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The Telephone Interview
Did you realize that the first interview you receive will probably be via telephone? Companies are streamlining their hiring procedures and most do not conduct in-person interviews until well into the selection process. That means that your first impression with an prospective employer or recruiter will be audible, not visual. What does it take to make a good impression over the phone? Here are some issues to consider:
Take it Seriously – Most candidates aren’t as concerned about the intitial telephone interview as they are about the in-person interview which is a major mistake. The telephone interview is the make or break moment for continuing progress in the evaluation process. If you flub the telephone interview, there won’t BE an in-person interview!
Be Very Prepared – Have your resume near the phone so you can refer to it as needed. Have a list of questions prepared for each company to which you have applied and have that available. Be prepared for the general interview questions that are used for screening purposes – “Tell me about yourself.” Have your job search notes handy. Make sure your portable phone or cell phone is charged up.
Be Formal – Just because you may be standing there with a towel wrapped around you does not mean you can be lackadaisical. Stand up straight. Smile. Talk slowly and with great enunciation. Turn down all background noise (radio, tv, kids, etc.). Watch your grammar – “yes” instead of “yeah”, absolutely NO foul language, and watch your speech patterns. Speak as you would to a boss or a senior executive even if the person on the other end is more casual.
Follow Up – You should follow up a telephone interview just as you would any other type interview – with a handwritten thank you note or a personal email to the person who interviewed you. Make sure you get this contact information from the interviewer before you hang up. Follow up again in a few days to check the status of the position.
Ready the Voice Mail – Make sure your voice mail has a professional-sounding message. It may be cute to have the kids do the message but it’s not productive for making a good impression on possible future employers.
Schedule Ahead - Many recruiters will often email ahead to set up a time for a telephone interview. Take advantage of this and pick a time that will allow you to talk uninterrupted.
Clear Email Communications
The Internet was originally created by scientists to share data concerning defense issues but not long after scientists’ early initiation to the ‘net, it was discovered that the new network was used more for communication than for data sharing. Scientists were chatting via email on subjects near and dear to their heart, namely Star Trek and science fiction. Since the inception of the Internet, email has been known as the “Killer App” and is now one of the most preferred methods of communication.
The Internet has revolutionized job search methods and email is an integral part of finding and landing a new career opportunity. Unfortunately, many job seekers assume that the email messages they send in the process of their job searches can be as informal as those they send to their list of buddies or their grandma. An email message is often the first impression that a recruiter or hiring manager will have of a potential employee. It’s very important that that message project a professional, intelligent message.
Here are a few guidelines for composing and sending email messages in your job search:
-Use capital letters where appropriate – at the beginning of sentences, proper nouns, etc. sentences that don’t have capitalization where appropriate give an impression of sloppiness, unprofessionalism, laziness, and immaturity. you were taught in school when and where to use capitals so use them in your emails just as you would in a formal business letter.
-Proofread your message before you send it. Don’t just spell check it – actually reread it and proofread it for syntax, spelling, and message. It helps if you start at the end and read the sentences backwards, word for word. That makes your mind concentrate on the words rather than what you “thought” you wrote.
-Select your words carefully. We’ve all been victims of misunderstandings in communication and email can exacerbate that problem. Tone of voice, inflection, and facial expressions can’t be conveyed in email so it is imperative that you select words that project a positive attitude and cannot be misconstrued.
-Hold your temper. The fastest way to get blacklisted by recruiters (they DO share notes, you know) is to lambaste one of them in an email. Job search can be frustrating, especially in the sluggish economy we are presently experiencing. Don’t take out that frustration on anyone who is in a position to sink your chances of getting hired.
-Use your name, email, and phone number in your signature.
-Specify text format of your email. Not everyone can or choose to receive HTML emails.
-Don’t be a pest. Email is easy and fast but that doesn’t mean that you should use it to continually pester recruiters and hiring managers. No more than one communication of any type (phone, email, letter) a week is the rule of thumb.
Email can be an excellent tool in your job search and can make it much easier. Don’t mess up the advantages it offers by misuse and bad etiquette. There are many etiquette
In-Demand Job Skills
The Bureau of Labor Statistics tracks every piece of data you can imagine regarding employment, industries, and occupations including future outlook. The users of the information that the BLS gathers range from other government agencies, to economists, and right down to the average job seeker. The following ten skill-sets were noted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics as skills that will be increasing in demand over the next decade.
