Sunday, March 29, 2009

Job Search in a Tough Economy

With recruiting budgets slashed to zero, most new positions are not being advertised in the paper or on sites like In the new recession world of job hunting jobs are going to be found in less traditional ways. There is word or mouth and networking, which has always been one of the best ways to find a job, but now the unorthodox get the jobs. Craigslist, the free posting service, which often has been considered the place to find jobs that are a bit questionable, is now a legitimate place to find a job. Additionally this is the time to send out resumes with well written cover letters to companies that might hire people with your skill set.

Remember, the candidate who has the great resume, with a good cover letter and the willingness to do research to find companies they might work for are the first to get hired. In addition to research into companies you might work for, make sure you do research for your cover letters so that prospective employers know you understand them and have put effort into your application.

You also have to be flexible about what you will accept as a job offer in these though times. Many companies have hiring freezes, so in order to bring you aboard, you might need to start out as a temporary. Though you might prefer something that is permanent immediately, remember as a temp you get to show exactly what you have to offer and in the long term might even get a better package when they do make you a regular employee because they already know what you have to offer.

Monday, October 27, 2008

What do you mean no raises this year?

Your company has just announced that they do not expect to issue yearly increases this year, now what do you do. Your first reaction is probably to get angry and point out that with the increase in the cost of living that you are really taking a pay cut this year. Add to that the increases in the cost of benefits or the reduction in benefits it really feels like you, the hard working employee is getting screwed.

You are not alone. Not only are you seeing a decrease in your spending power so are many investors, managers and executives. The truth is times are tough; sales and business is down for many companies. It is a tenuous time for everyone, still that doesn’t make a bitter pill any less bitter and neither does your managements glib “just be happy you have a job” attitude.

So what do you do? First managers are up against a wave of employee angst and your positive attitude will set you apart and put you first in mind when pay raises are available again. Next document your performance, the ways you have saved the company money, increased customer retention, streamlined processes or in anyway made your company a lean mean economic downturn fighting machine.

By making yourself the positive we can get though this person you not only make it less likely that you will be “re-organized” out of a job, you will increase your chances that when and if there is a little money available to reward employees your manager will reward you.

Now if you are in an industry where workers are in demand, like healthcare, you may want to still have a conversation with your manager about why you merit an increase in pay. Should you be in a company that is in the money, you might also consider a polite conversation highlighting your contributions and requesting that raise.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Basic Cover Letter Template

In an earlier post I gave the Do’s and Don’ts of the cover letter, but I didn’t cover one of my biggest pet peeves about cover letters; the template. Regularly when I have advertised an open position I get a deluge of resumes. Some have cover letters, some don’t. If they have a cover I read it. For most people that cover letter helps them, but for some that cover letter guarantees they get moved to the no pile.

So what is the best way to have your cover letter get you moved to the no pile? A cookie cutter template that has canned lines that I have read so many times I can quote the lines myself. Sometimes in one pile I will get three or four cover letters that are almost exactly the same with just some minor differences that I assume are where the candidate was left to fill in the blanks.

You don’t have to let this happen to you. Ditch the books, the on-line templates that you just fill in the blanks and try out this format.

First a few basics, keep your cover to three to five paragraphs with three to five sentences in the body. Use an intro with one to two sentences and then use a closing that is also one to two sentences. As a general rule you want your cover letter to take between thirty seconds and one minute to read.

The Template

I am submitting my resume for the [XTZ] position that [I saw in XYZ paper].
[I saw on XYZ website].
[I heard about from NAME].
I am very interested in working for [XYZ Company] because [fact you researched about company].

Paragraph 1:
In this paragraph you highlight the experience you have from previous positions that qualify you for the position you are applying for.

Paragraph 2:
Specific accomplishments you have had at other companies or skill sets that will make you an asset to the company your are applying with.

Paragraph 3:
Highlight what you are looking for in a career and company and how this company fits that.

I am available immediately for interviews and can be reached at the contact numbers listed on my resume. Thank you for taking a look at my resume and I look forward to talking with you soon.

Now of course you can customize so that the wording fits you and your writing style, but this is a basic format that can give you a solid cover letter. You will need to do some research on the company, however this will give you another chance to highlight that you are more dedicated than most other applicants. If you don’t know name of the company or can’t find any information, the focus on the position instead.Do remember that since the goal is an in person interview, you do want to sound like yourself in your cover letter.

The Art of the Cover Letter

In this age of e-mail, text messaging and instant messaging, it seems that the art of the cover letter has been lost. I admit there are many HR professionals who don’t read cover letters, but for the ones that do, the cover letter can make quite an impact and not only put you in the yes pile, but keep you at the top of the yes pile. Then when that HR person passes the stack of highly weeded resumes to a hiring manager, you have a decent chance that they will read that cover letter, giving you a better chance of getting the call for an interview and having that hiring manager look forward to that interview.

So here are my Cover Letter Do’s and Don’ts.

Do write a cover letter!
Do state what job you are applying for and how you heard about the job.
Do highlight your experience.
Do show you know something about the company you are applying with.
Do customize your cover letter for each position you apply for.

Don’t go over 5 paragraphs.
Don’t share the reason for leaving your last job.
Don’t share personal information, such as the number of children, your age, martial status, religion etc.
Don’t talk about hobbies or interests that are not relevant to the position.
Don’t be afraid to write a unique cover letter.
Don’t use an obviously cookie cutter cover letter.

Cover letters are an art and a great tool in landing an interview. If you are looking for work and you have mastered the cover letter your odds of getting an interview do go up, so take the time and write one.

