Make the effort; tailor your résumé

Recently a jobseeker in my Résumé Writing workshop surprised me with an explosion of frustration. It bordered on anger. He certainly was incensed. I was talking about the importance of writing a tailored-made résumé for each job. He said, “You mean we have to write a separate résumé for every job? You can’t be serious.”

This was a moment for pause—pause is good when you want to make a point. “Why yes,” I said to him. “Because here’s the thing. Employer A has different needs than employer B, and employer C, and D, and E, and so on.” Your résumé needs to talk to the needs of each and every employer or it’s really doing you no good.

Whatever you to call it: “Cookie Cutter,” “Résumé in a Box,” “One-Fits-All,” this lack of concerted effort demonstrates to the employer that she’s not special. You fail to highlight the outstanding accomplishments related to the job she’s offering. Sure, you list some outstanding accomplishments, but you’re making her hunt for them, making her work.

Martin Yate says it nicely in his blog . “Have you ever looked at a Swiss army knife? It’s got knife blades, bottle openers, screwdrivers…it does practically everything. But companies aren’t hiring human Swiss army knives. They are hiring human lasers, with exceptional skills focused in a specific area.”

Some jobseekers believe that employers want to see everything they’ve done in their many years of work, when in fact employers are more interesting in knowing that you can meet their specific needs, address their specific problems.

The only way to offer them a human laser rather than a Swiss Army knife is by understanding the nature of the job and the nuances of the company. This will require thinking like the employer, who when writing the job ad has some very important requirements in mind for the next candidate she hires.” This will require you to carefully dissect the ad and decipher the accomplishments.

Make the effort. Yate states that your résumé is your most important financial document. It determines the rest of your life.

My nomination for Person of the Year

Time just came out with their Person of the Year award and, as we all know, the winner is The Protesters, which I think is grand. A great deal of good came out of protests in the Middle East, and I won’t comment on the Occupiers in fear of offending one side of the political spectrum or the other. Time’s choice was…interesting.

Some thought Steve Jobs should have won Person of the Year. He didn’t even make the Short List. The leader of the Elite Six Navy Seals, William McRaven, made the short list; great choice. Kate Middleton made the short list as well? The fact is you’ll never get everyone to agree on the same person/people. But my Person of the Year should have at least made the Short List.

My person of the year is The Jobseeker. The Jobseeker carried him/herself with dignity and professionalism. He/she networked and paid it forward, wrote powerful résumés resulting in interviews, and finally (after more than a year, in some cases), landed a job.

But there were many Jobseekers who demonstrated true heroism throughout the entire year, simply by the way they handled themselves. Perhaps they didn’t land their job, but they never gave up in the face of adversity. And they’ll continue to put forth the same effort that make them honorable, in my mind. They:

  • Woke up every morning to put in a full day of hunting for work, leaving no stones unturned and considering every possibility.
  • Maintained that screw-the-economy-I-will-get-a-job attitude.
  • Knew that every day was a day when they might have run into a person who could hire them, or someone who knew a person who could have hired them; thus dressed ready for the moment, even in my workshops.
  • Took a break every once and awhile to recharge the batteries, but not too long of a break. A day or two at the most. They networked during the holidays.
  • Followed their career plan of revising the résumé, creating a list of companies they research and contacted, building a LinkedIn profile that meets today’s standards, and other best practices.
  • Attended workshops and took advantage of job-search pundits’ advice, learning that things have changed in the past ten years but, nonetheless, trudged on.
  • Accepted and embraced the Hidden Job Market, making penetrating it a priority in their job search plan.
  • Attended interview after interview until they hit a homerun with an employer smart enough to hire them. The Jobseeker never gave up, despite the challenges they encountered.
  • Never forgot the important things in life, like family and friends, and taking care of their health. They didn’t let the job search consume them.
  • Faced the despondency or depression they encountered with courage and perseverance.

These are just a few of the reasons why The Jobseeker gets my vote for Person of the Year. If you think of others, let us know by commenting on this article. I think I should send my reasons to Time and demand a recount.

Don’t be stumped at the interview; ask questions about 3 major areas

How often have you come to the end of an interview and drawn a blank when it was your time to ask the questions? The interview has proceeded like a pleasant conversation in which you’ve asked questions throughout, but now you’re stumped. Hopefully this hasn’t happened too often or not at all. But even the most qualified candidates have a moment of letdown and lose the interview because they were unprepared.

It’s extremely important that you have insightful questions to ask at the end of an interview. It shows your interest in the job and the company, and it shows that you’re prepared, all of which the employer likes to know.

So what types of questions do you want to ask? What is the employer hoping to hear? Not “How much time do I get for lunch?” nor “What are the work hours?” nor “What’s the salary for this position?” In other words, no stupid question that will reflect poorly on you.

Arrive prepared for the interview. Before the interview write 10-15 questions on a sheet of paper or note cards. If you think you can remember them, simply tuck them in your leather binder for safekeeping. However, you may need assistance when your nerves are rattled and you’ve reached the point of exhaustion, in which case you can ask if you can refer to your written questions. Interviewers will generally allow you to read your answers off your sheet or note cards.

