Comic Relief: Job-Seeking Humor – Volume 6

It’s been a long time since my last “Comic Relief” posting … so I think it’s about time I took another break from my usual “advice for job-seekers” mission to offer up this 6th blog of pure job-seeking humor! [See “Volume 1”, “Volume 2”, Volume 3”, “Volume 4” and “Volume 5” for the last five editions of this series!]

Once again, I’ll include my standard disclaimer: I fully realize that being unemployed is generally not a laughing matter. However, much like “gallows humor,” the intention of “job-seeking humor” is quite simple: to lift the spirits of people who are in an otherwise depressing situation. I’m a firm believer that maintaining a sense of humor is a key component to positive mental health. And I’m a still a tough critic when it comes to job-seeking humor. I figure, if it makes me laugh out loud, it’s worth sharing here!


In the category of Videos, the following clip is a classic scene from the TV show “Seinfeld.” George Costanza has just quit his job in real estate, and is now struggling with what he should do next. Like so many people I’ve actually talked with over my years as a recruiter, George hasn’t quite figured out what he wants to do when he grows up, and is having a hard time identifying his own marketable skills. (I certainly remember feeling this way a few different times in my own life!) I hope this doesn’t hit too close to home for any job-seekers watching this now …


In the category of Cartoons, the following are some miscellaneous funnies that I couldn’t fit into any other blog articles, but I think are hilarious nevertheless … and deserve to be shared here. (You may need to click to enlarge some of these images, since I had to reduce them to fit in this space.) Oh, and this first one below — while technically not a “cartoon” at all — may not make sense to anyone but my fellow recruiters … but trust me, it’s funny to us!



Finally, in the category of Letters of Recommendation, here’s a posting I found on LinkedIn by one of their most distinguished “Influencers” — Conan Obrien:


LinkedIn Influencer Conan O’Brien here. Today, I’ll answer a question that’s plagued mankind for countless millennia: “What’s the secret to getting hired?” Is it education? Job experience? Unique skills? NO. None of those matter. All you need to succeed in today’s competitive job market is a letter of recommendation from a politician or celebrity. That’s it. Nothing more, nothing less.

I’m well-aware that getting a letter of recommendation from a celebrity is easier said than done—until now. Below you’ll find a form letter of recommendation from ME to your next potential employer. All you have to do is circle the appropriate option in each sentence and voila, your own personal letter of recommendation from Conan O’Brien. You’re as good as hired.


Dear Madam or Mister,

My name is Conan O’Brien, a respected public figure and LinkedIn Influencer. I am pleased to recommend (Amy/Bill/Marco) for the position of (manager/senator). I’ve had the pleasure of working with (him/her) for over 60 years. (His/her) multitude of abilities are evident through exceptional (leadership/sheer blouses) and a refined (personality/pill connection). Not to mention (he/she) is one of the most (industrious/anti-union) employees I’ve ever encountered. If (Amy/Bill/Marco) has a weakness, it’s that (he/she) is TOO (diligent/serotonin deficient).

The first thing you’ll notice about (Amy/Bill/Marco) is a prominent (neck tattoo/well-connected father). But, with such a (passive/aggressive) outlook, you’d never know that (he/she) comes from (political/orphanage) royalty. (He/she) is loyal to a (fault/vengeful god). (Teamwork/Naming names) is always at the core of everything (he/she) does. Plus, you won’t find someone better at (connecting/sleeping) with customers than (him/her). I’ve got the (sales figures/tears) to prove it!

Of course, you’ll also be relieved to know that we never proved (Amy/Bill/Marco) was responsible for setting the fire that destroyed our headquarters (two/three) years ago. You may have (heard/read) about the ensuing trial and (appeal/settlement). The flammable residue discovered in the (clothes/trunk) of (Amy/Bill/Marco) was found to be inadmissible due to a (technicality/bomb threat). Personally, I think it would be a (shame/mistake) to hold such a small (incident/episode) against someone for longer than (necessary/30 days).

Once again, with (his/her) relentless motivation and knowledge of (Windows 95/carburetors), I believe (Amy/Bill/Marco) would make an excellent addition to your (company/embassy). If you have any questions, please do not contact me, as I take my privacy as a public figure very seriously.


[Forged signature goes here]

Conan O’Brien

P.S. – Please do not sell this letter on eBay.


More Job-Seeking Humor:
 Comic Relief: Job-Seeking Humor – Volume 1
 Comic Relief: Job-Seeking Humor – Volume 2
 Comic Relief: Job-Seeking Humor – Volume 3
 Comic Relief: Job-Seeking Humor – Volume 4
 Comic Relief: Job-Seeking Humor – Volume 5
 “In Transition” and Other Awkward Euphemisms
 Candidates Gone Wild: Recruiter Horror Stories

April 24, 2014 at 2:24 pm Leave a comment

Let the Jobs Find You: Making Yourself More “Searchable”

If you are an active job-seeking candidate, then I think it’s safe to say that you are in pursuit mode, right? You are probably spending the majority of your time searching for and pursuing target companies, networking contacts and decision-makers within those companies, HR people, recruiters and any job opportunities you hear about that match your background and experience. All in all, these can be very time consuming and often frustrating activities. Wouldn’t it be great if the reverse were true: if jobs would find you, instead of the other way around? Wouldn’t you like to be the one who was being pursued instead of you always trying to chase others down? Wouldn’t it be fantastic if hiring managers from companies, HR people and recruiters would search for and then contact you about jobs they thought you matched???

