Saturday, July 30, 2011

Job Search Survival Tips 101 For The Recent Grad

Are you a new graduate looking for a job? Here are some ideas and suggestions to help you survive while pursuing your dreams.
  1. Consider taking a survival job - The number one concern new graduates worry about while conducting a job search is paying their bills. Survival jobs help pay the bills, and can help to keep you out of debt, while allowing you to focus most of your energy on your job search. Use it as an opportunity to build and hone new skills for future jobs. Think of it as a chance to meet new people, and build your network of professional contacts. Think of survival jobs as getting a foot in the door, and some may offer the potential for advancement or permanent positions.
  2. Be adaptable, flexible, and persistent - these are some of the characteristics that you will need to help you weather the job market. If you are interested in a particular position within a company, but it is not currently available, consider taking another job in the company. Remember most companies hire from within, and once you're inside you can check out the company, find out how it operates, and get to know the key players. Networking is still the most effective way of finding a job, and once you're in, you will be part of the network.
  3. Put a career plan in place now - Most job seekers will delay or eliminate this step because they are unsure of the job market. However, now is the time to do it, because without a plan you will end up drifting from job to job, and that can paralyze you. Your career plan will serve as a road map that comes with directions and guideposts along the way. Take an inventory of where you are now, and think about what you want to do next, and put in place a plan of action to acquire the knowledge, skills and abilities you will need to get that next job.
  4. Find ways to stay connected to people in your career area - Join a Professional Association. Associations are one of the most valuable resources for anyone trying to break into a particular industry or for those exploring careers. Through associations you can learn about job leads, meet major players in the field, attend networking and social events, find out about hiring trends, and most of all make valuable contacts.
  5. Develop a support system of your own - Connect with other recent alums in a supportive environment to network, explore goals, personal strengths, and manage the emotional roller coaster of the job search process. Studies show that a positive attitude really does pay off in job searching, and a support group can help you stay motivated and maintain a positive attitude.
The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one. ~ Mark Twain.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Job Offer Etiquette

Congratulations! You just received a job offer. All your hard work and preparation has paid off. What do you do now?
Many applicants are unprepared for the next steps after an offer is extended. You may accept an offer immediately and subsequently realize (a bit too late) that you didn't ask any or enough questions about the specifics of the offer. It's important at this point to slow down and consider what you need to do before accepting an offer.
 
Some guidelines include:
  • If you get a verbal offer, let the organization know that you are very excited and are looking forward to receiving the offer in writing with specifics. This will give you time to absorb the initial excitement of receiving an offer while evaluating the offer details.
  • If you are in the process of interviewing at other organizations, you may want to contact them to let them know that you have received an offer and determine where they are in the recruiting process.
  • Once you know all your job options and your offer deadlines, you can decide whether you are ready to accept an offer or try to negotiate.
To negotiate or not to negotiate (that is the question)
Every prospective employee can negotiate, but not everyone should negotiate. Many applicants fresh our of school choose not to negotiate due to the entry-level nature of the position offered.

In the economic boom, negotiation was often expected by the organizations because many applicants had multiple offers. In the current economic climate, it is an employer's market and many times the offers are set in stone.

If you have done your homework on the job market, you should know what a reasonable salary range is for the postion you've been offered. If you want to negotiate on salary, do your homework and realize that in most instances your leverage is very diminished compared with college grads of recent years.

What is negotiable?
Many applicants feel that the only area to negotiate is salary. That is not the case. There are many areas that are potentially negotiable. They can include:
  • Salary
  • Moving expenses
  • Start Date
  • Stock Options
  • Signing Bonus
  • Performance Bonus
  • Vacation
Another area of potential negotiation is the date in which you need to respond to an offer. In this market, many employers are giving applicants a shorter timeframe to respond to an offer. In most cases, they have back-up candidates for the position. Requesting a little extra time may be negotiable.

Made your decision?
Finally, when you are ready to accept an offer, contact the employer by phone and let them know of your decision. It is always a good idea to follow up wth a confirmation letter.

If you decide to decline an offer, contact the employer by phone and follow up with a letter. It is always a good idea not to burn any bridges in the event you choose to join that organization later in your career.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Interviewing: What Not To Do

The resume may get you the interview, but it's the interview that gets you the job. Once you've made it past the resume stage, there's still work to be done! Don't short-change your efforts in preparing for a successful interview.
For many, the interview is the single most stressful part of the job search process. Any number of things can go wrong, and a big part of being successful is to avoid simple mistakes. Reduce your anxiety, and learn how to best prepare by reading the suggestions below.

Dreamfedjob offer their Top 10 mistakes and thoughts on how to avoid making these common errors.

"If applicants have not taken the time to review our website and understand what we are recruiting for, they reduce their chances of continuing on through the interview process."
  1. Failure to research the company: Recruiters say that they expect candidates to spend at least one hour doing research on their website and reading about their company via other websites such as Fortune Magazine, Bloomberg, Wetfeet Press and Vault Reports. Do your homework before the interview! Find out what the company does; for example, what products or services do they offer? It is also helpful to know about their financial stability as well as who their competitors are. One Cal recruiter stated, "If students have not taken the time to review our website and understand what we are recruiting for, they reduce their chances of continuing on through the interview process."
  2. Not clear on what you're interviewing for: Be familiar with the job description. If you're unsure about what the job actually entails, talk to people (those who hold a similar position at a different company), ask the recruiter who has arranged the interview, and read up (using resources such as the Occupational Outlook Handbook). Knowing what you're interviewing for will help you connect your experiences (academic, work-related, community service, athletic, etc.) with company needs. Highlight how you're suited for that particular job based on your experiences, talents, strengths and abilities.
  3. Not marketing yourself: Define yourself. What makes you stand out from others? Know your major strengths and accomplishments as they relate to the job you are applying for and the company. Learn how to convey the unique person you are (including personal attributes, not just achievements).
    Interviews are an exchange of information, and not coming in with questions shows that you did not prepare for the entire interview.
  4. Not asking meaningful questions: Have at least 3 thoughtful questions to ask the recruiter. Ask questions that you cannot find the answer to on the company's website. It's fine (it actually leaves a positive impression with the recruiter) to have them written down in advance and reference them at the appropriate time. Interviews are an exchange of information and a dialogue. Coming in without questions shows that either you're not serious about the employer or you didn't fully prepare for the interview.
  5. Under-dressing for the interview: Professional attire and attention to detail still count. Remember that everything - your appearance, your tone of voice, your conduct - contributes to the impression (positive or negative) that you make. If you're unsure about just how dressed up you should be, err on the side of dressing more formally rather than too casually. As a general rule of thumb, wear a pressed suit and shirt and polished shoes.
  6. Trying to wing the interview: Practice!  Practice until your delivery feels comfortable but not memorized. 
  7. Not being yourself: Be yourself and be honest! Don't pretend to understand a question or train of thought if you don't. The interviewer will pick up on this. If you don't know an answer, say so. Relax and be yourself. They've picked you for an interview because they're interested. They don't expect you to be perfect.
  8. Not listening: Focus on the question that is being asked and don't try to anticipate the next one. It's OK to pause and collect your thoughts before answering a question. Pay special attention to technical or work process related subjects that are unique to a given firm or organization. The interviewer may have provided information you will need to answer the question earlier in the conversation. Employers will be looking for your ability to assimilate new information, retain it, and, most importantly, recognize that information as useful to you later in the interview.
    Take the time to "talk through" your thought process… Interviewers consistently placed a high value on students who articulated their problem-solving process.
  9. Not providing enough details: When answering case questions, technical questions or solving technical problems, take the time to "talk through" your thought process. Recruiters are more interested in seeing how your mind works and responds to a given problem rather than the answer itself. They are examining how your thought process works. In their discussions with us, interviewers consistently placed a high value on students who articulated their problem-solving process. These individuals got offers more often than those who could solve the problem but failed to verbalize their thinking. Regarding other types of interview questions (general, resume-based or behavioral), it's also important to give specific details. Recruiters only know what you tell them! Don't assume otherwise. Your goal is to be clear and concise, yet descriptive.
  10. Lack of enthusiasm: Maintain eye contact, greet the interviewer with a smile and a firm handshake (not too weak, not too strong), and show common courtesy. Don't be afraid to display your passion for the job/industry and to show confidence! A gloomy or "too serious" expression can be interpreted as a lack of interest in the job and/or company.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

