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Preview: The Job Search Dolphin!!!!

The Job Search Dolphin!!!!

A site for job search tips, skills and suggestions from Greg Lachs.

Updated: 2018-03-06T18:59:54.656-05:00


The Soft/Effective Follow up After Interviews


It’s a familiar situation. An interview, perhaps a second or even a third. Follow ups on your part, but no response (at least something definitive) from the employer.

Also, I’ve followed up and gotten responses such as “we’re still thinking it over,” or “we haven’t come to a decision, yet.” Sometimes it’s true, and, sometimes, it’s a quick way to either get you off the phone or to discourage immediate further contact.

That “thin line” between being considered persistent versus being considered a pest is always a challenge.

When we’re looking for employment, we want closure, specificity.
So, it may be time to try to get closure using a different track. Call it the “soft” close:

Dear Mr. Genk:

I am writing to thank you for the chance to interview for the Area Manager opportunity with Bipplequist Industries. Bipplequist’s long term growth plans strongly match my prior experience, and I am very excited by the possibilities.

However, I’m guessing that you’ve probably filled the position by now.

Please keep in mind for future opportunities.


Zorb Gelnick

This can be an email, text or voicemail message (but not more than one – that’s simply overkill.)

Here’s why it may be able to help you:

It’s where some of the most hidden of jobs in the job market could be. The job that hasn’t been filled, but most applicants think it has been – based on lack of response by the employer. Folks may try standard follow up techniques, get no response, and figure it’s time to move on. That could be true.

However, as “ASAP” as some hires are supposed to be, they don’t always turn out that way. And it frequently has nothing to do with the candidate pool. More often, it’s a matter of the ever changing priorities that come up for potential employers: finishing projects, putting out “fires,” playing “catch up,” client/customer issues, meetings, other HR or hiring-related issues, or even vacations (needed participants/decision makers aren’t available to “sign off.”)

However, I’m guessing that you’ve probably filled the position by now.
Please keep in mind for future opportunities.

These sentences, particularly the first, can become very helpful when the process seems to be “going nowhere.”

Here’s the reason. If the employer has not made a decision, your gentle note can get their attention. Your indication that you believe the job is filled is your very polite way of saying “I really like your company. However, you must have selected someone else, so I’ll continue my search.” No implicit demands or frustration on your part. It’s “gentle” or “soft,” and worded much differently from what employers normally may receive in the follow up arena.

If you are someone they truly had interest in, they may not want you to “move on” just yet.
Smart employers may respond. They’ll want to let you know that you are in consideration, and that they haven’t filled the opportunity, yet.

I’ve learned this through practical application. It’s kept me “alive” in specific situations where I didn’t know that was the case.

Even when the answer was “we have filled the position, but thank you” I’d still get closure.

However, I’m guessing that you’ve probably filled the position by now.
That’s a powerful sentence that has the virtue of being very gentle and polite. No anger, no criticism, no complaining, no hard sell, no accusations, no frustration. Simple, but a bit more layered than that.

When you aren’t hearing back from employers where you believe you have interviewed well, particularly if there have been multiple interviews, it’s a great tool.

As I learned in Sandler Sales many years ago, “After all, how much are they paying you, now?”

In an interview, stay out of the "Excuse Zone!"


There are simply some things you do not ask in an interview.

And there is one area in particular that you absolutely need to stay away from. I call it the “Excuse Zone.” In the Excuse Zone reside many pitfalls, many traps: journey there during an interview and it cannot help your prospects. In the Excuse Zone – any questions about vacation, sick time, breaks, lunches – anything to do with time off.

If you are asking about sick time, an employer figures you are planning to take time off. If you are asking about breaks, an employer figures you will be taking advantage of that opportunity. If you are asking about lunch time, an employer figures you are more concerned with how you can relax, instead of what you may be able to offer.

None of these things help. An employer will get the impression that what you don’t have to do and where you won’t have to be is more important to you than anything else. Frankly, it’s a turn off to prospective employers.

Ask several Excuse Zone questions during an interview, and there is a good chance that much of the positive effort you had already put in will not count all that much. It’s human nature. We remember the best and the worst more than the mediocre. When the worst stands out more than the best, we don’t remember so much about the good side.

Of course, time off, lunch, sick time, etc. matter in a job. However, until you are offered the job, it doesn’t matter at all, does it? When someone offers you a job, you can ask about benefits and also ask about Excuse Zone area questions. At that time, employers don’t mind. They want to hire you, and are happy to provide answers.

Focus on what sells you best: your talent, your experience, your accomplishments, your education. Show an employer you are a motivated solution provider. That can create a positive impression and certainly can help your chances.

If you are working hard to find a new employment opportunity, play to your strengths. It’s easy to stay out of the Excuse Zone. And it’s very important that you do so in an interview.

Keywords, not Categories


Most job boards let you search by category and keyword. Employer sites often do this as well.

The most effective way to search them is not by “category,” but by “keyword.”

Here’s why keywords win the day, and categories can tend to be the wrong direction: when an employer posts a job, that employer gets to choose what category the job goes in. Most of the time, no one from that job board makes any suggestions on that front, either. People doing the job posting can struggle with choices here. They are left to their own devices to both write an effective ad and put it where it will be seen by the most candidates. And they may not make the most logical choice.

Here’s an example.

Suppose a company has an opening for an IT Director, who has management experience and a CCNA. One would think you would find that job in an “IT related” category. However, since the IT Director is a manager, someone might post it in the “Management” category, instead. If this job is in the Banking sector, someone could post it in the “Banking” or “Finance” categories, rather than Information Technology. If this job is with a not for profit organization, it might get posted under “Non Profit.” None of the categories is really “incorrect.” Most of us would look in an IT related category for IT positions. In this example, this particular position won't show up there.

Since folks do their own job postings, this happens more frequently than you might think.

That’s why keywords are your best friend.

Let’s say you put “CCNA” as a keyword. Jobs that have CCNA in the title and/or description will come forward, no matter what category they were placed in. Use “CCNA” and “Director” (or “Administrator” or “Manager”) and you’ll further narrow the field to more senior level CCNA relevant positions.

