Posts tagged ‘interviewing’

Job-Seekers’ Top-10 Lists and New Year’s Resolutions

Every year around December, 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 1 Million 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 the past 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 1, 2014 at 11:56 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 tab. Then click it again in the new tab that opens to zoom in.)

July 3, 2013 at 4:19 pm 3 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, Video 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 7 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 8 comments

20 Surefire Ways to Blow an Interview

In the past, I’ve written several blog articles with advice, tips and tricks on how to succeed at interviews. I’ve covered Phone Interviews [“Phone Interviews: Secrets, Tricks and Tips”], Face-to-Face Interviews [“Face-to-Face Interviews: Secrets, Tricks and Tips.”] and even Video interviews [“Video Interview Tips in the Pandemic World”]. Over the years I’ve prepared and coached many hundreds of candidates for each of those types of interviews, stressing positive approaches and techniques. And yet … I’m still constantly amazed at how often people defy basic common sense, and totally blow their chances of landing a job by doing (or failing to do) and saying (or failing to say) things that I thought were pretty basic.

So, at the risk of re-stating things that may seem obvious to most intelligent job-seekers, what follows is a list of 20 things that are pretty much guaranteed to blow any interview. I’ve personally observed each and every one of the following things happen with job-seekers I’ve worked with at one time or another. Take this list and some the comments that follow each item with a huge grain of salt, and hopefully laugh a little and also learn from it! If you recognize anything on this list from personal experiences … well, now at least you’ll know why you are reading this blog instead of working at your job!

1. Arrive late (or too early). Don’t call ahead if you are not on time.
Keeping an interviewer waiting, and failing to call if you have an unexpected delay is probably the number one no-no any interviewee can commit. And showing up more than 10 minutes early just shows desperation.

2. Dress casually. Wear lots of cologne or perfume, and tons of jewelry. Facial piercings are especially impressive.
I’ve never heard of anyone being passed over for a job because they dressed too nicely for an interview. On the other hand, I’ve personally run out of interview rooms gasping for air after meeting people who smell like they just visited the free sample spritzer counter at a local Macy’s.

3. Shake hands weakly — like a limp fish.
Bad first impressions are hard to shake (please excuse the expression) … and a bad handshake is guaranteed to create a bad first impression! The worst is the “fish” handshake – a completely limp hand. That’s just creepy! Almost as bad is gripping someone around their fingers instead of fully locking hands at the base of the thumb.

4. Appear disinterested — act like a zombie, and do not smile or make eye contact.
This is one of the most often-stated issues that decision-makers site as a reason for not hiring someone: they simply didn’t seem enthusiastic or even interested in the job.

5. Don’t research the company you are interviewing for — just wing it!
Not knowing everything you can possibly learn about a company before you walk in the door is just plain stupid.

6. Badmouth your past bosses and companies. Blame your job misfortunes on others. Wear that chip on your shoulder proudly. Complain about everything.
This is another one of the most often-stated things that decision-makers site as a reason for not hiring someone. It’s just like your mother said: “If you can’t find something nice to say about someone, don’t say anything at all!” If you bad-mouth another company or person, the interviewer will wonder what you’ll be saying about them or their company after you leave.

7. Be arrogant, overconfident and rude — especially to the receptionist!
Failing to respect and befriend the receptionist is huge. Those gatekeepers often pass their impressions on to the hiring manager … and can easily veto any job-seeker’s efforts.

8. Lie and exaggerate about your qualifications, your education, your experiences, and your prior salary.
It worked for the CEO of Yahoo, didn’t it? Those things will inevitably be caught in a background check, but hey … at least you’ll pass the audition, right?! Saying or doing whatever it takes to get to the next level works so well for political candidates, so why not for other types of job-seekers also?!

9. Leave your phone on, and answer any calls, emails and text messages you receive — any one might be another job offer. In fact, wear a Bluetooth earpiece during the interview!
I’ve actually seen this happen!

10. Chew gum, bring a drink and snacks with you. Smoke a cigarette just before the interview to make sure you smell like tobacco.
Believe it or not, chewing gum is another one of those things that comes up at the top of most surveys for reasons given by decision-makers on why they don’t hire people!

11. Fail to answer questions directly, and go off on irrelevant tangents.
Politicians get away this this all the time … so why not try it!

12. Talk a lot, and don’t listen. Interrupt frequently.
This is a classic symptom of nervousness. Job-seekers sometimes feel that they must aggressively “sell themselves” to the person they are meeting with, and forget that good listening skills are critical for interviews. People who dominate every conversation are generally not good listeners, and invariably turn people off.

