Tag Archives: cover letter

Avoid résumé obsession by following these 6 rules

I’ve been helping a client with his résumé. Originally it was a sound résumé but weak in certain areas. He lacked a branding headline, so I suggested he use a headline similar to what he uses on his LinkedIn profile but stressed it needed to be tailored to each job.

obsessed-with-your-resume

He also needed to tighten up his writing, pay attention to typos, and avoiding being verbose. I also suggested he quantify his results. Mission accomplished.

Shortly after our meeting, he told me he would send me his “next” revision in a few days. In addition to the changes I suggested, he said he prettied it up a bit. They were aesthetic changes that probably wouldn’t play a big role in garnering him an interview.

I sent comments back to him, ending it with, “Ready to go.” He sent me two more updates, each containing minor changes; not much had changed. There was not much I could add.

He was suffering from résumé obsession.

While aesthetics are nice, your résumé needs to be much more impactful than pretty font, interesting layout, unique bullet points, etc. Here are six general rules about putting your résumé to best use.

1. Yes, a powerful résumé is necessary. A résumé should lead with a strong branding headline to capture the employers’ attention, tell them who you are and what you’re capable of doing for them. This is where you first introduce the job-related keywords.

Follow your branding headline with a concise, yet grabbing Performance Profile. All too often I see profiles with lofty adjectives that have no meaning. Your profile is the roadmap to your work history; whatever you assert in it, you have to prove in the experience section.

The work experience must demonstrate accomplishments that are quantified. Employers are looking for numbers, percentages, and dollar signs. Having accomplished this, along with an education section, your résumé is ready to go.

2. It’s only one part of your written communications. Let’s not forget a well-written cover letters that grab the employers’ attention with the first sentence. Forget the tired, “I was excited to read on Monster.com of the project manager position at (company). Please find below my accomplishments and history that make me a great fit for this job.”

You have to show the employer you’re the right person for the job. This includes highlighting job-related skills and mentioning a couple of accomplishments. Like your résumé, the cover letter is tailored to each job.

3. Send your résumé to the hiring manager. Some of my customers are shocked when I tell them that they need to send their information to human resources and the hiring manager. The reason for doing this is because the hiring manager may see something in you that HR doesn’t.

Another reason for sending your résumé to the hiring manager is because she may overlook the fact that you don’t have a certain requirement, such as education, whereas HR must reject you for this deficiency. One of my job seekers, a former hiring manager, confirmed this assertion, adding “experience trumps education any day.”

4. How you distribute it. It doesn’t end with hitting “Submit.” You can’t sit back and wait for recruiters and HR to call you for a telephone interview. Some believe that sending out five résumés a day is a personal accomplishment; yet they fail to follow up in a timely manner.

Worse yet, they don’t send their résumé and cover letter to targeted companies. This involves networking face-to-face or via LinkedIn to determine who the right contact is at the company. Distribute your résumé to the people who count when you can; rather than applying online and taking your chances with the Applicant Tracking System (ATS).

Note: one product I swear by to determine the effectiveness of keywords on your resume is Jobscan.

5. LinkedIn is part of it. Whether you like it or not, it’s time to get on board with LinkedIn. Countless success stories of job seekers getting jobs are proof that employers are leaning more toward LinkedIn than the job boards.

They’re enabling the Hidden Job Market (HJM) by not advertising their jobs; rather they reach out to you to have you come in for discussions first..

Your LinkedIn profile should mirror your résumé (branding headline, summary, work history, education) to a point. Each section on it will differ, plus there are sections and recommendations you can display on your profile that you might not on your résumé. There must be a harmonious marriage between the two.

6. Just get it out. I know this sounds odd coming from a person who writes and reviews résumés. “Are you suggesting I send out an imperfect product?” you’re wondering. Well, yes if it’s holding you back from getting a job that’s available.

All to often I see clients in the career center for which I work spend too much time trying to make their resume perfect. Days, weeks, months go by before they’re “ready to send it out.” Don’t sweat the small stuff, as they say. Because while you’re doing this, opportunities are disappearing.


Fruitless pursuit. Trying to perfect your résumé and neglecting the aforementioned steps needed to make it work is similar to cleaning every snowflake from your steps and neglecting your entire walkway. A great résumé is what you aspire to create; a perfect résumé is not possible. To aspire to perfection will most likey prevent you to send out your résumé all together, just like my former client.

