Thursday, May 30, 2013

What Makes a Good Cover Letter, Pt I

First, let’s talk about what does not constitute a good cover letter; unnecessarily lengthy, monotonous, uninspiring, generic form letters, virtual autobiographies that put people to sleep before they even get to your resume. Many people have the false impression they need to assemble a cover letter to go with their resume, as though it is a part of the hiring ritual – however, it is not. A cover letter can be helpful, and if you have reason to do so go for it, but in most cases I think it is just fluff. For over 20 years I have been recruiting, representing and placing middle-senior professionals and specialists including lawyers, directors, VPs, specialists of many stripes and rarely was there a cover letter used. Also, when a cover letter was used it never made much difference. As a follow up to any placement of a candidate I represent, I always ask what it was that made the difference; what was it that made my candidate more attractive, and nobody has ever told me it was a result of their cover letter. 

There are, of course, some positions that do require cover letters, such as in academia, or if you must as part of a process, assemble a packet of information for review by a committee. But it just strikes me as being more of a function of a PR campaign effort than it is a necessary step in the interview process. Most cover letters look more like highbrow letters of introduction, but are you trying to gain acceptance into a country club or attract the attention of a hiring manager? Another reason for my lack of enthusiasm is because in the modern era HR is reading fewer resumes than ever, they’re scanning them for keywords and adding them to a database, so it is likely your cover letter will go unread. But the primary reason cover letters do so little is because the information contained therein usually provides little or no reason for anyone to select you, much less choose you ahead of another applicant as a result.  

However, if you insist that you want to utilize a cover letter, or you are compelled to do so, let’s talk about making it something that will enhance your chances rather than causing people to roll their eyes about the number of pages they must flip through before they get to some pertinent info.  

Ideally, a cover letter should serve two purposes; one, to briefly introduce yourself and state your intention, and two, provide compelling reasons why you should be considered straight away and put to the head of the line – period. If it has no spark, then you’re just going through the motions. 

If you’re using a form letter, recognize that one size does not fit all possibilities. Mass mailing generic form letters will do nothing for you and won’t be taken seriously and, again, better to send no cover letter than some cookie-cutter template in which you just switched out or added your name and used it. If you are not passionate about what you have to offer it will show by virtue of failing to excite or entice anyone. So here’s a suggestion; stop using crappy templates from the Internet or something a well-meaning friend sent you; your cover letter should stand out and that means it should be as individual as you are. Get with it and actually write your own cover letter and stop resorting to mediocre point-and-click solutions for everything – if indeed you really want to be different from others with whom you’re competing. Depending on your goal, you may need to write a different cover letter for each opportunity you pursue, but more likely you can assemble an individualized template for yourself, having variants according to need. Some people have slightly varied versions of their resumes they might use, depending upon the niche areas of a market sector within which they are applying; if you’re going to use a cover letter, do the same; it should be somewhat tailored and the content corresponding to the company to whom you are inquiring.  

Are you beginning to realize a cover letter is not just something you throw together? If you’re going to use one it should serve as an octane booster, a strategic and calculated adjunct to your efforts to enhance your resume. If this sounds like a lot of work, yes, it can be but you’ll invest the effort once and then you’ll have your own personalized templates for use whenever you need. Hey, these strategies don’t change with the wind, they are always effective because they are different, innovative and actually say something about you. 

Next time we’ll continue with a formula for a cover letter that actually says something worthy of notice.

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Monday, May 27, 2013

Minor but Costly Resume Oversights, Pt II


Employment dates

Another item that attracts negative attention is your chronology of dates connecting your work experience. If you show only the years and not month/years there is an automatic assumption among many that you are hiding a break in your employment history. Always post the month and year you began a job and the month and year during which you concluded it.

