Tag Archives: online job application

Get your job search tools sharpened!

So, you have your workspace and basic job setup well in place. Now you have to start sharpening the tools at your disposal and create some structure:

Resume:

  • If you have not updated your resume and have done a good once over to make sure it is relevant, articulate and compelling… do so now!
  • Have someone you feel would be an impartial judge critique
  • Proofread it again… and again!!
  • If you are looking for positions that have distinctly different “flavors” (e.g. Manager vs. Individual Contributor) make sure you have a resume that is laser-focused on each area instead of one that shows you as more of a generalist unless it makes sense to do so (you may be targeting smaller, start-ups where a jack or jill-of-all-trades may be more desirable)
  • Same as above for cover letters, have one for each instance ready. Your process will become much more streamlined and efficient  if you can keep the “customization” of covers to a minimum

Job Boards:

  • Make sure your new resume and covers are synced up to your job board profiles
  • Create job agents. These are automated searches the job boards will do for you based on your desired jobs and keywords and email you on a daily or weekly basis
  • Dead horse beating time: LinkedIN is a JOB BOARD too! Get an account if you haven’t yet. If you do, get your profile updated and start connecting. I should be on their payroll!

Goal Setting:

  • Figure a reasonable amount of jobs you want to apply for per day. Don’t fire off resumes willy nilly to every job that remotely looks like a fit. Then again, make sure you are applying enough to make it a numbers game – odds go up the more places that see your resume. If you are doing 6-8 hours a day, I would set a reasonable goal of 5-6 applications a day. This will give you the proper time to research the company and role to see if it is something you truly would like to do. It also lets you craft a well thought out, brief cover letter since you already have the templates
  • Network, Network, Network! Sort of like the equivalent of Location, Location, Location in real estate. Folks, this is your quickest path to your next job. Job boards serve a purpose but they are a supplement to networking. One of the most effective tools in your “swiss army knife” is the people you know. They will know someone or someone who knows someone who needs you!
  • Follow the 50-25-1 rule. What does this cryptic sequence of digits mean? This is a good networking rule of thumb for job seekers (active or passive.) On a weekly basis, you need to do:
    • 50 Networking emails
    • 25 Network phone calls
    • 1 Face to face networking meeting (one-on-one or group), this can be an office meeting, a lunch, a dinner or quick cup of coffee at your place of choice…they all count!

I know these sound like rigorous goals. However, the more process-oriented, organized and disciplined in your job search you are, the quicker you can quit.

There is one other side benefit of all this work. Can you guess?

OK, I won’t keep you waiting. Don’t think of yourself as unemployed, think more like you are an athlete who is doing off-season training. The job seeker who maintains a work-like schedule and mindset will interview better and have a much easier transition back into the workforce. Make sense? Good!

NOW GET TO WORK!

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Xing, Yawn, Zoom

yawnWell, I had a chance to explore Xing some more and while the prima facie evidence looked promising, I have to say I was not super wowed by it. The site is clean and fairly easy to navigate once you get going. It has all the requisite information points that you would expect although I found it more rolodexishly utilitarian. One reader commented on the difficulty of blog hosting on there. Aside from posting a blog link, there was no ability (that I could easily find in the freebie version) to do an RSS feed of your blog. If you are a job seeker who blogs on your specific subject matter expertise, I would find this irritating. Overall, it’s a big neutral for me. If you have the time to set up and research who is on there with the freebie edition, go for it. Otherwise I wouldn’t invest too much time. The other thing is it seems to me that it is more of an international site than US Centric as LI is. That may be where it’s membership base may be strongest if you are looking to network outside the USA for a career.

Here’s the hard numbers I would rate it at:

Value of “free feature” vs. having to pay for account upgrades: 2
Ease of setting up a an account: 4
Ease of Navigation/accuracy of searches: 3
Depth of contacts: 2
Value Groups feature on site: 1 (for US based folks looking for jobs in US)
Spam factor (do you get a lot of spam from company to upgrade, etc.): 3
Overall Job Seeker value:
2.5

OK, on to the next topic: Tom Blue, CEO of Lead 411 wrote me suggesting ZoomInfo. By the way Lead411 is a nice little application for lead generation and marketing management. ZoomInfo was actually one of those ones on the cusp of my sites to see.  It is a site for businesses to find key management personnel and company information, pressers, etc. all in one central repository, used primarily by head hunting recruiters and sales people for lead generation. I pretty much use the free version as my baseline reviewing criteria and was amazed how many times ZI could not even find the company I was searching for when I pretty much gave it almost everything in the search fields. I also found that it confused company information many times. Personnel with the same name would be associated with companies they did not work for but had an employee of that name. Links to web articles for the wrong person of the same name too. For this reason I decided it may be a little frustrating for job seekers, but once and a while you do uncover some useful nuggets there.

