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Seattle, WA 98116

(206) 201-2181

Tandem Powered offers a full suite of Professional Resume Writing, Career Development, and HR / Business Consulting services.

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Tandem Powered's blog is dedicated to empowering readers by highlighting best practices in the arena of resume writing, career development, and organizational effectiveness, as well as by providing readers with an insider's view of the corporate hiring process.

Frustrated With Resumes? Read This!

Kent Nolen

I am clueless about resumes. I haven’t had to use one in over 10 years. Are they still important? What about LinkedIn? Help!!!

At the end of their rope with the job search and often nonplussed about their resume, a prospective client will often fall in one (or a few!) of the following camps:

  1. The "I couldn't be more ambivalent about / fed up with my resume" camp.

  2. The "what are keywords and all of these newfangled resume tactics" camp.

  3. The "help! my resume just isn't working" camp.

  4. The "resumes don't get jobs, networking gets jobs" camp.

  5. The "resumes are useless" camp.

There are more camps, but these five do a good job of summing up how many of my clients initially feel. Most of my inquiries come from people who fall in the first camp, and quite a few come from people in the second and third. I want to take a moment to talk about people who fall in the last couple of camps. Now, to be clear, most of my clients won't explicitly say it, but a handful have strong camp-four and/or camp-five tendencies. Let’s face it, people like to grumble about resumes. That's where a client, Jack, comes into the picture. He was one of those clients before we got rolling.

In our initial back-and-forth, Jack had to be convinced that a resume means something; that a crisp and compelling resume is an essential component in a modern day job search. Jack reached out for help when, after being “networked in” for interviews with four companies, he was going nowhere; the interviews led to nothing. The way that he viewed the world of work had been turned upside down. He thought that being referred made him a shoo-in. He thought that no one really looked at a resume. He was frustrated, and he was looking for insight. Jack and I debated a great deal about the above fact. By the end of our project, he got it and went on his way with a killer new resume. It took about three more months, and then he landed a position.

Jack got in touch to give me the full scoop on how he got the job. The company had narrowed the candidate pool down to: three internal candidates, three referred candidates, and one "blind" candidate. As was the case several times before, Jack was one of the referred candidates; a friend on the inside passed along his resume. He made it through a series of interviews and became one of the final three candidates. At that point, he had a panel interview where, he said, the interviewers were "going on and on” about his resume.

When the recruiter called to get his feedback on the interview (a sign of a great company, by the way), Jack reiterated how thankful he was to be referred and how he felt he was a great "fit" with the company. The recruiter let him know that, despite the fact that he was referred, his resume still had to make it through the computerized screening process, where it did very well. When he then asked what other information he might be able to provide, the recruiter commented that the panel got everything they needed from the interview and that they appreciated how professional and achievements-oriented his resume was. After a three week wait, he was offered the job.

I use Jack's experience because it is illustrative and, actually, not atypical when everything ends up in sync (he has a network, solid interview skills, a great resume, etc.).

So, when I hear or see claims that a resume is unimportant, I cringe. Usually, this kind of comment will come from people who, for instance, don't like their resume, aren't having any luck with a job search, and don't understand the role that a solid resume plays. Why would anyone say that they believe that a resume doesn't matter? Oh yeah... because people like to grumble about resumes. There is no gold standard in the world of resumes so they are certainly mad-making. That doesn't make them unnecessary, useless, or stupid. Whether we like it or not and whether it makes sense or not, they play a critical role in the world of work.

Conversely, when I hear someone say, "I need a resume that will get me a job," I shudder. These people, on the other hand, like to place all of their job search woes and hopes on a resume. As I tell clients, a good resume will not get you a job, but it is an essential component in the process.

Having said all of that, here are 10 of the reasons why an outstanding resume matters and is an integral part of the complex process of searching for a job.

  1. Like it or not, your resume is your personal marketing tool. Why would you want it to be anything less than great?

  2. Networking is important, but that doesn't dilute the fact that a strong resume plays a critical role in a multi-faceted process. How are your interviewing skills? How do you present yourself? Pay attention to the full package.

  3. Hiring managers and HR often view your resume as your first deliverable. Don't treat it like it doesn't matter.

  4. Your resume – and any other associated correspondence – will largely frame the context of your future communication with a company. A good resume will often drive the content of your interviews. Maximize on that.

  5. Resume screening software is a reality. Follow conventions that appeal to it, but remember that humans will read your resume if it makes it through the screening process.

  6. The resume is often a tie-breaker when hiring managers and HR start narrowing down the field of candidates (see #3).

  7. A good resume is like steroids for your confidence; this lends trajectory to all of the other dimensions of the job search process (and your life!).

  8. Strong resumes do their job by cleverly enticing the reader to want to learn more. What better way for them to learn more than via an interview.

