Are You Sabotaging Your Job Search?

Given continued unemployment and an unstable economic recovery, you would expect job seekers to be doing everything possible to put their best foot forward in their job searches.  In a competitive market they need to differentiate themselves from the many others seeking the same positions.

Imagine my surprise when I posted an open position in my department and began to review the mountain of applications I received.  More than half of the applicants were immediately eliminated from consideration.  They were making basic errors to sabotage their own job search efforts.

Cartoon Via CartoonStock.com

Don’t Follow Directions —If you can’t follow the directions in the hiring process, what makes an employer believe you will be able to follow directions on the job?  If it asks you to attach a resume, do it.  If it asks for references, provide them.  Demonstrate that you are prepared and capable of following directions.

Make Errors — As an employer, I have little patience when you attach the wrong cover letter indicating your interest in a different job at a different organization.  I am not impressed with your lack of attention to detail.  Blatant typos or grammatical errors also demonstrate poor attention to detail and land that letter and resume in the reject pile immediately.  Do not send me your resume or cover letter in edit mode so I can see the changes you made.

Don’t Show Me Your Lack of Effort —Form letters are easy to spot.  If you are not interested enough in the job to customize a letter, I’m not interested in you either.  Don’t assume you know what the job responsibilities are based on the title.  Read the job description and refer to the job accurately in your cover letter.  Go online and check our website.  Demonstrate that you took some initiative and learned something about us.  I happen to know that my name is all over our website if you just look.  The fact that you found it shows me some initiative rather than yet another letter to Dear Hiring Manager.

Don’t Cause Me Extra Work to Consider You —Many applicants don’t bother with a cover letter if it doesn’t indicate that it is required.  They often feel their resume is all that is needed and that their experience speaks for itself.  Guess again.  Don’t make me try to understand how your experience relates to what I am looking for.  Don’t expect me to figure out what it is you really want to do next and why.  Write a customized cover letter to address what I am looking for and how your experience fits my needs.

It is NOT All About You –My current record is 34 “I”s in a single cover letter.  First of all, it is not a good example of strong business writing to start nearly every sentence with I.  More importantly, it is not all about you.  I have a business need I am trying to fill.  Your letter should demonstrate how you can help me address that need.  It shouldn’t be a summary of your resume or a dissertation on what you really want or need.

Don’t Act Desperate —I’m very sorry that you have been unemployed for a long time and that you are worried about making your next rent payment.  That isn’t a reason for me to hire you.  Acting desperate makes me think you just want any job and that you’ll leave as soon as the job market improves.  While I respect your personal issues, they are not going to influence my decision and really have no part in the interview discussion.

Don’t Skip Your Homework —Information is available at your fingertips via the internet.  There is absolutely no excuse for not doing your research.  Learn about the company or organization.  Know what we do and who our customers are.  See what you can learn about the department you will be interviewing with.  Often you can also learn about the person interviewing you.  Don’t come in and waste my time by asking what we do.

Don’t Ignore Me —If I go through the mountain of applications and identify a few for phone screens, you should be flattered and then step your preparations into high gear.  Don’t ignore my request.  Don’t wait more than 24 hours to respond.  Demonstrate your interest and enthusiasm by being responsive.

Don’t Forget to say Thank You —This is the easiest way to stand out from the competition.  Say thank you to everyone who interviews you.  Send a quick email thank you and follow it up with a handwritten thank you note.  Personalize each note to reference something specific you discussed.  This is a great opportunity to reaffirm your interest.

An Interview Invitation Doesn’t Mean You Got the Job –I’m not going to interview just one person.  Don’t assume that when I ask you to interview that you have the job.  Leave the cocky attitude at the door.  It has no place in an interview.

Don’t Forget to Network —If you claim to be so passionate about this organization or this role, who have you talked to who works here or in a similar organization?  Who have you talked to in order to learn more about this role?  Demonstrate your interest by showing initiative.

Absolutely Don’t Blow Me Off —If you have an interview scheduled, either in person or by phone, you are expected to keep it.  If for ANY reason you are not able to do so, you should call as much in advance as possible to notify the interviewer and ask for an opportunity to reschedule.  If you are not available for the scheduled appointment and I don’t hear from you at all until three days later, you have convinced me that you do not have the customer service skills or common courtesy to work in my department.

While it seems obvious that these are things to avoid in your job search, many job seekers are regularly sabotaging their own search efforts.  Pay attention to the details to ensure success in your search.

Unfortunately people desperate for a job think that sending more resumes to online postings increases their chances of getting a job.  It doesn’t make a difference and they are being careless in the process which hurts them further.  They need to demonstrate attention to detail and they need to network like crazy.  Your behavior throughout the process is an indication of how you are likely to behave and perform on the job.  Be sure you are putting your best foot forward.

Tips for Attention Getting Resumes #1

Tips for a Successful Resume #1

A resume is not likely to land you a job, but it is a critical step in being considered.  Flawless execution is expected.  Don’t give the hiring manager any reason to move your resume immediately to the “reject” pile.

What a Resume Is and Isn’t – A resume is a summary of your professional experience, education and skills.  It should focus on accomplishments.  A resume is not a summary of your job responsibilities for each position you’ve held. 