There are three general areas on which to focus your questioning: the position, the company, and the competition.

The position. Don’t ask questions you could find by reading the job description; rather ask questions that demonstrate your advanced knowledge. For example, the ad says you’ll be required to manage a supervisor and 10 employees. You realize that a start-up company might not have the resources to train its supervisors in Lean Six Sigma, and you want to highlight your certificate as a Black Belt.

“I’d be curious to know if the current supervisor is certified in Lean Six Sigma, and if not would your company consider having me give him a basic course in LSS?” The answer is yes to your question, so you follow with another question that could lead to further conversation. “Would you like to talk further about how I can save your company money by training your supervisor?”

This question shows a legitimate concern for quality performance but also demonstrates your willingness to improve the supervisor’s knowledge, your ability to solve problems, and your desire to save the company money. Always ask questions that indicate you’re concerned most with what the company needs, not what you need.

The company. Like the questions you’ll ask about the position, research is essential for this area of questioning. Your research should entail more than visiting the company’s website and reading its marketing material—everything written will extol its superior products or services. In addition, talk to people in the company who can give you the good, bad, and ugly of the company.

“I’ve read on your website and spoken with some of the people here who verify that your customer satisfaction rate is very high. Could you tell me if there are issues your customers have that need to be addressed immediately?”

The interviewers are happy to hear that you’re thinking about satisfying customers and indicate there have been some complaints about late shipments.

“In that case, I can assure you that late shipments will dramatically decrease. We may have failed to talk about the role I had at my previous company which had me oversee shiping and create a system that decreased late shipments by 35%, thereby saving the company thousands of dollars in returns. Would you like to talk about how I can help your company improve shipping processes?”

The competition. The company has one company that is giving it headaches. It’s a sore topic, but you want to make the interviewers aware that you are coming in with your eyes wide open. Your research has told you that the other company is competing for some market share in the widget product.

“I’m aware of company XYZ’s movement in its widget. What are your concerns, if any, Company XYZ poses in this market? I have ideas of how to market your similar product to your customers. Would you like to hear them?”

After a great conversation, where you’ve answered the interviewers’ questions and asked some of your own,  it’s your turn to ask more questions. Don’t go to the interview unprepared to ask the interviewers illuminating questions of your own. Failing to ask quality questions can mean he difference between getting or not getting the job.

5 habits to break during the job search

If there were one habit I’d like to break, it would be drinking coffee in the morning, on the way to work, and when taking my kids to their events in the evenings; the family joke when we get in the car is, “Dad, do you have your coffee?” I’ve had this habit for so long that I can’t imagine a day without coffee.

Habits are hard to break. Taking steps to correct them take small victories, which eventually lead to winning the battle. Just as there are habits in life, there are also habits that develop in the job search. Here are five habits you as a jobseeker must break.

  1. Believing that a résumé is enough to land an interview. It’s not hard to understand why this habit is one tough cookie to crack. The message that your résumé is enough is prevalent in the job search, where misguided job experts say the first thing you need to do is write or update your résumé. And once you’ve accomplished this, a job is bound to come around.
  2. Shotgunning résumés. How you’ve been taught to deliver your résumé is old school. I’ve heard some jobseekers say with pride that they send out five résumés a day. This means two things: one, they aren’t tailoring their résumés to individual companies and two, they’re not leaving their computers and making contact. A few well-placed résumés are better than hundreds of unfocused résumés to no one in particular.
  3. Shyness. Another habit that’s hard to break for some jobseekers is following their shy self. Your shy self tells you “Don’t tell people you’re looking for a job, even your staunch supporters like your family and friends….Don’t network with other jobseekers or business people….Don’t ask your former supervisors and managers for a written recommendation for LinkedIn.” Your shy self has been with you while you’ve worked, so it’s hard to shake off.
  4. Using the Internet for the wrong reasons. This habit might be the hardest one to break: using the Internet for online shopping, playing Farm Land and Mafia Wars, Googling for the best deal on a vacation spot; essentially using the Internet for the wrong reasons now in your life. It’s a bad sign when I ask jobseekers if they’re using LinkedIn and even Twitter and Facebook for their job search, and they give me a deer-in-the-headlights look.
  5. Stopping a good thing once you’ve gotten a job: A story I like to tell about a former jobseeker is how when he started using LinkedIn, he wasn’t a true believer. Then he got a job and his activity picked up three-fold. I asked him if he was in the job hunt again. To this he replied that one should never stop networking, especially when one’s working. Some people tend to think all networking should cease while they’re working; they become complacent. Don’t fall into this trap.

Habits, like drinking coffee night and day, are difficult to conquer but not impossible. Once you turn your habits into productive ones, you’ll feel a sense of accomplishment and your job search will be more successful.

Make room for supporting skills on your résumé

Guest article from Martin Yate, CPC, author, Knock ‘em Dead Series.

If you want your résumé pulled from the databases and read with serious attention, it’s common knowledge that it needs to focus on the skills you bring to a single target job. However, employers still want to know about your supporting skills.