If the job board allows you to pick “all categories” choose “all.” If it doesn’t ask you to get specific with categories, go that route. If, like for Career Builder, you can only choose several categories at a time, and “all” isn’t an option, you still have options. Keep your keywords the same, and choose as many categories as you can that you believe might be relevant. Repeat the search with different categories. In any of these cases, your use of keywords will help you find things that others might miss. Two very good resources to check this way are Indeed.Com and Craigslist. Indeed doesn’t even have a category search.

By using keywords instead of categories, you can be very specific and find opportunities others may have missed. It’s also going to save you time. You won’t have to look through every recent job in a specific category to see if it is relevant to your search.

It’s a simple way to make your job search more effective.

Take All The Positives You Can Into Your Job Search Efforts...And Leave The Anger Behind.


In my staffing days, I’d hear all kinds of tales from frustrated job seekers. Many of them had very real issues and difficulties that had caused difficulty along the way. Some would vent about how unfair an employer seemed, or how unresponsive another staffing firm was. Others might just vent frustration with the Tampa Bay job market, salaries, or the process of having to interview “again and again.”
Most of this took place during far better economic times, too.

As an interviewer, it tended to wear me out. As someone trying to find opportunities for people, I sometimes just couldn’t “let go” of all the negativity sent my way. I’d never advertised services as a Mental Health Professional. Simply, I was a staffing person juggling candidates and clients and trying to create good employment fits for both sides of the equation.

Times are tough. Even when they aren’t for you, they may be for someone else. More importantly, we all have issues that wear on us, frustrate us and tire us out. It’s called “life.”

Each day is a new battle. Why carry rusty armor?

Since there’s no second chance to make a first impression, bringing up your very real pain and frustration to interviewers, HR folks, people at a job fair or staffing/search professionals is not going to create a good first impression. We have every right to feel; listeners have every right not to be subject to all our feelings in depth.

Interviewing types are not totally devoid of empathy or sympathy. People who can help you in your search are not all indifferent.

However, there’s a big difference in introducing yourself with “Man, it’s been a very tough 16 months” versus “I’m a Civil Engineer.”

Call it the “Nearest Exit Theory.” If you are standing alone at a party and someone walks up to you starting a rant of invective and frustration, one of your first thoughts is probably “How do I get out of this?” You want the nearest exit.

So will the people who are helping you on your job search.

Vent to friends, family or inanimate objects. That’s healthy. It’s what a support system is for. Close friends and family who will listen and encourage, and perhaps share their own frustrations in a safe environment.

So, take all the positives you can into your job search efforts and leave the anger behind.

I’m not telling you that it’s easy, only that it’s necessary. Employers are looking for people who can be an addition, not a drain. People who can add to a team, not suck the life out of it. People who can bring ideas, not invective.

Focus on what you have to offer, what you can do, what you can learn and what opportunities you feel you are a good “fit” for. We all have things to offer – focus on the unique skills and experience you and only you have.

Plus, you are selling an employer on the truth: what you have done and what you could do.

As good as it is to hear something positive, just imagine how reinforcing it is for you to be saying those positive things. About you!


Job Search Tip: Opportunity Lost and Found


A friend of mine recently told me about a “temp” they’d brought in for a week (which was part of the problem.)

This employee was brought in for a temporary position that was going to last at least 5 months, due to someone’s impending leave. While there were no guarantees about anything longer, it was a 5 month stint with a paycheck – with a chance to positively impress a lot of people.

And impress people this person truly did. He took 10-20 minute breaks almost every hour, texted regularly at his desk, visited Facebook regularly, and showed minimal interest in learning about what the job entailed. Instead of asking how he could help his team, he’d just sit at his desk and text or surf the net. The entire department made their concerns known to a manager: by the end of the first week, it had also become this person’s last week.

The person who told me about this is someone I’ve known quite a long time, so I knew this was a true tale of “Opportunity Lost.”

Some of us may choose to work with staffing firms in our search. I have done that.

And a “temp” gig may come up that has some “life” in it – it doesn’t pay badly and it lasts more than a day or two. Sometimes, it’s months.

If you step into this arena, please be aware that you are auditioning. You are like an actor trying to land a role in a major motion picture. There are multiple opportunities to showcase your “stardom” by demonstrating your professionalism, dedication and initiative. Even if the employer has no “full time” opportunities, you have the chance to make a positive impression. You may get new references out of the experience and possibly leads to jobs in other places. At minimum, you’ve done a good job.

Some folks may not want temporary work: that’s ok. It’s not a fit for everyone.

But, if you are willing and able, be aware that it’s an opportunity. Not just to bring in some money, but also to make an impression.

If you get that chance, make your impression a good one.

Opportunities can be found, too.

Tales from the Resume Reef: 9 “Killer Shark” resume errors to avoid.