Formatting Matters – For an initial resume review it is likely that someone will spend less than a minute reviewing your resume.  If you want them to spend more time and really see what you have to offer, it needs to be concise, easy to read and the key information must be easy to find.  Your resume should not exceed one page unless you have more than ten years of experience.  Be sure you use white space to keep it visually appealing.  You must have your contact information – address, email and telephone – so they can easily reach you if they are interested.  You should always use a professional looking email address with just your name – avoid cute nicknames etc. when job searching.  Quickest path to the reject pile is typos or grammatical errors.  Be sure to proof your resume and carefully and have someone else proof it as well.

Open Strong – They first thing they read should give them a quick sense of who you are and what you could do for them.  I strongly recommend starting with a summary statement focused on your key transferable skills and core competencies.  Whenever possible, focus on key words from the job description.  The summary gives the reader a lens through which they read the rest of your resume.  Catch their attention from their first glance.  Employers I work with find a summary statement preferable to an objective.  Often job seekers have specific objectives that do not relate to the job they are applying for.

Honesty is the best and only policy – A resume is the factual history of your work experience.  Do not embellish or overate your accomplishments or responsibilities.  Employers value integrity and you demonstrate that by being honest and forthright in all your interactions, starting with your resume.  Many companies will use outside firms to perform verifications with prior employers and schools.

In the early stages of the recruiting the process, your resume is you.  It needs to represent you professionally and accurately so they will want to know more about you.  While you resume will not likely land you the job, it needs to catch their attention so you will advance in the process.  

Watch future postings for additional resume tips.

Networking for Job Search Succes #1

The single most critical step in the job search is networking and unfortunately it is the most frequently overlooked step.   According to the U.S. Department of Labor, more than 80% of jobs are filled through networking.  Many jobs aren’t advertised or publicly posted these days.   Networking helps you successfully tap this hidden job market.  If you are looking for a job, you can’t afford to avoid networking any longer.  Here are some tips for successful networking:

Why network?   There are several benefits to networking.  You will learn about different companies, different functions and roles that interest you, the critical skills required in your desired field and gain insights in the company hiring practices and priorities.  Your networking efforts also build you a network within your target companies to provide access to the hidden job pool, to act as an early warning on open positions and serve as an internal advocate.  Networking is the most critical step in the job search.

More is not always better.  So often, frustrated job seekers feel that spending more time on the computer looking at job boards and applying for open positions will increase their chances of landing a job.  The majority of online applications are never seen by the hiring manager.  You could be the most perfect fit for the job and if your only connection is through an online job board the chances of you landing that job are slim.  Resist the urge to spend hours behind the computer and get out to network.  It will greatly increase your chances of landing the job.  Check postings at your target companies at least once a week and do a weekly scan of the online job boards.  You should spend ten times more time and effort in networking than you do on the computer if you hope to succeed in your job search.

Getting Started.  I always encourage job seekers to start with the low hanging fruit – people you know when starting a networking process.  Ask your friends and family who they know in the companies on your target list and in the field you are most interested in.  Ask your friends’  parents and your parents’ friends.  Use your alumni network.  Look for former colleagues on Linked In.  Starting the process with “warm” contacts helps you build your confidence so you can continue to expand your network.

Build Your Network.  Always ask each networking contact who else they can introduce you to.  Once they know more about what interests you they likely have contacts who can be helpful.  If you respect their time, listen well and say “thank you” they are likely going to be willing to make referrals.  Ask them what professional associations they belong to and what meetings they find most valuable.  These groups can provide many valuable connections.

Be Open To Random Connections.  If you are focused on networking and have a clear sense of your target companies and your career interests, it can be amazing where you will find connections.  You could find your next connection at the neighborhood barbecue, a social event with friends, an adult education class, or sharing a seat on the train or plane.  Ask people what they do and where they work.  You can learn a great deal and can make valuable connections.

Networking is the key to job search success but it is also an interesting journey.  Enjoy the people you meet along the way and learn as much as possible from each connections.  You don’t know which connections just might lead you to your next job.

Check out Networking for Job Search Success articles #2 and #3!

Handling ‘Gross’ Things Tricky For HR Pros

Photo Via Randy Glasbergen

Do you find your blood pressure rising the second you arrive at your desk because of an annoying co-worker? Read “Handling ‘Gross’ Things Tricky for HR Pros” by Pamela Babcock on different tips to reduce your blood pressure and get back to work. See additional thoughts below:

What gross or annoying things do people have to deal with in the workplace?

  • Body odor
  • Bad breath
  • Swearing
  • Excessively loud voice in the next cubicle
  • Singing at their desk
  • Whistling at their desk
  • Cleaning their fingernails in the office with a pocket knife
  • Clipping their nails in public
  • Telling inappropriate or risqué jokes or stories in mixed company
  • Snorting, burping loudly or other inappropriate bodily noises

What is the annoyed or grossed out employee to do?

