A breakdown of your job search in 4 areas

There’s been speculation as to how jobseekers should segment their time for the job search. Some embrace the idea of dedicating a certain amount of time to their job search methods; They have a well-devised plan.

Others don’t give much thought to how they’ll spend their time and energy on the search. This can be a mistake.

Having guidelines, whether you adhere to them or occasionally drop the ball, provide objectives which are necessary to achieve your goals. The job search is not an exact science, however you need a guideline to give yourself direction. Consider the following way of segmenting your job search into job-search methods.

60% Networking related activities

The Department of Labor has stated that at least 60% of jobs are gained through networking, and most pundits would agree that networking is the best use of your time. However, some people have the misconception that attending networking events only constitutes connecting with people who can be of mutual help.

Networking should be a daily event that comes about naturally, such as during family gatherings, on the sidelines of a soccer game, while getting your hair colored, in the grocery store, etc. You must prepared to present yourself in a favorable manner at all times; first impressions count.

Note: Lou Adler, expert recruiter and author of The Essential Guide for Hiring & Getting Hired, recently wrote an article for LinkedIn in which he states networking should constitute 60% of your job search. 

20% LinkedIn

LinkedIn is the best way to network online, period. Facebook and Twitter are great media for communicating real-time, but serious business people and jobseekers use LinkedIn on a regular basis with great success.

I only suggest 20% percent because putting more effort into LinkedIn can make you complacent, believing that it’s a replacement for personal networking. It isn’t! LinkedIn is a great supplement for personal networking.

Once you’ve developed connections on LinkedIn, it’s time to reach out to them and touch them in a personal way: meet with them in person, talk on the phone (if they’re long distance), and at the very least communicate via e-mail.

10% Job Postings/Researching Companies

Estimates for success using this method to search for work only range from 4-10%, according to the well-known Richard Bolles, What Color is Your Parachute.  The image of jobseekers hunched over their computer mechanically zipping résumés into the clouds depresses me.

Why not develop a list of companies for which you’d like to work, follow their progress (or lack thereof), and send a nicely crafted approach letter (which indicates your interest in a possible positions) to the companies that show movement? Or better yet, call them.

Let’s adjust this figure. Spend 5 percent of your time playing the lottery by sending out your generic résumé that most likely will be lost in companies’ huge databases; spend the other 5 percent doing your research and composing introductory letters or making phone calls that will garner greater success.

10% Agency/3rd Party Recruiters

This figure assumes you use agencies or 3rd party recruiters. Some of us stiffs, perhaps more than one would think, don’t use recruiters due to the industry in which we work. So this 10 percent can be thrown out the window for people who haven’t even run across a recruiter.

On the other hand, if you are in an industry where working with recruiters is the norm and you demand a high salary, this figure seems a bit low. Richard Bolles gives this method of job search a 5 to 28 percent chance of success if used alone, taking into consideration the salary requirements of the jobseekers.

Adjustments

If you don’t use recruiters, shift 3 percent across the board. The readjustment would then be:

  • 63 percent dedicated to networking
  • 24 percent LinkedIn
  • 13 percent the job boards and researching companies

Put it in action

I’ve heard pundits claim that creating a weekly schedule to follow is fruitless. I disagree. Having a schedule to follow on a consistent basis gives you structure and objectives toward an attainable goal.

Let’ say you’ll spend 30 hours a week to conduct your job search—a good number, I think, as you’ll want time for other important things in your life. Of those 30 hours you’ll spend 18 combined hours on networking activities, only 3 or 4 of those hours attending networking groups; 6 hours on LinkedIn; and 3 hours online and recruiters.

Of course your plan may be derailed for one reason or another–Uncle Al blows into town. You don’t have time to attend the third networking event of the week. No sweat, get back on track the next week and stick to the theoretical schedule. The most important thing is that you are proactive in your job search, not spending 30 hours a week sending your résumé into the dark void.

5 things to consider for an interview; it’s not all about the hard skills

Recruiters and staffing agencies are not only concerned about job candidates’ hard skills; they’re also concerned about their soft skills. And this makes sense. Who would want to hire a dud who brings the operation down with his attitude? Jon Prete, “Who would you hire: Charlie or Ashton? It’s all about attitude!” and Jeff Haden, “The 5 Biggest Hiring Mistakes,” both emphasize the importance of hiring someone who will be a good fit.

This said, how should you prepare for the job search with this in mind? Here are five areas of your job search to focus on.

Be the round peg for the round hole: “The outstanding salesman with the incredible track record of generating business and terrorizing admin and support staff won’t immediately play well in your sandbox just because you hired him,” writes Haden. Let’s face it; if you’re difficult to work for, you have one strike against you already.

