Picture
No, my loyal readers, this is not a pornographic post! Your cover letter should be no more than 3 paragraphs. 3 short paragraphs! You really don't want to lose your audience before he/she opens your resume.

And speaking of resumes, there is various discussion of whether a resume should span 1 or 2 pages. Based on your level of experience, I am fine with a resume spanning 2 pages, going back no longer than 10 years. Please, any longer than that, and you are not going to captivate your audience in the 20 seconds or less it takes to scan said resume. A full CV is not required for most positions, but is helpful to have on your hard drive to discuss talking points which may be over 10 years old but remain relevant. 

When to follow up after an interview? More than a day is too long! A brief thank you email, including an opening to have the interviewer contact you with questions should be in his/her inbox no later than the morning after you interviewed. Too much time goes by, and your follow up skills may be questioned, especially if a competing candidate emailed sooner! 

Good luck and happy hunting!



 
 
Picture
Why are you waiting to update your resume? Are you thinking you are stable at your job? That can only update your resume right before you send it out? Are you waiting to practice interviewing until you have an interview time on your calendar?

If so, you are too late!

Let me explain...

If you wait until you are laid off or actively seeking a job, you are selling yourself short in a variety of ways. First, you are not adding valuable information to your resume in real time, thereby forgetting important details, such as the topic you presented, the old and new software you worked with, and the training you completed. You are missing portions of valuable work experience which set you apart from other employees. A company knows what your general job description looks like. Yet, they have no idea how you have made the position yours, by adding the personal touches only you provide to personalize your role. Secondly, you are not tapping into the hidden job market, networking, thereby passing up what could be your dream job. Everyone is always in the market, unless you own your own company. Even then, there could be enough of an offer to potentially interest you. You cannot explore opportunities if you are not refreshing on paper, thereby reinforcing, your strengths to yourself. Think about it.

Like anything else, interview practice takes time. It takes a lot of effort, rehearsal, and practice. You won't get the luxury of time, if you are scrambling to meet with a job coach the day before your interview. You are already going to be nervous, and are not going to be focused enough to absorb all the information about the company, the position, and how to most effectively answer questions.

I have seen people from entry level to C-level make the same mistake, time and time again.

The last minute is too late! If you wait until the car is empty to fill up with gas, you're going to be pushing it to the nearest gas station. And where I'm sitting, in South Florida in July, that just doesn't seem pleasant. Refuel. Give yourself a little bit of time. Stop scrambling. You will make a better impression!

 
 
A big frustration that many job seekers face is that they are looking for a targeted position and are being contacted by irrelevant jobs that are outside of their field. Now a choice needs to be made: is the job an opportunity in the door or a dead end situation?

Sometimes a lower level position in a large company with room for growth is a great way to get in, demonstrate your abilities, and get promoted, whereas getting into a small company where you will never have the opportunity to advance is not advantageous to your resume and your career.

Ask targeted questions in the interview. Find out if the position/company have room to grow. Talk to others at the company. Utilize www.linkedin.com and the web to see what others think of the internal workings of the company.


Don't just take an opportunity at face value: dig deeper, ask more, and identify if the role is the one for you or if you would be wasting time.

 
 
If I am recruiting for a position with your background, there is a good chance that I know what you do at your job, and what you have done at your last job. Rehashing every bullet point from your job description is not going to set you apart on your resume. Providing no more than 5 bullet points on how you have helped the company and set yourself apart from your colleagues is a much stronger way to present your background. Please don't bury me under 25 bullet points, including "Other duties as assigned", and expect me to have any interest in what you have written. Highlight how you have saved money for the company, a special project you implemented, or how you successfully improved customer service feedback. Give me a reason to see value in hiring you.

Similarly, in a cover letter, please do not add a laundry list of qualifications ("I am personable, dependable, professional, reliable...") I don't want your qualification grocery list! I want an idea of what you can do. You are able to share this through colorful examples of your success. Share what accolades your boss has shared about you. Give some information about what you have done that will set you apart from the sea of other candidates.

In an interview, share examples as well. Make sure they are examples with positive outcomes!!! You bring more of your personality with examples! I have said it over and over and will say it again: PEOPLE HIRE WHO THEY LIKE!
 
 
As a hiring manager, I do not have time to be your best friend, even if you are a nice person. I am looking to hire a person quickly, so that I can get back to doing both jobs until I am able to hire someone to get the second set of roles and responsibilities off my desk. With that in mind, I am looking to spend somewhere around 30-60 minutes with my candidate, and  have him/her answer the questions that I ask.

Why do ramblers not get the job?

For starters, having been a participant in mind-numbing meetings and conference calls, no one, and I mean no one, likes the person who wants to drag the meeting out an extra 40 minutes with additional questions, commentary, or just to hear them talk. That makes most sane people want to seriously injure the person.  

Secondly, it shows that you are easily distracted and will have challenges sticking to task. It shows that you are not confident in your responses.

The last reason is that if you don’t answer the question at some point, the interviewer has no idea where you are going with your response!

So…instead of answering the question with what you think your interviewer wants to hear (like a bunch of unrelated buzz words jammed together nonsensically), answer the question directly and briefly. Then stop talking. Let the interview probe further if they are interested, or ask you another question to keep the interview moving along. Let the interviewer set the pace. Although being nervous typically encourages people to be chattier, stopping to let the interviewer know it is time to move along allows a comfortable timeliness, and may encourage a good two-way conversation between both of you. And that’s always a good sign!