You Applied On-Line Over Two Weeks Ago.... Now What?

Most companies list their jobs on their own "Careers with Company X" website and require applicants to apply online. But submitting an application online can feel like sending your resume into a black hole where it vanishes amidst a universe of applications. There are, however, ways to avoid getting lost in space.
Many employers admit that online applications are not their preferred method of sourcing qualified candidates. There are too many resumes in their online databases from unqualified candidates, and they don't have time to review each and every one to see if there is a fit somewhere in the company. Many companies use keyword searches of the resume database to see if they get any hits. Others have HR staff glance at the new resumes for a few seconds to see if any seem to fit current openings. So, if your resume doesn't make it through one of these initial screening methods, you're not going to be invited to interview.

Bring your application into the light
To get noticed after submitting your resume online, follow up with a phone call (or two or more if necessary). If the website clearly states "don't call us, we'll call you" then respect that and follow up with an email instead. It's rare to find a contact name and phone number on a company's career website, so you need to be persistent and resourceful in getting through to a person. Try these techniques:
  • Call the main phone number and navigate through their phone system. When you get a person on the phone ask for the Human Resources representative in charge of recruiting university students.
  • Ask people in your existing network of friends, family, acquaintances, professors, classmates, and co-workers if they know anyone who works for that organization. You'll be surprised what a small world it is. Even if the person identified does not work in HR or the department you are targeting, they may be willing to refer you to the correct person to contact if your acquaintance makes an introduction.
Persistence can pay off
Do not be afraid to follow up a job application with a phone call. Few people are annoyed by this, and if you express yourself effectively on the phone, it will actually make you look like a resourceful, enthusiastic candidate. Be prepared to speak in a professional manner on the phone. In fact, you may want to rehearse what you will say if you get a person on the phone, or what you will say if you need to leave a voice mail message. Following up on your applications in a professional manner by contacting people directly will increase your chances of getting job interviews.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

How to Leave Your Job with Dignity and a Positive Reference

Job hopping is a fact of modern life, and moving up often means moving around. How do you do so gracefully, without burning bridges and while maintaining your valuable, nascent professional network?
You may have never heard the 1977 country music classic "Take This Job and Shove It" triumphantly bellowed by the musical genius Johnny Paycheck, but the sentiment is all too familiar. Although a decidedly blue-collar lament, the song went on to sell over 2 million copies because it conveyed the frustration of employees at all levels, including those breathing the rarified air found behind office doors as well as the stuff wafting from cube to cube.

The song's success proved anybody feeling trapped in a workplace of circus freaks, regardless of title, compensation or prestige, relishes the thought of strolling into the boss's office and explaining exactly where he or she can put their underpaid and overworked position.

Here are 5 easy guidelines to assist you in deciding when and how to take that next step.
  1. Don't leave too soon

    Even a Generation X soldier like myself has to admit that leaving a job in less than 2 years is exceptionally poor form (and that's a bare minimum; 3 years is cutting it close). Even the most menial position requires 6 to 10 months to become familiar with all aspects. A position requiring a college degree usually takes at least 12 to 18 months. That means when you leave in 2 years, you have most likely contributed nothing to the organization, but have sucked up training and paychecks. If you cannot in good conscience commit to 2 or 3 years, don't accept the job in the first place. Better to job hunt for a few extra months than take a job you think you will bail out on. If you leave too soon, expect hard feelings and no future references.
  2. Ask before you leave

    Too many employees clam up when angry or frustrated. Not sharing your issues and concerns becomes personally toxic and leads to a bad attitude. If you feel like your job is a dead-end or you are not receiving increasing responsibility, tell your supervisor. You cannot be fired for sharing that you want to grow and have more opportunity. It's only a problem when you say you want more, but you do not offer to do more. So, if you feel the position is stagnating or boring and it's not your fault, tell your boss you want to be a bigger contributor. Be calm, be civil, and provide concrete examples of problems and what you will do to add more to the team. If this is done delicately, you will be amazed at how helpful and accommodating your boss can be. Worst case, at least the situation is now out in the open and you can feel confident that you did your best to improve things. There have been countless situations where the boss, knowing you have a legitimate concern, has gone significantly above and beyond to help (even with job searching). Of course, this only happens if you have proven yourself with a strong work ethic and been very diplomatic in your delivery. If you want improvement or a promotion simply because you feel entitled to it and cannot point to actual issues or achievements, don't expect anything to get better.
  3. Provide plenty of notice

    Two weeks notice, even for a position most appropriate for a trained chimp, does not provide time to cope with your absence and find a replacement. Regarding the whole two-week thing, there is very little legal foundation for that time frame. Yes, it is a commonly stated amount of time for many work contracts, but it is usually just an arbitrary amount of time that people suggest. Consider operating on the 4 or 6 week principle. A month or month and a half is much more helpful for any supervisor. Even if your boss has been a total tyrant to you (say, giving you 2 weeks to get a major project done), be the better person and show them you have more know-how and class when it comes to handling transition.
  4. Don't job search at work

    People just can't seem to accept that since your employer provides your email address and pays for your internet connection they own your email and can browse through whenever they feel like it. You should not consider your work email private. Therefore, emailing off résumés via your work email and holding phone interviews on the company dime is not cool. Many employers can, and do, regularly search through employees' email, internet history and even telephone logs. This reality almost guarantees you are nowhere near as stealthy as you might think regarding your at-work job search (plus, everyone talks). Very likely, you already have been or will be found out. If you have not been honest about your concerns and your plans, this can make your remaining days at the company quite awkward (especially if you have yet to find a job). When this happens, you are now officially persona non grata. Assume that any upcoming pay increase or possible bonus just got whacked.
  5. Finish your projects

    Let's say you leave the company because you have been mistreated. As in most workplaces, your unfinished business tends to hurt the customers and clients more than your direct boss. Indeed, a stunt like ignoring your work at the end of your tenure with the company makes you the villain regardless of how you have been treated, and it lessens the credibility of your complaints. The supervisor or boss is now ironically justified. Leaving landmines of unfinished work can feel great when you leave but are not recommended. Your reputation will be forever soiled.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Employer Advice for Liberal Arts Majors

Many of the companies that actively recruit are looking for more than just business, econ, and engineering students. What do you have to do as a liberal arts major to capture their attention?
Liberal Arts Majors
Representatives of three firms - Enterprise, Goldman Sachs and Towers Perrin - stress that they do not prefer business majors to liberal arts majors. More important than your particular major is to demonstrate to them that you have a serious interest in a business career, a set of skills relevant to their needs, and that you have the ability to acquire additional skills while on the job or in an employer's training program.
In the words of one recruiter, "I think you [Letters and Science students] have better skills than anyone out there…you can bring something different to the table." Even if you do not have a lot of work experience, your academic experiences can provide you with valuable skills. The recruiter emphasized her perception that liberal arts majors' "communication skills are refined" - which is an asset to many positions, particularly those in sales with her company.

