Posts tagged ‘networking’

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

I hear a lot of complaints from job-seekers. Obviously, when someone is out of work they encounter a lot of frustrating situations. It’s often said that looking for a job is itself a full-time job. The process of searching and interviewing for a job is actually a sales position. You are “selling” an intangible … yourself! You are selling your experience, your skills, your personality, your talent, and your abilities to solve a potential employer’s problems. [Read “Why Job Hunting is a Consultative Sales Position” for more on that topic.]

Being rejected or ignored is a regular part of the job-seeking routine. It’s the nature of the beast. Professional sales people may be used to facing rejection on a daily basis … but most others are not. Emotionally, that can take a huge toll on a person’s attitude, which is a big problem when maintaining a positive attitude is so critical to a job-seeker’s chances of success. [Read “The Power of a Positive Attitude.”] Professional sales people do not fear rejection, nor do they take it personally. They simply plow forward, knowing that the more times they hear “no,” the closer they are to a “yes.” However, I realize that job-seekers are not all professional sales people, and rejection is much harder for some to handle than others. [Read “The Double-Whammy of Rejection and Isolation” for more on this.]

Of all the complaints I hear from job-seekers, by far the most common one is people not returning phone calls. Not too far behind that is a lack of response from emails sent. 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.]

I understand why most online applications go unanswered. The majority of those applications go directly to an HR Department that is flooded with resumes and candidates. Sadly, many of those applicants are not truly qualified for the positions they are applying for. Most recruiters and HR people are looking for exact matches to their job requirements, and are under a tremendous amount of time pressure to screen an overwhelming flood of applicants. [Read “The Brutal Truth on How Résumés Get Eliminated” for more on how that screening process works.] They simply don’t have enough time to respond to each and every application they receive. I get that.

However, having said that, what I don’t get or accept is the seemingly total lack of a good old fashioned “customer service” attitude at so many places. There are certain companies that are famous for their top-notch, world-class customer service. Neiman Marcus and Disney are two that immediately come to mind. Those companies are known to bend over backwards to treat everyone who comes in contact with them – both their existing customers and their potential customers – like royalty. People flock to do business with them in large part due to that customer-centric attitude and the positive experience it produces. Executives from Fortune 1000 companies in all sorts of diverse industries fly to Disney’s Corporate Headquarters in Orlando every year and pay tens of thousands of dollars to take Customer Service Workshops from them in order to learn how they do what they do, and to emulate their fantastic model.

Now, when someone sends an application or an email with a résumé to a company, and then gets absolutely no response … what kind of message is that company sending? Do they not realize that every negative impression they create by such non-responsiveness trickles down to their consumer base? Do they not understand that all the dollars they spend on their website and media advertising designed to increase their company’s positive image are undone by such non-responsiveness? Don’t they get the simple fact that totally ignoring an applicant is just plain unprofessional and quite frankly, rude?!

One easy solution that any company could institute is SO simple. They could have an automated program that sends an acknowledgment to each applicant explaining that their résumé has been received, and will be reviewed. It could also include a simple disclaimer that only qualified applicants will receive a further response. Personally, I think those automated responses should also include the name and contact information for an actual live person who is overseeing the search for that position – but I also realize the unfortunate truth that most companies are afraid to identify a specific individual and invite direct inquiries to that person. It’s much easier for them to dodge applicants and avoid the responsibility of returning emails or phone calls if they keep the identity of their HR screeners or corporate recruiters a secret!

I’ve instituted an automated response system like the one described above for any applicants contacting my company, Midas Recruiting, so I know that it’s not that difficult to do. Now I realize that when any company sends an automated “canned email” response saying they’ve received a person’s résumé, it generally means nothing … but at least the applicant knows they received it! Unfortunately, most companies don’t even do that simple thing.