The First Impressions

Here you are after weeks of pounding the pavement; you got the call for the interview. Made it on-time, checked in at the front desk and are sitting in waiting area for the hiring manager. Freshly showered, your shirt is ironed, you have two copies of your resume and you are ready to make that all important first impression.

The manager arrives, the introductions are made and you hold out your hand for the shake. You pull it off perfectly, a good strong hand shake with some eye contact and wammo, the hiring manager gives you the big smile. You know you nailed it, the perfect ten of first impressions. Wait a minute, let us rewind a bit.

Was that really the first impression; probably not. When it comes to the interview and hiring process there are often several first impressions involved and many people overlook those, focusing only on the impression they make with the hiring manger or the person interviewing them.

Your very first impression is usually your resume and cover letter. If you got a call for an interview you can assume that was a good impression. Then there is the call to set up the interview. Sometimes this will be done by the person conducting the interview, often it is an HR person, a receptions, assistant or some other person. As an HR person it has always amazed me how when I call to set up interviews, once the candidate realizes I won’t be conducting it, their demeanor and attitude changes. I always give feedback to the interviewer about how the person was when I talked to them on the phone.

This first phone impression can also be damaged by the candidates’ selection of ring-back tone. I have called candidates before to set up an interview and heard ring-back tones with racial epithets, cursing, demeaning depictions or women and other disturbing themes. Usually when I get one of these ring-back tones, I hang up and never schedule the interview. If the candidate doesn’t answer, sometimes the voicemail announcement makes a bad impression and I end up not leaving a message and moving that resume to the no pile.

After the phone impression you have the receptionists or greeters impression. I know you will always be on your best behavior with the interviewer; you are more likely to be more yourself with the person at the front desk that you know is not interviewing you. That means that after I interview I go to the person at the front desk and ask what they thought of you.

There have been a couple occasions when I worked in small offices and was covering the front desk while that person was on break and had an interview set up. There was one very memorable time when my interview arrived, not knowing that I was covering for my receptionist, the interviewee went on to complain about the parking lot, our building and in general showed his demeanor to be that of a rude bully. When I introduced myself, he realized his gaff, but it was too late.

When you are looking for a job, remember that you are making many very important first impressions, so always be on your toes.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Scent of an Interview

Having been working in HR and recruiting for several years there are a few dirty little secrets I have about what influences me to hire a person or not. The way someone smells is one of them. I know reading this there are a few people thinking okay wear extra perfume or cologne, not so fast.

Yes body odor is one of those things that can influence me not to hire you, but even more often what has offended my nose is too much perfume or cologne. Let me set up the scene for you. I have reviewed over one hundred resumes, picked the fifteen to twenty best qualified people, done a quick phone interview and then set the best ten of those up for in person interviews.

So in walks Mr. or Ms. Candidate, they introduce themselves, shake my hand and we proceed to my office. Usually I have already noticed at the shaking hands point that they were a little to liberal with their personal aromatic choice, but I know I must finish the interview. So into my small office where the scent they are wearing takes over.

I start asking my interview questions like “ Think of the last place you worked and tell me what reason the colleague who liked you least would give as to why they were not fond of you?” At this point I think I already know the answer, too much fragrance. No matter what the answer, I don’t really hear it because I am just feeling a bit queasy. The interview concludes and I usher my interviewee out letting them know that a decision will be made by the end of the week.

Since I almost always have several qualified potential employees to look at, in the end the one who was a bit overly scented is not who I choose. My advice is to forgo any fragrance when interviewing. You never know if that is the same scent was worn by a hated ex or will trigger some other unpleasant response from your interviewer. If you must wear some, go very lightly and don’t touch you perfume or cologne up before you go into the interview.

Yes good old bad body odor can cost you a job too, but for most of us a shower before getting ready for an interview will take care of that.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Things you should do on a resume

Give ten years of employment history.

Explain any breaks in your employment history.

Make sure you have plenty of ‘white space’ on you resume.

Proof read.

Have a friend proof read.

Proof read again.

Make sure that it is formatted so that it e-mails well (E-mail it to yourself and see how it looks).
Use a high quality resume paper for any resume you take to an interview (most people do not, so in the stack your will always feel different so it will get more attention).
Always bring at least two copies of your resume to an interview.

Use MS Word to create a resume you plan to e-mail unless your targeted job search is in the legal field or some other field that uses Word Perfect almost exclusively. Even if you are going for a job in a field that usually uses Word Perfect, save it in MS Word also and attach it in both formats. When saving in MS Word save it in the 1997-2003 versions. Many companies still do not have newer versions of MS Office and will not be able to read a resume in a newer version.
Start with your most recent employment experience and education first.

Keep your resume current. If you just left your job yesterday, the resume you send today should reflect that your latest employment just ended.

Include both a phone number and e-mail address where you can be reached.

Five ways to get your resume tossed even if you are perfectly qualified

Five ways to get your resume tossed even if you are perfectly qualified

1.) Listing an inappropriate e-mail address like, can raise eyebrows and make the HR person reviewing your resume put you in the no pile.

2.) Putting hobbies on your resume that show a questionable character or illegal activities. Examples would be Cock/Dog Fighting, Gambling, Clubing, Street Racing, Nudism

3.) Saving your resume under a less that professional name and then sending it as an e-mail attachment. Examples: Iamtheshi*.doc, Dadsresume.doc, God.doc, Irock.doc

4.) Any misspellings and typos on a resume when you have listed attention to detail as one of your strengths

5.) E-mailing a resume in a format that is not common. Most offices are still using MS Office 2000, so if you have a more recent version save it in the older version (Use Save As to choose an earlier MS Word Version). If you are using Word Perfect or some other software program, attach it and then also paste it into the body of the e-mail.