Posts tagged ‘LinkedIn’

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:

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 Top 10 Most Annoying Things for Job-Seekers

 Top 10 Most Helpful Things for Job-Seekers

 New Year’s Resolutions for Job-Seekers

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December 1, 2014 at 11:56 am Leave a comment

The Truth About Lying On Résumés

When I was just starting my career as a recruiter, a well-known trainer at my firm would often utter a phrase that used to bother me a lot. He’d say: “All candidates lie on their résumés.” (It reminded me of Hugh Laurie on the TV show House M.D. and his famous pronouncement: “Everybody lies … the only variable is about what.”) Maybe I’m just naive — or perhaps I’m just a trusting person by nature — but I’d like to believe that most people are honest and ethical, and would not intentionally lie or deceive me with false information on their résumés. Still, I know that sometimes people exaggerate, omit things, or stretch the truth here and there to inflate their profiles.

Over the years I’ve worked with a multitude of job-seekers on how to improve their résumés. While I would NEVER encourage anyone to lie or fabricate anything, I do often tell people that unlike a job application, a résumé is not a legal document and there is no requirement that it must contain a complete history of everything you’ve ever done. It should be truthful … but it’s up to each person to decide what to include or not include. For example, I sometimes tell people to not include the months in the dates listed next to each job – instead, showing them only as a range of years. That can often avoid the red flag of seeing brief periods of unemployment between jobs. (See example.) I’ve also advised people that it’s OK to leave off jobs in their work history (especially if they were short-lived) that were unrelated to their main industry or niche. But those omissions are very different than outright lying, or making claims about positions you’ve held or degrees you’ve earned that are simply not true.

The following is a fascinating InfoGraphic I found called “The Truth About Lying on Résumés.” The statistics quoted below were compiled from surveys conducted in 2012 by Accu-Screen (a background checking company,) ADP (a Payroll Services company) and The Society of Human Resource Managers. I have no way of knowing if this is a truly accurate picture of today’s truthfulness (or lack thereof) of the multitudes of résumés I review every week … but I can only hope that the ones I see are more honest than this suggests …

(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.)

Now one would think that in today’s Social Media-saturated world, and especially with the advent of LinkedIn, false claims on résumés would be a rare occurrence. After all, everyone’s past employers and co-workers can now easily view everyone else’s profiles. If someone was less than truthful about their work history, they would be immediately exposed … right? Well, perhaps not. Unless someone is called as a reference, or has a particular axe to grind, most people probably wouldn’t take the time to blow the whistle on someone else even if they see blatantly false information on their online profiles.

Of course, anyone in a highly public position is much more vulnerable than the average worker. Certainly, there have been many examples over the years of famous people who have been caught lying on their résumés in order to get jobs.

Famous Résumé Liars:

► Vice President Joe Biden first ran for president in 1988, but during that campaign it was discovered that he lied about attending law school on a full scholarship (he had only a partial scholarship) and about graduating in the top half of his class (he was 76th out of 85.) When the truth came out, Biden had to abandon his presidential bid. Apparently voters in 2008 and 2012 had either not heard of that earlier history of lying — or didn’t care!

► In 2012, Scott Thompson, CEO of Yahoo!, was fired after only 5 months on the job when it was discovered that he had lied on his résumé. He had stated that he earned degrees in both Accounting AND Computer Science, when in fact he never received the latter.

► In 2007, Marilee Jones, the Dean of Admissions at Massachusetts Institute of Technology resigned after 28 celebrated years at M.I.T. when it became know that she had fabricated her own educational credentials. She claimed to have earned degrees from 3 different colleges: Albany Medical College, Union College and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. In fact, she had no degrees at all! Rensselaer said she only attended as a part-time student during one school year. The other two colleges said they had no record of her.

► In 2006, Dave Edmondson, the CEO of RadioShack, was fired after 11 years with the company when it was revealed that he had lied on his résumé. He had claimed he held degrees in Psychology and Theology from Pacific Coast Baptist College in California. In fact, he never graduated. The school’s records showed Edmondson completed only two semesters, and that the school never even offered degrees in Psychology!

► In 2005, Michael Brown, Director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), resigned after his mishandling of the response to Hurricane Katrina. To get that job, Brown had claimed he oversaw emergency services for the City of Edmund, Oklahoma and that he’d worked at the University of Central Oklahoma as a political science professor. In fact, it was later revealed that Brown had only been an assistant to the city manager, which is more like an intern. And school officials at the University of Central Oklahoma said Brown was never a member of their faculty.

► In 2001, George O’Leary was fired from the Head Coaching job at Notre Dame College after only 5 days on the job. O’Leary had claimed to have a Master’s Degree in Education from New York University and had lettered in college football at the University of New Hampshire. O’Leary attended NYU but did not receive a degree. In fact, he had taken only two courses at SUNY – Stony Brook, and never graduated! And he never earned a letter playing football in New Hampshire and never even played in a game there.

Of course, the above examples are only some of the most well know liars who had the misfortune of getting caught in very public positions. It kind of makes you wonder how many other résumé liars fly under the radar, and never get caught!

November 7, 2014 at 11:53 am 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

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

Warning: That Rant You Posted Just Went Viral!

Recently, I read a series of discussion posts on a Yahoo Group website affiliated with a large, well-known job-seekers organization. The topic of the discussion was Unemployment Compensation, and the then-current legislative debate regarding whether or not to pass extensions to the existing benefits for the masses of unemployed workers during this historic and unprecedented economic downturn. The discussion quickly devolved into a nasty argument when one person ranted that “too many are looking more for government handouts than actually finding a job” and called them “jerks.” The name-calling and insults then flew back and forth. As I read this, my mouth hung open with astonishment at how utterly stupid these people were being. It was not the content of the argument that got to me – it was the totally unprofessional and immature tone of the comments. These people had their names and email addresses attached to those messages!!! And yet they seemingly had given no thought at all to how those juvenile comments made them look to other readers.