Look at yourself long and hard and determine what areas in your personality you might improve. Also determine in which work environments you feel most comfortable. If you’re a demanding person with little tolerance, you might consider an atmosphere with other demanding people…where you can’t terrorize other people.

Show it on paper: Many jobseekers say writing about their soft skills on their résumé and in their cover letter is irrelevant. This is bunk, especially with your cover letter. I don’t suggest that you use clichés like, “hard worker,” “team player,” “dynamic.” I suggest you illustrate these traits through your accomplishments. Show rather than tell.

A Manufacturing Manager who has a team-work approach and leadership skills might write: Consistently met production deadlines through collaboration with colleagues in various departments and providing effective leadership to (formerly) unmotivated subordinatesResult: Products were shipped to customers with a 97% return rate.

Talk about your soft skills while you’re networking: “I hate bragging at networking events,” I’m constantly told. “Nobody wants to hear about my personal qualities.” Yes they do. If someone is going to recommend you to a solid contact, wouldn’t you like to be assured that she will tell him that you loved what you were doing; you were a positive influence on you co-workers?

Demonstrate your enthusiasm while you’re networking, whether at events or on the sidelines of your daughter’s soccer game. Instead of saying, “I’m innovative”; say, “I came up with ideas that were often implemented and led to significant cost savings.”

Of course demonstrating your soft skills at the interview is important: This goes without saying. Interviewers today are using behavioral questions to find the people with the right attitude. “If crafted properly,” states Prete, “behavioral questions can provide a glimpse into a candidate’s decision-making process as well as their values. [Leadership Development Advisor, Beth Armknecht Miller] believes that a great majority of employees fail in a company because their soft skills and values don’t match those of their manager and company.”

Unlike the résumé where you have limited space, the interview provides you the platform to tell your stories using the STAR (situation, task, action, result) formula. You may be asked about your ability to effectively discipline subordinates. “Tell me about a time when you were effective in disciplining an employee. How did this help the employee perform better?” Have a story ready.

Seal the deal: The interview is not concluded until you’ve sent a follow-up letter, I tell my workshop attendees. This is another opportunity to emphasize your strong personality skills, making you a better fit for the position than other applicants. Many jobseekers fail to send a thank you note, and some don’t get the job for that reason.

A former customer recently wrote me, “The HR person really liked my hand-written thank-you note; said it was rare.” The message here is that you can stand out as a courteous, professional, and follow-through type of candidate simply by sending a thank-you note.

Jobseekers generally think that recruiters and staffing agencies care only about the technical skills. (After all, recruiters can’t present a zebra with orange stripes to their client when a zebra with black stripes is called for.) But two recruiters are telling you that employers want a great personality fit, as well. Take their advice and sell yourself as an all-around employee from the very beginning.

5 rules not to break in the job search: in response to a dismayed recruiter

A recent entry, The Angry Young Job Seeker written by Amy Ala, speaks of the ignorance and downright audacity of a talented gentleman this recruiter was trying to place. Demanding, belligerent, arrogant, are just some of the adjectives I would use to describe the subject of Amy’s account.

In reading the article, you get a sense that the author was trying to help the jobseeker, while also keeping in mind the needs of her client. She demonstrated patience, diplomacy, and understanding. In the end she couldn’t in good conscience recommend the jobseeker for the job. There are those who go to great lengths to help jobseekers find employment.

So when a jobseekers commits follies–like the one Amy was trying to place–it’s hard to believe the lack of common sense they display. It makes one scratch her head and wonder, “What makes people behave this way?” Let’s go over some basic behavior to avoid when engaging in relationships with recruiters, HR, and hiring managers.

  1. Don’t forget your manners. Remember when your parents taught you manners? These manners were meant to be practiced throughout your life. In Amy’s article, the jobseeker surely didn’t exercise his manners and this did him in. He verbalized his displeasure with having to go through another round of interviews, was inflexible in terms of meeting for an interview, and demanded “relo” fees.
  2. Understand the role of a recruiter, Human Resources, and hiring managers. It is their job to find the right person for a position that needs to be filled. If they recommend or hire the wrong person, it doesn’t bode well. Your job is to make them see you as the answer to their prayers, not expect them to be the answer to your prayers.
  3. You are not the center of attention. You are a means to an end, namely serving the organization that hires and houses you. This is an extension of the previous point. Your objective is to get an interview, land the job, and keep the job. As you rise in the ranks, your leveraging power will increase. Until then, do as you’re told.
  4. When the workday ends, those who can help you realize your goal have other obligations. This is my little rule. When the workday ends, I have my kids’ events to attend, not unlimited time to conduct business. Some recruiters, et al, may be more flexible of their own free will or because their job calls for it. In other words, they don’t work for you.
  5. You are better than a buffoon and a squabbling fool—If you’re a bit irritated but generally  agree with what I’ve written, thank heavens. If by chance, you’re saying who the @#%& is he to be stating these rules, chances are you’ll find it very difficult to land and keep a job. But honestly, you’re better than someone who would break these rules, including the jobseeker mentioned in the article.