Phone calls are another story. I can understand why most companies don’t return most emails … their recruiters and HR screeners are often overwhelmed with hundreds of emails each day, and simply cannot answer every one. But voice-mail messages? I’m sorry, but I have NO patience for people who don’t return calls. As a recruiter, I always made it my rule to return every phone message I got within 24 hours – usually the same day. In my experience, I’d only get one phone message for every 100-200 emails – an unfortunate sign of the times. It’s so easy to hit “send” and so hard to pick up the phone and actually try talking to someone! I feel that anyone who makes the effort to call me deserves a response. To do otherwise is just rude. I expect the same professional courtesy from the people that I call and leave messages for, as well. Maybe I’m just naïve … but to me, that’s just basic customer service!

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July 6, 2010 at 12:01 am 26 comments

The Double-Whammy of Rejection and Isolation

A reader of Recruiter Musings recently added the following comment: “Probably the three hardest elements of a job search are organizing your time, battling feelings of isolation and keeping up your enthusiasm as your efforts are constantly rejected or ignored.” I agree wholeheartedly with that sentiment! I’ve already addressed the issue of organizing your time in great detail in a prior blog posting. [Read “Time Management: Recipe for a Well-Balanced Job Search” for more details on that topic.] Battling feelings of isolation and keeping up your enthusiasm in the face of rejection are topics that are very much connected to each other … and I thought they deserved a more thorough treatment here.

Being rejected or ignored is a regular part of the job-seeking routine. It’s the nature of the beast. Sales people may be used to facing rejection on a daily basis … but most others are not. Emotionally, that can take a huge toll on a person’s attitude, which is a big problem when maintaining a positive attitude is so critical to a job-seeker’s chances of success. [Read “The Power of a Positive Attitude.”] Professional sales people do not fear rejection, nor do they take it personally. They simply plow forward, knowing that the more times they hear “no,” the closer they are to a “yes.” However, I realize that job-seekers are not all professional sales people, and rejection is much harder for some to handle than others.

In addition, job-seeking can often be a very lonely experience. It’s often said that looking for a job is itself a full-time job. That job is much like being self-employed and/or working from home, which is a situation that invites feelings of isolation. Job-seekers spend a great deal of time alone – in front of their computers, researching companies, searching for job leads, trying to figure out who to contact for networking, etc. That isolation combined with the repeated pattern of rejection can be a real “Double-Whammy” … and a very tough combination for many job-seekers to overcome.

While there is no magic pill that will turn a negative attitude into a positive one, or permanently cure loneliness … there are many things a person can do to help break out of the isolation and negative patterns of job-seeking routines. Most of these ideas have the same, simple and obvious purpose – they are designed to get you up and out of the house, and interacting with other live people. Putting meaningful, job-search related appointments on your calendar, getting dressed up and out of the house, and meeting with other people does wonders for the psyche!

Following are just a few concrete suggestions. Parts of these were copied from my own prior blog articles here on Recruiter Musings, so regular readers may recognize these ideas. Still, when put into a different context, I feel they are ideas that are worth repeating and expanding upon here:

  • Reach Out to People and Set Up Meetings:
    The internet is a wonderful tool for job-seekers. It can also be a huge distraction and waster of time. Make sure you are not spending your days in front of a screen without having actual meaningful conversations with people that are part of your job-search plan. Answering online job postings is probably the least effective way to find a job. Limit the amount of time you spend doing that to under 10%. Sending emails to targeted people is often a good first step in the right direction … but in the end, direct live communication with actual people is the ONLY way business gets done, decisions get made, and people get hired. Overcome your fear, stop worrying about rejection, step outside of your comfort zone and PICK UP THE PHONE! Then, whenever possible, set up face-to-face meetings with people who are either target contacts, or people who might lead you to those targets. Meet with them informally at first – for coffee, breakfast, lunch, etc. The more meetings you have, the more likely it is that you’ll advance yourself up the networking ladder and uncover new opportunities that you would not have heard about otherwise. [For strategies on how to reach out to potential new contacts and set up meetings with them, read “Targeted Networking: How to Effectively Reach Out.”]
  • Join New Networking Groups
    There are some really great local Networking Groups (sometimes called “Job Clubs”) in almost every community. They’re easy to find with a simple Google search. Many job-seekers attend regular meetings of those groups, and derive a lot of help, guidance, and advice … and also meet many other job-seekers who can often be very helpful and supportive. If you’ve already been doing this for a while, you many find that attending those same meetings month after month can get repetitive – and you keep seeing the same people over and over. If so, try seeking out a new local group or two and drop in on their meetings. You just may find a fresh perspective, hear a new idea, or meet new people that you can add to your network. Break out of your rut! [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.”]
  • Take Classes and Acquire New Skills
    Being out of work provides you, for better or worse, with an abundance of extra time on your hands. Consider expanding your knowledge and skills during your time off by taking a class or two. Public libraries and local community centers have many such classes that are often totally free, or very inexpensive. Government subsidies are also available to help pay for many other programs and courses – often of a technical nature – designed to “re-train” people by expanding their skill sets and make them more marketable. Besides acquiring new skills, taking classes gives you a sense of purpose … and also affords you opportunities to meet more new people!
  • Do Volunteer Work
    Many job-seekers turn to volunteer work as a way of staying busy and feeling useful while unemployed. Besides the obvious personal benefits that come from the act of giving of yourself, sharing your time, helping others and upping your “karma” score, volunteering can often get your “foot in the door” with a company that might potentially hire you in the future. Showing people what you can do, how well you can do it, and demonstrating your exceptional work ethic – even if it’s not in a paid position – can bring you to the attention of professionals who notice such things, and reward them when opportunities open up. And again, it surrounds you with new people that you can interact and network with. You simply never know who you’ll meet – and who those people may know – until you put yourself out there!

Hopefully, you’ll see a theme emerging here. It’s all about people contact – both on the phone, and (more importantly) in person. The more people you meet and network with, the less likely it is that you’ll feel isolated and alone, and the more your attitude will improve. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again here: Networking is the best way to spend your time as a job-seeker. [Read “How to Network: A Step-by-Step Guide for Job Searching” for more details on the mechanics of networking your way to a job.] The more meetings you set up, and the more live conversations you have, the closer you’ll be to hearing that illusive “yes,” which is your ultimate goal!

May 10, 2010 at 12:01 am 15 comments

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

Not too long ago, I overheard a job-seeker deliver an “Elevator Pitch” to a prospective hiring manager. After about 3 or 4 minutes, the manager stopped the speaker and said: “Is this your ‘Elevator Pitch’? … because if so we must be on a skyscraper – I think we’ve just reached the 40th floor and we’re still going up!” How embarrassing! Clearly that job-seeker had droned on way too long and was boring the manager. Most listeners would simply shut down at that point and say nothing … but this particular manager (an HR professional who was actually trying to help the job-seeker) decided to offer some blunt but much needed feedback. Needless to say, the lesson was learned! That job-seeker went home, re-worked the Elevator Pitch, and was much more effective the next time!

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.

Elevator Pitches can be quite versatile. In interviews, a well-written Elevator Pitch can be the response to the common opener:  “So, tell me about yourself.”  In social situations, a shortened version can be the quick answer to that often-heard question:  “So, what do you do?”  Elevator Pitches can also easily be adapted for use as either an email or a voice-mail message.

So what are the important elements of an effective Elevator Pitch? Here are the key components, broken down from the perspective of a job-seeker:

Keep It Short!
The entire speech should be no longer than 2 minutes – the accepted rule of thumb is between 30 seconds and 2 minutes. Shorter is better, but not so short that you fail to get your main points across. Too long, and you risk overwhelming your listener with too much information and they’ll tune you out. You might even consider having a couple of different versions of the speech – one complete version and another shorter, more abbreviated version for situations where your time is more limited. Either way, what you say in the first 15 seconds is the most important part. Why? Because the sad truth is that most people have incredibly short attention spans. As a result, they need to be “hooked” by what you say right up front. Any listener should know exactly what you do within the first sentence or two. An effective Elevator Pitch should give your audience just enough information so that they will understand who you are, what you do and what you are looking for, and want to know more.