13. Describe your past jobs’ responsibilities instead of your achievements.
This also applies to résumé writing and it’s one of my own personal pet peeves (along with receiving “functional” résumés instead of chronological résumés.) The least effective résumés are filled with job descriptions and fail to list any accomplishments. Same for interviews. Don’t tell me what you were responsible for. Tell me what you accomplished! Why should I hire you over the next guy???

14. Offer too much personal information.
Politics, religion, sexual orientation … all great topics for a first date — but not a job interview!

15. Bring up the salary issue early in the conversation.
This is what you REALLY want to know, right? What does this job pay?! You know you want to ask it immediately, right?! You don’t want to waste your time interviewing with multiple people only to find out at the end of the process that they can’t even come close to what you need to pay your bills, right?!

16. Refuse to answer salary questions when specifically asked.
Some advisors tell job-seekers to avoid revealing their exact salary history or requirements when directly asked. I say playing that game is a surefire way to be immediately eliminated from consideration. [For more details on this topic, read: “Answering the Dreaded Salary Question.”]

17. Don’t ask good business-related questions. Instead, say that you don’t have any questions since they’ve all been answered during the interview. Better yet, inquire about things like vacation time, benefits, and other perks.
Again, those are the things you REALLY want to know about, right?!

18. Fail to connect with your interviewer on a personal level.
People skills are highly over-rated, right? [To learn about one of the most valuable interviewing techniques related to connecting on a personal level, read: “Nuggets: A Secret Interviewing Technique.”]

19. Don’t ask for the job.
You’re too good for that! They should just recognize your value in the job market, and beg you to come to work for them, right?!

20. Don’t follow up.
You’ve already done your part and sold yourself during the interview. Now it’s their turn! Besides, playing hard-to-get is much more fun. If they really want you, let them pursue you! If they don’t, then they’re not worth working for, right?

March 8, 2012 at 12:03 pm 9 comments

Skype Interview Tips … Welcome to the Future!

One of my favorite cartoon TV shows from childhood was The Jetsons. For those of us who grew up with George Jetson and his world (or caught it later in syndication on cable) it was an ultra-cool vision of an imagined future told from a 1960’s point of view. Like many other science fiction shows of that time — most notably Star Trek — many of the fictional technologies and toys that they used have actually become real and commonplace to us here in the early 21st century. Who can forget George video-chatting with his wife Jane, or being yelled at by his boss, Mr. Spacely, on a video screen — the standard way everyone communicated in the Jetsons’ world. Video conferencing was a concept that seemed so far-fetched and futuristic at that time. Well … welcome to the future! With the wide acceptance of Skype (now owned by Microsoft), as well as Apple’s “Facetime,” and numerous other free video conferencing applications (Facebook Chat, Google Chat, Yahoo Chat, AIM, etc.) the idea of seeing the image of a person’s face as you are talking with them has become very much an everyday occurrence.

Many companies have jumped onto the Video Conferencing bandwagon as a way to reduce their expenses. Meetings with multiple participants in far-flung locations are often conducted online now, using business versions of web-based video conferencing programs. Companies are able to save huge amounts of money by greatly reducing travel costs for their employees … not to mention regaining lost productivity associated with travel time. Companies have also begun interviewing remote job applicants using Skype.

As a recruiter, I often interview potential candidates who are not local to my area. It wasn’t that long ago that such interviews were always conducted by phone. It was rare that I got to actually meet face-to-face with candidates who lived in other cities. That has all changed over the last couple of years. Now, Skype interviews are a regular part of my recruiting tool-box. While seeing someone on Skype is certainly not as effective as a true face-to-face meeting — there is no question that it is WAY better than a mere audio phone conversation. The added dimension of seeing a person’s facial expressions, body language, eye contact, etc. gives a much more in-depth impression of the person you are communicating with.

The funny thing is that you might think that “older” candidates (i.e. Baby Boomers) would not be very familiar or comfortable with Skype, since it might be thought of as a young person’s technology. What I have found is that almost every Boomer I’ve talked with already uses Skype on a regular basis to communicate with their kids — either in college, or living away in other cities — or to see their grandchildren! In fact, it’s pretty rare to find any mildly computer-savvy person these days who doesn’t have a webcam, and who doesn’t already have a free Skype account.