If you have a period of time between jobs, ‘fess up and be prepared to explain it. Any assumption that you are being less than completely honest will have consequences for you. This is yet another example of how perception is reality and it falls upon you to be transparent and forthcoming. This is all about connecting the dots and removing doubt. It is also another reason for why I suggested in the previous blog entry that you can note the circumstances for your breaks in employment in italics to remove doubts about your work history.

Resume length

Is my resume too short or too long?” It's a question many ask themselves. I would suggest it is not about having a long or a short resume but how impactful is the content. Some people say one page; others say not more than two pages. As a consequence many people try to stretch their information, much like a kid who tries to turn a paragraph into a full-page book report for school. Then there are those who omit important information for fear of their resume being considered too long. If you work within an academic, scientific or technical sector you're likely to have a longer resume. If you are young and early in your career then you may have some difficulty assembling solid content and your resume will therefore be shorter.

When you are assembling your resume throw everything into the first draft and pare it down from there. As you refine it remember you want to give enough info to tease, but not so much that they haven’t any reason to call you because you were too effective, as they make a decision without inquiring further. Bullet points are an effective way to say more with less. I always suggest to keep the responsibility aspect brief and go heavier on your bullet-pointed accomplishments to get their attention. Pick your best few, and have the others in reserve and save them for when you meet face-to-face for a little extra horsepower.

The bottom line is, however, after you have refined your resume to the point you think it represents you and your experience, go with it and don’t second guess yourself because of a generalized opinion meant for the herd. You’re an individual, do what’s best for you so that you feel confident about representing yourself.

Typos and spelling errors

Believe it or not, this is the biggest mistake I see and most often it is due to carelessness and a simple lack of attention to detail that seems to have become the status quo; it seems that for many, half-assed efforts is becoming more the rule than the exception. Hey, if it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing it right. So if you can take it up just a notch or more beyond what others are willing or capable of, you’re increasing your odds of success. Who would think it would reach a point where suggesting a resume without typos is necessary. But even I make mistakes, I know from writing this blog and my book that you might read, proofread and read again, and still miss something. Anytime you are able, get another pair of eyes to take a look at it, they’re likely to see things you’ll miss. Know this; there are HR and hiring managers who will toss your resume and disqualify you due to a simple spelling error, believe it or not. And why not, if they receive 100 or more resumes and have to screen them down to about 10 before initiating the interview process, are you surprised?

As we have noted, these are minor items, yet common mistakes that can disqualify you before you even have a chance to sit down with a hiring authority -- preventing you from ever demonstrating why you should receive serious consideration.

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Thursday, May 23, 2013

Minor but Costly Resume Oversights, Pt I

What you say and do during the interview process matters much more than a piece of paper, but you’ve first got to get noticed and get through the door to have that chance. Think of your resume as a product brochure. it should list information in a manner that will generate interest and attract people to investigate further. So what does your resume say about you? You can agonize over the content, the length, etc. but any potential employer must be able to connect the dots and be able to follow your career progress in order to determine if he or she wants to consider you further. Often it is the small things that can make a difference about whether or not you 'll get an opportunity to demonstrate how you might be their best choice, so let me share a few items for you to consider. 

Accomplishment / Achievement Driven Resumes
I am a strong believer in accomplishment driven resumes. The reason is simple; most employers don’t get very excited if all you’ve done is produced an abbreviated version of your job description. Or, let me make the point this way; one time a hiring official said to me, referring to an applicant’s resume, “Michael, I see what they are supposed to be doing, but what have they actually done?” Anytime you can share accomplishments such as bullet points describing a project you worked on or supervised, cost saving attributed to your ideas or efforts. Or out of 100 others you ranked, where did you rank. Spotlighting finished projects ahead of deadline is another accomplishment oriented achievement. Favorable percentage increases or decreases in the results of tasks expected of you, etc. If you don’t have any, so be it, but if you do, they should be on there.  