People who can identify problems, research the problems, find solutions and make sound decisions are needed more in the fields of business administration, public administration, management consulting, science, engineering and healthcare. Implications in the job search are far-reaching. Every job seeker claims to be a problem-solver but employers ignore such trite phrases in resumes. Instead, they look for evidence of problems solved in the employment history of the candidate. Employers use behavioral interviewing techniques to see how well candidates perform in problem-solving situations.
With the continued advancement of technology, people who can fix, repair, configure and install the technology will be needed. Installation, testing and repair of most electrical, electronic and mechanical equipment in fields such as engineering, telecommunications, automotive, transportation and aerospace require people with advanced vocational-technical skills. These skills, at all levels from engineering and architecture down to technician level will be in demand as technology continues to expand into all areas of our lives. Basic skill levels will continue to rise across all fields requiring more and more technology skills to be used in all areas and by all workers.
Human Relations Skills
Often, the success of a company depends upon how well people can work together. Your personal skills will determine 85% of your success: attitude, enthusiasm, ability to work with others, smile, tone of voice, etc. Employers want “hard skills” – skills that can be learned or taught, but human relations skills are more innate, although no less vital to the success of a company. The ability to work with other people including co-workers, colleagues, supervisors, direct reports, and customers to bring about satisfactory results is the lifeblood of a company. Additionally, translate these skills into a global business culture, and these skills become even more important.
Computer Programming Skills
Understanding how to harness a computer's power and program it to meet the specific needs of a particular company can dramatically increase your employment opportunities. Specific languages most in demand today include C++, Java, HTML, Visual Basic, UNIX and SQL Server but new technologies are emerging all the time and the core skill set of programming languages will change over time. While it is important to know programming, it is just as important to continually learn the newest languages in order to stay marketable.
We are told that today one day's edition of the Wall Street Journal has more information in it than a person in 1876 was exposed to in an entire lifetime. As a result, there will continue to be a demand for people with teaching and training skills in the fields of education, social services, management consulting and commerce to sort through and teach this massive amount of information. Don’t just think “classroom” or finger-painting when you think teaching. Teaching comes in many forms and manifests in almost every industry. There is also an emerging trend toward apprenticeships and mentoring coming back as a form of professional development; apprenticeship is one of the best ways to learn a new skill or field and employers are rediscovering it as a training method.
Science and Math Skills
Great advances are being made daily in the fields of science, medicine and engineering. Bright minds skilled in the sciences and math are needed to meet the challenges of these fields. Unfortunately, acquisition of science and math skills has degenerated into a political issue entangling the school system and teachers’ unions. If you missed out on a sound education in math and science, you may want to consider auditing some courses at the college level just to get up to speed with the emerging needs of the business world.
Money Management Skills
Even though income has increased dramatically, Americans are saving less and ending up broke at retirement more often. A CD is something round and shiny rather than a bank account for saving money. Investment brokers, securities officers, retirement planners, and accountants are in continual demand to meet this need.
Information Management Skills
Systems analysts, information technologists, database administrators and telecommunication engineers are examples of people with highly developed information management skills. These skills tie in with the demand for math and science skills, and computer programming skills mentioned above. The IT people are the life’s blood of the economy and our society because they keep us connected and informed, and they keep the technology beast running.
Foreign Language Skills
There is no such thing as an isolated national economy. Everything is global. The ability to speak a foreign language can make your employment opportunities expand exponentially. Some of the most in-demand languages include Arabic/Farsi, Chinese, Japanese, and Russian. The ability to operate in foreign cultures is an additional skill that bring added advantage to the job seeker.
Business Management Skills
America is built on free enterprise. Understanding how to run a successful company is highly in demand. At the core of these skills is the ability to manage people, systems, resources and finances; to understand the needs of consumers and how to translate those needs into business opportunities. As we saw in the dot-com bust, enthusiasm and youth can only go so far. What is needed by employers is someone who can bring a business to success is wisdom, experience, and insight.
Win the Game
We work with many, many clients whose jobs involve a great deal of planning either for marketing, strategic business planning, or financial planning. Project managers, product managers, senior executives – there is rarely a job in existence that does not involve some kind of planning. When faced with a job search, however, the thought of planning seems to go out the window in favor of a “fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants” attitude.