Keep It Simple! Use Language Your Grandmother Would Understand.
Describe what you do, and what your target goals are in simple, everyday language. After saying your name, start with a simple statement of what you’ve done (job title, industry niche, etc.) the fact that you are “in transition,” and what type of position you are now seeking as a next step in your career. Don’t use industry-speak, technical jargon, or cute marketing catch-phrases. Ask yourself this question: would my grandmother, my mother or my kids understand exactly what I do if they heard the first few lines of my speech? I heard one job-seeker start his Elevator Pitch this way: “I’ve done many things over the years, but mostly I’m known as a Problem Solver. I’m looking for an opportunity to use that unique skill to help another company overcome obstacles and grow its bottom line.”  Well guess what, Mr. “Problem Solver” … I have a problem – and that is that I have NO idea what you actually do! What is that person’s job title and function? What industry is he experienced in? Exactly what type of job is he looking for? None of the information he followed that opener with zeroed in on those critical questions. By the time he got around to being more specific, he was way past the point where he lost his audience’s interest! Keep it simple!

Make It Compelling.
Once you’ve established exactly what you do, and what you are looking for, you need to sell yourself. Talk about your successes. Highlight what you’ve done – your concrete accomplishments or skills, rather than intangible concepts. What differentiates you from others who do what you do? What is your specific area of expertise? Put yourself in the listener’s shoes and realize that most decision-makers are thinking of that famous marketing acronym: “WIIFM” (What’s in it for me?) Explain as briefly as possible why you are someone who could help a future employer. How can you identify and then solve their problems? Why should someone hire you? The trick here is to not go overboard or sound self-centered – and you certainly don’t want to seem overly pushy like a used-car salesperson. Your goal is not to “close the deal” … rather, you simply want to “set the hook,” start a conversation, and create just enough interest to pique the listener’s curiosity and make them want to hear more about you.

An Example.
There’s no way to make a generic “template” for an Elevator Pitch, since each one is so unique. Specific job areas, industry types, levels of experience, and target goals require different types of speeches. This isn’t a “one size fits all” situation. However, at the risk of sounding self-serving, following is an example of an Elevator Pitch I’ve used for myself. Compare this speech to the above-mentioned components to see how it was constructed. I’ve timed this out to well under two minutes. Feel free to use this as an starting point, and adjust or re-write it to fit your own situation:
“Hi, my name is Michael Spiro, and I am an experienced Recruiter with 9 years of success in the 3rd-party, agency-based staffing world. I’m in transition right now, and my current focus is to shift away from outside agency work, and move into a “Corporate Recruiter” role inside a company somewhere in Northeast Ohio. I’ve worked for two of the largest search firms in North America – MRI for 6 years and Kforce for 3 years. At those agencies I recruited and placed very hard-to-find candidates in many different industries. Most of those were for jobs in Information Technology, as well as in Sales and Finance. When our client companies had difficult searches where they simply couldn’t find the top talent they were looking for – I’m the guy they’d come to for help … and I won several awards for those recruiting successes. My real expertise is in the use of creative methods to locate candidates, including extensive networking, advanced internet searches, and most importantly – using all the latest online Social Media (like LinkedIn and Facebook) to find passive, non-job-seeking candidates. By moving over to an internal corporate position, I’m hoping to be able to continue recruiting top talent, but to do it from the inside of a company so I can also concentrate on my passion for building and maintaining relationships with internal business partners and decision-makers. Again, my name is Michael Spiro.”
Now here’s a shorter, 30-second version of that same speech for use in situations where time is more limited:
“Hi, my name is Michael Spiro, and I am an experienced Recruiter with 9 years of success in the 3rd-party, agency-based staffing world. I’m in transition right now, and my current focus is to shift away from outside agency work, and move into a “Corporate Recruiter” role inside a company. My expertise is in the use of creative recruiting methods to locate hard-to-find top talent, which I plan to continue to do from the inside of an organization. Again, my name is Michael Spiro.”
By the way … it’s often effective to repeat your name a second time at the end of the speech – especially when speaking in a more formal group situation. The reasoning is that people don’t remember names the first time they hear them … but after the speech is delivered, a second hearing of your name will be more likely to sink in. You can eliminate that second repeating of your name when you meet someone in a more personal, one-on-one setting.

