The GREAT JOB SOONER Blog

5 Reasons Your Resume Fell into a Black Hole

You’ve sent your resume out for a dozen jobs this month, but it seems like it’s disappearing into another dimension because you aren’t getting calls. Sound familiar?

Chances are, one or more of the following issues applies to you. Maybe…

…you didn’t act quickly enough. Just because the job posting says “Apply by July 24” doesn’t mean they won’t already have settled on a short list by the 20th. Be the early bird.

…your resume stated what you did, but not how well you did it and what difference it made. Let’s say you planned, led and completed a project. Well yes, but lots of people could do that. Did you do it better? Was it more difficult than it sounds? Did you solve a problem that was threatening to derail the initiative, then get the project back on track to hit an outrageous 5-week deadline? If so, add that!

…your resume is hard to read. Resumes that are wordy (using five words where two would do), crowded (long sentences and paragraphs, too little white space), in a tiny font (try not to go below 10 pt.) or that look disorganized are hard to read. Like this paragraph was. (Too many parentheses.)

…you didn’t use a proofreader. Long before I became a job search coach I worked as a proofreader and copyeditor, correcting professional writers’ manuscripts. When I was done with them, nearly every page was marked with numerous corrections. Your writing is not as clean as you think.

Did you know you can hire a proofreader for less than $5 a page? You can’t afford not to. And proofread it yourself too, because nobody’s perfect.

…you only sent your resume to Human Resources. Yes, I know, you were instructed to send it there. But don’t stop there. Figure out who the hiring manager is, and send it to him directly as well – maybe with a follow-up phone call as well.

(By the way, there’s LinkedIn add-on called Hunter that helps find people’s email addresses.)

Have you solved these resume mistakes? Still not getting the interview as often as you’d like? Subscribe to this blog so you won’t miss my next post, “5 More Reasons Your Resume Didn’t Get You the Interview.” You’ll also get a free gift.

How to Answer an Interview Question about Salary Expectations (Infographic)

“What kind of salary are you looking for?” An unskillful answer to an interview question about salary expectations – your salary requirements, desired salary, etc. – can cost you a lot of money – or cost you a job offer.

Naming a figure is risky. It your number is too high, the employer can’t afford you. Too low, you hurt your credibility. Even if your number is right on, you limit your freedom to negotiate.

Follow the arrows in the diagram to see how to reply to the interviewer’s questions (in purple) with your smart answers (in green).

Practice your answers out loud – several times, preferably with a friend or an interview coach – before your next job interview. Good luck!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Holy Grail of Informational Interviews: Meeting with a Hiring Manager

How can you get a job interview ahead of all the competition? By doing an informational interview with manager before there’s an opening.

In my May 18 post, The Informational Interview – It’s Not a Thing! I wrote that there are three different types of informational interviews – the Career Exploration Informational, the Company Insider Conversation and the Hiring Manager Meeting. The third type is the most likely to result in a job.

If you’re thinking of pursuing such meetings, you probably have a few questions.

Won’t I get a job faster if I focus on applying to current openings?

In most cases,  no. If you have lots of well-placed contacts and can get referred into interviews, great. Otherwise, you need to develop those contacts, and it’s hard to do that at the last minute. Informational interviews allow you to build those contacts and relationships ahead of time. And as for applying to jobs without a connection, only about 20-25% of jobs are filled that way.

Why would they want to meet with me when there’s no open position?

Many hiring managers find it valuable to meet with prospective job candidates even when they don’t have an open position. Informational interviews allow them to develop a “bench” of qualified people in advance.

That way, a future opening can be filled more quickly and easily – perhaps by hiring you.

By “hiring manager,” do you mean that they’re currently hiring?

No, because if they’re currently hiring for your position you probably won’t be able to get an informational interview with them! Instead you’ll have to compete with many other candidates for a phone screening with Human Resources, then, hopefully, a job interview with the manager. Instead, talk to managers who don’t yet have an opening. Because then when they do, you’ll be way ahead of the crowd.

How do I get this kind of informational interview?

Mainly, through networking and through informationals of the type I call the Company Insider Conversation. Even if such a conversation doesn’t lead to a Hiring Manager Meeting, it may lead to a referral once there is an opening. Job seekers who keep busy having these kinds of conversations tend to get hired faster than those who spend most of their time applying to openings online.