Like any other process that has many steps, job search is best accomplished with planning. The thought of job search scares many people because it is a process that is not attempted very often. Job search is also a process upon which a lot of important factors rest such as salary, standard of living, location of living, etc. It can seem daunting, but fear not! Job search is not rocket science (or even artificial intelligence). It’s just plain common sense with a little bit of a marketing slant.
Let me give you an analogy that most understand. Imagine that you are a fairly decent golfer. You play on a weekly or biweekly basis and you count it a good day when you don’t lose any balls in the woods. Suddenly, you find yourself plunked down in a tournament against 100 other fairly decent golfers, the winner of which gets an annual salary of, say, $100K. That looks pretty good to you since your company cut your job (and everyone else’s job) last week when the second round of funding went south. You had thought you’d work out a little of the stress you’d been feeling the past few days on the links but instead, you are smack-o in the middle of a pretty high-stakes competition.
You are in luck – you have 1 week to prepare for this competition. What do you do? What most golfers would do – you go out and plunk down $500 for a new set of Ping clubs. Another few hundred for a Big Bertha driver and a new titanium putter and you decide you are ready in the equipment department. Your spouse points out that cut-off denim shorts and the Lucent t-shirt you received at last years’ COMDEX won’t be allowed on the course so you whip out the plastic for a new outfit. You even spring for some new FootJoys and spikes. Now you’re stylin’.
Now that you are appropriately equipped and dressed, you decide that some time at the driving range and maybe some quick lessons with the pro will improve your chances of scoring the big prize. You spend all week working on your approach shots, your tee shots, and trying to get rid of that slice that always comes up on the narrow fairways.
Tournament day arrives and you are READY! You are as competitive as you can be and you have an attitude that can’t be beat. Look out Tiger Woods!
That’s how you go about a job search. You get the right equipment – resume, cover letter, references, etc. You get the right outfit – new suit, new shoes, new briefcase, fresh haircut. You get the right training – interview coaching, job search information, networking tips. And then you get competitive. You get aggressive in going after the job you want. You work the shot. You become consistent in your process. You don’t give up if the first shot isn’t a hole in one on a par 5. You focus. You constantly evaluate your situation and make adjustments. You keep your eye on the prize. And you’ll win!
Is Your Resume Moldy?
“I used this resume to get my current job five years ago but now it’s not working. I don’t understand what’s wrong!” What’s wrong is that a resume has a shelf-life just like a jug of milk or a loaf of bread. A resume that worked five years ago, or even three years ago, probably won’t work in today’s market. Many people don’t understand this simple fact and get upset when the old resume they have used before, or even used since college, no longer wins interviews for them.
Resumes change over time to meet the changing demands of hiring managers. Prior to the early nineties, hiring managers needed resumes that were one page in length because they had to be stored in filing cabinets. Resumes of more than one page took up more space! With the advent of the PC in common use in offices, and especially with the coming of age of email and the Internet, it suddenly didn’t matter if a resume was one or two pages because they weren’t stored in metal filing cabinets but rather on hard drives or disks. The Internet and the online job board brought about a true use for longer resumes – the advantage of keyword richness that was gained by longer documents. And page length is just one aspect of resumes that has changed!
With privacy in the Information Age becoming a serious consideration, many job seekers are choosing to leave their street address off the resume in an effort to better protect themselves from identity thieves. The inclusion of certain information and the exclusion of other information is a major change in resumes. Personal information, hobbies, and interests are no longer included on a resume but multi-lingualism is now considered a benefit. Office skills such as keyboarding speed are no longer included but software proficiency is.
If you are using a resume that has not had a major overhaul within the last two years, you are approaching your job search from behind the pack. The market is different today than it was just three years ago. Demands of hiring managers are different. Technology has changed. Visual design of resumes has changed somewhat with new, more inventive and creative designs coming from the imaginative minds of professional writers. New buzzwords abound and the world has changed in terms of global view and outlook. A resume that worked three years ago might very well achieve no results today.
The change in the market and flux in demands of hiring managers often make consulting “how-to” resume books or college career offices a waste of time. Once printed, the book is fixed in time as are the suggestions made about design, content, and information. If you are consulting a resume book that is three years old or older, you are using an out-of-date reference. College career offices tend to be poor sources for information, too, because the staff members of the offices tend not to get out in the “real world” very much. They launch graduates out into the world but don’t receive much return business that can provide them with first-hand information about market conditions.