Doing your own resume? Please pay attention to detail!In today’s economy, employers can be even more fussy about the resumes they want to look at. So, it is more crucial than ever to avoid what I would call “killer shark” resume errors. These are ones who will most likely get your resume ignored, lost or not taken as seriously as you deserve.These are the kinds of things I’ve fixed for other people in over a dozen years of working with resumes. Repairs of the “killer shark” problems didn’t guarantee results; the repairs did, though, remove obstacles to getting a resume read and for a candidate to be taken seriously for opportunities.If you do your own resume, avoid the following “killer shark” errors.1. Old contact information or contact information missing: This is a “killer” simply because it’s hard to reach you if you don’t provide the correct information. Make certain your contact information includes an email address you use regularly. If you put in your phone number, make certain you include any number you’d be ok with an employer calling. For most of us, it’s a cell phone. 2. Spelling Errors: This is a “killer.” Spell check exists in pretty much all word processing programs and most email clients as well. If you don’t spell check your resume, you are sending the message that you aren’t detail oriented. Not a good thing for an employer to see.3. Handwritten Corrections: I’ve seen this more than I ever thought possible. There is NOTHING professional about using handwriting to update ANY information on a printed resume. If it means going to a friend’s house to type a resume from “scratch,” that’s better than someone seeing scrawled “corrections” on your resume. From experience, I can tell you that resumes with handwritten edits very quickly go to the bottom of the pile, if they are kept at all. 4. Additional Pages Without Contact Info: Here’s another “killer.” In today’s so called “paperless” world, we print out more than ever before. If you have a multipage resume, but your contact information is only on the first page, how does someone know that the other pages are part of the same resume? That becomes a kind of puzzle that hiring folks don’t have time for. Just put the same contact info (including your name) that you have on page 1 in the upper right corner of EVERY additional resume page.5. Tiny Font Sizes: Ever seen something in print that was so small, you feel like you’d need a microscope to read it? I’ve seen resumes where 4,6 or 8 point fonts were used. Most hiring folks don’t keep a microscope around to read resumes. Use a font between 10-12 points: most folks are comfortable reading documents that are sized such. Anything smaller is potentially an eye test. And if it means your resume is a little longer, isn’t it better that it’s one that someone can read easily?6. Space Killers: Not talking about “Alien” here. Don’t use a large font (over 12 points) throughout your resume to make it look “longer.” No one thinks it’s a better resume: just that you are eating up space. If you are filling out your resume that way, you NEED to shorten it. Switch to a 10-12 point font. If it means a “short resume,” change your default margins to 1” all around and increase the font size for your first page contact info to 14 or 16. Remember when you answered essay questions for tests? It wasn’t the length of the answer that the instructor was looking at: he or she was looking at the content of the writing. Same thing is true of a resume!7. Personal Information: Leave your SSN, DL, date of birth, names of kids, name of spouse, date of wedding, etc. behind. I have seen these on a number of resumes, particularly those with a lot of work experience. These information bits are “killers” because you are giving away private information others can use for potentially bad purposes. Plus, employers DO NOT[...]

Working with Staffing/Search Firms: An Insider's Guide, Part I


How do Staffing or Search Firms really work? That’s not an uncommon question.As someone who spent nearly a decade in the business, I hope to provide some answers. The intent is not to encourage or discourage your use of a staffing or search firm as part of your job search (IMHO – they can be helpful and have gotten me my most recent position – which took place during this recession.)The more you know, the easier it is for you to understand what’s going on. I’ve worked with some very established, professional and ethical firms over the years: however, no matter how much we explained to a candidate or a client, there were still questions.So, I’ve divided up this into 3 separate articles:1. Background/Intro2. How Staffing Firms/Search Firms Work with Candidates3. How Staffing Firms/Search Firms Work with EmployersEach section will also handle and hopefully clarify some common misconceptions.Some background and an introduction re: my experiences:From 1997 to 2008, I worked at several staffing firms as well as a couple of search firms. Starting originally with some basic sales calls and recruiting, I became involved in finding candidates, finding clients, setting up interviews, briefing and debriefing of candidates, and closing deals and bill clients. At one time or another I set bill rates or placement fees, got a signed contract, found candidates, got them interviewed and got them placed.I generally worked what the industry calls a “full desk” – meaning that I was responsible for finding clients AND candidates. Somehow, I always felt better knowing I was part of the whole process and could know more completely what was going on. However, some firms split recruiting and sales and do just fine that way.A “full desk” person is usually called a “Recruiter” even though he or she is also doing sales. Very often, I was making over 100 outbound calls on a daily basis: it’s an inside sales position whether you are dealing with companies who may have jobs or interviewing local candidates who come into the office or you deal with remotely. And a lot of voicemails left.During my experience, I had to create my own potential client list as well as candidate pool. Potential clients were just that: people who might work with me at some point, but had not done so as of yet. Sometimes, it took years of phone calls and discussions to get to that point where a potential client became a real one. If you have been in sales, you know how that can be. On the candidate side, I ran ads online, in the papers (back in the 90s,) attended job fairs and also called directly into companies to “head hunt” candidates. You may have heard the term “Headhunter.” It was also the name of a job board in the late 90s was absorbed into in 2001.In my time in the placement world, I placed people in temporary, temp to hire and direct hire opportunities. Direct Hire at one time was called “Permanent Placement,” but the recession of 2001 gradually pushed that term into past tense usage. It’s hard to think of any job as “permanent” anymore. As the times changed, so have people’s approaches toward their careers. In many situations, people are at their current jobs only until something better opens up elsewhere, whether in another department in their firm or another firm altogether.I’ve strictly done inside sales, and many firms operate strictly that way. Others mix in outside sales and inside sales or rely strictly on outside sales. I admire outside sales professionals because I could never do what they do – visit people all day to try and sell business services/products. I had no degree in HR nor sales experience when I started working in staffing/search. That’s not uncommon. In my first position, I got truly wonderful training through the Sandler Sales method. My firm paid for me to go to an external trainer who presented and trained in [...]

Keep on Going, Part 565.5


It's been a year since I posted on this blog. During those months, I wasn't motivated to showcase my so called "wisdom" when I was going through not working, not finding a job, finding a bad job, and finally finding a good one. All in the span of a very long 2008. The recession was here in Florida, early.

Still, I did provide resume suggestions and career search ideas as a free service to friends, family and friends of family, as I always had been doing. But I felt too demoralized to share further in a blog or article, as I had tried to do for the first half of 2008.

Searching for work, I think, is some of the hardest work there is. We seldom, perhaps outside of dating, have to work very hard to "sell ourselves."

That first date, particularly with someone we may barely know, is often filled with a wondrous mix of nervousness, anticipation, fear, joy, panic and expectation that seldom comes together so forcefully. Every movement, every word, every silence, ever gesture, or lack thereof, seems to have more meaning than usual. And, as we try to apprise the situation, someone is apprising us. His or her criteria are different from ours, and we don't quite know how we're being looked at or considered. If we find commonality, interest, attraction, we're more upset if things don't work.