Photo: Flickr, Jordan

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7 ways to drop the ball in the job search

mistakegirl

I’m not known for my etiquette. For instance, I often forget to send birthday cards to family members,; or I forget their birthdays entirely. When I’ve forgotten birthdays, I’ve essentially “dropped the ball.”

There are a number of ways jobseekers “drop the ball” in their search. They may not be aware of the mistakes they’re making, or they simply may not care. But it only takes dropping the ball once to lose out on an opportunity. Here are seven mistakes that come to mind.

1. Don’t update their résumés to reflect the job requirements. Some of my customers admit to sending a cookie cutter résumé, or one-fits-all, to a prospective employer because it’s the easy thing to do.

Not recommended. It’s sort of like giving someone a Valentine’s Day card that you’ve given your loved one the year before…and the year before that…and the year before that. In other words, you’re not showing any love.

Employers hate receiving résumés that aren’t written to them, ones that don’t address their needs and concerns. So make the extra effort when writing the most important document you’ll write until you land a job.

2. Don’t send a targeted cover letter. Again, like the résumé, the cover letter must reflect the skills and experience that are needed for the particular job. Your cover letter is a great way to tell your story and point the reader to the key accomplishments on your résumé.

One customer of mine sheepishly admitted that she once sent a cover letter with someone else’s name on it. That’s just plain embarrassing but goes to show you that care goes into writing and addressing the requirements of the job.

3. Fail to follow up after sending the documentation. Unless the employer strictly says, “No phone calls, please,” follow up to see if she has received your material. Employers aren’t dumb; they know why you’re calling. You’re calling to put a voice to the résumé and cover letter. In that case, make sure it’s a good voice.

Be prepared to talk about your interest in the job and company, but most importantly be prepared to state what makes you better than the hundreds of other applicants for the job. Have your personal commercial ready to deliver, a commercial that’s tailored to that particular job.

4. Avoid networking. Even though you’ve heard over and over again that networking is the most successful way to land a job, you would rather apply for jobs online. Guess what, the majority of jobseekers are applying for jobs online, and these jobs represent 20% of all jobs available in the job market.

The best way to land a job is to penetrate the Hidden Job Market by networking. Employers would prefer promoting their own employees, but if that isn’t possible, they’ll turn to referrals. The only way to be referred is by knowing someone at the company or knowing someone who knows someone at the company.

Networking doesn’t come easy to everyone, nor do some people like it; however, it must be done. You don’t necessarily have to attend networking groups, but you should make it part of your daily routine. Network wherever you go, whether it’s at a sporting event, your religious affiliation, your dentist’s office, a social gathering.

5. Aren’t taking LinkedIn seriously. I know this is tough for those qualified jobseekers who don’t know what LinkedIn is and don’t understand why it’s important in the job search. I see the dear-in-the-headlights look on my LinkedIn workshop attendees when I ask them how their profile matches up.

These are people who are curious about the application—how it can help in their job search. Well, it can’t help if your LI profile isn’t up to snuff. Rather it can hurt. Here are a few ways it can hurt: 1) it’s identical to your résumé in that it doesn’t provide any new information; 2) it isn’t fully developed; 3) you only have a few contacts or recommendations. There are many more mistakes you can make with your profile.

As a side note, the other night I was talking to a recruiter from RSA who said he spends every day on LinkedIn looking for people to fill his software engineer positions. One point of interest: he told me Monster.com is dead to him. This is how important LinkedIn has become.

6. Don’t prepare for the interview. At the very least you should research the job and the company so you can answer the difficult questions. Take it a step further by gathering insider information on the job and company. Some of my customers have been savvy enough to use LinkedIn to contact people in the company.

However, the night before you can’t locate your interview outfit. You haven’t taken a drive by the company to see where it’s located and how long it will take you to get there. How many times were you told to practice answering some of the predictable questions you may be asked? Again, can you answer questions like, “Why should I hire you” or “Can you tell me something about yourself”?

7. Don’t send a follow-up note. This one kills me. After all the hard work, you don’t follow through with a Thank-You note that shows your appreciation for being interviewed, mentions important topics that were discussed at the interview, or redeem yourself by elaborating on a question you failed to answer. I tell my workshop attendees that the interview isn’t over until they’ve sent the Thank You note.

Don’t drop the ball for any of the aforementioned reasons; instead keep focused on one of the most important times in your life. My not sending birthday cards to my relatives, or even forgetting them all together, is minor in comparison to losing out on an opportunity.