Don’t approach your job search using an old resume to which you have simply added the latest information. It’s like painting an old door without scraping the old paint off and priming it. It’s a Band-Aid effect and will not work effectively.
Don't Be a Phish
Most job seekers today use online job boards such as Monster.com, CareerBuilder, or HotJobs as primary methods for finding positions. Many upload their resume to the resume databases and include their address, telephone number, and email addresses. It is important to remember when placing your resume and contact information on the Internet to do as much as possible to protect your privacy. For people intent on doing evil, all it takes to have access to this wealth of personal information is to purchase a membership to one of these sites.
Many job seekers report receiving contact from companies seeking commission-only sales representatives to sell insurance, household products, or to get involved in multi-level marketing schemes. In addition to these quasi-legitimate “employers” making contact with you, you should be careful of other mail that comes into your in-box. The following is an email that I received yesterday. Let’s take a look at it.
Dear Prospective Representative,
INVITATION TO TREAT AS AN EXCLUSIVE INTERNATIONAL REPRESENTATIVE.
I am Mr. Chao Chin, MANAGING DIRECTOR OF XIANGON ARTS AND CRAFTS IMPORT/EXPORT. CORP. CHINA.
We are a group of business men who deal on Art and Craft and export
into the Canada And the United States of America.
We are searching for representatives who can help us establish a medium of getting to our customers in the Canada/America, Australia and Europe as well as making payments through you to us. Presently, we are faced with some problems most especially with our payment methods as mostclients we have in Canada And the United State of America prefer to pay us with cheque rather than cash.We find it very cumbersome in accepting such payments due to the new monetary policy in our banking systems here in China and this is crippling our business.
We have numerous customers in the Canada/America, Australia and Europe and we cannot afford to loose them due to this problem.We hereby request for your hand in partnership to act as our payment Representatives , to act as our agentss who shall receive payment on
our behalf from our customers in the United States,Canada,Australia and Europe.
You shall be entitled to 10% of each payment you receive on our behalf
and this shall be a continuous process.Please if you are interested in
transacting business with us, we will be very glad.
Please contact us for more information.
Subject to your satisfaction you will be given the opportunity to negotiate your mode of which we will pay you for your services as our representative in Canada and the United States of America.
Please to indicate your interests please send to us the following informations about yourself.
2.Full contact address( not P. O. Box).
3.Present occupation(Company And position)
Upon receipt of this requested information I shall provide you with
necessary details of how to become our representative.
Thanks In advance
Mr. chao chin.
Xiangon Arts and Crafts.
I have left in all misspellings, mechanical errors, and spacing goofs so you can see how this arrived. It is obvious this message is a scam but some messages that have similar intents are much more sophisticated, slick and professional in appearance. Senders of these messages are preying on people who are potentially unemployed and in need of income. There are several ways of identifying scam messages so you don’t become a victim.
First of all, no true potential employer would ever ask for the items listed in numbers 5-7 because they are in violation of the Equal Employment Opportunity laws. That alone should make you delete this message immediately. You should never provide a Social Security number, driver’s license number, passport number, bank account number or any other identifying information to any potential employer until you have a written job offer in hand and you are completing your paperwork in the human resources department. At that point, your Social Security number will be needed for tax purposes and it’s possible your drivers license number will be required. If you are going to have your check direct deposited, you will need to complete a form for that with your bank account number. Beyond that situation, protect this information to the death!
The second indicator of a scam is a mention of an easy way to make money. This email asks for the recipient (you) to launder money. What actually happens is you would release your bank account number at some point in the “interview” and your funds would disappear. Several job seekers experienced loss of thousands of dollars a few years ago when scammers originally started using the job boards for trolling for victims. Most of the job boards have tightened up and are doing a better job of policing users but it is still incumbent on you, the job seeker, to be aware and very, very cautious.
Travel Can Boost Opportunities
Do you travel a great deal for your job? Many Americans do, often spending thirty-five to seventy-five percent of their work time traveling. If you travel a lot, there is a good chance that you take the same flights on a regular basis and start seeing familiar faces. Often the flight crew is familiar because they work the same flights all the time and you learn their faces. But what about the other passengers? Do you recognize some of them?
