

    • Great story tellers. These people can get the most done using others.

    • People with clarity… on what they want, expect and are striving for. They are simply more motivated and find ways to get things done.

    • The Keith Ferrazzi’s of the world.

    • Thought-leaders & discussion-leaders, like Heather Hamilton, eager to build productive dialogues.

    • Solid understanding of people and relationships. Especially true for marketing related positions.

    • Care-factor – How much do they care? About their spouse? Job? Kids? Co-workers? Company? End-customers? Care-factor is often infectious. An awesome person often brings a care-factor that gets others around them to care more ‘bout things in general. It’s critical to find people who have a high care-factor. Detected through recommendation letters and interviews..

    • Understanding their strengths & weaknesses (spelling being mine … thank god for the red underline.)

  41. Brian Toland says:

    We’ll see what Ms. Heather says, but here’s another recruiter’s viewpoint.

    Resumes should be as long as they need to be.  What peeves recruiters is when each job contains the same info for five jobs in a row.  What I like to see is a progression of responsibilities.  So the most recent job shouldn’t be listing the same accomplishments of the first job.  Unless you’re a research scientist and are published, your resume shouldn’t be 25 pgs, but 2-3 is ok.

    Functional resumes are ok if you are changing careers.  Generally though, they are often used by someone who is trying to distract from a gap in work history.  We want to know where you accomplished these great things, so a chronological one is often better.

  42. Brian says:

    How do US recruiters interpret GPA for international courses?

    In Britain a system of classes (1st, 2nd Upper, 2nd Lower etc) is often used. I attended an older university where the most exceptional students would average 75% and just make First level degrees.

    Reasoning was that achieving say 90% means that you would be near perfect, yet a bachelors course is really barely touching on a field and there is head room for many years of research.

  43. Wine-Oh says:


    Interesting question although I am not a recruiter. Just speaking from personal experience. I have taken some international courses when I was a wee bit undergrad. The grade was transferred to my home college and ccmputed along with my regular GPA. The school had a system of matching up the international course grade with the equivalent US grade.

    Personally I dont get the whole First level, 2nd Upper. Its as complexing to me as why the British drive on the other side of the road. They make your lives more difficult than necessary. Just kidding of course.

  44. HeatherLeigh says:

    Mel-glad we could help…thanks for the recap ; )

    Brian Toland-how could I disagree with that? I’m not a fan of functional resumes. It really makes it hard to get to what the person did and where.

    Brian- so given that I don’t recruit based on GPA, I don’t think I have the answer. Anyone else know?

  45. HeatherLeigh says:

    Oh man, I skipped over a bunch of comments. I’m a little out of it today. Sorry.

    TC Loy-I agree with Brian Toland. Use as many pages as you need but fill them with valuable content. Don’t feel like you need to stretch it to fill in.

    Paul K-I agree with that. I guess I’d consider that a screening criteria.

  46. Paul K says:


    Actually its very clean place, we have a swimming pool, a creek out front, and varies from 3-10 german shepards here.    We keep it clean, the shepards are all out in the back.   The company moved from urban flordia to a rural area to get away from the 2 hour commutes.  The CEO is very active in german shepard rescue, we all love dogs here.  Its a very great place to work at.  I simply love it.

    We are a science/radio software company.  😉


  47. Russ says:

    Graduate GPA – shows what they have learned and           how well they learn

    tier 1,2,3 – if we want to stereotype I guess that is okay, but is there a limit on how much knowledge a person can develop based on their affiliation ? Colin Powell didn’t attend West Point, he attended a small college with an ROTC program. Nothing against West Point, it’s a fine institution and many great military leaders have honed their skills there…but it isn’t the only place. Same thing for academia, more percentage wise may have Harvard, Stanford, Wharton or Kellogg in their bloodline but to think that those are the only places ….well it leaves a great deal of talent for the competition.

    Military Service – Yes, very concentrated doses of leadership,discipline, training, diversity, confidence building,ability to function under life threatening circumstances and how to endure hardship.  If they are career people (20 years) sometimes they will need some deprogramming to transition the skills to the corporate work environment.

    Certifications –

    Leadership – ask them and if they fit the profile it will roll right off their tongue

    Musicians – that was a good one, insightful.  On an individual and group basis – wonderful development experience.  