  9. A well done resume encourages you to look at yourself and your employment history in terms of accomplishments and successes, rather than as a series of tasks.

  10. It's your first impression, and you know what your mother told you about first impressions!

Sometimes we can't get out of our own way – or head – when attempting to put our best foot forward via a resume. That's where I come in. I enjoy resume writing and other Career Development stuff because I have a passion for helping people to present themselves in the best light possible.

In todays world of work, resumes aren't everything, but they matter a lot. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

How to Evaluate a Job / Company

Kent Nolen

I have a job offer on the table and feel like I may have a couple more very soon. What should I be looking for when evaluating job offers?

It’s a job-seekers job market once again, so this type of question is coming up more frequently.

When you're pondering your next employer or interviewing for your next job, ensure that the organization you're interviewing with values – truly values – employees' reasons for joining the company. Organizations that walk the talk will have employee-forward initiatives baked right into recruiting materials and employee literature.

Here are three specific things to look at – beyond salary – that will help to ensure you're making a good choice:

1) Find out the details of the benefits package. Pay particularly close attention to how the organization handles time away. Do they offer vacation days and sick days in separate banks? Do they lump all time away into a single bank? What are the policies for actually using that time? Of course, also look closely at health benefits.

2) Ask about flexibility. How does the company handle your need for an occasional urgent appointment? Can you work from home on the day your cable is being installed? Does the flexibility you need match the flexibility that the company offers?

3) Know the boss. What's the #1 determinant of most employees' job satisfaction? Their leader. What's his/her management style? What kind of vibe does she/he create among the workgroup?

In my work as an HR Consultant, I can't tell you how many times I've come across established professionals who were so eager to leave a crummy job that they acted hastily and simply ended up in another crummy job. The salary looked good, so they said "yes!" without even thinking.

Imagine, though, going from a workplace with flexibility to one where – as just one example – your boss doesn't want you out of the office. Ever. This creates massive problems for many people who learn the hard way that, truly, salary isn't everything.

So You Don't Like Your Job

Kent Nolen

I am very good at my job, but I don’t like it. I have no passion for it and dread going to work. Is this “just the way it is” for many people?

The goal of most of my Career Development activities is to get clients in touch with their natural strengths. A big realization for most clients is that one's natural strengths are not necessarily those things that one is good at. Or, rather, just because you're good at something doesn't mean it's an authentic strength. That's why, for example, you'll hear people say things like: "I'm really good at Accounting, but I don't enjoy it."  Many people get swept away early on in their careers; they get promoted and move up the ladder because they are good at something – most often what they went to school for. A majority of people I work with in my client companies and here in my own business have never had meaningful exposure to how they are wired – to what they are supposed to be doing in life.

For other clients, career development activities help in clarifying next career steps. These people are firmly in the right career pocket and have a handle on their strengths; they just need tools to help them lean even deeper into their strengths so that they can make a career move that lands them in even more fulfilling work.

For yet another group of clients, career development is about learning more about external factors. This includes uncovering organizational cultures and structures in which they can thrive. Oftentimes, this work also involves examining how others perceive you and how to help create the conditions for truly synergistic relationships within an organization.

Change at Tandem Powered

Kent Nolen

Tandem Powered has been thriving for over a decade!

Tandem’s evolution has always been focused on:

Championing career development and job-search momentum by helping individuals uncover strengths, remove barriers to success, and move into more fulfilling careers.


Providing a broad range of organizations – from F500 corporations and government agencies to agile start-ups – with comprehensive, new-school HR guidance and tools.

A huge part of Tandem’s success is thanks to past clients – both individuals and organizations – who have referred other people and businesses. Approximately 70% of Tandem’s business comes from referrals. The power of a referral is taken very seriously, and we strive to live up to and exceed past clients’ high expectations.

Another foundational practice critical to Tandem’s success is a bias for change. That should come as no surprise, as change is at the heart of the work we do with both individuals and organizations. That being the case, we tend to level up our service offerings every year. Most often, the leveling up involves deepening core service offerings – leaning further into what we are best at. For individuals that has meant improvements such as providing a bit of insight into strengths for all clients (not just coaching clients). And for corporate clients that has meant improvements such as providing more narrowly focused consulting so that we can even more effectively hone in on whatever problem the company is trying to solve or change they are trying to navigate.

Autumn is the season of change and rejuvenation, so that’s when these service improvements tend to take place. And, in the lead up to a creating a fantastic 2020, 2019 is no exception. In fact, the improvements being implemented this year are, perhaps, the most significant in Tandem’s history.

Historically – due to limited bandwidth (thanks to all those referrals!) – we’ve been unable to offer the level of consulting that our individual and corporate clients have asked for. Over the last couple of years, we’ve been working to slim down our service offerings and client base in order to cultivate these deeper consultative relationships with current clients. It’s been a slow process, but now – Autumn 2019 – we have hit a milestone moment. We’ll now be offering robust consulting for all of our clients (with priority given to past clients and those on the waiting list).