Most business travelers get on the flight and crank up the laptop or the PDA as soon as the captain gives permission. There are those minutes during takeoff and landing and at the gate, though, during which you are not tied to your electronic devices. Make the most of that time by striking up a friendly conversation with your seatmate or the person across the aisle and do a little networking.
Sam (not his real name) was a road warrior sales guy in the IT business. His job was to expand a certain territory and he flew a great deal in and out of San Francisco from Austin, Texas. Rather than burying himself in a book or his next presentation, he decided to take one month of traveling and make people connections instead. He chatted with old ladies, other business travelers, the flight attendants, teenagers traveling to see the non-resident parent—pretty much anyone who he sat next to in the plane or at the gate.
The results were astonishing. His sales increased by $2M from two new accounts that he landed as a direct result of chatting with seatmates. He got free upgrades when there was space because the flight attendants knew him and would pull him to first class when possible. He generated several potential leads that he could pass on to other territory managers and he made some friends.
Can you use this technique for networking for your career? Sure you can! In fact, Sam was offered a job by one of the new accounts that he landed as a result of his travel chat. You can also use travel to score points with clients, partners or even the boss – points that can contribute to a promotion or a good offer. Some ideas for making the most of traveling include:
- Create a cheat sheet for the trip that includes client phone numbers, the numbers of the hotel and car rental agency, and the airline. Give a copy to everyone going on the trip.
- Build a dossier on the prospective client that you are visiting that gives the vital information such as names of the head honchos, last quarter earnings, etc. This might come in handy for those who haven’t had time to do their research.
- Call ahead to the concierge and request restaurant recommendations. He/she might be able to provide some suggestions and websites for your preview so you can make some informed suggestions when the “Where can we go for dinner?” question arises.
- Prepare a contingency plan for possible glitches such as an overbooked flight, an overbooked hotel, backup files of the presentation, or weather problems.
So many people claim to be “detail-oriented” or able to execute tactically, but travel can be an opportunity to actually show what you can do.
Hit or Miss
Do you know the difference between a hit and a visit? Fifteen years ago, the definitions would not even be related. A hit would be something that you did with a baseball and a visit is something you did on Sunday afternoons. Now, a hit and a visit are two Internet terms that most people get confused.
Go to Google and do a search on “Finance Executive” and you will get a total of over 267 million “hits” on that search term. That means the search engine found that phrase 267 million times on the Internet, give or take a few thousand. When a resume is in a resume database on an online site such as Monster.com, CareerBuilder, etc., it is searched by recruiters and hiring managers who have paid to have access to that database. They search the database using noun phrases such as “finance executive” or “CEO Retail”. The search engine of the database finds every resume that has those keywords in them and lists them just like Google does, only without the pay-for-placement options that the major search engines have.
I hear from new clients who have been using an old resume in their job search that they are receiving a lot of “hits” on their resume but no calls. They are watching the statistics of their resume on the database system. Each time someone searches on a phrase that is used in the resume, the system records it as a “hit”. What most people don’t understand, though, is that a hit doesn’t mean much.
Back to my Google example above…if you are one of the top ten sites out of that 267 million, the chances are good that your site is going to get a “visit”. A visit is when the searcher clicks on your site and goes there to read more. The same thing is true in a resume database. If your resume is ranked high, you will get more visits meaning the recruiter actually pulls your resume up and reads it. But what if you are number 180 million in the Google listing? Nothing is going to happen except that your site statistics will show your site received a “hit”. No one is going to scroll through thousands of pages to get down to the 180 millionth one listed.
The same is true of resume databases online. Hits don’t mean much but visits are key. If your resume is being viewed or pulled up by recruiters who have searched it out, you should be getting calls if it is powerfully written. There is a fine balance that must occur for a resume to do well in an online database. First, it must be chock-full of noun phrases that represent what recruiters would be searching on if they are searching for someone with your background. Call them keywords if you will, but I like noun phrases because it is more accurate. Recruiters don’t search on verb phrases or adjectives such as “detail-oriented”; they search using nouns such as manager, banking, General Electric, Dallas, etc.
A resume should have lots of noun phrases for the benefit of the search engine function, but to read powerfully, they must be verb-based. A balance must be struck between writing for the computer and writing for the human who will eventually read it. Computers can’t differentiate between good candidates and poor ones. Recruiters do that and they generally make the first assessment based on the resume. A resume that is verb-based has more persuasive power than a resume that is noun-based. Thus, the fine balance that is needed within the resume itself must be found.
