CNBC make it 2024-02-09 10:50:57

The No. 1 resume mistake, says ex-Amazon recruiter: You see it ‘all the way up to the C-suite’

Lindsay Mustain has looked at a lot of resumes in her more than a decade in talent acquisition.

“Literally a million,” she says. The former Amazon recruiter is now the CEO of career coaching company Talent Paradigm and has seen candidates include some mind-boggling elements to their resumes — like stickers and a picture of themselves holding a shotgun.

But there’s one mistake she sees jobseekers make over and over again, what she calls giving “Miss America answers,” or ones she’d imagine hearing in a pageant. These are simple statements that don’t give much insight into what candidates actually accomplished on the job. It’s happening from the junior level “all the way up to the C-suite,” she says, and it’s preventing jobseekers from standing out.

Here’s what Miss America answers are and how to avoid writing them.

DON’T MISS: The ultimate guide to acing your interview and landing your dream job

Don’t write ‘a glorified job description’

When it comes to your resume, you want to mirror the language of the job description to the extent that it portrays your experience accurately. As you do, however, avoid general statements about the tasks you took on.

“I had stakeholder meetings with people” is an example of a Miss America answer, says Mustain. These kinds of descriptions don’t give a concrete sense of how you were able to move your team forward. They’re “like a glorified job description,” she says, adding that, “you just look like somebody who’s filling a seat.”

Instead of listing the tasks you were given, quantify and list your accomplishments.

“If somebody is fixing tickets on a help desk,” says Mustain, as an example, “I’ve solved 30 customers’ problems a day” is a good metric to start with. You can take it even further, though, and think about what you were able to accomplish in a year. Thirty problems a day, 20 days a month, 12 months per year is 7,200 problems solved altogether.

The “more metrics and analytics you can add to your resume, the more impressive,” she says.

‘Your eyes go straight to the numbers’

Quantifying your accomplishments is not just a matter of looking impressive.

Recruiters only have a few seconds to dedicate to your resume. They’re likely “handling somewhere between 15 to 25” job openings at once, says Mustain. “The average applicants per job is 250, which means they’re dealing with tens of thousands of applicants.”

The benefit of quantifying your accomplishments is that recruiters’ eyes “go straight to the numbers when we’re reviewing,” Mustain says. They’ll know how much value you added to your previous employers immediately.

Bottom line, if you want to move forward in the interview process, your resume has “got to be results-based,” she says.

Want to land your dream job in 2024? Take CNBC’s new online course How to Ace Your Job Interview to learn what hiring managers are really looking for, body language techniques, what to say and not to say, and the best way to talk about pay. Get started today and save 50% with discount code EARLYBIRD.

Founder of $1 billion startup: This harsh money lesson from my mom ‘forced me to start hustling’

When Gregg Renfrew was a year out of college and racking up credit card debt, she called her mom for help — only to be told, bluntly, “Well, it’s time to get a new job.”

The tough-love lesson in financial independence pushed her to be more mindful of her spending and income, says Renfrew, 55, the CEO and founder of billion-dollar clean beauty startup Beautycounter. “Living in fear of not being able to pay my bills — having literally no idea — it forced me to start hustling,” she tells CNBC Make It.

Upon graduating from the University of Vermont in 1990, Renfrew’s mother gave her two gifts, she says: a monogrammed black briefcase and a check for $5,000. The check was enough to cover “first and last month’s rent on an apartment in New York,” along with some work clothes and other odds and ends for someone just starting a career, she says.

Renfrew was free to do whatever she wanted with the money, but her mother was adamant that she wouldn’t receive any more financial support.

Less than a year after moving to the city, she “immediately racked up credit card bills,” owing more than $1,000 on her American Express card, she says. Her mother, a real estate executive at the time, “absolutely could have bailed me out,” she adds.

Instead, her mom instructed her to find a way to make enough money to pay off her own debts. While Renfrew was “frustrated” with that response at the time, she now says she was lucky to get any sort of head start from her parents.

“I was fortunate to have a debt-free education and to receive any money,” says Renfrew. “A lot of people don’t have either of those things.”

Learning to hustle

The reality check worked. Renfrew “immediately sought a [new] job,” leaving her gig at an advertising firm to join the sales training program at the Xerox Corporation. Soon, she was selling copiers to businesses across Manhattan, paying off her debts and eventually becoming one of the company’s top salespeople.

Renfrew was still working at Xerox when she started a side business with a friend selling bridesmaid dresses. In 1997, they partnered with Nicole Hindrich to bring the British bridal registry business The Wedding List to the U.S., landing a $1.5 million investment from Nordstrom three years later. 

That business, which sold to Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia in 2001, wasn’t Renfrew’s first foray into entrepreneurialism.

