Posted on December 2, 2011
Let’s be clear up-front about this. I do not mean you should write a cover letter that makes the hiring manager or other reader leap up from his/her chair and keel over from shock! Getting employers’ attention is critical, but it needs to be the right kind of attention. In other words, it has to generate the type of response you need—most importantly, a phone call that can lead to an interview. Always, always keep that goal in mind when writing and sending cover letters to potential employers.
What Works in Cover Letters and What Doesn’t
What works? Maybe there’s no magic bullet you can shoot and hit the target with your cover letter every time, but much of what works comes from what ought to be common sense (but isn’t as common as it should be). Here are just a few cover letter tips to consider:
What doesn’t work? In a way, it’s kind of the flip side of the tips mentioned above, but other issues can hurt your chances as well.
If a company requests a cover letter, you should definitely send one—and make it a great one! But even if they don’t ask, you can still send the letter. For any job you’re strongly interested in, the cover letter represents one more chance for you to get the kind of attention you’re after. Take advantage of that opportunity!
Posted on November 30, 2011
As mentioned before, gone are the days when you could throw resumes at a bunch of “help wanted” ads in the local papers and hope enough would stick to get you a new job. The initial successor to that haphazard technique—posting your resume on a zillion online job boards—has also run into major problems over the past few years. For one thing, this change meant that you had a much larger competitive arena to struggle with in order to gain employer recognition and responses. Instead of just competing with people more or less in your local market, suddenly you found that your competition could be located many miles away, in another state or even in another country.
When you compound that situation with the gloomy economic news—not only in the United States but essentially worldwide—you can see yourself as facing a really formidable job search challenge. Based on the majority of the news reports, it would appear that hardly any companies are hiring, anywhere, and there’s going to be a huge influx of resumes for those precious few positions that might open up.
Macro versus micro job search
So the macro job search approach you’ve probably used in the past has stopped working, and given the current outlook, tough times aren’t going away any time soon. What does that mean in terms of your personal employment outlook or prospects for a healthy career path? To begin with, let’s consider the real possibility that bright spots do exist in the employment world, even if they sometimes resemble a moving target that only a sharpshooting Annie Oakley could hit. Gloom-and-doom isn’t absolutely universal; it just seems that way!
Although the current and immediately foreseeable job market conditions present an overall “down” image, bright spots do offer some hope for determined job seekers. Finding them, however, requires a new approach to job searching, and a key element of that approach is a “micro” attitude. That attitude says you need to research to find out where things seem to be going well—or at least noticeably better than most other locations, industries, companies, and so on. For example, what geographical locations, industries and organizations appear to be successfully bucking the trend? Pull information from all the reliable sources you can identify and evaluate the clues that information gives you about places and jobs you can reasonably focus on—put some mental muscle into, so to speak.
Sometimes, considering a situation from the macro perspective is the right thing to do. However, looking for a new employment opportunity or career advancement possibility in today’s job market probably isn’t one of those times. On its own, macro doesn’t offer great potential for success these days; however, pairing it with a micro job search approach could increase your prospects for success at least somewhat. That’s a lot better than throwing up your hands in despair and giving up all hope of landing a new job that meets your needs.
Posted on November 28, 2011
I’ve heard references to the hidden job market that go back decades, so this isn’t a new concept. We used to say that only a small percentage of available jobs were ever found in the classified section of the local newspaper. Fast-forward to the Internet age, and the statement changes to “only a small percentage of available jobs are advertised on the Web.”
So where are those hidden jobs hiding? Why aren’t they being advertised, and how can you find the ones you’re most interested in?
The last part of that question is a key piece of the puzzle. It suggests that you need to conduct a highly focused and active search to find opportunities, for at least a couple of reasons: (1) The job you’re after might get filled without ever being advertised anywhere outside the company. (2) Even if it does eventually show up as an opening online, your competition increases significantly, and they’ll all be going after the posted job just as eagerly as you will. I don’t know about you, but if I were looking for a new position in today’s tough job market, I’d prefer a less crowded field of competitors than that.
Opportunities in the hidden job market won’t land themselves in your lap.
Here’s the sticking-point for a lot of job seekers: By far the most effective approach to the “new reality” of finding a job takes effort…maybe a lot of effort and a fair amount of time. Conducting a job search was much easier, at least on the face of it, when all you did was find an advertised opening and submit your resume and cover letter. Easier, maybe. At least you could tell yourself you were doing something constructive. Effective? Only if you didn’t have much competition or just happened to get in on the ground floor ahead of them somehow. Now you need to turn the old adage about “work smarter, not harder” on its head a bit and work both smarter and harder to manage your career wisely, unearth desirable employment opportunities and pursue them successfully.