The bottom line is do not judge the effectiveness of your resume in online databases on the number of “hits” it generates. Hits really have very little to do with effectiveness. Effectiveness should be judged on one thing – is your phone ringing? If you aren’t getting calls for interviews, hit counts make no difference.
Dollars and Sense
I was reading an article in Executive Travel magazine about cost of living in major US cities. It was interesting because the article discussed annual housing costs rather than an ephemeral overall cost of living percentage or average housing cost. In our work with clients, we always ask if they have a geographical location in mind for their job because it impacts their job search. Some areas are hotter than others and some, like New York, New York, have expenses involved that the average job seeker might not consider. We want to make sure we help our clients prepare as well as possible and consider these aspects of relocation when negotiating compensation.
The article noted that the annual cost to live in Manhattan is $146,060. Just today, I talked with three job seekers who were targeting Manhattan for their job search and none of them were targeting salaries that would support this living cost, much less support an investment plan. Sure, they might commute from the suburbs but if they do that, they need to consider commute costs and other ancillary costs when negotiating salary. Don’t forget these items when considering where you would accept a job. So much impacts your lifestyle and location is one of the most important.
Interested in the other four most expensive cities in the US? San Francisco came in second at an annual cost of $133,880 for living expenses. Following San Francisco was Los Angeles at $117,726 and San Jose at $108,506. Rounding out the top five was Washington, DC at $102,589. These figures are the minimum amounts needed to live – that’s just covering the basics such as housing, food, transportation, and clothing.
The article also noted the percentage of housing costs of each figure. In Manhattan, 68.83% of the $146,060 living cost is devoted to housing. Have you thought of what your cost to live is compared to your target salary? Have you considered that cost of living tends to rise faster than salaries? Think about it – has your salary over the past year risen in proportion to the costs of gas, mortgage rates, and home heating fuel?
Salary negotiation is more than just negotiating the base salary and the bonus. You must think in terms of cost of living, too. Think total compensation. Many companies are getting creative in their compensation of employees. Jewelry TV recently provided employees with a stipend to help them offset the rising cost of gas. Municipalities are providing their employees with bio-fueled company vehicles to help reduce emissions, cut costs, and reduce attrition. Some smaller companies offer no-interest employee loans for purchase of certain items such as vehicles. Professional development and paid tuition is a hot compensation item.
If you are considering a new job with a potential relocation, think about all aspects of the new location. Are the schools safe or will you need to shoulder private school tuition? What are the taxes in the new location? Is food more expensive there? Is affordable housing available near the employer location or will a commute be involved? Consider all the options!
A Mother's Job
Salary.com is running a special article right now that details the pay that stay-at-home mothers would earn if they were compensated for all the work they do during the day. According to the study, a stay-at-home mom would earn $$134,121 dollars a year based on a 51.6 hour work-week. A “working mom” – a mother who works outside the home – would earn $85,876 dollars a year based on a work week of 49.8 hours. (I don’t know how they came up with the different hours – it doesn’t seem quite right to me.)
Some of the “job titles” or functions that Salary.com says stay-at-home moms perform include housekeeper, day care teacher, cook, computer operator, laundry operator, janitor, CEO, facilities manager, van driver, and psychologist. I think they left out a few. How about CFO, EMT, nurse, event planner, and coach?
Being a mom is not only the most complex job in the world, but it is also the most important. Moms shape the entire lives of their children simply from their presence, the example they set, the values they teach, and the support they provide. Stay-at-home moms choose to make sacrifices in lifestyle in order to raise their children and be the primary caretaker.
The attitude in society is starting to swing back to the positive about mothers that choose to be a fulltime mom rather than pursue a career during the formative years of their children’s lives. In the seventies, the feminist movement created a social stigma that surrounded the woman who chose to stay at home to raise her children. In that generation, having a career was utmost and any woman that chose to be a “mom”, was a traitor to womanhood. Now, you can go to any park or playground on a sunny morning and find well-educated women there with their children, enjoying the outdoors and chatting about crock-pot dinners and shoes. Being a mom is not a social stigma anymore.