As a college student who wanted to enroll in a “Semester at Sea” program, Renfrew was told by her parents she would need to pay for it herself. During the summer, she started a house-cleaning service in Nantucket, Massachusetts — even hiring a team of employees — to make enough money to cover the program’s cost.

The experience fit right into her parents’ child-rearing approach: They pushed her to be able to stand on her own, independent of anyone else, including any potential future life partner. Growing up, whenever Renfrew wanted to buy “material things” like a pair of jeans, she needed to earn the money to buy them herself, she says.

Her ability to be self-reliant helped lay the foundation for her future career in business, she notes: “I think that is a really good life lesson.”

Want to land your dream job in 2024? Take CNBC’s new online course How to Ace Your Job Interview to learn what hiring managers are really looking for, body language techniques, what to say and not to say, and the best way to talk about pay.

I was miserable in my 30s. Then I turned 50, and I’ve never been happier—here’s the No. 1 reason why

What if the secret to being happier was purely just to get older?

It sounds absurd, but at 63 years old, I can say that the last few decades have been a tale of two midlives: one very dark from my 30s- to -40s, and one truly splendid … starting when I hit 50. 

The No. 1 reason? My emotional intelligence increased. And, as I discovered while writing my book, “Learning to Love Midlife: 12 Reasons Why Life Gets Better with Age,” high emotional intelligence is a crucial ingredient for boosting happiness and resilience.

Why higher emotional intelligence boosts happiness

Emotional intelligence, which is the capacity to understand and control our emotions, as well as being sensitive to others’ feelings, nurtures our relationships and boosts our empathy.

This can lead to stronger social connections. And as we age, our social bonds become even more vital to our well-being. With higher emotional intelligence, you’re also better equipped to grasp and empathize with the emotions of others, fostering deeper, more fulfilling relationships.

Here’s how my emotional intelligence has grown since I’ve gotten older:

1. I feel more compassion for others

As I age, I’ve softened … and not just around my belly. I experience less ego and more soul. I feel more deeply for others’ life circumstances.

Fortunately, I am able to direct some of that increased compassion toward myself as well.

2. I am less emotionally reactive and more emotionally fluent

When I was younger, I had a kind of emotional vertigo; my emotions constantly made me feel imbalanced and uneasy. I didn’t know how to dance with them. In fact, I often tried to outrun my emotions.

Today, I don’t sweat the small stuff. I’m able to positively reappraise negative experiences, like getting stuck in traffic in an Uber (interpretation: great chance to meditate).

Simultaneously, my enhanced ability to recognize my patterns, habits, and tendencies allows me to observe myself more effectively.

3. I don’t take things so personally

Don Miguel Ruiz, the author of “The Four Agreements,” says: “There is a huge amount of freedom that comes to you when you take nothing personally.”

This skill is particularly valuable in our polarized, “cancel culture” era.

4. I have a better understanding of how to create my ideal habitats

Social scientists call this “environmental mastery,” or the ability to determine which environments one will flourish in — and the capacity to adjust and adapt to changes in those habitats.

This also speaks to why, in the workplace, older people on a team have been found to create more “psychological safety” on teams: because their environmental mastery, combined with their compassion, helps them create the proper conditions for team flourishing.

5. I value relationships more

It’s been said that the two questions people ask on their deathbed are “Did I love well, and was I well‐loved?”

The longitudinal Harvard Study on Adult Development and the Blue Zones research conclusively show that the relationships we cultivate in our lives can actually increase our lifespan.

Of course, there are always outliers — Exhibit A: your perennially grumpy 75‐year‐old uncle. But he’s an exception, not the rule.

Chip Conley is the author of ”Learning to Love Midlife: 12 Reasons Why Life Gets Better With Age.″ After disrupting the hospitality industry twice, first as the founder of Joie de Vivre Hospitality, and then as Airbnb’s Head of Global Hospitality and Strategy, Conley founded MEA (Modern Elder Academy) in January 2018.

Want to land your dream job in 2024? Take CNBC’s new online course How to Ace Your Job Interview to learn what hiring managers are really looking for, body language techniques, what to say and not to say, and the best way to talk about pay.

This is the No. 1 reason people get divorced, says Kim Kardashian’s high-powered divorce lawyer

If you’ve followed any celebrity divorce in the last 30 years, you’ve probably caught a glimpse of Laura Wasser’s career. 

Wasser, a divorce attorney at Wasser, Cooperman & Mandles and the chief of evolution at, has represented Kim Kardashian, Britney Spears and Ariana Grande. 

Celebrity divorces aren’t all that different from civilian divorces, she says. 

“I always say divorce is the great equalizer,” Wasser says. “People experience the same fear and heartache, regardless of whether they are a celebrity or not.” 

The most common reason people choose to dissolve their union, famous or not, is also the same. 