Here’s what that looks like:

For individual clients:

  • Consulting Sessions focus on sharing expertise on a specific topic (interviewing strategy, salary negotiation strategy, etc.). Each session is 50 minutes.

  • Spark Sessions (i.e. shorter consulting sessions) focus on providing quick advice, addressing clients' pressing issues – a career crossroads, a workplace dilemma, tips on approaching a difficult conversation, etc. Each Spark session is 20 minutes.

  • Coaching Sessions focus on increasing awareness and prompting discovery surrounding a topic (career growth/mapping, change management, strengths discovery, etc.). These sessions are not focused on problem solving or providing answers. Each session is 50 minutes (and coaching typically requires multiple sessions).

  • We’re especially excited to offer a Career Trajectory package that includes a call 4 times a year (each quarter). On each of these calls, we’ll ensure that you have documented your wins, discuss workplace successes/dilemmas, strategize the quarter ahead, and ensure that you are exceptionally prepared for performance reviews.

For corporate clients:

  • Business Consulting offerings will delve much deeper into strategy-bolstering HR, Marketing, and Brand initiatives. With more time allocated to ongoing projects, we’ll be able to dig deep into helping organizations find the sweet spot where happy, motivated, fulfilled employees fuel the success of leading-edge strategies.

We’re so excited to be able to provide all of these new services, but we’re not done yet. We’re also going to get a foot firmly planted in the Personal Consulting arena – a space that our clients have requested support in for years. As most of our career consulting touches on the personal, it makes fantastic sense to more officially offer services aimed at personal growth.

No matter the specifics of the service, there is always one constant: Change. Providing tools for effectively navigating positive change and confidently navigating your path is the cornerstone of everything we do.

Is something happening in your world that fits the above? Get in touch and let’s see how we can get you or your organization geared up for success in 2020 and beyond.

Positioning Your Executive MBA on Your Resume

Kent Nolen


I left a high-level leadership position to complete an Executive MBA program. Now, recruiters have put me in the MBA bucket with candidates who have no experience.

This is a common problem. If recruiters see a recent MBA graduation date, you’ll tend to get lumped in with MBA graduates of all levels. There are some ways to help overcome this obstacle.

Branding elements are essential. As is the case on every resume, what you put right up top is critical. Most candidates struggle to adequately communicate their career level and impact in the opening lines of their resume. This is especially critical in the case of someone who has both an Executive MBA and senior-level employment experience.

Don’t lead with education. On the above note, in this case I typically recommend against leading with education. Most graduates – at any level – feel a level of pride and accomplishment that compels them to put their new degree first. In some cases, it’s important to resist that urge.

Key achievements are key. Executive MBA programs more often than not involve case study projects that have a real impact on real organizations. Be sure to focus on these key accomplishments in order to shine a light on the depth of your MBA program – that it’s an advanced education coupled with your real world experience.

What to Wear to an Interview

Kent Nolen

I just got back from an interview and am mortified. I’d dressed in what I think most people would consider “business casual” attire. The person who interviewed me, the hiring manager, was wearing sweats. Am I completely out of touch?

Much like the topic of interviewing via video, this topic can cause people quite a bit of anxiety.

Never dress down. I don’t care what you know about the culture of the place you are going to interview. Never think it’s okay to dress overly casually. No matter the looks you think you’re getting, or how uncool you’ll feel, potential employers always appreciate that you are dressing for the occasion. Why? It shows that you are taking it seriously.

Level up a notch. Having said the above, there’s no need to, say, wear a suit to interview in a casual environment. That could actually hurt you. I always advise that people dress a notch above what the environment calls for. This enables you to be viewed as serious (see above) and keeps you from being viewed as overly formal or out of touch with the culture.

Don’t fall for the “wear anything” advice. Oftentimes, candidates ask the company about an organization’s culture and how to dress for the interview. Oftentimes, the person arranging the interview will say (in all honesty) something like: “Oh, we’re totally casual here. We pretty much all wear jeans, so that’s fine.” Always, always level up a notch.

Even if the hiring panel is wearing sweats, take pride in elevating your outfit for the interview. They know exactly what you’re doing, and they appreciate it. They did the exact same thing in order to sit there in sweats while interviewing you. Plus, people who elevate their look for an interview simply carry themselves a bit prouder and speak a bit more eloquently. It’s just how it goes. You set your intention by how you dress, which, in turn, motivates you to rise to the occasion.

Just don’t go overly formal. Because no one wants to work with that person.

When Your Job Title Doesn't Match Your Job

Kent Nolen

“ I'm currently at a road block with my current company in terms of career advancement and I'm looking to move.  My current title doesn't really reflect my actual job and also doesn't really exist out in other career spaces.”