I thought it might be useful to publish some advice and tips for job-seekers on how to be more effective during a Skype interview. I’ve already posted two other essential blog articles with interview tips: “Phone Interviews: Secrets, Tricks and Tips” and “Face-to-Face Interviews: Secrets, Tricks and Tips.” Both of those articles contain many universal interview-prep ideas that would certainly also apply to a Skype Interview. Those include:

 Research the industry, the company and the players.
 Study the job description and prepare stories.
Plan ahead to be in a quiet place, and to avoid any interruptions.
 Use the “Nuggets” technique to establish rapport.
 Project a Positive Attitude.
 Be a good listener, and never interrupt.
 Don’t bring up salary or benefits … but be prepared to answer the Dreaded Salary Question directly if asked.
 Prepare a list of questions you can ask.
 At the end of the interview, clarify the next steps.

Each of the above listed steps are detailed in those two prior interview-prep articles I mentioned, and I strongly suggest reading both of them before any Skype interview. In addition, the following are some very Skype-specific tips and tricks that should be useful to anyone who will be interviewed using video conferencing:

Test your video and audio before the call.
Open the Skype application and go into the “Tools” menu, and then choose “Options …” to test your video and audio. You’ll see a preview of your own video image, and be able to test your microphone. Make sure your equipment is working properly before your interview. You certainly don’t want to start things out with a technical glitch. When you do start the actual Skype session, make sure your camera is turned on. If the other person can’t see you — and you’ll know because you won’t see your own preview — then click the little “camera” icon on the Skype Toolbar (floating either at the top or the bottom of your screen … you may have to “mouse over” it to make it appear) to activate your webcam. Then during the actual interview, periodically glance at your own preview in the corner of the screen to make sure you are lit and framed correctly, as explained below.

Choose a good background, and be aware of your lighting.
One of the most common problems I’ve seen with Skype is a person sitting with their back against a bright window. The camera auto-adjusts to the brightness of the window light, and the person’s face ends up looking like a dark silhouette. Avoid that problem by positioning yourself against a wall, with any windows being either to your side or in front of you. Adding a desk light aimed at your face also helps. Make sure you can see your own face clearly in your preview. Also, be aware of what’s behind you. It’s best to have a non-distracting background — a blank neutrally colored wall, or a bookcase is effective. (A view of your kitchen or your bedroom is not likely to impress anyone with your professionalism!)

Position your camera to center your image.
Move your camera around (or re-position yourself) to center your face on the screen. I see it all the time — people positioned at the extreme top or bottom of the screen, with the camera cutting half of their face off at their chin, or their forehead! Pay attention to your preview. If you shift or move around during the interview, try to stay centered. Also, move in or out so that you are framed from below the shoulders to just above your head — not too extremely close, or too far back. Most inexpensive webcams are fix-focused at a medium distance, so being too close or too far will make the image look blurry.

Dress for an interview!
Treat this like a traditional face-to-face interview. It’s a common mistake to think that because you are at home, you can dress casually for a Skype interview — that it won’t matter. Wrong! The impression you make on your Skype interviewer can be just as powerful as it would be in person. What you are wearing matters, and you will be judged by how you look. That’s kind of the point of Skype, isn’t it? They want to know how you look! Dress appropriately. I’ve actually seen candidates for executive-level positions wearing t-shirts on Skype interviews! Needless to say, that was not a first impression I’m likely to forget. Men: wear a tie and jacket. Women: wear a conservative business suit. I’ve never heard of any candidate for any job getting eliminated because they were too well dressed! Also, avoid wearing loud patterns, like stripes, that can sometimes look distracting on video.

Look at the camera (not at the screen) to make eye-contact.
This is one of the hardest things to do. It’s everyone’s natural tendency to look at the person’s face on the screen as you are talking. The problem is, the camera is not there — it’s at the top of the screen! When you look at the middle of the screen, the other person feels that you are looking downward. As often as possible, you should look directly at that little camera when you are talking. This is a technique that TV newscasters (and media-savvy politicians) spend years learning and mastering. Instead of following the text on their teleprompters, they are taught to read with their peripheral vision while looking directly into the camera lens. Otherwise they don’t make eye contact with their TV audiences, and are perceived as being untrustworthy or “shifty.” Try practicing this technique on Skype with a friend before you do an important interview.

Pump up your enthusiasm.
It’s a well known fact that actions and reactions can come across somewhat differently on video than they do in a live situation. It’s a good idea to compensate for that difference by projecting extra enthusiasm, and by trying to keep your answers concise and to the point. Try to speak both clearly and quickly, and do not allow too much silence or “dead air” to occur between questions and answers. At the same time, never interrupt or talk over the other person. Sometimes the audio on Skype can have a slight delay or echo, so make sure you hear the end of the person’s last sentence before you speak. Above all, smile a lot and be aware of your facial expressions at all times. Remember: the red light is on … action!