So there you go. Let me know if you have had similar experience or you disagree with my observations, love to hear the feedback.

Bill Meirs is the Managing Principal with the Church & Palfrey Group, a search firm specializing in Technology and Sales Searches. Bill has 11+ years experience in corporate and agency environments. He frequently consults companies and individuals in the areas of talent acquisition, recruitment process improvement, recruitment advertising and branding, resume writing, and salary negotiation.

Networking using LinkedIn®, part 2 of 2

pic_logo_119x32 2

OK, so last time we spoke about setting up your LI account and basics you need to get going. Today, we will talk about some basic hints on using it to find a job.

We will assume you have gotten some recommendations and have made connections to whomever you can. One thing I didn’t get into last post was “open networking”, because I didn’t want to confuse the basic process to making connections. I am an open networker. This means I choose to allow people to contact me or connect without having to have a prior relationship.  As a recruiter and businessperson, this makes a lot of sense for me to do. This is something you may want to do, but it will definitely increase the amount of time you need to spend on LI and will also get the word out much quicker that you are on the job march. The other thing is, depending on how many connections you amass, you may get lots of introduction requests.

An introduction is this: a connection of yours sees on your connection list someone they would like to get in touch with. If they have a business account, they can request a formal introduction through LI, and you can choose whether to forward or not (you don’t need to have a paying account to forward). This all assumes you choose to make your connections visible. I have no opinion either way, it is all a matter of personal choice but this is a networking site, so the whole purpose of networking is sharing who you know so that’s why I choose to show mine. My rule for forwarding is if you ask me to do this, don’t just send a request without some context as to why you would like to speak with them. Massive intro requests without reason should not be forwarded.

OK, back to your reason for being on LinkedIn. Make sure when setting up your account you also indicate in your profile you ARE looking for career opportunities. It doesn’t stop me from contacting people as a recruiter because it doesn’t necessarily mean you aren’t looking, but some people set up their searches to find people who explicitly say this. You may not be looking but someone you know with similar skills may be and you may be a referral.

Like your resume, when things change in your career life, make sure you reflect that in your profile: new training, a contract position while looking for a permanent role, etc. LinkedIN is excellent at getting to the top of search rankings, so it is a great way to be found, which is why you need to keep it current.

Lastly, don’t wait for potential employers to come to you. Go to them. LI has 2 types of job postings and the distinction is important:

  1. They have paid job listings posted on LI’s site that usually tell you who is leading up the hiring
  2. They also pull jobs from other boards and company job sites on the web through SimplyHired®, these are not directly correlated to a LI member

You can do a hybrid of traditional job search and networking here. If you see a posting on LI (#1 from above), see who is posting it and find out how you are connected to them and do the necessary networking to get yourself to the front of the line. Again, people like to see well-recommended candidates, so make sure you have at least a couple of recommendations up there too.

If you see a posting that interests you from category #2 above, search the company on LI to find out people from that company on LI that you could be connected to through your network. LI published a nice page on how to do this.

Some colleges teach courses on LI so there is no way I can detail all the benefits here. A lot you will learn by just familiarizing yourself with the site. If you have a specific question, please contact me. I am also available for phone consultations (sorry, not free 😦 ), but special consideration given for those not working.

Next post we will talk about Facebook® and the ups and downs about using it for job searches.

Bill Meirs is the Managing Principal with the Church & Palfrey Group, a search firm specializing in Technology and Sales Searches. Bill has 11+ years experience in corporate and agency environments. He frequently consults companies and individuals in the areas of talent acquisition, recruitment process improvement, recruitment advertising and branding, resume writing,  and salary negotiation.

Networking using LinkedIn®, part 1 of 2

pic_logo_119x32Most people have heard of LinkedIn® (LI) and may even have an account. What I want to discuss today is if you are looking for a job and don’t have a LI account (a basic account that is free is all you need), get one. If you have one, some easy things to make it work better for you.

