Tag Archives: job search skills

Document your Advanced Microsoft Word Skills

I frequently see resumes from job applicants claiming Advanced Microsoft Word skills. When such a high level of proficiency seems highly improbably given their previous work experience and education, I am very skeptical. When I have doubts and the answer is important to me, I ask questions. I want to know what specific things you can do on the job tomorrow.

Document Your Advanced Word Skills

Advanced Word Skills – Really?

Many job postings ask for advanced skills beyond what is essential, but that doesn’t really matter. When you are asked in a job interview some sort of vague question about your Microsoft Office skills, you still need to nail it convincingly.

That is the reason I created the checklists that are now available in the MS Office Skills Checklists section. By making sure that you know exactly what advanced skills are, you can avoid an awkward conversation that doesn’t answer the question. You don’t want either error. You don’t want to be embarrassed when you learn that you actually don’t have any advanced skills. Pretending you have skills that you don’t makes for an entertaining movie, but I think the thrill of the experience falls short of that in real life. Continue reading

Prospective employers want you to communicate your qualifications clearly

If you submit 10, 20 or more job applications every week without response, you are not alone and it’s your job to figure out why.

Are you treating the job search as a numbers game, like telemarketing? If I just send more applications, sooner or later it is inevitable that I will rise to the top of the pile. Or do you believe those who say “nobody gets hired from online job postings”. If that was true, how long would employers continue to accept online submissions? Not very long.

magnifying glass

Communicate Your Skills Clearly

Not every opening that is posted online is filled from online applicants but some are. If you aren’t among the winning pllicants, it may have something to do with how you are applying, but you may be perplexed as to what to change.

Do you understand the hiring process from the perspective of an employer that receives thousands of applications? Often its a junior staff member who reduces the pile to a manageable number. It’s easier than you think. Just discard applications that don’t mention the key words related to the required qualifications. Then calls are made to conduct an initial screening interview or to schedule an interview. So what if that prospective employer called the top 20 applicants but your phone didn’t ring? And what if that happened 50 times every week? Continue reading

6 Job interview questions a blogger should welcome

We all dread certain job interview questions, but with a good answer ready you can actually look forward to any question.

Successfully launching a blog is not easy and just the fact that you have a blog that is in any way career related gives you a conversation starter and icebreaker. But your blog can provide much more than that. Here are a few questions that you can respond to by drawing from your blogging experiences:

Provide an example of your problem solving skills:

If you have successfully launched a blog and sustained it for a significant amount of time, you have solved many problems. So every time you solve a significant problem, write down a short description. Note the nature of the problem and the implications it has for your blog’s availability or effectiveness. Describe exactly your problem solving process. what you did to solve the problem (e.g. use Google, phone a friend etc.). Specify clearly the outcome of the action you took and what you learned if anything. Tell the whole story in less than 60 seconds if possible in a way that is easy to understand. Continue reading

Consider blogging your way out of a career rut

Establishing a blog related to your career can cure a lot of ills. Feeling stuck in a rut is just one. It has never been easier and the benefits have never been clearer.

12 benefits from a career-related blog:

  1. Blogging  gives you, not your employer or anyone else, total control over the heart of career management, your personal brand.
  2. Here’s your chance to broadcast the experience and wisdom you have accumulated in your professional career. You can answer those questions that no one ever asks or provide the advice to a newcomer that you wish someone would tell them. Continue reading

Word Cloud: for effective interview strategies

 

Used Wordle for Job Search

Used Wordle for Job Search

Your  job interview vocabulary may matter much more than you expect. I’ve seen first-hand how powerfully the words you use in a job interview affect the impression you convey to the interviewer. significantly more than I believed. Recently I was privileged to participate in a series of mock interviews. The impact of vocabulary was especially noticeable in their responses to behavioral questions. One interviewee omitted entirely any reference to the specifics of the detailed job description that she was provided.

I was astonished, given that several similar positions were listed prominently on her resume. During subsequent interviews, I observed specific vocabulary more closely. Applicants responding to behavioral questions using the same vocabulary as those included in the job description clearly gained credibility by doing so. Very simply, you just believed as you listened to their words that they were already in the position. The incremental impact was especially strong for interviewees who had previously worked in a different field, but made the effort to prepare.  On reflection, it became clear to me that effective interview strategies pay close attention to the vocabulary of the job description. It sounds very simple, but I think it is commonly overlooked. Continue reading

Do you work in your career or on it?

In his best-selling book “E-myth”, Michael Gerber offers advice to Sarah, an entrepreneur who is overwhelmed by the challenges of operating her small business. During one conversation, he advises her to work “on her business, not just in her business”. Sarah was told by everyone that she was so good at baking pies, she really must open a pie shop. Now she absolutely hates baking pies. Gerber says “she took the work she loved and turned it into a job.

