Posts tagged ‘unemployment’

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.

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June 7, 2010 at 12:01 am 83 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!

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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:


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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 …

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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

Age Discrimination: Exposing Inconvenient Truths

Several months ago I posted a blog called “Age Discrimination: Secret Conversations Revealed!” That posting became the most read article on Recruiter Musings with over 2,000 views on the first day alone, and several thousand more over the following weeks. Readers logged in over 130 comments. Those comments (posted at the bottom of the article) comprise a very interesting dialogue in and of themselves, and are definitely worth reading. They make it very clear that I had hit a sensitive spot among job-seekers everywhere. Even now, people continue to log onto that blog article, and I’m told that it inspired the formation of a special-interest group on LinkedIn.

Since that posting, I’ve discovered some very interesting facts and truths about Age Discrimination in today’s job market. Much of this is not necessarily good news for job-seekers over a certain age. Nevertheless, as inconvenient as these truths may be, I feel it’s best to be armed with the most accurate and up-to-date information. Ultimately, how one handles this issue is a very personal decision. What follows is simply the way it is:

Face It – Age Discrimination Exists!
The vast majority of “older” workers have experienced it on some level or another. It’s difficult to come up with hard data, since most companies would never truthfully cooperate with any official study … but we all intuitively know that it’s true – age bias is simply a fact of life in our society. That basic truth really hasn’t changed very much over the last century – most modern societies favor youth over age. What has changed is the advancing age of the “Baby Boomer” generation – a group that has grown proportionally compared with the rest of the population, and has skewed the age curve of available workers. In today’s candidate-flooded market resulting from the economic downturn that began in 2008, those growing numbers of older workers are increasingly competing for the same jobs as younger candidates caught up in the same mass layoffs as everyone else. Add to that the fact that everyone’s investments and retirement funds shrunk drastically during the last couple of years. As a result, Boomers are now finding that they need to keep working well past the age that they originally thought they’d retire. At the very same time, cost-conscious companies are still nervous about adding back headcount in today’s slow climb back to economic recovery. When companies do hire new staff now, many try to save money by hiring younger, less experienced people who require lower salaries. It’s really not hard to see how all those factors combine to perpetuate the practice of Age Discrimination.

Asking Your Age Is NOT Illegal
Many job-seekers erroneously think that it is illegal for an employer to ask for a candidate’s date of birth (or year of graduation, social security number, marital status, or any number of other supposedly off limits questions.) That’s simply not true! Although they’re often called “illegal interview questions” on the web, such questions are not actually illegal at all. There is no law that says that an interviewer cannot ask a job-seeker point blank: “How old are you?” However, if an interviewer asks a question that has discriminatory implications and then intentionally denies you employment based on your answer to the question, he or she may have broken the law. So to avoid any risk of exposure to future litigation, most HR professionals (especially at larger companies) are told to avoid asking such questions. But again, it’s not illegal to ask, and it still happens frequently. It happens during interviews, and it happens quite often on those pre-interview applications where leaving a question blank will get you screened out. The problem is that it’s almost impossible for a job-seeker who has been denied employment to prove age discrimination. No interviewer in their right mind would actually admit to eliminating a candidate based on their age – even if that’s exactly what they did. You’ll simply be passed over, and never really know why. That’s one of many reasons why interviewers do not return calls and emails from, or give specific feedback to job applicants who did not get hired. It’s much safer to say nothing!

