Posts tagged ‘unemployment’

The Dirty Truth About Misleading Unemployment Statistics

(This article was updated in December 2020)

It seems like everywhere you look these days, there are headlines screaming with unemployment numbers. Statistics purporting to show how many people are working or not working are thought to be an indicator of the general health of our economy. Now we all know that news organizations have a natural tendency to sensationalize things to gain ratings. They tout numbers designed to show us that things are either getting better or getting worse, depending on what flavor of news you choose to follow. Viewers of FOX News will likely get a very different picture of things than viewers of CNBC or CNN. Lately I’ve been seeing headlines with statements like “Unemployment Rates Dropping,” and “Applications for Jobless Benefits Falling” and “Employers Adding New Jobs.” The government loves to brag about their wonderful accomplishments. Presidents love to claim that things are better than they used to be, and take credit for improving our lives during their time in office. But are those statements and statistics meaningful and accurate? Do they tell the whole story?

Statistics are an interesting thing. It’s been said that you can prove or disprove just about anything with statistics depending on what your sample is, how you count things, and how you interpret the results. At the height of the most recent recession — around the end of 2009 — the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported the national unemployment rate to be around 10%. By February 2020, that number was down to 3.4%. Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit and by April 2020 the number shot back up to 14.7%.   By November 2020 as a slow recovery began to take effect, it came back down to 6.7%.  But here’s the dirty truth about those numbers: they are only counting a small percentage of the actual potential workforce population. They are NOT counting people who are “underemployed” — i.e. people who have taken low-paying jobs well below their experience level just to pay their bills. They are NOT counting people who have taken part-time jobs — in some cases just a few hours a week, and usually without any benefits. And most importantly, they are NOT counting people who have been out of work for so long that they’ve become discouraged and have “given up” looking for a job altogether. For anyone in those last categories, these government statistics are a cruel joke, indeed!

Check out this 2-minute video cartoon that explains how the government arrives at their unemployment statistics. It’s both hilarious and depressing at the same time:

So, what is the “truth” about the current unemployment picture? Again, it depends on how you count things … but here’s an interesting tidbit I came across: According to the Gallup organization, 30 million Americans are either out of work or severely underemployed. Gallup defines a “good job” as one that is at least 30 hours or more per week with a company that provides a regular paycheck. Using that definition, they’ve recently determined that in the U.S., only 44% of adults age 18 and over have “good jobs.” They go on to say that in order to restore America’s middle class, the target for this should be at least 50%, with 10 million new good jobs.

Elsewhere, AP reported that U.S. employers added hundreds of thousands of jobs, but despite widespread job growth, overall there is a shrinking workforce. As as recruiter, I can certainly attest to the fact that in almost every specialized job category, there are more job openings than there are qualified candidates! I keep hearing the term “Talent War.” Among my peers in the staffing industry, there is a widespread feeling that qualified talent is getting harder and harder to find in almost every category.

One of the most obvious explanations for this growing talent shortage is simple demographics. In 2011, the oldest of the Baby Boomers (people born between 1946 and 1964) started turning 65 — the traditional retirement age. Of course more and more people now expect to keep working past the age of 65 … but sooner or later just about everyone reaches an age where full-time work is no longer a desirable option. We are now seeing the beginning of a mass retirement movement unprecedented in American history – a radical demographic shift in the makeup of our work force. All told, there are about 76 million people in that Boomer generation who will, over the next couple of decades, drop out of the work force. By contrast, there are only about 51 million “Generation X’ers” (people born between 1965 and 1976) who could potentially step into all those higher level jobs that the Boomers are retiring from. That leaves a huge talent deficit: at least 25 million fewer potential experienced workers!!!

OK — so what does this all mean to the average job-seeker? Honestly, not much. It’s really mostly just background noise. For anyone in job-seeking mode, my advice is to take most of what you see and hear in the news with a grain of salt and just concentrate on the basics of job-seeking strategies as expounded in the numerous articles here in Recruiter Musings. Work on your résumé, work on your elevator pitch, work on your interview presentation, and most importantly, concentrate on the activities that will get you in front of actual decision-makers at your target companies: “Networking, Networking, Networking!”