How is the agenda different in the Hiring Manager Meeting?

In the other types of informational interviews you need to downplay the fact that you’re looking for a job in order to put your contact at ease. With the manager you should be up front about your interest in working for her. This meeting is very much like a job interview: you’ll be selling yourself as a potential candidate.

How do I do that?

Pretty much the same way you’d do that in a job interview. For example:

  • Know your key selling points and proactively bring them up. A good salesperson always knows and emphasizes the top features of their product that are most likely to excite their customer. This is so important that I devoted the first chapter of my interview preparation guide to a step-by-step process of identifying your “REV Points.” As of this writing I’m giving away that first chapter as a free gift for subscribing to this blog.
  • Make a good impression and connect well with the interviewer. Be on time, appropriately dressed (as for a job interview). Smile. Make conversation. Take a sincere interest in the manager and her department.
  • Be consultative. Ask about the department’s and company’s goals and challenges. Look for ways to be a resource.
  • Be prepared with solid answers to common interview questions like “Would you tell me about yourself?”, “Why are you interested in this company?” and “What are your strengths and weaknesses?”
  • Be ready to tell concise, clear stories that demonstrate your abilities and how you’ve made a difference for past employers.

Then what?

Follow up to ensure the manager will remember you.

  • Send a well written thank-you message within 24 hours reiterating your interest and why you’d be a good fit for future openings.
  • Keep in touch via friendly updates on a regular basis to let her know you’re still interested. Otherwise, her promise to “keep you in mind” may quickly fade from their memory. Use a system to schedule follow-ups – Outlook tasks, a contact management system like Jibberjobber or even an old-fashioned tickler file.
  • Connect on LinkedIn and other  social media as appropriate, and make a point of regularly looking through your updates and news feed for opportunities to interact.

This post concludes my series about informational interviews as an important job search tool. I hope I’ve convinced you to at least experiment with them, because they can greatly shorten the path to your next opportunity!

How to Use Info Interviews to Get Hired Faster

It’s a little-understood but abundantly proven fact: if you’re looking for a job, an intelligently executed campaign of informational interviews typically works faster than applying to jobs online.

It has been estimated that one in 12 informational interviews results in a job, making info interviewing the most powerful form of job search networking.

The reason is simple: interviews with company insiders allow you to develop relationships and insights into your target employers before a job opening ever occurs. When a job later becomes available, you’re no longer an anonymous resume in a stack of 200; you’re already a top candidate. Sometimes the job is never even posted, so you may have little or no competition.

In last week’s post I mentioned three different types of informational interviews and focused on the Career Exploration Informational. This post focuses on the Company Insider Conversation (an event that can lead to a Hiring Manager Meeting, which I’ll discuss in next week’s post). In the fourth and final post in the series, I’ll share some crucial tips for success that apply to all types of informationals.

The Company Insider Conversation

Look for opportunities to talk with almost anyone who works in a company you’re interested in working in. In this type of conversation you’ll be asking questions about the company and – very tactfully – questions that can help you navigate a path to getting hired there.

Why did I say “very tactfully”? Because it’s easy to scare off a contact – perhaps even before you’ve landed a meeting with them – by saying anything that makes them feel pressured to find you a job.

Think of it as if it were a first date. You may be hot to trot, or you may be looking to get married and have children. But you’re getting way ahead of yourself – and turning the other person off – if that’s all you can think about.

Focus on putting your company insider at ease, taking a sincere interest in the person and what he or she has to say. Enjoy having a comfortable, interesting professional discussion. There are all sorts of positive results that might – in good time – flow from this relationship, including referral to a hiring manager. But first, build relationship.

The best how-to resource I’ve found on doing this type of informational interview is The 2-Hour Job Search by Steve Dalton. Here are some questions Dalton suggests asking:

  • What trends are most impacting your business right now?
  • What surprises you most about your job?
  • What can I do right now to best prepare for a career in this field/a job in this company?
  • Which projects are most common/important in your work?
  • What resources should I be sure to look into next?

Notice that the last question is very vague. That’s intentional. Of course it will be great if the answer is, “Well, you should talk to X, she’s the one who hires people like you.” But directly asking for a referral is an imposition that may damage the rapport you’re trying build, so if asked “What do you mean by resources,” be tactful and just say “Oh, any kind of information that you think might be helpful!” Website and book recommendations are common at this stage in the relationship.