August 3, 2011 at 8:46 am 7 comments

Are You “Overqualified?” Handling The Age Issue …

If you are a job-seeker who is over a certain age – sooner or later it’s not uncommon to hear that you’ve been passed over for an opportunity that you applied and/or interviewed for because you were judged to be “overqualified.” That’s such an interesting word: “overqualified.” Think about it … it means, literally, that you possess experience and qualifications that exceed the stated job requirements. So, you might ask, why should that be a bad thing? Wouldn’t any company want someone who exceeds their requirements instead of someone who does not? Well, we all know what’s really going on when someone says you are “overqualified.” It’s a euphemism for “too old” or “too expensive” or both, right?

Not long ago, I represented a very savvy 50-something year-old candidate who was invited in for a final face-to-face interview for a key position with a Fortune 500 client company I was working with. His job history and specific qualifications were an exact match for what they were looking for. He fit the requirements listed for the job to a tee. In addition, he knew the salary range they had defined for this position, and was fine with it. He had already filled out an extensive job application, taken a 2-hour online personality and skills assessment test, had a lengthy phone interview, and met in-person with two different HR people. Based on all of that, his chances seemed excellent. When he walked into the interview room, he met the actual decision-maker – the person who would be his immediate supervisor for this position. She was a very attractive, 20-something year-old woman – very sharp, with an MBA from a prominent business school, 5 years of increasing responsibilities at this company and a rising star in their corporate culture. (Now I’m imagining this next part … so please forgive me for this narrative license!) They looked at each other, and he thought: “She’s young enough to be my daughter!” And she thought: “He’s old enough to be my father!” It was reminiscent of a scene from the movie “In Good Company.” The interview continued in a very professional manner – but needless to say, he didn’t get the job and was never given any direct explanation why. When I later questioned my HR contact at the company, I heard the “O” word mentioned in passing … but not much else.

Age discrimination is a fact of life in the business world. While the definition of someone’s “prime” working ages varies from industry to industry, from company to company, and from position to position … if I had to guess based on my own experience as a recruiter, I’d say that candidates who range in age from their early 30’s to mid 40’s are probably the group who have the least trouble with age discrimination. Much younger than that, and most job-seekers would be looking mostly at low paying, “entry-level” positions (the woman in the previous example notwithstanding.) And, of course, job-seekers in their 50’s and beyond encounter the “overqualified” objection much more often.

So, what is an “older” job-seeker supposed to do? What advice or strategies can I offer to help those candidates in that more senior category? Well, first of all I suggest you read “Age Discrimination: Exposing Inconvenient Truths.” At the bottom of that article, I’ve already detailed several concrete ideas designed to help older job-seekers overcome the age discrimination issue. Those ideas included:
●   Targeting “age friendly” companies.
●   Only pursuing positions that really match your level of experience.
●   Keeping up to date on technology.
●   Maintaining your health and appearance.
●   Embracing a positive attitude.

Beyond those general ideas, I want to offer some other more specific suggestions, ideas and tips that might help older job-seekers in their pursuit of their goals. These are mostly interview strategies to consider when the “overqualified” objection seems to be coming up, either overtly or by implication:

  • During interviews, emphasize your capabilities, not your experience.
  • When interviewing with a hiring manager, try to find out what their problems, needs, and concerns are. Then, explain how you can help. Offer ideas for solutions to problems. This is known as the “consultative sales” approach. A younger person with little to no experience will be much less likely to know how to do this. [Read “Why Job Hunting is a Consultative Sales Position” for more on this concept.]
  • If you are getting asked questions during an interview that indicate the interviewer wants to know your age, respond by saying: “I think what you’re asking me is ‘How long will I be in this position?’” Then, pause and say firmly: “I’m committed to staying at your company at least five years. How many young candidates will promise you that?”
  • Don’t use phrases like: “At my age…,” “Years ago…,” “Back then…,” When I was younger…,” “It used to be that …,” We used to…,” “…up in years,” “Nowadays…,” etc. Avoid statements in résumés and cover letters like: “I have 25 years experience in …” And don’t make references to your grandchildren!
  • If someone comes right out and asks how old you are, say: “I’m only xx”. The word only is very important. Without coming out and saying it, the word implies to the other person that you think you’ve got many productive years ahead of you.
  • If a prospective employer comes right out and says: “you’re overqualified,” consider responding with a statement like: “Well, you wouldn’t feel that way about your surgeon, would you? Don’t you want a person that you’re confident can do this job without requiring a lot of training and a lot of your time?”
  • Or consider saying: “Wouldn’t you rather hire someone who exceeds your requirements instead of someone who doesn’t?”
  • You probably won’t be able to overcome the “overqualified” objection unless you understand what the employer believes is the underlying problem. You might say: “What problems do you foresee if I were overqualified?”
  • Consider saying: “When you say that I’m overqualified, does that mean you are concerned about what you might have to pay me? I would be happy to discuss compensation with you. What did you think is reasonable?” [Read “Answering the Dreaded Salary Question” for more strategies on handling this issue.]
  • Finally, as an interview closer, consider saying something like: “I understand your concerns as far as you thinking I’m ‘overqualified.’ However, I am confident that you will find me a valuable asset in this position. In addition, should you want to promote internal talent in the future, I’ll have proven myself and have the years of experience to assume more responsibilities successfully. My sole objective is to prove myself over time.”

September 20, 2010 at 12:01 am 11 comments

Comic Relief: Job-Seeking Humor – Volume 4

Now that we’re past Labor Day, and summer breaks are mostly behind us, job-seekers are probably hunkering down and trying to get back to their daily grind of hunting for employment. To ease everyone back into the work world, I figure – what better time than now for me to take yet another break from my usual “advice for job-seekers” mission, and offer up this 4th blog of pure humor?! [See “Volume 1”, “Volume 2” and Volume 3” for the last three editions of this popular side-trip!] After all … it’s always good to start off a new work week with a good laugh.

Once again, I’ll point out that 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 called “David Pedersen’s Video Resume.” Not long ago, “Video Resumes” were touted as the newest “hot technology” in recruiting – but they never really caught on in the mainstream. This clip appeared on YouTube a couple of years ago, and no one is really sure if David Pedersen is an actual person, or just an actor hired by some devious filmmakers … was this supposed to be an actual video resume by a recent grad, or simply a parody? Without going totally over the line, it’s just ridiculous enough that it inspired debate and controversy about its authenticity. Personally, I think it’s just absolutely hysterical. (My favorite moment in this video is the smarmy look he gives the camera at 0:13!) I just never get tired of watching this clip:


In the category of Cartoons, here are some more miscellaneous funnies that I couldn’t fit into any other blog articles, but I think are hilarious nevertheless … and deserve to be shared here:


Finally, in the category of “Letters I Wish I Could Send,” here’s a little something for any job-seeker who has ever received a standard Rejection Letter or Rejection Email from a company after you’ve applied to and/or interviewed for a job. It is a template for a tongue-in-cheek “Rejection of Your Rejection Letter.” I’m not sure where this letter originated … different variations of it have appeared on numerous websites over the years, and yet it always seems timely. Use this at your own risk:


To Whom It May Concern:

Thank you for your letter of [date of the rejection letter]. After careful consideration, I regret to inform you that I am unable to accept your refusal to offer me employment at this time.

This year I have been particularly fortunate in receiving an unusually large number of rejection letters. With such a varied and promising field of candidates, it is impossible for me to accept all refusals. Despite [Name of the Company]’s outstanding qualifications and previous experience in rejecting applicants, I find that your rejection does not meet with my needs at this time. Therefore, I will initiate employment with your firm immediately.

I look forward to working with you. Best of luck in rejecting future candidates.


September 7, 2010 at 12:01 am 4 comments

“Unemployed Need Not Apply” – Working Around This Scary Message

Lately, there’s been a very disturbing trend in the job market. More and more companies are automatically screening out job applicants who are not currently working. They are eliminating unemployed job-seekers from their candidate pools, and are choosing to only interview people who already have jobs. Recruiting firms from all over the country are reporting hearing this from their client companies with increasing and alarming frequency. Some companies are doing this behind the scenes, quietly instructing outside 3rd-party recruiters, internal corporate recruiters and HR people to focus only on currently working candidates while excluding those that are not working (without telling them, of course.) Others are brazenly advertising this preference in their job postings!  I know … it sounds outrageous – and you’d think such a thing would be illegal, right? Well, guess what – it’s not. Unlike race, religion, age, gender, etc., being unemployed is not a “protected” status subject to anti-discrimination laws. Here’s a link to a recent article from CNNMoney that made the rounds a few weeks ago, and brought this issue to light for a lot of people: “Looking for work? Unemployed need not apply.”