First of all, we need to start with the assumption that you possess all the necessary skills and experiences that truly match a particular job’s requirements. If that is true (and that’s a huge assumption) then connecting you as a candidate with a specific job opportunity is the name of this game! In my world as a recruiter, there are basically two types of candidates that are considered targets for us to pursue: Passive and Active. The difference between these two types of candidates is fairly easy to describe:

Passive Candidates are people who are currently working and not really looking for a new job at all. However (and this is a key point) they might be open to new opportunities, depending on how they are approached. Companies with jobs to fill rarely solicit passive candidates directly. Instead, they will engage Executive Search Firms and recruiters who specialize in placing people in permanent, full-time positions and who usually target passive candidates on behalf of those client companies. Passive candidates are highly sought after by so-called “Head-Hunters,” whose goal it is to get someone to leave one job and go to another. [Read “The Real Truth About Working with Recruiters” for more on how "Head Hunters" differ from other types of recruiters.] For a variety of reasons (not all of which are logical) candidates who are currently working are perceived in a better light than unemployed job-seekers by most potential new employers. This is especially true if someone is working for a client company’s competitor!

Recruiting passive candidates is not an easy process … but can actually be a lot of fun and quite a challenge for many recruiters. It involves a lot of networking, cold-calling and old fashioned sleuthing. It boils down to pure consultative sales techniques. Once a passive candidate is identified and contacted, the recruiter has to establish trust and rapport with that person, find out what their career goals and desires are, and then convince them to consider interviewing for a job with their client — something they were not looking for, or really even thinking about before that initial call. There needs to be a compelling story to be told by that recruiter which explains why moving from company A to company B would be in that candidate’s best interest. That usually comes down to one of three things: higher compensation, opportunities for career growth/advancement, or a better company culture — or some combination of all three.

Active Candidates on the other hand, are people who are actively looking for jobs. These are candidates who are either “in transition” (i.e. not currently working full-time) or are actually employed somewhere but unhappy and seriously looking to make a change from their current job. Companies with temporary or permanent jobs to fill, as well as staffing firms and recruiters who specialize in contract-consulting jobs tend to target active candidates since they are generally available immediately. Unlike passive candidates, active candidates typically post their résumés on job boards and respond to job postings. For recruiters, active candidates are not as difficult to find as passive candidates — or at least they shouldn’t be! If you are an active job-seeker, it is obviously in your best interest to maximize your online visibility as well as your “searchability” in order to be “found” by recruiters and HR people at companies searching for candidates with specific matching skill sets.

LinkedIn Frustrations
It’s no secret that LinkedIn has now eclipsed all the standard job boards as the number one go-to place for recruiters to find candidates. LinkedIn has radically changed the way potential employers and recruiters find candidates, and companies search for and uncover details about potential employees. Many companies are now actually dropping their Monster and CareerBuilder accounts and relying on LinkedIn as their main source for talent acquisition. Creating an effective online profile on LinkedIn is one of the most important things a job-seeker can do right now. From a recruiter’s point of view, one of the most frustrating aspects of LinkedIn is that it is not always easy to figure out if a person is an active job-seeker or not. Many people portray themselves on LinkedIn as working full-time, when they may actually be active job-seekers who simply don’t want to reveal their true status. They might think (as per the reasoning explained above for passive candidates) that they will appear more desirable if they are not unemployed. The trouble with that reasoning is that if I, as a recruiter, am looking for active candidates — I might not contact someone who appears to be working full-time! Another LinkedIn frustration is that even active job-seekers who say they are looking for new opportunities usually fail to provide any direct way to contact them (i.e. an email address or a phone number.) If you are not a first-degree connection, the limitations of LinkedIn’s messaging system will be a big road-block to anyone trying to contact you with a job opportunity.

Making Yourself More “Searchable”
If you are an Active Job-Seeking Candidate with marketable skills and experiences, there are several things you can do to increase your chances of being seen and pursued by those jobs instead of you being the one doing all the chasing. Following are some tips on how to maximize your chances of being “found” by either a company or a recruiter:

  • Keywords
    Keyword searches are usually the first method used to find résumés and LinkedIn profiles with specific skills that match job descriptions. If the right words or phrases are not present in your résumé or profile, you simply won’t come up in a search done by a recruiter or an HR person. You should make sure that your résumé uses the language and commonly used buzzwords or phrases that appear in the typical job descriptions within your industry niche. Study those job descriptions and copy those buzzwords and phrases into your résumé and profile. Also look up other people who do what you do, and see what keywords appear in their profiles for more ideas. Try using a free keyword search tool like “WordStream”, or any number of other keyword generating tools that you can easily find online. When someone searches for keyword matches on LinkedIn, the results are ordered first by how closely connected you are to them, and then by how often those keywords appear in your profile. Test your own profile’s effectiveness by using LinkedIn’s Advanced Search function: pretend that you are a recruiter and search for people who do what you do in your own geographical area. Try copying and pasting some key phrases from a job description you think fits your background into the keyword search field, or a job title you are seeking into the title search field. Does your profile come up anywhere near the top of the search results? If not, look at who does and try to figure out why: what do their profiles have that yours doesn’t? What keywords do they have that you don’t — and how frequently do those keywords appear? Now add those things to your own profile (if they truly apply to you) and try the search again!
  • Frequently Refresh your Online Résumés
    In addition to LinkedIn, you should also have your keyword-optimized résumé posted on all the major job boards (Monster, CareerBuilder, etc.) Companies, Staffing Firms and recruiters pay lots of money to subscribe to and be able to search in those job-board résumé banks. Did you know that when someone searches the job board’s résumé banks, the results are often displayed in the order of who is the most recently updated? Anyone who has ever done a basic Google search already knows how that process works … you click through the results on the first two or three pages, and most people rarely go any further. Does anyone actually look to see what’s been found on the hundreds of pages that follow those first few? If your résumé doesn’t appear on those first few pages of a keyword search, your chances of being found drop off dramatically. How can you fix that? Easy: edit and then re-post/refresh your résumé posts at least once or twice a week. Change something/anything on your résumé or profile to refresh/re-post it online. It can be something as small as one word! Refreshing/Re-Posting it will bring it back closer to the top of the search results.
  • If You Are an Active Candidate, SAY SO!
    Make sure you clearly declare the fact that you are seeking new opportunities in such a way that it is crystal clear to anyone who views your résumé or LinkedIn profile online. Put it in your headline. Put it in the Summary section. List it in your professional goals. Use phrases like: “Seeking New Opportunities” or “Available for Projects.” (Recruiters actually use the words “Seeking” and “Available” in their keyword searches for active candidates!)
  • Add Contact Information to Your LinkedIn Profile!
    As explained above, failing to include basic contact information (email address or phone number) somewhere in your LinkedIn Profile will make it much more difficult for anyone who finds you to contact you … unless you are already a first degree connection. Relying on LinkedIn’s internal communication tool is much too limiting. Add your contact information in such a way that anyone who views your public profile can see it and email or call you.
  • Include a Photo on Your LinkedIn Profile
    Speaking strictly from personal experience as a recruiter, I am much more inclined to reach out to people on LinkedIn who have photos than those who do not. I always prefer LinkedIn profiles with photos, as long as they look professional and not goofy. I tend to spend more time reviewing the photo profiles … they seem more honest and inviting. Plus, it helps me remember people I’ve met, puts names and faces together, and makes me feel I am more connected to people. Profiles without photos seem more generic, incomplete and anonymous. I always suspect that they are hiding something!