“So how do I get company insiders to meet with me?”

Dalton recommends sending an email similar to this example from his book:

SUBJECT: Duke MBA student seeking your advice

Dear Mr. Jones,

My name is Brooke Franklin, and I am a first-year Duke MBA student who found your information in the Duke alumni database. May I have 20 minutes to ask you about your experience with IBM? I am trying to learn more about marketing careers at technology companies in North Carolina, and your insights would be very helpful.

I recognize this may be a busy time for you, so if we are unable to connect by mail I’ll try to reach you next week to see whether that is more convenient.

Thank you for your time.

Brooke

Dalton calls this a “five-point email” because it follows these five guidelines:

1. 100 words or less
2. No mention of jobs (in subject or body)
3. Connection goes first (mention the person who referred you or something you have in common)
4. Generalize your interest (e.g., “technology companies in North Carolina”)
5. Maintain control of the follow-up

After the meeting: the crucial importance of keeping in touch

In your job search networking you may have heard people say “I’ll keep you in mind if I hear of any openings.” The intention is nice, but the fact is they they generally will not keep you in mind – unless you follow up.

Let’s say you took the time and effort to sit down and talk with someone. You gave them information and advice. And then you never heard back. You don’t know whether they took your advice. You don’t know whether it helped. You lose interest in helping them again. And you may even feel slighted or frustrated.

Having invested some time in another person’s success, you’re rooting for them and want to know how it turns out.

So if someone has given you information, ideas, suggestions or leads, follow up. Take action on what they told you, or at least research their ideas further. Report back to them with a brief email a couple of weeks later letting them know what you did and how their advice was useful to you. If you ran into a roadblock, mention how you’re working on overcoming it.

To help pave the way for your followup message, tell them during the meeting that you’ll update them “next Thursday” or “within a couple weeks.” Obligate yourself to follow up. That way, when your update arrives you will be perceived not as “bugging” the person, but as delivering on a promise.

Of course, it also helps to send your update on time, keep it brief and avoid asking for additional favors.

Your next steps

I’ve been referring to “the company insider” in the singular, but there’s also a numbers game involved here if you want to get hired soon. The more company insiders you talk to, the more likely it is that one of these info interviews will be that “one in 12” I referred to at the start of this article, the one that leads to a job.

So, what will you do this week to arrange meetings with people in, or knowledgeable about, your target companies?

As your company insider relationships mature though additional updates and sharing of information, some of them may result in introductions to hiring managers. Congratulations! In the next post I’ll offer tips for success with that most powerful form of informational interview.

The Informational Interview: It’s Not a Thing!

You’ve heard people say informational interviews are a great thing. Problem is, they aren’t a thing.

Well, not a single thing, anyway. There are at least three different types of informationals. Each is a different animal, with different strategies to get the most benefit from them.

And benefits they have. For example, it has been estimated that one in 12 informational interviews results in a job, making it the most powerful form of job search networking. It has a much higher success rate than applying to job openings online, where the odds are more like one in 200.

What are these three different types of informational interviews? I’ll call them the Career Exploration Informational, the Company Insider Conversation and the Hiring Manager Meeting.

In this and the next two posts I’ll explore each type individually, and then in the fourth post I’ll share some crucial tips for success that are common to three types.

The Career Exploration Informational Interview

This type of interview focuses on the interviewee’s occupation.

If you’re not sure what kind of job you want to do, it’s time for some research. Read up on various occupations online, then talk to people who are working in an occupation you’re considering. This isn’t just for students any more. With the average person changing careers five to seven times, this kind of informational can help a person of any age get a better sense of whether that new career idea is really a good fit.

The discussion is likely to focus on questions like these:

  • Why did you decide to enter this field?
  • What is your typical day like?
  • On which activities do you spend the largest amount of time?
  • Is your job typical of this occupation, or unusual?
  • What do you like best about what you do?
  • What do you like least?
  • What advice do you have for me if I decide to enter this career?
  • What other resources should I look into?

That last question is especially important! If your contact recommends a website, publication, training program, organization or – better yet – someone else to talk to, you now have next steps to pursue in your career exploration. Promise to follow up: “Thank you so much! I’ll follow up on your suggestions and let you know how it went.” That way you can continue the relationship with an occasional emailed update, and because you said you would follow up, your contact won’t be surprised. They’ll see you as keeping your promise.

