Three Reasons to be Bold

Understatement will hurt you in your job search. The essence of the work is marketing. Seekers create (either themselves or they pay a professional to do it) a batch of documents, both physical and electronic, to tell the world about themselves. Here are three reasons to be bold with your résumé, cover letter, follow up communications, LinkedIn profile and other activities.

Marketing Emphasizes Strengths. Hyundai doesn’t say, “The Elantra: Not a bad small car for the money.” PepsiCo doesn’t entice you with, “Mountain Dew: We’re not sure why people like this stuff.” Instead, marketers use all of their communication tools to sell the sizzle. What’s great? What’s exciting? What makes the product or service special? Do the same for yourself.

You Are Competing. Even though the job market has improved, many employers are still very cautious about their hiring decisions. They are still looking at their options, evaluating many candidates for each open slot. Every job seeker is in a battle with all the rest to get the interview and offer. You must outshine your competition if you are going to be successful.

Boldness Builds Confidence. Sometimes people say, “I don’t want to come across as over-confident, arrogant or boastful.” This is a good thought, and you won’t. But, by cataloging and presenting your accomplishments concisely and professionally, you will be in a better position to interview well because you will know your best stories and will have the opportunity to discuss them.

Your marketing activities and tools will not get you the job. They will get you the interview, and that’s what it’s all about. Review your résumé, LinkedIn profile and other documents. Ask yourself, “Are these doing everything possible to help me market myself? Am I bold enough?” If not, fix them.

Advertisements

Question 6: Where Will You be in Five Years?

Five Years From Now?
Five Years From Now?

Who doesn’t love to hate this question? I have heard from two clients recently that they have been asked this question very recently. Both are in different parts of the country and in different industries. If you haven’t prepared for it, you should. Here are some ideas to help.

This question is not about you predicting the future. It is about you doing some research about the company and understanding enough about your career and the industry to give a reasonable answer that makes sense in the environment you are trying to enter.

The Goal: Make a reasonable case for your career path with your new company.

Here are three things that you must know.

First, what does advancement look like for people in your profession? If you are an entry-level staff accountant, where have other people been after five years? If you are a new registered nurse with a bachelor’s degree, where have other people with the same education and experience been in that time?

Second, what is the structure and what are the titles within the targeted company? Many organizations have particular job titles. It will benefit you if you can weave these titles into your answer. It will have you speaking the company language and seeming like you belong.

Finally, discover what the company is working on and write yourself into the story. If the company has been in the news because it is launching a new long-term initiative, describe how you can contribute to the success of that program over the coming years. Paint a picture that links your success to that of the company in a tangible way.

Nobody expects you to nail your forecast. They do expect you to have clear thoughts about what you want to accomplish in the context of your (hopefully) new employer’s world.

Be sure to check out the “Questions” series:

Question 5, Question 4, Question 3, Question 2, Question 1, What Are You Good At?

Follow “Work” to stay up to date with the latest in career development and management.

Bill Florin is a Certified Professional Résumé Writer and Certified Employment Interview Professional and is President of Resu-mazing Services Company in Monroe, Connecticut, USA.

Five Reference-Gathering Tools & Tips

Specific, concise, results-centered references are an important part of a job search. Hiring managers and HR people want to know what others think about the candidate they are considering. In fact, many companies make this a mandatory part of the process. The HR folks will not be doing their jobs nor will they advance even the best candidate in the process without this box checked.

Here are the five things that you will make your references another compelling part of your career marketing package, supplementing and complementing your résumé, cover letter and LinkedIn profile.

Get them now. Don’t wait until you start your job search to get well-written recommendations into your portfolio. If you are especially marketable, the process could move faster than you thought. You don’t want to be empty-handed when asked for them.

Direct the reference writer. When you ask someone to write a reference for you, tell the person what you would like her/him to write about. Remind her about the project you worked on. Ask him to discuss your negotiating skills and how it helped your company get pricing concessions. If you don’t, all of your references will say “Jim is a great guy” or “Mary is a team player who multitasks well.” You don’t want generic mush. You want focused, valuable and diverse letters that create a comprehensive picture of you, your abilities and your accomplishments. You have to direct the process.

Learn more about LinkedIn recommendations & endorsements here.

Get durable contact information. By durable, I mean at least one way to contact the referrer that is not dependent on employment. If you and Travis worked together at IBM and Travis has since moved on to another company, what good will Travis’s IBM email address and phone number be? A LinkedIn profile address is good, as is a personal email address. Keep them current.

Make it easy. Make life easy for the person giving you the recommendation. Offer to write the letter for him or her. You write it, your buddy Travis reads it, copies it and pastes it into the letter format of his choice. Done! Don’t feel nervous about this. Instead, know that you are making it easier for people to help you. They are doing something that they wanted to do and you have done most of the work for them. Everyone wins.

Create a LinkedIn version. A recommendation letter may be several paragraphs long. A LinkedIn recommendation should be just a few lines. Depending on your relationship with the referrer, offer to write a condensed version of the recommendation and ask Travis to post it to your LinkedIn profile as a recommendation that the world can see. Then you can tell an interviewer that you have more complete letters of recommendation that support the LinkedIn versions.