But there is an almost universal truth that covers both the dating experience and the job search experience: each of us views things differently. The puns (I think they are funny) I'm trying to impress my date with are for her annoyances that she politely puts up with, waiting for a quick exit. I felt I was witty and charming, while my date thought she'd tuned into to a very bad showcase from Comedy Central.

And I have received feedback from interviews that seems to be a clear signal that I am a serious candidate, only to find that I am not the one of choice. The interviewer's enthusiasm may have been framed for "this guy could work" while I think I hear "this guy is our choice." When I was struggling to find work, I think I viewed a lot of interviews this way. Each time that the result was different from my expectations, I got more frustrated.

Most of the time, no one is at "fault." We are a match for a person or not, and the same is true of employment opportunities: we are a match for the job or not. Problem is that we aren't usually the ones making the final decision.

Feeling rejected is never a fun thing.
And it seems to be often at the very core of job searching. Particularly in a tough market.

The simple truth is, as REO Speedwagon put it a long time ago, that we need to "Keep Pushing On." It's not an easy thing.

But, you have value: as a person and as an employee. You always have.

Help yourself. Stay in touch with friends and family, do things with people, and find things to enjoy even in your times of stress - whether it's playing with your dog, watching an old movie, or playing an old computer game. Cheap or free stuff that has great ability to distract us from stress in our lives.

Most of us have "first date gone bad" stories. However, most of us kept up the search for that "someone" because we considered the search worth the challenge.

Job searching is not much different. Things won't work. Frustration ensues. Anger shows up.

You get to show your real strength in your willingness to keep trying. To stay connected and to stay active. You win every day no matter the result, just because you stayed "in the game." In my unemployment, I learned that being active in my search was a victory in itself. It kept me moving forward and kept me in contact with people who might be able to help me. Eventually, someone did.

And sometimes any victory you can get matters. You are worth it!

Avoid the Scattershot Job Search


I've seen a number of resumes lately for technical positions my colleages and I are recruiting for; unfortunately, the vast majority of candidates were completely unqualified. One thing about technology - if people DON'T have what's needed, such can eliminate the candidate very quickly. The "I can learn" theory of doing things is not something that's applicable. Thus, such candidates were "set off" to the side.

Employers don't spend time endlessly reading unqualified resumes; it's a very short elimination process.Specifics matter, and their absence just takes up time to get through.

What's it mean to you? That you WON'T hear back from employers in such cases, and that such could be very frustrating. (After all, we've all applied for jobs we thought we were "right on target" for, and never heard a thing.)

Thus, it pays to be selective, smart and do yourself a favor. READ the job descriptions carefully and only apply if you have a majority of the key skills/abilities/experience that are being asked for.

At least that way, you guaranteee a better chance that your resume will be taken more seriously - and potentially lead to call backs or emails of interest. Plus, such can lower your frustration. If you send your resume "everywhere," you'll hear from mostly no one and feel like your efforts are fruitless. Truth is, they are just too scattered.

You aren't scattered; you have talent and experience to offer. Go after those jobs that match what YOU can do.

Tales from the Resume Reef: Doublecheck that Content!


True stories abound from recruiters and employers alike. When they've reviewed resumes, they haven't seen the key "needed" skills, experience and education. So, they don't call the candidate.

Invariably, some candidates follow up (and good for them!) and speak to the hiring authority. What they are told is something like "well, we didn't see any Oracle experience" on your resume. What people have sometimes responded with is "Oh, I have that" or something similar. However, the problem is that the information wasn't on the resume.

You gotta have the content.

If you do your own resume, take an extra step. Have someone you know and respect review your resume and "interview you" to find out if you've included EVERY important piece of information. That person can ask you questions like "Is there anything else you've done?" for each job you've had, and can go through your skills section and ask the same. And can also proofread your document.

Here's the reason why. When we write, we tend to "see" things. No, not UFOs, but words or letters we EXPECT to be there because we wrote them. That's why spellcheck picks up a missing "the" or "and" - the words AREN'T really there - we just thought we put them in!

Having an "extra" set of eyes to proofread your resume and to quiz you on content can only help. Such can make certain that you have the "right content" and key information in your resume to market yourself.

After all, why not?

Tales from the Resume Reef: Contractual Obligations


Lately, I've seen some resumes where a candidate has worked for less than a year at several employers.

As a recruiter, I try to read further, and can usually discern that the person was working on contracts or consulting. If I speak to the candidate, he/she usually confirms my suspicion.

However, not all recruiters nor employers "dig" that deeply when they see a lot of short employment stints.
It tends to make them wonder about work histories when they may not have to.

If you have worked temporarily or contractually or as a consultant, showcase that:
3/07 to 9/07 CONTRACT Network Administrator, The Zorch Group, Bristol CT
3/07 to 9/07 Network Administrator (Consultant,) The Zorch Group, Bristol CT
3/07 to 9/07 Network Administrator (Temporary Position,) The Zorch Group, Bristol CT

In that way, you've made clear what short-term employment really was, and makes employers quickly understand why you had such.

Truth is, most of us have done contract, temporary or consulting work at some time; it's common and normally not of any concern to employers looking for full time employees. And, if they ARE looking for something more "temporary," they will see that you have already done such.

Just "clarify" your work history!

It's just a matter of making things EASY for the employer, which is always a good thing for you!

Email Lesson Learned the Hard Way


A few years back, I aggressively put my email address on any site of ANY kind that was of interest, whether for job search or my digital photography hobby or social networking.

The result? Well, within a couple of years I was getting over 50 SPAM emails per day. No matter how much filtering I did through Outlook or Thunderbird, such junk still got through. With such a large amount of spam each day, I was "under siege." Not to mention that I had to filter through all the garbage to find the occasionally relevant email or note from a friend.

Thus, I had to change my main email address - and did so. Next, I realized that I should not post my email address at every opportunity. Then, I made certain that ANY posting of my email address would be with my YAHOO email address. As it turns out, Yahoo has great SPAM filters; I'd imagine such other free email as Hotmail or Gmail do as well. So, the Spam levels to my HOME email address went to next to nothing.