Connecting on LinkedIn can help keep the two of you on each other’s radar screens and provide additional opportunities to interact. (Remember to check Notifications on the menu bar, preferably daily.)

In the best case scenario, an ongoing mentor-mentee relationship may develop.

This type of informational interview may be the easiest to get, especially if you’re a student but even if you aren’t. Having an introduction from a mutual acquaintance always helps – and LinkedIn can be very helpful here – or having something in common, such as being fellow alumni. If there’s no special connection, just ask anyway. You’d be surprised how many people will say yes. It’s flattering to be seen as an expert, and the interview is a chance to “give back” and make a difference for someone.

In the next post we’ll explore a very different animal, the Company Insider Conversation: how to land such meetings, and how to navigate them in a way that’s comfortable for both parties, builds  relationships, and paves the way for opportunities.

What questions would you like this blog to answer?

Hey you, reader of my blog! I want to hear from you.

If you’re a subscriber, you may have noticed my new blog title – The Great Job Sooner Blog. It’s a new beginning, and a good time for me to ask you how I can serve you better.

What burning questions do you have about how to get interviews, get offers and get hired?

What’s puzzling, confusing, frustrating, depressing or even infuriating in your job search – that maybe these articles can help you resolve? No question is too small or too large. (Well, maybe too large. “What is the meaning of life?” may be beyond the scope of this publication.)

I welcome your input. Just click the blue “Email Me” button (way up there at the right, just a bit lower than the menu bar) or even the “Free Consultation” button. They both send messages to the same place: my in-box.

I’m looking forward to your input and making this blog as relevant and helpful as it can be. Thank you!

Is Your LinkedIn Profile “Open” for Recruiters? Use this New Feature!

I’ve often had the experience of optimizing a LinkedIn profile for someone and then getting an email like this: “I’m hearing from recruiters who found me on LinkedIn, and some of the openings are really interesting!”

I have a lot of tips for attracting recruiters. Here’s one you can easily implement on your own in just a few minutes.

Turn on LinkedIn’s new “Open Candidate” feature, which instantly makes you more findable by users of LinkedIn’s Recruiter subscription – while cleverly hiding you from your own company’s recruiters.

Here’s how to set up LinkedIn Open Candidate:

  1. Click the Jobs icon in the navigation bar at the top of your LinkedIn homepage.
  2. In the Jobs you may be interested in section, click Update preferences. Enter your preferences about workplace location, position level, industry and company size.
  3. If your job search is “under the radar”: In the Let recruiters know you’re open section, look for the little shield symbol and read the warning about how LinkedIn will – probably – protect you from having your own company’s recruiters see you as an Open Candidate. Click for more information and make sure you’re comfortable with the level of risk involved.
  4. Click (don’t drag) the toggle button to turn on Open Candidate.
  5. Once you’ve done that, a new set of questions appear. Answer those. See my tips below about how to make best use of the 300-character Introduction.
  6. Optionally, click the Share your profile toggle button. (You don’t have to do this in order to make use of Open Candidate, but it’s probably helpful.)
  7. Click Done.

What can you write in the Introduction box to grab recruiters’ attention? Focus this on one or more of your key selling points. If you’re not sure what those are, read the first chapter of my new book, Get That Job! The Quick and Complete Guide to a Winning Interview. Don’t have the book? Get Chapter 1 FREE when you subscribe to this blog.

Now, ready to hear from those recruiters?

Got the Job Offer? Don’t Blow It Now!

In the interview process, accepting the job offer may seem like the easy part. But mishandling this crucial moment can cost you thousands in lost salary – or even the job.

It is in your moments of decision that your destiny is shaped.
– Tony Robbins

This post is part one of a three-part series based on chapter 17 of my new book, Get That Job! The Quick and Complete Guide to a Winning Interview.

The Big Moment at the End of the Interviews

The moment when you’re offered a job can be a mini-whirlwind of excitement joy, relief, nervousness, you name it. You may be tempted to scream “YES!” – quickly, before they can change their mind!

Many a job seeker has done exactly that, only to think later, “I sure wish I had thought about … (negotiating the starting date, the salary, leaving early on Tuesdays? the potential offer from that other company?) … before I said yes.”