Quantitative Skills
"We want you to have quantitative and analytical skills." Quantitative skills are especially important for those interested in working in finance or consulting. Liberal arts majors are often perceived - absent evidence to the contrary - to be number adverse and to have weak quantitative skills. If you're a sociology or comp lit student who is not number phobic, the burden is on you to demonstrate that fact.
If you did well on the math section of the SAT, put it on your resume. If you have completed coursework that helped you develop and refine these skills, be sure to highlight that on your resume and cover letters aimed at employers who value quantitative skills. For example, include on your resume a list of courses in quantitative areas, even if you have not majored or minored in those subjects. Also look for ways to demonstrate your ability to work in Access, Excel, and other analytically-oriented software packages.

Internships are a Liberal Arts Major's Best Friend
A key reason why companies like econ and business majors is that the choice seems to indicate a strong, longstanding interest in a business career. One way you can communicate a similar level of interest while studying English, psych, or anthro is to pursue and highlight internship experiences.
All three employers recommended obtaining an internship at any time in your school career to help you prepare for a job after graduation. "Do your best to have as many really good internship experiences as you can."

What should you get out of an internship? "Know what impact you've made." Employers look for a sense of ownership of your work, how much you were involved, how interested you were in your internship project, and to what degree you seem to feel proud of your work.

Tips on Resumes and Cover Letters Direct from Employers
"Any job you've had is a real job." Do your best to describe how any position you've held has given you new skills, especially those which you might use again with the companies you are targeting. For example, retail or working in a restaurant translates into "customer service experience." Shift manager in a fast food outlet can help you demonstrate training and organizational skills as well as strong attention to detail.

"The resume gets you the interview." Make sure your resume is a professional looking document that highlights your relevant skills and experiences in a clear way.

The cover letter "gives you the ability to sell what you couldn't sell in the resume." It provides an opportunity for you to write more descriptively about the particular skills and experiences you want the employer to focus on in your resume.

When writing a cover letter, find out the hiring person's full name; avoid using "Mr." or "Miss" unless you know for certain whom you are addressing in your letter.

"Read, reread, and read it again." Typos, grammatical errors and errors in listing dates are a sure-fire way to have your resume removed from the stack of considered candidates. Typos make it appear as if you are indifferent, sloppy, or not prepared.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Dress to Impress for Recruiting Success

First impressions matter. Whether it's a first round interview or an informal networking opportunity, you want your grooming and attire to clearly communicate that you're ready to make the transition from student to working professional.

Interview Attire

Most employers expect you to wear professional attire to interviews, even if the organization has a business casual dress code in the office. Unless you are invited to wear business casual attire to an interview, you should plan to wear conservative, professional attire.
Professional Attire for Women:
  • A business suit in a classic style. Pant suits and skirt suits are acceptable, but pant suits are considered more casual, so wear a skirt suit if interviewing for more conservative organizations. A "suit" means that the jacket and skirt or pants are made from the same material. Women have more flexibility with suit color, but avoid colors that are very trendy; stick to a more classic color.
  • Under your suit jacket, wear a collared blouse or conservative shell, in a color that complements your suit.
  • Shoes should be black or brown, whichever complements your suit color. Wear shoes with closed toes; avoid wearing a shoe that could be considered a sandal. Boots are fine with a pant suit, especially when interviewing in cool weather.
  • Wear nylons that match your skin color.
Professional Attire for Men:
  • Invest in a business suit in a classic two-button or three-button style. Stick with classic colors like dark grey. Many suits will have pinstripes according to current fashion and subtle pinstripes are fine for interviews, but avoid bold pinstripes.
  • Wear a white shirt or light solid colored shirt.
  • Wear a conservative tie that complements your shirt and suit.
  • Shoes should be black or brown, with some shine. Leather that doesn't have a shine is considered more casual. Choose a belt that matches the color of your shoes
  • Wear dark socks. White socks are completely inappropriate
Many organizations will invite you to wear business casual attire to an interview. This can be tricky because business casual essentially runs the gamut from cotton khakis to slacks, and from polo shirts to collared shirts with a tie. If you plan to dress business casual for an interview, stick to the more formal side of business casual, in other words, "professional casual."
Professional Casual for Women:
  • Wool or synthetic fiber slacks or knee-length skirt
  • A collared blouse, sweater set, or conservative sweater
  • Consider wearing a stylish jacket over your top
  • Black or brown shoes with closed toes or boots.
Professional Casual for Men:
  • Wool or blended fiber slacks
  • A collared, buttoned shirt with a tie, or a conservative business-like sweater
  • Black or brown shoes with a matching belt
  • Dark socks

Networking Events

Very few networking events call for professional attire.You are almost always invited to wear business casual or campus casual attire. But if you are trying to convey that you are ready for the working world, you should consider avoiding wearing campus casual attire to career fairs, employer information sessions, employer panels, or any other events where you will be interacting with potential employers. Business casual makes a better impression.
Business Casual for Women:
  • Cotton or synthetic fiber blended pants or a knee-length skirt
  • A top or sweater that is fashionable yet not trendy and can't be considered a t-shirt
  • Shoes or sandals that are fashionable, but no flip-flops or sneakers
Business Casual for Men:
  • Cotton pants
  • Collared shirt
  • No sandals, flip-flops or sneakers

Fashionable, But Not Trendy or Sexy

Unless you are interviewing for an organization in the fashion or entertainment industry, you should avoid wearing trendy clothes when trying to make a good impression on employers. Today's fashions also trend toward sexiness, but potential employers don't want to see your cleavage, your belly button, or your lingerie. Save those styles for your social life, they're not appropriate for your work life.

Good grooming is almost always more important than what you wear. To make a good impression in this department:
  • Keep your hair out of your face and don't play with it during your interview.
  • Minimize jewelry, and remove visible piercings (other than one earring per ear for women).
  • Remove any scuffs from your shoes - have them polished or repaired if necessary.
  • Make sure your hands and fingernails are clean, they will be noticed.
  • Minimize fragrances - some people are allergic to perfumes and colognes.
  • Make sure your body and breath odor is nonexistent or at least pleasant. Be sure to shower before your interview, and avoid foods that make your breath smell, such as dairy foods, sugary foods, or spicy foods.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Diversity in the Workplace: 10 Ways to Research an Employer and Their Commitment to Diversity

Are you concerned about how diverse your workplace environment will be? Looking for a place where you will have equal opportunity for success and growth? If so, researching your potential employers will be an important aspect of your job search.
 