Sound Natural. Practice Your Delivery.
Nothing is worse than sounding like you are reading a script. By all means, write your speech down and memorize it … but then try practicing it out loud. Practice to yourself in a mirror. Practice into a recording device or a video camera and listen back to yourself. Practice on your family and friends. Practice in job-seeker networking groups and ask for feedback. As you hear yourself reciting your speech, ask yourself: does this sound like my natural speaking voice? Are these words I use in everyday conversations? Could someone from outside of my industry who hears this easily figure out what I do and what I’m looking for? If not, change it! Use your own natural language. Use words that sound natural coming from your mouth. Sound conversational and comfortable. And sound enthusiastic and excited! When you deliver your Elevator Pitch, if you sound natural and upbeat, and you truly believe in what you are saying … chances are so will the listener!

            

May 1, 2010 at 3:02 pm 15 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

“In Transition” and Other Awkward Euphemisms

“So what do you do?”  It’s such an innocent and often-asked question. It’s a natural ice-breaker – you hear it whenever you meet a new person, whether at a networking event, a business gathering or a social encounter of almost any kind. To an unemployed job-seeker, however, it’s a loaded question that can sometimes cause squirming and discomfort. Exactly what do you say? Do you simply announce your job category or title (e.g. “I’m a Sales Manager,” “I’m a Computer Engineer,” “I’m an Accountant,” etc.) and hope they don’t embarrass you by asking where you are currently working? Or, do you take the initiative and immediately go on to explain that you are not actually working right now … and in fact you are looking for a job?

If you subscribe to the notion that Networking is considered by most job-seekers to be the most likely activity to produce success in today’s ultra-challenging, highly competitive job market … then you really should be prepared to talk about your job-seeking status to just about everyone you encounter. [Read “Looking for Networking in All the Wrong Places” for an overview of the wrong vs. the right ways to network.] The question is, what term do you use? Saying “I’m in transition” has become one of the most widely accepted euphemisms in use today for being out of work. Like most euphemisms, it’s a term that is meant to make an unpleasant thing sound more palatable.

I got to thinking … what other euphemisms could a person use to say they’re unemployed? So here’s a list of miscellaneous terms I’ve heard that one might use, ordered from the most commonly used and professional-sounding, down to the most ridiculous, ill-advised and just plain funny:

Euphemisms for Being Out of Work:
●  In Transition
●  Between Jobs
●  Unemployed
●  Self-Employed
●  Consultant
●  Freelancer
●  Domestic Engineer
●  On an Unpaid Sabbatical
●  Professional Volunteer
●  Professional Social Networker
●  Professional Job-Networker
●  Professional Job-Searcher
●  Professional Job-Seeker
●  Professional Blogger
●  Job Market Researcher
●  Employment Challenged
●  Career Challenged
●  Taking a Break from Regular Work
●  Embarking on a Journey of Self-Discovery
●  On the Dole

“Why did you leave your last job?”  Answering that often uncomfortable question is another situation where euphemisms are frequently used. That question comes up during almost every interview, and on most job applications. Explaining why you left your last job – or for that matter, pretty much every job listed on your résumé – is something that certainly requires some thought. The answer you give must be both truthful and somehow palatable. It should ideally be easily understood and logical, and yet at the same time not cast you in a negative light to your potential future employer.