While Sarah’s story and Gerber’s book are clearly oriented toward owners of small businesses, I’m sure Sarah’s lament resonates with employees. If you love golf and are good at it, the idea that you “should” be a golf coach can sound quite reasonable. If the photos that you post on Flickr.com are well received, others may express surprise that you don’t become a photographer. (neither of these describe me) However, the skills and temperament needed in addition to the technical competencies for success as a professional photographer, golf coach or baker of pies are not at all trivial to acquire, even if you work for someone else as an employee.

Those demands may explain why more employees don’t venture into self-employment. The need to market yourself constantly to ensure a continuous stream of income is one of those demands that many avoid.
However, it turns out that the demands of sustaining continuous employment are converging with those of entrepreneurship. In today’s employment marketplace, you need to “think like a CEO of your own career”, as William Bridges wrote 15 years ago in “Creating You & Co.”

Some of us find ourselves thrust unexpectedly into a situation where we need to market ourselves in ways that we never anticipated. We are suddenly on the job market and very much unprepared, with a very long list of “should haves”. But you can’t “should have”. It is harder to expand that list of accomplishments that is so essential for your resume when you don’t work there anymore. You need to do that before you leave.

Gerber says that when sometimes after an entrepreneur experiences significant initial growth, then scales back. In his words, a “business that got small again is a business reduced to the level of its owner’s personal resistance to change, to its owners Comfort Zone, in which the owner waits and works, works and waits, hoping for something positive to happen.” In the same way, we can continue to work “in” our career/job, hoping for a positive outcome. Working “on” our career means proactive initiatives that take us out of our Comfort Zone.

Typographical Error may trash your job application

 

Can One Error Cost You a Job Offer?

Can One Error Cost You a Job Offer?

You just hit “send”, and an error that was invisible a nanosecond ago looks like it’s in a 50-point font. Now you fear that a single typo will be judged so harshly that you’ve blown this opportunity.

I spent 5 years directing the research department of a professional accounting association. We printed more than 15,000 copies of our 300 page research studies in one print run for distribution to our members. Thousands of hours annually, in a pre-PC era, were devoted to ensuring that no errors survived our scrutiny. So how did I respond to typos in the applications I reviewed? I hired very bright people because I needed to know that they could understand difficult subject matter and communicate effectively with authors and the practicing accountants who served on review committees to vet the content of our various publications. Luring bright accounting graduates away from public accounting firms isn’t easy. I already had Cecil, an outstanding proofreader. People who can find typos aren’t scarce. So a typo would be discussed in the interview, along with other deficiencies that had been circled in red, but one lone typo wouldn’t discourage me from inviting an otherwise strong candidate to an interview. But a cavalier response to my mention of any error would definitely concern me.

I rarely received more than 20 credible applications but that wouldn’t be the reality today. Let’s suppose you and 500 other candidates submitted your applications by email in response to a typical job posting. The first screening will be performed by a junior staff person who is looking for a handful of key words or a software program that does the same. If your application didn’t nail most of the qualifications the job posting specified it will be rejected at that stage anyway. If your application is forwarded to a hiring manager and the rest of your application is very carefully prepared, your sole error may be noted but considered alongside other factors. If the duties of the position involve writing for external parties or you have claimed outstanding writing skills as one of your qualifications, it’s likely to be taken more seriously.

So if you don’t hear back from them, don’t sweat the typo. It’s not the typo that sent the application to the trash. It was your weak application. The process that creates a well-tailored application doesn’t start the afternoon of the submission deadline and leaves time for careful proofreading. It’s rare that an amazing resume/cover letter contains a typo. And there’s never more than one.

Keyboard error image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Jobseeker – Are You an Obvious “Poser”?

Savvy employers have always looked for reliable short-hand methods for identifying a “poser” – the one who talks a good story but doesn’t really know how to do the job.

Rusty HammerIn the early 50s, my father worked as a carpenter on construction projects in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Unemployment was high and would-be carpenters approached the foreman virtually every morning. He didn’t ask for a resume, he just asked ask to see what was in that toolbox that each one brought to the job site, hoping to work that day. Anyone with a toolbox full of shiny new tools was summarily dismissed as an obvious “poser”. Brilliant! The tools of an experienced carpenter are well worn.
Here are a few lessons we can learn from this simple story:

  • Know the typical indicators that hiring managers in your field use to screen applicants. Conduct information interviews with people already working in similar organizations, the one you’re applying to if possible. Don’t just guess. Be sure.
  • Once you know “well-worn hammer” for your field, demonstrate it. Today’s hiring manager may have had more formal training in modern interview techniques, but is just as busy as that foreman. That places employs simple “rules of thumb” to eliminate unsuitable candidates at a premium.
  • Prepare thoroughly to avoid elimination. If they don’t like to see shiny new briefcases, borrow one that has seen a little use. If they care more about attitude than grades, practice that smile!
  • Build a portfolio of completed projects as evidence that you really do know how to use a hammer and bring it with you to the interview.
  • You may dislike some of the decision rules that you encounter. You might think they’re unfair or arbitrary, even idiosyncratic! That’s OK. When you have their job, you’ll get to have your own arbitrary policies!