Now, that particular Yahoo Group is a “members-only” forum, so technically only people who belong to that group were able to read the messages. However, the fact is that any one of its 3,000+ members could have easily copied any of those messages into an email and forwarded them on to anyone else in the world – effectively starting them on the path to going viral. I wondered if any of those name-calling job-seekers believe that any hiring manager, HR professional or recruiter (many of whom, like myself, actually belong to that very same group) would ever actually consider hiring them after seeing those immature, mud-slinging postings? Anyone who read those messages will likely remember those people’s names. Talk about shooting yourself in the foot!

I still remember a particular candidate a couple of years ago who was unhappy with the responses he was getting from one of my colleagues at the recruiting firm we worked for. He sent a long, nasty, ranting email to that recruiter, which culminated in him calling him an “asshat.” That term was so unusual, and so funny sounding … well, most of us in the office had never actually heard it before! That email was eventually forwarded over and over and over to almost every one of the hundreds of recruiters who worked at our firm across the country. His name became notorious as “the asshat guy” who no one would ever want to work with. Needless to say, that candidate was never considered for any future positions we worked on. (If you must know, here’s the definition of “asshat” from: THE URBAN DICTIONARY.)

Ever since my kids were old enough to type on a computer or use a cell phone, I regularly gave them this standard warning: never post or send anything anywhere (emails, texts, photos, videos, wall messages, comments, tweets, etc.) that you wouldn’t want to see on the front page of tomorrow’s newspaper! Never assume that anything you do online is private – such a concept simply does not exist on the web. Do you think that the embarrassing email or memo you wrote, or the photo you posted online or sent to someone’s smart phone is not a problem now because you already trashed it? Well, guess what … anything you delete on your end can easily be resurrected on the other end – or at the ISP’s servers – at some later date and come back to bite you. (Just ask any executive from Microsoft or Toyota!)

There are countless stories out there about potential employers checking out the Facebook profiles of candidates, and eliminating people based on inappropriate material they found! Background-checking firms are regularly hired now by many companies to sleuth out any incriminating digital material on potential candidates. They do this by searching public and private records, and from mining other more deeply embedded data resources on the internet. Pretty much anything that has ever lived online or on your smart phone at any time is searchable if you have the right technology. Any fan of Law and Order, CSI or Criminal Minds knows how that works. Much of this insidious telltale information can also readily be found by even casual users on Google, social networking sites, blogs, message boards, video sharing sites and photo sharing sites.

Here’s something really scary: go to www.pipl.com and type in your own name, city and state … and see what comes up. It will reveal your birthdate records, public court records, traffic violations, credit and bankruptcy information, personal and professional business reports, miscellaneous profiles, photos, videos, and all manner of other web-based connections or references to you, your email address, your phone number or your various usernames! Some of the listings shown require a fee to access, but a lot of them are totally free for anyone to view. The information in those listings may not even be accurate, which is an even bigger problem. To collect this information, they claim to be mining something called “The Deep Web.” And this is all now available on a public website! Imagine what a professional background-checking company can uncover!

And in this age of YouTube and 24-hour news cycles, all it takes is a few random moments of stupid behavior performed in the presence of someone with a cell-phone camera to forever enshrine someone in the Hall of Shame that brands them as a fool for all the world to see! Your most embarrassing and potentially career-devastating moments can instantly go viral. Now granted, many of those YouTube “stars” have been able to actually capitalize on their “15 minutes of fame.” However, there are literally tens of thousands of examples of viral videos that have caused people anguish and regret for their moments of unguarded idiocy. Stupid Human Tricks have become a national pastime.

For job-seekers, the message should be clear: watch what you say, do, write, post, record or transmit – anywhere and everywhere. The whole world is pretty much always watching … and that includes your potential next employers!

April 20, 2010 at 6:44 am 27 comments

Using Social Media to Enhance Job-Searching

(This article was updated in February 2017)

There seems to be a lot of discussion these days about the use of “Social Media” as a tool to enhance job-searching. Unless you’ve been hiding in a cave for the last few years, you probably know that Social Media refers to online “communities” like LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and a host of other lesser-known but still popular sites. (To see an extensive list of over 250 Social Media sites, just click on the “Share” button to the right of this blog, on the side-bar.) Social Media is changing the way business gets done and people communicate in the “Web 2.0″ age.

By the way … that term “Web 2.0” is bantered around a lot, with few people understanding its true meaning. It actually refers to the 2-way interactive nature of certain web destinations. Here’s a definition from Wikipedia (which is, itself, a Web 2.0 destination): “The term ‘Web 2.0’ is commonly associated with web applications that facilitate interactive information sharing, interoperability, user-centered design, and collaboration on the World Wide Web. Examples of Web 2.0 include web-based communities, hosted services, web applications, social-networking sites, video-sharing sites, wikis, blogs, mashups, and folksonomies. A Web 2.0 site allows its users to interact with other users or to change website content, in contrast to non-interactive websites where users are limited to the passive viewing of information that is provided to them.”

There’s a really amazing viral video up on YouTube right now, which contains some astounding statistics and facts about how quickly and profoundly Social Media has changed our world. If you haven’t seen it yet, I highly recommend watching this 4-minute video. You can see it here: “Social Media Revolution.”