If you do these things, you will be more marketable and more confident. After all, you already know what your referrers are going to say. That confidence will come through as you interview and you just might become the top candidate.

Bill Florin is a Certified Professional Resume Writer and Certified Employment Interview Professional, and President of Resu-mazing Services Company in Monroe, Connecticut.

Your Résumé Must Have These 8 Things

Are you nervous about your résumé format, concerned that it isn’t stylish and sexy enough to get you the interview? You aren’t alone. Here is a question that I just received, along with the answer that will benefit everyone struggling to write an effective marketing document.

Question: What are some of the best résumé formats you have seen?

Résumé formats are much less important than the information conveyed and the quality of the writing. If you have a good story to tell, nearly any document template will work. When I write for my clients, I start from the beginning every time and use fonts and layouts that best reflect the client’s personality, industry and career goals. Here are the must haves of your résumé:

  1. Use clear, readable font type and size. Print it and have a glasses-wearing friend read it. Is it clear and easy to follow? No? Redo it. Check spelling, grammar, punctuation and usage.
  2. Show contact information that makes you easy to reach. At a minimum, your name, phone and email address. Be sure that your outgoing voice mail greeting is professional sounding. Kill the ring back music. If I am a recruiter, I don’t want to listen to your favorite Stravinsky piece or Jay Z jam while waiting for you to answer. Be sure that your email address is professional, too. Create a new one if you have to.
  3. Start with a headline and concise professional profile. Avoid clichés like “results-driven detail-oriented professional with strong collaboration and multi-tasking skills.”
  4. Consider adding a “core skills” section to bullet your most marketable skills. Make it easy for a recruiter or HR person to see that you have what they are looking for.
  5. Use a chronological format for your work experience whenever possible. Your functional format is not fooling anyone, so why raise doubt by using this maligned format? Put your history out there.
  6. Limit the task descriptions that you use in favor of results and accomplishments. If you are an accountant, we know that you used GAAP and computers. Tell us how you led an audit that was supposed to take three months and got it done in half the time. Tell us how you created a new financial dashboard that was so well received that it is still being used today. Tell us why you are great. (See “Setting Interview Traps” for more on this idea.)
  7. Include relevant volunteer and community involvement information. If you are a sales person, your next boss might like that you are a member of civic organizations (you know people!).
  8. Finish it off with education and professional development. One exception: If you just graduated or are graduating soon, consider leading with education as it is your most marketable asset.

In summary, include information in an attractive, accessible way that will make employers want to talk to you. Make every word in your resume count, use a standard chronological format, and avoid gimmicks and fancy graphical flourishes. Substance counts much more than style.

Here are some tips on starting your résumé with power.

For some clean, professional sample resumes, see Resu-mazing Services Company’s samples page.

8 Job Fair Tactics

Job Fair Overhead Picture
Job Fair – Lots of People & Little Time to Impress

Have you ever gone to a job fair? Do you plan on it? If so, you have two choices. The first is to carpet bomb the place with your résumé. The second is to have a targeted approach and clear objectives. Guess which works better?

If you think that a run through the venue, where you will leave your résumé at every booth with a quick hello and a hand shake will bear fruit, you will be disappointed. If that is your plan, stay home and apply on line. As the recruiters and representatives at the booth receive these documents, they make quick decisions. There is the “no” pile and the “maybe” stack. Yours will not be where you want it.

Instead, have a strategy in mind and develop tactics that will give you a greater chance of success. Work to maximize the benefit of a face-to-face contact. Here are eight tactics.

  1. Research the companies and their jobs. Most job fairs have a website that lists the recruiting companies and the jobs available. Make a list of the ones for which you are qualified. Print it or carry it electronically. Work your list when you get there.
  2. Create a simple cover letter to go with your résumés. Each letter should be different and customized to each of the positions you want. At the least, include the employer’s name and two or three bullets on your qualifications relative to the requirements of the job posting. Use good paper and ensure quality printing.
  3. Have a concise introduction written and practiced. “Hi, my name is Bill Florin and I am here to share my résumé for consideration for the ____ job you are filling.”
  4. Be prepared to explain two or three things that make you qualified for the position. Again, you will need to research the job and review your talking points before approaching the recruiter.
  5. Have an answer for “What are you doing now?” Again, be concise. “My last employer went through a round of downsizing in the last two months, and I am looking to find a company that will benefit from my accounting expertise and drive for results.”
  6. Get business cards or other contact information if possible. Follow up immediately with a “Thanks, it was nice to meet you” email.
  7. Ask about next steps and the process to come. You will want to know this and set your expectations accordingly. You might not learn much, but it does not hurt to ask.
  8. Smile, say thanks, and move along. You don’t want to be a creepy job fair stalker, do you? Be good, be brief, and be gone.

Dress for success would be #9, but we don’t have to talk about that, right?

Hitting job fairs? Don’t forget these tips.

Nobody loves job fairs, but think about this: Would employers do them if they didn’t hire some of those attending? Not likely; they wouldn’t spend the time and money. Don’t be disappointed if you don’t have a lot of success, but as they say about lottery tickets: Hey, you never know.