The goal of all of these steps is quite simple: make it easier for recruiters and potential employers to find and then contact you. Instead of you doing all the chasing, you want to make yourself more “Searchable” which will increase the odds that the perfect job will find you!

January 10, 2014 at 11:50 am 2 comments

Job-Seekers’ Top-10 Lists for 2013, and New Year’s Resolutions for 2014

Every year around this time, people in the media seem to feel compelled to wrap up each outgoing year with various Top-10 Lists – usually featuring news events, movies, songs, TV shows, books, etc. Each December since I started Recruiter Musings back in 2009 (our visitor count recently surpassed 340,000 hits and we’re still going strong!) I’ve been posting a couple of my own “Top-10 Lists” for Job-Seekers, as well as a list of suggested New Year’s Resolutions for Job-Seekers. In reviewing those prior lists, I found that they are mostly still very relevant and timely! Oh sure, a lot has changed in the world during the last few years. But in terms of my view of the most annoying and the most helpful things for job-seekers … well, my opinions and suggestions have aged well! I’m still very annoyed by people who don’t return phone calls, and I still think Twitter is a huge waste of time! And I’m still a firm believer in the power of Networking as the number one job-seeking methodology with the best chances for success. Likewise, my suggested New Year’s Resolutions from the last few years are still the same ones I’d advise today’s job-seekers to aspire to for the coming year.

Rather than trying to re-invent the wheel, I simply went back and re-edited last year’s postings to make sure they were still accurate and up-to-date so that I could simply refer back to them. (By referring back to those newly edited original posts instead of re-posting them as new, the readers’ comments at the bottom of each of those articles have also been preserved.) SO … here are the links:


 Top 10 Most Annoying Things for Job-Seekers

 Top 10 Most Helpful Things for Job-Seekers

 New Year’s Resolutions for Job-Seekers


December 3, 2013 at 10:03 am Leave a comment

Cool InfoGraphic: “What You Wish You’d Known Before Your Job Interview”

Recently, while surfing around on LinkedIn and exploring articles that seemed to be of interest to job-seekers, I came across a cool InfoGraphic called “What You Wish You’d Known Before Your Job Interview.” It’s filled with various statistics and lists that may be helpful to anyone going out on job interviews. The original source of this InfoGraphic was apparently a website called “Classes and Careers” aimed at students who are picking colleges and/or courses. The website’s stated purpose is to match students with schools and programs.

I tried to poke around and investigate how they came up with these statistics and numbers … but alas, I could not even find this InfoGraphic anywhere on their website, much less any information on how they arrived at these statistics. The actual InfoGraphic was simply re-published on multiple unrelated sites while the original research information supporting it somehow got lost in the viral re-shuffling on the web. Nevertheless, my gut feeling in studying this InfoGraphic is that it has the ring of truth to it. I can’t swear that the numbers are accurate … but based on my own experience as a recruiter who has coached thousands of candidates through interviews and then debriefed countless interviewers, the overall content shown seems pretty right on.

The items contained here that I think are especially apropos are:
► A third of the interviewers surveyed made up their minds about whether or not to hire someone within the first 90 seconds of the interview starting.
► Over half of the first impressions were created NOT by what was said, but rather how the person dressed, walked through the door and acted.
► Almost half of the failed interviews were caused by candidates not knowing enough about the company they were meeting with.
► Over two thirds of the failed interviews were caused by candidates not making eye contact.
► The number one reason for not hiring someone was that they didn’t ask for the job!

Now there’s nothing new or earth-shattering about any of this. I’ve actually written about most of this stuff elsewhere in other articles here on Recruiter Musings. [Check the Index for more specific interviewing advice, tips and tricks.] Still, seeing it all in this graphical format is very entertaining and enlightening. (Oh and yes, the retro sixties-style caricature of the job-seeker is kind of goofy, but I like it anyway! It kind of reminds me of the TV show Mad Men.) I would even say, it’s worth blowing this up, printing it out, and pinning it to a wall near your work desk as a refresher before each interview you have coming up.

So here it is! (You can click on the image below to open a full-sized version in a new window. Then click it again in the second window that opens to zoom in.)

July 3, 2013 at 4:19 pm 2 comments

“So, Do You Have Any Questions?” Nailing the Interview Closer

Anyone who has ever been interviewed for a job of any kind has most likely heard some variation of this line: “So, do you have any questions?” It’s the standard way that most interviewers wrap things up, and signal that the interview is coming to a close. It’s a query posed near the end of practically every type of interview: Phone Interviews, Face-to-Face Interviews, Skype Interviews, etc. It sounds like a rather innocent question, and could easily be dismissed by a job-seeker as a mere formality — not worthy of a thoughtful response. Well, don’t make that mistake! The truth is, how that question is answered can often make or break someone’s chances of landing a job.