Other than my own mother and my mother-in-law, I know two very special moms. One is a stay-at-home new mother and one is a working mother. The new mother and her husband just had their first child, a girl, after 17 long years of marriage. This particular woman is well-educated and held a high management position with a national non-profit. She decided not to return to the workplace almost before bringing her little one home from the hospital and walk away from a career in which she was earning nearly six figures. It means a bit of a lifestyle change for her and her husband. He makes an excellent salary and is well-capable of supporting the family but they won’t have the extra “play money” they’ve enjoyed for most of their marriage. It’s a sacrifice they both are more than willing to make.
The other mother of note is an assistant principal in a public school. After a short marriage, she and her husband divorced and parted ways. She had always wanted children so she decided to adopt a child from overseas. She went to Ukraine with full intentions of selecting a girl from the orphanage population there but ended up choosing a little boy. It was definitely a divine intervention because she could not have had a child more like herself if it had been biological. She and her son are a “family” and she shoulders all the parental responsibility. Everyday, her son tells her “Mommy, I’m so glad you picked me.”
Is your Mom being well-paid by you in terms of gratitude and respect? Being a mom is a tough job and there are no sick days, no retirement plans, no vacation days. It’s a lifetime job that you can’t step down from. Why not call your mom and say “thanks”?
Finding the Competition
There is a saying that you should “know thy enemy”. In job search, I wouldn’t exactly say the competition is your “enemy” but the meaning of the phrase is the same. You should know against whom you are competing and what they are offering employers so you can align your marketing message to be effective.
In a job search, do you actually ever see or meet your competition? Usually you do not. The competition is a nameless, faceless entity who is out there sending his/her resume in to employers for the same positions, talking to the same recruiters, interviewing with the same hiring managers. You might pass in the hallway on the way to the interview or maybe ride in the same elevator but you are usually unaware of each other. The competition is invisible.
It is important to understand the competition so you know if you are in the fight or just spinning your wheels. There are several ways to find out about the competition that can be helpful and improve the effectiveness of your job search.
Talk to those who talk to the competition. As resume writers, we know your competition very well. We see their resumes; we write new resumes for them; we coach them; and we see the qualifications with which they are entering the fight. We can honestly tell you if the approach you are taking with your resume and job search initiatives will compete well. We can tell you if your resume is weak compared to others in your field who are looking at the same type positions and same salary levels. We can tell you what is working for the competition as far as methods are concerned.
Recruiters see the competition, too. They can tell you if your resume is strong. Beware, though, that recruiters tend to tell everyone they have a “strong resume” just as a brush-off. It’s akin to “have a nice day”. It really has no meaning. To really find out recruiter opinions, ask them not what they think of the resume, but rather how you compare to other candidates they see. Ask if they would rate your qualifications on a scale of 1-10. Find out if they are seeing employers asking for criteria that are not showing on your resume. Specific questions elicit specific answers.
Ask the interviewer about the competition. After the interview, ask the interviewer if he/she sees any gaps in your qualifications that other candidates don’t have. Ask how they would rate you on a scale of 1-10. Ask for suggestions on how to improve your candidacy.
If you get beat out by the competition, contact the interviewer or hiring manager for the position and ask for an “exit interview”. This is an interview that provides you the opportunity to gain insight as to how you interviewed, how your qualifications stack up against the candidate that was hired, what was the deciding factor for the other candidate, and other information that would be helpful to you in your continued job search. Make sure the interviewer understands that you want the information so you can be better prepared for the next job you target and not that you are trying to continue your candidacy for the job that was filled. It’s a chance to gain constructive criticism from the interviewer that you can use to improve your presentation.
All these methods can help you gain insight on the people against whom you are competing in the market for open positions. You never meet these people and never see their resumes or get to listen in on their interviews. It is vital, though, to learn as much as possible about them so you are prepared. They might be invisible but they are there just like wind – unseen but very powerful.
Top Cities to Do Biz
Forbes Magazine announced yesterday the top cities for business in the US. The top five were:
Albuquerque, New Mexico
With the exception of Boise, all these are located either in the south or southwest. Sort the metro areas by job growth and you come up with the top three all in Florida – Cape Coral, Naples, and Port St. Lucie. In fact, Florida beats out the competition in the top twenty cities for job growth, garnering ten of the 20 spots. In the top ten, only two are not in the south or southwest – Las Vegas, Nevada and Riverside, California.
Judging from this study and just from the responses we hear from our clients, a good portion of the job seekers seem to be looking to warmer climates for their next job. Not only warmer climates, but lower costs of living may well be gaining favor with job seekers. Gas prices, housing costs, tax burdens – all are factors considered when looking for a new job and the southern states offer better options on all these factors.