Keep your dignity. With all this said, don’t be taken advantage of. Any recruiter, HR professional, or hiring manager who treats you wrong isn’t worth his…or her…weight in salt.  Many jobseekers approach me and ask what they should do if they haven’t heard from a recruiter or employer after many attempts of contacting them. I tell them to continue to follow up but don’t hound or stalk them. They’re sending you a message, albeit a poor one. Your dignity is worth more than hounding fools who don’t know your value.

Read the article, and you’ll wonder how The Angry Young Job Seeker could be so clueless. The landscape of the job search has changed and the rules may not favor the jobseeker; but as I tell my jobseekers, eventually it will be a sellers’ market. What a wonderful thing that will be.

Can’t we all get along?

Some of my customers, not all, for the most part think recruiters—internal and third-party alike—are unfair and the reason for their failure to get a job. They think recruiters are only concerned with two things: 1) determining if my customers meet 10 out of 10 requirements and 2) want them to work for peanuts. I know this is not necessarily true, I know that recruiters have a job to do, which is to find what the employer wants. This is how recruiters get paid.

I’ve read some pretty good articles on things that tick recruiters off. There was one from the annoyed recruiter who wrote about how lazy some jobseekers are, like they don’t return her calls when all she’s trying to do is match jobseekers up with her companies. Danielle Powers essentially took jobseekers to task for poor communications. I wrote a response entitled Response to the Frustrated Recruiter Lady to her scathing article.

Most recently Mark Bregman wrote an article entitled Don’t get De-Selected, in which he talks about faux pas jobseekers want to avoid at an interview; six in fact. All common sense to me. And I warn my jobseekers about mistakes to avoid; that’s all I can do. I believe Mark Bregman when he says talking too much or asking too many questions is bad practice. Hell, I hate it when people talk too much.

You see, I agree with how recruiters wish things were, like jobseekers would communicate better and show initiative and think at interviews. I also agree with jobseekers on how they wish things were, like recruiters would return their phone calls—to which recruiters are probably thinking, “Be real, Career Trainer Guy. How can we return tons of telephone calls, and do we want to listen to people whine?”

Another point of contention for my jobseekers is how recruiters start the phone conversation by asking what salary they made at their last job or what is their minimum salary requirement. Between you and me, it’s better to be sure both parties are on the same page, rather than waste time interviewing only to find out they’re so far apart.

Another complaint I hear is, “Don’t mess with my résumé; I spent a lot of time and money having it written.” I know recruiters’ response to this is, “Here’s the thing, Mr. jobseeker, you may have had it written by a professional résumé writer, but my customer (the company) wants to see specific qualifications, even if they go back 20 years.” Hey, I get this; recruiters know what employers want to see on a résumé.

But this isn’t an entry on defending jobseekers or bashing recruiters, because I realize recruiters are under a lot of pressure, pressure to place polygons into polygonal holes, not square ones. I know you gals and guys make a lot of phone calls and listen to some BS now and then, like, “My experience at XYZ Company makes me ideal for the Marketing Directors position.” Even if Ms. Jobseeker’s experience is that of a Marketing Specialist but the President of the 25-employee company allowed her to use on her résumé any title she desired.

What’s the solution? How can we get jobseekers and recruiters to play nice? I suppose the answer is getting both sides to be realistic about the system and the roles each play. I, for one, will try to get the message across to my customers and recruiters. Until then business will go on as usual.

Response to the Frustrated Recruiter Lady

While reading an article titled, “You are the Laziest Jobseeker Ever,” I felt sympathy for a recruiter who writes in near stream of consciousness describing lazy, apathetic jobseekers. From the sounds of it, she had certainly had enough of jobseekers who don’t give a damn. She is a frustrated recruiter lady.

I once wrote an article on jobseekers who actually care about their hunt and make great efforts, despite being rejected many times over. They are the people I meet on a regular basis in my workshops and coach them through the process, the ones who go about the search the proper way—networking, sending targeted résumés, using LinkedIn, etc. They are not the ones portrayed in this article from the Frustrated Recruiter Lady.

