On a number of occasions I have said, and written, that an employer can refuse to hire someone because of their appearance. As I recently discovered while being interviewed for an upcoming article, technically, I’m wrong but also, technically, I’m right. Years ago I was in Barnes and Noble heading toward the Customer Service desk. As I approached I realized there was a commotion going on. There was a young woman, probably 18 or 19, screaming at the store manager because he refused to give her a job application. “You’re discriminating against me!” she yelled. Clearly, the manager was not having any luck getting her to listen or leave so I decided to help. “I’m an executive recruiter and career counselor,” I told them. They both stopped and looked at me. “And you are absolutely right, he is discriminating against you.” I paused long enough for the manager to turn white. “And it’s perfectly legal.” “Have you ever been in a bookstore before?” I asked her. “Of course I have!” “Have you ever seen anyone who looks like you working at a bookstore?” “No,” she said, her voice quieting. “And there is a reason why. An owner or a manager has the right to determine his corporate image. You are not it. He’s not discriminating against you because you’re a woman, because you’re young,” she was wearing a cross so I added, “because you’re Christian. He’s discriminating against you because you are covered from finger tips to your neck and I can only guess how far down, with tattoos, and there does not seem to be a place on your face where there is room for another piercing. Think of it this way, have you ever seen anyone with bad teeth working in a dentist’s office? Bad skin working for a dermatologist? An obese person working at a health club? A smoker working for the Cancer Society?” “So where can I get a job?” “Grocery story stacking shelves, maybe working the checkout. I really don’t know. A tattoo parlor. But certainly not a professional office or a place attracting professionals and families. Look at the faces on the children walking by. They don’t know what to make of you.” At this point she was practically on the verge of tears. “Look. You made the decision to do this to yourself. It’s not as though you were burned or injured in a car accident. It was your decision and you have to live with the consequences.” With that she left and the manager came over to me. “I wanted to kill you,” he said with a smile on his face, “but thanks.” That’s the background. Here’s the story with the interview. It’s a piece that should be (it’s not definite so I’m not naming the publication, but if you visit the Media Center page on my website, they’ll be a link when it’s available) coming out next month on discrimination against the obese. My initial reaction was what I told the woman at Barnes and Noble, you can be “discriminating” based on appearance without “discriminating” in the legal sense. The obese are not a protected class, I said. And that was my mistake. The obese and the very tall or short are protected persons. On the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission website, there is a page, “Pre-Employment Inquiries and Height & Weight,” which is clearly designed as a “Don’t contact us about this nonsense” warning. “Height and weight requirements tend to disproportionately limit the employment opportunities of some protected groups and unless the employer can demonstrate how the need is related to the job, it may be viewed as illegal under federal law. A number of states and localities have laws specifically prohibiting discrimination on the basis of height and weight unless based on actual job requirements. Therefore, unless job-related, inquires about height and weight should be avoided.” In other words, don’t bother them if you are too short, tall, thin or fat to do the job. So a short person, who can’t lift boxes that are five square feet in size because they are bigger than he is; a tall person who can’t fit in the existing work area because the ceiling is too low, the thin person (I can’t think of one for this so you fill it in!)… or the fat person who isn’t getting an interview to be a flight attendant, should not bother the EEOC. It’s not discrimination! So what’s BFOQ? Bona Fide Occupational Qualification. If it’s related to the person’s ability to do the job, the rejection is not job discrimination. You can discriminate on the basis of age in hiring police officers or fire fighters. Do you really want a 65 year-old running after the mugger or trying to carry you out of a burning building? Even pilots can’t captain commercial aircraft if they are over 60! The beauty of BFOQ is it has to be plain and simple, not some legal spin. Returning to my original thinking, the bookstore manager can reject the tattooed woman because she was scaring the children and, I hasten to add, making the mothers uncomfortable. (Personally, just looking at her – especially the piercings and the one in the tongue – made me nauseous.) So while it might not be for “corporate image” reasons, it was definitely because she would not be able to do the job. You can’t sell books or attract customers if people are uncomfortable looking at you. But I repeat, that was her decision. (And I am not going to get into the issue of whether or not someone who would do that to herself has psychiatric issues and therefore should be protected under, for example, the Americans with Disabilities Act.) My reaction if she had burns, or was a disabled vet, would be entirely different. In that case, I would say hire the person and use it as a learning experience for children and their parents. Image Credit: Shutterstock
As an executive, your resume is probably filled with lots of accomplishments and career experience. You might feel like you're qualified for the positions you are applying for, and maybe even believe you're the best possible candidate for them. But, is your resume really sending that message?
Executives have to be aware of how they present themselves in their career, and the hiring process is no exception. They have to think about their executive presence—and how their executive presence translates to their resume—if they want to attract and gain access to career opportunities.
Here's the #1 mistake executives make on their resume, and how to fix it.
#1 Mistake Executives Make? Looking Narcissistic and Desperate.
The number one mistake executives make on their resume is looking narcissistic and desperate. The reason? They're using outdated resume templates.