July 23, 2015 at 2:57 pm 4 comments

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

Comic Relief: Job-Seeking Humor – Volume 6

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

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

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

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


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

HIRE POWER:

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

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

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Dear Madam or Mister,

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

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

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

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

(Sincerely/Namaste),

[Forged signature goes here]

Conan O’Brien

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

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

April 24, 2014 at 2:24 pm 1 comment

Comic Relief: Job-Seeking Humor – Volume 5

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

I should say here that after my last humor blog posting, I received a few negative comments from some disgruntled, and obviously frustrated job-seekers who suggested that posting this type of job-seeking humor is inappropriate. They basically said that it is wrong to laugh at the plight of people who are suffering in a bad situation. Well, as a former comedian myself, I say — too bad! Throughout history, most of the best comedy flirts with inappropriateness, and walks that fine line between laughter and discomfort. And, for every person who thinks this stuff is NOT funny, there seem to be a huge number of others who appreciate it and thank me for lightening up their day! So I say, if you can’t take a joke … well, you know how the rest of that phrase goes!

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

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In the category of Videos, the following clip is called “Unemployee Orientation.” There are certainly no shortage of videos and songs on YouTube about unemployment … but this one really stood out for me. It’s pretty much self-explanatory. And even though I officially disavow any of the ideas presented in this video — it did make me laugh out loud several times!


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

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Finally, in the category of Job-Posting Humor, here’s a list of common terms often seen in the text of online job postings, and their “real” meanings:

Key to Job Description Terms:

ENTRY-LEVEL POSITION
You’ll be making under minimum wage an hour.

ENTRY-LEVEL POSITION IN AN UP-AND-COMING COMPANY
You’ll be making under minimum wage an hour; we’ll be bankrupt in a year.

AN UP-AND COMING SOFTWARE COMPANY
We want you to get your hopes up, but there’s no way in hell we’ll be the next Microsoft.

PROFIT-SHARING PLAN
Once it’s shared between the higher-ups, there won’t be a profit.

COMPETITIVE SALARY
We remain competitive by paying slightly less than our competitors.

JOIN OUR FAST-PACED COMPANY
We have no time to train you; you’ll have to introduce yourself to your co-workers.

NATIONALLY RECOGNIZED LEADER
Inc. Magazine wrote us up a few years ago, but we haven’t done anything innovative since.

IMMEDIATE OPENING
The person who used to have this job gave notice a month ago. We’re just now running the ad.

SALES POSITION REQUIRING MOTIVATED SELF-STARTER
We’re not going to supply you with leads; there’s no base salary; you’ll wait 30 days for your first commission check.

SELF-MOTIVATED
Management won’t answer questions.

WE OFFER GREAT BENEFITS
After 90 days, you can join our HMO, which has a deductible and a co-pay.

PENSION/RETIREMENT BENEFITS
After three years, we’ll allow you to fund your own 401(k) and, if you behave, we’ll give you a 5 percent matching contribution.

SEEKING ENTHUSIASTIC, FUN, HARD WORKING PEOPLE
. . . who still live with their parents and won’t mind our internship-level salaries.

CASUAL WORK ATMOSPHERE
We don’t pay enough to expect that you’ll dress well; a couple of the real daring guys wear earrings.

COMPETITIVE ENVIRONMENT
We have a lot of turnover.

EXCITING AND PROFESSIONAL WORK ENVIRONMENT
Guys in gray suits will bore you with tales of squash and their weekends on yachts.

JOIN OUR DYNAMIC TEAM
We all listen to nutty motivational tapes.

FUN WORK ENVIRONMENT
Your co-workers will be insulted if you don’t drink with them.

A DRUG-FREE WORK ENVIRONMENT
We booze it up at company parties.

MUST BE DEADLINE ORIENTED
You’ll be six months behind schedule on your first day.

SOME PUBLIC RELATIONS REQUIRED
If we’re in trouble, you’ll go on TV and get us out of it.

SOME OVERTIME REQUIRED
Some time each night and some time each weekend.

SALARY RANGE X-Y
We’ll offer you X to start.

A HIGHLY VISIBLE POSITION
You’ll give boring speeches on your own time.

FLEXIBLE HOURS
Work 40 hours; get paid for 25.

DUTIES WILL VARY
Anyone in the office can boss you around.

WHERE EMPLOYEES FEEL VALUED
Those who missed the last round of lay-offs, that is.

MUST HAVE AN EYE FOR DETAIL
We have no quality control.

COLLEGE DEGREE PREFERRED
Unless you wasted those four years studying something useless like Philosophy, English or Religion.