Here's the lesson, then: If you are going to post your resume on the job boards, you are going to get spam.
Lots of it.

Keep your personal email "safe." Create a special email account from one of the free providers, such as Yahoo, Gmail or Hotmail and use THAT for your job search. And post that email address on your resume as well.

That way, you'll have control over SPAM, and it won't get so "close to home."

And you can still make certain legit employers have an electronic way to reach out to you!

Getting Back on the Bike


Earlier this week, I purchased a used bike for exercise purposes. When I “test rode” it, that was the first time I’d ridden a bike in about 7 years. And I was a little nervous.

Fortunately, everything came back to me pretty quickly, and I enjoyed the experience. I was able to shift gears and handle the brakes as if I’d been still doing the same thing over and over. Kind of like I’d never been “away” from it.

Looking for a job in a challenging economy can be a lot like getting on the bike each day. It seems like a new task, it’s challenging, and there are no real guarantees. Sometimes progress is slow and we wonder how much of that is us. And when things will change. What about losing balance?

However, just getting “on the bike” each day is a major thing. By putting effort into your search, you may not be guaranteeing success; however, you are making much stronger strides toward achieving it. By being willing to get on that bicycle and ride through interviews, phone calls and internet searches, you are pushing up hills that may be steep at times but are likely to flatten out. By steering past bad jobs and bad experiences and pedaling forward, you can keep yourself actively engaged.

If you are ready to move in your career search, no matter the reason, keep in mind that no one “stands still fast.”

Your willingness to make the effort each day is what can make the difference.

Just get back on the bike. It’s worth the ride.

And it’s all under your “pedal” power that you can grow forward.

Tales from the Resume Reef: Focus on Content, not Style


As someone with extensive recruiting experience, I can tell you that I have received resumes in ALL varieties of formats and paper choices over the decade. Ironically, the fanciest of paper and the most "creative" design usually were showcasing the worst resumes: typos, lack of information, lack of clarity, dates missing from employment, etc.

For resumes, substance ALWAYS triumphs over style. In the 30 seconds or so a hiring authority or recruiter looks at your resume, he/she is looking to see if you qualify for something that's currently open.

Things that employers DON'T say-
"Terrible resume, but look at how nice this paper is. I'll call him."
"Man, she spent a ton of time designing this. I have no idea what her skills are, but might as well call her to find out."

While it's admirable to want to have your resume looking sharp, what's more important is what's IN the resume.

In the past, for example, I've worked with placing graphic designers. They managed to use their creative abilities to mix their work history, skills and experience in with some graphic work: freehand sketches or some layout in the margins. However, they kept focus on CONTENT: the INFORMATION the employer needs to see to get to know you!

So, no matter how nice the paper or the layout, your CONTENT is what will drive employers to make positive decisions regarding your qualifications.

Plus, we EMAIL resumes in most cases for “first contact” with employers. That fancy paper or design means even less, then, doesn’t it?

Use your talents to put a resume together that clearly discusses your skills, education and experience. THEN, if you want to add nicer paper for print copy, you are showcasing CONTENT first.

And as far as “creative” design, my suggestion is to leave that to the graphic designers. Use examples we’ve provided or good advice on resumes you can find at helpful sites like the following:
The Riley Guide -
Secrets of the Job Hunt -

Let the content be what ‘sells’ you; it’s what employers are looking for in your resume.

Catches from the Job Posting Net: Are they really ALWAYS looking?


We’ve all seen ads, mostly, where a company or staffing firm seems to recruit for the same positions week after week.

Are there more and more new opportunities, or is something else going on?

Truthfully, it’s usually “something else going on.”

1. The job is VERY hard to fill due to a limited Candidate Pool. There’s just a limited talent pool for this, such as in fields like IT or medical. Chances are, if your resume is on the job boards and you qualify for a position like this, you’ve already been contacted.
2. The job is OFTEN open because there is some turnover. This is particularly true of call centers. Even the best call center environments have a fair amount of turnover. For ANY call center, I’d suggest speaking to someone who works there before you’d interview – find out if the turnover is natural or there are problems that are worse/deeper than that.
3. The job is ALWAYS open because there’s a real problem; employers can’t keep people. I’ve seen this very recently with one firm that keeps advertising the same entry level position: it’s possible that they could have up to 3 people in the role at once. However, they advertise about every 2 weeks for this same opportunity.

Thus, the employer can’t “keep” people. My guess, from experience in dealing with employers who say such, is that this is the attitude there: “We can’t find anyone good.”

Truth is that they do, but they are chased away! It’s a bad work environment with broken promises and unrealistic expectations. And this is well worth avoiding, or you’ll be the next person that they complain about.

Note that #3 above is the MOST common reason that employers keep advertising; there’s a BAD work environment to consider.

It’s in your best interests to look carefully at any job that’s posted “over and over again.”

And if you can talk to someone who works there, get the “skinny” as to why those jobs are open.

If you don’t have that opportunity and do interview for one of these jobs that’s “always advertising,” be certain to ask this key interview question: “Why is this job open?”

Warning sign is if the employer is negative about employees or the person or people you are being asked to replace.

No company can grow to the point where all they do is hire. Growing firms may add a lot of people, but if they are well or at least decently run, they’re going to keep a fair number of those they hire.

So, if someone is “always advertising” be aware that it’s not growth, and, in fact, may be a warning sign. A sign to avoid the job!

After all, you deserve better than to walk into someone else’s failures!

Job Search Tips: Older Board Postings


If you are hunting through Monster, Careerbuilder, Dice, etc., you are probably checking regularly for the newest postings in your field. Certainly, that makes sense!

However, MOST jobs are posted once and not given “refreshed dates” – it’s an extra cost to keep something as a “new” job each day. Most employers don’t pay for this. So, what does that mean?

That there are “older” jobs that may still be valid. Monster, Careerbuilder and Dice, etc., normally post jobs for 30 days, possibly more. What about that job that’s 3 weeks old?