Why is diversity in the workplace important?
Not only can you instantly reach around the world via email, the internet, and IMing, but the world is increasingly here in America and the range of what constitutes diversity is continually expanding.

There has also been a strong demographic shift in the make-up of who consumes the products and services employers provide, and if an organization does not prepare and accept this change by fostering a workforce that reflects its customer/client base, it is less likely to thrive and grow. Diversity includes a wide spectrum of attributes including language, gender, ethnicity, cultural background, age, sexual orientation, and religious beliefs to name just a few.

Your interest in finding an employer that is supportive of creating a congenial workplace for people from a wide range of backgrounds and beliefs may be more personal. If you come from an underrepresented group, you want to find an environment and work culture where you will feel comfortable and which will be supportive of you and your career aspirations. But just because you see the value in diversity doesn't mean that all employers who are talking the talk are actually walking the walk.

Here are our top ten suggestions about how to figure out if an employer's actions match their rhetoric:
  1. Rankings
    Information on organizations is very accessible through a simple online search. This might not include information on how the companies treat every aspect of diversity but you will be able to get some insight. Fortune Magazine, for example, publishes their Top Companies for Minorities, Best Employers in your State, and Top Companies for Working Moms for example.
  2. Website
    An organization's website is great way to start getting information. Does the company incorporate a mission that includes diversity? What are the faces you see on their website? Do they list what their goals are? Are their website and office accessible to people with disabilities? What are the philanthropic activities they are most involved in?
  3. Recruitment
    How and where an organization attempts to recruit can be an indicator of their awareness of different populations and their commitment to increasing their internal diversity. Do they visit an assortment of different regions, post job listings in a variety of different ways or attempt to reach out to specific populations that are underrepresented in order to increase the diversity of their pool of applicants?
  4. Talk with Family and Friends
    You would be surprised to learn how effective your own network can be as a means of finding out more about an employer's commitment to fostering diversity. More often than you'd think, it's possible to find somebody who knows somebody who worked at that organization. You then have a great contact on the inside who will give you a perspective on how the organization is run and the people within it. Remember to get different perspectives.
  5. Outreach Programs
    Does the company reach out to your community, attend or conduct programs and receptions for special groups? Has it developed internship programs specifically for students from underrepresented groups, or given out scholarships?
  6. Mentoring Programs
    Mentoring programs from companies that have low levels of diversity, as they define it, have been shown to be a good way to provide an immediate network or structure to help an underrepresented co-worker feel welcome. It also is a great way to learn the ropes and have an ally. Not all employers have such programs, so be sure to ask if they do.
  7. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
    You can contact the local EEOC spokesperson for public information about the number of civil lawsuits a specific employer has had, or you can type in an internet search and list lawsuits and the companies name to see if anything has come up recently.
  8. Observe
    So you made it to the interview. Be on the lookout from the moment you walk through the door. Observe the offices you pass by and see who is interacting with whom, where people are placed, and if you recognize diversity among the members - though remember, only a narrow slice of the organization may be visible to you. In addition, observe how people who were not a part of the interview process treat you; were they welcoming, did they smile back or attempt to genuinely engage you?
  9. Ask Questions
    The best and most direct way to learn what an organization is like is to meet representatives and talk to them about the organizational culture and environment. If you're on an interview and have a host, ask him/her or ask the people you meet throughout the day about their perception of the workplace. Questions can range from: I saw on your website that you have a heavy interest in recruiting women in this field; what special initiative have you undertaken or what is their retention rate within the company? How successful have underrepresented minorities been in moving up in this company? Has your hiring of women and minorities increased from previous years? My religion requires that I pray five times a day; is there a private space I could utilize, or do you think this would bother my co-workers?
  10. Ask More Questions!
Final Thoughts
Remember that just because an organization does not physically look like they have diversity does not mean that they are not accepting of diversity. They may well be trying, and you just might be the one to open the door that gives them better insight into how their workplace can become even more diverse.

Friday, July 22, 2011

A 3-Dimensional Look at Skills - Why It's Good to Know Your Skills, Anytime, Anywhere

Whether you're new to the job search scene or a veteran who is actively contemplating a shift, it never hurts to keep a running inventory of your skills. Why and when it's helpful to know your skills: Knowing your skills makes it easier to respond to job postings and speak to recruiters. Every job description or ad has at least a cursory list of "required" and "preferred" skills that will help you tailor your resume and cover letter and prepare for an interview. Having these clear in your mind when you're researching jobs will help you figure out pretty fast how you stack up, and potential employers will want to know soon after "hello" what you have to offer them. By defining your skills, you will be better prepared to approach networking contacts. When you're networking for work, you need to take the lead in marketing yourself with information your contact can use - such as your skills and experience - for effectively referring you to other people who may know of a relevant job. "Chance favors the prepared mind." -- Louis Pasteur You never know when a great job could appear in an unforeseen context, when and where you'd least expect it. If a dream job should suddenly appear on the horizon with a tight window to apply or you should meet someone who happens to be hiring right at that very moment, you'll be able to respond quickly and effectively. Hopefully you're convinced of the value of keeping track of your skills. Now, what kinds of skills are we talking about? Skills can be sorted into three categories: Category Definition Answers this question Examples Transferable Actions that can be carried out in any number of different settings What can you do? write, coordinate, analyze, present, delegate Personal quality How you approach tasks; traits that contribute to how you perform work How do you go about doing what you do? diplomatic, results oriented, independent, imaginative, conscientious Knowledge based Subject matter, procedures or information that you know about; learned through education, job experience, hobbies or other activities What do you know (about)? Adobe Photoshop, Egyptian art, social science research methods, accounting principles Here's how you can mine your experience for these kinds of skills: Think back on your life and make a list of positive experiences that were important to you, that you take pride in, had fun doing, and in which you felt some degree of success. Write a story describing each experience as fully as you can, with as much detail as you can remember. As you do so, think about: What you did - what transferable skills did you demonstrate? How you handled the situation - what outstanding personal qualities did you exhibit? Was there anything unique about your approach? It may help to think about positive feedback you received from professors, classmates, workplace supervisors, or coworkers. What subject matter you had under your belt that enabled you to accomplish the task - what knowledge based skills did you use? You might also try working on this exercise with a friend or in a small group, taking turns reading your stories to each other and brainstorming responses to the questions above. However you go about cataloguing your skills, it's never too early to start. Even if you don't use the information right away, you will benefit immediately from seeing the many skills you have!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Top 10 Mistakes of Online Job Hunters

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1. 'Mis-merged' cover letters.
E-mail has all but replaced the traditional cover letter, making it simple to cut and paste copies of the same letter to different hiring managers. But be careful. It's very easy to foul up the "merge" function in an e-mail, resulting in gaffes like: "I'd like to put my skills to work at IBM," when applying for a job at Hewlett-Packard.

2. One person, one job, one e-mail.
The Internet has made the job-hunt process into a direct-marketing game. Though it may seem like you've been given a direct line of communication to a hiring manager, the reality is that this manager is getting hundreds of resumes each day. While 10 great jobs are out there waiting for you, you may need to send 1,000 e-mails to become an active candidate for them.