CAREER-MINDED
Female applicants must be childless (and remain that way).

APPLY IN PERSON
If you’re old, fat, or ugly you’ll be told the position has been filled.

NO PHONE CALLS PLEASE
We’ve filled the job; our call for resumes is just a legal formality.

SEEKING CANDIDATES WITH A WIDE VARIETY OF EXPERIENCE
You’ll need it to replace three people who just left.

PROBLEM-SOLVING SKILLS A MUST
You’re walking into a company in perpetual chaos.

REQUIRES TEAM LEADERSHIP SKILLS
You’ll have the responsibilities of a manager, without the pay or respect.

GOOD COMMUNICATION SKILLS
Management communicates, you listen, figure out what they want and do it.

ABILITY TO HANDLE A HEAVY WORKLOAD
You whine, you’re fired.

ASPIRATIONS FOR GROWTH WITHIN OUR COMPANY
We loooooove brown nosers.

April 7, 2011 at 9:24 am 6 comments

Comic Relief: Job-Seeking Humor – Volume 4

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

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

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


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

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

REJECTION OF YOUR REJECTION LETTER:

To Whom It May Concern:

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

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

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

Sincerely,
[Name]

September 7, 2010 at 12:01 am 4 comments

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!

July 6, 2010 at 12:01 am 26 comments

Comic Relief: Job-Seeking Humor – Volume 3

OK … here we go again. It’s time for me to take yet another break from my usual “advice for job-seekers” mission, and offer up this 3rd blog of pure humor! [See “Volume 1” and “Volume 2” for the first two editions of this popular side-trip!]

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

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In the category of Videos, this clip called “Job Interview” was an actual TV ad for Pepsi Max. (It was shown during the 2009 Superbowl.) I’m not sure if this ad was very effective in actually selling their product … but it sure is a funny job-seeking scenario:


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

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Finally, in the category of “Reality Humor,” here are some actual résumé bloopers gathered from various reliable sources that were submitted in response to job postings:

RÉSUMÉ BLOOPERS:
●  “I am about to enrol on a Business and Finance Degree with the Open University. I feel that this qualification will prove detrimental to me for future success.”
●  “I’m intrested to here more about that. I’m working today in a furniture factory as a drawer.”
●  “Hobbies: enjoy cooking Chinese and Italians.”
●  “2001 summer Voluntary work for taking care of the elderly and vegetable people.”
●  “Skills: Strong Work Ethic, Attention to Detail, Team Player, Self Motivated, Attention to Detail.”
●  “Objective: Career on the Information Supper Highway.”
●  “Experience: Stalking, shipping & receiving”
●  “I am great with the pubic.”
●  “My duties included cleaning the restrooms and seating the customers.”
●  “Revolved customer problems and inquiries.”
●  “Consistently tanked as top sales producer for new accounts.”
●  “Planned new corporate facility at $3 million over budget.”
●  “Seeking a party-time position with potential for advancement.”
●  “Received a plague for Salesperson of the Year.”
●  “Reason for leaving last job: maturity leave.”
●  “Am a perfectionist and rarely if if ever forget details.”
●  “It’s best for employers that I not work with people.”
●  “I would like to work for a company that is very lax when it comes to tardiness.”
●  “Spent several years in the United States Navel Reserve.”
●  “I have a lifetime’s worth of technical expertise (I wasn’t born – my mother simply chose ‘eject child’ from the special menu.)”
●  “Reason for leaving: Terminated after saying, ‘It would be a blessing to be fired.'”

June 28, 2010 at 12:01 am 5 comments

The “T” Cover Letter – The Only Type Worth Sending

Many job-seekers have asked whether or not it’s worthwhile including a cover letter with their résumé when they apply to an online job posting, or email it to a contact at one of their target companies. It’s a question that many people struggle with. Should they attach a cover letter as a separate Microsoft Word document? Should the cover letter be the body of the email? Does anyone actually read cover letters?

I’ve asked that last question to a number of colleagues of mine who are both recruiters and HR people. The answers are all over the map. At one extreme, some recruiters say they never even look at cover letters, and just go right to the résumé. At the opposite end of the spectrum, some say they pay close attention to the cover letters, and actually use them to decide if they even want to look at the person’s résumé based on what it says and how well it’s written. And others are somewhere in between – they’ll sometimes glance at it, but pay more attention to the résumé for evaluation purposes.