True, sometimes those “older” jobs are filled, and the poster just never got to taking it offline. However, in with those “older” jobs are those in your field that are unfilled! Whether an agency or direct hiring employer posted that job, they are still waiting for someone – and it could be you.

Guess what? Most people just pass those older postings by, figuring that the jobs are filled, and they AREN’T! It's an opportunity for you!

Thus, when you are searching online through the boards, don’t always default to just the newest jobs. Choose the option that lets you go back 30 days and see if there are any good jobs you may have missed.

It only takes a couple of seconds to apply for one of these jobs; you may just be one of the few who does.

And one of the even fewer who may hear back from the employer!

Job Search Tip: Stay in Touch!


We've all come close!

Most of us have had good or even great interviews, or introductory discussions, that led us to have interest in a job or company that DIDN'T result in a job offer.

In some cases, through multiple interviews or calls, we've built rapport with hiring types. While we weren't chosen, clearly we were viable, "almosts" who created a positive impression.

SO, what do many people do with those contacts? Nothing.

That's a mistake. Too many times, we think something like "they didn't hire me, so I guess that's it." And that's both a critical error and a loss of resources, too.

Sometimes when we are that "close" 2nd or 3rd, we've sold ourselves very well as candidates. Had there been 2 openings instead of one, we would have been the choice for that 2nd opportunity. Thus, these people are WORTH staying in touch with - you made a very positive impression!

Here's how these folks can be of help:
Resource - they can direct you to OTHERS they know who are hiring.
Friendly Voice - if you are making a lot of call on the job search, you can make some calls to people who you already know. It takes stress away.
Network - they can (and it's happened to me) forward your resume to others who may help.
Employer - the job you didn't get 6 months ago may be opening again soon. You were "runner up." Don't you think that they want to know someone of your quality still has interest?

(All of these situations have happened either to me or people I know, so I know it works!)

Keep track of the folks you've interviewed or spoken well with. People who you liked - who liked you! It's an important part of your network going forward. And stay in touch with those folks as part of your job search. I've mixed between email updates and phone calls so that I can NOT be a pest, but still be persistent.

After all, the folks who know us, even a little bit, will have more stake in helping than a total stranger or the cold efficiency of a job board.

In our search, it's important to use all the tools we can. And to work with ANYONE who may be able to provide us with help in the process.

Like those who know us.

Job Search Tip: Another Reason to Avoid Objectives


We've covered why objectives don't work on resumes, why they aren't needed, and how they can cause trouble for you as a candidate. To "bring that home," I include 2 very recent objectives I've seen on resumes sent for professional positions:

A job that is satisfying at the end of the day, for both of us. To grow and be happy.
Both have enough fluff, don't they? They are trite, silly, weak, and add NOTHING to the candidate's marketability!

(It's kind of like that long party scene in the 2nd Matrix movie: why was it there?)
If the answer is to fill space, that's not something that belongs on your resume. For there are no "rules" as to how much space must be filled. And wasted space (like that movie scene,) just loses the reader's interest.

Remember that employers hire for THEIR reasons, not yours, in this "what have you done for me lately" world we now live in.

That's why objectives on a resume don't ADD anything: you aren't selling specifics and positives. Instead, people write more "polished" versions of the 2 examples above. In the process, they just "polish," not clean up or repair this resume issue. That's what objectives are: simple, useless junk that doesn't belong no mater how much polish is added.

Use your skills, education and experience to sell yourself to employers.
Avoid the junk, and let the good "stuff" speak for itself.

Objectives just get in the way.

Don't Walk Right In...


When I first started in my staffing work in '97, I was amazed at the number of people who showed up unnanounced at our firm for professional positions. Moreover, most (99%) were candidates who were poorly dressed, poorly groomed, had typo filled resumes or had no idea what we did. In 4 years, we had over 400 walk ins: only ONE was "placeable," and we did so.

So, we discouraged walk ins based on this kind of information. We felt that they were wasting OUR time. Had they called in advance, we could have told them what we were recruiting for, gotten them to send a resume, and set up appointments for viable candidates. Everyone could have benefitted that way.

Some recruiters encourage walk-ins, but many prefer that you set appointments. It helps schedule THEIR day, and makes it easier to spend more time with you.

Employers RARELY have time for walk-ins; the first thing they'll do is give someone an application and that's about as far as things go. Frequently, those applications also make it to the "bottom of the pile."

Being aggressive makes sense in your job search, as does contacting employers.

However, unless told otherwise by the employer, don't just "walk in."

Instead, FIRST call the employer or recruiter. Find out if they have jobs for what you are qualified for, and find out what the best method is for applying. Some folks may send you to their website as a start to fill out an app, while others may want you to make an appointment.

If you get an appointment, make certain to find out what the employer or recruiter would like you to bring:
-ID (usually 2 forms)
-Other things (such as copies of diplomas, certificates or awards.)

(And "Dress for Success," too. Even if you are going to a temporary agency just to "sign up.") You never get that second chance to make a first impression!

Remember that being convenient for the one HIRING is crucial.

You deserve the chance to showcase your abilities and talent; just call ahead to find out the best way to do so!