Of course, if it was your decision to leave a company and move on to another job elsewhere – it’s usually pretty easy to say something like: “I left for a better opportunity.”  The problem arises when leaving was not your idea. If you were let go “for cause” (meaning your actions caused you to be fired) it’s the most difficult scenario to explain going forward. You need to tread carefully. On the other hand, if you lost a job due to circumstances beyond your control (e.g. company-wide layoffs, poor economic conditions, etc.) then using the right euphemism can often satisfy an interviewer’s questions and explain gaps between jobs.

So again, here’s a list of miscellaneous terms I’ve heard that one might use to explain why you left a job. They are ordered from the most commonly used and professional-sounding, down to the most ridiculous, ill-advised and just plain funny:

Euphemisms for Why You Left a Job:
●  Laid Off
●  Downsized
●  Position was Eliminated
●  Position Required Relocation
●  Department was Eliminated
●  Department was Relocated
●  Office was Closed
●  Company Relocated
●  Company Went Out of Business
●  Contract was Not Renewed
●  Position was Outsourced
●  Workforce Reduction
●  Company Streamlined
●  Company Restructured
●  Took Early Retirement
●  Transitioned
●  Optimized
●  Rightsized
●  Offered a Buyout
●  Offered a Package
●  Severenced
●  Severed
●  Career Downgrade
●  Made Redundant
●  Turned Loose
●  Given Walking Papers
●  Fired Without Cause
●  Fired For Cause
●  Axed
●  Riffed
●  Sacked
●  Canned
●  Discharged
●  Let Go
●  Displaced
●  Decommissioned
●  Involuntary Separation from Employer
●  Involuntary Retirement
●  Terminated
●  Terminated with Prejudice
●  Shown the Door
●  Received a Pink Slip
●  Given the Boot
●  Voted Off the Island
●  Put Out to Pasture
●  Shit-Canned
●  Went Into the Light

With both of these lists, feel free to combine the words or phrases in different ways to create new variations. And if you’ve heard any other euphemisms for either being out of work, or for leaving a job that aren’t already included on either of these lists … feel free to add your new terms in the comments section below!

March 30, 2010 at 12:38 am 13 comments

Getting Un-Stuck from your Rut!

“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” This is one of my all-time favorite quotes. OK, trivia experts: can anyone identify the actual author of this quote? (Hint: contrary to popular myth, it was not Albert Einstein or Benjamin Franklin!)¹

Did you ever feel like your job-search is stuck in a rut? Are you doing the same things over and over, and expecting different results? Do you feel as though you are doing all the “right things” but still getting nowhere? Are you wondering why your carefully planned, well-thought-out plan is not producing results (i.e. a job!?) Sometimes you need to step back, re-assess what you are doing and consider alternative strategies. Sometimes you need to get out of your “comfort zone” and try new things that may seem scary at first, but ultimately may move you forward.

Job-seekers often get stuck in a rut, and don’t know how to get out of it. Let’s face it – the job-seeking road is often a very long one, and is full of repeated instances of rejection. It’s the nature of the beast. Sales people may be used to facing rejection on a daily basis … but most others are not. Emotionally, that can take a huge toll on a person’s attitude … which is a big problem when maintaining a positive attitude is so critical to a job-seeker’s chances of success. [Read “The Power of a Positive Attitude.”]

Here are a few suggestions for things to do to get unstuck from a job-seeking rut. These are ideas that may just shake up your routine a little, get you moving in a different direction, get you talking to new people with new ideas, or simply re-energize you.

Re-Visit and Expand Your Target Company List
You already have a target list of companies that is your road-map for networking your way to a job, right? NO??? If not, Do Not Pass GO, and proceed directly to “How to Network: A Step-By-Step Guide for Job Searching” for instructions on how to create a target list and use it to conduct an effective networking campaign. Assuming you do already have such a list, and you’ve been working off of it for a while, this may be a good time to re-evaluate that list and consider expanding it to include new companies that you didn’t consider before. Go back to square one and re-create your list with wider parameters so that you have fresh new places to target. Having new targets can re-energize a stale search plan.