    Continuous learners – what is excellent today can be obsolete very shortly, who has demonstrated that they can continue to stay on the edge indefinitely?

    Cooking – gourmet cooks, or niche expertise

    Adversity – who was slammed to the turf and came back successfully?  You have to have that ability because if you are on the edge, you will miss…occasionally. Babe Ruth struck out many times, but I wouldn’t call him less than awesome as a batter.

    This concept feeds into the diversity concept. Leveraging the unique experiences/talents for a greater whole. Not discounting someone because they do not fit a mold.

    Undergrad GPA – mine was horrible, my fathe died and that impacted me. Redemption on MBA with 4.0. What is more important? What I did 20 years ago or 4 months ago.  

    This is one of the more meaningful threads…ever. You are onto something very significant in a business sense. Run,run,run with this as fast and as far as you can. Then get up and run with it some more.  This is the Big Idea so far in 06.

  48. Heather Leigh of Microsoft has an interesting few words to say regarding hiring for potential. Well, most of the article isn’t directly about hiring for potential, but it’s the bit that caught my eye. When recruiting for my team, I’ve…

  49. Ryan Battles says:

    Dear Blogger—my name is Ryan and I represent <redacted>, the webs newest career advice website.  We are currently rolling out a contest for bloggers like yourself to create articles that we can host for you, and provide links back to your blog, increasing your traffic and ratings.  If you are interested, you can view more details at <redacted>

  50. HeatherLeigh says:

    Dear Advertiser-Seriously? According to technorati, there’s nobody linking to your site. You are offering me traffic? I’m sorry, this really touches a nerve for me. You should do some research so you know who you are approaching. You should not post off-topic comments on other peoples’ blogs. And if you address people, please take the time to address them by name. My name is all over this blog. This approach will give people the impression that you dont get blogging. I’m not interested in any contest and I’ll be hosting my blog posts right here, where my readers know where to find me. And I am removing your link from your comment. Seriously, you need to re-think approaching successful bloggers in theis way. Sheesh.

  51. Brian Toland says:

    Two snaps in a Z formation girlfriend.

    That ‘site’ is appearing in the comments section of just about every blog I see.  They definitely don’t seem to understand the medium.  What a way to turn off your audience all at once…

    Hey, Ms. H, I smell a posting about bad marketing coming on…call it the "Top Ten ways NOT to connect with your audience"

  52. HeatherLeigh says:

    You are on to something Toland. How about this"Top ten ways not to connect with your audience if your audience is me" Yeah there’s defnitely a blog post there.

  53. Neal G says:

    Heather – I think that if you’re looking for awesome people you need go down the road that Paul suggested a couple of pages back – but here’s what I’d add: Awesome people do things not necessarily because there is any reward in the result (like things to put on a resume) but because they are jazzed at doing the thing itself. I believe this is why musicians have shown up often enough in this post – i.e. they would play music whether or not anyone – including recruiters – gave a hoot. Its also why I think that the some of the best I-Bankers were also Art majors in college.

    But that doesn’t necessarily help you find the people you are looking for – so here’s a few suggestions – look for education degrees that have no bearing on the current job the candidate is in. If they are good – it shows they’ve learned a boat load of new things and aren’t afraid to tackle something new. Second, look for extreme’s – its good to have played a sport – but its great if you won a championship, its good to speak a different language but its great if you chose to live in Russia for a year, its good to have graduated with an MBA, but it’s great if you’re now a high school basketball coach with an MBA, and so on.

    There’s always risk – so you could wind up meeting a chronically poor decision maker who could never really make up there mind – but that’s what I found. Here are the two most recent real-world examples I can share:

    A former after-school magician who is now CTO of a major Non-Profit

    A client account manager who is the host of comedy sports central in her local area

    hope it helps – great job on the blog –

  54. HeatherLeigh says:

    Thanks Neal!