Tales from the Resume Reef: Fill in the Recent Blanks


My car is a 2004. While I’m very happy with it, I could hardly claim it as a “new vehicle.” Put it on a lot with 2008 models, ask people to spot which are “new cars” and mine won’t quite make the list. In “Car years,” 2004 may not be a lifetime ago, but on a resume, if it’s your most recent date of employment/activity, that’s an issue.If you haven’t worked or worked in your field in at least 2 years, you need to put SOMETHING for your most recent activity. Why? Employers who see a resume with a work history ending in 2004 and nothing since are puzzled, and then they tend to ignore the applicant.(Please note that this is NOT about re-entering the workforce, and the difficulties you may run into. That’s a whole other issue. Instead, this is about the resume you are using to do so.)Some brief points:• If your most recent job isn’t “related” to your field, DON’T remove it completely if it fills in some key time. Example:Work History2004-2007 Greeer/Customer Service Big Mart Austin, TX1995-2004 AV Technician Al Wright’s Repairs Austin, TX1990-1994 AV Technician McFloyd’s Zeke, AZThis way, people see that you have been working, even if not in your field. Otherwise, the question becomes “What has this person done since 2004?”• If you were in school, use that as a replacement for “blank time.”Work History2004-present Studies toward B.S. in Chemistry Don Haas College1995-2004 AV Technician Al Wright’s Repairs Austin, TX1990-1994 AV Technician McFloyd’s Zeke, AZ• If you had a family-related issue, use that.Work History2004-present Stay at home parent 1995-2004 AV Technician Al Wright’s Repairs Austin, TX1990-1994 AV Technician McFloyd’s Zeke, AZNow, we’ve previously discussed not giving out personal information; however, we’ve got that “what happened after 2004” issue otherwise. Employers are likely to respect a decision to be a stay at home parent; however, they will not be certain what to do with someone who looks to have done “nothing” since 2004:Work History1995-2004 AV Technician Al Wright’s Repairs Austin, TX1990-1994 AV Technician McFloyd’s Zeke, AZNote: Volunteer work can also be a valued “time filler.”Very few people who have several recent years of inactivity on their resume were really inactive. However, if your resume reads that way, it doesn’t give the employer anything to go on more than “I wonder what he/she’s done since …..” And then set the resume on the road to oblivion, less gently known as a shredder or trash can!You deserve better! Fill in the blanks!Employers see a more complete you, and you become a more "complete" candidate![...]

From the Job Search Tip File: When NOT to Apply.


In an earlier column, we discussed the “50% rule,” which was hopefully a simple way to say the following. Most jobs have MANY more requirements than are ACTUALLY needed. Therefore, if you have “50%” or more of the requirements, your application or resume is not in vain. It very well may be that your 50% is JUST what the employer was looking for!

However, there’s a part 2 to this: When NOT to apply.

In many ways, it’s more than just a reverse of the “50% rule.” With the “50% rule,” if your resume isn’t quite what someone is looking for, he or she is still likely to hold on to it for future reference. You are, essentially, a good candidate for something in the future – and folks don’t get rid of good resumes (especially if they’ve spent $300-$800 advertising the position online or in the papers – or both!)

However, there are times NOT to apply. Simply, if you don’t have at least 50% of the required skills, abilities or background required.

Here’s why NOT to send your resume or hit the “apply” button on Monster:
1. Employers get 300+ resumes for any good position, and they very much resent having to read resumes from “unqualified” candidates.
2. Thus, you are not only wasting an employer’s time.
3. They won’t read your resume at length, nor will they want to keep it.
4. Instead, they’ll wonder “Why did this person apply?”
5. You are also guaranteeing, for the most part, that your resume is shredded, trashed or filed in some part of oblivion no one regularly visits.
6. And that you’ll never hear back from the employer. If you follow up with them, you’ll find it’s likely they have NO IDEA who you are.

So, you are essentially frustrating the employer as well as yourself. Doesn’t seem like there’s much “up side” to this!

However you search, however you apply, keep in mind that your qualifications are only valuable to a specific employer if they are in that 50%+ range for the advertised position.

Sending a bunch of resumes out or applying for ANYTHING that’s of interest truly wastes your time. Instead, find what you qualify for or who may have interest in what you have to offer. That, and only that, is the best place to send your resume.

Trust me, there are plenty enough of those places if you do the research.

And can get you the best results possible, which WON’T happen if you simply send your resume around as if you were tossing snowballs into the air or leaves across the lawn before you raked.

Rake in a better chance of success. Send your best in a resume to those jobs you have at least 50% of what is required.

Something SMART ventured; hopefully, something GREAT gained!

Tales from the Resume Reef: The Format, Part III: Making your Resume Easy to Read


Let your resume be there to HELP you, not HINDER an employer!A resume can’t help you if it’s more of an ineptly written novel or poorly designed puzzle than a tool to help employers find what you have to offer.A reader will initially look at your resume for 15-30 seconds. So, it’s very important that your KEY skills and accomplishments are easy to find, easy to discern and quick to discover. Thus, your resume needs to be easy to read:1. Fonts sized decently2. Spacing clear3. No “puzzle tricks”4. No “paragraph-itis”5. Gimmick freeEach of the above is explained in more detail below. It’s the chance for you to position YOUR resume more effectively, by helping the reader more easily find out good things about you – and also by weeding out some “junk!”1. Fonts Sized Decently: Use fonts from 10-12 point as much as possible. Smaller than 10 point may be hard for a reader to make out, and larger than 12 point makes it look like you are just trying to fill space.>If you have the room, you can certainly use a larger font for your name and contact information at the top of your resume; however, that’s really the only place for an overlarge font.2. Spacing Clear: “Clear spacing means separation BETWEEN elements of your resume, and BOLD in places. Note the following examples:8/2000-4/2003 Assistant Manager Billfolds Etc., Granbury NJ8/2000 – 4/2003 Assistant Manager Billfolds, Etc. Granbury, NJThe second one is easier to read, isn’t it? Everything is not “on top of each other.”3. No “puzzle tricks:” Also known as “Acronym Fever”Ever see a list on a resume that looks something like this?Technical ExperienceMS Office, HTML, Windows 98, C#, C++, Lotus Notes, Firefox, Linux, Windows NT, 2002, ASP.NET, Open Office, Networking, Active Directory, MS Project,MS Workflow, Peachtree, A+, Network+, Routers, Hard Drives, Laptops, MCSEIt’s a whole “crowd” of names, acronyms and tools all put together into one puzzle. If someone wanted to know if this person had Peachtree experience, how easy would that be to find? It’s a “puzzle trick” which puts the onus on the reader.Take a look at this alternative:Technical ExperienceOS: Windows 98, NT, 2002, LinuxOffice Software: MS Office, Workflow, Project, Peachtree, Open OfficeInternet/Email: Firefox, Lotus NotesNetworking: Active Directory, RoutersHardware: Hard DrivesDevelopment: C#, C++, ASP.NETCertifications: MCSE, Network+, A+Computers: LaptopsNotice how much more easily information is to find under this “org chart.”Plus, if an employer was most interested in your certifications, you could easily move that line to the top!4. No “Paragraph-itis” It’s a common resume problem. Instead of writing short, bulleted statements, people want to write “novellas” about their experience.” It’s VERY time consuming and most employers don’t read their way through.See the following example:Working with the ACCUGUESS Global Vice President and the ACCUGUESS South America Coordinator of Finance to develop and implement a business controllership plan encompassing business and financial controls, business and control focused financial reporting and analysis, process and systems development and improvement, and productivity initiatives. Leads all controls activities for ACCUGUESS South America $245 Million business. The role works with all functions and across all ACCUGUESS South America regions to improve strengthen internal controls in support of Moogle-Zorch requirement[...]