Basically, there are three ways to send a cover letter in an email:
1) Typed into the body of the email, with the résumé attached as a Word-formatted document.
2) As a separate (second) Word-formatted document sent as an attachment along with the Word-formatted résumé.
3) Integrated into the actual résumé document itself, and formatted in Word to appear as the first page of the résumé which is sent as an attachment.

By the way … just as an aside – I would not recommend using the Adobe PDF format for résumés or cover letters. The reason is that most recruiters and HR people will want to import the text of your résumé into their electronic database or Applicant Tracking System for future keyword searches. Those programs deal much easier with Microsoft Word documents, and often cannot read or properly import the text from a PDF. All that beautiful formatting you think you are preserving by using PDF gets lost in translation, and your résumé can end up looking like unreadable gibberish!

Personally, I prefer the first method listed above … I’m much more likely to read the body of an email message than to open up a separate attachment. The likelihood of anyone opening a cover letter sent as a separate Word document is very low. However, if you are bound and determined to force your cover letter to be read, the third method is probably the most surefire. Everyone opens the résumé, and making your cover letter be the first page guarantees it will be seen. Of course, the potential down side of doing it that way is that it could annoy the reader who typically spends about 15 seconds or less reviewing your résumé, and will be less likely to get to the “good parts” if you make them stop and read your cover letter first.

Whichever way you do it, if you do decide to send a cover letter along with your résumé, in my opinion there is only one format that is worth considering … it’s called the “T” Cover Letter. The name is derived from the look of the page itself. Imagine taking a piece of paper and drawing a huge letter “T” on it, with the top line appearing under your opening paragraph, and the vertical line dividing the page below into two equal spaces. The opener should be a brief introduction of who you are, and what position you are interested in (two or three sentences at most.) Then you say something like: “Below is a comparison of your job requirements and my qualifications.”

Now comes the good part: in the “T” chart you’ve drawn, on the left side you have a heading called “Your Job Requirements” under which you copy and paste each of the bulleted requirements listed in the company’s job posting or job description. Then, on the right side you have a heading called “My Qualifications” under which you match up bullet-for-bullet your specific skills and experiences showing how you fit each job requirement on the left.

  • Here’s what it looks like:

It should be noted that this “T” format (which can also sometimes look more like a chart with boxes) can be easily created on a Word document using the Table creation tool. But because it depends so much on the formatting, it really only works if you are attaching a separate Word document to an email (numbers 2 & 3 above.) However, you can still use a modified version of the same concept if you choose to have your cover letter be the body of an email. All you have to do is just forget the fancy “T” table, and simply list each requirement from their job description, and under each one list your matching bulleted qualifications. It may not be as “pretty” as the formatted “T” version, but it serves the same exact purpose. Also, this would be the version to use in an online application where you are asked to paste your cover letter into an open field in a web-based form.

The reason this “T” Cover Letter is so effective should be obvious. 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.] Typically, they’ll scan the first page of a résumé for less than 15 seconds, and if they don’t quickly see exactly what they think they want or need right up front … bye bye – delete key for you! By providing the “T” Cover Letter, you are simplifying their job, and cutting right to the chase of what they are looking for … the match! You are saying, in effect, “I’m exactly what you are looking for, and here is why!” It’s kind of like “Résumé Reading for Dummies!” If you truly match their job requirements point-for-point – and send the “T” Cover Letter to prove it – your chances of passing through that first step and progressing on to the next step (usually a phone screen) will be WAY higher than someone who just sends a résumé with either a generic cover letter, or none at all.

June 7, 2010 at 12:01 am 88 comments

The Brutal Truth on How Résumés Get Eliminated

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

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

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

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

In my many years as a recruiter, I’ve certainly read my share of résumés. There were times when I went through over a hundred a day. I certainly know how this elimination game works! So … what follows is a peek behind the curtain. I make no apologies for how this process works, or how fair or unfair it may be – like it or not, this is simply the way it is. I feel it’s best for job-seekers to be informed about this to be able to better navigate the process and avoid obvious pitfalls as they move forward.

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

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

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

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

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

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

June 1, 2010 at 12:01 am 80 comments

Comic Relief: Job-Seeking Humor – Volume 2

A few weeks ago, I took a break from my usual “advice for job-seekers” mission, and offered up a blog of pure humor. [“Comic Relief: Job-Seeking Humor.”] To my great surprise, that blog received a record number of hits (over 2,500 views within the first 36 hours!) as well as a huge number of comments. Readers seemed to really appreciate the welcome shot of comic relief from their daily job-seeking grind that Monday morning. So with that reaction in mind, I’d like to revisit that same theme and offer up this second edition of comic relief for job-seekers.