Below is a screenshot of an ad from Sony Ericsson for a Head of Marketing Communications and Public Relations position, taken from a video newscast from a TV station in Orlando. The ad was placed by an Orlando-based recruiting agency called “The People Place” for a job in the Atlanta area, which is where Sony was moving their headquarters. They were supposedly creating 180 new jobs at that new facility … and Sony was refusing to hire any unemployed people to fill those jobs! (The irony of this is astounding – advertising for a head of “Public Relations” with an ad that created a firestorm of BAD public relations!!!)

This practice has, for obvious reasons, angered a lot of people. In some cases it has caused a backlash against those companies. For example, in the Sony Ericsson case shown above, the local community of Buckhead, Georgia – the Atlanta suburb where Sony was building their new facility – threatened to rescind a deal they made with the company which included $4 Million in tax credits when they learned of this hiring policy. (Sony subsequently removed the ad, saying it was “a mistake.”) In other cases, when reporters called companies who posted jobs with restrictions against unemployed applicants, those companies removed the ads – obviously to avoid negative publicity … but we can only assume that their discriminatory hiring practices continued behind closed doors.

In the world of 3rd Party Recruiting, this practice isn’t really new at all. Traditional “Head Hunters” have done this for years, only going after top talent – usually people who worked for their client’s competitors – and actually recruiting them away from one company to come work for another. Head Hunters would never call someone who was unemployed. [Read “The Real Truth About Working with Recruiters” for more on how “Head Hunters” differ from other types of recruiters.]

So why are today’s companies now doing this? At a time when there are more unemployed job-seekers out there than any other time in recent history, why would any company eliminate from consideration such a huge pool of talent … potential candidates, many of whom are probably just as qualified (if not more so) as anyone who is currently working? Without trying to justify it, or in any way condone this practice – as a recruiter who has heard these preferences expressed from client companies I’ve worked with myself, I can probably shed some light on their thinking.

One reason might be expediency. Every job posting now brings in an unprecedented flood of applicants. Company recruiters and HR people are completely overwhelmed with literally hundred and hundreds of resumes for each and every job opening they advertise. By eliminating unemployed applicants, they are whittling that number down to a more reasonable group of people that they can screen and interview in a more efficient and timely manner.

Another reason is perception. It’s basic human nature to view a candidate who is still working in a better light than an unemployed job-seeker. No matter what the true facts are, there is always that irrational but nagging suspicion that someone is out of work for “performance reasons.” It’s not logical, and it’s not likely to produce a higher caliber employee … but it is the way many people think.

Companies might also rationalize that a currently working person is “the best in their field” since they managed to avoid the layoffs that so many others experienced in their industry. They may believe that those currently working “passive candidates” are more likely to be up to speed in their industry niche, and would therefore require less training than someone who has been out of work for a while … that they could more easily “hit the ground running.”

Trying to understand the reasons that companies do what they do in their hiring practices can be useful information for any job-seeker in determining how to position yourself for the best chances of success. If the name of the game is perception, then it’s up to you to create a perception that will be most likely to avoid being eliminated before you even get to the starting gate.

The Workaround:

So what is an unemployed job-seeker supposed to do with this information? How can you work around the scary message: “Unemployed Need Not Apply?”  The most obvious answer to that question is to not appear to be unemployed!!!  I’m certainly not suggesting that you should to be dishonest or lie in any way. However, there are several ways to present yourself – especially on your résumé – that will avoid the stigma that comes with being an unemployed job-seeker. My advice is to position yourself as NOT being currently unemployed – but rather to use either Volunteer Work, Consulting (Contract) Work, or Self-Employment as your current position. I’ve detailed those strategies, and described how to use them on your résumé, at the bottom of a prior blog posting: “Explaining Short Job Stints and Employment Gaps.”

Don’t give companies any reason to overlook you before they even talk with you! Use this information, and my suggested strategies, to get past the irrational screening process. Your goal should be to advance yourself to the interview stages of the hiring process where you have the opportunity to impress people with your actual talents and skills, your positive attitude and your passion for your work.