  55. Kim says:

    Someone who was traveled all over the world (business trips don’t count)

  56. HeatherLeigh says:

    Kim-I think international exposure experience in business could be a positive thing on  resume too. But different than leisure travel. I’m not sure many people would put their vacation destinations on their resume…I never have.  I need ot think about that one. I might be more interested in overseas work than averseas vacations. ; )

  57. Ramona says:

    Very interesting blog and question. I’m agreeing with the earlier suggestion on ‘caring.’ As we continue to understand the complexities of humans working in groups, one thing that shows a  constant direct correlation with leadership and managerial success is caring for one’s co-workers and teammates.

    I suspect this will continue to be more and more so as our workplace(s) demographics change – Boomers, Gen-X and Y’er’s are said to have more of an expectation of this than those born during WWII or the Great Depression.  

    In terms of searchable resume criteria – how about volunteer organizations and awards? Those who both care and can balance their life in a way to be successful in their careers and have time to volunteer must surely be awesome…

    (Truth in advertising as others before me – I must confess to being Big Sister of the Year for Wa. State, so clearly I suffer from self-identification on the awesome issue and my suggested criteria as well. I appear to be in good company on this, tho…grin)

  58. Someone said it earlier… but I totally agree.  For a younger person, if they have "tutor" listed on their resume… thats a big plus.

    A) they knew the material well enough to teach it to others

    (and they were screened by their peers and instructors before getting the job)

    B) They cared enough to want to help others with their passion.

  59. Bianca says:

    Wow, this list could go on and on about what consitutes "awesomeness".  =)

    There’s some great ideas and insights here and they’re all so different.  This leads me to conclude that you may have to dig deeper and go beyond surface expectations to find great people.  There’s no easy way to go about it as evidenced by all the different suggestions mentioned.  As Heather mentioned earlier, finding awesome people is labor-intensive, and I suspect it will always be so.

    Btw, next time I update my resume, I’m going to include personal accomplishments that I’ve never really thought of as indicators of "awesomeness" until hearing it from y’all.  But maybe it’ll help me connect with an awesome company and career. 😉

  60. mobias says:


    I’ve just read through this and find it to be a marvelous topic.  There seemed to be a thread of objection on the part of comments coming from "…people [who] seem to be posting based on their personal qualifications or lack thereof. .." My take is that it is to be expected that people provide comment that is based upon their own personal experience.  Even "out of the box" thinkers have to have some baseline against which they rebel.

    I also wanted to provide a bit of perspective on the MBA thing.  I happen to have one and am appreciative of the learning I derived from it.  My feeling is that the differences in straight up education ranging from the top tier to the 100th ranking aren’t all that large.  Most of my professors had doctorates from Harvard, Stanford, Wharton, etc. and thus taught the correpsonding curriculum (case studies, as an example).  I do believe that the top tier schools integrate their alumni much better than do the other schools and this to me is a primary differentiator.  It may seem counter to conventional thought, but a sign of awesomeness might well include an examination as to how or whether a student maintained connection to his/her alumni association – in particular at schools that aren’t "top tier".

  61. HeatherLeigh says:

    Mobias-I agreee. In fact, I think that people are more credible when they comment on something they have first hand experience in (see, look at that, I somehow tied in the credibility meme too…how "awesome" of me). Of course, this is exactly why I asked my blog readers. I didn’t expect them to be experts in resume reading but it’s clear that they are experts in personal awesomeness….ew, is that too self-serving?

    Good points about the MBA space. For me, one of my few personal brushes with awesomeness is that I was the president of my alumni association.

    And now that I started talking about my own personal experience, I think I have brought this comment post full-circle.

  62. Paul says:

    Heather, you were pondering (way up) what it was that made musicians tend to be excellent people in technology companies.  I thought about that many years ago when I noticed it showing up again and again.

    I think there are several "happy factors" that combine to favor musicians:

    * Being a strong musician is just like gaining complete fluency in another language, right down to the subtleties like slang and idiomatic forms (which, like humor, are the things that most baffle foreign language learners).  If you can be fluent in multiple languages, you can certainly learn or understand another (i.e. programming).  You’ve wired the neural networks, and it is relatively analagous to map software technology on top.

    * Music is a highly disciplined form of creative expression.  It requires years of learning, training yourself in the skills and patterns and the ability to hear, follow multiple threads and to improvise.  Most people that do that have an inner drive, and an ability to make the complex simple.  Whether you are on the technical side or the marketing side, making the inherent complexity of technology simple is a tremendous asset.  Isn’t that why we all love iPODs?