I’m a big user of LinkedIn, and (obviously) blogging. I have Facebook and other Social Media pages, but those are used primarily for non-business purposes. I’ve also experimented with Twitter, YouTube and other sites. While I certainly don’t claim to be any kind of authoritative expert, I can offer my own musings on how Social Media sites can be used effectively to enhance a job search:

LinkedIn:
With over 380 million registered users in over 200 countries (as of October 2016), LinkedIn is by far the most popular business-oriented Social Media site. LinkedIn has radically changed the way jobs-seekers network their way to decision-makers in their target companies, connect with potential employers, 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. It has certainly revolutionized the methodology of networking as a job-seeking activity … and it’s hard to believe that it’s still free!

There are already numerous websites out there with detailed tutorials on how to set up an effective profile and best use LinkedIn … so this blog is not intended to be a “How To” guide on that topic. I will, however, point out some of the most obvious features that make it such a fantastic tool for job-seekers:

  • Your Profile: Creating and maintaining your profile is the most critical part of using LinkedIn. It’s an online version of your résumé – and much, much more. It’s worth taking the time to do it right. Here are a few suggestions: Choose a clear and descriptive “Professional Headline” to identify the industry niche and specific job area you are targeting. Fill the “Summary” and “Specialty” fields with keywords and buzz words from your specific industry niche, to make yourself more search-friendly and “findable” by companies and recruiters. Complete the “Experience” section with your most recent and most relevant jobs, going back at least 10 years. (No need to go farther than that, unless you want to.) Just like you would on a traditional paper résumé, use a lot of exciting “action” words. Whenever possible, site quantifiable results and achievements from your jobs … not just a list of responsibilities. Potential employers don’t just want to know what you did – rather, they want to know how good you were at your job! Collect as many positive professional recommendations as you can – from former bosses, peers, and customers. Use the “Network Activity” section at the top on a regular basis to send updates and stay in touch with all your connections.
  • Your Photo: I’ve heard arguments from both sides on whether or not to post a photo on your profile. Apparently, some people are afraid that they will somehow hurt their chances of getting an interview or a job if their photo reveals something that has potentially discriminatory implications (i.e. age, race, sex, ethnicity, etc.) Personally, I say post a photo … as long as it looks professional. They’re going to see you when you walk through their door for your first interview anyway, right? If you get eliminated based on one of those criteria, then it will happen with or without your photo being posted. I always prefer seeing photos on other profiles – 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 and anonymous. I always suspect that they are hiding something!
  • Connections: This is, of course, the main point of LinkedIn – making connections! Do an advanced search for anyone who works at one of your target companies. [If you don’t already have a list of target companies, proceed directly to “How to Network: A Step-By-Step Guide for Job Searching” for instructions on how to create one.] Limit the results to people who are local to you, and who work in your niche using either keywords, or job titles. People you’ll find using the LinkedIn People Search will either be connected to you directly (1st degree), connected to one of your other direct connections (2nd degree), connected to someone else who is connected to one of your other direct connections (3rd degree) or will share mutual LinkedIn Group Memberships with you. Reach out to those people. [For more specifics on how to approach new potential contacts, read “Targeted Networking: How to Effectively Reach Out.”] Many people on LinkedIn are not connected to you at all … however, you can only send LinkedIn messages to people that are connected to you in some way … so therefore it’s best to join a lot of industry-specific groups, and connect with as many people in your niche as you can. And by the way – when you invite someone to connect, don’t just use the generic default message … personalize the invitation. It will be much more likely to be received favorably if it has a specific message explaining what your relationship to that person is, and why you want to connect.
  • Joining Groups: It is in your best interest to join as many LinkedIn Groups as you can. (Their limit is 50.) Join groups likely to be of interest to your industry. The more members a group has, the more likely you’ll snag contacts in your target list. If you go the the Groups screen and click on “Find a Group” and then “Search” the groups using keywords, the results will be ordered by membership size with the largest groups at the top. (Each group will have the number of members listed below its description.) Try using your city as a keyword to find locally based groups. Try adding terms specific to your niche to limit it to groups that your target people would be most likely to have joined. Another trick is to examine the profiles of people who you’ve already identified as key targets, and look to see what groups they are members of. Then simply request to join those groups. It sometimes takes a day or two to get “approved” … but almost every LinkedIn group approves all membership requests.
  • Discussions and Questions: Participating in the Group Discussions, or posing and/or answering questions in the “Answers” section is a great way to make yourself visible and find new connections on LinkedIn. Don’t just “lurk” … get involved and participate.
  • Job Listings: There are job postings within each individual group that often are “exclusive” to LinkedIn … that is, they are job postings that will not be seen on Monster, CareerBuilder, or any other job boards. You must be a member of that group to see those listings. Applications to those LinkedIn job postings are much more likely to get responded to than job-board postings – and will be less likely to land you in the “Black Hole of HR.” Your application will automatically link the poster back to your profile page – plus, you’ll know exactly who posted the job and be able to view their profile and reach out to that specific person to follow-up.
  • Networking Your Way to a Job: Using all of the above, LinkedIn has revolutionized all the steps in the process of networking as a job-seeking activity. Those steps 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. [For details on how to network your way to a job using these five steps, read “How to Network: A Step-by-Step Guide for Job Searching.”]

Facebook:
Facebook is now the 3rd most popular destination on the web (behind Google and YouTube), with over 1.86 billion monthly active users worldwide (as of February 2017). Facebook and countless other Social Networking sites emphasize the “social” aspect of networking, and are much less business-oriented than, say LinkedIn. Facebook began as a college student network, and has since evolved into a community of all ages where people connect online with new and old friends and acquaintances, classmates, family members, long-lost romances, music fans, and people with all sorts of other common interests. It may surprise you to know that despite its roots in the youth culture, at this point 65% of Facebook users are 35 or older, and the average Facebook user is 40.5 years old. Many businesses have recently established company presences on Facebook to promote themselves and connect with this vast audience. While I don’t think it’s a particularly effective job-seeking tool (although others may disagree) … I don’t see any harm in establishing a profile here. Certainly, periodically updating your status with information about your job-seeking activities could potentially help you if someone in your personal network reaches back out to you with a job tip or a business contact.