Frustrated Recruiter Lady describes in her article jobseekers I optimistically like to think don’t exist, ones I conveniently store in the back of my mind. They are the people over whom my colleagues and I pull our hair out. “Does this person want this job?! He won’t even return a phone call on a sure thing. The employer says she wants him,” we say with exasperation. But these jobseekers are far and few between.

Frustrated Recruiter Lady exasperatingly writes that when a jobseeker responds to her with a fragmented e-mail instead of a well thought-out cover letter, it is inexcusable and deserves her wrath. She writes, “THEY did not sign their names or include their phone numbers which means that I had to go back to CareerBuilder to look them up… well guess what YOU MOVE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE LIST THAT WAY!”

Chill out, lady, I want to say when she overuses those all-cap words. Doesn’t she know writing in all caps is like shouting? But I can also  understand why she is misusing capitalization; she is frustrated, as I would be.

“So I am not going to dig back through Careerbuilder to find you again?” she continues. “Yes I most likely saved you in a folder or put you on my work list, but still, your lack of investment in the process makes me think you are flighty.”

This is how she reacts when she gets a response like, “I’ll get back to you.” I’ll get back to you? No, I think, you should answer Frustrated Recruiter Lady’s message IMMEDIATELY. (Yes, I’m shouting.)

I have to admit that my desire to help this type of apathetic jobseeker is minimal at best. The way it works with recruiters is that they are not working for the jobseekers; they’re working for the companies that pay them money to satisfy a very important need—filling a vacant or soon to be vacant position. They are not the jobseeker’s best friend, but by helping their customer, they are ultimately helping the jobseeker. They’re simply the middleman…woman. The jobseeker holds only one card, the card that tells them to put it on the line.

The recruiter is the person who won’t or can’t penetrate the walls of companies who prefer to engage in the Hidden Job Market.

I understand Frustrated Recruiter Lady’s annoyance, and it’s not because of the way she capitalizes the eleven words above. It’s the same way I feel when I’m leading a workshop and an attendee forgets to turn off her cell phone. And when it rings she doesn’t turn it off. She lets it ring until I mockingly say, “I like that ringtone. Where did you get it?” Many in the room laugh at my sarcasm.

Yes, Frustrated Recruiter Lady, it should be the way you want it to be, as long as you’re fair and honest and care one little bit about your next-body-to-fill-a-position person. When you think about it, the job of a recruiter can be difficult. So give her the respect she’s owed and pick up the phone or send a cover letter. That’s the way the game is played.

One of my jobseekers approached me the other day and asked if she should send a quick text to a recruiter’s inquiry or reply with a well-thought-out cover letter and résumé. I smiled and, of course, told her to play her card the right way.

Recruiters advised to interview properly; jobseekers advised to be well prepared

Listen up jobseekers! Recruiters are looking for and finding better ways to interview you. In-house or third-party recruiters are being advised to find the right candidate, not the one who interviews best, but the one who can do the job. The one who can still do the job six months from the time he/she’s hired. 

What does this mean to you? Everything recruiters are advised to do, you must follow their lead…and more.

In Ben’s (simply Ben) article, 5 Ways a Recruiter can Improve Their Interview Technique, posted on http://www.recruitersblog.com/, this recruiter offers his colleagues some sage advice on how to hire the best talent through proper interviewing techniques and attitude. What he has to tell his colleagues is exactly what those of you who seek the help of recruiters should know. What follows are a few of Ben’s notable points.

Recruiters shouldn’t base their decision on interview “performance.”

There are those who interview well but can’t do the job. In other words they’re frauds. Conversely, there are those who don’t interview so well, but can do the job. They suffer a bout of stage fright. Ideally recruiters would like to present people who have both qualities to the hiring manager; but the latter is much more preferable than the former. Side note: unfortunately performing well is still something you must strive to do. Prove you can do the job and then do it.

“I’m sure we’ve all had experiences we’re we’ve hired someone because we got on with them at the interview stage,” Ben writes.  “Then, six months into the role, he or she were still great people but couldn’t/struggled to achieve what was required of them in the first place.”

Don’t focus on first impressions.

Another thing I admire about Ben’s thinking is how he tells his colleagues to deemphasize the first impression interviewers make. Don’t ignore it completely, but don’t make it a deciding factor like we’ve heard done so often in the past. Some say a recruiter or employer will make his/her decision within the first 30 seconds. Here’s what Ben suggests to his colleagues:

“My challenge to you? Be really disciplined on this one. Take those first impressions (we’re all human after all and can’t switch off this natural reaction) but park them.  Write them down somewhere at the beginning of the interview and refer to it again at the end to compare with your final thoughts.”