  • Best not to have a confrontation with a co-worker
  • First step is to talk to your manager.
  • If possible focus on how the problem is negatively impacting your work productivity instead of just complaining
  • Ask your manager to talk to HR

HR can provide guidance to the manager in dealing with the situation or can be part of the discussion as well.

  • They need to be sensitive to possible medical causes or body odor or bad breath

They need to be very cautious with behaviors that could be considered threatening or harassment

Key Questions to Prepare for a Successful Interview

Photo via collegegrad.com

It is great news to receive an invitation to interview.  You stood out from the crowded field of applicants and the hiring manager sees something of interest.  Before you arrive for your interview, you can increase your likelihood of success by asking yourself some key questions.

What uniquely qualifies me for this position?  Think about the skills and experience you bring to the job.  What is unique about you for this role?  How can you demonstrate your unique qualifications in the interview?  How can you make a difference for the company in this role?  If you can’t answer these questions, you will likely not get the job.  Be prepared to demonstrate your unique value proposition.  If there is a key skill or experience they require that you are lacking, be prepared to address that.

What skills and experience are most relevant to this position?  You don’t want to ramble aimlessly in your interview.  Do an inventory of your skills and experience and prioritize what is most relevant to this position.  Be prepared to “tell me about yourself” or “walk me through your resume” in a way that emphasizes the most relevant skills and experience.  Think about your answers to typical behavioral questions.  Be sure to showcase examples that focus on the most relevant strengths and experiences.  Think about what the hiring manager will be most interested in hearing about you.

Why do I want to work for this company in this role?  What about this company is most appealing to you and why?  What concerns do you have about the company?  Based on your networking meetings and your research, what do you perceive as the strengths of this company and the potential weaknesses?  What about the job is most interesting and exciting to you and why?  Do your homework in advance to learn as much about the company as possible.  Are you a good fit for the culture of the organization?  If you can’t find a lot of details about the job try to learn more about the department and the manager from your contacts.  Go in well informed and with a clear sense of what additional information and insight you hope to gain from the interview.

What do I hope to gain from this opportunity?  Be honest with yourself about why you are looking to make a change.  What experience will I gain?  What skills will I develop?  What is your bottom line for salary?  What benefits are most important?  Answer these questions for yourself prior to the interview so you are prepared in case you receive an offer later in the process.  It is never appropriate to ask salary and benefits questions in the interview.  Be prepared to explain in a positive way why you are looking to make a change.  It is important that you speak well of your current employer and manager.

To maximize your success in an interview, you need to as prepared as possible.  Reviewing these questions in advance will help you increase your likelihood of success.

The most important thing a job seeker can do is…

Network! Here are some thoughts in general:

  • Networking isn’t just for job search – Networking should be a lifelong activity.  You should get in the habit of setting regular networking goals for yourself and build a plan to keep your network up to date.
  • Networking is a two way relationship – Networking isn’t simply about what people can do for you.  It is a reciprocal relationship.  You should always be looking for opportunities to help your contact.  Can you make an introduction for them?  Share an interesting article?  Suggest a great professional meeting?
  • Networking is NOT asking for a job – You should never be asking your networking contacts for a job.  You should be leveraging contacts to learn about the companies they work for, to understand their specific role and the qualifications for that role, to explore the culture of the organization, to gain insights into career paths, etc.

For more tips, click here!

How to Get Your Resume to the Top of the Recruiters Pile

Photo Via Matt Glover, mattglover.com

More often than not in the current job market, companies are overwhelmed by the sheer volume of applicants that come to them online. While systems that track applicants and pull applications based on key words are helpful for managing the influx, the odds of your resume coming to the attention of the hiring manager can be very slim. So what is a talented, well-qualified applicant to do? Below are a few of my favorite tips for catching the eye of your next employer:

Network. The single most important thing any job seeker can do is network. Start by identifying your target companies and industries, then identify friends, family members, former colleagues, alumni etc. at those organizations and request an informational interview. The trick is not to ask the contact for a job, but to take the opportunity to learn as much as you can about the company, the culture, the hiring process, the department that interests you, etc. By doing this, you build a network of connections in the companies you are most interested in pursuing for employment.

 Leverage Your Network. When a position does appear online, reach out to your networking contact at that company. Let them know you applied online, and ask them if they would forward your resume and cover letter to the hiring manager. Busy managers are much more likely to review resumes forwarded by a trusted colleague rather than digging through the mountain of online applications. And throughout the process, be sure to keep your contact posted on your progress, and always remember to say thank you.

Focus on Key Words. Be sure your resume and cover letter use key words from the job posting, as systems will often search based on those key words. Try to have as many key words early in your resume such as the summary and core competencies sections to increase your visibility within the system.

Beware of formatting. Ensure that there is no formatting, such as underlining, that will cause the system to reject your resume. As a general rule, companies will never tell you that your resume fails to make it into their system. Keep the formatting very basic to ensure that it is accepted, and remember that you can have a different format for when you share it in person.

Above all, it’s good to keep in mind that it is still people who make the hiring decisions – not job application systems. You need to be proactive and use your network to get your resume into the hands of the hiring manager. Don’t just sit back and expect the system to do the work for you. As with most things, you get out of them what you put in, so approach the process thoughtfully for the best results.