The one caveat I would offer, however, is the standard warning that I always give my own kids: never post or send anything anywhere (photos, videos, wall messages, comments, emails, text messages, tweets, etc.) that you wouldn’t want to see on the front page of tomorrow’s newspaper! Never assume that anything you do online is private – such a concept simply does not exist on the web. Anything you delete on your end can easily be resurrected on the other end at some later date and come back to bite you. There are countless stories out there about potential employers checking out the Facebook profiles of candidates, and eliminating people based on inappropriate material they found! [For more details on the topic of internet privacy, read “Warning: That Rant You Posted Just Went Viral!”]

YouTube and other Video Sites:
YouTube is now the second most popular destination on the web, behind first-place Google (which actually owns YouTube!) One billion unique users are now visiting the video-sharing website every month, or nearly one out of every three people on the Internet (as of July 2016). I’ve seen a lot of videos posted on YouTube and other video sites by various business professionals and job-seekers. Some are promoting or selling some product or service, and others are more along the lines of advice or consulting. Obviously, this form of Social Media is not for everyone – you must be reasonably comfortable in front of a camera, and be an effective communicator and public speaker. Nevertheless, for those who can pull it off, video postings are a great way to enhance one’s profile and market yourself. Video postings can be integrated into LinkedIn using an application module that displays your videos on your main profile page.

Professional Blogs:
The “Blogosphere” has been part of the Web 2.0 Social Media revolution for over 15 years. Creating a Professional Blog can be a great way to enhance a job search. (I’m using the term “Professional” Blog to differentiate it from a “Personal” Blog, which could be about family events, personal ramblings, politics, hobbies, travels, mundane everyday things, etc.) A Professional Blog is aimed at other people in your own niche industry, and creating one can serve many purposes. First and foremost, it gives you an outlet to share your knowledge and experience with others who might benefit from it. Secondly, it keeps your writing skills sharp and provides you with an excuse to keep yourself current on your particular discipline. And finally, it gives you a very visible forum to showcase your expertise in your niche. In marketing terms, it creates a “brand awareness” for yourself! You can put a link to your blog in your email signature, and on your LinkedIn Profile to further increase your visibility. If you are new to the world of blogging, try one of these two free, popular and easy-to-use blogging sites to get started: “Wordpress” or Google’s “Blogger.” Both have step-by-step instructions, and include dozens of pre-made templates that will get you up and blogging in minutes. I prefer WordPress because it easily integrates into LinkedIn, using an application module that automatically displays your latest blog postings on your main profile page.

Twitter:
With over 1.3 billion registered users, and 310 million active users creating over 500 million Tweets each day (as of May 2016) Twitter continues to be a very popular social media tool. However, I’m sorry … but despite all the buzz about Twitter, I have to give it a thumbs down as a job-seeking tool. It’s not that I’m against new technologies – I’m actually a very tech-savvy person who loves all the latest toys, gizmos, gadgets and technology in general. I’ve configured and repaired computers and networks, designed websites and complex databases. And I know there are Twitter fans out there who will be quick to dispute me. I do think that Twitter deserves a place somewhere in the short attention span of our thumb-typing, text-message-obsessed world. But I tried Twitter for several months, and I just didn’t see it being a useful tool for job-seeking. In fact, it seemed like a supreme waste of time to me! I have yet to find a hidden job opportunity using “Twitter Search” that I couldn’t have found just as easily using Google, Indeed.com, or any number of other standard search engines or job boards. And broadcasting quick short bursts of text? Is that really necessary? I believe that those 140-character messages filled with lazily abbreviated catch-phrases and fractured contractions have contributed to the rapid decline in the writing skills of an entire generation of its users (IMHO LOL!) The English language has never looked worse. And lately, what I’ve seen on Twitter involves a lot of unwanted spam-like marketing of products and services, people using auto-responders and programs called “Robots” to add followers using fake identities, and downright malicious hacking activities. That’s a “revolution” I can do without!

April 13, 2010 at 12:10 am 16 comments

Avoiding the “Black Hole of HR”

Does the following scenario sound familiar? You spot an online job posting that looks like a perfect fit for your background and experience. You click “apply” and are led through a series of time-consuming screens asking for detailed information about yourself. You fill out their online application form, which includes an exhaustive work and salary history. You attach a formatted word version of your résumé, which you’ve already spent countless hours working on and perfecting. You create and include a killer cover letter tailored to that specific position, using all the buzz words and phrases in their job description, and pointing out how you have all of their listed requirements. Then you hit “submit” … and sit back and wait … and wait … and wait. And then – NOTHING! No emails, no phone calls, and usually not even an acknowledgment that your submission was received – just silence.

In the Recruiting world, we often refer to this as sending your résumé into the “Black Hole of HR.” Your application has been sucked into the Human Resources vortex, never to be seen or heard from again! 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.”]

Now don’t get me wrong … I have nothing against HR people in general. In fact, over my many years as a recruiter I’ve successfully partnered with many HR professionals. Today, some of my best networking partners are Directors of HR or Talent Acquisition at large companies. In fact, in a broad sense, recruiters and staffing companies are part of the HR world. The problem, from a job-seeker’s point of view, is that many of those online applications go directly to overworked and overwhelmed HR screeners who simply don’t have the time to respond to the tidal wave of applications that they receive for every job posting in today’s candidate-flooded market. I’ve heard tales of literally hundreds and hundreds of résumés arriving on HR desks after only a day or two of a new job being posted.