Candidates are judged by the quality of the questions they ask during an interview. Candidates who have no questions at all might be perceived as having no interest in the position. Even worse than that, inappropriate or off-track questions can be viewed as a huge red flag by any interviewer. Asking the wrong questions can easily sink an otherwise successful interview.

There are literally thousands of possible variations of typical questions that could be used as interview closers. I certainly don’t intend to list them all here. And obviously, the specifics of each interview (the nature of the position, the type of company, the level of the person conducting the interview, etc.) will often determine what questions make the most sense to ask. Rather, I hope to list some general do’s and don’ts, and suggest some specific examples of successful questions that are likely to score points and head the conversation in the right direction.

What NOT to ask during an interview:
Let’s start with obvious no-no’s that will most likely get you eliminated from consideration by any interviewer:
►  Don’t ask what the company does, what products they produce, or other basic questions that anyone could find the answers to by simply reading the company’s website. (Do your homework, and don’t sound like an idiot!)
►  Don’t ask about compensation, vacation, or benefits. Those are clearly things that fall under the category of “what’s in it for me” — but certainly won’t show what’s in it for the interviewer! On the other hand, if the interviewer brings up the salary issue first, be prepared to address it head on. [Read “Answering the Dreaded Salary Question” for suggested strategies on how to deal with this controversial issue.]
►  Don’t ask about anything sensitive or negative that you might have read or heard about the company — e.g. recent layoffs, poor financial performance, bad press reports, lawsuits, complaints or any other negative issues you are aware of. Most interviewers would rather keep the discussion focused on the positive aspects of their company, and will be very uncomfortable if those types of issues are brought up by a candidate.
►  Don’t ask generic, standard questions that sound as though you found them on a website (like this blog!) and are reciting them from a script. Most savvy interviewers will be able to spot those types of canned questions a mile away, and easily distinguish them from more thoughtful, insightful questions that pertain specifically to their company or the exact position you are interviewing for.
►  Don’t ask personal questions about the interviewer’s family, marital status, children, hobbies, political opinions, religious affiliation, etc. Unless you have a prior history with the person, issues like that are totally inappropriate for an interview with someone you just met. (On the other hand, if they bring those things up first then simply follow their lead … but tread carefully with these topics and don’t offer up too much personal information of your own. Try to stay focused on the business at hand.)
►  Don’t ask point blank if you are going to get the job. That tends to put the interviewer on the spot, and makes people feel very uncomfortable.

What you SHOULD ask:
Here are some general categories that you can use as a guide to formulating winning interviewee questions:
►  Ask open-ended questions, as opposed to yes-no questions. “Can you tell me more about …” “What is your opinion of …” The idea is to get the interviewer to talk more — to reveal more information about the company, about the position, about themself and about their expectations. Ideally, you can then use that information to say things that will demonstrate that you truly fit whatever it is they seem to be looking for.
►  Take something you learned beforehand about the company, and probe further. Show that you’ve done your homework about the company. Ask specific questions about those things that you learned. Start out with something like “During my research, I read that … I was wondering …” Demonstrating that you’ve read up on the company, and that you are curious and interested can be very impressive!
►  Take something discussed during the interview, and probe further. Expand on topics already covered, and ask for more details. This shows that you’ve been paying attention, and that you are curious, interested and eager to learn more.
►  Ask about the company’s culture and work environment. Those are issues that tend to be rather abstract, and less likely to be explained on their website. Therefore, they are good topics to ask the interviewer about.
►  Ask about what qualities they look for in a successful employee. How can someone succeed and grow within the company? What are the specific goals and expectations for the position you are interviewing for? What do they hope to accomplish — both short and long term — with this hire?

Sample Questions:
Here are some suggestions for questions that fit into the categories listed above. The key is to modify them, and formulate your own versions of these questions that are tailored specifically to the company and the position you are interviewing for:
►  “What do you like best about working here?”
►  “How would you describe the daily work environment / company culture here?”
►  “How would you describe the best people you have in this company?”
►  “What characteristics have made your best employees successful here?”
►  “In my research, I noticed that (blank) is a big priority with the company. How does your team contribute to that company mission?”
►  “Earlier, you mentioned (blank). Can you tell me a little more about how that works in your department?”
►  “What are your expectations for this role during the first 30 days, 60 days, 90 days, 6 months, year?”
►  “What are the biggest opportunities facing the company/department right now?”
►  “What are the biggest challenges facing the company/department right now?”

Nailing the Final Closer:
In the end, if you are interested in this job, make sure to say so! Your final question should really nail the closer: “I just want to let you know that I am very interested in this opportunity, and hope we can move forward. What are the next steps in the interview process?” Don’t leave without determining what the expectations are for the next steps, and how and when YOU should follow-up. Ask what their timetable is for hiring, and how their hiring process works. Also make sure you get a business card with the email address and phone number of your interviewer, and send them a thank-you email that same day. If you met with more than one person, get everyone’s cards and do the same with them. Then immediately make a note on your calendar of when your pro-active follow-up call will be if you don’t hear back from them first. If you really want this job, don’t just sit back wait for them to make the next move. You have to go after it!