    * Music employs many of the same mental processes that creating new technology does.  That makes musicianship a strongly correlated indicator of potential software skills, even you don’t have any knowledge of coding already.

    * Music employs a formal abstraction very similar to writing code.

    Although we think of musicians as creative, and programmers as technical, the opposite is also true.  Musicians have mastered a highly technical skill, and great programmers are very creative.  They are different ways of looking at the same thing.

    This notion was explored by Douglas Hofstader in the 1979 Pulitzer-prize winning book "Godel, Escher, Bach".  Although he was comtemplating artificial intelligence and metaphysical ideas, the basic conclusion is that logic, music, and art are three variations of the same thing, or in Hofstader’s words, "I realized that Godel, Escher and Bach were only shadows cast in different directions by some central solid essence."  I also believe that poetic expression like Hofstader’s words are another shadow cast by a different light source, which is why people who have exceptional command of the language also tend to be awesome.

    And, all that is besides the fact that being a musician usually makes you more interesting as a person.

  63. Margaret says:

    I have had a couple of phone screening interviews and 1 full time interview with Microsoft so far. One thing disappointed me was that the hiring managers tended to look for ‘exact’ or ‘closer’ match for their positions and ignored my potential. Honestly if I were a ‘closer’ match I would most likely be very bored of that job. What I look for in a position are challenges and opportunities for learning new thing, besides my contribution to the employer.

    One suggestion I have for Microsoft is to consider a candidate with strong resume even with slightly ‘un-matching’ work experience as long as the candidate demonstrates his/her ability to learn and adapt. Some people are more comfortable stay in areas where they have lots of expertise but some are the opposite.

  64. HeatherLeigh says:

    Hi Margaret,

    A lot of times, what we find is that people will join Microsoft working on something similar to what they have done in the past (marketing a similar technology, for example) and then once they are here, they move around within the company to other groups.

    Obviously, I am very supportive of hiring for potential but I will conceded that it’s not right for every group, every time. Sometimes a group needs someone that can come in and hit the ground running. And sometimes that domain space has some complexities that should be handled by someone with previous experience in that domain.

    I came to Microsoft on a role similar to what I had been doing before and there was nothing boring about it. Working at a different company, learning their business, understanding how they do things, made everything feel new for me for quite a while. And when it stopped feeling new, that is when my job changed.

    Obviously I cannot comment about your specific interview experience, but it may just be that the hiring manager felt that there was another candidate he was more interested in moving forward with. There could be any number of reasons things did not progress with your candidacy. Often times, a hiring manager will ask questions about their specific domain to understand how much you prepared for the interview so it’s not about the experience, it’s about the preparation. I’m not saying that we hire for potential all the time, or even most of the time, but it does happen.

    Sorry you weren’t happy with the outcome of your interview experience though. I know it’s a big time investment to speak with us and of couse, we appreciate that people are willing to take the time.

  65. dariousg says:

    I am very happy that I found this site.  I have finally decided after about a week or so of reading as much as I can to comment on a subject that is near and dear to my heart.

    Here is a quick overview of where I have been and what I have done (well, knowing myself as I hope I do, it will probably be a long-winded bio before I am done.  I’ll try hard not to bore you all.)  I started out in my post high school life by jumping into computer science and mechanical engineering.  However, I quickly turned to the Army to try and figure out a way to pay for schooling.  I scored among the top 1 percentile in the ASVAB exam.  I could have chosen ANY career path within the military (including spying, which I was tested for) but being fresh out of school I opted for talking my best friend into joining with me and going to HAWAII!!!  Well, that was a mistake.  I enjoyed my time there but Hawaii is a light infantry base where I didn’t get much chance to gain experience in anything other than position lives on a board for sacrifice so our units could obtain their objectives.  It just wasn’t for me.  I left with an honorable discharge and sacrificed my GI bill.