Recently, I attended a talk by a Vice President of Human Resources from a Fortune 500 company who was addressing a group of job-seekers. He told a surprising little anecdote. He said that his son just graduated from college, and asked him for advice on the best way to find a job in such an ultra-challenging market. His father told him: “Just make sure you go around HR!”  This from a VP of HR!

Too many job-seekers spend the majority of their precious time searching for and responding to internet job postings – which are basically direct pipelines to the HR departments of companies. The truth is that this is one of the least productive uses of your time, and has an extremely low success rate. Online job boards are merely an updated version of the old classified ads in the newspaper, which are even less likely to get you anywhere in today’s internet-centric world. Oh sure, every once in a while responding to an online job posting scores someone an interview, or in some cases even an actual job. It does happen … albeit infrequently. So I’m not suggesting that you totally ignore this method of job searching. Simply limit the time you spend on it to around 10% of your total job-searching time. [Read “Time Management: Recipe for a Well-Balanced Job Search”  for a guide to prioritizing your time.]

So let’s say you actually do spot that perfect job online. What should you do? By all means, go ahead and apply. However, what other steps can you take to avoid simply ending up in the “Black Hole of HR?” Here are a few suggestions:

Look for a Contact Name on the Job Posting
If there’s a person’s name, an email address, or a contact phone number on the job posting, send that person an email (separate from your online submission.) The body of the email should be your cover letter, and you should attach a word version of your résumé. Wait a day or two, and then CALL THAT PERSON! If there’s no phone number given, call the main number of the company and simply ask for that person by name. If you end up in their voicemail, leave a message (with your “Elevator Pitch“) expressing your interest in their position. If you don’t get a response, call again in 2 or 3 days. Personally, I’d try leaving voicemails 3 times before giving up. You would be amazed at how few people actually call to follow up after submitting an online application. Doing so will immediately put you ahead of your competition.

If there’s No Name Listed, Call the Company And Ask For One!
Most job posting do not actually list a contact name. In that case, call the main number of the company, and simply ask for the name of the person who oversees the position you are applying for. If possible, get their email address and phone extension. Then do the email and follow-up phone routine described above. If you are directed to an HR person, you can certainly follow that path … however an even better approach would be to identify the actual decision-maker at the company who oversees the position (usually NOT an HR person.) Emailing and phoning that decision-maker is WAY more effective. That person might re-direct you to HR … and that’s OK. At least you’ve distinguished yourself from the crowd, and made contact with the person who will eventually decide who to hire. And when you do go back to HR, you can now say: “I spoke with So-And-So about his open position, and he suggested that I call you to follow-up.  How much do you want to bet that using the person’s name when making the call back to HR will get you more attention.

Check LinkedIn for Other Employees at the Company
Do an advanced search on LinkedIn for local people who work at the same company you are applying to. Specify people who are in the same area or department, or who share similar job titles. You might identify peers … or even decision-makers overseeing the position you are applying to. Reach out to those people, and see if any of them would be willing to talk with you on the phone … or even meet with you informally. [For more specifics on how to approach those new potential contacts, read “Targeted Networking: How to Effectively Reach Out.”] See if you can learn any inside information from those people – e.g. names of decision-makers, information on the open position, the company culture, etc. The best case scenario would be that you might just gain a new ally on the inside who could actually take your résumé directly to the decision-maker and give you a personal recommendation!

The bottom line is that if you ever expect an online application to lead to an interview (and eventually a job!) you need to differentiate yourself from the crowd. The best way to do that is to go beyond the online posting and try to reach out to actual people who work at the company who are in positions to help you. Hopefully, these suggestions will give you some ideas on how to do just that.

April 6, 2010 at 6:48 am 30 comments

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

Over the last year or two, the climate for job searching has changed radically. The more traditional methods of finding employment (scanning job boards, applying to online postings, sending résumés to companies, etc.) are no longer considered to be very effective by most people. It seems that everywhere you look for advice, job-seekers are hearing that magic word, “networking” as the answer to how to find a job in today’s challenging market. As a recruiter who regularly advises job-seekers, the question I’ve been getting more and more is: “Exactly how do I network?”  To put it another way: “What are the steps I should go through to effectively search for a job using ‘networking?'”  It seems like an obvious question, but finding a clear answer is not so easy.

SO – I will now attempt to provide a step-by-step guide for job-seekers on How to Network. This is a rather long blog … so relax, grab a cup of coffee, and read on! As a starting point, here are five basic steps I’ve identified that will serve as an outline for this guide:

THE FIVE STEPS FOR JOB-SEARCH NETWORKING:
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.
5) Following-Up and Staying in Touch With Your Network.

I’ve already written about some of these steps in great detail in former blog entries. In those areas, I will simply point you back to the prior blogs. You may also want to start by reading “Looking for Networking in All the Wrong Places” for an overview of the wrong vs. the right ways to network.

1) Building Your Target Company List.

  • Effective networking begins with creating a target list of companies likely to have jobs you are interested in based on your particular industry and specific job function, and then focusing your networking activities on reaching the decision-makers in those companies. Making this list for yourself is a critical first step, and it should become your road-map for moving forward with your job search.

    The 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. For now, I will assume that you know what industry niche and job function your background and skills logically lead you to … what positions you are clearly qualified for based on your experience. 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 targeted networking is likely to be. The key is to narrow your focus as specifically as possible.

    Once you’ve answered those questions for yourself, you are ready to identify companies in your geographic area that might have jobs that fit you. (If you are considering relocating, you can repeat this process with different locations to assemble multiple target lists.) Now you need to do 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!

    2) Identifying the Key People in Your Target Companies.

    Next is the task of identifying people in the companies on your target list that you want to reach out to. For each company, you’ll want to start a separate list for yourself of the key people you identify, and devise a way to keep track of what actions you take with each of those target people (e.g. sent intro email, left voice-mail message, spoke with on the phone, met with, followed-up with, etc.) You can do this with an Excel spreadsheet, a Word document, or using simple paper and pencil. Whatever works best for you. The key is to stay organized, and to remember who you’ve contacted (how & when), what the results were, and what the next step is for each target person.