 
 
Please do me a favor as a fellow human being: don’t tell me that you don’t have any weaknesses, whether in an interview or anywhere else. For starters, that’s bullshit! And it makes you sound like an arrogant jerk.

This question is asked, not to challenge your abilities, but to see how you effectively can answer a difficult question. Answering it with tact and honesty, and being prepared for it in advance, will assist you in sounding confident and professional, not cocky. Remember, people hire who they like!

Some ideas include:

(From an entry level candidate): “While I am newly licensed/graduated, I lack the experience you may find in someone more seasoned. However, what I lack in time in this career, I make up for in (SHARE STRENGTHS HERE).

(From someone with heavy experience/potentially overqualified): “While at first glance, I may seem overqualified for this position, I can provide you with flexible hours, a great deal of firsthand experience, and understand the salary range for the position. I am interested in becoming a long term player within the organization.”

Other ways to answer the question include sharing what you have done to overcome a professional weakness, or how you work now on improving an area which requires a little extra. If you research the position and find a minor area where you can be trained, that may be a good discussion point.

Please don’t tell me you are a perfectionist. That isn’t a weakness. It’s arrogance!

 
 
Because there is no formalized schooling offered around teaching a person how to interview potential employees, there become issues and pratfalls surrounding interviewing. One of those issues involves the asking of illegal and inappropriate interviewing questions.

Based on the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), it is illegal to discriminate for employment and pay of an employee, based upon: age, gender, marital status, race, color, religion, sexual orientation, pregnancy, or disability. You simply must be capable of doing the job well.

Unfortunately, employers notice such factors during an interview. Someone may inadvertently ask if you have a child in conversation. Or mention another of the areas listed above. At that point, you may want to consider if this would be the right employer for you, in light of what they are asking. Are they familiar with the laws? If they are in Human Resources, I would not be comfortable entrusting this person with my confidential information!

However, it is possible that the interviewer simply does not know any better. If that is the case, I would ask how the point in question (age/parenthood/gender/marital status) would reflect on my capabilities as an employee. Perhaps, the interviewer is concerned about travel. You can share that you are able to travel the required amount. Dig deeper and identify the issue. See if there is more to the question. If not, that may just not be the employer for you.

 
 
The basic interview questions have become stale. Sure, you want to know the candidate’s strengths, weaknesses, etc. But digging deeper will provide you with a great deal more insight into how a candidate will handle stress, pressure, technology, and the daily demands of the job at hand.

Here are some questions that will help you drill down on whether a candidate is a good fit for you. Many of these are behavioral interviewing strategies.

1.     Tell me about a time when you did not meet a deadline for a project.  This will show how well a person can explain a situation under pressure. It has happened to all of us. Would the candidate be able to best maintain composure, while being honest, in a high stress situation?

2.     Tell me about what types of projects you handled on (name of) software. This question will identify how much or little a person knows about the software, as well as how diversified he/she is. Some organizations require a specialized knowledge of one area, while others expect a more wide range of reporting, administration, or application. Many times, a candidate will write that they know the software, and you want to know the level of familiarity.

3.     Name an example of when you made an unpopular business decision. This shows how well a person works with a team, as well as their skills surrounding diplomacy and communication, all of which are required in positions today.

 
 
I am consistently fascinated by people who mock interview with me! From entry level professionals to individuals who have worked in their careers for extensive lengths of time, people don’t know what they are capable of providing to an employer. And that is a little bit scary!

I understand that you may not be best suited to the weakness question (article coming soon on how to address those types of questions). However, in the interim, you should be well aware of some benefits which you are able to offer an organization. What has your boss said about you that was positive? What did you contribute to a company? Did you increase revenue? Decrease costs? Improve customer satisfaction? What benefit will a future company receive from your work ethic, knowledge, skills, and personality?

Know a contribution that you made to a company. Share examples that make you who you are. Have a one minute sales pitch about yourself that will speak to your effectiveness and ability to go above and beyond the job for which you are interviewing.

 
 
With the current buzz surrounding employers requesting Facebook passwords, it behooves you as a job seeker to have all of your privacy settings set to the most private possible on your Facebook account. Allow friends and family to know that you are engaged/married/pregnant for a 4th time, or bitter about your pending divorce. However, allowing a potential employer access to your personal business is similar to providing him/her with a password to your personal email account, which in turn speaks to: TOO MUCH INFORMATION! There is no need to over-share personal information with an employer, especially before they have a chance to get to know what an incredible fit you will be for their department.

I often compare a job search to dating, and opening up a web of questionable pictures, party invitations, or travel information is not the way to endear yourself to your future boss. It’s like sharing constipation and bunions on a first date. And really, who wants to know that much?

Utilizing LinkedIn, on the other hand, provides you with a professional networking opportunity to expand your job search and connections within the field to a variety of key players within organizations which can assist you in addressing cover letters and following up with phone calls properly. LinkedIn provides excellent information about companies and job openings. It will also keep you in the know about where your supervisor from a few jobs ago went in a bad economy, to provide you with a reference. And who wouldn’t want that?