Monthly Archives: June 2011

What documents do you need to conduct a successful job hunt?

I recently read an article from Laura Smith-Proulx, CCMC, CPRW, CIC, TCCS, CPBA, COPNS, on the types of documents executive-level jobseekers should have in their arsenal. She is correct in asserting that a résumé is not enough to conduct a successful job search.

I am sharing her article with you (below) with this addendum; the documents she suggests for high-level jobseekers (executive biography, LinkedIn profile, cover letter, and full Résumé) are not exclusive to them. Mid-level people in the job hunt can benefit from these documents, as well. Read on to learn what Laura has to say:

If you’re an executive planning your next career move, it might surprise you to learn that you’ll be judged by more than just your resume during your job search.

In other words, a full resume is NOT necessarily the best fit for every job search contact.

Surprised? You’ll find that recruiters, company owners, Boards of Directors, and other hiring decision-makers often look at your experience through a series of interviews and investigations—which means that your executive resume is just one part of the process.

Here are 4 must-have documents for an executive portfolio designed to capture attention at all the right levels—along with recommendations for the timing of each component:

1 – Executive Biography.
A short, narrative-form document, the Biography often appeals to readers that are not engaged in the technical detail of a full resume.

The best readers for an Executive Biography are usually networking contacts (who are easily overwhelmed by a full resume) or Boards of Directors (who typically interview you in the later stages of the hiring process).

2 – LinkedIn Profile.
While not technically a “document” created just for job hunting, your LinkedIn Profile is a critical—and often underutilized—piece of an executive portfolio.

Most executives set up a Profile very quickly and then abandon it, becoming preoccupied with their work, which is a costly job-hunting mistake.

Your LinkedIn Profile may actually be the first piece of information encountered by a recruiter. Therefore, it must be polished, professional, and keyword-heavy (to aid others in finding you through LinkedIn’s search engine).

3 – Cover Letter.
Despite the myth that hiring authorities rarely read cover letters, some audiences (company owners, CEOs, and Presidents) might not even glance at your resume until they’ve fully digested the contents of your letter.

These groups are usually probing for leadership abilities that they feel are more evident within the letter. Investors, in particular, like to read a very short, bottom-line value proposition letter, in lieu of a resume.

In short, don’t write off a cover letter as an important document in the hiring process, as you might find that it was this part of your portfolio that influenced an interviewing decision.

4 – Full Resume.
Not a month goes by when a social media or recruiting expert poses the question, “Is the resume dead?” No, the need for a resume won’t go away soon. You’ll absolutely be asked to send your resume to many contacts at different stages of your search.

No matter who reads it, an executive resume serves as the centerpiece of your presentation, and therefore must convince employers of your brand, value proposition, and leadership standing—no small feat.

Often, the best readers of a full resume will those that thrive on analytical detail (such as operations or technology executives hiring EVP and Director-level candidates).

In summary, an executive portfolio is a must for serious job hunters ready to assume a leadership role. The days of distributing an executive resume without backup in the form of an Executive Biography, LinkedIn Profile, or Cover letter are gone.

Your job search will be smoother, faster, and more effective with a well-rounded and branded portfolio that appeals to the diverse audiences you’ll encounter.


10,000 hours dedicated to your job search may be too much, but the time you put in will make a difference

If you think Bill Gates and the Beatles were successful because of their innate talent alone, Malcolm Gladwell offers another reason for their success, which he outlines in his book Outliers. Outliers are people who separate themselves from the “ordinary” because of their success, which is due in part because of the 10,000-hour rule. This rule asserts that the time one spends on a certain activity can often predict his/her success.

Gates, for instance, was given the opportunity to practice on personal computers at a private secondary school he attended when personal computers arrived on the scene. This was before he attended, and dropped out of, Harvard and later developed Microsoft.