Circumstantial Job and Position Changes
Connecting the dots between job changes is another important item. With the exception of a few years in the Army, my Dad worked for Ford Motor, at the Cleveland Stamping Plant in Walton Hills, Ohio his entire career. Fewer people have only one employer spanning their entire career, times have indeed changed and frankly speaking, I think it would be boring to work at only one place for 40 or more years.  

With layoffs, mergers and acquisitions, rebranding, etc. there are changes occurring that result in people playing musical chairs during their career. I’ve met people who have relatively stable careers, although their resume would lead you to believe something completely different. If you follow the standard template of resume writing you list you jobs in chronological order, listing Company name, title, and period of time you were employed and then listing descriptive info related to your work. For example, if you worked for a company and the company changed its name through a merger and you were promoted, on your resume you might list the employer, your title, etc. Then, your next entry might list the company’s new name, your title, etc.  

Imagine that for someone who doesn’t know you, it appears on paper that you’ve had two different jobs with separate employers; you didn’t change jobs but it looks that way. Or, maybe your job was eliminated after only a couple years, or worse maybe you worked with a company that changed names as I just described and then your job was eliminated. Can you see how your resume might confuse the hell out of someone, especially if you have been affected by something beyond your control that was not your doing? You may have been a great employee, but on paper you might appear as anything but. But alas, the solution is simple, directly below on the very next line, in a smaller italicized font in parentheses add a line that says something like (January 2012, XYZ Company merged with ABC Corporation), or (position was made redundant in February 2011), or (was promoted and transferred to AA Division of the ABC Corporation), etc. This connects the dots and eliminates confusion about things not of your own doing and beyond your control so they can instead focus more on your skills, experience and qualifications.  

Next time we’ll discuss 3 additional items to help you prevent additional unnecessary scrutiny which can block your progress.

(Pt II will be posted on Monday)

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Monday, May 20, 2013

Don’t Sit down for Too Long!

There are two kinds of job seekers: those looking for jobs and those who will be looking for jobs – at one time or another. It’s inevitable. What’s a secure job anymore? Remember when the post office was as secure and safe as you could get? 

Many people, who find themselves having more free time on their hands, may convince themselves they will take some time off for a few weeks and then they will kick it back into gear and look for a new job; this is rarely a good idea. A few weeks can turn into a few months, 7 and then 8… You may tell yourself you want to clear your head a bit, take a break and maybe do a little traveling, or get some reading done before you jump back into that rat race. But I’m here to tell you this is a mistake. I know people such as these, they have good track records of performance and they thought the same thing and, now one year later, they are searching for a job – and panicking. The slower than normal job market is one big reason why you shouldn’t sit back and put your feet up. 

Companies are taking longer to make decisions; they are scrutinizing applicants more thoroughly, which brings me to my main point. Gaps in your employment can hurt your chances when compared with other applicants. The bigger the gap the more you’ve got to explain. If you have no choice in the matter, so be it, but if you chose to sit back that’s a little harder to rationalize. Sure, if you are that good, if you blow the others away during the interview process, a slight gap isn’t going to hurt you. But if there are other people of similar experience and skill seeking the same job, the span of time between jobs is one of the items at which they will be looking. So why purposely handicap yourself? Regret is a dirty word in my vocabulary.  

Many people, including myself, on occasion think, “ah screw’em, I don’t care what they think”. But unless you’re self-employed that attitude won’t get you very far. Using your new free time for introspection, to travel or spend time reading and lamenting the state of the world – whatever excuse you use won’t pay the bills; meanwhile, time marches on and faster than you think. And if you’re not nervous because you have some savings socked away or received a fat severance package, after you burn through that, then what?

The point is gaps in your employment, especially those that are avoidable or you cannot easily explain away, do not reflect well on a person. Maybe you’re not worried, but I have watched people who said they have it handled, they were cool and calm and knew what they were doing and, a year later, suddenly they are willing to take any job they can find. This is no way to manage a career,  much less  keep pace with the ebb and flow of economic cycles. 