Do yourself a favor. Have a plan for handling this important turning point in your career.

Buy Time to Think

When you receive the offer, chances are that one of the following will be true for you:

  • Certain aspects of the offer – maybe salary, the start date or the work schedule – could be better, and you have no reason to think the employer won’t negotiate.
  • You have been interviewing elsewhere and may be close to an offer from another company.
  • You’re not entirely sure this job is the right one. You have questions in your mind, such as:

Is this company financially stable? Any chance of layoffs in the next year or two?
Is this the right company culture for me?
Is there anything about the work schedule, the commute or the working conditions that’s going to get old fast?
What effect would this job have on my long-term career path?
Can I live on this salary?
Will I need to relocate? Will my family and I be happy in the new place?
Can I afford to wait for a better opportunity?

If so, I suggest you give an answer like this:

“This is a very exciting offer! I so appreciate it! Of course, it’s a very important decision, so I’d like to give it some careful thought. How soon do you need my answer?”

If you plan to negotiate, ask for a meeting:

“Is there a time tomorrow when we could meet to discuss the details of the offer?”

Whether you agree on giving an answer by Thursday, or meeting tomorrow at 1 pm to discuss details, immediately send an email confirming what has been agreed.

Confirm, Confirm, Confirm

We’ve all heard that it’s important to get a written offer letter (and to make sure all the details are as agreed). But that’s not the only point that needs to be confirmed in writing.

Opportunities have been lost because both parties were not clear about the next steps. “We didn’t hear back from you (within the timeframe we assumed you understood), so we had to move on.” Whether you’re asking for time to think, for an answer to a question, or for an opportunity to discuss (negotiate) details of the offer, make sure the next step is confirmed in writing.

Keep a pleasant tone about it. You’re simply being thorough and professional for the benefit of all concerned.

Next Up: Will You Negotiate?

Did you know that most employers expect some negotiation when they make an offer? If you’ve never negotiated your salary, benefits or other aspects of a job offer, stay tuned for the next two posts in this series. Or get my book, Get That Job! The Quick and Complete Guide to a Winning Interview, on sale now from Emerald Career Publishing.

Turn a “No, thanks” Interview into a “Yes!” Later

You had a job interview but you didn’t get the job. Just forget about it, right?

Not completely. I found a surprising fact in a CareerBuilder study from last year: 54% of employers re-engage with past candidates who were not offered the job. I take that to mean they consider them later for another opening – or even for the same one.

I’ve seen this happen. One job seeker I coached, let’s call him Steve, was disappointed by an interview rejection involving an instructional designer position. Three weeks later he received a call from the company. The candidate they had selected had accepted the job but backed out at the last minute to accept another offer elsewhere. Was Steve still interested? He was! He started two weeks later in this job, and it was a major leap forward in his career.

This isn’t the only scenario. In other cases there may be additional positions that open up in the coming weeks or months. So when you hear “no,” think of it as “not right now.”

Here’s how to keep yourself open to opportunities post-interview:

  • Be gracious after being turned down. Send a nice letter to the recruiter and hiring manager thanking them for having considered you and stating that you hope there’s an opportunity to work together in the future. Maybe mention that you hope to see them at a certain industry event coming up. Very few people send such a letter, so you will stand out and be remembered.
  • If there was a good rapport, you might invite them to connect with you on LinkedIn and/or Twitter.
  • Keep your eyes open for future opportunities with this company, whether full-time or consulting.

For more tips about interviewing, read my book, Get That Job! The Quick and Complete Guide to a Winning Interview or contact me to see if one-on-one interview coaching could help you get your new job faster.

Tell LinkedIn What You Want Changed! It’s Easy.

Are you annoyed, enraged or thrilled or just puzzled about LinkedIn’s new desktop layout? There are a lot of strong feelings about what’s been added – and removed! – in the new interface.

If you’re puzzled, read my post from last week about making the new layout work for you.

If you don’t entirely like the new look, then why not…

Let LinkedIn know what you want changed!

Here’s how.

  1. On your home page, just click the “More” link in the are to the right of the news feed. (See image.)
  2. Then click “Send Feedback” in the 3rd column from the left in the view that appears.
  3. From there, it’s self-explanatory – and very quick.

Of course there’s no guarantee you’ll get what you ask for – but you’ve got even less chance if you don’t ask!