Monday, October 28, 2013

How Do You Know?

Last week I had a conversation with a woman who is searching for a new job. She shared with me that she is both contacting companies directly and responding to opportunities posted online. She asked, “How can I know if I am being considered or if my resume is being considered at all; how do I know if they’ve even received it?” Good question, and the answer is there is no way to know, considering the current accepted hiring practices of companies. Sure, you may receive a computer-generated message of receipt and a thank you, but it’s meaningless. All it shows is that a software program has acknowledged receipt, but there is no indication if or when an actual person will look at it, much less consider your qualifications; it’s on file but that’s not much consolation, is it? 
Then she answered her own question by commenting, “I think I should probably follow up with the companies to which I’ve emailed my resume, the same as I am with companies I have been calling directly.” Yes, she is on the right track and it’s refreshing to hear someone state the obvious; I wish more people would realize the same thing, but I advised her not to stop there. Consider, if you will, you are a pleasant individual, polite, professional and when you shake someone’s hand your greeting is sincere; where is that on your resume? How can you convey any of this via email? You can’t -- which all by itself is justification for why people have been messing themselves up by relying on technology alone to do for them something technology cannot do. Nothing takes the place of human interaction – nothing. Indeed, unless prevented by distance, it is always better to deliver a resume in person. The reason is simple, putting a name and a face together with a resume carries more weight than an effortless email, especially now as fewer and fewer do anything more than tepid email submission to demonstrate their interest.
The mere fact that most people, and I mean almost everyone, fail to pick up the phone to investigate who would be their potential boss at any company they’d like to work with, is precisely the reason you should. And even fewer would actually walk into a company, introduce themselves and, fewer yet, who’ve conducted rudimentary research in order to ask for a manager by name, is exactly why you should. If the only issue stopping you is the insecurity of not knowing what to say and how to say it, that’s easy and I can teach you how to do that, you simply have to resolve to do it.
If you’re just such a person, who wants to do more for yourself but doesn’t know where to start and how to go about it, you should have my handbook, which is previewed on this website. I am confident, no, I am betting that just about every question you have about the job search and interview process is therein. If you’re serious about this topic, get it.
If you’re like most people who are frustrated, stop screwing around and wasting time sending digital resumes to the four winds. Use the computer as it was meant to be used, do some research and then get off your behind, walk away from your computer, notebook or whatever device to which you’ve attached so much importance as it relates to your existence, and get out there. If your job search is not up close and personal, as in arranging to meet people by phone or in person, then make it so. How else can you know if they have A) received it and B) if or in what manner you are being considered. Don’t be surprised if people look at you a bit strangely, because so few people even bother anymore, and sticking your neck out also means you should be prepared for rejection or worse, ambivalence. If you freak out over some measure of rejection, get used to it cupcake, that’s part of life. However, each rejection brings you that much closer to success. It isn’t rocket science but you must first make the decision to do more than betting your success and future on the reliance of desperately pecking at a keyboard. Do you really want success or is it just talk? Hey, you tell me, I already know how to find and interview for a job and have more than 20 years of experience advising others; I wrote the book (pun intended).
If you still don’t feel you can do the face-to-face thing, you can increase your odds by resolving to follow up by telephone one to two weeks after you’ve sent your resume. This still means, however, to do this you must keep track of every place to where it’s been sent. To do this effectively, you must still research and inquire about with whom and what department to follow up.
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Monday, October 21, 2013