Use behavioral interview techniques.

One last thing I’d like to point out is the value of behavioral questions. Ben nails this one on the head when he talks about speculative responses as opposed to proven responses. All of us can rehearse for the traditional questions, but the answers we provide to a behavioral question are proven over and over to be accurate…and truthful:

“Just because a candidate says they will do something in 5 weeks time if X Y or Z happens doesn’t mean they actually will.  Instead of asking them what they would do if something happened simply switch the question around.  Ask them for specific examples where they’ve encountered that situation and what they actually did. What were the results? What were the challenges? What were the biggest lessons and how did they change as a result?”

Job search advisors are hearing more and more about how recruiters are employing the best practices to present the right people to the employers, candidates who have not only the technical skills but the transferable and adaptive ones as well. Jobseekers can hope that recruiters and employers will practice best interview techniques, but they must also be prepared for poor interviewers.

Recruiters and staffing agencies say your soft skills are important too

Based on two recent blogs I read on LinkedIn Today (a great feature), recruiters and staffing agencies are not only concerned about job candidates’ hard skills; they’re also concerned about their soft skills. And this makes sense. Who would want to hire a dud who brings the operation down with his attitude? Jon Prete, “Who would you hire: Charlie or Ashton? It’s all about attitude!” and Jeff Haden, “The 5 Biggest Hiring Mistakes,” both emphasize the importance of hiring someone who will be a good fit.

This said, how should you prepare for the job search with this in mind? Here are five areas of your job search to focus on.

1)       Be the round peg for the round hole: “The outstanding salesman with the incredible track record of generating business and terrorizing admin and support staff won’t immediately play well in your sandbox just because you hired him,” writes Haden.

Let’s face it; if you’re difficult to work for, you have one strike against you already. Look at yourself long and hard and determine what areas in your personality you might improve. Also determine in which work environments you feel most comfortable. If you’re a demanding person with little tolerance, you might consider an atmosphere with other demanding people…where you can’t terrorize other people.

2)      Show it on paper: Many jobseekers say writing about their soft skills on their résumé and in their cover letter is irrelevant. This is bunk, especially with your cover letter. I don’t suggest that you use clichés like, “hard worker,” “team player,” “dynamic.” I suggest you illustrate these traits through your accomplishments. Show rather than tell.

A Manufacturing Manager who has a team-work approach and leadership skills might write: Consistently met production deadlines through collaboration with colleagues in various departments and providing effective leadership to (formerly) unmotivated subordinates. Result: Products were shipped to customers with a 97% return rate.

3)      Talk about your soft skills while you’re networking: “I hate bragging at networking events,” I’m constantly told. “Nobody wants to hear about my personal qualities.” Yes they do. If someone is going to recommend you to a solid contact, wouldn’t you like to be assured that she will tell him that you loved what you were doing; you were a positive influence on you co-workers? Demonstrate your enthusiasm while you’re networking, whether at events or on the sidelines of your daughter’s soccer game. Instead of saying, “I’m innovative”; say, “I came up with ideas that were often implemented and led to significant cost savings.”

4)      Of course demonstrating your soft skills at the interview is important: This goes without saying. Interviewers today are using behavioral questions to find the people with the right attitude. “If crafted properly,” states Prete, “behavioral questions can provide a glimpse into a candidate’s decision-making process as well as their values. [Leadership Development Advisor, Beth Armknecht Miller] believes that a great majority of employees fail in a company because their soft skills and values don’t match those of their manager and company.”

Unlike the résumé where you have limited space, the interview provides you the platform to tell your stories using the STAR (situation, task, action, result) formula. You may be asked about your ability to effectively discipline subordinates. “Tell me about a time when you were effective in disciplining an employee. How did this help the employee perform better?” Have a story ready.

5)      Seal the deal: The interview is not concluded until you’ve sent a follow-up letter, I tell my workshop attendees. This is another opportunity to emphasize your strong personality skills, making you a better fit for the position than other applicants. Many jobseekers fail to send a thank you note, and some don’t get the job for that reason.

A former customer recently wrote me, “The HR person really liked my hand-written thank-you note; said it was rare.” The message here is that you can stand out as a courteous, professional, and follow-through type of candidate simply by sending a thank-you note.

Jobseekers generally think that recruiters and staffing agencies care only about the technical skills. (After all, recruiters can’t present a zebra with orange stripes to their client when a zebra with black stripes is called for.) But two recruiters are telling you that employers want a great personality fit, as well. Take their advice and sell yourself as an all-around employee from the very beginning.

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