January 1, 2013 at 6:04 am 3 comments

“Help … I Need a Job!” A 9-Step Guide For Newly Minted Job-Seekers

Several times each month, I receive random calls and emails with unsolicited résumés from job-seekers who say, in effect: “Can you help me find a job?” My response to those people is usually some variation of my often-repeated mantra: “Sorry, but recruiters don’t find jobs for people … they find people for jobs.” I then point them to this blog for further clarification: “The Real Truth About Working with Recruiters.” Still, I feel bad for those seemingly clueless job-seekers who apparently need some basic direction on how to conduct an effective job search campaign. Some are young, inexperienced job-seekers with minimal practical work experience. Others are in their prime working years, but have decided to try switching to a new career in which they have little or no experience. [For more on those types of situations, read “Advice for Recent Grads and Career-Changers.”] Still others are older, more senior level professionals who unexpectedly got caught up in the rampant layoffs during the economic downturn of the last few years and have suddenly found themselves totally unprepared for a job search so late in life. The toughest of those cases are the ones who have been working for one company for most of their lives, and haven’t needed to write a résumé or interview anywhere in decades. Having done their last job search during an era of fax machines, cold calls and door-to-door pavement pounding, those older job-seekers are often lost in the fast-paced modern world of mobile computing and social media.

Much of the information needed by anyone in order to organize and execute an effective modern job search has already been documented here in these Recruiter Musings archives. [For a list of all of those articles organized by topic, check out the Index found on the green navigation bar at the top of this page, and also on the side-bar to the right.] I thought it might be helpful to pull it all together into one big 9-Step Guide. Some of what follows is new information, and a lot of it is a re-hash where I’ll point towards prior blogs that need to be reviewed. If you are a newly minted job-seeker, this article can be a great starting point. For the more seasoned job-seekers, consider this a refresher! And, by all means, please feel free to email, re-post, re-blog or re-tweet this article to anyone you know who needs help getting started with a new job search. SO … here we go:

1) Soul Searching: Exactly What Are You Qualified For?
The job searching process starts with some soul-searching. What are you actually qualified for, based on your past work experiences? Exactly what type of job are you looking for? What is your industry niche? What is your particular area of expertise? What job function makes the most sense as a next step for you? Answering those basic questions is easy for some, and confusing and difficult for others. However, figuring those things out determines everything else that follows. Only you know what you are experienced at, and what you are truly qualified for. If you cannot answer those questions easily, then it may be time for some serious career counseling. Pursuing jobs that you are really not qualified for can be a huge waste of time for many people, including the people you might network with in that pursuit. You should also consider things like how far you’d be willing to commute every day, what size company you’d be comfortable in, etc. The more you can narrow down exactly what type of position you’d be most qualified for, and exactly what type of company you’d like to work at where such a job exists, the more effective your job search is likely to be. The key is to narrow your focus as specifically as possible.

2) Prepare an Effective Résumé.
If you ask 10 professional résumé-writers what a good résumé should look like, you’ll get 10 very different answers. There is no perfect one-size-fits-all formula for this. As a recruiter who reads and reviews résumés all day every day, my own STRONG personal preference is to see chronological résumés rather than so-called “functional” résumés. What I can tell you is that it is of the utmost importance that your résumé be a door-opener for you. An effective résumé should clearly explain who you are, what type of job you are seeking, and most importantly — why someone should hire you over someone else. That means not just simply describing your past responsibilities, but rather trumpeting your successes, quantifiable results and achievements in each of your prior positions. The main purpose for any résumé is to pique the interest of the reader … to have them want to learn more about you … to get you an interview! I highly suggest you read the following blog articles on this topic if you need help in this area:
 The Brutal Truth on How Résumés Get Eliminated
 The Résumé Test & Checklist: Does Yours Pass?
 Explaining Short Job Stints and Employment Gaps
 Beating the Résumé-Elimination Game: Where Do Recruiters’ Eyes Go?

3) Learn the Basics of the “T” Cover Letter.”
Job-seekers often ask whether or not it’s worthwhile including a cover letter with their résumé. It’s a question that many people struggle with. In my opinion there is only one format that is worth considering … it’s called the “T” Cover Letter. The blog article I wrote on that topic receives more hits on this site every week than almost all the other articles combined! It includes templates that you can download and modify to create your own “T” Cover Letters. Here’s the blog article you’ll need to read for help with this topic:
 The “T” Cover Letter – The Only Type Worth Sending

4) Develop a Target List of Companies.
Every job-seeker should have a target list of companies that are specific to their industry niche, and are likely to have jobs that fit their background and experience. Your goal should always be focused on getting in front of the people who are either decision-makers in those companies, or are directly connected to those decision-makers. If you don’t have such a list of target companies, stop everything else and make one!!!! This list is critical, and should be your road-map for moving forward on your job search. This takes some research. My advice is to use a professional business database like Dun & Bradstreet’s Million Dollar Database Premier or ReferenceUSA Business. Anyone with a public library card number can log into those databases from any home computer! (Ask your local librarian for help if you don’t know how to do this.) This gives you access to full information on millions of companies, including every business in the U.S. and the leading businesses in Canada. Use the advanced search mode to generate a list of companies that are the most likely to have jobs like the one you think you fit. To do that, put in search criteria that fit your profile. Company look-ups can contain multiple search criteria, including location by zip or area code, industry, size, products, number of employees, revenue, and specialty fields. Try using keywords specific to your niche. Keep narrowing the search criteria until you get the list to under 100 results. If this is your first search, I’d say to go even further and narrow it closer to 50. (You can always go back later and widen this list to get more targets if you exhaust your first list.) Print out the list and look it over carefully. You can probably eliminate quite a few companies based on things you already know – places that you’ve heard bad things about, places that you know are in financial trouble or any number of other personal red flags. Simply cross those places off the list. What’s left is your first target list!