    The people most valuable to you are those that 1) work in the area of the company that your potential job would be in; 2) actually do the job you want to have; or 3) hire and supervise the people who do the job you want – otherwise known as “decision-makers!” Obviously, #3 above is your ultimate goal. Numbers 1 and 2 can potentially lead you to #3. Figuring out who these people are, and how to contact them (email addresses, phone numbers, LinkedIn Profiles, etc.) can be very time-consuming … and can be done using many different methods. I would suggest concentrating on one company at a time, and then skipping to step 3 below (reaching out.) Then return to this step for the next company, and so on.

    The first place to look is in the information that your original database search returned, which often includes company contact information, decision-maker names, executive biographies, and more.

    LinkedIn would be the next place to look. Do an advanced search for anyone who works at one of your target companies. Limit the results to people who are local to you, and who work in your niche (using either keywords, or job titles.) People you’ll find using the LinkedIn People Search will either be connected to you directly (1st degree), connected to one of your direct connections (2nd degree), connected to someone else who is connected to one of your direct connections (3rd degree) or will share mutual LinkedIn Group Memberships with you. Many people on LinkedIn are not connected to you at all … however, you can only send LinkedIn messages to people that are connected to you in some way. Therefore, it is in your best interest to join as many LinkedIn Groups as you can. (Their limit is 50.) Join groups likely to be of interest to your industry. The more members a group has, the more likely you’ll snag contacts in your target list. If you go the the Groups screen and click on “Find a Group” and then “Search” the groups using keywords, the results will be ordered by membership size with the largest groups at the top. (Each group will have the number of members listed below it’s description.) Try using your city as a keyword to find locally based groups. Try adding terms specific to your niche to limit it to groups that your target people would be most likely to have joined. Another trick is to examine the profiles of people who you’ve already identified as key targets, and look to see what groups they are members of. Then simply request to join those groups. It sometimes takes a day or two to get “approved” … but almost every LinkedIn group approves all membership requests.

    A personal referral from someone you actually know to a real decision-maker in one of your target companies is the “Holy Grail” of this kind of networking. (The next best thing would be a referral to someone else who knows the decision-maker and can potentially refer you after you meet with them.) If you are able to contact a decision-maker with the intro statement: “I just met with a mutual friend of ours, Joe Shmoe, and he spoke very highly of you and suggested that I reach out to you …”  then your chances of scoring a meeting with that person are very high. This type of direct referral should always be a goal that you keep in the back of your mind as you go through these steps.

    If you happen to spot one of your target people on LinkedIn that is connected to someone else you know, then the most obvious thing for you to do is reach out to your 1st degree connection and ask them to refer or introduce you to the target. Of course, that only works if you actually know the person you are connected to, and that person actually knows your target. You cannot assume that every LinkedIn member actually knows every person on their own contact list. Many people accept invitations to connect from people they don’t actually know very well, or at all! The only way to find out is to ask, and you have nothing to lose by trying.

    Finally, show your target company list to literally everyone you know: family, friends, neighbors, business associates, clients, former customers, school alumni, church/synagogue members, etc. Ask everyone if they know anyone who works at those companies – especially in your specific niche area of those companies. If someone you know gives you a referral, ask for a phone number and an email address … and ask if you can use the referring person’s name when you contact them.

    3) Reaching Out to Your Targeted People.

    Now that you have your target company list, and you’ve identified people at those companies that you want to network with, it’s time to actually contact those people. This is a step that I’ve already described in a previous post. Read “Targeted Networking: How to Effectively Reach Out.” In that posting, you’ll find details on my two-step method for approaching specific people you’ve already identified on your target list, with the goal of setting up a meeting with them. This involves 1) an intro email, and then 2) a follow-up phone call. I’ve even provided a sample email template that anyone can adapt and use.

    4) Talking / Meeting With Your Targets.

    OK, so you’ve reached out to your targets, and some have responded to you with invitations to talk – either by phone, or in person. Naturally, a face-to-face meeting is preferable and WAY more effective than a phone conversation. However, many people are simply too busy to want to meet with you in person … so you take what you can get! If they do agree to meet you in person, you should suggest meeting for coffee – or in some other informal setting.

    So, exactly what should your goal be for this conversation or meeting? First, let’s talk about what you should NOT be doing. You should NOT start by giving the person your résumé (unless they specifically ask for it.) You should NOT ask for a job. You should NOT ask the person if their company is hiring, and then ask them to help you get in front of the hiring manager. All of those hard-sell approaches will turn people off faster than a sleazy used car salesperson! They’ll feel put on the spot and taken advantage of, and they’ll immediately regret having agreed to talk with you! Instead, the approach should be the classic networking tactic: “Since you are an expert in your field, I’d like to find out more about your background and experiences, and ask for your career advice and help.”  Flattering the person and simply asking for their advice and expertise is much more likely to score you points than sounding like a desperate job-seeker.

    The goal of any networking meeting with a person from your target list is very simple: you want them to get to know you and vice-versa – in an informal way. This is not an interview. It’s a conversation with a potential networking partner. You should ask to hear more about their background. You want to learn more about their industry, their job, their company. You should wait until the person asks about you, and then tell them your story. In doing so, you’ll want to be brief, and hit the highlights of your experiences and areas of expertise. You should clearly describe what type of position you are hoping to uncover through your networking activities. You also want to make clear that while you are, indeed “in transition” … you don’t expect that person to have a job for you. Rather, you hope that person can give you some expert advice – perhaps point you in the right direction, or suggest other people they might recommend you talk with.