Anyone who has worked to stay in good physical condition and participate competitively, knows after a lengthy pause they lose something, they are not as sharp or as agile and it takes a while to get back to where they were. It is no different if you have a break and make excuses to delay doing what needs to be done; that is, to get out there and find another job.  

Whether by choice or by circumstance you find yourself with free time as a result of unemployment, sure, put your feet up a bit, take a week or two to get your thoughts together, catch your breath and, then, get back into the race.

Next time we’ll talk about small but potentially costly resume mistakes related to your job changes.

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Thursday, May 16, 2013

When and How It Is Best to Communicate With Human Resources, (Pt III)

Okay, I am ready to share with you the magic dance steps to this little jig I’m suggesting. Sorry for all the suspense but there’s a reason. For the sake of clarity, I seek to leave little room for argument, covering as many different angles as I can. Notice, nobody posts comments contesting my claims. It isn’t because nobody’s reading this blog, actually considering I’ve only been posting since October of last year, readership has grown fast with more and more people all the time. Just lately there are a few employment-related bloggers suggesting people should do more than just email resumes, but they offer no suggestions nor any real advice. I suggest people are starving for the kind of non-standard advice I offer and, frankly, I see no one else offering more than the same old pabulum you can find in any number of so-called resources from so-called experts. My advice is direct, anecdotal, fact-based, first-hand experienced up close and in the trenches and hand-to-hand, and I rarely lose an argument about this stuff because I walk-the-talk. Anyone who has a differing view and can prove me wrong is welcome to step up, or step off. Lead, follow or get out of the way – as the saying goes. And how is it that even this bloviating relates to your efforts? Because in a world of look-alike, generic people all doing and saying the same things, if you don’t stand up, speak up and make a point of being noticed, you won’t be. My goal is to help you to do this in the most effective manner possible. So where were we? 

Since I already have my practiced and effective F.A.B. presentation, here’s what I do next:

·         I compile a list of the companies I intend to call.
·         Then I research to determine the points of contact, using a combination of online research and telephone inquiries. 

Next I make my calls and when I reach a hiring official, I calmly but effectively present the information. At this point the conversation can go in many different directions. I listen for buying signs and follow them wherever they may lead. They might engage in further conversation to learn more. They might ask me to send a resume directly to them. They might suggest I call someone else more suitable. They might re-route me back to HR. They might get aggravated and cut me off. You won’t know until you try. Who knows, the hiring manager may tell you to expressly inform HR they want you to be moved through the process in a different manner, or they will just say, “you’ll need to go through HR”. If so, no worries, you and your inquiry are noted. If they refer you back to HR, which is likely, ask to whom they suggest you speak and get the contact info.     

This is how I like to pattern my efforts, now I am ready to circle back around and speak with HR. Because now I have a reason to speak to HR, and even better I have been referred; it carries more weight. This simple strategy has generated profoundly different results for me over the years. Most people are unwilling to do this and so, however it happens, when your resume crosses their desk they’ll remember you. You’ve made an impact and if you have a good F.A.B. it can only be helpful to your efforts. Although it takes some front-end effort and prep work, this alternate method establishes you as a standout in an age of plain vanilla ordinary.  

This is the way I like to communicate with HR; I’m neither avoiding them nor am I being disrespectful, I just come at it from a different angle. Even if the hiring manager wants to continue direct communication, I will always offer to copy HR on all correspondence, but I have the hiring manager’s ear, which was the intended goal. On a few occasions a hiring manager has thanked me and suggested I leave it with them and they take it upon themselves to follow up with HR. Some folks in human resources, like anywhere else, can have thin skin and possibly resent your going around them. However, I contend you are possibly saving everyone involved time and effort by cutting through the red tape.  

If you’re already doing what everyone else is, working the online angle of search and submission, good, you have that covered. By adding these proactive activities to your repertoire you’re multiplying your potential for results. Talking to real people will expand your chances of success and also make you much more comfortable when the time comes to sit across a table in an interview. As I often say, companies hire people, not paper (resumes). If you’re a pessimist, the worst that can happen is you are sent back to HR where you would have gone anyway, to send your resume down the rabbit hole. It’s up to you. 