    I came home and found out quickly that I needed to work in order to live.  So I did that for a few years while attending GRCC for the occassional art class and so on.  I simply felt like I let my opportunity slip away and I was only 22.  Let’s fast forward.  Now I’m 26 and I have a young family.  I lose a job that I truly had no passion for and decide to go back to school.  I get an AAS in CAD and finally get an office job where I can utilize my interactive skills.  Within a month I was moved into an engineering role designing RF plant for a cable company.  This was unheard of according to the "old cable dogs" that I worked with.  I quickly moved into the lead role for all of the CAD drafters and lead the group through many major design projects.  I mentored many of them in RF design and pushed the project manager to allow them to become RF designers instead of simple drafters.  From there the group grew.  

    Fast forward again to 2001.  I’m sure most will know exactly what 2001 means.  Layoffs.  It was brutal.  Like a buzzsaw.  The department that I helped build to 16 RF designers (no longer just CAD drafters) was cut to 8 in one hour.  On top of it all I was moved from an RF engineer role to the fiber engineering group.  The reasons slated was that they made cuts based on seniority and I had only been with them for 2 1/2 years.  But they didn’t want to lose me and what I brought to the company.  So I learned the fiber end of the industry.  That group grew to 6 and within 2 months the PM pulled me into his office and told me that he wants me to take on the role of testing all of the new programs that were being developed for the company.  He tells me that he believes from what he has seen that I can do the fiber job better than the others in my group and most of them have been in the field fo 10 plus years.  So I get all of the "special" projects to test.

    Yes, at this point I am making a name for myself and testing (and breaking) these programs as they come along.  I give my input and the director decides to move on to another program based on my opinions.  Then 2003 comes along and round 2 of the layoffs hits us again.  Obviously I survive because I am still with this organization.  In fact I am the only survivor of the 16 that I helped put together almost 8 years ago.

    Oh yeah, during this time I had decided that my AAS was just not going to cut it.  How could I go on and get an undergrad degree with work and family taking up so much of my time?  Well, I decided to go the only route available.  U of Phoenix.  After I finished that degree I figured that I couldn’t stop there.  I searched around the big name B-Schools to see if there was a distance learning option with any of them.  Well, there isn’t.  (Or wasn’t back in 2003.)  I made the decision to go with a decent university that has a long 150 plus year history that offered a distance MBA.  I graduated last September.

    Back to the last layoff and where it has left me.  The good thing was that I was important enough to keep around while I had the unfortunate experience of saying goodbye to all of my friends.  The real unfortunate result of these layoffs is this.  No growth opportunities.

    Our engineering group was cut down so much that we were top heavy (and still are if you ask me.)  This means that the only way to really advance is if someone else above you leaves or if you leave.  All of the talk of how I was easily on the fast track and how I would make a great manager and leader one day had completely withered away.  

    So, I have finally approved a program that will do what we were looking for in entering the fiber system into a CAD drawing and database.  I have been doing the same thing for 3 years now and have become TOO valuable at what I do.  I’m the only one that can do it.  This means that I no longer get consideration for special projects and so on.  I have to do what I am here for.  

    To counter this I have written educational manuals that will be utilized throughout the organization and such but I just don’t see it changing my situation.

    Now that brings me to the topic of this thread.  You have my history (sorry for being so long-winded, I really tried to make it brief.)  

    You are looking for people that are "awesome".  That stand out not just for their academics but for thier personality and accomplishments.  People with fast career progression.

    You see, sometimes, as some people stated above, the opportunity just does not present itself to make major accomplishments in the workplace.  My accomplishments, at least in my eyes, mean nothing to someone at a company like Microsoft.  I try not to use industry jargon in my resume because that will only make it look even worse.  Yet if you were to come to anyone in this organization that has dealt with me over the last 8 years and asked them what they think of me you will most likely get the terms: awesome, dependable, great mentor, go to guy, and so on.  Yet I cannot place that on a resume.

    Then there is my education.  The University of Phoenix?  Believe me, I regret EVER getting that degree.  The program (most of the courses within that is) was solid.  The information and education presented was great.  Yet when a prospective employer or recruiter looks at it they simply think "easy degree".  Then there is Norwich University.  A school with a long history that used to just be a military school until the past few decades.  Who knows of them?  So what does that say for my MBA?  I have started to develop a website that will help people looking at distant learning make the right decisions.  The good thing is that many of the big name schools are finally starting to offer up distance MBA’s and more.  Schools like Stanford and Cal.  I just seemed to jump on the distance learning boat a little too early.