The Beatles were given the opportunity to play eight hours a day in Hamburg, Germany, when they started out. Gates and the Beatles were driven and talented individuals, of course, but having logged over 10,000 hours to perfect their art made a huge difference, according to Gladwell.

What Gladwell’s 10,000-hour theory has to do with the job search is similar to the amount of time you must put into your search. In other words, your success is proportional to the hours you dedicate to it. However, you can’t dive into your job search without having a plan of attack. Your plan has to demonstrate vision with results. Here are the five most important elements of your job search:

  1. Determining your work values and assessing your skills.
  2. Revising your résumé to fit today’s résumé.
  3. Networking with a purpose.
  4. Polishing your interview techniques, both traditional and behavioral.
  5. Maintaining that positive attitude.

I hope your job search doesn’t require 10,000 hours, or 1.2 years. Forty hours a week for six months (or 960 hours) is probably more than some of you would like to spend on your search. One of the points Gladwell makes in this “must-read” book is that success doesn’t come from only raw talent; it comes from practice and hard work. Read the Outliers. There are many other stories about how people became successful, including timing and their ethnicity.

Grab an employer’s attention with your cover letter; don’t be boring

The Wall Street Journal online, gives some sound advice on writing a cover letter, How to Write a Cover Letter. Like any article, there are some points on which one agrees and disagrees. For example, recommends that you include a quote from a supervisor that praises an accomplishment or two. What someone else says about you carries more weight than if you write it.

On the other hand, the article suggests you use a post script at the end, as in “PS. Did I mention that I was voted best employee four months in a row?” Obviously you forgot to mention it, so why bring it to their attention?

A very important point. I was a bit disappointed that the article didn’t advise jobseekers to do something I think is commonsense. This is to write an opening line that grabs an employer’s attention with what is called a “tag line” or a “hook.” This is similar to how the first two or three pages of a novel will entice you to buy the book.

We are used to seeing an opening like: “I read on with great excitement about the Marketing Specialist position and am submitting my résumé in consideration for the position.” Boring.

Instead, start your cover letter with something that shows personality. The piece mentions researching the position and company, so use this information in your cover letter. “Twice voted employee of the year at company ABC, I will bring to your company a dynamic Marketing Specialist that will help your company excel in the corrugated box market.”

Perhaps you’d like to show your knowledge of some challenges the industry is facing: “With the employment rate growing and fewer jobs being advertised, I realize the need for jobseekers to learn how to penetrate the Hidden Job Market (HJM) by networking. I am champion of the unemployed and would like to bring my knowledge of the labor market to your organization.”

I find these two openings more interesting and eye-grabbers than the traditional, boring, predictable openers. You can come across as the typical jobseeker, or you can separate yourself from the normal. Unique is in, boring is out.

Go a step further with your cover letter. One of Katharine Hansen latest blog entries on cover letters talks about how story telling can add some character to your cover letter.  To close this entry I highlight her view on how stories can spice up a cover letter and  have chosen quotes from two of her contributors. Katharine writes, “But many of the cover-letter wants and needs that hiring decision-maker opinions expressed in the report could be met by stories in cover letters.”

[I want to see] a cover letter that shows some personality as we are looking for someone who will complement our company culture and will fit in. — Sheri Graciano, human resource manager, Sacramento Convention & Visitors Bureau

I want to be tantalized and teased by a cover letter! I do not want a rehash of the resume. I want to see the 3-4 juicy accomplishments from a candidate’s career (that match my advertised need). These highlights must excite me to such a level that this candidate becomes a can’t-miss prospect. If I am not swept away by the cover letter, then reading the resume is often anti-climactic and doomed for failure. — Ron Kubitz, recruiting manager, Brayman Construction Corp., Saxonburg, PA

Be strong at the interview; Nowitzki vs. James

During the NBA Finals, I wrote with great anticipation about the Dallas Mavericks hopefully beating the Miami Heat. My son and I wanted the Mavs to beat the Heat because 1) they knocked our beloved Celtics out of the play-offs and 2) we despised the way Lebron James made a circus out of leaving Cleveland, practically claiming to be the chosen one.