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

—————————————————————————————————————-

In the category of Videos, I came across the following hysterical animated piece called “The Unemployment Game Show.” Funny and sad at the same time, this 2-minute video pokes fun at how those official government unemployment statistics are arrived at, and how inaccurate they may be:


—————————————————————————————————————-

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

And one more, just for the IT people …

—————————————————————————————————————-

Finally, in the category of “Reality Humor,” the following “Job Application” was an internet hoax that went viral a couple of years ago and became somewhat of an Urban Legend. It was circulated (without credit) under the guise of being an actual job application submitted to a McDonald’s in Florida by a 17 year old boy. The story was that McDonald’s actually hired the boy because his application was so “honest and funny.” The actual truth is that it was a totally fictitious parody piece created by a writer named Greg Bulmash who was frustrated with his own job-seeking process! Real or fake, it’s still very funny:

SEX:   Not yet. Still waiting for the right person.
DESIRED POSITION:   Reclining. Ha ha. But seriously, whatever’s available. If I was in a position to be picky, I wouldn’t be applying here in the first place.
DESIRED SALARY:   $185,000 a year plus stock options and a Michael Ovitz style severance package. If that’s not possible, make an offer and we can haggle.
EDUCATION:   Yes.
LAST POSITION HELD:   Target for middle-management hostility.
SALARY:   Less than I’m worth.
MOST NOTABLE ACHIEVEMENT:   My incredible collection of stolen pens and post-it notes.
REASON FOR LEAVING:   It sucked.
HOURS AVAILABLE TO WORK:   Any.
PREFERRED HOURS:   1:30-3:30 p.m., Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday.
DO YOU HAVE ANY SPECIAL SKILLS?:   Yes, but they’re better suited to a more intimate environment.
MAY WE CONTACT YOUR CURRENT EMPLOYER?:   If I had one, would I be here?
HAVE YOU EVER BEEN CONVICTED OF A FELONY?:   Is “felony” sex with a cat? Because if it is . . . no.
DO YOU HAVE ANY PHYSICAL CONDITIONS THAT WOULD PROHIBIT YOU FROM LIFTING UP TO 50 LBS?:   Of what?
DO YOU HAVE A CAR?:   I think the more appropriate question here would be “do you have a car that runs?”
HAVE YOU RECEIVED ANY SPECIAL AWARDS OR RECOGNITION?:   I may already be a winner of the Publishers Clearinghouse Sweepstakes.
DO YOU SMOKE?:   Only when set on fire.
WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO BE DOING IN FIVE YEARS?:   Living in Bimini with a fabulously wealthy supermodel who thinks I’m the greatest thing since sliced bread. Actually, I’d like to be doing that now.
DO YOU CERTIFY THAT THE ABOVE IS TRUE AND COMPLETE TO THE BEST OF YOUR KNOWLEDGE?:   No, but I dare you to prove otherwise.
SIGN HERE:   Scorpio with Libra rising.

May 24, 2010 at 12:01 am 10 comments

Older Posts


Michael Spiro

About the Author:

Michael Spiro has been a 3rd-Party Recruiter and Account Executive for over 20 years. He is currently the Director of Recruiting / NE Ohio Region for Jefferson Wells, a dedicated business unit of ManpowerGroup. Other recent positions include President of Midas Recruiting, a boutique head-hunting firm, Director of Talent at Patina Solutions, and Executive Recruiting positions with two of the largest search firms in North America. Before his career in the staffing industry, Michael was a manager in a large non-profit social-services organization. And in a former life, Michael was active in the entertainment industry, with extensive road-warrior experience as a touring performer (singer-songwriter / guitarist / comedian) and as a recording artist, producer and booking agent.  [More...]

Index (by Topic):

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

 The Brutal Truth on How
         Résumés Get Eliminated

 Explaining Short Job Stints
         and Employment Gaps

 The Résumé Test &
         Checklist: Does Yours
         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

 Video Interview Tips
         in the Pandemic World

 Nuggets: A Secret
         Interviewing Technique

 Answering the Dreaded
         Salary Question

 20 Surefire Ways to Blow
         an Interview

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

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