3. Goofy personal e-mail addresses.
Personal interests outside of work and a sense of humor are both valuable assets to any top executive. But they should have nothing to do with your e-mail address when applying for a job. Who really wants to hire a senior vice president of sales who has a screen name like Snickerdoodle453@pastrylover.com, or, worse, the egotistical CommissionKing@sold.com?

4. Fun with fonts.
In their haste to stand out from the pack of job applicants, many ill-advised job seekers use bright colors and exotic fonts in their resumes and e-mails. It's a mistake. In e-mail, the best bet is to use a plain-text format; it's the only way to ensure that your creative fonts won't turn into gibberish on another e-mail system. In an MS Word document, slight variations on Times New Roman and Arial are both commonly accepted; black and white should be the only colors on the page.

5. Playing out of your league.
For some reason, when applicants respond to electronic job listings via e-mail, they often exhibit delusions of career grandeur. This phenomenon is due in large part to the fact that the Internet has made applying so easy; it's just an e-mail, so why not take a flier on a senior-management position, even though you aren't qualified? It's a waste of time for both you and the recruiters. Don't fall into this common productivity trap.

6. 'What if my boss finds my resume?'
You aren't likely to get fired for looking for a new job; it isn't an actionable cause or misconduct. If anything, finding out you're looking will prompt your boss to improve your package, your working conditions or your position in order to keep you. If you're in the job market, commit to it; if you want to keep your existing job, commit to that. Indecision is transparent in half-hearted cover letters and weak-willed interviews.

7. Resume as bio.
A resume should be more like a brochure that sells a product than a bio. Too often, resumes are laden with every conceivable detail of a candidate's work and life experiences. While these details may be interesting to you and your loved ones, if they don't sell the employer on hiring you for the specific job to which you're applying, omit them.

8. Run-on resumes.
A resume shouldn't exceed two pages. Period. Although you aren't actually printing and mailing the document, applying online doesn't provide a license to use a 10-page treatise in place of a concise, well-crafted resume.

9. Jack-of-all-trades resume.
It's easy to apply for a great variety of jobs online, many of which may be relevant targets given your diverse background. But you still need to tailor your pitch to each opportunity. If an orchestra is looking for a flute player, expounding on how much you love all kinds of music isn't going to get you the interview.

10. Thinking 'Send' is the end.
The Internet has made job hunting easier. That doesn't mean you can click "Send" on an e-mail and think your work is done. The Internet helps you find leads and contact them, but you still need to follow up. Get on the phone, network with friends and former colleagues, and work your way to the top of the resume pile the old-fashioned way -- with persistence.

It's a common misconception that top-level executives and employees earning more than $100,000 per year are naturally proficient job hunters. But think about it: How many times in your life do you look for a new job? Three? Maybe five?

As online recruiting keeps growing, e-mail and electronic resumes are increasingly a job seeker's first line of communication. First impressions count. Many well-qualified applicants are being overlooked because of lousy formatting and other needless errors. It's common to make mistakes. But it's also easy to avoid them.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Perfect Resume

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A resume is a brief summary of your abilities, education, experience, and skills. Its main task is to convince prospective employers to contact you. A resume has one purpose: to get you a job interview.

Resumes must do their work quickly. Employers or personnel officers may look through hundreds of applications and may spend only a few seconds reviewing your resume. To get someone to look at it longer, your resume must quickly convey that you are capable and competent enough to be worth interviewing. The more thoroughly you prepare your resume now, the more likely someone is to read it later.

This blog, “The Perfect Resume,” will be useful if you’re writing your first resume or want to analyze the effectiveness of your current one.

Overview
This document, which is divided into eight separate sections, can be read in two different ways. You can either read it all the way through, as you would a paper version, or you can click on any of the links listed below to jump ahead to a particular section.
  • Gather and check all necessary information
  • Match your experience and skills with an employer’s needs
  • Highlight details that demonstrate your capabilities
  • Organize the resume effectively
  • Consider word choice carefully
  • Ask other people to comment on your resume
  • Make the final product presentable
  • Evaluate your resume
Gather and Check All Necessary Information
Write down headings such as EDUCATION, EXPERIENCE, HONORS, SKILLS, ACTIVITIES. Beneath each heading, jot down the following information:

EDUCATION usually means post-secondary and can include special seminars, summer school, or night school as well as college and university. If you are just starting college, you can include high school as well. List degrees and month/year obtained or expected; names and locations of schools; major and minor, if any; grade point average. A brief summary of important courses you’ve taken might also be helpful.

EXPERIENCE includes full-time paid jobs, academic research projects, internships or co-op positions, part-time jobs, or volunteer work. List the month/years you worked, position, name and location of employer or place, and responsibilities you had. As you describe your experiences, ask yourself questions like these:
  • Have I invented, discovered, coordinated, organized, or directed anything professionally or for my community?
  • Do I meet deadlines consistently?
  • Am I a good communicator?
  • Do I enjoy teamwork?
Even if you’re new to a field, you aren’t necessarily starting from scratch.

HONORS. List any academic awards (scholarships, fellowships, honors list), professional awards or recognition, or community awards (i.e. for athletic skills).

SKILLS. List computer languages and software, research, laboratory, teaching or tutoring, communication, leadership, or athletic, among others.

ACTIVITIES. List academic, professional, or community organizations in which you hold office or are currently a member; list professional and community activities, including volunteer work. Listing extra-curricular activities or hobbies is optional.

After you have all this information down, check it for accuracy. You’ll need full names, in some cases full addresses, correct and consistent dates, and correct spellings.

Match Your Skills and Experience with an Employer’s Needs
POSITION: What kind of position do you want for this job-search? Make notes. Now match your wishes up with positions that are actually available. You can get this information through postings, ads, personal contacts, or your own research.


EMPLOYER: For a certain position, what aspects of your education, experience, or skills will be most attractive to that employer? List SPECIFIC coursework, areas of specialty, specific skills, or knowledge that you think would interest the employer.

Highlight Details That Demonstrate Your Capabilities
Look over what you’ve written and try to select details of your education, experience, honors, skills, and activities that match an employer’s needs in a few important areas.

Organize the Resume Effectively
PERSONAL INFORMATION: Top center of first page. Name (no title); addresses; phone numbers; e-mail and/or fax addresses (optional); citizenship if applicable.
NOTE: A potential employer has no legal right to request information about age, sex, race, religion, marital status, health, physical appearance, or personal habits. Don’t include such information on your resume.
EDUCATION: Often comes first in student resumes, especially if it is a strong asset.

EXPERIENCE: Here, you can use one of two formats:
Functional: To emphasize skills and talents, cluster your experience under headings that highlight these skills: for ex.: leadership, research, computers, etc. This format can be helpful if you have little relevant job experience.
Chronological: To emphasize work experience, list jobs beginning with the most recent.
Some hints:
  • Write all job descriptions in parallel phrases, using ACTION verbs
  • List the most important responsibilities or successes first
  • List similar tasks together
  • Emphasize collaborative or group-related tasks
AWARDS/HONORS: Use reverse chronological order; include titles, places, dates.

ACTIVITIES: Generally, list hobbies, travel, or languages only if they relate to your job interests. In some cases, you may wish to emphasize your willingness to travel or relocate.