Personally, I have knowledge of the Knoxville, Tennessee area. Knoxville offers a lot of great quality of living factors. It is nestled within twenty miles of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park which offers all kinds of recreational options from hiking and camping to llama treks to some of the best trout fishing in the nation. Knoxville is also within a short distance of several lakes formed by the Tennessee River so water sports abound.
Like the other cities on the list, Knoxville is a university town serving as home to the University of Tennessee. Brain power abounds in the area, too, with the close proximity of the Oak Ridge National Lab. The university and the lab have given rise to many, many high tech and scientific sub-industries in the area that find the low tax rates, low cost of real estate, and educated population a perfect combination for industry. Knoxville is also home to HGTV and Jewelry TV, two of the more prominent of the media industry that is growing rapidly in the Knoxville area.
What is attracting job seekers and businesses to the southern and southwestern states besides lower costs of living? Many job seekers state the slower pace of life is attractive and the culture of the southern region of the country holds merit. After 9/11, many people took a closer look at their life goals and their lifestyles and rearranged their priorities. The cultural aspects of the southern states now hold a greater attraction than before for those seeking to escape the rat race to some extent and enjoy life more. The climate allows for more time outside in pursuit of recreational activities and that is attractive to many.
Most job seekers with whom we deal have specific geographic areas in mind for their next job, whether it is to stay where they are or move to a specific region/city. Some note family as main reasons for their preferences and many note housing prices. When you are considering a relocation for a job, make sure you consider all the aspects of the new area. Gas prices and commute distance have a direct impact now on budgets. Quality of schools, cost of housing, and climate all affect lifestyle. Don’t just look at benefit packages and salary when considering a new job.
The Friends and Family Plan
You’re all set. You’ve written your resume and you’ve had all your friends, your spouse, your colleagues, and maybe even your mother looks at it. They all say the same thing “It sounds good to me.” Now you are confident and start sending it out but nothing happens. Three weeks later, still nothing has happened. You think, “It can’t be the resume. Everyone said it was good.”
Hold it right there. Let’s take off the rose-colored glasses and look at this situation objectively. You poured your heart and soul into a resume that you OBVIOUSLY feel is good. Your feelings are obvious to everyone to whom you have showed it. They see your face, know your situation, understand the importance of the resume to your emotions, and lie through their teeth telling you what you want to hear. Alternatively, they look at the resume and think “It’s better than my old one” and give you a thumbs-up on it.
Are friends, family, and colleagues in any kind of objective position to give you useful feedback? Do they know what the hiring managers in today’s market in your target industry seek in a good candidate? Do they know what kind of resumes your competition is fielding? Can they compare what you have to offer to the skills and abilities of the hundreds of other job seekers who are competing against you? No.
Why do you put yourself through the emotional wringer of seeking advice from people who love you, don’t want to hurt your feelings, but are totally unqualified to help you? It would be like asking your husband if you look fat in your cocktail dress – what can he say that won’t get him in hot water? He says you look great as he eyes the three rolls around your middle.
Seeking resume advice from non-objective people is a serious mistake in your career search and can result in delay in landing that next job. I also hear many job seekers reporting they hear “Your resume looks good” from recruiters. These same recruiters never seem to follow up or call back, though. Could it possibly be that the “Your resume looks good” comment is a blow-off? Possibilities look good to me.
You can seek advice on your resume from 100 different people and get 100 different responses. We critique hundreds of resumes a month and many of those people who seek our advice seek the advice of other professional resume writers who also offer free critiques. Our responses will be similar in some ways and different in others. It doesn’t matter, though. What matters is “Does the resume work?” If it doesn’t work, something needs improving. If a resume is winning interviews and opening doors, don’t change it because it’s working!
We sometimes get responses from job seekers who are seeking a resume critique that state something along the lines of “The resume is working. I’m setting up interviews. I just wanted your opinion.” Honestly, our opinion doesn’t matter in that situation. Why should the job seeker care about opinions if the resume is doing a good job?
Bottom line – if the resume doesn’t win interviews, it needs work. Your friends and family are NOT the people to review your resume and give objective advice. The only response from a recruiter that matters is “When can you interview with the hiring manager?” And if the resume is not broken, don’t fix it.
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