First, a brief (well, we’ll see about that) history of LI. It started out as a business to business networking platform where people selling products and services could connect to people needing said products and services by leveraging their “connections” (people also on LI that you officially connect to – business acquaintances, former colleagues, friends & family, etc. You send a request to connect and they decide to accept or not or they request to you to connect.) The thinking is that these connections know folks who may be potential customers of yours and can provide anything from a simple intro making an otherwise “cold” call a little warmer all the way to setting the foundation for putting together a bona fide business deal. It probably still does this today to some extent, but I believe the larger part of LI’s activity is around recruiting. Using the same principles of the business deals, it is a way of connecting potential employees to employers/recruiters in a less intrusive way than traditional “headhunting.” This is why you need to be on there and be current in your profile.

After you have created an account, the first thing I suggest you do is have your resume open too. You want to replicate your resume history back about 10 years or however long it is relevant to the jobs you are looking for today. You needn’t be as granular in LI as your resume. A one or two sentence “snapshot” will suffice, more of a teaser than the whole story. If you work with any specific technologies that make you very valuable, do mention those in the LI profile. It will help people find you in keyword searches.

After your profile is set, you can do a few things that will connect you to people hiring:

  1. There is a place in your profile to put website links. Make sure you have a resume online for someone to click to. You don’t need to pay web hosting charges to do this. Get a Google account, upload your word resume to Google applications and hit a button that says “publish to the web” and you have created an online resume. It will have  bizarre URL with a lot of mumbo jumbo characters, but just copy that URL into your websites listings (you can have 3 i think), and simply name it “my resume”. Recruiters will click right to it without needing to know the long URL. Alternatively, LI has a 3rd party application you can add called box.net. You can create file cabinets right in your profile and assign who can see them and who can’t. You can upload your resume in its native state there.
  2. Connect. Connect. Connect. Search all the companies you worked for or did business with, where you went to college, friends and yes even family. As long as you A. Have an email address of these people or B. can show you worked with them in some capacity you can request a connection.
  3. Get “pre-qualified”. One great thing about LI is it allows people to write recommendations for you that outline where you worked with the endorser and in what capacity (co-worker, did business with, superior, subordinate, peer from different group, etc.) Ask your connections to write a recommendation for you. Recruiters love this. They can quickly assess your strengths. The more the better, as long as they are well balanced. Generally 80% of people you ask to recommend you will do it. Not that the other 20% think you are a slouch, but they just don’t have time or forget to do so. That’s why the more you can request, the higher your yield will be. You will have the opportunity to review the recommendation prior to it going on your profile so you can ask for any changes or modifications or even choose to use at all. Also, reciprocate any recommendation! They took the time to endorse you, so return the favor.

OK, there is a lot more ground to cover, but I will stop there for now. Next post will be about proper care and maintenance of your LI profile and utilizing the LI groups feature.

Bill Meirs is the Managing Principal with the Church & Palfrey Group, a search firm specializing in Technology and Sales Searches. Bill has 11+ years experience in corporate and agency environments. He frequently consults companies and individuals in the areas of talent acquisition, recruitment process improvement, recruitment advertising and branding, resume writing,  and salary negotiation.

Demystifying the Cover Letter

stressguy1People get so stressed about the cover letter.

  • Do I send?
  • How long should it be?
  • What should I put in it?
  • Do I put salary requirements in it?

Let’s start with the first question. Carol from North Carolina said to me: “When sending in my resume for a job, I don’t send a cover letter. It doesn’t give me any advantage in getting the interview.”

With all due respect Carol, I couldn’t disagree more. A cover letter is your first chance to make an impression on the employer – good or bad, so there is an inherent risk there. I think with a little work, it is a risk well worth taking.  In the Internet age, where applying for a job is almost too simple, the well written cover letter is your way of telling the prospective employer that you carefully read the job posting, understand the duties and requisite skills and can quickly make a pitch to them on why you are a good fit. What it also tells them is that you are not shooting resumes out a firehose at every posting you see and you are serious about their opportunity. So, without hesitation, send a cover letter.

Length and content of the letter is another thing that stresses people out and sometimes will cause them to just forgo one. What if it is too brief or too rambling? I have a very, very simple 3 part cover letter structure to follow:

Dear Human Resources Manager:

<Intro>

I would like to present my resume for consideration of the Lion Tamer position posted on circusjobs.com. (How many people are trying to go to this site now??)

<Sell>

I was quite excited when I read the job description. I feel I would be an excellent candidate for this position for these (3 or 4) reasons:

  • 12+ years of Lion Taming and no major “incidents”
  • Degree in Animal Behavior
  • Interned with Siegfried & Roy in college

<Close>

I would welcome the chance to further discuss my candidacy for this position in the form of a phone or in-person interview as your process dictates. Thank you for your time.