What has worked for you at job fairs? What hasn’t? Be sure to share your experiences by leaving a comment. Don’t forget to follow “Work” and share it with your friends!

Six Crucial Job Search Tactics

With so many job search options, where do you start? That was a question I received from a client yesterday, and one that’s worth a few lines of digital ink. After all, with the many job search sites showing duplicate content, often the same jobs scraped from other sites, it can be confusing and frustrating. Here is what I offered him, and I hope it helps you.

First, start with people you know. If you have a new résumé, you have a terrific reason to contact everyone in your network. Try this: “Hi Mary! I just reworked my résumé and I was hoping that you could take a moment to look at it. I respect your opinion and will appreciate any feedback you have. Thanks!” You can do that by email or phone. If your contact in your network is real, she probably won’t mind doing this for you. Follow up with a thank you and ask her to keep you in mind or pass your résumé along to anyone she thinks would be appropriate.

Identify target companies. Pick some companies that you want to work for. Make a list. Follow them through LinkedIn, Twitter and their corporate sites. Work your LinkedIn network to find someone inside the company you know, or a 2nd level connection to whom you could be introduced. Use Glassdoor and news searches to learn as much about the company as possible. Expand your list as you consider similar companies that you come to learn about in your research.

Pick a single search site, and work it. This is probably going to be your least productive tool, but an effective job search is like our national energy policy: All of the above. Decide which site you like best (See Resu-mazing’s useful sites: http://www.resu-mazing.com/Useful_Sites.html) and get to know it well. Set up search agents. If you are not currently employed, consider posting your résumé to make it searchable and findable by recruiters.

Don’t forget your LinkedIn profile. When your résumé is fresh and new, use it to update your LinkedIn profile. Set your privacy settings to allow you to be found by recruiters.

[See my LinkedIn e-booklet for tons of useful information to create a better profile.]

Remember keywords. As you search and read job postings, you will see the same words and phrases in the descriptions and qualifications. Do your LI profile and résumé reflect what employers need? If not, tune it up. Find different ways to describe your work and results, incorporating the key words that you identify.

Identify recruiters in your field. Remember that recruiters are paid by the employers, not by the candidates, so they are not going to work hard to find you a job. It is up to you to monitor their web sites and establish relationships so that you can present your résumé when they are working on a placement for which you are a credible candidate.

Here’s the straight story. Jobs can come from any of the channels described above. While it is true that personal connections and networking (social recruiting) will produce the best results, companies still find and hire people coming to them from advertising. If they didn’t, why would they spend the time and money doing it? I see good things happen all the time.

Work hard at your search, keep your activities going in each of the areas and stay positive. The interviews and opportunities will come.

Bill Florin, CPRW, is President of Resu-mazing Services Company in Monroe, Connecticut USA.

10 Year End Tweaks & Tips

Reindeer GuyWhat would the end of the year be without lists? Best books, worst movies, most dramatic failures, the most influential people; the list of lists goes on. In that spirit, but hopefully much more useful, are some quick tips and tweaks that you can complete in a few minutes each.

  1. How is your profile photo? If you aren’t happy with your headshot that you use for LinkedIn, Twitter and other sites, take a moment during the holidays to take a new one. You will probably be dressed nicely and with other people, and everyone has a camera, so do it. Don’t wear the reindeer sweater!
  2. Scroll through your LI contacts with this question in mind: “What good work do I remember about this person doing on which I can base a LinkedIn recommendation?” Start at Z in your contacts for a change, and work your way from the bottom. Write the recommendation. It will be a wonderful holiday gift that will be appreciated much more than the Scooby Doo Chia Pet from Walgreen’s.
  3. Review just your current job’s block in your LinkedIn profile. What have you done this year that isn’t included. Update this and your résumé with your 2012 accomplishments.
  4. Again, review your contacts. Whom have you not spoken with in a long time? Send a note or make a call. Check in. Keep your network alive. A “Happy Holidays!” wish is always a great reason call.
  5. Invest some of your downtime (New Year’s Day, perhaps) taking inventory of your volunteer work. You haven’t done any? Check Catchafire or VolunteerMatch for ideas, or look close to home. The Rotary, Lions, faith communities, and the Boys & Girls Clubs are great places to start.
  6. Start that blog you have been thinking about. WordPress and other sites couldn’t be easier to use. You have great ideas to share. What are you waiting for?
  7. Check your privacy settings in your social media accounts. Are they still appropriately set for your needs? While you’re at it, change your passwords to something more secure than 123456.
  8. Update your signature block in your email account. Be sure that it reflects your professional brand as it should and that all information is current.
  9. Actively participate in a different LinkedIn or Quora conversation once a day for a week. See what it does for your thinking, creativity and networking.
  10. Drop the cash for a box of personal business cards. 123Print and Vista Print are good, cheap sources to get your personal networking cards printed.

What are you working on? Do you have other ideas for quick-hit tweaks for the final days of the year? Please share them.

Do you want to know more about Catchafire? Read about my experience here.

Bill Florin, CPRW is the President of Resu-mazing Services Company in Monroe, CT.