Next time we will talk about what companies look for and use to disqualify applicants and how to avoid small but costly mistakes. 

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Monday, May 13, 2013

When and How It Is Best to Communicate With Human Resources, (Pt II)

People love their routines, and HR staffers are no different. Too often they promote bureaucracy for the sake of the bureaucracy. Never mind that occasionally their processes don’t result in what is best for their company, their policies must be followed because, well, just because!  

I work with HR and have developed good-working relationships with senior-level human resource pros built on mutual respect, professional courtesy and shared risk. But I don’t work for them, I work with them and that makes a big difference. When I call into a company for the first time to inquire about their needs and, sometimes, their wish list, logically that means I should be speaking with those in the know, the hiring managers; HR is my second choice.  

Now, I want you to go back, go baaaack in time to my previous blog entries discussing Gate Keepers. If you recall, I had suggested your objective should be to try to obtain the name and contact info for a hiring manager; someone to whom you would hypothetically report, or their boss. I also suggested that there is nothing wrong with contacting HR first, but I advise they might not be your first choice. Why - because once you submit your resume, HR will review it and, if there is interest, someone will contact you. The hiring manager may not ever see it and what happens most of the time, shhhh, can you hear it? That’s right, nuthin’ - not even a cricket, just silence. On the other hand, if you are able to connect with a hiring manager who knows where the conversation could lead, they might ask you for your resume and, if it goes well, at some point they will likely route you back through HR. Perhaps this may sound to you like a runaround, eh? Not really, but I’ll explain that later. 

If you are a good candidate and well qualified, who’s more likely to notice you, an HR staffer who is juggling a gazillion resumes and not a specialist in any of the roles that lay outside of the human resource department, or a person who would be involved in your hiring process anyway? When I call a company and talk to HR, if I have any questions beyond what is on the tame and lame, generic and virtually worthless public consumption job description, you know what they tell me most of the time? They say, “I don’t know the answer and I will need to check with the hiring manager”. As I said, I am not denigrating HR, not at all, they are an important part of the process. However, most often they don’t have the info I need, nor are they qualified to determine beyond a short session of connect the dots, matching the job description to your resume, as to whether or not you are qualified for the position. Furthermore, most of that is now done by software that scans and peels keywords from your resume. The only reason some get testy about this subject, and what I am suggesting, is because among their many duties, they are the department tasked with collecting, collating and distributing of resumes. So it’s understandable that some people get bruised egos if everyone isn’t asking for their permission to enter (remember the Gate Keeper analogy).  

So finally (drum roll), in the next blog entry I’ll share with you in chronological order, the process I follow when I call into a company for the first time to both gain entry and to make an impact.  

(Part III will be posted on Thursday)

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Thursday, May 9, 2013

When and How It Is Best to Communicate With Human Resources, (Pt I)

When you are seeking a new job, Human Resources is the most likely first stop for the majority of job seekers, regardless of whether they apply indirectly online, or proactively with a phone call or a visit. It is to where you will always be directed and, for most people, that’s just fine. But I want you to think about the process with which you are engaging when you have interest in a job – according to the standard template. Resumes are routed through HR, who in turn, file and review them for further consideration. They then go through a sieve and filtering process, and it is at this point when they disappear into a deep black hole, leaving applicants hoping, wondering and waiting for a positive reply, but most often getting an automated response informing them that their resume is on file; in essence saying “Thanks for playing, better luck next time.” 