Sincerely,

Me

Pretty easy and concise huh? The parts I highlighted in red should always be put in. It makes it quickly clear to the employer what job you want and where you found it. This is important data for employers to see where their postings are getting activity from, they will appreciate it. The “sell” is clear and to the point and won’t make their eyes glaze over. There is no need to regurgitate your resume in the cover, just the points that connect the dots to this job.

And always close it with a mention of the next steps. It shows interest and a call to action.

As far as talking money goes,  I can’t stress enough that you read the job description thoroughly to ascertain what they want to know from you when you apply. If it asks, you can be vague but at least give a salary range so it shows you can follow directions. A lot of times it is more than just sending your resume and cover. You have to go through their applicant tracking system rigmarole basically cutting and pasting your resume in stupid text field boxes because they didn’t buy an ATS that could do the parsing (don’t get me started!), maybe answering some gating questions, and there they may ask about salary requirements, so the point may be moot. So if they ask- tell, If they don’t – don’t.

Finally, if you are in serious job search mode (and who isn’t these days?) I would suggest a short investment of time – probably less than an hour, to write 3 or 4 cover letter templates based on the types of jobs you are looking for. For example, one for inside sales, one for outside sales/new business development, one for pre-sales, one for account management, etc. This way when you see a job you like, it is just a matter of a couple of small tweaks to personalize it and you are on your way.

Not too painful? Hopefully this took out some of the mystery and turmoil over the whole cover letter thing. Now, when you apply, you will be covered. (Awful!)

The follow-up call

To call or not to call?

No, this isn’t going to be a discussion on post-first date protocol or is it more meaningful if you call from home vs. cell vs.1 prison call (subtle Seinfeld reference there.) It is about the appropriateness  of calling a company to follow up after you have submitted your resume directly to a position or via a job board.

I had 2 people ask me about this and observed a thread of conversations on a recruiters group message board about the very same subject which is great because it gave me a well-rounded perspective.

My answer has always been that it is OK to call ONCE. Whether you speak directly to the person managing the hiring process or just leave a voice mail, it is completely appropriate to call once. You must create a comfortable atmosphere in your message or conversation stating that you were really interested in the role when you saw it, and a.) just wanted to see if it is still open and b.) to confirm receipt of your resume because “you know how sometimes the internets are”. Then shut up. Don’t push for any further action or try to “sell yourself”.  Let them take the ball and tell you what is happening. More often than not they will look up in their ATS (recruiter speak for resume database), or at least bang on some keys to pretend they are checking.  They will probably tell you that it is in process and being reviewed by the hiring manager (point of definition here: usually HR or recruiting manage the hiring process, the hiring manager is the person deciding who to interview and making the decision to hire or not) as to who will be called for phone screens, interviews, next steps etc.

Once and a while, they will be honest and let you know that your fry-o-lator skills don’t qualify you for the Chief of Neurosurgery position they posted.

Point is: don’t be too pushy, stalker-like or generally creepy if they can’t tell you anything more than it is in process and you’ll be notified if they are moving forward. And never ever just “drop in” on them to talk about it, unless the company traditionally gets its employees from walk-in traffic (retail, food service,  etc.) I had that experience once with a candidate who kept on dropping by unannounced, I wanted to take out a restraining order. And it was my mother, so it made it even more awkward. Click this and then the big red button to complete my joke (have sound on)

Listen, every HR person knows how tough it is to get a job these days and they won’t look unkindly on someone calling to check their status as long as the person seems normal. I validate this statement by the aforementioned recruiter message board discussion. The poster was someone I had met personally and interviewed for a position. She is a consummate professional and a well respected HR Manager in this area. It was Friday afternoon after what must have been a tough week and she wanted to vent to the recruiter community and sort of complained about someone calling about their status. She was professional and told them in a nice way about the process and that they would contact them if they were going to move forward. Well, the responses to her posting were brutal. She was lambasted every which way about insensitivity and how the job market is so bad and people can’t pay their bills, etc. that they just want to do whatever they can to get a job. Although I thought the message board community was little tough on her for venting, since she didn’t respond unprofessionally to the candidate (that’s what we are here for support, right?) I was heartened by their sensitivity toward the candidate. It means that although there are lots of applicants for very few jobs these days, they should all be treated with respect.

So yes, call and follow up. Once. And yes, contrary to popular belief we recruiters do have a heart!