For example a colleague and hiring manager in the IT world says, “ I don’t just want to see evidence that someone is a hotshot in say, the .NET Framework; I also want to see that they can get around with other languages, so that I know (a) that they understand programming as distinct from just .NET, and (b) that if my company introduces a new programming language/development environment in the future, I have someone who will be able to handle that with ease.”

To satisfy these understandable needs, your resume must nevertheless

1. Be data-dense enough, with that data focused on the “must have” skills of the job to get your résumé ranked high enough in database searches. A recruiter will not read your résumé unless it ranks in the top 20 of that recruiter’s database search; because twenty résumé is about as deep as they ever go.

2. No one enjoys screening résumé, and the process is initially visual, in that recruiters scan a résumé for key content and will naturally favor those résumé where the layout enables a reader to rapidly access key information.

These factors contribute to the need for your résumé to have a laser focus on a target job: the résumé’s goal is to get you into conversation and if it speaks clearly and succinctly to capabilities as described in your analysis of Job Postings it will do so. This approach is proven and it is the default starting point for a productive résumé.

You can still get this important supporting skills information into your résumé, without taking up too much room, by using a Core Competencies section. This will come at the front of your résumé, after contact information, your Target Job Title and any Performance Profile or Summary.

The Core Competencies section is a simple list of all the skills that you bring to the job. You’ll start with those skills most important to your Target Job; but you can also add all those skills, that support your all-around professionalism.

Here’s an example of a Core Competencies section from an operations management resume:

Professional Core Competencies

Strategic Business Planning Project Management Cross-Functional Team Building
IT/IS Human Resource Issues Employee Benefits
Risk Management Hiring, Training & Coaching Negotiations
Research & Analysis Financial Modeling Business Modeling
Portfolio Management Acquisitions & Divestitures Policies & Procedures

Adding a Core Competencies section to the front end of your résumé and then repeating those same words in the context of the jobs in which they were used has two major benefits

  • It’s a concise review of all the hard skills you bring to the table and is a real attention grabber to a recruiter
  • It multiplies the occurrence of keywords likely to be used by recruiters in the database searches and will dramatically improve your resume‘s ranking

You can learn much more about resumes in Knock em Dead Resumes & Templates on the book pages here at http://www.knockemdead.com
Courtesy, www.KnockEmDead,com

5 ways to position your career brand

To my jobseekers I assert that career branding is a lot like business branding—the big difference, of course, is that they’re selling themselves to get a job, not to increase profit for a company. Nonetheless, the two are similar.

An article posted on MagneticLook.com by Silvia Pencak talks about business branding, e.g., Apple, Mercedes, and unique small businesses, but also brings to mind how jobseekers can brand themselves to employers. Ms. Pencak notes that there are ways to strategically brand a business but makes it clear that it’s not at the expense of trashing other companies. She writes:

But before I do it, it’s important to understand that the objective of brand positioning is not to bring your competitors down, but to outshine them by performing better and more efficiently cater to the needs of the industry’s customers.

Based on a business model, there are five ways that jobseekers can brand themselves.

  1. A low-cost leadership strategy. This is not to say that as a leader, you must present yourself as someone who will work for free or for a low salary. You will come across as someone whose leadership abilities will pay for itself over and over. You are a leader who crafted your subordinates into excellent workers, some of whom became leaders themselves.
  2. A broad differentiation strategy. You attract employers from many industries which produce many products or services. You are not limited in your talents and experience, and have accomplishments to back it up. You sell yourself as someone who “wears many hats,” while remaining extremely effective.
  3. A best-cost provider strategy. Your are someone who offers potential employers a multi-dimensional employee who brings with her not only excellent technical skills but transferable ones as well. A project manager or engineer who also demonstrates excellent presentation skills, offers employers two employees for the price of one.
  4. A focused strategy based on lower costs. You know the benefits of working for smaller companies but realize that salaries are generally smaller. The small start-up wants to reduce costs (salaries) but needs two employees, a project manager and inside sales rep. Both jobs are within your realm, so you propose to be hired to perform both tasks at 75% of what it would cost to hire two employees, thus saving the company a boatload of money and meeting your salary needs.
  5. A focused strategy based on differentiation. You have a strategy or plan not only for yourself but for the company or organization as well. You have career goals that are attainable and in synch with your future employer. You differentiate yourself from other jobseekers as someone who can meet your goals, which is not the case for your competitors.

These are five business strategies that you must use to beat the competition. You as a jobseekers must develop strategies that enable you to beat your competition and land the job. To be able to perform at the top of your field is not enough; you must be able to communicate it in your verbal and written communications…otherwise you’re talents and accomplishments will be unknown.

Is it possible to separate career branding and personal branding? Is there a fine line? Mary Appleton makes a valid point in an article she shared with me that personal branding is important in terms of highlighting your personality skills. She writes in her response to this article:

In addition though, I think it’s really important for job seekers to define their own personal brand, which comes down to personality and determines whether you’re the right cultural fit. The art of personal branding can be hard to master, particularly as it’s not easy for people to get into the habit of thinking of themselves as a ‘product’ they need to market.

How true!

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