Maverick players were getting it done by being demonstrative and touching each other by high-fiving, patting butts, handshakes, etc. I related this to management’s attempt to raise morale as a great thing and that companies need more of it.

Now I’d like to talk about Dirk Nowitzki and Lebron James and how they are analogous to jobseekers vying for the same position. No one will stage a great debate as to whether James is better than Nowitzki; James is a dominant, every-coaches-dream player…at least on paper.

What I’m going to assert is that if you’re not the best person on paper (Nowitzki), it doesn’t mean you’re not the best one for job. I’m referring to your résumé, which may indicate a lack of certain job-related skills. It may not be the best one submitted for the job, but keep in mind that a résumé doesn’t get the job; the interview does.

Although a great résumé helps in getting to the interview, a good one can accomplish this, as well. Let’s go back to James and Nowitzki. On paper James is king, but during the playoffs, Nowitzki ruled. To further the analogy, let’s look at the playoffs as the interview.

Interviewers often look for the intangibles in job candidates. They see that the other candidate for a Marketing Manager position, for instance, has the prerequisite skills, while you’re missing a few and not coming across, on paper, as not the strongest candidate (Nowitzki). What’s your plan of action?

  1. At the interview demonstrate your enthusiasm for the job and mention your strong personal and transferable skills whenever you can. You show initiative, hustle (another word for work hard) and are willing to dive for every ball. You’re a true leader who inspires your colleagues to do their best.
  2. Take every moment to explain your accomplishments and how they raised revenue, saved money, and improved processes at your last job. Quantify your results with numbers, dollars, and percentages. Use the Situation/Task, Action, Result (STAR) formula to tell your stories.
  3. Be prepared to answer the tough questions, one of which will be, “Why should we hire you?” or some deviation of this. You can do the job, will do the job, and will fit in, is the foundation for this answer. Rattle off the requirements you meet, not the ones you don’t; talk about your love for the company and all it stands for; and mention how you were respected, not feared, by all your colleagues.
  4. Appear confident and unstressed by questions regarding the technical skills you may lack. One of which might be your experience with direct mail. Talk about experiences that required total organizational, follow-through, management, and cool-under-pressure skills. Don’t spend the alloted two minutes answering this question.
  5. Do your due diligence: follow up the interview with a thank-you note that reiterates your strong abilities to do the job. Don’t revisit the one area of the position where you lack the experience; rather focus on the ones where you do. Be gracious of the time the employer took interviewing you. Address any potential problem the company has that was raised during the interview; explain in detail how you can help them solve it.

Keep in mind the words of Rick Carlisle, the manager of the Mavericks, “Our team is not about individual ability, it’s about collective will, collective grit, collective guts.” Employers look for the intangibles job candidates have, what they can do for the company in the future. If your lack of experience is insurmountable, take pride in the effort you put forth at the interview. It was Nowitzki and his team that beat James and the Heat, despite how the King looked on paper.

What to do about the Current field on your LinkedIn profile, if you’re not working? Show your volunteer experience.

Your Current field on LinkedIn is one of the first thing employers and visitors see. It’s in your Snap Shot below your Update field. So there are two general rules; 1) don’t list the company for which you used to work and 2) don’t hide your Current field if you can help it.

By keeping your past employment in this field, you are being dishonest and hurting your chances of getting a job (employers will think you’re working, or they will see you as a fraud when they find out the truth.) I’ve seen LinkedIn users practices this art of deception and, to me,  it’s a turn-off, so imagine how an employer would feel if he/she were to be duped into thinking you were currently employed.

But hiding it will eliminate some very valuable real estate that could be used to help your job search significantly. You’re not currently working, so you’re wondering what to do with this valuable real estate. The answer is simple. If you’re volunteering, display your volunteer work.