Set Measurable Daily Goals For Yourself
Time management can be a real challenge for someone with nothing but time on their hands! You’ve heard it before – looking for a job is a full-time job in and of itself. It would be easy to say that you should put in a full 8 hours a day, 5 days a week doing it … but that’s a bit much for most people. I would suggest that a minimum goal should be 4-5 hours a day. That’s time spent online, on the phone, traveling to and from meetings, and (most valuable of all) actual face time with people who are part of your targeted search plan. Failure to plan out your days or prioritize your time are common pitfalls that can easily lead to getting stuck in a rut. One way to avoid that is to set measurable goals for yourself that you can realistically achieve. For example, here are two suggested goals you can try: 1) Research and contact two new companies each day; 2) Talk with three job-search related people each day (actual conversations … leaving messages or sending emails don’t count.) I’m sure you can think of other similar goals that make sense for yourself. Whatever goals you set, make sure they are both measurable and easily achievable, and keep track of each day’s progress for yourself. This will help you stay on task and not waste too much time with useless distractions. [Read “Time Management: Recipe for a Well-Balanced Job Search” for more details on how to prioritize your time.]

Spend Less Time Online, and More Time Actually Talking with People
The internet is a wonderful tool for job-seekers. It can also be a huge distraction and waster of time. Make sure you are not spending your days in front of a screen without having actual meaningful conversations with people that are part of your job-search plan. Answering online job postings is one of the least effective ways to find a job. Limit the amount of time you spend doing that to around 10%. Sending emails to targeted people is often a good first step in the right direction … but in the end, direct live communication with actual people is the ONLY way business gets done, decisions get made, and people get hired. Overcome your fear, stop worrying about rejection, step outside of your comfort zone and PICK UP THE PHONE! Better yet, set up appointments with people connected to your target list, get out of the house and MEET WITH PEOPLE!

Re-Connect With Contacts You May Have Forgotten About
Make yourself a list of each and every significant person you’ve contacted about your search since you began the process. If you’ve been searching for a while now, there are probably people on that list that you’ve let slide and not talked with in a long time. Go back and re-visit with those people now. Let them know what you’ve been doing since you last spoke with them – who you’ve met with, what companies you’ve applied to or interviewed with, what decision-makers you’ve made contact with, and who you are still hoping to connect with. If you haven’t already done so, send or show those people your target list and ask if they know anyone in your niche at those companies. Then, keep those re-visited contacts on an organized list of people to stay in regular touch with. Create follow-up reminders for yourself, using a calendar. Don’t let your contacts go stale.

Find New Networking Groups to Join
There are some really great local Networking Groups (sometimes called “Job Clubs”) in almost every community. They’re easy to find with a simple Google search. Many job-seekers attend regular meetings of those groups, and derive a lot of help, guidance, and advice … and also meet many other job-seekers who can often be very helpful and supportive. After a while, though, attending those same meetings month after month can get repetitive – and you keep seeing the same people over and over. Try seeking out a new local group or two and drop in on their meetings. You just may find a fresh perspective, hear a new idea, or meet new people that you can add to your network. [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.”]

It’s worth noting here that, despite the “Definition of Insanity” quote, certain job-seeking activities actually do have to be done over and over again to yield positive results. Networking is the prime example of that. Done properly, networking is a complicated process which must be viewed as a long-term strategy – and as such, it can also be both repetitive and 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.

So don’t let the job-searching saga get you down. Don’t give in to negativity. If you find yourself feeling stuck … shake things up by trying some of these new ideas. Break out of your rut and dig yourself out of the hole you’ve fallen in. You never know – that illusive treasure you are seeking might just be closer than you think!

**************************************************************************************
¹The Answer:
Even though this is probably totally useless trivia information, if you just can’t stand not knowing … the answer to who actually authored “The Definition of Insanity” quoted at the top of this article is here: THE ANSWER.

March 22, 2010 at 12:05 am 12 comments

Older Posts Newer Posts


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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