Oct 17

Do you need a resume or a job search strategy?

As you consider the idea of a new job, is your first thought that you need a new resume or your existing one polished?

Many job seekers contact me in search of help in creating a new resume, yet after a brief conversation, it is clear that a resume is not their first need.

Before fine tuning or crafting a new resume, you need a clear plan as to where you want to go in your career and what means you will use to get there. Do you have a specific job in mind? Specific companies that you want to work for? Certain salary ranges that you are targeting or geographic locations that are on your radar?

Too, how will you go about your job search? By networking online and offline? By responding to posted ads? By targeting specific companies? Job fairs, recruiters, executive placement firms? The list goes on depending on your needs and expected future career target.

Outlining your job search strategy, the action steps you will take, the resources you need and your ultimate goal will be a valuable launch pad for your job search process!

From there, you can determine if you need the help of a professional resume writer, career coach or another career services professional to help you achieve your career goals. Most definitely a resume will be needed, but it might not be the first vital tool in this process.

For help, please feel free to contact me at jill@pinnacleresumes.com or visit Career Directors International www.careerdirectors.com or the Professional Association of Resume Writers and Career Coaches www.parw.com to find comprehensive lists of qualified professionals who might be of assistance.

Reboot Your Job Search in 2014!

I recently conducted a job search workshop for the local library and I found the process of preparing for this workshop to be a lot of fun. Granted, I know about job search both as a professional and from my earlier career, but things continue to change.

My presentation began with a quote by Dr. Seuss. Remember the author of Green Eggs and Ham? Well he was a pretty remarkable guy beyond being an iconic author of children’s books. So the quote is “Why fit in when you were born to stand out?”

This was etched in my mind from the first time I read it, and it sure got the attention of the workshop attendees! This is so true and especially when it comes to a job search! Just like your resume needs to stand out from the competition, your approach to finding a new job needs to make you stand out.

Here are 10 tips that I hope help you.

1 – Be creative and multi-faceted. Spending your day in front of a computer continuously applying for jobs is not the best use of your time. In fact, some experts say this should consist of less than 10% of the time you devote to job search. So, network, both online and offline. Think about community groups or events you can participate in and get the word out.

2 – Volunteer. This goes along with the above, but if you are unemployed, this can help address gaps in employment by showing a prospective employer that you keep busy in meaningful ways. It also gives you the opportunity to gain valuable skills (leadership, perhaps) that you might not already have, and yes, it’s another opportunity to network.

3 – Let your friends on Facebook know about your search. While I am an advocate of LinkedIn as a great tool because of its professional focus, your friends and family are more apt to be your advocate than professional contacts.

4 – Join groups both online and offline. Find ones that resonate with your interests and career goals. Become active in these groups and share your expertise while expressing an interest in learning from others. We can all learn something new. Online consider LinkedIn groups for example; in your community consider Rotary International or Toastmasters, to name just a few.

5 – Love your library! Your local library has access to databases that you don’t and your librarian(s) are a treasure trove of helpful information. Never underestimate how much they can assist you and… the cost is FREE.

6 – If you are technically oriented, blog and tweet. Of course, these need to be about things that are germane to your career goals. Also consider having a web portfolio. The bigger your digital footprint, the better.

7 – Manage your reputation, particularly online. Google your name and see what comes up on page one. It should only be links that you would want a potential employer to view and not an old newspaper link to some questionable activity that someone who might also have the same name potentially engaged in. If you find negative information, consult with a professional who can help you diffuse the negativity. www.reputation.com is one such site.

8 – Maintain balance in your life. I am a huge advocate of work/life balance and while looking for a new job is a job, don’t neglect family, friends, your exercise or hobbies. By having diversity in your life, you can avoid burn out.

9 – Don’t be afraid to think outside of the box, as the cliché goes. There are countless ways to look for a job, too numerous to list here, but try to have fun with it!

10 – If you are overwhelmed or feel like you need the help of a professional, consider hiring one. Organizations such as Career Directors International, www.careerdirectors.com can be quite valuable. You can find certified career coaches and resume writers. If funds are tight, look to your local career centers or libraries for free workshops and assistance.

Good luck and stay focused on your goals. You can make it happen!

Due Diligence on Potential Employers

The hiring process is a two-way street and that is why it is vital that you, the job seeker,  research employers who have expressed an interest in hiring or talking with you.

A few years ago, on more than one occasion, I was hired by a supply chain executive who didn’t research companies, didn’t ask the right questions and just leapt at offers. He was petrified of being unemployed. On four consecutive occasions within less than five years, he found himself out of a job- either the CEO changed, the company was acquired or outsourced his job; all measures beyond his control.

Despite my advice to him, he didn’t listen. Here he was, middle-aged, extremely talented and dedicated; an employer’s dream really. On paper he could have come across as someone whose career had derailed and was heading into a downward spiral. Fortunately, his resume writer knew how to minimize these bumps in his career!

So, my advice to job seekers is to do your homework, even if you are unemployed and feeling desperate. It doesn’t make sense to take any position, because if it isn’t a good fit, you aren’t going to last.