In his new ebook, “’Headhunter’ Hiring Secrets”, Skip Freeman advises jobseekers that today’s employers are looking for reasons to exclude you from consideration, not to include you. Hoping that a kindly foreman will overlook your shiny tools ensures that you stay excluded.

Photo from phidauex on Flickr.com

Why I Distrust First Impressions (Part 1)

What makes you cringe? For some, it is hearing the president of the United States say “gonna”. For me, it is when workshop facilitators advise jobseekers that the impression an applicant makes in the first 5 or 10 seconds seals the fate of the hapless interviewee. A weak handshake is sufficient to end the interview. A broad smile can ensure an immediate offer.

I don’t cringe because that is bad advice; I accept that it is true. I cringe because worthy jobseekers whose strengths can’t be coached are rejected based on criteria that can be easily coached. Now, I have interviewed far fewer applicants than an experienced HR manager, but I learned a long time ago that first impressions are often very misleading. I understand that the emphasis on “fit” provides clear decision rules.

However, the idea that important decisions about people’s lives are made on criteria that can easily be coached seems just seems wrong to me. And, as Richard Bolles, author of What Color is Your Parachute told us more than 25 years ago, that is a very good argument for directly contacting the hiring manager (yes, networking) instead of emailing hundreds of resumes.
I jumped to instant conclusions just like everyone else until the first night of an evening class 30 years ago. A fellow student I’ll call Jezebel exhibited all the qualities I found most objectionable. When the instructor numbered off people into groups from the front 1, 2, 3, 4, 1, 2, 3, 4, and so on, I hoped (OK, prayed) I would not end up in Jezebel’s group. I actually groaned aloud when I saw that I also would be in group #1. To my great astonishment, I grew to admire and enjoy Jezebel as we worked together on a group project and we formed a friendship that I would not want to have missed. I try to suspend judgment on people until I have some significant need to make a decision. I simply do not trust first impressions.

Mayor Hazel McCallion

Mayor Hazel McCallion

If you are not from Southern Ontario, you may not recognize the lady in the yellow jacket. At age 91, Hazel McCallion is very competently serving as mayor of a city of over 600,000 citizens. Some have been foolish enough to misjudge her based on their first impression. Oops!

So far, I have shared my own thoughts, but in part 2 I will pass on the wisdom of “America’s top jury consultant, Jo-Ellan Dimitrius, who can literally read a person like a book”. She doesn’t make important decisions on first impressions. Check in and find out why!

Career Reality Check

Miguel, a newcomer to Canada seeking full-time employment sits across the desk from a career counsellor, carrying a simple resume that exactly matches a job posting circulated earlier that morning.  A quick phone call sets up an interview and at the evening meal he celebrates with his family his wonderful new job that begins the next day. His younger brother, Carlos, presents himself a few days later at the same career centre expecting a similar outcome. His timing is also fortuitous (or so he is told) as a full-day workshop on job search techniques is about to begin. When the longest day of his life mercifully concludes, he arrives at the same kitchen table with a fistful of paper bearing advice/mandates about networking, information interviews, accomplishment statements and one mysterious insight. Carlos is mostly orange which is unusual in a bookkeeper but he shouldn’t be alarmed. Like everyone, he is really plaid. In Carlos’ home town, plaid is worn only by sedentary male tourists who wear belts at chest level and black socks with sandals.

Like Carlos, many of us are dismayed to learn that the job market of the past is gone forever. A whole new portfolio of job-seeking competencies is required to find our next position, even if it pays half our former salary.  Mastery of these competencies requires us leave our comfort zones to a degree that dwarfs any adjustment to a new workplace.

If Carlos embraces this opportunity and masters those new job search skills he will build a foundation that will serve him well for the rest of his working life. Information interviews will open his eyes to a broader range of opportunities and introduce him to some new friends. As he begins his next position, he will recognize opportunities to create accomplishment statements by taking on challenges and realize that his evil supervisor is really just gold and also plaid. When he finds himself back in the job market (and he knows that he will), those tools will fall readily to hand.

Miguel, on the other hand, will also be unemployed again and may never learn what Carlos knows. He is encumbered by his erroneous belief that job search for him should continue to be easy and by his pride. After all, if he steps out of denial and attends those workshops he will be admitting that it was just dumb luck the last time.

Success in every arena of life comes to those who are willing to do what others will not. Including preparation for the employment marketplace.