August 23, 2010 at 12:01 am 31 comments

The Brutal Truth on How Résumés Get Eliminated

Did you ever wonder how job-seekers get screened out or eliminated based on someone looking at their résumés? When a job-seeker is being considered for an open opportunity, the first person who will read their résumé is generally either a recruiter or an HR person. If it’s a recruiter, it could be either a 3rd-party, agency-based head-hunter type, or an internal, company-based corporate recruiter. [Read “The Real Truth About Working With Recruiters” for more on the different types of recruiters and how they work.] If it’s someone in HR, it could be anyone from an entry-level screener to a Director of HR – depending on the size of the company.

This screening and elimination process happens when you respond to online job postings, and it also happens during proactive searches for candidates done on résumé banks like CareerBuilder, Monster, etc., or on Social Networks like LinkedIn. Basically, anyone who is looking for and screening potential candidates for an open job opportunity goes through this process.

The sad fact is, most online submissions go totally unanswered. That’s why savvy job searchers do not rely on simply applying to online job postings, but rather spend most of their time networking, finding ways to go around HR, and talking with actual decision-makers at their target companies. [For details on how to network your way to a job, read “How to Network: A Step-by-Step Guide for Job Searching.”] Most résumés and online applications go into the proverbial “Black Hole of HR.” [Read “Avoiding the Black Hole of HR” for some strategies on getting around this fate.]

Now I’m sure that you slaved over your résumé for hours and hours, writing and re-writing it, revising, refining and retooling its language until it’s as “perfect” as it can be. If you are like most serious job-seekers, you are hoping that the person who first screens your masterpiece will take their time and read it over very carefully – absorbing every detail of your background, analyzing your qualifications and experience, and making a carefully considered, informed decision about your fit for the position they are trying to fill. Unfortunately, you would be wrong. I hate to break this to you … but the average résumé-reader will give your résumé less than 15 seconds of eyeball time on the first pass. [Read “Beating the Résumé-Elimination Game: Where Do Recruiters’ Eyes Go?” for more on this.] They’ll scan the first page of your résumé, rarely progressing on to the second or third pages. If they don’t quickly see exactly what they think they want or need right up front … bye bye – delete key for you! I know — it sounds pretty brutal, right? It reminds me of a recruiter’s version of the “Soup Nazi” from Seinfeld!

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 this elimination game works! So … what follows is a peek behind the curtain. I make no apologies for how this process works, or how fair or unfair it may be – like it or not, this is simply the way it is. I feel it’s best for job-seekers to be informed about this to be able to better navigate the process and avoid obvious pitfalls as they move forward.

First of all – here are three immediate deal-killers that lead directly to the Delete Key:

1) “Functional Résumés.” Almost every recruiter and HR person I’ve ever talked with about this agrees – a chronological résumé is essential. It should list the companies where you’ve worked, the dates you were there, and what you did at each place. Every so often I receive a so-called “Functional Résumé” filled with long bulleted lists of undated skills and accomplishments … and then (almost as an after-thought) at the bottom will be a short list of places they worked with no dates. My immediate reaction to that is that they are trying to hide something. Maybe it’s an age thing – or perhaps their experience is outdated. Where and when were those skills used? Where and when did those accomplishments happen? Who knows?! Big red flag. Traditional chronological résumés are the only way to go.

2) Typos, Spelling or Grammatical Errors, Poor Writing. If you are so careless that you can’t even proofread your own résumé, then the assumption is that you would be equally careless with your job performance. Likewise, using unclear language, rambling, or just having it be too long are traits of a badly written résumé. One to two pages is standard. Three pages may work in rare cases (e.g highly technical roles) but anything beyond that is simply too long. Don’t make the reader work too hard to see the basics. If someone can’t figure out what you do by quickly glancing at the top third of the first page of your résumé … that’s a huge red flag.

3) An Incomplete Profile on LinkedIn. By this I mean profiles that do not provide a full, relevant employment history, do not include details about specific skills and experience, and (to my total amazement) do not even include basic contact information! Sending messages through LinkedIn’s own internal system should never be the only way to reach someone. How does any job-seeker expect to be “found” by a recruiter or a company if they don’t even include a direct email address or a phone number?! Every day I see so many profiles that only list job titles, with absolutely no details below each position describing what the person did at those places. The fact is many people now apply for job postings using their LinkedIn profiles instead of sending traditional résumés. Also, many recruiters and HR professionals now routinely search for candidates using LinkedIn profiles instead of viewing traditional résumés. Incomplete LinkedIn profiles are completely ineffective, and actually reflect poorly on anyone who creates one.