“The reason people get divorced is because they don’t communicate,” Wasser says. 

This issue might manifest as, for example, extramarital affairs or unhealthy drinking habits, but the inability to communicate is usually the root of the problem. 

Prioritize having the ‘not super sexy’ conversations before you wed

Many partners who choose to get married haven’t navigated long periods of discomfort. 

“Because you don’t develop the communication tools when things are going well, then when things are not going well you tend to not have the ability or wherewithal to discuss them,” she says. 

There are lots of “not super sexy” conversations that couples should be having before marriage, she says.

Is it important that we send our kids to private school? Are you OK with my parents living with us in their old age? 

These talks aren’t fun, but can save you money and heartache down the road, should you two not align. 

People’s needs might also change throughout the course of a marriage, in which case good communication is key. 

“It’s hard to say, ‘Hey I’m getting older and don’t feel as attractive anymore,’” Wasser says. 

But if your partner doesn’t know how you feel, it’s inevitable that they will not meet your needs and you’ll be unhappy. 

“The resentment builds up and you put your energy elsewhere,” Wasser says. 

By having tough conversations before or early in marriage, you can cultivate healthy communication habits that better serve you and your partner.

Want to land your dream job in 2024? Take CNBC’s new online course How to Ace Your Job Interview to learn what hiring managers are really looking for, body language techniques, what to say and not to say, and the best way to talk about pay. Get started today and save 50% with discount code EARLYBIRD.

Singer Victoria Monét was told it was ‘too early’ in her career to be ambitious—then she won 3 Grammys

Earlier this week, Victoria Monét lived out the dream of anyone who’s been denied a promotion or otherwise struggled to make a professional breakthrough.

The 34-year-old R&B singer followed up a series of frustrating career setbacks with one of the most successful nights of her life, taking home three Grammy awards on Feb. 4. She won best new artist, best R&B album and best non-classical engineered album for her debut record “Jaguar II.”

Despite the label of “new artist,” Monét had been working behind the scenes for more than a decade, writing hits for other performers while record labels and executives declined to put her in the spotlight, she said in an acceptance speech.

“There was a binder that I made to take this really important meeting at a label, and I thought I was going to be signed. I was an independent artist with no team and I just thought, maybe my music would stand for itself,” she said, tearing up. “But that binder was left collecting dust in an office at that label.”

Even once her music gained a following, she experienced rejection.

In June 2023, her single “On My Mama” became her first No. 1 hit on a Billboard songs chart. The song resonated with listeners, some of whom launched a social media campaign for her to perform it at the then-upcoming MTV Video Music Awards in September.

Instead, Monét was denied a slot on stage by organizers who considered her too unknown for the event’s audience, she posted on social media platform X during the night of the show. “I see your advocation for me to have performed tonight and I’m so grateful to you!! Sincerely!” she wrote, to her fans. “My team was told it is ‘too early in my story’ for that opportunity so we will keep working!”

MTV didn’t immediately respond to CNBC Make It’s request for comment.

The myth of overnight successes

Monét’s career journey echoes a hard truth: Becoming successful takes time, usually far longer than you’d hope or expect.

Most so-called overnight successes take years and years of dedication. You just may not see the work that went into them — especially in today’s digital age, where people tend to post more publicly about their successes than their struggles.

“This award was a 15-year pursuit,” Monét said during her acceptance speech.

Instead of comparing your successes or failures to someone else’s, embrace the highs and lows of solely chasing your own goals, Monét said. You’re never actually running out of time, even if it looks like your peers have made a lot more progress than you, she added.

“To everybody who has a dream, I want you to look at this as an example,” said Monét.

Dealing with a lack of opportunity in the workplace

Monét’s experience wouldn’t be out of place in a more traditional career field: 63% of Black women say that they might not, probably don’t or definitely don’t see a pathway to advance their career within their current organization, according to a 2022 report from diversity, equity and inclusion consulting firm Every Level Leadership.

That’s usually not due to a lack of ability or effort, Every Level Leadership founder and principal consultant Ericka Hines told Make It in 2022. If you reach a point where you’ve exhausted all options with your boss, focus instead on cultivating relationships with colleagues across your workplace, she advised.

When you don’t feel seen or heard at work, they may be able to advocate on your behalf, said Hines. These people are also known as sponsors, and they don’t hesitate to mention your name for new opportunities at work.

“There is a need for colleagues who consider themselves to be allies to be willing to put some of their social capital on the line to advocate on behalf of their Black female peers,” Hines said. “How are they leaning into allying? How are they lifting them up? How are they going into the office with their Black women colleagues and saying this is a problem?”

Want to land your dream job in 2024? Take CNBC’s new online course How to Ace Your Job Interview to learn what hiring managers are really looking for, body language techniques, what to say and not to say, and the best way to talk about pay.