Don’t Waste Your Precious Time Trying To Fight The System
I’ve heard from a lot of people who get very worked up about Age Discrimination, and feel they need to “do something about it!” They write letters, consult lawyers, lobby government representatives, circulate petitions, and threaten (and sometimes initiate) law suits. They rant and rail about it, join discussion groups that focus on it, and generally obsess on it as the main reason for their own failure to find a job. Well … sorry if I offend anyone by saying this – but I have no patience for that type of behavior. In my opinion, that sort of thing is extremely counter-productive. You certainly won’t endear yourself to any potential employers by focusing on such activities. (And make no mistake – employers are very aware of who writes what on blogs, discussion groups, LinkedIn forums, etc.) None of it will ever change the way employers behave, or the way interviewers and decision-makers screen candidates. They just won’t hire you! You cannot change the criteria that individual companies use to evaluate potential workers, nor can you change their actual job requirements – even if they include things that imply a bias towards younger applicants! If you are a serious job-seeker, then don’t waste your time and energy fighting against those things that you cannot change.

Focus Instead On Positives
You certainly can’t change your own age. That’s an obvious given. Sure, you can limit what’s on your résumé to the past 10 years, and pretend that you didn’t exist before that – at least that will avoid the sting of being eliminated before you even get to first base, and most likely score you some interviews that you wouldn’t have had otherwise. But sooner or later in every job application process, you’ll meet face-to-face with a decision-maker and they’ll size you up. Your age will be a factor – for better or worse. So what can older job-seekers do to help themselves? Here are some ideas:

  • Target companies who are known to be “age friendly” and concentrate less on the ones known to favor younger workers and who emphasize their youthful cultures. You probably wouldn’t feel comfortable working in such a place anyway. Seek out employers who value workers for their capabilities and contributions, regardless of age. There are certainly industries, companies and organizations out there who are less likely to practice age discrimination than others. Naturally, the challenge for job-seekers is to identify those places and go after them. A good starting point is to simply do a Google search on the phrase “Age Friendly Companies.” You’ll find a multitude of great resources there that will lead you in the right direction.
  • Pay attention to the job requirements, and only pursue positions that you truly match. Don’t waste time applying to jobs that are clearly not a match for your skills, or level of experience. If the description says they want someone with 1-3 years of experience and you have 10-15 … it’s obviously not going to be a good match. Do you really want to fight that battle? Do you really need to hear that you’re “overqualified” or that they are really looking for more of an “entry level” person?
  • Keep yourself up to date on technology, and current on the details of your industry. Be a continuous learner. Be as computer and internet savvy as your younger competitors. Embrace the new information age. Read articles, blogs and professional journals that pertain to your field. Be ready to demonstrate your up-to-date knowledge in any conversation you may have with people in your specific niche.
  • These next ones are cliches … but I’ll throw them in anyway: Take care of yourself physically! Exercise frequently to maintain your fitness, eat healthy, and get enough sleep. Pay attention to your appearance – keep yourself well groomed. Dress for success with an up-to-date wardrobe. You can’t change your age, but you can change the way you present yourself. Having a youthful energy and demeanor are not things that happen by accident, nor are they strictly hereditary. They are things that to some degree you can alter, and they need to be constantly worked on.
  • Finally, embrace “The Power of a Positive Attitude.” Concentrate on projecting positive energy and enthusiasm in every casual conversation, every networking meeting, and every interview. I’ve coached thousands of candidates for interviews during my many years as a recruiter. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about the interview process that holds true for almost every industry and every position, it’s this: the number one most important factor that determines who gets hired and who doesn’t is NOT who is best qualified, who has the most experience or skills, or who has the best résumé – and it’s NOT AGE. It’s attitude! People hire other people that they like, and want to be around. Real enthusiasm for a position or a company, true passion for your work, a sense of humor, and a genuine projection of positivism and optimism are the qualities that make a person attractive to others. A positive, energetic and youthful attitude can easily transcend age as a factor and it’s nearly impossible to fake. It’s an incredibly important issue for every job-seeker to think about and to try adjusting within themselves.

    May 17, 2010 at 12:01 am 48 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

Comic Relief: Job-Seeking Humor – Volume 1

Let’s face it – being out of work is no laughing matter! The job-seeking road is often a very long and bumpy 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.”]