The bottom line is that employers want to see that you’re keeping busy. They want to see that you’re developing new skills or knowledge. You don’t want to come across as spending hours upon hours on the Internet sending your résumé into (shall we use a cliché?) the black hole. This is why your volunteer experience is important to show on your LinkedIn profile.

Here is an example of how a jobseeker uses his volunteer experience to fill his Current field:

Community Volunteer, Networker and Administrative Assistant (position) Program Development industry (industry) August 2008 – Present (2 years 7 months)

  • Engineer at Hampstead Community Access Television: bringing 28-year-old cable TV station up to date. Member of Hampstead Cable Television Advisory Board.
  • Founder of PMI New Hampshire Chapter’s networking group – netPM.
  • Facilitator/advisor to Acton Networkers, NHnetWORKS, Nutfield Networking, Nashua After Hours Networking and Dynamic Networking groups.
  • Participant in project/program/product management webinars on a weekly basis.

Doesn’t this look more impressive than hiding the Current field, or worse yet, falsifying your current situation?

But I don’t volunteer, you may say. To which I would say, “Get out there and volunteer. Volunteer for a good cause; to obtain more skills; network; feel useful; and to pad your résumé. The Current field is also a great place to show that you’re in training and what courses you’re taking.

There are plenty of organizations and businesses that will take your services free of charge, just as long as you don’t require hand-holding. But this entry is not about volunteering; it’s about making your LinkedIn profile as complete as possible. If volunteering rubs you the wrong way because you won’t get paid, then consider making the sacrifice for your Current Field.

Don’t overlook the value of One-Stop career center job search workshops

The other day I was talking with a neighbor who has been out of work for over six months. He’s a project manager who worked at a medical equipment conglomerate for five years. I asked him how his job search was going. He told me great; he had sent out more than 10 resumes that day on a number of job boards. I cringed—in to the black hole they went.

Find a job

I encouraged him to come down to the One-Stop career center, for which I work, for help with his job search. “The Unemployment Office?” he asked. Obviously he hadn’t been to a career center, where unemployment insurance assistance is one of many services the career centers offer.

“No the career center. We can help you with your job search. We have workshops on all kinds of job-search topics….” I also wanted to tell him that he’d feel very comfortable at our career center. He’d fit in.

Adapting to a Rapidly Growing Professional Job Seeker Clientele

One common misconception of One-Stop career centers is that the only people who attend job search workshops are those who know little to nothing about seeking employment or are non-exempt workers. For a vast majority of people, nothing could be further from the truth.

Increasingly more job seekers who attend workshops are savvy job seekers who come from all types of occupations. Positions like marketing, engineering, sales, pharmaceutical development, document control, manufacturing management, as well as mechanics, construction workers, et cetera.

To better serve the more experienced job seekers, career centers have had to upgrade many of its services. Workshop Specialists (WS) are finding the challenge of serving experienced job seekers to be both exhilarating and mentally stimulating.

They’ve had to up their game and are meeting the challenge. The consequence of not enhancing their knowledge is letting savvy job seekers down and driving them away. Below are some of the more popular workshops that WS’s have developed.

LinkedIn: To answer the demand of the LinkedIn aficionados, many career centers are offering workshops on Intro to LinkedIn and Advanced LinkedIn. The latter workshop addresses the elements that make a LinkedIn profile appealing to employers who are enabling the Hidden Job Market by searching for passive or active job seekers via LinkedIn. Employers are increasingly foregoing the traditional search process and instead using LinkedIn and social media like Facebook and Twitter. Approximately 80% of employers are using LinkedIn.

Advanced Résumé Writing: This is another area of the job search where advanced job seekers expect more than the rudimentary theories on writing this important marketing piece. Many of them have received costly assistance from outplacement agencies and professional résumé writers, so they know the drill when it comes to writing an effective marketing piece. Advanced Résumé Writing workshop focus more on Strategy, Positioning, and Selling one’s skills and experience. Workshop Specialists stress results that are quantified and related to the jobs to which jobseekers apply.