Phone Tuning: Leave that Name and Number Twice!


Leaving a voicemail message? Here’s a tip I learned in sales training years ago: put your name AND phone number in TWICE!
• Near the beginning of the message
• Near the end of the message

“This is Greg Lachs at 813-555-1212. I really enjoyed meeting with you on Tuesday and am very interested in joining your team. I’d very much like to find out what the next step is in the process. Again, Greg Lachs at 813-555-1212. Thanks.”

Why put both in twice?

Here’s the reason, and it’s simple: people can’t HEAR fast.
So, at the end of the message, they know you’ve called and may have written your number down or have it available. However, if they don’t have such, they only have to listen to the BEGINNING of the message to get the name and number again.

Such makes it EASIER for someone to get back to you!

And that’s always a good thing!

Job Search Tips: Lessons from the Movies


Don’t be the next Dewey Cox!Like a much smaller number of people than expected, I went to see the "Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story" when it came out several months ago.Heavily promoted, decently reviewed, with backing of known talent, the movie BOMBED. Much money was lost on this, to the surprise of MANY. It lasted about 3 weeks in the theatres and went to that great “it’s not yet a movie you can get at Netflix” oblivion very quickly.And it ties in very directly to job search issues - and provides important lessons. 1. The movie wasn’t particularly funny for a “supposed comedy.”Jokes were sporadic, to my taste. In fact, when the first 10 minutes of the movie were put online for public view, I went to the site for a preview. It seemed like a LONG ten minutes.The Job Search Lesson - Things NEED to be as advertised. Interviewing, you can't try to be funny, offbeat or a different person from who you are. For one thing, people notice. For another, you'll be very uncomfortable. Be energetic and upbeat, but you need to be YOU! 2. To follow this movie, you would have had to seen "Walk the Line." This movie was an attempt to parody much of "Walk the Line," which I thought was a pretty darn good flick. However, not everyone saw "Walk the Line." So, jokes tied to it would have made no sense to the audience who hadn't seen the Johnny Cash biopic where Reese Witherspoon and Joaquin Phoenix had been so stellar.The Job Search Lesson - Obscurity doesn't help. This is particularly true for resumes. One thing I've seen people do is go into what I'd call "acronym fever," and list a number of acronyms that someone reading the resume may not understand. In fact, I've seen such in a number of military resumes. Since the reader wasn't likely part of the same military unit, you need to "break down" acronyms into "every day" terminology. 3. The lead actor wasn't a "name" actor.I'm not knocking the lead's talent, but who lines up to see a John C. Reilly flick? He was great in Chicago and in Talladega Nights as a SUPPORTING actor.We often gravitate to that film with Will Smith, Will Ferrell (who would have been my choice for this movie) or Jack Nicholson - we know they are likely to be entertaining films.The Job Search Lesson - You need to be a "name," and not just blend in. How? Well, from a stellar resume to great interview skills to an aggressive and effective job search.That's what differentiates you from others, and makes you a "marquee" candidate! 4. The lead character wasn't that interesting (and this is the most dangerous “job search area.”)Dewey Cox was a mix of a number of people who added up to someone we probably didn't care about all that much. Not a bad guy, not a great guy – yet, there was no magnetism in the character the way we saw Johnny Cash's intensity or Ray Charles’ brilliance in "Ray." Not much depth. In the movie, by the time the much advertised “Dewey Cox meets the Beatles” scene took place, I was getting bored. As a result, the "what happens next to this character" thoughts we might have when watching a movie turned into "I don't really care much about what happens to Dewey Cox" for me. Hard to pay as much attention, isn't it?The Job Search Lesson - We tend to "hide" behind generic resumes and don't always interview as well as we'd like. You HAVE to be interesting to the employer. However, you don't need to entertain in order to do this.How? -Wear your best “professional” clo[...]

Phone Tuning: When they Don’t Call Back


We’ve all been there: an interview, perhaps a second, and then it becomes silent and still. Employers don’t contact us, nor do they return calls.
I’ve often stated that this is simply unprofessional behavior on their part, which is not that rare.

In fact, I’ve even heard of situations where people will call back multiple times, days apart, and still hear nothing in return. In these cases either the contact person is “unavailable,” “in a meeting” or you are sent directly to voicemail.

As someone who was on a job search 4 months ago, I experienced such as well. Frustrated me no end, too!

In that quite rare instance where George Costanza was right about something, “It’s not you; it’s them!”

As important as it is to do phone call follow ups after interviews, here are some VERY important things to remember about such:
Most employers DON’T operate this way; we just remember our “best” and WORST experiences more clearly.
• Someone not calling you back is NOT always a reflection of no interest; some people simply DON’T return phone calls. I’ve had contacts who I had to get “live” or I’d never get them at all. (As a backup, I’ll try to email them directly; that’s worked sometimes.)
• If folks aren’t getting back to you, that’s a reflection of THEIR unprofessionalism. • Don’t take it personally. Take it as a challenge to do better when you are in a hiring position to treat people with the respect and dignity they truly deserve.

• Most importantly is this: employers who do not returning your follow-ups are losing access to your talent, skills and abilities.

It’s truly their loss and not yours!