Many people are unsatisfied with their titles. Following are some things to keep in mind if you feel that what you do isn’t adequately represented by your title:

  1. In most cases, do not change your title on your resume. In the current employment landscape, your job title is one of the very few things that can be easily verified. So keep your job title as is and use language in the associated position overview and bulleted achievements (you do have bulleted achievements, don’t you?!) to more accurately capture what you’ve done and the impact you’ve made.

  2. If your official title is “out of the box,” consider changing it. If, for example, you are the Chief Ideas Officer, feel free to change it to something more universally understood on your resume. When verifying employment, future employers will understand (and accept) – in these rare cases – why you opted to use a broadly accepted title.

  3. Focus on communicating your responsibilities and your impact. Savvy employers can spot title inflation a mile away. If your bullets don’t rise up to meet your title, you’ll land in the “no” pile.

How to Address Working for a Company in Turmoil

Kent Nolen

“My current employer is having financial hardships. Fearful that I might be laid off, I am looking to start applying for other jobs. I lost the file to my old resume so at the moment I am without one. I also have no idea how to speak to my employer’s problems.”

At some point, most people will be associated with an employer experiencing some sort of turmoil – financial problems, a scandal, a public relations ripple, etc. Here are some things to keep in mind when and if you find yourself in a similar situation:

  1. Never speak to it. So often candidates feel that they have to bring up a past employer’s turmoil. The truth is that most potential employers don’t know and don’t care. They are considering you for a job, which they believe you are qualified for. They are not asking you to speak to the actions of a previous employer.

  2. As always, focus on the impact you made. What potential employers want to hear – despite the turbulent history of a previous employer – is what you did. What you achieved. If the previous employer’s negative history comes up, speak to what you were able to accomplish despite the difficult situation.

  3. Always have your job-search documents ready to go. I get lots of e-mails like the one above. Always be prepared for your next move. You never know what opportunity might pop up that you may want to run to, or what problem might occur that you may want to run from.

You Need More Than a Great Resume

Kent Nolen

I am employed in a horrible job I am desperately trying to leave, I have been applying very actively for the past months. I do get callbacks and sometimes do phone interviews and face to face interviews however I have not succeeded in landing the job just yet. I feel the only interviews I have gotten are due to the sheer amount of applications I put in each day -between 10 - 20 day. It's like a numbers game to me.

Let’s start here… focusing on quantity and quality is fundamental mistake when it comes to job searches. Two well targeted, thoughtfully researched applications are going to be way more effective than 20 applications a day. Stop relying on the ineffective and frustrating “spray and pray” approach. Instead, get a resume you are really proud of and that you can easily target toward each specific position.

Having said that, I am the first to say that powerful job search documents are only a part of a successful career management plan. That is why I place so much emphasis on the entire process; I want clients to walk away with a success orientation and the kind of bolstered confidence that can change their career trajectory. Projects are about a lot more than a new resume, and that’s why I love what I do.

My full-service clients walk away from their projects with the guide, Beyond an Outstanding Resume. The suggestions in Beyond an Outstanding Resume serve as guideposts to point clients in the right direction, steering them away from “looking for a job” when necessary and moving them to comprehensively navigate their path to achieving the ultimate professional goal: career fulfillment.

Perhaps most important… An outstanding resume and what clients take away from Beyond an Outstanding Resume, get them out of the awful cycle of being 100% dependent on job search documents when it’s time to move on. The guide’s 12 tactics have clients reporting back that they feel bolstered in their quest to comprehensively manage their career.

Designed Resumes Do Not Set You Apart

Kent Nolen

I read so many resumes at work that I’ve also become immune to the super flashy style of some current resumes and want this to be a very clear, concise document that doesn’t have to rely upon glitzy formatting.

That’s an excerpt from an e-mail from a senior-level client I recently worked with.

About once a month, a client or potential client sends me “Marissa Mayer’s resume” as an example of how they would like their resume to look. If you take a look at the post I wrote about those e-mails (and the resume in question), you’ll see a detailed critique of the approach.

What that post doesn’t address, though, is the critical point that my savvy client references in the above quote. Designed resumes are now so common that they don’t set you apart. Additionally:

  • Highly designed resumes do not play well with automated software, and that's where many resumes start in today's hiring environment.

  • For every person in the hiring continuum who appreciates a design-forward resume, there will be nine who don't. Simply put... When it comes down to the presentation of solid, achievement-centric information, designed resumes miss the mark.

As I've said here on the blog many times, I do think there is room for varying degrees of a designed resume, depending on the specifics of your situation. For example, I've seen design-forward resumes work very effectively as a "leave behind" after an interview. The reason? The organization is already working with your primary resume – the one that is clearly presenting specific achievements and your actual impact. This "leave behind" version simply presents your information in a unique way.