10 signs your job search resembles The Middle

The middleOne of my favorite TV shows is ABC’s The Middle. You know, the show about a family struggling just to get by. The character I like best is Brick, the youngest of the Hecks who is a genius yet oddly strange. (“Oddly Strange,” he whispers to his chest.) I also like Mike who my kids say I resemble, until I threaten to cut off their food supply.

Watching The Middle reminds me that some people conduct their job search as if it’s…The Middle. How, you may wonder? Think about the way the family never seems to get ahead, how their lives remain the same; and despite the fact that the show makes us laugh, we find it somewhat depressing. This is my point. There are 10 signs of your job search that resembles The Middle.

  1. No game plan. Does this not describe the Heck family to a T? Having a plan and goals also means you need to know what job you want to pursue, which can be the most difficult part of the job search for some. Without a plan, you’ll have no direction, which is essential if you don’t want to be stuck in The Middle land.
  2. A résumé that fails to brand you. Most important is writing a résumé that is tailored to each job, showing employers you can meet their specific needs. A Summary that fails to attract the attention of the reader, lacking a Core Competency section. no accomplishments to mention; are all signs of a The Middle job search.
  3. No online presence, namely LinkedIn, the premier social media application for the job search. At least 87% of recruiters/employers use LinkedIn to find talent, so if you’re not on LinkedIn you’re definitely hurting your chances of advancing in the job search.
  4. cover letter that doesn’t excite. You’re writing cover letters that fail to express your personality and are, well, boring. Worse yet, you’re sending form cover letters that don’t show you meet the specific requirements of the job. Further, you’re a believer of not sending cover letters. The Middle material for sure.
  5. Only applying online for positions. I’m not saying not to use job boards, but don’t use them as the foundation of your job search; networking still is, and will be, the most successful way to find employment. Don’t be fooled into thinking that sending out hundreds of applications will advance your job search…definitely reminiscent of The Middle.
  6. Networking isn’t part of your vocabulary. If you’re not going to networking events, meet-ups, or connecting with everyone you know, you’re missing the boat. Networking is proactive and a great way to uncover hidden opportunities at companies/organizations that may be hiring.
  7. Informational interviews are alien to you. The goal behind information interview is networking with people who are in your desired industry and selected companies. Impressing the people with whom you speak can create opportunities that might include being recommended for a job developing in the company, or may lead to speaking with other quality connections.
  8. Following up with potential connections is missing from the equation. You’re great at meeting people at networking events or other places to connect. You promise to e-mail or call your connections. But you don’t. This is a sure way to be stuck in The Middle, where nothing seems to change.
  9. Preparing for interviews as an afterthought. Oops, you go to interviews without having done your research on the position and company. You think you can wing it because you know your business like no one does. You’ve heard of behavioral-based questions but aren’t too concerned. You don’t get the job because of your lack of preparation.
  10. Not sending a follow-up note clearly says you don’t care. And simply thanking the interviewer/s isn’t enough; show the interviewers you were listening and engaged by mentioning some points of interest or revisiting a question you didn’t elaborate on. If you want to remain in The Middle, don’t send a follow-up note. But if you want the job, show the love. And no form thanks-yous please.

The Middle teaches a good lesson about how we need to put more effort into the job search. Doing a few of these activities does not make a successful job search; they must all be done to shorten the search. Can you think of other components of the job search that are necessary to make it a success?

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Soccer and doing what it takes; 7 things to do in your job search

The other day, my son and I were shooting the soccer ball at the net. He was loving it, and I was hating it for the mere fact that my feet were numb from the cold. Regardless, I was constantly telling him to shoot with his opposite foot. “Why?”he asked me.

“Because you need to be multi-talented,” I told him. “You need to be able to shoot the ball with whichever foot it comes to. If you have to turn your body so you can shoot with your left, you’ll lose opportunities.” I’ve played some soccer in my day, so my advice was sound, albeit not what he wanted to hear.