Those opportunities might lurk in the minds of company employees you know (or don’t know but should), vendors the company uses, people you have a connection to via LinkedIn or other social media venues, or a host of other places. Your assignment, to paraphrase television’s “Mission Impossible,” is to get out there and connect the dots that will lead you to new and emerging opportunities. If you haven’t already developed at least a short list of companies you want to target, that’s one place to start getting to know people. Those companies might not be hiring now, for instance, but if you establish a foothold with a few insider connections, you’ve positioned yourself to jump ahead of your competition.
What works in job searching has changed. Are you changing with it?
Another point to consider is the changing nature of employment and company hiring these days. If we’re old enough, we might think back longingly to the “good old days” when jobs were plentiful and almost anyone who was breathing could get one without trying too hard. Of course, the good old days of easy employment might not be as good as our memory paints them, but even if they were, they’re gone. And they’re not coming back. Sorry, but that’s the reality. I recently started reading a book that makes this clear; it’s called Guerilla Marketing for Job Hunters 3.0, by Jay Conrad Levinson and David E. Perry. As the book notes, “Looking for an old-fashioned job like the one Dad used to have is a waste of your time.” Further on, it states, “The hidden job market isn’t really hidden. It is just not in plain sight….The only successful way to access this market is to reach the hiring managers before they opt to go the advertising or HR route.”
Clearly, you need a plan for the new reality of job search–one that keeps you on track, makes the best use of your available resources, and gives you the flexibility to adjust your actions when you need to–which you probably will.
Posted on November 25, 2011
Are you camera-ready? If not, you might want to consider an “extreme makeover” before you find yourself asked to participate in some form of video interviewing for your next position! Seriously, although video as a factor in job searching and employment interviewing has been around for years, video interviewing hasn’t really taken off the way original participants and providers anticipated. Lately, though, I’ve been seeing news items that suggest a trend all job seekers should be aware of.
Most recently, I read an article from Recruiting Trends that mentioned a company called InterviewStream being certified as a video interviewing solution by Taleo, which is a leading SaaS-based talent management solution provider. That’s a potentially powerful partnership, and you might want to know more about it. To do that, you can read the video interviewing article and also visit the InterviewStream website to learn more about InterviewStream as a company. Briefly, though, here are a few points that struck me about InterviewStream’s offerings and the deal with Taleo:
What’s missing here? Help for job search and career change candidates. It’s geared toward helping companies manage their recruiting process, save money, etc. It is not intended to help you land a new job or achieve career advancement by conducting effective interviews with prospective employers. The one potential benefit I can see is that it does enable you to interview at companies without having to travel possibly great distances (which the employer might or might not reimburse you for).
According to the article, InterviewStream saves client companies a lot of money while “providing a superior candidate experience.” Does that mean the job seeker candidate has a “superior” experience with the video interviewing process, or does it mean the company gets to interview more superior candidates? If the former, in exactly what way is the candidate’s experience superior? The article doesn’t say.
Posted on November 23, 2011
These days, if you don’t know what social networking is, you’re probably living on a deserted island somewhere—without access to high-tech resources. That doesn’t mean everyone is happily and totally clued-in to incorporating social networking in his/her job search or that all companies make extensive and effective use of it in their recruiting activities.
In the interests of full disclosure, I should mention that I consider I’m doing well if I can make good use of my LinkedIn membership (I’m working on it and making progress). I’m way behind that on Facebook, and Twitter isn’t even on my horizon at this point. However, I know plenty of people—job seekers, employers and professional colleagues—who are actively engaged in these social networks with regard to job search, career management and business operations, although admittedly to varying degrees.
I’ve just been looking at two survey reports produced by Jobvite that make for thought-provoking reading. One survey deals with employer recruiting practices; the other focuses on job seekers’ social network use. I found it particularly interesting that, as is often the case, the same general subjects can be viewed differently from different perspectives, with results that might sometimes appear to contradict each other.
For instance, 95% of employers surveyed said they had successfully hired through LinkedIn, 24% through Facebook and 16% through Twitter. On the other hand, 78% of job seekers responding to the job seeker survey indicated that Facebook most frequently led to their current job, while 40% cited LinkedIn and 42% mentioned Twitter.
Are you a “Super Social” job seeker or a “Proactive” job seeker? I’m not a big fan of labeling people, but Jobvite’s job seeker survey does just that. According to them, a proactive job seeker is currently employed but would consider the possibility of a new job. The super social job seeker has 150 or more contacts in any given social network and actively uses networks for a job search.
The two surveys shared common ground in at least one area, though. Both ranked referrals as a valued resource. Employers said employee referrals were 8.6 on a scale of 10 for best outside talent, and a lot of them paid employee referral bonuses. Thirty-six percent (36%) of job seekers indicated that professional or personal contact referrals led to finding their current or most recent job. So, in many ways, it’s still “who you know” that counts most.