Human resource professionals are no different than the rest of us; they have a job to do and often a thankless one at that. Within all professional sectors there are those who’ll make real effort to help you and those who are not very forthcoming or, worst of all, a few who are ambivalent and they won’t even bother with you, your questions or needs. “Thanks, now don’t call us, we’ll call you” is often the order of the day. Most of the time it isn’t meant to be rude, but that is the way they’re set up to operate and, especially in recent years, they are shielded by automation and technology. I often joke with a little bit of sarcasm that they might try to re-inject a little bit of human back into the human resource function. They don’t even call themselves Human Resources any longer, instead referring to themselves as Human Capital or Talent Management or some other term du jour. Frankly, I think they ought to go back to what they were referred to a few decades ago, the Personnel Department, but what do I know. Regardless, here’s the thing, you will have little real interaction with them unless or until they call you to schedule an interview. They may even participate in the initial screening interview, and then there isn’t much for them to do with you until there is a job offer, at which time they will coordinate the whole thing. I am not diminishing their role but just trying to keep it real; it is important work and essential for a positive outcome. However, be aware that unless you are applying for a job within human resources, they do not make hiring decisions. They may be involved by coordinating the interview process, administer testing and profiling or conduct initial screening interviews. They may be asked for their opinions, but the final hiring decisions are made by the hiring managers, who work in the departments with the vacancies and needs. So if you have an opportunity to speak with someone more directly involved with the position in which you are interested, wouldn’t you capitalize on it? 

Furthermore, human resources (as a department), due to their wide scope of responsibilities, possess only basic info and understanding of any particular job opening. Anyone you ask, barring the most senior staffers, will refer to the same job description you read when you chose to apply for consideration. One exception would be smaller companies where HR wears many different hats so they have a detailed understanding about that which management seeks. In medium to large company structures, they are process oriented. Therefore, I contend that while they have an important role and you will interact with them, they are not my choice for first contact.  

Are you committing a sin if you initiate contact in a different direction than HR? Is it detrimental to inquire with anyone else; is there some kind of etiquette that, if you stray from their routines, you are doomed to be dropped from future consideration? Nope, there is not. If you do something slightly different than others, the world is not going to unravel into chaos and most people will continue to apply as they have been. You’re simply choosing the road less traveled.  

Next time I’ll explain how this works and how to make it work for you. 

(Part II will be posted on Monday) 

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Monday, May 6, 2013

Open & Close-Ended Questions

You’re already using these questions, but it’s likely you haven’t had any reason to consider their significance. If you seek to be a better communicator and, as a result, a better negotiator, then this is something worthy of  attention and being conscious of. 

We've just finished discussing buying signs, watching for them and being prepared to react accordingly. But this does not mean you should limit yourself only to being reactive. Interviews are a two-way, interactive event; they are not a one-sided interrogation. Indeed, as an applicant you are seeking admission; yes, more pressure is on you to hopefully meet and ideally surpass their expectations, but you should be every bit as proactive in learning about the opportunity during the process in which you are engaged. So, not only understanding and identifying the difference between open-ended and close-ended questions, but employing them, is the essence of interactive communication – unless you choose instead to sit like a lump and answer only that which is asked of you; but you won’t gain much information that way. 

Close-ended questions are simple and only evoke a yes or no reply. This has value when you seek a direct and definitive answer.  

Open-ended questions require thought and encourage additional discussion of the subject at hand. They help to perpetuate conversation. 

Understanding the difference can be helpful and productive, and here is the primary reason why this is not something to overlook. If you enter an interview with a high level of interest and the best intentions but you only respond and, in so doing, limit yourself to asking yes and no questions you will not get far and you will go home kicking yourself, after the fact. If, on the other hand, you engage in a business conversation and interact with well-placed questions it can make the difference. Here are basic examples of what I am talking about: 

“Are you hiring anyone?”

“What kind of people do you hire?”
“Well, that depends…”   

They are virtually the same question asked in a different way, thereby guiding the conversation toward a different potential outcome. 