REFERENCES: You need not put these on your resume. Instead, you can prepare a separate list of references, with complete name, title, company name, address, and telephone numbers for each individual. Usually, you give this list to prospective employers after your interview.

CREATING YOUR DRAFT:
  • Look at other resumes written for positions within your field.
  • TYPE each entry in a format close to the one you want to use for your resume.
  • LENGTH: for many resumes, two pages is the maximum length (NOTE: an academic resume or “curriculum vita” is often at least five pages long).
Consider Word Choice Carefully
In a resume, you need to sound positive and confident: neither too aggressive, nor overly modest. The following words and phrases are intended as suggestions for thinking about your experience and abilities.


Whatever your final word choices are, they should accurately describe you–your skills, talents, and experience.

Choose ACTIVE VERBS that describe your skills, abilities, and accomplishments. Examples: I can contribute, enjoy creating, have experience in organizing. . . While at X Company, I administered, coordinated, directed, participated in…. Below is a list of such verbs:
accomplish; achieve; analyze; adapt; balance; collaborate; coordinate; communicate; compile; conduct; contribute; complete; create; delegate direct; establish; expand; improve; implement; invent; increase; initiate; instruct; lead; organize; participate; perform; present; propose; reorganize; research; set up; supervise; support; train; travel; work (effectively, with others)
NOTE: You can change the forms of any of these verbs to stress different aspects of your abilities and experience: organize ==> organized, organizing, organization.
Choose ADJECTIVES and NOUNS that describe yourself positively and accurately:
able to; administrative; analytical; (fluently) bilingual; broad scope; capable; communication skills; collaboration; collaborative; consistent; competent; complete; creative; dedicated; diversified; effective; experienced; efficient; extensive; exceptional; flexible; global; handle stress; imaginative; intensive; in-depth; innovative; integrated; able to listen; motivated; multilingual; multi-disciplinary; a negotiator; other cultures; reliable; responsible; a supervisor; teamwork; well- traveled; work well with….
Ask Other People to Comment on Your Resume
WE STRONGLY RECOMMEND that you have an advisor, potential employer, or someone in your field critique your resume. For more help, ask:

  • A Career Development Center
  • Family and friends
NOTE: People may offer many different opinions. Use your own judgment and be open-minded about constructive criticism.

Make the Final Product Presentable
Use a computer and high-quality (preferably laser) printer. If you don’t have a computer or laser printer, you should either have your resume professionally produced, or use the resources that Rensselaer has to offer:
  • IBM/PCs, UNIX, and SUN workstations on campus. Depending on which system you use, you have some choice of fonts, limited layout capability (i.e. creating borders, boxes, and columns), and access to laser printers.
  • Computer labs/printers closest to the Writing Center. Windows 98 workstations (room
    4510).
Evaluate Your Resume
Hold your resume at arm’s length and see how it looks. Is the page too busy with different type styles, sizes, lines, or boxes? Is the information spaced well, not crowded on the page? Is there too much “white space”? Is important information quick and easy to find?


CONTENT
  • Name is at the top of the page: highlighted by slightly larger typesize, bolding, and/or underlining
  • Address and phone number(s) are complete and correct, with zip and area codes, and are well-placed in relation to name
  • All entries highlight a capability or accomplishment
  • Descriptions use active verbs, and verb tense is consistent; current job is in present tense; past jobs are in past tense
  • Repetition of words or phrases is kept to a minimum
  • Capitalization, punctuation, and date formats are consistent
  • There are NO typos or spelling errors
ORGANIZATION
  • Your best assets, whether education, experience, or skills, are listed first
  • The page can be easily reviewed: categories are clear, text is indented
  • The dates of employment are easy to find and consistently formatted
  • Your name is printed at the top of each page
FORMAT/DESIGN
  • No more than two typestyles appear; typestyles are conservative
  • Bolding, italics, and capitalization are used consistently and in support of the information
    structure
  • Margins and line spacing keep the page from looking too crowded
  • Printing is on one side of the sheet only, on high-quality bond–white or off-white (i.e. beige
    or ivory)
  • The reproduction is good, with no blurring, stray marks, or faint letters
  • The right side of the page is in “ragged” format, not right-justified. Right justification
    creates awkward white spaces
Now you’re done! Just one more suggestion: If you are sending your resume to a prospective employer, you’ll probably also have to include a separate cover letter. This is usually one page long. The letter indicates your interest in a particular company or position, summarizes the most important aspects of your education and experience, and lets the employer know where and when you can be contacted for an interview.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Perfect Cover Letter

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The preliminary application for a professional position generally consists of two documents: a cover letter and a resume. This handout describes the cover letter; the resume is described in a separate Writing Center handout.
While the resume is a somewhat generic advertisement for yourself, the cover letter allows you to tailor your application to each specific job.  Although the thrust of your various letters may remain the same, with the assorted text-processing options available at RPI—options that include find-and-replace and merging capabilities—there is really no reason to have a single, generic cover letter.
Overview
Effective cover letters are constructed with close attention to
  • Purpose
  • Audience
  • Content
  • Format
Purpose
Your cover letter and resume usually provide all the information which a prospective employer will use to decide whether or not you will reach the next phase in the application process: the interview.

While your goal is an interview and, ultimately, a job offer, the more immediate purpose of your cover letter in some cases may simply be to gain an attentive audience for your resume.

Audience
A cover letter provides, in a very real sense, an opportunity to let your prospective employer hear your voice. It reflects your personality, your attention to detail, your communication skills, your enthusiasm, your intellect, and your specific interest in the company to which you are sending the letter.

Therefore, cover letters should be tailored to each specific company you are applying to. You should conduct enough research to know the interests, needs, values, and goals of each company, and your letters should reflect that knowledge.

Content
A cover letter should be addressed to the specific company and the specific individual who will process your application. You can usually find this through research or simply by calling the company to find out who you should address your letter to.

The letter should name the position for which you are applying and also make specific references to the company. Indicate your knowledge of and interest in the work the company is currently doing, and your qualification for the position. You want the reader to know:
  • Why do you want to work at that specific company?
  • Why do you fit with that company?
  • How do you qualify for the position to which you applying?
In addition to tailoring your application to a specific job with a specific company, the cover letter should also
  • highlight the most important and relevant accomplishments, skills, and experience listed in your resume
  • point to the resume in some way (as detailed in the enclosed resume”)
  • request specific follow up, such as an interview.
Format
A cover letter should be in paragraph form (save bulleted lists for your resume) with a conversational, though formal, tone.

The first paragraph should be brief, perhaps two or three sentences, stating
  • what job you are applying for and how you learned about it
  • any personal contacts you have in or with the company
  • your general qualifications for the job.
The body of your letter should consist of one to three longer paragraphs in which you expand upon your qualifications for the position. Pick out the most relevant qualifications listed in your resume and discuss them in detail, demonstrating how your background and experience qualify you for the job. Be as specific as possible, and refer the reader to your resume for additional details.

The concluding paragraph of your letter should request an interview (or some other response, as appropriate). State where and when you can be reached, and express your willingness to come to an interview or supply further information. Close by thanking your reader for his or her time and consideration.