So once you’ve passed those deal-killers, here are some of the most obvious things that recruiters and HR people look at to eliminate candidates based on a quick review of a résumé or online profile:

  • Keywords
    Keyword searches are usually the first method used to find résumés 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. It would be naïve to think that someone will “read between the lines” on your résumé and realize that you have the skills they need even though they are not spelled out, or that anyone will understand the subtle details of your experience without you clearly stating them. You should modify and tailor your résumé to each individual job you are applying to, using the language contained in the job description. If your résumé does not contain the exact buzzwords or phrases that match the language of the requirements listed in the company’s job description … bye bye – delete key for you.
  • Location:
    With very few exceptions, candidates must live in the same geographic area as the job. You may say you are willing to relocate … but that’s a potential headache for the company who hires you compared to a local candidate. If your résumé shows that you currently live in a different place than the job … bye bye – delete key for you.
  • Industry
    In most cases, you must come from the same industry as the job. For example, if the job is in the Financial Services industry and you come from Manufacturing bye bye – delete key for you.
  • Function
    Moving from one job function to another that you’ve had little or no experience with is an uphill battle. For example, if they are looking for someone with a sales background, but you have never actually been in a sales role … bye bye – delete key for you.
  • Level
    If they are looking for an individual contributor, and you’ve been at a much higher level – say managing other people or a department … it’s not a match. Conversely, if they are looking for a Manager or a VP or a C-Level Executive, and you’ve never held those titles … bye bye – delete key for you.
  • Number of Years of Experience – and How Recent
    If the job description calls for someone with 3-5 years of experience, and you’ve had 10-15 years … it’s not a match. And if the specific experience they are looking for is actually listed on your résumé – but it occurred many years and several jobs ago, and you’ve done other unrelated things since then … bye bye – delete key for you.
  • Education
    Some companies require a college degree, or a specific type of certification. If they say you must have a B.A. and all you’ve got is an Associate’s Degree – or no degree at all … bye bye – delete key for you.
  • Job Turnover
    If your job history shows too many short stints over a limited time period, it can read as a negative: you might be a job-hopping flight risk … you seemingly can’t hold down a job … perhaps you don’t get along with others well … there may have been performance issues that got you fired – the imagination creates all kinds of possible scenarios! Likewise, significant unexplained gaps between jobs can be red flags that will get you eliminated. There may be perfectly valid reasons for having a lot of jobs within a short period (mass layoffs, position was eliminated, company went out of business, etc.) I would advise briefly listing the reasons for short job stints right next to the dates on your résumé to avoid this obvious red flag. [Read “Explaining Short Job Stints and Employment Gaps” for more details on handling this issue.] But unless you can effectively explain those circumstances … bye bye – delete key for you.
  • Salary Range
    This one is a biggie – and obviously would not be listed on your résumé, but rather will often come up when filling out an online application. If asked point blank what you made at your last job, or what your salary expectations are going forward – don’t play games or avoid answering. If you dance around this issue and/or refuse to give a straight answer, then it will likely raise a red flag that will get you eliminated. There are simply too many qualified applicants for every open job for recruiters or HR people to want to deal with someone who can’t give a straightforward answer on this. [Read “Answering the Dreaded Salary Question” for more details on how to handle this issue.] The bottom line is that if your salary history and the range you give for your salary expectations going forward do not overlap with the company’s budgeted range for the specific job you are applying to … bye bye – delete key for you.

June 1, 2010 at 12:01 am 80 comments

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Michael Spiro

About the Author:

Michael Spiro has been a 3rd-Party Recruiter and Account Executive for over 20 years. He is currently the Director of Recruiting / NE Ohio Region for Jefferson Wells, a dedicated business unit of ManpowerGroup. Other recent positions include President of Midas Recruiting, a boutique head-hunting firm, Director of Talent at Patina Solutions, and Executive Recruiting positions with 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 social-services 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?

 The Truth About Lying on

 "Why Did You Leave Your
         Last Job?"

 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

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

 Phone Interviews: Secrets,
         Tricks and Tips

 Video Interview Tips
         in the Pandemic World

 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

 Advice for Recent Grads
         and Career-Changers

Switching Jobs:
 The Proper Way to
         Quit a Job

 Counteroffers: Just Say No!

General Job-Seeking Info:
 The Real Truth About
         Working with Recruiters

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

►  What Recruiters Say
         vs. What Job-Seekers

►  The Dirty Truth About
         Unemployment Statistics

►  Let the Jobs Find You:
         Making Yourself More

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

 Avoiding the "Black Hole
         of HR"

 Is Your Elevator Pitch
         Taking You UP
         or DOWN?

 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 for
         Business: Never Burn

 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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