Clichés and Other Worthless Garbage on Your Resume

Any time the topic of resumes comes up, invariably the conversation turns to the appropriate length of a resume, too long with too many pages seems to be a concern. I suggest that if you have a lot of applicable experience, and if it requires more than a page or two, so be it. But there are ways to conserve space, measures you can use to determine the best way to get the most out of the document meant to open doors and give you a chance to then impress, in person.
The fact is that many people have a lot of needless stuff on there, either because it is a part of the resume template or they think it is necessary. Let’s consider a few of them.
This is an optional item, but if you think it is necessary, keep it short, real short. People wrongly assume this is where they can impress a reader by using flowery words to set themselves apart. This is not the space or method to do this. If you need more than one sentence to express your Objective then write a cover letter.
Here are some examples of overused and meaningless phrases:
“…I enjoy a challenge…”
“…where I can maximize…”
“…I can utilize my expertise…”
“…problem solver…”
Would you be even applying if you didn’t possess these traits? And don’t worry if you don’t have these catchy little (worn out) clichés – no one is going to assume that you don’t enjoy a challenge or that you don’t want to maximize something and, if you possess expertise, it’s listed elsewhere in your resume. Likewise, if you are a problem solver it will be exemplified with your ACCOMPLISHMENTS. Don’t take up space stating the obvious, save it and elaborate at the interview. Furthermore, if you don’t think the organization with which you are applying is a top- tier, world-class, exceptional, well-established, growth-oriented company, you wouldn’t be applying; brown nosing won’t increase your chances for an interview.
This is another potential space saver because it’s not necessary. I recognize it is a humanizing feature and, in reality, most people are hoping a hiring manager shares the same likes, making it more likely to secure an interview, which is the time and place for this when they suggest, “So tell me about yourself?”
And last but not least, a totally unnecessary space taker-upper is, REFERENCES AVAILABLE UPON REQUEST. Well, of course they are! It’s not necessary, leave it off. Adding Hamburger Helper increases the volume of content but it doesn’t make it any better; you want 100% prime cut meat without empty filler.
If the purpose is to save space and construct the most effective resume, the items I’ve described above can only distract from the good stuff you want them to see. Your resume is meant to represent you as a document listing your qualifications and accomplishments, as it relates to your work and career in a manner that will attract attention. Sadly, in the current period that is more likely to mean key wording, which you must also consider because a software program is likely to be the first reviewer of your resume when it is received by human resources. But at some point in the process a real person will read it and you want it to have teeth, with facts and figures, accomplishments and qualifications that subliminally scream out to the reader, see this person!
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Monday, October 14, 2013

D.I.Y. Requires Real Effort

I say it until I am blue in the face -- why do people think emailing a resume represents activity? Where have they gotten the ridiculous notion that it demonstrates effort? Most people invest time to assemble a good resume and perhaps a cover letter, but after that they stop and expect the Internet to do the rest for them. Think about it, it is patently silly and makes no sense and yet they grumble because no one is rushing to hire them, their phone doesn’t ring and they anxiously check their inbox, disappointed that there’s very little to show for all their effort, if that’s what you want to call it.
When you want to change the oil in your car, you can do it yourself, but most people have someone else do it. When you want to build a deck or a patio behind your home, you can do it yourself or pay someone else to do it and they might even do a better job than you can. But you cannot realistically sub-contract or pass off your personal responsibility for finding your own job to anyone or anything else, but that’s precisely what too many people are attempting to do. I am a headhunter and indeed I help some people and client companies with their efforts, but I cannot take their place in an interview; it’s theirs to win or lose the opportunity. Finding a job for yourself is truly a DIY function. You can make a half-assed effort, as most people are doing, but guess what the results will be? Like many efforts in which you are involved, you’ll get out of it what you put into it.
I’d like to suggest that you lose the misguided perception it’s as easy as keystrokes to get a good paying job, especially now, when you have more and more people clambering over each other competing for available jobs. If you have not yet realized finding a good job requires some sweat equity, in addition to your online activities, then you really don’t get it. If you are unwilling to do more to improve your chances of success, get used to eating the dust created by those who do understand as they leave you behind. Sorry, but I don’t believe anyone is entitled to a good job and if somebody told you this and you believed it, you were easily misinformed. However, everyone should be entitled to a fair chance or opportunity and there are already laws and protections for this. Perhaps in past years things were too easy for many. I don’t mean to be insulting but here’s a news flash, a good thing is never easily attained and if it’s not earned, it’s not really appreciated. As you read this, are you still thinking you’ll just sit back and email your way to gain a good job or career opportunity? As I have demonstrated, most people handicap themselves from the very start without realizing it. Then, when things fail to materialize from thin air, they find something or someone else to blame for the lack of results.
Let me share some truths that most accomplished business persons and any good sales reps know; rarely does a potential customer or client invest, buy or hire on a one-time, first-time call and/or meeting. A good sales person will tell you that it takes two, three, four or more sales meetings before any contracts are signed. And the bigger the sale or the higher the stakes, the longer it takes and the more work they must do on the front end of the deal. Ironically, my best clients have always been the most difficult to attain. I earned their business by going back and following up for as long as it took, provided I had a good message and had something to offer --  a solution to solve a problem or fill a need. If you are approaching potential employers you must do the same.
There is nothing wrong with exploiting digital tools to your advantage to fortify or streamline your efforts. The fallacy is the assumption that technology is a panacea or replacement for the things that are just as true today as before becoming a debilitating crutch; there is no replacement for a face-to-face greeting and a firm handshake. How you reach that point is the dilemma for a lot of people who’ve lost the ability to do it yourself.
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Monday, October 7, 2013