    Most decision-makers you’ll network with won’t have a job for you that day. Again, your goal should be to simply have them get to know and remember you. Show them your target list. They might know of an opening at another company, or be able to refer you to someone else at another target company on your list. Or perhaps they’ll hear about a job elsewhere later, or a job will open up in their own company tomorrow, or next week, or next month. You want them to know who you are, and most importantly to LIKE YOU and REMEMBER YOU! It’s all about being in front of the right person at the right time.

    One more very important point about meetings: while it will be obvious that as the job-seeker, you have much more to gain from this networking meeting than the other person, you should still attempt to offer to help your target. Networking only works when both parties feel they are getting something out of the partnership – that it’s truly a 2-way street. Read “The Art of Giving: the Key to Effective Networking” for more on this essential concept, and for suggestions on specific ways that you can actually offer to help a target. Don’t make the all-too-common mistake of taking without giving. One-way partnerships usually don’t work very well.

    5) Following-Up and Staying in Touch With Your Network.

    The final step in the Networking process is following-up. [Read “Following Up: An Essential Key to Success” for more on why this step is so important.] Staying in touch with the key people you’ve talked with and/or met with is critical. 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.”

    As suggested above in Step #2, you need to keep careful records on everyone you talk or meet with from your target list. The first thing you should do is write a thank-you email immediately after a first networking conversation or meeting. (Some people recommend sending an old-fashioned hand-written thank-you note to stand out from the crowd. While there’s certainly nothing wrong with doing that, I say send an email first because it is so immediate – and it also puts your contact information in their email inbox where they can easily find you later.) Then, you need 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!

    I try to send an individual follow-up email to each of my target contacts at least once a month. (Mass emails to a large list of addresses is a big no-no … send each person an individual email, and add a personal comment to each one if possible.) Follow-up emails should include any updates on your job-seeking activities, a list of every significant meeting that you’ve had since your last email, and a reminder that you are still “in transition.” It’s especially important to let a contact know if you meet with someone they specifically referred you to – and thank them profusely for that referral. This entire process is a long-term strategy that can be very time-consuming, and it may not produce quick results (i.e. a job.) It will, however, position you well for long-term success in today’s highly competitive job market.


    December 17, 2009 at 10:32 am 21 comments

  • Top 10 Most Helpful Things for Job-Seekers

    [Updated, December 2015 …]

    Recently I allowed myself to vent when I published my list of “Top 10 Most Annoying Things for Job-Seekers.” I’m usually a much more positive and optimistic “glass half full” kind of person, so I made the promise to return to a more uplifting tone in future blog postings. The most obvious way I could think of to do that is to flip around that last list and to publish my list of “Top 10 Most Helpful Things for Job-Seekers!”

    Now I realize that being unemployed is, by its very nature, an unpleasant state – to say the least! However, there are obviously many things that can be of great help to a job-seeker. Some of them are relatively new and innovative tools and technologies, and others are tried and true things that have been around seemingly forever. Once again, I’m sure I’m missing some important things here … but without further adieu, here’s my list in no particular order …

    TOP 10 MOST HELPFUL THINGS FOR JOB-SEEKERS:

    10. The Internet (Free Info, Job Search Resources, Company Websites, etc.)
    It’s so easy to forget how relatively new the internet is. (The internet was still in its infancy as recently as the 1990’s.) Today, the amount of information that is free and available at the touch of a button is mind boggling! Resources for job-seekers that would have taken weeks or months and a lot of legwork to track down in the past are now right there on your screen at home! Job postings, résumé writing help, interviewing tips, detailed information about companies and the people who work there, salary surveys, career advice, relevant blogs … the list is seemingly endless and truly remarkable.

    9. LinkedIn and other Social Media Networking Sites
    While technically a subset of #10, the recent mainstream popularity of online Social Networking Sites – and in particular the more business-oriented LinkedIn – has radically changed the way jobs-seekers connect with potential employers, recruiters find candidates, and companies search for and uncover details about potential employees. Creating an effective online profile on LinkedIn is one of the most important things a job-seeker can do right now. It has certainly revolutionized the methodology of networking as a job-seeking activity. And it’s hard to believe that it’s still free! In addition to LinkedIn, there are dozens of other lesser-known Social Networking sites that are also changing the way business gets done and people communicate in the “Web 2.0” age. To see an extensive list of nearly 300 Social Media sites, just click on the “Share” button to the right of this blog, on the side-bar.

    8. Public Library Database Access
    This one never ceases to amaze me … and so many people are still unaware of it. Almost every public library now provides free online access to dozens of professional business databases like Dun & Bradstreet’s Million Dollar Database Premier, ReferenceUSA Business, and many others. This gives you access to full information on millions of companies, including every business in the U.S. and the leading businesses in Canada. You can research companies for job searches, lead generation, marketing and simple company look-ups using multiple search criteria, including geography, industry, size, and specialty fields. Information includes contact information, decision-maker names, executive biographies, and more. Staffing Firms use to pay thousands of dollars to get access to these resources. Now anyone can log into these databases from any home computer with nothing more than a public library card number! Ask your local librarian for help if you don’t know how to do this. It’s your tax dollars at work!

    7. Email
    The use of email is possibly the most significant change in the way people in the business world communicate with each other over the last 15-20 years. Most professionals respond much more favorably to an email approach than a cold phone call. Executives, company representatives, HR people and hiring managers rarely answer their phones anymore. Emails are much more likely to get through to the person you are trying to reach if it is targeted properly, and written well. That certainly doesn’t guarantee a response … and I am certainly not suggesting that email communication should replace phone calls or in-person meetings. In the end, direct live communication with actual people is the ONLY way business gets done, decisions get made, and people get hired. However, a well-written email can still be the most effective way to get your “foot in the door” – and it’s free and easy!

