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The Toronto Sun CareerConnection

Stamp of approval

By Aunie Edwards
Special to the Toronto Sun

The arrogance of success is to think that what you did yesterday will be sufficient for tomorrow.

-- William Pollard.

Every so often a truly brilliant idea comes along -- one that has you gasping at its fundamental simplicity and wishing it were yours.

Enter Michael Schell -- president and CEO of The Approved Group Inc. -- mastermind behind the Approved Series of books and owner of a brilliant idea.
Michael Schell, president and CEO of The Approved Group Inc.

Using his extensive business knowledge to solicit advice from key executives worldwide, Schell and his team collect research related to various topics in the corporate arena and organize it within easy to read books of actionable insights.

One of his recent releases, Human Resource Approved Job Interviews and Resumes, explores the dos, the don'ts and the emphatic nevers of looking for and procuring that elusive dream job, as seen through the eyes of the hiring executives themselves.

"Fill a gap"

"Most of the books for job seekers drag you through long, convoluted chapters for very little in the way of insight," Schell says. "They aren't respecting my time or my ability to quickly grasp a concept -- and I saw this as an opportunity to fill a gap in the marketplace."

Schell offers the book's credentials and without further preamble launches into a cleansed, to-the-point, user-friendly package of critical advice. From typeface to length to substance, Schell lays out the cover letter and resume that HR professionals will notice. To maximize the interview he details how to prepare, what to wear, what to ask, how to answer the tough questions and what to do when it's over.

Clarity and relevance are not the only merits that distinguish the Approved Series from its genre -- human resource decision makers from various industries support every detail in Schell's book.

"Using a template similar to other books in the series, each reference I make in H-R Approved is validated by several subject matter experts -- the professionals on the other side of the hiring desk," Schell says.

Indeed, Schell has garnered nuggets of truth from 65 top hiring professionals across North America.

For instance, one error that will demote your resume to the bottom of the hiring heap is a generic and/or long-winded cover letter -- H-R Approved teaches us that the cover letter must be short, specific and relevant. "Our research makes it clear that they [hiring decision-makers] quickly recognize 'canned' cover letters" (H-R Approved, page 46).

"Spam mailings"

Says Richard Reid, controller, Interior Office Solutions: "If you're sending me a cover letter, you've seen my ad. If you've seen my ad, you know what I'm looking for. If you know what I'm looking for, I expect those answers in the cover letter. Form cover letters get immediately dismissed because I see them for what they are: spam mailings." (H-R Approved, page 46).

Carrying the authority of direct experience, such provocative quotes are liberally peppered throughout the book. The statements also jump from the page with the enthusiasm of the speakers.

"Our series has generated an overwhelming response from the experts," Schell says. "The HR professionals for instance, are happy to share tips that they can't share during interviews, like the importance of direct honesty -- after all, pinpointing the right candidate from potentially thousands is monumental and they don't have time to waste on gimmicks or tricks."

Indeed, with thousands vying for one position, the job market is as competitive as it is diverse. Under the premise of "read today, use tomorrow," H-R Approved is designed to help job seekers from a multitude of backgrounds at any stage of their employed career.

"We hope to help stay-at-home moms for example, who are poised to re-enter the workforce; we can steer them away from outdated approaches that may have worked yesterday but have no place in today's market -- and we can bolster a potentially weakened confidence," Schell says.

While it's true that H-R Approved is precisely the right read for returning moms, to limit it's use to this demographic is to underestimate it's topical empowerment across all ages and career paths. For instance, the other side of the hiring desk is a place that a seasoned professional, recently downsized, may not have experienced for decades. Bringing this candidate abreast of what the HR decision makers are looking for is what this otherwise experienced individual needs in order to seamlessly re-invent a career within current marketplace conditions.

Serving a real need for an all-inclusive demographic, the Approved Series of books and workshops is an enviable combination of business savvy, opportunity and risk-taking panache. The formula is to solicit usable advice from experts in the know -- a simple concept, and I wish it were mine.

For more information about the Approved Series, visit

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