While I was “coaching” my 10-year-old kid, I got to thinking about the advice I give jobseekers, most of whom listen and others who don’t. The ones who listen are those who send me e-mails or even stop by the career center to tell me about their upcoming interviews or, best of all, their new jobs. It’s all about the effort they put into their job search that makes the difference. They do the hard work, while I simply provide the theory. Such as:

  1. Network, network, network. Tell everyone you know that you’re looking for work. Be clear as to what you want to do and where you want to do it. Clearly explain your occupation (human resources vs. human services is a big difference), your greatest attributes, and your extensive experience.
  2. Look for a job where most people aren’t. In other words, penetrate the Hidden Job Market, which, coincidently, has a great deal to do with networking. “Why?” as my son would ask me. Simple, employers gain a lot more from not advertising than they do from advertising their positions. When they advertise, they spend more money, have to read hundreds of résumés, and interview strange people.
  3. Research, research, research. Always know the requirements for the jobs for which you apply. Know about the companies as well. This will come in handy when you write your résumé and other written marketing material, as well as when you interview for said positions.
  4. Market yourself with targeted résumés for each job, rich with quantified accomplishments and a strong personal profile that makes the employer want to read on. One of my respected contacts on LinkedIn, Laura Smith-Proulx, wrote a great article called Is Your Resume Summary Boring Employers? In it she advises jobseekers to include a substantial, quantified accomplishment in the professional profile.
  5. Send a cover letter with each résumé, unless instructed not to. True, some recruiters do not read cover letters, but many do. And if your job will involve writing, you must send a well-written, targeted cover letter that isn’t boring. Refrain from using a pat opening line that reads something like this, “I was pleased to read on Monster.com of an opening for a project manager….”
  6. Prepare, prepare, prepare. Never go to an interview unprepared. You’ve researched the position and company, so you should have an understanding of what questions might be asked. Prepare your answers for a behavioral-based interview using the STAR formula (Situation, Task, Action, Result). If you are asked traditional questions, you’ll be better prepared to answer them because you’ll have examples to share.
  7. Finally, consider building a LinkedIn, FaceBook, or Twitter networking campaign. Online networking should not replace face-to-face networking; rather it should supplement your networking efforts. LinkedIn is considered the premiere professional networking site, but the other two have garnered results for some people.

I explain some very basic job search methods, yet some jobseekers refuse or don’t understand how to begin and follow through with the basic tenets of the job search. Like my son who shies away from shooting with his opposite foot and, thus, will miss opportunities; these jobseekers will find it more difficult to find a job.

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.

Let’s Get Serious about How We Appear

Over the years, people have talked about self-branding as something we purposely do to distinguish ourselves from others. I believe this to be true. Whereas some have referred to branding as simply behaving in a favorably consistent manner, it amounts to much more than that. Although branding must not seem contrived, it’s a mistake to assume that it takes no conscious effort. This misconception will lead to wasted effort, albeit small, and cause one to abandon future branding efforts.

Branding is a conscious effort businesses and people make to set them apart from the norm. Businesses that are maintaining the status quo or jobseekers who are seen as average, are failing in their efforts to brand themselves. Do we have to live by a five second statement that defines us, constantly repeating a rehearsed mantra wherever we go? No, but we have to know how to present ourselves in all situations and at any moment. In other words, we have to be on guard at all times.

I recognize the serious jobseekers who understand what branding is. They come to our urban career center with their branding statement written prominently across their chest. I’m reminded of the occasional jobseekers who are well dressed in business casual, and sometimes wearing a tie; for the women, a nice blouse and slacks. These are the ones who understand the importance of always looking their best, because at any moment a potential contact will be in their midst. Even at an urban career center. They’re the ones I look at and think, you won’t be here soon; there’s a job awaiting you.

There was a former customer named Al who branded himself with business cards, a name tag, and stationary which were identical in appearance–his concerted effort to brand himself. Although he had been out of work for a year, he found a job shortly after coming to the career center. He maintained a pleasant demeanor and a can-do-attitude. (During an honest moment, he and I talked about what a complete bummer it is to be out of work; but in an instant Al went back to being Al. Pleasant as ever.)

Branding reaches into everything a jobseeker does. It’s evident in her entire marketing campaign. Her résumés, cover letters, LinkedIn profile, networking, telephone techniques, and finally the interview are all part of branding.

So to say it’s subconscious, just as natural as can be, is to deny branding the respect it deserves. When we see the red hue on the television, we realize it’s a Target commercial even before those familiar bulls’ eyes hit the screen. The international swoosh of course symbolizes Nike. The eerie fluorescent streaks of liquid running down an athlete’s face are none other than Gatorade. We don’t need to see the names of these companies to realize who they are; their logos and images are enough. 

Jobseekers may not have the immediate impact of a Target or Nike, but they need to think more in terms of conducting a successful business marketing plan and think that branding is serious business.