5) Write and Practice Your “Elevator Pitch.”
Every job-seeker should know what an “Elevator Pitch” is. Put simply, it’s a short introductory speech designed to be given in the time span of an elevator ride – approximately 30 seconds to 2 minutes. It’s a standard tool in the world of sales, where people want to interest someone else in their product quickly, without sounding too pushy or intrusive. The fact is that a job-seeker IS a salesperson … and the product is YOU! [Read “Why Job Hunting is a Consultative Sales Position” for a more detailed explanation of this concept.] The basic idea is that you never know when or where you’ll run into someone who might be a prospect for you – a potential customer, a networking partner, a key contact or decision-maker at one of your target companies, or an actual potential employer. Being able to instantly deliver your Elevator Pitch to anyone, anywhere and at any time is something every job-seeker should be prepared to do. Read the following blog article if you need help creating an effective Elevator Pitch for yourself:
 Is Your Elevator Pitch Taking You UP or DOWN?

6) Become an Effective Networker.
Networking activities are considered by most job-seekers and staffing professionals to be the most likely to produce success in today’s ultra-challenging, highly competitive job market. Done properly, it is a complicated process which must be viewed as a long-term strategy. As such, it can also be very time consuming. Patience and consistency are the keys. While it may not produce quick results, it will position you well for long-term success. Spending time on networking activities means engaging in, and constantly re-visiting all five steps in the networking process: Those are: 1) Building Your Target Company List; 2) Identifying the Key People in Your Target Companies; 3) Reaching Out to Your Targeted People; 4) Talking / Meeting With Your Targets; and 5) Following-Up and Staying in Touch With Your Network. Read the following blog articles for details on how to network your way to a job using these five steps:
 Looking for Networking in All the Wrong Places
 How to Network: A Step-by-Step Guide for Job Searching
 Targeted Networking: How to Effectively Reach Out
 The Art of Giving: the Key to Effective Networking

7) Manage Your Time.
It is often said that looking for a job is itself a full-time job. As it is with any job, your days should be planned out, and your valuable time used efficiently to achieve your professional goals. Many job-seekers struggle with this concept. Exactly how should they spend their time? Which activities should be given priority, and which ones minimized? If you need help with how to organize your time to conduct an effective job-search, read the following blog article:
 Time Management: Recipe for a Well-Balanced Job Search

8) Brush Up On Your Interviewing Skills.
Scoring an actual interview with a company is often looked upon as the Holy Grail for job-seekers — second only to receiving and accepting an actual job offer! Interviews can be on the phone, in-person, on in many cases where the opportunity is in a remote location — on Skype. Being prepared for each of those types of interviews involves critical skills that need to be mastered. Don’t ever assume that you don’t need help in this area. In my many years of experience coaching candidates for interviews of all types, I’ve found that the people who don’t think they need help are the ones who do the poorest! I always get very nervous when I represent someone who says something like: “I’ve interviewed dozens of times — I don’t need coaching — I know how to handle myself!” After someone I represent finishes an interview with a company, and I do a de-brief with that candidate, I’ve noticed a very predictable pattern: When the candidate tells me something like: “That went great! The manager loved me! We really bonded! I expect an offer to be coming soon!” … more often than not, the feedback from the company is not so great, and that person rarely actually gets the job. On the other hand, when I hear things like: “I’m not sure how well I did. I couldn’t read the interviewer. I forgot to bring up a few things that I wanted to say. I don’t know if they liked me.” … those interviews usually went much better than the person thought, and the feedback from the interviewer is generally positive. Is it overconfidence that kills an interview? It’s hard to say. I can only stress that even the most experienced and savvy job-seekers can benefit from help and brushing up on interview skills. Read the following blog articles for help with interviews:
 Phone Interviews: Secrets, Tricks and Tips
 Face-to-Face Interviews: Secrets, Tricks and Tips
 Skype Interview Tips … Welcome to the Future!
 Nuggets: A Secret Interviewing Technique
 Answering the Dreaded Salary Question
 20 Surefire Ways to Blow an Interview
 “So, Do You Have Any Questions?” Nailing the Interview Closer
 Cool InfoGraphic: “What You Wish You’d Known Before Your Job Interview

9) Follow Up and Stay Organized.
Staying in touch with the key people you talk with and/or meet with is a critical component of any job search campaign. As you keep reaching out to and meeting with more and more targets and decision-makers (or people who can refer you to those targets and decision-makers) your network will grow larger and larger. And it will be made up of key people in your industry who all tend to know each other and are “well-connected.” The longer you’re at this and the longer your list of network contacts becomes, the more important it will be to stay organized and avoid getting confused about who you met when, and who you need to follow up with. You should keep careful records on everyone you talk or meet with from your target list, and devise a system you are comfortable with that allows you to remain in touch on a regular basis. You’ll need to set yourself reminders (perhaps on your calendar) to not forget to follow-up regularly with each and every networking contact you connect with on your target list. There’s nothing more disappointing than having a great networking meeting that lacks any follow-up. It’s kind of like having a first date where you think you really clicked with the other person, but then you never hear from them again! The onus is all on you here – don’t drop the ball. If you want your targets to remember and help you, you must make the effort to stay in touch! Read the following blog article for more on why follow-up is so important:
 Following Up: An Essential Key to Success.

Final Thoughts: Attitude is Everything!
I’ve coached thousands of job-seekers during my many years as a recruiter. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about the entire process that holds true for almost every industry and every position, it’s this: the number one most important factor that determines who gets hired and who doesn’t is NOT who is best qualified, who has the most experience or skills, or who has the best résumé. It’s attitude! People hire other people that they like, and want to be around. Real enthusiasm for a position or a company, true passion for your work, a sense of humor, and a genuine projection of positivism and optimism are the qualities that make a person attractive to others. It’s nearly impossible to fake those qualities. There’s no question about it: job-seeking can be a real drag, and certainly has the potential to grind a person down. Don’t give in to negativism. Stay upbeat and positive, and keep the faith. Everything described in this 9-Step Guide actually does work, and good things can happen to people who project positive energy!

July 29, 2012 at 2:23 pm 7 comments

Beating the Résumé-Elimination Game: Where Do Recruiters’ Eyes Go?