While (most) other people are content to limit themselves to sending a few resumes electronically – and likely complaining about poor results and lamenting how tough it is and there are no jobs out there -- think about what you’re capable of doing on your own behalf. If you have  been following this blog for the last couple months:

You are, of course, conducting online efforts. You are also capable of confidently initiating direct contact in order to investigate opportunities within companies and organizations of interest. You have learned the means by which to overcome the hurdle of process barriers meant to limit or channel your inquiry; you are now developing ways to navigate around those obstacles, enhancing your odds of reaching a hiring official. You’ve learned how to formulate an effective personal presentation, with examples that you can quickly but concisely share, when you have your moment. You’ve learned how to employ your presentation in a number of different applications (in person, on the telephone, voice mail and email).  

And now you are learning how to best apply questions in a manner that will maximize and more completely investigate available opportunities others will miss. There is so much more but, thus far, would you agree it is possible that by adding any (or all) of these measures, it can set you apart from others competing for the same jobs? So it isn’t just about emailing resumes and crossing your fingers, is it?    

Next time we’ll talk about communicating with Human Resources.

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Thursday, May 2, 2013

Buying Signs

If you’ve been following my previous entries, identifying buying signs is important to your job-hunting efforts as you begin to speak with potential employers. But if you are just discovering my blog, you’ll have to go back a few entries to gain some perspective. 

Knowing what are, and how to identify, buying signs is critical to your efforts. Sometimes they are clear and hit you in the face or they can be subtle, communicated by an off-hand comment or revealed in a tone or inflection of voice. It is always better to speak directly with individuals whenever possible because these things are just too hard to pick up in written communications unless they are literally spelled out. 

Everything I discuss on my blog is linked in some way to helping people widen their scope of possibilities; casting your net ever wider, so fewer potential opportunities slip past your notice and thus you can capitalize on every potential opportunity. The term buying signs refers to and is an integral part of the sales profession and, when you are applying or interviewing for a job, you are selling and therefore watching for them when you will be communicating with any representative of a company or organization which you are interested in working with / for. The fact that most people know nothing about buying signs is an advantage for you. Understanding buying signs helps you react to subtleties that might mean little or nothing to most, but could lead to something good if you pursue. Meanwhile, possible opportunities are whizzing past others and they don't even know it. When you sense a buying sign, follow to see where it leads. Don’t make the mistake, as many do, of being so single minded and focused that you miss out. Indeed, have a general idea about that which you seek to accomplish but, I want you to be like a shark; a shark swims along, it knows where it wants to go, generally, but when it smells blood, it reacts and immediately moves in that direction to see where it leads. You should do the same; you can always backtrack to the original topic but the whole point of watching for and reacting to buying signs is to, again, expand your chances of success.  

A simple formula for what constitutes a buying sign is any positive response to your inquiry followed by but, or anything similar. So here's a list of some examples of possible buying signs to listen for, with some possible responses: 

“You have a good background but we are not hiring right now…”
“Can you suggest when I should again follow up and with whom?” 

“I wish I could consider you, we need someone, but our budget hasn’t been approved yet…”
“When is the budget deadline so I can call back?” 

“…I wish we could but we have a hiring freeze…”
“Okay, I understand at the moment you can’t hire any permanent employees but what about contract or temporary, with a possibility of going permanent later?” 

“Thanks for your call but I’m not the right person to speak to.”
“Okay thanks. Then who should I contact, do you have their name and title?”  

“I wish I could help you but we’re not looking for one of those on our team.”
“So who else would you refer me to who might have need?” 

Does this make sense to you? This is also to what I am referring when I suggest you engage in a business conversation. It beats the hell out of someone who calls and says, in monotone, “I’m lookin’ for a job, you need anybody? No? Oh well, okay, thanks anyway.” If you are serious you’ll recognize that I want you to squeeze every drop from every job-related conversation and occasion.  

Next time we’ll talk about wresting a little control over the direction of conversations concerning your job hunting and/or negotiating efforts; creating more participatory interaction by more skillfully applying Open and Close-ended questions, and why it is so important to recognize the difference.

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