Tag Archives: Resumes and Portfolios

Job seekers must fully address employer concerns

Sanjit P., a banker from India, Paul M. a newly unemployed tool and die machinist, and Andrea S., a former accounting clerk, may not appear to have much in common. But all three are frustrated job seekers looking for employment in Southern Ontario and all face difficulties in the job market for what is essentially the same reason. Too often, prospective employer concerns about hiring them are significant barriers that never are addressed.

Address Employer Concerns

As I have mentioned in a previous post, all these worthy job applicants see is a total lack of response.

Morning after discouraging morning, they send cover letters and resumes to posted employment opportunities.

Evening after discouraging evening they wonder what they need to do differently.

In each of these (fictitious) stories of typical job seekers, one significant piece of information stands out to an employer like a red flashing light and sends the application to the trash.

Know the Precise Employer Concern

Sanjit worked as a banker for 15 years but it is hard to tell from his application exactly what his responsibilities might have been and he is applying for a much more junior position than a banker with an MBA and 15 years of Canadian experience would consider. The employer concerns are that he will not accept the work environment and more junior duties that go with entry-level employment opportunities and that he will need significant training to get up to speed in the job. He will not be able to “hit the ground running”. Continue reading

Lesson 2: My camera taught me to be teachable

It was too easy at first. Jump out of bed, grab a quick shot of the beautiful sunrise, post it on Flickr.com and marinade in the compliments. Repeat daily. At first, Mother Nature provided enough variety to ensure that, like snowflakes, the sunrises weren’t exactly identical. But there got to be enough similarity that I needed to do something different. Anyway, I was shooting fish in a barrel. A 10 mile drive to Toronto lake shore changed the perspective and my viewer count surged temporarily. A suggestion from a regular visitor from Scotland jolted me out of my duffer rut. By letting the Toronto skyline remain out of focus, I achieved the result displayed at right. That photo reached 200 views in a couple of days, quadruple my previous high. My Scottish visitor was delighted that I welcomed his advice, apparently something that is rare in his experience. And that is the second lesson. Continue reading

Career Management Lesson 1: Don’t be a Duffer

When your manager asked you to present an important new project to the corporate budget committee, you suggested that she ask Freddie, your extrovert colleague in the next cubicle. You are hands-down more technically knowledgeable and Freddie isn’t actually even a great presenter but he is still better than you. Freddy probably didn’t even prepare but he delivered what was needed, won approval of the project and fended off the threat of layoffs. Everyone is grateful, and you know it could have been you. A couple of promotions are anticipated next quarter and Freddie now looks like a shoe-in and you don’t. So as you sit in your favorite leather chair at your favorite Starbucks nursing your favorite beverage, a Caramel Macchiato, you recognize decision time when you see it. Your presentations on a good day are “not so bad for an introvert” and that is costing you. So will you remain a “duffer” who improves at a glacial pace, even after company-sponsored training? Will you now initiate decisive action for quantum improvements or continue to cede the limelight and the payoffs to the extroverts? When the pain of watching while the Freddies land your dream job becomes sufficiently unbearable, you just might be willing to leave this career-limiting comfort zone. Continue reading

Job Application Typo Deserves a Prudent Response

I knew the strategy the friendly Volvo salesman had in view when he suggested I take the car home overnight one afternoon in 1984. He hoped I would become so emotionally attached to this nice Volvo 240 sedan that I couldn’t resist the purchase. That wasn’t a risk, I thought. This wasn’t an emotional purchase, like the Monte Carlo was. Anyway, I was fickle with cars. I could, if necessary, purge those passions the Volvo had aroused by test driving a 5 litre Mustang GT in the morning.

So I took the car home and did the usual. Calmed down my son who feared I had lost my mind and reassured my wife that I hadn’t promised to buy anything. The sensible Volvo did have a certain appeal so we set out for a drive in the country. The fuel gauge showed empty so I stopped in at the gas bar near our home. To my astonishment, the car refused to start after I added $10 worth. It turned over but it just would not start so we pushed the immobilized new Volvo to a safe corner.

The next morning I dropped off the key with directions for the tow truck driver. After work I waited for the salesman to finish talking to someone else. He wondered if I was ready to make an offer. “What was wrong with the car that it wouldn’t start?” I asked. “I have no idea” was his markedly inadequate response. I was astonished. Could he not see that I needed reassurance that a stranded Volvo surprised him more than me? I mean, you didn’t buy a Volvo 240 in those days for its pretty face. If it wasn’t safe, reliable and sensible, there wasn’t much left. Kind of like a medicine that tastes like crap and doesn’t do anything for you. When he called a few days later hoping I was ready to buy, he still didn’t care what had left me stranded.

I thought about this story this week when I was researching (OK, Googling) for my last post about how much a typo matters. A senior executive said that he would still interview a candidate whose application contained a typo but would ask about it in the interview. Her response at that moment would carry far more weight than the fact that the typo wasn’t caught.

Things will happen in the course of your jobsearch. You will forget someone’s name. You will arrive late. In the interview, you will be asked a question that everyone in the room knows you didn’t prepare for but should have. Those things shouldn’t happen but inevitably they will. Pay attention to the reactions of those who are interviewing you. If they seem surprised by something, address their concerns directly. Follow up later.

When the salesman under responded to the breakdown of a car that purports to be reliable, it seemed to me that it must not be particularly unusual. The Volvo had a great reputation, but he had first-hand knowledge of Volvo reliability, so I accepted his assessment. I needed to hear that the breakdown was more surprising to him than it was to me. When you are a jobseeker, the interviewer needs to know certain things. Like you do get that spelling Frank’s name as “Frnak” on your cover letter somehow contradicts your claim to have outstanding writing skills. Don’t wait for Frnak to bring it up in the interview. If Frnak was ticked off, you wouldn’t be having the interview. So take the lemon and make some lemonade. Tell Frnak that your sister-in-law has a Volvo with 350,000 miles that has never let her down once. Or whatever story seems relevant.

The Parable of the Telemarketer

The Parable of the Telemarketer

Harry Jones is one of my neighbours in a 30-story condo building. Harry resents calls from all telemarketers, but he becomes especially rude when someone calls him asking to send a sales rep to provide a quote on a new roof. There are 15 floors above Harry. If the roof leaks, at least 15 other people will know before it bothers Harry.

One evening earlier this week, the following telephone conversation took place between Harry and Shelly, a woman calling on behalf of NVR Leak Roofing.

Shelly:      Mr. Jones, our crew will be installing a new roof just down the street and I’d like to send our estimator to provide you a free quote.

Harry:       What was your name again?

Shelly:      It’s Shelly, Mr. Jones.

Continue reading