Posted on November 21, 2011
Occasionally I read something by a recognized expert on employment issues or job search techniques, suggesting—or plainly stating—that resumes are dead and job seekers shouldn’t bother using a resume to secure their next position. If you’re sitting there staring at your shiny new resume, especially if you’ve just paid a professional to create it, you might be wondering whether you’ve wasted your time and hard-earned money. Take heart; all is not lost.
I’ve seen experts make a strong case for not using a resume—including active job development approaches and value-demonstration tactics—and some of them have a much more exalted presence in the career management field than I do, even though I’ve been in it a long time. However, I’ve also had clients take the resume I created for them and parlay it into interviews and job offers that led to a satisfying career move. So my view is that a resume—done right and used effectively—can still help you capture desirable job opportunities. The operative terms are “right” and “effectively.”
It’s true that if you think having a resume is all you need for a successful job search, you’re probably in for a rude awakening. In the first place, I don’t know anyone who has ever gotten hired just by having a professional resume. Life seldom works like that, and the employment or hiring process virtually never does. In the first place, employers won’t “find” you in the vast universe of applicants unless you target them, so simply firing off your resume for an advertised opening is ineffective at best.
If you’re a senior-level manager or executive, you’re most likely not shopping your resume around via online job boards, company job postings or other similar methods anyway. To start with, you probably have a network of contacts you will selectively share your situation and goals with. Even though those individuals know you, you might want to provide them with a copy of your resume as a quick way for them to understand what you are pursuing and what you want to offer to employers.
As a matter of fact, even if you’re not a senior-level job seeker, that’s not a bad way to increase the effectiveness of your job search!
So don’t assume resumes are “dead.” Just re-think the possibilities and choose what works best for you in your unique situation.
Posted on November 18, 2011
By now, I’m assuming you’re already a member of the LinkedIn community. This post is about a way to make that membership work even better for you when you conduct a job search or want to improve your career management techniques. I believe anything that could give you a head-start on the competition for desirable job opportunities is worth checking out.
When you identify companies you’d like to work for now or in the future, companies whose actions might at some point affect your employer and its operations, etc., wouldn’t it be great to be able to keep track of what was going on with those companies, easily? Trying to set up such a tracking system on your own would probably be a mammoth task. Luckily, there are tools to help you track potential employers and other companies of interest to your career, and LinkedIn has incorporated one of them in its features: Follow Company. You can get more details on how it works from an article called “LinkedIn Provides Insider Information,” by Wayne Breitbarth (November 1, 2011); but here’s a brief excerpt:
“It is part of the Company Page section of LinkedIn….You get to this file drawer on LinkedIn by clicking ‘Companies’ on the top toolbar….” Breitbarth lists two ways to follow a company: “1. Once you land on a company profile, just click ‘Follow Company,’ which is on the top right of the company profile page. 2. When you are on an individual’s profile, you can scroll over any of the companies listed in the Experience section. Then when the company detail box pops up, just click ‘Follow Company,’ which is in the lower left of that box.”
The possibilities for using this feature might not be limitless, but they’re extensive. You can track potential employers, your employer’s competitors, companies you might want to sell products or services to, vendors/suppliers your employer does business with, and more. For example, Cisco Systems has over 220,000 followers; I could become one of those. Of course, there’s another possibility as well: I have 580 Cisco connections–one first-level and 579 second-level. I could tap into those for information, too (but that’s a topic for a different post).
Posted on November 16, 2011
Nick Corcadillos, of Ask the Headhunter, offers advice and opinions that are sometimes controversial, but it appears that when people follow his recommendations, they experience a high level of success. One of his most recent articles was titled “Employer Fined for Stupid Recruiting.” It had to do with a company in New Jersey that was fined under a new state law for placing a service manager ad that said, “’Must be currently employed’ because the company wanted someone ‘at the top of their game and not people who have been unemployed for 18 months.’” Corcadillos also noted that the company’s CEO had spent three years searching through resumes to try to fill the position, which means that all that time they didn’t have someone doing the job. Crazy, right?
I’ve heard from a few resume writing clients about ads stipulating that job applicants must be currently employed, and it struck me as not only short-sighted but also discriminatory. If you experience this, do you have any options? Apparently, it’s not yet against the law in any state except New Jersey, so your legal options are probably non-existent unless the company has actually violated a law that is on the books. You might not even want to work for a company that has that kind of “stupid” employment policy, but if you do, you probably need to adopt a more creative approach than just responding to their job posting by submitting your resume. In other words, find a way to get in touch with an influencer inside the company, preferably the hiring manager or someone who has a connection to him/her.
You are not less valuable if you’re currently unemployed. The trick is to demonstrate that to potential employers and generate enough interest to get them to call you for a possible job interview.