    6. Cell Phones / Smart Phones
    We all tend to take cell phones for granted these days, and it’s so easy to forget how recent it is that we’ve become so dependent on them! All you have to do is watch reruns of popular TV sitcoms from just a few years ago on TV Land or Nick at Nite to be reminded of how relatively new they are. (Does anyone still remember “Car Phones?” How about Public Phone Booths?!) The pervasiveness of simple cell phones has totally changed the way business gets done in today’s fast-paced and mobile world. It really wasn’t that long ago that we were all tethered to our desk phones at work, or our home phones. If you got a call back from a prospect that you left a message for, and you happened to not be by your phone – you were out of luck! Now, our phones follow us everywhere … and it’s rare for a person who is expecting a call to miss it due to being away. And, of course, those people who are lucky (and affluent) enough to have a “smart phone” (iPhone, Droid, etc.) can combine all of the above mentioned things (#10 through #6) — literally half of this entire list — in one device held in the palm of their hands! It’s starting to look like Star Trek had it right!

    5. COBRA
    Losing your job is a huge problem … but losing your employer-related health insurance can be much worse. In fact, it can be a matter of life and death! In 1986, congress passed the “Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act” (COBRA) which entitles anyone who was involuntarily terminated from a job at a company with at least 20 employees or more to extend their company’s group Health Insurance Benefits for a period of up to 18 months. Of course, anyone using COBRA must pay the full cost of those benefits. Extending your former employer’s group health insurance coverage at full cost with COBRA can be prohibitively expensive for many people. However, in most cases that cost would be even higher if you tried to get the equivalent coverage with private health insurance — although with the advent of the Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. “Obamacare”) that may or may not still be true for everyone. The jury is still out on that one! [For more detailed information on COBRA, go to this website from the Department of Labor: “FAQs for Employees About COBRA Continuation Health Coverage.”]

    4. Job-Seeker Networking Groups
    Not to be confused with those mass “Networking Events” held at hotels or bars when everyone mills around trading business cards, Job-Seeker Networking Groups (sometimes called “Job Clubs”) are popping up all over the country. They range from small, industry-specific groups to larger community-based groups. Often meeting in churches or community centers, these groups are almost all free and offer all sorts of advice and help, résumé reviews, interview tips, guest speakers, private websites with job leads and discussions, and best of all – support from your peers! It’s an excellent way for job-seekers to navigate through the often confusing steps needed to conduct an effective search, and it’s also a great way to meet helpful and supportive people – many of whom are in the same boat as you. [As a starting point, check out his state-by-state list of job-seeker support groups: “Directory of Networking and Job Search Support Groups by State.”]

    3. Industry Associations
    My advice to job-seekers has always been to focus on a target list of companies, and to try to limit networking activities to meeting with people specific to their industry niche who can connect them with actual decision-makers in their target companies. [See “Looking for Networking in All the Wrong Places.”] Joining an Industry Association that is specific to your particular specialty niche is one of the best ways to meet such people. There are often regular local chapter meetings featuring guest speakers on topics of interest to that industry. There is almost always a time at those meetings to mingle and “network.” Membership fees can sometimes be quite costly … but I’ve found that many of those professional associations will either greatly reduce or even totally waive the membership fees for people who are “in transition” (there’s that lovely euphemism again!) If you don’t see a reduced fee advertised on their website, it never hurts to contact someone in their membership area and simply ask!

    2. Networking Connections
    This is the lifeblood of modern job searching in today’s challenging market. [Read “How to Network: A Step-by-Step Guide for Job Searching” for details on how to network your way to a job.] The main goal of every job-seeker should be to cultivate and maintain a strong network of industry-specific people who are in positions to help you. They can give you very targeted advice, alert you to opportunities in your specific niche industry, and they can introduce you to other key people to expand your own network with. I’ve found my networking contacts to be incredibly helpful and supportive. I often get emails or calls with tips on positions at other companies that have not been advertised or posted anywhere. I’ve also received numerous high-level referrals to other decision-makers through my networking contacts. These people are gold … staying in touch with them is critical. And make sure you give back as much as possible – networking should always be a 2-way street! [See “The Art of Giving: the Key to Effective Networking.”]

    1. Support from Family and Friends
    Never underestimate the power of a strong network of family and friends. Staying positive through a period of unemployment can be extremely challenging. Having the support of your spouse or significant other, parents, children, siblings, friends, and community members is huge, and will go a long way toward keeping that positive energy necessary to succeed. [See “The Power of a Positive Attitude.”] They may not be able to provide you with useful job leads or referrals … but they can give you something even harder to find: friendship, unconditional love and support!

    December 11, 2009 at 12:05 am 16 comments


    Michael Spiro

    About the Author:

    Michael Spiro has been a 3rd-Party Recruiter and Account Executive for nearly 20 years. He is currently the Director of Recruiting / NE Ohio Region for Experis Finance, 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
             Pass?

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

     The Truth About Lying on
             Résumés

     "Why Did You Leave Your
             Last Job?"

    Networking:
     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

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

     Phone 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"

    Age Discrimination:
     Age Discrimination: Secret
             Conversations Revealed

     Age Discrimination:
             Exposing Inconvenient
             Truths

     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
             Hear

    ►  The Dirty Truth About
             Misleading Unemployment
             Statistics

    ►  Let the Jobs Find You:
             Making Yourself More
             "Searchable"

     "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
             Rut!

     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
             Bridges

     The Power of a Positive
             Attitude

     Why Job Hunting is a
             Consultative Sales
             Position

     Top 10 Most Helpful Things
             for Job Seekers

     Top 10 Most Annoying
             Things for Job Seekers

     New Year's Resolutions for
             Unemployed Job-
             Seekers

    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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