    So I guess my big question is: How can I turn all of the chaos above into something that an employer would want to truly consider?

    I can say all day long on my resume that I am a fast study.  I pick up on things very quickly.  I’m dynamic and can work with any personality type.  Heck, I’m actually teaching myself C and C++ right now because technology is a serious passion of mine.  Technology that helps make the world a better place.  I want to make my own impact but because my B-School is not in the top 20, 30, 50, or even honorably mentioned, I can simply kiss the career move goodbye.

    Well, it’s not quite there but I’m sure you can start to get a sense of my frustration.  Since finding this blog site as well as a few others I have really started working on networking but I find that it really is pretty tough to get the foot in the door.  

    Okay, I’ll stop now.  I just wanted to throw that out there for comment.

    I’m also sorry about posting to a thread that is over a month old.  It’s just a subject that hit a chord with me.

    Thank you for your time Heather.



  66. HeatherLeigh says:

    Mike-don’t worry about posting on an old thread….it still gets traffic. I definitely think that professional associations are a good option for you. Given that people in other geographies may not be away of your school, networking locally might be the way to go (though I’d still keep options open).

    Also, maybe try to find some of the 16 people that used to be on your team and network with them (maybe try LinkedIn). I’m sure they will remember great things about you based on your description. Because you don’t have some of the things that appear as greatness on a resume, as you mentioned, networking is going to be more important for you than ever.

    Also, though I know that this is not what people want to hear, sometimes a lateral move to another company opens up opportunities. Think about what companies would look at your resume and immediate get and value what you do. Think about companies along the supply chain (vendors, suppliers, clients) and possibly applying there.

    I’m not sure if this helps at all. I can definitely sense your frustration (though you seem incredibly nice and productive about it…good for you).

  67. dariousg says:

    Thank you Heather for the quick reply.  I really appreciate that.  

    As for the lateral move, that is pretty much my option right now.  Although the issue with organizations within the industry is that there are none in this area.  It’s pretty much a monopoly which obviously gives away who the company is.  

    I truly enjoy the technology that broadband is bringing to the world but I have decided that I want to have more of a hands on position.  

    I have been exploring my options and obviously Microsoft and some other local tech companies are on the list to look into.

    I have definitely started to push the networking angle as I have profiles started on a few of the free sites like LinkedIn.  I am asking for friends, associates, managers, etc. to give their input.

    I realize that there are probably threads somewhere in this massive monster that is jobsblogs and MSDN that cover how someone can approach the companies like Microsoft without a programming background.  I guess what I would like to know is how likely is it that someone with the education background and work experience that I have would be considered for a position?  I know that there are other groups such as marketing, business development, etc.  How far do the degrees go towards those groups?  

    For example, I would consider moving into an organization in one area as long as they encouraged education and growth towards the technical end of the business.  Growth opportunities are going to be one of the biggest factors that will influence any career change decision I make.  I’m just trying to figure out the best way to get my pinky toe in the door.  🙂

    For now I will definitely encourage people to join my network and to express what they think of me as a person as well as a co-worker.  To me both are of equal importance.

    Again, I thank you for the quick reply and for your advice.  

    I’ll keep reading on throughout the blogs and maybe I’ll find another subject matter that hits close to home.

    Have a great day!


  68. HeatherLeigh says:

    Well, the different categories discussed in the blog post could apply. I’d be happy to get your resume into the right hands, though if I were in your position, I’d be focused on roles that most closely resemble your current role. so I would focus on tech positions (maybe IT ops).

  69. dariousg says:

    It’s me again Heather.  I just want to check to see if you received my email.  I went through the blog’s email link.  I have yet to ever receive any form of confirmation from anyone while trying their email link on their blogs.  So I am hoping I am doing it right.

    Let me know if you received my email.  If not then I guess we’ll have to figure out another way to do this.

    Thanks once again for what you do here with this site.  I am digging further and further back and finding great nuggets of wisdom here and there.  I also want to give a big thanks to everyone who contributes as well.  That’s what makes it work.

    Best regards,


  70. dariousg says:

    It’s me again Heather.