So in the midst of all that gloom and doom, finding occasional comic relief is important. Having a healthy sense of humor is a key quality that can help make a person attractive to others. With that in mind, I thought I’d take a break from my usual “advice for job-seekers” mission, and offer up a blog of pure humor! 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. In my search for such things, I’ve managed to amass quite a large collection of job-seeking humor. My standards are pretty high – after all, I did spend time as a performing comedian myself once upon a time – so I’m a tough critic. I figure, if it makes me laugh out loud, it’s worth sharing here!

Oh, and by the way … I’ve never been a fan of people who send out mass emails with jokes and cartoons on a regular basis. Whenever I get one of those chain emails, I almost always delete them and ask the sender to remove me from their list. So please don’t send me more jokes. My inbox is full enough! On the other hand, I certainly have no problem with anyone sharing this blog with all their friends and colleagues. (Wow … I hope that last bit of shameless self-promotion didn’t sound too hypocritical!)

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In the category of Videos, there’s a ton of funny stuff on YouTube related to bad interviews, job-hunting, and other workplace humor. Here’s my absolute favorite video on the topic of being unemployed. This professional-looking, but totally fake one-minute “Trailer” looks so real it makes me want to see the movie! For anyone who has been job hunting for any length of time, this one is bound to hit home:



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In the category of Cartoons, you may have noticed that I’ve been including a cartoon at the bottom of each of my most recent blog postings. Sometimes when I find a good cartoon, it actually inspires a topic for me to write about. Here 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:

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Finally, in the category of “Reality Humor,” here are some real quotes from actual cover letters and résumés that were submitted in response to job postings:

COVER LETTERS:
●  “Note: Please don’t misconstrue my 14 jobs as ‘job-hopping.’ I have never quit a job.”
●  “I am extremely loyal to my present firm, so please don’t let them know of my immediate availability.”
●  “I intentionally omitted my salary history. I’ve made money and lost money. I’ve been rich and I’ve been poor. I prefer being rich.”
●  “I’m married with 9 children. I don’t require prescription drugs.”
●  “Marital Status: Often. Children: Various.”
●  “Here are my qualifications for you to overlook.”
REASONS FOR LEAVING THE LAST JOB:
●  “Responsibility makes me nervous.”
●  “They insisted that all employees get to work by 8:45 every morning. Couldn’t work under those conditions.”
●  “Was met with a string of broken promises and lies, as well as cockroaches.”
●  “The company made me a scapegoat – just like my three previous employers.”
JOB RESPONSIBILITIES:
●  “While I am open to the initial nature of an assignment, I am decidedly disposed that it be so oriented as to at least partially incorporate the experience enjoyed heretofore and that it be configured so as to ultimately lead to the application of more rarefied facets of financial management as the major sphere of responsibility.”
●  “I was proud to win the Gregg Typting Award.”
SPECIAL REQUESTS & JOB OBJECTIVES:
●  “Please call me after 5:30 because I am self-employed and my employer does not know I am looking for another job.”
●  “My goal is to be a meteorologist. But since I have no training in meteorology, I suppose I should try stock brokerage.”
●  “I procrastinate – especially when the task is unpleasant.”
PHYSICAL DISABILITIES:
●  “Minor allergies to house cats and Mongolian sheep.”
PERSONAL INTERESTS:
●  “Donating blood. 14 gallons so far.”
SMALL TYPOS:
●  “Work Experience: Dealing with customers’ conflicts that arouse.”
●  “Develop and recommend an annual operating expense fudget.”
●  “I’m a rabid typist.”
●  “Instrumental in ruining entire operation for a Midwest chain operation.”

April 26, 2010 at 5:59 am 26 comments

Warning: That Rant You Posted Just Went Viral!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

April 20, 2010 at 6:44 am 27 comments

Older Posts Newer Posts


Michael Spiro

About the Author:

Michael Spiro has been a 3rd-Party Recruiter and Account Executive for over 15 years. He is currently the 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

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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