Use resources like www.glassdoor.com to get insight on companies and what employees have to say; just be sure to process the extreme opinions with discretion. LinkedIn can be a valuable tool as well. Research companies, find out if any employees are connected to your connections and get introductions to people who can be valuable as you perform your research. Don’t forget the value of your live network of trusted colleagues and friends.

By taking the time and effort to conduct your due diligence, you will be rewarded in the end!

Interview: The Salary Expectation

It is important at the interview stage of the recruitment process to be somewhat flexible in respect to your desired salary. One doesn’t want to appear greedy or overly focused on remuneration.  On the other hand, you shouldn’t go into an interview with absolutely no idea what the salary range is for the position and/or what you expect as a starting salary.

The company already has a salary range in mind, so your reply should be focused on demonstrating your value to the company. The employer is making an investment in you, so they will expect a reasonable return on their investment. You should already have done your research so that you are aware of the standard industry salary for the position. Provide additional background information to prove your value if you feel you belong in the higher end of that range. Take the opportunity to explain how well your skills and experience match the company’s requirements and focus on specific areas where you exceed their requirements.  If you have had additional training or professional certifications above and beyond the minimum requirements of the job, highlight them.  If you have additional skills or experience that would allow you to be a resource to other areas of the company, mention them.  There is no reason you shouldn’t ask for what you feel you deserve, but you should be prepared to justify your expectations.

It’s possible you are less concerned about salary than you are about benefits and perquisites.  There is nothing wrong with negotiating a total compensation package that places more emphasis on benefits or vacation days than on salary.  Most employers expect the hiring process to be a bit of a negotiation, and many employers may be more flexible in benefits rather than base salary.

A confident, well-researched approach may give you the edge over another candidate who hasn’t done their homework or hasn’t fully proven their worth.

The Importance Of A Cover Letter

When you send out your résumé, it is likely to be one of many which will be screened by the recipient. Make sure that yours makes it through the screening process by creating a compelling cover letter.

The letter needs to be concise, yet effective. You want to appear confident, but you don’t want to brag. Demonstrate your written communication skills with an eloquent opening statement as to why you consider yourself to be the candidate for the position. Be careful to use correct punctuation and grammar.

Emphasize your skills and experience as they relate to the position being offered. Demonstrate what value (in skills or qualities) you can bring that will benefit the company. Give specific examples where you have made a difference in your previous position(s) and how those examples are directly relevant to this position. This is especially valuable to help flesh-out a relevant position that is listed on your résumé in less detail.

If you are available at short notice or live close to where you would be working should your application be successful, make that clear.

This is your opportunity to make your application stand-out among the rest, so be sure to make the most of it.

Don’t Focus On Job Titles

Titles aren’t as important as skills, says a recent article in the Harvard Business Review by Matt Ferguson, CEO of CareerBuilder.

A recent CareerBuilder study of more than 2,000 companies found that half of the hiring managers limited their search by job title, but, as a result, were excluding excellent candidates who had the right mix of skills and experience in different roles.

Economic Modelling Specialists Intl. (EMSI) recently ran a study using their compatibility index to illustrate this. For example, a company that needs to fill an open business intelligence analyst position is looking for someone comfortable producing financial and market intelligence, generating reports, and researching in data repositories. This is typically a vital position and ideally will not remain open long. By excluding candidates without business intelligence analyst listed as a past title, they rule out many individuals who have the relevant skills and experience required of the job.

But EMSI’s index shows the company may be overlooking several nearly perfect candidates who recently held positions as market research analysts or risk management specialists and possess many of the essential skills required for the position. This extends to a wide range of professions. A tech company hiring a technical writer could also consider paralegals. A healthcare organization in need of a medical assistant could also look at pharmacy technicians. A manufacturing firm in need of a machinist could also consider an automotive body repairer.

How does this affect your job search? Essentially, you should target your resume to the position for which you’re applying. The emphasis should be on your particular skills which are relevant to the position, even if your previous job titles don’t match. Obviously, if a hiring manager is among the 50% who limit candidates based on job titles, you may have a more difficult time getting through the initial screening. However, you could tailor your cover letter and highlight your skills and experience that make you a perfect fit for the position.

Additionally, think outside the box when choosing which jobs might be right for you. If you compare your skills to other job titles, you might find that you are perfectly qualified for a completely different role than you’ve previously held. This will expand your search pool and potentially open up other job possibilities. A career coach can help you with this if necessary.

Are You Still Searching for Jobs The “Old” Way?

If you’re still combing through newspapers for jobs, you’re doing it wrong. The hunt for jobs has changed dramatically in the last decade. If you don’t change your methods, you run the risk of seeming “out-of-date,” which is code for “too old for this job.”

It’s no longer enough to simply submit a resume, sit back and wait for the phone to ring. It’s important to demonstrate your comfort level with technology, your familiarity with social media, and your positive online presence.