    I just realized something and I apologize for this.  I spaced the fact that I started out looking through the blogs on the tech site and ended up here.  I started reading many of the subjects that you had started and found that they pertained a great deal to what my situation currently is.  It just blew by me that you are a "marketing" recruiter and not a tech recruiter.

    I apologize for that.  I should have been focusing on the tech blogs.  It’s just that most of the subjects here hit home so I was compelled to finally speak up.  I didn’t mean to get you to receive my resume so that you had to pass it on.

    Anyway, I’m still catching up on the reading and still learning quite a bit.

    Here’s to wishing you a great day!


  71. HeatherLeigh says:

    Mike-don’t worry about it. I don’t mind.

  72. Keith says:

    Hi Heather!  This is a great thread; tons of good stuff.  I’m also stoked as I will be joining Keith White’s team this August.  Does this mean I’m awesome?!  🙂

    One thing I believe that you can look for is a passion outside of work, family, friends or the other aspects of life that can be considered more or less universal.  Whatever it is … painting, writing, cooking, skiing (mine!), collecting stamps, jump roping, volunteering (another of mine!), etc … you can find it, as the people that are truly passionate about those one or two things will put it on their resumes AND they’ll love to talk about them.  It always seems that these people bring balance, energy and new perspectives wherever they go and whatever they do.


  73. HeatherLeigh says:

    Keith-congrats and yes, I do believe that the evidence suggests that you are awesome.

    Good point about the passion outside of work.

  74. Vishnu says:

    Ok, I’m a software guy ( with a Master’s in EE though ). Awesome to me is all about a person’s expertise in technology and his/her having a trait that I can only vaguely describe as a business sense.

    Specifically, awesome to me would include the following:

    1. Passion for creating software. Should have implemented a significant piece of high-quality software on their own, and should own the copyright for it. Should browse the code with me, discussing architectural decisions and how it could have been done better.

    2. I’d ask them how they would put together and lead a high-caliber software team. What in their opinion are the characteristics of a world-class software professional? What in their view motivates technologists?

    3. Should have a strong foundation in computer science and system fundamentals such as algorithms, operating systems,  and compiler theory. Can he/she breeze through short problems that run of the mill programmers would find formidable?

    4. Solid intellectual accomplishment and a passion for knowledge: high grades in mathematically intensive subjects; taking courses in areas such as philosophy, history and languages; successful attempts at any of the international olympiads; winning scholarships; consistently superior academic performance.

    5. Involvement in entrepreneurial initiatives of some sort. Given the domain of my company, would they be able to suggest, say, 20 new ideas we could explore? The ideas needn’t be all earth-shattering or even practical, but it *is* important that they be able to come up with suggestions pretty much on the spot.

    6. Some sort of hint that they will be able to co-exist with others in our team. Talented individuals are arrogant and snobbish in their own way, and while this is a good thing, extreme cases should not be allowed in no matter how good they are. I should get some hint that they do respect talent in others.

    The idea is, given a business opportunity, do they have the hard skills and intellectual ability it takes to give the company an unassailable advantage over its competitors?

    Incidentally, I’d probably fail my own interview after having perhaps scored a respectable 70-75 (90+ would qualify as a definite hire).

  75. One Louder says:

    Remember when I blogged about what awesome looks like on a resume? Well our invitational event with the…

  76. Miles says:

    Would you ever give constructive critisism to an applicant?

  77. One Louder says:

    Marc Andreessen blogs about how to hire the best for a start-up and uses Microsoft and Google as models.

  78. Doobie says:

    It is not the 8 hours that people see that make us awesome, but rather it is the 16 hours that people do not see that really shows who we are.

  79. tls says:

    Awesome on a resume….I have been a nurse for 23 years.  I applied for a rapid response position and was told I DIDN’T have enough experience.  I was an LPN for 19 years (16 of those years were in a critical care block, ICU, ER, CVICU and CVSD).  The recruiter wanted a Registered Nurse of 5 years and I had 4 and 1/2 years.  So…she can have a RN who has been setting up the collagen injections in a Dermatologists office for 5 years or she could have me…the girl who has been out in the field and has an AWESOME resume by my knowledge, practice, work ethic, and meaningful know how!

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