When you have an overdone resume with script fonts, tons of self-important paragraphs about how awesome you are written in the third person, and italicized, bold, and underlined areas, it's just too much. It screams old school. It screams full of yourself. It looks like you're trying too hard and it sends the wrong message. Not to mention the applicant tracking systems (ATS) can't effectively read those things, so you'll probably get screened out of the hiring process before a human being even looks at your resume.
As an executive, you have to think about that first impression: how you're formatting your resume and what you're choosing to put on it. Also, think about the translation in terms of the three components of executive presence: gravitas (depth of knowledge), communication (delivery of knowledge), and appearance (style of delivery). How you're choosing to present these things matters deeply because so much will get lost in translation on your resume if you don't do it correctly.
So, how do you create an executive resume that impresses employers without looking narcissistic and desperate?
Focus On Intellectual Humility & Emotional Intelligence
Executives should focus on intellectual humility and emotional intelligence when creating their resume to avoid looking narcissistic and desperate.
How do you write and format a resume that shows intellectual humility and emotional intelligence? Well, first take out all of the subjective text and superlatives and only include facts. Recruiters and hiring managers just want to know the numbers. What were the results? Quantify your work experience and accomplishments. You don't need to hype it up, which leads us to what they call empty space or white space.
You should see a shockingly large amount of white space on your executive resume. It's going to feel weird, but it's intentional. Simplification helps the reader focus their eyes on the most important stuff. This means you should also simplify your formatting.
On your executive resume, use an 11 pt., clean-line font like Arial or Calibri, not a script font like Times New Roman. Also, make sure you have one-inch margins to further ensure that white space effect, and no bold, italics, or underlining except in very specific places because what happens when something is bold, for example, is that the eye goes there. Knowing how to bold something strategically on your resume is key because studies show recruiters and headhunters spend an average of six seconds skimming your resume. If they do not see in those first six seconds the most important things they were told to assess you on, they won't take a deeper look.
The point of the executive resume is to force the recruiter to contact you, to force the people who are interested in your brand to contact you. Too much content, and it's easier for them to dismiss you. This is what we mean about intellectual humility and emotional intelligence—to know not to oversell yourself. You don't want to oversell yourself. So, if a recruiter tells you they needed more information and that forced them to call you, you know your resume has been written and formatted correctly, and you didn't come across as narcissistic or desperate. You came across as an executive with intellectual humility and emotional intelligence who effectively translated their executive presence on their resume.
Want To Learn How To Build Your Executive Presence?
If you're an executive looking to advance in your career, you need to make your executive presence a priority. This includes your online executive presence. Failing to consistently contribute online in a meaningful way will put you on the fast track to being irrelevant and forgotten.
Join J.T. O'Donnell, LinkedIn Influencer and founder and CEO of Work It Daily, for this 3-hour live class designed to help you overcome these hurdles and stand out in the new normal of 2021 and beyond.
During this class, you will learn how to:
- Assess your executive presence to determine what you should convey online
- Make your resume, LinkedIn profile, and other professional branding tools say more by intentionally sharing less
- Create a "content tree" to ensure you always have plenty to share online
- Select the right types of content to share to maximize your ROI
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Every time I start a project, I get this tiny moment of panic. It doesn't last long, but even now, after years in this business, I still notice that it happens.
It has a long and technical name, but in portfolio school, we just called it "fear of the blank page." It's that anxiety-inducing few moments right before getting started on something. I may have had 253 ideas buzzing around my head after a client meeting, and I am excited to get started on the project, but inevitably, and just for a short moment, this blank page panic happens when I sit down to get started.
What Makes A Blank Page So Scary?
In the blankness, the page carries endless possibilities, which is great, right? On the flip side of that, one finds internal resistance and a fear of failure. Your mind will tell you, "Hey, it could be great…but then again, it could also be total disaster." As humans, we are built to avoid the thing that causes fear. This aversion to fear is what has kept us alive for thousands of years.
For as long as I can remember, I have had a love-hate relationship with fear. For me, recognizing that fear was the only thing keeping me from doing a thing, and then deciding to do it anyway, has pushed me. Pushed me way, way, WAY out of my comfort zone at times. And it turns out that is a great thing. All of the achievements I am really proud of in my life were things that would not have happened if I had given in to my fears.
Why then do I still get that tinge of fear, even after all of these years for something as simple as getting started on a project? My thought on that is simple. It means I still care. I still want the outcome to be amazing. I still want to go past what I know and explore a new place, which is still scary, but worth it.
Taming That Tinge Of Fear
Like most things, you get better at it with practice. Fear works the same way. If you keep leaning into it, it may still be there, but the time it takes to push past it dwindles. Say you are skydiving. The first time you jump, it probably took a whole lot longer to be ready to jump out of a plane than it did the 100th time. It is still the same element of danger, and same fear, but you have practiced taming it.
Now, about putting it into actual practice. It's very simple, stupid simple actually. I start with a brain dump of all the ideas in my head after a client meeting or about the project in general. It is an easy way to just get something on paper. It doesn't have to be perfect or even logical. It's just for you. The act of getting started IS the practice.
The rest of the work will fall into place once you get pen to paper. Some ideas you work on growing, others you let go. With practice, leaning into your fears gets easier to do, as does tackling the blank page.
If you have strategies you use for getting started or pushing past your internal resistance, I would love to hear them!
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