The Interview Process: Advanced jobseekers need to know more about the interview process than simply the etiquette one has to demonstrate at an interview, e.g. steady eye contact, a firm handshake, and good body posture. The importance of researching the job and company comes to no surprise to them, but combining the power of LinkedIn and reading the company’s website for additional details of the job is some food for thought. (The more experienced job seekers have an advantage over the ones who haven’t looked for work in more than ten years.) Behavioral questions and how to prepare for them is often new even to advanced job seekers. Many of them haven’t experienced behavioral questions, and if they have they were often taken off guard.

Networking: There is a clear divide between the experienced and inexperienced job seekers in a career networking workshop. The advanced job seekers have been attending networking groups once or perhaps twice a week, so they’re familiar with organized networking technique. The focus on how networking enables one to penetrate the Hidden Job Market. It’s fascinating to see workshop attendeess’ faces when WS’s talk about today’s hiring process—that 80% of employers are hiring from within, not advertising the very best positions and entertaining only the savviest networkers.

Job Search Letters: Experienced job seekers know the importance of effective written communications, but in this workshop they’re reminded of how important it is to be proactive in one’s job search. WS’s talk about approach letters as a way to network. Cover letters are always sent with a résumé unless instructed otherwise. When asked how many send cover letters with résumés, most don’t raise their hand. Jobseekers are encouraged to go beyond the typical cover letter with the typical first sentence, and write a vivid tagline that grabs employers’ attention. Boring doesn’t win brownie points with employers—it’s simply boring. The thank you letter is the conclusion of the interview process.

The next time you see someone who is biding his time applying online for jobs, suggest that he visit a One-Stop career center; talk to a career counselor; look into training; and, of course, join as many workshops as possible. Jobseekers of all experience levels shouldn’t turn their nose up to One-Stop career centers that are making a great effort to accommodate the expanding number of experienced job seekers…and often succeeding.

The secret to success; it’s in the touch

Much to my son’s and my pleasure, the Dallas Mavericks are leading the Miami Heat three games to two. We’re both Celtics fans, but we hate the Heat because they eliminated our team with their Big Three of Bosh, James, and Wade.

I have been hearing about the Maverick’s success on NPR and other news outlets, which attribute it to…touching. That’s right, the team from Dallas touches each other with high-fives and butt taps. This proves that constant congratulations, even when their teammates miss a free throw, have a positive effect.

The same holds true in the workplace. Attaboys and attagirls raise morale and increases productivity. I know this to be the case because three years ago the management team surprised the employees with a round of appreciation for all of us. They awarded us with praise during a staff meeting. My manager told the staff “Bob will fight for every one of his customers.” I was flattered and the high from her comment lasted at least a week.

So why doesn’t this happen at more companies? It’s a known fact that employees feel more appreciated with a pat on the back than with a raise. We enjoy being complimented for a job well done, and this encourages us to try harder, do better. Money doesn’t have the same effect.

When people contemplate how teachers, for instance, can increase their performance, it’s not raises that do the trick. Teachers argue that their creativity being taken from them for the sake of raising test scores, larger and unmanageable classes, and lack of administrative and parental support, are the reasons for decreased performance.

Professionals in other fields talk about harsh management and even bullying as major reasons for wanting to move on or quit. Members of the LinkedIn community constantly bring up questions about effective management. The answers they receive include vision, fairness, consistency, empowerment, et cetera. In other words, what our children look for in their parents.

It comes to no surprise that the Dallas Mavericks are prevailing over the Big Three due to their touchy-feely approach to the games. We are fortunate when the people who rely on us to do our jobs show us appreciation, so why wouldn’t a professional basketball team raise its performance when they have the support from each other.

I’m fortunate to work with positive colleagues who are encouraged by fair and consistent management. But I think I’ll refrain from touching my co-workers’ butt.