Example: Cover Letter 1
34 Second Street
Troy, New York 12180
October 4, 2001
Ms. Gail Roberts
Recruiting Coordinator
Department DRR 1201
Database Corporation
Princeton, New Jersey 05876

Dear Ms. Roberts:
Your advertisement for software engineers in the January issue of the IEEE Spectrum caught my attention. I was drawn to the ad by my strong interest in both software design and Database.
I have worked with a CALMA system in developing VLSI circuits, and I also have substantial experience in the design of interactive CAD software.  Because of this experience, I can make a direct and immediate contribution to your department.  I have enclosed a copy of my resume, which details my qualifications and suggests how I might be of service to Database.
I would like very much to meet with you to discuss your open positions for software engineers. If you wish to arrange an interview, please contact me at the above address or by telephone at (518) 271-9999.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
Sincerely yours,
Joseph Smith
Example: Cover Letter 2
1234 15th Street
Troy, New York 12180
January 30, 2002
Mr. John M. Curtis
Recruiting Coordinator
HAL Corporation
55 Washington Avenue
New York, New York  10081
Dear Mr. Curtis:
As an experienced computer programmer who is presently pursuing a master’s degree in electrical engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, I am writing to request information about possible summer employment opportunities with HAL.  I am interested in a position that will allow me to combine the talents I have developed in both computer programming and electrical engineering.  However, as you can see from the attached resume, I have extensive experience in many related fields, and I always enjoy new challenges.
I feel that it is important for me to maintain a practical, real-world perspective while developing my academic abilities. I am proud of the fact that I have financed my entire education through scholarships and summer jobs related to my field of study. 
This work experience has enhanced my appreciation for the education I am pursuing.  I find that I learn as much from my summer jobs as I do from my academic studies.  For example, during the summer of 1986, while working for IBM in Boca Raton, Florida, I gained a great deal of practical experience in the field of electronic circuit logic and driver design.  When I returned to school in the fall and took Computer Hardware Design, I found that my experience with IBM had thoroughly prepared me for the subject.
Having said all this, I realize that your first consideration in hiring an applicant must not be the potential educational experience HAL can provide, but the skills and services the applicant has to offer.  I hope the experience and education described in my resume suggest how I might be of service to HAL.
I welcome the opportunity to discuss with you how I might best assist HAL in fulfilling its present corporate needs.  I will be available for employment from May 14 through August 31, 2002.  Please let me know what summer employment opportunities are available at HAL for someone with my education, experience, and interests. You can reach me at the above address or by phone at (518) 271-0000.
Thank you for your consideration.
Sincerely yours,
Joan Doe

Monday, July 18, 2011

How Employers Hire (Part II)

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Many jobseekers express frustration with the hiring process. They feel a loss of control. They sense that the employer holds all the cards and isn’t showing any of them.
Understanding just how employers hire can eliminate some of the frustration and help you plan a successful job search.

The Hiring Structure

Usually, larger employers and those that do extensive hiring will have a formal hiring structure. Smaller employers and those who hire less frequently will be less formal.

Larger employers may have several people involved in the process, while smaller employers may have one person handle the hiring.

There are also industry-specific hiring practices. Medicine, education and government are industries that have unique hiring processes. Union contracts also influence the process.
Not everyone involved in the hiring process has the authority to hire. Usually one person, most often the manager of the department where the person will work, makes the final decision.

If possible, it's worth finding out who will make the final decision. However, treat everyone as though they're the hiring authority. You never know who has influence on the hiring decision. At the very least, you may be working with that person if you're hired.

The human resources department usually does not make hiring decisions. It manages the hiring process. Exceptions may be when hiring for an entry-level position, when the employer has many positions open, or when the position is in the human resources department.

The human resources department usually recruits, screens, and schedules interviews. Although the department usually doesn't hire, it has a lot of influence on the hiring decision.

Here is an example of how the human resources department fits into the hiring process:

Tom needs to fill an opening in his department. He submits a written request to Human Resources. He includes the basic criteria for the job, how soon he needs the person and how many candidates he wants to see.

Human Resources checks the current pool of applicants and, if necessary, recruits additional candidates. They screen the pool and select the best candidates, which they send to Tom for consideration.

Once Tom chooses which candidates he wants to interview, the human resource office schedules the interviews and processes the necessary paperwork when the decision is made.

Today's Job Market

The hiring process is more structured than it was in the past. Employers are generally more selective. Many factors have influenced the process. Large numbers of candidates, employment legislation, new technologies, employer liability and organizational restructuring are a few of these influences. No longer do employers hire with the intent of lifetime employment. The assurance of retirement with a single employer is quickly becoming outdated.

The average person will have many jobs and will change careers several times during her/his lifetime. Job search is no longer a single or rare event in life-- it has become an ongoing career process. A successful job search campaign will consider these changes and will use all available resources.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

How Employers Hire (Part I)

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Many jobseekers express frustration with the hiring process. They feel a loss of control. They sense that the employer holds all the cards and isn’t showing any of them.
Understanding just how employers hire can eliminate some of the frustration and help you plan a successful job search.

The Hiring Process

Hiring practices vary from industry to industry, employer to employer, hiring manager to hiring manager. Managers at the same company may even use different approaches. No two hiring processes are alike.

However, there are a few common strategies and tools used in hiring. Recruitment, screening and selection are three basic components of a hiring process.

RecruitmentEmployers need an applicant pool from which they fill job openings. Employers who do extensive hiring may be recruiting applicants continuously, even when there isn't an immediate need. They simply want to maintain the pool of applicants.

Employers who hire occasionally, or for very specialized positions, usually recruit as needed.
Some employers recruit simply to test the market, not because they have immediate job openings. They may be planning some future expansion and want to know if there’s a ready pool of applicants to fill their labor needs.

There are many ways employers recruit applicants. Here are the most common:
  • Advertising. Employers may advertise in newspapers, local community papers, trade publications, radio or television, on the Internet or on telephone job hotlines.
  • Internal Posting. Some employers will first post their jobs internally so interested employees may apply.
  • Referral. Referral from a trusted employee, colleague or peer is the source preferred by most employers. Many employers actively solicit these referrals as part of their recruitment efforts.
  • Placement Service Providers. Employers may use private and public placement agencies to recruit candidates.
  • Personal Staffing Services. Many employers are turning to temporary and contract agencies for employee recruitment.
  • Job Fairs. Job fairs are an excellent source for entry-level employees. Employers who recruit at job fairs are usually building a pool of candidates and may not have immediate openings.
  • Internet. There are all kinds of job listings on the web, ranging from company web sites to professional associations to web sites solely devoted to job listings.
  • Other Recruitment Resources. Schools, placement offices, union halls and word of mouth.
Screening
Once employers have an applicant pool, they narrow it down to the best qualified candidates.
This is no simple task. Employers are usually working with limited information. An application and/or a resume may be all they have. They may also have references and a record of past employment, but they usually will check these only after an initial screening.

The reality is that for any one job, employers may have hundreds of applicants. So, the first task is to eliminate as many as possible, as fast as possible. During the initial screening, employers generally spend no more than a few seconds on each application.

Here’s an example of how employers eliminate candidates:

Cindy is looking to fill one position in her department and has received 120 resumes. She plans to interview no more than 10 candidates. She decides to screen the resumes for basic requirements and appearance.