A while back, I wrote about how job-seekers get screened out or eliminated based on someone looking at their résumés. [Read: “The Brutal Truth About How Résumés Get Eliminated.”] In my many years as a recruiter, I’ve certainly read my share of résumés. There were times when I went through over a hundred a day. I certainly know how the elimination game works! This process is even more brutal now in the current candidate-flooded market caused by the economic downturn of the last few years. It’s been said that the average résumé-reader will give your résumé between 20 and 30 seconds of eyeball time on the first pass. If they don’t quickly see exactly what they think they want or need right up front … bye bye – delete key for you!

I recently read a fascinating report about a study sponsored by The Ladders purporting to be a scientific analysis of how recruiters actually read résumés. I say “purporting” because one must always consider the source of such studies. Since The Ladders is a for-profit Job-Seeker Service which commissioned and paid for this study, it’s not surprising that their conclusions supported using their own services. It suggested that job-seekers should use The Ladders’ own professional résumé-writing service, and that The Ladders’ online profiles were more effective than LinkedIn’s free online profiles. Their study made use of a technique called “eye-tracking” which produced visual “Heat Maps” showing where and for how long the recruiters’ eyes lingered on the résumés and online profiles they were reading. (See the bottom of this article for an example of such “Heat Maps.”)

Here’s a link to the report that describes the actual study: “Eye Tracking Study.”

Thirty recruiters were studied over a ten-week period. The researchers tried to determine how long the recruiters spent looking at each résumé, what items caught their attention, how quickly their eyes moved from item to item, which items were overlooked, and how quickly they made a basic yes/no decision on a candidate. I imagined a room full of recruiters all chained to desks, forced to stare at computer monitors with their eyes propped open! The whole thing reminded me of a certain iconic scene from the movie Clockwork Orange:

Despite its obvious bias, there were several things in this study that jumped out to me as information I felt could be very useful to all job-seekers. Here are my observations:

How long did recruiters actually look at résumés?
When surveyed, the recruiters told the researchers they spent 4 to 5 minutes on each résumé … but when actually observed, the average time spent on each résumé was a mere 6 seconds for the initial “fit / no fit” decision!!! So much for that masterpiece you slaved over for so many hours writing, re-writing and perfecting. Pretty depressing, eh?!

What parts caught their attention, and where did their eyes linger?
The recruiters in the study spent almost 80% of their résumé review time focusing on the following six things:
1) Name
2) Current Title/Company
3) Current Position Start and End Dates
4) Previous Title/Company
5) Previous Position Start and End Dates
6) Education
Sadly, beyond those six things the recruiters did little more than scan for keywords that matched the jobs they were trying to fill. They characterized the rest of the descriptive details in the résumés (the parts you probably spent the most time perfecting!) as “filler that had little or no impact on their initial decision-making.” Again, kind of depressing, eh?

Why did “professionally-written” résumés seem to be more effective?
In a word — it’s the formatting. Look at the Heat Maps below. What distinguishes the one on the right from the one on the left? When you consider the low importance placed on the actual descriptive details (as noted in the answer above) the only thing left is the physical look and feel of the page. On the right-hand example, notice the use of bold type and grey boxes for the headings, the lines separating the different sections, the way various keywords are bolded throughout, etc. Those are the elements that guide the eyes and focus the attention of the reader. The entire format looks organized and logical. By comparison, the one on the left looks like a big jumble of words, with no clear path to follow. It takes too much work for the reader to figure it out. (Hint: if you click on the graphic below you’ll see the full-sized image, where it’s much easier to examine the different elements on each résumé.)

How can you create your own “professionally-formatted” résumé without paying someone else to do it for you?
There are many resume-writing services out there who will be happy to charge you lots of money to re-format and re-write your résumé for you. I’ve never been a big fan of such services. I’ve seen way too many crappy résumés created by such so-called “professionals.” This is one of those rare cases where the old phrase “you get what you pay for” really does not apply at all. The truth is that anyone can create a professional-looking résumé themselves — totally for free. The easiest way to do it is to “borrow” someone’s professional résumé that you like and then copy the format! Just get a good résumé from someone you know — or simply search for professional résumés on Google — and then save them to your computer. Then just replace the text with your own words, retaining the nice-looking formatting of the original! Another fairly obvious source for pre-formatted résumé templates is Microsoft Word, or other desktop writing and publishing programs. Just open the program and search for templates when you choose to create a new document. Microsoft has even more free résumé templates available online. Here’s a link to a generous number of free, great looking professional résumé templates designed for users of Microsoft Word: “Microsoft Résumés and CVs.” Numerous other free examples and templates are out there online, ready for the taking.

Final thoughts … some résumés actually do get read more carefully!
Keep in mind that the focus of this entire study was the initial “yes/no” assessment process … that first quick scan where the elimination often happens. But not every résumé gets eliminated. When a résumé does pass that first test, then the descriptive details that were completely overlooked the first time will actually get read and considered. So in the end, the experiences and achievements you write about on your masterpiece do really matter a great deal. The trick, of course, is to beat the résumé-elimination game and get to that next step!

For more tips on creating an effective resume, read: “The Résumé Test & Checklist: Does Yours Pass?”


Above: These “Heat Maps” show where recruiters eyes go (yellow areas), and where they linger (red areas) when reading résumés. The one on the left is a “self-written” résumé, and the one on the right is a “professionally-written” résumé. Note the formatting differences. (Click on the image to see a full-sized version.)

April 22, 2012 at 10:47 pm 4 comments

Older Posts

Michael Spiro

About the Author:

Michael Spiro has been a 3rd-Party Recruiter and Account Executive for over 15 years. He is currently the Senior Finance Recruiter at Experis, a dedicated business unit of ManpowerGroup. Other recent positions include President of Midas Recruiting, a boutique head-hunting firm, and Director of Talent at Patina Solutions, a professional services firm that deploys professionals with at least 25 or more years of experience. Prior to that, he worked for two of the largest search firms in North America. Before his career in the staffing industry, Michael was a manager in a large non-profit organization. And in a former life, Michael was active in the entertainment industry, with extensive road-warrior experience as a touring performer (singer-songwriter / guitarist / comedian) and as a recording artist, producer and booking agent.  [More...]