One of the first places you should start should be LinkedIn. It’s essential for a professional to have a LinkedIn profile these days. You should fill it out completely, and network with as many contacts as possible. Get endorsements from colleagues who can vouch for your experience and abilities. Link your profile to your Twitter account, personal website, blog, etc. Expand your online presence so that a potential employer can search online and get to know you as more than a list of skills and experience.

Next, network. Let your network know you’re looking for a job. Studies show that employers hire candidates with an employee referral at a rate of 5 to 1. One advantage for older workers is that they have had a chance to make many more professional connections over the years. Use those connections. Follow professionals in your field on Twitter, and interact with them. A good way for an employer to learn that you are who you say you are is for them to review your Twitter account or other social media. The more relevant your tweets are to your area of expertise, the more credibility you will have.

Use online web searches strategically. Target your searches to specific jobs in your desired area with keywords to narrow down your choices. If you merely specify a location or a general field of work, you may receive tens of thousands of results. Don’t waste your time; let the computer search narrow it for you.

Be aware that many job postings may look like they are advertised for a specific company, when, in reality, they are advertised by a recruitment firm. Often, the recruitment firm doesn’t even have anything to do with the company, and/or there isn’t any real job available; they are merely trying to gain your business. When applying, a quick phone call after searching the internet for the company information can verify that the person receiving your resume is actually tasked with hiring for that position.

You should have both paper copies and digital copies of your resume available. If an employer asks for your resume to be delivered digitally, provide it that way. Very often, applicants are encouraged to submit their resume online through either a standardized web form or via email. Large employers may use scanning software to quickly look for keywords in your resume that match their needs.

Use the web to research the employer. If you’re granted an interview, do your homework and understand as much as possible about the employer before the interview.

The internet is a valuable tool for today’s job search, and it is imperative that you make yourself familiar with newer ways of searching and hiring in order to land the job you want.

Is Twitter The New Résumé?

Recently, the Wall Street Journal wrote that Twitter is increasingly preferred by recruiters rather than a standard résumé.  While the idea is interesting, it’s unlikely that Twitter will singlehandedly eliminate the traditional résumé.

Obviously, reading a candidate’s tweets will give a recruiter some idea of the knowledge level, experience and personality of the candidate.  However, in most cases, Twitter alone doesn’t provide enough information for a recruiter to make a job offer.

Unless the job is specifically in Social Media, it’s virtually impossible to adequately “vet” a candidate based on 140-character quotes. A recruiter has a responsibility to the company which requires their due diligence in selecting a qualified applicant. Education, experience, references and demeanor will generally be evaluated by traditional means.  So, you still need to be prepared with your traditional record of qualifications, education and experience.

Some companies may advertise for a position on Twitter.  Again, for certain jobs, this may be appropriate. For many positions, a company can capitalize on the exposure a tweet can bring.  This is good for them.  However, this exposure could result in a flood of applicants that will all be in competition with you. Where you need to focus is on making yourself stand out from that crowd.

Where Twitter can benefit you most is in making connections with hiring managers and other industry professionals.  These connections can lead to interviews, and/or demonstrate your unique “voice” to a recruiter making hiring decisions. Use Twitter for conversations, not to merely broadcast tweets about your skills without interaction.  Get to know people, and allow them to know you.

Most importantly, remember that social media is your voice in the world, and what you project is what others see.  If you want to be considered a professional in your field, make sure your Twitter timeline reflects this.  Don’t post anything you wouldn’t want a recruiter to see, avoid spamming people with tweets about your qualifications, and use Twitter to network wherever possible.

What To Do After A Job Interview

After an interview, it is advisable to keep yourself fresh in the mind of the interviewer(s). Here are some tips on how to do that.

Remember, you do not want to be perceived as a nuisance, so ask about their preferred method of follow-up communication and whether it would be acceptable to contact them in a few days.

If an interviewer asks that you follow up by phone in a week or on a specific date, respect their wishes. Calling earlier may be perceived as desperate, impatient or disrespectful.

Send a Thank You note to each of the interviewers one day after the interview. This will give a positive indication of your interest level in the position you have applied for and can be an excellent way to showcase your written communication skills. Such a letter could also be used to convey any important information which you may not have had the chance to impart during the interview.

Where Do You See Yourself Five Years From Now?

In an interview, the question of where you see yourself five years from now may be one of the trickiest to answer. It seems like every employer asks it, and there is no standard or “best” answer.

It’s wise to avoid giving the impression that the job for which you’re being interviewed is merely a “stepping stone” to something better–but you also don’t want to seem as though you lack initiative.

One way to handle the question is to impress upon the interviewer that you are flexible.  You might explain that you hope there are opportunities to learn and grow that will allow you to contribute even more to the company.  You understand that it will take time and hard work, and hope that the company will reward you by encouraging you to learn new skills that keep your job interesting and lead to advancement.

Above all, don’t make it sound as though you’ve memorized a speech. Be natural and honest, with a healthy dose of confidence.  You’ll find that most interviewers prefer a candidate who sounds genuine and seems at ease during the interview. Above all, be yourself.

Good luck!