Get It In Writing

Never trust anyone’s word or assurances. I suppose I sound pessimistic and paranoid but in business it is simple common sense. You may not consider yourself a business person per se, although when you interview you are conducting a business transaction and, therefore, should think of it in this manner. President Ronald Reagan liked to say, regarding his meetings with the Soviets during the 1980’s, “Trust but Verify”. He may have popularized it Stateside but, giving credit where credit is due, he adopted and translated an Old Russian proverb he liked to use during negotiations with them, which states, “Доверяй, но проверяй” (doveryai, no proveryai).
It happens to some people when they interview, hearing what they want to hear, they lower their guard and fail to get written confirmation to validate what they’d been told is real. Relying on trust alone, no matter how nice or convincing a person may be, is not enough. You can never rely on words of assurance or promises any time you might be in a process involving a job offer, or any negotiation. Get it in writing because, anything less is nothing but a wish – “doveryai, no proveryai”.
Here’s an example of how easily people can succumb; perhaps you’ve had a second or third interview and were told by a hiring manager, “You’re the one I want to hire and I’ll be talking to my boss and get back to you soon.” Of course, this is great news and things are moving in the right direction but, in reality what he or she really said was, “I like you and want to hire you, but I don’t have the authority to do so and I need my boss’s approval, and they may or may not agree – I’ll get back to you.” However, many assume they heard, “The job is yours.” Maybe it will happen but, until it’s in writing it should not cause you to celebrate, much less to cease other efforts you may be alternately engaged in with other potential employers. Furthermore, I advise that until such time as you have a signed offer letter with an agreed start date in your hand, it’s not yet a reality until you have it in writing.
Usually this is only a precautionary measure, as most companies are not out to intentionally play games. But what about those times when you are misled, what recourse do you have? Does it mean you need a hire a lawyer; not many people have the time, stomach or budget for that. In my own business interactions as a recruiter, I absolutely must keep a close track of correspondences and what has been discussed. Many companies, with whom I may not yet have a lengthy relationship, have budgetary issues and, of course, are looking to reduce their costs. On rare occasions there is some little sneak trying to make a name for themselves, thinking they’ll dupe me and would possibly renege if there is nothing on paper to back up what’s been agreed. Occasionally I have to go back and refer to correspondences, such as emails, in order to demonstrate a chronology. This is standard operating procedure in my business. When something such as this happens, rather than call to whine about the injustice and obvious intended deceit, I simply contact the responsible party, describe the events, inform them of my record of correspondences, suggesting in clear terms that if this is the kind of reputation they seek to have in the marketplace, I will ensure they have it. After all, I do speak with many senior-level business people on a regular basis. This works for me and, for the sake of this blog keeping it short, every such situation has been resolved satisfactorily and not only because of the threat shining daylight on an occasional roach operating in the shadows but -- because I had my facts straight – had it in writing and kept a file throughout the process.
There are also those who may rely on telephone conversations but not much is in writing, what then? If you have their contact information, soon afterward send a follow-up email thanking them for their time (on the phone) and repeat in the body of your email what subjects were covered; now, unless they reply with a denial or challenge your claim you have a paper trail. I do this to ensure I have not missed any critical information, but it’s handy for any other need that may arise.    
Trust but verify, by getting it in writing.
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