Index (by Topic):

Résumés & Cover Letters:
 The "T" Cover Letter - The
         Only Type Worth Sending

 The Brutal Truth on How
         Résumés Get Eliminated

 Explaining Short Job Stints
         and Employment Gaps

 The Résumé Test &
         Checklist: Does Yours

 Beating the Résumé-
         Elimination Game: Where
         Do Recruiters' Eyes Go?

 How to Network: A
         Step-by-Step Guide for
         Job Searching

 Looking for Networking in
         All the Wrong Places

 Targeted Networking: How
         to Effectively Reach Out

 The Art of Giving: the Key to
         Effective Networking

 Phone Interviews: Secrets,
         Tricks and Tips

 Face-to-Face Interviews:
         Secrets, Tricks and Tips

 Skype Interview Tips ...
         Welcome to the Future!

 Nuggets: A Secret
         Interviewing Technique

 Answering the Dreaded
         Salary Question

 20 Surefire Ways to Blow
         an Interview

 "So, Do You Have Any
         Questions?" Nailing the
         Interview Closer

 Cool InfoGraphic: "What
         You Wish You'd Known
         Before Your Job

Age Discrimination:
 Age Discrimination: Secret
         Conversations Revealed

 Age Discrimination:
         Exposing Inconvenient

 Are You "Overqualified?"
         Handling the Age Issue

 Baby Boomers to the
         Rescue! An Idea Whose
         Time Has Come ...

 Overcoming Job-Search
         Obstacles and
         Redefining Your Career
         After 50

Switching Jobs:
 The Proper Way to
         Quit a Job

 Counteroffers: Just Say No!

General Job-Seeking Info:
►  Let the Jobs Find You:
         Making Yourself More

 "Help ... I Need a Job!" A
         9-Step Guide for Newly
         Minted Job-Seekers

 Contract/Consulting Jobs
         Explained ... Available in
         3 Different Flavors

 The Real Truth About
         Working with Recruiters

 Avoiding the "Black Hole
         of HR"

 Is Your Elevator Pitch
         Taking You UP
         or DOWN?

 Advice for Recent Grads
         and Career-Changers

 Time Management: Recipe          for a Well-Balanced Job          Search
 Getting Un-Stuck from your

 The Double-Whammy of
         Rejection and Isolation

 "Unemployed Need Not
         Apply" - Working Around
         This Scary Message

 Using Social Media to
         Enhance Job-Searching

 Warning: That Rant You
         Posted Just Went Viral!

 The Golden Rule: Never
         Burn Bridges

 The Power of a Positive

 Why Job Hunting is a
         Consultative Sales

 Top 10 Most Helpful Things
         for Job Seekers

 Top 10 Most Annoying
         Things for Job Seekers

 New Year's Resolutions for
         Unemployed Job-

Job-Seeking Humor:
 Comic Relief: Volume 1
 Comic Relief: Volume 2
 Comic Relief: Volume 3
 Comic Relief: Volume 4
 Comic Relief: Volume 5
 Comic Relief: Volume 6
 "In Transition" and Other
         Awkward Euphemisms

 Candidates Gone Wild:
         Recruiter Horror Stories

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Blog Visitor Count:

  • 391,785 hits

Recent Posts:

Previous Posts (by Date):

►  Comic Relief: Job-Seeking
      Humor - Volume 4

►  "Unemployed Need Not Apply" -
      Working Around This Scary

►  Explaining Short Stints and
      Employment Gaps

►  The Lost Art of Customer
      Service: Unreturned Phone
      Calls & Emails

►  Comic Relief: Job-Seeking
      Humor - Volume 3

►  The Résumé Test & Checklist:
      Does Yours Pass?

►  The "T" Cover Letter -
      The Only Type Worth Sending

►  The Brutal Truth on how
      Résumés Get Eliminated

►  Comic Relief: Job-Seeking
      Humor - Volume 2

►  Age Discrimination: Exposing
      Inconvenient Truths

►  The Double-Whammy of
      Rejection and Isolation

►  Is Your “Elevator Pitch” Taking
      You UP or DOWN?

►  Comic Relief: Job-Seeking
      Humor - Volume 1

►  Warning: That Rant You
      Posted Just Went Viral!

►  Using Social Media to Enhance

►  Avoiding the “Black Hole
      of HR”

►  “In Transition” and Other
      Awkward Euphemisms

►  Getting Un-Stuck from
      your Rut!

►  Time Management: Recipe for a
      Well-Balanced Job Search

►  Face-to-Face Interviews:
      Secrets, Tips and Tricks

►  Counteroffers: Just Say No!
►  The Proper Way to Quit a Job
►  The Real Truth About Working
      with Recruiters

►  Phone Interviews:
      Secrets, Tricks and Tips

►  The Golden Rule: Never Burn

►  Candidates Gone Wild:
      Recruiter Horror Stories

►  Following-Up: An Essential
      Key to Success

►  Nuggets: A Secret Interviewing

►  New Year’s Resolutions for
      Unemployed Job-Seekers

►  How to Network: A Step-by-
      Step Guide for Job-Searching

►  Top 10 Most Helpful Things for

►  Top 10 Most Annoying Things
      for Job-Seekers

►  Age Discrimination: Secret
      Conversations Revealed!

►  The Art of Giving: The Key to
      Effective Networking

►  Targeted Networking: How to
      Effectively Reach Out

►  Why Job Hunting is a
      Consultative Sales Position

►  The Power of a Positive

►  Looking for Networking in
      All the Wrong Places

►  Answering the Dreaded Salary


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