She quickly pages through the resumes and eliminates those that do not meet the basic requirements and those that are poorly presented or have errors. In less than an hour, Cindy has narrowed the pool of candidates down to the 10 she plans to interview.

Employers spend more time reviewing the small number of candidates left after an initial screening. They look more closely at qualifications and may contact references and/or past employers.

Some may call the applicant to conduct a telephone screening interview, or they may schedule an in-person screening interview.

Employers frequently turn to technology to help manage the hiring process. Growing technologies include resume scanning systems, databases and the Internet. The goal of screening is to narrow the pool of qualified applicants to those to be interviewed.

Selection
While every step in the process plays a part in the hiring decision, employers most often make the final selection based on the interview. At the interview, employers are seeking to verify qualifications and to evaluate how the person will fit into the organization.

When someone is called for an interview, they can be reasonably confident employers believe they're qualified for the job. Employers are interested in the person or they wouldn't be investing their time in an interview. The question is, "Are you the best qualified person for the job?"

"Best qualified" doesn't just mean skills, experience and education. Employers are also looking for motivation, a passion for excellence and a dedication to continuous learning and quality.

They're also looking at how much a new employee will cost them. Hiring an employee is a major "purchase" that costs the company a great deal of money every year. Employers want to make sure they get the best value for their money. After all, most jobseekers don't come with a money-back guarantee.

Friday, July 15, 2011

You’re Ready for a Career Change…Is Your Resume?

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You finally did it. You made the decision to leave the career that leaves you dreading every Monday and pursue one that you feel is your true calling. Congratulations! Making the decision was the hard part, right? Unfortunately, no. You’ve convinced yourself that this is the right move…how do you convince everyone else? It’s time to work on your career change resume.

Resume writing for a career change can be challenging, to say the least. Why? Think about it for a moment – how do you go from a retail manager to a purchasing agent in a corporate environment? Or from an accountant to a salesperson? Not all career changes are that drastic, but you get the picture. Once you look at it from this point of view though, it makes you wonder how in the world you’ll get a job in the field that you were meant for.
There are a number of things a career change resume has to portray to the reader:
  • The skills that you learned and honed in your past jobs transfer to the one you are applying for.
  • Your strengths and accomplishments compliment the field and position (or type) of position you are seeking.
  • You can do something other than what you are currently employed as.
So how exactly do you do this? How do you convince a potential employer that you have what it takes to meet and exceed the expectations for the job – no matter what previous jobs you’ve held in the past? One way is by writing a functional resume.

A functional resume is one that you don’t see nearly as often as the tradition chronological and combination ones. That’s because they are used when the situation for the job seeker is not ideal. Other instances may be returning to the workforce after a long period of time or job hopping. A functional resume is used when it wouldn’t be as effective as if you had a solid work history, no gaps in employment and are looking for a job similar to the one you are currently in, if not a step-up.

Your career change resume may start out with an executive profile or summary of what you have done in the past and what you are looking to do in the future. This is the time to really “talk yourself up”. You do not want to modest.

An example might be:

Accomplished and experienced professional with a 10-year proven record of developing accurate sales plans based on intensive analysis and communication with integral departments. Combines astute strategic and business skills with an impeccable work ethic and drive for success. Self-starter that is enthusiastic, forward-thinking and recognized as a peak performer.

How do you begin to write the body of the resume for your career change? Take all your achievements, strengths, education and/or training and write them down. Which ones can you group together under one heading? Headings could include:
  • Leadership
  • Financial Management
  • Account Management
  • Goal Setting & Achievement
Of course, these headings are just examples to get your own wheels turning. They will differ depending on your own experience and achievements.

As you are compiling your lists, keep in mind that you are writing for you new career, not your present or past one. Present this valuable information in a compelling manner that shows how you can be a benefit to a company in your desired career. Use strong adjectives, verbs and keywords to really get your point across.

Now that you have the difficult part done, the next steps are easy. Include your work history, education and any other special training and/or skills that you deem important at the end of your resume. Even though the focus is on the main body of your resume, the other information needs to be on there for reference sake.

And that’s it! You’re done with your career change resume. Hard work – yes, but well worth it when you consider what you were able to accomplish – a new job, a new career, a new life!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

I'm Changing Careers -- How Do I Format My Resume?

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by Ann Baehr

The best resume format to use is the combination resume. This resume format is not chronological nor functional. It combines both! It is extremely flexible and allows you to use strategies in a way that would normally be considered wrong.

The difference between the combination format and the chronological format is that the chronological format resume is very easy to follow. The hiring manager will typically start to read the chronological resume at the bottom of the work history or professional experience section (heading depends on your career level) and will continue reading his or her way up towards the top to trace your career history. If there are employment gaps, it will be obvious because it is difficult to hide breaks in employment using this resume format. This is why most hiring mangers prefer the chronological resume format. It is easy to read and leaves little to the imagination. This can be a great advantage (marketing tool) if you have been in the same type of position because it shows continuity and progression in your industry.

But what happens when you've held different types of positions across several industries? Reasons for gaps in employment and holding too many or unrelated jobs include raising children, caring for a family member, illness, returning to college, corporate downsizing or merger, joining the military, and difficulty finding work for long stretches of time because of a tight job market or weak resume! So, the first thing you will need to do is toss your old resume. It will not help you to change your career. You need to make a fresh start!

Create a resume that clearly indicates at the top what type of position you are seeking.
Include a career summary section that highlights where you've been in your career. being careful to only mention what would be of most interest to this particular company. Emphasize your transferable experience and skills that match the qualifications of the position (if there is a job ad, study it and do your best to make a connection between the position's requirements and what you've done. Do not use the exact wording!).

Use a keywords section to list transferable skills so the reader can find them immediately. This is also important if the company uses resume scanning technology. This will ensure your resume is retrieved from the company's database in response to a keyword search.
Under your Professional Experience section or Work History (again, depends on your background), present your experience in functional sections such as General Management, Sales Management, Staff Training and Supervision, Budget Planning and Tracking , etc.
Take ALL of the experience you've gained over the years and categorize it into skill areas that the new position requires. If the company is seeking someone to manage budgets, and you managed budgets ten years ago and four years ago, but not in your last two jobs, then list the collective experience under a Budget category.

Continue this formula until each respective category has a minimum of four bulleted sentences or two two-lined sentences to support the name of the heading. It is a good idea to have at least three categories to show how well rounded you are.

Below this section, list the companies, locations, job titles, and dates. You can either create a separate section named Work History if you've already called the above section Professional Experience, or simply list the section without a main heading as part of the main section. It will be understood. Or, you can start the section off with the company names and dates followed by the functional categories. In other words, flip it.

The most common problem with this resume format is identifying where your experience was gained. But, that's the whole idea. If they are interested in what you can do, they will call you in for the interview. It is at that time you can explain the how, when, where, and why of it all. It will make for great conversation--which by the way, a job interview should be. A meeting between two people with a common interest (the position) who engage in conversation in a professional manner.

About The Author:
Ann Baehr is a CPRW and President of Best Resumes of New York. Notable credentials include her former role as Second Vice President of NRWA and contribution to 25+ resume and cover letter sample books. To learn more, visit http://www.e-bestresumes.com/.